OurWeek in Politics (March 26, 2019-April 2, 2019

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

1. President Donald Trump Announces Intentions To Close The Southern Border, Citing Increases In Illegal Immigration

President Donald Trump announced his intentions to close the Southern Border with Mexico this week.

On March 29, President Donald Trump announced that he intends on closing the Southern Border “as early as next week” if Mexico does not halt illegal immigration into the US, repeating a threat he has made over the past two years but never with a specific timetable. In a series of tweets and later during appearances before reporters, President Trump did not spell out exactly what a border closing would entail but said it could involve halting “all trade” between the two countries, a prospect that would have profound ramifications for the US economy. Trump blamed Mexico for a growing flow of “illegals” entering the US and cited two large migrant caravans making their way toward the US border. “If they don’t stop them, we’re closing the border,” Trump said at an event in Florida. “We’ll close it. And we’ll keep it closed for a long time. I’m not playing games. Mexico has to stop it.” In another afternoon appearance, Trump said, “there’s a very good likelihood” that he will close the border next week.

Despite President Donald Trump’s false claims, Mexico’s new government, under President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has been a willing partner with the Trump administration on migration issues. Earlier this year, López Obrador allowed the implementation and expansion of a new US policy that forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico as their cases are processed, in spite of criticism from human rights organizations. In the wake of President Trump’s tweet about the possible border closure, López Obrador reiterated that approach. “We are going to help, to collaborate. We want to have a good relationship with the government of the United States. We are not going to argue about these issues,” he said at a news conference. López Obrador has emphasized the idea that, with more development funding, Central Americans could find shelter and jobs in Southern Mexico, rather than migrating to the US. His administration has asked the US government to support that plan. But Trump has offered little in the way of such funding. He added, “There are factors of attraction and rejection, and we’re in the sandwich right now.”

A move to close the border would not be unprecedented, as several other US Presidents closed off the border on several occasions between 1963 and 2001, but would come with numerous complications, including impeding US citizens seeking to reenter the country from Mexico. Closing off access to foreigners with travel visas would invite the same kind of legal scrutiny as President Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban. And if President Trump were to shut down commerce between Mexico and the US, he would draw the ire of American manufacturers who depend on Mexican-made goods. At a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan on March 28, Trump returned to the subject, saying if Mexico does not stop migrants from trying to enter the United States, “we will close the damn border.” In a Twitter post discussing the Issue on March 29, Trump also took aim at Democrats in Congress, saying they “have given us the weakest immigration laws anywhere in the World.” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), campaigning for President in Iowa, said Trump’s threats are “not in line with our values as a country.” “When a mama picks up her baby and sees violence and death threats the United States listens,” Warren said. “That’s part of what we do. It’s part of who we are.”

2. House of Representatives Fails To Override President Trump’s Veto, Preserving National Emergency Executive Order

The House or Representatives this week failed to override President Donald Trump’s veto of a bill overturning his national emergency declaration

On March 26, the House of Representatives failed to overturn President Donald Trump’s first veto, leaving the declaration of a national emergency at the Southern Border intact despite the bipartisan passage of a resolution attempting to nullify the President’s circumvention of Congress to fund his border wall. Despite concerns about the constitutionality of the move, the 248-to-181 vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to kill the national emergency declaration. Republicans in both chambers had joined Democrats in passing the resolution disapproving his national emergency just weeks ago, voicing discomfort over Trump’s intent to divert funding to the construction of a border wall without congressional approval. President Trump, issuing the first veto of his administration, had called the resolution “dangerous,” “reckless,” and a “vote against reality,” but only 14 Republicans ultimately joined House Democrats in voting to override the veto. Trump then thanked House Republicans “for sticking together.” “Today’s vote simply reaffirms Congressional Democrats are the party of Open Borders, Drugs, and Crime!” he wrote in a Twitter post.

Democrats hoped that the publication of all the military construction projects that could see funding delays as President Trump pursued wall money would sway their Republican colleagues. They framed the vote around both lofty constitutional principles and parochial home-district matters. “Even when the legislative branch disagrees with the executive, we respect the office the president holds and it’s his right to veto legislation,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). “But when those decisions violate the Constitution,” she added, “then that must be stopped.” House Republican leaders, however, derided the vote as political gamesmanship and a waste of time. Democratic lawmakers say they have not ruled out the possibility of reintroducing the resolution in six months, and they could use other legislative options to block the president’s effort to take as much as $3.6 billion in military construction funds for the wall. For now, the political fight over President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration shifts to the courts, where a number of states and organizations have joined lawsuits challenging the legal merits of the order. Xavier Becerra, California’s Attorney General, warned in a statement that the 20 states involved in legal action “are ready to fight long and hard to stop his fabricated emergency in its tracks.”

3. Trump Administration Approves Sale of Nuclear Technology to Saudi Arabia

A report issued this week reveals that the Trump Administration secretly authorized six companies to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia

The Trump Administration has approved six secret authorizations by companies to sell nuclear power technology and assistance to Saudi Arabia, according to a report issued on March 28. The Trump administration has quietly pursued a broader deal on sharing US nuclear power technology with Saudi Arabia, which aims to build at least two nuclear power plants. Several countries including the United States, South Korea, and Russia are competing for that deal, and the winners are expected to be announced later this year by Saudi Arabia. The Trump Administration’s approvals, known as Part 810 authorizations, allow companies to do preliminary work on nuclear power ahead of any deal but not ship equipment that would go into a plant, a source with knowledge of the agreements said on condition of anonymity.

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said in the document that the companies had requested that the Trump administration keep the approvals secret. “In this case, each of the companies which received a specific authorization for (Saudi Arabia) have provided us written request that their authorization is withheld from public release,” the NNSA said in the document. In the past, the Energy Department made previous Part 810 authorizations available for the public to read at its headquarters. A Department of Energy official said the requests contained proprietary information and that the clearances went through a multi-agency approval process.

Many US lawmakers are concerned that sharing nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia could eventually lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS last year that Saudi Arabia would develop atomic weapons to defend itself and its allies such as Israel if Iran successfully produced a nuclear weapon. Concerns in Congress about sharing nuclear technology and knowledge with Saudi Arabia rose after US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed last October in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The Part 810 authorizations were made after November 2017, but it was not clear from the document whether any of them were made after Khashoggi’s killing.

Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA), called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a congressional hearing on Wednesday to release the names of the companies that got the approvals by the middle of April, and Pompeo said he would look into it. Sherman also said the Trump administration had attempted to evade Congress on sharing nuclear power with Saudi Arabia. Pompeo said the administration was working to ensure any shared technology atomic power would not present proliferation risks. Last month, Democratic House members alleged in a report that top White House aides ignored warnings they could be breaking the law as they worked with former US officials in a group called IP3 International to advance a multibillion-dollar plan to build nuclear reactors in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia.

4. Israel-Gaza Tensions Heat Up

The tense peace between Israel and Hamas took a deadly turn this week, with both sides trading fire on March 26.

On March 26, the Israeli military bombed several targets in the Gaza Strip and bolstered its forces along the volatile frontier as a truce with Hamas showed signs of unraveling. The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military force of Hamas, responded with a new barrage of late-night rocket fire, setting the stage for a fresh round of fighting less than two weeks before Israel holds national elections. The violence is likely to become a major theme in the final stretch of a tight re-election campaign for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu cut short a visit to the US and rushed back to Israel to deal with the crisis. After meeting with Netanyahu, Israel’s military chief, Lieutenant General Aviv Kohavi, ordered an additional troop buildup along the border.

The March 26 airstrikes came in response to a lone rocket attack. The Israeli government said it hit a Hamas military compound and a weapons manufacturing warehouse in Southern Gaza. Militants responded by firing another rocket. Israel said both projectiles landed harmlessly in open areas. The latest round of violence was triggered by a rocket fired early on March 25 from Gaza that slammed into a house in central Israel and wounded seven people. Overnight, the Israeli air force pounded militant sites of Gaza’s Hamas rulers and the smaller Islamic Jihad group. The targets included a multistory building in Gaza City that Israel said had served as a Hamas military intelligence headquarters and the office of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Gaza’s Health Ministry said seven Palestinians were wounded. Gaza militants responded by firing dozens of rockets into Southern Israel, forcing residents to spend the night in shelters and canceling school across the region.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is locked in a tight race for re-election, and heavy fighting near the April 9 election could turn voters against him. Netanyahu has sought to campaign as the country’s most experienced statesman and security expert. Netanyahu faced the difficult task of delivering a tough blow to Hamas while avoiding protracted fighting that could work against him on election day. He has come under heavy criticism from both allies and opponents for what they say has been a failure to end the conflict between Israel and Palestine and to secure a just and lasting peace in the region. In addition Gaza, Hamas is facing perhaps the toughest domestic test of its 12-year reign. An Israeli/Egyptian/Saudi blockade, combined with sanctions by the Palestinian Authority and mismanagement by the Hamas government, have fueled an economic crisis that has left Gaza with an unemployment rate above 50 percent. The sides have conducted indirect cease-fire talks through Egyptian mediators in recent months, and Israel even allowed the delivery of millions of dollars of Qatari aid to Hamas to ease harsh conditions in the territory.

5. Supreme Court Hold Preliminary Hearings On Congressional Gerrymandering Case

Preliminary Supreme Court hearings on the issue of partisan gerrymandering began on March 26 and were highlighted by Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s probing questions.

The Supreme Court returned to the subject of partisan gerrymandering on March 26, appearing divided along ideological lines as it considered for a second time in two years whether drawing election maps to help the party in power ever violates the Constitution. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the court’s newest member and the one who may possess the decisive vote, expressed uneasiness about the practice. “Extreme partisan gerrymandering is a real problem for our democracy,” he said. “I’m not going to dispute that.” He added, though, that recent developments around the nation, including state ballot initiatives establishing independent redistricting commissions, proposed legislation in Congress and State Supreme Court rulings, may take action from the US Supreme Court less necessary. “Have we really reached the moment, even though it would be a big lift for this court to get involved, where the other actors can’t do it?” he asked.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh was an exceptionally active participant in March 26’s arguments, asking probing questions of both sides and displaying particularly detailed familiarity with the geography and voting districts of Maryland, his home state. But his record as an appeals court judge provides few hints about how he will approach the issue. The other justices seemed largely split along the usual lines, with the more conservative ones wary of announcing constitutional limits on partisan gerrymandering and the more liberal ones prepared to try. There was certainly no consensus on how to fashion a legal standard that would separate acceptable partisanship from the kind that is unconstitutional. Justice Stephen Breyer proposed a numerical test, but it did not seem to gain traction with his colleagues. Justice Neil Gorsuch, on hearing one lawyer’s proposed standard, said it amounted to “I know it when I see it.”

Last year’s cases, from Wisconsin and Maryland, raised the possibility that the court might decide, for the first time, that some election maps were so warped by politics that they crossed a constitutional line. Challengers had pinned their hopes on Justice Anthony Kennedy, who had expressed ambivalence on the subject, but he and his colleagues appeared unable to identify a workable constitutional test. The justices instead sidestepped the central questions in the two cases. When Justice Kavanaugh replaced Justice Kennedy, many election lawyers said the prospects of a decision limiting partisan gerrymandering dropped sharply. Justice Kavanaugh’s questioning on March 26 complicated that assessment.

The North Carolina case, Rucho v. Common Cause, No. 18-422, was an appeal from a decision in August by a three-judge panel of a Federal District Court in North Carolina. The ruling found that Republican legislators there had violated the Constitution by drawing the districts to hurt the electoral chances of Democratic candidates. The Maryland case, Lamone v. Benisek, No. 18-726, was brought by Republican voters who said Democratic state lawmakers had in 2011 redrawn a district to retaliate against citizens who supported its longtime incumbent, Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, a Republican. That retaliation, the plaintiffs said, violated the First Amendment by diluting their voting power.

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.

No comments yet.

HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY?