Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats take control — here are the policies they plan to pursue

Key Points
  • House Democrats took a majority Thursday for the first time in eight years.
  • Nancy Pelosi becomes speaker as the party tries to balance checking President Donald Trump and not alienating the moderate and independent voters who helped them win a House majority.
  • The partial government shutdown, corruption, drug prices and infrastructure are among the topics Democrats could move to address in the early days of their majority.
Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (C), D-CA, is photographed with fellow Congresswomen during the opening session of the 116th Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 3, 2019.
Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

Democrats took over the House on Thursday, and they plan to quickly change the chamber's path after eight years of Republican control.

The party holds a 235-199 edge in the House after the new Congress started on Thursday. Democrats will push to check President Donald Trump after two years of a unified GOP government. The Senate will stay in Republican hands, with the GOP holding a 53-47 seat advantage.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who reclaimed the speaker's gavel Thursday, has to strike a delicate balance as her party gains power. Democrats want to oppose Trump's policies they consider dangerous, but look for ways to cooperate with the GOP to tout progress to the moderate and independent voters who helped them regain the lower chamber.

Pelosi and her party gain the majority at a tricky time, with a partial government shutdown in its 13th day and few signs of progress toward breaking the impasse over Trump's proposed border wall. Bills to end the closure will be among the first measures Democrats introduce on Thursday.

In remarks she plans to deliver after her expected ascension to speaker, Pelosi will outline a variety of Democratic goals, according to prepared excerpts obtained by NBC News. She will call to "address the disparity of income in America," be "champions of the middle class" and "face the existential threat of our time: the climate crisis." Pelosi will also push to "lower health costs and prescription drug prices," ensure protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions and overhaul U.S. infrastructure.

Later in the day, Trump congratulated Pelosi and said "hopefully we're going to have a lot of things that we can get done together." He cited infrastructure as an area in which they can cooperate. 

Listed below are the issues Democrats have outlined as their top priorities for their majority. Their actions will not be limited to policy, though. The party is set to launch investigations into the president's tax returns and personal businesses, as well as his administration's immigration policies and use of taxpayer money, among other issues.

  • Reopen the government: The House aims to pass legislation to fund eight closed federal departments through Sept. 30, along with a measure to reopen the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8. It would not include the $5 billion Trump demands for the wall, and would give lawmakers more time to reach a deal on border security. However, the impasse appears set to drag on as Trump opposes the proposals and the Senate does not plan to vote on them.
Congress won't resolve shutdown until constituents demand it, former senator says
Congress won't resolve shutdown until constituents demand it, former senator says
  • Address corruption: Democrats plan to take up a sweeping anti-corruption measure as one of their first acts in the 116th Congress. While the legislation likely will not get through the Senate, the party hopes to use it to send a message as it casts the Trump administration as amoral. The proposal aims to reduce the influence of money in campaigns, curb the effects of lobbying on policy and expand voting rights. In her prepared remarks, Pelosi describes the bill as a way that "people can have confidence that government works for the public interest, not the special interests."
  • Cut drug prices and shore up Obamacare: House Democrats say they will push to slash prescription drug costs, in part by allowing Medicare to negotiate prices and requiring manufacturers to be more transparent about pricing. Trump has shown openness to those efforts in the past. Meanwhile, Democrats have pledged to fight litigation that could strip away the Affordable Care Act's protections for people with pre-existing conditions — a key messaging point for the party as it gained a net 40 seats in November's midterm elections. Democratic leaders have authorized Pelosi to intervene in a pending federal case in which a district judge ruled the health care law unconstitutional.
  • Fix U.S. infrastructure: The party hopes to revamp American infrastructure, from roads, bridges and rail tunnels to water systems and broadband. While the White House has backed infrastructure improvements, it will prove challenging for Republicans and Democrats to agree on specific infrastructure updates — and how to pay for them. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have called for any bill to include clean energy tax credits and provisions for research of new technology, which could face GOP resistance.
  • Address climate change: Aside from a push to creating more green energy jobs, Democrats aim to fight climate change with measures to cut carbon pollution and attack the Trump administration's rollback of environmental protections. The party has set up a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, to be led by Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida. The issue has already divided Democrats. Some members of the party's left wing want it to pursue a "Green New Deal," a challenging plan to get all electric power from renewable sources within 10 years.
  • Raise the minimum wage: House Democrats also hope to pass legislation for a $15 per hour federal minimum wage. While the bill likely would not get through the Senate, the party would use it to send a message as well. Democrats are trying to cast themselves as better for the working class than the GOP. The current U.S. minimum wage is $7.25, and has not gone up since 2009.

— CNBC's Berkeley Lovelace Jr. and Tom DiChristopher contributed to this report

Subscribe to CNBC on YouTube.