Democrats question Donald Trump’s commitment to Lake O ahead of visit

Ted Deutch, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Donna Shalala want full restoration funding.

Congressional Democrats hope Donald Trump shows up to Lake Okeechobee Friday for more than a photo op.

After the President’s proposed budget undercut Everglades funding, House members demand an environmental commitment.

“The cuts to Everglades restoration President Trump is proposing are deeply concerning,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

The Miami Democrat noted in a media conference call that the President’s proposed budget includes just $63 million for the South Florida project. Florida asked for $200 million.

When the budget proposal came out earlier this month, it drew a bipartisan rebuke, including a harsh statement from Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott.

Both Senators are expected to appear with Trump during his visit.

Could it be the President plans to announce full funding and credit Republican leadership in Florida?

If he does, that’s fine with U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala.

“If we can get $200 million out of the federal government and it’s bipartisan, we couldn’t be more enthusiastic,” the Miami Democrat said.

Indeed, Shalala went out of her way on the call to praise Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis for including state funding in his budget.

But Democrats say regardless what happens, the first budget proposal broadcasts the President’s priorities.

“These are cuts that have been recognized and panned in a bipartisan way,” said U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat.

From a President who mocks climate change, Deutch said, it’s clear how little Trump truly cares about the environment.

But he said Florida leaders demonstrate a bipartisan acknowledgment of the problem. He hopes the President doesn’t merely use a trip to South Florida to rally political support but to learn the impact of bad climate policy.

The President is expected to discuss repairs to the Herbert Hoover dike and funding for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.

But Mucarsel-Powell said designated spending for the Everglades only represents one concern addressing environmental issues.

The Everglades make up a significant part of her South Florida district, and she engages in regular conversations with the Army Corps of Engineers about water cleanup in Lake Okeechobee. But Trump’s proposal also cuts the Army Corps of Engineers budget by a third.

Democrats say they need attention on the needs of the lake, but fear new Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler will value industry interests over ecological needs.

The Democrats similarly want assurance Florida’s shores remain safe from offshore oil rigs.

Deutch said the President needs to show a genuine commitment to curing environmental woes in South Florida.

“While the President is coming to Lake Okeechobee, it also provides an opportunity to remind himself of the impact climate change is having on our state right now,” Deutch said.

From sunny day flooding to sea level rise, business and government leaders can share South Florida’s environmental woes with the president.

“None of this is partisan politics,” he said. “We’re on the front lines of climate change in South Florida.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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