FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
October 27, 2012

Water skiing is hard enough on your own, so imagine trying it with 144 other people at the same time. In January 2012, 154 skiers set out on Tasmania's Macquarie Harbour to become the largest group of water skiers towed by a boat. Unfortunately, nine didn't make it across the finish line. (They were unharmed.) Still, the 145 skiers who finished set a new record. It took a 114-foot-long boat running on two 1,550-horsepower engines to tow them one nautical mile. The same group had held the previous world record: 114 skiers. The Week Staff

10:07 a.m. ET
iStock/RoschetzkyIstockPhoto

Legislators in Maine, Virginia, Georgia, and Kansas are exploring the possibility of expanding Medicaid after the Affordable Care Act survived last week following the failure of a Republican-backed health-care bill, Vox reports.

"I'm not an activist or supporter [of ObamaCare] now, but I can see when things are working," explained Kansas state legislator Susan Concannon, a Republican. Maine Sen. Tom Saviello (R) added, "My own party is mad at me because I continue to pursue [Medicaid expansion], but we have to do something. I look at Franklin County, which I represent, and roughly 1,000 people would gain coverage there."

Nineteen states have yet to expand the program, and in Kansas, where the state Senate passed an expansion bill late Monday, there is still heavy pushback from many conservatives. "To expand ObamaCare when the program is in a death spiral is not responsible policy," a spokesperson for Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) said. Jeva Lange

9:50 a.m. ET

On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to pull funding from "sanctuary" jurisdictions unless those cities, counties, and states comply with a 1996 law that prohibits blocking communications between local police or sheriffs and federal immigration authorities about the immigration status of suspects in custody. Sessions also said the Justice Department will take steps to "claw back any funds awarded to a jurisdiction" that violates federal law, noting that the DOJ will dole out more than $4.1 billion in such grants this year.

Sessions was acting under an executive order President Trump signed in January, but he didn't actually announce any new policy. Instead, The New York Times says, he was mostly restating aggressively grant eligibility rules former President Barack Obama issued last July. The law doesn't require local jurisdictions to honor "detainer" notices from federal immigration officials — requests to hold undocumented immigrants for up to 48 hours, without a warrant.

"Despite what Attorney General Sessions implied this afternoon, state and local governments and law enforcement have broad authority under the Constitution to not participate in federal immigration enforcement," New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said, nevertheless calling Trump's tactics "draconian." Tom Jawetz at the liberal Center for American Progress said Sessions' threat might not actually affect any U.S. city or county. "This is not really about enforcing the law, this is about driving policy through bullying and fear mongering," he said.

From Austin to Seattle, sanctuary jurisdictions said the Trump crackdown wouldn't affect their policies, most of which specifically state that law enforcement must comply with the law, U.S. Code 1373. There is no set definition of what a "sanctuary" jurisdiction is, and each city or county that refuses to comply with some aspect of Trump's immigration policy does so differently. CNN has a pretty good primer on what sanctuary cities actually do (and don't do):

The larger issue is how much the federal government can compel state and local law enforcement to carry out federal immigration policy. The 10th amendment offers some protection to local jurisdictions, but the ACLU cautions that cities that do sign on to become part of Trump's "deportation force" face legal risks, too. "Because ICE does not seek a judicial determination of probable cause, these requests put local police in the position of holding people in jail without the legal authority to do so, which violates their constitutional rights," says the ACLU's Domenic Powell. Peter Weber

9:47 a.m. ET

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) isn't buying House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes' (R-Calif.) explanation for his trip to the White House grounds last week, the day before he announced communications involving President Trump and his team may have been unintentionally swept up in routine surveillance by intelligence officials. Nunes claimed he was on White House grounds because he needed a secure location to receive the classified information from his source, who remains anonymous. He denied having traveled to the White House to coordinate with Trump ahead of his surveillance announcement.

But Swalwell, also a member of the House Intelligence Committee, made his skepticism clear during his appearance Tuesday on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "It's not an internet cafe," Swalwell said, referring to the White House. "You can't just walk in and receive classified information."

While Nunes has suggested "people in the West Wing" may have "had no idea" he was there, Swalwell noted that typically whenever a member of Congress comes to the White House "everyone in the building knows that you're there in the building." Swalwell also pointed out that there is a "secure facility" at the Capitol for exchanging classified information.

"This was done because the White House wanted it to be done," Swalwell said. "And this is what a cover-up to a crime looks like. We are watching it play out right now."

Watch the interview below. Becca Stanek

9:22 a.m. ET
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The State Department has abruptly stopped holding on-camera press briefings, The Wall Street Journal reports. It took the department an entire six weeks to get the briefings up and running after Trump's inauguration, and the briefings only lasted for three weeks. Officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will resume the briefings when he hires a permanent spokesperson. As a result, briefings aren't expected to resume for at least another two weeks.

Tillerson has faced criticism for his inaccessibility; earlier this month, he traveled to Asia with just one reporter from a conservative-friendly outlet in tow. Daily press briefings have long been a fixture for U.S. secretaries of state, dating back to when John Foster Dulles held the role in the 1950s. But when Tillerson's State Department briefly resumed the briefings, they occurred just twice a week with alternating phone briefings.

In the period before the spokesperson is put in place, the State Department will "hold background briefings, in which unnamed officials will brief intermittently on specific topics," The Wall Street Journal writes. Fox News' Heather Nauert is expected to fill the role as the permanent spokesperson, but she has not yet been officially named and her security clearance has not yet been approved. Jeva Lange

8:37 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

With the Trump administration still smarting from the failure of the GOP health-care bill, Republicans are now considering yanking money from the border wall in order to avoid a government shutdown at the end of April. "The Trump administration can't have another disaster on its hands," a senior House Republican official told Politico. "I think right now they have to show some level of competence and that they can govern."

The White House requested $1.4 billion for the border wall as part of a defense spending package; the total price of the wall is ultimately expected to be more than $20 billion. But Republicans are concerned about how they might look if they force a government shutdown on the heels of the health-care defeat.

If Congress truly were to refuse to fund the border wall, it would be its own unique defeat for the administration as the infrastructure was a central promise of President Trump's campaign. But for the budget to pass, the House cannot lose more than 22 Republican votes, assuming Democrats vote along party lines. And even then, at least eight Senate Democrats would be needed to break a filibuster.

Already, many moderate Republicans are voicing concerns about the wall. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called it "probably not a smart investment." Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has also hinted at putting the wall off until the future, perhaps late 2019. And as the House Freedom Caucus proved with health care, they are ever a wild card.

But as one senior Republican pointed out to Politico: "This is [Trump's] signature issue. I cannot imagine a scenario where the Trump administration loses on the border wall funding. If I were them, I'd dare the Democrats to shut down the government over this." Jeva Lange

8:02 a.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

As the White House pointedly moves on from its failed health-care bill, it is looking ahead to fulfill another of President Trump's ambitious promises: tax reform. But top officials warn that such an enormous project isn't going to be a walk in the park either and "they don't see how they can change the House Republican math that killed health reform," Axios reports.

As one Republican put it, the GOP is at risk of "looking like a clown car." Another official described making the same miscalculation with tax reform efforts that was made with health care would be "the definition of insanity."

The first hurdle will be the April 28 deadline for the budget. If it is not passed — and one top Republican close to the White House told Axios it is "more likely than not" to fail — the government will shut down on April 29, President Trump's 100th day in office.

Read more about Trump's budget, which Jeff Spross describes as "a demented vision of what priorities the federal government should invest its resources in," here at The Week. Jeva Lange

7:37 a.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Secret Service does not have "the time or money" to keep a record of who attends the president's Mar-a-Lago club, Politico reports being told by former officials. Additionally, when first lady Melania Trump and Trump's son, Barron, are staying at Mar-a-Lago, there are no weapons or background checks, allowing unscreened visitors to get within view of the presidential family for the price of a $300 ticket.

This is not the first time concerns about Mar-a-Lago's security have been raised; the president was also criticized for discussing a response to a North Korean missile test with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in full view of gawking guests. Now Democrats are taking aim at what they call a "national security concern" with the Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act, or "Mar-a-Lago Act," which would require the president to collect information for public release on who comes and goes from his private properties. (For the record: The page for the public White House visitor logs is also currently blank.)

A recent GOP gathering at Mar-a-Lago highlights some of the concerns:

[Attendees] didn't have to submit to the kinds of rigorous background checks required if they'd been entering the White House in Washington. And there were no weapon screenings or bomb-sniffing dogs checking vehicles of the sort that have long been routine at public restaurants or other places where the president or first lady is present.

Mar-a-Lago also doesn't keep tabs on the identity of guests who come and go on a routine basis, even while the president is in residence. Club members call the front desk to give the names of their guests, including for parties held in the ballroom. But they don’t have to submit details, like a middle initial or birthdate or Social Security number, that are standard for visitor logs or background checks — which neither the club nor the Secret Service do at the resort. [Politico]

Trump's legislative affairs director Marc Short insists: "Proper security protocols are adhered to at all times at Mar-a-Lago." Read more about the ongoing security concerns at Politico. Jeva Lange

See More Speed Reads