Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Jan 23, 2020 in Stuff You Should Know

A Nation at War? Congress Wants a Say

Last week, btw brought you a closer look at the escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Now, Congress is trying to dial back that tension and avoid war by putting a limit on some of the president’s war-related powers. Introduced by Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, the bill has received bipartisan support in the Senate. If it passes, it will require the president to have the approval of Congress before taking any further military action against Iran. The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives has also approved a similar measure. But both houses of Congress need to approve it in order for it to become law.

However, even if the bill passes Congress, it still faces one major hurdle: Trump could veto it. The only way around this is for two-thirds of the Senate to vote in favor of it, which would override any veto. But that will be tricky to accomplish in a Republican-controlled Senate. Still, Senator Kaine says that more and more Republicans are indicating that they might be supportive of the measure.

Whether or not the bill actually takes effect, Senator Kaine and his bipartisan co-sponsors all agree that the important thing is that the president sees that he cannot take the country into war all on his own, without the support of Congress. Many lawmakers are also concerned that the role of Congress in deciding important war-related matters has been eroded since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. At the very least, they say, the country deserves to have its legislators debate whether or not to enter into war before it happens–and that war should not be one single person’s decision, not even if that person happens to be the president.

Dig Deeper What Congressional Act expanded the president’s war-related powers after September 11, 2001?

Iowans to Vote via Smartphone

February 3 is the Iowa caucus. For many Democrats, this is a big event: Democratic candidates have focused their campaigning on Iowa for months. Iowa holds the first primary election, so whichever candidate emerges victorious from the Iowa caucus gains a huge advantage in the other upcoming state primary elections.

Iowa has an unusual caucus system for Democrats. Rather than all of the registered Democrats in the state going to the polls and voting, as in a traditional primary, people show up to a public meeting and literally stand in a part of the room designated for their candidate. The bigger the group of people standing there, the more delegates that candidate receives. (The Iowa Republican caucus doesn’t work this way.) This year, there is a huge change in the process: registered Democrats in Iowa will be able to use their smartphones to participate in a “virtual caucus,” where they will be able to rank their top five choices for president from the comfort of their own homes.

There are both pros and cons to this plan. Those who are in favor of it say that it will make the process more accessible and transparent. But others are concerned about the potential for hacking or interference. Also, what if the app fails? There are backup plans already in the works, such as a hotline that the various precincts can call to turn in their results. The trouble is that there are 1,679 precincts in Iowa, meaning that the hotline would be receiving hundreds or even thousands of calls in a short period of time if things were to go wrong.

What Do You Think? In your opinion, is smartphone voting in the Iowa caucus a good move or a bad one? Explain.

Booker Pulls Out of Presidential Race

Last Monday, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey announced that he is ending his run for the presidency. The decision came about because Booker’s campaign failed to raise enough money to meet the minimum requirement to participate in the Democratic debate in Des Moines, Iowa, last Tuesday. In his announcement, Booker also indicated that he realized that the impeachment trial would have a negative impact on his campaign, making it even tougher for him to raise the amount of money needed to remain a viable candidate. (As a sitting senator, Booker is required to be in Washington, D.C.–and off of the campaign trail–for the duration of Trump’s impeachment trial.)

Senator Booker’s withdrawal from the race is significant because he was the last major remaining African American candidate after Senator Kamala Harris dropped out in December. His departure leaves the pool of Democratic candidates less diverse. The only remaining African American candidate is former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, though most political experts consider him to be a long shot for the nomination.

Senator Booker’s campaign was known for his attention to “radical love” and a return to national unity and positivity after four years of divisiveness under Trump. Policy-wise, he advocated for gun reform and criminal justice reform, and he identified ways that policies often have negative effects on marginalized communities, such as minorities or the poor.

Booker has vowed publicly to support whichever Democrat becomes the eventual nominee for president. In the meantime, his Senate seat is up this year, though very early predictions suggest he will win re-election.

Dig Deeper What were the requirements for participation in the Des Moines debate? By how much money did Sen. Booker fall short?

General Becomes First Space Force Commander

Last month, the Pentagon created the seventh branch of the U.S. military: Space Operations, otherwise known as Space Force. Last Tuesday, the first member was officially sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence: 58-year-old Air Force General John “Jay” Raymond is now the chief of Space Operations. Raymond is a four-star general who is already also the commander of Air Force Space Command and U.S. Space Command.

Currently, however, there are no Space Force troops for Raymond to command. Over the next few months, the Pentagon expects to draw about 16,000 personnel from U.S. Space Command. Under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) guidelines, Raymond–who was appointed to his new position by the president–is allowed to serve for a year without Senate confirmation. Trump originally developed Space Operations, a military branch focused on outer space, because, he says, other nations have stepped up their presence in space, and the U.S. can’t afford to fall behind. General Raymond has echoed this idea, saying that he believes any future conflicts with other powerful nations such as China or Russia will likely be fought at least in part in space.

General Raymond brings with him a long history of service to the U.S. military, from 1984 to the present. He fought in the Iraq War and the war in Afghanistan, and has earned the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, and the Legion of Merit.

Dig Deeper Use Internet resources to help you estimate the cost of Space Force. In your opinion, is this a worthwhile investment? Why or why not?