From the very start, President Donald Trump’s message has revolved around immigration reforms, proposing sweeping changes aimed at curbing the entry of illegals to the United States. While this has generated a lot of controversy, President Trump’s relentless campaigning for the midterm elections – staging huge rallies all around the US which have been likened to rock concerts – galvanized the Republican voter base that responded to his warnings against the entry of “undesirables” into the United States. Even Americans of Hispanic and Asian descent agree, saying that while America is a nation of immigrants, they believe in the sovereignty of the state and the need to uphold the rule of law.
Although the Democrats managed to take control of Congress, it was not the sweeping “blue wave” that Trump critics have predicted or expected as the Democrats only managed to flip 28 Republican-held seats (for a 225-197 tally as of this writing) – a far cry from the results of the last “wave” in 2010 when the Republicans managed to wrest control of Congress by capturing 63 Democrat-held seats, observers noted. Historically, too, an incumbent president usually loses the House during the midterm elections.
But what is very significant is that the Republicans held on to their Senate dominance – prompting commentators and even Trump opponents such as lawyer Michael Avenatti to concede that Democrats should not have underestimated President Trump’s campaigning skills.
Trump supporters say that while the Republicans lost Congress, keeping control of the Senate is more critical as it could provide a strong barrier against any future attempts at impeachment since a two-thirds vote from the Senate would be needed.
In the last 105 years, there have been only five instances when a ruling party has won majority of seats in the Senate during midterms, said economist and The
Capitalist Code author Ben Stein, who called the president “a magic man” and marveled at the way Trump pulled off these “enormous wins” despite the attacks he has been getting from media every day, Stein said.
It’s also worth noting that Democratic senators who voted against President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh lost their seats. The contentious debate involving Kavanaugh who suffered from allegations of sexual abuse during the confirmation hearings was a hot issue that President Trump took to the campaign trail. As one political science professor noted, “those Democratic senators paid the ultimate political price.”
On a positive note, Democratic Congresswoman and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is a strong candidate for the Speakership, said Congress will pursue a bipartisan legislative agenda, adding that Americans have had “enough of division.”
As always, everyone in Washington, D.C. especially my ASEAN diplomatic colleagues and I will be watching developments, as we will be working with both the Democrats and Republicans to bring across our concerns. One of these is on immigration with the Trump administration being understandably tough against illegals, although there are also plans to limit even the entry of legal migrants. But hopefully, we can help Filipinos with pending applications because of the positive image and good reputation FilipinoAmericans have in the United States.
America’s BUILD Act
Republicans and Democrats may be divided on many issues, but they all agree that the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development or BUILD Act is an important piece of legislation that strengthens the US agenda of advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific.
During the recent forum entitled “Building the IndoPacific: ASEAN Stakeholder Forum” held at the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C. where I was one of the panelists (see photos in This Week on PeopleAsia at the Allure Section of the Philippine STAR today), Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Walter Douglas emphasized the importance of private sector-led development which is key to the economic component of the US Indo-Pacific Strategy.
The bipartisan bill signed into law by President Trump last month will establish the International Development Finance Corporation with a $60 billion funding to invest in developing countries and help them become more self-reliant, bringing in more jobs that would help lead to stability and security.
The BUILD Act is of course a “soft power” approach of the US in strengthening its presence in the region. At the same time, it is also America’s response to the Belt and Road Initiative of China that is widening its global influence through loans that critics say come with “strings attached.”
In my opening comments during the forum, I spoke about the Duterte administration’s massive “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure initiative to make growth more inclusive, with a goal of investing $170 billion in six years into the Philippines’ infrastructure development.
I also shared that “Build, Build, Build” is gathering momentum, with infrastructure spending from January to July this year increasing by 47 percent compared to the same period in 2017. Over the next few years, the Philippines will be making heavy investments toward upgrading ports and airports, creating new rail lines, improving mass transportation, and providing bridges to link islands and road systems that would bring farms closer to cities.
We are fortunate to have the full support of our friends in the region such as Japan, China, and Korea that have all committed billions of dollars in investments and official development assistance that complement support from multilateral development institutions.
Definitely, the passage of the BUILD Act is also a very encouraging development which, hopefully, will see more American companies investing in infrastructure especially with government reforms that would make doing business in the Philippines easier. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org