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US Domestic Developments (Up to 13/9/2017)

With passage of time, the US domestic scene has moved toward a bipolar situation with the Republicans-Democrats, on one side, and the US president and the Congress, on the other.

Status Quo

With passage of time, the US domestic scene has moved toward a bipolar situation with the Republicans-Democrats, on one side, and the US president and the Congress, on the other. The Congress is putting more pressure on the president to obtain the permission for any military operation outside US borders and on the pretext of fight against terrorism.

The members of the Congress have called on the White House to present a strategy for dealing with ISIS and other terrorist groups and to carry out military operations within the framework of this strategy. In addition, Democrats in the Congress have warned the White House that the administration does not have the mandate to resort to military force against Syria and that it is necessary for the US administration to obtain this mandate first. This in spite of the fact that by accusing the Syrian government of the use of chemical weapons, the White House has been planning to attack Syria. The members of the Congress are so intent on containing the presidential power that the House Budget Committee proposed a bill cancelling the mandate given to US president following September 11 attacks, so the president cannot use military force without permission from the Congress. This bill which was passed as an amendment to the previous act, will cancel the current presidential mandate to use military force 240 days after the date at which it has been passed. Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) which is still in effect allows the US president to use the necessary and proper means against other countries, organizations and individuals that, to the US president’s views, have been involved in planning, supporting, executing and assisting the terrorist actions in the US on September 11, 2001. On this basis, Bush and Obama, US Ex-presidents, and, at the time being, Trump have resorted to AUMF to order military operations in Iraq, to attack ISIS in Third-World Countries and to carry out missions against terrorism.

According to US Congressional Research Service (CRS), this act has been used to justify 40 military operations in 14 countries throughout the world.  Another motion adopted by the members of the Congress to counter the US president has been an attempt to impeach Trump. 25 Democrat legislators in the House of Representatives have been working on a bill to impeach US president. The main supporter of this bill is Jamie Raskin, a Democrat, from Maryland. Democrats aim to set up a monitoring commission in the Congress so that this commission can disqualify the US president, paving the way for his removal from the White House consistent with Article 25 of the US Constitution. Article 25 of the US Constitution allows the formation of an independent and distinct institution to remove the US president from power, based on mental and physical conditions of the president. This article was passed in 1967, following the execution of John F. Kennedy and at the time being, Democrats in the House of Representatives claim that Trump’s egocentric and aimless Tweets are indicative of the fact that, mentally speaking, Trump is not qualified to serve as the President in the White House. This monitoring commission which has been formed consistent with Article 25 of the US Constitution, is comprised of both Democrats and Republicans as well as 4 psychiatrists and 4 doctors. The US Congress must approve the monitoring commission so that it can investigate and determine the president’s disqualification in terms of mental and physical conditions.

On the other hand, there are deep divides between the Republicans and Democrats in the Congress and, more so, in the House of Representatives over the support for or opposition to Trump. Democrats believe that for the purpose of supporting Trump’s views about improved relations with Russia, the Republicans are trying to obstruct Russia’s sanctions legislation, which is included under the legislation of “Confronting Iran’s destabilizing actions”, and to prevent from strained relations with Russia and eventually imposing sanctions on this country. In part of the congressional law that deals with Russia’s sanctions, there are clauses limiting the authority of the US president to suspend sanctions against Russia, and Democrats, therefore, argue that the representatives of the rival party, out of loyalty to the president, try to disrupt the process. On the other hand, Republicans hold the bill violates one of the clauses of the United States Constitution, known as the “Revenue Clause,” and their opposition is only due to a constitutional violation. It should be noted that according to US Constitution, all bills carrying financial burden for the government should originate from the House of Representatives. In the same vein, Washington Post says the removal of the impediment is far from easy, and at least prevents the bill from rapidly becoming a law against Iran and Russia. The White House is opposed to some of the clauses of the bill that limit the president’s authority. It seems that the White House’s concern has less to do with Russia and has more to do with the principle of “separation of powers” (i.e., Trias politica principle) and the White House’s belief in being superior to Congress when it comes to regulating relations with foreign nations.

 

In addition to bipartisanship, the American community is also moving towards material bipolarization of the rich and the poor. This trend started with the decision made by the Congress to repeal Obamacare, as the result of which millions of Americans will lose their insurance coverage. Last month, this bill was passed in the House of Representatives and is now awaiting approval by the Senate. Some experts on US domestic affairs consider the bill as the first step in the redirection of massive wealth from the wage earners to the rich, and is deemed a historical theft. According to the Harvard-Harris poll, American public opinion strongly expects government officials and the Congress to focus on main issues such as healthcare and hygiene, Infrastructure and employment, instead of focusing on such issues as pursuit of Russia’s interference in the US elections and, as a result, imposing sanctions on Russia. 64% of Americans have said that the continuation of the probe into the collusion between Trump and Russia would be to the US detriment, at the end of the day. 56% of Americans have also said that the Congress and news media should address more important issues that constitute the main concerns and preoccupations of the people. Some opinion polls also suggest that 73% of American voters, including 81% of Republicans, 74% of Independents and 68% of Democrats, have pointed out that the probe into Russia’s interference has distracted the Congress from addressing more important issues. Of course, 44% of Americans have expressed their agreement with the congressional inquiry into the possible link between Russia and Trump.

 

In addition to the bipolarization mentioned above, it seems that, apart from the White class, Trump’s popularity, has been in decline among other members of the society, and residents of the gray states that voted for Trump in their final moments are changing their point of view . Daily polls at Gallup show that about 57% of Americans do not have a positive attitude towards Donald Trump’s performance. The opinion poll carried out in June indicated a disapproval rate of 60%. This high disapproval rate at that time was due to Trump’s sacking the FBI director. In the latest opinion poll by Gallup, 37% of Americans have expressed satisfaction with Trump’ management, up from 35% last month. The issue of Trump’s declining popularity has led Democrats, who are faced with a crisis of identity and leadership, to try to provide the groundwork for winning the upcoming elections by re-examining the reasons for their declining popularity with the white working class, especially in the states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Unlike the previous presidents who did not intervene in politics after leaving the White House, in an unprecedented move, Barack Obama, tries to direct the leadership of the recovery process of Democrat Party behind the scenes.

On the other hand, in line with the support for the White House plans, Republicans in the Congress have raised the issue of $18 billion increase in the proposed defense budget. While the White House had proposed a $603 billion defense budget for the fiscal year 2018, Mac Thornberry, Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Armed Services, has proposed a budget of $ 621.5 billion, which is earmarked to cover costs at the Pentagon and defense spending related to the US Department of Energy. This means a 13% increase from the initial $549 billion proposed budget. The bill allows the Pentagon to hire 10,000 troops in the US Army, and to purchase 17 more F35 fighters from Lockheed Martin, totaling the number to 87 in 2018.

 

Other major issues in the US political scene include the lack of development of behavioral and attitudinal coherence in the structure of the US government, with the latest news indicating that Trump plans to replace Rex Tillerson at the State Department with the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley. Earlier, the US media reported divides between the US State Department and the White House. On a number of occasions, such as Trump’s Anti-Immigration Order and the White House’s policy on Qatar, statements of the State Department entail obvious differences with White House policies. It seems that Tillerson plans to base his approach on rationality and the analysis of cost and benefit, which, in so many cases, is inconsistent with the White House’s views. In addition, report releases indicate that there are major differences between Trump’s advisers and his vice-president, Mike Pence so much so that the US media have said that there is a so-called “wall built” between the two groups in the White House.
As for the US economic conditions, after six months into the new government, the country’s economy is still growing and faces no particular challenge, such as economic recession or unemployment. Over the past five months, on average, US capital markets have grown by more than 1%, which has been unprecedented since 2004. The US Secretary of Commerce has also announced that Trump’s policies have injected about $4 trillion into capital markets of this country.
In addition, since the inception of the new government, on average, 121,000 new jobs have been created each month, with unemployment rate dropping from 4.7% to 3.4%. The US economic growth rate has been around 1.2% over the past four months, showing a slight decline compared with the past. The inflation rate is about 2.2%, which, compared with the past, has slightly increased. At the social level, reports released on the performance of the US police force in treating people indicate that in the first half of 2017, more than 492 people were shot dead by police, and the expectation is that the number of victims will rise to 1000. For the third consecutive year, the figure will reach 1,000. The Washington Post reported that since 2015, the number of US police shootings has been two times more than that reported by the FBI.
Conclusions:
At the time being, the situation in the United States is such that there is a fight for power between the White House and the Congress, as was the case in the 1970s, and the Congress lays more emphasis on the constitutional competences assigned to each of the two branches of foreign policies. In fact, as in the 1970s, when the Congress believed that the president had abused his power and had thrown the country in the quagmire of the Vietnam War, this time again, the Congress believes that the president, because of his incompetency and lack of  political experience, has led the country in the wrong direction, which will be against the US national interests. Therefore, they believe that this must be stopped right from the start.  As a result, they have sought to limit the president’s powers in foreign policies, including waging a war, in order to control Trump’s actions. This insistence and the Congressional approach will create a greater challenge as the constitutional mandate about the foreign policy has been formulated in a way which is subject to different interpretations and neither can talk about its superiority in this area.

 

 

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