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.
National Democrats announced Monday they will target New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District in the 2018 elections. The move comes as part of an expansion of 20 more Republican-held House seats targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Already, Democrats announced 59 other seats are in their electoral crosshairs. With this second round of targets, Democrats are targeting nearly one-third of all seats currently held by Republicans. (Four seats are currently vacant.)
Republicans said earlier this year that both of the New Mexico congressional districts held by Democrats are on their list of targets.
Donald Trump’s shock firing of FBI Director James Comey Tuesday led to comparisons of former President Richard Nixon and the infamous Saturday Night Massacre. Comey was leading the agency investigating allegations that some of Trump’s political advisers colluded with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election. “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Trump said in his letter to Comey. It is unclear what three times Trump is referring to, and the New York Times reported White House officials did not elaborate. The administration cited Comey’s handling of the investigation of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as a reason why he was fired.
House Republicans passed a sweeping health care bill that could reshape the American healthcare system for the second time in less than a decade. If passed by the Senate, the bill would put hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans at risk of losing their health coverage. The legislation passed today, the American Health Care Act, is the culmination of years of criticism by Republicans of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The bill to replace the ACA passed on a 217-213 vote. Only one of New Mexico’s representatives, Republican Steve Pearce, voted for the legislation.
After reviewing hundreds of pages of protests, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management said the agency is almost set to release a payment of nearly $70 million dollars for oil and gas leases to the state of New Mexico. The spokeswoman, Donna Hummel, told NM Political Report Thursday afternoon that an oil and gas internal review process is complete and New Mexico could see the money in a few months. “We feel confident that the state will have its lease payment of about $70 million by June 1,” Hummel said. Hummel added the dollar amount New Mexico receives could change, though it’s unlikely. U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, the lone Republican in the state’s congressional delegation, and the Democratic members of the delegation sent letters to the BLM urging the agency to release funds owed to the state.
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján of Nambe is going to be a key figure for Democrats in the next election cycle. That’s because he’s the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. As such, he’s tasked with aiding Democrats in their pursuit of retaking the U.S. House of Representatives—and while he won’t say if he’s confident Democrats will do so in the 2018 midterms, he says they will pick up seats. Luján said this while taping an episode of C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” show to air this weekend, according to Roll Call. “It’s too early to know what’s going to happen in November of 2018, but I can tell you Democrats in the House are on offensive, and there’s no question that we will pick up seats in 2018,” he said according to the paper.