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Democrats are celebrating their big gains in elections Tuesday for the House of Representatives, but they won’t be able to stop President Donald Trump from doing the things that most drive them crazy.
To be sure, a House run by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will be far different from the one outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) presided over. But blocking Republican legislation will be far from satisfying to most progressives.
No bill or congressional hearing will stop Trump from tweeting. Pelosi and the gang will not be able to mute Trump’s incendiary rhetoric. And — importantly — the president will have an even freer hand in stocking the federal judiciary with originalist judges.
Here is a look at the biggest consequences of Tuesday’s elections:
Investigations. Investigations. Investigations. Democratic representatives already are drawing up subpoenas. A House intelligence committee chaired by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) undoubtedly will start the Russia election meddling investigation back up.
Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), who is in line to chair the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, already has signaled that he will seek the holy grail for Democrats — Trump’s tax returns.
Expect investigations into everything from Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson’s purchase of office furniture to the alleged conflicts of interest of Trump son-in-law and aide Jared Kushner. Other probes might include the now-ended policy of separating illegal immigrants charged with illegal border crossing from their children and whether the president violated the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause due to hotel stays by foreigners at Trump properties.
All of those subpoenas and hearings will be a nuisance, but there is no reason to think the Trump administration will not be able to frustrate congressional pursuers as well as it has Republican attempts at oversight. Just ask Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who have been stymied in their efforts to obtain documents related to the genesis of the FBI’s Russia probe.
Trump’s legislative agenda. It goes without saying that White House legislative initiatives are dead on arrival, with the possible exception of potential areas of compromise, like spending to modernize and repair roads and bridges.
But it’s not like Congress has been an efficient law-making machine under Republican rule. Congress did manage to pass a big tax cut pushed by the White House. But Senate rules requiring 60 votes on most legislation stalled the rest of Trump’s agenda.
Trump failed in his efforts to repeal Obamacare. Congress has not advanced his proposal to build a border wall. It rejected Trump’s efforts to forge a compromise granting amnesty for illegal immigrants brought to America as children.
Hundreds of House-passed bills are stuck in the Senate. Those include Kate’s Law, which would stiffen penalties for illegal immigrants who commit crimes after illegally returning following a deportation, and a bill to punish “sanctuary” jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.
In terms of legislative achievements, the average voter is not likely even to notice the difference in control of the House.
Judges. Because the House has no role in confirmations, and because Tuesday’s election actually increased the Republican majority in the upper chamber, Trump will be able kick judicial nominations into an even higher gear.
That means no more veto by abortion-rights moderate Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
Trump can lose both and still get his nominees confirmed.
A bigger Republican majority also makes impeachment a bigger folly for Democrats. Assuming the Republicans end up with 53 senators after recounts in states where they lead, it would take 20 Senate Republicans to convict on an impeachment charge even if all Democrats vote to.
That is extremely unlikely absent compelling evidence of a serious breach in conduct.