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Essential Politics: The Supreme Court fight is on

The Senate Judiciary Committee begins four days of confirmation hearings today on President Trump's Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Lisa Mascaro writes that it’s the moment Democrats have been waiting for to lay out their opposition to Gorsuch, and by proxy, their opposition to Trump.

David Savage has a look at Gorsuch's judicial philosophy, a way of looking at the law that mirrors the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

As the Supreme Court fight unfolds, the House Intelligence committee is holding its first public hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

I'm Sarah Wire, and I cover the California delegation in Congress. Welcome to the Monday edition of Essential Politics.

The ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), held an impromptu question-and-answer session Friday with a couple of dozen liberal activists who demanded Feinstein take a more outspoken stand against the Trump administration, including filibustering Gorsuch's nomination. It led to a testy exchange with one young protester.

Get the latest about the Trump administration on Essential Washington and follow @latimespolitics and keep an eye on our Essential Politics news feed for California political news.

RUSSIA INVESTIGATION

As the House Intelligence Committee prepares to hold its first public hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 election today, President Trump took to Twitter to defend himself against suggestions that he or people close to him had colluded with Moscow.

HEALTHCARE BILL VOTE

After making some changes to make their healthcare bill more palpable, Republican leaders are exuding confidence about the chances of passing it in the House on Thursday.

Trump privately told House conservatives Friday he was "1,000%" behind the GOP's answer to Obamacare as they incorporated new Medicaid changes, and on Sunday, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said he felt "very good" about the chances that the House would pass the healthcare bill.

"We're still having conversations with our members," Ryan said on "Fox News Sunday." "We're making fine-tuning improvements to the bill to reflect people's concerns, to reflect peoples' improvements."

TRAVEL BAN STILL BANNED

Over the weekend, the Hawaii judge who halted President Trump's new travel ban last week rejected the government's request to limit his ruling.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson told federal lawyers who protested the broad scope of his ruling that "there is nothing unclear" about his order.

MR. BROWN GOES TO WASHINGTON

Gov. Jerry Brown is headed to the nation's capital today. In his first trip east since the arrival of the Trump administration, Brown is expected to gather with the state's congressional delegation and others as he continues to assess the impact of the president's plans on California. The only official item on the governor's calendar for now: A meeting of the nonpartisan Nuclear Threat Initiative, for which he serves on the board of directors.

Back home, the Brown administration is pressuring lawmakers to support a road-repair funding plan before the state Legislature goes on spring break April 6. Support is lagging for the bill, which would raise the gas tax and vehicle fees to provide $5.5 billion a year for fixing crumbling roads and improving mass transit.

IMMIGRATION BUDGET PROPOSAL

While Trump's budget includes a number of unprecedented elements for Californians, one familiar fight being picked by the president focuses on illegal immigration and the state's prisons.

In his Sunday column, John Myers laid out the history of federal subsidies to help pay the cost of incarcerating felons who are in the U.S. illegally. Though staunch immigration critics have championed the program, including a former California governor, the president proposes scrapping it.

CHINA PUSHBACK

China on Saturday dismissed U.S. efforts to adopt a stronger stance toward North Korea, testing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the progress he hopes to achieve in Beijing on the final, most precarious leg of his Asia tour, Jessica Meyers and Tracy Wilkinson report.

The day before his visit, Tillerson said “all options are on the table” with North Korea, reversing the approach of previous administrations and signaling to Beijing that the U.S. has not ruled out military strikes on China's ally. Tillerson warned on Saturday in Beijing that the threat from North Korea was at a "rather dangerous level."

BYPASSING ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW

The Los Angeles Rams got their new Inglewood stadium approved in just six weeks and skipped a full review under the state's primary environmental law governing development. A new bill from a Riverside assemblyman would prohibit local governments from approving similar projects.

SHOULD KEEPING HIV STATUS SECRET BE A FELONY?

Having unprotected sex without telling a partner about an HIV-positive status would no longer be a felony under a bill proposed by state lawmakers.

Patrick McGreevy has more on the measure by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and others, which would make knowingly exposing others to the disease by engaging in unprotected sex and not telling the partner about the infection a misdemeanor. The proposal has sparked opposition from Republican lawmakers.

OTHER ESSENTIALS

— Nearly two months after Trump took office, there is still no Spanish version of WhiteHouse.gov, and Rep. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) is turning to his colleagues in Congress for a fix.

— Endorsements continue to roll in with a little over two weeks left in the 34th Congressional District race. Danny Glover, a major supporter of Bernie Sanders during last year's presidential primary, and National Nurses United have endorsed Arturo Carmona. The Sierra Club and the California League of Conservation Voters are backing Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez. Maria Cabildo, who has been endorsed by the Los Angeles Times, got a nod from Latinas Lead California, an organization that supports Latinas running for office.

— In this week's California Politics Podcast, the discussion centers on the big environmental and budget plans announced in Washington last week, as well as a sweeping proposal to make college more affordable in the state.

— Should the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau be so independent?

— Brown asked Trump for a fourth federal disaster declaration on Sunday to help speed up recovery and repairs across the state after the winter's brutal storms.

— House Democrats were frustrated after their immigration meeting with the head of Homeland Security on Friday.

— A new ad for Wendy Carrillo's congressional campaign for the 34th District caught the eye of white supremacist David Duke, who tweeted about it.

— A bill from a Bay Area assemblyman aims to give local school districts money to help build teacher housing.

— More than 130 housing bills are pending in the California Legislature this year.

— Democratic and Republican legislative leaders join together to fight campaign finance rule change.

— A man pulled down a gay pride flag outside Rep. Alan Lowenthal's Washington office

LOGISTICS

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