Headlines: March 27, 2019
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for the second time blocked a resolution calling for the release of the full Special Counsel’s report on 2016 election wrongdoing to the public. The resolution, sponsored by Democrat Dianne Feinstein, mirrors the one that the House had earlier passed 420 to 0. McConnell on Monday blocked a similar resolution in the Senate. He justified his actions saying, “I have consistently supported the proposition that his report ought to be released to the greatest extent possible, consistent with the law,” echoing what Attorney General William Barr has said about releasing a cherry-picked version of the report in the next few weeks. McConnell also essentially admitted that releasing the entire report could politically hurt the President, saying, “I think we should be consistent in letting the special counsel actually finish his work and not just when we think it may be politically advantageous to one side or the other.” Republicans and Trump have characterized the Mueller report as completely exonerating Trump of all charges of collusion with Russia and of obstructing justice, but then opposed releasing the actual report.
The Senate on Tuesday voted down the Green New Deal resolution, which McConnell had forced a vote on without any debate or discussion. The final vote, of 57-0 reflected Democrats voting “present” instead of “no,” a strategy that House Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez encouraged. Ahead of the vote Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah attempted to make light of the Green New Deal by showing a photo of a rifle-toting Ronald Reagan riding a Velociraptor. He then suggested that the solution to climate change was to get married and have babies. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez who has introduced the House version of the resolution tweeted in response, “If this guy can be Senator, you can do anything.” The New York Times published an op-ed on Wednesday by a data scientist concluding that, “People Actually Like the Green New Deal.”
The Boeing corporation is facing Congressional scrutiny on Wednesday with several committee hearings in the wake of two deadly crashes of their 737 Max 8 aircraft within 6 months. In additional to Boeing executives facing questions, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is having to answer to lawmakers about the regulatory oversight duties of the FAA and the relationship between Boeing and the US government. Republican Senator Ted Cruz in an interview on CNBC on Wednesday attempted to explain Congress’ inquiry into the Boeing crashes and what the Congressional committee hearings would focus on.
In other news, President Donald Trump on Tuesday reportedly told his fellow Republicans at a private lunch that he felt there was too much federal aid going to the Hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico. According to the Washington Post Trump, “questioned why Puerto Rico was getting $91 billion, according to two people familiar with his comments, indicating that this was too much compared with compensation for states on the mainland.” He then apparently, “remarked that one could buy Puerto Rico four times over for $91 billion, according to people familiar with his comments.” The problem is that the $91 billion figure is fictional. Additionally Puerto Rico is currently facing devastating food stamp cuts. This is San Juan mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz responding to Trump. Roselló, who was once quite friendly with Trump, released a statement calling Trump’s words, “below the dignity of a sitting President” and “irresponsible, regrettable and, above all, unjustified.” While Trump has met with the governors of several hurricane ravaged states, he has reportedly been avoiding meeting with Puerto Rico’s leader. Roselló ended his statement saying, “We are not your political adversaries; we are your citizens.”
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday expressed his anger and disgust at the exoneration of actor Jussie Smollett. Smollett was facing several felony charges claiming that he faked a hate crime against himself but prosecutors dropped all charges. Mayor Rahm Emanuel reacted to Smollett’s charges being dropped at a press conference on Tuesday. Critics denounced Emanuel for refusing to show even a fraction of such indignation in clearcut cases of police abuse and killings of black Chicagoans such as Laquan McDonald.
The man accused of killing Heather Heyer at a 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia is expected to plead guilty to federal charges of hate crimes. The 21-year old white man pled not guilty to federal charges earlier. Last December a jury in Virginia found him guilty of first-degree murder and other related charges, for which he faces a lifetime prison sentence. The federal charges which he now faces could result in the death penalty. It is not yet clear which charges he will plead guilty to.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday faced scrutiny from lawmakers over her proposed cuts to the Special Olympics program – part of a series of proposed cuts to education spending that measure in the billions. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was unable to respond to questioning from Representative Pocan about cuts to the Special Olympics program. Part of DeVos’s plan also includes using federal tax dollars to support scholarships to private schools. Democrat Representative Rosa DeLauro said at the hearing, “I believe this budget is cruel, and I believe it is reckless.”
In international news, an airstrike led by Saudi forces in Yemen has killed 7 people, including 4 children. The strike targeted a hospital in a rural part of north Yemen run by the organization Save the Children. The organization released a statement responding to the bombing, saying, “We are shocked and appalled by this outrageous attack. Innocent children and health workers have lost their lives in what appears to been an indiscriminate attack on a hospital in a densely populated civilian area. Attacks like these are a breach of international law.” The US-backed Saudi forces have killed tens of thousands of Yemenis since the war began. According to the Washington Post, “what made this assault remarkable was that it came on the fourth anniversary of the Saudi-led coalition’s entry into Yemen’s civil war.” The US House and Senate recently passed resolutions ending US support for the war in Yemen but President Trump is expected to veto the measure.