Delegation in the middle of farm bill fiasco
Last Friday, Capitol Hill was rocked by the unexpected defeat of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, otherwise known as the Farm Bill. The 213-198 final vote includes all 183 Democrats voting against it, joined by 30 Republicans.
The bill went down due to significant mistrust of House Republican leadership by the House Freedom Caucus. Conservatives demanded a vote on an immigration bill sponsored by Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte, which funds a border wall while also addressing the DACA fix.
When they did not get what they wanted, they torpedoed a major bill Speaker Paul Ryan and his team wanted. Sifting through the wreckage of the doomed legislation reveals the Florida delegation is in the middle of all the political intrigue.
Conservatives wanted the vote because a discharge petition championed by Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo is nearing enough signatures to force a vote on the Goodlatte bill and three others (including the DREAM Act). In an email to his constituents, Curbelo described his activities as “leading the renegades.”
The farm bill was the sacrificial lamb, despite it having enough conservative provisions to cause Democrats to lament “cuts” to food stamp benefits and requirements for able-bodied beneficiaries to work for the aid. Democratic Rep. Al Lawson, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, described the bill as “denying food to those who struggle with hunger each day.”
Lawson, fellow Agriculture Committee colleague Darren Soto of Orlando and 181 other Democrats were joined by some Florida Republicans in rejecting the bill. Freedom Caucus members Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach and Bill Posey of Rockledge also voted no.
It probably would not be a good idea for someone running for governor to vote against a bill involving a major component of the state’s economy, no doubt prompting Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis of Marineland — a Freedom Caucus member in good standing — to vote “yes.”
Ryan himself voted “no,” but only to have the ability to bring up the bill later. A switch of 7 votes, including a yes from Ryan, would have brought the bill to passage.
Republican Rep. Neal Dunn of Panama City, also a member of the Agriculture Committee, voted for the bill and express his disappointment. He said in a statement “the swamp swallowed a bill that President (Donald) Trump supports and America’s farmers depend upon.”
It is anyone’s guess as to what is next, but the odds are growing the House will eventually vote on DACA bills. Most observers are confident the Goodlatte bill would have failed last week and will fail when it comes up again.
The DREAM Act, which the Freedom Caucus describes as total “amnesty,” has some Republican support and could eventually pass, especially in an election year. It has 203 co-sponsors, but very little of what Trump wants, making its future uncertain even if it clears the House and Senate.
While the next steps on immigration will take shape in the coming days, the future for those depending on the farm bill is far less certain.
Democratic PAC to fund Nelson TV ad buy
With Gov. Rick Scott already on the air with numerous TV ads, Nelson was falling behind in the air wars. On Monday, he received a bit of missile defense with the announcement the Democratic-aligned Senate Majority PAC would shell out $2.2 million to help offset Scott’s early advantage.
The 30-second ad, which will air in several Florida markets, is titled “Served.” It will focus on Nelson’s service in the military, his mission as an astronaut and his service as an “independent” Senator.
To view the ad, click the image below:
“Bill Nelson’s life has been about service to others and to his country, and he continues that tradition of service every day as he fights and advocates for Floridians,” Senate Majority PAC Chris Hayden stated in a news release. “Nelson is not afraid to go toe-to-toe with powerful interests. From protecting Medicare and Social Security from privatization to standing up to insurance companies by stopping them from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, he never backs down from a fight.”
While the ad is designed to remind voters who Nelson is and what he is done, Scott’s campaign mocked the intent and the ad’s focus “on things Nelson has opposed, but not a single thing he’s accomplished.”
“After a half-century in office, shouldn’t Floridians know who Bill Nelson is?” asked Scott’s campaign communications director Ryan Patmintra. “It looks like Democrat party boss Chuck Schumer has had to come to the aid of his struggling foot soldier Bill Nelson.”
Rubio trolls China, sheds ‘not one tear’ for Chinese telecom companies
Venezuela has been a frequent target for criticism during Rubio’s tenure in the Senate, but he is now focusing on the Eastern Hemisphere, specifically China. The two-term Republican is a frequent commentator on the actions of the largest economic, if not military, rival of the U.S.
While Venezuela was having what Rubio and most observers believe were sham elections over the weekend, he was trolling China by promoting the interests of Taiwan. The U.S. considers Taiwan an ally that needs protection and support, while China considers the island a rogue, breakaway province.
First, Rubio and New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez, led a bipartisan group of Senators reaffirming their support for U.S. airlines, who are being pressured by China to list Taiwan as part of China on their websites. In letters to the airlines, the Senators asked them to stand tough and not buckle to Chinese pressure as other American companies have previously.
Also last week, Rubio and Mendez led another group of Senators to write to the World Health Organization (WHO) asking their leadership to extend an invitation to Taiwan to fully participate in the upcoming World Health Assembly and future meetings.
“We urge you to restore Taiwan’s meaningful participation at the upcoming WHA and in the broader work of the WHO,” they wrote. “With so many emerging global health challenges, it is not only in Taiwan’s interest but also critical to the WHO’s mission of building a better and healthier future for people all over the world to include Taiwan in the 2018 World Health Assembly.”
At the same time, Rubio went on Fox News to comment on an apparent lessening of sanctions on the Chinese telecom giant, ZTE. He criticized Trump’s apparent decision to accede to a request by Chinese leader Xi Xinping to soften the U.S. sanctions on ZTE as part of a trade deal.
“I do not shed one tear” for ZTE or Chinese telecom companies, he said.
Gaetz medical marijuana bill topic of discussion on Capitol Hill
The push by Gaetz to federally authorize medical marijuana research took another step forward when House Judiciary Committee members heard testimony from a Florida company licensed to produce medical cannabis. Gaetz recently launched the Medical Cannabis Research Act.
Jake Bergmann, Founder and SEO of Surterra Wellness of Ft. Lauderdale, told research should go forward with the help of the private sector for one simple reason. “The private sector grows better pot than the government,” he said.
Bergmann said passing the bill would provide the impetus for “hundreds of additional research studies,” and that existing “studies show cannabinoids as a substitute for opioids.”
“I implore everyone to support the Medical Cannabis Research Act and help us discover the secrets of the most powerful medical plant on the planet,” Bergmann added.
Gaetz has broken with many members of his party on the issue. His bill does not change federal or state laws, which he believes can help sell his bill to skeptics.
“The federal government has lied to the American people for a generation about the medical properties of cannabis,” Gaetz told the Tampa Bay Times. “We have a moral obligation to democratize access to research so that innovators can unlock cures to improve quality of life for millions.”
Lawson names Wounded Warrior Fellow
Thanks to a program designed to create more employment opportunities for those who have served during wartime, a North Florida veteran will be working for his Congressman. Christian Cochran of Quincy has been selected as a Wounded Warrior Fellow for Lawson in his district office in Jacksonville.
“As a veteran, Christian has firsthand knowledge of the needs of our servicemen and women,” Lawson said. “His extensive military experience will prove to be a strong asset to our staff. I look forward to working with him during this fellowship.”
Cochran, who served in the United States Army Reserve, will assist with casework and provide support for veterans, active service members, and their families.
“What drew me to this Wounded Warrior Fellowship opportunity was that it is in the Fifth District — my home,” Cochran said. “There are several veterans in the area who need our assistance, and I will do my part to assure their needs are met. I look forward to serving our community.”
The Wounded Warrior Fellowship Program was established by the House of Representatives to provide employment opportunities for wounded and disabled veterans within member offices. The ultimate goal is training a new generation of veteran leaders for government service.
Curry backing Waltz in CD 6
One of the Republican candidates in the highly competitive Republican primary for Congressional District 6 bagged a key endorsement on Monday when Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry came out in favor of Michael Waltz. Curry, the former Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, praised Waltz’s past as well as his qualifications to succeed DeSantis.
“Michael Waltz is a leader and a warrior with a servant’s heart,” said Curry. “From the battlefield to the halls of power, Mike has already demonstrated a deep reverence for the Constitution and a willingness to fight for the conservative values we share. Washington needs people who instead of saying what they want to do will simply get things done.
Both Waltz and businessman John Ward are raising large sums of money for what will be an expensive primary covering markets such as Jacksonville, Daytona and Orlando. Ward, a Ponte Vedra businessman, was the first quarter cash leader with $709,340 on hand compared to $653,354 on hand for Waltz.
But Waltz has lined up some key endorsements besides Curry. Republican Rep. John Rutherford of Jacksonville is backing Waltz, along with Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, St. John’s Sheriff David Shoar and Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri.
Waltz expressed his gratitude to Curry for supporting him by throwing compliments back at Curry.
“Mayor Lenny Curry is a true leader, visionary and champion for real conservative reform,” said Waltz. “He has worked tirelessly to enact a positive conservative agenda with real results for the people of Northeast Florida. I am humbled by Mayor Curry’s support and look forward to working together in the months ahead.”
After 3 years of trying, Demings announces anti-terror grant funding
Elected representatives relish the opportunity to tell constituents federal funds are coming their way. On Monday, first term Orlando Democrat Val Demings had that chance.
Demings, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, announced $1.5 million in Department of Homeland Security grants to help with anti-terrorism planning, organization, equipment, training and exercises in urban areas. Despite a major terror attack at the Pulse Nightclub in 2016, the Orlando area had not received any anti-terror grants for more than three years.
“I am gratified that Orlando is back on the list to get the vital anti-terror funding we need and deserve,” Demings stated in a news release. “Our community thrives on tourism and travel. Enormous recreational hubs are magnets for economic activity and make us a world destination, but they also make us a potential target.”
Demings and other Orlando delegation members have tried different avenues for the funding, especially after the Pulse tragedy. Her colleagues shared in proclaiming the good news.
Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy said, “as one of the nation’s most popular destinations, Orlando needs and deserves federal support to keep residents and visitors safe.” Soto, also of Orlando, said: “these federal funds are critical to strengthen public safety in central Florida.”
Crist bill supporting Israel gaining support
Back in February, Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg filed a bipartisan bill designed to help Israel defend itself from drone attacks. Joining with Republican Rep. Mike Johnson from Louisiana, the two lawmakers proposed the United States-Israel Joint Drone Detection Cooperation Act.
The bill authorizes the White House “to enter into a cooperative project agreement with Israel to counter unmanned aerial vehicles that threaten the United States or Israel.” It is now part of other pieces of legislation on Capitol Hill.
Less than one week later, a Senate companion bill with 46 co-sponsors was filed by Rubio. In March, the Crist-Johnson measure was included in the United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act, sponsored by Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch, which now has 233 co-sponsors.
Last week, the bill was also included in the National Defense Authorization Act, which cleared the House Armed Services Committee last week.
“To see our bipartisan proposal continue to receive broad support and swiftly move through Congress speaks to the urgent need to address the growing threat of drone attacks to U.S. and Israeli security,” Crist said in a news release. “This new partnership will further our vital alliance on defense and foreign policy strategy, greatly benefiting both our countries and keeping our people safe.”
Deutch, Curbelo, seek rejection of anti-climate provisions
The leaders of the House Climate Change Caucus are urging the leadership of the Appropriations Committee to reject any appropriations that would undermine efforts to combat climate change. Caucus co-chairs Curbelo and Deutch wrote to Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey and Ranking Member Nita Lowey of New York.
“Climate change is already a threat to life and property, rising temperatures, sea levels, and worsening impacts from severe weather events,” they wrote. “The bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus, of which we are all members, is engaged in developing market-based solutions to address the critical issue of climate change.”
The caucus is made up of 78 members from both parties. Last week, five new members joined including three Republicans and two Democrats.
Delegation members in addition to Deutch are Curbelo are Democrats Crist of St. Petersburg and Murphy of Orlando, as well as Republicans Brian Mast of Palm City, Ros-Lehtinen and Gaetz.
Deutch and Curbelo are also co-founders of the caucus.
EMILY’s List supports Shalala in CD 27
The race to succeed the retiring Ros-Lehtinen in District 27 has drawn more than a dozen hopefuls, but for EMILY’s list only one candidate stands out. The pro-choice PAC has announced former Health & Human Service Secretary and University of Miami President Donna Shalala is their choice.
“Donna is running to fill retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat — a seat that is considered a key pickup opportunity for Democrats in our fight to take back the House,” said EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock.
“She is a proven leader who is prepared to take her breadth and depth of experience fighting for others to the halls of Congress. EMILY’s List is proud to stand with Donna and show her the full support of our community to turn this red seat blue.”
The Cook Political Report has the seat “leaning democratic” despite being held by a Republican for more than two decades. Hillary Clinton won the district by 19 points in the 2016 election.
Schriock also argued Shalala’s previous government experience helps her stand out in the CD 27 primary. The group passed over another pro-choice Democratic woman candidate in Miami Beach city Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez.
In addition to Rosen Gonzalez, Shalala also faces former Knight Foundation Program Director Matt Haggman, current state Rep. David Richardson, and former University of Miami academic adviser Michael Hepburn in the primary.
EMILY’s List has also recommended Mary Barzee Flores in her challenge to Republican Mario Diaz-Balart; Nancy Soderberg, who is trying to win the open seat currently held by DeSantis; Murphy of Winter Park, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who is challenging Curbelo in District 26.
Roll Call analysis: 19 seats all trend toward Democrats
Despite a narrowing in the polling for the generic ballot, Roll Call has updated 19 House races that have all shifted toward Democrats. One of those 19 involves Crist’s Pinellas County seat.
Roll Call points to two districts held by Democrats that can no longer be described as competitive. Crist’s 13th Congressional District has moved from “Likely Democratic” to “Solidly Democratic,” the same movement seen by California Democrat Ami Bera.
While Democrats should be pleased with any movement toward their candidates, they should not chalk up all 19 seats to their column. More than half are switches from “Solid Republican” to “Likely Republican.”
At the same time, there is room for some comparison to previous wave elections. In 2010, there were 68 vulnerable Democrats and 11 Republicans, leading to a 63-seat GOP pickup that year.
In 2006, there were 42 vulnerable Republicans and 11 vulnerable Democrats. Republicans lost 30 seats that year and control of the House.
According to Roll Call’s analysis, Republicans have 68 vulnerable seats in 2018 to only 10 for Democrats. For them to regain control, Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats.
One bright spot for the GOP is the trend in the generic ballot. Once down by double-digits, the Real Clear Politics average of polls shows Democrats with a four-point advantage.
On this day in the headlines
May 22, 1964 — Senate Democratic Whip Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, confident he “will have the votes for cloture,” said the bipartisan package of civil rights amendments probably will be introduced in the Senate on Monday. He said it was “premature to say we have the votes,” but was confident the filibuster against the legislation could be broken.
Democratic Sens. Spessard Holland and George Smathers of Florida blocked a move by Illinois Democrat Paul Douglas to hold a vote on amendments involving jury trials. Holland said it would be “discourteous” to have such a vote while a compromise was being brokered. Smathers said he was “delighted” to object as well.
May 22, 1973 — President Richard Nixon acknowledged the existence of an apparent wide-ranging Watergate cover-up attempt by subordinates who he conceded could have misconstrued his national security directives. Nixon said he “should have been more vigilant.”
But he disclaimed personal knowledge of “unethical, as well as illegal, activities” that he said took place in his 1972 presidential campaign. Those implicated include his now-departed Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman and Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs John Ehrlichman.
Obamas reveal their next gig
Exactly 16 months after leaving office, former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have accepted a new challenge. They will be joining forces to produce films and series for Netflix.
The content will include scripted and unscripted series, documentaries and features. There should be plenty of ideas to keep them busy.
“One of the simple joys of our time in public service was getting to meet so many fascinating people from all walks of life, and to help them share their experiences with a wider audience,” Obama said in a statement. ‘That’s why Michelle and I are so excited to partner with Netflix — we hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world.”
The Obama’s production company will be called Higher Ground Productions.