Here are the main events that occurred in Politics this week:
1. President Donald Trump Gives Second “State of the Union Address”
On February 5, 2019, President Donald Trump gave his second “State of the Union” address amid an increasingly divided Washington still reeling in the aftermath of the 35-day government shutdown. In stark contrast to his partisan rhetoric, President Trump attempted to strike a bipartisan tone, calling on lawmakers to break “decades of political stalemate” and asked Congress to choose “between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction.” The President’s immigration policies were the main focal point of the speech. Trump pushed for an “immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens,” a goal that includes the divisive border wall that he has so far failed to build. “Simply put, walls work and walls save lives. So let’s work together, compromise, and reach a deal that will truly make America safe,” said Trump.
In addition to immigration, President Donald Trump also focused on his administration’s successes in numerous areas. Trump highlighted his successes regarding the implementation of
The reaction to President Trump’s State of the Union Address has been mixed, with nearly all Republicans approving it and a majority of Democrats disapproving it. In the Democratic Party response to the speech, former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams condemned the callous and divisive policies of the Trump Administration. “Under the current administration, far too many hard-working Americans are falling behind, living paycheck to paycheck, most without labor unions to protect them from even worse harm,” said Abrams. Abrams further pointed out the fact that the Trump Administration’s policies have “violated every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people, but our values.” Additionally, many commentators have slammed President Trump for the numerous false statements throughout his speech, particularly the ones pertaining to immigration, foreign policy, and the economic record of his administration.]
2. Iran Commemorates The 40th Anniversary of the 1978-79 Revolution
On February 11, tens of millions of Iranians took to the streets across the country to mark the 40th Anniversary of the final collapse of the government of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, renewing their allegiance to the country’s Islamic principles at a time of rising economic and political pressure amid the resumption of punishing US sanctions. The Iranian people organize the nationwide rally every year to highlight the size of grassroots support for the 1978-79 Iranian Revolution (which many political scientists view as one of the most successful revolutions in human history), which replaced Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s oppressive, fascist, and US/Israeli/Saudi-backed government with an Islamic Republic under the leadership of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Domestically, the event is also known as Ten-Day Dawn (Dahe-ye Fajr in Farsi) commemorate the period of violent protests following February 1, 1979 return of Khomeini from exile. It also marks the official end of the 2,500 years of the Persian Empire. Estimates placed the total number of attendees in this year’s commemoration to be at roughly 60 million, approximately 75% of the countries total population.
In his address to the demonstrators gathered at Tehran’s Azadi Square, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani dismissed US efforts to isolate his country, saying US sanctions could not break the Islamic Republic. “The presence of people today on the streets all over Islamic Iran … means that the enemy will never reach its evil objectives,” Rouhani said, adding that the country will continue to pursue its missile programme to defend the country from external threats. “We have not asked, and will never ask for permission in developing our missile arsenal as we continue to seek our path to military might.” Additionally, Rouhani highlighted the fact that the revolution saved the country “from tyranny and dependence.” “This nation has managed to establish an independent system of government,” Rouhani further stated, as he stressed that the country has also managed to “foil the conspiracies” led by the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel.
Despite Iran’s achievements since the revolution, as well as continued public support for the current government, this most recent commemoration of the revolution comes at a pivotal time for Iran. Over the past 25 years, there has become an increasing political divide between the hardliners, who believe in the strict implementation of laws from 40 years ago, and the reformers, who believe that Iran has moved past the original goals of the revolution and that more economic reforms and freedoms will allow Iran to meet the goals set forward during the revolution. These tensions have increased since the election of Hassan Rouhani in 2013, who has governed generally as a reformist and an advocate of improving Iran’s relationship with European Union countries such as the UK, France, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, and Ireland. Additionally, Iran has witnessed much international and economic turmoil since US President Donald Trump withdrew from 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement (JCPOA), implemented what he calls the “toughest sanctions” ever imposed on another country, and began working with countries such as Saudi Arabia and Israel to isolate Iran from the international community.
3. In a Surprising Turn of Events, The Supreme Court Blocked a Hardline Louisiana Anti-Abortion Law
The Supreme Court on February 8 blocked a Louisiana law that its opponents say could have left the state with only one doctor in a single clinic authorized to provide abortions. The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John Roberts, generally considered to be aligned with the court’s conservative wing, joining the court’s four-member liberal side to form a majority. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett M. Kavanaugh said they would have denied the stay. Only Justice Kavanaugh published a dissent, taking a middle position that acknowledged the important precedent and said he would have preferred more information on the precise effect of the law. The court’s brief order gave no reasons, and its action, a temporary stay, only dismissed the case with prejudice. The Supreme Court is likely to hear a challenge to the law on the merits in its next term, which starts in October.
The Louisiana anti-abortion law in question, which was enacted in 2014, requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. In 2017, Judge John deGravelles of the Federal District Court in Baton Rouge struck down the law, saying that such doctors were often unable to obtain admitting privileges for reasons unrelated to their competence and that the law created an undue burden on women’s constitutional right to abortion. The bill, Judge deGravelles ruled, was essentially identical to one from Texas that the Supreme Court struck down in a 2016 decision, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Justice Breyer, writing for the majority in that decision, said courts must consider whether the claimed benefits of laws putting restrictions on abortion outweigh the burdens they placed on the constitutional right to the procedure.
Abortion rights advocates welcomed the Supreme Court’s opinion, which was widely expected to go the other way. “The Supreme Court has stepped in under the wire to protect the rights of Louisiana women,” Nancy Northup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “The three clinics left in Louisiana can stay open while we ask the Supreme Court to hear our case. This should be an easy case, all that’s needed is a straightforward application of the court’s precedent.” On the other hand, Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser lamented that the “Supreme Court continues a disappointing trend of avoiding their responsibility on decisions concerning abortion […] The Court should not prevent state legislators from doing the job they were elected by their constituents to do.” This most recent case also serves to highlight the shifting ideological patterns within the Supreme Court. For example, Chief Justice John Roberts previously had a reputation as one of the court’s more conservative justices, repeatedly voting in favor of laws that place restrictions on abortion rights. Since the departure of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who used to hold the crucial vote in many closely divided cases, including ones concerning abortion, Roberts has assumed the role as the centrist, swing vote on the Supreme Court.
4. Tentative Agreement Reached to Fund President Donald Trump’s Proposed “Border Wall”
On February 11, members of Congress reached a tentative agreement on border security that would allow them to fund the government beyond February 15, according to congressional officials from both parties. Major parts of the government would shut down as of this weekend without a deal. The agreement to avert the shutdown will still have to be approved by both chambers of Congress and signed by President Donald Trump. The deal, which congressional aides warned was only tentative, would provide $1.4 billion for border barriers (far less than the $7 billion initially proposed by President Trump), according to a senior congressional aide who confirmed details but was not authorized to be quoted by name. The plan would fund not only the Department of Homeland Security, the center of the political dispute over border funding, but also several other agencies that were forced to shut down in December and January.
At a rally in El Paso on February 11, President Donald Trump said he had not yet seen the details of the proposed deal because it was reached as he was preparing to go onstage. “I said, wait a minute, I’ve got to take care of my people from Texas. I got to go. I don’t even want to hear about it,” Trump said. “I don’t know what they mean ‘progress is being made.’” Later, however, Trump said the reports could represent “good news.” “Just so you know, we’re building the wall anyway,” Trump added.
Whether the bill can be approved by Congress remains unclear. Some liberal Democrats are unlikely to welcome new funding for a border fence. Conservative Republicans may balk at financing only a portion of Trump’s original $5.7 billion demand. Over the weekend, top members of Congress and an administration official said the discussions had broken down. But coming off a record 35-day shutdown, there has been little appetite in either party in Congress for another halt in federal operations.