Senate blocks effort to codify Roe v. Wade

A vote in the U.S. Senate to end the filibuster on the Women’s Health Protection Act failed on Wednesday. The Senate took up the issue originally in February when Senate Republicans filibustered the bill. To end the filibuster and allow the Senate to vote on the legislation, Senate Democrats needed 60 votes in support. With one Democrat siding with Republicans and a 50-50 party split in the chamber, Democrats lacked enough votes to try to hear the bill on the floor. The Women’s Health Protection Act would have codified Roe v. Wade in advance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s final decision on the Mississippi 15-week abortion ban expected this summer.

RECA extension passes House, heads to president’s desk

The U.S. House of Representatives approved an extension to the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act on Wednesday, which means the bill now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk. The extension received unanimous support from the U.S. Senate last week. Without this extension, the program that provides one-time financial support to families impacted by uranium work and nuclear weapons testing will expire in July. RECA was first passed in 1990 and later amended in 2000. Since 1990, it has paid more than $2.5 billion to more than 39,000 claimants.

Advocates, elected officials and the public respond with rallies and outrage over Supreme Court draft decision on abortion rights

The leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the case that appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade woke up many on Tuesday to a “shocking” reality which may be imminent. Politico released on Monday a leaked draft document, dated February from the Supreme Court. The document is a majority opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case the court heard in early December. Because the document is still a draft, there is still opportunity for the court to rule differently in late June or early July, though it appears unlikely with the current makeup of the court. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito authored the draft, which overturns Roe v. Wade and rules in favor of the state of Mississippi in the Dobbs case.

New government report details reportedly unsafe and unsanitary conditions at Torrance County Detention Facility

The federal Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Inspector General issued an alert this week to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to recommend that all individuals housed at the Torrance County Detention Facility be relocated due to reportedly unsanitary and unsafe conditions. The 19-page report issued on Wednesday detailed conditions that include a broken toilet containing human waste in a vacant cell in an occupied housing unit, as well as staffing shortages, a lack of hot water access and other issues. Several nonprofit organizations that advocate for the rights of detainees called on ICE to release the individuals housed at Torrance County Detention Facility. The Democrats in New Mexico’s congressional delegation also issued a press release late Friday condemning the “inhumane” conditions and called on President Joe Biden to “act swiftly” to address the reported unsafe conditions. “ICE should no longer defend the inhumane living conditions at the Torrance County Detention Facility.

Luján makes return to U.S. Senate

Thursday morning, during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing, committee chair Senator Maria Cantwell stopped mid-sentence when she saw someone walk into the room. U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján, wearing a black face mask, made his return to the U.S. Senate, weeks after suffering a stroke. Members and those in attendance rose to give the freshman Senator a standing ovation. Luján had surgery to repair damage after the stroke he suffered on Jan. 27 and spent weeks in the hospital, during which his office provided sporadic updates on his condition.

Luján recovering after stroke, surgery

U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján’s office announced on Tuesday that the senator was hospitalized after suffering a stroke. He is expected to make a full recovery. The statement from Carlos Sanchez, Luján’s chief of staff, said the 49-year-old senator experienced dizziness and fatigue Thursday morning and checked himself into Christus St. Vincent Regional Hospital in Santa Fe. It was there that medical staff determined he had a stroke in his cerebellum, which affected his balance.

New Mexico congressional delegation seeking approval for state’s constitutional amendment

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich announced bicameral legislation last week to seek federal approval for the state’s proposed constitutional amendment that, if approved by voters, would tap an additional 1.25 percent from the Land Grant Permanent Fund. Heinrich and U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbuy, both Democrats, introduced the legislation. U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján and U.S. House of Representative Teresa Leger Fernández, also both Democrats, are co-sponsors of the legislation. If both Congress and New Mexico voters approve the proposal, which will likely land on the ballot next fall, the state will appropriate the additional 1.25 percent annually from the fund to increase teacher salaries for K-12 public education and to establish new funding for early childhood education. If the U.S. Congress provides its consent to the New Mexico Education Enhancement Act, the proposal will then go before voters, likely in November 2022, to decide.

Build Back Better Act passes U.S. House of Representatives

Legislation that includes dozens of provisions to address climate change is one step closer to the president’s desk following a near-party-line vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday morning. The Build Back Better Act would provide funding to support working families, increase access to home ownership and address the climate crisis through increasing renewable energy and addressing emissions from the oil and gas sector. “I think it is not only the largest investment but the most comprehensive investment that we’ve ever seen in tackling climate change in our country’s history,” said U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, a Democrat from New Mexico, in a press conference after the bill’s passage. Stansbury said the bill includes dozens of provisions targeted at addressing climate change “across every sector of our society and every community within the United States and our affiliated territories and communities all over the world.”

Stansbury said all the sectors that emit greenhouse gases contribute to climate change, including the transportation, energy and electricity sectors.  “And this bill really takes a comprehensive approach to addressing that across every sector,” she said.

‘A blue-collar blueprint to rebuild’: Biden signs infrastructure package

President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan infrastructure package Monday that includes funding for expanded broadband, plugging of orphaned oil and gas wells and remediating abandoned mines among other investments.. The $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act has been touted as the largest infrastructure investment since the New Deal. During the signing ceremony, Biden said “we’re taking a monumental step forward to building back better” and praised the bipartisan effort to get the package passed. He further described the law as a “blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America.”

“My message to the American people is this: America’s moving again and your life is going to change for the better,” he said, highlighting funding to replace lead water pipes and service lines and expanding access to affordable, high-speed internet. Biden said he will now visit areas like a structurally unsafe bridge in New Hampshire and union workers in Detroit who are building electric vehicles.

Interior begins process to end new oil and gas leasing near Chaco for 20 years

President Joe Biden’s administration took steps today to begin the process of banning new oil and gas leases within a 10 mile buffer zone of Chaco Culture National Historical Park for 20 years. Monday, the president announced a series of initiatives focused on Indigenous communities, including the Chaco Canyon buffer zone. This came during the Tribal Nations Summit. The president instructed the U.S. Department of the Interior to initiate the process for withdrawing the area around the park from new oil and gas leasing for two decades. Over the last decade, Native American groups in both Arizona and New Mexico have been lobbying for protections of the sacred Chaco region from oil and gas development, leading to several congressional actions that temporarily deferred leasing.