One Stumble After Another

Once again, Barack Obama has his hands full and it will not be easy for him to solve all the problems that have appeared in from of him over the past few weeks. On top of everything, some of these problems are rooted in the opposition his own party members have expressed toward at least two of his initiatives.

The first is the authorization of Congress to conclude negotiations for the free trade agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. These negotiations started five years ago with 10 different Pacific Rim countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Democrats have invoked a set of demands as a condition to support the president, among them, to ensure the protection of the environment in the countries involved and to protect the income and employment of U.S. workers.

The program of interception, storage and scrutiny (spying) of phone calls implemented by the U.S. National Security Agency is also a matter of controversy between the president and his party members. Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013 on the generalization and depth of said program created an intense debate about the violation of citizens’ privacy that some of its content inflict. It was authorized by Congress through legislation known as the Patriot Act, following the terrorists attacks on U.S. soil in September 2011, and implemented by then President George W. Bush. It authorizes the security agency to intercept and store millions of phone calls and electronic messages in the U.S. and those sent and received from other countries. Congress ratified it when Barack Obama took the presidency, and it expired on Monday, unless they ratify it once again later on.

Countless voices have been raised against the discretion and extension of the program, but the Democrats in Congress have been the ones who, along with some Republican lawmakers, firmly oppose its prolongation unless some of its parts are eliminated. The president has insisted on the importance of its ratification, but, so far, it is not clear if Congress will do it.

Another hindrance is the decision of a three-judge district court to confirm the suspension, decreed by a Texan judge, to revoke the president’s order authorizing five million illegal immigrants to remain and work in the country, while an immigration reform which legalizes their residency definitely is approved. It is not clear what the White House’s strategy will be and if it will appeal this decision to the Supreme Court. What is clear is that this hindrance for the president is more painful to millions of illegal immigrants who will remain in the shadows, fearing deportation. It will be interesting to see the reaction of the presidential pre-candidates and, of course, of the Latin electorate.

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