ICE raids halted
Last week came the startling news that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents would conduct raids designed to deport up to 2,000 family units already under deportation orders. Among those cities targeted for the ICE action was Miami.
A little more than a day later, President Donald Trump tweeted that he was calling off the raids for two weeks. The reason offered was to give Democrats a chance to fix loopholes in current immigration law, while CNN reported that Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump asking him to halt the raids.
Miami Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a vocal critic of Trump’s immigration policies, also ripped the President’s latest actions. She also seemed to ignore his stated reason for the delay
“The President can’t be trusted, everyone should always know their rights,” she tweeted. Instead of working with Democrats to reform our broken immigration system and bring people out of the shadows or invest in health care, he continues to create chaos in our communities.”
First-term Republican Rep. Greg Steube of Sarasota agrees that two extra weeks is unlikely to produce an agreement on immigration.
“I sit on the immigration subcommittee on [the House Judiciary Committee] — (Democrats have) done nothing as it relates to fixing this problem,” Steube said on Fox News. “And, we as Republicans are fighting to do it. We have bills filed, but they’re not wanting to move anything forward.”
First-term Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala of Coral Gables blasted Trump’s actions, mentioning a disagreement within the administration.
“This weekend — against the advice of his own acting Secretary of Homeland Security — President Trump has ordered ICE to tear thousands of families apart in unconscionable predawn raids at homes and worksites across the United States,” she said in a statement. “Many of the people who are targeted by this action fled their homes to America’s refuge to escape unimaginable violence, terror and persecution.”
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin MacAleenan was on record to oppose the scope of the President’s plans, which was revealed when the plans to conduct the raids were leaked. Early this week came the accusation that it was MacAleenan who leaked the plans for the raid to sabotage it.
MacAleenan should be receiving a summons to the Oval Office relatively soon.
Preventing Chinese lawsuits
It is no secret that China has engaged in the theft of American intellectual property. One of the alleged culprits is the Chinese tech giant Huawei, prompting Sen. Marco Rubio to file legislation aimed at preventing Huawei from filing bogus lawsuits.
According to Rubio, Huawei is considering lawsuits charging U.S. companies with patent and trademark infringement. With an amendment to the defense authorization bill, the second term Republican seeks to prevent foreign companies deemed an “undue risk” to American telecommunications system from filing lawsuits.
Rubio said in a tweet:
#Huawei is using the tactics of patent trolls to attack U.S. companies in retaliation for Trump administration national security actions against them. We should not allow #China government backed companies to improperly use our legal system against us.https://t.co/jhz4cuLDVN
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) June 18, 2019
Rubio’s amendment clearly had Huawei in mind. The Commerce Department is expected to declare Huawei poses the “undue risk” that would stop the company’s lawsuits if the measure becomes law.
Scott touts Tamiami project
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Transportation agreed to provide $60 million to elevate the Tamiami Trail in Southwest Florida. The project’s goal is to allow an additional 75 to 80 billion gallons of water to flow into the Everglades.
Sen. Rick Scott joined with Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami, among others, urging Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao for the money. The Florida Legislature agreed to provide an additional $40 million to fund the $100 million project.
Scott traveled to Everglades Safari Park late last week to do the equivalent of a victory lap, touting the funding.
“I’m honored to be in the Everglades today to celebrate the beginning of Phase II of the Tamiami Trail project, which is vital to increasing freshwater flows to the Everglades,” Scott said. “As Gov., I fought to fund the Tamiami Trail Modification Next Step Phase I, and I thank President Trump and DOT Secretary Elaine Chao for building on our efforts by awarding the $60 million I requested for this vital project.
The roadway, built in the 1920s by developer Barron Collier to connect Tampa and Miami, blocks the natural southerly flow of water. That, in turn, causes massive grass die-offs in Florida Bay and increase fire risks in the Everglades itself.
“I look forward to continuing this strong federal-state partnership to finish the Tamiami Trail and continue our mission of preserving Florida’s historic Everglades National Park,” Scott said.
Endorsements should follow debates
This week, Miami will be the center of the political world as 20 Democratic candidates gather for the first of several presidential debates. Among the areas of speculation is whether a “faltering” Joe Biden, the clear front-runner, will be attacked by his competitors or will more moderate Democrats take on the socialistic proposals of candidates like Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The candidates will try to appeal to primary voters in the nation’s largest swing state, but they also hope to gain support from Florida delegation Democrats, who have not rushed to endorse. Only three of the 13 members of the House have chosen sides.
Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park endorsed Beto O’Rourke in March, while more recently, Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee picked Biden and last week, Rep. Alcee Hastings of Delray Beach chose to support Sen. Kamala Harris.
Others will likely decide not long after the debate. For Democrats like Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa, the candidate with the best approach to climate change will likely earn her support.
That might also help sway someone like Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, but he is equally passionate about gun control as is Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Miami. In the end, if Biden can help quell the controversy surrounding his fond memories of legislating with segregationist Senators, joining with the front-runner may be a safe bet.
Trump’s Iran policy debated
When Trump pulled back from launching a retaliatory strike against Iran for shooting down an unmanned drone, a majority of those commenting offered criticism. Some, like Deutch, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee overseeing the Middle East, are “confused” and want to know the President’s strategy.
“We don’t know. Like everyone else, we want to understand,” Deutch said on CNN. “We want a little clarity into what happened, why this happened and the president’s decision to call this off, but more than that, we want to understand if there’s a strategy here.” the Florida Democrat said on CNN’s “New Day” show.
While the President earned support for his restraint for not carrying out airstrikes, there were Republicans who felt he should have gone ahead with the airstrikes. Among those was Rep. Michael Waltz of St. Augustine, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee.
“Of course, it’s the President’s absolute right as commander in chief to pull that back,” Waltz said on CNN. “But I think what we are seeing from the Iranians today is that they’re going to continue to push. I think we should have carried out the strike, yes, I do.”
While not sending missiles into Iran, Trump is upping the pressure by imposing additional sanctions. Among the new penalties are sanctions aimed directly at the country’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his office.
Gaetz: Hearing a ‘farce’
With current and former Trump administration officials either delaying or refusing to testify before House committees, getting fact witnesses to appear becomes more difficult. The recent appearance of Watergate figure John Dean appearing before the House Judiciary Committee was a case in point.
During another hearing last week, Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz asked a panel of witnesses consisting of law professors policy experts whether they knew if anything in the Mueller report was true or false. None did.
Gaetz also expressed his frustration toward committee chairman Jerry Nadler for not asking Robert Mueller himself to testify in front of Congress. A growing number of Democrats agree with that idea.
From there, Gaetz tried to take the conversation away from the Mueller report and toward reforming asylum laws, much to the irritation of fellow committee members. One member interrupted, saying that the questions about the border crisis had nothing to do with the report.
“I wish it was about the Mueller report. I really wish it was,” Gaetz said. “But (the witnesses) don’t know anything about the Mueller report. This is a total farce, and it’s no wonder witnesses don’t want to come here and testify for this committee.”
Rutherford announces DOT funds
Rep. John Rutherford has announced $17.6 million in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to attempt to remedy the concern of rail congestion in Jacksonville created by railroad interchanges.
Rutherford, who serves the House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee, applauded the good news. He had also urged the Federal Railroad Administration for the funds to improve the rails on the First Coast.
“Northeast Florida, with its intricate network of railways, highways and ports, remains a hotbed for federal investment and economic growth,” said the Jacksonville Republican. “Following other major awards to the region, this grant will ease congestion downtown and clear rail obstructions near major hospitals. I thank Secretary Chao for her partnership in positioning Northeast Florida as the logistical hub of the Eastern Seaboard.”
Chao said the DOT is sending the $17.6 million in Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant funds to Jacksonville to help “alleviate choke points at major downtown intersections to improve movement of people, patients, vehicles and freight throughout the Jacksonville region.”
Steyer targets Castor, Mucarsel-Powell
Democratic benefactor and impeachment advocate Tom Steyer is all in on getting the 45th President out of office. Steyer has launched an effort called “Need to Impeach” and is lining up as many Senators and Representatives as possible.
For those not yet jumping on the impeachment bandwagon, Steyer’s group is running digital advertisements, billboards and events in their districts asking constituents seeking to apply enough pressure to force action. The latest to become subjects of the effort are Mucarsel-Powell and Castor.
“Special Counsel Mueller made it clear that it is up to Congress to hold this President accountable, and it’s time for our representatives to step up and do their jobs,” Steyer said in a written statement.
“Floridians have repeatedly voiced their demand for impeachment proceedings, and now Rep. Castor and Rep. Mucarsel-Powell should ACT in the interest of the voters who put them into office and hold Trump accountable before it is too late.”
Castor follows the path taken by Pelosi, who is urging a systematic approach.
“I take the constitutional responsibility for oversight of the Trump administration very seriously,” Castor said in an email to the Florida Phoenix. “The House is proceeding in a deliberate manner to ensure accountability — and to ensure that the American people understand the depth and breadth of ethical and criminal violations.”
Mucarsel-Powell issued a lengthy statement outlining her support for opening an impeachment inquiry, but stopping short of calling for Trump’s removal at this time.
Assignment Editors — Waltz and Murphy, who recently teamed to file election security legislation, will both speak Friday noon at the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida. The location is the Varsity Club at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
Assignment Editors — Lawson will speak to the Capital Tiger Bay Club in Tallahassee on Friday at 11:30 a.m. The location is the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center.
Deciding Spano’s opponent
There is no doubt freshman Republican Rep. Ross Spano will have an opponent. Despite an announced challenger, there is confusion on which Democrat will appear on the other side of the 2020 ballot for District 15.
Andrew Learned earlier announced he would take on Spano, who was the subject of controversy during his primary and general election race. Last week, a source with knowledge of the plan confirmed to Florida Politics that Learned would leave the race to run for the Florida House District 59 seat held by Rep. Adam Hattersley, who would run against Spano.
Hattersley said he has not decided.
“I look forward to conversations with family, friends and neighbors about how best I can continue my service,” Hattersley told the Lakeland Ledger.
Learned indicated he had spoken with representatives of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) but did not note whether a switch was discussed.
“I’m aware there are rumors, but to be honest with you I got in this race to run for Congress, and I’m running as hard as I can for it,” Learned said. “There will probably be rumors up to and including Election Day.”
Both the Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball currently rate Spano’s seat as “Leans Republican.”
Buchanan welcomes FAA funds
While a major infrastructure bill has not even been drafted, spending on transportation projects continues. Last week Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan of Longboat Key revealed a $3.6 million Federal Aviation Administration Grant on behalf of Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ).
The funds will help improve airfield drainage and reduction in wildlife hazards. It will permit an additional 80 plus acres of taxiways, buildings/hangars, aprons, parking and access road improvements. The reduction in stormwater ponds, and the deepening and steepening of the pond and side slopes will also eliminate or reduce wildlife that is currently attracted to the stormwater ponds.
“Today’s announcement is great news for SRQ,” said Buchanan, who pushed for the funding. “Every year, SRQ handles between 1 to 2 million passengers. I am glad to have helped secure this vital funding for our community.”
The airport had completed a Master Drainage Plan Update to ensure compliance with FAA and Florida Department of Transportation regulations. The project that is funded by the FAA funds will go toward meeting those requirements.
Climate caucus relaunched
The long-rumored restructuring of the House Climate Solutions Caucus is now official. Deutch, an original co-founder, announced the relaunch with Naples Republican Francis Rooney serving as the new co-chair.
Deutch reaffirmed the group’s goal of seeking action in a nonpartisan way.
“Americans want Congress to ACT on climate change. But we’re not going to get anywhere without bipartisan support,” the Boca Raton Democrat said in a joint release. “We have a diverse group of Democrats and Republicans covering many different parts of the country. This caucus reflects our shared belief that to achieve meaningful action on climate change, we must work together, and I look forward to it.”
Rooney takes on his new role following the defeat of co-founder and former co-chair Carlos Curbelo in November.
“The Climate Solutions Caucus is an important, bipartisan venue where Members can share ideas and debate the merits of how to best solve the environmental concerns we face as a nation,” Rooney said. “Sea Level rise, carbon emissions, and the overall health of our climate are bipartisan issues, and I am encouraged that there are a growing number of people on both sides of the aisle willing to find solutions.”
The caucus has a membership of 62 Representatives consisting of 41 Democrats and 21 Republicans. Delegation members in addition to Deutch and Rooney include Democrats Stephanie Murphy and Charlie Crist, along with Republicans Gaetz, Brian Mast and Bill Posey.
Drilling ban moves forward
The Florida delegation took another opportunity to come together on an issue that has united them for months. When Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz proposed an amendment to a spending bill designed to thwart oil drilling along Florida’s coastlines, her colleagues responded.
Florida’s ecological diversity and economy must never be put at risk by dirty, dangerous drilling activities,” Wasserman Schultz said. “This amendment, which passed with real, broad-based bipartisan support, will help safeguard Florida’s natural treasures, and ensures our marine populations and tourist economies don’t live under an imminent threat of an oily crude washing up on our beautiful shores.”
In addition to the amendment’s support by nearly the entire Florida Congressional delegation, it drew bipartisan support nationally and from a broad range of environmental advocates including Oceana, Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., Sierra Club, Earthjustice and National Parks Conservation Association.
Among those supporters was Crist of St. Petersburg, who said “(as Gov.) I have seen firsthand the consequences of offshore drilling, and I hope to never see it again.” Rooney added, “Offshore drilling anywhere near Florida represents an existential threat to our tourist and recreation economy that we cannot risk taking.”
The full appropriations bill passed the House by a 252-178 vote.
On this day
June 25, 1994 — Republicans blasted a Democratic suggestion to slow the growth of Medicare as a way to pay for health care for all. Fort Lauderdale Republican Clay Shaw said, “We are trying to legislate here with a magic wand.”
Tampa Democrat Sam Gibbons accused Republicans of scare tactics. Appearing on C-SPAN, Gibbons had a message for seniors saying, “This is just an organized attempt to scare you to death. Don’t believe them.”
June 25, 2015 — The United States Supreme Court gave another boost to the Affordable Care Act, ruling 6-3 that the subsidies provided to lower-income Americans are constitutional. As he did in 2013 when the court upheld the constitutionality of the law, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s liberal members. Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush said the decision “is not the end of the fight against Obamacare,” while Republican Sen. Rubio was also disappointed by the ruling saying, “We need consumer care, not Obamacare.” Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson hoped “extremists will now stop trying to dismantle the law …” while Democratic Rep. Castor of Tampa urged “federal and state leaders to come together.”
Media swats Congressional women
The headline is not fake news, but in reality, describes the results of the 11th annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game played last week. The Bad News Babes, comprised of female members of the capital press corps, bopped the members of Congress week by a score of 10-4.
It was the fourth straight win for the media and sixth in last seven games. The game also serves as a fundraiser, which raised $358,000 (and $1.6 million since the inaugural game in 2009) for the Young Survival Coalition (YSC) to assist young adults affected by breast cancer.
Wasserman-Schultz, a cancer survivor, co-founded the game. Joining her on the roster was Castor and Coral Gables Democrat Shalala.
Shalala, at 78 the oldest member to ever participate, was presented with the game’s Spirit Award. The winning pitcher was Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter, while the loser was New York Sen. and presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand.
The Congressional Baseball Game, featuring the annual clash between Democratic and Republican male members is slated for June 26.