Kamala Harris's foreign policy

With such a broad field of candidates in the Democratic Primary, twenty in all, it is difficult to identify and to process the political positions of the various candidates. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) has spoken on her positions on many topics including a $15 minimum wage and tax-cuts to the middle class. One issue that has not yet been discussed at length is Senator Kamala Harris’ foreign policy platform. Like many of the candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, Harris does not have any direct foreign policy experience. As a former district attorney of San Francisco and later the attorney general of California, Harris holds strong experience and policy stances in regards to domestic policy. Harris currently holds opinions on the following issues: U.S. and Israel Relations, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, direct U.S. involvement abroad, and North Korea.

U.S. and Israel Relations

Harris is a long-time supporter of strong relations between the U.S. and Israel, a topic that has become contentious within the Democratic Party. In 2017, Harris cosponsored a Senate resolution that challenged an earlier resolution from the U.N. Security Council which called for an end to the expansion of Israeli settlements into the West Bank region. This particular Senate resolution stated that it felt that the U.N. resolution condemned the state of Israel as a whole and not just the actions of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government. In the past, Harris has stated that she believes in a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and that she supports U.S. backed discussion between the two states. It is too early to tell, but Kamala Harris’s foreign policy platform will likely include a continuation of her support for a two-state solution with an emphasis on a continued relationship between the U.S. and Israel.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Senator Harris, along with senators from both parties, opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP was introduced at the end of Obama’s presidency in 2016 and was promptly withdrawn by President Trump in Jan. 2017. The deal would have connected the U.S. in a formal trade agreement with Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Japan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. The agreement had the potential to increase U.S. trade and investment abroad. Harris’ own reasons for voting against the TPP include her belief that the agreement was not as apparent as it should have been to garner the full support and trust of the U.S. and that she found its intended changes to invalidate “California’s landmark climate change and environmental laws.” It is currently unclear if Harris intends to advocate for a re-entry of the U.S. into the TPP under revised conditions.

Direct Involvement Abroad: Syria and Yemen

In February of 2019, Harris voted against a Senate resolution proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that admonished President Trump’s removal of U.S. troops from Syria. Senator Harris did not publically explain her vote but may have been motivated by a desire to remove U.S. troops from Syria or a reluctance to be associated with a military presence that had not been authorized by Congress. Harris has also been vocal in her disapproval of U.S. support of a Saudi-led intervention in Yemen stating that she “believes we must reassert our constitutional authority to authorize war and conduct oversight.”

North Korea

Senator Harris has not made any direct statements regarding her planned approach to the rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea but has declared that she disapproves of President Trump’s current approach to the situation. Along with eighteen other senators, Harris signed a letter to President Trump in 2018 stating that he did not have the legal authority to declare a strike on North Korea. From such a statement alongside her other positions in regard to U.S. foreign involvement in conflict abroad, Senator Harris’ foreign policy platform will likely include an emphasis on the power of Congress.

Though it is still early in the Democratic primary and many of the candidates have not yet discussed their foreign policy platforms, the above descriptions of the history of Senator Harris’ foreign policy positions will certainly guide the debates to follow.

– Anne Pietrow
Photo: Flickr

Requirements for Senate?
In anticipation for the upcoming midterm elections on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, 35 out of 100 seats will be sought by both incumbents and candidates running for the U.S. Senate. While elected positions, such as Congressional representatives in the House, are appointed positions, like that of Supreme Court justices, the requirements for Senators are more extensive. If so, then what are the requirements for Senate?

Election Requirements

According to Article I, section three, clause three of the U.S. Constitution, Senators must be at least 30 years old, surpassing the House’s age requirement of at least 25 years. Also, Senators must be naturalized U.S. citizens for a minimum of nine years and must be residents of the state for which they are elected (as written in Article Five, section three of the U.S. Constitution).

In contrast, the House only requires their representatives to have been naturalized for a minimum of seven years. So how and where did these requirements for Senate and House originate?

These criteria were established in the U.S. Constitution. According to the History, Art, and Archives of the House of Representatives, the criteria regarding a Senator’s state residency were founded in response to prior British laws, where “Under English Law, no person ‘born out of the kingdoms of England, Scotland, or Ireland’ could be a member of either house or Parliament.”

The minimum age requirement for Senators was deemed necessary in “The Federalist, No.62,” where Madison wrote that “senatorial trust” required a “greater extent of information and stability of character,” than that of representatives in the House. As Senators are seemingly granted more confidence than House Representatives, this raises the question — what are the requirements for Senate reelections?       

How Senate Reelection Works

From 1990 to 2012, incumbent Senators won reelection on an average of 87.6 percent, according to the Washington Post. From the year 2013, both incumbent and non-incumbent Senate winners spent an average of $8,650,000.

In this 2018 election, “10 Democratic incumbents are running for re-election in states won by President Trump, including deep red ones like North Dakota and West Virginia.”

Why these Requirements Matter in the 2018 Midterm Elections

The Trump administration is nearing its halfway mark, signaling an opportunity for Democrats to take control of the Senate in 2018, upsetting the current Republican majority in Congress.

However, FiveThirtyEight explained that this feat would be quite difficult. In order for Democrats to gain the Senate majority, the Democrats “must flip two of those nine [seats held by Republicans] — without losing any seats of their own.”

Senate Powers in Addressing Global Poverty

First, it is important to distinguish between the roles of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Although the majority party in the House is primarily responsible for scheduling, this is not the case in Senate. In Senate, scheduling is “generally mutually agreed by majority and minority leaders.”

Furthermore, Senate, unlike the House, focuses more on U.S. foreign policy. Given the Senate’s lessened degree of partisan scheduling relative to that of the House, the Senate holds the ability to influence the foreign policy matters, such as the international affairs budget.

Increased attention by Senate to this budget is vital to advancing poverty reduction efforts. Therefore, by understanding the requirements for Senate, we should vote for representation focused on alleviating global poverty in the Senate.

– Christine Leung
Photo: Flickr

be a senator
The United States Congress is made up of two chambers: an upper chamber known as the Senate and a lower chamber known as the House of Representatives. This is modeled after the British Parliament bicameral (two chamber) system. In England, this system is composed of a House of Lords and a House of Commons.

Today, the United States Congress is made up of 100 senators and 435 representatives. That is two senators from each state and one representative from each of the 435 recognized congressional districts in the United States. Members of Congress are voted in by the public and serve a six-year term if elected to Senate and a two-year term if elected to the House of Representatives.

When one considers the history, size and power of the United States Congress, there are many questions that may come to mind. One common question asked is: how old do you have to be to be a senator? To answer this question, one can look to the United States Constitution for the answer.

The Constitution reads, “No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.” From this, one can see that the answer to the question of how old one must be to be a senator in the United States is a minimum of  30 years old.

Answering this question often leads to another question: why did the writers of the United States Constitution choose this age as opposed to other ages? In addition to the structure of the two chamber congress system, the framers of the Constitution also looked to England when trying to determine the details for what the requirements to be a member of Congress would be.

At the time of the writing of the United States Constitution, England’s law required members of Parliament to be a minimum of  21 years old. Though the United States did not adopt the same age requirement, the adoption of an age requirement at all was significant.

Ultimately, it was determined that one must be 25 years of age to be a representative in the House of Representatives, a number similar to England’s, and 30 years of age to be a senator. The answer to the question of why 30 is the age that was determined by the writers of the Constitution is addressed by James Madison in The Federalist, No.  62. Madison explained that because of Senate’s deliberative nature, the “senatorial trust,” called for a “greater extent of information and stability of character,” than would be needed in the more democratic House of Representatives.

The United States Congress is a complex and integral part of the United States government. When determining the requirements to be a member of Congress, the framers of the Constitution had many factors to consider. Ultimately, they determined that as far as the requirement of age went, 30 was the appropriate age for a member of the Senate.

– Nicole Stout

Photo: Flickr

Resolution Introduced to Senate to Support World Tuberculosis Day
On March 19th, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio introduced S.Res. 437 to the Senate, which is a resolution that seeks to affirm the U.S. fight against tuberculosis and guarantee support of World Tuberculosis Day, while also trying to increase general awareness of the disease.

Extent of Tuberculosis

The resolution shares several alarming statistics about tuberculosis from 2016, and the extent to which the disease affected people that year:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) assessed that 10.4 million became infected with tuberculosis.
  • Around 1.7 million people lost their lives that year due to the illness.
  • Around the world, one million children became infected with the disease, and 250,000 lost their lives because of it.
  • Among HIV-negative people, tuberculosis was believed to cause 80 percent of deaths in both Africa and South Asia, and 33 percent of deaths occurred in India.
  • Currently, the resolution states that a quarter of the world’s entire population is infected with tuberculosis.

In an article about World Tuberculosis Day 2018, WHO stated that tuberculosis is the most prevalent in people who live in poverty, marginalized communities and otherwise vulnerable groups.

Goals for World Tuberculosis Day

The introduction of this resolution to the Senate indicates that the U.S. will continue its efforts to fight against the disease. The resolution has three specific aims:

  • To support World Tuberculosis Day and continue to raise awareness about the disease.
  • To applaud the efforts of various organizations to fight against tuberculosis; for instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
  • A general goal to increase the role of the U.S. as a leader in the fight against the disease, and to continue to improve the overall global response to this issue.

The U.S. has already made an important impact in fighting tuberculosis: “USAID remains committed to saving millions of lives by ending the tuberculosis epidemic by 2030,” wrote USAID Administrator Mark Green in a statement released on World Tuberculosis Day.

United State’s Role in Fighting the Disease

Green also pointed out in his statement that the effects of tuberculosis are not just physical. It is also harmful in terms of a country’s economy, because those affected by the disease can lose three to four months of work, and subsequently over one-fourth of their income while fighting the disease.

The Senate resolution notes that USAID currently assists 23 countries with high rates of tuberculosis by providing support in the form of financial and technical aid. This aid is used to pursue the creation of new tools to both detect and treat the disease; it is also applied towards research for vaccines.

A Goal of Eradication

Since 2000, the assistance and funding from USAID and the U.S. more broadly has resulted in a decrease in the incidence of tuberculosis by one-fifth. However, despite the progress being made to eliminate the disease, the high rates of infection and death among people living in poverty makes tuberculosis the top infectious-disease that leads to death around the world.

This resolution is an important declaration that the U.S. will continue to raise awareness of tuberculosis, and pursue the ultimate goal of permanently eradicating the disease.

– Jennifer Jones

Photo: Flickr

how to influence Congress
Lobbying the government for one’s self-interest is often seen as the dirty business of big corporations. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, $3.36 billion was spent on lobbying in 2017 by more than 11,500 lobbyists. While these figures may seem daunting to the novice voter, the power to bring change is still strongly held by constituents. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads, in part, “Congress shall make no law…prohibiting the free exercise…to petition the Government for the redress of grievances.”

With big corporations having many financial tools at their disposal, it may seem that they have the ear of those in Congress. However, most of the lobbying industry is funded by a variety of other organizations. Some of these include local banks, schools, hospitals and religious institutions, all of them lobbying for great causes such as ending breast cancer and diabetes and preventing AIDS. When learning how to influence Congress, persistence, organization and dedication are required, but anybody can make a change.

How to Influence Congress Effectively

  1. Learn the Best Way to Communicate
    Reach out to staffers or to a member of Congress to find out the best way to communicate with them. Different congressional offices weigh messages differently. (202) 224-3121 is the Capital switchboard and they can direct the call straight to your representative’s office.
  2. Send Effective Messages
    When reaching out to a member of Congress, make sure to identify yourself, state the issue you are advocating and explain how it relates to the community. The Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University polled 3,000 congressional staffers about which activities have the biggest influence on members of Congress. They considered “providing consistently reliable information” and “presenting a concise argument” to be the two most effective actions when lobbying or advocating for an issue.
  3. Use Social Media
    The Congressional Management Foundation, an organization dedicated to figuring out the inner workings of Congress, says “social media is often the most effective way to reach members of Congress online.” Twitter was found to be the most used social media platform of congressional offices, but the usage of and the impact varies from member to member.
  4. Respect Congressional Staffers
    It is important to treat congressional staffers with respect. They hold a great amount of leverage and often act as gatekeepers to certain members of Congress. Staffers can be the greatest ally a constituent can have in Washington and can help mold certain inquiries.
  5. Show Up in Person
    Calling, messaging and tweeting are certainly impactful and convenient ways on how to influence Congress, but showing up in person at town halls and public events is the most powerful way to reach members of Congress. Make sure to bring talking points and questions. Bring friends if possible; large numbers have large voices. Get there early and connect with staffers, as most town halls are staffed by senior-level state staffers. Many constituents assume that only D.C. staffers can influence the policy-making decisions, but getting to know the state players is a key part of advocacy.

Influencing a member of Congress is not achievable only by those in the upper echelons of society. Anybody can reach out and tell their story. Members of Congress want to hear from their constituents. They want to make policy decisions that best adhere to the voices in their community, but they can only do those if those voices speak out.

– Aaron Stein

Photo: Google

Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2017 Introduced in SenateSenator Ben Cardin (D-MD) launched the Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2017 in June 2017. This bill would require a report from the United States on the accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Syria by the Syrian government.

Syria’s ongoing conflict has lasted over six years as of the year 2017. The war crimes committed in the nation have caused over 4,900,000 citizens to flee to neighboring countries, with another 600,000 living under siege. Evidence has been collected by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) declaring that the Syrian government has “committed the crimes against humanity of extermination, murder, rape or other forms of sexual violence, torture, imprisonment, enforce disappearance and other inhuman acts.”

Furthermore, a report from 2016 stated that the Syrian government forces used chemicals in an attack in Idlib in 2015 in violation of a pact. The United States and Russia made an agreement requiring Syria to dispose of all chemical weapons to prevent further harm to the Syrian people. Because of these accounts, at least 12 other countries have requested assistance in investigating the ongoing conflict in Syria in order to prevent further war crimes.

Congress has taken initiative, urging all parties in the conflict to halt attacks on civilians and provide the necessary humanitarian and medical assistance in order to end the siege on all peoples. This is a result of another document reporting that, in February alone, the Syrian government prevented 80,000 medical treatment items from going into besieged areas. Syrian citizens now rely on interference from the United States to help provide for humanitarian needs.

Although Congress cannot prevent these sieges from affecting the Syrian people as of right now, the United States has taken action by accepting approximately 12,500 refugees from Syria with the goal of resettlement. This number exceeds the Obama administration’s goal of resettling 10,000 Syrians, a huge accomplishment in itself.

The Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2017 would ensure a report is submitted to the appropriate congressional committees reporting on the war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, and would not cease until the Secretary of State determined that the violence in Syria has ceased. It would also ensure that USAID, the Department of Defense and other programs within the government are held accountable for their participation in the war crimes that are occurring in Syria.

The United States is the world’s largest donor to the Syrian humanitarian response, donating a total of $5.9 billion. However, the passing of this bill would allow the United States to assist much more in the well-being of the Syrian people. The next step for the Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2017, since it has already passed the Senate, is to pass through the House of Representatives.

– Adrienne Tauscheck

Photo: Flickr

qualifications to become a senatorThe legislative branch of the U.S. government, known as Congress, is made up of two different chambers. The lower chamber, the House of Representatives, is made up of 435 representatives who are also called Congressmen and Congresswomen. The number of Congressmen and Congresswomen in the House of Representatives is determined by the population in each congressional district.

The upper chamber, the Senate, is made up of 100 senators. Each state elects only two senators to ensure each state has equal representation. The Senate is meant to be the check to the House of Representatives.

Many people who wish to make a difference in their communities and country would wish to run for a political office, such as senate. However many ask, what are the qualifications to become a senator?

 

Age Requirement

Despite being the least known of the qualifications to become a senator, any person wanting to run for Senate must be at least 30 years old. This rule has been in place since the conception of the Senate with the creation of the constitution in 1787. However, in our history, the United States has had a couple of noticeable exceptions — the youngest senator to ever serve was Senator John Henry Eaton of Tennessee who was sworn in on November 17, 1818.

Senator Eaton was only 28 years old at the time, but due to inefficient birth records, this fact was not realized until after he took the oath. Senator Joe Biden of Delaware was the youngest to be sworn in while still aligning with all the qualifications to become a senator; when he was sworn in on January 1973, Senator Biden was 30 years old and 45 days.

 

United States Citizenship

To become a senator, a candidate must be a United States citizen for at least nine years. In this sense, they must be a legalized citizen but they can be from any other country in the world.

Some United States senators who were not born in the United States include Colorado’s Senator Michael Bennet who was born in India, Texan Senator Ted Cruz who was born in Canada and Senator Tammy Duckworth from Illinois who was born in Thailand.

 

Which State to Represent

When a person runs for Senate, they run for a certain state, such as Senator of Indiana or Senator of Florida. He or she must live in the state that they run for, not necessarily the state they were born in. For example, Former president and Senator Barack Obama was born in Hawaii but campaigned for Senate in the state of Illinois, where he was currently living.

There is no set amount of time that a person must live in the state he or she wishes to represent before running for Senate, just that the candidate must be a legal resident of that state.

 

Making a Difference

These constitutional requirements answer the question: “What are the qualifications to become a senator?” Many citizens who have run for Congress in the past have studied law, political science and public service, though a degree is not required. Also, many Congressmen and Congresswomen have military experience, though this is not required either.

These are some of the answers to the question of “what are the qualifications to become a senator?” Anyone who fits these qualifications can legally run for Senate in the United States and have the possibility to make a difference in their communities and the country as a whole.

– Courtney Wallace

Photo: Flickr

 

Read: How many Senators are there

 

Senator Johnny IsaksonNow in his third term, Sen. Johnny Isakson is among a group of bipartisan senators trying to find the right formula for an immigration deal. Although his run as Senator began in 2005, his political and public service career started long before.

 

Road to the Senate

 

Finishing his education at the University of Georgia, Isakson served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966 to 1972. He was elected to the Georgia State Senate in 1993 and furthered his career as residing chair to the Georgia board of education.

Isakson continued his path in politics by becoming a U.S. Representative in the One Hundred Sixth U.S. Congress, filling Newt Gingrich’s open seat. He was re-elected twice more to the House of Representatives. In 2004, Isakson was elected to the U.S. Senate.

 

Legislation for Foreign Aid

 

Sen. Johnny Isakson has done substantial work in the Senate and is willing to push forward in Congress when times seem troubling.

He has introduced the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and Millenium Challenge Act (MCA) Modernization Act, which encourages U.S. commercial relationships with African countries that are committed to principles of good governance and looking to improve the trade environment between all parties.

The Economic Growth and Development Act is another bill Sen. Isakson sponsored through his career. This bipartisan legislation helps the private sector work with the U.S. to strengthen economic development, fight disease and alleviate poverty in developing countries.

Sen. Isakson has continued to promote and further U.S. capabilities in regards to foreign aid. He introduced the Reach Every Mother and Child Act, which aims to alleviate preventable mother and child deaths by 2035. This bill alone will help save lives and allow for mothers and children to receive medical help.

Sen. Johnny Isakson has done remarkable work through introducing bills and promoting foreign aid to strengthen U.S. international diplomacy. His work never ends as a U.S. Senator; Isakson’s office told The Borgen Project that his next priority in legislation is to ensure “the life-saving food security programs managed under the Feed the Future Initiative will continue for another five years.” The program not only helps neighboring countries abroad but also is an investment in U.S. national security.

Striving to assist other developing countries and further the growth of U.S. foreign aid is greatly shown in Sen. Isakson’s efforts in Congress. He is looking to promote through legislation an international environment for business to grow. Sen. Isakson’s office told The Borgen Project that “when you empower individuals, communities and businesses, you can help drive economic growth.” Action in communities and government go a long way to help the impoverished and this action is seen in Sen. Johnny Isakson’s career in Congress.

– Bronti DeRoche

Photo: U.S. Air Force

How Old Do You Have to Be to Run for Congress?How old do you have to be to run for Congress? To hold a seat in the U.S. Senate, the youngest a person can be is 30 years old. However, one does not have to be 30 years old in order to run for Senate as long as they are 30 years old by the time that they are sworn in. For example, Joe Biden was 29 years old when he ran and was elected as a senator of Delaware.

Despite the fact that Biden was extremely young when he first took office in the Senate, he is only the fifth-youngest senator in U.S. history. The youngest senator in U.S. history is John Henry Eaton of Tennessee, who was 28 years old when he became a senator. Though Eaton was elected after the age requirement for the Senate was established in 1787, birth records were poorly kept during this time so it was much harder to guarantee that all candidates were of age.

The age requirement for the Senate was debated after establishing the age requirement for the House of Representatives, which was originally 21 years old, or the voting age at the time. The age was later increased to 25 years old after a move by George Mason of Virginia, who claimed that to hold a seat in the House, one should have time to get his or her own affairs in order before trying to manage a nation. This fact helps to answer the question “how old do you have to be to run for Congress?”

However, the age requirement for the House remained lower than many other positions because the founders wanted this legislative chamber to be closer to the people than any other chamber. Due to this desire, the founders were a lot less restrictive when establishing the requirements for the House. The restriction on age for the Senate is different because the founders felt that the greater responsibilities of Senators required those in office to have more knowledge and greater character stability than Representatives.

While Eaton was the youngest Senator in US history at 28 years old, William Charles Claiborne, also from Tennessee, was the youngest Representative ever. Claiborne, born in 1775, was 22 when he was elected as a Representative. Claiborne was later elected again, at age 24, while he still did not meet the age requirement.

Though the U.S. has elected quite a few Congressmen who are under the age requirement, this trend has not continued, as the average age of a U.S. Senator is 60 years old. However, some young people who have run for Congress recently are trying to encourage more young people to run for office and get more involved in politics.

“How old do you have to be to run for Congress?” was a question that went through the mind of Erin Schrode. Schrode, a woman from Marin County, California, began a campaign for Congress when she was only 24. Schrode did not win the 2016 election for House of Representatives, but if she had, she would have been the youngest ever Congresswoman. This title is currently held by Elise Stefanik, who was 30 years old when she was elected to be a Representative in 2014.

Schrode claims that she never intended to get involved in politics, but after seeing her mother’s dedication to her work towards combating skyrocketing cancer rates, Schrode developed a passion for politics. She believes that more young people should run for Congress because 35 percent of the U.S. population is under the age of 30, but people under 30 rarely hold Congressional seats.

– Haley Rogers

Photo: Flickr

AGOA and MCA Modernization ActOn Jan. 17, 2018, the House of Representative passed H.R. 3445, the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act. The legislation adds on to the original African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, which was passed into law on May 18, 2000, by the 106th Congress.

As an extension of AGOA, the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act encourages plans to promote trade and cooperation while also providing aid to countries that are AGOA eligible. The region of focus of the legislation is sub-Saharan Africa, with the goals being to build private sector growth. Under the bill, the President will be directed to create a website with information about AGOA along with encouraging embassies in chosen countries to promote export opportunities to the United States.

In addition, the​ ​bill​ ​would​ ​give​ ​the​ ​Millennial Challenge Corporation (MCC)​ ​the​ ​authority​ ​to​ ​develop​ ​a​ ​second​ ​concurrent​ ​compact​ ​with countries,​ ​provided​ ​the​ ​compact​ ​focuses​ ​on​ ​regional​ ​economic​ ​development.​ The​ ​ability​ ​to​ ​enter​ ​into​ ​a​ ​second​ ​compact​ ​will​ ​be​ ​limited​ ​to​ ​countries​ ​that​ ​demonstrate​ ​progress toward​ ​meeting​ ​the​ ​objectives​ ​of​ ​the​ ​first​ ​compact​ ​and​ ​capacity​ ​to​ ​handle​ ​an​ ​additional​ ​compact.

The MCC was created in 2004 by the Bush administration, with the aim to reduce poverty through economic growth. The MCC has committed more than $10 billion in 58 projects in 25 countries. Around 70 percent of this investment has gone into infrastructure projects like highways and ports and an increasing percentage is being invested in energy.

On the House floor prior to the vote, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA-39) said that the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act “seeks to facilitate trade and private sector-led growth in poor but relatively well-governed countries, particularly in Africa, so they can grow their own way out of poverty.”

“Through AGOA, goods produced in eligible African countries enter the U.S. on a duty-free basis. To be eligible, countries must be committed to the rule of law, eliminating barriers to U.S. trade and investment, combating corruption and supporting counterterrorism activities. So AGOA advances U.S. interests on many levels.”

Trade being a driver of economic development and increased civilian participation in politics is one of the main arguments for passing the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act. Economists and experts agree that the legislation does not just benefit sub-Saharan Africa, but also the United States, as it helps create jobs and benefits consumers and companies through free-market principles.

Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA-37) was enthusiastic about the passage of the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act by a unanimous vote. Bass is a ranking member of the House Africa Subcommittee. She is an avid supporter of the legislation and said the policy would foster economic development, as well as strengthen the United States as an international leader and boost the domestic job market and economy.

The bill was introduced to the House by Rep. Royce. At the time the bill was initially introduced, Rep. Royce along with fellow representatives Bass, Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Chris Smith (R-NJ), stated that steering developing countries toward trade and away from aid helps African countries and women. Africa’s consumer spending nearing $1 trillion was what prompted the four to push for the passing of the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act.

The AGOA and MCA Modernization Act still needs to be approved by the Senate. The bill has been introduced by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Chris Coons (D-DE) as S.832. Sen. Coons stated that it is vital that Congress does all it can do to promote economic growth in developing countries and expand American business access to foreign markets. He is excited that the act will encourage trade with sub-Saharan Africa.

The recent passing of the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act in the House may give the legislation the momentum it needs to soon be accepted in the Senate. Visit The Borgen Project Action Center to contact your representative about this critical legislation.

– Blake Chambers

Photo: Wikimedia Commons