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What To Expect From The Democrats If They Win Back The House


Democrats hope that next Tuesday brings them more power in Washington, power to push legislation and counter President Trump. The party faces an uphill battle in the Senate, but their chances in the House are much better.

Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer is the No. 2 Democrat in the House, and he joins us now to talk about what a Democratic-led House will prioritize if his party wins control next week. Welcome to the program.

STENY HOYER: Hi, Ari, good to be with you. Thanks a lot.

SHAPIRO: I know you have a long list of legislative priorities ranging from immigration to minimum wage. A big question with all of these legislative priorities is, is this just symbolic? With a Republican president in the White House and likely Republican control of the Senate, are there actually things that you can get House, Senate and the White House to all agree on where these bills could become law?

HOYER: Well, Ari, the American people hope so. I hope so. There are some areas where clearly the president has expressed that he wants to get something done - infrastructure, health care. When he was running for president, he said he wanted to have a robust infrastructure bill. We agree with that.

SHAPIRO: But if I could just pause you, you mentioned health care. I mean, the fights over health care between Democrats and Republicans for the last 10 years have been vicious. Do you actually think the parties could agree on a health care bill?

HOYER: Ari, if you go back to the president's campaign - and he said he wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He said it was awful. And then he said, I want to have a bill that insures everybody at lower cost and higher quality. As soon as he sends that bill down to Congress, I'm voting for it.

SHAPIRO: OK, so to pass any legislation, you need the agreement of the Senate and the White House, but to conduct oversight you don't. If Democrats take control of the House, you will have subpoena power. And I understand you intend to use it. Give us a few of the top ways in which you hope to conduct oversight of the Trump administration if you do control the House.

HOYER: Well, it's our responsibility. It's not a question of wanting to use it. We do. But it is our responsibility to use it. We'll look at education policy as to whether or not public education is being supported in the way that makes sure that every child has an opportunity for quality education. We'll also look at the emergency response. The emergency response in Puerto Rico and in some other places was not up to the job, unfortunately. And as a result, literally millions of people were disadvantaged. We'll look at the protection of the environment.

And we're also going to look at family separations at the border. I think Americans were outraged when we were taking very small children out of the arms of their parents. And we're still in a condition where we have hundreds of children who have not been reunited with their parents, contrary to the law and contrary to court directions. So those are some of the things that we're going to be looking at, I think.

SHAPIRO: As you know, many members of the Democratic base are pushing for impeachment against President Trump. And I know you've expressed caution about moving quickly on that issue. If Democrats regain control of the House, how would you handle this?

HOYER: Look; I know a lot of people talked about impeachment, clearly a lot of people who didn't vote for Trump and wish he weren't president. However, impeachment is an extraordinarily serious issue to consider. I think that first of all, we have a special investigation Robert Mueller is conducting. I think it's a very important investigation. It's a very appropriate investigation. And we ought to make sure that that investigation is not impeded or obstructed in any way. Then we need to see the results of that investigation, which I think will come up in - after the election. I don't know how soon after, but it'll come up. And there'll be time to look at that and see what causes there are.

SHAPIRO: Let's talk for a moment about the House leadership if Democrats take control.

HOYER: (Laughter).

SHAPIRO: Nancy Pelosi - you're chuckling (laughter). It's not the first time you've been asked the question.

HOYER: No, it's not the first time (laughter).

SHAPIRO: Well, do you think it's time for a change? Nancy Pelosi was first chosen to be House speaker in 2006. Is it time for someone different to have an opportunity?

HOYER: Look; I think there's time - I'm not going to surprise you with this answer 'cause there's...

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

HOYER: ...There's time to deal with those issues, and the time will be after the election. I think...

SHAPIRO: Does that mean you're not showing your hand, you may or may not support her?

HOYER: It means that there is time to discuss leadership issues after the election.

SHAPIRO: Is there a risk, though, that if voters give Democrats power, saying they want change, that Democrats misinterpret that by putting the same people in power who have led the party for more than a decade?

HOYER: No, Ari. The people are going to vote for change I think because they think what's going on in a broken Congress, a gridlocked Congress, a Congress that refuses to address the important issues, a Congress that wants to take health care away from them, a Congress that passes a tax bill that helps the wealthiest in our country - there's going to be a very substantial change. That's what they're going to vote for, I think, and that's what they'll get.

SHAPIRO: Well, Congressman, thanks for speaking with us in this final stretch of the midterm campaign.

HOYER: Great, Ari, good to talk to you. Thanks a lot.

SHAPIRO: That's Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the Democratic whip in the House of Representatives. And elsewhere on the program, we hear about what Republicans will do if they keep control of the House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.