Here are the main events that occurred in Politics this week:
1. House Judiciary Committee Approves Articles of Impeachment Against President Trump
On December 13, the House Judiciary Committee approved two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, making him the fourth President in American history to face potential impeachment. In contrast to the previous day’s contentious back-and-forth between the two parties, the December 13 session was devoid of rancor, or even any debate. Immediately after calling the meeting to order, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) the Judiciary Committee Chairman, ordered two votes, one for each article. Both were approved 23-17 along party lines. In brief remarks after the votes, Nadler said, “Today is a solemn and sad day. For the third time in a little over a century and a half, the House Judiciary Committee has voted articles of impeachment against the president for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.” Nadler promised the House “will act expeditiously.” House Democratic leaders are planning to hold the full House vote on articles of impeachment on December 18, according to two Democratic leadership aides.
Speaking to reporters after the vote, President Donald Trump said Democrats were “trivializing impeachment.” “It’s a witch hunt, It’s a sham, It’s a hoax,” President Trump told reporters as he began an unrelated meeting in the Oval Office with Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez. Commenting on the next stage of impeachment, the Senate’s impeachment trial, Trump said he would not mind a lengthy trial and would like to see the whistleblower testify. Judiciary Committee member Debbie Lesk (R-AZ), told reporters that the committee’s action was “a travesty for America, and it’s really tearing America apart.” She added, “I have never in my entire life seen such an unfair, rigged railroad job against the President of the United States.”
The House Judiciary Committee had been expected to approve the articles late on December 12, but later in the day, Congressman Jerrold Nadler pushed the vote to the next morning. “It is now very late at night,” Nadler said, adjourning the hearing. “I want the members on both sides of the aisle to think about what has happened over these last two days and to search their consciences before we cast our final votes.” Nadler’s decision led to vocal objection from Republicans on the committee, including ranking member Doug Collins (R-GA). “You’ve just blown up schedules for everyone,” Collins said. “This is the kangaroo court that we’re talking about.” Throughout the day on December 12, committee members delivered partisan talking points in support of or in opposition to Trump’s impeachment. Republicans offered several amendments that were rejected.
Assuming that the House of Representatives votes to impeach President Donald Trump, the Senate would then begin a trial to determine whether to remove President Trump from office or, much more likely in the Republican-led chamber, acquit him. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in a December 12 interview on Fox News that there is “zero chance the president will be removed from office.” McConnell said he was hoping that there would be no Republican defections in the Senate trial and that he was working closely with White House lawyers, pledging “total coordination.”
Thus far, the only Republican Senators who may potentially vote to impeach President Trump are Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, and Richard Burr. All three are considered to be “Never Trump” conservatives who are particularly opposed to the President’s conduct regarding foreign policy. On the other hand, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia will likely vote to acquit President Trump because he represents a state in which President Trump has his highest approval ratings, as well as the fact that he is arguably the most conservative Democrat currently in Congress, and routinely votes to the right of several moderate Republican Senators including Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. For example, Joe Manchin voted in favor of President Trump’s agenda a majority of the time and expressed an openness to support Trump’s re-election campaign in 2020.
2. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Conservative Party Win Overwhelming Electoral Victory, Setting Up The UK’s Removal From The European Union By Late 2020
UK prime minister Boris Johnson, secured a crushing victory in the December 12 UK general election as voters backed his promise to “get Brexit done” and take the country out of the European Union by the beginning of 2020. The Conservative Party captured 364 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons, a comfortable majority of 80 seats and the party’s best showing in a parliamentary election since 1987. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will now move swiftly to ratify the Brexit deal he sealed with the European Union, allowing the UK to exit the bloc, more than 40 years after it originally joined, at the end of next month, nearly a year later than initially planned and three-and-a-half years after UK voters held a referendum on the issue. Prime Minister Boris Johnson must now negotiate a multi-part deal governing the UK’s future relationship with the world’s largest trading bloc, a process most experts think could take years, but he has promised can be completed during an 11-month transition period due to end in December 2020.
The Labor Party, whose leader, the veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn, had presented voters a manifesto offering a second Brexit referendum and a radical expansion of the state, was plunged into bitter recriminations after the party won just 203 seats, its worst result since 1935. Labour lost seats it had held for long decades in former industrial areas in the Midlands and north of the country England as voters who had overwhelmingly backed Brexit in the June 2016 referendum swung towards the Conservatives. His critics blamed the party’s losses on Corbyn’s ambiguity over Brexit and said voters had expressed antipathy to him during the campaign. Corbyn, who was elected leader in 2015, has alienated moderates by shifting the party firmly away from the center that brought Labour three successive election victories under Tony Blair.
As well as promising to “get Brexit done”, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to increase spending on health, education and the police and was handed a boost early in the campaign when arch-Eurosceptic Nigel Farage said his Brexit party, which failed to win any seats, would not compete in hundreds of seats to avoid splitting the pro-Brexit vote. His thumping majority should now allow him to ignore the threat of rebellion by Eurosceptics in his own party, possibly opening up the prospect of a softening in the hardline approach he has so far adopted towards Brexit.
3. Amnesty International Report Reveals That At Least 300 Individuals Were Killed In Last Months Economic Protests In Iran
According to an Amnesty International report issued on December 16, at least 304 people were killed in last month’s anti-government protests in Iran, a significantly higher number than what the rights group had reported previously. The protests, which lasted about four days in several cities and towns in Iran in November, were sparked by a sharp rise in gasoline prices. During the violence and in the days that followed, the Iranian government blocked access to the internet. Amnesty said that Iranian security forces opened fire on unarmed protesters, killing scores. Iranian authorities subsequently arrested thousands of protesters as well as journalists, human rights defenders, and students in a sweeping crackdown to prevent them from speaking up about the protests.
The Iranian government has yet to release any statistics about the scale of the unrest, although two weeks ago, the government acknowledged that the security forces had shot and killed protesters. The Iranian Judiciary has thus far announced that many of the protesters have ties to several anti-Iran groups backed by the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, including the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO), monarchist groups tied to the deposed Pahlavi Monarchy, and separatist groups active in the Iranian provinces of Khuzestan and Sistan and Baluchestan. In combination, these groups, according to the Iranian government, sought to turn a relatively minor series of protests into a deadly set of riots meant at undermining the stability of the Iranian political system.
4. Congressional Negotiators Formalize $1.3 Trillion Spending Agreement Meant To Avoid Potential Government Shutdown In Early 2020
Congressional negotiators finalized a $1.3 trillion federal spending deal on December 16, with a pay raise for federal workers, money for federal gun violence research, and the repeal of several taxes associated with the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare“). Congress is expected to pass the legislation this week ahead of Friday’s shutdown deadline and send it to President Trump for his signature. A high-profile conflict over border wall spending, the issue that sparked a record 35-day partial government shutdown a year ago, was resolved with a retreat to the status quo: Funding remains unchanged from 2019 levels at $1.375 billion, short of the $8.6 billion President Trump requested from Congress. The Trump administration, however, retains the ability to transfer funds from other accounts, though the bill does not replenish the accounts it drew from earlier this year. Funding for immigration enforcement agencies also remains unchanged from 2019 levels.
The continuation of any border-wall funding is a defeat for Democrats, who pushed to halt construction and block Trump from diverting funds appropriated for other projects. But Democrats touted significant wins elsewhere in the bill, including $25 million in funding for federal gun violence research and $425 million in election security grants, as well as a $208 million boost in funding for the Environmental Protection Agency. Also riding along on the spending legislation is a bill raising the national age for tobacco sales to 21, a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the US, and a permanent repeal of several Affordable Care Act taxes that have faced bipartisan opposition and have been repeatedly delayed since the laws 2010 passage. The federal funding for gun violence research is the first in more than 20 years. The 2019 spending agreement clarified a long-standing provision that had been interpreted to prevent the financing of that research, but it did not actually provide any funding.
Other Democratic priorities included in the bill are a 3.1 percent pay raise for civilian federal employees, $7.6 billion in funding for the 2020 Census and record funding for education programs including Head Start Approval of the pay raise, which would be the largest since 2009, ends a year of back and forth over a boost for some 2.1 million executive branch workers. Trump initially recommended no increase, but then in late summer backed a 2.6 percent increase to be paid across the board. “Federal employees have many allies in Congress and we commend all of them for their persistence in getting House and Senate negotiators to include the average 3.1 percent raise in their final compromise spending agreement,” National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon said in a statement.
Republicans highlighted a $22 billion increase in defense spending, which Democrats agreed to over the summer as part of a two-year, $2.7 trillion budget accord that also suspended the federal debt cap for the remainder of President Donald Trump’s first term. Other Republican wins included funding to advance a Republican-supported Veterans Affairs program aimed at privatizing some VA health care delivery, as well as the preservation of several policy restrictions related to abortion and gun rights. President Trump has yet to send a clear signal of support for the spending deal, though Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has played a personal role in shepherding the deal to the finish, meeting with congressional leaders twice last week. Trump, however, initially rejected a tentative 2019 spending deal negotiated on Capitol Hill a year ago, plunging the federal government into the record shutdown.