Texas Runoff on Tuesday

The polls will close at 8:00 PM EST on Tuesday night for the runoff elections in Texas and could bring the first loss for an incumbent of this primary season. Despite being well liked and backed by the Texas delegation, 17-term incumbent Ralph Hall, the oldest member in Congress at age 91, failed to secure the 50 percent of the vote in the primary. Because of this, he is up against former U.S. attorney John Ratcliffe in Tuesday’s runoff election. In the primary, Ratcliffe only won 28.8 percent of the vote while Hall earned 45.4 percent, but the runoff could go either way.  The Washington Post reports that “the contest has been more generational than ideological”, according to “close observers”. Generational differences commonly figure into congressional races. For instance, in one of the more notable contests in 2012, 31-year-old Eric Swalwell defeated incumbent California Representative Pete Stark, 82, who was first elected 7 years before his challenger was born. Whether age will be a decisive factor in the Hall-Ratcliffe fight remains to be seen.  Political science professor Mark Jones of Rice University in Texas said, “I think Hall is in reasonably good shape, but he certainly is not out of the woods”. Representative Hall is the oldest serving member of Congress as well as the oldest person ever to serve in the House of Representative.

Washington Post: The Five Biggest Things to Watch in the Texas Runoffs

Roll Call: First Incumbent Could Lose in Tuesday’s Texas Runoff

President Obama to announce strategy for Afghanistan

President Obama announced on Tuesday that approximately 9,800 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan after the combat mission ends in 2014. That number would be halved by the end of 2015, and by the end of 2016 the forces would be reduced to “a normal embassy presence” according to a high-up administration official who spoke with the press in advance of the President’s announcement. The policy will go into effect if Afghan President Hamid Karzai signs a security agreement, but he has refused to do so thus far.

These figures are slightly lower the recommendation of General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., the commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, who asked for between 10,000 and 12,000 servicemen.  The American troops remaining in the country will train their Afghan counterparts, provide guidance, and continue counterterrorism operations.

In response to this announcement, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon of California criticized the President’s plan on Tuesday. McKeon is “pleased the White House met the military’s request” to remain past 2014, but also noted that “holding this mission to an arbitrary egg-timer doesn’t make a lick of sense strategically.” He pointed out that the country has been the “spawning ground of al-Qaeda”, and that the United States should “leave when the Afghans can manage that threat, rather than on convenient political deadlines that favor polls numbers over our security.”

The Hill: Obama Afghan Strategy “Doesn’t Make a Lick of Sense,” Says Lawmaker

Washington Post: Obama to Leave 9,800 U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

The Hill: US to Keep Troops in Afghanistan

And for our latest post: Using the “Pen and Phone” to Blur the Separation of Powers

And for all our posts: Congressional Institute Blog Archive