“The more time [Democrats] spend bringing up administration officials to have to testify in front of Congress, the less time the administration officials have to execute what they’ve been asked to do by the president,” he said.
Here’s a rundown of the policies that could be most affected by the midterm results.
Trump has expansive authorities on trade, which may well be the animating theme of his next two years in office as he aims to transform the U.S. economy and pressure China and other economic rivals into making major concessions before the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
Hence why, despite the misgivings of Republican lawmakers, he has managed to withdraw the United States from a major multinational trade agreement, launch a trade war with the Chinese, and impose steel and aluminum tariffs on U.S. allies on national-security grounds.
Read: China and America may be forging a new economic order.
But while the president generally doesn’t need Congress’s approval to scuttle trade pacts or relationships, he does need its help to establish new ones. It will likely fall to the next Congress to approve Trump’s renegotiated trade agreement with Canada and Mexico (and any future trade pacts with Japan, the European Union, and post-Brexit Britain).
That’s where things could get interesting. Congressional Democrats are divided on the value of free trade. Many support Trump’s efforts to get tough on what they perceive as other countries’ unfair trade practices, and the kinds of improved labor and environmental standards called for in the Trump administration’s proposed successor to NAFTA. There is, just maybe, a bipartisan deal to be cut.
At AEI, Dearborn said he expected the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement to pass both houses of Congress (all that’s required is a simple majority in each). “If it’s going to be held up, it will be [so that the Democrats] can make a point on labor and environmental issues to try to … fire up their base as they head into the presidential election,” he predicted.
Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington State who’s in line to chair the House Armed Services Committee, told me one of his priorities in the next Congress will be to hold hearings on the “politicization of the military,” citing as one example the president’s deployment of thousands of U.S. troops to the border to deter incoming Central American migrants, just ahead of the midterm elections.
“I hate the way the Republican majority handled it when Obama was president, when Clinton was president—how they investigated everything,” Smith said. “I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the House of Representatives doing its job, which is to ask questions and exercise oversight of the executive branch.”
The military shouldn’t be used for Trump’s “immigration war,” Smith added. (There will probably be no corresponding scrutiny in the upper chamber, where the Oklahoma Republican Jim Inhofe, who is slated to be the next chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, succeeding the late John McCain, has praised Trump’s troop deployment and has been a stalwart supporter of the president and his defense secretary, Jim Mattis.)