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Divided US government gives Democrats leverage, opens door to Trump probes

Democrats won control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the 116th Congress, while Republicans increased their majority control of the Senate following midterm congressional elections held Nov. 6.

The new House majority could help President Donald Trump in accomplishing aspects of his legislative agenda. Both the president and congressional Democrats are interested in a pursuing a federal infrastructure program, though partisan fissures and deficit concerns could slow that momentum. The president must also ensure Democrats are on board with the newly negotiated United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the trade agreement designed to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, in order to pass it through Congress.

But Democratic promises of rigorous oversight of the president and his administration could also chill bipartisan efforts to pass legislation. Changes to committee procedure made by Republicans during former President Barack Obama's tenure will provide committee Democrats cover to issue subpoenas without consulting minority Republicans during the new Congress. That change could allow House Democrats to request information of Trump appointees and the president himself, according to Politico.

For the energy industry, a Democratic House will likely mean more oversight of the Trump administration's efforts to roll back environmental regulations and could enable greater access to public lands and waters for energy production. House Democrats are also expected to carry out stricter oversight of pipeline safety regulators.

But a continued GOP majority in the Senate will make it easier for Republicans to install Trump nominee Bernard McNamee at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is currently split between two Republicans and two Democrats.

The financial services industry, meanwhile, could find itself under the microscope as new leadership of the House Financial Services Committee is likely to focus on housing finance reform and potentially increasing oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The committee's ranking member and staunch Trump critic, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., is also expected to take a keen interest in probing the president's family business.

It remains to be seen how focused the House will be on tax reform, particularly on restoring some of the individual tax deductions filers in high-income states lost through the passage of the GOP's 2017 bill, which was a key issue in certain House races won by Democrats.

Molly Christian contributed to this article.