House Democrats prepare to take the reins as balance of power shifts in Washington
NEW YORK (CBSNews) — Winning the majority in the House Tuesday night gave Democrats the power to set the agenda in the lower chamber. It also gave them the power to investigate the president, or his cabinet members, for suspected ethics lapses like extravagant travel.
They can subpoena documents like President Trump's tax returns. They can also compel top officials to testify about controversial policies or foreign investments in Trump properties.
"We have a duty to look into government and to try to figure out what might be wrong and try to correct it and make things better," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, who will now chair the key oversight committee.
Democrats ended their eight year minority by picking off Republicans in urban and suburban swing districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Exit polling showed that voters, like Democratic candidates, considered health care the number one issue and they turned out in record numbers.
Republicans found comfort in a series of Senate gains. Democrats Claire McCaskill, Joe Donnelly and Heidi Heitkamp were all defeated in their Republican leaning states.
"We took a thumping in the rural areas and I understand that," Heitkamp said.
Democrats laid out their goals for a divided government Wednesday, saying they want to work with the president on prescription drug reform and infrastructure investment. The president said he shares those goals, but will only play ball if they agree not to investigate him.
"It's very inappropriate. We should get along and get deals done. Now we can investigate, they look at us, we look at them, it goes on for two years and then at the end of two years nothing's done. Now what's bad for them is, being in the majority, I'm just going to blame them," Mr. Trump said.
But Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who is set to regain the speaker's gavel come January, said her party has a duty to root out fraud and wrongdoing in government.
"This doesn't mean that we go looking for a fight, but it means that if we see a need to go forward we will, but that will be the work of our committees. Every committee has oversight responsibility," Pelosi said.