Newsletter

Essential Politics: Paddling in the swamp to get things done

President Trump leaned into the Washington establishment last week as he dealt with the first major international policy moves of his young administration, and scored a win Friday with the confirmation of his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch.

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

Noah Bierman and Michael A. Memoli took a look at the different ways Trump relied on the established scions of Washington, whom he pledged to get rid of, as he weighed a response to the apparent sarin gas attack in Syria, wrestled with a second swing at changes to the Affordable Care Act and made some staff changes in the West Wing.

Meanwhile, Evan Halper and W.J. Hennigan examined what could be next for U.S. involvement in Syria. On the Sunday morning news shows, the messages from the Trump administration were mixed.

Members of Congress fell along some unexpected divides on U.S. intervention in Syria. Many of California’s House members were upset the president didn’t consult Congress before ordering the strike.

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

BACK TO NINE JUSTICES

After being confirmed by the Senate Friday, Gorsuch is scheduled to be sworn in this morning.

David G. Savage looked at some of the immediate ways Gorsuch’s presence on the bench might be felt, including on pending cases that pit religious liberty against gay rights, test limits on funding for church schools and challenge California’s restrictions on carrying a concealed gun in public.

LOOKING AHEAD TO L.A. CONGRESSIONAL RUNOFF

It’s official: State Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) and former Los Angeles planning commissioner Robert Lee Ahn are headed to a June 6 runoff to choose L.A.’s next member of Congress. Unofficial vote tallies show just over 13% of voters turned out last week.

Ahn, who would be the first Korean American in Congress in nearly two decades, surprised many by securing a spot in the top two runoff. His aggressive targeting of voters in Koreatown seems to have paid off, based on an early geographic analysis of the vote. But Ahn will have to expand his reach beyond the Korean American community if he’s going to win in this majority Latino district.

Gomez has already grabbed two big endorsements in the runoff campaign. Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, an early Bernie Sanders backer who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus with Keith Ellison, backed Gomez and L.A. Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents 40% of district voters, also endorsed Gomez.

Here’s another look at what Gomez and Ahn said on some of the top issues.

GAS TAX INCREASE

After a week of fierce debate between opposing interests, the state Legislature approved a plan Thursday to raise gas taxes and vehicle fees by $5.2 billion a year to pay for the repair of California’s pothole-ridden, decaying system of roads, highways and bridges.

The bill squeaked through with the bare minimum of votes required in both houses, and came with $1 billion in pet projects to sway recalcitrant members. Gov. Jerry Brown marked his 79th birthday Friday morning by celebrating its passage.

NEW RULES, SAME POLITICS IN SACRAMENTO

The passage of a sweeping transportation plan at the state Capitol was the first big deal cut under the new legislative rules imposed by voters last fall that require a 72 hours for public review of most bills before they're approved. But even so, last-minute deal making was alive and well.

In his Political Road Map column, John Myers looks at how the wheeling and dealing of legislative negotiations — the kind of stuff voters don’t often like — isn’t about to go away anytime soon.

CAP AND TRADE LIVES

California’s cap-and-trade program, which requires companies to buy permits to release greenhouse gases, has faced a cascade of legal and political problems, but it won a big victory last week.

A state appeals court decided that the program did not function like an unconstitutional tax, rejecting the argument of some business groups. While the state faces other challenges in its battle against climate change, environmentalists hailed the ruling.

DISTRICT VS. ‘AT-LARGE’ ELECTIONS

Nearly two dozen cities across the state have recently switched from citywide elections in which all voters choose everyone on the council, to district elections in which geographically divided groups of voters each elect their own representative. And more are preparing to switch.

But, as Phil Willon found, the new method isn’t leading to much more ethnically representative councils.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

— The topics on this week’s California Politics Podcast include the big transportation deal in Sacramento and whether last week’s court ruling on the state’s climate change law could affect efforts to add to that law later this year.

— Grade the President: How do you think Trump did during week 11 of his presidency? Tell us here.

— The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is moving senior staff to Orange County in hopes of flipping Republican-held House seats in 2018.

— California joined 15 states on a court brief supporting Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit against an Ohio healthcare law.

— The Assembly voted to expand protections for immigrant crime victims and witnesses.

— Labor heavyweight Maria Elena Durazo will run for Kevin de León’s state Senate seat.

LOGISTICS

Essential Politics is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You can keep up with breaking news on our politics page throughout the day for the latest and greatest. And are you following us on Twitter at @latimespolitics?

Miss Friday’s newsletter? Here you go.

Please send thoughts, concerns and news tips to politics@latimes.com.

Did someone forward you this? Sign up here to get Essential Politics in your inbox.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
69°