New Mexico's DC delegation earned their Christmas presents this last week of the congressional session--with the exception of GOP Rep. Yvette Herrell who gets a lump of coal in her stocking.
Senator Martin Heinrich flexed his muscle and quieted talk that the necessary congressional approval of the constitutional amendment for early childhood education approved by 70 percent of voters would stall in the final hours.
Heinrich, the state's senior senator, worked it hard and delivered the deal to tap the over $20 billion Land Grant Permanent School Fund. The approval language is in the giant budget bill expected to get final passage Friday.
With the Dems keeping control of the Senate next year Heinrich can continue to lean on and work with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Over the years the New York Senator has shown himself to be a good friend to New Mexico. Thanks, Chuck.
The amendment approval will be no thanks to Rep. Herrell who lost her re-election bid to Democrat Gabe Vasquez. She's already seeking a rematch in '24 but dragging her heels on early childhood is going to hurt her in the ABQ portions of the southern congressional district--the same area that cost her the seat in November. Vasquez has not yet taken office but he's already looking stronger. Imagine the TV spots Herrell's opposition to the Heinrich deal has given the Vasquez campaign.
(Shout out to GOP state Rep. Rebecca Dow who did her best to get Herrell to change her mind. Maybe Dow should run for that seat?)
BRINGING IT HOME
Sen. Ben Ray Lujan brought home the bacon with blow-out numbers for Los Alamos Labs which employees thousands in the North. The Labs budget goes to $4.6 billion from $4 billion--a 16 percent boost. That will not be good news to anti-nuclear constituents but the Labs have been an integral part of the northern economy for 80 years. Already Los Alamos is overflowing with employees and filling Santa Fe buildings with personnel.
Heinrich remains key in watchdogging Los Alamos (and Sandia Labs) budgets from his perch as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and as chairman of the Military Construction subcommittee. As for Lujan, his health is restored and he is starting to live up to the expectations placed on him.
Northern Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (and Lujan) rose to the occasion in securing even more federal aid for victims of the historic northern fires this past summer. The first batch of funding came in at $2.5 billion and now another $1.4 billion is headed for approval. That's less than hoped but still a massive $3.9 billion that will directly impact the lives of thousands.
Over at the White House, Scranton Joe, like Sen. Schumer, has shown himself to be ready to help New Mexico when the need is there. He visited the state in the aftermath of the fires, promised assistance and delivered big time. Thanks, Mr. President. Gov. Lujan Grisham was also key in the relief effort, keeping the heat on DC and not letting anyone forget the crisis.
ABQ Dem Rep. Melanie Stansbury contributed to all of the above and also delivered over $84 million in water project funds for the state. She is fast becoming a go-to water expert in the Congress.
Stansbury also helped push through over $9 million for expanding command offices at Kirtland Air Force Base, ensuring the facility stays up to date and kept off the list of bases in danger of being shut down.
It's the clutch moments that count in politics. The early childhood amendment and shaping the huge omnibus bill to fund the government were must do's for the delegation. Working together they came through. There's only one more thing for them to do: keep it up.
HISPANICS IN DC
Rep. Leger Fernandez and Rep.-elect Vasquez have secured leadership spots in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus:
Here is the CHC’s new leadership for the 118th Congress:
CHC Chair – Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán
Deputy Chair – Rep. Adriano Espaillat
Vice Chair of Policy – Rep. Darren Soto
Vice Chair of Member Engagement – Rep. Tony Cárdenas
Vice Chair of Communications – Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández
Whip – Rep. Sylvia Garcia
Vice Chair of Diversity and Inclusion – Rep.-elect Gabe Vasquez
Freshman Representative – Rep.-elect Andrea Salinas
Next Congress, we will have our largest, 42-Member caucus in history, and a record 9 new CHC Members. We look forward to our collective work as we leverage our powerful Hispanic voices to pass legislation and resources that benefit communities across the country.
On January 3 Leger Fernandez will begin her second term and Vasquez will take the oath of office for the first time.