Headlines: December 20, 2019
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 8:22 — 7.7MB)
A day after the US House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump on 2 articles, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she is considering withholding them from the Senate while she decides whether or not the trial in that chamber will be fair. Republicans dominate the Senate and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has pledged his unwavering allegiance to Trump. The New York Times explained that, “By withholding the articles, Ms. Pelosi is hoping that Mr. Trump — who is eager for a trial to present his defense and clear his name — will put pressure on …McConnell… to commit to Democratic demands, including the ability to call witnesses during the trial.” Pelosi has said, “So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us.” According to AP, “There is no constitutional requirement for the Democrats to transmit the articles swiftly, or at all.” Trump slammed the delay claiming that the Democrats are trying to avoid Republican’s wish list of witnesses from testifying including Joe Biden and House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff. But Democrats maintain that they would like White House staff with knowledge of Trump’s Ukraine policy to testify.
In other news, Christianity Today, an evangelical magazine, has published an editorial asserting that Trump should be removed from office in light of the scandal that triggered his impeachment. The magazine was founded by the late Rev. Billy Graham and the current editor in chief Mark Galli called Trump’s actions, “a violation of the Constitution,” and “profoundly immoral.” Galli added that Trump’s “Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.” The article was widely read and even caused the magazine’s website to briefly crash after it was shared so often. Trump lashed out at Christianity Today calling it, “a far left magazine.”
Seven Democrats debated one another on Thursday night on the campus of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, the smallest subsection of the large field of candidates for the Democratic Party’s Presidential nomination. Among the clashes during the debate were Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren accusing South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg of taking billionaire’s donations. The candidates were also asked to respond to former President Obama’s assertion that old men dominate politics and should get out of the way. Biden clashed with Senator Bernie Sanders on the issue of Medicare-for-All. Sanders also went out of his way to raise the issue of climate change during the debate.
In other news the House passed the US-Mexico-Canada trade deal on Thursday by a vote of 385 to 41, proving that Democrats were in agreement with Republicans on numerous issues even as Democrats impeached Trump. The agreement is expected to pass the US Senate early next year.
Both chambers of Congress also passed a 2-part spending deal with bi-partisan support to fund the federal government with an increase in spending of $49 billion. The funding deal is nearly $1.4 trillion. Politico explained that, “the Senate voted 71-23 on Thursday to pass a non-defense package, approving funding for departments like Education, Transportation, Agriculture, Labor, Energy, HHS and HUD. The chamber also voted 81-11 to pass a package to fund the Pentagon, as well as the departments of Homeland Security, Commerce, Treasury and Justice.” The spending bills now head to the President’s desk for a signature and he plans to sign it by the end of Friday.
Also on Friday, Trump plans to sign a $738 billion defense bill that passed with bi-partisan support and that includes among other things, paid parental leave for federal workers, the creation of a sixth branch of government called “Space Force,” and sanctions on the perpetrators of the Syria war. It also boosts military spending by nearly 3%.
The Washington State House of Representatives recently commissioned an investigation into the 2016 right wing armed occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon and has determined that a Republican state representative named Matt Shea was involved. Mr. Shea, who has openly expressed violent and extremist views, according to the investigation, “participated in an act of domestic terrorism.” Washington’s Republican Party has denounced Shea and cut ties with him, calling on him to resign.
A day after he signed a bill allowing parolees and those on probation to vote in elections, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has signed another progressive bill: allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses in the state. The move comes just days after the state of New York began implementing its driver’s license law for undocumented people.
An analysis of Census Bureau County estimates has found that in spite of strong economic indicators, poverty rates have increased in parts of the country. The Huffington Post’s Stateline section conducted the study and found that, “The poverty rate grew in 30% of counties between 2016 and 2018,” and that, “Most of the biggest increases were in areas both rural and Southern.” Another new study by the Institute for Child, Youth and Family Policy at Brandeis University examined the opportunities that children have to become successful and found, “a sharp racial divide in access to such opportunities in almost every major metropolitan area of the country.” Specifically, “Most white children in the United States live in neighborhoods with high levels of opportunity, while most black and Hispanic children live in ones with low opportunity, according to the research. Often, these neighborhoods are just a few blocks apart.”
In international news, violent police crackdowns have continued across India aimed at mass protests against the Hindu Nationalist government’s new anti-Muslim citizenship law. At least three people have been killed so far. In the capital New Delhi on Thursday, thousands of people marched and rallied even though the city was on lockdown. Here is women’s rights activist and Communist Party leader Brinda Karat denouncing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. (Special thanks to filmmaker Shonali Bose for capturing this video.)