Udall in farewell to the Senate: ‘The Senate is broken. And it’s not working for the American people’

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall gave his farewell speech from the Senate floor Tuesday, as he approaches the end of his 12 years in the U.S. Senate. Udall delivered a series of calls to action in his remarks and criticized the Senate for inaction on a wide range of issues, from COVID relief to police reform and climate action. 

“I’m not the first to say in a farewell address and I won’t be the last — but the Senate is broken. The Senate is broken. And it’s not working for the American people,” Udall said. 

Udall’s emphasis on collaboration and bipartisanship in drafting and passing legislation has come to define his career in the Senate. But Udall lamented the divisiveness he sees today in the Senate during his remarks. 

“The system we’re caught in makes it too hard to work together, to remember that we disagree in politics, but not in life,” he said.  

“We are becoming better and better political warriors.

Amy Coney Barrett confirmed to Supreme Court, as New Mexico’s senators vote against

U.S. Senate Republicans voted 52 to 48 to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away Sept. 18. President Donald Trump held a celebration at the White House Monday evening after the Senate vote and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas swore her in at the White House to the lifetime position. Barrett’s confirmation received no support from Democrats who voiced their anger over her confirmation hearing over the weekend. All Democratic Senators voted against her, including both of those from New Mexico.

Udall hears stories of New Mexicans who would be hurt by the loss of the Affordable Care Act

One disabled Albuquerque woman, Jeanne Hamrick, said she would not be able to afford prescription drug costs if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act during this judicial term. Hamrick spoke during a live phone conference hosted by Democratic U.S. Senator Tom Udall to let average residents around the state talk about what losing the ACA would mean for them. The Supreme Court will hear California v. Texas on Nov. 10. The case challenges the constitutionality of the individual mandate and, with the likely confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett establishing a new conservative bloc majority, the court could overturn the entire ACA. 

Hamrick said that before the ACA went into effect in 2013, she was paying $100 each month for prescription medication on a social security budget.

Federal spending on children in decline, says child advocacy group

A national children’s advocacy group, First Focus on Children, reported Wednesday that federal annual spending on children is in decline. First Focus on Children held an online presentation with various speakers, including New Mexico U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat, to discuss some of the needs not being met at the federal level for children in the U.S.

The First Focus on Children’s Budget 2020 estimated that federal spending on children as a share of the federal budget reached 7.48 percent in 2020. First Focus on Children held its online summit on September 30 because Wednesday is the start of the new fiscal year for government agencies. The Trump administration’s budget proposal for FY 2021 would trim the federal share of spending in a single year cut of $21 billion to children’s programs on an inflation-adjusted basis. First Focus on Children President Bruce Lesley interviewed Luján and asked him what he is hearing from families as he campaigns in his bid to win the open U.S. senate seat.

Reactions from New Mexico officials to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday. She was 87. The vacancy her seat creates will now give Republicans the opportunity to try to place another conservative justice to the bench. President Donald Trump, reacting to two Supreme Court decisions in June that he didn’t like, tweeted that he would have a new list of conservatives to appoint to the bench by September 1. Within just a few hours of the announcement of Ginsburg’s death, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not wait to bring to a vote for a Trump appointee this election year, according to multiple media sources.

Udall: Interior Department should be ‘center’ of U.S. climate change response

U.S. Sen.Tom Udall said the U.S. Department of the Interior could play a pivotal role in the country’s response to climate change during an August 15 webinar hosted by conservation advocacy group WildEarth Guardians. “The Interior Department should be right at the center of climate, endangered ecosystems, taking better care of the land, coming up with a good land ethic and dealing with the diversity issues and the environmental justice issues,” Udall told WildEarth Guardians executive director John Horning. “The next president is going to want to do something about climate, the Interior Department is going to be at the center of that.”

Udall’s father, Stewart Udall, served as Secretary of the Interior under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Udall referenced his father’s work at the Interior, including the Land and Water Conservation Fund, protecting species before the Endangered Species Act became law, and supporting diversity amid the Interior Department’s ranks. 

RELATED: Land and Water Conservation Fund one step closer to securing full funding after Senate passage

He lamented the recent exodus of career employees at the department under the Trump administration, which he referred to as “a hollowing out” of the department. 

“This is the saddest part. One of the things that my father used to talk about was what a treasure the Interior Department career employees are.

NM Democrats praise Biden’s choice of Harris for running mate

While presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden did not choose New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as his running mate, he followed through on his promise to select a woman as his running mate when he chose California U.S. Senator Kamala Harris on Tuesday. Harris, the daughter of a Jamaican immigrant father and an Indian immigrant mother, is the first woman of color as a running mate for a major political party. Democratic politicians in New Mexico, including Lujan Grisham, praised Biden’s choice. “It’s time to rebuild our country better than ever before. It’s time to take back the White House.

Trump trial balloon of moving Election Day lands with a thud

Democrats in New Mexico, including the Secretary of State, rejected President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the upcoming federal elections be delayed. Trump floated the unlikely idea on Twitter Thursday morning, writing, “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

After pushback, including from Republican leaders who said the idea of moving Election Day back was a non-starter, Trump tweeted that he was glad he got the media to talk about mail-in voting. Election Day is set by federal law and leaders in the U.S. House and Senate, including Republicans, rejected the idea.

Poll finds Hispanic families still in need of relief

A recent survey of 480 Hispanics in the state found that close to half have $1,000 or less in savings and nearly a quarter have $100 or less. The survey from Latino Decisions, in partnership with several other nonprofit organizations, found that 49 percent of Hispanics surveyed have $1,000 or less set aside for emergencies and 24 percent have $100 or less in savings. In addition, 48 percent have had their hours or pay cut since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. A group of 45 elected officials, including some from the state’s three largest cities of Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces as well as other cities and counties around the state, signed a letter sent to New Mexico’s congressional leadership Tuesday asking that all residents, regardless of immigration status, be included in the next federal relief bill. Migrants and refugees who lack social security numbers were left out of the federal relief CARES Act in late March.

After a long battle, the Gila River Diversion project comes to an end

After 5 years, $16 million dollars, and missing a key deadline, the Gila River Diversion proposal is now effectively dead. The Interstate Stream Commission voted 7-2 Thursday against supplying funding needed to complete an environmental impact statement required for the project. Critics of the project, including Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and conservation and environmental groups, cheered the vote. 

“This proposal is actually the fourth proposal to dam the Gila. We hope this is the fourth and last proposal,” Allyson Siwik, executive director of the Gila Conservation Coalition, told NM Political Report. 

Siwik boiled down her opposition to the proposal bluntly: “It’s expensive [and] the water is unaffordable.”

The proposal would have seen 14,000 acre-feet of water diverted each year from the Gila River for landowners to use in New Mexico. The state is entitled to that amount of water each year from the river as part of the 2004 Arizona Water Settlements Act.