On Friday, September 8, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham declared gun violence and illegal drugs a public health emergency with the issuance of a sweeping Emergency Public Health Care Order. The original Emergency Public Health Order banned the carrying of firearms, concealed or openly, in any public space in Bernalillo County and any state property in New Mexico. The link to the September 8 Emergency Health Order is here:
During the one week after the Emergency Public Health Care Orders were issued, all hell broke loose consisting of protests by armed citizens, 5 federal and 1 state lawsuits were filed, a federal court hearing on a temporary restraining order, calls for impeachment, and calls for a special session to deal with the state’s high violent crime rates.
On Friday, September 15, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced an Amended Public Health Emergency Order. The amended order scales back the original order by banning firearms only in “public parks and playgrounds” where children and their families gather. The amended order eliminates sweeping bans on the public carry of firearms in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. The link to the September 15 Emergency Health Order is here:
U.S. HOUSE RESOLUTION CONDEMNING NEW MEXICO GOV. MLJ
It was Republican Washington U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse who introduced the Congressional Condemnation Resolution. The resolutions is a mere 3 pages long. It contains simplified “WHEREAS” pronouncements of what the Governor did and said and proclaims the Governor violated her oath of office and infringed on Second Amend Rights to bear arms.
The resolution describes the Governor’s emergency health care order and how it suspends the right to carry open and canceled firearms for 30 days and describes how fines and civil penalties can be imposed for exercising Second Amendment rights. The resolution summarizes 3 specific landmark United States Supreme Court cases that guarantee a person’s right to bear arms.
The resolution cites how United States District Court Judge David Urias issued a temporary restraining order against 2 provisions of the emergency order and how Attorney General Raúl Torrez declared he would not defend the orders. The condemnation resolution quotes the Governor as saying “No Constitutional right in my view, including my oath, is intended to be absolute”.
The condemnation resolution quotes New Mexico’s oath of office requiring an elected official to affirm they must faithfully and impartially discharge duties of office and argues Lujan Grisham violated her oath of office.
The resolution abruptly ends with the following condemnation language:
“The House of Representatives condemns the actions of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for blatantly violating the Second Amendment to the Constitution and depriving the citizens of New Mexico of their right to bear arms.”
You can read the full resolution here:
Republican Washington U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse who sponsored the Condemnation Resolution said this at the time of introduction:
“The shocking move from Governor Grisham is a blatant subversion of the United States Constitution and a violation of her oath of office. … It strips away the protection of individual rights and freedom, which sets a dangerous precedent for the rights of … Americans across our nation.”
SPIRITED DEBATE IN HOUSE RULES COMMITEE
On September 18, a hearing was held by the House Rules Committee on the Condemnation Resolution and the resolution is tied to the continuing resolution to keep the government funded for the next month. The resolution resulted in a spirited debate.
Wisconsin Republican Congressman Tom Tiffany brought the resolution forward to the House Rules Committee on rules on September 18 and said this:
“It condemns the unconstitutional order of New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham that bans New Mexico citizens from carrying firearms in the city of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County.”
Committee Democrats accused Republicans of using the Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s executive order as a political stunt.
U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-New York said this during the committee hearing:
“This resolution does absolutely nothing. It is plainly a waste of time intended to distract us from Republicans’ failure to responsibly govern.”
U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., echoed Nadler’s sentiment and said this:
“I just want to say for the record I can’t believe we’ve spent all this time talking about a nonbinding resolution. … I mean, really, with all that’s going on with regard to gun violence, with all that’s going on with regard to the government about to be shut down, this is how we just spent all this time? I hope you’re all proud of yourselves.”
Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Wisconsin took issue with the Democrats and said the resolution “recognizes our Second Amendment rights” and condemns the governor’s “unconstitutional order” prohibiting New Mexicans from carrying firearms throughout Bernalillo County. Tiffany said this:
“The order has nothing to do with public health and only serves to infringe New Mexicans’ rights while not preventing crime or violence. … You don’t have to take my word for it. … New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez, a Democrat, warned only responsible gun owners are likely to abide by the ban. … This ban is not only bad policy detrimental to public safety, but it is blatantly unconstitutional. The Second Amendment is not a mere suggestion.”
New Mexico Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernandez a member of the House Rules Committee, did not directly address the resolution during the Rules Committee meeting. Rather, she advocated for gun violence protection laws to keep children safe and Congress’ duty to pass a budget. Leger Fernandez said this:
“What we’ve done in the last few weeks here, when we have incredibly important work to do with regards to funding our federal government, is actually spent a lot of time in this chamber attacking the rights of states under existing law to do stuff. … We attacked California last week. This week, we ended up attacking my beloved New Mexico, and the reality is that gun violence is a tragic, tragic matter that affects every single one of our communities.”
Wisconsin Republican Congressman Tom Tiffany disputed the resolution was an attack on New Mexico and said this:
“That’s not it at all. … We’re rebuking the governor for trying to deny people their Second Amendment rights. This isn’t against the people of the state of New Mexico.”
CONDEMNATION RESOLUTION STALLS
On Monday, September 18, the Condemnation Resolution passed the Rules Committee and was expected to be voted upon by the full house on Tuesday September 19, but that did not happen. According to news reports, what did happen is the resolution got caught up with the legislation dealing with the legislation to fund the federal government and the looming shutdown of the federal government.
According to a September 21 Albuquerque Journal report, a Republican spokesman who asked not to be identified, told the Journal that while there “wasn’t a problem specifically with the resolution” house Republicans assumed it would not pass so they pulled the resolution from the house floor in order to pair it with a defense spending bill that was voted down the same day. The move was to tell members of the Republican Freedom Caucus that “if your voting against the bill, your voting against the second amendment.”
According to the news report, the condemnation resolution will again be taken up by the House Rules Committee again to discuss what condemning the Governor actually does.
See September 21, Albuquerque Journal article entitled “House resolution condemning governor stalls”:
NM DEMOCRATIC PARTY AND GOVERNOR LUJAN GRISHAM REACT
Daniel Garcia, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of New Mexico said this in a statement:
“Instead of focusing on a politicized non-binding resolution, [House Speaker] Kevin McCarthy and House Republicans should be doing their jobs and working with Democrats on the most consequential issue facing Congress today, avoiding a government shutdown. … But McCarthy and House Republicans would rather grandstand and distract while they hold the country hostage and send us further down the road toward a government shutdown.”
Governor Lujan Grisham’s office issued the following statement:
“Republicans in Congress have already shown they won’t lift a finger to get guns out of the wrong hands. … The fact is that they lack the courage to take on the National Rifle Association and far-right special interests. … Gov. Lujan Grisham knew there would be challenges to her decision and people who didn’t understand the need for swift, bold action. … The governor is focused on what New Mexico needs right now, and what can be done to make people here safe. She is not focused on Washington D.C., and the grandstanding by Republicans who are trying to score political points rather than taking action on the national crisis of gun violence.”
The resolution now heads to the House floor for an expected vote.
The link to the quoted news source is here:
NEW MEXICO’S CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION RESPONDS
All 3 of New Mexico’s members of the United States House of Representatives commented on how they intend to vote on the Republican Condemnation Resolution. Congressman Gabe Vasquez said he would vote YES while Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury and Congresswoman Teresa Leger said they would vote NO.
CONGRESSMAN GABE VASQUEZ
Congressman Gabe Vasquez, who is running for a second term and who is again running against former Congresswoman Yvette Harrell, who he defeated in 2022, said this:
“I plan to vote yes on House Resolution 684. As a responsible gun owner, I will continue to support common sense solutions that reduce gun violence, such as the Bipartisan Background Check Act and Ethan’s Law, in addition to the proposals we need to support in the state of New Mexico, like the Bennie Hargrove Gun Safety Act. …We must produce constitutional, legal and enforceable solutions that will help protect our children and our families.”
While Congressman Vasquez said he would vote for the resolution, he clarified in subsequent interviews that it’s less a condemnation of the governor and more about the need to protect the rights of gun owners. Vasquez said this:
“We need to focus the conversation on that and produce constitutional, legal, enforceable solutions that are going to help out children and our families. … I do appreciate the governor being able to actually bring this conversation to the forefront, because we can’t sustain this. … There are families that are suffering in places like Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. They need to have a fair shot at living a safe life in their neighborhoods and in their communities. … The fact that we’re even voting on this in Congress right now is a little bit…ridiculous. … When we have to keep the government open, we just can’t focus on this stuff. …
When Vasquez was asked if he made the decision to vote “yes” based on the fact he is running for a second term, he said this:
“I will always represent my constituents in this district that feel the same way that I do. And so this had no impact on the re-election for this particular race in the district that I’m running.”
Former Congresswoman Yvette Herrell who is running against Vasquez said this:
“It’s unfortunate that it took 11 days and a literal act of Congress to shame Gabe Vasquez into condemning the governor’s blatant violation of our constitutional rights. When I’m in Congress, New Mexicans will never have to guess where I stand when it comes to protecting the Second Amendment.”
CONGRESSWOMAN TERESA LEGER FERNANDEZ
U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez who represents northern New Mexico’s Second Congressional District, as she participated in the committee debate, made it clear she believes the resolution is distracting lawmakers from addressing the looming shutdown. Leger Fernandez said this
“We have federal responsibilities to the American people, including those who are working for the federal government, relying on what the federal government needs to get done, and in states like mine that require and depend on federal action. … This week, we ended up attacking my beloved New Mexico. And the reality is that gun violence is a tragic matter. … People want to make sure that guns don’t fall in the hands of those who have it. And the easiest thing is to do a universal background check.”
CONGRESSWOMAN MELANIE STANSBURY
Albuquerque area Progressive Democrat Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury announced that she would not be voting with Republicans and would not vote for the resolution condemning the Governor. Stansbury said this:
“I will vote NO on the GOP’s efforts to undermine New Mexico’s executive and distract from House Republican’s complete inability to govern and pass a budget as they careen the U.S. government towards a shutdown. As millions face the prospect of not knowing how they’ll pay their bills, extremists in the GOP are pulling political stunts rather than addressing the needs of the American people, including the epidemic of gun violence. New Mexicans understand that and know we must take action.”
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The blunt truth is that the Congressional Condemnation Resolution is nothing but a publicity stunt by the Republican Freedom Caucus. The resolution is as “useless as teats on a boar hog” other than to give oral gratification to someone, which in this case is the Republican Freedom Caucus. The United States Congress has no authority over Governor Lujan Grisham, it can not strip her of any of her powers or authority, it can not impeach her. Even if passed by the House, it would not be forwarded to the Senate for a vote where it would likely fail. It amounts to nothing more than a press release and a written tongue lashing and one big waste of time.
FREEDOM CAUCUS STRANGLE HOLD OVER CONGRESS
There are 435 voting members and 6 non-voting members in the United State House of Representatives with 218 constituting a majority who elect the Speaker of the House who appoints all committee chairpersons. The current majority is 221 Republicans and the minority is 212 Democrats with 2 vacancies.
Complicating matters for the Republican majority is the Republican Freedom Caucus members and allies who are among the most conservative of House Republicans. Most Freedom Caucus members fall on the far-right end of the spectrum. They refuse to compromise on the issues of abortion, gun control and demands for spending cuts. They are the epitome of MAGA Republicans and all things Donald Trump. Former Congresswoman Yvette Herrell was member of the Republican Freedom Caucus and she is a staunch supporter of Donald Trump. Former Congressman Steve Pierce and now New Mexico Republican Party Chairman was also member of the Freedom Caucus and he too is a staunch Trump supporter.
It took an historic 15 ballots for Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy to win the speaker’s gavel, but not until he agreed to ensure more Freedom Caucus representation on the powerful Rules Committee and other key panels. It was the Rules Committee that voted on the Resolution to condemn Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and who have made it a part of the continuing resolution to keep the government funded.
MOTIVATION OF CONDEMNATION RESOLUTION
It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out exactly why the Republicans in the United States House of Representative are doing their damndist to condemn the actions of Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. It has nothing to do with what is in best of the State of New Mexico and its people, which they could not careless about, but everything to do with their efforts to retain their control of the House of Representatives.
Their efforts all centers on Republican motivation to keep control of the United States House of Representatives by making sure they help return to congress one of their most ultra right-wing conservatives and former member of the congressional Freedom Caucus Yvette Herrell.
Confidential sources have confirmed that former Freedom Caucus members Steve Pierce and Yvette Herrell called in a few favors to have the condemnation resolution introduced. Pierce and Herrell did so for two major reasons:
First: Disparage Governor Lujan Grisham and drive her approval ratings down in New Mexico and perhaps derail her possible future Presidential appointments.
Second: Force Congressman Gabe Vasquez to go on record as supporting gun control measures in order to gin up opposition to him by both Democrats and Republicans who are Second Amendment advocates.
A VULNERABLE CONGRESSMAN
Congressman Gabe Vasquez is considered one of the most vulnerable House Democrats seeking reelection in 2024. His vulnerability should not come as any surprise to anyone seeing as Vasquez beat Congresswoman Yvette Herrell by a mere 1,350 votes, or by less than 1%, of the vote, in 2022 in an upset victory. His election was fueled in part by the congressional redistricting that included portions of Albuquerque’s South Valley in the Second Congressional Districts. The partisan lean of the 2nd Congressional District has gone from plus 14% Republican to plus 4% for the Democrats following redistricting.
Congressman Gabe Vasquez has only been in office 9 months. He has been very deliberate and cautious not to come across as too progressive or too supportive of President Joe Biden in order not to offend many of his more conservative constituents. Vasquez has twice failed to appear with President Biden when he has visited the state in the last year. The cautious approach is the identical strategy used by former Democratic House embers Xochitl Torres Small and Harry Teague who both lost the seat after just one term to their Republican opponents Steve Pierce and Yvette Harrel respectively.
The Congressional Resolution condemning Governor Michelle actions declaring gun violence and illegal drugs a public health emergency and the Emergency Health Orders banning the carrying of firearms has placed Congressman Gabe Vasquez in an awkward position. Not to support the resolution would expose him to Republican attacks portraying him as anti-Second Amendment by voting against the resolution.
By voting in support, Vasquez will take heat from some from Democrats statewide, but his narrative will be that he’s showing he’s not just a rubber stamp for the Democratic party. What will help give him cover is the fact that prominent Democrats in law enforcement have also said they oppose the Governor’s orders. Democrats Attorney General Raul Torrez, District Attorney Sam Bregman and Bernalillo County Sherriff John Allen have said they will not enforce nor defend the Governor’s Emergency Health Orders believing them to violate the US Constitution and the Second Amendment. The fact that United States District Court Judge David Urias issued a retraining order declaring two provisions of the Emergency Health Order unconstitutional gives Vasquez further cover.
A DEAD HEAT POLL
On September 18, KOB-TV released an exclusive poll it commissioned with SurveyUSA. According to the poll former Republican Congresswoman Yvette Herrell leads Democrat Gabe Vasquez by a single percentage point with 46% to 45% with a margin of error of 4.8 percent reflecting a dead heat race. 9% said they were undecided. The poll was done September 6-12 among 541 likely voters.
Pollster Ken Alpher says voters have a good idea of what to expect from Herrell and Vasquez. Alpher said this:
“They’re known quantities. … It’s absolutely possible that something could happen, there could be a huge story, somebody could flub a debate, or anything that could make a huge difference.”
Quoting the poll:
“Democrat Gabe Vasquez defeated one-term Republican Yvette Herrell by just 1,350 votes in the 2022 election for United States House of Representatives in New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District … and SurveyUSA’s first polling on the 2024 election rematch between the same two candidates indicates, at least at this early date, that little has changed for voters here.
SurveyUSA’s exclusive polling for KOB 4 in Albuquerque today shows a dead heat, 46% to 45%, with Herrell the nominal single point atop Vasquez, and 9% of likely voters saying they are undecided. Each candidate has effectively identical net favorability ratings, with Herrell at +6 (38% favorable, 32% unfavorable) and Vasquez at +5 (33% favorable, 28% unfavorable).
Among men, Herrell leads by 13 points; among women, Vasquez leads by 9, a 22-point gender gap. White voters back the Republican by an 11-point margin; non-white voters support Vasquez by 7. Herrell is up by 12 points among likely voters with high school educations and by 7 among those who have some college; Vasquez leads by 11 among those with 4-year college degrees. Regionally, Vasquez leads by 12 points in urban parts of the district and has a very slight 3-point edge in the suburbs; Herrell leads by 18 points in the rural plurality of the district.”
The link to the SurveyUSA poll is here:
The link to KOB TV news report is here:
There is absolutely no doubt that Republicans are salivating over the prospect that former Republican Congresswoman Yvette Herrell will repeat history and again defeat another first term Democratic Congressional Representative. No matter what the polls say now what looms large over the race is Donald Trump. A lot can and will happen in a very volatile election year.
If Trump is fact the Republican nominee he will impact the race. A landslide loss or victory by former President Donald Trump in New Mexico will likely decide the outcome of the race between Vasquez and Herrell.
Links to quoted news sources are here: