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WASHINGTON WATCH: July 12, 2022



 

THE LONG GAME: House to vote on abortion bills; Democrats try to revive parts of BBB In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the House will take up two bills this week aimed at protecting women’s access to reproductive health care, The Hill reports. The Ensuring Access to Abortion Act, H.R. 8297, protects women who need to travel out-of-state for an abortion, if they live in a state that has banned the procedure. Some GOP lawmakers have stated their intention to make it illegal for women to cross state lines to have an abortion. A second piece of legislation, the Women’s Health Protection Act, H.R. 8296, would codify Roe into law. Last fall, the House passed a version of the bill, with every Democrat but one voting in favor. The Senate has twice failed to pass the bill. “While Republicans seek to criminalize reproductive health care nationwide, House Democrats will never relent in our fight to defend freedom for women and for every American,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in a statement.

Meanwhile, talks have accelerated between top Senate Democrats and one of their own members, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), on the possibility of passing a spending bill that addresses climate change and lowers health care costs. It is anticipated that any agreed upon spending bill would provide significantly less in funding than the original $2 trillion package. Still, Democrats are eager to pass a bill that includes some elements of President Biden’s Build Back Better Act agenda before the November midterms. According to the Washington Post, Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are scheduled to meet early in the week to discuss the climate-related elements of the package.

There is agreement to lower seniors’ drug prices by allowing Medicare to negotiate some drug costs and to place penalties on large pharmaceutical companies whose price increases outpace inflation. Democrats are seeking the Senate parliamentarian’s approval to bring the package up under reconciliation rules, which would allow it to pass with 51 votes and bypass a GOP filibuster.


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


 



Spotlight on Puerto Rico





New funding to address Puerto Rico's housing crisis

Nearly five years after Hurricane Maria hit and wrecked approximately 60% of homes on the Island, the federal government has given Puerto Rico access to $18.3 billion in federal housing recovery funds. Of the $18.3 billion, Puerto Rico has so far only accessed $824,000, so there is still ample opportunity to address the Island's longstanding affordable housing crisis. Housing prices rose 22% in the years since Hurricane Maria, despite some 750,000 homes being damaged by the storm and many homeowners never getting enough funding to adequately repair them. Meanwhile, the Center for a New Economy, a nonpartisan think tank, has published a new report concluding that the best way forward is for the government to examine need at a granular level, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, thus allowing focus on revitalization as well as reconstruction to grow local economies.


Poll shows many would support debt cancelation for Puerto Rico and territories

A recent poll by IZQ Strategies showed that 46% of likely U.S. voters would support a one-time debt cancelation for Puerto Rico and other territories in the event of either statehood or independence. Thirty-seven percent would oppose such a measure. Among Latinos, 58% support the idea and only 25% oppose it. When split by party, 60% of Democrats supported debt cancelation as did 29% of Republicans, showing there is a significant partisan gap regarding how to address territorial debt in the event of any status change.


Puerto Rico announces $7.6 million cybersecurity program

On July 6, the Puerto Rican government announced new investments and major upgrades to the Island's cybersecurity infrastructure. The funds will be used to construct a security operations center at the Puerto Rican Innovation and Technology Service and to implement new protective services like endpoint detection and event logging. The services will be provided by the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center, a cybersecurity resource organization that supports state and local governments. The new effort will bring Puerto Rico into the top tier of jurisdictions protecting from cyber threats across the US. The largest known cyberattack on the Island happened in 2020, when the government lost $4 million.




 

View From The White House


  • President Biden signed an executive order last Friday directing the Department of Health and Human Services to protect access to emergency medical care, enforce the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate, and expand access to abortion medication.

  • The Justice Department recently filed suit against Arizona over the state’s new voting laws that require people to show proof of citizenship in order to cast a ballot in federal elections.

  • The Transportation Department announced a new rule on Thursday that calls upon states to set targets to reduce tailpipe emissions on interstate highways and other major roads.

  • The Biden Administration unveiled a $400 million security package for Ukraine, including four high mobility rocket systems, ammunition and tactical vehicles.


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