mhallen headshotMerritt Hamilton Allen, whose work is published previously in the Edgewood Independent, will also provide her columns to the Grant County Beat. 

American global resolve is shaky

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, trying to simultaneously do the right thing, not trigger former President/current GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, and keep Congressional howler monkey Marjorie Taylor Greene from formally moving to remove him as Speaker (a "motion to vacate"), announced on April 15 his intent to split the Senate foreign aid package into four separate bills.

Johnson proposes a bill for aid to Israel and is silent about whether that will include humanitarian aid for Gaza. A separate bill would provide aid to Ukraine. The remaining two bills would be for aid to Taiwan and a bill comprised of several measures, including seizure of Russian assets and banning TikTok. Border security measures could be added to this last mop-up bill.

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Is it good PR, or Russian propaganda?

You might have missed it. On April 7, the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Mike Turner (R-Ohio) announced on two different Sunday news programs that members of his caucus were repeating Russian propaganda in their arguments against foreign aid for Ukraine.

Just let that sink in for a minute.

Turner said on CNN's State of the Union, "It is absolutely true we see, directly coming from Russia, attempts to mask communications that are anti-Ukraine and pro-Russia messages, some of which we even hear being uttered on the House floor."

Anti-Ukraine sentiment in the most extremist arm of the GOP has been simmering since Russia invaded in February 2022. U.S. intelligence data shows a proactive Kremlin campaign to undermine American support for Ukraine has been ongoing since at least May of 2022, and underway in earnest since January 2023.

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The 21st Century Elmer Gantry

Holy Week and the Easter season in New Mexico is a special time. While the rest of the country dyes eggs and buys chocolate, New Mexicans go on pilgrimages. Every Good Friday, thousands of New Mexicans either walk to El Santuario de Chimayó in the village of Chimayó or climb Tomé Hill between Los Lunas and Belen. Chimayó pilgrims sometimes walk all night, and the highway department sets up special lights along the highway and routes on frontage roads between Nambé and Chimayó.

New Mexico is a state of unique faith. Growing up here certainly shaped and informed my own faith journey.

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The hiring of talking heads

This spring, Ronna McDaniel of the RNC needed a job. As national chair since 2017, she needed to replace the $400,000/year income loss resulting from her forced resignation as Donald Trump clinched the GOP presidential nomination.

There's quite a bit to unpack in that lede, but there really isn't column space for it. Let's just move on to her job search.

We all know the path of least resistance for recovering politicos looking for work is to get picked up as some network's "political analyst." McDaniel did her due diligence, signed with the top-tier Creative Artists' Agency, and started negotiations. She was ultimately hired by NBC, to the general shock and outrage of its news staff.

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NM GOP legislative leadership calls it a day

The deadline for filing for candidacy in New Mexico just passed and there were several major surprises, including the sheer number of incumbents not running. Nearly a third of the state Senate is not standing for re-election – 13 of 42 members, and 10 of 70 members of the House of Representatives are not running to keep their seats.

Three of the departing House members are running for vacant Senate seats, one of whom, former House minority leader and current House minority whip James Townsend of Artesia, is unopposed in both the primary and the general election. The House majority leader and longest serving member of the House, Representative Gail Chasey of Albuquerque, is stepping down. The only remaining Republican member of the House from the City of Albuquerque, nine-term Representative Bill Rehm, is retiring.

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A must-win race where there are no winners

Three things were striking the morning after Super Tuesday: Nikki Haley's declining to endorse former President Trump as she withdrew from the Republican primary; a new poll showing 6 of 10 Americans doubt both President Biden's and Trump's mental acuity when it comes to serving as President; and the Ukrainian's First Lady rejecting the invitation to attend the State of the Union address.

In 2024, America is a divided nation with weak political candidates whose own political inertia is earning it international snubs.

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The last of the GOP dealmakers calls it quits

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) in his surprise announcement that he would vacate his leadership role in November, said, "I have many faults. Misunderstanding politics is not one of them." McConnell has seen that the many compromises he has achieved in recent weeks over border security and foreign aid in the Senate are for naught when it comes to getting legislation through the House of Representatives. He's done.

Starting his Senate career some four decades ago in the Reagan administration, McConnell has seen a lot of things that are all but impossible in today's Congress. He saw a time when budget hawks like Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Manuel Luján actually stood for responsible government spending. He observed GOP Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole regularly cut deals with Democrat Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill and vice versa to further the interests of the nation rather than serve personal fundraising agendas. He saw a Congress united against the global threat of Soviet domination and willing to stand up to the Kremlin.

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A professionalized legislature doesn't require six-figure salaries

The close of the 2024 legislative session was rather unremarkable, but for rumblings of calling a special session to address public safety. A mere 72 bills of the more than six hundred filed made it to the governor's desk to be signed into law.

The lackluster session juxtaposed against a state awash in revenues yet at the bottom of every national index is again giving rise to talk of "professionalizing" the Legislature. Our legislators are unpaid but for per diem when the Legislature is in session and for interim meeting attendance. For those who must travel long distances and pay for lodging, the per diem rate is barely a break-even proposition.

The problem with this "citizens' legislature" model is two-fold: first, it limits the pool of those who can serve in the legislature to the independently wealthy, the flexibly employed, or the retired. Second, the minimal staff and drop-in nature of the legislators themselves limits the Legislature's efficiency and effectiveness which dilutes its power in favor of the executive branch.

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