Fundraising highs and lows
While the election is still more than a year away, the end of each fundraising quarter still provides off-year glimpses into House and Senate campaigns. The efforts of President Donald Trump, who funded a substantial portion of his successful bid for the White House three years ago, will also be big news.
The President’s campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC) combined raised nearly $108 million and have $123.7 million combined cash on hand. Numbers from the DNC and both Republican and Democrat national campaign committee results will be available over the weekend.
The reports show some newsworthy efforts throughout the delegation. Some are good, and some are shaky.
Miami Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell has raised the most through the second quarter with her nearly $1.1 million haul. That ranks 41st among all House members.
The top Republican, Longboat Key Republican Vern Buchanan, has brought in more than $954,648 for the year. That ranks second among those in the delegation and 54th nationally.
Palm City Republican Brian Mast ranks third in the delegation, and 75th nationally with $842,435. St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist reported $787,599.
On the other end of the spectrum, Naples Republican Francis Rooney reported only $800 for the quarter and $1,555 for the year but has $621,978 on hand for reelection in a safe district. Gainesville Republican Ted Yoho, who is still weighing whether to run for reelection, has raised $24,552 and has $225,087 cash on hand.
Mucarsel-Powell’s haul is also among the national leaders of first-term representatives raising significant sums. Fellow Democrat Donna Shalala reported $422,000 for the quarter and $857,000 on-hand.
Among Republican freshmen, Michael Waltz of St. Augustine, reported $201,741 for the quarter and $415,822 for the year with $331,059 cash on hand. The report also shows a $430,000 debt owed by the campaign committee.
Dover Republican Ross Spano, who has been dogged by campaign fund controversy since being elected, reported raising $119,065 for the quarter and $286,150 for the year with $160,428 cash on hand. The debt of $176,857 left from the 2018 election remains, leaving Democrats to take a few shots at one of their top targets for 2020
The remaining GOP freshman, Greg Steube of Sarasota, reported $104,454 for the quarter, $125,479 for the year and $167,018 cash on hand. District 17 is considered a safe GOP district.
Dems blast Scott comments
Amid the calls for Republicans to describe Trump’s tweets targeting four Democratic women House members as racist, Sen. Rick Scott went on offense against the entire Democratic Party. Dredging up some of the past words of Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, the first-term Senator said Democrats were “the anti-Semitic party.”
That brought a swift response from Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch, a Jewish member of Congress.
“The Senator’s comments were not only ridiculous; they are offensive to all of us, Democrats and Republicans, who work hard together to advance Jewish values and the U.S.-Israel relationship,” Deutch said in a statement.
“Sen. Scott should apologize to all Democrats and Republicans who work together every day on these vital issues, and he should apologize to the Jewish community of Florida, many of whom are lifelong Democrats who have been fighting anti-Semitism and standing up for Israel since its founding in 1948.”
While not mentioning her by name, Deutch has been a critic of Omar’s past comments surrounding Israel as well as her use of anti-Semitic tropes.
Florida Democratic Party Chair Terri Rizzo took it further, tying Scott to radical groups.
“White nationalism and racism have a dark history of scapegoating Jews, and only two years ago these groups were chanting ‘Jews shall not replace us’ in Charlottesville,” Rizzo said.
“His comments defending Trump’s racism embolden the very groups that promote hate and violence and ignores Democratic Jews and their contributions to the Democratic Party.”
Puerto Rico in chaos
Puerto Rico is in an uproar following the revelation of an ugly exchange of messages between senior government officials that include Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. Protesters are demanding the resignation of the Governor, who has so far refused, for not only the messages, but also for government corruption.
Both U.S. Senators from Florida weighed in on the developing crisis. Without directly calling for his ouster, both cryptically urge Rosselló to go for the good of the commonwealth.
“I’m not going to opine on whether Gov. Rosselló should resign because I’m not a voter in Puerto Rico; he is not accountable to me,” Republican Marco Rubio said in a 38-second video. “What I can tell you as a federal official who cares a lot about Puerto Rico and its future is that this controversy has made it more difficult to work on behalf of Puerto Rico.”
To view the video, click on the image below:
I have no opinion on whether Governor Rosello should step down.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 17, 2019
Like his fellow Republican, Scott said the “Puerto Rican families deserve better” and he “remains committed to the families of Puerto Rico.” In another tweet, Scott indirectly urged the Governor to face reality.
“But all credibility has been lost,” Scott said. “It is clear that the families of Puerto Rico need leadership committed to creating better opportunities on the island.”
House condemns Trump
A little more than 48 hours after Trump tweeted that four progressive Democratic women should go back to their countries of origin, the House of Representatives voted to condemn the remarks. The 240-187 vote was mostly partisan, but four Republicans joined with Democrats.
None of the four Republicans were from Florida, but Democrats from around the country felt they had Republicans in a box of either rebuking the President or go on record as condoning his words. Some Florida Republicans chose to blast Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the four congresswomen.
“If Speaker Nancy Pelosi put as much energy into addressing the country’s problems as she does in denouncing the President, we wouldn’t be facing a crisis at the southern border,” said Buchanan. “While I don’t agree with everything the President tweets, Pelosi’s resolution on the House floor today is another example of why Washington is so dysfunctional.”
Steube also went on offense, saying, “It’s unbelievable that this group of four Congresswomen are sparking outrage against the President when they have made anti-Semitic remarks and have called Speaker Pelosi a racist.”
Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart said he “would never say” what Trump tweeted, but that did not make the President a racist. “We throw this racist thing around so easily, and I think its grossly responsible to just throw it out there.”
While the vote had its share of political drama, Pelosi’s earlier floor remarks using the word “racist” was deemed out of order, but they were not removed from the record.
No TPS for Venezuela
The status of Venezuelans temporarily living in the United States is still not clear. Ken Cuccinelli, Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, informed a group of Senators that the Trump administration is not yet ready to grant the Venezuelans Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
Cuccinelli responded to a March 7 letter to Trump written by 24 Senators, including Rubio, asking for TPS for the Venezuelans due to the dire circumstances in that country. The Senators wrote: “Venezuela clearly meets the standard for TPS as it is obviously too dangerous for Venezuelan nationals to return to their country.”
They also reminded Cuccinelli granting TPS would not bestow citizenship or legal permanent resident status. Cuccinelli was not so sure, pointing to recent court rulings against the President’s authority.
“I would further note that a separation of powers concern has arisen with TPS generally,” he wrote. “As long as the courts continue to displace executive branch authority to terminate TPS status, it makes a decision to exercise the discretion in the first place considerably more complicated and more akin to permanent status, rather than temporary.”
He was referring to the courts blocking Trump’s end of TPS for El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan in October.
“This is disgraceful,” said Kissimmee Democrat Darren Soto. “After months of empty promises and using Venezuelans as political pawns, the Trump Administration fails to act to grant TPS. True leadership would act immediately to resolve this crisis.”
Soto referred to legislation he has sponsored, co-sponsored by Diaz-Balart, that would grant TPS status for Venezuela. There is also a bipartisan Senate version.
Gaetz questions ‘double standard’
The four first-term Democrats known as “The Squad” have reported death threats against them. This week, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz said they are not alone in that regard, revealing threats he received against him and his family.
He was not happy that federal officials did not take them seriously despite identifying a suspect. Gaetz says those threatening prominent liberals such as Reps. Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and California Democrat Eric Swalwell “actually get arrested.”
“I received word late last week that the U.S. attorney’s office … had reviewed the information and had deemed these messages, and I’m quoting directly, a ‘non-threat,’ Gaetz told Fox News. “It’s obviously a crime, a federal crime, to make these types of threats against any federal official.”
He hinted that a federal prosecutor may not be pressing charges against the caller due to the Congressman’s frequent criticism of the Justice Department over the handling of the Trump investigation.
“In assessing such threat cases, this Office does not take into consideration the politics of the public official who has been threatened,” responded Abraham Simmons, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office. “This Office prosecutes threat cases without discrimination on the basis of the public official’s viewpoint or any other impermissible basis.”
Gaetz also questioned the decision of the U.S. Attorney, Trump appointee David L. Anderson, as a matter of law.
Under the US atty’s incorrect read of the law, every death threat 2 every federal official is legal – no matter the words used. Just so long as the FBI doesn’t think you *really* mean it.
This jerk called my office three times. He threatened to come after my family.
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) July 18, 2019
Lawson, Warren join forces
Children from low-income families often receive the benefits of meals at school. Some, including Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee, believe college students need nutrition assistance as well.
The two-term Democrat has teamed up with Democratic presidential candidate and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to file the College Student Hunger Act of 2019 in their respective chambers. The main thrust of the bill is to increase access to benefits coming from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.
“The significant increase in college tuition over the last decade has forced students to make a choice between buying food or paying for books and housing expenditures,” Lawson said in a joint release. “This bill will help to relieve some of that financial burden for them. I am proud to work with Sen. Warren to introduce this critical piece of legislation.”
According to a Government Accountability Office’s report, more than 30 percent of college students might face food insecurity. Moreover, while SNAP is the main federal program to address food insecurity for low-income Americans, the report found that almost 2 million at-risk students who are potentially eligible for SNAP did not receive benefits in 2016.
“As more and more students struggle to afford colleges without a mountain of student loan debt, nearly one-in-three college students cannot even afford basic necessities like food,” Warren said. “Our bill will ensure students have the support they need as they work hard toward a better future without going hungry.”
Among the bill’s eight House co-sponsors are Soto of Kissimmee and Alcee Hastings of Delray Beach.
Military family bill filed
Deportations have been a frequent topic in recent news cycles. With the Trump administration reportedly in the process of rounding up about 2,000 undocumented immigrants under orders for removal and scaling back the Parole in Place program, a group of border-state Democrats sought to protect military families.
This week, Soto joined with Arizona Rep. Ruben Callego and four other Democrats to introduce the Protecting Immigrant Gold Star and Military Families Act. Parole in Place provides protection from deportation for undocumented family members of the military.
“Our Armed Forces and veterans have made difficult personal sacrifices to defend America’s freedom,” said Soto. “In turn, the Trump administration thanks them for their service by deporting their family members. Trump’s zero-tolerance policy and low-priority deportations have caused irreparable harm in our communities.”
The bill would prevent the Trump administration from deporting the immediate family members (spouses, parents, children and siblings) of members of the Armed Forces and veterans who served on active duty who were discharged in conditions other than dishonorable and those who died in the line of duty who have not committed serious crimes.
Minimum wage passes House
Earlier in the week, House liberals threatened to blow up the bill if moderate Democrats were able to make significant changes. Among the moderates working with the liberal caucus to phase in the increase over six years was Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park.
“In this bill, we worked together to hear each other out, hear each other’s concerns, and then legislate the changes that were necessary,” Murphy, co-chair of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition and a key negotiator, told POLITICO. “To me, that’s how you work in a productive and constructive way,” Murphy said.
Six Democrats joined with Republicans to vote against the measure, while three Republicans voted in favor. One of those three was Rooney.
It marked the second time in a little more than one month the Naples Republican had bucked his party on a major vote. Last month, he voted against the disaster relief bill, along with Sarasota Republican Greg Steube, that finally provided relief for the Panhandle following Hurricane Michael.
Florida Democrats were ecstatic over the outcome with Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa saying “It’s been stuck at $7.25 for too long.” Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg said: “Today’s vote will lift millions out of poverty, stimulate local economies, and help restore the value of a hard day’s work.”
West Palm Beach Democrat Lois Frankel tweeted:
Americans are working longer hours & still struggling to make ends meet. With the #RaiseTheWage Act, we could lift at least 1.3 MILLION workers out of poverty, including 600,000 children, and give 33m a boost in their paychecks. We will never stop fighting #ForThePeople! pic.twitter.com/oLm7KG2lGX
— Rep. Lois Frankel (@RepLoisFrankel) July 18, 2019
Rep. John Rutherford of Jacksonville expressed Republican sentiment. Citing on opinion column in The Washington Post, Rutherford tweeted the day before the vote:
Great analysis by the Washington Post on the damage a federally mandated $15 minimum wage would inflict on “society’s most vulnerable.” I hope Democrats reconsider this job-killing proposal and instead work with @HouseGOP to help all workers get ahead.https://t.co/jqt5JRcYWO
— Rep. John Rutherford (@RepRutherfordFL) July 17, 2019
The bill now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to languish.
Robocall bill advances
In addition to passing the minimum wage bill, Crist had another reason to celebrate when the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act unanimously passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee and is now headed to the House floor. Contained within the bill was Crist’s Spam Calls Task Force Act.
“Day and night, Americans are fighting an onslaught of spam calls that endanger their privacy and personal information,” Crist said in a news release. “Spam calls are not just a nuisance; they are a technological tool used by bad actors to deceive and take advantage of millions of unsuspecting Americans.”
The legislation directs the Attorney General to work with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to convene an interagency working group with other federal and state agencies to address several issues relating to spam calls.
Among those issues are determining if federal laws prohibit enforcement of other laws against spam calls, identifying domestic and international programs that may exist, and consider if increased penalties or fines would serve as an increased deterrent.
“I thank Chairman (Frank) Pallone for his leadership on this issue, and I look forward to a House floor vote very soon to crack down on this scourge once and for all,” Crist said.
PACT Act gains support
The internet contains plenty of disturbing images and videos, including those shown killing and mutilating defenseless animals. While the making and distributing of these videos were outlawed in 2010, the underlying act is still not a violation of federal law.
In January, Deutch and Buchanan joined in filing the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act in Congress. The legislation will close those loopholes by prohibiting the underlying acts of torture themselves, regardless of whether a video is created.
This week, the Humane Society threw their support behind the bill, joining Deutch and Buchanan at a news conference to bolster the effort.
A special thanks to @HumaneSociety has done so much to shed light on animal cruelty and how the Pact Act will help end it. Their devoted activism will help us get this done. pic.twitter.com/xVRVBAe3BP
— Rep. Ted Deutch (@RepTedDeutch) July 16, 2019
Specifically, the PACT Act will amend the federal criminal code to prohibit the intentional acts of crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, impaling or otherwise subjecting animals to serious bodily harm.
“Torturing innocent animals is abhorrent and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Buchanan said. “Momentum is on our side as we near the 290 co-sponsors needed to ensure this bill is brought to the House floor. Protecting animals from cruelty is a top priority for me, and I look forward to working with Congressman Deutch and others on this important issue.”
Deutch, the original sponsor of the bill, and Buchanan have seen 272 others sign on as co-sponsors. This includes 19 bipartisan members among the Florida delegation.
On this day
July 19, 1993 — The embattled Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Democrat Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois, received further bad news when the House postmaster pleaded guilty to embezzlement and implicated Rostenkowski. As the scandal continued to grow, Robert Rota claimed he helped Rostenkowski and other lawmakers embezzle thousands of dollars. Scandal.
Capitol Hill watchers expect Rostenkowski to be indicted. If that occurs, veteran Tampa Democrat Sam Gibbons would assume the role of chairman of one of the House’s most powerful committees.
July 19, 2017 — Republican Senator and former presidential nominee John McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer. A tumor was discovered following recent surgery to remove a blood clot above his left eye.
McCain’s absence has forced Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to delay action on GOP legislation designed to replace the Affordable Care Act. McConnell described McCain as “a hero to our country” and that the 80-year-old former POW “will face this challenge with the same extraordinary courage that has characterized his life.”