It’s on: The 115th Congress convenes Tuesday, new members are being sworn in, and Democrats seem ready to fight President-elect Donald Trump, his plutocratic cabinet nominees, and his agenda. We actually don’t know what his agenda is, but that doesn’t matter: House Speaker Paul Ryan is ready to make his agenda Trump’s agenda, and the president-elect is too busy threatening North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, complaining about President Obama, praising Russian president Vladimir Putin, and mocking his “enemies” on Twitter to tell us whether he’s willing to sign his name to Ryan-crafted budgets that punish the poor to benefit the wealthy.
House Republicans flexed their new muscles by eliminating the independent Office of Congressional Ethics late Monday night, and established a new body that reports to the House Oversight Committee, where ethics complaints against members of Congress often go to die. But after a backlash from Democrats—and even a tweet from Trump questioning the House GOP’s timing if not its goals—they reversed course.
Democrats will have lots of opportunities to contrast Congressional Republicans’ right-wing supply-side agenda with Trump’s campaign pledge to support workers, protect the safety net, and bring back jobs. But first, there’s the task of confirming—or rejecting—Trump’s cabinet nominees. After the shock of the election, there was a lot of talk about Democrats’ having to “pick their battles” and choose one or two nominees and policy proposals to oppose vigorously while looking for chances to work with the incoming president. Trump’s extremist cabinet picks and his alarming volatility during the transition seem to be strengthening Democrats’ spines to fight more broadly.
After worrying progressives with early signals of conciliation toward Trump, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer is signaling that Democrats will battle up to eight of his cabinet selections, according to The Washington Post. He told majority leader Mitch McConnell to expect a long fight on Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Trump’s attorney general nominee, Exxon-Mobil head Rex Tillerson, his pick for secretary of state, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) to lead the Office of Management and Budget, and education-ecretary nominee and school privatizer Betsy DeVos from Michigan. Additionally, Senate Democratic aides have told reporters there will be harsh scrutiny of other picks whose pasts put them in opposition to the agencies they will run: Obamacare critic and Medicare privatizer Representative Tom Price (R-GA), Trump’s nominee to run the Department of Health and Human Services; fast-food mogul Andrew Puzder, who supports robots replacing American workers and opposes a minimum wage, as labor secretary; former Goldman Sachs partner Steve Mnuchin, who ran a foreclosure mill at One West Bank, as Treasury secretary; and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a strong opponent of the Environmental Protection agency, to run—what else?—the EPA.