What to Know in Washington: Bernie or Bust for Some 2020 Voters

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The fierce loyalty Sen. Bernie Sanders inspires in his supporters is creating a dilemma for the Democratic Party.

For a sliver of Sanders’ base, it’s Bernie or bust. They may detest President Donald Trump, but they didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton and they’re not sure they’ll back the Democratic nominee in 2020 if Sanders (I-Vt.) isn’t on the ballot. They’re willing do whatever it takes to push the party to adopt his ideas.

“Sometimes things have to get ugly before they get better,” said Melissa Mallaber, a 46-year-old social worker who attended Sanders’ rally in Pittsburgh on Sunday. “There’s such a thing as necessary evils in life to restore the balance.”

Mallaber said she cast a write-in vote for Sanders in 2016 rather than go along with a Democratic establishment choice who wouldn’t take bold action on issues like health care and climate change. “People had to wake up,” she said. “If we had another Clinton in office what would have changed?”

Bernie_Sanders_042019Sen. Bernie Sanders

Such disaffected voters who are hostile to the Democratic establishment appear to be only a narrow slice of the Vermont senator’s base. But elections are often won on the smallest margins. In 2016, a portion of them backed Green Party candidate Jill Stein in the general election. While Stein barely got 1 percent of the vote overall, that amounted to 132,000 ballots across Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, three pivotal states Trump won by a collective margin of about 77,000 votes. Sanders rallied in all three states last weekend.

“It’s a pretty small minority of his support,” said Neil Sroka, a spokesman for the liberal activist group Democracy For America. “But when you’re dealing with an election that was as close in terms of raw votes in 2016, every vote matters. And so that matters.” Read more from Sahil Kapur.

More Elections and Politics

Finance, Hollywood Donors Give to Trump Challengers: Much attention has been given to the importance of small-dollar donors to the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. Many of the candidates, too, boast that they’re not interested in money from corporate political action committees. Turns out, thousands of high-dollar contributors have had no trouble getting their checks — often for the $2,800 primary-election maximum — cashed. They include celebrities as well as others with top posts in finance, media, technology, sports and entertainment. Read more from Bill Allison, John McCormick and Mark Niquette.

O’Rourke Declines No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge: 2020 Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke declined to sign a pledge from climate activists not to accept any money from the fossil fuel industry, saying he won’t take donations from oil and gas executives, lobbyists or political action committees, but won’t decline contributions from employees. “If you work in the oil fields, you answer the phones in the office, if you’re one of my fellow Texans in one of our state’s largest employers, we’re not going to single you out,” O’Rourke said in Virginia yesterday. Read more from Emma Kinery.

Collins Quadruples Re-Election Fundraising: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), whom Democrats have threatened to target for her some of her votes, is raising campaign money at a much faster pace than in her previous re-election bids. Collins, who’s seeking a fifth Senate term in 2020, began April with $3.8 million in her campaign fund after raising more than $1.5 million in the first three months of the year, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

Her first-quarter receipts amounted to more than four times the $374,000 she raised in the first quarter of 2013, when Collins was beginning a 2014 campaign she would go on to win easily. Read more from Greg Giroux.

King Faces Well-Funded Primary Foe: Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) who has provoked broad bipartisan criticism for his comments about race, will have to brace for a well-funded challenger from within his own party. Randy Feenstra, an Iowa state senator seeking to oust King in the June 2020 Republican primary, reported raising $260,000 during this year’s first quarter from donors including some political action committees and well-known Iowa Republicans, according to reports filed with the FEC. Read more from Greg Giroux.

No Rest From Fundraising for Swing-Seat Freshmen: Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-N.Y.) who defeated a sitting congressman to flip a seat last year, is the No. 1 campaign fundraiser among the vulnerable group of freshmen who represent swing districts. He raised nearly $755,000 from January to March, and already is spending money to defend his seat. Delgado is one of 22 freshman Democrats from House districts won by Trump in 2016. Those newcomers are being targeted by both parties, as Republicans seek to regain lost ground and Democrats try to make 2018 the start of a new trend. Read more from Kenneth P. Doyle.

Gianforte Considering Run for Governor: Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) said he’s considering a run for governor in 2020, local NBC affiliate KECI reports on Twitter. Gianforte said he’s gotten a lot of encouragement for a run, KECI reports. Gianforte won his first full House term in November after winning a 2017 special election after he notoriously assaulted a reporter the day before polls opened, Terrence Dopp reports.

On Lawmakers’ Radars

Possible Probe of Pardon Offer for Border Chief: House Judiciary Committee leaders asked acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan to provide details about Trump’s reported offer of a pardon in case McAleenan faced criminal liability for following orders to close the border with Mexico. Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and other committee Democrats asked McAleenan in a letter yesterday to identify DHS employees who may have heard, or were told about, such a conversation between him and the president. He was also asked to identify officials who may have heard Trump direct them to deny asylum-seekers entry to the U.S.

The New York Times reported Friday that Trump made such statements during an April 5 trip to the border with McAleenan. The Times said one unidentified person said the president may have meant the pardon offer as a joke, but that officials still were concerned about it. Trump tweeted he “never offered Pardons to Homeland Security Officials, never ordered anyone to close our Southern Border.” Read more from Billy House.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan advisory panel said the surge of migrants at the border is a crisis that puts U.S. security and migrant children in “serious danger” and needs “emergency action,” including spending billions of dollars. The draft recommendations by medical and immigration specialists assembled by the Homeland Security Department were released early yesterday because of “catastrophic levels” of migrants crossing the border, the Homeland Security Advisory Council said. Read more from Michaela Ross on their reccomendations.

Blocking Trump’s Drilling Plan: Areas of the Atlantic, Pacific and some parts of the Gulf of Mexico would be placed off limits to oil drilling under a bill crafted by House Natural Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.). “There is a pretty strong sense on the committee that we are going to do the legislation and let the chips fall where they may,” he said. The bill may be unveiled in June or July, Grijalva said. The Interior Department is developing a new five-year plan for selling offshore oil and gas leases. An initial draft proposed last year opened the door to selling drilling rights in more than 90 percent of U.S. coastal waters. Read more from Ari Natter and Jennifer A. Dlouhy.

Pesticide Ban for School Meals: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) will introduce a bill today banning schools from using food products sprayed with chlorpyrifos in school meals, a pesticide linked to developmental disabilities in children. The pesticide, used on products like apples, oranges, and corn, was banned in 2016, then that decision was reversed under the former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, Teaganne Finn reports.

The Safe School Meals for Kids Act would prohibit schools form purchasing food for school meals with a chlorpyrifos residue greater than 0.001 micrograms per kilogram, “effectively banning this chemical” from school meals, according to a statement. Gillibrand will likely work to include it in a possible reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. Child nutrition programs—including the federal school lunch program—and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WI C), haven’t been reauthorized in almost 10 years.

More Money for Carbon Capture Research: A dozen senators from both parties want Congress to set an aggressive timeline in spending legislation for Trump’s Energy Department to develop new and improved carbon capture technologies. The senators are urging their colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to fund Energy Department programs for carbon capture, utilization, and storage technologies at the “highest possible levels” in fiscal 2020.

The fiscal 2020 budget request proposes a nearly $200 million cut to the department’s fossil fuel office. The cuts would include zeroing out the office’s CCS and Power Systems program, which conducts research on capture and storage technologies, and sharply reducing by nearly $130 million the office’s carbon capture, utilization, and storage program under the office’s Advanced Coal Energy Systems research, according to the Energy Department. Read more from Abby Smith.

Movers and Shakeups

White House Talking to Replacements for Cain, Moore: The White House is interviewing candidates to potentially replace Herman Cain and Stephen Moore as Trump’s picks for the Federal Reserve Board, the president’s top economic adviser said. Cain must decide for himself if he’ll withdraw from consideration for a Fed job, Larry Kudlow said at the White House. Moore has faced scrutiny over a dispute with the IRS, which claimed he owes more than $75,000 in taxes and other penalties. Read more from Shannon Pettypiece.

Zinke Joins Board of Gold Miner: Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke joined the board of a tiny gold mining company with projects in Nevada and Wyoming. U.S. Gold Corp., based in Elko, Nev., has a market capitalization of about $20 million. Zinke is one of six board members for the firm, according to its website. Zinke left his post in January amid several federal investigations into his travel, political activity and potential conflicts of interest, Danielle Bochove reports.

Bernhardt Under Internal Investigation: Four days after Trump’s choice for Interior secretary was confirmed by the Senate, the agency’s inspector general has opened an investigation into the former energy lobbyist. Secretary David Bernhardt is being investigated, according to letters sent to House Democrats and ethics groups who say he had conflicts of interest and potential ethics violations. Bernhardt, a former energy and natural resources lobbyist, has been accused of using his position to help former clients of his firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP. Read more from Ari Natter.

Defense, Trade, Foreign Affairs

Trump Vetoes Bipartisan Yemen Bill: Trump vetoed a bipartisan measure passed by Congress this month demanding that he withdraw U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, the White House said in a statement.

Trump’s veto strikes down a measure that represented an implicit rebuke of the president for his continued backing of Saudi Arabia following the killing of U.S.-based columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The resolution, which called for the president to withdraw U.S. armed forces from hostilities in or affecting Yemen within 30 days unless Congress authorized further engagement, was passed by the House about two weeks ago following Senate approval in March. Neither chamber passed the legislation by the tw o-thirds majority it would take to override. Read more from Michael Shepard and Daniel Flatley, and read the BGOV Bill Summary for more on the measure.

Navy’s $128 Billion Nuclear Sub Project Under Review: The Pentagon’s inspector general plans to audit how well the Navy is overseeing development of the propulsion and steering system for its new $128 billion Columbia class of nuclear-armed submarines. An audit this early in the Navy’s top-priority program — at least 17 months before construction is scheduled to start on the first of 12 vessels — signals concern about the potential risks in technology for the sub, which is still mostly in its design phase.
The review that’s likely to begin by June will “determine whether the Navy is managing the development” of the system to “ensure that it meets performance requirements without cost increases or schedule overruns,” the watchdog office said in its fiscal 2019 audit plan. Read more from Tony Capaccio.

Nearing Deal to Build ‘Fort Trump’: Poland is nearing a deal with the U.S. to establish an American military base in the former Communist bloc country, according to people familiar with the matter—a base Poles see as a deterrent to Russian aggression and that the Kremlin would likely consider a provocation. If a deal is reached, Trump is considering traveling to Poland in the fall, in part to commemorate the agreement. But it’s unclear if he fully supports the idea, even after he said during a September meeting with Polish Preside nt Andrzsej Duda that the U.S. was looking “very seriously” at establishing a base. Read more from Jennifer Jacobs, Justin Sink, Nick Wadhams and Marek Strzelecki.

Suing Companies in Cuba: Trump intends to allow U.S. citizens to sue companies doing business in Cuba, according to a senior White House official, in another break with predecessors that threatens to jeopardize relations with allies. The administration will announce today that the president will enforce a provision of a 1996 law known as Helms-Burton, allowing Cubans who fled Fidel Castro’s regime sue companies that used their former property on the island. Read more from Margaret Talev.

Trump Receives Trade Setback Amid WTO Rule: The debate over whether the World Trade Organization has the power to rule on disputes involving countries’ national security was put to rest yesterday, setting up a fight with the U.S., which has argued the Geneva-based body doesn’t have standing to make such rulings. Russia and Ukraine said they won’t appeal a landmark trade decision in which the WTO upheld Moscow’s right to claim a key exemption to international trade rules that allows governments to take “any action which it considers necessary for protecting of its essential security interests.” Read more from Bryce Baschuk and Lyubov Pronina.

Iran Passes Retaliation Bill as U.S. Moves on Guards: The Iranian parliament overwhelmingly approved the framework of a measure in retaliation for the U.S. designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group. Some 204 lawmakers were in favor and two voted against the bill, with no abstentions, according to a report on the parliament’s news website ICANA. Read more from Ladane Nasseri and Arsalan Shahla.

What Else to Know Today

Trump Rebuffs House Demand on AT&T Deal: The administration is refusing requests from House Democrats to produce records related to concerns about potential political interference by Trump in the government’s decision to sue to block AT&T Inc.’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner. The refusal is the latest escalation in tensions between the White House, which unsuccessfully opposed the combination, and House Judiciary Chairman Nadler over the disclosure of information to Congress. Read more from Ben Brody and Billy House.

President Signs Water-Saving Measure: A water-management plan agreed to by seven Southwestern states to respond to drought conditions in the Colorado River basin took a step forward yesterday when Trump signed a bill authorizing the pact. The Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan Authorization Act would sanction the deal by Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming to use less water in order to keep supplies in Lake Mead and Lake Powell from getting dangerously low. The next step for the plan is ratification by those states. Read more from Dean Scott and see the BGOV Bill Summaryfor details on the legislation.

Trump Organization Urges Dismissing Cohen Suit: The Trump Organization asked a judge to toss Michael Cohen’s lawsuit in which he seeks reimbursement for legal fees he incurred defending himself in numerous investigations, saying he’s hoping for a “payday” as he prepares to serve a three-year prison sentence. The organization said in a filing yesterday that it had no contracts with Cohen, who suddenly claims a “self-serving” agreement requires his former employer to not only pay legal fees, but also all the fines, restitution, and forfeiture resulting from his personal guilty pleas. Read more from Chris Dolmetsch.

FDA to Keep Pressure on Teen Vaping, Acting Head Says: The Food and Drug Administration’s new acting commissioner said that he’ll maintain the agency’s crackdown on youth vaping. Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless used his first official remarks to staff to reassure them that he plans to “maintain FDA’s current course of action in every area and proceed full-speed ahead,” according to a copy of his remarks released by the agency. Read more from Anna Edney.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Zachary Sherwood at zsherwood@bgov.com; Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com

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