How Democrats can claim infrastructure, immigration as their issues

The good news in this year’s midterm elections was that the anticipated “blue wave” materialized to sweep the Democratic Party into solid control of the House of Representatives. Now the question becomes: What will we do with that control? And can we answer another question that has been our challenge during the past two years — that is, other than being anti-Trump, what do Democrats stand for?

Our most fervent supporters hope that we will use our newfound control to investigate almost everything that the Trump administration has done. Though I understand what feeds this emotion — which rises almost daily with more revelations about the president’s egregious conduct and questionable decisions — that would be a grievous mistake if investigations were all that we did, if we made no attempt to meet the very real challenges facing most Americans.


First, with a few notable exceptions, it would be a waste of time and energy to investigate anything that is in the purview of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s investigation. For those matters that will not be covered by Mueller, we could have targeted investigations — but by no means should that take up the bulk of our efforts.

A few days after the election, Axios reported there were 85 potential topics for investigation that the House could pursue. That would be a flat-out prescription for disaster. We should limit our investigations to things involving national security or the very integrity of the democratic process. In short, it’s okay to investigate but we should legislate a whole lot more than we investigate. This is our chance to show that we can pass serious legislation.

Notwithstanding the partisan atmosphere that currently poisons Washington, D.C., I believe there is an opportunity for Democrats to reach across the political aisle and pass an impactful infrastructure bill and, believe it or not, a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Both infrastructure and immigration reform have enjoyed bipartisan support in the past and there is real potential to hammer out positive responses to these two important challenges.

Many Democrats argue that this is a waste of time because Republicans will never cooperate. I disagree. There are enough Republicans who are frustrated by their party’s failure to do anything that we will have a renewed opportunity to pass important legislation. Some Democrats say that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump second-term plans remain a mystery to GOP Trump to hold outdoor rally in New Hampshire on Saturday Eighty-eight years of debt pieties MORE will veto anything that comes out of the Democratic Congress. Again, I disagree; the president knows that he must accomplish something in the next 18 months and he’s likely to sign any legislation that has some bipartisan support. But then some Democrats say they can’t do this because it would give the president a victory he could use during a reelection bid.

Let’s be clear: Democrats must not fall prey to the theory that we can’t give President Trump a victory. If we propose significant legislation on infrastructure and immigration reform in the House, and send this legislation to the Senate, even if the president signs it, Democratic lawmakers could claim credit for beginning the process that solved two of the most pressing challenges facing our country.

And even if this fails, we Democrats will have staked out our position on infrastructure. We can say to the public, “This is the type of legislation we will pass if we take back control of the government in 2020.” That would be an important part of our winning strategy for 2020.

So, it’s okay to investigate, investigate, investigate — as long as we spend the majority of our time legislating, legislating, legislating. If we do this, we will ensure that Democratic control of the House endures well beyond the next two years.

Edward G. Rendell was the 45th governor of Pennsylvania. He is a former mayor of Philadelphia and former district attorney in that city. He served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee during the 2000 presidential election. He is now co-chairman of the Immigration Task Force at the Bipartisan Policy Center.