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Essential Politics: Sorry in Sacramento, defiant in Washington

The midpoint of this week offers a fascinating look at two leaders who can’t be very pleased with how things have been going lately with legislative bodies.

And where one of those leaders is defiant, the other tried a dose of contrition.

Good morning from the state capital. I’m Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers, and we saw a long and grueling hearing here on Tuesday for UC President Janet Napolitano.

Given the jobs she held before taking the helm of the University of California in 2013, Napolitano knows a political no-brainer when she sees one. And so she had to know what was in store as she faced lawmakers to answer questions about last week’s harsh state audit of her office.

‘I AM SORRY WE DID IT THIS WAY’

Napolitano had to wait almost two hours before testifying in front of yesterday’s joint legislative hearing. Though she tried to explain why millions of dollars were being stashed in reserve funds and why some staffers were paid more than similar jobs in other parts of state government, she didn’t dig in and fight back.

“I am sorry we did it this way,” Napolitano told the legislators.

Tuesday’s marathon hearing also focused on what state Auditor Elaine Howle’s office has said was interference by Napolitano’s office with fact-finding efforts on some UC campuses. Expect to hear more on that one soon.

While Democrats were critical of what the experience says about the necessity of tuition hikes, Republicans upped the ante on the investigation — demanding subpoenas be issued to get to the bottom of the stashed-away money.

A reminder that we’ll be watching what happens next, as well as all of the latest in California politics and government happenings, on our Essential Politics news feed.

HEALTHCARE STRUGGLES, TRUMP BROODS

In Washington, the prognosis looks worrisome for President Trump’s effort to get the House to approve the reworked Republican healthcare plan by week’s end.

The third attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare appeared on the verge of collapse on Tuesday, after Republican moderates worried it would fail to protect Americans with preexisting conditions.

“They’re scared,” said Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), whose district voted for Trump. “[They] feel like they’re about to lose it and they’re going to die. And if we cannot explain to people that is not going to happen, then it’s going to be very difficult to ever bring a bill to the floor.”

The president’s gloom also seemed to hit a new level on Tuesday morning as the political world picked winners and losers in the deal to keep funding the federal government. It seemed he was particularly defiant in the face of concessions that were made to congressional Democrats, ones that Trump may refuse to repeat once the new agreement expires in the fall.

“Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!” he tweeted.

CONGRESS’ SHRINKING AGENDA

There’s no doubt frustration, too, on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. As Lisa Mascaro reports, the Grand Old Party’s grand agenda as it seized the reins of power has failed to translate into action.

“The toxic combination of Republican infighting, the White House’s failure to provide clear direction and an over-ambitious agenda have hobbled the majority’s ability to accomplish its goals,” writes Mascaro.

AND ABOUT THAT WALL…

Few items are as high profile as the president’s promised wall on the Mexican border. The project was not included in the spending bill that needs to be passed this week, and there are questions about just how robust of a Republican appetite there really is for the idea on Capitol Hill.

WELL, HELLO, HILLARY

Just as Democrats were able to keep the focus on the sputtering of Trump and Republicans, a familiar face came out of the woods on Tuesday: Hillary Clinton.

At an event in New York, last year’s Democratic presidential candidate left little doubt what she saw as the biggest reason for her defeat.

Hint: It wasn’t her.

“If the election had been on Oct. 27, I would be your president,” Clinton said at the Women for Women event.

To be fair, Clinton agreed that her campaign had made mistakes. But she name-checked FBI Director James Comey and Wikileaks for the events that led her to lose the Electoral College to Trump on Nov. 8.

THE MONEY RACE FOR GOVERNOR

It’s never to soon to be thinking about next year’s race for governor. At least, that is, when it comes to campaign cash.

The race to replace Gov. Jerry Brown is in its early stages, but we’re getting geared up to keep close tabs on the political fundraising prowess of the candidates. So we’ve published an early version of our cash tracking project — one that will undoubtedly grow and change as the hopefuls start collecting millions of dollars in campaign checks.

SACRAMENTO TARGETS FOSSIL FUELS

California already has some of the most ambitious renewable energy goals in the country, but state Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) wants to ramp them up even more.

He unveiled a new proposal on Tuesday to eliminate the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity. Expect to hear a lot more about this in the months to come, as lawmakers consider ways to implement the state’s newly expanded mandates on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

— So why is the president reaching out to, and even praising, some dictators? It’s all strategy, say his advisors.

— Congress has reached a deal to increase funding for an earthquake early warning system for the West Coast.

— There was buzz, and then a bust, when it came to Monday’s talk of a Los Angeles charter school visit by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

— Teachers at a group of Sacramento charter schools founded by former Mayor Kevin Johnson are attempting to unionize. His wife, former DC schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, sits on the board.

Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) got the nod from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi last week in his race against Robert Lee Ahn.

— Pelosi herself has drawn a Democratic challenger for 2018: San Francisco attorney and “hard-core Bernie supporter” Stephen R. Jaffe.

— Former Australian Ambassador Jeff Bleich plans to run for California lieutenant governor. Bleich, a Democrat, formed a campaign committee on Tuesday and plans to officially announce his bid later this month.

— The U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for cities like L.A. to sue banks over the foreclosure crisis that helped spark the Great Recession.

— Thousands told us what they thought of Trump’s first 100 days in office. Here are the final responses.

LOGISTICS

You may have noticed we’ve shifted to a Monday, Wednesday and Friday schedule. It’s the same newsletter, just not every day. You can keep up with breaking news on our politics page throughout the day. And are you following us on Twitter at @latimespolitics?

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