U.S. Sen. Tom Udall criticized President Donald Trump Tuesday after the Washington Post revealed that the president disclosed classified information to Russian officials during a meeting in the Oval Office last week. On the Senate floor, Udall said the latest news calls for a “swift” and independent investigation. “The White House and President Trump face another crisis,” Udall said. Udall went on to criticize Trump’s firing of former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and FBI Director James Comey. “The only rational explanation is that he has something to hide,” Udall said.
Large cuts to safety-net programs will have a large impact on New Mexico, which is near the top of the nation in those on Medicaid and who receive food aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Over the next ten years, the proposed Trump budget would cut Medicaid spending by $610 billion and SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, by $193 billion. These cuts would come in addition to those from the American Health Care Act. The president has also proposed reducing the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, by $5.8 billion over ten years. How agencies will exact the cuts to programs, and what their impacts on states might be, is still unclear.
Tens of thousands of Medicaid recipients in New Mexico are not receiving their health benefits on time, according to numbers from state government. As of February of this year, more than 48,000 Medicaid cases up for renewal are not being processed by the state Human Services Department (HSD) on time, according to a federal court filing in April citing HSD’s own numbers. And that number of Medicaid renewal delays has only grown to more than 59,000 as of May 10, according to Maria Griego, a staff attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “They’re pretty bad,” Griego said of the delays. While the number of New Mexicans who haven’t received their Medicaid benefits on time has been expanding, HSD erased a large part of the backlog of renewal applications for the federal Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.
U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts led 11 senators in calling for an investigation into Attorney General Jeff Sessions and whether his role in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey violated his recusal from any investigation into Russian ties with those close to President Donald Trump. The letter, which was also signed by New Mexico U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, was sent to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice Tuesday. In the letter, the senators said Session’s “recusal language itself could not be clearer.”
They also seek answers to three questions: to what extent Sessions was required to recuse himself from the investigation, the scope of his recusal and the timeline of his involvement in Comey’s firing. The letter notes that Sessions met with Trump and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to discuss the removal of Comey on May 8.
One of the men who helped the federal bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) search for potential targets in a sweeping undercover drug and gun sting operation in Albuquerque last year is paid an $80,000 annual salary, court filings show. The man appears to have been released early from a 10-year federal prison sentence and goes “around the country with his handlers creating crime for the government to prosecute” as a ‘“confidential informant,” the documents say. Related: Feds’ sting ensnared many ABQ blacks, not ‘worst of the worst’
Another informant ATF brought to Albuquerque for the operation is paid $1,400 a week plus occasional “bonuses,” he said under oath, according to a recording from a state court hearing obtained by New Mexico In Depth. He did not say what the bonuses were for. That informant considers working for the ATF his full-time job.
Former congresswoman Heather Wilson was confirmed as President Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Air Force Monday. The Senate voted 76-22 to confirm Wilson, who is the first service secretary nominee to get approval from the Senate, according to the Associated Press. Both of New Mexico’s U.S. Senators—Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich—voted to confirm Wilson. Heinrich, who faced Wilson in 2012 as an opponent for his current Senate seat, voted to advance her nomination to the full Senate as part of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Udall served in the U.S. House at the same time as Wilson.
The Donald Trump administration suffered another setback in federal court over an executive order after a federal judge ruled Tuesday the administration cannot enforce an order to stop funds from going to so-called “sanctuary cities.”
The lawsuit, brought by cities including San Francisco, Santa Clara and later joined by the city of Santa Fe said the executive order is unconstitutional and granted a nationwide injunction, which blocks the order from going into effect anywhere in the country. Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales said in a statement the ruling was an indication that the federal government wasn’t listening to local governments. “Rather than listening to cities, the closest governments to the people, and working with us to fix a badly broken federal immigration system or institute trade and immigration policies that benefit the centers of innovation that are driving this country’s economy, President Trump has opted to declare war on us,” he said. “And that’s a shame.”
Gonzales has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the sanctuary city executive order and rhetoric from the Trump administration. “Our city’s history going back 400 years and the success and vibrancy we enjoy today has depended on it, and those are the values that won in court today,” the mayor said.
Anti-abortion advocates from across the country held a press conference in Albuquerque Wednesday morning denouncing New Mexico’s flagship university for its fetal tissue donation practices. Among those who spoke at the event were Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce, a Republican and Washington D.C. attorney Catherine Glenn Foster. Blackburn, who chaired the controversial congressional Select Panel on Infant Rights, said she came to “join my colleague in the House [of Representatives] and those in New Mexico that have worked on the issue of life.”
The Select Panel released a report in January faulting the University of New Mexico for lacking protocols to “ensure the survival of infants who show signs of life following extraction from the uterus.” It also scrutinized UNM’s relationship with Southwest Women’s Options, an abortion provider that has donated fetal tissue to the university for scientific research. Supporters of abortion rights, as well as minority Democrats in the Select Panel, have dismissed the report and the panel’s investigation for using “McCarthy-era tactics” to conduct “an end-to-end attack on fetal tissue donation and women’s health care.”
Pearce contended that “the laws are clear” and that “we’re simply stating, ‘Do not violate the law.’”
The Select Panel made 15 criminal referrals for its research of abortion providers and educational institutions across the country, including to New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas. To date, Balderas has not acted on the referral to his office.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus won’t stop its criticism of Donald Trump’s immigration policies. That’s the word from Michelle Lujan Grisham, the New Mexico lawmaker who heads the caucus, which is made up of Hispanic members of Congress from around the country. All are Democrats (the Congressional Hispanic Conference is made up of Republican members). Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told members of Congress to “shut up” or change the law after his department faced criticism from members on its deportation practices. “If lawmakers do not like the laws they’ve passed and we are charged to enforce, then they should have the courage and skill to change the laws,’’ Kelly said earlier this week at George Washington University, according to reports.
Heather Wilson’s bid to become the Secretary of the Air Force took a big step forward when her nomination cleared the Senate Armed Forces Committee on a 22-5 vote Wednesday. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich sits on the committee and voted in favor of advancing her nomination. That was no surprise, as during questioning, Heinrich referred to her “impressive qualifications.”
Wilson is a former congresswoman from New Mexico, representing the Albuquerque area for a decade. Wilson is a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate and served in the U.S. Air Force. Related: Senators question Wilson on past controversies at confirmation hearing
She also faced Heinrich in the 2012 U.S. Senate race and lost by 6 percent.
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich joined 14 other Democratic Senators in asking two federal departments for information on the treatment of children whose parents were deported. The 15 Senators, led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, asked for information from the federal Department of Homeland Security and the Health and Human Services Department on what happens to children, who are U.S. citizens, whose parents are deported. Related: Trump invites bids to build wall, cites importance of ‘aesthetics’
“These children are United States citizens, and the deportation of their parents leaves them vulnerable in myriad ways,” the senators wrote. “Abruptly separating from parents is a highly destabilizing, traumatic experience for children, and one that carries long term consequences such as feelings of loss and grief, economic hardship, and increased risk of neglect and abuse.”
They also requested to know how many children since January 2015 have been placed into the child welfare system because their parents have been deported, how much their foster care costs taxpayers and what policies are in place to ensure care for children whose parents have been arrested pending deportation. The senators also asked if DHS would seek a funding increase for support of social services as a result of increased foster care.