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.

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.

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 questions Comey on Russia, meeting with Trump

Sen. Martin Heinrich played a central role during Thursday’s  committee hearing with former FBI Director James Comey. The landmark Senate Intelligence Committee hearing received wall-to-wall coverage on news stations across the political spectrum. A day before, current Trump intelligence officials testified in front of the same committee. Heinrich slammed those officials for their refusal to answer questions from the Senators. In the hearing, Comey testified about President Donald Trump firing him, the FBI investigations into those around Trump and his thoughts on former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s involvement in the investigation into Clinton’s emails.

Trump budget’s Medicaid, SNAP cuts would have big impact on NM

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.

Senators seek answers on Sessions’ role in Comey firing

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.