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THIS WEEK'S ARTICLES
Pentagon Officials Say Islamic State Fight May Need U.S. Combat Forces
Immigration Plan Tests President's Reach
Obama's New Path Faces Collision Course
Can Both Sides in Senate Avoid Payback Time?
Keystone Pipeline Fails by One Vote

Pentagon Officials Say Islamic State Fight May Need U.S. Combat Forces
by: Felicia Schwartz and Julius E. Barnes
Nov 14, 2014
Click here to view the full article on WSJ.com
Click here to view the video on WSJ.com WSJ Video

TOPICS: Iraq, Middle East, Mideast, Syria, Terrorism

SUMMARY: In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey reaffirmed that current plans do not include U.S. troops in a ground combat role against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). However, an attempt to reestablish the border between Iraq and Syria and an effort to retake the city of Mosul may shift U.S. troops from its advisory role in command centers to combat zones. President Barack Obama has requested an additional 1500 troops. In assessing the progress of the war against the Islamic State, Hagel and Dempsey said that ISIS's advance has been stalled and in some cases been in retreat, and a recent U.S. military strike killed or injured some of their leadership. In separate testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Choice said that ISIS has lost considerable oil revenue and that its $20 million or more that they have raised from kidnappings is not likely to meet their budgetary needs. Despite the U.S. reported progress against ISIS, it isn't clear what the U.S. will do in the fight against Syria President Bashar al-Assad.

CLASSROOM APPLICATION: From testimony before Congress, Felicia Schwartz and Julius E. Barnes report on the advances made against the Islamic State and the possible relocation of U.S. military advisors. The class can give their own assessment of allied progress based upon the testimony and other sources. While ISIS may have been stalled militarily, reports are that more citizens of neighboring states are joining ISIS. Given these reports, students can offer their opinions of why particularly young Islamic men are willing to join the Islamic State military. Some suggest that economic desperate conditions at home and the view that ISIS is one of the few successful radical Islamic movements is behind ISIS's recruitment. Given this, students can suggest strategies that the U.S. could use to counter young people from joining the Islamic State. A further concern is Sunni Muslims, who are alienated from the Shiite dominated Iraqi government, joining the Islamic state. With the U.S. troops engaged in an advisory role and contributing to airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, the class can analyze whether this will be sufficient, along with Iraqi and Kurd ground troops, to defeat the ISIS. Lastly, the class can discuss the role of Congress in authorizing and funding U.S. action against ISIS. What views do different members of Congress hold on this issue?

QUESTIONS: 
1. (Introductory) Many are concerned about U.S. troops in an advisory role in the fight against the Islamic State. How did the advisory role escalated in Vietnam to full combat operations?

2. (Introductory) The most significant U.S. role against the Islamic State is airstrikes. Name several goals for airstrikes, which may not defeat ISIS but could help in reversing their onslaught?

3. (Advanced) What is sequestration and how has it affected the Defense Department? Given the fight against ISIS, what will President Obama need to ask Congress for to be able to expand operations? What views do you see among members of Congress on this issue?

4. (Advanced) Beside military operations, what other actions does the U.S. and allies need to take to contain and reverse the advance of the Islamic State?

Reviewed By: Edward Miller, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

RELATED ARTICLES: 
Coalition Airstrikes Targeted Islamic State Leaders Near Mosul
by Matt Bradley, Ghassan Adnan, and Felicia Schwartz
Nov 09, 2014
Online Exclusive

Obama Authorizes Up to 1,500 More Troops to Deploy to Iraq
by Michael R. Crittenden, Jeffrey Sparshott, and Felicia Schwartz
Nov 07, 2014
Online Exclusive


Immigration Plan Tests President's Reach
by: Laura Meckler
Nov 15, 2014
Click here to view the full article on WSJ.com
Click here to view the video on WSJ.com WSJ Video

TOPICS: Immigration, Obama

SUMMARY: With Congress stalled over immigration reform, President Barack Obama said that he will institute some changes through executive action. There is considerable legal authority underpinning his expected orders. Under the recognized concept of prosecutorial discretion, the president can grant temporary legal status to individuals and small groups as Obama did for undocumented young people brought to the country as children and George W. Bush did for 1.5 million spouses and children of illegal immigrants who qualified to stay in the U.S. under a 1986 law, for foreign students affected by Hurricane Katrina, and for certain Liberians in 2007. President Obama could also point to the 1986 law that authorizes the president to grant work permits and to various statutes that allow for deferred action. Additionally, with the immigration enforcement budget limited, the president needs to decide which groups could temporarily stay and which are to be deported. While presidential discretion is clear, the question of when does the size of deferred prosecution exceed the president's authority without action by Congress is raised.

CLASSROOM APPLICATION: Laura Meckler examines the legal limits of presidential authority to allow specified groups of undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. without explicit congressional authorization. The issue is likely to spur great conflict between congressional Republicans, who already believe that President Obama has exceeded his executive authority in several policies, and the White House. The class can review the background of the disputes over immigration reform, including conflicts involved in congressional consideration of immigration reform and the refusal of the House to take up the Senate passed bill. The key issue is the support of many Republicans for the prominence of border security in immigration reform and opposition to provisions providing a path for illegal immigrants to obtain citizenship. Immigration reform is also an incendiary issue politically. Latinos represent a growing minority in the U.S., important to winning presidential elections and increasingly important in a many state contests. Obama gained considerable Latino support over Mitt Romney but in 2014 midterm Latino turnout was low and the Democratic Party margin was not as great. Obama had postponed executive action on immigration, which disillusioned many Latinos. Following the midterms, action is expected soon. The class can analyze the legal basis for the executive authority of the president and limitations that he faces. How much discretion does the law give the president? Does the 1986 law provide that discretion? Additionally, congressional Republicans said that if Obama takes executive action on immigration, it would be a deal breaker for bipartisan agreements for the last two years of his term. Students can evaluate whether Republicans would follow through knowing that their actions could alienate Latinos, affecting the 2016 presidential and congressional, especially senatorial, elections. Lastly, a fringe group of Republicans have spoken of instituting impeachment proceedings if the president took executive action on immigration. Are there any grounds for this? It can be noted that House Republicans said they would file a legal action against the president for other executive actions but have failed to do so.

QUESTIONS: 
1. (Introductory) How could an executive action on immigration by President Obama alienate both sides in the dispute?

2. (Introductory) Knowing that it is impossible to deport all undocumented immigrants, why are congressional Republicans so fervently opposed to executive action, especially given the record of the Obama administration of extensive deportations of illegal immigrants?

3. (Advanced) How did the Reagan administration attack the problem of illegal immigrants in the U.S.?

4. (Advanced) Cite several policy areas that power has flowed to the president over the years from a literal reading of the Constitution.

Reviewed By: Edward Miller, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

RELATED ARTICLES: 
New GOP Push to Block Immigration Action by Obama
by Laura and Kristina Peterson
Nov 12, 2014
Online Exclusive


Obama's New Path Faces Collision Course
by: Carol E. Lee
Nov 17, 2014
Click here to view the full article on WSJ.com

TOPICS: Asia, Obama, Presidency

SUMMARY: Like many presidents, President Barack Obama will focus on foreign affairs issues during the final two years of his term. From his trip to Asia, Obama made agreements with leaders in China, Myanmar, and Australia. However, U.S. lawmakers may not be comfortable with Obama's actions. Republican will probably push back against the commitment he received from China for both nations to work on carbon reductions while Democrats are uneasy with trade agreements. After concluding a major nuclear arms treaty with the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 after Republicans lost control of the Senate, President Ronald Reagan worked to win the public to his position in an effort to get the treaty ratified, even though many lawmakers did not trust Gorbachev. In contrast, President George Bush, after his party lost in the 2006 midterm election, ordered a troop surge in Iraq despite critics from both parties who wanted troops drawn down and not increased. According to senior Obama administration officials, the president will follow Reagan's lead to try to get the public to support his climate change and trade initiatives. Of course all of Obama's efforts could unravel if China continues to exert itself in Asia; unrest escalates in Ukraine, Iraq, and Syria; and the Ebola crisis in Africa worsens. In foreign affairs, the president can take more of an initiative, but for some policies, such as trade agreements, he will need congressional approval.

CLASSROOM APPLICATION: Carol E. Lee examines areas of potential involvement of President Barack Obama in the last two years of his administration, constrained by Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. The class can discuss why presidents have tended to stress foreign policy toward the end of their tenures. Some areas that can be mentioned are that presidents may have accomplished a significant portion of their domestic agenda (Obama had a number of his initiatives pass at the beginning of his presidency, especially health care reform), that the opposite party may now control the majorities in Congress making it difficult to further pursue a domestic agenda, and that presidents are often most remembered in their role as U.S. leader in world affairs. Students can review conflicts that may arise when presidents use their own initiative without much congressional involvement. Obama is seeing conflicts arise over climate change policy, trade agreements, and further involvement in Iraq and by extension Syria in fighting ISIL without additional congressional approved Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). One focus can be on trade agreements, negotiated by many administrations, but resisted by some in Congress, especially Democrats, who fear U.S. job losses. Among potential trade deals, the U.S. is particularly working on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and one with the European Union.

QUESTIONS: 
1. (Introductory) President Obama has committed the U.S. to help allied governments in its fight against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). Many see the Islamic State as a threat to the U.S. Explain what issues concerning the U.S. involvement has created friction with some lawmakers?

2. (Introductory) To avoid possible Senate rejection, presidents have increasingly used executive agreements rather than treaties. Explain the difference and the conflict between Congress and presidents over this mechanism of international accords.

3. (Advanced) President Obama will most likely continue to have problems with congressional approval of his agenda. What bumps in the road do you see as real possibilities in his attempt to be successful in international affairs in his last two years in office?

4. (Advanced) Presidents, including President Obama, conclude trade deals to increase U.S. exports. What benefits does that give the U.S.? Why are some opposed to trade deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiated in the Clinton administration?

Reviewed By: Edward Miller, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

RELATED ARTICLES: 
U.S., China Reach New Climate, Military Deals
by Carol E. Lee, Jeremy Page, and William Mauldin
Nov 12, 2014
Online Exclusive


Can Both Sides in Senate Avoid Payback Time?
by: Gerald F. Seib
Nov 18, 2014
Click here to view the full article on WSJ.com
Click here to view the video on WSJ.com WSJ Video

TOPICS: Congress, Political Parties

SUMMARY: Republicans will take majority control of the Senate when the new congress convenes in January. Voters have expressed great dissatisfaction with the Washington gridlock. The question is whether senators from both political parties will work together or whether they will reverse their roles and keep the Senate from enacting legislation. Republicans, while in the minority, extensively used filibusters to halt the process. In an effort to break their hold on bills, Democrats filed an unprecedented 594 cloture petitions to get to get the 60 votes needed in attempts to break filibusters and get legislation on the floor. For their part, Republicans were incensed over how Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid controlled the process. He limited debate, blocked amendments, and prevented votes. The rhetoric from members of both parties is that they need to work together. However, some see this as payback time, and Republicans have vowed that the anticipated executive action by President Barack Obama on immigration would be a spoiler to cooperation. Democrats believe that the strength of tea-party conservatives could make it difficult for more moderate Republicans to work with Democrats. To keep power in Republican Party hands, Senator Orrin Hatch (R., Ut.) told the Federalist Society that Republicans should not reverse the rule that disallows filibusters on executive nominees, except for the Supreme Court, because it would be useful if a Republican is elected president in 2016.

CLASSROOM APPLICATION: Gerald F. Seib describes the forces that could inhibit cooperation between Senate Democrats and Republicans in the new congress despite rhetoric espousing the need to break gridlock. The class can first analyze the use of the filibuster, the primary way that Republicans have prevented issues from coming to the floor, and how it has changed over the years. While the filibuster historically had been used on only a limited number of issues with senators having to hold the floor during debate to delay or defeat a vote, it is now used on many issues before debate has commenced to keep issues off the floor. Attempts to end a filibuster, known as cloture, have been tried an unprecedented number of times during President Obama's administration. Second, students can suggest why congressional political parties have become so polarized, with party cohesion scores exceptionally high. Greater power to the leadership, the use of leadership PACs, the increased importance of loyalty to the party to gain anything, and the loss of most moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats from the caucuses are reasons that can be cited. Lastly, the class can give their views of Senator Hatch's statement that Republicans will not want to change the confirmation rule because Republicans will need it after the 2016 election. In this context two items can be discussed. First, given the growth of minorities and their higher turnout in presidential years, Republicans will be at a disadvantage in the 2016 election. Second, the Senate electoral map, which was favorable to Republicans in 2014, is not in 2016. Thus would the possibility of Democrats retaining control of the presidency and taking back the Senate make Republicans more or less willing to work with Democrats in the 114th Congress?

QUESTIONS: 
1. (Introductory) Discuss how the use of the filibuster and cloture has changed since the 1950s and 1960s?

2. (Introductory) What changes did the Senate Democrats make in the confirmation process of presidential appointees? Why did they make this rule change?

3. (Introductory) Evaluate the power of the tea-party in the Republican Party's senate conference? Do you believe this group has more power in the House or the Senate?

4. (Advanced) Party cohesion has significantly increased. What factors can explain the greater tendency of party members to vote together?

5. (Advanced) Some observers have said that more and more the legislative process in the Senate resembles the House. What do they mean by this?

Reviewed By: Edward Miller, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

RELATED ARTICLES: 
Senate Debates Keystone XL Pipeline
by Amy Harder and Siobhan Hughes
Nov 18, 2014
Online Exclusive


Keystone Pipeline Fails by One Vote
by: Amy Harder and Siobhan Hughes
Nov 19, 2014
Click here to view the full article on WSJ.com
Click here to view the video on WSJ.com WSJ Video

TOPICS: Congress, Environmental Policy

SUMMARY: Despite strong efforts by Senator Mary Landrieu (D., La.) to have the Senate approve the Keystone XL pipeline, the vote fell one vote short of the 60 votes needed to take up the issue. All 45 Republicans and 14 Democrats supported the bill, but Landrieu was not able to garner the one additional vote needed. Congressional action on the pipeline has been considered for some time with the Republican House passing the authorizing bill. The permit to build the pipeline has been under consideration by the State Department, which has jurisdiction over international oil pipelines, for six years. The southern part, 485 miles running from Oklahoma to Texas, had been built and is now carrying oil from Oklahoma to Texas. The remainder of the 1700 mile pipeline has been stalled over its effects on climate change. Besides environmental concerns, many Democrats argue that the pipeline, running through the middle of the U.S., will be carrying oil from Canada to refineries in Texas to be exported. Thus the U.S. will not directly benefit but take the risks. Further, Democrats argue that Congress by passing a Keystone XL pipeline bill would be interfering with the power of the executive branch, which is charged with administering laws. With Republicans taking over the Senate majority in January, the pipeline bill will again be before that body.

CLASSROOM APPLICATION: Amy Harder and Siobhan Hughes report on the failure of the Keystone XL pipeline bill to pass the Senate, unable to get the one additional voted that was needed for cloture. The class can begin by presenting the arguments for and against approval on a side by side chart. Included would be the need for additional refined oil, the business it will bring to refineries, and the jobs that would be created in building the rest of the pipeline. Some maintain that the pipeline would be a safer way than by rail of carrying the volatile fuel. Opposing arguments would include the environmental hazards of leaks, the environmental impact of essentially encouraging more use of a carbon producing fossil fuel, jobs created would only be temporary, and the decision rightful belongs to the executive, not the legislature. Students can examine the political nature of the debate, explaining why Republicans support the building of the pipeline and most Democrats oppose. Given that other areas of concern are producing more carbon emissions than the pipeline itself would be responsible for, the class can assess whether Keystone has really become more of a symbolic issue. Lastly, students can explain why Senator Landrieu has put in so much effort to get the pipeline approved.

QUESTIONS: 
1. (Introductory) While President Obama was expected to veto the Keystone XL pipeline bill if it passed the Senate (it has already passed the House), some observers believe that he may not if it is passed next year. What is this speculation based upon?

2. (Introductory) Why did Senator Mary Landrieu so strongly support the Keystone pipeline when it does not go into her state?

3. (Advanced) Environmentalists strongly oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. What are the arguments that environmentalists make? Evaluate their concerns.

4. (Advanced) President Obama said that he would not make a decision on Keystone XL until the Nebraska court rules. What are the issues before the Nebraska court?

Reviewed By: Edward Miller, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

RELATED ARTICLES: 
Landrieu's Runoff Hopes Hit by Failure of Keystone Bill
by Reid J. Epstein
Nov 18, 2014
Online Exclusive


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