Year of political shakeup in US
A Republican has been newly elected as the 53rd speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. With the Republicans recapturing a majority of the House, it will be a stage thoroughly dominated by that party.
Republicans will be the chairs of all the House committees and subcommittees, and with a 49 seat majority (242 to 193) over the Democratic Party, almost every bill can be passed through at will as long as the House Republicans unite.
The Republicans are planning to repeal the bills passed by the Democrats in President Obama’s term, one by one. One of them they plan to repeal is the historic health-care reform law. Since the Republicans plan on repealing a bill signed by the President into law, things have the potential to get loud.
The Democrats are scoffing at this plan, but the Republicans are serious. If the repeal does not pass the Democrat-controlled Senate, the Republicans intend to cut the budget for the health-care reform plan piece by piece.
And even if the repeal does get through the Senate, Obama has already stated that he will veto that repeal bill.
So even though there is no chance the repeal will become law through constitutional channels, because this was one of the campaign promises of the Republican Party in the last midterm elections, they have no choice but to go ahead with the plan.
The final showdown on this issue was supposed to start Jan. 10, but the tragic Jan. 8 shooting of Arizona House Representative Gabrielle Giffords brought it to a halt.
Instead, both parties turned the debate time into a shared time of prayer, and agreed on refraining from violent rhetoric against each other.
However, the debate over healthcare reform will be particularly virulent in 2011. Members of the hard-line conservative Tea Party are planning rallies in support of the repeal, and the Democrats have already stated that they will strongly oppose the repeal.
During the midterm elections, the central campaign promises of the Republicans were to reduce taxes, drastically cut down government spending, and repeal the healthcare reform plan.
The 82 first-term Republican representatives, in particular, are holding a firm, non-negotiable position on the last promise. Those Republicans make up 34 percent of the House Republicans, the largest proportion of 1921.
Republican lawmakers have attacked the Obama administration as the most corrupt in history, and have demanded investigations into six separate issues.
They want to investigate the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the foreclosure crisis; the failure to identify the cause of the financial crisis; corruption in the war in Afghanistan; the State Department allowing sensitive U.S. government information to be disclosed on Wikileaks; the issues surrounding the Food and Drug Administration; and, finally, the impact of stricter regulation by the Obama administration on businesses.
In addition, the Republicans have claimed that the reduction of government spending should begin immediately, and announced that they would cut $60 billion off the budget for the remaining half of this fiscal year, returning to 2008 budget levels.
It is rare to cut the budget passed by the Senate and the House in the middle of the year. Furthermore, the change in House rules made it difficult to increase the current debt ceiling of $14 trillion. It has now become more likely that the 1995 government shutdown in the Clinton era might happen again.
Next year is a presidential election year, both in the U.S. and Korea. In the U.S., preventing the reelection of President Obama is the most important target of the Republican Party’s strategy.
In Korea, the ruling party will go through drastic changes as the presidential election draws near, with both pro-Lee Myung-bak and pro-Park Geun-hye lines. Korean-Americans will surely also be involved, stirring things up in the U.S.
In North Korea, 2011 is when full-scale transfer of power from Kim Jong-il to his youngest son Kim Jong-un begins, and nobody knows what will happen during that process. It looks to be a year of political upheaval.
Jay Kim is a former U.S. Congressman. He serves as chairman of the Washington Korean-American Forum. For more information visit Kim’s website (www.jayckim.com).