Heinrich: ‘White House is attempting to cover up a murder’

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich and two other Democrats want a public report on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Heinrich says that by not saying Saudi Arabia was responsible for Kashogghi’s death, the “White House is attempting to cover up a murder.”

Khashoggi was murdered in Istanbul at the Saudi Arabian Consulate in October. While Saudi officials at first denied Khashoggi was dead, they later admitted he died in the consulate. The New York Times reported the Central Intelligence Agency concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s killing. President Donald Trump disputed the finding, and received pushback from lawmakers of both parties, including some who said the president lied about the findings by U.S. intelligence.

Proper fire funding continues to elude Congress

On Sept. 14, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue officially declared that the 2017 fire season was the Forest Service’s most expensive ever, with costs topping $2 billion. Perdue noted that fire suppression, which accounted for just 16 percent of the agency’s budget in 1995, now takes up over 55 percent. “We end up having to hoard all of the money that is intended for fire prevention,” he wrote in a press release, “because we’re afraid we’re going to need it to actually fight fires.”
This story originally appeared at High Country News. The Forest Service’s fire funding is subject to a budget cap based on the average cost of wildfire suppression over the last 10 years.

Post Gold King Mine spill, NM delegation wants mining reform

Three members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation announced the introduction of legislation to reform federal mining laws that have been on the books, and largely unchanged, since just after the Civil War. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich joined with three of their Democratic colleagues in the Senate to introduce the legislation, while Rep. Ben Ray Luján is doing the same in the House. The legislators note that the 1872 mining law allows companies to mine for gold, silver, copper, uranium and other minerals on federal land without paying royalties for extracting the resources. The legislators compare this to oil and gas where companies that drill for the resources must pay royalties to do so on public land. This legislation would require a 2 percent to 5 percent royalty rate for all new mining operations.

Bill that stops bulk data collection becomes law

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.

Heinrich wants CIA chief to pledge to not access Senate computers

Three U.S. Senators asked CIA director John Brennan to acknowledge that the agency improperly accessed Senate files and want the director to pledge that it will not happen again. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., was one of the three Senators to sign onto the letter, along with Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii. All three are members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “It is vitally important for the American public to have confidence that senior intelligence officials respect US laws and the Constitution, including our democratic system of checks and balances,” the letter to Brennan said. “In our judgment your handling of this matter has undermined that confidence.