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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on July 23, 2018, with Adam Schiff and Eliot Engel. Photo: Win McNamee via Getty Images

Congressional Democrats are going to have a prime seat at the national security table for the first time in eight years. Poised to take control of critical House committees are Eliot Engel (Foreign Affairs), Adam Smith (Armed Services), Nita Lowey (Appropriations) and Adam Schiff (Intelligence).

What to watch: House Democrats will likely focus on defining policy differences with President Trump — on climate change, nuclear nonproliferation, international alliances and human rights. How they advance this agenda will have a decisive impact on whether Democrats can turn national security into a winning issue ahead of the 2020 elections.

The details: Backing up the new chairmen will be a dynamic set of new members with deep national security experience, such as Abigail Spanberger (CIA), Elissa Slotkin (Defense Department) and Tom Malinowski (State Department). New progressive representatives will advocate for policies that speak directly to their personal backgrounds, such as Ilhan Omar (Somali-American, Muslim and former refugee) and Rashida Tlaib (Palestinian-American and Muslim).

House Democrats will also expand oversight of Russia issues and the nature of Trump’s relationship with Vladimir Putin; the ongoing military conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan; Trump’s Iran policy; and the state of America’s shrinking diplomatic corps.

Crucially, controversial oversight issues may prove the wildcard in the next Congress. For example, the ambush in Niger that killed four American servicemen earlier this year received almost no Congressional attention, despite its echo of the Benghazi attacks. Now, Congressional Democrats will have their turn to ask pointed questions.

The bottom line: After being relegated to the back bench for nearly a decade on national security, Democrats are now in the driver’s seat. They will have a lot to balance: how to put pressure on Trump; how to demonstrate a vision for America’s role in the world; and how to prepare the ground for 2020.

Joel Rubin is the president of the Washington Strategy Group and the former deputy assistant secretary of state for the House of Representatives.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
24 mins ago - Technology

Microsoft to buy Activision Blizzard

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Microsoft announced Tuesday it plans to acquire video game giant Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion in cash.

Why it matters: The move comes as Activision Blizzard has faced a wave of accusations of workplace harassment.

More details to come.

1 hour ago - World

Blinken to visit Ukraine as Russia invasion threat looms

Blinken (R) with President Zelensky. Photo: Efrem Lukatsky/Pool via Getty

Secretary of State Antony Tony Blinken will travel to Ukraine on Tuesday as the country faces an ongoing threat of Russian invasion.

Driving the news: Blinken will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, as well as officials at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv to discuss contingency planning. He'll then travel to Berlin to meet German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and attend a meeting of the "Transatlantic Quad" — France, Germany, the U.K. and U.S.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

At least 3 dead after Tonga volcano eruption and tsunami

A satellite image of the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday. Photo: UNICEF/NOAA

At least three people are confirmed to have died in Tonga following the undersea volcanic eruption that sent tsunami waves toward the island nation and across the Pacific over the weekend, officials said Tuesday.

The big picture: Officials reported major damage along the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, where the capital, Nuku'alofa, was covered in ash and dust, including on the runway of the airport. Officials in Tonga confirmed three deaths in the country's first official statement since the crisis began.