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WASHINGTON WATCH: September 27, 2022


THE LONG GAME: House OKs electoral reform bill; Stock-trading ban coming

Citing the efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to subvert the results of the 2020 election, the House passed the Presidential Electoral Reform Act, a bill aimed at preventing a future presidential candidate from attempting to overturn the certification process. “This bill is a very important and crucial bill to ensure that what happened on January 6 never happens again,” said Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), a member of the select committee looking into the insurrection at the Capitol. The bill passed 229-203, with only nine Republicans crossing party lines to vote in favor. Notably, all nine GOP supporters are either retiring from Congress or were defeated in their primaries. The legislation would make it more difficult for members of Congress to object to the certification process, and clarifies that the vice president has no discretion to approve or reject states’ electoral slates. In the Senate, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Manchin (W-WV) have been working to pass a reform bill, which is slightly narrower than the House version. The Senate bill has 20 co-sponsors, including ten members from each party.

Lawmakers in the House could take up legislation as early as this week that would prohibit them and their colleagues in the Senate from trading individual stocks. Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said on the House floor that the chamber may consider legislation to reform the STOCK Act, a 2012 law intended to crack down on insider trading by members of Congress. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), chair of the House Administration Committee, sent a letter to colleagues Thursday that included a framework for a ban on trading stocks by lawmakers which would also apply to Supreme Court justices. The proposal comes just weeks after a New York Times analysis found that nearly one-fifth of all members of Congress reported stock trades by themselves or immediate family members that showed a potential conflict of interest. “Collectively, these stories undermine the American people's faith and trust in the integrity of public officials and our federal government,” Lofgren wrote.

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


Spotlight on Puerto Rico

House Committee meeting this week on Puerto Rico's post-disaster reconstruction and power grid

House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) will convene a hybrid virtual and in-person hearing Friday, September 30 at 9:30 a.n. EST on Puerto Rico's Post-Disaster Reconstruction and Power Grid Development. The hearing will be in the Longworth House Office Building Room 1324 and available to watch live at the link above. The meeting notice and documents, including witness lists, will also be available here when they are released later this week.

Hurricane Fiona's impact by the numbers

In the wake of Hurricane Fiona, communities are underwater, bridges and roads destroyed, and many residents' homes are uninhabitable. Early figures indicate a tough road ahead as residents attempt to recover. Here are some numbers to put the devastation in context: Some areas of Puerto Rico received nearly 3 feet of rain during the storm. In the hard-hit municipality of Cayey, 21 elderly and bedridden people at a seniors’ home had to be rescued by the National Guard. In Mayagüez, Guard troops rescued 59 people from a flooded community. Much of Puerto Rico's infrastructure, particularly the Island's power grid, is still facing difficulties that were exacerbated by Hurricane Maria in 2017., which tracks service disruptions, says about 928,000 households were in the dark as of Friday morning — roughly five days after Fiona hit. Government data showed that more than 358,000 customers (about 27 percent) were still without water service. At one point this week, the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority reported more than 760,000 customers had no water service or were dealing with significant interruptions. Fiona's strength and longevity didn't match that of Hurricane Maria and fortunately, the economic impact to Puerto Rico won't be on the same scale. However, Fiona arrived in Puerto Rico when the Island had yet to properly recover from the damage caused by Maria. The economic losses from this storm will be compounded by existing problems on the Island that were worsened by Maria.

President amends Puerto Rico disaster declaration

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell announced on Friday that President Biden has made additional assistance available to the Government of Puerto Rico to supplement territorial and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by Hurricane Fiona, beginning September 17. This approval allows for 100 percent retroactive federal funding to cover debris removal, emergency protective measures and direct federal assistance for a period of 30 days from the incident period. The President's action also makes federal funding available to affected individuals in three additional municipalities within Puerto Rico-- Añasco, Hormigueros and Mayagüez. The original 55 municipalities can be found here. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-interest loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

If you or someone you know needs to apply for disaster assistance, please call 800-621-3362 or visit, or use the FEMA App.

Senator Schumer blasts LUMA, PREPA for failing to prepare for Fiona

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) blamed “ongoing conflict” between the entities responsible for Puerto Rico’s electric grid and their regulators for the sorry state of the power supply on the Island. Funding made available after Hurricane Maria could have been used to rebuild the grid so it could better withstand worsening hurricanes while helping meet the island’s renewable energy goals, he said. The senator accused PREPA and LUMA Energy of undermining attempts by the U.S. Department of Energy, Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Housing and Urban Development to support the effort to build a resilient grid.


View From The White House

  • The Biden administration announced on Friday that it was awarding $1.5 billion in grants to help fight the opioid crisis, with the grants going to treatment and recovery programs, overdose education and increasing the accessibility of naloxone.

  • EPA administrator Michael Regan announced on Saturday the creation of the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights, which will distribute $3 billion in block grants to underserved communities impacted by pollution.

  • After the Iranian government limited Internet access to its citizens amid growing protests, the Treasury Department announced on Friday exceptions to sanctions to allow private companies to provide more online services to the Iranian people.

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