Mulhall column: A wuff in Smurf clothing
November 8, 2018
Nationally speaking, the blue wave that was supposed to be the 2018 midterm election turned out to be something like a bobble-head smurf nodding out the rear window of a Prius.
Where state government races were concerned, midterms were significant. But in D.C., the midterm Congressional power shift was surprisingly weak.
Sure, there will be an end-zone dance by the left to celebrate their new House majority, but when it comes time to spike the ball, the reality of a tied score will set in, and the Senate's clock management will have House Democrats measuring the Congressional business of the next two years in coffee spoons.
Not much will change. But a few things will.
For one, the number of investigations arising from the left and targeting the executive branch and other conservative "enemies" will increase. Why? With its new House majority, Democrats just landed subpoena power.
It's hard to tell what House Democrats might come up with, but you can bet it won't have much to do with passing legislation.
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Who can blame them, really? No major legislation supported by either party will arise from Congress. Immigration reform, tax cuts, tax increases, gun control, border control — you pick — nothing will get done. Republican legislation will never make it out of House committee, and Democrat legislation will die in the Senate. Why not cut your losses and focus on impeaching POTUS?
As a consequence of this legislative vacuum, look for more executive orders. Like President Obama before him, President Trump may invoke executive privilege to get something, anything, done.
We're all familiar with former President Obama's broad exercise of executive authority, so this is nothing new, but this is where the change comes in: What was in executive authority tacitly approved by the media under President Obama will turn into full-throated outrage under President Trump. Bank on it.
With Democrats like Maxine Waters leading the Financial Services Committee and renewed power by Elijah Cummings on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, prepare for a parade of attempts to undermine the executive branch unrestrained by even a hint of logic or good sense. Some attempts will give us all pause. Most will amount to comedy gold when President Trump fires up his Twitter feed.
With the expanded Senate majority, which may yet increase depending on how Arizona's McSally v. Sinema race pans out, presidential judicial nominations at all levels will be proceed at a quicker pace. Non-SCOTUS judicial appointments tend to fly under media radar, so they won't amount to a full-on Kavanaugh redux. However, if you enjoyed the Kavanaugh hearings, be sure to pay attention to the Lindsey Graham show at Senate judiciary committee.
In the wake of the midterm, President Trump sacked Attorney General Sessions. Sessions and Assistant AG Rod Rosenstein I figured for short-timers months ago — no clairvoyance needed there. The only thing mildly surprising about this is that it didn't happen when the polls closed Tuesday.
Session's replacement, former U.S. Attorney Matthew Whitaker, wrote an op-ed critical of Rosenstein last year, so this dust-up in the AG office may portend changes in the Mueller investigation.
No matter, though; as the approach of the 2020 election puts the 2016 election farther into the rearview mirror, House Democrats will no doubt latch on to some new slab of red meat served up fresh by their subpoena power.
Among all the changes that the new Democrat majority in the House may bring about, there is one that stands out as bit of a silver lining, and I'm not referring to the possibility, however remote, that the likes of Beto O'Rourke and Elizabeth Warren will somehow disappear from the political landscape before 2020.
No, the silver lining is that campaign ads have disappeared from the airwaves.
Don't dawdle, though. There are only about 500 days to fix the mute button on the remote.
Mitch Mulhall is a husband, father and longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident. His column appears on the second Friday of each month.