SENATE DEMOCRATS ARE UNIFIED IN SUPPORT OF COOPER'S BUDGET VETO: With a potential vote on the governor’s state budget veto looming in the state Senate on Tuesday, none of the four Democratic senators who initially voted for the budget in June are planning to support an override of the veto. That means Republicans likely won’t get the one vote they need to pass the budget over Gov. Roy Cooper’s objections if all senators are present. One of the four “yes” votes in June — Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham — has resigned to take another government position, and the other three told the NC Insider last week that they expect to stand with the governor. “I’ll vote to sustain the governor’s veto,” said Sen. Ben Clark, D-Hoke. “I filed a bill to expand Medicaid in North Carolina; that is one of my top priorities and a priority of the governor as well. Until we sit down and negotiate that, I see no reason to vote to override the veto.”
SESSION THAT WOULDN'T DIE TAKING LAST FEW GASPS OF AIR: Lawmakers return to Raleigh on Tuesday for what could be a one-day session. The Senate put out notice that a budget veto override vote would be on the calendar, but it's unclear whether the Republican majority can sway a Democratic senator over to their side to pull off the override. A fix for a scholarship fund for children of service members, which got caught in the budget debate, is expected to clear the legislature. Otherwise, a lot of special-interest groups will be pushing their individual agendas in news conferences, but not much movement in any legislation is expected. Editor's note: There are several budget items that need action, not the least of which is funding for child care for working moms. Take an override vote, even if you can't pass it, then take care of critical funding issues before you adjourn until May. It's called responsible governing, and we need it desperately.
ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS TO AWARD $281 MILLION FOR STORM RECOVERY: The Army Corps of Engineers will award $281 million to a North Carolina city and county heavily impacted by Hurricanes Matthew and Florence. The Corps will release $237 million to Surf City/ North Topsail Beach and $44.5 million to Carteret County for the locations to pursue damage reduction projects, State Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr announced in a statement obtained by news outlets on Monday. The new round of funding comes one week after the Corps announced it would allocate $39.6 million to Princeville for a flood mitigation project. The senators sent letters to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Office of Management and Budget this summer urging consideration of North Carolina when awarding disaster relief funds in the aftermath of the storms, news outlets reported. When Hurricane Florence made landfall in September it splintered buildings, trapped hundreds of people and swamped entire communities along the North Carolina coast, killing at least 41 people in the state.
FINAL DEM DEBATE IN IOWA WILL LIKELY DRAW BLOOD: Democrats are preparing for what could be their most contentious debate yet as the leading candidates gather in Iowa on Tuesday looking for a way to break out of the crowded top tier less than three weeks before the state’s caucuses kick-start the presidential nomination process. Some of the fiercest clashes could center on Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, fellow progressives who until now have largely avoided criticizing each other. But Warren chastised Sanders over the weekend following a report that his campaign instructed volunteers to speak poorly of her to win over undecided voters. The tensions escalated on Monday after CNN reported Sanders told Warren in a private 2018 meeting that he didn’t think a woman could win the election, a charge that Sanders vigorously denied but that Warren confirmed later Monday. The feuding will likely expand to include nearly every candidate on stage. Sanders has recently stepped up his attacks on former Vice President Joe Biden over his past support of the Iraq War, broad free-trade agreements and entitlement reform, among other issues. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who has had several strong debates, will be looking for another opportunity to highlight her candidacy as she remains mired in the middle of the pack in polling. Billionaire Tom Steyer will have to answer criticism that he’s buying his way to the White House.
RUSSIA HACKED UKRAINIAN COMPANY AT THE CENTER OF IMPEACHMENT ARTICLES: Russian military spies have hacked a Ukrainian gas company that is at the heart of an impeachment trial of President Trump, who sought last year to pressure Ukraine to investigate the company and its links to Joe Biden’s son, according to a cybersecurity firm. Beginning in early November, the Russian spy agency known as the GRU launched a cyber “phishing” campaign against Burisma Holdings to trick unsuspecting employees into giving up their email credentials so the hackers could gain access to their email accounts — once again entangling Moscow in domestic U.S. politics, according to Area 1 Security, a Redwood City, Calif., company. The operation’s launch coincided with a congressional impeachment inquiry into Trump and whether he abused his office by seeking to press Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into announcing a probe of Burisma and Hunter Biden — an action that conceivably would aid Trump’s reelection bid. The GRU was active in the 2016 presidential campaign, hacking the servers of the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman and releasing their emails that summer and fall. The disclosures disrupted the Democratic convention and undermined Clinton’s campaign in the critical final weeks, and the U.S. intelligence community concluded that with such actions Moscow aimed to help Trump and hurt Clinton.