November 15, 2018 In The News, Media

Democrats have a majority and wave of new members from Pa. and N.J. What will they do with it?
November 15, 2018

After two years locked out of power in Washington, Democrats poised to take control of the House are pitching an agenda centered on ethics, attainable health care, and middle-class jobs — one that appears aimed at making the argument that they, and not President Trump, are watching out for the interests of everyday people.

Few of their big policy goals, if any, are likely to be realized with Trump in the White House and Republicans holding the Senate.

But their newfound majority still represents an opportunity to articulate their party’s vision. In separate interviews, Democrats from the Philadelphia region listed campaign-finance reforms, shoring up the Affordable Care Act, a massive infrastructure program, raising the minimum wage, and strengthening gun laws as ambitions once they hold the House majority in January.

None of the three Democratic incumbents returning from the Philadelphia area has ever been in the majority, so they have had little chance to enact their priorities. They’ll likely be joined by six Democratic freshmen, after the Associated Press on Wednesday said that New Jersey’s tight Third District race had been won by Andy Kim.

The new crop includes four Pennsylvania women — breaking the all-male makeup of the state’s delegation. The region’s Republican representation will drop from six to one, with only Bucks County’s Brian Fitzpatrick remaining. The new dean of the area’s delegation will be U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, a Camden County Democrat who took office way back in 2014.

For those who have never held public office, their votes will begin building records that measure whether they live up to their campaign pledges.

First up, Democratic leaders have promised an ethics package including campaign finance reform that aims to reduce the influence of big money in politics, make political spending more transparent, and protect voting rights. The plan also could require presidential candidates to release their tax returns, as was long the norm but which Trump has refused to do.

“It goes to having faith in our government,” said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, a Delaware County Democrat who on Tuesday became the first of the newly elected local lawmakers to join Congress. She won a special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, who resigned earlier this year, allowing her to take office immediately.

“If I’m ranking priorities, first I’m ranking health care and infrastructure,” said U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans of Philadelphia.

He and other Democrats talked up the idea of protecting the Affordable Care Act from further incursions by Trump, and restoring some provisions that have been undermined by the president.

Health care “was the number one issue that people talked about in terms of their daily lives,” said State Rep. Madeleine Dean, who won in a congressional district that includes much of Montgomery County.

Democrats also called for pushing the minimum wage up to $15 — a counterpoint, they argued, to GOP tax cuts that provided the greatest benefits to wealthier taxpayers.