Tag Archives: foreign policy

Something So Wrong: October 2017

  • On October 6, the Trump administration announced an expanded religious exemption to the requirement that employers provide health insurance plans that include contraception services. The Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide preventive care coverage (including contraception) at no additional cost to their employees. Religious institutions, religiously affiliated nonprofit groups and closely-held private companies were exempt. The Trump administration’s expanded exemption applies to all for-profit companies, both privately-owned and publicly-traded.
  • On October 6, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a directive to all federal agencies to accommodate claims that religious freedoms are being violated. A claim of a violation of religious freedom would be enough to override concerns for the civil rights of LGBT people and anti-discrimination protections for women and others, without proof that discrimination was based on sincerely-held religious beliefs.
  • On October 12, Trump signed an executive order directing that federal rules affecting health insurance be revised. Trump’s order would allow associations of employers to buy health insurance across state lines and avoid some state and federal insurance requirements. It would allow short-term insurance plans to avoid federal and state rules requiring standard benefits and consumer protections. According to some experts, these rule changes could undermine the Affordable Care Act by allowing healthier people to buy lower-cost plans with limited benefits while increasing premium costs for people with health problems.
  • On October 12, Trump ordered a halt to reimbursements to insurers for cost-sharing reduction payments (CSRs) required under the Affordable Care Act. Under the ACA, insurers are required to offer health insurance plans with reduced deductibles and lower out-of-pocket expenses for people earning up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level—about 7 million people who buy health insurance on the individual market. Federal reimbursement is also required under the ACA, but there is a legal dispute about whether Congress has appropriated the funds. The case is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Without reimbursement, insurers are expected to increase premiums. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that eliminating the CSRs would increase taxpayer costs by $6 billion in 2018 and $21 billion in 2020 because federal tax credits for many Americans covered under the ACA will rise when their premiums increase.
  • The United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany reached an accord with Iran in 2015 with the goal of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. An agreement was signed on July 14, 2015, that would limit Iran’s nuclear development in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. Meanwhile, Congress enacted the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA). The law gave Congress 60 days to review the details of the final agreement. During the review period after the final deal was reached, Congress was unable to pass any legislation approving or disapproving the Iran deal. In addition, INARA required the President, every 90 days, to certify that Iran is fully implementing the agreement and has not committed a material breach of the agreement, that Iran has not taken any action that could significantly advance its nuclear weapons program, and that suspension of sanctions against Iran is appropriate and proportionate to measures taken by Iran with respect to terminating its nuclear program and is vital to U.S. national security interests. Trump certified Iran’s compliance in April and again in July, but on October 13, he announced that he would not again certify compliance. Under INARA, Congress has 60 days to initiate expedited consideration of legislation reinstating statutory sanctions against Iran.

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Some other stuff for later,

  • 87
    The next chapter is tracking six focus issues during the current presidential election process. TNC has summarized the positions of the presidential candidates: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Now that the candidates have selected their running mates, TNC is looking at the positions of Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike…
  • 85
    After a decade of diplomatic effort, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany reached an accord with Iran earlier this year. These nations (known as the P5+1 or the E3+3), engaged in negotiations with the goal of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. A deal was signed…
  • 69
    On August 2, Trump endorsed the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, an immigration reform bill introduced in the Senate by Tom Cotton (Arkansas) and David Perdue (Georgia). The bill would sharply reduce the number of immigrants granted permanent residency status (green cards) each year. It would redefine…

Something So Wrong: September 2017

  • On September 5, Trump announced that he was ending the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program. The program was created by President Obama by executive order in 2012 and made it possible for immigrants who had been brought to the US as children to stay legally in the country if they met certain qualifications. Trump ordered an end to the program as of March 5, 2018, exposing the 800,000 young immigrants currently enrolled in the program to deportation. In the meantime, the Department of Homeland Security will not accept any new applicants for the program.
  • On September 19, in his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Trump called on all nations to uphold “two core sovereign duties: to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation.” He called these duties “the beautiful vision” of the UN. He declared that nationalism should be the guiding principal of all countries: “As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first.” He called out North Korea, Iran and Syria for particular criticism. North Korea, he said, is a “depraved regime” whose its pursuit of nuclear weapons is “reckless.” He warned that if North Korea threatened the US or its allies, the would “have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” He belittled North Korea’s leader, calling him “Rocket Man” and saying that the North Korean leader was “on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.” He said that “denuclearization” was North Korea’s “only acceptable future.” Turning to Iran, Trump called that nation’s government a “reckless” and “murderous” regime. The 2015 agreement with Iran, he said, was “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.” The five-nation agreement, which curtailed Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon, was, he said, “an embarrassment to the United States.” He called on Iran to “stop supporting terrorists, begin serving its own people, and respect the sovereign rights of its neighbors.” Trump said that the US is seeking the “de-escalation of the Syrian conflict,” while calling the current Syrian government a “criminal regime.” Trump asserted that the US is a “compassionate nation” that has spent “billions and billions of dollars” supporting humanitarian assistance in Syria, and he praised Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon for “hosting refugees from the Syrian conflict.” He said that the US would not accept more Syrian refugees but would “out of the goodness of our hearts…offer financial assistance to hosting countries in the region.”
  • On September 22, North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un responded to Trump’s speech at the UN with rhetoric of his own: “The mentally deranged behavior of the U.S. president openly expressing on the U.N. arena the unethical will to ‘totally destroy’ a sovereign state… makes even those with normal thinking faculty think about discretion and composure.” Trump’s remarks “convinced” Kim “that the path I chose is correct and that it is the one I have to follow to the last.” He refered to Trump’s speech as “the most ferocious declaration of a war in history” and vowed: “I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.”
  • On September 26, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the Graham-Cassidy bill, the Republicans’ last-ditch attempt to “repeal and replace Obamacare” under the reconciliation process (requiring only 50 votes), would not be brought to a vote after three Republican Senators (McCain, Collins and Paul) declared their intention to vote against the bill. McConnell said that the Republicans would now turn their attention to tax reform.
  • On September 27, Trump announced that the quota on refugee admissions to the US would be capped at 45,000 for the 2018 fiscal year. This sharply reduced the number of refugees allowed under the Obama administration (110,000 for fiscal year 2017). Since 1980, annual refugee admissions have averaged more than 95,000 per year.
  • San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made news in August of 2016 for not standing while the national anthem was played at a pre-season game. He said that he would not “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Since that time, other NFL players have taken a knee during the anthem as a protest against social injustice. At a campaign rally for senate candidate Luther Strange on September 22, Trump told the crowd that NFL owners should respond to players kneeling during the national anthem by saying: “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired!” He suggested that fans should “leave the stadium” when players kneel in protest. At subsequent NFL games, many more players joined in protest by kneeling.
  • On September 28, acting Homeland Security chief Elaine Duke told reporters that the federal response to the devastation of Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria was “really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths that have taken place in such a devastating hurricane.” In response the next day, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said: “This is, dammit, this is not a good news story. This is a ‘people are dying’ story. This is a ‘life or death’ story. This is ‘there’s a truckload of stuff that cannot be taken to people’ story. This is a story of a devastation that continues to worsen.” Trump reacted to the mayor’s comments by tweeting: “Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.”

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Some other stuff for later,

  • 84
    On August 2, Trump endorsed the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, an immigration reform bill introduced in the Senate by Tom Cotton (Arkansas) and David Perdue (Georgia). The bill would sharply reduce the number of immigrants granted permanent residency status (green cards) each year. It would redefine…
  • 71
    The next chapter is tracking six focus issues during the current presidential election process. TNC has summarized the positions of the presidential candidates: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Now that the candidates have selected their running mates, TNC is looking at the positions of Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike…
  • 71
    After a decade of diplomatic effort, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany reached an accord with Iran earlier this year. These nations (known as the P5+1 or the E3+3), engaged in negotiations with the goal of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. A deal was signed…