WASHINGTON WATCH: June 21, 2022
THE LONG GAME: Tech firms lobby against antitrust bill; gun negotiations continue
The Senate is ramping up efforts to finalize a landmark anti-trust bill that could dramatically change the landscape of big tech. Leaders of the impacted companies, meanwhile, are making their opinions heard. CNN reported that Apple CEO Tim Cook was on Capitol Hill last week, and Amazon CEO Andy Jassy has contacted lawmakers to voice his company’s opposition to the bill. Another tech leader, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, will travel to Washington next week. All three firms, along with Meta, have spent millions in lobbying during the first few months of 2022.
The American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA) is sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and co-sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). According to CNBC, the bill “would prohibit dominant tech platform like Amazon, Apple and Google from giving preferential treatment to their own services in marketplaces they operate. Preventing companies like Google from listing its content first among searches. Amazon could be blocked from selling its branded goods on sites it shares with third-party sellers. With midterm elections looming and the possibility of a GOP takeover of one or both chambers Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), a supporter of the legislation, aims to vote on the Act before the upcoming August recess.
Negotiations continue on gun safety legislation and legislative text is expected to be filed today. One new issue that has reportedly slowed down the drafting process is republican insistence on including Hyde amendment language. Senate democrats are hoping to pass the bill this week, if not this weekend. According to NBC News, Republicans believe the Democrats’ definitions are too broad. Likewise, disagreements have emerged over the use of grants to encourage “red flag” laws. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said that he wants grant money to go to states that decide not to adopt red flag laws but instead create crisis intervention programs and mental health courts. Negotiators will need to act fast if they hope to have a bill ready before the July 4th recess.
Washington Watch is published weekly when Congress is in session. Published monthly during extended recess or adjournment.
Spotlight on Puerto Rico
“Populares” to hold Island wide vote on its future
José Luis Dalmau, president of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), announced last Thursday that his party will hold a vote to reconsider or reaffirm his party’s position on statehood for Puerto Rico. The party vote is in response to a Congressionally proposed plebiscite which presents Puerto Ricans with three options: statehood, full independence, or independence with free association; which keeps ties to the US, and likely includes maintaining US citizenship for at least one generation. The current commonwealth status would not be an option.
The PDP has supported maintaining the status quo since its formation in the 1930s. On August 14th the PDP’s 400,000 members will be asked to choose between either the current commonwealth status or free association. The party has long opposed statehood and for the foreseeable future that is not expected to change. Dalmau is a staunch supporter of the status quo, and many see this referendum not just as a vote on this issue but as a vote on his leadership of the party. The PDP narrowly lost the most recent gubernatorial election to Governor Pedro Pierluisi and his pro-statehood New Progressive Party.
Gov. Pierluisi signs labor reform law
On Monday evening, Puerto Rican Governor Pedro Pierluisi signed a law meant to enhance private sector worker benefits including increasing protections against unjustified dismissals, rules regarding larger annual bonuses, and a “paid time-off” for part-time workers. Questions loom regarding the legality of this law, specifically asking if it is in violation of existing Federal law. The Fiscal Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico (FOMB) cautioned Pierluisi not to sign the bill in fear it might hamper Puerto Rico's economic growth at a time when the labor participation rate is only 38%. A spokesperson for the FOMB said they are now reviewing the legislation to make sure it conforms with the Island's latest fiscal plan.
Road safety grants for Puerto Rico
With fatalities and car crashes increasing over the past few years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FCMSA) announced over $450 million in grants to increase road safety, with millions potentially available for Puerto Rico. Last year, FMCSA awarded over $76 Million in grants representing a significant increase in funds focusing on keeping our roads safe.
New Coast Guard Commander for Puerto Rico
Captain Jose E. Diaz was announced on June 16th as the new commander for the Coast Guard’s Sector San Juan, who succeeds Captain Gregory H. Magee. Under Captain MaGee's leadership, the Coast Guard saved 260 lives and seized 25,000 kilos of cocaine worth an estimated $625 Million. Sector San Juan includes Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and covers a 1.3 million square nautical mile area. Captain Diaz served as Sector San Juan’s Deputy Commander the past two years. The Unit is composed of 500 active and reserve duty personnel across 13 subordinate units. They monitor two of the busiest ports in the nation, with over 3 million visitors and 11,000 vessels annually, including 1,600 cruise ships.
View From The White House
The White House is attempting to finalize plans for a meeting between Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and major oil companies to discuss ways to lower gas prices.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) released data showing that Tesla vehicles made up nearly 70 percent of the 392 accidents involving advanced driver-assistance systems reported since last July.
Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms will become the head of the White House Office of Public Engagement replacing former Louisiana Congressman Cedric Richmond.
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