Democrats to Focus on Green Infrastructure, Campaign Finance, Lower Health Costs, Investigations in 2019

December 25, 2018 Updated: December 26, 2018

WASHINGTON—Soon-to-be House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said that going into 2019, Democrats plan to focus on shoring up the country’s infrastructure with green technology, reforming campaign-finance laws, and lowering health care costs, while leaving room for the incoming representatives to have a say in the party’s agenda.

When asked about the Democrats’ plans to investigate President Donald Trump, she was less willing to make a prediction, telling reporters that each committee “will have to make a judgment at that time when they come in as to where we go.” Some of her committee chairs have already announced their plans for investigations.

Health Care

There are two areas that Pelosi sees as being able to work on with Republicans and the president: improving the country’s infrastructure and lowering the costs of prescription drugs.

Pelosi also has signaled that the Democrats plan to protect the equal coverage mandate for people with pre-existing conditions, a now-bipartisan issue, should the Affordable Care Act—also known as Obamacare—be overturned in the courts.

On the issue of drug prices, House leadership says on its party-platform website that Democrats plan to target drug companies that “excessively raise prices” without justification by creating a “price gouging enforcer,” who would be in charge of a new agency to stop companies from jacking up drug prices.

Democrats also want, according to the leadership website, drug companies to submit a justification for any price increases to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) at least 30 days before they go into effect.

Meanwhile, on Medicare Part D, which covers mostly prescription drugs for the elderly, Democrats are in line with the Trump administration’s proposal to allow for better negotiation with drug companies. However, they differ on who should be doing the negotiating. Democrats seem to want the government to use its leverage to get a better deal, while the administration has, in a proposed rule, left the negotiation to private insurers working with Medicare Advantage.

Infrastructure

While Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have stopped short of calling for a “green new deal,” as some in their party have, they both want any federal infrastructure investment to go hand-in-hand with raising wages and developing green technology.

Schumer even said in a Washington Post op-ed that if Trump wants Senate Democrats to support an infrastructure bill, it will have to include policies and funding “that help transition our country to a clean-energy economy.”

Democrats have proposed a $1 trillion infrastructure investment that would be financed by removing tax cuts on multinational corporations and the wealthiest Americans. According to the House leadership website, that would be spent on expanding high-speed internet and renewable energy infrastructure, and shoring up the country’s schools, rail lines, airports, roads, water infrastructure, and waterways.

Schumer also has called for tax credits for clean energy production and other green investments that Americans make.

Pelosi has said they plan to reinstate the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, which was dissolved in 2011. However, the soon-to-be chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which would oversee that committee, has said it’s “not necessary.”

Money in Government

Pelosi says the first thing House Democrats plan to do when they take the gavel in 2019 is to work on passing legislation to “clean up government,” mainly campaign-finance reform.

While the specifics haven’t been laid out, the Democrats’ proposals center around requiring a presidential tax-return disclosure, removing “dark money” from campaign contributions, giving tax credits to small political donors, and removing barriers to voting.

They are already calling this compendium of old legislation HR 1, but are keeping it separate from a Voting Rights Act bill modeled off of HR 2978 of 2017 that increased penalties for violating voters’ rights.

Other Priorities

While they aren’t likely to go far in the Senate, Democratic leadership has also talked about wanting to pass legislation on gun control, mainly strengthening background checks, granting citizenship to children brought into the country illegally—known as Dreamers—and safeguarding the Russia investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have both said they don’t plan to cut Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections short. Depending on the outcome, though, the House and Senate may be at odds on what comes next.

Pelosi and Schumer haven’t made impeachment of the president part of their platform, but Pelosi has also said she would be willing to entertain it, depending on the results of the Mueller investigation and if it was to get bipartisan support.

“We shouldn’t impeach the president for political reasons, and we shouldn’t not impeach the president for political reasons,” she told The Associated Press.

Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has said he plans to have acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker testify before the committee about his decision not to recuse himself from overseeing Mueller’s investigation.

He has also said that Trump’s permanent pick to lead the Justice Department, William Barr, has disqualified himself by writing a letter taking issue with the investigation, and that Democrats could use subpoena power to, if Barr decides to bury Mueller’s report, either subpoena it or get Mueller to testify about its contents.

Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has said he plans to ask for Trump’s tax returns, which Trump hasn’t yet disclosed.

And Democrats on the House Oversight Committee have made 64 subpoena requests, many of them focusing on the Trump administration, that have so far been blocked by House Republicans.

Follow Holly on Twitter: @HollyGailK
RECOMMENDED