Delegation for 2.5.21: Greene — GOP leader? — Gaetz loss — PTSD — loan relief

capitol u.s. green 9.30.19
It's not easy being Greene.

Not easy knowing Greene

First-term members rarely hold tremendous sway in the halls of Congress, which is part of why members of an incoming class often form such a bond.

Besides an understanding that comes from arriving on the hill at a political point in time, relationships develop in orientation can lead to cooperation on legislation down the road.

Of course, even newcomers can spark a media firestorm.

Thus it appeared as last week’s headlines became dominated by Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene. The one-time QAnon acolyte and Parkland hoaxer arrived in Washington with a reputation for giving voice to the fringe of American politics. Controversy arose when Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy appointed Greene to the Budget and Education and Labor Committees. The ensuing backlash culminated in a 230-199 nearly party-line House vote to strip her of those assignments.

It’s not easy being (Marjorie Taylor) Greene.

Greene became the only freshman to speak on the House floor on the punitive resolution. There, she distanced herself from QAnon, painting herself a victim of online misinformation she ultimately rejected. Showing contrition after a video surfaced of her stalking Parkland survivor David Hogg in Washington — calling him a “coward” — Greene broadcast empathy Thursday.

She described an incident from her high school years when an armed student took her campus hostage.

“I know the fear David Hogg had that day,” she said of the (completely not-staged) mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The appeal earned support from her caucus, even as many decried her past remarks and some suggested future comments while in office might deserve discipline.

How do Greene’s freshman classmates feel about the Congresswoman, her service in the House, and her provocateur reputation? Is she what Republicans stand for today? Should she receive the attention showered upon her? Did she deserve to lose her committee seats?

Rep. Carlos Giménez, a Miami Republican, referred to a tweet he issued earlier this week: “Comments made by Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, including spreading conspiracy theories about the Parkland shooting, are disturbing,” he posted. But he left any decisions of her committee assignments to leadership. “Leader McCarthy will be speaking to her this week, and I look forward to hearing the outcome.”

Ultimately, Giménez and Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, both first-year Miami Republicans, were among 11 Republicans to join Democrats in voting to remove her from committees. Longtime Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart also joined in repudiating a member of his Party.

“Voting against a member of your own party is never easy,” Salazar said in a statement, “but everyone in Congress must be held to the same high standard. As I have repeatedly criticized [Minnesota Democratic Rep.] Ilhan Omar for her anti-Semitic comments, I had to hold Marjorie Taylor Greene accountable for her denial of the Parkland Massacre, the Flight 77 crash, and accusing a Jewish family of starting the California wildfires. From now on, I will hold every Democrat to this new standard that they have created.”

Rep. Byron Donalds, a Naples Republican, came (somewhat) to Greene’s defense.

“In our constitutional republic, the only litmus test that matters is the vote of the constituents you wish to represent,” he said. “D.C. elites aren’t the ones to decide who gets to hold elected office. We live in a republic, not an aristocracy. We need to stop canceling conservatives and recognize legitimate threats to our national security roaming around the Capitol. One of these threats is Congressman Eric Swalwell, and this is not a conspiracy theory. No member of Congress should be allowed to sit on the House Intelligence Committee after being caught in a compromising position with a Chinese spy. Congressman Swalwell’s actions would play well in The Manchurian Candidate but not in Congress — if anyone should lose their Committee assignment, it’s him.”

Republican Rep. Kat Cammack of Gainesville said it’s time to look toward the future and not dwell on Greene’s past remarks.

“Rep. Greene apologized to our colleagues on the House Floor and stated that she is ready to move on. I, too, am ready to move forward and work on the issues that brought us to Washington,” Cammack said. “The voters of Georgia’s 14th Congressional District deserve to have a member with full rights and privileges representing them, and the majority is taking away those rights. More importantly, Speaker Pelosi’s move to strip a member of the minority party of her committee memberships is a perfect example of the Left’s blatant hypocrisy that runs rampant in the Democratic Caucus. This is just a distraction from the issues that really matter, such as passing another $2 trillion COVID relief package when more than $1.3 trillion sits unused.”

Rep. Scott Franklin condemned Greene’s past remarks but did not think committee assignments were the appropriate avenue for punishment.

“I fully condemn past comments made by my colleague from Georgia. QAnon, racism and violence must be rejected and have no place in America,” he said. “The comments made by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green prior to her election to Congress were wholly inappropriate. She delivered unequivocal denunciations of her past statements and expressed remorse to her freshman colleagues, the House Republican Conference, and the American public on the House floor. The proper judge and jury of her actions are the voters of the 14th District of Georgia. The precedent set today by House Democrats is not applied equally to Members on their side of the aisle. This action is a hypocritical attempt to further divide and distract Americans instead of working to address the global pandemic and restore our economy.”

Real Republican leader?

How much influence does Sen Marco Rubio hold with peers? Quite a bit, according to the latest analysis by GovTrack.

The annual report from the Congress-watching site listed Florida’s senior Senator as No. 2 in terms of leadership in the chamber, behind Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey. The rankings grade senators based on who has demonstrated an ability to bring on co-sponsors to legislation.

The rankings come with an explainer/disclaimer that this only looks at some quantifiable measures to put a number on leadership. “A higher or lower number below doesn’t necessarily make a legislator any better or worse, or more or less effective, than other members of Congress. We present these statistics for you to understand the quantitative aspects of legislating and make your own judgments based on what legislative activities you think are important.

Marco Rubio wields some power, so says GovTrack. Image via AP.

The same listing puts Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at No. 47 and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell at No. 71.

But Rubio has always done well in the GovTrack rankings. He also came in No. 2 in 2020 and 2019, No. 4 in 2018 and No. 5 in 2017.

This year, GovTrack noted Rubio’s role in creating the Paycheck Protection Program, which former Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Holtz-Eakin called “the single most effective fiscal policy ever undertaken by the United States Government.”

Dissing Wiss

Sen. Rick Scott castigated a Washington law firm working for the Venezuelan government in sharp terms, calling for a refund of the $6 million paid out via Petróleos de Venezuela, a former state-owned Venezuelan oil company.

“Your choice to represent a dangerous dictator who is against everything this country was built on has consequences, and I urge you to be transparent as to your actions on behalf of the regime, return these funds, and rethink working for Maduro or other murderous regimes in the future,” wrote Sen. Rick Scott to Miami Democratic donor Marcia Wiss’ Washington law firm, Wiss & Partners.

Rick Scott wants a refund. Image via AP.

Wiss told The Associated Press her firm only offered “legal services” and did not lobby for the Nicolas Maduro government. But Scott’s correspondence ignored any such distinctions as immaterial. Scott’s letter to Wiss starts by denying her central assertion.

“It has recently come to my attention that your firm was hired for $6 million in 2017 by Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government in Venezuela to lobby on its behalf against U.S. sanctions. If true, this news is shocking and extremely concerning,” the Senator wrote.

“No business in the United States should have any contact with Maduro’s government, let alone willingly take money to represent its interests or lobby on its behalf. It is inexplicable. Further, the lengthy delay in the required public reporting that mentioned your relationship with Maduro’s government is concerning and unacceptable,” Scott said.

Notably, as far as public documents show, Scott never called on former state Rep. David Rivera to return the $50 million he got from the same entity.

A blow to Gaetz

A lopsided vote to keep Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney as the No. 3 Republican in the House signaled a political blow to Matt Gaetz. After speaking at a rally in Cheney’s home state, the Panhandle Republican became the face of a national schism between Republicans still devoted to former President Donald Trump and those anxious for a future without him. But a caucus vote Wednesday broke 145-61 in Cheney’s favor, with Cheney herself voting present.

So naturally, Gaetz’s first move was to rush to Greene’s defense.

Matt Gaetz takes a blow. Image via Twitter.

“Tonight, the GOP decided to keep Rep. Liz Cheney,” he tweeted. “Tomorrow, the Dems will boot Rep. Marjory Taylor Greene from her committees. Both decisions reinforce the power of Washington. It encourages me to go out into America and call attention to changes needed in both parties, so the voters are respected.”

Meanwhile, Cheney remains House Republican Conference Chair, where she heads the organization of all GOP members.

Cheney drew ire from Trump supporters when she cast one of 10 GOP votes to impeach the President following The Capitol riots. However, Gaetz has called for her removal for months for supporting a primary challenge to incumbent Kentucky Republican Thomas Massie last year.

A crackdown on UF research?

A Department of Justice investigation resulted in the indictment of a former University of Florida researcher allegedly concealing a relationship with China while applying for federal grants. Gainesville Republican Cammack wants a crackdown in U.S. universities on visiting scientists with ties to the communist government.

Lin Yang of Tampa faces six counts of wire fraud and four counts of lying to a federal agency after landing $1.75 million in National Institutes of Health funding while concealing support he also received from the Chinese Communist Party.

Kat Cammack is protesting China’s oppression — by wearing only masks made by U.S. ally Taiwan. Image via Twitter.

Cammack said the news upset her but came as little shock.

“This news is alarming, but it’s hardly a surprise that CCP operatives are actively undermining our domestic institutions,” Cammack said. “For too long, we have allowed agents of the People’s Republic of China to attend our schools, work at our corporations, and serve within our government agencies. We have even allowed known propaganda-linked organizations such as the Confucius Institute and the Thousand Talents Program to operate within our borders.

“We will not tolerate spying from the CCP, period.”

She also promised to back any additional oversight required.

“As the Representative hailing from Gainesville — home to UF — I will ensure proper coordination between the university and DOJ to maintain a continual oversight role as this case moves forward,” she said. “We must ensure that our academic institutions are not violated by foreign agents ever again. I will work with my colleagues to prevent incidents like this from happening in the future.”

She also tweeted about how she will conduct her daily protest on China’s oppression by wearing masks made in Taiwan. Cammack’s office explained that Taiwan is one of America’s strongest allies, and the masks demonstrate a resolve to always defend the nation against the growing threats from mainland China.

Israel & PTSD

American and Israeli researchers long shared research assets on the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorders. Now, St. Augustine Republican Michael Waltz has introduced bipartisan legislation to firm up that relationship. The Congressman was part of a group of lawmakers, many of them veterans, behind the United States-Israel PTSD Collaborative Research Act, which would leverage assets from both nations to develop best practices regarding PTSD diagnosis and treatment, including by establishing a grant program for U.S. universities and nonprofits to team up with Israeli counterparts.

“Thousands of warfighters often struggle to find normalcy after returning home from combat deployments,” Waltz said. “Through no fault of their own, PTSD does not discriminate and can inflict many of these service members as a natural response. Congress has a responsibility to these brave men and women to find solutions to alleviate the trauma caused by PTSD.”

Michael Waltz wants more cooperation between the U.S. and Israel on PTSD research. Image via AP.

Other sponsors include Virginia Democrat Elaine Luria, Pennsylvania Democrat Chrissy Houlahan and New York Republican Lee Zeldin. Senators Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, and Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, will run the upper chamber bill.

The research could be especially valuable to the Department of Veterans Affairs, which reports 11% to 20% of veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom end up with PTSD.

“Too many of our bravest men and women come home with invisible wounds from the trauma they experienced while fighting for our country,” Luria said. “Congress can uphold its end of the promise by facilitating groundbreaking research to find treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder. The United States-Israel PTSD Collaborative Research Act will help achieve this important goal by promoting cooperation between American and Israeli institutions to develop innovative cures for this condition.”

Special ops members

Waltz, a former Army Green Beret who still serves as a colonel in the Army National Guard, was also appointed Thursday to the House panel overlooking military intelligence and special operations. He now sits on two subcommittees of the House Armed Services Committee for the 117th Congress: the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, which he continues from the 116th Congress; and the Intelligence and Special Operations, a new assignment.

Michael Waltz and Stephanie Murphy both sit on the newly established Special Ops committee.

Joining him on the newly-constituted Special Ops committee is Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy. A former Department of Defense analyst, Murphy has had several bipartisan, cooperative efforts with Waltz over the past couple of years.

“I look forward to bringing my experiences as a special forces officer and advocate of military space programs to help strengthen our nuclear triad, empower our special forces in the field, grow the Space Force, upgrade our missile and missile defense systems, and most importantly ensure we maintain a strategic edge of China,” Waltz said.

Murphy also got assigned to the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces.

Student loan relief

Kissimmee Democrat Darren Soto is leading the youth-wing Future Forum Caucus plea that Congress include student loan debt relief in any COVID-19 relief package.

Future Forum Caucus Chair Soto, Chair Emeritus Murphy and the caucus’ vice-chairs sent letters to the majority and minority leaders in both the Senate and the House on the matter. Their letter noted the debt is in the range of $1.6 trillion.

Student loan debt is too damn high, says Darren Soto.

“The burden led by America’s youth should weigh heavily on us all,” Soto said in a news release issued by the caucus. “It is our responsibility to future generations with the tools they need to pursue the American dream.

Honoring a brother in blue

The Capitol riots on Dec. 6 created high emotion for many members, but for Orlando Democrat Val Demings, the loss of a Capitol Police officer remained an intense price. The former Orlando Police Officer, whose husband Jerry Demings previously served as Orange County Sheriff and now serves as Orlando Mayor, said she’d attended more police funerals than she cares to count.

During a speech on the House floor, Demings expressed anger at those in the Chamber who she felt sparked the emotion behind the riot. As President Donald Trump maintained the election was stolen, she said, a large section of Republicans backed “The Big Lie,” she said.

Val Demings joins the rest of Congress in honoring the sacrifice of Brian Sicknick. It’s not her first police funeral. Image via Getty.

“But Brian Sicknick remembered his oath,” she said. “If we want to honor his life, all of us should follow his example.”

Of course, the comments come as the Senate prepares for Trump’s impeachment trial for inciting the attempted insurrection in which Sicknick died.

Bets on

Tampa Bay Democrats Charlie Crist and Kathy Castor are on board with a friendly wager with Kansas City Representatives Emanuel Cleaver and Sharice Davids based on Super Bowl LV’s outcome.

The deal — if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take the title, Cleaver and Davids must provide Kansas City’s world-famous barbecue. If the Chiefs wins, the Tampa members will provide local Latin guava pastries, flan and Cuban sandwiches.

Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist place their bets.

The losing pair will also have to wear the opposing team’s masks on the House Floor when Congress returns.

This year’s Super Bowl will be the first in NFL history where the host city has its team in the game, with Tampa hosting the Buccaneers.

Although celebrations may look a little different this year, trash talk is still on the table.

“As the confetti begins to fall on Patrick Mahomes and the rest of the Chief champions on Sunday night, the only thing I’ll savor more than a second Lombardi trophy is the delectable desserts provided by my good friends, Rep. Castor and Crist,” Cleaver said.

“I hope my esteemed colleagues from Kansas City are ready to rock the right shade of red on the House floor,” Crist threw back. “The Lombardi Trophy isn’t leaving Tampa Bay.” 

Inoculating hospice workers

Front-line health care workers were the first in Florida to receive COVID-19 vaccines. But what about hospice workers? Sarasota Republican Vern Buchanan sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis demanding these providers get their shot at shots.

“According to the Florida Hospice and Palliative Care Association, a majority of our state’s 20,000 front-line hospice workers have been unable to receive the vaccine to date,” Buchanan wrote. “This is not only concerning for the safety of these critical care workers, their loved ones, and the already vulnerable patients they serve, but could also serve as a significant barrier to essential health care services for those in need.”

Vern Buchanan calls on Ron DeSantis to pick up the pace. Image via Twitter.

The delegation go-chair said that unlike most health care workers, hospice caregivers don’t all have a single place of employment.

“Despite the important role they play and officially being deemed ‘essential’ by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, many hospice workers have found it difficult to gain access to the coronavirus vaccine, at least in part because they do not work from a single centralized location,” Buchanan wrote. “Unlike doctors and nurses, hospice employees care for patients in a variety of different settings including people’s homes, assisted living facilities and nursing homes.”

The COVID-19 crisis has touched Buchanan’s office directly. Longtime Buchanan aide Gary Tibbetts died in July from the virus, the first Congressional staffer claimed by the pandemic.

Donalds dishes

Less than a month into his first term in the House, Naples Republican Donalds gave his first-floor speech. The timely topic was the dramatic spending increases being considered in the COVID-19 relief package. He expressed frustration at a lack of cooperation with Republicans as the Democratic plan comes together.

“As this budget resolution has come forth, there’s been no sharing of ideas,” he said. “We’ve seen a general framework coming from the Biden administration calling for $1.9 trillion. But that completely flies in the fact that there is a trillion dollars that this very body in the last Congress appropriated — last year — that is still unspent. That money has not gone out the door.”

The concerns are similar to those Donalds raised in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy earlier in the week about the budget reconciliation process and whether it will involve cramming through massive spending increases with little debate.

McCarthy also restated his opinion that the only reason economic stimulus and “blue state bailouts” remain desires only because Democratic states haven’t moved out of coronavirus lockdowns like Florida. “Because their Governors and their Mayors have refused to reopen their economies. If you want to stimulate something, actually let the American people get back to work,” he said on the floor.

To watch Donalds’ House floor speech, click on the image below:

School safety

Florida delegation members offered to back to the Luke and Alex School Safety Act, a federal proposal to codify the Federal Clearinghouse on School Safety.

“As we work to end the pandemic and return to a normal school year for our students, we must build school safety into the process,” said Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch, whose district encompassed the site of the 2018 Parkland shooting. “Now, not after another tragedy, is the time to pass this bill to keep our students safe.”

That clearinghouse provides information to communities regarding best practices for school security measures. The information aims to help parents, teachers and school administrators know what works when it comes to school safety. The effort is named after Luke Hoyer and Alex Schachter, who lost their lives in the Parkland attack.

Ted Deutch seeks a one-stop clearinghouse for school safety information.

Deutch’s Democratic colleague Murphy also backs the legislation. “Students shouldn’t have to fear for their lives when they go to school, and parents shouldn’t have to worry about whether their kids will come home at the end of the day,” she said.

But the bill is bipartisan, courting support from Miami Republican Mario Díaz-Balart and Jacksonville John Rutherford.

“As we approach the third anniversary of the Parkland shooting, one thing remains at the forefront of my priorities: doing all that I can to promote, enhance and increase school safety,” Díaz-Balart said. “This bill creates an all-inclusive site for schools, families, and community officials to obtain valuable information on school safety resources and best practices.”

Added Rutherford, “Every child deserves to feel safe in school.”

The measure will also incentivize federal agencies to connect with state officials promoting access to the clearinghouse information. Federal agencies will also review existing school safety grant programs to find which federal funds do not currently support clearinghouse suggestions.

On this day

Feb. 5, 1917 — “Immigration act passed over President Woodrow Wilson’s veto” via History.com — With more than a two-thirds majority, Congress overrides President Wilson’s veto of the previous week and passes the Immigration Act. The law required a literacy test for immigrants and barred Asiatic laborers, except for those from countries with special treaties or agreements with the United States, such as the Philippines. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the United States received a majority of the world’s immigrants, with 1.3 million immigrants passing through New York’s Ellis Island in 1907 alone. Various restrictions had been applied against immigrants since the 1890s, but most of those seeking entrance into the United States were accepted.

Feb. 5, 1937 — “Franklin D. Roosevelt unveils ‘court-packing’ plan” via the Federal Judicial Center — After winning the 1936 presidential election in a landslide, President Roosevelt proposed a bill to expand the membership of the Supreme Court. The law would have added one justice to the Court for each justice over the age of 70, with a maximum of six additional justices. Roosevelt’s motive was clear — to shape the Court’s ideological balance so it would cease striking down his New Deal legislation. Congress never enacted the law, and Roosevelt lost a great deal of political support for having proposed it. Shortly after the President made the plan public, however, the Court upheld several government regulations of the type it had formerly found unconstitutional.

Staff Reports



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