All eyes are on the newcomers to the House of Representatives and, in New York, on our new state Senate members. They are poised to make a major difference, along with the veteran members of both bodies whose seniority places them in powerful positions. Gridlock and obstruction on the Hill and in Albany have been a significant problem for Democratic lawmakers attempting to get the people’s work done. But no more.
Although some political pundits are advising caution and diplomacy, the people are looking for swift and energetic action on a variety of issues central to quality of life, basic rights and financial sustainability for households, to name just a few. While the new guard is getting the heat and light at the moment, let’s look at what voters who turned out in historic numbers might expect from two members of the old guard:
Congresswoman Maxine Waters is the top-ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. However, she’s had to watch as her calls for tighter regulation of banks were ignored. (She called, for example, for the dissolving of Wells Fargo following the extensive scandals involving the bank.) Labeled as an enemy of Wall Street, Waters would strengthen the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and impose higher penalties on lawbreaking banks. She’s pledged to go after Wells Fargo again and is adding Deutsche Bank to her list.
While much of what Waters would like to accomplish may be blocked by the Senate, she’ll have subpoena power to dig into the records of banks and their protectors. She’ll also have the ability to demand that the people see Donald Trump’s tax returns. In a recent letter to her fellow committee members, Waters gave a clear directive:
“With Trump in the White House, I know that our fight for America’s consumers and investors will continue to be challenging. But I am more than up to that fight.”
As Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Elijah Cummings has expressed his intention of righting some practices that polls say a majority of citizens see as wrong.
Cummings has indicated his interest in working together with the now-minority House Republicans, but he is adamant that his focus is on change. Again, the Senate is a factor in just how sweeping that change can be, but Cummings has clear clout. He has the authority to subpoena documents from the executive branch, to hold hearings. He plans to focus on ethics and election reform, voter suppression and other violations of the Voting Rights Act, full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and more.
If his actions in recent months are any indication, Cummings can also be expected to focus on the issues of alleged wrongdoing at the Environmental Protection Agency and the separation of migrant children from their families. He is also interested in how the president comports himself and will be investigating some of the many allegations against him.
“The job laid out to us in the Constitution is to be a check on the executive branch, and we plan to do that,” said Cummings. “We plan to do that with… fact-based investigations and investigations that hopefully will lead to better government… This is not about trying to get any retribution. It is about trying to bring us back to a sense of integrity.”