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THE LONG GAME: Senators work on bipartisan infrastructure plan; House to debate repeal of AUMF

With negotiations between the White House and leading Republicans having broken down, a bipartisan group of ten Senators has reached an agreement on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan. The plan would be fully paid for and not require tax increases. The group of lawmakers, led by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah), called it a “realistic, compromise framework to modernize our nation’s infrastructure and energy technologies.” While the group has not released details, it is likely that the spending will be on core, physical infrastructure projects. This contrasts with the Biden Administration’s original plan, which called for spending on both physical infrastructure projects as well as initiatives to combat climate change and improvements in “human infrastructure,” such as home healthcare. The group now must sell their leaders—and the White House—on the proposal. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been briefed and is “open” to it, according to Romney. Meanwhile, some progressives are urging Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to try to pass a plan through reconciliation, which would require only 50 votes.

The House is set to take up a resolution this week repealing the authorization for the use of military force in Iraq, which was first established in 2002. The authorization (also known as AUMF) has allowed presidents since George W. Bush to carry out a wide array of military actions in Iraq. The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), has 103 co-sponsors, including seven Republicans. A repeal is on a slower track in the Senate. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) has introduced a bill along with Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) to repeal both the 1991 and 2002 authorizations targeting Iraq. Kaine said that the Senate was waiting for a “green light” from the Biden Administration, and hoped that the Foreign Relations Committee would report out a bill by the Fourth of July recess.

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


Spotlight on Puerto Rico

“Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act of 2021” and “Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act” both get second hearing On Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee will conduct its second hearing on two bills regarding the status of Puerto Rico, featuring testimony from academic and civic leaders. The two competing bills are: the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act of 2021 (H.R. 2070), sponsored by Reps. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), which would call for a convention to select from among various status options; and the Puerto Rico Statehood Admission Act (H.R. 1522) sponsored by Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.) and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-P.R.), which would provide for statehood for Puerto Rico. Among the witnesses scheduled to appear are former U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and the Rev. Carmen Cabrera, President, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Meanwhile, committee chairman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) on Monday released a Department of Justice analysis of the constitutionality and feasibility of the two bills. “It is encouraging to see that the Department supports providing the people of Puerto Rico the opportunity to vote on whether to become a State of the Union, as H.R. 1522 would do, and that the Department would support H.R. 2070 if it facilitates a choice among constitutionally permissible status options,” Grijalva said. DOJ’s analysis of H.R. 2070 is available here. The department’s analysis of H.R. 1522 is available here.

Puerto Rico coronavirus statistics for June 14 According to the Puerto Rico Health Department, 270,633 people are believed to have been infected with COVID-19, an increase of 2,037 since June 7. This points to an increase in the rate of new cases, as the increase between May 31 (when the total was 266,633) and June 7 was 1,963. The death toll is currently 2,530, with 11 of those registered in the last week. Comparatively, 17 people died from the virus between May 31 and June 7. Beginning on November 7, the Health Department changed the way it recorded cases, splitting them between confirmed cases (as determined by molecular diagnostic testing), probable cases (as determined by antigen testing) and suspicious cases (as determined by serological, non-diagnostic testing). Viewed through that prism, Puerto Rico has had 122,592 confirmed cases, 16,831 probable cases, and 131,210 suspicious cases since the virus arrived on the Island. According to the Puerto Rico Health Department and its Puerto Rico Electric Immunization System (PREIS), a total of 1,498,431 people on the Island have been fully vaccinated, while 1,876,127 have received at least one dose. Despite power woes, the National Guard continues to set-up pop-up vaccination clinics around the Island. As more people get vaccinated, the CDC has downgraded its risk-of-travel rating for Puerto Rico from level 4, its highest rating, to level 3, indicating a high risk.

Substation fire leaves hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans without power The start of LUMA Energy’s tenure as the entity managing the generation and distribution of Puerto Rico’s electric power is proving to be just as difficult as the process of getting there, as a fire at a Monacillo’s substation last Thursday led to loss of power for nearly 900,000 customers. By the next day, 36,000 still had not had power restored, and while LUMA announced on Saturday that it had restored power to “clients directly affected” by the blackouts, several of the Island’s mayors claimed on Sunday that thousands in their municipalities still had no power, forcing them to declare states of emergencies. LUMA responded by clarifying that its statement had not been meant to indicate that power had been restored to all customers, but rather, that they had managed to repair all power lines. No cause has been determined for the fire, although several investigations as to the cause of the fire have begun—one by the FBI; another by the Energy Bureau, which has tasked LUMA with handing over all documents regarding the incident; and another by LUMA itself. According to Efran Paredes of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), the fire, in his estimation, was wholly accidental. This was not the only incident to mar LUMA’s first two weeks on the job. Earlier that same Thursday, the company announced that it had been the victim of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) cyberattack, which overwhelmed its online services by generating millions of visits per second. Whether the cyberattack and the fire are connected remains an open question.

Emigration leaves Puerto Rico without many of its most academically prepared In 2019, some 66,000 Puerto Rico residents migrated to the mainland United States. It is estimated that the net migration resulted in 35,000 more people emigrating than those who immigrated. This marks the continuation of an established pattern. Every year since 2015, little more than half (55%) of people 25 or older who emigrated from Puerto Rico had pursued some sort of higher education prior to doing so. Additionally, the proportion of people with graduate studies or some sort of degree who leave is often higher than the proportion of Puerto Ricans with that education level. “This is consistent with the idea that the people who have invested in their education and human capital are more likely to seek employment opportunities that, on many occasions, are only available outside Puerto Rico,” economist and data scientist Mario Marazzi told El Nuevo Día. This is not the first time educated Puerto Ricans have left in such numbers. A similar pattern was seen from 2006 to 2009, after Section 936 incentives expired, leading various companies to move out of Puerto Rico, which in turn led many of the people it had employed to leave.


View From The White House

  • The Interior Department announced Friday that an area between the coasts of New York and New Jersey will be the site of its first offshore wind lease sale, a project that could generate enough energy to power more than 2.6 million households.

  • The Biden Administration has disbanded the Victim of Immigration Crime Engagement Office (“VOICE”), a controversial Trump-era entity that was created in 2017 to assist victims of crimes allegedly committed by immigrants.

  • Upon his arrival in Brussels on Monday for the NATO summit, President Biden said that the alliance’s Article 5 clause that declares an attack on one member nation to be an attack on all members is “a sacred obligation.”

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