Tlaib, Omar refused entry
If President Donald Trump wanted to change the subject from tariffs, Hong Kong or gun control, he knew what to do.
His tweet nudging Israel into the direction of barring Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar and Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib from entering the country set in motion the Jewish state’s decision to keep them out.
Shortly after that, Israel made it official by announcing the two American Muslims would be denied entry. Some Florida Democrats were quick to respond, including prominent Jewish Americans.
Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach tweeted:
One of the strengths of democracies is the free exchange of ideas. Israel’s decision to block the entry of U.S. Representatives @Ilhan & @RepRashida from visiting its country on an upcoming official trip is counter to the values of both countries.
— Rep. Lois Frankel (@RepLoisFrankel) August 15, 2019
One of the first to respond was Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch, who has been critical of Omar’s past comments that many described as anti-Semitic. He also called out Trump for his tweet.
I am disappointed with Israel's decision. But why is the President telling other countries not to admit American Members of Congress?
Israel is a strong enough democracy to handle this visit. The President's weakness is that he doesn't understand that. https://t.co/1Uuvd569bg
— Rep. Ted Deutch (@RepTedDeutch) August 15, 2019
Let's be clear: the president is deliberately trying to politicize & undermine bipartisan support for one of our strongest allies.
I don't always agree with my colleagues' stances on Israel, but I believe it's best to let them learn firsthand about the challenges Israel faces. https://t.co/OeM89wvQOe
— Rep. Donna E. Shalala (@RepShalala) August 15, 2019
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly defended his administration’s action, citing legal justification for barring the two lawmaker’s entry.
“As a vibrant and free democracy, Israel is open to any critic and criticism, with one exception: Israel’s law prohibits the entry of people who call and operate to boycott Israel, as is the case with other democracies that prevent the entry of people whose perception harms the country,” he said in a statement posted to his official Facebook page.
“Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar are leading activists in promoting boycott legislation against Israel in the U.S. Congress,” he added.
Both supported a recent resolution that would consider Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) legislation as a First Amendment right. It was resoundingly defeated.
Sen. Marco Rubio also tweeted criticism of Omar and Talib while disagreeing with Israel’s decision to block them.
But denying them entry into #Israel is a mistake.
Being blocked is what they really hoped for all along in order to bolster their attacks against the Jewish state.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 15, 2019
A day after barring Tlaib, Israeli officials said Friday morning that she could visit her 90-year-old grandmother, who lives in the occupied West Bank, but only once she agreed — in writing — not to “promote boycotts against Israel” during her trip.
However, after being criticized by backers of a boycott, Tlaib reversed course, saying that she would not make the trip after all.
Tlaib wrote on Twitter:
Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me. It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in–fighting against racism, oppression & injustice. https://t.co/z5t5j3qk4H
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) August 16, 2019
Debts, deficits, tariffs, Hong Kong, and a shaky stock market can move over and share the stage. The Squad is back in the news.
Senate Committee: Panhandle hurting
The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship hit the road for a hearing in the Hurricane Michael-ravaged Panhandle. Gulf Coast State College was the venue for presentations and questioning of panelists by Chairman Rubio and committee members.
“Many homes were flattened or completely swept away by the inconceivable levels of storm surge and Category 5 winds,” Rubio said in opening remarks. “To this day, many of our Northwest Florida businesses remain closed.”
Rubio also took the opportunity to slam the partisan politics that delayed desperately-need relief coming to the region for several months. He laid the blame at the feet of Democrats.
“Unfortunately, hurricane survivors became pawns in a shameful attempt by Democrats in D.C. to divert attention from needed assistance here to the continued recovery process still ongoing in Puerto Rico,”
Among those testifying was former Florida House Speaker Allan Bense, who told the committee, among other things, the lack of housing is affecting business recovery in the region, leading to lingering pain.
“The biggest issue is our workforce,” said Bense, co-founder of the group REBUILD 850. “The problem is, it’s very difficult because of the housing issue for employees to work and live in Bay County and in other counties affected. We’re hurting.”
If there was any good news, it came from Col. Brian Laidlaw, Commander of the 325th Air Force Fighter Wing headquartered at nearby Tyndall Air Force Base. The base now has 73 percent, and climbing, of the personnel it had before Michael and will eventually be at full capacity due to funding pledged for a total rebuild.
China’s ‘internal matter’
As China began to mass troops and equipment near the border with Hong Kong, tensions rose around the world. Perhaps sensing something terrible was soon to happen, both Rubio and Sen. Rick Scott preemptively ripped China and urging Trump to stay strong. They also urged Trump to remain resolute against the growing threat militarily and economically.
During an appearance on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was asked if the U.S. should be “taking a stronger tactic.” Ross described the situation as “an internal matter” and asked jokingly “What would we do, invade Hong Kong?”
Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Scott both mocked the characterization, arguing the world might be affected.
And given their history of repression,Chinese troops massed on border is cause for grave concern
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 13, 2019
Scott also responded via Twitter:
This isn’t an internal matter – this is a matter of China once again breaking their commitments. They are violating human rights and breaking their agreement to give Hong Kong autonomy & freedom.
The US, and all the freedom-loving nations, must stand ready to defend freedom. https://t.co/pAfAfDscuP
— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) August 14, 2019
Gainesville Republican Ted Yoho, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee also weighed in.
The continuation of #HongKongProtests, including today’s closing of the city’s intl airport, shows that rising resentment in Hong Kong is not simply a result of the ill-fated extradition law, but the continued encroachment on freedoms & liberties by #XiJinping & the CCP.
— Ted Yoho (@RepTedYoho) August 12, 2019
Maduro ordering purge?
In Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro plans to disband the country’s National Assembly, according to interim President Juan Guaidó. That would be a major mistake, according to Florida representatives from both parties.
Guaidó, the leader of the current assembly — and is recognized as President by the U.S. and 50 other nations — fears that would lead to mass arrests and likely executions. Dissolution would need to be approved by the National Constituent Assembly (ANC), which answers to Maduro.
Today #MaduroRegime may try to call early National Assembly “elections”.
It’s a farce.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 12, 2019
Guaidó recalled that this is not the first time Maduro tried to dissolve the National Assembly. A previous attempt orchestrated from the government-allied Supreme Court of Justice in 2017 subsequently had to be dismantled when international pressure became too uncomfortable for the regime.
“If Maduro dissolves Venezuela’s National Assembly and calls for sham elections, I strongly condemn it,” said Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz in a tweet. “Free and fair elections are impossible under a corrupt regime that jails and tortures political foes. Such an attack on VZ’s democracy will only spark more violence & suffering”
Immigrant welfare targeted
With the announcement of new rules affecting noncitizens, Trump opponents resumed attacks on the President’s policies toward immigrants. The rule, if allowed to go into effect, would deny green cards or visas to those who would use, or likely to use, public aid such as food stamps, housing vouchers or Medicaid.
“Through the public charge rule, President Trump’s administration is reinforcing the ideal of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, ensuring that immigrants are able to support themselves and become successful in America,” said Ken Cuccinelli, acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Florida Democrats had a far different view. They said the rule would hurt legal immigrants as well as children who are American citizens by birth.
Families belong together in their communities. But Trump’s @DHSgov just rigged the rules against immigrants—forcing families to choose between health care, food&housing while making their futures in the U.S very uncertain. We must #ProtectFamilies https://t.co/U4wR7cFZM1
— Rep. Lois Frankel (@RepLoisFrankel) August 12, 2019
The new rule would apply not retroactively but to future applicants for green cards and visas. Reportedly, past use of most benefits would not be held against the applicant, and neither would the use of such benefits by dependents and other family members.
Shalala blasted the Trump administration saying it “scapegoats immigrants, emboldens white supremacists and tears families apart. This is racist policy.”
So far, two California counties, San Francisco and Santa Clara, have announced they are filing lawsuits to stop the rule’s implementation. More are expected.
China tariffs delayed
The tariff portion of the ongoing trade war with China eased slightly with the Trump administration’s announcement that some of those set to be imposed September 1 will be delayed. Trump said he did not wish to harm businesses and consumers over the Christmas holidays, but markets have reeled in recent days over the uncertainty.
Who is being hurt the most is hard to determine, but a Reuters report written from Beijing indicates China’s economy has worsened and industrial growth is at a 17-year low. Many Florida Democrats say Florida agriculture is taking a hit.
Darren Soto of Orlando, along with Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, wants Trump to ease the sanctions due to the negative effects on Florida farmers and ranchers.
Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy tweeted:
Continuing to impose tariffs on allies and adversaries alike without a coherent strategy harms American families, farmers and businesses & weakens our economy. That’s why I’ve authored a bill to give Congress more power over tariff decisions. https://t.co/XY8FA1NSdR
— Rep. Stephanie Murphy (@RepStephMurphy) August 14, 2019
On the other hand, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer weeks ago urged Trump to “hang tough” on China. Rubio, at times, has gently criticized the President for not being tough enough, especially when it comes to easing sanctions on telecommunications giant Huawei.
While acknowledging some short term pain, Scott said income received from tariffs should be spread out to American taxpayers.
“Anything we raise in tariffs, we should give back to the rank and public in tax reductions, “Scott said on CNBC’s Squawk Box. “We have to help American farmers open up more markets around the world.”
The new date for imposing the tariffs on the remaining Chinese imports is now targeted for mid-December.
Florida Bar clears Gaetz
As many have discovered, tweeting can get one into trouble, or potential trouble, as Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz discovered. Following a February tweet bordering on a threat toward former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, for which he apologized, Gaetz was the subject of an ethics complaint to the Florida Bar.
This week the Bar’s Grievance Committee found there was no reason to pursue the matter any further.
“The Florida Bar grievance committee that investigated the case found no probable cause to believe that Gaetz violated any of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar,” state bar spokeswoman Francine Walker told CNN in a statement Wednesday. Walker said the Florida Bar will still issue a “letter of advice” to the lawmaker later this week, “essentially advising him not to do it again.”
Gaetz was pleased to have the matter behind him.
The Florida Bar has informed me that the Grievance Committee found “No Probable Cause” that I violated the rules of my profession. They are taking no disciplinary action against me & are sending a letter of advice.
I thank the Bar committee members for their sound judgment. 👍
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) August 14, 2019
While the firestorm continued earlier this year, the House Ethics Committee decided to undergo its own investigation in June when New York Democrat Kathleen Rice stated that she believed Gaetz’ tweet could rise to the level of witness tampering and intimidation. Gaetz has declined to participate in the investigation.
Temporary Tyndall use proposed
Despite the pending move of the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor fighter jets to Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia, Panama City Republican Neal Dunn has a suggestion in the meantime. He proposes training missions can continue at Tyndall Air Force Base while awaiting the transfer.
Dunn wrote a letter to Acting Secretary of the Air Force, Matthew Donovan, making the case that despite the damage suffered through Hurricane Michael, Tyndall can still conduct those tests until the relocation takes place. Since Michael, aircraft and airmen have been housed at Eglin Air Force Base near Destin.
“Our flight line at Tyndall is now capable of servicing this mission and is the only site in the Southeast U.S. capable of handling some of the more demanding maintenance issues with this unique aircraft,” Dunn wrote. “The extra burden that the F-22’s impose on Eglin AFB can be easily served on Tyndall AFB, freeing up Eglin’s airmen to prepare for their next F-35 squadron.”
Dunn also mentioned the training “schoolhouse,” with its simulators and faculty, are still at Tyndall. This forces many personnel to commute four hours round trip on an almost daily basis for training, which would be a cost addressed by the temporary relocation of the F-22 squadron back to Tyndall.
“I am sure you remember Bay County has a uniquely deep love of Tyndall AFB from your time stationed here,” Dunn continued. “The continued sound of the F-22’s over Bay County would do wonders for morale as the community rebuilds.”
Departing Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced in December that Tyndall would be the future home to three squadrons of F-35s. These squadrons will bring in as many as 72 aircraft to the base by 2023 when it is scheduled to be totally rebuilt.
Mast attacks BDS
The Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) issue played out in the House recently with the passage of a resolution condemning the movement. This week’s controversy surrounding Omar and Tlaib brought the issue to the forefront.
Palm City Republican Brian Mast praised that vote, which was 398-17, but also wants the House to go further. He recently filed a discharge petition attempting to force the House to vote on a Senate bill, which empowers state and local governments to adopt laws that divest public funds from entities that boycott Israel.
“Together, we can ensure anti-Semitism and the BDS movement has no home here in the United States,” Mast said in a release. “I will do everything I can to oppose this hateful movement!”
Mast did not immediately react to the controversy surrounding Israel’s refusal to allow the two lawmakers to enter the country.
The Senate bill, sponsored by Rubio, passed February 5 by a bipartisan vote of 77-23.
Keeping home care affordable?
Home health care represents a significant industry in Florida, a retirement haven. But Francis Rooney says a wrong interpretation of a labor rule means many patients can’t absorb the cost of paying overtime home nurses overtime. Now the Naples Republican hopes a new Acting Secretary in the Department of Labor, Patrick Pizzella will right a perceived wrong.
“We must ensure that families have access to affordable in-home companion service,” Rooney said. “I recently led the efforts in Congress to ask the administration to overturn a ruling made in 2013 that went against the intent established by Congress many decades ago.
The issue dates back to 2013 when the Labor Department under President Barack Obama effectively repealed the Companion Services Exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act. That meant home health care workers could start charging for hours worked beyond 40 hours a week.
But Rooney said there’s a reason Congress decades ago exempted the field from overtime requirements. The unpredictability of home health care, along with burdens placed on patients and families rather than business owners, means there have been significant consequences to the rule change. And a Congressional exemption has already been upheld by a unanimous Supreme Court decision.
“Families have many things to manage, and we should not exacerbate the already significant pressure of home care,” Rooney said. “We have to ensure that the elderly and disabled individuals in our communities have access to affordable companion care.”
Deutch touts school safety
Gun control and school safety are often linked in discussions surrounding mass shootings at public schools, but a news conference in South Florida this week centered on the latter. Deutch, one of the leading voices on enacting gun restrictions, was among those participating in the briefing held at BB&T Center in Sunrise.
The Boca Raton Democrat, who represents the Parkland area, has not abandoned the need for more legislation on guns but focused on two bills he believes can emerge from Congress and head to Trump’s desk. One is the EAGLES Act he co-sponsored with Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart, while the other is the School Violence Prevention and Mitigation Act.
Among those attending the news conference, held on the first day of the school year, were some of the parents who lost children at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“I know that this is an incredibly difficult day for you,” Deutch said to the families. “Every one of you lost a loved one who should have been starting a new school year.”
The School Violence Prevention and Mitigation Act would award grants to those schools that install safety measures such as panic alarms. The EAGLES Act would expand the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center to help stop potential attacks on schools.
“We know there is bipartisan support for these plans and it is time for us to act,” Deutch said.
Among the co-sponsors for the prevention and mitigation bill are Shalala and Delray Beach Democrat Alcee Hastings. In addition to Deutch and Diaz-Balart, those co-sponsoring the EAGLES Act include Democrats Shalala, Hastings, Charlie Crist and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, along with Republican John Rutherford.
Mucarsel-Powell: wall ‘not happening’
Another clash on border wall funding seems to be on the horizon. According to reports, Senate Republicans are seeking to put $5 billion less into the recently agreed-upon spending bill and diverting some of that funding to the wall.
According to those reports, the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Alabama Republican Richard Shelby, is marking up a spending bill that would include wall funding. This has infuriated many House Democrats, including Mucarsel-Powell.
“Across the country, families can’t afford #HeathCare, school buildings are crumbling & underpaid teachers finance their own supplies,” she tweeted. Now the GOP thinks we should take money from health care & education to fund their ineffective border wall? Not happening.”
Earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to proceed with their border construction plan using some funds from the Department of Defense. In this case, the House would most certainly refuse to go along with a final deal that would create a budget line for wall funding.
Mucarsel-Powell’s “not happening” line spoke for the Democratic caucus.
On this day
August 16, 2000 — Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman formally accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for Vice President of the United States. He became the first member of the Jewish faith to run for the office, joining the ticket with presidential nominee Sen. Al Gore.
Before Lieberman’s acceptance speech, the convention formally nominated the Gore-Lieberman ticket with Florida having the prearranged honor of putting Gore over the top. Some indicated it was a move designed to keep Floridians happy after Sen. Bob Graham was bypassed for the No. 2 slot in favor of Lieberman.
August 16, 2015 — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is proposing a significant change to the nation’s immigration laws. He has proposed ending the granting of automatic citizenship to any child born in this country, no matter the citizenship of the child’s parents. The 14th Amendment (passed in 1868) grants automatic citizenship to babies born in the U.S.
I have better sand
A friendly battle on Twitter broke out this week between Gaetz and Crist. Gaetz, a Republican from Fort Walton Beach, expressed pride in the beauty of his Panhandle district. He tweeted a seven-second video of a sandy beach on the Gulf of Mexico.
“My district is prettier than your district. #FL1” was the simple message.
The following day, Crist offered a rebuttal. His tweet included a photo of Clearwater Beach.
— Rep. Charlie Crist (@RepCharlieCrist) August 14, 2019
The President did not weigh in.