As we say goodbye to a tumultuous and unpredictable 2018 and bring in the new year with the House of Representatives under new management, there are a few priorities Democrats should focus on to ensure they are able to provide a much-needed counterbalance to the never-ending chaos that has emanated from the White House for the last two years.
While many progressives may be salivating at the possibility of a newfound energy to impeach this unfit, inept and corrupt president, Democrats should focus on actual sensible governance and give the American people the desperately desired sense that there are now adults in Washington who will put the needs of the country above scoring cheap political points.
First, Democrats need to reopen the government in the face of a dug-in president intent on destroying the livelihoods of more than 800,000 federal workers who are furloughed or working without pay, through the holidays no less, simply to force through an ill-advised and ineffective political stunt in the form of a border wall.
Democrats seem to be weighing several options that will fund the government either temporarily through Feb. 8 or, preferably, through the full fiscal year until Sep. 30.
They will pass several measures when they are sworn in as the majority party in the House, leaving Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse to act on debt ceiling next week White House warns GOP of serious consequences on debt ceiling Lindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees MORE (R-Ky.) with growing pressure to pass any of these measures, so the government can open and federal workers can start getting paid.
Trump will then be faced with the option of continuing to dig in for a wall that is based on lies and exaggerations simply to meet the demands of right-wing media commentators and his most hardcore supporters.
But what Trump has never understood — and never will — is that true leadership is solving problems for all Americans, not simply sticking to a cheap political bumper sticker, even if it means disappointing some of his base voters and the likes of Anne Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.
After the government re-opens, Democrats should then focus on working with Republicans on bipartisan solutions to a handful of issues where common ground can be found — as it has been found before.
Funding a new infrastructure bill that focuses on rebuilding America’s crumbling roads and bridges will go a long way toward showing Americans that Washington can indeed work for all of us.
An infrastructure bill can create new, well-paying American jobs, and will help save American lives by reducing the chances of catastrophic incidents due to dangerously old, unkempt bridges and other structures around the country.
Trump has indicated on many occasions that he would be open to a deal on infrastructure and that he could come to a bipartisan understanding with the Democrats. Incoming Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Pelosi plows full speed ahead on jam-packed agenda Jan. 6 committee taps former Bush administration official as top lawyer Ocasio-Cortez, Bush push to add expanded unemployment in .5T spending plan MORE (D-Calif.) has reportedly spoken to Trump about possible deals on infrastructure and has indicated he would be amenable to a deal.
Next, Democrats should find like-minded Republicans and rebuild the coalition that supported a sensible Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill. This will not be easy, but it is necessary, and if the political will can be found on the Republican side, the time is now.
Republicans can focus on increased investments in real border security, creative solutions to:
- keep people from overstaying their visas;
- keep employers from hiring undocumented immigrants;
- refashion an asylum system to make it more workable and humane;
- find a way to bring seasonal workers when needed; and
- legalize not just the Dreamers, but the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are in the country and are not going anywhere.
We have a model that worked before in the 2013 bill that the Gang of 8 passed in the Senate. Let’s start with that. It is time. Republicans know it, so let’s find them and get this done.
Importantly, Democrats should also put health care on their agenda. They ran on it and won on it. Republicans have zero credibility on this issue, an issue most Americans feel is a priority for their economic stability and the long-term well-being of their families and communities.
Democrats should protect the most integral parts of the Affordable Care Act, and then introduce fixes to the rest. Republicans can then either join Democrats on a winning issue or they can turn their backs yet again on the health of Americans. It is their choice.
Lastly, Democrats should fully but reasonably meet their new responsibility to provide oversight to a run-away unethical executive branch that has affected almost every cabinet agency in the Trump administration, yet has been met with complete ineptitude from Republicans who prefer to look the other way.
They refuse to hold corrupt public officials accountable for usurping the resources of the American people for their own personal gain, and worse, for destroying the public trust in a government that is supposed to work for the people.
Democrats should see to it that those who have egregiously broken the laws of ethics and good governance are held accountable for their actions. The American people voted for a check on this runaway disaster of an administration, and they deserve nothing less than a Democrat-run House that will give it to them.
There is no doubt Democrats will have their hands full come next Thursday when they are sworn in as the majority party. But 2019 can certainly be a welcome year of change. It will be tough, but Americans voted for Democrats to bring that change.
These issues are a start that can demonstrate that Washington can come together for everyone, and that will be a win for all. Let’s get to work.
Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.