OurWeek In Politics (August 13, 2019-August 20, 2019)

Here are the main events that occurred in Politics this week:

1. Trump Administration Introduces Regulation Denying Citizenship to Immigrants Who Use Public Benefits

The Trump Administration announced a new regulation this week denying citizenship to immigrants who use public benefits.

US President Donald Trump’s administration unveiled a sweeping new rule this week that would limit legal immigration by denying visas and permanent residency to hundreds of thousands of people for being too poor. The long-anticipated rule, pushed by Stephen Miller, Trump’s leading aide on immigration, takes effect on October 15 and would reject applicants for temporary or permanent visas for failing to meet income standards or for receiving public assistance such as welfare, food stamps, public housing or Medicaid. Immediately after the rule was announced, the National Immigration Law Center said it would file a lawsuit to stop it from taking effect. The group’s executive director said the rule was racially motivated. The overhaul is part of Trump’s efforts to curb both legal and illegal immigration, an issue he has made a cornerstone of his Presidency.

The 837-page rule could be the most drastic of all the administration’s policies that target the legal immigration system, experts have said.
Advocates for immigrants have criticized the plan as an effort to cut legal immigration without going through Congress to change federal law. The new rule is derived from the Immigration Act of 1882, which allows the US government to deny a visa to anyone likely to become a “public charge”. Most immigrants are ineligible for the major aid programs until they qualify for green cards, which grant legal permanent residence status. However, the new rule published in the Federal Register by the Department of Homeland Security expands the definition of a public charge and stands to disqualify more people.

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), said at a White House briefing announcing the rule that “the law has required foreign nationals to rely on their own capabilities and the resources of their families, sponsors and private organizations in their communities to succeed.” “However,” Cuccinelli said, “Congress has never defined the term ‘public charge’ in the law and that term hadn’t been clearly defined by regulation. “That is what changes today with this rule.”

The new rule defines public charge as an immigrant who receives one or more designated public benefits for more than 12 months within any 36-month period, according to a fact sheet from USCIS. The benefits would count in the aggregate, so that a receipt of two benefits in a single month would count as two months, according to the fact sheet. The definition of public benefits is cash aid, including Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, most forms of Medicaid, and a variety of public housing programs. The regulation also excludes benefits for individuals in the US armed forces, as well as their spouses and children.

2. At The Urging of President Donald Trump, Israeli Government Bans Congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Rashida Talib From Entering Country

At the urging of President Donald Trump, the Israeli government this week banned Congresswomen Rashida Talib and Ilhan Omar from entering in the country, citing their criticism of Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies.

Israel announced on August 15 it was barring the entry of two American Congresswomen after President Donald Trump encouraged the move, a remarkable step both by the US President and his ally, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to punish political opponents. Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely announced Israel’s decision to ban Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from entering the country. The announcement came shortly after Trump said Israel would be showing “great weakness” by allowing them to enter the country. “The plan of the two Congresswomen is only to damage Israel and to foment against Israel,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said in a statement following the decision. The intervention by Trump into Israel’s decision-making was extraordinary enough. But the move by Netanyahu’s government lent the longstanding US-Israel alliance a new partisan tinge and opened the door for fresh criticism.

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar responded to the decision by calling it “an affront” and “an insult to democratic values.” “It is an affront that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, under pressure from President Trump, would deny entry to representatives of the U.S. government,” Omar said in a statement. “Trump’s Muslim ban is what Israel is implementing, this time against two duly elected Members of Congress.” Omar further added, “As a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, it is my job to conduct oversight of foreign aid from the United States of America and to legislate on human rights practices around the world. The irony of the ‘only democracy’ in the Middle East making such a decision is that it is both an insult to democratic values and a chilling response to a visit by government officials from an allied nation.” President Donald Trump has long criticized the two lawmakers, who are the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, in harsh and racist terms. But his move to call for their ban in Israel reflects a new chapter in his grudge and an erosion of presidential norms, which in the past sought to avoid instilling partisanship in foreign affairs.

In considering the ban, Israel cited the congresswomen’s support for a boycott against Israel. “The State of Israel respects the American Congress in the framework of the close alliance between the two countries, but it is unthinkable that entry to Israel would be allowed to those who seek to damage the State of Israel, even during a visit,” said Interior Minister Aryeh Deri. The boycott efforts supported by Omar and Talib, formally known as the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, is a socio-political movement aimed to end international support for Israel due to its Nazi-esque human rights violations against both the Palestinian people and Shi’a Muslims throughout the Middle East. The BDS movement began in the wake of the carnage the Israeli military brought about against thousands of Palestinian people as well as Shi’a Muslims during both the 2009-Israel Gaza War and the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War and is primarily supported at the international level by countries such as Iran, Syria, and Lebanon as well as Middle Eastern socio-political groups including Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis.

The decision on the part of the Israeli government was met with condemnation from Democratic lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who said in a statement she was “deeply saddened” by the news. “Israel’s denial of entry to Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar is a sign of weakness, and beneath the dignity of the great State of Israel,” Pelosi said. “The President’s statements about the Congresswomen are a sign of ignorance and disrespect, and beneath the dignity of the Office of the President.” In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), called the decision a “sign of weakness, not strength,” and said, “It will only hurt the U.S.-Israeli relationship and support for Israel in America. … Many strong supporters of Israel will be deeply disappointed in this decision, which the Israeli government should reverse.”

3. President Donald Trump Backtracks From Proposal To Expand Background Checks For Gun Purchases

President Donald Trump dropped his support for expanded background checks on firearm purchases early this week due to pressure from the NRA, Republicans in Congress

President Donald Trump moved further away from supporting expanded background checks for gun purchases on August 20, touting the popular narrative of critics who claim such new rules will somehow lead to the total erosion of the constitutional right to bear arms. “The Democrats would, I believe — I think they’d give up the Second Amendment,” he told reporters during a press conference. “A lot of the people that put me where I am are strong believers in the Second Amendment, and I am, also. And we have to be very careful about that. You know, they call it the ‘slippery slope,’ and all of a sudden, everything gets taken away. We’re not going to let that happen.”

Earlier this month, in the wake of two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, President Donald Trump pointed to a “very strong appetite” for “background checks like we’ve never had before.” He teased that a “really, really good” deal could be reached on the issue in Congress. Calling background checks “important,” President Trump said, “I don’t want to put guns into the hands of mentally unstable people or people with rage or hate, sick people. I don’t want to ― I’m all in favor of it.” A presidential push for enhanced checks is viewed by most analysts as essential to the passage of any such legislation, given traditional opposition to the measures by Republicans and the political clout wielded against the proposals by the National Rifle Association (NRA).

As the shock caused by the recent shooting have worn off, so has President Donald Trump’s interest in the issue. His latest remarks indicate that he has no serious intention of making tougher background checks a priority. “We have very, very strong background checks right now,” he said. “But we have, sort of, missing areas and areas that don’t complete the whole circle, and we’re looking at different things.” Trump then steered the conversation back to mental health, a common Republican talking point when it comes to gun control.  “I have to tell you that it is a mental problem, and I’ve said it a hundred times: It’s not the gun that pulls the trigger; it’s the person that pulls the trigger. These are sick people, and it is also that kind of a problem.” It was reported that Trump, in an August 20 phone conversation, told embattled NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre that universal background checks were off the table.

On August 19, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) slammed the President’s apparent retreat on stricter gun control measures, calling his initial remarks meaningless. “We’ve seen this movie before: President Trump, feeling public pressure in the immediate aftermath of a horrible shooting, talks about doing something meaningful to address gun violence, but inevitably, he backtracks in response to pressure from the NRA and the hard-right,” Schumer said. “These retreats from President Trump are not only disappointing but also heartbreaking, particularly for the families of the victims of gun violence.” Though Schumer and other Democrats have called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to reconvene the chamber so that it can consider gun legislation, he has refused to cancel the lawmakers’ summer break.

4. Amid Economic Uncertainty, PResident Trump Toys With The Idea Of A Temporary Payroll Tax Cut

President Donald Trump this week announced that his administration was considering a payroll tax cut as a way to spur the economy, lessen the impacts of a potential recession.

Amid recession fears, President Donald Trump on August 20 confirmed that his administration is discussing a temporary payroll tax cut as a strategy to boost the economy, even as he maintains the country’s economic outlook remains strong. “Payroll tax is something that we think about, and a lot of people would like to see that,” Trump said during an exchange with reporters at the White House. “We’re looking at various tax reductions. But I’m looking at that all the time anyway,” he added. The President said that the administration is also looking at doing something on the capital gains tax, but cautioned that nothing has been decided. He suggested that he could index the capital gains to inflation unilaterally, though such a move would likely face challenges from Democrats in Congress.

President Trump disputed that a recession was looming after reports circulated that the temporary payroll tax cut was being discussed as one way to boost the economy amid anxieties of a looming recession. The White House on August 19 denied those reports and insisted talk of a downturn was overblown. Individuals pay payroll taxes to finance Social Security and Medicare. Former President Barack Obama had enacted a temporary payroll tax cut in mid-2011 as an effort to boost the economy at the time, which was struggling to emerge from the 2007-2010 Recession. Cutting those taxes could temporarily help the middle class, but could also increase the deficit and possibly hurt the social safety net programs they fund.

Throughout his Presidency, Donald Trump has projected confidence and insisted the US is in a strong economic position, but his calls for an interest rate cut and possible tax cut are moves typically taken to jump-start a sluggish economy. The President has sought to cast blame on the media for stoking speculation of a recession, and reiterated his suggestion that the Federal Reserve was holding back the economy and should cut interest rates by a full percent “over a period of time.” He added that the central bank is “psychologically important” for the tone of the economy.

Some economists have suggested that Trump’s trade war with China has spurred on signs of a potential recession. They have noted that businesses and consumers are bearing the brunt of tariffs and that President Donald Trump’s unpredictability further hampers growth. President Trump pledged to levy additional tariffs on China beginning next month, but later delayed some of the tariffs amid fears it would affect US consumers during the holiday season. On August 20, President Donald became animated when defending his posture toward China, insisting that the fight with Beijing is more significant than any potential economic drawbacks in the shot-term. “I am doing this whether it’s good or bad for your statement about ‘will we fall into a recession for two months,'” he said. “The fact is, somebody had to take China on.”

5. Elizabeth Warren Surges, Bernie Sanders Declines, in Most Recent Democratic Primary Polling

Senator Elizabeth Warren surges in Democratic primary polling, now firmly in second place.

Senator Elizabeth Warren has overtaken Senator Bernie Sanders for second place nationally in the Democratic Presidential primary, according to a poll released on August 15. The Fox News poll of registered voters who say they plan to participate in the Democratic primary or caucus in their state shows that although Warren still trails former Vice President Joe Biden, pulling in 20 percentage points to his 31, she posted an 8-point gain over the previous survey conducted last month. Sanders dropped 5 points in the poll, good for third place with 10 percent support.

The poll shows remarkable growth for Elizabeth Warren over the last five months, she has gained 16 points overall. On the other hand, Joe Biden has remained somewhat steady over the same period. Bernie Sanders’ second-place lead has diminished steadily over the same period, with the recent poll being the first in which he dropped into third place. He has dropped 13 points since May. Senator Kamala Harris is not far behind him in fourth place, with 8 percent of support among likely Democratic primary voters. The most recent poll has no bearing on next months Democratic primary debate in Houston, Texas since every candidate polling above 2 percent has already reached the polling threshold for the debate stage.

The Fox News poll surprisingly shows that any of the top four Democratic contenders would easily defeat President Donald Trump in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup. Joe Biden opens up the widest lead against Trump, beating him 50-38, while Harris would have the closest contest, though still outside the margin of sampling error, beating Trump 45-39. The poll also shows a nearly even split in what Democratic primary voters are looking for in a presidential candidate. Forty-eight percent of voters said they would like a Democratic nominee to build upon the legacy of former President Barack Obama, while 47 percent said they’d prefer a new approach. The survey was conducted August 11-13 among a random national sample of ~1,000 registered voters and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage for all registered voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points for the 483 Democratic primary voters surveyed.

the author

Matt has been studying and analyzing politics at all levels since the 2004 Presidential Election. He writes about political trends and demographics, the role of the media in politics, comparative politics, political theory, and the domestic and international political economy. Matt is also interested in history, philosophy, comparative religion, and record collecting.

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