Here are the main events in Politics that occurred over the past week:
1. President Trump Ends the DACA Program
On September 5, President Donald Trump announced that his Administration would be ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Originally established by the Obama Administration in June of 2012, the DACA program allows some individuals who entered the US illegally as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit. In order to qualify under DACA guidelines, one must have been born prior to June 16, 1981, came to the US before their 16th birthday, have no serious misdemeanors on their record, and must have completed either high school, college, or military service. In a statement after his agencies and attorney general announced the decision, President Donald Trump blamed former President Barack Obama for creating the program through executive authority and urged Congress to come up with a long-term solution that may include passing legislation incorporating many of DACA’s provisions. In the five years since DACA first enacted, nearly 800,000 individuals have enrolled in the program and the Trump Administrations plan makes their future in the US uncertain and opens the door for a more hardline federal policy regarding immigration.
The reaction to President Trump’s decision has been mixed this far. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), condemned the plan, stating that the decision is “one of the ugliest and cruelest decisions ever made by a president in our modern history.” Additionally, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer denounced the action and pledged to attach a DACA fix to other bills if Congress will not pass stand-alone legislation making DACA’s provisions permanent. Reactions within President Trump’s own political party have not been universally in favor of the decision as well. For example, House Speaker Paul Ryan and several Senate Republicans such as Orrin Hatch and Jeff Flake felt that the decision on the part of Trump was too rash and reportedly urged the President to reconsider this action in light of their reservations.
2. Congressional Democrats and President Trump Reach Deal on Debt Ceiling Increase and Storm Relief.
On September 6, President Donald Trump bucked his own political party and reached a deal with the Congressional Democratic leadership in support of a plan that would fund Hurricane Harvey aid and raise the debt ceiling until December. Additionally, both items would also be tied to a measure to keep the government open through the end of the year. Ignoring the advice of the Congressional Republican leadership, Trump told the press that he wanted a fair and acceptable solution to both pressing issues and felt that the plan the Democrats put forward was far superior to the Republican plan. The agreement between President Trump and the Democratic Party Congressional leadership is a rare showing of bipartisanship in an increasingly polarized political environment and resulted in the President’s approval rating climbing twelve points to a still abysmal 46%. Additionally, the actions also reveal that the relationship between President Trump and members of his own party is steadily weakening, which may ultimately hamper the President’s ability to effectively set and pass his agenda.
3. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) Faces Federal Corruption Charges in Trial
The long awaited trial for NJ Senator Bob Menendez kicked off on September 6 after several years of lingering allegations. The roots of the trial began in 2013 when a federal grand jury in Miami began investigating suspicious connections between Menendez and one of his close friends and major political supporters Dr. Salomon Melgen. The court was especially concerned over Menendez’s advocacy of Melgen’s business interests. After two years of investigation, the Department of Justice indicted both the United States Department of Justice indicted both Menendez and Melgen and charged charging Menendez with bribery, fraud, and making false and misleading statements under oath. According to the Department of Justice, Menendez asked State Department officials to pressure the Dominican Republic into enforcing a port-security contract that would benefit Melgen’s business interests, while at the same time Melgen promised to donate $60,000 to Menendez’s re-election campaign in 2012. Prosecutors also charged that Menendez abused his office to solely benefit Melgen by helping to obtain visas for several of Melgen’s girlfriends and family members.
In response to the allegations, Senator Menendez has declared his innocence and has accused the prosecution of playing politics regarding their allegations. Considering the overwhelming evidence against him, it is likely that Senator Menendez will be convicted for corruption and thus removed from office. If Menendez is removed from office prior to the end of the year, NJ Governor Chris Christie will be tasked with appointing a replacement Senator who would run for a full term in 2018. It is entirely possible that Governor Christie will appoint himself to Menendez’s Senate seat due to the fact that his term will be almost over, though it is unlikely that Christie would win a full term in 2018 considering his high disapproval rating and the national trends going against the Republican Party.
4. Israel Bombs Syrian Military Base
On September 7, the Israeli air force launched an airstrike on a military base in the Syrian city of Masyaf that was previously used to produce advanced missiles and other armaments. The Syrian government announced that the airstrike killed two Syrian soldiers and all but destroyed the facility. The Israeli government has previously been reluctant to intervene directly in the Syrian Civil war (other than by funding and supporting ISIS and Wahhabi groups opposed to the Shi’a-dominated Syrian government and its allies such as Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah), but such actions signal that the Israeli’s are in the planning stages to intervene against anyone who stands in their path to gain a foothold in the Middle East. The Syrian military and its allies condemned the Israeli strike and stated that there are “serious repercussions of such acts of aggression on the security and stability of the region.” The potential repercussions against the Israeli government for such a strike may also signal a dangerous escalation of the Syrian Civil War and threatens to engulf many outside powers into the conflict and thus spark a major global war.