Capitol Hill Buzz: GOP research group targets court nominees

AP News
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Posted: Mar 01, 2016 6:20 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Warning to potential Supreme Court nominees: Republicans may already be digging into your past.

Underscoring the hardball tactics that lie ahead, a major Republican opposition research organization said Tuesday it was starting to investigate the backgrounds of potential court nominees. It's a hunt that could yield information that would damage President Barack Obama's selection and perhaps even discourage some from seeking the post.

"After any nomination is made, there's always a story about mom, dad and apple pie and how wonderfully moderate any nominee is and the consensus, sterling credentials," said Brian Rogers, executive director of America Rising Squared. "It's our job to make sure all the facts are out there, even the ones that might not be so pretty."

Rogers said the group was using around 10 researchers to search the Internet, law libraries around the country and other sources to probe the backgrounds of several possible selections to replace the late Antonin Scalia. Rogers declined to name the picks being investigated or how many there are.

America Rising Squared is also looking for past statements by Democratic senators contradicting their current insistence that the Senate should debate and vote on an Obama pick. Last week, Republicans unearthed a 1992 suggestion by then-Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., in which the current vice president said if a high court opening occurred that election year, lawmakers should delay action until after the presidential campaign.

The work is being funded by the Judicial Crisis Network, which is coordinating conservative efforts in this year's court fight.

That network has started digital ads on the issue targeting Democratic senators from West Virginia, Indiana, North Dakota and Colorado. Last month, it ran television ads pressing Republican senators to stand by their refusal to consider an Obama court nominee, this week said it's started

America Rising Squared is an arm of America Rising, the GOP opposition research organization. Rogers and Carrie Severino, the Judicial Network's policy director, would not say how much money is being spent.

Rogers was a longtime aide to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., including serving as research director for McCain's 2008 presidential campaign.

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Tampons and sanitary pads will soon be available for free to women and girls at homeless shelters.

Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., said Tuesday that she had convinced the Federal Emergency Management Agency to add feminine hygiene products to the list of key items that can be bought with grant money at shelters. Meng released a letter from FEMA Director W. Craig Fugate in which he said the national board of the Emergency Food and Shelter Program voted on Jan. 8 to make the items eligible. The change will become effective in April.

Shelters can spend grant money on items such as blankets, toilet paper, soap and toothpaste. Feminine hygiene products were not on the list. Meng complained to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in January.

"I thank FEMA for agreeing to my request and for understanding how critical feminine hygiene products are to women," Meng said in a statement. "Homeless women and girls in shelters face serious hygiene and health issues when they do not have access to these essential items."

Meng has introduced legislation that would allow Americans to buy feminine hygiene products with money from flexible spending accounts.

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Democrats say they will support a bipartisan anti-drug bill moving through the Senate even if their effort to add $600 million fails, which seems all but certain.

The concession comes as Democrats are accusing Republicans of being obstructionists for refusing to even consider any Supreme Court nomination President Barack Obama makes to replace the late Antonin Scalia. Both parties have described the bill as one of the few achievements Congress is likely to claim this election year.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., who sponsored the bill with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said Tuesday he'd fight for the added money but "I do not intend, nor do I know anyone who intends, to block the passage" if the extra funds are not included. No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Richard Durbin of Illinois said that even without the added money, "I'm going to vote for it."

The legislation would create federal grants for state and local government treatment and prevention programs to combat the illegal use of opioids and heroin, which killed over 28,000 people in 2014.

Support for the measure is broad. Republicans say much of the spending the bill would authorize could come from previously approved money that remains unspent. Democrats say the problem is too big and that the legislation would be nearly meaningless without the added $600 million, proposed by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

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Associated Press writer Donna Cassata contributed to this report.