THE LONG GAME: Dems outperform midterm expectations; Spending bill, debt ceiling top “Lame duck” agenda
Defying precedent, polls and most pundits, Democrats held onto their majority in the U.S. Senate and lost far fewer seats in the House than had been expected. High-profile wins by Democrats included the open Senate seat in Pennsylvania, where Lt. Gov. John Fetterman beat celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, as well as in Arizona where Sen. Mark Kelly held off his challenger. In those cases, and many others, voters rejected candidates backed by Donald Trump. One bright spot for the GOP was Florida, where Republicans posted wins in the Senate and gubernatorial races as well as in several House races, aided by a congressional map drawn by Gov. Ron DeSantis and his allies. With the balance of power in the House still up in the air, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced his bid for Speaker, though his support from the right flank of his conference is tepid at best.
Regardless of the makeup of the new Congress, there are still many pending issues that lawmakers and the White House must address before the close of the current 117th Congress. First and foremost, lawmakers in a lame-duck session must approve a spending bill to keep the government operating beyond December 16. The Biden Administration has signaled that it wants such legislation to include more funding to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, money to help areas hit by natural disasters, and support for Ukraine. Another key item on Democrats’ agenda is raising the debt limit. Additionally, the Department of Defense authorization bill will be brought to the floor in the coming weeks, with the possibility that several unrelated amendments will be attached to it. The White House is also pushing for a vote to codify the right to marriage equality for same-sex couples, and for an electoral reform bill that would prevent members of Congress from tossing out slates of presidential electors.
Washington Watch is published weekly when Congress is in session. Published monthly during extended recess or adjournment.
Spotlight on Puerto Rico
Puerto Rican candidates claim major election victories across the United States
Puerto Rican Raúl Labrador, a Republican, will be the next Attorney General of Idaho and Anthony D’Esposito, whose mother is Puerto Rican, will be the representative for New York’s 4th district. A lawyer and former Congressman, Labrador unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination for governor in 2018 but was defeated by incumbent Governor Brad Little. Labrador is thought to be the second Puerto Rican elected to statewide office in the United States. D’Esposito, also a Republican, received 51.9 percent of the vote to defeat Laura Gillen. He is a former police officer and a Hempstead Town Council member.
In Congress, the four Puerto Ricans with full voting rights in the House - Nydia Velázquez, Darren Soto, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, and Ritchie Torres, all Democrats - won re-election on Tuesday. In December, Velázquez will mark 30 years as a congresswoman. During the next term, she will become the longest-serving Puerto Rican in the U.S. Congress, surpassing her former colleague, José Serrano.
New York opens new office of Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration
New York Governor Kathy Hochul, Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi, and Congressman Ritchie Torres announced the opening of a New York office of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration. The office is intended to help Puerto Ricans living in New York and surrounding states more easily obtain birth certificates, marriage licenses, and other vital records needed to access basic government benefits and services. Until now, Puerto Ricans living in New York had no way to obtain these records locally and were required to travel to Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration offices in Washington, D.C., Orlando, Florida, or in Puerto Rico to retrieve them. For more information on the new office, visit http://www.prfaa.pr.gov/book.
November declared "Puerto Rican Heritage Month" in New York
November will now be Puerto Rican Heritage Month in New York State, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Friday. “It’s long overdue,” said Hochul during a press conference in San Juan. The month-long celebration will honor the accomplishments of the Puerto Rican community in New York State as well as the Island’s culture. The governor made the announcement when she traveled to the Island after Tuesday’s midterm election to attend the annual SOMOS conference where members of New York’s political community gather to figure out how to boost Latino representation in government.
View From The White House
After a federal judge in Texas ruled against the president’s student loan forgiveness plan, the Biden administration announced Friday that it would stop accepting applications for the program.
President Biden met for nearly three hours with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, after which the president said “I absolutely believe there need not be a new Cold War” between the two countries.
The Administration announced an extension of Temporary Protected Status for approximately 300,000 immigrants from Central America, South Asia, Sudan and Haiti protecting them from the threat of deportation until at least mid-2024.
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