By Mark Gruenberg And John Wojcik
With the 116th Congress in session now in Washington, there seem to be four constants voters can expect in the next two years on Capitol Hill: The Democratic-run House will pass progressive legislation which will sink from sight in the GOP-run Senate or fall victim to GOP President Donald Trump’s veto pen. The Senate’s bills will cater to the corporate class, but those measures will sink from sight in the House.
There will be investigations. Lots of investigations. And, oh yes, a throng of lawmakers – Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is the first, but not the last – will spend their time running for president.
But before all that gets started, House Democrats will battle against Trump over reopening the third of the government he’s locked out. Anti-lockout bills were legislative items #1 and #2 after lawmakers elected Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as Speaker and then set up rules for running the House.
“The partisanship, rancor, and dysfunction of the Trump shutdown are exactly what voters rebuked in November,” freshman Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., said in the Democrats’ weekly radio address just before New Year’s Day. “That is why on January 3rd, when the new Democratic House majority arrives, we will bring the hope, vision, and goals of effective governance back to the forefront.”
While Neguse in his remarks and Democratic leaders generally are striking a cautious note when it comes to the issue of impeachment some in the new Congress see it as central to the battle for social and economic justice.
Prominent among those is newly-elected Michigan Democratic representative, Rashida Tlaib, who called today for immediate moves in Congress aimed at impeachment of President Trump.
“Each passing day brings more pain for the people most directly hurt by this president,” she said. In an article written for her hometown newspaper published today she tied her oath of office (which calls for defending “the Constitution of the U.S. against all enemies, foreign and domestic”) to her action for impeachment. “The time to impeach President Trump is now,” she declared, discounting arguments for waiting for the results of the Mueller investigation.
She said the president’s “lawlessness” has caused real damage to many people. “Those most vulnerable to his cruelty are counting on us to act – act to remove the president and put this country on a path to true justice.”
“Every day this pointless shutdown drags on, hundreds of thousands of working people are denied a paycheck and millions lose the vital government services that we deserve,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said. Workers look to “congressional leaders to bring an end to this debacle. When the House of Representatives passes legislation tomorrow to reopen the federal government — bills the Senate already passed — the Senate leadership should immediately follow suit and the president should sign it.
“While President Trump continues to hold the government shutdown and public service workers as pawns for his ‘wall,’ Democrats’ first act of the new year, and their new House majority is a much-needed solution to reopen our government,” added Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten.
“The American people need a fully functioning, fully operational government,” she declared. Those two bills are identical to ones both parties and both chambers agreed to in December — before Trump catered to his base and killed them.
“People who live paycheck to paycheck do not know when or if they will be able to afford their rent, food, and medicine. It’s time to end the Trump shutdown and the pain it is inflicting on our families,” Weingarten added.
But first the new House Democratic majority will change the rules, and that’s important: The House’s rules govern what lawmakers can consider – or not – for the next two years. For example, the GOP had a rule that tax increases needed a 60 percent supermajority to pass. Pelosi originally wanted to keep that standard for any tax hike affecting the bottom 80 percent of taxpayers.
Powered by female, minority, progressive and Democratic first-timers, the new Democratic-run House, including 110 women, achieved one win before Congress even began: They dumped that GOP tax rule. The progressives, who now have the largest caucus in the House, said “no,” loudly. A 60 percent majority, they said, would scotch various initiatives, including repeal of Trump’s tax cut. They won.
“By a historic 10-million vote margin, the American people went to the polls and asked for a professionally run Congress that would be more transparent, ethical and committed to debating and advancing good ideas no matter where they come from,” Pelosi proclaimed in December. “Our rules package will deliver that Congress, ushering in a new era of clean government that will honor the consensus of the American people – restoring the People’s House to the people.”
The progressives’ second win, at least in the House, will be on funding the government again, because the same group has made it quite clear Democrats and their allies must not yield to Trump’s demand for $5 billion for his Mexican Wall. So did Pelosi when she met Trump on Jan. 2. “How many times must we say ‘no’?” she asked.
But that’s where the Senate gets into the act. The result, on funding the government, paying for Trump’s Mexican Wall, and on issues coming down the pike — from climate change to paid family leave — may be the same: GOP-caused gridlock, from either the larger Senate GOP majority, Trump vetoes, or both
The reason? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kent., pledged not to pass anything Trump won’t sign – starting with money bills for the federal agencies – and he has the votes to enforce it.
The GOP now has 53 of the 100 senators, up from 51 in the last Congress. McConnell can afford to lose the votes of occasional renegades Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, and even Utah’s Mitt Romney. He’ll still have 50 GOP votes without them, plus GOP Vice President Mike Pence to break ties. So there is no scope for solution unless any of the two contending parties blinks. That seems unlikely at the moment. (IPA Service)
Courtesy: People’s World