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WASHINGTON WATCH: September 26, 2023


THE LONG GAME: Shutdown looms as House GOP falls into disarray; Senator Menendez indicted (again)

With just days to go before a government shutdown becomes a reality, the disfunction that marks the House Republican leadership was on full display last week. Members of the far-right Freedom Caucus stunned House GOP leaders Thursday by defeating the rule to begin debate on the Department of Defense spending bill. The defeat was an embarrassment for Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) who had no choice but to send lawmakers home for the weekend. Conservative members oppose moving forward with a short-term continuing resolution to avert a shutdown, demanding instead action on the 11 remaining appropriations bills. McCarthy sought to appease conservatives by pledging that aid for Ukraine would be removed from any continuing resolution, but soon backtracked. On the Senate side, pressure is mounting on Democratic leaders to craft a bipartisan CR that would fund the government through the end of the year. If the upper chamber were to send such a bill back to the House, it would present McCarthy with a new dilemma: supporting a Democratic-backed initiative would likely enrage conservative members of the GOP conference. In a typically self-serving approach, Donald Trump urged his congressional allies to shut down the government in a dubious effort to thwart federal agencies that are prosecuting him.

The number of lawmakers demanding the resignation of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) continues to grow. Menendez was charged in a stunning 39-page indictment on Friday that alleges that he and his wife accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, gold bars, mortgage payments, and a Mercedes-Benz in exchange for assisting the government of Egypt and interfering in the prosecution of two New Jersey businessmen. Federal agents found nearly $480,000 in cash stashed in his home. Menendez has remained defiant, saying he was “not going anywhere.” He did, however, step aside from his position as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. A prior indictment of Menendez ended in a mistrial in 2017.

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


Spotlight on Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico National Guard deployed to assist with U.S. Virgin Islands fire 

The Puerto Rican National Guard was deployed last week to help fight a large fire that broke out in a landfill in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The fire has been burning for over a week and has forced schools and businesses to close. The Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Albert Bryan, Jr., declared a state of emergency last week. The Puerto Rican National Guard said that it has so far supplied 60,000 gallons of water to fight the blaze, greatly exceeding the Virgin Island’s own 11,000 as of late last week.

Puerto Rico receives $1.7 million for COVID-19 research 

The Puerto Rican Department of Economic Development and Commerce announced last week that it will distribute $1.7 million to research treatments and preventative strategies for COVID. The money comes from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, which is intended to assist local and state governments to better address public health emergencies while promoting economic development. Most of the grants will flow through various campuses of the University of Puerto Rico, including the UPR Medical Sciences Campus and the Rio Piedras Campus.

Cancer Health magazine recognizes Puerto Rican advancements in cancer fight 

Puerto Rican Laura Ortiz-Ravick has been named to the Cancer Health 25 list, which honors people who have shown a dedication to health equity across the United States. Originally planning to pursue a career in journalism, Ortiz-Ravick’s career path changed when her mother died of cancer. As a result, Ortiz-Ravick dedicated her life to assisting disadvantaged communities facing the challenges of this disease. She serves as the Director of Outreach and Health Promotion for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and is one of only two Latinos on the list of 25 leaders.


View From The White House

  • The Biden Administration is expected to grant Israel admission into the Visa Waiver Program this week, which would enable Israeli citizens to enter the U.S. for three months without a visa.

  • Vice President Kamala Harris announced that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will soon issue new rules prohibiting medical debt from impacting individuals’ credit scores.

  • The Department of Health and Human Service announced on Wednesday that it will provide $600 million in funding to produce at-home COVID test kits and that it will restart the website that enables people to order up to four kits per household.



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