The tax bill Congress is considering could blow up New Mexico’s budget—as early as next year. New Mexico Senate Finance Committee chair John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, and House Appropriations and Finance Committee chair Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, sounded the alarm with a letter to members of the congressional delegation and Gov. Susana Martinez. The two wrote the state could lose nearly $600 million in federal funding in the coming year, including over $430 million in federal mineral leasing payments. This is money the federal government pays to states for oil and gas drilling and coal mining on federal lands within their borders. “Loss of FML revenues, which primarily fund public education in New Mexico, would have a devastating impact on the state’s budget and would wipe out the reserves our state has struggled to rebuild,” the two legislators wrote.
Some resources from national Democrats are trickling into New Mexico in an attempt to swing the state’s 2nd Congressional District from Republicans to Democrats. The national party is doing that as many predict a “wave” election for Democrats, and a chance to return the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives to Democrats. To do that, Democrats will need to win in traditionally-Republican districts and retain all their own districts. This puts New Mexico on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s radar. Next year’s election will see two New Mexico congressional districts without an incumbent running for reelection.
Democrats are backing away from a candidate for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District after his arrest for stalking. David Alcon was arrested in Albuquerque Friday on a warrant from Santa Fe police for allegedly stalking a woman. He was previously arrested for trespassing and aggravated stalking in 2007. He told the Albuquerque Journal that he had mental health issues which he had worked hard to manage. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which seeks to elect Democrats to Congress, distanced itself from Alcon.
Since taking office in January, President Donald Trump has targeted immigrants to the United States. He attempted to ban on refugees from certain countries, continues to lobby Congress to fund a border wall and most recently, flip flopped on whether or not to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Known by its acronym, DACA, the program protects those who were brought to the United States without document while they were children from deportation. Trump’s administration announced earlier in September that he would end the Obama-era program, and now the people who had signed up under DACA are facing uncertain futures. And now advocates nationwide are working to blunt the impacts of the delayed end to the program.
Elected officials in New Mexico slammed Trump administration plans to end a program that allows hundreds of thousands of people to remain in the country, who were brought to the country as children and do not have documentation. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement Tuesday. The Department of Homeland Security will no longer process new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, after Sept. 5. The administration will, however, says it will continue to renew permits for any of those currently under DACA, known as DREAMers, for another six months.
After Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton and Democrats failed to take control of the Senate, many saw 2016 as a disastrous election for Democrats. At least nationwide. But in New Mexico the party retook control the state House of Representatives and expanded their majority in the Senate. Statewide, Clinton defeated Trump by 8 percent, even though over 9 percent of voters backed Libertarian nominee and former Gov. Gary Johnson. While the election took place ten months ago and may seem like old news, the results can provide a glimpse into which races will be competitive in 2018.
The U.S. House Committee on Ethics unanimously dismissed an ethics complaint against Rep. Ben Ray Luján. The committee made the announcement Tuesday, and a spokesman for Luján praised the decision shortly after. In a statement, Joe Shoemaker said the allegations came from a “ politically motivated complaint, filed by a partisan outside group.” He added that Luján is “committed to abiding by House Rules and will continue to do so in the future.”
The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a conservative group, complained that Luján conducted campaign or political activity from the House floor, which is prohibited, after he sent a fundraising email highlighting a sit-in he participated in on the House floor in 2016. During that sit-in, Democrats demanded a vote on legislation barring those on the federal no-fly list from legally purchasing guns. .
The federal government will take a look into New Mexico’s behavioral health services, according to the four Democratic members of the state’s congressional delegation. In a letter last month to Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Luján, the federal Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General Daniel Levinson confirmed the upcoming review. “OIG will review the extent to which behavioral health providers are included in the States’ managed care plans and the types of care offered by these providers,” Levinson wrote in the June 28 letter.
The U.S House Ethics Committee will take a deeper look at an ethics complaint against Rep. Ben Ray Luján. Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, and Michael Collins, the chief of staff to Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, are also under review by the watchdog panel. The committee did not say why the three are under investigation, but Luján’s office said his comes from a complaint from a conservative group, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust. The committee noted that the announcement of the extension of the matter “does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee.”
According to Luján, the complaint stemmed from a sit-in by House Democrats on the House floor in which Democrats sought to force a vote on legislation that would bar those on the federal no-fly list from purchasing guns. A spokesman called the complaint “frivolous” and “without merit” and that it was “filed by a highly partisan outside group about activities during the sit-in last year.”
The complaint noted that Luján sent an email asking for contributions, and that it “included a photograph of the House floor that credited ‘video provided by House Television.’” The House’s Official Code of Conduct says representatives cannot use House Television images “for any partisan political campaign purpose.”
The organization also said the sit-in itself was part of the representatives’ official capacity and so could not be fundraised off of.
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.