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Trump Now Has To Work With A Democratically Controlled House


How does the world look different with Democrats in charge of the House, as they will be after last night's election? We know some of the answer. Democrats have promised to provide a check and balance to President Trump while Republicans who were in charge aggressively protected the president. We know that Republicans will still have the Senate and all the power of the White House. In fact, Republicans increased their majority in the Senate yesterday. But much is unknown, including the minute-to-minute attitude of the president of the United States. That is where we begin our discussion with NPR's Kelsey Snell, who covers Congress and is in our studios.

Good morning.


INSKEEP: And NPR's Ayesha Rascoe joins us as well.

Good morning to you.


INSKEEP: What's the president saying today?

RASCOE: Well, now he is weighing in on the, I guess, the race to be the next speaker of the House. And he's saying that Nancy Pelosi deserves it and that she - and that if she's given a hard time, maybe we can add some Republican votes...

INSKEEP: Oh. He's enjoying the speculation that some Democrats would rather not have Pelosi as speaker of the House?

RASCOE: Yes. And it's not clear whether he's kind of trolling Nancy Pelosi with this. He has often said that he thinks that Nancy Pelosi is the ideal kind of opponent for him. And he doesn't mean that in a nice way. He means that he thinks he can easily kind of out-message her and kind of beat her when it comes to policy.

INSKEEP: OK. So let's follow up on that thought a little bit because Kelsey Snell has watched the interpersonal reactions between the anticipated speaker of the House and the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, and the president of the United States. What do you see?

SNELL: Well, I'm seeing that Trump has two really interesting competing things happening here. One is that his base just doesn't like Nancy Pelosi. But we've seen him interact with her, and he actually seems to get along with her just fine on a personal level. So we saw that. There was a meeting back in 2017 where Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer went to the White House. And they were on camera, and the president seemed to really embrace them. He's known both of them for some time. And they may get along personally here, but you're right, he loves this fight. And his base is not likely to want to have any Republicans voting for Nancy Pelosi. I cannot foresee a situation where that will even happen. But, you know, it will be an interesting tension to watch the two of them develop a relationship and figure out how they work together.

INSKEEP: Ayesha, the president was also tweeting in a different vein earlier. If the Democrats think they're going to waste taxpayer money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for leaks of classified information. A little bit more trolling here, but it speaks to a very real threat to this White House, doesn't it?

RASCOE: Yeah. So, much of the morning, President Trump has been kind of saying everything was great, this was a huge victory. But that tweet about the investigations is him kind of acknowledging that the game has changed, that there will be oversight and that maybe that's on his mind. Now, this idea that he'll be able to kind of keep them in check is really more bluster. The House will be able to conduct oversight over President Trump. And there's not a whole lot he can do about it aside from maybe trying to, like, slow walk documents or things like that.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about the potential conflict between a Democratic House and a Republican White House with a lot of questions about the behavior of agency after agency after agency after agency that can now be investigated with subpoena power. No administration can relish that opportunity. But isn't this a president who thrives on conflict?

RASCOE: He is a president that thrives on conflict. I think that the issue for this administration is when you start turning over those rocks, what do you end up seeing? Is it embarrassing for the president? Are you going to see a lot of, kind of, mischief or misbehavior from his from his Cabinet? And remember, he promised to drain the swamp. So that's the issue. But certainly, he can use this as a way of saying, look, they're out to get me, they're just trying to, you know, do everything they can to undercut me.

INSKEEP: Kelsey Snell, do Democrats already have a fairly long list of things they want to investigate?

SNELL: Oh, absolutely. I have spoken with Democrats in many committees, not just government oversight though - the main committee that does investigation - but many of the House committees have been compiling a list of things that they view as wrongdoing within their jurisdiction that they could potentially look into. Talking about the Ways and Means Committee who handles taxes. They could be, you know, subpoenaing the president's tax returns fairly quickly. The - Natural Resources could be asking interior secretary Ryan Zinke to come in and talk about some of the questions that they - that have been raised about that part of the government. I think it's important to remember that while Democrats are not going to be able to work across the Capitol and pass new laws with the Senate - that's not likely to be what they're going to do - there is power in being able to push back, to stop an agenda from moving forward. And that's what they gain by taking the House here.

INSKEEP: So let me ask you, Kelsey Snell. I'll give you the last word here. Talked with a lot of voters in the last several weeks in a number of different states. And once in a while, you do find voters who say, I wish they would just get along. Why don't they just work together - Democrats and Republicans - and get along? But when I listen closely to people saying that, I sometimes think what they mean is the other party that I'm not in should get along with my side's agenda a little bit better. Do you think that Democrats or Republicans in Washington believe that their base voters want compromise at all?

SNELL: I think you are absolutely right, that when they say they want people to get along is they want people to get along on their terms. And, you know, there may be a few people in the suburbs - a few of the more moderate Democrats who've been elected - who would like to make those compromises. But by and large, I think a lot of Democrats and a lot of Republicans think that they were brought to Washington to oppose each other.

INSKEEP: NPR's Kelsey Snell and Ayesha Rascoe. Thanks to you both.

SNELL: Thank you.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.