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WASHINGTON WATCH: December 20, 2022


THE LONG GAME: Congress extends spending bill deadline; Trump criminal referrals Lawmakers passed a one-week spending bill, giving them one last chance to negotiate an omnibus package before they leave Washington for the Christmas holiday. They will use the coming week to hammer out the details on a $1.7 trillion package that would fund the government until the end of September. The Senate approved the continuing resolution (CR) overwhelmingly, 71-19, while the House passed the bill largely along party lines; only nine Republicans crossed the aisle to join Democrats in passing the bill. Those results reflect the view of House Republicans who are hoping to push for another short-term bill that would expire in early January and allow them to flex their political muscle to impose deep spending cuts. But, some moderate Republicans worry that this is a disaster in the making as it could lead to a government shutdown just as the new GOP House majority takes power.

The House Select Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol voted on Monday to issue criminal referrals against former President Donald Trump. The committee, which sunsets at the end of the month, referred to the Justice Department four charges against Trump: obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress, conspiracy to make false statements, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and inciting an insurrection. The referrals carry no legal weight, but represent an unprecedented action against a former president. In addition, the committee recommended that the House Ethics Committee undertake investigations of four Republican House members, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), for defying the committee’s subpoenas. It also made referrals to the Federal Election Commission, as well as to bar associations to sanction lawyers who played central roles in Trump’s schemes. The committee is expected to release its final report later this week that will include legislative recommendations and transcripts of interviews with more than 1,000 witnesses.

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


Spotlight on Puerto Rico

House passes Puerto Rico Status Act

The House of Representatives passed the “Puerto Rico Status Act” last Thursday by a vote of 233-191, with 16 Republicans joining all the Democrats to send this bill to the Senate, where it remains unlikely that the legislation would garner the 60 votes needed for final passage. The bill allows Puerto Rico to hold a binding referendum, the results of which Congress pledges to recognize. If passed and signed by the President, the bill allows Puerto Ricans to vote on three options: statehood, independence, and “free association," a modified version of the status quo with some additional autonomy. The bill covers procedures and financial resources for the election and a voter education campaign. Although the House took similar action a decade ago, this is the first time that the federal government would be obligated to abide by the results of a referendum and ensure its implementation. “With the Puerto Rico Status Act, the Democratic House has proudly voted to tear down the vestiges of colonialism,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said.

Efforts to restructure Puerto Rican power company debt are rejected

Several creditors of Puerto Rico’s Electrical Power Authority (PREPA) rejected a new debt-restructuring plan filed late Friday following years of negotiations. The Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) for Puerto Rico filed a plan that proposes to cut by nearly half the more than $10 billion of debt held by PREPA, the largest of any local government agency. The announcement riled Puerto Ricans already burdened by power bill increases that have come amid power outages blamed on crumbling infrastructure resulting from decades of neglect and mismanagement. The board noted that two classes of creditors supported the plan, surpassing the legal requirement that at least one must support it for a federal judge to implement it across the board.

Biden-Harris Administration announces $500,000 for job training in Puerto Rico

PathStone Corporation will receive a $500,000 grant for job training in Puerto Rico funded through President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This funding triples the amount normally granted by EPA for Brownfields job training, ensuring stronger environmental benefits and more economic opportunities in overburdened and underserved areas. PathStone will use the funding to train up to 120 students in Puerto Rico and place at least 80 in environmental jobs. The program will focus on students from municipalities like Caguas, Guaynabo, Humacao, Juncos, and Las Piedras, plus San Juan. The training program includes 334 hours of instruction in 40-Hour Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) training, Pesticide Safety Worker Protection Standard, AED and CPR Training, among others.

FEMA allocates funds for dredging of Carraízo reservoir

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has allocated $88.7 Million for a much-needed dredging project in the Carraízo reservoir. This project will impact approximately half a million residents who have been hit with water rationing during periods of drought and blackouts. According to experts, the Carraízo reservoir is 50% silted up and in need of this comprehensive rehabilitation after a decade of delays. In the meantime, there is hope that other projects, such as a cleanup of the Dos Bocas reservoir, will soon begin to help affected communities and ensure that residents have consistent access to clean water.


View From The White House

  • After selling off nearly 200 million barrels of oil over the past year, the Biden Administration announced Friday that it was purchasing 3 million barrels of crude oil to begin replenishing the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

  • The Biden Administration sued Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday to halt his construction of a border wall consisting of double-stacked shipping containers.

  • With new data showing that there are 582,000 unhoused people in the U.S., the White House announced on Monday a plan, named “All In,” that calls for reducing homelessness by 25 percent by 2025.

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