After the Democrats retake the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi promises that there will now be a 'checks and balances' on President Trump's administration.
Now that the Democrats have won the House, but not the Senate, a chorus of smarty-pants will insist the president faces only nuisance House investigations, no real check. That is not true, and here’s why.
If the new Democratic House acts responsibly, holding responsible hearings — and looking carefully at the Mueller report when it arrives — they can and they will obtain Republican senators’ support. But the new Democratic House must be responsible. They must lay out facts and evidence that will be persuasive to Republican senators who are not in Mr. Trump’s pocket. These senators exist and include Ben Sasse, Thom Tillis, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Rand Paul, Cory Gardner and others.
The new Democratic House needs to make arguments not with an ear to what the Democratic base wants to hear now, but rather with an ear to persuading these five to 10 Republican senators.
Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama — the last three presidents each believed they had the key to unlock the nation's stubborn partisan gridlock and create a permanent governing majority. Each failed. Tuesday night, Donald Trump joined them. Expect more political trench warfare as a result.
The Senate will not act precipitously. It is, as the saying goes, the “cooling saucer” for the House, designed to temper House legislation much as a saucer tempers hot tea. Yes, we’ve endured egregious conduct from Trump-loving sycophants like Devin Nunes over in the House, part of what drove this recent Blue Wave of protest. But the behavior of Republicans in the Senate in the past two years has been much more responsible. One need only compare Congressman Nunes and his shenanigans to Sen. Richard Burr and the Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence.
If the newly elected Democratic House can obtain the cogent facts — indisputable evidence-based facts, facts that are not subject to partisan bickering — there will not be one Republican senator who sides with Democratic senators against President Trump; there will be a group of them.
Why? Well, we know the new Congress will launch a plethora of embarrassing House investigations. Then there’s the Mueller report, which will land with a thud. Imagine the full extent of what that report will contain — the mountain of evidence in the form of incontrovertible documents. Already the special counsel has indicted or gotten guilty pleas from nearly three dozen people and several businesses. Among those caught up in the probe just thus far are four former Trump advisers, more than two dozen Russian nationals, three Russian companies, a dude from California and a Skadden lawyer whose father in law is a Russian oligarch.
Fresh off Republican setbacks in the midterms, President Trump went on a blistering anti-media tirade on Wednesday and threatened to probe Democrats for “leaks” if the party’s newly-elected House majority subpoenas his tax returns or launches investigations into him or his administration.
As the embarrassments mount in 2019 so will excruciating pressure on Republican senators. It is already an open secret in Washington that many Republican senators despise this president. They privately fret about The Donald's takeover of their party, his flouting of norms, his rebuke to the rule of law, his elevation of white nationalism and, more than anything else, what he is doing to their place in history.
It is this group who could end up siding with Democratic senators and ending the Trump era. These Republican senators could support Democrats on legislation, on investigations and, yes, even on impeachment. This isn't a prediction, we already have proof.
In July 2017, in a near unanimous vote, the Republican-led Senate imposed sanctions on Russia in defiance of the president’s clear wishes — rebuking him pointedly for his deference to the Kremlin and especially for the bizarre meeting he held with Russian officials in the Oval Office after the firing of James Comey.
President Trump and Nancy Pelosi, who will likely lead the House Democratic majority next year, spoke of working together a day after Tuesday's election delivered a split decision. But both also laid down clear markers ahead of a likely fight over investigations with 2020 implications.
If the new House handles all of its investigations responsibly, and if the Mueller report turns up credible, damning information on the president, it will be very hard for those five to 10 winnable Republican senators to look the other way. It was, after all, Republicans Barry Goldwater and John Rhodes who, as the Watergate controversy came to its final climax, went over to the White House to tell Richard Nixon his goose was cooked. He did not have enough Republican votes in the Senate to remain in office.
Tell your Democratic representatives in Congress to act responsibly over the next two years. If they do, the Republican-led Senate will not only check this president, it will revive the democracy our founders created.
Nancy Langer, a Baltimore native, has worked for human rights groups — including the ACLU, Lambda Legal Defense, Planned Parenthood and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees — on four continents. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.