Tuesday’s midterm elections were filled with highs and lows across party lines. While Republicans maintained control of the Senate, Democrats took back the House.
History was made in milestones that broke racial and gender barriers. Congress now has over 100 women elected (38 of them women of color, which includes two first-time female Muslim candidates) and a countless wave of unprecedented firsts across the board. It’s great that the Democratic party can relish in this victory, but it’s most important that they don’t squander this opportunity as the nation gears up for 2020.
Here are three major focus areas for the Dems to seriously address now that they have control of the U.S. House of Representatives:
Maximize subpoena power to impeach
With more legitimate checks and balances, Democrats in Congress can now exercise subpoena power to hold President Trump more accountable. The importance of having the ability to subpoena allows for the political agenda to be reset by whichever party has the majority. In theory, issues that Republicans tried to avoid over the past two years can now be brought to the floor by Democrats as a way to hopefully bring about necessary change.
For example, House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler can now have more watchdog power in making sure that nothing shady is going on between the Trump administration and the Justice Department. House Foreign Affairs Committee. Chair Eliot Engel could subpoena those connected with Trump’s Saudi Arabia policy in an attempt to avoid corruption in the wake of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. And more importantly, a majority Democratic Congress, lead by House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Adam Schiff, could possibly open up a more aggressive Russia investigation that might finally lead to the impeachment of Trump if he’s found guilty of collision.
In a nutshell, Democrats have got to come out strong and make the possibility of impeaching Trump more of a probability ( as only 58 percent of Democrats voted to even debate the thought of doing so in 2017) and be ready to speak truth to power on the Congressional floor.
Demand Trump’s tax returns
By taking back the House, Democrats now have access to positions of influence. More notably, Rep. Maxine Waters is now set to chair the House Financial Services committee which would give her the opportunity to subpoena Trump’s tax returns. With the support of the House Ways and Means committee, Waters would easily be able to reclaim her time and finally hold this President accountable on information he’s been withholding from the American people.
These tax returns would help fully inform Congress in addressing any conflicts of interest that might lie within Trump’s current policies. Plus, it means that Waters might finally collect the receipts we’ve been waiting for since day one.
Produce legislation that brings back civility in 2020
For the next two years, Republicans can no longer pass a single bill without the approval of Democrats. Party leaders now have the ability to block legislation that they find oppressive — say goodbye to huge tax cuts, threats to repeal Obamacare, and attempts to cut Medicaid and food stamps — the conservative policy agenda gets a hard pass for now.
While the stove is still hot, Democrats must spend their energy restoring fiscal support to social programs that benefit the working class, combatting college loan debt, addressing the big banks, defending immigration, while overall blocking the toxic, divisive policies from the Commander in Chief. It’s a hard job, but someone’s got to do it.
While bipartisanship will be desirable at times, Democrats have got to remember that too many compromises might hurt them in 2020 — especially when Trump still has the ability to exercise executive orders. Democrats have to walk the fine line of not only resisting the Trump administration, but bringing some legislative victories to their supporters.
Otherwise, all of the effort to get back the House was all in vein.
Ernest Owens is the Editor of Philadelphia magazine’s G Philly and CEO of Ernest Media Empire, LLC. The award-winning journalist has written for USA Today, NBC News, BET, HuffPost and several other major publications. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and ernestowens.com.