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What will Democrats do with their new control of the House?

VICE News talks to Rep. Pramila Jayapal about the final Dem message in the campaign and what happens with Dems after they take back the House.

by Shawna Thomas
Nov 9 2018, 2:33pm

SEATTLE — With the dust of Election Day starting to settle, Democrats know for sure they’ve picked up 31 seats in the House. The next question is: What will they do with their newfound, but limited, power?

On Wednesday, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, nodded at putting a divisive campaign behind her caucus by pointing out that she spoke with President Donald Trump about things Democrats and Republicans could do together in the new year.

“One of the issues that came up was part of our For the People agenda, building infrastructure of America and I hope that we can achieve that,” she said.

Both Pelosi and the president mentioned working on lowering the cost of prescription drugs as a possible middle ground. And Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) told CNN that he thinks the Democrats should focus on "finding common ground to the extent that common ground can lead us to doing what we need to do for the American people."

Infrastructure and prescription drug costs are perennial topics that politicians love to mention when they want to seem bipartisan, and it's not out of the realm of possibility that something could get done at the beginning of the year.

When VICE News caught up with Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Washington Democrat, in the last days of the election, she said that the issues her constituents are worried about aren't all that partisan. “I think that affordability in general has been an issue in Seattle and a lot of major cities,” she said. “Wealth inequality is a giant issue for people, as are retirement security and health care.”

But the closer legislators get to the 2020 election, the less likely it is that bipartisan solutions will be found. Campaign season doesn't usually breed togetherness.

And Jayapal did seem somewhat pessimistic about the situation in the House, even though Democrats took it back. “The Republican Party unfortunately has become Trump’s Republican Party. It's not the Republican Party of old that was interested in core concepts. And there might be policy disagreements, but there was a belief that we were trying to build a better country together,” Jayapal said. “I don't think [the Republican Party] is a party that's looking to compromise,” she continued.

But with the president requesting Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ resignation the day after the election, Trump may have given both parties something else to work together on: figuring out a way for special counsel Robert Mueller to finish investigating what happened during the 2016 election. While many Republicans have expressed a desire for Mueller to wrap it up soon, members on both sides of the Congressional aisle have said in the past that it's important to protect the investigation. Perhaps, that will be the thing that brings the two sides together.