Arab Americans elected to Congress in election fray

Arab Americans elected to Congress in election fray

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Arab Americans elected to Congress in election fray

Democrats took control of the U.S House of Representatives by President Trump and Republicans increased their control of the U.S. Senate in the November 6 General elections. The question is whether or not the two sides can come together to work on programs to benefit the public or will the divisions continue with the mainstream news media leading the anti-Trump bias and Trump pursuing confrontationist policies. Meanwhile, Arab Americans managed some advances in Congress electing the first two female Muslim members of Congress

By Ray Hanania

راى حنانيا Ray Hanania

راى حنانيا
Ray Hanania

Democrats took back control of the U.S. House of Representatives in America’s mid-term elections Tuesday jeopardizing nearly all of President Trump’s policies and goals including the Muslim ban, immigration crackdown and efforts to stymie a Justice Department probe of his alleged involvement in Russian meddling.

Worse for Trump is that election now opens the door to the president’s possible impeachment. The House has the power to approve by a simple majority the impeachment of the President, beginning a process that could result in Trump’s forced removal from office before his four-year term can be completed.

But the Democrats failed to take control of the Senate, where they earmarked most of their campaign funding. And the Trump-led fight against the Democrats also again exposed the biases of American mainstream news media which predicted a massive Blue Wave sweep of Trump out of the House, out of the Senate and even out of many state governorships.

Trump did better than the mainstream news media pundits excitedly predicted, but he could not stop the mid-term crossover in Congress which traditionally occurs during the first election after a new president’s election to office.

Under American law, the U.S. House has the power to “impeach” a sitting president with a simple majority vote of its 435 members. Only two American presidents have been impeached by the Congress, Andrew Johnson in1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. It can be a long process. If the President is impeached, the move to expel would be turned over to the Senate for an “impeachment trial” and would require a majority vote of the Senate. That would be unlikely as long as Republicans have control of the Senate.

Based on unofficial vote totals, Trump and Republicans lost control of the House but strengthened their control of the Senate. Democrats gained 26 Congressional seats to take control of the U.S. House by only 1 vote (219 total Democrats with 218 needed to control the 435 members of the House). But Democrats lost two seats in the U.S. Senate and the number of Republicans rose to 51 of 100 seats. Democrats also gained 7 governorships of the 50 states and now control a total of 22 while Republicans control 25.

Losing the House puts many of Trump’s policies and programs in jeopardy of being blocked or reversed. Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi is expected to return as the new Speaker of the House when the new Congress is worn into office in January 2019, succeeding Republican Congressman Paul Ryan Jr.

The Democratic takeover of the U.S. House will have a significant and wide-ranging negative impact on Trump’s ability to push many of his controversial policies, including the Muslim Ban. But the election also portends possible problems for President Trump personally.

With control of the House, Democrats can empower U.S. Department of Justice “Special Counsel” Robert Mueller to advance his investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections and collusion with the Trump campaign. The Mueller investigation has been ongoing for nearly two years securing indictments of Trump aides on unrelated issues. But with House backing, it can intensify.

The House has the power to issue subpoenas and to initiate more investigations into a wide range of Trump controversies. Among the subpoenas could be a demand to Trump forcing him to provide copies of his income taxes which the President has refused to disclose.

The House will now have critical influence over many other issues and policies. Democrats have already criticized Trump’s ties to Saudi Arabia, and will harden policies on Russia, North Korea, and even prevent Trump from imposing harsh restrictions on Iran and China. The House could step in to block many of the promises that Trump has made to Saudi Arabia where he has worked hard to build a strong alliance.

Democrats like New York Senator Chuck Schumer made it clear that regardless of the shift in control of the House from Republicans to Democrats, the Democrats will continue to support Israel.

While Trump lost ground in the election, Arab and Muslim Americans saw glimmers of progress. The first Palestinian woman, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, was elected to the U.S. Congress. Also elected in Minnesota was Ihlan Omar, who will join Tlaib in Congress as the first two Muslim American women to serve there. Omar fills the vacancy created when Muslim American Congressman Keith Ellison chose to leave Congress in the face of allegations he abused his former girlfriend. Ellison ran for Minnesota Attorney General and won Tuesday. Ellison was the first Muslim elected to Congress in 2006.

In the highly contested 50th District in Southern California, Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar lost his bid to unseat Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter. Although the district is traditionally Republican, Hunter was indicted by the Federal government of misusing campaign funds for personal use, including purchasing an airline ticket for his family’s pet rabbit.

But Duncan attacked Campa-Najjar’s ethnicity and heritage to a grandfather accused of being involved in the 1972 massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. Campa-Najjar, who is half-Palestinian and half-Mexican, is the grandson of Muhammad Yusuf al-Najjar (aka Abu Yusuf), a senior member of the Palestinian terrorist group “Black September.” Abu Yusuf is blamed with orchestrating the Olympic attack. Duncan received 54.2 percent of the vote while Campa-Najjar received only 45.8 percent of the more than 122,00 votes cast.

Duncan also attacked Campa-Najjar describing him as a Muslim extremist, even though Campa-Najjar was raised Christian by his Mexican American mother.

Republican Justin Amash, the first Palestinian elected to Congress in 2010 in Michigan, won re-election with 55 percent of the vote, easily defeating Democrat Cathy Albro.

In Florida, Lebanese American Democrat Donna Shalala defeated Republican Maria Elvira Salazar in the 27th Congressional District. Shalala previously served as Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

Three other Arab American incumbents were easily re-elected. They are Republican Darin LaHood in Illinois’ 18th District. LaHood has represented the 18th District since 2015 after serving four years in the State Senate. His father previously served in the Congress.

In Louisiana, two Republican Congressmen also easily won re-election Tuesday (Nov. 6). Lebanese Congressman Ralph Abraham Jr., won in the 5th District, and Congressman Garret Graves, whose mother is Arab, won in the 6th District. Both were elected in 2014.

What remains to be seen is how the new Democratic controlled House will impact President Trump’s policies, including his push to impose “the deal of the century” to force Palestinians to accept a deficient peace with Israel.

Trump was accompanied by many of his top supporters on election night, including Israeli newspaper and gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who has also backed Israel’s rightwing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Adelson donated more than $100 million to support Republican House members during the past election. He is the publisher of Israel’s largest newspaper, the Hebrew language “Israel Hayom.”

The “Blue Wave” mid-term election sweep could also bring other notable policy changes that impact the Middle East and the Muslim World, besides blocking the “Muslim ban.”

Republican Congressman Peter Roskam was defeated in Illinois by Democratic challenger Sean Casten. Roskam is the author of a national law introduced to the Congress that would punish BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanction) advocates who boycott Israel’s extremist policies and illegal settlements. The “Anti-Israel Boycott Act” is currently before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, which was controlled by the Republican Party. The chairmanship will now go to a Democrat.

In the Kansas race for Governor, Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach was defeated by Democrat Senator State Laura Kelly. Kobach is Trump’s most influential adviser on immigration issues and is the architect of the Trump’s controversial “Muslim ban.”

As the final votes are counted, it is clear that Americans are still undecided about President Trump and his controversial policies. Neither he nor his critics can claim a decisive victory.

Neither Trump nor his Democratic critics will be able to move forward without forming some sort of consensus or compromise. That could be a good thing, forcing them to come together to get anything done. Or, it could just mean that America will remain in an undecided limbo for two more years through the next presidential election.

(Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist, and contractor with the village. Hanania can be reached on his personal website at www.Hanania.com and by email at rghanania@gmail.com.)

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

Click here to send Ray Hanania and email.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com ArabNews.com/taxonomy/term/10906
Ray Hanania