Newsletter: Essential Politics: Washington’s woes, Sacramento’s success

Essential Politics

The two seats of government are 2,729 miles apart if you’re driving. Politically speaking, though, Washington and Sacramento seemed light-years away from each other this week.

As lawmakers squabbled back East, they celebrated in the Golden State.

Good morning from the state capital. I’m Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers, and the comparison is clearly one that Gov. Jerry Brown relishes as state lawmakers ratified his plan to extend California’s cap-and-trade climate program.


In Washington, it’s healthcare that’s shined a bright light on divisions among Republicans. And the leader of their party made it clear: He doesn’t think this one’s on him.


The promise by President Trump and congressional Republicans to swiftly “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act seems to be all but officially scrapped as of this morning.

On Tuesday, the day after two GOP senators said they wouldn’t support bringing the latest replacement proposal up on the Senate floor, three other Republican senators rebuffed an effort to start off with a simple repeal of Obamacare.


The three lawmakers — Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Maine Sen. Susan Collins and West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capitorefused to go along with the effort by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to scrap Obamacare now and wait until later to replace.

“I cannot vote to repeal Obamacare without a replacement plan that addresses my concerns and the needs of West Virginians,” Capito said in a statement.

So how did that go over at the White House, where Monday’s collapse of the replacement plan happened while the president was dining with GOP senators?

Trump not only said that the existing law should be allowed to fail on its own, it sounded as though he sought to wash his hands of the whole topic.

“We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it,” he said on Tuesday.

The president’s attempt to distance himself was a curious statement when compared to criticism through the years that former President Barack Obama had done the same thing.

Matt Pearce dug through old tweets to show how Trump’s tune has changed.

And David Lauter makes an interesting point about the 45th president: He seems very focused on undoing the work of the 44th president.



The legislators who walked on to the stage in the state Capitol’s media room on Monday night were an unusual sight: a group of Democrats and Republicans, all of whom had voted to add 10 years to the life of the centerpiece of California’s climate change efforts.

Eight Republicans — seven in the state Assembly, one in the state Senate — joined Democrats to extend the cap-and-trade program until 2030. It was the culmination of weeks of intense, closed-door negotiations between Brown and lawmakers, and provided a sharp contrast in political imagery with what’s been happening in Washington.

“When you can lock something in with the support of Republicans and Democrats, it has durability,” the governor told reporters after the final legislative votes.

But bipartisan good feelings weren’t universal. On Tuesday, Melanie Mason found there were some in California who didn’t like what they saw on a deal that imposes longer greenhouse gas limits on some industries and is expected to have an ongoing impact on gas prices.


Brown had eight Republicans vote for the cap-and-trade extensions. That’s seven more than former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had when he signed the state’s landmark climate legislation more than a decade ago.

In an interview on Tuesday, he was thrilled more members of his party were stepping up to the plate on an issue he’s championed.


“The Republican Party has moved forward in a big step,” Schwarzenegger said.


Cathleen Decker tackles the comparison between the two capitals in her analysis this morning. On the left coast was Brown, a governor who used wiles honed by decades in political life to draw in some members from both sides to craft a successful measure.

On the other side was Trump, his Oval Office a spot that Brown long coveted, who as president has seen his first six months come to a close with consternation and defeat.


Amid the cap-and-trade debate, Brown and legislative leaders put off a decision on addressing the state’s housing problems until lawmakers return from summer break in late August.

Legislators and housing advocates are encouraged that the governor is putting his weight behind housing bills, Liam Dillon reports, but an ultimate deal is far from a slam dunk.


Under investigation by the FBI for possibly misusing campaign funds, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) has spent $336,664 with seven law firms this year.

Sarah Wire reports that Hunter’s most recent campaign finance report shows $152,859 in spending and $114,412 in debt to law firms in the San Diego and Washington, D.C., areas in the months since the House Ethics Committee disclosed the FBI’s investigation in order to explain why it wasn’t pursuing its own investigation.

Meanwhile, Hunter picked up another challenger on Tuesday: retired U.S. Army veteran Daniel Casara.


-- New polls paint similar, and not encouraging, pictures on how voters see the president’s job performance so far.

-- The healthcare fight on Capitol Hill has put Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake in a tough spot.

-- The attorney for California’s campaign finance watchdog says the agency shouldn’t loosen contribution limits for Democrats seeking to help state Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) fend off a recall.

-- Russian officials are frustrated they can’t get their U.S. properties back, seized by Obama late last year.

-- Can a small-town New Mexico congressman help Democrats win back the majority in the House?

-- The Trump administration chastised Iran just hours after saying the country was complying with its 2015 treaty.

-- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says Democrats are willing to work with Republicans on healthcare fixes.

-- Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Menlo Park) is asking the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to withdraw its request for voter information from all 50 states.

-- Sen. Kamala Harris said Tuesday there’s enough common ground on criminal justice reform that she’s optimistic Congress can come together to pass a new plan.

-- L.A.'s newest congressman gets assigned to a powerful House oversight committee.

-- After 23 years, Ron Brownstein is signing off from his L.A. Times column.


Essential Politics is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

You can keep up with breaking news on our politics page throughout the day. And are you following us on Twitter at @latimespolitics?

Miss Monday’s newsletter? Here you go.

Please send thoughts, concerns and news tips to

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

Get our twice-weekly Politics newsletter