Five ways Dems could fight Trump if they win the House
President Trump will have more than impeachment to worry about if Democrats take back the House in November.
Democratic lawmakers would have a whole basket of tools at their disposal to create headaches for the White House and GOP if they were in power, from blocking the president’s agenda to subpoenaing Trump administration officials.
Both Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have raised some of these concerns at public events in recent days, underscoring the sense of panic in Republican circles over the prospect of losing the House.
“Democrats couldn’t stop Trump, but they could slow him down and make life miserable for him,” said Brad Bannon, a Democratic strategist. “Subpoenas would be flying from Capitol Hill towards the White House as fast as they can print them out.”
Here are five ways that Democrats could inflict pain on the president and his party if they are victorious this fall.
One of the top priorities for Democrats, according to congressional observers, would be to use their subpoena power to obtain a trove of potentially revealing and sensitive documents from the Trump administration.
At the top of Democrats’ wish list: getting their hands on Trump’s tax returns.
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) has led multiple attempts to compel the House Ways and Means Committee to release the president’s tax returns, but the effort has gone nowhere in the Republican-controlled House. But if Democrats are in charge, it will likely be the first thing that Pascrell calls for.
“I believe the powerful Ways and Means Committee has the responsibility to ensure proper oversight of the executive branch by requesting a review of President Trump’s tax returns and moving towards a formal release of these documents to the public,” Pascrell said in a statement.
Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have made 13 failed motions for subpoenas that touch on a wide range of other issues related to the Trump administration.
They want documents related to interim security clearances in the White House, the federal response to hurricanes last year, the deadly ambush in Niger and communication between administration officials and corporate lobbyists, among other things.
Minority members on the House Financial Services Committee have called on Republicans to subpoena records from Deutsche Bank related to Trump and Russia.
And Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have urged the GOP to subpoena documents from Cambridge Analytica, the data firm that worked on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and that was found to have accessed tens of millions of Facebook users’ data without their consent.
The Trump administration is already facing several investigations from GOP-led committees, including inquiries on agency travel habits and how the White House handled domestic violence accusations against former White House staff secretary Rob Porter.
But the White House probes are only unexpected to pile up if Democrats control the House.
They could investigate sexual harassment and misconduct allegations against Trump, which surfaced during the campaign but have been put back in the spotlight following the “Me Too” movement.
Democrats have called for a probe into whether Trump violated any ethics or campaign finance laws regarding a hush money payment to adult-film star actress Stormy Daniels.
They could also reopen the House probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible connections with the Trump campaign, depending on the outcome of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
“Democrats would put the pedal to the metal on the Russian investigation,” Bannon said.
More of Trump’s Cabinet officials could also come under scrutiny. A number of Cabinet members are already facing scandals, including Scott Pruitt at the EPA and Ben Carson at Housing and Urban Development.
Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have requested at least four separate investigations related to Pruitt’s travel and spending — though some don’t think the EPA chief will still be around to scrutinize next year.
“A lot of the things are things that we’ve already done by asking the [inspectors general] in the various agencies to take action,” said one House Democrat. “Now whether those things are still going to be relevant next year, I don’t know.”
In addition to investigations, Democrats could also hold hearings designed to put the Trump administration in the hot seat.
Democrats could also use their subpoena powers to force Trump officials to testify in front of Congress, where they could face public grillings on a wide array of topics and controversies.
Minority members on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have already called for multiple hearings on Trump’s financial arrangements, which they say is needed to identify and protect against potential conflicts of interest.
Democratic leaders have vowed to conduct rigorous oversight if they win back the House.
“Having Democrats in control of the House of Representatives will be about accountability and oversight of the Executive Branch,” said Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
“And that is an important charge of the House of Representatives, to do proper oversight of the executive. And it simply isn’t happening right now.”
While Democratic leaders have largely tamped down calls to impeach Trump, the possibility is undoubtedly on the top of the president’s mind.
Trump wants to step up efforts to protect Republican control of the House in hopes of avoiding an impeachment debate if Democrats seize control of the chamber, according to GOP sources.
Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), who raised $6.7 million in the first quarter for a Senate bid against incumbent Ted Cruz (R), goosed his fundraising last month by pledging to vote for impeachment.
And Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, has been a vocal supporter of impeachment; she also claimed last weekend that 70 percent of Democrats want to impeach the president.
Those comments have clearly grabbed Trump’s attention.
“We have to keep the House because if we listen to Maxine Waters, she’s going around saying ‘We will impeach him,’” Trump told a rally of supporters in Michigan last weekend.
However, impeachment proceedings are unlikely to go anywhere in the Senate, so it’s unclear whether Democratic leaders would be willing to follow through with the effort.
“The big decision a Democratic majority would need to make is on impeachment,” Bannon said. “Democrats could easily pass an impeachment resolution, which would be symbolic only.”
Democrats could also use their control of the House to stymie Trump’s legislative agenda.
While they would be unlikely to get many of their own legislative priorities signed into law, they could play some serious defense by blocking Trump’s priorities or refusing to take up bills passed by the Senate.
And, since must-pass spending bills require approval from both chambers, they could push back against any GOP-led efforts to cut domestic spending or entitlement programs — or refuse to support Trump priorities like funding for the border wall.
One House Democrat said his party would also use the Energy and Commerce Committee gavel to push back against Trump’s efforts to roll back clean power plant and fuel efficiency standards, as well as other regulations.
“What you’ll have is absolute gridlock,” Ryan warned at the Milken Institute Global Conference this week. “You’ll have subpoenas, you’ll have just the system shutting down.”
Mike Lillis, Naomi Jagoda and Sylvan Lane contributed.