Federal court rules three districts in Texas drawn illegally
Three congressional districts in Texas were illegally drawn, “violating the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act,” a panel of federal judges ruled on March 10th. According to NPR, “The panel found that Republicans had used race as a motivating factor in redistricting.” Texas can appeal to the Supreme Court.
This is the third decision on gerrymandering in six weeks – the first came in Wisconsin, where a separate panel of federal judges ruled that currently-drawn districts are unconstitutional and need to be redrawn by November 1, 2017, and the second came when the Supreme Court ordered the lower courts to reexamine eleven districts in Virginia to determine if they’d been illegally gerrymandered.
The ‘America First’ budget proposal
Trump administration released what Mick Mulvaney, the new director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, calls the “America First budget,” echoing Trump’s increasing use of the phrase in speeches and comments. In the budget: the administration seeks to boost military spending by 54 billion dollars over the next year – a 10 percent increase in the military budget – funded by corresponding cuts to other federal departments, most noticeably the State Department, which would see its budget cut by an estimated 28 percent and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by 31 percent. The National Institutes of Health would also see its budget cut by 20 percent, as would the Departments of Labor and Agriculture. Other highlights: the administration would boost the budget for the Department of Homeland Security by 6 percent and the National Nuclear Security Administration by 11.3 percent, but would eliminate funding entirely for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which is currently allotted 445 million dollars, or 0.03 percent of the proposed budget, along with programs that poor Americans have benefitted from, including the Appalachian Regional Commission, which, as NPR reports, “promotes economic development in the region stretching from northern Mississippi to western New York,” a region of the country which strongly supported Trump in the 2016 election.
You can take a look at the full budget proposal here.
At the New Yorker, John Cassidy assesses Trump’s “Voldemort budget,” concluding that “someone in the Trump Administration appears to have gone through the entire budget looking to eliminate funding for small entities that try to do some good.”
Manhattan District Attorney fired by Trump after he refused to offer resignation
Preet Bharara, the US Attorney in Manhattan who “secured insider-trading settlements from Wall Street firms and won criminal convictions in high-profile corruption and terrorism cases” was dismissed Saturday after refusing to resign from his position at the request of the Trump administration. Bharara had served since 2009 and said in November that Trump had asked him to remain in his post – it’s not unusual for federal attorneys, as political appointees, to keep their positions until a new administration has a confirmed replacement. Bharara’s firing, though, is part of a larger dismissal of 46 federal prosecutors, raising questions “about President Donald Trump's ability to fill top jobs throughout his government,” according to Reuters.
At The Atlantic, Matt Ford explains why the move to dismiss so many politically-appointed federal prosecutors was not unusual, but still troubling.
Senator John McCain called on Trump to either substantiate or retract his claim that former President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 election…in an unpublished Senate testimony, Secretary of Defense James Mattis asserted climate change is real and “threat to American interests abroad and the Pentagon’s assets everywhere,” a statement at odds with the views of, among others in the Trump administration, Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, who does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming…federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland issued a temporary freeze on Trump’s revised travel ban…White House released Trump’s 2005 tax returns after Rachel Maddow obtained them…the Federal Reserve raised its interest rate three-quarters of a percent on Wednesday…the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its analysis of the American Health Care Act, concluding the bill would cut the federal deficit by 337 billion dollars over the next 10 years, but increase the number of uninsured by 24 million.
above image: financial times / flickr