BREAKING Trump Is Nothing Without the Senate And so are the Democrats – News

BREAKING Trump Is Nothing Without the Senate And so are the Democrats – News


Trump Is Nothing Without the Senate And so
are the Democrats. For Democrats looking to win back a piece
of national political power, the House is where the heart is. With a gain of 23 seats
needed for control, and the Cook Political Report listing 29 Republican seats at risk
(and only three imperiled Democrats), it’s a plausible political target. Last week, Barack
Obama’s political action committee, Organizing for Action—granted, with a highly unimpressive
track record in the past two midterms—announced it would throw its energies into some two
dozen House races with what a spokesman called “an all-hands-on-deck movement.” But if the goal is to thwart the wholesale,
radical changes in policy that President Donald Trump’s administration is pursuing, the
House is the wrong target. It’s the Senate that has been the most significant political
player of the past four years. Although the president has made himself the obsessive focus
of friends and foes, it was the Republican capture and retention of the Senate in 2014
and 2016 that was and is the key to what Trump has wrought. To understand why, imagine what
the political terrain would have looked like with the Senate in Democratic hands. Republicans took the Senate in 2014 when popular
Democratic incumbents in red and purple states (West Virginia, Iowa, Montana) retired, and
Republicans avoided nominating wingnut candidates in other states (Indiana, Colorado, Missouri)
that had cost them four or five seats in 2010 and 2012. With that control, Majority Leader
Mitch McConnell was able to pull off a singular triumph: blocking President Obama’s nomination
to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia with D.C. Circuit Chief Judge
Merrick Garland with almost a year left in Obama’s second term. With a Democratic Senate, Majority Leader
Harry Reid likely would have done exactly what Mitch McConnell did in 2017—abolish
the judicial filibuster, and elevate Garland (rather than Neil Gorsuch) to the high court.
If Reid had stayed his hand, his successor, Chuck Schumer, might have exercised a “thermonuclear
option” of his own: In the 17 days between the start of the new Senate and Donald Trump’s
inauguration, Obama could have renominated Garland and a Democratic Senate could have
confirmed him. The fallout would have been huge, but Schumer could have pointed to McConnell’s
yearlong obstructionism, and the fact that Trump won 3 million fewer votes than his rival. OK, put that fantasy aside. Instead, look
at what would have happened with Trump in the White House and Democrats in control of
the Senate. Gorsuch’s confirmation battle becomes much tougher, even if his genial demeanor
might have convinced enough Democrats that he was not Scalia on steroids. More broadly,
there is no way that the Senate Judiciary Committee, under the leadership of Dianne
Feinstein, would elevate a record number of judges—with views that range from highly
conservative to fringe—to federal courts. (One Trump nominee would not agree that the
landmark school desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education was rightly decided.) Nor
would Feinstein have ignored, as Senator Charles Grassley has done, the traditional “blue
slip” power of senators to block the appointments of judges from their home states. When Trump supporters point to the president’s
achievements, they cite his judicial choices, and for good reason. More than any other power
(except—perhaps—the ability to wage war), a president’s ability to reshape the federal
bench—a power that lasts decades beyond a presidential term—is the most potent.
Put Democrats in the Senate these past two years and that power would have been significantly
weakened. But the significance of the Senate reaches
beyond control of the bench. What is Trump’s most significant legislative victory? It’s
the $1.5 trillion tax cut, with its many comforts to the comfortable. That bill passed by a
51-48 margin. With Senator Ron Wyden as chairman, not only does that tax bill not pass, it does
not leave the Finance Committee in anything like its present form. The Republicans would
also have failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate for health
insurance. The president’s Cabinet requires the advice
and consent of the Senate (and only the Senate). With Democrats in power, a host of Cabinet
appointees—from Betsy DeVos at Education to Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection
Agency to Mick Mulvaney as the budget chief—likely go down to defeat. Another Cabinet member
who might have lost the confirmation battle? Jeff Sessions as attorney general. With a
different appointee, the battle over the charges of Russian collusion in the campaign and obstruction
of justice would have taken on a radically different shape. Maybe Robert Mueller would
still be toiling away at WilmerHale. With Democrats in control, the investigative
power of the Senate could turn an unsparing spotlight onto the behavior of the Trump administration,
very much including the first family. There’d be a more or less permanent forum to probe
conflicts of interest, like the trademark grants given by China to Ivanka Trump as the
president reached out to save a Chinese telecom giant blacklisted by the Department of Commerce. This thought exercise in imagining what a
Democratic Senate might have done over the past four years underscores why control of
the upper house of Congress will matter so much more for the rest of Trump’s presidency
than what happens in the House. Yes, a Democratic victory in the lower chamber would slow whatever
is left of Trump’s domestic agenda. Yes, the House has its own considerable power to
investigate wrongdoing in the executive branch. Yes, it’s the chamber that begins the impeachment
process. But if Republicans hold the Senate—and the platoon of endangered Democratic incumbents
suggests that’s likely—the most significant elements behind Trump’s victories will remain
untouched. The reshaping of the federal judiciary would
remain firmly in Republican hands, and with it, the increasing likelihood of new Supreme
Court appointments that would lock in conservative control of the court for decades. Trump’s
next round of Cabinet appointments would win confirmation, no matter their views on immigration
policy, labor law, environmental protection. On foreign policy, where the Senate holds
the lion’s share of legislative power, there would be no institutional challenge to the
president’s impulses save an occasional rhetorical sigh of unhappiness from the Republican
majority. So around midnight on November 6, Democrats
may be in a party mood if the electorate gives them control of the House. But if the Senate
stays in Republican hands, the celebration will look very different in the cold light
of day.

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