The Delegation for 11.21.17 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

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Delegation not thankful for White House disaster relief offer

As Thanksgiving approaches, the delegation is not in any mood to give thanks for the Trump Administration’s latest round of funding for disaster relief. They are not alone; Texas, California and Puerto Rico are all pleading for more.

Late last week, the White House requested $44 billion from Congress to cover damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria. It is the third and largest single round of disaster aid designed to offset the enormous damage.

Florida is particularly unhappy with the package that does not include sufficient relief for the state’s heavily damaged agriculture industry. The state requested $27 billion alone to cover the losses with the subsequent disappointment crossing party lines.

De Soto County citrus after Hurricane Irma. Photo: FL Farm Bureau.

“The administration’s latest disaster-aid request doesn’t come close to providing what’s needed to help people recover from these devastating hurricanes,” said Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. “This request has no money for evacuee housing and barely any money for citrus growers.”

Okeechobee Republican Tom Rooney vividly described the plight of Florida citrus.

“For the citrus growers, fruit is still dropping off the trees and their root systems are rotting,” he said. “There is no telling how badly this will affect the industry’s future and so far Washington has done nothing.”

Lakeland Republican Dennis Ross, not known as one of the more boisterous members of the delegation, came through loud and clear.

“I’m urging my colleagues to oppose the disaster supplemental,” he said. “There wasn’t a Florida orange grove that wasn’t affected by the hurricane. I cannot — I will not — support a proposal that leaves behind over 60,000 Florida jobs and our state’s second-largest economic driver.”

Not addressing the substantial losses incurred by the industry could lead to dire consequences. Among those are forcing the U.S. to import orange juice from another country.

Another sticking point is sure to be the White House proposal to offset the funding with cuts to other federal programs. The first two rounds did not require any spending cuts.

Texas believes they are being shortchanged as is California, who is seeking help after combating devastating wildfires earlier this year. Funding for Puerto Rico will come after full assessments of damages are received, according to the White House.

With the country’s three largest state delegations opposed to the level of funding, there should be more than enough Republicans leaning toward rejecting the White House offer and pass a much higher figure. Will Trump and the White House thank them for the suggestion?

Maybe not, but perhaps there is a bargaining chip somewhere for supporting the current tax reform plan.


Rubio uses full court press to raise Child Tax Credit

With the tax reform plan now in the hands of the Senate, the two-term Republican senator is all-in on his crusade to increase the Child Tax Credit in the Senate’s version of the bill. The House version increased the credit from $1,000 to $1,600 while the Senate proposal bumps it up to $2,000 as Rubio has long sought.

He is on an electronic and social media blitz selling the idea to anyone who is listening.

Marco Rubio makes the case for the Child Tax Credit.

In a tweet, he has a photo of a diverse group of 6 children with the heading “Marco supports increasing the Child Tax Credit” followed by a banner that says “Do you?” He also chastises those not recognizing that lower-income families pay taxes besides income taxes.

During a visit to Fox and Friends on Monday, Rubio said: “we need to reward work and we need to take care of people who are working really hard and trying to get ahead to keep more of their own money as opposed to sending it to Washington so Washington can spend it on their behalf.”

While Rubio is noncommittal, optimists are pointing to an end-of-year vote, and/or passage, of a final bill. If last week’s battle in the Senate Finance Committee is any indication, there is still a long way to go.

Nelson praises budget items targeted to Cape Canaveral

Florida’s senior senator was touting a number of provisions contained in the recently-passed military spending bill. In addition to items directly involving Florida military installations and servicemen and women, Cape Canaveral was also a winner.

The bill, approved by the U.S. Senate late Thursday and by the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, includes provisions to upgrade the launch infrastructure at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, which could lead to as many as two launches a day from the Cape, a boon to the rapidly-growing commercial space industry, Nelson, a senior member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, stated in a news release.

Bill Nelson was able to score some significant Florida projects in the newly approved military spending bill.

“We got some important Florida projects included in the defense bill Congress passed (Thursday), including an upgrade to the launch infrastructure at Cape Canaveral to support more than one commercial space launch in the same day,” Nelson said. “

There also is a provision that should make Mayport a more desirable port for the Navy. A news release from Nelson’s office said a provision would require the Navy to consider a port’s ability to mitigate risks associated with natural disasters and improve fleet response times when deciding where to homeport future ships.

These considerations, the release offered, would help make Mayport a natural choice for future home-porting of a nuclear aircraft carrier and additional amphibious ships.

The bill now heads to the desk of President Donald Trump for his signature.

Ending ‘elephant trophy’ ban unpopular with both parties

The symbolism is hard to ignore. The administration of a Republican President of the United States, the leader of the party, was set to allow the importing of elephant trophies into the U.S.

Imagine the political hay Democrats could make with the visuals of vanquished Republicans mounted on a wall.

That would, of course, be far less important than facilitating the extermination of some of the most iconic creatures on earth. But it would most certainly be a powerful issue to tie around the neck of GOP candidates who either supported the move or said little to nothing about it.

Donald Trump’s intention to reverse the ban on elephant trophies had bipartisan disapproval.

Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz was among those who did not wait long. When word leaked the Trump Administration was considering ending the ban on elephant trophies, Gaetz quickly tweeted “I totally oppose this and am committed to fight it.”

Sarasota Republican Vern Buchanan said “We should not encourage the hunting and slaughter of these magnificent creatures. We don’t get a second chance once a species becomes extinct.”

Buchanan used the topic to gauge the opinion of constituents through his weekly Insta-poll. Early results showed huge numbers of respondents in the nonscientific poll clicking on the “strongly oppose” response.

President Trump heard the outcry loud and clear from around the country. He took to Twitter to begin the process of walking back the policy. He tweeted a reprieve on Friday, then provided a good indicator of which way he was heading on Saturday.

“Big-game trophy decision will be announced next week but will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal.”

Gaetz, Buchanan and other Republicans praised the president’s apparent inclination to keep the ban in place. Trump is expected to make a pre-Thanksgiving final announcement.

Yoho welcomes Gators’ championship baseball team to Washington

With tax cuts, health care and all of the partisanship in Washington, the Gainesville Republican had the chance to get away from all of that, if only for a little while. On Friday, the NCAA Champion University of Florida baseball team was in the capital to celebrate with other national champions in other sports.

The players toured the sites and memorials before getting a tour of the White House. Later, they joined President Donald Trump for ceremonies on the South Lawn and the Rose Garden.

Ted Yoho welcomes the NCAA Champion University of Florida baseball team to Washington DC.

The team visited the Rayburn House Office Building, where they talked politics and baseball with Yoho. The Congressman then hosted a lunch for the team.

“Great to have the National Champion Florida Gator baseball team in Washington today,” Yoho tweeted. “Congratulations on a great season and your first baseball National Championship in school history. Go Gators.”

Earlier in the week, the Gators received their national championship rings.

Murphy seeks school funds for incoming Puerto Rican migrants

The first-term Democrat from Winter Park announced Friday school districts and colleges in Florida and other states may be in line for some of $1.24 billion in federal support for taking in Puerto Rican children displaced by Hurricane Maria.

Funds will be available to school districts, colleges and universities to support their efforts to provide refugee schooling to the children among the estimated 160,000 Puerto Ricans who’ve fled to Florida and countless more to other states since Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September.

Florida schools may be in line for some of the $1.24 billion in federal support for taking in Puerto Rican children displaced by Hurricane Maria, says Stephanie Murphy.

In Florida alone, more than 6,300 Puerto Rican children had enrolled in Florida schools by the end of last week. More are on the way. State and local officials have projected as many as 300,000 Puerto Ricans may move to Florida before the end of the year.

“When disaster strikes anywhere in our nation, Congress has a duty to act swiftly to help those families affected,” Murphy said in a news release issued by her office. “Although I am concerned that the overall request of $44 billion is insufficient and I do not support OMB’s proposed offsets, I am pleased that the request includes this critical funding for students and families in central Florida.”

On Oct. 5, Murphy authored a letter to the House Appropriations Committee and the White House Office of Management and Budget urging them to allocate school and college funding for the displaced students. The letter was co-signed by Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo, Orlando Democrat Darren Soto, Miami Republican Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, and Miami Gardens Democrat Frederica Wilson, among others.

Democratic Sen. Nelson has also sought the funding among his colleagues.

Demings early critic of former FDP Chair, but did not seek resignation

The Florida political world was rocked by the complaints that surfaced at week’s end concerning Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel. The Orlando Democrat was the first among the delegation to weigh in.

“As a former law enforcement officer and a member of Congress, sexual harassment is an issue I take very seriously,” Demings said in a written statement. “While I do not believe the behavior (as described) rises to that level, I do believe the behavior was extremely inappropriate and a result of poor judgment. I shared my concerns with Chairman Bittel.”

Val Demings was an early critic of former FDP chair Stephen Bittel.

All four Democratic candidates for governor took a much stronger stance, blasting the party leader who was less than a year into the job. They also called for his immediate resignation.

He soon resigned his post.

F. Rooney: Oil drilling unwelcome off Florida coast

When it comes to home state politics, the Naples Republican is taking a different approach than two GOP Senators facing the question of allowing nearby oil drilling. To Rooney, “offshore oil drilling and related activities,” must not be allowed in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.

In a recent op-ed, Rooney made the argument that the oil and gas industry is not a good match for Florida’s economy.

Offshore oil and gas drilling is not good for Florida, Francis Rooney writes in a recent op-ed.

“The industrial infrastructure needed to support offshore drilling, and ultimately offshore production of oil and gas, is wholly incompatible with existing tourist-centric development,” he wrote. “All of this would radically undermine Florida’s coastal ecosystems.”

Rooney’s position is quite different from that of Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski and fellow Alaskan Dan Sullivan. Protocol often allows for deference to home state legislators on issues directly affecting them.

In this case, both Senators have signed off allowing drilling in a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an issue that has gone back and forth for more than two decades.

 For his part, Rooney pledged to “continue to fight on behalf of my constituents to keep the moratorium.”

Sheriff’s deputy reassigned after dressing up as Wilson

The Miami Gardens Democrat was in the news over the weekend, but not for anything she did or didn’t do. Instead, it was all about someone who tried to look like her.

Jean Browning, a sheriff’s deputy from Southeastern Virginia, attended a recent Halloween party in blackface in an attempt to resemble the veteran lawmaker. Her boyfriend was dressed as President Donald Trump.

According to Sheriff J.D. Diggs, Browning wanted to show “how funny it would be for two political figures that were at odds with each other to go to a party together.”

Sheriff Deputy Jean Browning dressed as Frederica Wilson for Halloween. Not a wise move. 

Diggs did not get the humor and is removing Browning from her role as an anti-drug officer in the school system to a yet-to-be-determined role.

“Based on all of the circumstances,” Diggs said, “and the need for the community to realize that the Sheriff’s Office takes race relations seriously, I have decided that it would be in the best interest for all concerned to reassign this deputy to another position within the Sheriff’s Office.”

Wilson became a household name when she feuded with Trump and Chief of Staff John Kelly following Trump’s telephone call with the widow of a slain soldier.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Extensive Enterprises.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


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