Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds the gavel after being elected Speaker of the House for the 116th Congress. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
The 116th U.S. Congress was sworn in today as the Democrats finally take control of the House of Representatives.
The occasion will put an end to President Donald Trump’s complete control of both chambers of Congress and should put a cap on one of the zaniest two-year periods in American political history.
It also marks the stunning comeback of 78-year-old Nancy Pelosi, who was sworn-in as Speaker of the House.
In returning to the role she occupied between 2007 and 2011, Pelosi becomes the first person to accomplish that since the legendary Washington powerbroker Sam Rayburn did it in 1955.
It’s a remarkable comeback for a politician who has been written off countless times, not only by the media but also by some members of her own party. In 2017, Pelosi faced down a revolt by the younger generation of representatives, who accused her of being too old and too out of touch with the direction of the party. In fact, many of these younger Democrats opposed her speakership and only supported her when she finally promised to step down in 2022.
That Pelosi survived the party coup and negative media portrayals has proven she is neither too old or out of touch. A veteran of countless political battles in Washington, she’s burnished her image as savvy veteran politician who knows how to get things done. And in her early meetings with Trump, she has showed no signs of backing down and has sent notice she is ready to make life difficult for the President.
This became clear in the infamous Oval Office moment, where she along with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer trapped the President into owning the government shutdown. She sparred with the President fact-checking his typically wild assertions in real time and uttering the meme-worthy line “please don’t characterize the strength I bring.” She later went out to the gathered reporters wearing sunglasses and a red power coat. Her protestations of “that old thing” aside, this cemented her mastery of the social media game worthy of insurgent Democratic politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also being sworn in today as the youngest congresswoman ever to serve.
From this we can predict that Pelosi and the Democrat house will oppose Trump on many fronts, including:
Blocking the Wall Trump won the 2016 election in large part on his promise to ensure border security between Mexico and the U.S. by constructing a wall between the two nations, which he originally said Mexico would pay for. In December, he instituted a partial government shutdown because he refused to sign a spending bill that did not include $5 billion to be directed to the wall. Pelosi, has made it clear that this money will not be forthcoming, telling NBC yesterday: “No, no. Nothing for the wall.”
Aggressively Investigating Trump While in control of the House, the Democrats have the power to convene hearings not only into Trump’s tax returns, his 2016 campaign spending measures but, most particularly, his ties to Russian influence. In the past two years, Trump has made life difficult for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the extent of Russian influence in the last election. Pelosi and the Democrats will allow Mueller to operate with more freedom and thinks that Trump could be indicted, despite the long-held belief that a sitting President cannot be charged. “We have to wait and see what happens with the Mueller report,” Pelosi said in the NBC interview. And if the findings are damaging can the President be indicted? “’I think that is an open discussion in terms of the law,” said the speaker.
Threat of Impeachment On Thursday, California Rep. Brad Sherman says he will introduce a measure to impeach the President for obstructing justice. While he introduced the same thing last year, he feels it might gain momentum in a Democrat-controlled House. Pelosi, however, has all but ruled out impeaching Trump, saying that it shouldn’t be done for political or partisan reasons and that the “evidence would have to be so conclusive.” Pelosi has been in a similar position before: in 2006 she blocked a movement among Democrats to impeach President George W. Bush for misleading Congress on Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction. However, the very fact that impeachment talk is in the air is an unwanted distraction hanging over the Trump presidency.