Daily Comment (April 19, 2017)

by Bill O’Grady, Kaisa Stucke, and Thomas Wash

[Posted: 9:30 AM EDT] In Georgia, Jon Ossoff fell short of achieving the 50% threshold needed for him to win the vacant House of Representatives seat in Georgia. As a result, Ossoff will face Karen Handel, the Republican candidate, in a run-off on June 8. His surprise showing has breathed fresh life into the Democrat Party, which sees Ossoff’s success as a sign of growing dissatisfaction with the GOP. As mentioned in yesterday’s report, the seat is inconsequential in terms of a power shift in the House, but it could be a positive sign for what Democrats can expect in the 2018 mid-term elections. There are 34 Senate seats up for grabs in 2018, 25 of which are held by Democrats.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration informed Congress via letter that Iran has complied with the nuclear agreement, also referred to as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but the administration is concerned about Iran’s role as a state sponsor of terror. Under the terms of the deal, the White House is required to notify Congress every 90 days of Iran’s compliance. During the election, Trump referred to the JCPOA as “the worst deal ever negotiated” and imposed new sanctions on Iran in February after evidence surfaced of ballistic missile tests. The letter goes on to say that the National Security Council will continue to evaluate whether sanctions should be suspended and would only do so if it is in the best interests of national security.

In other news, Trump signed a new executive order broken into two parts, “Buy American” and “Hire American.” The first part is aimed at preventing abuses of the H-1B program, in which tech firms look to cut costs by hiring highly skilled foreign workers. It also seeks advice for changes in the program that would favor highly skilled workers with advanced degrees. Currently, the program admits 65,000 temporary immigrants with at least a bachelor’s degree in addition to 20,000 immigrants with advanced degrees. The second part of the order requires federal agencies to purchase more U.S.-made goods when possible. The executive order appears to be a response to recent criticism of perceived policy reversals by the Trump administration.

In Japan, VP Mike Pence reassured leaders of the U.S. commitment to reigning in North Korea as well as promoting economic ties. Pence stated that the U.S. is looking into additional economic sanctions that would deter North Korea’s nuclear program. His visit was seen as a success by many leaders who feared Pence would use the occasion to express disappointment in the current trade relationship. Japan currently has a trade surplus of $10 billion with the U.S. and Trump has frequently criticized it for unfair trade policies. It is worth noting that earlier this week Pence had criticized South Korea for its treatment of American businesses.

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