NM national monuments remain under threat from DOI

TAOS, N.M. — New Mexico’s Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte National Monuments could shrink dramatically if their protected status is removed or their size is reduced, and the decisions could come by late August. A report from Democrats on the U.S. Joint Economic Committee warns that could mean a loss of millions of tourism dollars in New Mexico. Stuart Wilde guides tourists on llama treks through the Rio Grande monument near Taos. He said he agrees that the economic impact would be significant. “People come to hike and bike, and fish and hunt, and camp and experience these national monuments,” Wilde said.

Poll: Approval ratings steady for NM’s senators

Much more New Mexico voters approve of their U.S. Senators’ job performances than disapprove, but there’s still a large chunk who have no opinion. That’s the news from the most recent release of data from polling by Morning Consult conducted over the last few months. The polls show that 53 percent of registered voters approve of Tom Udall’s job performance, while 27 percent disagree and 20 percent have no opinion and that 48 percent approve of Martin Heinrich’s job performance while 30 percent disapprove and 22 percent have no opinion.Both are Democrats. The poll results for the two New Mexico senators are largely unchanged from those released by Morning Consult in April. This comes even as most Senators saw their approval ratings drop in that time period.

Feds to look into behavioral health services in NM

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.

Campaign finance reform group backs Heinrich

A group that raised big money in the Georgia special congressional election last month is now endorsing Martin Heinrich’s U.S. Senate reelection bid. End Citizens United supports campaign finance reform, including the titular goal of overturning the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision. The group’s president and executive director, Tiffany Muller, praised Heinrich while endorsing him. “Senator Heinrich has consistently stepped up to the plate to root out Big Money from our political system and represent those who really matter—hard-working New Mexico families,” Muller said in a statement. “He knows that special interests are rigging the system and Americans are getting left behind, which is why he’s fighting to rip the price tag off of our democracy.

Heinrich, Udall slam Education Department’s civil rights division changes

New Mexico’s U.S. senators say that U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos does not support civil rights or oppose discrimination. Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, both Democrats, signed onto a letter to the secretary telling her “your actions belie your assurances” on these issues. The letter cited her ties to a prominent anti-LGBTQ group and her appointment of staff who oppose a 2011 Title IX Guidance on sexual assault.The two highlighted her ties to the Family Research Council, a Washington D.C. organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center calls an anti-LGBT extremist group, and contrasts her relationship with the group with testimony she gave in front of a Senate committee. “In testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, you attempted to distance yourself from your family’s giving to organizations such as the Family Research Council, which promote intolerant views of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender non-conforming Americans and others,” the senators wrote. “Yet, on June 15, 2017, the Family Research Council participated in an official event on engaging fathers in students’ education at the Department.”

The two also criticized DeVos’ Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Candice Jackson.

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.

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.

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.