Government shutdown prevented following 11th hour vote

Legislation passed on Saturday provided government funding for 45 more days, preventing a government shutdown that appeared imminent on Friday. 

President Joe Biden signed the legislation into law on Saturday. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution Saturday afternoon, mere hours before the government would have shutdown. “House Democrats have fought for weeks to avert a shutdown, driven by GOP infighting and extremist demands to defund critical programs and policy riders that would harm our communities,” Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-New Mexico,  said in a news release following the vote. “While we will continue to negotiate over appropriations and funding bills for the upcoming fiscal year, this measure avoids a shutdown and ensures all federal workers are paid.”

Continuing resolutions are temporary spending bills that let federal government operations continuity while final appropriations are being approved. The House passed the Bill with 335 votes for it and 91 against.

Heinrich calls on indicted U.S. Senator to step down

New Mexico’s senior senator says that U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez should resign because of his recent indictment in an alleged bribery case. 

Mendendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, has faced calls to resign from a number of Democratic politicians. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich joined those on Tuesday on a post on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter. “The charges against Senator Menendez are serious and very troubling,” Heinrich wrote. “While he deserves a fair trial, his constituents and our nation deserve a senator solely focused on delivering for the good of our country. Senator Menendez should step aside.”

The indictment alleges that Menendez took bribes to use his influence on foreign affairs.

Legislative newsletter: Guv’s gun ban and the U.S. Senate AI forums

Note: This goes out to newsletter subscribers at the start of each week. We will post the first few on the website before it becomes a newsletter exclusive. Sign up here for free! Hello fellow political junkies! The political hurricane that has been New Mexico in the last 10 days seems to be easing up for a time. A short recap: On Sept.

A Screenshot of Sen. Martin Heinrich speaking about AI during a Washington Post Live event September 12, 2023.

‘What’s the threshold at which you begin to regulate something?’: AI Insight Forums begin

Congress set up a series of talks to discuss artificial intelligence, something that state and federal legislative branches have had an increasing interest in discussing. The first AI Insight Forum begins Wednesday in the U.S. Senate. These forums are closed door which means neither the public nor the media can attend. A readout of the forum will be made available after the event is concluded. U.S.  Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, discussed AI Tuesday on the Washington Post Live’s Across the Aisle with Leigh Ann Caldwell.

Lujan Grisham approval rating at 47 percent while Heinrich and Luján have lower ratings

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham continues to have more voters approve of her job performance than disapprove, though the number remains below 50 percent. Meanwhile, both of New Mexico’s U.S. Senators have more voters who approve of their job performance than disapprove but a large amount have no opinion. A poll conducted by Public Policy Polling for NM Political Report found that 47 percent of New Mexico voters approve of Lujan Grisham’s job performance, compared to 43 percent who disapprove. Another 9 percent are not sure. Numbers on polls may not add up to 100 percent because of rounding.

Eastern New Mexico water pipeline project enters its next phase

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation broke ground on Tuesday on the next phase of a pipeline project that will take water from Ute Lake to communities in eastern New Mexico, including Portales and Clovis. This requires about 120 miles of pipeline as well as other infrastructure such as pump stations and a water treatment plant. Once complete, the pipeline will provide reliable, safe and secure drinking water to approximately 70,000 people. The pipeline is important because the communities in eastern New Mexico rely on the Ogallala Aquifer, which is declining. Funding for the project came in part through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the bipartisan infrastructure package.

Biden talks ‘Bidenomics,’ clean energy and manufacturing in NM visit

A year ago amid the post-COVID lockdown economic slump, the wind tower manufacturing company Arcosa was struggling to stay open. “We were really struggling,” CEO Antonio Carillo said. “And then, in August, the Inflation Reduction Act passes and, just a few months later, we received the largest wind tower order we have received in the history of the company.”

This led Arcosa to open a new wind tower manufacturing center in Valencia County near Belen, where President Joe Biden visited on Wednesday to celebrate the one year anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act. Biden last visited New Mexico in 2022, when he saw firsthand the impact of the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon wildfire, the largest such fire in New Mexico history. “This is a great example of how policy has a direct impact,” Carillo said.

Forest Service takes responsibility for another 2022 fire

The U.S. Forest Service released the results of investigations into 2022’s Cerro Pelado fire that indicates a winter slash pile burn reignited to cause the blaze that charred more than 45,000 acres in northern New Mexico near Jemez Springs. The Cerro Pelado Lookout alerted the Santa Fe Interagency Dispatch Center of billowy blue-gray smoke moving east in the strong winds shortly after 3:30 p.m. on April 22, 2022. 

The high winds caused the fire to grow quickly and, within a matter of hours, the blaze had engulfed more than 400 acres. Firefighters spent the next two weeks battling the wildfire, which destroyed three houses and several non-residential buildings while also damaging Jemez Mountains Electric Co-Op infrastructure. One of the firefighters received minor injuries in the effort. Two investigations into the source of the Cerro Pelado Fire came back with the same conclusion: the fire originated at an ash pit from a slash pile burn.

U.S. Senate confirms Torres Small to USDA deputy secretary

The full U.S. Senate confirmed Xochitl Torres Small as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture on Tuesday. The Senate voted 84-8 to approve her confirmation. All those who voted against Torres Small were Republicans. Torres Small, a former member of Congress from New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District, will now take over as a top member of the USDA. Both of New Mexico’s U.S. Senators, Democrats Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján, voted for Torres Small.

Lawmakers seek information about ending mining in the Upper Pecos

Three members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation are asking the U.S. Forest Service for procedural information as the agency for procedural information as the agency considerss withdrawing the Upper Pecos watershed from mineral development. U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján, along with U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, sent a letter to the federal agency requesting information about how the Forest Service will assess the potential risks of future mining in the watershed. 

The three requested in October that the area be withdrawn from mineral development. In April, Forest Service Chief Randy Moore responded to the October request in the form of a letter. “The Forest Service understands your concerns about mineral exploration in the Upper Pecos Watershed community and is currently assessing the need for an administrative withdrawal,” the letter states. “The Southwestern Region is evaluating the potential risk of mineral development in the Upper Pecos Watershed and whether our current laws and regulations are adequate for its protection.