14 in 2014: US midterm elections

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14. United States midterm elections, November 4.USflag

Though US president Barack Obama and his administration’s top officials — secretary of state John Kerry, national security adviser Susan Rice and defense secretary Chuck Hagel — will continue to set the tone for US foreign policy through January 2017, US voters will elect all 435 members of the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate, the upper house of the US Congress.

In particular, the Republican Party hopes to finish what it started with the 2010 midterm elections by winning control of both the House, where it currently enjoys a 232-to-200 majority, and the Senate, where the Democratic Party (and two independent allies) holds a 55-45 lead.  A bevy of gubernatorial elections (in 36 out of 50 states) will also decide who controls 12 out of the 15 most populous US states, including California, Florida, New York, Texas.

Midterm elections — and control of Congress — can effect huge results on American foreign policy.  Just recall the way that the 2006 midterm elections forced the nearly immediate resignation of former president George W. Bush’s defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and signaled a new era in the US occupation in Iraq.

If the Republicans succeed, it would make Congress a much more muscular voice of opposition to Obama’s signature foreign policy initiatives — most notably with regard to Iran, with which the administration hopes to reach a deal on Iran’s nuclear energy program.  But the enhanced scrutiny from the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and other committees to hold hearings on everything from Iran to the 2011 Benghazi consulate attack in Libya to the Obama administration’s ongoing global efforts to stop terror from Pakistan to Somalia to Yemen, could complicate Obama’s final two years in office.  The Republicans would also be able to pass legislation designed to embarrass the Obama administration or attempt to rein in executive power.

 Next: 14 more to watch in 2014

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