The partisan noise in Washington, D.C., is changing pitch as Republican Donald Trump takes over the White House while his party controls Congress.
Under President Barack Obama, the Republican-run oversight committees of the House and Senate were weaponized to hold Democratic executive-branch feet to the fire. Minority Democrats spent years alleging witch hunts.
Starting next month, Democrats can be expected to chop away at GOP leadership as Trump’s priorities and nominations get a pass Obama’s would never have enjoyed.
The “out” party is already crafting issues.
Last week, Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) let it be known that the panel isn’t asking for ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson’s tax returns as part of his confirmation for Secretary of State.
The committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, complained. At the giant oil company, “Mr. Tillerson was actively engaged with many foreign governments that could become relevant if confirmed as Secretary of State,” Cardin wrote to partisan allies on the committee.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) promises to push legislation that would force Trump to divest himself completely from his business empire. “Americans deserve to know that the president is doing what’s best for the country — not using his office to do what’s best for himself,” she tweeted.
At least some majority incumbents who hailed the constitutional virtues of legislative checks and balances in recent years will suddenly find a need for all obstruction of the executive branch to end.
Exactly how docile will the congressional leadership be?
Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee — and other Republicans and Democrats — have called for a select committee probe of the famous campaign email hacks.
It is unknown whether they will get their way.
Even if they wished for it, the powers-that-be in the Senate won’t have a crack at all the administrative posts. For example, retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who will be Trump’s White House national security adviser, won’t need confirmation in the role.
Flynn draws queries wherever he goes. Last week Bloomberg News revealed that he “partnered this year with a controversial technology company co-run by a man once convicted of trying to sell stolen biotech material to the Russian KGB.”
With so many Cabinet appointees sporting great wealth, vetting their assets even without deep probing could take time, officials have said.