Quorum Report News Clips

March 16, 2018: All Newsclips

Early Morning - March 16, 2018

Lead Stories

Washington Post - March 15, 2018

Trump decides to remove national security adviser, and others may follow

President Trump has decided to remove H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser and is actively discussing potential replacements, according to five people with knowledge of the plans, preparing to deliver yet another jolt to the senior ranks of his administration. Trump is now comfortable with ousting McMaster, with whom he never personally gelled, but is willing to take time executing the move because he wants to ensure both that the three-star Army general is not humiliated and that there is a strong successor lined up, these people said. The turbulence is part of a broader potential shake-up under consideration by Trump that is likely to include senior officials at the White House, where staffers are gripped by fear and un­certainty as they await the next move from an impulsive president who enjoys stoking conflict.

Politico - March 15, 2018

Democrats brace for potential California disaster

One day after Democrats claimed victory in a closely watched Pennsylvania special election, a potential disaster reared up in California. In a state that’s central to the battle for control of the House, Democrats emerged from a filing deadline late Wednesday resigned to the possibility that no Democratic candidate will appear on the November ballot in several key House races. California’s unusual, top-two primary system — in which the top two vote-getters advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation — had raised the prospect of a nightmare scenario in several districts where crowded fields of Democratic candidates might splinter their party’s share of the vote, enabling two Republicans to finish atop the field in the June primary. In response, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and state party leaders had spent weeks running up to the deadline working to cull large fields of Democrats in targeted contests.

Axios - March 15, 2018

Allen: Pelosi in peril

Top Democrats tell me that if they take back the House in November, a restoration of Speaker Nancy Pelosi is no longer guaranteed. In fact, some well-wired House Democrats predict she will be forced aside after the election and replaced by a younger, less divisive Dem. The big picture: Conor Lamb, 33, won his U.S. House race in Pennsylvania this week after saying he wouldn't vote for her for leader — a new template for moderates. Pelosi has hung in through the minority, and remains the party's most consistent fundraiser. As for whether she'll return as Speaker, she has just said that it's up to the members. (Her allies note that she has never lost a leadership vote.)

Dallas Morning News - March 15, 2018

Texas homeowners gained almost $9,000 in equity last year

If you own a home you should be feeling a little richer. In 2017 the average U.S. residential property gained more than $15,000 in equity -- the biggest increase in four years according to analysts at CoreLogic Inc. Overall home equity -- the amount of value owners have over what they owe -- increased by more than $900 billion across the country. Texas homeowners on average gained almost $9,000 in home equity in 2017. The largest average home equity gains were in California ($44,000) and Washington state ($40,000).

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - March 15, 2018

Parker: The No. 1 threat to the Texas economic miracle is the GOP

Amazon, you've been warned. And so has Texas. For a while now, Texas' competitive ranking as a place to do business and even live has been slipping. As of late, the news has gotten worse. But the capstone — or rather headstone — on the Texas Miracle is a report by the Republican-controlled state House of Representatives. From infrastructure to education, it paints a portrait of political dereliction of duty as big as Texas itself, facts for which Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick should be held to account this fall. In its search for a second headquarters that will house 50,000 workers and require $5 billion in construction alone, Amazon has kept two Texas cities, Dallas and Austin, on its list of finalists, along with Boston, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and others. Recently, company executives even toured facilities. Here in Texas, Abbott has acted as if he is singlehandedly responsible for Amazon's interest.

Dallas Morning News - March 15, 2018

After transgender inmate raped, beaten, Texas agrees to clarify LGBT prisoner policies

Texas will clarify its policies regarding the treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inmates as the result of a settlement with a former prisoner. Passion Star, a transgender woman housed in men's prisons, filed a civil rights complaint in 2014 alleging she was repeatedly brutalized during her time behind bars. Star said she asked to be housed separately for a decade before Texas prison officials put her in safekeeping. The state of Texas and Star recently reached a settlement that was "agreeable to all parties," the LGBT law group Lambda Legal announced Wednesday.

Dallas Morning News - March 15, 2018

Dallas financier caused Seth Rich's parents emotional distress through role in false story after slaying, lawsuit says

A Dallas-area financier is a target in a lawsuit filed by the parents of a slain Democratic National Committee employee, accusing him of causing them emotional distress through involvement in a Fox News story that they say exploited their son’s death. Joel and Mary Rich, parents of Seth Rich, a DNC employee who was fatally shot in Washington, D.C., in 2016, filed the lawsuit in federal court this week against Ed Butowsky, a managing partner at Chapwood Investments LLC in Addison, as well as Fox News and reporter Malia Zimmerman. They say Butowsky intentionally exploited their son’s death by collaborating with Fox News in a “sham news article” purporting that their son had leaked thousands of DNC emails to WikiLeaks before he was killed. Butowsky said Thursday that the allegations in the lawsuit are “hogwash.”

Dallas Morning News - March 15, 2018

5 times we used Texas public records to get answers — and how you can, too

When a police officer shot an unarmed 15-year-old boy in Balch Springs last year, the public wanted to know: What happened? When a 13-year-old girl reported being raped at a Dallas psychiatric hospital, other patients had a right to know: What was the hospital's safety record? When a beloved elementary school teacher stopped showing up for work, her students and teachers wanted to know: Why? The Dallas Morning News routinely relies on public records law to find the answers to such questions. And you can, too.

Austin American-Statesman - March 15, 2018

Activists: Feds moving to deport woman who accused guard of assault

Federal officials are seeking to deport a woman being held at a Williamson County immigration detention center who has accused a guard of sexual assault, according to activists with the immigrant advocacy group Grassroots Leadership. Officials on Wednesday morning asked Laura Monterrosa-Flores to sign travel papers that would have her deported immediately, the activists said. Monterrosa-Flores said she would not sign anything without first seeking advice from her lawyer. Activists said Monterrosa-Flores shouldn’t be deported because she is an essential part of the sexual assault investigation. Officials with Grassroots Leadership said they have received letters from three women, including Monterrosa-Flores, accusing guards at the detention center of sexual misconduct. If investigators conclude that Monterrosa-Flores is a victim of sexual assault, she could be eligible for a visa to stay in the United States.

Austin American-Statesman - March 15, 2018

Christian: At SXSW, Schwarzenegger went from superstar to hypocrit

Arnold Schwarzenegger is undoubtedly best known for his legendary heroics on the silver screen. ... Like the character he played in “Total Recall,” Schwarzenegger must be having a tough time remembering who he is – a former Republican governor of California. In Austin this week for the South by Southwest festival, he revealed he has hired a team of California lawyers to sue oil and gas companies for “first-degree murder” by “knowingly killing people all over the world.” Instead of acting like a Republican, Schwarzenegger must be trying to play the hero again. The only problem is this isn’t the movies; this is real life — and there is nothing to “save” us from. ... It’s sad – but Schwarzenegger has gone from superstar hero to Hollywood hypocrite. On the one hand, he routinely uses gas-guzzling jets and cars while on the other he sues oil and gas companies. Given this stunning hypocrisy, I have a question. If oil and gas companies are murderers for selling their product, does that make Schwarzenegger an accessory for being such a good customer?

Austin American-Statesman - March 15, 2018

Waggoner: If only Texas funded schools like it funded the primaries

Let’s ponder a couple of things after the Texas primaries proved again that well-funded candidates win — and win by big margins. If money plays a role to boost a candidate’s chance to win, why wouldn’t money play a role to provide a better education system? We have been told repeatedly that there is enough — even too much — money in public education, and we just need to be more efficient. I propose public education has become so efficient, it cannot meet the needs of children.

Austin American-Statesman - March 15, 2018

Battle over private school choice playing out at Texas polls

The battle over whether public money should be spent on private school tuition played out at polls across the state this month and will continue in runoff contests on May 22. Public school teachers, who launched a noteworthy get-out-the-vote campaign, and supporters of so-called private school choice ended the March 2 Texas House primaries in a draw. Both sides are now focused on at least five GOP runoffs for Texas House seats in districts from San Antonio to North Texas. Private school choice, described as a voucher-like system by opponents, died during last year’s regular legislative session amid opposition from Democrats and rural GOP House members, concerned that making public money available for private school tuition would siphon off funding that otherwise would go to public schools.

Texas Tribune - March 15, 2018

Former state Rep. Norma Chávez sues over alleged election fraud in race to replace U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke

A former El Paso state representative and two other candidates who lost their primary elections for U.S. Congress by a landslide have filed a lawsuit in El Paso County alleging voter fraud. The lawsuit, first reported by the El Paso Times, was filed by former State Rep. Norma Chávez, who represented El Paso’s central and east sides in the Texas House for seven terms. Candidates John Carrillo and Enrique Garcia are also named as plaintiffs. The lawsuit alleges that fraud and other mischief was the reason former El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar bested her opponents by such a wide margin. Escobar received 61.4 percent of the vote on March 6; Chavez and Garcia received 6.7 and 5.3 percent, respectively, while Carrillo earned 1.5 percent.

Texas Tribune - March 16, 2018

Ramsey: Not a blue wave, but deep enough to get some Republican feet wet

Not every political consultant will flash their list of government seats they believe are up for grabs this year. But some will, and here’s the thing: The Democratic and Republican consultants agree on a lot of the names. Republican incumbents in Dallas County are at or near the top. That’s not really a reflection on the candidates themselves. It’s all about the numbers. Texas didn't see a blue wave in its March primaries. Measured by the number of voters they attracted to their primaries earlier this month, Republicans outnumber Democrats in Texas by a 3-to-2 margin.

Texas Tribune - March 16, 2018

Cole: We ought to be making it easier for Texans to get back on their feet

As the old adage goes, laws are like sausages: You should never watch them being made. But while it may be uncomfortable, it’s important to remember that laws affect real people. Real people like Marissa, a 19-year-old working mother who hopes to graduate from Austin Community College next year with an associate’s degree in surgical technology. Real people like Romulo, a 23-year-old who left the foster care system in San Antonio without any paperwork proving his identity. Without a birth certificate and Social Security card, he is bouncing among temporary construction jobs until he can straighten out his papers.

Texas Tribune - March 16, 2018

Will Texas school finance panel tell schools to do more with less? Some members think it’s predetermined

A state panel responsible for proposing improvements to Texas' embattled public school finance system is facing criticism from an unexpected source: some of its own members, who say the panel's hearings seem geared toward a predetermined outcome of making schools do more with their current funding. Texas school districts have repeatedly sued the state over the last few decades, arguing it hasn't provided enough money to ensure public school students an adequate education. During the 2017 session, lawmakers failed to make immediate changes to how the state allocates money to public schools — and instead agreed to create a 13-member commission to undertake a longer-term study. That panel, which includes appointees from House Speaker Joe Straus, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Gov. Greg Abbott and the State Board of Education, has held four hearings since it was assembled in January. Its next hearing is scheduled for Monday.

Texas Tribune - March 15, 2018

Report: Major Texas industrial facilities rank first nationally in illegal water pollution

About half of Texas’ major industrial facilities released illegal levels of pollution into rivers, lakes and other waterways over a 21-month period ending September 2017, according to a new report by Environment Texas and California-based think tank Frontier Group. Analyzing self-reported industry data compiled by the federal government, the study found that about 40 percent of the nation’s 2,772 major industrial facilities released pollution that exceeded maximums set in their federal clean water permits from January 2016 to September 2017 and often faced no fines or penalties from state or federal environmental regulators.

Texas Tribune - March 15, 2018

ACLU lawsuit alleges ICE field office in El Paso among those holding asylum seekers without cause

The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against the El Paso field office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, along with four other ICE field offices, for allegedly holding asylum seekers in detention without cause. The ACLU stated in the suit that all of the plaintiffs passed their initial "credible fear" exams – the first step in the asylum process to determine if an applicant has a legitimate case. But despite having sponsors in the U.S. willing to provide housing, the federal government has continued to hold them instead of granting them humanitarian parole, according to the suit. They are represented by the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, Human Rights First, the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies and Covington and Burling LLP, a law firm based in Washington, D.C.

Texas Tribune - March 16, 2018

Adia: It’s time for common-sense gun reform

As a public school teacher in the Fort Worth Independent School District, my students and their parents entrust me with their lives on a daily basis, a privilege I take seriously. I teach so that my students can learn, and I teach so that my students become critical thinkers who can go on to solve the problems left unresolved by previous generations. In the aftermath of the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, we are watching our next generation of local, national and global leaders take shape. The student survivors speaking out against gun violence and demanding common-sense gun reform legislation are rewriting the post-mass shooting narrative of “thoughts and prayers” and working to solve a problem we adults have, for too long, deemed unsolvable.

San Antonio Express-News - March 16, 2018

San Antonio’s radio powerhouse iHeartMedia files for bankruptcy

San Antonio-based iHeartMedia Inc. has filed for bankruptcy, following two years of litigation, speculation and financial gamesmanship as the nation’s largest owner of radio stations tried to keep its crushing debt under control and creditors at bay. The bankruptcy likely will rank among the largest in recent corporate history. The company listed $12.3 billion in total assets and $20.3 billion in debt in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition filed late Wednesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Houston. More than 35 other iHeart-affiliated companies also filed for bankruptcy, though the company has moved to have the cases jointly administered.

San Antonio Express-News - March 16, 2018

Lesson from Harvey response: Cut the red tape

When Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Rockport the night of Aug. 25 as a Category 4 storm, it exposed not only weaknesses in the region’s flood defenses, but also miles of bureaucratic red tape. That’s chief among the “lessons learned” delivered Thursday to Congress by a procession of state and federal officials called to testify before the House Homeland Security Committee, which is examining the response to Harvey and a succession of natural disasters last summer. The review, which will include a field hearing in Cypress on April 9, comes as Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas congressional delegation have been battling to speed federal funding for the response and recovery, which already has cost the state more than $2.7 billion.

Houston Chronicle - March 15, 2018

Gov. Abbott announces San Jacinto River flood relief

Gov. Greg Abbott Thursday pledged millions of dollars for widespread property buyouts and preparations for dredging the San Jacinto River to help Lake Houston communities prevent a recurrence of the catastrophic flooding during Hurricane Harvey. After touring the region by helicopter, the governor met with area leaders at a Kingwood community center, where he announced plans for voluntary buyouts of some 900 flood-prone homes in Harris County, including 134 in Kingwood and nearby Forest Cove. The county flood control district said the buyouts would cost about $180 million. Abbott's office said money for the buyouts, as well as $3 million to "jump start" engineering and permitting required to dredge the river, will come from the state's hazard mitigation fund — federal money that flows through the state.

Houston Chronicle - March 15, 2018

Texans need a cure for fake news about vaccines

“Vaccines did not cause Rachel’s autism.” Those words were spoken by Dr. Peter Hotez last week at a breakfast hosted by the American Leadership Forum. Hotez serves as director of Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, and Rachel is his adult daughter. Why does this parent of an autistic child and foremost expert on vaccinations in Texas, if not the world, feel compelled to speak about his daughter’s condition before one of the city’s preeminent nonprofit leadership groups? Because vaccines, a miracle of modern medicine, are the subject of an anti-science smear campaign. It started 20 years ago, when a doctor published a study purporting to show a link between childhood vaccines and autism. His data was later found to be falsified, the study was retracted and the doctor lost his medical license, but the virus of vaccine hesitancy began to spread.

Houston Chronicle - March 15, 2018

Houston-area congressmen urge FEMA to accept volunteer hours as payment

Five Houston-area congressmen are urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency to accept Houston's idea of using volunteer hours as an alternate way to pay the city's required local match for federal disaster grants. The letter sent Tuesday to FEMA Administrator Brock Long is signed by U.S. Reps. John Culberson (R-Houston), Brian Babin (R-Woodville), Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land), Gene Green (D-Houston) and Al Green (D-Houston). "We are supportive of a creative, broad interpretation of FEMA rules to begin implementing this volunteer initiative, and are also interested in hearing from you if you believe that changes to federal law may be needed to make it easier for FEMA to put the city of Houston's proposal into action," the letter says. "Moving forward to implement this innovative, community-focused initiative will demonstrate the administration's commitment to helping the people of Texas rebuild after the most devastating rain event our nation has ever experienced."

KXAN - March 15, 2018

Texas Democrats say Russians tried to register for state convention

While organizing for local conventions, Glen Maxey, legislative affairs director for the Texas Democratic Party, found almost 50 email registrations that seemed odd. He thinks it was a foray into Texas politics by Russian hackers. To attend the Democratic State Convention this summer in Fort Worth, Texas voters must register on the party website. People will then be directed to attend their local county elections to be selected. While Maxey was looking through the database of failed registrants, usually mistakes in an individual's address or name, he found that 48 emails didn't have any Texas address connected to them. Twenty-four emails had Russian domain names -- .ru -- and IP addresses based in Russia.

Palestine Herald - March 8, 2018

Webb: Texas Lottery – another broken promise from Austin

Few people know where the big money goes from lotto ticket and scratch-off sales. Just how the state earmarks and spends the money is obscured by a zillion other details of state government. How many people know the lottery is another failed promise from Austin? The hard truth is, we were duped. Today, lottery funds pay only a paltry 5 percent of Texas education – a far cry from what legislators originally forecasted. That should make us suspicious of any claims about what state-sponsored gambling – or “gaming,” as promoters like to call it – will pay for. Since 1992, the Texas Lottery Commission has racked up more than $15 billion in sales, its website reports. In effect, state-sponsored gambling is a voluntary tax – a regressive one at that. At the outset, the lottery was sold as a panacea for state budget problems. In the early 1990s, Texas faced huge shortfalls, especially in education. Gov. Ann Richards proposed a Texas lottery to help fund education.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - March 16, 2018

Emmett: Act now on flood prevention — with or without a comprehensive plan

Now that Congress has approved legislation to provide major disaster relief, it is imperative for state and local officials to set priorities and make real progress on flood prevention and mitigation. While the development of a comprehensive regional flood prevention plan should be the ultimate goal, we cannot wait for agreement on the final plan. We need to move quickly to address several areas and projects that are of obvious benefit. With hurricane season looming, the first thing we need to do is get back to pre-Harvey condition. Harvey caused almost $200 million worth of damage to existing Harris County Flood Control District infrastructure throughout the county, including facilities inside the city of Houston. Mayor Sylvester Turner and I have asked the state of Texas to provide funds to restore our infrastructure.

City Stories

Environment News Service - February 23, 2018

Ride Sharing Begins to Replace Rapid Transit in USA

Public transit officials in cities across the United States are trying to find ways for ride sharing to complement existing public transit options or those in the development pipeline, while others worry that ride sharing could replace public transit altogether. That shift is already starting. A recent survey conducted by the University of California, Davis found that ride sharing services resulted in a six percent reduction in Americans’ use of bus systems and a three percent reduction in Americans’ usage of light rail services. ... One of the first in the United States is Arlington, Texas, a growing city of 380,000 people located between Dallas and Fort Worth. Last December, in partnership with the Via rideshare service, Arlington began a pilot program supported by the Arlington City Council and the citizen-led Transportation Advisory Committee.

Lubbock Avalanche-Journal - March 10, 2018

U.S. Sen. Sanders rallies in Lubbock of all places

Progressives on the Panhandle/South Plains hadn’t had a politically rally like what took place Saturday afternoon at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center in a long time, if ever. It was a rally for local Democrats seeking election in 2018, and Our Revolution, a grassroots organization built on continuing the policy messages of U.S. Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Our Revolution must truly be taking this message everywhere, because 66 percent of Lubbock County voted for President Donald Trump in 2016. And 66 percent for a Republican candidate in West Texas is on the low side in recent years. Sanders, a Vermont Independent, was in Lubbock to host the rally that drew a crowd well over the 1,000 person seating capacity.

Dallas Morning News - March 15, 2018

Curts: I want to teach math; Dallas ISD is making me teach test-taking

I decided to be a teacher so I could inspire more kids to enjoy mathematics — not just know how to do math, but to see how it could be a fun and challenging puzzle. Unfortunately, frequent high-stakes testing under Dallas ISD's Teacher Excellence Initiative makes me feel as though I rarely have time to teach kids the fun of math because I'm so busy teaching them how to find the right answers to multiple-choice questions. Many of the middle and high school math classrooms in DISD have TI-Nspire calculators. I love calculators. They are useful. They are magical. They can do many things that would be tedious to do by hand. However, they have also become a crutch in classrooms — a shortcut that keeps students from learning the reasoning and logic behind math.

Houston Chronicle - March 12, 2018

Hoffman: Want to combat political polarization? Trust the teens

On March 25, hundreds of high school student of all stripes will convene at Bellaire High School to combat political polarization and promote dialogue. High School Republicans of Texas, Texas High School Democrats and Junior Statesmen of America are banding together to host the event — the Day of Unity. Speakers ranging from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz to U.S. Rep. U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, will address the crowd. Mayor Sylvester Turner, a champion of the cause, will be present for a city proclamation and to support the Day of Unity’s message. In the first of its kind, Texas Republican Party Chairman James Dickey and Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa will sit down together for a conversation on polarization.

San Antonio Express-News - March 15, 2018

Garcia: Local artist emerges as major force in Texas Democratic politics

In the middle of a town hall last month at the Ella Austin Community Center, U.S. Senate hopeful Beto O’Rourke pointed to the back of the auditorium, where San Antonio artist Cruz Ortiz was busy silk-screening “Beto por Tejas” T-shirts for audience members. O’Rourke, a Democratic congressman attempting to unseat Republican incumbent Ted Cruz, praised Ortiz as one of the greatest visual artists in the nation and cited his support as an example of the creative energy O’Rourke’s Senate campaign is generating. Ortiz and his Snake Hawk Press team took some of that energy to Austin this week, where they screen-printed 150 O’Rourke posters Wednesday afternoon in the parking lot of the Hotel San Jose for the offshoot South by Southwest music festival known as South by San Jose. This spring, Ortiz will take his vintage press on the road with O’Rourke for some general-election barnstorming in the Rio Grande Valley.

Dallas Morning News - March 15, 2018

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich questions safety of Plano's drinking water

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich, whose crusading work in California in the 1990s led to a namesake movie, is questioning the quality and safety of drinking water in Plano and surrounding communities. In a lengthy post on Facebook, Brockovich accused the city and the North Texas Municipal Water District of "cutting corners" and failing to provide consumers with answers about the safety of testing procedures. "Consumers in Plano have been asking city officials good questions about their drinking water quality for over two weeks..."

Houston Chronicle - March 16, 2018

300 federal agents swarm Austin in search for bombing suspect or suspects

Austin police have received a flood of tips but lack a profile of the person or people who planted three package bombs on the door steps of houses in the capitol city’s minority neighborhoods, Interim Police Chief Brian Manley told hundreds of people at a community meeting Thursday. City authorities are holding out hope that the 300 federal agents helping Austin’s police department will yield faster results in the search for who could have killed two people and seriously injured two others in the mysterious bombs. But Manley said the investigation could take weeks or months. “We are getting a lot of tips and obviously, most of them are not leading us where we need to go. But we do not want to discourage people from calling in every tip,” said Manley, urging people to spread the word about the $65,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.

National Stories

Washington Post - March 15, 2018

Congress has one week to pass a $1.3 trillion spending bill. Here’s what you need to know.

Here we are, once again: Federal spending is set to expire on March 23, leaving Congress a week to negotiate and pass a bill to keep the government open for business. As of Thursday, Republicans and Democrats had yet to agree on what is expected to be a massive $1.3 trillion piece of legislation, leaving Americans with more questions than answers about what Congress plans to do to avoid a third government shutdown this year. Here are a few: Q: Why are we doing this again? Didn’t Congress just pass a massive budget deal? A: Your memory is not failing you. On Feb. 9, President Trump signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which increased federal spending by roughly $300 billion over the next two years and ended a brief shutdown. But in Congress, there is a distinction between budgeting and appropriating — that is, setting top-line levels of overall spending and actually directing the money to specific agencies and programs are two different matters. So as part of the budget deal, Congress gave itself another six weeks to work out microscopic details of spending taxpayer money and write an “omnibus” appropriations bill, which packages smaller regular appropriation bills into one larger bill, funding the whole of the federal government.

Politico - March 14, 2018

More Democrats likely to disavow Pelosi after Pennsylvania stunner

Conor Lamb weathered $10 million in attack ads cartoonishly calling the Democratic candidate in Pennsylvania’s special election a member of Nancy Pelosi’s liberal “flock.” Now other Democratic hopefuls are looking to adopt Lamb’s strategy — he repeatedly and bluntly disavowed the Democratic leader — in their own competitive races. It raises the prospect of a slate of Democratic hopefuls running against the party’s House leader as they try to neutralize one of the GOP’s go-to attacks — a pillar of Republicans’ plan to keep the House majority in November.

Houston Chronicle - March 15, 2018

A gunman's rampage in Texas leaves its mark on a Republican leader

On the Sunday after a gunman killed 26 people at a church in his home state of Texas, John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, went to tiny Sutherland Springs to comfort the congregation and its grieving pastor, whose 14-year-old daughter was among the victims. A month before, Stephen Paddock had gunned down 58 people at a country music festival in Las Vegas. Three months later, Nikolas Cruz would rampage through Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and kill 17. But it was Sutherland Springs that turned Cornyn into something like the Republican face of the gun debate. Nearly every day since the Valentine's Day massacre in Parkland last month, he has taken to the Senate floor to implore his colleagues to vote for a narrow measure to improve data reporting to the national background check system for gun purchases. It is modest and incremental, but it may be the only piece of gun legislation that can pass the Senate.

Bloomberg - March 15, 2018

Russian Hackers Attacking U.S. Power Grid and Aviation, FBI Warns

Russian hackers are conducting a broad assault on the U.S. electric grid, water processing plants, air transportation facilities and other targets in rolling attacks on some of the country’s most sensitive infrastructure, U.S. government officials said Thursday. The announcement was the first official confirmation that Russian hackers have taken aim at facilities on which hundreds of millions of Americans depend for basic services. Bloomberg News reported in July that Russian hackers had breached more than a dozen power plants in seven states, an aggressive campaign that has since expanded to dozens of states, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

Bloomberg - March 15, 2018

Conor Lamb’s Rise in Pennsylvania Scares Republicans—and Democrats

If Conor Lamb’s apparent win in the heart of Trump country is any indication, the Democratic Party will have to widen its ideological tent to accommodate a diverse slate of candidates running in what’s shaping up as a Democratic wave in November. Lamb, a 33-year-old retired Marine and federal prosecutor, clung to a 627-vote lead on March 14, the day after a special congressional election in southwestern Pennsylvania. If seated, he’ll be among the most conservative Democrats in the House. After spending much of the past decade focusing on progressive social issues, Democrats are throwing out ideological purity tests and fielding moderate and conservative candidates in places where Trump ran strong in 2016. It’s working: Winners include Senator Doug Jones in Alabama and Governor Ralph Northam in Virginia.

Politico - March 15, 2018

Coats rolls out overhaul of top intelligence office

A year into his tenure as the country’s top intelligence official, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats is reshuffling the office that oversees America’s 16 intelligence agencies, consolidating many functions under a new layer of management intended to refocus its work around a new set of security challenges. The reorganization plan was unveiled Wednesday to employees of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and provided to POLITICO by Coats’s staff. The office, created in the wake of the September 11 attacks to enforce order among the nation’s often-squabbling intelligence agencies, has struggled over the years to exert control over a world dominated by the CIA, FBI, NSA and other large intelligence-gathering agencies with powerful bureaucracies.

Politico - March 15, 2018

Four Senate Republicans seek special counsel to probe FBI's use of Steele dossier

Four Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday sought the appointment of a second special counsel to aid the Department of Justice inspector general in probing the FBI's use of the so-called Steele dossier in its surveillance of a former Trump campaign aide. The Judiciary panel's chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), was joined by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) in requesting that DOJ name a special prosecutor to zero in on possible mishandling of the FBI's Russia investigation prior to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller. Specifically, the quartet raised concerns about the FBI's relationship with Christopher Steele, who compiled a dossier of verified and unverified intelligence alleging a Russian effort to compromise now-President Donald Trump.

New York Times - March 15, 2018

Mueller Subpoenas Trump Organization, Demanding Documents About Russia

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has subpoenaed the Trump Organization in recent weeks to turn over documents, including some related to Russia, according to two people briefed on the matter. The order is the first known instance of the special counsel demanding records directly related to President Trump’s businesses, bringing the investigation closer to the president. The breadth of the subpoena was not clear, nor was it clear why Mr. Mueller issued it instead of simply asking for the documents from the company, an umbrella organization that encompasses Mr. Trump’s business ventures. Mr. Mueller ordered the Trump Organization to hand over records related to Russia and other topics he is investigating, the people said.

The Hill - March 13, 2018

Dem unity shatters with debate on banks

The Senate Democratic Conference is splitting apart in an angry debate over a banking reform bill that has ended months of party unity in opposition to President Trump’s agenda. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the Senate’s most vocal Wall Street watchdog, is taking a hard line against the bill and drawing complaints from moderate Democratic colleagues who support the bill and worry she’s putting them in a tough political position. It’s the first time this Congress that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has had any real success dividing Democrats on major legislation after he failed to pick up any bipartisan support for health-care and tax-cut bills in 2017. With the midterm elections rapidly approaching and Senate Democrats up for reelection in 10 states Trump carried in 2016, cracks in party unity are starting to show.

New York Times - March 13, 2018

Upshot: Why Is U.S. Health Care So Expensive? Some of the Reasons You’ve Heard Turn Out to Be Myths

Compared with peer nations, the United States sends people to the hospital less often, it has a smaller share of specialist physicians, and it gives people about the same number of hospitalizations and doctors’ visits, according to a new study. The quality of health care looks pretty good, it finds, while its spending on social services outside of health care, like housing and education, looked fairly typical. If you’ve been listening to many of the common narratives that seek to explain the high costs of America’s health system and the nation’s relatively low life expectancy, those results might surprise you. Analysts are fond of describing the system as wasteful, with too many patients getting too many services, driven by too many specialist doctors and too few social supports. But a large and comprehensive review in The Journal of the American Medical Association punctures a lot of those pat explanations. The paper, conducted by a research team led by Ashish Jha, compiled detailed data from the health care systems of the United States and 10 other rich developed nations, and tried to test those hypotheses.

The Guardian (UK) - March 15, 2018

Who owns water? The US landowners putting barbed wire across rivers

While the fight over US public lands has reached a fever pitch unlike anything seen in recent decades, and the Trump interior department seeks to lease out vast areas to private interests for mining and drilling, the fate of public waterways has largely flown under the radar. Now New Mexico has become a battleground for that very issue, with the state government, landowners, and outfitters on one side of the fight and anglers, boaters, recreationalists and heritage users on the other. At the heart of the argument: who owns the water that has long been considered the lifeblood of the arid west.

New York Times - March 14, 2018

Ferrick: How a Democrat Succeeds in Trump Country

When the Democratic candidate Conor Lamb began his race in a special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district, he faced headwinds of the type that caused horizontal snow in the nor’easter last week. For starters, Donald Trump had won the district by 20 points in 2016. The district has been held by Republicans for most of the last 50 years. Conservative “super PACS” were willing to spend millions — it ended up being around $10 million — to buy TV time to savage Mr. Lamb. The incumbent, Tim Murphy, a conservative anti-abortion Republican, had a lock on re-election until The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported last year that he had urged his mistress to have an abortion. Republican House leaders decided that Mr. Murphy had to go. He resigned in October.

Politico - March 14, 2018

Chaudhary: Tillerson Was a Disaster for the State Department. Can Pompeo Do Better?

Pompeo is not likely to undo Tillerson’s work to “trim the fat,” which aligns well with the administration’s talk of shrinking the size of government. But it is possible, though not guaranteed, that Pompeo will slow down the pace and include other department staff in the process. He is, after all, coming from an agency where he was the only political appointee amid thousands of veteran bureaucrats. One hopes that during his short stint there he learned to take advantage of a deep bench of expertise—choosing to include, rather than circumvent, experts both on matters of foreign policy as well as internal management issues. That’s good news for the State Department, which never had a chance to provide input on how it might rethink its structure and processes to realign a smaller bureaucracy with the Trump administration’s policy goals.

Bloomberg - March 14, 2018

Koch Group Ups Spending to Oust Democrats in Missouri, Indiana

The political network backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch is planning to step up its advertising to unseat Democratic Senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, who are seen as vulnerable because they’re from states President Donald Trump won in 2016. The Koch-affiliated group Americans for Prosperity says it will run almost $4 million in television and online ads targeted at the two lawmakers. The spending follows a similar $4 million ad buy announced by the group in February targeting them. The group is trying to help the GOP expand its one-vote majority in the Senate in November, when a third of the seats are on the ballot.

Miami Herald - March 15, 2018

Drivers would pay tax on miles traveled under lawmaker’s plan

Drivers could pay a tax based on how many miles their vehicles travel under a plan being pushed by Missouri Rep. Sam Graves, who's vying to become the powerful new chairman of the House Transportation Committee. While exact plans for such a tax remain vague, the fees could be calculated based on odometer checks, GPS devices, cellular technology or radio-frequency identification devices that would track how far a vehicle travels and charge drivers accordingly. Graves, R-Mo., is promoting the per-mile tax as an alternative to raising the gasoline tax, a long-discussed way of providing more money for highway construction and repair.

The Hill - March 16, 2018

Shepard Smith: Fox News opinion hosts 'don't really have rules'

Fox News anchor Shepard Smith says opinion programming on his network doesn't "really have rules" and exists "strictly to be entertaining," in an interview published Thursday. "Some of our opinion programming is there strictly to be entertaining," Smith told Time Magazine's Daniel D'Addario in a piece titled, "Shep Smith Has the Hardest Job on Fox News." “We serve different masters," Smith, 54, added when discussing the difference between the opinion side of Fox News, including shows such as "The Sean Hannity Show," and the network's news division. "We work for different reporting chains, we have different rules. They don’t really have rules on the opinion side. They can say whatever they want. If it’s their opinion."