Delegation for 2.9.21: Florida Man impeachment — Iran deal? — Cuba — riot poem — Tricare

u.s. capitol GREEN
Florida Man gets impeached, again.

Impeachment redux

Florida Man Donald Trump — faces a second Senate impeachment trial beginning Tuesday.

It’s a historic event for several reasons. Most notably, it is the first time Congress has proceeded with an impeachment article against a former President no longer in office, but also of a chief executive who already survived an impeachment attempt once, that of a Florida resident, voter and retiree.

But beyond the Mar-a-Lago home address of the one-time commander in chief, additional Florida angles turn out to be harder to come by on a story otherwise suitable for a Carl Hiaasen novel.

Senators will endure a recap of the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, an event that featured a few Florida men engaged in the attempted insurrection.

There may be accounts of the motives of zip-tie guy Erik Munchel, a former employee at a popular Fort Myers Beach bar.

Perhaps Congress will explore Adam Johnson’s actions, the Parrish man mugging for social media while pilfering Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern.

Florida Man gets impeached, again. Image via AP.

Nevertheless, House impeachment managers won’t include a single Florida Representative.

No fill-in for Val Demings, the Orlando Democrat who made the case against Trump in 2020, or Bill McCollum, the Orlando Republican who walked over charges against President Bill Clinton in 1999.

Unlike in the last Trump trial. when former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi played a major role in the previous defense team, Trump’s attorneys will not represent his adopted home state.

Only two Floridians with a vote on conviction, Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, left little room for speculation on where they lean.

Both were clear in a procedural vote that they consider it unconstitutional to hold a trial to remove a President whose term already expired.

Rubio called the event a “waste of time” while Scott dubbed it “political theater.”

Considering it needs a two-thirds vote of Senators to follow through with any such “removal,” and that 45 Senators voted the trial shouldn’t happen, it seems a hill to climb.

The most important question over the next few days may not be what happens to Trump in the trial, but to what degree Republicans demure to the unseated world leader.

A total of seven Senators, including Scott, voted against certifying at least some of the votes giving President Joe Biden his Electoral College victory over Trump.

But more than half of House Republicans, including 12 of 16 Florida GOP Representatives, stuck with objections to Biden’s victory — even after rioters attempted to overthrow the election results.

Ire over Iran Deal

Few foreign policy differences show the current fault lines in U.S. politics as the disagreement over the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action, better known as the “Iran Nuclear Deal.”

Scott has been at the forefront of GOP efforts to denounce any return to a Barack Obama-era policy. He sponsored a resolution, joined by Senate colleagues Joni Ernst of Iowa and Kevin Kramer of North Dakota, expressing opposition and urging President Biden to abandon the deal as written.

Rick Scott is again complaining about reentering the Iran Nuclear Deal. Image via AP.

“President Trump was right to abandon the reckless Iran nuclear deal that President Obama got us into, and I’m proud my colleagues joined me today to oppose rejoining this deal without major changes,” Scott said. “The sanctions the Trump administration levied on Iran are working and must remain in place until Iran fully cooperates, and their ability to develop nuclear weapons and produce ballistic missiles is permanently removed. President Biden must be responsible about this and work with Congress to protect national security and the interests of America and our great ally Israel.”

The Naples Republican also seemed unimpressed with news out of Tehran that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei won’t live up to its side of the deal unless the U.S. lifts Trump-era sanctions.

“The U.S. won’t just take the word of a terrorist-sponsoring regime to be on its best behavior. Iran can’t be trusted, and President Biden must hold strong on sanctions,” Scott tweeted. “This only further confirms the Ayatollah’s disconnection from reality and why we cannot reenter the disastrous Iran deal.”

Cuba’s future

The U.S. relationship with Cuba has long loomed large for Rubio. The Cuban American Republican heavily criticized Obama’s efforts at normalizing Cuban relations. He also was widely credited with setting much of the Trump administration’s Latin American policy throughout the Western Hemisphere.

So what role will Florida’s senior Senator play in Biden’s Washington? It seems unlikely any editorial boards will label him the Latin America Secretary of State. Still, in a Spanish language interview, he told Univision in an interview Monday that he hopes to be more than a scold.

“Even within some people who supported what Obama did with Cuba, they recognize that it didn’t work either,” Rubio said. “So what I’ve said is not to rule out measures simply because Trump did them.”

Marco Rubio still has an ax to grind with Cuba. Image via AP.

He’s already held conversations with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and stressed that hard lines are taken with Cuba, Venezuela and other nations by Trump are based on reason.

On Cuba specifically, Rubio stressed his intention isn’t to cut off travel or prevent U.S. support for the people on the island. The problem remains that with communist control of the island, little trickles down.

“The problem is that the Cuban government, especially the military, are the ones who benefit,” Rubio said. “They take a huge amount of money, which comes through the tickets they buy. They own all the big hotels, the tour companies, everything else. If there was a private sector in Cuba with small traders, really a large number of them, who were allowed to do business with the U.S. independent of the government, that would be something else. But this is not what exists.”

Bird’s eye view

Kissimmee Democrat Darren Soto doesn’t want Americans ever to forget the events of Jan. 6. On Monday, the Congressman said he’s filing legislation to designate the day as Capitol Insurrection Remembrance Day.

“On Jan. 6, 2021, at the direction of the former President, hundreds of insurgents breached Capitol grounds in an attempt to overthrow a free and fair election,” Soto said. “In doing so, the domestic terrorists sought not only to betray their country by disrupting a 230-year legacy of a peaceful transition of power but to destroy the American people’s trust in our democratic system. Their efforts to violently disrupt the constitutional duties of Congress resulted in five deaths, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who gave his last full measure of devotion to his country.”

Darren Doto turns to verse to relate his Capitol riot experience.

That the Congressman announced the bill just as a Senate trial on Trump’s impeachment can’t be coincidental. But this isn’t the first time Soto worked to make sure history recognized the riots. Last week, he released a poem he penned, “A Bird’s Eye View to Insurrection,” and read it in full on the floor.

In it, Soto gave an account of watching the day’s events unfold from the House gallery. The 1,017-word diatribe included details of all sorts and a bit of fiery partisanship.

“A President spewed hateful lies, violence was incited, and a fuse was lit/

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, stop/

Objections were raised, debates began, and passions heated/

A text reads, “Capitol Complex breached.”

Regardless of how Trump’s impeachment trial ends, Soto’s prose will remain a permanent part of the Congressional Record.

Citizens before terrorists

As Florida seniors stood in lines overnight to get some of the first shots of COVID-19 vaccines, Clearwater Republican Gus Bilirakis expressed anger at learning learn prisoners in Gitmo might get vaccinated first.

While the Department of Defense ultimately put a plan on hold to inoculate detainees at Guantánamo Bay, the Congressman introduced a bill that would require any vaccination of prisoners at the base to wait until every American has been afforded a chance at supplies.

Gitmo detainees getting vaccinated first? Not on Gus Bilirakis’ watch.

He introduced legislation with Iowa Republican Ashley Hinson and New York Republican Elise Stefanik. Notably, the Trump administration first rolled out the plan to send vaccines to Gitmo. Still, under Biden, officials briefly considered offering vaccines to those held at the prison voluntarily.

Bilirakis decried the folly of that plan.

Over the last month, I’ve seen how difficult it has been for seniors in my community to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine. These are grandparents who haven’t been able to leave their house or see their families for almost a year. They are moms and dads with serious health conditions who haven’t been able to work out of fear that if they contract the virus, they’ll die. In light of their suffering, we have been doing everything humanly possible to get them a safe and effective vaccine as quickly as we can — after all, it is their tax dollars [that] helped make the creation of this vaccine possible,” Bilirakis said. “The notion that this Administration would even consider prioritizing the vaccination of known terrorists before Americans who have already endured such hardship is frankly inconceivable to me, which is why I was eager to co-author this important legislation.”

Eyeing 2022

Longboat Key Republican Vern Buchanan officially launched his 2022 campaign with a fundraiser headlined by House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who spoke highly of Florida’s delegation co-chair at the Longboat Key Club event.

“We have a lot of great members in Florida but only one leader,” McCarthy said. “There’s no one that works harder than Vern. He does a great job representing his district and his constituents.”

Vern Buchanan prepares for a 2022 battle.

Buchanan, first elected in 2006 by a mere 369 votes, has already drawn fire from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Last week, the DCCC issued a news release when Buchanan voted against stripping controversial Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of committee assignments.

But the eight-term incumbent has faced DCCC-backed opponents before frequently. In 2020, he defeated Democrat Margaret Good by 11 percentage points. In 2018, he bested Democrat David Shapiro by 10. This year, it’s unclear who Democrats may put up a rechallenge the Congressman.

The Longboat Key Republican now serves as co-chair of the Florida congressional delegation, with Fort Lauderdale Democrat Alcee Hastings. He serves on the powerful House and Ways Committee, where he’s the Republican ranking member on the Trade Subcommittee.

The incumbent noted he and McCarthy both won election to the House as members of the same class.

“Kevin and I came into Congress at the same time in 2007 and have worked together on critical issues, such as securing our borders, promoting prosperity through low taxes, and reducing the federal debt,” Buchanan said. “We have a lot of work ahead, not the least of which is pushing back against Nancy Pelosi’s radical agenda and the Biden administration‘s lack of bipartisan outreach.”

Tricare expansion

Sarasota Republican Greg Steube also will focus on veterans this Congress, and Friday filed several pieces of legislation focused on soldiers. Those include efforts to modernize the GI Bill and streamline medical billing for the VA.

The VA Fiscal Responsibility Act would direct the department to put a fresh-round of scrutiny on billings and collections to make sure veterans don’t wrongfully have to foot the bill when a third-party handles payments. The Modern GI Bill would allow soldiers who enlisted in the post-9/11 era to use the higher education funding available to those enlisting to cover student loans predating military service. Finally, the Veterans’ True Choice Act would open Tricare Select and Tricare For Life health insurance to service-connected veterans while also expanding health insurance options for all veterans.

Greg Steube vows to fight for veterans struggling with the VA.

“Our nation’s heroes deserve our support, and this legislation will alleviate some of the struggles they face,” Steube said. “Every year I have been in elected office, I have filed bills to support our Veterans and their families because they gave up our freedom to defend ours. I am thankful for the progress we made in bettering life for our veterans so far, and I look forward to continuing that progress in the 117th Congress.”

Vet vaccines

After news reports that a Veterans Affairs in West Palm Beach was turning away veterans seeking COVID-19 vaccinations, Stuart Republican Brian Mast led a letter Monday calling for the federal agency to do better.

“No veteran should be prevented from receiving a COVID 19 vaccination simply because they are not currently enrolled in the eight priority groups established by VA regulation,” the letter reads. “For as long as the federally administered COVID 19 program is providing vaccination at no cost to patients, VA medical facilities should provide those vaccinations at no cost to veteran patients in accordance with CDC and state guidelines.”

Brian Mast is fighting to put veterans at the front of the COVID-19 vaccine line.

Also signing the letter is eight other Florida delegation members, including Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch, Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart, Sarasota Republican Steube, Naples Republican Byron Donalds, Clearwater Republican Gus Bilirakis, St. Augustine Republican Michael Waltz, Lakeland Republican Scott Franklin and Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz.

Last week, officials with the administration told The Palm Beach Post the issue for many veterans stems from a 2006 law restricting access to services. While the COVID-19 vaccine is being offered for free to those age 65 and older in Florida, the VA can only treat veterans making under a certain income, presuming the individuals weren’t already receiving ongoing services when that limit was put in place. Many veterans in that older age bracket haven’t relied on the VA for years but have recently turned to the agency to secure vaccines.

Positing Putin

Boca Raton Democrat Alcee Hastings said his attention and concern over Vladimir Putin’s quashing of dissent only grows with the Russian President’s recent actions. The Congressman chairs the U.S. Helsinki Commission — a federal entity focused on security and alliances in Europe, which has raised alarms over the recent detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

In January, the commission condemned Navalny’s detainment in Moscow, which occurred soon after Navalny returned to Russia from Germany after recovering from a poisoning attempt. Hastings noted intelligence via the Helsinki Commission suggests Putin’s administration was behind the attempted assassination.

Alcee Hastings casts his eye to Vladimir Putin’s quashing dissent.

When Putin’s government sentenced Navalny to more than two years in prison, Hastings released a statement:

“Those who uncover the Kremlin’s corruption and demand more accountable government for the Russian people often pay with their freedom — or their lives. After the scheme to kill Alexei Navalny failed, Putin is now trying to silence him with a prison sentence. This mockery of justice is a grave insult to Mr. Navalny and to all Russians who wish to exercise their freedoms without fear of abuse.”

From DWS to KGJ

Ian Rayder, a former senior adviser to Sunrise Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz, became the fourth principal partner at the Klein/Johnson Group. The bipartisan lobbying firm, founded by Izzy Klein and Matt Johnson, announced the move Monday.

Rayder comes into the job with 15 years of government experience under his belt, most recently as the Deputy Secretary of State for Colorado. But he also worked 10 years in the House in a variety of capacities, including as a staffer in the Chief Democratic Whip’s Office.

A Debbie Wasserman Schultz senior adviser leaves for greener pastures.

Rayder also worked on staff for House Appropriations, Budget and Steering and Policy committees, giving him a pretty solid grasp of the chamber’s inner workings. He will be based in the firm’s Colorado office and help clients navigate the annals of Congress.

“I look forward to joining the Klein/Johnson Group and helping a wide range of clients navigate the burgeoning technology and aerospace sectors as well as the ever-complex appropriations landscape on Capitol Hill,” he said. “Through my expertise in state government in Colorado, to my in-house experience representing Cisco Systems and the Denver International Airport, I am excited to bring my diverse background to such a reputable firm. Above all, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Izzy, Matt, and the incredible and growing roster of clients at Klein/Johnson.”

GrayRobinson hires Hancock

Elizabeth “Blair” Hancock, fresh off a gig in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, joined GrayRobinson as a legislative consultant in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office. Former House Speaker Dean Cannon, the firm’s president and CEO, announced the University of Florida grad’s hire.

“Blair’s network and knowledge from serving inside both our nation’s and Florida’s Capitol will be a valuable asset to our clients,” Cannon said. “We are excited to have her as a part of our team, and we look forward to seeing her continue to develop her career here at GrayRobinson.”

Hancock will focus on governmental relations strategies at the state and federal level, leveraging her contacts in HUD and at the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations. “Since I started my career, I’ve had the great fortuity to be a part of both public and private sector teams, where I was able to build a wide network of relationships at the federal and state level of government,” Hancock said. “In the political world, connectivity, strategy and access is everything — and I couldn’t be more proud to have this opportunity to join such an esteemed team.”

On This Day

Feb. 9, 1825 —The House of Representatives elected John Quincy Adams as President” via U.S. House of Representatives History, Art & Archives — Following an inconclusive Electoral College result, the House performed the constitutionally prescribed role of deciding the 1824 presidential election. Andrew Jackson of Tennessee had won the popular vote and commanded 99 electoral votes. Following him in the electoral tally was Adams (84), Treasury Secretary William Crawford (41), and Speaker of the House Henry Clay (37). Clay was excluded from the House vote because he did not finish in the top three. However, the wily Kentuckian still played a decisive role by supporting Adams, who he knew shared his nationalist agenda.

Feb. 9, 1909 — “The U.S. War on Drugs commences” via O’Shaughnessy’s Online — Congress passed the Opium Exclusion Act, barring the importation of opium for smoking. Thus began a hundred-year crusade that has unleashed unprecedented crime, violence and corruption worldwide — a war with no victory in sight. Long accustomed to federal drug control, most Americans are unaware that there was once a time when people were free to buy any drug, including opium, cocaine and cannabis, at the pharmacy. In that bygone era, drug-related crime and violence were largely unknown, and drug use was not a major public concern.

Staff Reports



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