San Francisco liberal Nancy Pelosi will officially take up her role as House Speaker, formalising the results of the November midterm election and marking a dramatic power shift. This basically means control of the government will be divided — and Mr Trump is going to have a tougher time passing legislation through Congress.
Today marks the first day of divided government in Washington since the US President took office in January 2017, with Democrats taking control in the House from his fellow Republicans, who remain in charge of the Senate.
Over the past two years he’s not had to deal with this level of opposition, with Republican majorities in both the House and Senate. But for Mr Trump, those days are now over.
It comes as the US hits day 13 of a partial government shutdown — sparked by the President’s demand for $US5 billion ($A7.1 billion) for a wall to be built along the US-Mexico border. To make matters worse for the President, some of his opponents are already talking impeachment.
WHAT IMPACT WILL THE DEMOCRATS HAVE?
Ms Pelosi, who was elected speaker by a vote of 220-192, took the gavel saying voters opted for a “new dawn” in the November election and are looking to “the beauty of our Constitution” to provide checks and balances on power.
She invited scores of politicians’ kids to join her on the dais as she was sworn in, calling the House to order “on behalf of all of America’s children”.
The new Congress is like none other. There are more women than ever before, and a new generation of Muslims, Latinos, Native Americans and African-Americans in the House, creating what academics call a reflective democracy, more aligned with the population of the United States.
The Republican side in the House is still made up mostly of white men, and in the Senate Republicans bolstered their ranks in the majority.
“This House will be for the people,” Ms Pelosi said. She promised to “restore integrity to government” and outlined an agenda “to lower health costs and prescription drugs prices, and protect people with pre-existing conditions”, and “to increase pay cheques by rebuilding America with green and modern infrastructure — from sea to shining sea”. The day was unfolding as one of both celebration and impatience.
The Democrats planned to quickly pass legislation to re-open the government, but without the funding Trump is demanding for his promised border wall.
Predictably enough, the wall is likely to be the first major issue of the year. Mr Trump made it a key campaign promise in 2016, saying Mexico would pay for it and arguing it is needed to combat illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
But Democrats have called the wall immoral, ineffective and medieval. “No, no. Nothing for the wall,” Ms Pelosi told the NBC’s Today Show in an interview earlier today.
“We’re talking about border security. There is no amount of persuasion (Mr Trump) can do to say to us, ‘We want you to do something that is not effective, that costs billions of dollars.’” Mr Donald Trump retaliated on Twitter by accusing the Democrats of playing politics, writing “the Shutdown is only because of the 2020 Presidential Election”.
The Democrats are also making strides to bring several of Mr Trump’s Cabinet officials before Congress, to release his tax returns and more deeply investigate business dealings from both before and during his presidency.