Newsletter: Essential Politics: The government shutdown goes on, as the countdown for 2020 begins


The nation’s politics seem to be defined by equal parts stagnation and acceleration as the new week arrives.

There’s the lack of action on reopening the federal government and all kinds of action on Democrats starting to line up for the right to challenge President Trump in less than two years’ time.


With the president tweeting about the wintry weather in Washington (“the snow filled lawns and Rose Garden,” he wrote on Sunday), there’s been little to report on efforts to end the stalemate that’s kept much of the federal government closed for more than three weeks. It’s now the longest such standoff in American history.


And the issue at the root of the impasse — Trump’s demand to fund construction of a new wall along the U.S.-Mexico border — shouldn’t last more than another three weeks, according to a prominent Republican senator.

“I would urge him to open up the government for a short period of time, like three weeks, before he pulls the plug. See if we can get a deal,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Sunday. “If we can’t at the end of three weeks, all bets are off.”

At that point, Graham said, Trump could try to push the wall effort through by executive power and declaration of a national emergency.

Meanwhile, there are a number of Californians — many of them Republicans — uneasy with suggestions of raiding over government spending priorities in the state to help kick off wall construction costs.


The president’s problems seemed to mount over the weekend after news reports of extraordinary secrecy surrounding his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the opening in 2017 of an FBI counterintelligence probe into whether Trump worked on behalf of the Kremlin.


Congressional Democrats said Sunday they’ll give additional scrutiny to the allegations.

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Julian Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio and housing secretary under President Barack Obama, launched an uphill bid for president Saturday, promising a youthful push behind a progressive agenda of environmentalism, economic equality anda more humane immigration policy.

More, many more, are expected to follow in the coming weeks and months.

“If there’s one thing we learned over the last two years, it’s that primaries are a good thing,” said Amanda Litman, founder of Run for Something, a group established after Trump’s election in 2016 to recruit and train young progressives to run for office. “They make our party stronger.’’


The flood of potential contestants stems from a confluence of factors — some political, some practical. Not all of them are related to the president and his perceived vulnerability.

The most prominent Californian likely to reveal her intentions is Sen. Kamala Harris, who brought a nationwide tour in support of a new book to Los Angeles over the weekend. By all appearances, Michael Finnegan noted, it was as much about preparing to seek the Democratic presidential nomination as it was about selling books.

Our Times team has a sharp look at who’s in and on the fence in the 2020 presidential race — a list worth bookmarking to see how things shake out in the not-too-distant future.


-- A federal judge in California on Sunday blocked Trump administration rules that would allow more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control.

-- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy promised “action” on Sunday after remarks by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) that said he wondered how white supremacy had “become offensive.”

-- William Barr, who served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, will again seek Senate confirmation to lead the Justice Department beginning with a hearing scheduled for Tuesday.



There were more than a few dropped jaws across the state Capitol community last week when Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his first state budget.

Set aside the fact that Newsom held court for almost two hours with statehouse reporters when unveiling the $209-billion budget. What got everyone’s attention was the size of the state’s unrestricted tax revenue windfall and the multitude of programs on which Newsom wants lawmakers to spend it.

Nor did it stop there. The new governor offered what sounded like an ultimatum to local officials across California whose communities fail to keep up with housing needs: no housing, no transportation money.

George Skelton, who first started covering governors some six decades ago, writes in his Monday column that no chief executive in California’s modern era has entered office with more wind at his back and fewer obstacles lying ahead.

And in my Sunday column, there’s a closer look at an important — and legally untested — assumption Newsom is making about how the state’s popular rainy-day reserve fund works.



-- An ongoing FBI investigation into Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar is part of a broader corruption probe in which agents are seeking possible evidence involving others at City Hall, according to a federal search warrant.

-- As Los Angeles Unified School District teachers prepare to strike — and the district looks to Newsom and Sacramento for help — one central question remains: Where’s the money?

-- Just as a landmark transparency law goes into effect, some California police agencies are shredding internal affairs documents and law enforcement unions are trying to block the information from being released.

-- Newsom has ordered an overhaul of the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which has been plagued by hours-long wait times at field offices, computer crashes and voter registration errors.

-- More Californians should be given access to public universities, said Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis as she took the oath of office.

-- California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, who now begins his first full term in office, said last week he would continue to challenge the Trump administration on actions that he believes are counter to the state’s interests.

-- California Controller Betty Yee began her second term last week saying she still has work to do addressing problems that include a lack of affordability in housing, healthcare and higher education.


-- Treasurer Fiona Ma pledged to boost the state’s economy in her first remarks after taking office last week.

-- Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond promised a labor-friendly agenda, including more money for teacher salaries and support staff, in his first remarks after being sworn into office.

-- Secretary of State Alex Padilla pledged to continue the battle to protect the right to vote in his second term as chief elections officer.


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