Let’s dispense with the speculation, folks. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) must be the next speaker of the House. And you need only have seen President Trump’s petulant performance in the East Room — from his opening statement to his combative Q and A with the press — to know why.
“The election’s over. Now everybody is in love,” Trump said before handing the responsibility for legislating to the incoming Democratic majority. “Now we have a much easier path because the Democrats will come to us with a plan for infrastructure, a plan for health care, a plan for whatever they’re looking at, and we’ll negotiate,” the president said, clearly hoping we’d forget all those infrastructure weeks, not to mention that he and his party have controlled Washington for the last two years. With that statement, Trump declared that Democrats will be his foil for the next two years beginning now. They are responsible for the agenda, which sets them up for all the blame if things go wrong and none of the credit if things go well.
And he put on notice any incoming Democratic committee chairman champing at the bit to make it rain subpoenas all over the West Wing. “They can play that game, but we can play it better, because we have a thing called the United States Senate,” said the president. “I could see it being extremely good for me politically because I think I’m better at that game than they are, actually, but we’ll find out.”
This from the guy who folded to “Chuck and Nancy” last fall over the budget and the debt ceiling. Which is why “The Trump Show, Wednesday edition” only served to fortify my contention that House Democrats would be foolish to shunt Pelosi aside in a quest for new blood to be speaker. An understandable quest, but an insane one at this moment. Here’s why.
The short transition from the minority to the majority is an endeavor of underappreciated complexity. The government is due to run out of money on Dec. 7. Don’t be surprised if a continuing resolution passed during the lame-duck session becomes the new majority’s headache when it expires next year. By March 2019, the suspension of the legal limit on federal borrowing (the debt ceiling) will expire. Raising the debt ceiling has gone from a must-do no-brainer to a Republican bargaining chip in a high-stakes game of fiscal roulette nervously watched by global financial markets. Looming over all this is the ongoing investigation of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. The removal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions less than a day after the midterm elections put Democrats back in control of the House must mean Mueller’s departure is imminent. Folks, this is the white Bronco of constitutional crises, a slow-moving drama with once-unimagined consequences.
Given all that, this is no time for on-the-job training. What the nation will need when the 116th Congress is seated in January is a speaker who is an experienced leader who not only knows where the levers of power are, but who also knows how to use them and, most importantly, isn’t afraid to use them — whether it is against the president or a raucous caucus hellbent on taking premature action against him. That person is Pelosi. She’s done the job. She must do the job again.
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