A New Year’s Political Hodge-Podge – Sunday Political Brunch – January 6, 2019

Sunday, January 06, 2019
Mark Curtis, GoLocalWorcester Contributor

I spent two days on Capitol Hill this week as the 116th Congress was sworn-in. Democrats took control of the House of Representatives, while Republicans remain in control of the White House and Senate. Transitions of power always fascinate me, and it was great to bear witness to it in person. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Shared Power” – The last two years have been marked by a pitched battle between President Trump and Democrats, and especially with members of Trump’s own Republican Party. Some are hoping that now as Democrats share power with control of the House, there will be room for compromise. This week at the U.S. Capitol Senator Joe Manchin (D) West Virginia told me, "When you have all Democrats or all Republicans, they tend not to listen to the other side. Now they have to. So, the President has to understand that if he wants anything done, he's got to work with the majority of Democrats in the House."

“Can They Compromise?” – When I arrived in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, there was a tweet from President Trump saying to the Democratic Congressional leaders, “Let’s Make a Deal” as if channeling the old TV game show of the same name, hosted by Monte Hall. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded on Twitter with an #IrresponsibleTrumpShutdown hash tag and it all spiraled out of control form there, with Trump at some points calling it the “Schumer Shutdown.” It was three-way finger pointing at its finest!

“From a Viewer’s Perspective” – One of my TV viewers from Wheeling, West Virginia asked me Friday what I thought would happen with the shutdown. Here’s my best guess: President wants $5 billion for the border wall. Democrats (and some Republicans) want a path to citizenship for a few million so-called “Dreamers,” or DACA immigrants. They are people who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents, when the kids were young, minor children, who had no say in their fate. Many are now adults, who have assimilated into the United States and are educated and working. I predict Trump will allow the “Dreamers” to stay (with some strict guidelines) and Democrats will give a more generic multi-billion-dollar border fund that won’t be specifically earmarked for a wall but could be used as such. Is it an “Art of the Deal” moment? We’ll see!

“Chaos! What Chaos?” – The partial (about 25 percent) government shutdown has stretched into two weeks. With this, along with several high profile White House personnel and cabinet departures, many in the national media kept reporting about “chaos” at the White House, Capitol, and indeed all of Washington, D.C. Well, in my two days in the Capitol City – where I previously worked for six years and visited many times since – I saw no signs of chaos. The hustle and bustle of D.C. was alive and well. The beat goes on, as the song says.

“Year of the Woman, Part Two” – One of the genuine pieces of history made this week was the swearing in of the largest number of women serving in both the House and Senate in American history. Women now hold 127 seats in the House and Senate which amounts to 24 percent of Congress. Parity no; progress, yes. This week I got to interview two of them for their perspective. "We're wired differently. We bring different tools. Most women I know have seven or eight plates up in the air, spinning at all times, doing multi-tasking," said Rep. Carol Miller (R) West Virginia-Dist. 3. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R) said, “We are known to be better negotiators, working across the aisle with other women. I always say that women are busy people. You know we have lots on our plate that we are doing every single day.”

“Compromise or Gridlock?” – I am often asked to predict how political dynamics will shake out, especially when the power structure shifts and changes. When Bill Clinton was elected President in 1992, he had Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate but got very little accomplished. In 1994, when voters gave control of both chambers in Congress to Republicans, many thought the Clinton presidency was doomed. It wasn’t. Both sides looked for common ground and passed a major crime bill, welfare reform, and ground-breaking telecommunications legislation. They also balanced the federal budget for the first time in decades. We’ll be see if a similar dynamic take place now that we have divided government again. Stay tuned!

What would you like to see President Trump and the divided Congress achieve together? Just click the comment button on this page or click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia and it’s five neighboring states.

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