Here’s your weekly quick look at few developing stories in the political arena:
- Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia lost his U.S. Representative primary to Tea Party candidate Dave Brat. Cantor, who had been speculated to be the next speaker of the House when John Boehner retires, now finds himself out of office. Cantor said, “It’s disappointing, sure, but I believe in this country. I believe there is opportunity around the next corner for all of us.” This comes as a major shock, as Cantor is considered a staunchly conservative Republican and no one predicted the race would be close, let alone a victory for Brat. It is also looking less likely that Speaker Boehner will retire soon without Cantor to replace him.
- Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke in front of Congress this week over the Bergdahl prisoner swap deal, calling it the right decision. Hagel said, “The President has constitutional responsibilities and constitutional authorities to protect American citizens and members of our armed forces. That’s what he did. America does not leave its soldiers behind. We made the right decision, and we did it for the right reasons, to bring home one of our own people.” Critics of the prisoner exchange, mostly Republicans, say the cost was too high and those freed could then fight again against the U.S. Members of both parties also complained that the Obama administration failed to notify Congress ahead of time. The United States freed army soldier Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban figures who were being detained at Guantanamo Bay. Bergdahl, who was held captive for 5 years, is due to arrive back in the United States on Friday.
- The Senate this week approved the bipartisan bill which aims to make it easier for veterans who’ve had long wait times for VA medical care to receive treatment from local doctors instead. Senator John McCain, who help put together the bill, said, “This is an unprecedented piece of legislation in that, for the first time, it’s going to provide our veterans with a choice. There’s hard work that’s been done on this legislation, hard work and a lot of compromises.” The Veterans Affairs Department released an audit this week showing that more than 57,000 veterans had to wait at least three months for appointments, and some who asked never got them.
- And finally, President Obama on Monday signed an executive order which expands on a law that capped student loan borrowers’ repayment but left a hole in eligibility for people with older loans. Those left out of that law include people who borrowed before October or stopped borrowing by October. The law caps repayments of federal student loans at 10 percent of their monthly income. President Obama said, “This is commencement season, a time for graduates and their families to celebrate one of the greatest achievements of a young person’s life. But for many graduates, it also means feeling trapped by a whole lot of student loan debt.” The White House said the change will allow an additional 5 million borrowers with federal student loans to cap their monthly payments at just 10 percent of their income. Federal student loan debt reached over $1 trillion dollars last year and some economists believe it is a crisis waiting to happen.