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WASHINGTON WATCH: April 25, 2023


THE LONG GAME: New GOP immigration bill; New GOP immigration bill; SCOTUS ethics

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee advanced a hardline immigration bill last Wednesday, seeking to re-impose many Trump-era rules or proposals. The bill has no chance of passage in the Democratic-led Senate, and even some centrist House Republicans have voiced opposition to it. The legislation makes it more difficult for people seeking asylum to prove that they would face persecution in their home countries; requires people to apply for asylum in an official port of entry; and denies asylum to migrants who arrive at the southern border without first seeking protection in a country they passed through. Ranking Democrat Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said that “Republicans have chosen a narrow path that imposes extreme pain and hardship on the most vulnerable people while doing nothing to actually solve the problem.” 

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, invited Chief Justice John Roberts to testify before the panel on ethics rules governing the Supreme Court. The invitation comes in the wake of revelations about Justice Clarence Thomas, including reports by Pro Publica revealing that Thomas was lavished with expensive trips paid for by a billionaire GOP donor, Harlan Crow.  “The time has come for a new public conversation on ways to restore confidence in the Court's ethical standards,” Durbin wrote in a letter to Roberts.

Washington Watch is published weekly when Congress is in session. Published monthly during extended recess or adjournment.


Spotlight on Puerto Rico

54,000+ Luma customers connected to rooftop solar 

Luma Energy announced last week that more than 54,000 of its customers were connected to rooftop solar in the past 21 months. This added 330 megawatts of energy to the grid while continuing to build resiliency in the Island’s energy sector. Puerto Rico is now seventh among all US states and territories in residential solar per capita, with the top spot within reach in the next few years. Besides residential installations, Luma is also working on utility-scale renewable generation connected to Puerto Rico’s primary electric grid. 

Biden Administration Announces $34.4 million in new resiliency funding 

Vice President Kamala Harris announced last week that the Department of Commerce will provide $34.4 million to help Puerto Rico sustain climate change and natural disasters. Eight projects will receive funding and create jobs as part of the Biden Administration’s “Climate-Ready Coasts” initiative, funded in part by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The projects that will be funded include $10.5 million for coral reef recovery and restoration by the Institute for Socio-Ecological Research; $7.4 million to restore the Guánica Lagoon to reduce the risk of future flooding; and $2.9 million to restore the Vieques Bioluminescent Bay. 

Bipartisan group reintroduces Puerto Rico status legislation 

Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroduced legislation calling for a three-option referendum for Puerto Rico. Like the bill that passed the Democratic-led House last December, this bill would provide for a binding referendum on the Island’s status in 2025. Voters would choose between statehood, independence, and independence followed by a compact of “free association” with the U.S. If no choice wins a majority, there would be a run-off between the top two choices. The status quo is not included as an option in the potential plebiscite. For now, the chances of passage are extremely narrow.

Experts say water supply in Puerto Rico at risk 

Experts have recently sounded the alarm that the manufacturing industry in Puerto Rico is putting the Island’s water supply at risk. For decades, a law called Section 936 provided tax incentives for factories to operate in Puerto Rico. As a result, many factories were built as the industry spread rapidly throughout the Island. Much of this industry required a lot of water, particularly the pharmaceutical sector that accounted for 65% of industrial groundwater withdrawals by 2010. Additionally, the manufacturing industry that dominated the Island for decades has left water contaminated in cities across Puerto Rico, with at least 19 sites listed as priorities for cleanup by the EPA.


View From The White House

  • The EPA could issue a new rule as early as this week requiring power plants to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, likely compelling plants to implement carbon capture technology or switch to other fuels.

  • As fighting continues in Sudan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday that the U.S. had evacuated all personnel from the American embassy in Khartoum and would assist the 16,000 Americans living in the country.

  • In a video message posted Tuesday morning, President Biden formally launched his bid for reelection, saying that “this is not a time to be complacent.”

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