Democratic freshman U.S. Rep. David Trone says his Republican colleagues and their constituents are growing frustrated with the partial government shutdown.
“I think a lot of Republicans are questioning where this [shutdown] is going, because they’re getting a lot of pushback from their districts,” said Trone, of Potomac, who represents Maryland’s 6th District.
The congressman said the House of Representatives has proposed what he termed viable solutions to end the record shutdown, now in its 26th day.
“The first week we opened, we passed six appropriations bills that would open up everything in government,” Trone said. “We’ve already voted for these bills, and now [Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell] won’t take them up because the president has had a temper tantrum.”
As an alternative to President Trump’s proposed $5 billion to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, the House legislation provides $500 million for border security infrastructure and $400 million for infrared technology, aimed at detecting cars carrying drugs, he said.
But every bill, upon making its way to the Senate, has been rejected by McConnell (R-Ky.), Trone said.
Trump has vowed not to reopen the government unless he receives funding for the wall.
Trone said his Republican colleagues have told him privately that their constituents are frustrated by the effects of the shutdown, including a shortage of Transportation Security Administration officers that has resulted in long security checkpoints at airports.
Trone has been assigned to the House Education and Labor Committee, which was not his first choice for a committee. That committee handles issues that include federal education programs, anti-poverty programs, workforce development, healthcare and financial security for retirees. Trone was also named to the Foreign Affairs Committee late Wednesday.
The founder of alcohol retailer Total Wine & More had actively sought a seat on the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over such high-profile issues as taxes, international trade and health care financing.
Ways and Means is considered to be among three so-called “exclusive” committees – along with the Appropriations and Energy and Commerce committees – because those serving on these influential panels are generally not given other assignments.
It is rare that freshmen legislators are given seats on so-exclusive committees, but Trone was nonetheless hoping to land an opening on Ways and Means – in part because the number of Democratic seats on that panel had expanded with the party capturing the House majority in November, and in part because the Maryland congressional delegation had not had a representative on that panel in almost a decade.
But, despite the large size of this year’s freshman class – 62 Democrats without prior congressional service were elected in November in the political wave that allowed the party to recapture the House majority — Trone’s ambitions to serve on Ways and Means were blocked when House Democratic leaders last week awarded all available seats on the exclusive committees to more senior legislators with at least one term in the House.
In a wide-ranging telephone interview this week, Trone said impeaching the president isn’t a priority of his, and that it’s best to wait for special counsel Robert Mueller to finish his investigation into allegations of Russian influence in the U.S. election during the 2016 campaign and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians.
Trone said his focus will be on the Democrats’ domestic agenda, which includes solving the opioid crisis, criminal justice reform and improving ballot access. He noted that 72,000 Americans died in 2017 from drug overdoses, according to the National Institutes of Health. (Trone’s 24-year-old nephew, Ian, died of an opioid overdose in 2016.)
Trone’s district, which covers five counties stretching from Montgomery to Garrett in Western Maryland, is in the crosshairs of a study by a gubernatorial redistricting commission.
Trone said he supports bipartisan reform efforts on redistricting.
The Supreme Court earlier this month decided to take up a case in which Republican voters have alleged a 2011 redistricting of his district disenfranchised them by incorporating more of Montgomery County, which is heavily Democratic.
A federal court ruled in November that the state must redraw the district in time for the 2020 election, but if the Supreme Court reverses the ruling, it would mean the next redistricting would occur in 2021, after the next census is taken.
Trone accused Republican strategist Karl Rove and other Republicans of “inventing gerrymandering.”
“Gerrymandering is a very bad thing. I support bipartisan redistricting reform, and we absolutely need a national fix for gerrymandering,” he said.
Trone said his district has been “changed time and time again” over the last 30 or 40 years, and that there wasn’t anything irregular about the current boundaries.
Raskin makes jump to House Rules Committee
Trone’s bid for the Ways and Means panel came after the six returning members of the Maryland Democratic delegation – including Rep. Jamie Raskin of Takoma Park – took a pass on seeking a slot there, either because of House leadership responsibilities or a reluctance to give up current committee assignments. For Raskin, a long-time law professor moving to the exclusive Ways and Means panel would have meant relinquishing his seat on the Judiciary Committee – which will be forum for any presidential impeachment proceedings.
While Raskin will remain on the Judiciary Committee during the coming 116th Congress, he has been given a new assignment as a member of the House Rules Committee – which is responsible for formulating the ground rules for House floor debates.
Unlike most other committee assignments, which are made by the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, appointments to the Rules panel are made directly by the House speaker.
As such, Raskin’s new seat on that committee underscores his increasing closeness politically to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, who was the House Democratic leader when Raskin was first elected to Congress in 2016.
Raskin’s assignment to the Rules Committee will require him to give up his seat on the Oversight and Reform Committee, where he served for the past two years. That panel, chaired by another Marylander – Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore – is preparing to launch several high-profile investigations of the Trump White House and several Cabinet departments.