Delegation for 1.4.19 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

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For Pelosi 2.0, much has changed since 2007

After a 12-year absence, Nancy Pelosi is again Speaker of the House. She regained the speaker’s gavel, after turning it over to John Boehner in 2007, by a 220-192 vote with 15 Democrats either voting for someone else or voting “present.”

None of the dissenters were from Florida. Both the landscape and political climate are significantly different from Pelosi’s last grip on power.

Further clouding the day was a liberal revolt led by Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ro Khanna of California, who led a charge against a leadership-backed rule package.

Nancy Pelosi invites children (and grandchildren) to the podium for her re-inauguration as House Speaker.

There was plenty of excitement among Democrats to be in charge again, but it did not compare to the atmosphere of 2007 when the longtime lawmaker from San Francisco became the first woman to hold the position. The makeup of the House is also decidedly different from 12 years ago.

Sworn in Thursday were five new members of the delegation. These include Republicans Michael Waltz in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, Ross Spano in CD 15 and Greg Steube in CD 17.

First-term Democrats included Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in CD 27 and Donna Shalala in CD 27.

Incoming GOP Sen. Rick Scott will be sworn in early next week after his term as governor expires.

As Pelosi took the oath Jan. 3, 2007, so did Florida Democrats Tim Mahoney (who served one term) and Kathy Castor. The newest Republicans were Gus Bilirakis and Vern Buchanan.

Of the 25 members who made up the Florida delegation in 2007, only Bilirakis, Buchanan, Castor, Republican Mario Diaz-Balart, and Democrats Alcee Hastings and Debbie Wasserman Schultz remain.

Spano’s 2018 election brought controversy and accusations of vote buying and admission of possibly violating campaign finance laws. Democrats hoped to deny Spano his seat but lacked authority to prevent it.

Buchanan won his first race 12 years ago by 369 votes over Christine Jennings, who contested the election over thousands of undervotes. After some back and forth over House authority, Buchanan assumed his seat.

Democrats regained the House in 2018 in part through a campaign against Trump and Republicans with some health care thrown in. In the current climate, that, along with a lot of money, was enough.

In 2006 they promised that in the first 100 hours, they would take up raising the minimum wage, pursue embryonic stem cell research, require the federal government to do what it takes to lower Medicare drug prices, and an ethics package for members. Several campaigned on American involvement in the war in Iraq.

The most significant difference between now and then is the status of the government. A dozen years ago, Pelosi did not assume leadership of the House while the government was shut down.

She will be tested in the first days of Pelosi 2.0. As much as Trump’s base demands border wall funding, Pelosi’s base demands he gets nothing. Something has to give.

Oh, for the halcyon days of 2007.

Rubio pans baseball deal with Cuba

A handful of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) most notable players have defected from Cuba to start a new life and career in the United States. Recent stars such as Aroldis Chapman, Raisel Iglesias and Yasiel Puig have each provided some dramatic moments.

If an agreement between MLB and the Cuban Baseball Federation is approved, players would no longer need to defect and could maintain their Cuban residence. Some on Capitol Hill, especially Sen. Marco Rubio, have come out strongly against the agreement.

Yasiel Puig’s story of defecting from Cuba provides many dramatic moments. And some drama on-field, too. (Image via USA TODAY)

MLB calls the arrangement necessary to end perilous journeys to the U.S. for defecting players. They called it nothing more than “ending human trafficking.”

Rubio had another take.

“Legality of recent agreement between MLB & Cuban Baseball Federation rests on Obama era ruling that federation not controlled by Cuban govt,” he tweeted. “This is not just factually incorrect, it is a farce & I am working to get it overruled as soon as possible.”


In 2016, the U.S. Treasury Department concluded the baseball federation was not a part of the Cuban government, opening the door to the MLB agreement. The federation would receive a percentage of the Cuban player’s signing bonus or annual salary.

Rubio is not buying the separation baseball and state claim. He contends “the (Castro) regime will impose a new income tax on the player’s earnings, even though the income is earned by playing in the U.S.”

Puig spoke out in favor of the agreement. After fleeing Cuba, he was reportedly held by smugglers in Mexico until a $250,000 payment was made for his release and safe passage to the United States.

“To know future Cuban players will not have to go through what we went through makes me so happy,” he said in a statement distributed by the league.

CNN names Scott campaign best in 2018

Defeating a three-term incumbent is always a difficult task, but Scott took on the challenge of trying to unseat Democrat Bill Nelson with a strong campaign and a lot of money. Scott’s campaign impressed CNN politicos enough to name it the “Best Campaign of 2018.”

We are the champions: CNN recognizes Rick Scott for having the ‘best’ campaign of 2018.

Scott won by only 10,033 votes after a manual recount. The fact that he came out ahead while Democrats defeated other Republicans in the other swings states showed the fantastic effort put forth in Florida.

“Florida is the swingiest big state in the country, and Scott just keeps on winning there,” wrote CNN Editor-at-Large Chris Cillizza.

Scott celebrated on Twitter.

“Our campaign was rated the best campaign of the 2018 cycle!” he wrote. “It was all thanks to YOU, the people of Florida and the thousands of folks around our state that volunteered their time and effort.”

While no one can argue Scott ran an efficient, rapid-response, but proactive campaign, funding such a solid operation did not come cheap. The Senator-elect chipped in more than $60 million of his own money to keep the engine running.

Roberts gets involved in Mueller probe

A seemingly routine grand jury subpoena case took a high profile turn recently. A few ears perked up when Chief Justice John Roberts became involved, leading to informed conclusions the case involved Special Counsel Robert Mueller and quite possibly, according to POLITICO, Trump.

Chief Justice John Roberts is proactively wading into the Robert Mueller probe.

The case involved a subpoena to an unnamed corporation owned by an unnamed foreign state. After lower courts ruled the corporation must comply with the subpoenas, Roberts blocked decisions from the D.C. Circuit requiring compliance.

All of this raises the possibility the Supreme Court could become involved. Adding to part of the excitement of the media coverage, is the fact that the chief justice is the one taking action.

Some of this is tempered by the fact the chief justice oversees appeals to the D.C. Circuit, while the other eight justices have assigned circuits as well.

Last Friday, Mueller’s office appeared to respond to Roberts, which was entered onto the Supreme Court docket. This fueled the ongoing speculation the full court could be hearing appeals on the case.

The best indicator that this could be a big deal is the fact no one is talking. Nothing is rarer in Washington.

Shutdown rhetoric heats up

The government shutdown is now two weeks old with signs some are about to feel the pain. Thousands of federal employees are about to begin a period with no paychecks, and while those affected will almost assuredly be reimbursed once things are settled, it does not help in the long run.

Some feel the rhetoric around Donald Trump’s border wall (and the shutdown it caused) is getting a little out of hand.

That is the kind of story Democrats are highlighting, while Republicans point to the chaos at the southern border as the reason they are backing Trump’s stand for border wall funding. Both sides have dug in and are ratcheting up the rhetoric.

“So Coast Guard members and hundreds of thousands of other families face going without pay,” tweeted Democratic Rep. Wasserman Schultz of Weston over the holidays. “All over a border wall boondoggle Trump promised Mexico would pay for.”

Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor used a recent tragic event to highlight the need for a wall.

“We absolutely must secure sufficient funding for border security to prevent the flow of illegal drugs, human trafficking and terrorism into our country,” he said in an email newsletter to his constituents. “The urgency of this priority was highlighted by last week’s tragic death of a California law enforcement officer, New Police Cpl. Ronil Singh, who was brutally murdered by someone who illegally gained entry into our country.”

Pelosi pledged zero money for a border wall that would end the shutdown, while Trump says it will not end without it.

Wednesday night, Trump was either fortified or threatened by South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham who ominously said that a presidential “cave” on border security would likely mark “the end of his presidency.”

Gaetz not tired of winning

As Congressional terms end, members like to tout their success to constituents. Armed with statistics or pieces of legislation, Representatives and Senators remind voters what they got done.

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz took a lighthearted approach to providing a personal report card for his Panhandle district. He posted a video tailored to his conservative voting base, touting statistics such as 227 television appearances and 2,662 tweets, which included “one Trump tweet.”

To view the video, click on the image below:

Gaetz also highlighted 65 of his “Open Gaetz” events, 18 town halls, 29 roundtables, with nearly 500 “favorable turnouts” for constituents in more 2,500 instances of interceding on their behalf.

The now-second term congressman left constituents with one New Year’s resolution that played on one of Trump’s famous campaign pledges:

“I will never get tired of winning,” he said.

Lawson celebrates largest-ever CBC

Democratic Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee participated in the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) ceremonial swearing-in for current and new CBC members of the 116th Congress. Lawson, along with fellow Democrats Alcee Hastings of Miramar and Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens, are among the 55 members who took the oath.

Al Lawson is a member of the largest Congressional Black Caucus in history.

This is the largest membership in the CBC’s history.

“It is an honor to serve on the Congressional Black Caucus with so many key players in Congress,” Lawson said.

The event was at the Warner Theatre in downtown Washington. Guests included Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Political Commentator Angela T. Rye, who emceed the event, newly elected CBC Chair Rep. Karen Bass of California, congressional leadership and leading nonprofit, civic and business leaders.

The historic number of CBC members will account for approximately 22 percent of all Democratic votes. The incoming members will grant the CBC more influence as far as the constituents they represent are concerned and greater power with Democratic leadership.

Florida Democrats open to Trump impeachment

As Pelosi was about to take the gavel as speaker, the “impeachment” word crawled back into the dialogue. During the Democrats’ successful campaign to regain control of the House, Pelosi was among party leaders urging candidates not to discuss the issue.

Other Democrats are willing to talk openly about impeaching Trump or going further by saying Mueller may have the authority to indict a sitting President. The Orlando area’s Democratic contingent, all beginning their second term this week, is not ruling out taking action against Trump.

Val Demings is not afraid to use the “I” word.

“I do believe that if Donald Trump was not the President of the United States, if he was anybody else, he would already be indicted by now,” said second-term Rep. Val Demings. “I certainly believe a sitting president can be indicted. But if the decision is made outside of the Judiciary Committee different from that, and the only option left on the table is to begin an impeachment process, then I believe we have a direct obligation.”

Fellow Democrats Stephanie Murphy and Darren Soto did not get into the indictment argument but are open to impeachment if the Mueller investigation uncovers wrongdoing. Soto said, “should there be high crimes, that would pave the way for a potential impeachment vote, but that has to play itself out, and we’ll review the evidence as it does.”

Murphy simply called for an unencumbered Mueller investigation. She was critical of the House under Republican leadership for its lack of “any kind of oversight to this administration.”

“How many people in the Trump administration have basically left under cover of darkness?” Demings added. “We have to go back and look at the mishandling of those investigations.”

Castor to chair climate crisis committee

One of Pelosi’s first acts as speaker came before her swearing in, when she named Castor as chairwoman of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. The panel is an indication of the importance a Pelosi-led House is taking the issue of climate change.

“She will bring great experience, energy and urgency to the existential threat of the climate crisis,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Nancy Pelosi, Kathy Castor
Newly re-elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tapped Kathy Castor to lead a revived committee on climate change.

The panel will not be tasked specifically with formulating a Green New Deal, which is essentially a transition to 100 percent renewable electricity. They will also have no subpoena power.

“There’s some fabulous proposals in the Green New Deal, and I’m excited about all that,” said Castor. “You may see some similar language. Clearly, the focuses are going to be the same. “This will be a committee clearly in the spirit of the Green New Deal.”

Ocasio-Cortez and others are interjecting themselves into this initiative as well. They find it disturbing is that lawmakers who received donations from fossil fuel companies will not be barred from serving on the panel.

Castor told the Hill that progressives should not worry about her. She will not be taking donations from fossil fuel companies so making that a rule was unnecessary.

Buchanan to block Nation of Islam money

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has been a center of controversy at times through utterance of anti-Semitic statements. When it was pointed out the Nation of Islam is receiving federal funds to teach religious studies in prisons, that was too much for Republican Rep. Buchanan.

If Vern Buchanan gets his way, Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam will not see one cent of federal money.

“The Nation of Islam preaches that ‘Hitler was a very great man’ and white people are blue-eyed devils,’” Buchanan said in an email to constituents. “So why did Louis Farrakhan’s notorious hate group receive taxpayer money to provide federal inmates with ‘spiritual guide services?’”

The group has received $364,000 in awards and contracts with the Federal Bureau of Prisons and Department of Justice over the past decade. The funding was designed to provide “Nation of Islam religious services,” “Nation of Islam spiritual guide services,” “Nation of Islam study services,” and other related programming led by the organization’s leaders, according to Bureau of Prison records.

Buchanan said he was writing to the Department of Justice “demanding an immediate end to this funding.” The Nation of Islam has been deemed a hate group by not only the Anti-Defamation League, but also the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Rooney seeks to ‘kill coal’

Republican Rep. Francis Rooney, a social and fiscal conservative, has taken stands on Everglades restoration and water issues that have him on the same side as environmentalists. He is doubling down on his view that the U.S. must wean itself from coal and will reintroduce a bill this year that calls for a carbon tax to combat climate change.

Francis Rooney is making the end of coal mining a key issue, putting the conservative lawmaker on the side of environmentalists.

“There’s no reason to burn coal,” Rooney told USA Today.

That puts Rooney squarely at odds with Trump who often touts his administration’s reversal of policies carried out during the administration of former President Barack Obama. The President proudly tells voters in coal country that the “coal industry is back.”

Rooney is in one of the most solidly Republican districts in the country, which means advocating such views should not threaten his status representing the Naples area. He co-sponsored a carbon tax bill last year with former Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Kendall.

“I’ll take some heat from our area to do this,” Rooney said. “To me, it’s an opportunity to lead.”

Rooney is a member of the House Climate Change Caucus founded by Curbelo and Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton. Despite Curbelo’s environmental credentials, he was defeated for re-election in a Democratic-leaning district in November.

Coal is something whose time has come and gone, according to Rooney.

“I’ll talk to these conservative groups and they’ll say, ‘why did you introduce a carbon tax bill’ and I’ll say, ‘because I don’t think we need to burn coal.’ And a carbon tax is the most market-oriented, nonbureaucratic, efficient way I can see to kill off coal.

Wilson cheers Kelly’s departure

Jan. 1 meant both of Trump’s remaining former generals within his inner circle had left the administration. While the departure of former Secretary of Defense James Mattis was lamented even by several Democrats, the exit of former Chief of Staff John Kelly was cause for a “good riddance” send off.

Among those most pleased to see Kelly go was Wilson. The Miami Gardens Democrat posted a one sentence tweet expressing satisfaction with his departure.

Don’t let the door hit you: Frederica Wilson gives a ‘good riddance’ to former Chief of Staff John Kelly.

“Today is Gen. John Kelly’s last day as White House chief of staff. #MissionUnaccomplished.”

Wilson and Kelly engaged in an ugly back-and-forth after the former four-star general called her an “empty barrel” following Wilson’s criticism of Trump’s attempt at a condolence call to a wife whose soldier husband was killed in Niger. Kelly also misrepresented Wilson’s words at a South Florida public event.

Despite Wilson’s demand for an apology, none came from Kelly.

“Gen. Kelly is leaving the White House with each of his four stars deeply tarnished,” she said.

On this day in the headlines

Jan. 4, 1993 — President George Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed Sunday the most significant nuclear arms reduction treaty in history, crowning Bush’s four-year presidency. Bush said the agreement, signed in Moscow, “means a future far more free from fear.”

The U.S. Senate must ratify the agreement. It comes a little more than two weeks before President-elect Bill Clinton assumes the presidency. Clinton indicated he looked forward to meeting with Yeltsin, but his first focus is the domestic agenda on which he ran in the 1992 campaign.

Jan. 4, 2007 — As the new Democratic Congress prepared to be sworn in and elect Pelosi of California the first female speaker of the House of Representatives, partisan gamesmanship, seasoned with hypocrisy threatened to override pledges of a new era in bipartisan cooperation. Democrats had pledged to work with Republicans during the campaign, but now indicated the GOP would be placed “on the sidelines.”

GOP Rep. Adam Putnam of Bartow, the Chairman of the House Republican on Conference said Republican Party leaders were not hypocritical by complaining about their treatment by Democrats despite the fact Republicans treated Democrats in the same fashion. Putnam said, “the important point here is that the American people were promised a new way of doing business in the United States Congress.”

One last thing

Happy birthday to Erin Moffet, comms director in Charlie Crist’s office.

Staff Reports


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