Daniel Hemel and Eric Posner on the Tactics House Democrats Could Use in a Showdown with President Trump

House Democrats Have More Potent Options Than Impeachment

The fight between President Donald Trump and House Democrats over the House’s investigations of the president has escalated into what several outlets now describe as an “all-out war.” Most commentators believe that House Democrats are powerless in the face of the Trump administration’s defiance. Litigation to enforce congressional subpoenas will stall in the courts, while any attempt to remove Trump from office with impeachment will die in the Senate. Voters are losing their patience with investigations that produce no results. But if the House backs off, Trump will declare victory, and future presidents may conclude that they are immune from oversight. The options for Democrats seem bleak.

House Democrats, however, have an ace up their sleeve. Actually, a pair of aces: the power to shut down the government and the power to trigger a debt default. These options are far more potent than impeachment because the Democrats do not need the support of Republicans to use them. The problem is that the options may be too powerful: If used unwisely, they could hurt the Democrats—and the country—more than Trump. To prevail, the Democrats must play their cards shrewdly.

If they go this route, Democrats will face criticism from commentators who extol the virtues of moderation. Budgetary brinkmanship, after all, is mostly a tactic from the GOP’s playbook—one that congressional Republicans used in the Bill Clinton years and again under Barack Obama. Shouldn’t Democrats play the role of the adult in the room, rather than holding the federal government hostage for short-term advantage?

Read more at The Atlantic

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