Udall questions Interior secretary on future of NM’s national monuments

Are New Mexico’s two national monuments safe from a reduction in size or elimination by President Donald Trump? That’s the question U.S. Sen. Tom Udall had for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Wednesday during a Senate subcommittee hearing. The Democratic senator is a staunch supporter of the designations of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte National Monuments, each of which are part of a review of national monuments ordered by the Trump administration earlier this year. “Will you commit to me today that you will respect the wishes of the vast majority of New Mexicans and maintain the existing boundaries of these two monuments?” Udall asked the former Montana congressman. Zinke said he would seek local input, referring to the process in the Bears Ears National Monument.

Senators slam GOP health care overhaul effort

Both of New Mexico’s U.S. senators slammed the recently-released Republican health care bill, saying it would hurt New Mexicans by damaging coverage. The two, both Democrats, also criticized the secretive process used by Republicans to craft the legislation. No public hearings are scheduled for the bill, and most Senators only got their first look at the language Thursday, days before the vote on the bill. Republicans hope to vote on the bill, which they dubbed the Better Care Reconciliation Act, before the end of the month and the July 4th recess. The New York Times described the bill as structurally similar to the unpopular version that passed the House of Representatives earlier this year.

No sign that Russians accessed NM voter systems

There’s no indication that New Mexico’s voter databases were improperly accessed, according to New Mexico’s secretary of state. This comes even as U.S. senators probed the issue in a hearing Wednesday morning. Wednesday morning, Jeanette Manfra, the acting undersecretary for cybersecurity and communications at DHS, told the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee that election systems in 21 states were targeted in a Russian cyber attack. declined to say which states were targeted or what, if any, data was accessed by the hackers. Jeh Johnson said that while interference by Russia “was unprecedented” in “scale and scope,” there was no indication that Russians changed any votes in 2016.

Toulouse Oliver will run for full term as SOS

In news that surprised no one, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced Tuesday that she will run for reelection. “From modernizing campaign finance rules to increasing ballot access and voter education in our native and rural communities, we are making swift progress on many of the priorities I set early on,” the Democrat said in her press release. “I look forward to serving a full term for the people of New Mexico so that we can continue to combat dark money in politics, raise the bar for transparency and accountability in government and cement our sacred voting rights for every eligible citizen.”

No other candidate has announced their intention to run. Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, won election in 2016, defeating Republican Nora Espinoza. The position is normally contested in non-presidential years, but the election was held in 2016 because Dianna Duran resigned from her position as Secretary of State hours before pleading guilty to criminal charges related to campaign finance.

NM delegation pushes Interior secretary of monument reviews

The Democrats in New Mexico’s congressional delegation say that the U.S. Department of Interior should protect national monuments. Meanwhile, the lone Republican said the monument in southern New Mexico should be reduced in size. The Democrats, two senators and two representatives, wrote Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and urged him to extend the 120-day review period for more than 20 national monuments, including two in New Mexico. Since announcing the review, Zinke recommended reducing the size of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. Related story: Trump review of national monuments includes two in NM

The Democrats, Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Representatives Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Lujan, want to make sure Zinke doesn’t rescind or recommend reductions in size to  the Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monuments.

NM Dems sign onto Emoluments suit against Trump

All four Democratic members of Congress from New Mexico are part of a lawsuit against President Donald Trump that cites the Emoluments Clause, a section of the U.S. Constitution that went relatively unnoticed until Trump took office without divesting himself from his businesses. Nearly 200 Democrats signed onto the legislation that says Trump is violating the constitution by profiting from his businesses’ deals with foreign governments. The clause says, “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, announced the suit on a conference call to reporters earlier this week. Blumenthal, the ranking member of the Constitution Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Rep. John Conyers Jr., a Michigan Democrat and ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, are lead plaintiffs on the suit. The New Mexico members involved are U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Representatives Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Lujan.

Pearce describes ‘very traumatic’ scene of shooting at congressional baseball practice

Steve Pearce, a Republican congressman from southern New Mexico, was present at a congressional baseball practice that ended with gunshots as someone opened fire on those practicing. Pearce described it as “very traumatic.”

One congressman, Republican Steve Scalise of Louisiana, was shot and underwent surgery. At least four others were wounded, though none were killed. Scalise is the House Majority Whip. I was present at this mornings GOP baseball practice, but am alright.

Heinrich spars with Sessions over refusal to answer questions

In yet another high-profile Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that received gavel-to-gavel coverage from news networks, one of New Mexico’s U.S senators played a featured role. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified in front of the committee, with Democrats pressing the former Republican U.S. Senator on a variety of issues, including his contacts with Russian officials. In a number of cases, Sessions declined to answer, frustrating senators  who sought answers. Sen. Martin Heinrich, New Mexico’s junior U.S. Senator, said Sessions’ refusal to answer questions amounted to “impeding” and “obstructing” congressional investigations. Heinrich’s questions to Sessions began with the senator asking if President Donald Trump “ever expressed his frustration” after Sessions announced he would recuse himself from the investigation into ties between those close to Trump and Russia during the elections.

Legislative analysis shows ‘technical error’ in tax overhaul could have cost state big

If it had passed in its original form, the tax overhaul supported by the governor and legislative Republicans during the recent special session would have hurt the state. That’s the news from the finalized fiscal impact analysis done by staffers with the Legislative Finance Committee, first flagged by the Albuquerque Journal. According to the analysis, a technical error on the part of the bill’s drafters threw off revenue estimates by more than $100 million. The error had to do with the repeal of a nonprofit receipts exemption that applies to nonprofit organizations, including hospitals. The bill itself was finalized shortly before the special session began and was introduced hours after the special session came to order.

NM GOP remembers communication director Keene

Tragedy struck the Republican Party of New Mexico as their young communications director passed away. Tucker Keene, 25, had been the communications director of the state party since January of 2016. Party chairman Ryan Cangiolosi announced the news in an email Monday morning. “It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I write to inform you of the sudden passing of our dear friend and colleague W. Tucker Keene,” Cangiolosi wrote. “He was a brilliant writer, tenacious promoter of our cause, keen political communicator and most importantly, a wonderful person,” Cangiolosi continued.