Wednesday News: Safe zone?

GOP EXPELLED JOURNALISTS TO CREATE LOUNGE WHERE LAWMAKERS CAN HIDE: After kicking the media out of their longtime press room in the Legislative Building and banishing them to a corner of the basement, officials have finally converted the former press room into a legislative hideaway. Reporters have dubbed the couch- and art-filled room, which can only be accessed by lawmakers and isn't open to the public, the "teachers lounge." Outside of the lounge, not much occurred Tuesday as the House didn't hold session and the Senate took up only a couple of bills. One issue creating a rift among elected officials, however, is a proposed casino near Charlotte that the South Carolina-based Catawba Indian Nation wants to build. North Carolina Republican U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis are co-sponsoring a bill in Congress to make it happen, while 38 state senators have written to a U.S. Senate committee to oppose the measure.

PENCE HEADED TO CHARLOTTE AND GREENSBORO THIS WEEK: Vice President Mike Pence will attend a 2020 Republican National Convention kickoff in Charlotte on Wednesday as part of a day-long trip to the state that includes stops in Monroe and Greensboro. The 2020 Republican National Convention will be held in Charlotte at the Spectrum Center Aug. 24-27. President Donald Trump and Pence are expected to accept the official nomination for their re-election bid at the event. “We are excited to have the vice president make a visit in Charlotte at a host committee event as he travels across North Carolina,” John Lassiter, CEO of Charlotte’s host committee, said in a statement Monday. In the evening, Pence will headline a Trump Victory fundraiser in Greensboro. Sen. Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican who is facing re-election and a GOP primary challenger in 2020, will also be at the event. So, too, will Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.

JUDGE WILL LIKELY STRIKE DOWN MISSISSIPPI "FETAL HEARTBEAT" LAW: U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves heard arguments about a request from the state's only abortion clinic, which wants him to block the law from taking effect July 1, as scheduled. Reeves is the same judge who ruled last year that Mississippi's 15-week ban is unconstitutional because it would prohibit access to abortion before a fetus could survive outside the pregnant woman's body. Viability is generally considered to be about 23 or 24 weeks. In an indication of which way he is leaning on the request to block the new law, Reeves asked attorneys: "Doesn't it boil down to: Six is less than 15?" Mississippi is one of several states enacting abortion restrictions this year in hopes that the U.S. Supreme Court, with new conservative justices, will reevaluate and maybe overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

STATES AND MUNICIPALITIES SUE TRUMP ADMIN OVER ANTI-LGBTQ "CONSCIENCE" RULES: The “conscience protections,” as their advocates call them, are among actions taken by the Department of Health and Human Services that appeal to Christian conservatives, a constituency that is part of Trump’s political base. The rule is due to take effect in late July. The multistate lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges that the rule puts at risk billions of dollars in federal funds if the states participating in the case do not comply. The 80-page complaint says the rule also will harm teaching hospitals and other health-care facilities run by some of the states and cities, undermining their effectiveness and forcing them to hire extra staff in case some workers refuse care that patients need. The rule also risks “undermining longstanding efforts by those institutions to build trust with the patient communities they serve,” the suit says. The suit further alleges that the rule violates several federal laws, including those governing Medicare and Medicaid, civil rights statutes, and a statute requiring hospitals to provide emergency care.

CALLS FOR IMPEACHMENT GET LOUDER AS TRUMP ASSOCIATES IGNORE SUBPOENAS: A bloc of liberal Democrats began pressing on Tuesday for an impeachment inquiry of President Trump, underscoring party divisions and the growing difficulties that Speaker Nancy Pelosi faces as she tries to chart a more methodical course. Mr. Trump’s latest defiance of congressional oversight demands precipitated the break among Democrats. The former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II, who had been called to testify on Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee about the president’s attempts to obstruct the Russia investigation, skipped the scheduled hearing after Mr. Trump ordered him to ignore lawmakers’ subpoena. Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the committee chairman, promised to hold Mr. McGahn in contempt of Congress and warned other potential witnesses to expect new hardball tactics — like changing House rules to allow fines for people held in contempt — but he stopped short of publicly endorsing impeachment. He later issued subpoenas for testimony to Mr. McGahn’s former chief of staff, Annie Donaldson, and Hope Hicks, the former White House communications director, both key figures in the special counsel investigation.