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The flag-draped casket containing the body of former President George H.W. Bush lies in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on Monday in Washington, D.C. (Image via Morry Gash/Press Pool)

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Delegation for 12.4.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Delegation, nation remembers Bush 41

Friday’s passing of former President George H.W. Bush brought reactions mostly of sadness and respect for the patriarch of what became known as the “Bush Dynasty.” Nearly every member of the delegation offered a statement of condolence and describing the 94-year-old in the most flattering and patriotic of terms.

“He as an American hero of a kind we may never see again,” said Republican Senator Marco Rubio, while Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said “He was a servant leader. And that’s why the nation universally mourns for him.”

Incoming Sen. Rick Scott offered “The United States of America is stronger today because of the selfless service of 41.”

The “Bush Dynasty” had strong ties to Florida with Gov. Jeb Bush, who ran three strong races for governor. The love and admiration for his father were captured in two short sentences when he said “I already miss the greatest human being I will ever know. Love you dad.”

The flag-draped casket containing the body of former President George H.W. Bush lies in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on Monday in Washington, D.C. (Image via Morry Gash/Press Pool)

Bush 41 achieved the highest honor with his election to the presidency in 1988, winning Florida by 1 million votes along the way. But he lost his share of elections as well, including his re-election bid in 1992 when he lost Florida by 100,000 votes as Ross Perot attracted more than 1 million.

He also lost two Senate races in Texas but was always gracious in defeat. His incredible letter to incoming President Bill Clinton in 1993, the man who ousted him, has gone viral.

Perhaps he saw a bit of himself in Jeb when he emotionally recalled the way his son handled his close defeat to the late former Gov. Lawton Chiles in 1994.

“He didn’t whine about it. He didn’t complain,” the former president recalled to NBC before choking up. “A true measure of a man is how you handle victory and how you handle defeat, so in ’94 Floridians chose to rehire the governor. They took note of his worthy opponent, who showed with not only words but with actions what decency he had,” Bush said before again sobbing.

Common themes in reactions to Bush’s death was “statesman,” “decency,” and other personal superlatives. Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy said: “George H.W. Bush was the epitome of a statesman — WW2 pilot, ambassador, CIA director, VP and the 41st President.”

Outgoing Republican Rep. Dennis Ross praised Bush as a “patriot and a statesman in every sense,” while Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson said, “he gave a lifetime of service to our nation and is an American treasure.”

A few critics on Twitter brought up the controversial Willie Horton ad from the 1988 campaign, but that same campaign unveiled the “thousand points of light,” which highlighted volunteerism around the country. President Donald Trump highlighted that portion of the Bush legacy in his official statement.

“Through his essential authenticity, disarming wit and unwavering commitment to faith, family and country, President Bush inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service — to be, in his words, “a thousand points of light” illuminating the greatness, hope, and opportunity of America to the world,” Trump said.

While Bush was indeed the statesman so many remember, the age of Twitter and Trump make 41’s days recalled even more fondly. Here was a man who paid a political price when he went against his famous “read my lips” pledge to do what he thought was right.

How many, Republican or Democrat, would be so bold today?

Republican Rep. Neal Dunn of Panama City offered his final remembrance of Bush by saying “(Bush) put it best in saying, ‘be bold in your caring, be bold in your dreaming and above all else, always do your best.’ Fair winds and following seas — may he rest in peace.”

Scott likely to resign early for D.C. move

When the 116th Congress officially convenes January 3, the House and Senate are scheduled to swear in members for the two-year length of the upcoming Congress. The Senate is scheduled to have 100 members seated at that time, but that number could be reduced to 99 for a few days.

Scott’s term as Governor of Florida does not officially end until Jan. 8, requiring him to either leave that job early or ask Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to wait a few days for his arrival. Last week, McConnell said all newly elected Senators would be sworn in on January 3.

Mitch McConnell could be inclined to give Rick Scott a few extra days to get his affairs in order before the big move to D.C.

Should McConnell be so inclined to allow Scott a few extra days, it helps that Senate Republicans now have a 6-seat majority following last month’s midterms, thereby allowing McConnell to get a few noncontroversial things done. The departing Governor might ultimately decide he wants to be in Washington as committee assignments are doled out.

With Ron DeSantis elected as Scott’s successor, any drama involving the appointment of three Supreme Court justices was removed. Scott was rebuffed by the Florida Supreme Court as he previously sought to claim the right to make the appointments, leaving nothing to argue about other than the list of nominees.

Something else that could help Scott lean toward heading early to Washington is the fact he can dump the issue of Brenda Snipes on incoming Gov. DeSantis. Scott suspended the embattled Broward County Supervisor of Elections last week, who promptly rescinded her previously announced retirement in January.

Though he is not tipping his hand, most observers expect Scott to follow the path of Bob Graham 32 years earlier and head to Washington on time.

New trade agreement signed with Rubio, Nelson objecting

For months, Rubio and Nelson have argued that the North American Free Trade Agreement was a bad deal for Florida farmers. With Trump signing the new agreement in Argentina, Rubio can likely be expected to vote “no” when the deal comes up for a vote in the Senate early next year.

Donald Trump signs a new trade agreement in Argentina, over the objections of both Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson.

“As currently drafted this deal will put Florida seasonal vegetable growers out of business,” he said in a statement. “It allows Mexico to dump government subsidized produce on the U.S. market. Going forward, America will depend on Mexico for our winter vegetables. Unacceptable.”

Last year, Rubio deemed it “vital that a renegotiated NAFTA advances the interests of those, like Florida’s dedicated farmers and hardworking small-business owners, who found themselves left behind by the Agreement’s previous deficiencies.”

Both Senators tried to affect the outcome when they filed legislation in September seeking better protection for Florida farmers. Their goal was to provide “a level playing field” for state agricultural interests.

Scott has yet to comment on how he might vote.

Delegation seeks help for hurricane-ravaged agriculture

Several members of the delegation, including Democratic Rep. Al Lawson and Republican Rep. Neal Dunn, are urging House leadership to request disaster assistance for farms affected by Hurricane Florence last year and Hurricane Michael in 2018. In a letter signed by 26 lawmakers from affected states to outgoing speaker Paul Ryan and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, relief was urged for those who suffered extensive crop damage.

Al Lawson and Neal Dunn are among the Florida lawmakers pushing aid for hurricane-ravaged farmers. (Image via Tallahassee Democrat)

“For many communities in the Southeast, agriculture is the driving force of the local economy,” they wrote. “Losses from these storms were particularly painful as the storms arrived late in the growing season after extensive investment into this year’s crop.”

The members said the assistance is urgently needed before the end of the year.

“This assistance is necessary to help farmers recover and get back on their feet for the next planting season,” Lawson said in a news release.

Agriculture is a more than $120 billion industry in Florida, with more than 9.5 million acres of farmland in production. It is one of the strongest pillars of Florida’s economy supporting more than 2 million jobs

“I’ve visited countless agriculture producers across the 2nd District and listened as they described the absolute devastation their operations suffered, and it’s clear that they need help. We will continue to make our case until their needs are met,” said Dunn.

Other delegation members signing the letter include Democratic Reps. Murphy, Darren Soto, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel. They were joined by Republicans Ted Yoho, Tom Rooney and Gus Bilirakis.

Yoho suspicious of Taiwan elections

Along with economic and trade issues, many American policymakers share concerns over China’s pressure on Taiwan. According to Yoho, last week’s elections in Taiwan only deepen those concerns.

Taiwan’s ruling party, led by President Tsai Ing-wen and favors independence from China, suffered significant defeats at the polls. Yoho believes the Chinese may have played an unwanted role.

The ruling party of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen suffered major defeats at the polls, sparking suspicion on Capitol Hill.

“I’m concerned by the widespread allegations that Beijing attempted to interfere in Taiwan’s local elections (last) weekend,” Yoho said in a statement. “The Chinese Communist Party’s reprehensible campaign to marginalize Taiwan is no secret. Taiwan’s vibrant democracy and upstanding international conduct are qualities the Communist Party should aspire to, rather than undermine.”

Yoho, the chairman of the House subcommittee for Asia and the Pacific, has been a strong advocate for the breakaway republic. He is urging the Trump administration to monitor the ongoing situation closely.

“The U.S.-Taiwan partnership remains unwavering,” Yoho added. “I continue to encourage the administration to demonstrate this commitment by fully implementing the Taiwan Travel Act, beginning with a cabinet-level visit to Taiwan as soon as possible.”

Waltz among 16 newly elected veterans

When Republican Rep.-elect Michael Waltz is sworn into the House, and Scott takes the oath of office for the Senate, they will mark the two newest members of Congress who served in the military. They are among a group of 16 newly elected veterans, the most since 2010.

The incoming first-termers bring the total to 93 members who previously served, including six women veterans. Scott will replace another veteran, Democratic Sen. Nelson, who served in the Army Reserve during Vietnam.

Republican Rep.-elect Michael Waltz will take his place as one of 16 veterans newly elected to Congress.

“We are at a record low in terms of veterans in the House and in the Senate, hovering at around 17 percent, so I am thrilled to see more veterans running on both sides of the aisle,” Waltz told Fox News’ Bill Hemmer. “Why is that so important? Because veterans know how to get things done. We are about mission, we are about country and we are about getting results.”

A total of 170 veterans were on the ballot in November, meaning slightly more than half won their races.

“Setting the specific policy issues aside, our ethos that we bring to office will change,” Waltz added. “In the foxhole, on the ship, on the plane, nobody cares about race, religion, socio-economic background; it’s about accomplishing the mission for your country, and I think that’s what you are going to see with more veterans on the hill going forward.”

Soto consolidating offices at VA center

Another member of Congress is enhancing their service to veterans with the announcement Soto is finally moving his full Lake Nona district office into the Orlando Veterans Affairs Medical Center this week.

Darren Soto is looking to consolidate offices at Orlando’s Veterans Affairs Center.

Soto, a Democrat from Kissimmee, opened an office in the VA Center in August but waited until after the election for a full move. The move is not far: his Lake Nona office, open since early 2017, is just a few blocks away in the University of Central Florida College of Medicine building.

A Soto spokeswoman said the move makes sense because most of the constituents visiting his Lake Nona office are veterans, many of whom were also visiting the VA hospital.

Crist demands flood insurance protections

Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist warned members of Congress that more than 5 million middle and working-class Americans could be affected if members allow the National Flood Insurance Program to expire.

Crist, a member of the Financial Services Committee that oversees the NFIP, is asking Congress to pass a bill extending the program until lawmakers can secure long-term reauthorization.

Charlie Crist is demanding more federal protection for the National Flood Insurance Program. (Image via Sean Kinane/WMNF)

The NFIP offers more affordable flood insurance coverage for home and property owners and renters and acts an advisory arm for local governments to implement flood mitigation policies and regulations.

“A lapse would leave countless families unable to renew their policies — putting them in financial peril if disaster were to strike,” Crist said.

The NFIP is particularly crucial in Florida as coastal communities brace for the impacts of sea level rise and continue suffering through worse and worse storms that leave communities underwater.

“It would also upend the housing market, with closings coming to a full stop due to the inability to secure required coverage,” Crist warned.

The extension bill is the eighth in 14-months providing temporary extensions to the program. Crist urged action on a longer-term solution saying Congress “must do better than one week.”

It is our responsibility to provide this much-needed certainty to the millions of Americans who rely on the National Flood Insurance Program.

Oops: Spano did fund race with personal loans

U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, since a couple of days before the election, faced scrutiny over his late-filed disclosures. On a Saturday afternoon, he publicly copped to the fact he’d used personal loans from friends to fund his run for Congress.

The Riverview Republican told the Federal Election Commission he borrowed $70,000 from Karen Hunt and $110,000 from Cary Carreno, both personal associates, and then funneled that money to Ross Spano for Congress. But he now says he worked on bad advice from campaign treasurer Jamie Jodoin, from whom the campaign has since severed all ties.

Oops: After winning in CD 15, Ross Spano now admits he did use personal loans to finance his bid for Congress, a violation of campaign-finance law.

“Upon such recognition, the respondents have taken several proactive steps to address this matter, including but not limited to engaging our firm as counsel, terminating prior accountancy, compliance and relevant consultancy representations, and engaging new accountancy, compliance and consultancy representations,” wrote Spano attorney Elliot Farah.

The disclosure this weekend effectively confirmed accusations he’s faced since a couple of days before the election, when he turned in his financial disclosures late. Those disclosures included the personal loans, and Spano had listed his candidate donations to his own campaign.

When Democratic opponent Kristen Carlson wrote a letter to the FBI calling for a criminal investigation, Spano spokesperson Sandi Poreda called that a “political stunt.” She maintains the FEC should handle any issues, and that Spano will address the matter appropriately. The campaign knows of no investigation predating the letter from the candidate to the FEC.

The incident marked the second brush with campaign finance requirements for Spano. His primary challenger, former state Rep. Neil Combee, accused him of buying votes in the waning days of that campaign.

While the results of the election cannot be changed, in the coming days some Democrats could try to make the case to House leadership to refuse to seat Spano January 3.

Mast touts passage of two environmental bills

With Southeast Florida dealing with environmental problems from toxic algae blooms and the scourge of red tide, residents needed some good news. Republican Rep. Brian Mast believes he has helped deliver on that front.

In an email to constituents, Mast touted the fact that two bills passed in which he either sponsored or co-sponsored. The first is the Strengthening Coastal Communities Act sponsored by Dunn and co-sponsored by Tom Rooney, along with Mast.

Brian Mast delivers on promises to deal with environmental problems such as toxic algae blooms and red tide. (Image via the Sun-Sentinel)

The bill, which passed the House, calls for updating and adding thousands of acres to the maps for portions of the Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS). The end result of the new maps will create more shoreline protected areas and enable property owners to purchase flood insurance from the federal government.

The Audubon Society claims the bill benefits “taxpayers, wildlife and waterfront communities.”

Gaining both House and Senate approval was the Jupiter Island Land Transfer Act which aims to ensure that the habitats of endangered turtles and other animals are preserved by expanding the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge by four acres. This land is currently owned by the United States Coast Guard and will be included in the refuge by the Department of the Interior. The bill is a “win-win for all involved.”

Mast described the transaction as a “win-win for all involved.

“Being good stewards of our environment begins with strong conservation efforts and protecting our environment is critical to our businesses and livelihoods, he said.”

Clinton helps Shalala cut campaign debt

The race for House District 27 was competitive and very expensive. Just ask the winner, Democratic Representative-elect Donna Shalala of Miami.

Shalala racked up extensive campaign debts, prompting her to call on her old boss to help raise big sums to pay down the debt. Former President Clinton appeared at a fundraiser described as a “small and intimate gathering” Saturday at a private residence in Miami Beach.

Bill Clinton comes to the rescue to help Donna Shalala with her campaign debt.

Shalala loaned her campaign $745,000 to get her through a crowded primary and a tough challenge from Republican Maria Elvira Salazar. According to the Miami Herald, she had paid back $250,000, leaving a remaining debt of $495,000.

Clinton was making a brief detour before a scheduled book signing in Miami to promote a book he co-wrote titled “The President is Missing.” Shalala served as Secretary of Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration.

On this day in the headlines

Dec. 4, 1989 — President George Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev ended their first summit meeting with a proclamation stating the Cold War is basically over. Gorbachev said he and Bush agreed “the characteristics of the Cold War should be abandoned” and that “the arms race, mistrust, psychological and ideological struggle, all those should be things of the past.”

On Saturday, Bush outlined several proposals to Gorbachev that ranged from nuclear arms control to educational exchanges. A senior American official who sat in on the talks said Gorbachev responded positively to almost all of them.

Dec. 4, 2010 — After the Republicans’ historical nationwide tsunami, Bill Nelson is once again Florida’s lone remaining Democrat statewide officeholder. A flock of big well-known candidates are strongly considering a challenge to the two-term Senator.

Energized by last month’s wins, Republicans feel the climate is right to defeat Nelson. Among those strongly considering a run is appointed Sen. George LeMieux, state Sen. Mike Haridopolos of Merritt Island and Republican Rep. Connie Mack IV of Cape Coral.

Service dog Sully accompanies Bush on final trip

The service dog who became the constant companion of former President Bush, made a final trip with him Monday. Before making the trip to Washington with the 41st President, Sully sat by the flag-draped coffin in Houston.

Mission complete: Sully the service dog to accompany George H.W. Bush one last time. (Image via Jim McGrath)

He then joined Bush and the traveling party on the former chief executive’s final trip to the nation’s capital. Following funeral services, Bush will be buried Thursday at his presidential library and museum in College Station, Tex.

Sully will continue a life of service at the Walter Reed military hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.

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