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.
Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Republicans have told him Donald Trump’s spot as the GOP presidential nominee will let Democrats take back control of the U.S. Senate. Richardson made the comments while appearing on CNBC Friday. Richardson said his Republican friends “they’re worried now about losing the Senate.”
He said they feel the “House is OK probably going to be OK, lose some seats, but the Senate is in play.”
He mentioned Illinois and Nevada as important states; in Illinois, incumbent Senator Mark Kirk, a Republican, is facing a tough reelection campaign. In Nevada, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid opted not to run and Republicans nominated U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, considered their top recruit in the state. Former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey, a Republican, said there was too much time between now and the elections to make any predictions.
A New Mexico health provider and cannabis advocate is at the forefront of the possible massive change to how marijuana is treated in the United States. Bryan Krumm, a nurse practitioner and director of Harmony Psychiatric, filed a petition in 2009 to have cannabis taken off Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. Substances in Schedule I are considered to be the most dangerous, have no medical use and have a high potential for abuse. Krumm’s is one of three pending petitions. Earlier this month, the Drug Enforcement Administration sent a letter to the U.S. Senate indicating a decision on marijuana will be made sometime this summer.
Both U.S. Senators from New Mexico expressed condolences over the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, while saying that President Barack Obama should nominate a replacement. Scalia died in Texas on Saturday, and the focus almost immediately turned to who would be the conservative justice’s replacement. Many conservatives, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said that Obama should not nominate a replacement because he is nearing the end of his second term. Obama will be in office until Jan. 20, 2017, more than 11 months from now.
The U.S. Senate passed a bill designed to increase cybersecurity, but the two Senators from New Mexico couldn’t agree on how to vote. Sen. Martin Heinrich voted for the legislation, while Udall voted against it. Both are Democrats. The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) passed on Tuesday on a 74-21 vote. A similar, but identical, bill passed the House.
A bill to stop the bulk collection of data as allowed through the post-9/11 Patriot Act passed the Senate on Tuesday and was quickly signed by President Barack Obama. Both members of the Senate from New Mexico voted in the majority on the 67-32 vote on the bill dubbed the USA Freedom Act. The bill had overwhelmingly passed the House weeks ago, but the Senate failed to get 60 votes to pass the bill and instead tried to pass a full reauthorization of the Patriot Act. That effort by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., failed because of bipartisan opposition, highlighted by a filibuster by his fellow Kentuckian, Sen. Rand Paul. New Mexico’s junior Senator Martin Heinrich was among the Democrats who pitched in to the filibuster.
It’s a rarity in the Senate these days: bipartisan cooperation. And even more of a rarity: a bipartisan filibuster. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a Republican, conducted a filibuster over the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of data. When Paul, who is also running for President, conducted his filibuster, it wasn’t only a few his fellow Republicans who helped him out—there were even more Democrats, including New Mexico’s Martin Heinrich. From the National Journal: Seven Democrats spoke with Paul, compared with just three Republicans.
Congressional Democrats, including all four Democrats in the New Mexico delegation, are pushing for a $12 minimum wage. With both the House and Senate controlled by Republicans, it is very unlikely that a minimum wage increase would pass during the current Congress. However, the push could be an attempt to bring the wedge issue up in time for the 2016 elections. In addition to increasing the minimum wage to $12 by 2020, the legislation would index the minimum wage to inflation. Senators Udall and Heinrich are among the co-sponsors of the Senate version of the legislation, introduced by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.