Democrats' first 100 days: A focus on the 2020 election

The campaign never really stopped for Democrats after they won back the House majority in the 2018 midterms.

Now approaching their 100th day of power in the House, Democrats are almost solely focused on capturing the next big prizes: control of the Senate and the White House in 2020.

Bipartisan deal-making has been pushed to the back burner — at least for now.

ADVERTISEMENT

Instead, in the opening months of the new Congress, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Judiciary Committee formally receives impeachment report Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills MORE (D-Calif.) has been pushing through messaging bills — to stop corruption, tighten gun laws, promote pay equality and shore up ObamaCare — that are going nowhere in the GOP-led Senate.

The package of bills fulfills campaign promises that Democrats made to their voters in 2018. But they also represent a preview of what Democrats say they can accomplish if voters hand them a unified government next year.

“I don’t think there’s any question about it, because we are talking about health care and making democracy work and infrastructure — three things that everyone is interested in. It bodes well,” House Budget Committee Chairman John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Kentucky Democrat: McConnell's agenda driven by 'power without a purpose' MORE (D-Ky.), a member of Pelosi’s leadership team, told The Hill.

“We’ve got a chance to take back the Senate and win the presidency” with this agenda, Yarmuth said.

Aside from the meaty bills on health care, Democrats have also adopted a number of nonbinding proposals in their short time in the majority, including a resolution condemning hate and another denouncing the administration’s efforts to scrap ObamaCare, which the House passed on Tuesday.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump Overnight Health Care: House to vote next week on drug prices bill | Conway says Trump trying to find 'balance' on youth vaping | US spent trillion on hospitals in 2018 House to vote next week on sweeping bill to lower drug prices MORE (D-Md.) defended that strategy on Tuesday, saying the aim is simple: “[We’re] telling the American people what we believe and what we think ought to be done,” he said during a press briefing in the Capitol.

ADVERTISEMENT

The last time Pelosi and the Democrats flipped the chamber, in 2007, party leaders charged into the new Congress with a laser focus on their campaign priorities, moving quickly to pass every piece of their “Six-for-06” agenda within the first 100 hours of seizing the gavel.

That legislative wish list included efforts to overhaul congressional ethics rules, raise the minimum wage, make college more affordable, boost green energy technologies and lower prescription drug costs by empowering Medicare to negotiate prices.

Despite having GOP President George W. Bush in the White House, all but the drug proposal ultimately became law. 

The first Democratic House majority working with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he will 'temporarily hold off' on declaring Mexican drug cartels as terror organization House Judiciary Committee formally receives impeachment report Artist behind gold toilet offered to Trump sells banana duct-taped to a wall for 0,000 MORE did not begin with the warm and fuzzy bipartisan feelings.

Democrats immediately faced a crisis: Trump, fresh off a midterms thumping, partially shut down the government over demands for his border wall, sparking recriminations on all sides.

House Democrats stood firm in the standoff and prevailed; Trump caved and reopened the government with no wall funding. But the bitter fight poisoned the bipartisan well — and delayed the Democrats’ ambitious agenda for weeks.

“Unfortunately, when we took over the House of Representatives … the government was shut down, and that was for the first month,” Hoyer told The Hill. “What we were consumed with was getting the government back to work, with no help from the Republicans and no help from the president, who wanted to shut [it] down and wanted to keep it shut down.”

Pelosi is leading the most diverse caucus Democrats have ever seen — more minorities, more women and a mix of centrists and fire-breathing liberals hell-bent on changing Washington.

But at times, it has created deep fractures in the 235-member caucus, particularly as progressives pushed plans like the Green New Deal and “Medicare for all” that are anathema to moderates with tough elections next year. Those divisions were on full display in recent weeks as party leaders sought to unite the caucus around a 10-year budget proposal. They failed and dropped that plan this week.

Freshman firebrand Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarHouse approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump Al Green calls for including Trump's 'racism' in impeachment articles Republicans disavow GOP candidate who said 'we should hang' Omar MORE’s (D-Minn.) remarks on Israel, perceived by many colleagues as anti-Semitic, also proved to be a huge distraction — creating divisions along generational lines in the House.

In general, Democrats argue their first 100 days in power have showcased their unity.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez: 'Won't you look at that: Amazon is coming to NYC anyway' House approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump Biden: Media misinterpreted Ocasio-Cortez's impact on Democrats MORE (D-N.Y.), one of the most high-profile freshman lawmakers in history, has been a team player, offering public comments largely in step with Pelosi’s on impeachment.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We’ve heard nothing from her about abolish ICE, she voted for Pelosi — she’s been in line,” a House Democratic source told The Hill. 

And despite freshman Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibHouse approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump House moves ahead on long-stalled resolution supporting two states for Israelis and Palestinians GOP leader says he had 'a hard time' believing Pelosi MORE (D-Mich.) having introduced articles of impeachment — a move Democratic leadership has repeatedly said they don’t support — Pelosi has largely managed to keep her caucus together on that issue, with just Rep. Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenOvernight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill Pelosi warns of 'existential' climate threat, vows bold action House sets up Monday hearing to hear evidence on Trump impeachment MORE (D-Texas) signing onto the measure.

Republicans — who are attempting to unify in the wake of losing the majority — are looking to use the 100-day milestone as an opportunity to portray Democrats as floundering in the majority.

In a memo sent by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyCNN Pelosi town hall finishes third in cable news ratings race, draws 1.6M Economy adds 266K jobs in November, blowing past expectations The Hill's Morning Report — Pelosi makes it official: Trump will be impeached MORE to GOP members over the weekend — which featured the subject line “100 days of Disappointment” — the California Republican cited statistics showing Democrats passing fewer bills out of committee, bills on the floor and bipartisan bills than what was seen in the 115th Congress. He went on to blast their approach on immigration policy, the introduction of articles of impeachment and “threatening to take away minority rights on the floor.”

“I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you think the Democrats have fallen short. What issues do your constituents care about that aren’t being addressed by this Congress?” he wrote. “The American people are watching and with a Democrat House majority increasingly ignoring their needs, I believe we can take the keys and work with the Trump administration to produce results. I look forward to discussing this more on Monday.”

Republicans have also enjoyed some success on procedural votes, twice winning on “motion to recommit” measures that forced Democrats to amed their legislation.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said the GOP’s accusations that Democrats have failed to deliver on their agenda or work across the aisle are baseless, adding they managed to get a number of GOP lawmakers to vote in favor of Democrat-backed legislation, including their landmark gun background check bill.

“If you just spend all day listening to whiners in the minority, you’re going to have a different view of reality,” Hammill told The Hill.