Democrats’ first 100 days show little progress
Democrats stormed into control of the House on promises to raise wages, lower the cost of health care and improve how Congress works, saying they were siphoning power from Washington elites and giving it back to the people.
At the 100-day mark, they have barely made a dent.
They have passed bills to revamp campaigns, to tighten gun controls and to reinstate Obama-era regulations restricting internet companies’ sales practices in a policy known as net neutrality. None of those is expected to have action in the Senate.
A bill to block President Trump’s border wall emergency declaration did clear both chambers, but the House was unable to override the president’s veto.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she and her team should get a bit of a pass, given the headwinds they faced when they claimed the majority Jan. 3.
“You have to remember our first few weeks for [these 100 days] we were in the midst of a government shutdown,” she told reporters this month. “Even with that, I’m very proud of the record we’ve had for the people on the initiatives that we said we were going to work on.”
Where Democrats have made a major start is on the investigative front. They have issued document requests and voted to approve subpoenas across the span of Mr. Trump’s relatives, associates and business empire.
While laying the groundwork for possible impeachment proceedings or, at the least, providing fodder for Democrats’ 2020 campaign to unseat Mr. Trump, those efforts are unlikely to put another dollar in Americans’ pockets.
Rep. David N. Cicilline of Rhode Island, a member of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters at the House Democrats’ Issues Conference that his party has to balance its focus between legislation and investigations, even as they look to gain the president’s support on major issues
“I don’t think we have a choice but to do both,” he said. “I think there’s a way that you can conduct oversight that may be less threatening and uses less-bombastic rhetoric, but I think the fundamental work needs to be done.”
As they wrapped up their annual retreat, Democrats pushed a clear message: They are unified and open to bipartisanship.
But after 100 days of intraparty squabbles and winning over only a handful of Republican votes on a few bills, it has opened up Mrs. Pelosi to accusations that she is squandering her majority.
Democrats got their biggest black eye last week when party leaders canceled votes on a bill to raise spending caps for 2020 and 2021. The leaders’ proposal would have surged both defense and domestic spending, but liberal lawmakers said the Pentagon didn’t deserve a boost.
“You can sum up the first 100 days in three words: radicalism, resistance and resolutions,” Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said at a press conference Wednesday. “They’ve pulled the vote because they’ve allowed the socialist wing of their party to overtake them.”
Before that, Democrats were on a winning streak for their legislation. One big coup was passage of a major campaign and elections overhaul. Despite opposition from key groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, no Democrat voted against it.
A bill on pay discrimination won unanimous Democratic support and grabbed seven Republicans.
“She does have a caucus that is not completely united. So far, she’s walked that tightrope rather well,” Charles Ballard, an economics professor at Michigan State University, told The Washington Times. “It’s not an easy task but she’s a very savvy politician.”
When Mrs. Pelosi took the gavel in 2007, she passed 110 House bills through her chamber by the beginning of April. This year, that total was 92. Perhaps even more striking, just 28 percent of those bills came up through the committee process, compared with 74 percent in 2007.
Using the committees rather than writing bills at the leadership level was one of the Democrats’ major promises.
“So much for the people’s House,” Mr. McCarthy said on the House floor. “It’s leadership deciding what comes, not the body of the House getting to work on issues.”
Democrats acknowledged a lot of the legislation they are pursuing will struggle to gain a vote, much less passage, in the Senate.
“What we see are these for the people agenda items — whether it’s expanding health care, Paycheck Fairness Act, making sure we keep guns out of the hands of criminals — all these policies are starting to pile up at the Senate’s door,” Rep. Katherine M. Clark of Massachusetts, Democratic caucus vice chair, told reporters this month.
But as Democrats reached the 100-day mark, they took on a more defiant tone and argued that they could rely on public sentiment to strong-arm the Senate into taking up their bills.
“They will either act upon the legislation or be accountable to the public for why they did not,” Mrs. Pelosi said Friday. “If what you are suggesting is that we sit back and say: ‘Well, [the] Senate — they’ll never do anything no matter what the public thinks. So why should we do anything?’ You have mistaken us for somebody else.”
In addition to stunted attempts at lawmaking, Democrats have pursued a number of nonbinding resolutions, such as condemning the administration’s policy on transgender troops and urging the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative report on Mr. Trump.
The special counsel resolution won unanimous support in the House, including among Republicans.
Republicans and Democrats also are teaming up on a special committee to modernize the House.
Mark Strand, president of the Congressional Institute, felt hopeful about that effort but said the other big bills Democrats have worked on aren’t going anywhere.
“If they seriously want to get things done, they have to work with Senate Republicans,” he said.
Democrats said there might be a “window of opportunity” to do just that.
Moving forward, it appears there will be less of a focus on their marquee messaging bills and a prioritization on infrastructure and drug prices. There is also talk that House Democrats, Senate Republicans and Mr. Trump were open to working on comprehensive immigration reform, though it remains to be seen how much room there is for compromise.
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