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WASHINGTON WATCH: June 13, 2023



 


THE LONG GAME: Freedom Caucus forces House adjournment; Lawmakers react to Trump indictment

Legislative action in the House came to an abrupt halt midweek because of the objections of the far-right House Freedom Caucus. Its members are still seething over the deal Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) struck with President Biden to avoid a government default. About a dozen members of the caucus voted with Democrats against a procedural motion on Wednesday, thus blocking leadership-backed bills from moving forward on the floor. It was an embarrassing spectacle for leadership; a procedural motion had not been defeated on the House floor for nearly 21 years. As a result, the leadership was forced to cancel votes for the remainder of the week. The impasse called into question whether McCarthy can still govern the Republican conference, let alone the overall House. For his part, McCarthy appeared to shift the blame to his top lieutenant, House Majority Leader Steven Scalise (R-LA). “The majority leader runs the floor,” McCarthy said. To many observers, the episode was reminiscent of the rebellion by far-right members that brought about the end of John Boehner’s tenure as Speaker in 2015.


The federal indictment of former President Donald Trump evoked outrage from conservative members of Congress. The official Twitter account of the House Judiciary Committee posted the phrase “WITCH HUNT” once word of the indictment became public. Leading the charge was the chairman of the committee, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), a staunch Trump backer. Jordan wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding that the DOJ turnover unredacted documents related to the special counsel’s investigation. Speaker McCarthy tweeted on Thursday evening that it “is indeed a dark day for the United States of America,” and added that Republicans “will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable.” While the White House has declined to comment on the indictment, other Democrats spoke out. “For four years, he acted like he was above the law. But he should be treated like any other lawbreaker. And today, he has been,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said referring to Trump.


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



 



Spotlight on Puerto Rico


Puerto Rico facing record-breaking heat 

The National Weather Service reported that Puerto Rico endured temperatures that felt as high as 125 degrees over the past week. While maximum temperatures were reported around the mid-90s, the heat index reached the 120s, particularly in northern towns. Scientists say this was a result of a low-pressure system near Florida and a high-pressure system near Puerto Rico that created a “heat dome.” As a result, electricity demand has increased and the power grid is being pushed to the limit. More than 40,000 people lost power last Monday when a power plant went out of service. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) said that it is working on repairs and improvements, but they will take some time. Luma Energy has urged residents to do their best to conserve energy. The National Weather Service expects the heat dome to last at least through the middle of this week. 

Puerto Rican government sues 20 US companies for PFAS contamination 

The Puerto Rican government has filed a lawsuit against 20 companies for allegedly contaminating the Island’s natural resources with toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The government claims the corporations, which include some of the largest companies in the world such as 3M and DuPont, “designed, manufactured, marketed, distributed, and sold” a wide variety of products containing toxic substances that put Puerto Ricans’ health at risk. Products with PFAS include such well-known brands as Teflon and Scotchgard. PFAS can remain in the environment for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. 

Army Corps of Engineers soliciting bids for Puerto Rican power system contracts

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) will soon issue a solicitation for a $5 billion contract for temporary power augmentation and electrical grid repair in Puerto Rico. They are looking for contractors that can provide operation and maintenance services, among others, in coordination with PREPA and Luma Energy. The work and funds will be distributed over a five-year period. The hope is that these funds will stabilize the grid for the long-haul as projects continue to rebuild Puerto Rico’s infrastructure following years of natural disasters and decades of underfunding and neglect.




 

View From The White House



  • The Biden administration reached a tentative agreement on Friday with conservative businesses and individuals to keep in place an Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandate requiring health insurers to cover preventive care such as cancer screenings. 

  • Alongside several protections for LGBTQ students announced on Thursday, the White House said that a coordinator within the Department of Education will lead the charge against banning books in schools.

  • According to Reuters, the Biden administration submitted draft legislation to lawmakers last week requiring airlines pay cash compensation to passengers when the carriers are responsible for delays of three hours or more.



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