WASHINGTON WATCH: July 19, 2022
THE LONG GAME: House Judiciary to take up assault weapons ban; Jan. 6th panel returns to primetime
The House Judiciary Committee announced on Friday that the panel would vote this week on an assault weapons ban, the first time that the committee has taken up such legislation since 1994. The current bill, sponsored by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), has 211 co-sponsors, all of whom are Democrats. The legislation would make it illegal to “import, sell, manufacture, or transfer” semi-automatic rifles with specific military features, such as detachable magazines or fixed magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds. The scheduled mark-up follows on the heels of a relentless spate of mass shootings, including three high-profile massacres-- in Uvalde, Buffalo and Highland Park-- where a total of 38 people were murdered by gunmen who used AR-15-style rifles. Meanwhile, the CEOs of three major gun manufacturers-- Smith & Wesson Brands; Sturm, Ruger & Co.; and Daniel Defense-- have been called to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday.
The House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection will return to primetime this week. Thursday evening’s hearing is set to focus on former President Trump’s behavior during a three-hour period while his supporters stormed the Capitol. According to the New York Times, witnesses are expected to tell how Trump ignored the pleas of staffers, lawyers and family members who urged him to tell supporters to stop the attack. Among those expected to testify is Sarah Matthews, a former White House press aide who resigned in the aftermath of the events of January 6th and who has said that a Trump tweet from that afternoon criticizing Vice President Mike Pence was like “pouring gasoline on the fire.” It is unclear whether this will be the committee’s final public hearing of the summer.
Washington Watch is published weekly when Congress is in session. Published monthly during extended recess or adjournment.
Spotlight on Puerto Rico
New Puerto Rican status bill introduced
After months of debate and hearings on the Island and on Capitol Hill, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, formally introduced a bill on July 14 that, if passed by the House and Senate this year, would grant Puerto Ricans three options for their future in a binding referendum. The three options would be statehood, independence, and "free association," the latter is a modified version of the status quo granting Puerto Rico more autonomy in several areas. Free association is the current arrangement that the Marshall Islands, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia have with the United States government. Under the bill, if no option gets 50% of the vote in the plebiscite, there would be a run-off of the top two options shortly thereafter. Congressman Darren Soto (D-FL), who is of Puerto Rican descent, believes the bill can be passed out of the House in September. Its path remains unclear in the Senate, where it would need 60 votes to pass.
Online tool helps Puerto Ricans to sign up for Child Tax Credit
On July 14, Code for America, a non-profit tech organization, launched a new online tool called "GetCTC" that allows Puerto Ricans to apply for and receive the $3,600 in child tax credits from the American Rescue Plan. Though the credits expired last year, an estimated 90% of eligible Puerto Ricans never received them. This tool allows them to receive this money. A separate tool within GetCTC was also launched for Puerto Ricans who never claimed the $1,400 in IRS Covid relief credits made available during the height of the pandemic. The deadline to claim this money is April 15, 2025 and the tool is available in both English and Spanish.
N.Y. Federal Reserve President optimistic on Puerto Rico recovery
John C. Williams, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said in a recent interview with El Nuevo Dia that he is optimistic that the debt restructuring and influx of federal funds over the past few years have sufficiently stabilized Puerto Rico's economy and, therefore, a positive outlook is warranted. There is a strong sense from the Island's business community that Puerto Rico is on the rebound, even as interest rates climb and global supply chain issues remain a problem. As is the case across the U.S., where the employment market is very strong despite lagging consumer confidence, there are many jobs available in Puerto Rico; however, a lack of skilled workers is the main factor holding the economy back from reaching its full potential. The next few years are incredibly important but could set the stage for economic growth for Puerto Rico.
View From The White House
The White House said Friday that Russian military officials visited Iran to see drones capable of carrying weapons that it could use against Ukraine.
Speaking in Saudi Arabia, President Biden vowed to use “strong executive action” to promote clean energy and protect the environment after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) refused to support legislation that would tackle climate change.
After accusing Arizona of misusing earlier pandemic funds to undercut school-based mask mandates, the White House backed off its threat to deny further aid money and released $2.1 billion to the state.
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