The hidden money funding the midterms

Allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used a blind spot in campaign finance laws to undercut a candidate from their own party this year — and their fingerprints remained hidden until the primary was already over. Super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited sums of money in elections, are supposed to regularly disclose their funders. But in the case of Mountain Families PAC, Republicans managed to spend $1.3 million against Don Blankenship, a mustachioed former coal baron who was a wild-card candidate for a must-win West Virginia Senate seat, in May without revealing who was supplying the cash. The move worked like this: Start a new super PAC after a deadline for reporting donors and expenses, then raise and spend money before the next report is due. Timed right, a super PAC might get a month or more undercover before being required to reveal its donors.

Martinez backs congressional tax overhaul efforts

Gov. Susana Martinez joined 20 Republican governors in support of federal tax cuts. The letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, didn’t advocate for either plan passed by the House or Senate, but instead called for general principles in a tax overhaul. The House and Senate each passed different plans, necessitating a conference committee for the two to reconcile language. The narrow Republican majority complicates the measure, as does the House Freedom Caucus, a bloc of hardline conservative Republicans in the House, including New Mexico’s Rep. Steve Pearce. They touted tax cuts made since 2011, and the economic growth they say the cuts caused.

Last-ditch effort by Republicans to replace ACA: 5 things you need to know

Republican efforts in Congress to “repeal and replace” the federal Affordable Care Act are back from the dead. Again. While the chances for this last-ditch measure appear iffy, many GOP senators are rallying around a proposal by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), along with Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)

They are racing the clock to round up the needed 50 votes — and there are 52 Senate Republicans.

Even without Congress, Trump can still cut Medicaid enrollment

After the Senate fell short in its effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Trump administration is poised to use its regulatory powers to accomplish what lawmakers could not: shrink Medicaid. President Donald Trump’s top health officials could engineer lower enrollment in the state-federal health insurance program by approving applications from several GOP-controlled states eager to control fast-rising Medicaid budgets. Indiana, Arkansas, Kentucky, Arizona and Wisconsin are seeking the administration’s permission to require adult enrollees to work, submit to drug testing and demand that some of their poorest recipients pay monthly premiums or get barred from the program. Maine plans to apply Tuesday. Other states would likely follow if the first ones get the go-ahead.

McCain votes no, derails ‘skinny repeal’ on marathon session

WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who interrupted brain cancer treatment to return to Capitol Hill and advance the health law repeal efforts, cast the dramatic and decisive “no” vote in the early morning hours that upended the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The Senate struggled late into the night to craft and then vote on a “skinny repeal” of the health law, but came up empty as the bill was defeated in a 51-49 vote that prompted gasps in the chamber. McCain’s vote was unexpected and ends — for now — the Republican Party’s effort to kill Obamacare. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) cast the two other Republican “no” votes in a cliffhanger drama that ended just before 2:00 a.m. Friday.

Latest GOP health care draft threatens NM Medicaid

SANTA FE, N.M. — The latest version of the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare is being made available for review just one week before it is to be voted on in the Senate – and it contains drastic implications for Medicaid in New Mexico. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has enacted rules to bypass committee hearings on the bill, which supporters hope to get signed before the Fourth of July recess. If that happens, people on medical assistance in New Mexico face severe challenges, according to Edwin Park, vice president for health policy with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “The emerging Senate bill, which is largely mirroring the House bill, would scale back the Medicaid program, and then the coverage levels that were even in place pre-Affordable Care Act would be rolled back as well,” Park said. The largest group of New Mexicans to be affected would be children.

Heinrich will vote against Gorsuch confirmation

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich will vote against the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. He cited ties between the Donald Trump administration and Russia as one reason. Heinrich also indicated he would join other Democrats in a rare filibuster of the Supreme Court nominee by not voting to invoke cloture. Sixty senators are needed to invoke cloture and end debate, moving toward a final vote. There are 52 Republicans in the Senate.

Farmers, legislators hope legalized hemp could breathe new life into economy

When Mikki Anaya worked as the executive director of the Santa Fe Farmers Market Institute, a nonprofit that advocates for farmers and ranchers, she became acutely aware of what she characterized as a troubling trend in New Mexico. “A lot of families no longer farmed or ranched land that had been in our families for many generations,” Anaya said. “It deeply saddened me to see that transition happening.” Anaya started to study the dynamics of the change and concluded that economics were a root factor. “A lot of it is that people are just leaving our rural communities because there’s no economic opportunity there,” she said.

Udall, Heinrich calling for investigations in wake of Flynn resignation

Both U.S. Senators from New Mexico are calling for investigations into Donald Trump’s administration—for two separate scandals, both involving national security. U.S. Sen. Tom Udall signed onto a letter with ten other Democratic U.S. senators asking for an investigation into communications between Michael Flynn, the retired lieutenant general who was recently Trump’s national security advisor, and those with ties to Russian government officials. The letter sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions said an investigation is needed “to determine what General Flynn did, who knew about it, and when.”

Udall also previously called for an investigation into the influence of the Russian government on the election. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called for an investigation into the handling of classified information. “We’ve seen a pattern of carelessness and lack of accountability from this administration that puts our national security and America’s standing in the world at risk,” Heinrich said.

Udall reads Coretta Scott King letter, after Senate blocked Warren from doing so (Updated)

Hours after Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren was reprimanded for challenging the integrity of a fellow Senator by reading a letter from Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr., New Mexico U.S. Sen. Tom Udall read the letter on the Senate floor without question. Later on Wednesday, new Mexico’s other U.S. Senator read part of the Coretta Scott King letter and criticized the Senate for their actions on Warren. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i715XvBCkio&feature=youtu.be

Tuesday night, Warren tried to read the letter before her senate colleagues. King’s letter  criticized Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions when he unsuccessfully sought a judgeship in the 1980s. In the letter, Coretta Scott King said she opposed his confirmation to a federal judgeship.