With shutdown win, Pelosi restored constitutional balance to Washington

With shutdown win, Pelosi restored constitutional balance to Washington
© Stefani Reynolds

Score a win for the U.S. Constitution and the institution of Congress. Let me explain — but first let’s get the painful and obvious about the shutdown out of the way: The longest government shutdown in our nation’s history was a disaster for millions of people and a drag on our economy.

It was deeply personal. Much has been written, and rightly so, about the impact of the shutdown on federal workers and their families, and more must be written so this never happens again. It was shameful that committed and professional employees of Uncle Sam were struggling to put food on the table, pay the rent, or afford their medicine, while being told to suck it up.

In America, that should never happen, and in large part the shutdown ended because their plight became too severe for the Republicans, the White House and President TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness, ballots and battling opioids: Why the Universal Postal Union benefits the US Sanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth MORE to ignore or dismiss.

The post shutdown political analysis found that Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPence says it's 'vital' for Congress to pass US-Mexico-Canada trade deal The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump heads to California Obama, Bush among those paying tribute to Cokie Roberts: 'A trailblazing figure' MORE (D-Calif.) bested the President — no and’s, if’s, or but’s.

It should have come as no surprise to anyone in the Administration, media, or the public that the Speaker has the iron will, expertise, and legislative chops to handle this White House. She’s done it before with other presidents and will do it again, no matter the crisis or challenge.

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Nancy Pelosi led the House through the meltdown of our national economy during President Bush’s tenure, the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with President Obama, the successful effort to stop repeal of the ACA after the election of President Trump, and the triumphant return of Democrats to the majority in the House. Additionally, the House majority persevered because they were united. While it is always a challenge to maintain unity, it is easier to do so in the minority than in the majority.

Which leads me back to this: The president’s self-inflicted political disaster accomplished a realignment of power in Washington in a manner the Constitution had envisioned. The president had enjoyed unfettered political power as the head of the Executive Branch during his first two years when Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate. The realization has now set in inside the Oval Office that Democrats control the House of Representatives.

With each stroke of Trump’s pen as he signed the continuing resolution to fund the government until February 15, the political power center in Washington shifted from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to the U.S. Capitol.

Balance between Legislative and Executive Branches has been restored, and the institution of Congress has returned to its rightful place as a co-equal branch of government.

The framers of the Constitution went to great strides to ensure that no branch of government had more power than the other. And by creating three equal but separate branches of government they enshrined a system of checks and balances.

The past month was truly the first major test for the new order in Washington. If the House had folded to President Trump after he shut down the government, the power of the Executive, no matter what or who came next, would have been greatly magnified. The Legislative Branch could have become an extension of the White House.

Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats understood what was at stake and had no intention of allowing this to happen. While they opposed President Trump’s wall, Democrats believed that as a co-equal branch of the U.S. Government, the institution of Congress must be treated as such.

The American people — by voting for Democrats into control of the House — have sent an unmistakable signal that they no longer support an unfettered and unchecked Executive.

Nadeam Elshami is policy director at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, a lobbying law firm. He was formerly chief of staff for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). He has 25 years of experience in Congress, including negotiating policy on behalf of Democratic leadership and forming bipartisan relationships that helped move key pieces of legislation through a gridlocked Congress.