Supreme Court fight will lead to strife among some Democrats
The political world can exhale now. President Donald Trump has made his choice for the United States Supreme Court.
Once Appeals Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh was named, the reactions began to pour in from both sides. Trump described Kavanaugh as an “originalist” in the mold of “the late, great Justice Antonin Scalia.”
Democrats, as expected, are critical of the selection, but would have been no matter who Trump picked. The two Floridians who will have a say in Kavanaugh’s confirmation gave differing, but respectful statements.
GOP Sen. Marco Rubio said “Brett Kavanaugh is a qualified, mainstream jurist who possesses the right temperament and experience for the position, and I’m pleased to see his nomination to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court,” Rubio said in a statement. “Regrettably, Senate Democrats made up their minds to oppose this nomination long before tonight’s announcement. I would remind them that just over a year-and-a-half ago the American people elected the president and a Republican-controlled Senate.”
Sen. Bill Nelson, who earlier said he would likely vote “no” on any Trump nominee, said Monday night he looked forward to discussing with Kavanaugh his “views on several important issues … I will make my decision after that.”
Nelson is one of 10 Democrats running for re-election in states won by Trump. He must weigh the political calculation of appealing to moderates while infuriating his base with a “yes” vote, highlighting cracks in the unity among Democrats.
Other Senators in bright red states may not be able to keep their seats with a “no” vote, but that does not seem to matter to Democratic Minority Whip, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois.
While Durbin called the potential of losing Democratic Senate seats “a dilemma in one respect,” it is a trade-off Democrats are willing to make. He does not explain how a smaller minority helps the Democratic cause. Perhaps those with their seats on the line might be thinking more clearly.
Delegation members in the House offered their views soon after the announcement. Orlando Democrat Val Demings may have previewed an attack line during confirmation when she said: “It is troubling (Trump) has nominated a potential Supreme Court Justice who has questioned whether presidents can even be questioned while in office.”
Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat, said: “The Senate now has the responsibility to protect Americans from an ideologically-driven nominee whose confirmation would create a Supreme Court bent on setting America decades back in time.”
Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings said, “Judge Kavanaugh’s support for Congressional Republicans’ obsession with cutting off access to women’s health care is insulting, dangerous, and intrinsically disqualifying.” Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, tweeted “Trump #SCOTUS nominee is far outside the mainstream. Our hard-fought civil rights are at risk.”
Panama City Republican Neal Dunn said, “President Trump has taken another tangible step to secure the Constitution and ensure that the people of the United States remain pre-eminent, not the government.”
Left-leaning pundits like Bloomberg News’ Al Hunt believe Democrats are in a bind in the efforts to block Kavanaugh because they have botched the politics of Supreme Court nominations. Hunt opines Democrats should not have filibustered Supreme Court nominee Neal Gorsuch last year, which paved the way for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to change Senate rules to require only a majority vote for confirmation.
“Democrats are compounding their past miscalculations by making today’s fight almost exclusively about abortion,” Hunt wrote. “This diminishes other critical issues like voting rights, affirmative action, partisan gerrymandering, disability rights and a check on executive excesses.”
In the end, Trump is likely to get his second justice seated on the court. A less than united Democratic Party likely dooms any chance of blocking the Kavanaugh nomination.
Florida Progressives say SCOTUS pick could harm everyone
Progress Florida isn’t too happy with Trump’s nomination of Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.
And while Progress Florida is a left-leaning, progressive advocacy group, it’s of the belief that if Kavanaugh is confirmed by the Senate, his actions as a justice will affect everyone.
“President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court should concern every Floridian,” said Progress Florida Executive Director Mark Ferrulo on behalf of the Florida Why Courts Matter Coalition.
The organization fears that Kavanaugh could walk back the nation’s stance on several issues, many of which — health care, consumer protections, voting rights, environmental protection, LGBT equality, and criminal justice reform — transcend party lines.
“I don’t see these as progressive values, just as values,” added Progress Florida Communications Director Damien Filer.
Nelson visits Miami, talks gun violence
The three-term Democrat was in Miami on Friday to visit with law enforcement and residents to discuss the issue of gun violence. In addition to new gun laws, Nelson heard suggestions that included greater community involvement to prevent the recent rise in shootings.
To view Nelson’s Facebook video from the visit, click the image below:
One of the areas of focus was Liberty Square, which has seen its share of problems. Following the launch of Operation Blue and Brown following two fatal shootings on April 8, no further incidents have occurred.
The initiative by the City of Miami Police Department and the Miami-Dade County Police Department placed a police command center in the area. Despite its success, Nelson said it would take more than police presence to solve the problem.
“You can’t solve a community’s problem until you attack it comprehensively,” he said.
At a roundtable with community leaders and residents, Nelson heard suggestions that included education as well as gun control.
“That’s why I’m here, to let them know that somebody cares, and somebody is trying to do something about it,” said Nelson.
Despite action on Hoover Dike, politics remain
The much-needed repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike on Lake Okeechobee have been the source of a lot of talk over the years, but no real action. With last week’s announcement that $514 million in federal funding was on its way, the chance that Elvis Presley’s famous call for “a little less conversation, a little more action” may be coming to pass.
This is excellent news to those living in the region as well as those who represent them in Washington. The 30-foot high structure surrounds the lake, but fears remain of the catastrophic damage that would occur if a hurricane ravaged the dike.
Combined with the $100 million approved by the state over the past two years, the project is now reported to be on track for completion in 2022.
Both Nelson and Scott celebrated the announcement, but issues involving the lake remain part of the increasingly bitter campaign for Nelson’s seat.
“In April 2017, I announced my goal of fixing the Herbert Hoover Dike by 2022,” Scott said in a statement from his campaign. “I’m glad to see that Bill Nelson finally supports my plan.”
For his part, Nelson has been pushing for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to speed up the project. While campaigning in the region late last week, he called the announcement “huge news.”
After Rubio complains, Trump administration halts Lake O discharges plan
South Florida water issues are a regular part of the policy and political discussions among those representing the area. An ugly reminder from a 2016 ecological disaster is back.
With algal blooms developing in the Caloosahatchee River after weeks of water discharges from Lake Okeechobee and further plans for another dump into the St. Lucie River, Rubio called on Trump to have the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stop the practice.
The two-term Republican wrote to Trump asking him to “re-evaluate” the discharges into the Caloosahatchee and halt the planned releases into the St. Lucie.
“I respectfully urge you to use your authority to order the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to immediately include the impacts of harmful algal blooms and poor water quality on downstream communities and ecosystems as a major factor for consideration when planning and conducting Lake Okeechobee discharges,” Rubio wrote.
“This should include an emergency re-evaluation of the flows currently entering the Caloosahatchee River and the reconsideration of the decision to once again begin discharging flows to the St. Lucie River (Monday).”
Rubio’s pleas were the same as those coming from Palm City Republican Brian Mast, who began railing against the discharges almost as soon as they started. Rubio seems to have more clout.
Within hours, the Corps halted plans to begin discharges into the St. Lucie.
“After speaking with the Administration earlier today, I’m thankful that the Army Corps has listened to our concerns for communities downstream and announced it would delay (Monday’s) scheduled discharges,” Rubio said in a statement. “While this is just a temporary reprieve, it is a sign of a newly responsive federal government. South Florida faces major water issues that must be addressed.”
Scott raises $10.7 million in Q2
Coming into his race against Nelson, most thought that money would be no problem for Scott, whose personal fortune exceeds $230 million according to reports. As it turns out, he may not need to extensively tap into that wealth as he seeks to end the incumbent’s 18-year hold on his Senate seat.
According to the Scott campaign, the governor raised an eye-popping $10.7 million in the second fundraising quarter that ended on June 30. In a release, the campaign took pains to explain that the total “does not include any candidate contributions.”
Nelson has raised more than $13 million for the campaign and had more than $10 million cash on hand, according to his last fundraising report released in April. Nelson’s totals reflect all money raised and spent beginning shortly after his 2012 re-election victory.
Scott, who entered the race on April 9, reported 11,000 donors in the second quarter with 80 percent living in Florida and 75 percent contributing $500 or less. Releasing these figures before the actual reporting date is meant to blunt any narrative of Scott either self-funding or depending on large donors from around the country.
“We look forward to continuing this unmatched success,” said Tom Hicks, the campaign’s national finance chairman. Hicks is the former owner of the Texas Rangers baseball club, where Scott was once a former part owner.
Gaetz, Curbelo endorsed by Humane Society; delegation gets mixed reviews
Two Republican delegation members earned support for their re-election bids from the political arm of a leading animal rights group. Both Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach and Carlos Curbelo of Kendall received the backing of the Humane Society.
“Matt Gaetz is a trailblazer for animals in the U.S. Congress,” said Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “Congressman Gaetz is fighting to prevent taxpayer dollars from being used to harm animals, and western Panhandle voters should re-elect him.”
“Voters in Florida’s 26th congressional district who care about building a more humane society should support his re-election,” Amundson said. “Carlos Curbelo is a consistent supporter of animal protection legislation in the 115th Congress.”
Curbelo and Gaetz are among the three Republicans who scored the highest on the HSLF’s annual scorecard. Both earned scores of 75, which was slightly behind that of Vern Buchanan of Longboat Key, who earned an 83.
Delegation Democrats scored between 83 and 100, except for Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee, who earned a 50. Hurting his mark was failing to co-sponsor four of the seven targeted bills.
Used to calculate scores were a member’s cosponsorship or prime sponsorship of legislation of importance to the group, their votes on other targeted bills, their votes (Senate only) on confirming the recently-resigned Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency and membership in the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus (House only).
In the Senate, most Republicans earned zeros, including Rubio, with Maine’s Susan Collins winning the party’s only perfect score. Among Democrats, 22 were given scores of 100, while Nelson earned a 42.
Rutherford announces millions in disaster recovery cash
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is coming to Northeast Florida to make storm-related repairs and prevent future occurrences. Republican Rep. John Rutherford announced late last week the USACE would invest $36.8 million for a major beach renourishment project at Vilano Beach in St. Johns County.
Also, the Corp will invest an additional $2 million in St. Johns, as well as in Duval and Nassau County for flood and storm damage reduction projects to make the areas “more resilient against future storms.”
“Hurricanes Matthew and Irma hammered Northeast Florida’s coastal communities, causing severe flooding and erosion, so I am pleased to see the Army Corps invest in making Northeast Florida more resilient,” said Rutherford. “These funds will allow for rebuilding and recovery for Duval, Nassau, and St. Johns Counties, strengthening our communities in the face of future storms.”
Congress provided funding for these USACE initiatives in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, signed into law February 9, 2018. These funds are part of the USACE Long-Term Disaster Recovery Investment Program and will be used to construct flood and storm damage reduction projects.
Murphy to speak at ‘Democratic Majorities’ event
A group billed as a coalition of moderate Democrats trying to re-establish ties with middle America, is hosting an event on Thursday in Washington. One of the featured speakers for “Building New Democratic Majorities,” sponsored by New Democracy, will be Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park.
The group was formed by current and former Democratic governors, mayors and federal officials to “expand this party, and make it a bigger tent,” according to Will Marshall, a Democratic policy official who is running the group. Founders seek to appeal to more voters “between the coastlines.”
Murphy is a member of the revitalized House Blue Dog Coalition, a group of Democrats that seek to create common ground with moderate Republicans on significant issues.
Joining her at the event are other members of Congress from across the country. The event begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Washington Court Hotel, 525 New Jersey Ave. N.W.
New Soto ad touts accomplishments, calls out ‘bullies’
A new ad released Friday by first-term Democratic Rep. Darren Soto talks about getting “real results” without being loud or mean. Considering Soto is running in a primary race against someone known for his bombastic nature, one might think Soto is talking about Alan Grayson.
If the voter is not watching the ad, he or she might take away that impression. However, the ad’s video shows clips of Trump, whom no one will ever accuse of being a shrinking violet.
To view the ad, click on the image below:
The spot is titled “Hired,” and opens with reference to “bullies” featuring Trump, but gets into Soto’s commitment to “fully fund Social Security and Medicare and pass real gun reform. That’s what you hired me to do.”
While Soto would have preferred to save his resources for the fall election, it allows him to remind voters of his stances and accomplishments before next month’s contest against Grayson, Soto’s predecessor. Toward the end of the ad, Soto recounted his efforts to help “countless families in Central Florida and Puerto Rico to recover from hurricane storm damage.”
Combee called ‘Never Trumper’ in CD 15 race
When Lakeland Republican Rep. Dennis Ross announced he was leaving Congress, the race to replace him did not take long to develop. No fewer than five Republicans, including former state Rep. Neil Combee, announced their intention to run.
Combee is perceived as the GOP front-runner, since he previously served the area in Tallahassee. Another sure sign of his status is a recent attack on his loyalty to Trump.
A group registered in Virginia launched an anonymous website and Twitter account that describes Combee as a “Never Trumper,” a dangerous moniker in a GOP primary these days.
Combee is running as a disciple of Trump, but the website drudged up Combee quotes from 2016 where he described Trump as a shallow thinker, deep in debt, given to “vindictive insults” toward opponents, and an egocentric, “telling everybody how pretty he is, how rich he is, how much everybody loves him.”
In response, Combee blasts those behind the attacks, saying they were “cooked up by my opponents because they know I am the ONLY candidate trusted and appointed by President Trump.” That refers to Trump’s appointment of Combee to a Department of Agriculture post eight months ago.
“They know that connection makes me head and shoulders the best and most conservative choice for Congress” Combee pledged to be Trump’s “strongest ally in Congress.”
While the district leans Republican, Democrat Andrew Learned has raised more than $120,000 and had $38,000 cash on hand as of March 31. Combee is among several candidates who will be filing their first report in the coming days.
Curbelo latest lawmaker refused entry at Homestead facility
The Homestead detention center that houses immigrant children is proving to be an equal opportunity offender when it comes to visits by members of Congress. Count Curbelo among the latest to be denied entry to the facility when he was denied entry Friday.
Last month, Democratic Nelson and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston were also turned away. Nelson and Wasserman Schultz announced their intention to visit the facility the day before but were temporarily refused entry when informed protocol required the facility to be given a two-week notice.
Curbelo expressed his displeasure via Twitter saying the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) excuse of “protocol” in blocking the Democrats doesn’t work because he followed agency guidelines.
Was disappointed when this happened to colleagues last month & @HHSGov excuse was protocol,” he said. “Outraged today given my office followed ‘protocol.’”
In response, an HHS spokeswoman said the Congressional visits place “an unnecessary strain on grantee shelters’ staff, whose first and foremost priority is providing for the safety, security, and care of youth at their facilities.” She urged lawmakers to “fix our nation’s broken immigration system.”
The two-term Republican did not take the response well.
“I don’t feel sorry for them at all,” Curbelo said. “We fund all of their operations and all of their salaries, so they should make the time and effort to allow us to see the work they’re doing, especially if they’re confident in the work they’re doing.”
Curbelo has become one of the leading moderate Republican voices on immigration issues. He has worked to forge a consensus among Republicans that would include citizenship for the undocumented immigrants known as DREAMers as well as funding for Trump’s border wall.
On this day in the headlines
July 10, 1996 — The Senate took an election year issue off the table by voting to increase the minimum wage by 90 cents an hour over the next year. If adopted by the House and signed by President Bill Clinton, workers earning the minimum wage would see an increase from $4.25 to $5.15.
“We cannot get our work done without dealing with this issue,” said Republican Sen. Connie Mack, who was one of the 24 “no” votes. Democratic Sen. Bob Graham was among the 74 who voted for the raise.
July 10, 2013 — Republican Rep. Steve Southerland of Panama City made a strong fundraising showing for the second quarter. From April through June, the first term Congressman raised $461,000, his best quarter ever.
In her first quarter since announcing a 2014 challenge to Southerland, Democrat Gwen Graham of Tallahassee pulled in $375,000. In South Florida, Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia raised $440,000 (with $800,000 cash on hand) as Republican Carlos Curbelo announced he would challenge the first-term lawmaker.
This week’s issue began with a high-profile issue that is seriously dividing Americans. It ends with a group of youngsters bringing us together, if only for awhile.
Politicians and parties are at each other’s throats, but the members of the Thai youth soccer team trapped in an underground cave, have had Americans on the same side for days. As each one of the members of the Wild Boars was pulled to safety, cheers could be heard around the country and the world.
All of us agree we wish the boys a quick resumption to their normal lives.