What a Democrat win in the U.S. midterms means for Donald Trump
The Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives in Tuesday’s midterm elections and will pose a major challenge to President Donald Trump’s domestic and foreign policy going forward.
All 435 seats in the House were up for re-election and while the GOP maintained their control of the Senate, the Dems will now be able to dramatically shape the remainder of Trump’s time in the White House.
“This is a pivotal moment in American history,” said Vermont’s Bernie Sanders who was re-elected to a third term in the Senate. “We have a president of the United States who is a pathological liar. And is doing something that no president in my lifetime has ever done – that is instead of bringing people he is trying to divide us.”
With Democratic control over the House, Trump’s domestic agenda – including further roll backs to the Affordable Healthcare Act, funding for the border wall, and other cuts to social security – likely won’t happen.
Trump did not speak following Tuesday’s elections but tweeted: “Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!”
Simon Langlois-Bertrand, professor of U.S. politics at McGill University, said the outcome of Tuesday’s vote will lead to even more entrenched gridlock in Washington that Democrats could use to draw compromises from the GOP.
“The house is the key player for anything budgetwise,” Langlois-Bertrand said. “They will definitely play that card and use that aspect of the strategy to its fullest. That’s their best strategy in my mind and I’m pretty sure that Democratic leadership knows it.”
Trump will be able to block any Democratic initiatives, but the Dems will likewise be able to stop his legislative plans like tax cuts or cuts to Cabinet department budgets.
Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat, said the election has been a “referendum on Trump” and the Democrats may use the strategy the Republicans deployed under Obama “which was basically to deny him everything.”
Other policy areas the Dems could look at is a re-examination of immigration reform, including revisiting the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy that shielded young people from deportation who came to the U.S. illegally with their parents.
“The Democrats were intending to do that before they lost control of the house a few years ago,” Langlois-Bertrand. “It would be interesting to see if something like that happened. Then again, I think it’s going to be very difficult for Democrats to step out of the shadow of this campaign of putting all their eggs in the basket of opposing Trump.”
WATCH: Democrats win control of House
Democrats will also now have broader investigatory powers and could resume the probe into Russia’s interference during the 2016 presidential election and Trump’s warm relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“They’ll have the power to investigate and indict, eventually, the president but certainly they’ll be investigating everything that Trump has been doing,” Robertson said.
House Republicans had concluded in March that there was “no collusion” between Russia and the Trump campaign, but a more bipartisan investigation in the Senate is ongoing. House and Senate committees can send subpoenas for documents and can compel witnesses to testify under oath.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, was sidelined during the committee’s Russia investigation. Following Democratic victories on Tuesday night, Schiff now stands to chair that committee and told MSNBC that the committee plans to increase its activity on presidential oversight.
“We also intend to make sure that the oversight role that the Republicans so completely abdicated, the Congress once again undertakes and does so responsibly,” Schiff said.
In addition to investigating the administration’s stance toward Moscow, Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) could also investigate Trump’s potential conflicts of interests abroad, including the Trump Organization’s dealings around the world. Some Democrats have already vowed to force the release of his tax returns.
And while calls to impeach Trump will likely increase with a House controlled by the democrats, it’s unlikely to happen as they do not control the Senate.
“I think the chance of impeachment in the House is high but the chances of it succeeding with the Senate voting are very slim,” Robertson said. “I think he’s likely to be around unless he chooses to resign, and he’s certainly given no indication of that.”
Democratic leaders have also appeared reluctant to support impeachment as special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe into Russian election interference and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia continues.
The gridlock could also doom the new U.S-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA) that Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has been working to renegotiate but has not yet been ratified.
The USMCA is expected to be ratified with little difficulty by Mexico and by Canada, as the Trudeau Liberals hold a majority.
Langlois-Bertrand said that although many Democrats – especially in states bordering Canada – were happy after the USMCA was renegotiated, the Dems will have to spin it as a win for their base and not be seen as supporting Trump.
“They’ll have to explain why they would support Trump and this victory which makes it much more difficult and unlikely,” he said. “It will result in a very rocky road for the ratification of the treaty.”
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