Reality TV doesn’t get any better than the recent Oval Office brawl with Trump, Pelosi, and Schumer duking it out over border security. The media made much of it: “pitched partisan argument” (Politico), “testy confrontation” (New York Times), “political fireworks” (ABC). The days of smiling, comfy, fireside photo-ops may be over. Good thing – this was government transparency at its best.
With the next Congress divided and both sides in a cantankerous mood, it’s not hard to imagine a State of the Union scene where Trump, speaking at the well of the House, runs through his proposals while Pelosi tells him off from behind: “No way,” “fat chance,” or “don’t hold your breath Donald.”
What can we expect from Washington next year? On the policy front, not very much. House Democrats will introduce bills, not with the hope of ever becoming law, but to position themselves on issues for 2020, when they’ll battle for the presidency and the Senate.
Environmental protections are going to be among their top priorities. House progressives have convinced themselves (and unfortunately much of the public), that going green also adds green to the pocketbook. Look for the “Green New Deal” to be part of every progressive’s townhall speech.
When it comes to health care, single-payer “Medicare for All” thankfully won’t stand a chance of passing. But expect some stealth bills that some moderate Republicans would support, including outlawing pre-existing conditions as a factor for obtaining health insurance.
In the Senate, we can assume that Mitch McConnell will try to confirm as many conservative judges as he can possibly cram over the next couple of years. The preservation of the U.S. Constitution, thanks to vigilant legal minds who adhere to a conservative judicial philosophy, may be one of McConnell’s great legacies.
If any legislation has a prayer, it will be infrastructure spending. We can all agree that America’s highways and bridges are in badly need of repair. But with a 2019 budget deficit projected to be nearly $1 trillion, the question is how to pay for it. A Republican White House and Congress couldn’t bring themselves to cut back spending in the last Congress, so it’s hard to see them having any qualms about blowing past the $1 trillion deficit next year, especially if that spending includes the now legendary Wall. I predict that we will have some type of infrastructure bill signed into law.
Unfortunately, most of the drama in the new Congress won’t come from policymaking, but through investigations whose plots will take the twists and turns that only a Washington pundit could love.
The rest of us will have a long wait until the next season but it should be full of theatre – the 2020 presidential campaign.
Rowena Itchon is Senior Vice President of the Pacific Research Institute