Tag: Congress

Chasing our tail: The Zika ‘emergency’ and stalled U.S. Congressional appropriations

On April 13th, the Centers for Disease Control reported 358 travel-associated Zika virus disease cases in the U.S. spanning 40 states and the District of Colombia. The U.S. territories of American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico reported 471 locally acquired cases and 4 travel-associated cases. Since Zika is primarily transmitted by the Aedes species mosquito, the numbers of Zika virus disease cases are anticipated to rise once mosquito season is in full swing in the U.S. Yet, Congress has thus far refused to approve the $1.8 billion in emergency funding President Barack Obama requested in February. The House Appropriations Committee has instead asked the President to redirect funds previously designated for the fight against Ebola to the Zika outbreak.

It is puzzling why Zika has not garnered the same policy attention from Congress as the Ebola outbreak. Viewed through a security lens, the Zika outbreak more readily meets the attributes of a “threat” in its proximity to the U.S., in its pervasiveness, and in the fact that it poses a high risk for global transmission. Moreover, mobilization in response to humanitarian crises is generally more likely to occur when it strikes communities in close proximity to us (i.e. South America) or with whom we can identify (i.e. Americans).

Partisan politics might explain some of the Congressional stall tactics, though this would be a high stakes game to play.  So, what’s going on? I think the “emergency imaginary” has both enabled and constrained policy responses. First, because the Zika outbreak does not conform to conventional understandings of an “emergency,” policy action has been slow despite the demonstrated threats to the U.S. population. Second, because the Zika crisis is nonetheless viewed as an emergency, policymakers feel justified in diverting resources from other emergencies, even though it might produce mediocre results in both cases. Continue reading

Cameron’s Respect for the House of Commons’ No Vote on Syria was a Good Day for Democracy

Jump to 1:13: It’s the best question asked during the GOP debates last year

Were any other Americans rather awestruck when David Cameron announced himself bound by the the House of Commons’ vote against attacking Syria last month? Wow. I found that so impressive – a due process binding executive war-making. Very nice. I am so used to strutting American presidents insisting that they can use force pretty much as they wish. Somehow the AUMF permitted Iraq and the drone war, and then came Obama’s insufferably condescending and monarchical comment in his Syria speech that even though he didn’t need Congress’ approval, he would deign to consult them anyway. Oh, how nice of you to remember the rest of us! Ech!

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The New Senate

It looks like the D’s are going to fall just short of that mythical 60 votes in the Senate. At this point, 58 seems likely, 59 a possibility given how close MN is. Subtract one for Lieberman. However, the Senate is a coalition-building body, and Reid and the Obama Administration will probably want to / need to bring a few Republicans along on major Legislation.

Likely targets? Senators up for reelection in 2010 in states that Obama won:

Mel Martinez of FL
Charles Grassley of IA
Judd Gregg of NH
Richard Burr of NC
George Voinovich OH
Arlen Specter of PA

McCain is also up for reelection in 2010 as well.

You could see several of these guys feeling vulnerable and maybe signing onto certain Obama agenda items to pass bills through the Senate.


General Petraeus finished delivering his prepared remarks to the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees not long ago — and I’ve already been interviewed about them by the local NPR station (WFPL).

Basically, I concluded that his report was not surprising. Most analysts expected an optimistic assessment that would not call for a substantial reduction in American troops. The General is only talking about returning the US troop level to pre-surge levels by mid-July 2008. A modest proposal, eh?

I also noted a few points that General Petraeus did not address (though many in the blogosphere have):

  • What about seasonal violence? Yes, violence is down since the surge began in mid-June. But violence goes down every summer when it is hot. How much different was it this year?
  • What about the refugees? How much of the decline in ethnic violence is attributable to the fact that up to 100,000 Iraqis are fleeing the country every month?
  • What about winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis? Petraeus did not mention the latest ABC/BBC/NHK poll finding that nearly 60% of Iraqis think it is acceptable to target American troops. How can counterinsurgency succeed in such a context?

In short, I wasn’t shocked, or awed.

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