With Democrats taking power in the US House of Representatives and Republicans expanding their control of the Senate, Tuesday’s results point out to a deeply divided Congress – a scenario that could easily mean deadlock. Mark Carl Rom, an expert on US politics and public policy, discusses here some of the key issues defining the country’s political landscape in the wake of the midterms.
Rom is the associate dean for academic affairs at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy and the author of numerous books and articles about financial policy, state politics and ethics reform, among other topics. He had previously worked at the US Congress and the US Government Accountability Office.
Now that the Democratic party broke the GOP’s monopoly of power in Washington, what does the Congress look like and what should we expect?
It’s going to be very difficult for major legislation to be enacted in the upcoming two years because for any law to be enacted a majority of both parties would have to agree – and Democrats and Republicans are so divided. We can expect the American judicial system moving in a much more conservative direction, as the Senate has control over the appointments to the federal judiciary. On the other hand, Democrats will have the ability to conduct what’s called “oversight,” investigations on the Trump administration and him personally, as well as any of the cabinet departments. The two most promising areas for bipartisan agreement are infrastructure and trade, working on policies to benefit and protect their constituents.
What are some of the top issues dividing the two parties?
Healthcare and immigration. The Democratic Party wants an affordable, universally-guaranteed healthcare system funded by the government, and the Republicans will not agree to that. Republicans are also highly opposed to allowing immigration at large and certainly not illegal immigration. But the Democrats already pointed out they don’t want to fund the border wall Trump wants.
These elections delivered a series of history-making votes that marked major accomplishments for women, minorities and LGBT candidates – how do you comment on that?
It’s quite amazing. Forty percent of Democrats in Congress are female. People of colour, people of different ethnic groups, religious groups, the LGBT – that’s all on the Democratic side. We had the first two Muslin women and the first two Native American women in Congress, the first openly-gay male governor… it really is an impressive broadening of the diversity of the Democratic Party in this election.
What do the Democrats need to do to reclaim the presidency in 2020?
The Democrats found it hard to believe that President Trump won in the first place and I think they fear he can win again. The Democrats need to focus on issues that would be broadly popular among young voters, minorities, but also older white voters. They need to have a leader – it’s not clear who is going to be their strongest candidate in 2020.