New York, March 27: As attention turns to issues for next year’s election, the Democratic Party has failed in its bid to overturn President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration. It has been unable to come up with the two-thirds majority in the House of Representative to nullify his veto of a Congressional resolution killing it.
The vote came on Tuesday as both parties tried to move ahead from the Russian collusion fiasco, setting their sights on next year’s elections with environment and healthcare as prime issues.
A tactical game played out in the Senate when a resolution originally proposed by the Democratic Party on climate change failed with even its supporters refraining from voting for it to prevent Republicans from making political capital in next year’s elections by citing some of its radical provisions unrelated to climate change.
After having failed to get the Democrats to agree to fund his proposal for a wall on the Mexican border, Trump declared a state of emergency to empower him to divert funds for the project. Congress voted against the emergency, but Trump had vetoed it. The emergency faces legal challenges and courts will decide on it now.
Trump and Democrats, both moved healthcare — arguably the most divisive issue in the 2016 election — centre stage.
After his administration had in a turnaround asked a federal appeals court to strike down the affordable healthcare law, popularly known as Obamacare, Trump declared to reporters: “The Republican Party will soon become the party of health care”.
Trump who came to the US Capitol for a lunch with his party’s legislators, reportedly told them that healthcare would be his priority now. During his campaign he had said that he would introduce a new and improved “beautiful” healthcare programme to replace Obamacare, but has not come up with an alternative.
The affordable healthcare programme, considered the capstone of former President Barack Obama’s presidency, extended subsidised health insurance for the poor while requiring everyone to get it from private insurers or pay a penalty.
The penalty clause was unpopular with some of Trump’s base and he championed its repeal, but now finds that its total repeal may end up affecting some of his supporters and the Democrats could take advantage of it.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, unveiled her party’s version of a new healthcare bill that will try to reduce insurance premiums and protect people with preexisting conditions.
At a morale-boosting closed session with her party’s Representatives after the inquiry into allegations that Trump collaborated with the Russians absolved him, Pelosi told them to move on to more substantive issues, according to Politico. “Be calm. Take a deep breath. Don’t become like them. We have to handle this professionally, officially, patriotically, strategically,” she reportedly told them.
But not all are falling in. Representative Rashida Tlaib who had publicly used an obscenity directed against his mother while calling for Trump’s impeachment was reportedly trying to collect signatures for the motion.
The Democratic Party’s national convention to formally select its presidential candidate and launch its full-fledged election campaign is only 15 months away and the leadership faces the task of keeping the party united and not have the left hijack its message.
The Republicans, who control the Senate, see the potential to split them and tried to force the divisions within the Democratic Party to the fore by forcing the vote on the New Green Deal, which was originally proposed by party Representative Alexandria Oacasio-Cortes, who is also a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, and backed by its leaders.
The bill, ostensibly to fight climate change, was loaded with items on fighting income inequality, criticism of the wealthy, making up for “historic oppression” of “people of colour” and migrants, providing housing, and supporting family farming. Many party leaders signed on to it without reading the fine print, which initially included guaranteed payments for those “unwilling” to work.
Forced to take a stand on it, none of the Democrats voted for it; 43 of them voted “present” and four joined the Republicans to vote against it. Although they had proposed it, Democrats got cold feet when they realised how it would be perceived by a large segment of voters — did not move ahead with it. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel then moved it — and also voted against it.
The six Democratic Party senators who are running for the party’s presidential nomination would face the wrath of the party’s progressive wing by not voting for it — but if they had, they would have to defend themselves against Republican taunts about being radicals.
By Arul Louis
(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)