Politics

U.S. Vice Pres. Pence Sees Mexico Tariff Kicking Off On June 10, 2019, Not Unless…

After meeting with the Mexican envoys to discuss solutions for averting the dreaded 5% – 25% tariffs that the U.S. will impose on goods imported from Mexico, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said the tariffs are likely to kick off as announced on Monday, June 10, 2019. Not unless the delegation headed by Mexico Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard returns to the negotiation table with an acceptance of Trump’s demand for a “safe third country” agreement and of the “Migrant Protection Protocol.”

However, instead of accepting those conditions laid out to them last Wednesday, the Mexico envoys returned with a promise to deploy around 6,000 of the Mexico’s National Guards to the country’s southern border with Guatemala. The purpose of which is to cut off the flow of Central American migrants whose advancements to the US – Mexico south border has led to even sharper increases during the recent past months.

According to V.P. Pence, Mexico’s non-acceptance of the aforementioned conditions, is for the U.S. president to decide. Pence though, hinted that negotiation talks will continue.

Trump views the Thursday negotiations as having made “a lot of progress”, and is expressing determination to impose the initial 5% Mexico tariff on June 10, 2019 (Monday.) Yet, he is also dropping hints that are not short of dangling possibilities of foregoing the tariffs altogether. That is, if Mexico fully accepts the “safe third country” agreement and the “Migrant Protection Protocol.”

When asked by reporters about those specific demands, Mexico Foreign Secretary Ebrard avoided the question, but commented that the meeting on Friday could be one of the last sessions in the negotiation talks. Other Mexican officials said that they will agree to solutions in curbing the flow of asylum seekers, but only if such solutions are dignified, as well as effective.

What Exactly is the “Safe Third Country” Agreement?

Under a “Safe Third Country” covenant, a country agrees to grant asylum to refugees if that country has jurisdiction on the territory on which the refugees first set foot or landed. If this agreement is accepted by Mexico, the country automatically becomes responsible in granting the refugees asylum, as well as in preventing them from pushing forward should they prefer the U.S. as their place of asylum.

As it is, the government of Mexico is hardly in a position to take in hordes of refugees, in light of the country’s own economic conditions. In fact Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had slashed down the country’s immigration and refugee budget for 2019. According to reports, Mexico’s refugee agency is practically receiving less than $1 million for the year.

Canada, the only country with which the U.S. maintains a “Safe Third Country” agreement is currently seeking to end the pact, as Canadian official no longer regard the U.S. as a safe third country. .

Politics

Trump Vetoes Resolution to End U.S. Support of Arab Coalition Forces vs. Iran-Backed Houthi Movement in Yemen

U.S. President Donald Trump sent back to Congress without Executive Approval, the joint resolution passed by Senate last March 13, 2019 under S.J. 7. The joint resolution bars Trump as the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces from approving further provision of military assistance, to the Saudi-backed Arab Coalition Forces waging war against the Iran-backed Houthi movement in Yemen.

In a letter addressed to the United States Senate, Donald Trump asserts that the resolution is unnecessary, since there are no U.S. military personnel in-charge or participating in the ongoing hostilities in Yemen. Yet he also stated that the resolution presents a

”dangerous attempt to weaken his constitutional authorities.”

S.J. 7: An Unprecedented Bill in the History of U.S. Congress

S.J. 7 of the 116th Congress is a resolution that puts an end to U.S. military support for the Arab-backed coalition forces that intervened in Yemen’s affairs since 2015. The intervention aims to restore Yemen’s internationally recognized government, taken over by the Iran-aligned Houthi. The resolution includes barring arms sales and sharing of intelligence.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, calls the joint resolution historic, because this is the first time in 45 years that Congress has taken measures to stop U.S. forces from participating in an unauthorized war. Senator Sanders, a long-serving independent from Vermont who later sided with the Democrats said,

”For many years, under Democratic presidents, under Republican presidents, Congress has abdicated its responsibility and allowed presidents to take our people into war without congressional authority,”

Although it is true that there are no U.S. military personnel actively taking part in the long running civil war in Yemen, the U.S. has been refuelling Arab Coalition aircrafts blamed for airstrikes that have killed thousands of Yemen civilians.

Last December 2018, Timothy Lenderking, Trump Administration’s Deputy Asst. Sec. for Arabian Gulf Affairs gave assurance to the United Arab Emirates in a security forum, by stating

“We (Trump Administration) believe that the support for the coalition is necessary. It sends a wrong message if we discontinue our support.”

Still, after Congress passed S.J.  7 last month, the U.S. military has ceased refueling Arab Coalition aircrafts.

Politics

Amazon HQ 2 Plans Move Forward: Arlington and Nashville In, New York City Out

Tech giant Amazon pursues expansion plans in Arlington, Virginia and Nashville, Tennessee, whilst scrapping New York City out of the picture.

Nashville was actually chosen in 2018 as a minor player, while New York City was scrapped after much hullabaloo was raised by local grassroots organizations, several New York state politicians and local NY City council members. The subject of protest  was the near $3 billion tax incentive offered to Amazon by the city government, as part of the Request for Proposal submitted to Amazon.

Amazon’s Original Choices

After more than a year of evaluating the proposals submitted by 238 cities, which included Toronto, Canada, the company chose the proposal submitted by the cities of New York and Arlington. The plan was to build 2 additional headquarters instead of building just one (1), whilst dividing the 50,000 new technology-related jobs between the 2 selected cities. The new employees can expect to receive salaries of more than $100K annually.

Actually, the benefits the cities will reap in having the tech giant as new addition to their landscape go beyond the creation of new jobs. According to the tech company, surveys showed that 70 percent (70%) of NYC residents supported Amazon’s decision to accept the NY proposal.

However, the company decided last February 2019 not to move forward with the NY HQ plans, as there are groups unwilling to work with them in connection with the project envisioned for the Long Island City.

Amazon’s new plan though will add only 5,000 new tech jobs to Nashville, the city being ranked Number 45 nationwide as a tech talent resource. Nonetheless, the tech giant plans to construct a 2-tower headquarter at the Nashville Yardsite. The additional office will be instrumental in growing Amazon’s technology hubs and corporate offices in in the U.S. and Canada, as means of easing the current load carried by the existing Seattle headquarter.

Plans for Amazon Expansion in Arlington, Virginia Still on the Table

On its part, the city of Arlington’s proposal includes an offer to give Amazon a $750 million in financial package, which the Virginia General Assembly had already approved with very few resistance. The package is actually more of a performance-based incentive, to which the local government will award financial grants.

That is if Amazon succeeds in meeting Arlington’s expectations once the tech giant builds its 2nd headquarter across the six (6) million sq.ft. space at the National Landing.

Politics

Democrats All Set to Stop Trump in His National Emergency Track, by Using All Possible Means

Many are looking to Congress for actions that would overturn Trump’s national emergency declaration last February 15, 2019. Finally, an announcement coming from the Lower House has been released, stating that House Democrats are set to file a resolution on Friday, aimed at overturning Trump’s national emergency declaration. NY Democrat and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer also said

Identical companion legislation to the House resolution will soon be introduced in the Senate”

How the Democrat Resolution will Run in Congress

If filing of the resolution pushes through on Friday, full house voting is likely to take place as early as next week or by the middle of March, 2019. If the bill passes muster at the lower house, it will then move up for deliberation and voting by the Senate. Since the measure will be introduced as a “privileged resolution,” the Senate will have to vote on the House-approved bill within eighteen (18) days.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is confident that the bill will move swiftly from the lower house to the Senate and finally to the Oval Office. Her confidence stems from the fact that some lower House and Senate Republicans will side with the Democrats. Republicans who won from perennial swing districts and states; namely Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin are in a precarious situation. Apparently, how those GOP Senators will vote on the proposed bill, can impact their chances of winning in the forthcoming 2020 elections.

In the event that Trump vetoes a Congressional resolution that will block the implementation of his national emergency declaration, which is likely to happen, Congress will again go into voting to nullify the presidential veto. This time, a bill overriding the veto must garner at least two-thirds vote in the lower house, and another two-thirds in the Senate upper chamber.

What Happens Next if the Democrat Resolution Fails?

House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer avow that they intend to pursue all possible means to overturn Trump’s declaration. That is assuming that Trump’s presidential veto prevails due to lack of Congressional support in overriding such veto.

The next step available is for the Democrats to a file lawsuit in the same way that 16 American states have already pursued as course of action. Their court petition is to prevent Trump from using military and homeland security funds allocated for their respective state. Many believe that the Democrats have better chances of stopping Trump from his track, by filing their own lawsuit.

Apparently, the Republicans had set a precedent in 2014, when their lawsuit versus the Obama administration, won the support of the district court judge. The matter brought to court pertained to an attempt by the Obama administration to use funds already allocated for other purposes, to subsidize health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. This previous ruling therefore, applies as helpful argument in contesting Trump in his use of his national emergency powers, as means of diverting military funds to his US border wall project.

Politics

What May Happen if Congress Maintains Its NO Border-Wall Appropriation

Trump’s agreement to bring the U.S. government in full operation is only temporary and conditional, giving Senate up to February 15, 2019 to decide on his request for a $5.7 billion border-wall funding. What will happen, if after February 15, 2019, Trump fails to get the funding?

Upon signing the short-term funding bill, Trump still made it clear that his border-wall funding request stays on the negotiations table. If not, he will be constrained to initiate another partial government shutdown or declare a State of National Emergency. This means that if another partial shutdown happens, around 800,000 government workers will once again be without paychecks, while several badly needed government services will be suspended anew.

Now what will happen if Trump decides to use his executive power to declare a State of National Emergency?

Trump’s State of National Emergency Alternative

A U.S. President is empowered to declare a State of National Emergency under the provisions of the National Emergencies Act (NEA 50 U.S.C 1601). According to CNN, the White House is currently updating the proclamation draft that was previously prepared. The draft presents courses of action, in case Trump decides to invoke the power vested by the NEA 50 U.S.C 1601, as alternative.

The proclamation draft will have Trump declaring that

a national emergency exists at the southern border of the United States….. The massive amount of aliens who unlawfully enter the United States each day is a direct threat to the safety and security of our nation and constitutes a national emergency

CNN further reported that if the incumbent U.S. President uses his NEA power to obtain the border-wall funding, the related emergency actions that will be undertaken include extracting sums of budget appropriations, from the following:

National Treasury – $681 million in Forfeiture Funds
Military – $3.6 billion of construction budget
Pentagon – $3 billion in civil works funds
Department of Homeland Security $200 million in unspecified funds

Still, the NEA alternative is not a foolproof course of action, because the amended version of the Act has formally given Congress the power to exercise check-balance; along with the power to invalidate the national emergency proclamation, if found unwarranted.