For Iowa Democrats, the caucuses come down to Trump

President Trump's impact on the Democratic nomination fight, the Supreme Court blocks a resumption of federal executions, and Congress nears a deal to trade creation of a U.S. Space Force for paid family leave for federal employees. That and more in this week's Inside Politics forecast.

Posted: Dec 8, 2019 9:10 PM
Updated: Dec 8, 2019 9:10 PM

Here are the stories our panel of top political reporters will be watching for in the week ahead, in this week's "Inside Politics" forecast.

1. In Iowa, it's all about Trump

President Donald Trump isn't running in the Iowa Democratic caucuses. But CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny says that with fewer than 60 days to go, the President is the dominant player in the race.

"I was surprised this week talking to some liberal voters who say they're so worried about President Trump, it's driving their decisions," Zeleny said. "One woman said she wanted to support Sen. Elizabeth Warren, but can't do it. Doesn't see her as electable."

Zeleny said that reminds him of a Democratic race more than a decade ago.

"This race is like 2004, when George W. Bush was in office, so the sitting president is at the center of so many conversations," Zeleny said.

2. Supreme Court blocks federal executions

The Supreme Court is blocking the President from bringing back the death penalty for federal crimes.

The federal government hasn't put any prisoner to death in nearly 20 years. Trump ordered an end to that hiatus, with a series of executions that had been scheduled to start this week.

"That's now on hold, because the Supreme Court has blocked both the first execution and several others that were planned," said AP Washington Bureau chief Julie Pace. "It's just one of several instances that we've seen of the courts stepping in to block administration priorities. We've seen this numerous times on immigration, for example."

Trump hasn't yet made public comments about last week's decision.

"It's going to be interesting to see how aggressively he tries to fight back against the Supreme Court on this," Pace said. Unlike immigration, she said, "restarting federal executions is not something that he had really prioritized, nor is it something that there's much of a national constituency for."

3. A Space Force trade-off

Trump is close to a deal with Democrats that would give each of them one of their key priorities: a new Space Force branch of the military in exchange for paid parental leave for federal workers.

Both measures could be included in the annual military authorization bill, Washington Post congressional reporter Karoun Demirjian said.

"We knew that if Trump was going to get his Space Force, there had to be a trade-off," Demirjian said. "And this is significant, on the paid family leave. It tends to be that whatever the government does, sets the tone for the nation. There have been discussions about having a national paid family leave policy, and the President's daughter has promoted that sort of thing."

Reaction to the trade-off could determine whether Congress moves to a broader family leave bill.

"What people say about this deal, especially on the GOP side, could set a standard for where this goes in the future and if it has a chance of expanding beyond this," Demirjian said.

4. The World Trade Organization's demise?

The World Trade Organization was created a quarter-century ago to police the global trade system and police major disputes. But the Trump Administration is about to render it toothless.

The US has been blocking the appointment of new members to the WTO's appellate panel to replace those whose terms have ended. And as of this week, there will be just one confirmed judge, which means it can't settle disputes between countries.

"Starting on December 11, the trade court is not going to have enough judges to issue binding resolutions," Wall Street Journal White House reporter Vivian Salama said. "So what does that mean? Someone raises a claim and it essentially could go unresolved."

How did we get here?

"It's part of the Trump Administration's broader war against a lot of multilateral organizations, including the WTO. So in the words of (former US trade ambassador) Carla Hills, 'You'll replace the rule of law with the rule of the jungle.'"

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