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State of the Nation: Summer Edition

Washington has certainly not been lacking in action this summer. With further issues to address, this summer will be one for the record books. Here is a short recap of what has happened thus far and what is to come.

Recent Happenings

  • Trade agenda proceeds
    • The most ambitious trade agenda since the North American Free Trade Agreement was advanced recently, as Congress, led by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), granted President Obama “fast track authority” to more effectively negotiate the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The terms of the trade negotiations could be sent to Congress for approval as early as this fall.
    • Further reading: Everything you need to know about the Trans Pacific Partnership
  • “Obamacare” lives to fight another day
    • In a 6-3 decision by the United States Supreme Court, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare,” survived another legal challenge in the nation’s highest court. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts concluded that the phrase from the statute in question, health care exchanges “established by the State,” must be read in the context of the law in its entirety and therefore is to be upheld. Joining the Chief Justice in the majority were Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito dissented from the majority opinion.
    • Further reading: Saving the subsidies, saving the health care law
  • Same sex marriage is the law of the land
    • In a precedent setting 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court effectively legalized same sex marriage across the country. Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy derived from two clauses in the Fourteenth Amendment that a “fundamental right to marry” can no longer be denied because the partners are of the same sex. Joining Justice Kennedy in the majority were Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Scalia, Justice Thomas, and Justice Alito dissented from the majority opinion.
    • Further reading: Marriage now open to same-sex couples
  • Greek economy on the rocks, discord amongst European Union member states
    • The Greek government continues to negotiate terms of payment on loans that were issued from entities such as the International Monetary Fund. Greece is technically in default on these loans, and the Greek government, led by the left-wing Syriza Party Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, is refusing to agree to the terms currently offered by the E.U. and the IMF, declaring the terms unreasonable and too austere. After a resounding vote of “Oxi” (no in Greek) in a referendum vote of the Greek people this past Sunday, Prime Minister Tsipras now has the voters officially behind his stance in rejecting the terms of the deal. The two sides have until Sunday to broker a deal.
    • Further reading: Absolutely everything you need to know about Greece’s bailout crisis

What’s to Come

  • Iranian nuclear technology
    • For some time now, the Islamic Republic of Iran and six world powers known as the “P5+1” (United States, China, Russia, United Kingdom, France, and Germany) have been negotiating terms of a deal in regard to Iran’s nuclear program. Iran has been hit with crippling economic sanctions by these countries in response to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and this deal is being brokered in attempt to limit the possibility of a nuclear Iran and mitigate the negative effects of economic sanctions on the theocratic nation. Time is of the essence for Secretary of State John Kerry and the Obama administration to complete this deal.
    • Further reading: What’s in the Iran nuclear deal
  • Public education revamp
    • The No Child Left Behind Act was enacted under President George W. Bush in 2001, reauthorizing the government’s aid program for disadvantaged children initially implemented by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965. Public education is a continuing and evolving issue that presents challenges on multiple fronts, including access to and quality of educational materials, standardized testing, and teacher evaluation methods. Both the Senate and the House are taking up separate rewrites of No Child Left Behind in attempt to address some of the issues with President Bush’s law as well as problems with President Obama’s Race to the Top law.
    • Further reading: Senate poised to take up education bill
  • Funding the Highway Trust Fund
    • The Highway Trust Fund, the transportation fund that is made up of revenue from the federal gas tax, is used to pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the nation’s interstate highways and other certain roads. Similarly to the past few legislative sessions, the Highway Trust Fund is nearly depleted, and a fix must be found. Infrastructure, which by no means is an interesting or stimulating topic, is one of the most crucial issues the U.S. faces, encompassing activities such as mass transportation of goods in addition to commuting between work or school. The deadline to pay for an extension of the Highway Trust Fund is July 31.
    • Further reading: Congress races toward Highway Trust Fund deadline
  • Presidential primary debate season
    • As of this moment, there are five declared candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination and 14 declared candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, with two additional GOP candidates expected to declare later this month. Needless to say, 2016 will prove to be quite a battlefield in the effort to become the 45th President of the United States. The first Republican primary debate will be in just less than a month on August 6 in Cleveland, Ohio, while the first Democratic primary debate will be held sometime in August or September in Iowa.
    • Further reading: Who Is Running for President (and Who’s Not)?
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