Puerto Rico has voted overwhelmingly to apply to Congress to become the 51st state in the union. However, only about 23 percent of eligible voters participated in the vote on Sunday. Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said voters in the U.S. island territory sent a strong message to Congress. Puerto Rico has been struggling economically for some time and requested in early May to enter into a bankruptcy-like proceeding to restructure its massive debt load after talks with creditors failed. The restructuring of Puerto Rico's estimated $70 billion in outstanding debt would be the largest in the history of the U.S. municipal bond market. Currently, every Puerto Rican citizen also automatically receives U.S. citizenship at birth.
Maryland and the District of Columbia have filed suit against President Donald Trump alleging that his failure to divest from his private businesses has undermined public trust and violated constitutional bans against self-dealing. This lawsuit makes many of the same points as another filed earlier this year by a Washington watchdog organization. However, some legal experts have said that the new suit is stronger legally because the plaintiffs are governmental entities, which could have stronger standing to successfully sue the president. No state has ever before accused a president of violating the emoluments clauses of the Constitution. One clause bans the president from accepting gifts from foreign governments. The second prohibits the president from accepting economic benefits from the federal or state governments, other than his salary.
Trump fires FBI Director James Comey
1. FBI Director James Comey was fired from his position by President Donald Trump. The FBI director position is independent, non-partisan and supposed to be politically isolated. Any investigations launched by the department and run by the director are unbiased and fair. This is the second time in American history that an FBI director was fired. Trump said he was fired because of how he handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server.
2. Comey was leading the investigation into Russia's involvement with the Trump presidential campaign and his White House staff. He reportedly asked for more resources in the investigation just days before he was fired from his position. Comey apparently learned the news from TV reports. Republicans are mostly supporting Trump's decision to fire Comey, but Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said the firing could lead to impeachment proceedings.
3. So, did Trump go too far in firing Comey?
Your Thoughts?Weigh In.
A dispute over whether the US government deported an undocumented immigrant with protected status reignited Wednesday after details about the case were released by the Department of Homeland Security. Lawyers for the man said their client was apprehended by Border Patrol and deported to Mexico on February 18. The Department of Homeland Security said on Wednesday that that had never happened. Lawyers for the deported man are also arguing in a lawsuit that he was deported despite having protected legal status under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This was a program enacted by executive order under President Obama. Trump has not dismantled it yet, but this action calls to question his support of the program.
The United States dropped its biggest non-nuclear bomb, known as the "mother of all bombs," on ISIS positions in Afghanistan. The U.S. military has described it as a tactical move. The GBU-43/B Massive Ordinance Air Blast bomb was dropped Thursday night on a network of fortified underground tunnels that ISIS had been using to stage attacks on government forces. The strike killed 36 ISIS fighters, Afghan officials said. The bomb is GPS-guided and has the power to destroy an area equivalent to nine city blocks. The blast destroyed three underground tunnels as well as weapons and ammunition but no civilians were hurt, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.
President Donald Trump ordered an airstrike on Syria in response to Syrian President Basha Assad's use of a deadly chemical agent against his own people. The target of the airstrike was a Syrian air base. Trump announced the airstrike Thursday night from Mar-a-Lago. He said the strike was intended to deter future use of poison gas. "It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons," Trump said. Some experts have expressed concern that the airstrike could exacerbate tensions in the region. Russia currently has ground troops in the area working with the Syrian regime to fight against the rebel factions. Russian President Vladimir Putin could take this action by the United States as an offense to his government's efforts.
President Donald Trump has signed a bill into law that adds the exploration of Mars as a goal for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA. The law also authorizes $19.5 billion in funding for the agency during the 2017 budget year, which began on October 1. Trump also recently sent Congress a proposal of $19.1 billion in funding for NASA next year. The law additionally directs NASA to manage human space flight programs to help humans explore Mars and other planets and destinations.
Congress members avoid public town halls
1. Congress is in recess this week. Typically, this is a time for representatives and senators to meet with their constituents. But many Congress members have decided not to travel to their home districts and are refusing to set up town hall meetings to hear from the people they represent. Some representatives are even out of the country. This has frustrated and angered some citizens. In Colorado, some people have even organized a town hall of their own and invited their senator to attend. He turned down the invitation.
2. For many of these senators and representatives, protests are a factor in deciding not to host in-person town halls. Several progressive protests were planned around town hall meetings. Instead of visiting in person, some Congress members are hosting teleconferences or video chats. They claim this is for safety and also to have a real conversation with their constiutents that isn't drowned out by protests.
3. So, are Congress members obligated to host in-person town halls?
Your Thoughts?Weigh In.
Trump's national security adviser resigns
1. National security adviser Michael Flynn has resigned from his position in the Trump administration after Flynn offered potentially-illegal assurances to the Russian ambassador and gave false accounts of that conversation to White House officials. Russian lawmakers called Flynn's resignation the result of American paranoia toward Moscow and a campaign by Trump's opponents to damage relations between Russia and the United States.
2. However, House Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz said his committee has no plans to investigate the conversations or how Flynn briefed White House officials about them. According to Chaffetz, further investigation falls to the House Intelligence Committee instead. But Intelligence Committee Chair David Nunes said his committee won't investigate either, citing executive privilege. This is a privilege that is usually claimed by the president as justification for withholding information that may be of public interest.
3. So should Congress investigate the circumstances leading to Flynn's resignation?
Your Thoughts?Weigh In.
In a unanimous decision by a panel of three judges, a federal appeals court denied the reinstatement of President Donald Trump's immigration order. The executive order temporarily blocked people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. It also blocked any refugee relocation to the country. The ruling means that the ban is on hold and cannot be enforced. The court ruled that the Justice Department had not shown that keeping the ban on hold would cause "irreparable injury." On Twitter, Trump said, "SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!" It is likely the case will be appealed by the federal government to the Supreme Court.
Should the United States create a school voucher program?
1. Betsy DeVos has been confirmed as secretary of education, after a historic tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence. DeVos became the subject of controversy because of her position on school vouchers. She supports allowing federal funds to follow students wherever they go, even if they decide to attend a privately run school. Vouchers have been supported by many elected officials on the right because many public schools are currently failing at properly educating students.
2. Opponents of school vouchers argue that the money should go to making public schools better, rather than shipping students to a private option. Additionally, many private schools are also religious in name and curriculum. That situation presents an issue when considering the First Amendment. In DeVos's confirmation, two Republican senators voted against her. Both are representing rural states. Vouchers tend not to help children in rural areas because there is often not another option outside of the local public school.
3. So, are school vouchers the solution to America's public education problem?
Your Thoughts?Weigh In.