Second, the administration should expect more pressure to enforce Russia sanctions, and perhaps add more. Along the same lines, the House will take a closer look at past and present Russian meddling in U.S. elections. These investigations could be constructive, and closer House-Senate cooperation would go a long way toward presenting a united political front in the face of Moscow’s continuing efforts to undermine American democracy.
Third, Democrats in the House may seek to condition weapons sales to Saudi Arabia on progress in ending the Yemen war, and to highlight human-rights abuses in places such as Burma (also known as Myanmar).
Fourth, the Democratic House may insist on lower defense spending. Trump has already announced that he’ll request a Pentagon budget for the next fiscal year that is some $16 billion lower than the current level. A Republican Congress would likely have pushed the number back up, but Democrats may reduce it further. Representative Adam Smith, who will chair the House Armed Services Committee, has publicly said that defense spending is too high. If the Democratic House and the Republican Senate are unable to work out a new budget deal that covers fiscal years 2020 and 2021, the “sequestration” spending caps will kick back into effect.
Carol Anderson: Brian Kemp’s lead in Georgia needs an asterisk.
One area that will likely not change is the U.S.-China relationship. The president encounters pushback on nearly every other foreign-policy issue—his approaches to North Korea, Iran, trade, NATO, North America, and more have each generated angst and counterreactions. Both Democrats and Republicans, however, have largely welcomed Trump’s more confrontational approach to Beijing, and the business community has offered quiet support.
While many lawmakers disagree with the president’s objectives—focusing on the trade deficit, for instance, instead of unfair investment rules, the manipulation of state-owned enterprises, forced technology transfer, and the theft of intellectual property—they generally concur on the need for a reckoning. Beyond economic matters, Democrats, Capitol Hill Republicans, and the administration are all concerned about Beijing’s conduct in the South and East China Seas, its deteriorating human-rights practices (including reeducation camps in Xinjiang), and its military modernization. Trump therefore has a relatively free hand to remain tough on Beijing. Indeed, worries that he will cut a symbolic trade deal and relax the pressure currently exceed anxiety about the dangers of a U.S.-China confrontation.
Taking a bird’s-eye view, the Democrats’ House victory may also affect how America is perceived in the world. Our traditional, democratic allies, who followed campaign developments closely, may be relieved that the American electorate has delivered a check on a leader that they view as impulsive and unpredictable.