January 26, 2021

Volume XI, Number 26

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Senator Jon Kyl and Congressman Howard Berman on the Election

GlobalPolicyWatch (GPW) interviewed former Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and former Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA) about the election and its likely aftermath.

GPW:  Senator Kyl, what do you think the primary objectives will be of the Republican leadership in the new Congress?

Senator Kyl:  Both Senator McConnell and Congressman Boehner will want to return to the “regular order” of legislating.  They know it works and will also demonstrate they can govern and that they can pass bipartisan measures.  Obviously, governing requires the cooperation of the President.  This means the likelihood of early passage of legislation on a number of topics, like the Keystone XL Pipeline, trade promotion authority, repeal of the medical device tax, and potentially, spending on infrastructure.  Finding offsets for sequestration is another possibility.

GPW:  What happens after these measures pass?

Senator Kyl:  I expect that very soon thereafter, perhaps by early summer next year, the Congress and President will run out of the easy things to do.  Congress will be sending bills to the President which will be vetoed. After that, the political game will be on.

GPW:  How do you expect the Republican leadership to utilize Congressional procedures?

Senator Kyl:  Both Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell are believers in regular congressional processes.  I expect Senate committees to have an enhanced role.  Also, there will be more time for floor debate and the amendment process in the Senate.

GPW:  What do you think will happen on the two critical issues of tax reform and immigration in the next Congress?

Senator Kyl:  It is unlikely that Congress will pass legislation on either of those topics.  If the President issues an executive order on immigration, as he has promised, that would poison the well, severely damage the relationship between Congress and the White House, and probably make immigration reform impossible.  On taxes, there are simply too many differences between the parties for reform in the short time before the next campaigning begins, unfortunately.

GPW:  What do you think will happen in the lame duck?

Senator Kyl:  There may be passage of some legislation relating to the foreign affairs, including authorization of U.S. military action.  However, these will be relatively tangential.  There will be consideration of Presidential nominees for various positions, including attorney general.  If the President’s nominee for attorney general is strongly opposed by the Republicans, this will lead to an earlier worsening of relations between Congress and the President.  Tax extenders, DOD authorization, and funding the government for the remainder of the fiscal year are the big items that must be done.

GPW:  How would you summarize likely developments in the near term?

Senator Kyl:  The Republican leadership will try to pass some things early to show they can be bipartisan and constructive.  These will cease soon.  The President will not compromise much.  There will be severe partisanship by the end of the summer, again, unfortunately.

 *     *     *

GPW:  Congressman Berman, how do you view what happened Tuesday?

Congressman Berman:  The Democratic loss cannot merely be attributed to the fact that a disproportionate number of red states were in play.  The loss was deeper than that.  Much like President Bush in 2006, the results reflect the fact that President Obama is not popular among many of the voters.  They also reflect the fact that the Republican leadership did an effective job of finding and supporting candidates who appealed to the voters.

GPW:  Do you think that these results will lead to leadership changes for Democrats in Congress?

Congressman Berman:  I do not believe there will be changes in the basic leadership.  Nancy Pelosi will continue to be the Democratic leader in the House.  She is very energetic and a strong fundraiser.  She also enjoys considerable popularity among the members.

GPW:  In view of the election results and the fact that there will be fewer Democrats in the House, do you think the direction of the Democrats’ position on various issues will change in the House?

Congressman Berman:  I expect that the caucus will move to the left.  This will not be a major change but it will be perceptible.  There will probably be an even smaller percentage of Democrats in the House willing to vote to give the President Trade Protection Authority (TPA), or to ratify trade agreements. 

GPW:  What do you think will happen in the lame duck session?

Congressman Berman:  There will be action on foreign policy issues.  These will include seeking to enact an updated authorization for the use of force in Syria and Iraq against ISIS.  If there should be a nuclear deal with Iran, and a majority in Congress is unhappy with it, there will be pressure to enact even tougher sanctions against Iran.  The push for these sanctions will have some Democratic support and will be over the opposition of the President.  In the lame duck, that push for increased sanctions will probably not be successful; but it could well be in the next Congress.  Also, I expect that Congress will spend considerable time in the lame duck on approving judicial nominees and also ambassadorships.

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© 2020 Covington & Burling LLPNational Law Review, Volume IV, Number 311
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About this Author

Allan Topol, Covington, Environmental attorney
Senior Counsel

Allan Topol is a resident in the firm’s Washington office.  While practicing law with Covington, he has written ten novels of international intrigue and numerous articles dealing with foreign policy issues in The Huffington PostThe New York TimesThe Washington Post, and Military.com.

Mr. Topol’s law practice has involved extensive civil and criminal litigation, with an emphasis on water, air and major hazardous waste enforcement cases, as well as international environmental law and toxic torts.  He has also advised clients on many of...

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