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What Could Congress Look Like After The Midterms


It's finally Election Day. All 435 House seats and 35 Senate contests are on the line. So when the new Congress is sworn in in January, Capitol Hill could look quite different. Democrats have pledged to be a check on President Trump. And Republicans say they will keep pushing the president's agenda with a focus on jobs and the economy.

NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell is here now to talk about the different scenarios. Hi, Kelsey.


SHAPIRO: If Democrats do take control of the House, what do they say would be first on their agenda?

SNELL: Well, it kind of depends on how big a majority they have and whether or not Democrats are in control in the Senate. So if it's just that Democrats have a very narrow majority in the House and Republicans still control the Senate, there's really not a lot that they can do to kind of move forward on many of the progressive agenda items that you're hearing people who are out there campaigning about.

If - they're not going to vote on things that are going to divide the party. So to get things started, they're going to want to be doing a lot of investigations. We've already heard that Elijah Cummings, who is the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has a binder - stacks of binders - full of things that he wants to look into. And he's not alone.

The House Ways and Means Committee, which handles taxes and health care, has stuff they would like to look into. Even down to the - the Natural Resources Committee wants to look into Ryan Zinke, the Department of Interior secretary. So it's going to be investigations on investigations.

SHAPIRO: So you said they aren't eager to tackle legislation that might not pass a Republican-controlled Senate. But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has talked about bills that Democrats would vote on if she becomes a speaker. The first one, she says, would be a government reform and campaign finance package. Tell us about that.

SNELL: Yeah, that's actually something that generally Democrats can get behind. And it's part of her pledge to clean up Washington. It's not going to be that kind of partly - deeply partisan thing, something that would divide progressives from the more moderates. And she's - was at a press event this morning. Pelosi was at a press event when she repeated the pledge, and this is how she put it.


NANCY PELOSI: When we win, on the opening day, our Democratic Congress will be open and transparent.

SNELL: But you'll notice she doesn't give a lot of details. So it's really hard to know what she means by that - I mean, as far as we know, that it dovetails with that investigative process that she's been talking about for many, many months.

SHAPIRO: She also says, when we win, not if we win.

SNELL: (Laughter) Yeah, she has been saying that quite a bit. That has been a major theme of her closing argument is that Democrats are going to win, and she does intend to run for speaker.

SHAPIRO: Well, we'll find that out tonight...

SNELL: (Laughter).

SHAPIRO: ...At least whether they will win or not. You have also been speaking with some of the Republican congressional leaders about what they plan to do if they maintain control of Congress. What are they telling you?

SNELL: They're telling me that it's all about the economy. Now, you'll remember when the tax bill passed last year, it included permanent tax cuts for corporations but not for individuals. Republicans say they want to fix that. That's something that they would do. They also talk about small, bore changes to the Affordable Care Act and moving more control to the states.

But, you know, that's really different than what we're hearing from President Trump, right? When he's out at these rallies, he is talking about what he has already done. And he's asking voters to go out and kind of prevent Democrats from dismantling it, not making any new policy pledges. Here he is in Indiana last night.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They want to raise your taxes, the Democrats do, restore crippling regulations, shut down your new steel mills, take away your health care and put illegal aliens before American citizens. That's what they want.

SNELL: And Republicans, if they are re-elected, will be tied to Trump in that message.

SHAPIRO: And with House Speaker Paul Ryan leaving, do you expect we'll see bloody leadership fights in either party given also the criticism of Pelosi in the Democratic Party?

SNELL: I think it is an absolute given that there are going to be some pretty difficult fights for both parties in the House in particular. Things are going to be a little bit more stable in the Senate. But look forward to a couple of months of bickering within the House.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Kelsey Snell. Thanks, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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