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Following each election for Congress, the common question is usually, “So now what?” I faced that same question, as did my elected colleagues in the U.S House of Representative, from the late 1970s to 1997.

In the largest election night sweep in 44 years, Democrats have now gained at least 35 House seats, along with the position of speaker, and the majority on every House committee. Following this genuine Blue Wave election, the policies to be placed upon the congressional calendar in the U.S. House will be determined by this new, eager and young Democrat majority.

“So now what?” Well, I’ll offer a few suggestions. Our national economy, strong as it is, has a dangerous weakness. About 20 years ago, during my service in the U.S. House, the super-wealthy were receiving about 8 percent of the nation’s income; they now pocket about 25 percent, and now the super rich will become even richer by receiving $2 trillion from last year’s Trump tax cuts to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. Just consider that fact: One percent of Americans now have almost one-fourth of the nation’s income?

Well now, there’s a place for Congress to begin its legislative efforts. Rebuilding our middle class means being smart about increasing jobs and wages. That task is usually best accomplished with the private sector but failing that we can do it with previously proven federal efforts. The outgoing Republican Congress has passed on precious little legislative business to this new Congress unless, of course, one counts Donald Trump’s unfinished $25 billion wall.

Nonetheless, there is plenty of beneficial work to be ordered by this House of Representatives: highways, bridges, improved transportation including high-speed trains. Let’s truly pursue reasonably priced solar and wind power, get on with the planting of millions of trees, remove mine waste and reclaim the land, streams and river banks. Congress needs to tackle the problems of student loan debts and forgiveness. Our federal court system needs an increase in judges and staff at the circuit and district levels. It is in the national interest to protect our critical coastlines and interior grass and forest lands from the devastating effects of global warming’s floods and fires. Good jobs can easily be abundant for our middle-class workforce.

Our country is at its best when it experiments: research in medicine, space and communication. We once led the world in discovery and we can again by supporting local, college and university research as critical components of the national effort. Productive research leads to reduction of our national debt.

There is, at the very least, one other immediate matter, an alarming but necessary task. The Congress must protect the FBI’s investigation led by Robert Mueller, and the chips should be allowed to fall where they may. Perhaps the results will be divisive to the country just as was the Watergate investigation of the early 1970s. America emerged stronger back then, just as we will again this time.

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Pat Williams is a former six-term congressman for Montana. He served from 1979 to 1997. He and his wife, Carol, live in Missoula.

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