By Austin R. Cooper, Jr.
A series of retirements, difficulty in recruiting candidates for top positions and ongoing acrimony on Capitol Hill and the White House have created consistent murmurs of a possible change in Houses of Congress in the November midterms. The ramifications of the midterm elections are already being felt in Congress. Since the beginning of 2018, the number of Republican House Members not seeking re-election reached 30, to date. Political analysts expect that number to rise.
Several Chairs of key congressional committees related to U.S.-Africa relations will retire from Congress. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who currently serves as Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Africa and Rep. Ed Royce (D-CA) , Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs will step down from office at the end of the 115th Congress.
After the midterm election, on the Senate side, if the GOP maintains the majority, next in line to chair the subcommittee is Sen. Todd Young (R-IN). If Democrats win back the Senate, the new Chairman will be Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE). Over in the House, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) will replace Rep. Royce, if Republicans keep the majority. However, if Democrats regain control, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) will assume the chairmanship. On the House Subcommittee on Africa, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) will become the new Chair and Rep. Smith will be the ranking member. Sen. Orin Hatch (R-UT), Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) have also announced that they will not seek reelection.
The threat of a government shutdown still remains on the table. If Congress and the White House do not come to an agreement on the FY2018 budget by Friday, January 19 at midnight, the U.S. federal government will close until a new spending bill is passed and signed into law. At the heart of the looming shutdown: the fate of nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants. Democrats are pushing for the spending deal to support the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides protection and legal status for young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Republicans, however, maintain that DACA must be dealt with separately from spending negotiations.
Finally, people around the world have expressed outrage at President Trump alleged disparaging remarks about African countries, as well as Haiti and El Salvador. IGD President & CEO Mima S. Nedelcovych stated in a press statement: “I am personally shocked by the alleged disparaging remarks and ‘tough talk’ by the U.S. President about African nations. IGD vehemently rejects the President’s alleged statement about our colleagues in Africa, whose partnerships we deeply value and respect.” To read the full press statement, click here.
The African Union joined the chorus of outrage over the remarks and demanded “a retraction as well as apology not only to Africans, but to all people of African descent around the globe.”
Austin R. Cooper, Jr., is the Director of Government Relations for the Initiative for Global Development and President at Cooper Strategic Affairs, Inc.