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House Democrats Anxious To Move Forward On Infrastructure After Election Win


This week's midterm elections are going to be reshaping the policy landscape here in Washington. After two years in which Republicans controlled every lever of power, Democrats will soon have a seat at the table. President Trump insists he's not worried by that. Despite the rancor of the midterm elections, he sees opportunities for legislative dealmaking.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: There are many things we can get along on without a lot of trouble, that we agree very much with them and they agree with us. I would like to see bipartisanship. I'd like to see unity.

CHANG: But the president also warned that cooperation could quickly evaporate if House Democrats use their new powers to investigate his administration. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: House Democrats have been out of power for eight long years. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos of Illinois says they used that time in the political wilderness to draw up a game plan they can put to work in January when they reclaim their House majority.

CHERI BUSTOS: So yeah, we're ready on day one, and we're ready with an agenda that will work for people in our country.

HORSLEY: Bustos, who co-chairs the Democrats' Policy and Communications Committee, says at the top of that list is a large-scale public works program to rebuild vital infrastructure while putting millions of people to work.

BUSTOS: We know that for every $1 we invest in roads and bridges and high-speed Internet and rail, we get a $2 return on that. So we think we can work together with Republicans across the aisle.

HORSLEY: President Trump and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell also pointed to infrastructure as a potential area of cooperation. Trump campaigned on that two years ago, although there are big differences between the parties in how to pay for it. Trump's plan relied on borrowed money and privatization while Democrats would use public dollars raised in part through a slightly higher gasoline tax. Democrats also have a proposal to rein in the high cost of prescription drugs, which McConnell notes is something the president has pushed for as well.


MITCH MCCONNELL: Yeah, I can't imagine that that won't be on the agenda.

HORSLEY: At the same time, Democratic control of the House will put a roadblock in the path of some potential Republican initiatives. Forget about another attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And McConnell says any effort to address the cost of Medicare and Social Security will have to wait.


MCCONNELL: The Democrats have made it perfectly clear they're not interested in dealing with entitlements. And they're in a position to say no, and so I don't think that'll be on the agenda.

HORSLEY: Democrats have also promised to use their new House majority to conduct vigorous oversight. Nancy Pelosi, who's confident she'll be the next House speaker, says Democrats will investigate policies like family separation at the border using subpoenas if necessary. At a White House news conference today, Trump warned that could poison any chance of cooperation.


TRUMP: If that happens, then we're going to do the same thing, and government comes to a halt. And I would blame them.

HORSLEY: Congresswoman Bustos strongly disputes that idea. She notes oversight of the administration is one of lawmakers' traditional roles.

BUSTOS: The problem has been with the Republican leadership. They've taken a hands-off approach and turned a blind eye to the corruption that's out there.

HORSLEY: The White House is already preparing for what could be a flurry of congressional investigations. But McConnell offered his own warning that oversight or what he called presidential harassment could backfire on the Democrats.


MCCONNELL: I remember when we tried in the late '90s. We impeached President Clinton. His numbers went up, and ours went down.

HORSLEY: McConnell offered a rare smile this morning as he reflected on Republicans' numbers in the Senate, which are going up as a result of the midterms. He says his top priority will be using that majority to confirm more conservative judges to the federal bench. And despite their gains in the House, there's nothing Democrats can do to stop that. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF EMEFE'S "STUTTER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.