Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Last Call For Marking Mitch

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer would love nothing more than to see Mitch McConnell go down in flames next year, and he may have found just the fighter pilot for the job.

Chuck Schumer is actively recruiting a high-profile fighter pilot to take on Mitch McConnell in 2020 — a calculated act of aggression against a leading Republican foe.

Schumer met with Amy McGrath, a Marine veteran-turned 2018 congressional candidate, at Democratic Party headquarters last month to pitch her on running against McConnell. McGrath listened and didn’t rule it out. The Democratic leader first contacted McGrath in December.

McConnell, the longest-serving Senate GOP leader, is gearing up for a reelection fight and leaving little to chance. His political team has begun compiling opposition research on McGrath and delving into video tracking footage of her. On Wednesday, senior Republican Party officials involved with a pro-McConnell super PAC will meet in Washington to begin mapping out a potential campaign against McGrath.

The Republican leader has also tapped a 2020 campaign manager: Kevin Golden, a veteran party operative who worked on McConnell’s 2014 reelection bid and oversaw Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn’s successful 2018 Senate campaign.

Schumer’s offensive underscores the frayed relations between the two Senate leaders. In recent months, they have sparred bitterly on issues ranging from judicial nominees to the federal shutdown.

While it’s not unprecedented for one Senate leader to try to unseat a counterpart, the recruitment mission is an unmistakable act of hostility that’s sure to ratchet up tensions.

Joining Schumer for the meeting with McGrath were Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, as well as top DSCC officials Scott Fairchild and Devan Barber. McGrath aides Mark Nickolas and Lori LaFave also attended.

Nickolas confirmed the meeting but said that no decision was imminent.

“The military officer in her always approaches these things pretty methodically and thoughtfully,” he said.

Alison Grimes certainly has no chance, and McGrath actually came a lot closer in her Lexington house race than a lot of people thought she would  I'm all for it.  She can't do much worse than Grimes's 15-point loss in 2014, either.

I'm glad that Schumer is trying to recruit now, certainly.  The danger is that the gubernatorial race this year is going to suck all the oxygen out of the state until at least the end of the year, and Mitch can take advantage of that.  Anyone the Dems have committed to going after Matt Bevin's job will still be in a position to join the 2020 race, and that means the field could get crowded by this time next year.

We'll see.  McGrath hasn't said yes, and while it will definitely be one of the big races of 2020, I worry that McGrath isn't going to be "progressive enough" for national supporters who will simply write her off as another Claire McCaskill or Kay Hagan, and write Kentucky off with it.

Self-Enlightened Environmental Policy

Everybody gets something in the latest Senate conservation package, and with a 92-8 vote to pass it and Pelosi indicating the House will follow suit, not even Trump is going to be able to stop it.

The Senate on Tuesday passed the most sweeping conservation legislation in a decade, protecting millions of acres of land and hundreds of miles of wild rivers across the country and establishing four new national monuments honoring heroes from Civil War soldiers to a civil rights icon.

The 662-page measure, which passed 92 to 8, represented an old-fashioned approach to dealmaking that has largely disappeared on Capitol Hill. Senators from across the ideological spectrum celebrated home-state gains and congratulated each other for bridging the partisan divide.

“It touches every state, features the input of a wide coalition of our colleagues, and has earned the support of a broad, diverse coalition of many advocates for public lands, economic development, and conservation," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky).

It’s a paradoxical win for conservation at a time when President Trump has promoted development on public lands and scaled back safeguards established by his predecessors.

The bill, which the Congressional Budget Office projects would save taxpayers $9 million, enjoys broad support in the House. The lower chamber is poised to take it up after the mid-February recess, and White House officials have indicated privately that the president will sign it.

The measure protects 1.3 million acres as wilderness, the nation’s most stringent protection that prohibits even roads and motorized vehicles. It permanently withdraws more than 370,000 acres of land from mining around two national parks, including Yellowstone, and permanently authorizes a program to spend offshore drilling revenue on conservation efforts.

The package is crammed full of provisions for nearly every senator who cast a vote Tuesday. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) lauded the fact that it will create 273,000 acres of wilderness in his state, most of it within the boundaries of two national monuments that Trump threatened to shrink. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who co-authored it, inserted a provision that allows native Alaskans who served in Vietnam to apply for a land allotment in their home state.

“We have also worked for months on a bipartisan, bicameral basis to truly negotiate every single word in this bill — literally down to one one-tenth of a mile for [a] certain designation," Murkowski said as she urged her colleagues to vote for the bill on Monday.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) hailed it as “an old-school green deal,” saying he and the top Republican on his panel, Rep. Rob Bishop (Utah) "are happy to work together to get this across the finish line.”

Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, a lead Democratic negotiator on the bill, said the fact that the legislation protects so much of the nation’s prized properties won a broad constituency. “There’s some corners that tried to demonize access to public lands as — ‘oh that’s just some environmentalists and that’s it,’” she said in an interview. “And that’s not it. It’s way bigger than that.”

The legislation establishes four new monuments, including the Mississippi home of civil rights activists Medgar and Myrlie Evers and the Mill Springs Battlefield in Kentucky, home to the decisive first Union victory in the Civil Wa

Even Kentucky gets something.  I have to admit, it's a major bill that rolls back a lot of Trump assaults on national parks and monuments, and it's a veto-proof margin to boot.  Congress doing something useful?  Must be an unpopular president and even more unpopular Congress.

El Chapo Gets The Whole Enchilada

Notorious drug cartel kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has been found guilty on all counts in his NYC jury trial on Tuesday and faces the better part of eternity behind bars.

The Mexican crime lord known as El Chapo was convicted on Tuesday after a three-month drug trial in New York that exposed the inner workings of his sprawling cartel, which over decades shipped tons of drugs into the United States and plagued Mexico with relentless bloodshed and corruption.

The guilty verdict against the kingpin, whose real name is Joaquín Guzmán Loera, ended the career of a legendary outlaw who also served as a dark folk hero in Mexico, notorious for his innovative smuggling tactics, his violence against competitors, his storied prison breaks and his nearly unstoppable ability to evade the Mexican authorities.

As Judge Brian M. Cogan read the jury’s charge sheet in open court — 10 straight guilty verdicts on all 10 counts of the indictment — Mr. Guzmán sat listening to a translator, looking stunned. When the reading of the verdict was complete, Mr. Guzmán leaned back to glance at his wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, who flashed him a thumbs up with tears in her eyes.

The jury’s decision came more than a week after the panel started deliberations at the trial in Federal District Court in Brooklyn where prosecutors presented a mountain of evidence against the cartel leader, including testimony from 56 witnesses, 14 of whom once worked with Mr. Guzmán. Mr. Guzman now faces life in prison at his sentencing hearing, scheduled for June 25.

“Today is a historic day for American justice,” said Ángel Meléndez, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations. “Today we say American justice has been served, ending his days of evading authorities, ending his violent acts all in support of his efforts to conduct drug trafficking in the United States.”

The Sinaloa cartel is still going thanks to Guzman's sons, or course.  It won't matter in the least to the War on Drugs.  But El Chapo is never going to be a free man again, and I guess that's something.


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