Senate Passes Budget Blueprint
The Senate passed a budget blueprint late Thursday night in a 51-49 vote that was largely split along party lines. The resolution touched on a variety of issues, such as potentially paving way for legislation that would ramp up oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but the most salient of these for Congressmen across the board are its implications for tax reform. Republicans primarily supported the blueprint because it included a procedural protection that would allow the Senate to pass a $1.5 trillion dollar tax cut with only 50 votes, eliminating the necessity of bipartisan support.
Summing up the budget blueprint, Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) went as far as to say, “The only thing about this that matters is preparation for tax reform,” and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) added that “This is the last, best chance we have to cut taxes.” In a speech on the Senate floor Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blasted the proposal on behalf of the Democratic Party for these tax cuts, arguing that they only serve to help big corporations and the wealthiest Americans.
The House is expected to consider this proposal in the upcoming week. If House Republicans vote to accept the Senate’s blueprint rather than taking their own proposal into a lengthy conference with the Senate, Congress may be on track to pass tax reform by early 2018, a legislative goal that Republicans had hoped to accomplish under the Trump administration. This is certainly not a given, however, as they will still have to clear a number of legislative and procedural obstacles in the coming months amidst fierce opposition from the Democratic Party.
Trump Administration Intervenes in Undocumented Minor’s Abortion Case
The Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration and the culturally conservative movement’s opposition to abortion have manifested in a federal appeals case. A 17-year-old undocumented immigrant was detained in Texas after crossing the border illegally last month. Upon discovering that she was pregnant, she sought an abortion. The state court consented to the procedure, but federal administrators would not let her out of the facility. In a legal battle, the D.C. District Court ordered officials to allow the girl access to an abortion. Attorney General Sessions then asked the court to halt that request.
President Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services is disallowing Jane Doe from ending her pregnancy. Because the girl is a minor, she is essentially under the custody of the Department, and the Office of Refugee resettlement is making the girl pick between going back to her home country and continuing through with her pregnancy. The case, known as Garza v Hargan, indicated the constitutional clashes relevant to the Trump administration, including immigration, abortion, and federalism. Demonstrations broke out in Washington in response to the federal government’s intrusion into a case with an existing ruling by state and appellate courts.
Spanish Government to Take Central Control of Catalonia
Tensions are rising in Catalonia over the recent secession referendum. On Thursday, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he intends to use Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution in order to seize central control of Catalonia’s government, remove Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and other secessionist-minded leaders, and hold new elections within six months. Article 155 says that if any region in Spain, “fails to fulfill the obligations imposed upon it by the Constitution or other laws, or acts in a way seriously prejudicing the general interests of Spain,” the central government may intervene and dictate the actions of the regional government. This article has never been invoked before and legal scholars debate its meaning. The Spanish Senate is scheduled to vote Friday on a measure that would begin the process of seizing control of Catalan police, finances, public media, and government.
What began as a scheduled demonstration protesting the detainment of two Catalan separatist leaders, became a response to Prime Minister Rajoy’s statement in which he laid out a plan for central government control in order to prevent succession. The protest garnered 450,000 people in the streets of Barcelona on Saturday, many wrapped in the red and yellow Catalan flag. At the protest many leaders spoke criticizing Rajoy’s moves as, unjust, “authoritarian,” and “an attack on democracy.” They further emphasized that they would not accept direct rule from Madrid. The secessionist movement has caused hundreds of businesses, fearing withdrawal from the EU, to relocate headquarters out of the region and into other areas of Spain.
Japanese PM Shinzo Abe Projected to Win Supermajority in Snap Elections
After calling for snap elections over a year ahead of schedule, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s risk seems to have paid off. His Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) received a landslide victory in Sunday’s elections. Projections after polls closed Sunday evening show the LDP and its coalition partner with an impressive 280-336 of the 465 available Parliamentary seats. To maintain a supermajority in Parliament, the coalition must win at least 310 seats.
One of the first issues to be raised under the new parliament will be the reformation of the Japanese military under Article 9 of the constitution. Under this article, the post-WWII Japanese military is limited to self-defense capacities only, without the ability to wage offensive action. Facing the rising threat of North Korea, Abe has promised repeatedly to amend Article 9 by 2020, allowing Japan to respond to North Korean provocations. In the past two months, Pyongyang launched two ballistic missiles over Japan, prompting Abe’s call for early elections.
If the LDP is able to maintain a supermajority in the snap election, Abe will have the necessary supermajorities in both houses of parliament to implement a constitutional referendum on Article 9. The constitutional change will require two-thirds approval in parliament and then will go to public referendum.
In Other News…
A Palestinian man was arrested by Israeli police after a Facebook post reading “Good morning” was mistranslated to “Attack them.”
France is considering imposing fines on men who catcall or otherwise behave lecherously toward women in public.
President Trump announced that he would not seek to block the declassification of a number of government documents set to be released this week about the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
The New York Times announced that former Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly paid a $32 million settlement to avoid being sued by one of his colleagues for sexual misconduct.