Newsletter: Essential Politics: From misconduct to taxes, a time of murky politics

Essential Politics

In political circles from Sacramento to Washington, the midpoint of the week arrives with a feeling that we’re in the moment before the moment.

Big things are coming, but the path forward is unclear.

Certainly that was true in the state Capitol, as everyone tuned in for a long-awaited hearing on sexual misconduct, but nowhere is the watch-and-wait mentality more at play right now than Washington.



The movement continues toward a huge vote by week’s end on Republican tax overhaul plans. The proposal cleared a committee on Tuesday, thanks in part to concessions made by President Trump.

But a lot still has to happen. One Republican wants to change the plan to better help small businesses, another wants to prevent an explosion of debt. Others want to trim tax breaks for the wealthy.

Meantime, the Senate GOP effort to use the tax legislation to repeal a key part of the Affordable Care Act could derail insurance markets in conservative, rural swaths of the country, according to a Los Angeles Times data analysis.


California Democrats remain worried about the proposal’s effect on the Golden State, with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti calling it “illogical” and “immoral” at an event on Monday.


While Democrats are watching the tax debate from the sidelines, they will be key players when it comes to avoiding a government shutdown. Which makes the president’s Tuesday morning comments so interesting.

“I don’t see a deal!” Trump tweeted in talking about Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Hours later, Schumer and Pelosi decided to skip a big White House meeting.

As Noah Bierman writes, the self-professed deal-maker president may have once again poisoned the well of bipartisan deal-making. And Republicans, too, feel burned by him.


In the middle of an already high-stakes week for Trump, the tensions with North Korea are higher after the communist country launched another ballistic missile on Tuesday — the first since September.



-- “I know that I’ve let a lot of people down,” Minnesota Sen. Al Franken said Monday, repeating his apology to women who have accused him of touching them inappropriately.

-- The Supreme Court could be on the verge of limiting protection for whistleblowers who disclose problems within a company.

-- A federal judge refused Tuesday to keep Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, from also serving as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And that was after a bizarre Monday, where two people laid claim to the job.

-- Language included in the Senate tax reform bill would add a new tax to certain foreign airlines that serve the U.S. The language was added by a senator from Georgia, the home state of Delta Air Lines.

-- Trump used a ceremony on Monday honoring Navajo code talkers’ service in World War II to insult a favorite target, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Some say it’s part of a long history of controversy over the U.S. government’s relationship with Native Americans.

-- The accused mastermind of the 2012 Benghazi attacks has been convicted of terrorism but acquitted of murder of four Americans.



The expected and unexpected both have happened in the first few days of this week in the intense debate over sexual harassment allegations in and around state politics.

On Monday, Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) decided to immediately resign rather than wait until next year — his original plan after last week’s allegations of improper conduct by half a dozen women.

The next day, members of a California Assembly subcommittee spent five hours quizzing staffers and consoling women who said change is long overdue in the way sexual harassment and abuse complaints are handled under the state Capitol dome.

“We know we are scratching the surface of what is clearly a problem across our country and across many industries and organizations,” said Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale).

A good portion of the proceedings focused on how top Assembly officials handle sexual misconduct complaints — and the lawmakers were left to wrestle with what seemed to be a confusing set of answers.

There was a long pause from the staffers who had been called to testify when Assemblyman Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield) asked, “"Does anyone here believe that the current policy is working?”

The hearing came just hours after one Democratic Assembly member offered up a new idea: Don’t make taxpayers pick up the tab for settlements of harassment claims.


-- Congress doesn’t seem close to funding health insurance for almost 2 million kids and pregnant women in California, and if it doesn’t it could leave a hole in the state budget.

-- Bay Area Rep. Zoe Lofgren wants to take over Rep. John Conyers’ House Judiciary position.

-- Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, a former state Senate president, endorsed fellow Democrat Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom for governor.

-- Officials installed video cameras at the Trump border wall project near San Ysidro, citing a “threat environment.”

-- Republicans in Broward County, Fla., knew little about Rupert Tarsey before they elected him secretary of their executive committee. Then, they discovered his past.

-- California regulators released a long-awaited overhaul of the state’s primary environmental law governing development in an effort to better fight climate change.

-- Sen. Kamala Harris donned Astros gear to pay out her World Series bet with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.


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