The 2018 elections at the Congressional level will provide ongoing political gridlock, beginning in January. Although the Democratic Party will retake the United States House of Representatives, thus ending unified government under the Republicans, they will not have the sufficient legislative power to push through an agenda.
The electorate knowingly or not, voted for a divided Congress and government. What they will get is very little actual legislation and even more political turmoil.
Despite the political grandstanding, the freshly empowered Democratic leadership in the House is already seeing, their promised agenda grinding to a halt.
The New Year has arrived and the government remains in shutdown mode. This situation was likely unavoidable, given the intransigence of the political leadership of the country.
It is a premonition of things to come in 2019. The vilification of political opponents will only increase, as normal legislative functions slow to a crawl.
The newly Democratic House, is liable to give into their political base and begin a new series of investigations of President Trump,members of his family and administration.
Upon the conclusion of the Special Prosecutor Mueller’s investigation, impeachment of President Trump looms as a distinct possibility.
Present and former associates of the President, are also fair game. A much wider circle of them, will soon fall under scrutiny and suspicion.
Elements in the comprised media will dutifully play their role, in sensationalizing each new bit of information, regardless of any real evidence or pertinent facts.
The Senate will remain in Republican hands, but due to the 60 vote rule on most pieces of legislation, little will be passed by the Congress at large. It was difficult enough to pass bills, when the House was in Republican hands.
Mitch McConnell the Senate Majority Leader, will still not agree to the riddance of the 60 vote. His reasoning is based on tradition and preserving the power of the minority. He can easily foresee a time, when the Senate, will once again fall into Democratic hands.
Many leading Senate Democrats have learned to regret the decision, made by then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2013. He led the drive to abolish the 60 vote filibuster, for most nominations. His explanation at the time was that Republicans were being obstructionist, in the approval of then President Obama’s appointments.
Two changes to the convention of the Senate were then enacted upon. First, the rules of the Senate could henceforth be changed by a simple majority, rather than the traditional two-thirds vote. The second, Cabinet-level appointees and judicial nominees below the Supreme Court level, would now only need a simple majority.
At the time the Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Democrats, they would rue the day when their membership voted to abolish the filibuster.
The change in the balance of power came far sooner than Democrats had expected. In 2014, the Republicans won back control of the Senate, that they had lost in the 2006 elections.
The new power of the Senate majority became far more apparent, once a Republican candidate was returned to the Presidency after the 2016 elections.
A further change would arrive in 2017, when the newly elected President Donald Trump, announced his first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. This seat on the Supreme Court had been open for almost a year.
Majority Leader McConnell had refused to move forward on the nomination when Obama was still President. He explained that he preferred to let the voters decide, based on their preference in the 2016 elections. There are many that presume that McConnell took a gamble on the hope, that a Republican would win the White House in 2016. If that was the case, it did pay off quite well.
McConnell further pointed to what has been referred to as the Biden rule. Then Senator Biden in June of 1992, stated as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that any Supreme Court nominee presented to the Senate during a presidential election year, should not be acted upon.
Former Senator and then Vice President Biden later claimed he was taken out of context, when Merritt Garland was nominated by former President Obama in 2016, with the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.
When Senate Democrats decided to block the Gorsuch nomination on principle, Majority Leader McConnell felt he had little choice but to employ the nuclear option,which was to do away with the filibuster, in the approval of Supreme Court Justices nominees.
Now only a simple majority of 51 votes would be needed. If there was a tie, Vice President Pence would be on hand to break it, in the favor of the Republican majority.
There were a number of pundits at the time, that felt that not only had Senate Democrats forced McConnell’s hand, but it was basically a inconsequential fight, over a seat to replace a conservative Justice with another one of comparable orientation.
The real battle would arrive in 2018. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy although appointed by a then Republican President Reagan in 1987, had slowly evolved into a swing vote on the court. His announcement of retirement, would present Republicans, the opportunity to move the Supreme Court further to the right.
What followed was one of the most contentious and some consider the most disgraceful attempts, to derail a nominee, based solely on politics. The accusations of sexual impropriety made against Trump appointee, Brett Kavanaugh proved to be unsubstantiated and almost nonsensical, in their foundation.
A number of leading Senate Democrats tarnished their reputations, when they were ready to disregard legal precedent, in the rights of the accused, merely to score political points in a nomination fight, that they simply could not win under the new Senate rules.
In order to pass more of the Trump agenda, the President has urged McConnell to abandon the filibuster for all legislation. McConnell was unwilling to move in that direction, when the House of Representatives was in Republican hands. He will be even more reluctant, now that the Democrats have regained control of the House.
If McConnell would move to abolish the filibuster on all legislation, the Senate would become even more partisan. The upper chamber would soon resemble the House, where a simple majority is all that is required, to move forward on legislation. There will no longer be any need or reason, to try in building political consensus.
To be fair to President Trump, he as any other former executive, is not much worried about long term political implications or consequences. The President is focused on getting his own agenda passed and in place.
In the present political vitriol, it is going to be difficult, to pass any controversial legislation in the Congress, that will need a presidential signature.
Many of the presidential policy initiatives for the rest of Trump’s term, are now dead in the water. The time to get those passed, has already come and gone.
Part of the problem for President Trump was that a large number of his priorities, were not in line with what the Congressional leadership wanted, on both sides of the aisle.
On the Republican side, whether is was a lack of political courage or foresight, maybe just simple disagreement, these leaders at least publicly, often did not support the presidential endeavors.
Identified as RINOS (Republican In Name Only), these members of Congress were often criticized by more conservative members of the party.
President Trump took it up a notch and openly attacked them, as individuals undermining his agenda. He certainly was not going to follow Presidents Reagan’s admonishment, about not criticizing fellow Republicans.
Although the President may be considered conservative on issues like taxation and business regulation, he is more of a pragmatist, than an ideologue. He is far more open to comprise than many conservatives, are often comfortable with.
Trump instead, seems far more interested in keeping his own campaign promises, than in worrying about the future political viability of individual members of Congress.
Of course, the same could be said of the previous occupant of the White House. President Obama contributed greatly to the destruction of the Democratic majorities, in both houses of Congress.
His single mindedness focus on the Affordable Health Care Act, was a prime example. He did not seem at all concerned, that in voting for this controversial legislation, quite a few members of the Democrat caucus were in reality, destroying their political careers.
Former President Obama was quite fond of reminding political opponents, about how election results have consequences, when trying to force through his agenda.
It is no different with President Trump. He won the 2016 election fairly,irrespective of the propaganda emanating from the political left and their supporters in the media.
As an elected American President, he has the right to put forth his policy preferences. Partisans on both sides of the political aisle, have begun to lose sight of this.
Putting aside the ongoing rhetoric, that somehow Trump is different and therefore must be opposed at all costs, one needs to remember how our system works.
It has been a destructive and ruinous undertaking, on the part of many Democrats, to attempt to undo the election results of 2016.
Yes, there were some on the opposing side, that engaged in similar tactics, when Obama was President. The difference now is that it seems to be a coordinated effort, by the entire Democrat party.
It was after all, the Republican majority that allowed the appointment of a special prosecutor, to investigate outside interference in 2016 election and the role the President played, if any, in those events.
Many leading Democrats within and without the government, have since come out against the President, in a most disrespectful and scornful way in their criticisms.
These duplicitous individuals then feign outrage and shock, when Trump returns their rhetoric in kind.
One can make the supposition that their expectation was that Trump should allow and even participate, in the destruction of his own presidency.
This was in actuality what occurred, during the second term of the Bush Presidency. A narrative that President Trump, is unlikely to repeat. He has neither the inclination nor personality, for that type of passive response.
The Democratic opposition has moved far beyond the reasonable response, that there is simply political differences in policy. They now collectively prescribe grievous and immoral attributes to Republicans in general and especially towards President Trump.
To hear leading Democrats explain how the presidential request for $5 billion USD (United States Dollar) to help fund the construction of a border wall is unreasonable and totally out of the question,is why part of the country’s government remains shuttered.
A number of them even venture that the denial is based on their wish to contain runaway government spending. This is where they must draw the line they insist, as they give their full support for universal health coverage (Medicare for all), an entitlement that will cost $32 trillion USD in one decade (2022 – 2031).
Democrats insist a wall will not work anyway. Well, if they would bother to research, they would find that such barriers do work well in Israel, and have done an adequate job in Germany and elsewhere during the Cold War.
There were many politicians on the right that insisted the Affordable Care Act would not work either, yet it was still fully funded for a number of years. At a cost that ran $110 billion USD in 2016 alone, this program known also as Obamacare, will cost $1.34 trillion USD in a single decade.
The issue should be focused on whether the President should be permitted to fulfill a campaign promise, that helped get him elected. Many Americans would think he has that right, even if they might disagree with the policy.
Of course, this will involve compromise where each side will get something, but not everything, they want. That is how the democratic process works.
Both sides continue to assign grievous intentions to the opposition.
Republicans insist Democrats want the border open, so the latter can enlist illegal migrants as future voters. Conservatives explain how the unsecured border has led to rising crime and drugs, not only in the Southwest, but throughout the country.
Republicans insist if the flow of illegal immigrants is slowed or stopped, this will not only make the country safer, but will save the United States government hundreds of billions of dollars. They assert there will be enormous savings in law enforcement and social programs.
Democrats for their part will explain that events on and emanating from the border, are not as bad as the public is being led to believe by Republicans. That there is no real need for a hard border.
In an attempt to play for the support of their present and future constituency, Democrats will talk about compassion, fairness and morality. They often try to mix illegal and legal immigration together, to try to portray conservatives and Republicans, as being against immigrants in general.
Legal immigrants must spend thousand of dollars and endure endless paperwork, as well as wait for years, to become legal residents and later citizens. If anything, letting an illegal migrant bypass this process is unfair.
The number of undocumented individuals that were apprehended at or near the border by officials, was under 400,000 for 2018. This is far lower than the 1.6 million in the year 2000 and 1.3 million in 2001.
However, whether the numbers are increasing or not, what is clear is that huge numbers of migrants are still being apprehended with countless others, still managing to get through.
The sheer numbers of crossings indicates there is a need for increased security and previous efforts at controlling the border, have not been entirely successful.
A political comprise most likely would involve some funding for the barrier or wall, in exchange for a definitive path towards citizenship, for the children brought to the United States with illegal immigrants.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a program that allows many of these same individuals to receive renewable two year periods of deferred deportation, plus being eligible for work permits in the United States. A change in their status would bring certainty to their situation, which many Democrats and a number of more moderate Republicans would support.
The problem with compromise in the present toxic political environment, is that previous statements made and actions taken on both sides, make this far more difficult now.
Immigration and border security are just one issue that divide the Congress and the President. There are many more, that will soon confront the two political parties in 2019 and 2020.
How this will play out in the 2020 presidential election and congressional elections is largely unknown.
However, history does give somewhat of a clue. When the Republicans overplayed their hand in their pursuit and impeachment of former President Clinton, they were ultimately punished at the ballot box by the American voter.
It seems in the end, the electorate prefers a sense of fairness and will only tolerate so much spite, by either side of the political spectrum.