The US election is mostly over and the Democrats have gained a majority in the House of Representatives, while the Republicans have got a majority in the Senate.

What political instruments (for example impeachment, commission of enquiry, etc.) does the House of Representatives have to control the executive branch of the US government, (the president and the other parts of the executive), in when a different party holds the majority in the Senate? What legislative processes need approval by the House and what can the House do by itself?


1 Answer 1


In the U.S. the branches as a whole are balanced, a single part of the legislative branch has limited abilities to directly affect other branches. The only unilateral thing they can do with any impact is issue subpoenas to compel attendance to committee meetings. The House of Representatives does have a couple other useful abilities that ultimately require the Senate to agree. The House is the originator of appropriation bills and files articles of impeachment. Impeachment and removal is unlikely with a hostile senate and it's an action that is just as likely to cause political backlash for Democrats as help them. Appropriation bills are commonly used as a game of chicken for shutting down some or all of the government, but such brinkmanship is almost universally disliked by the population at large and success in previous shut down has been mixed for both parties.

Controlling one part of the legislative branch does allow for more effective opposition to things requiring congressional approval, in the current Trump Presidency the big things that require approval would be constructing a border wall, further tax cuts, and immigration reform. A divided congress will generally only cause things to slow down even more, full control of a branch of government is generally needed for either party to implement their own policies with any success.

  • Even with the senate in the control of the president's party, the likelihood of conviction and removal after impeachment would depend on the actual charges alleged and the quality of the evidence available to support them. If, for example, video emerged that clearly showed a president soliciting and receiving substantial bribes, legislators in the president's own party would be likely to convict. It's also worth noting that articles of impeachment would be a burden even if not passed or even if the senate acquits the president, so the threat could still give some political leverage.
    – phoog
    Nov 8, 2018 at 15:59

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