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WASHINGTON WATCH: May 9, 2023



 

THE LONG GAME: Debt ceiling talks; Title 42 expiration


With as few as three weeks remaining until the U.S. government reaches its debt ceiling and is unable to pay its bills, President Biden will sit down with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and the other congressional leaders on Tuesday at the White House. Some have called on President Biden to take unilateral action by invoking the 14thamendment, but Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen threw cold water on the idea on Sunday, saying that such a move would represent a “Constitutional crisis.” House GOP members are receiving support for their position from their counterparts in the Senate. Led by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), 43 Senate Republicans have signaled that they oppose raising the debt ceiling “without substantive spending and budget reforms.” Experts are warning that the impact of dysfunction could be felt even earlier than the June 1 deadline, as markets could be rattled and credit rating agencies could begin to downgrade U.S. credit. 


As Title 42, the public health order that allowed U.S. border agents to expel migrants at the border without court hearings, is set to expire this week, a group of Senators has introduced legislation allowing such expulsions to continue for two years. The legislation was unveiled by Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), with support from Joe Manchin (D-WV) and John Cornyn (R-TX).  The bill would call upon the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to quickly detain and then expel migrants back to Mexico "without further hearing or review." Under the bill, if Mexico does not accept the return of migrants, the U.S. would have the authority to expel individuals to their home countries or a third country willing to receive them. Migrants who claim they could face persecution in their home countries would need to pass preliminary interviews with asylum officers. For its part, the Biden administration announced last week that it would deploy 1,500 active-duty troops to the southern border to help deal with the expected surge in migration


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


 



Spotlight on Puerto Rico



$40 million requested for San Juan port upgrades 

Last week, the Puerto Rican Port Authority (APPR) made a joint request with private sector partners for $40.8 million from the US Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) to upgrade and modernize the San Juan Port. The funding would cover four projects. Two of the projects are micro-grid power systems, continuing the trend of building new electrical infrastructure across the Island with federal funds to ensure resiliency in the event of natural disasters. The additional projects are repair work in the Puerto Nuevo Terminal and repairs at the Isla Grande terminal


American University of Puerto Rico to close

The American University of Puerto Rico (AUPR) has announced that it will close at the end of the year. Officials of the college, which has campuses in Bayamón and Manatí, said in a statement that the decision was necessitated by Puerto Rico’s slow economic recovery since Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit in 2017. Since then, enrollment has dropped precipitously, and the economy has failed to rebound sufficiently to keep operations going. AUPR tried to keep its doors open through a merger with another institution, but those talks collapsed. As of fall 2021, enrollment was just 550 students on its two campuses. 


HUD allocates $2 million for affordable housing in Puerto Rico 

The United States Department of Housing announced last week that it will provide $2 million to Puerto Rico via the Housing Trust Fund. The Trust Fund is a housing production program that supports federal, state, and local efforts to increase and preserve housing options for low- and extremely low-income households, including the homeless. These funds can be used for several purposes including property purchases, site improvements, financing, relocation assistance, and rental assistance.




 

View From The White House


  • President Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced on Monday a proposal that would examine requiring airlines to cover expenses—such a meals, hotels and rebooking—for passengers affected by “controllable airline cancellations” or delays.

  • The White House on Thursday unveiled a plan to combat the risks from artificial intelligence, including $140 million in funding to set up seven new National AI Research Institutes to encourage responsible AI innovation.

  • The Department of Homeland Security announced on Friday that Afghan refugees who came to the U.S. under humanitarian grounds through Operation Allies Welcome (OAW) will be able to request re-parole beginning in June. 


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