In a recent episode of The Bartholomewtown Podcast, United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D, RI) laid out strategies which he believes Senate Democrats - and Republicans - may utilize to contain some of the extreme elements of The Trump Doctrine.
During our wide-ranging conversation, Senator Whitehouse, who emerged as an early, frequent and vocal opponent of the President, suggested a blend of legislative mechanics and moral gut-checks on Senate Republicans could allow the minority Democrats to significantly maneuver the chamber’s agenda.
Bill Bartholomew: You've been a critic of the President. What do you believe is the most important thing that the Senate can do now to contain the policies of Donald Trump, given that you will still, as Democrats, be in the minority?
Sheldon Whitehouse: A lot of it is going to have to do with a calling him out, and trying to shame the Republicans into doing a little bit of oversight. They would like to do as little as possible, but there are times when you can shame them into having to do some oversight. I think when the family separation policies started to be deployed, we put so much pressure on the Republicans to do a hearing that ultimately they felt they had to do something. They had a private briefing from administration officials, and that array of administration officials who came in were so horrible and we're so wretched that it really embarrassed the Republican Senators. I think at that point they felt they kind of had no choice but to actually have a public hearing and that didn't go well for them either and trump ended up reversing at least nominally reversing a that policy.
So, there was an example of how by putting moral and public pressure onto the Republicans, we actually forced first, A debriefing, then a hearing and then it changed. I think we can still do that.
We also now have the ability to urge our (now majority Democrat) House colleagues. Congratulations, (Rhode Island Congressmen) David Cicilline and Jim Langevin for being in the House majority. A lot of hard work on both their parts, much appreciated.
We now also have the ability to go to the chairman of the House and ask them for gavels. If you are a Republican Senate chairman and you can bottle up some problem of the Trump administration's, you might very well be willing to do that. But if over on the House side, a Democrat chairman is gonna, let her rip on that problem and you will not have bottled anything up successfully, what you'll be doing is missing out on the fun of oversight and looking like a fool for not taking an interest in something that is becoming more and more evident every day is the House hearings.
Suddenly that changes the dynamic a little bit and suddenly it's not so much fun anymore to be a complete obstructor. So, we might actually, because of where the House is, be able to push our Republican colleagues to be a little bit (more serious) in their oversight.
You may have actually seen an of example of this with the Energy Committee. Lisa Murkowski, a really terrific person, has just agreed to have hearings on climate change on the Senate Energy Committee. I'm not sure that she would have been willing to do that had it not been apparent that the related committees in the House are all going to be gearing up.
BB: Right. It's the politics of practicality, I suppose just wanting to be part of the action plus also not being on the wrong side of history.
SW: Plus what's the point in trying to prevent oversight if it's going to happen anyway?
To hear the complete episode of The Bartholomewtown Podcast featuring Senator Whitehouse visit bartholomewtown.com.
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