Here are the main events that occurred in Politics this week:
1. House of Representatives Passes Impeachment Inquiry Resolution on Party-line Vote
On October 31, the House of Representatives voted to formalize the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, paving the way for public hearings from officials after weeks of closed-door proceedings that have yielded damning testimony for the President. During a floor speech before the historic vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), cast the issue facing Congress in dire terms, saying President Trump’s assertion that the Constitution provides him the leeway to do whatever he wants as an existential threat to the US government.“This is a solemn occasion. Nobody, I doubt anybody in this place or anybody you know comes to congress … To impeach the president of the United States, unless his actions are jeopardizing our oath of office,” Speaker Pelosi said, standing next to a print of the US flag.
The passage of the House resolution comes following weeks of complaints from Congressional Republicans, who have suggested that the secretive nature of the initial hearings were unfair to President Donald Trump. They argued that President Trump has been denied due process rights by the procedural roadmap taken by Democrats, and suggested that past impeachment inquiries, notably into Democrats Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson and Republican Richard Nixon, afforded more significant opportunities for the President to defend themselves. The measure was approved by a 232-196 vote. No Republicans broke rank to vote in favor of the bill, while two Democrats joined that Republican in opposition to the inquiry. The two Democrats who voted with the Republicans were Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ) and Collin Peterson (D-MN), two conservative Democrats who face tough re-election bids going into 2020. Additionally, several other Democrats who represent pro-Trump districts, including Kendra Horn (D-OK) and Joe Cunningham (D-SC) voted in favor of the resolution.
Democrats have argued that the impeachment inquiry, with or without a vote, is well within their constitutional powers, and have said that the initial hearings are just the beginning of what is to come. On October 30, Speaker Pelosi said that the work of House investigators had prepared them to formally open the impeachment inquiry, even as she swatted away the suggestion that Republican pressure had pushed her to do so. “We’ve had to gather so much information to take us to this next step,” Pelosi said of the resolution, which lays out the process for the introduction of articles of impeachment, open hearings and the procedures by which President Donald Trump and his lawyers can respond to evidence. Later, Pelosi continued that “Every member should support allowing the American people to hear the facts for themselves. That is really what this vote is about. It is about the truth. And what is at stake? What is at stake in all this is nothing less than our democracy.”
As the House of Representatives voted, President Donald Trump responded on Twitter, calling the impeachment inquiry “the greatest witch hunt in American history,” and urged House Republicans to stand united to fight against impeachment efforts. Additionally, several of President Donald Trump’s closest congressional allies, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Mark Meadows (R-NC), and Doug Collins (R-GA), similarly condemned the House impeachment inquiry resolution. Thus far, it seems likely that President Donald Trump will be impeached by the House of Representatives by a party-line vote, but will be acquitted by the Senate. Even though there are three Republican Senators, who would likely endorse impeachment (Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, and Richard Burr), the arch-conservative Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia will likely vote against impeachment. As such, it is likely that President Donald Trump will be acquitted by the Senate by a 51-49 margin.
2. Mixed Results in Off-Year Elections in Kentucky, Virginia, and Several Other States Reveal Continued Polarization Going Into 2020 Elections
During the off-year elections held in several states on November 5, the Republican Party suffered unexpected setbacks despite President Donald Trump’s efforts to rally supporters to the defense of Republican candidates. The most striking loss occurred in Kentucky, a state that makes up one of President Trump’s core bases of electoral support. In the Kentucky Gubernatorial race, incumbent Republican Matt Bevin lost to Andy Beshear, the son of former Kentuck governor Steve Beshear, by a slim 5,000 vote margin despite Trump’s efforts to campaign in support of Bevin. The losses were primarily attributable to local forces. Bevin was profoundly unpopular, and other Republican officeholders did reasonably well in the state, home to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Even though he is presently behind in the final results, Bevin has announced (with the encouragement of President Trump) that he will not concede the race until a recount is carried out.
In addition to winning back the Kentucky Gubernatorial seat, the Democratic Party did well in elections held in Virginia, regaining full control of the state legislature for the first time since 1993. Despite the Republican losses in Kentucky and Virginia, the Republican Party was able to regain some lost ground in the New Jersey Legislature and hold onto the Missippi Governor’s seat, albeit by an underwhelming margin. Moreover, the upcoming Lousiana governor election run-off signals a tight race between Democrat John Bel Edwards and Republican Eddie Rispone. Due to President Donald Trump’s still-strong popularity in Louisiana, the President’s presence on the campaign trail may play a significant role in influencing the final results of the race. Overall, the results of the 2019 off-year elections signal a continuing trend that the Republican Party is in jeopardy of losing its once-strong presence in suburban and urban areas, but will continue to cement its strength in rural parts of the country. Additionally, the election results continue to reveal how President Trump’s policies have deeply polarized the country to a level not seen in many decades.
3. Saudi Arabia, UAE, Reach Power-Sharing Agreement With Several Sunni Groups Involved in the Civil War in Yemen, Boosting Chances To End The Five-Year Long Conflict.
Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and southern separatists signed an agreement on November 5 to end a power struggle in the south of Yemen that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) hailed as a step toward a wider political solution to end the multifaceted conflict. The stand-off had opened a new front in the more than four-year-old war and fractured a Saudi-led coalition battling the Houthi movement that ousted the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi from the capital, Sanaa, in the north in late 2014.
Saudi Arabia’s envoy to Yemen told reporters that the pact, reached after more than a month of indirect talks in the kingdom, would see the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) join a new cabinet along with other southerners and all armed forces would be placed under government control. “This agreement will open, God willing, broader talks between Yemeni parties to reach a political solution and end the war,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in a televised signing ceremony in Riyadh. US President Donald Trump praised the agreement on Twitter, calling it “A very good start! Please all work hard to get a final deal.”
Separatist forces, supported by Riyadh’s main coalition partner, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), are part of the Sunni Muslim alliance that intervened in Yemen in March 2015 against the Houthis, a Shi’a sociopolitical group that seeks to overthrow the Sunni dominated government of Yemen and replace it with a Shi’a-run government (Shi’a Muslims make up a slight majority of the Muslim population in Yemen). But the STC, which seeks self-rule in the south and a say in Yemen’s future, turned on Hadi’s government in August of 2019, seizing its interim seat in the southern port of Aden and trying to extend its reach in the south. The most recent deal calls for the formation of a new cabinet of no more than 24 ministers within 30 days that would have equal representation for northerners and southerners. STC would join any political talks to end the war. Military and security forces from both sides, including tens of thousands of UAE-backed STC forces, would be placed under the defense and interior ministries. To pave the way for the deal, Emirati forces last month left Aden for home, handing control of the port city and other southern areas to Saudi Arabia.
4. Twitter Announces Ban On All Political Advertising On Its Website
On October 31, Twitter, reacting to growing concern about misinformation spread on social media, announced that is banning all political advertising from its service. Its move strikes a sharp contrast with Facebook, which continues to defend running paid political ads, even false ones, as a free speech priority. “While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in a series of tweets announcing the new policy. Facebook has taken fire since it reiterated in September that it will not fact-check ads by politicians or their campaigns, which could allow them to lie freely. CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Congress in October that politicians have the right to free speech on Facebook. Google did not have an immediate comment on Twitter’s policy change.
In response to Twitter’s announcement, Brad Parascale, President Donald Trump’s campaign manager, called the change a “very dumb decision” in a statement. “This is yet another attempt to silence conservatives since Twitter knows President Trump has the most sophisticated online program ever,” Parscale further added. Additionally, the campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden said that it was “unfortunate” that companies would think the only option was to ban political ads completely. “When faced with a choice between ad dollars and the integrity of our democracy, it is encouraging that, for once, revenue did not win out,” Bill Russo, the deputy communications director for Biden’s campaign, said in a statement. Critics have called on Facebook and Twitter repeatedly to ban all political ads. These include CNN chief Jeff Zucker, who recently called the company’s policy of allowing lies “absolutely ludicrous” and advised the social media giant to sit out the 2020 election until it can figure out something better. Misleading political ads on social media played a role in Russian disinformation efforts during the 2016 presidential election.