Saturday, April 1, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Weekend News Update 6

Democrats in the U.S. senate seem to be heading for an historic
confrontation over the confirmation of Neal Gorsuch to the
U.S. supreme court. Although liberal senators are in the
minority (and have only 48 votes to the conservative majority
of 52), current rules enable the minority opposition to block
confirmation if there are 40 votes to prevent cloture (which
stops a filibuster and allows for a final vote). In effect, the GOP
needs 8 Democrats to force a vote on the nomination. However,
under a precedent established by the Democrats when they had
control of the senate, the 60-vote rule to cut off a filibuster
could be abolished by a simple majority, thus guaranteeing Mr.
Gorsuch’s nomination this time, and making it easy for the
GOP majority to confirm any future supreme court
nominations. Making the filibuster-minded Democratic
senate leadership prospects even more problematic is that, if
as appears more likely than not, the GOP increases its
majority in 2018, and maintains it in 2020 and 2024, the
Democrats will not be able to reverse the filibuster abolition
even if they win back the presidency in 2020 or 2024, thus
perhaps thwarting the seating of any liberal justices in the
foreseeable future. Two Democratic senators have said they
will vote for Mr. Gorsuch, and for cloture. Although most other
Democratic senators are expected to reject his nomination, it
is unclear how many  are willing to vote for cloture.


With the failure of Republican leaders in the U.S. house to vote
on the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, and difficulty
likely ahead for passage of tax reform legislation in the house
and senate, the Republican-controlled Congress is increasingly
under pressure for some major victories for their party and the
new Trump administration. One of candidate Donald Trump’s
major campaign promises in 2016 was that he would propose
and implement significant infrastructure repair across the U.S.
Although some some conservative budget hawks might object to
this as a program that could increase the federal deficit, the need
for updating and repair is obvious, and would produce millions of
new jobs that would be popular among voters in the districts
and states. This is one area, at least, that leaders and legislators
from both parties might agree on for quick passage.

Although the election for president of France is quickly
approaching, and polls show the race is tightening slightly
between the major candidates, almost 40% of the voters say
they have not yet made up their minds. Further complicating the
race, which could have enormous consequences for the future
of the European Union (EU), of which France is a major member
state, the official candidates of the two major parties trail
independent and controversial candidates.

Many of the nations of South America are now facing immediate
crises. Brazil, which recently saw its president impeached and
removed from office, faces massive protests from the new
conservative government’s attempts to pass pension reform
legislation. In Venezuela, after prolonged political and economic
unrest, the Marxist government seems unable to reverse financial
and consumer crises. The nation’s supreme court suddenly
abolished the federal legislature last week, but an international
outcry against worsening dictatorship has caused the ruling to be
reversed. In Ecuador, with national elections only days away,
fears of the western South American country becoming another
Venezuela has provoked widespread violence, and made the close
election too close to call. In Paraguay, recently thought to be
establishing some stability, a sudden crisis and protests erupted
when an attempt was made to enable the term-limited, and
outgoing, president to run for another term.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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