Delegation for 2.19.21: Citizenship — equality — Paris — Ivanka — vote-by-mail

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Immigration will be the first real test of the Joe Biden administration.

Charting citizenship path

Amid accusations from the right and dismay from the left, President Joe Biden released a sweeping immigration overhaul. Within the Florida delegation, reactions came swiftly and broke down in partisan fashion, drawing fire even from Republicans who favor reform.

On the enthusiastic side, Rep. Darren Soto, a Kissimmee Democrat and an original co-sponsor, praised the legislation as an immediate shift from the hard-line policies of President Donald Trump, who rode to office on nationalist angst about border control.

Joe Biden’s immigration policy will be narrower, more targeted. Image via AP.

“It’s a new day for Latinos and immigrant communities across America,” Soto said. “After four years of President Trump’s unrelenting agenda of hatred and xenophobia against immigrants, we can now rest assured that we will have an immigration system centered on humanity, unity and opportunity. The priorities laid forth in the U.S. Citizenship Act are a reflection of the critical role immigrant communities play in the prosperity and social fabric of our nation.”

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, as drafted, contains a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants within the U.S. and provisions to protect DREAMers and Temporary Protected Status individuals from abrupt deportation. It also calls for reforms regarding how Border Patrol enforces the law, requiring detained families to be kept together and forbidding discrimination against LGBTQ migrants. It approves family-sponsorship petitions allowing immigrants to come to the U.S. on green cards. The bill notably includes improved employee verification processes and access to workers who want to report labor violations. Existing one-year deadlines would be eliminated under the bill.

“It’s time to heal the divides in our country, protect our DREAMer and TPS neighbors, bring people out of the shadows, make our immigration system fair and transparent, and secure our border while retaining our humanity,” said Rep. Val Demings, an Orlando Democrat backing the bill.

But to Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican, the legislation appears to create more problems than it solves. He derided the legislation as a political non-starter.

“The United States is in urgent need of fixing our broken, outdated immigration system, and this has remained a top legislative priority for me in Congress,” he said. “I am dedicated to working with my colleagues toward common-sense legislation that upholds the Rule of Law, secures our borders to protect our national security and allows those living in the shadows to earn a way to get right with the law. Unfortunately, President Biden’s immigration plan is an unrealistic, purely partisan effort that neglects our national security and is unlikely to obtain enough support to become law. As always, I am committed to working with my colleagues in a bipartisan manner — something this administration has failed to do thus far.”

For the moment, there’s still no word from Sens. Marco Rubio or Rick Scott, Republicans who have favored aspects of the package like protecting TPS holders but also expressed concerns about incentivizing illegal immigration. And it’s in the 50-50 Senate where Biden may face the most significant obstacle getting the legislation from Congress to his desk.

Equality Act

Democrats are lining up quickly and enthusiastically behind the latest offering to extend full Civil Rights protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals.

Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, Kathy Castor of Tampa, Demings of Orlando, Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg, Soto of Kissimmee, and Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach were among the first to sign on as co-sponsors of this Congress’ Equality Act. It was filed Thursday by Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline in the House, and within a couple of hours, Florida’s Democrats were promoting it.

Similar bills have shown up in every Congress, but they died. The last Congress approved the Equality Act in the House but died in the Senate. Now Democrats supporting the bill have the House, the Senate and the White House. They see a chance for a big win on an issue that’s always been pretty partisan.

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley filed the companion in the Senate.

According to Equality Florida, the bill would provide further, broader, and potentially faster Civil Rights protections than those won by the LGBTQ community last summer when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia.

Deutch, a vice-chair of the House Equality Caucus, declared in a news release, “This community — our family, friends and neighbors — deserves the same rights that other Americans enjoy. I’m honored to represent a strong and tight-knit LGBTQ community in South Florida. To serve them and all LGBTQ Americans, we must fix our discriminatory laws. I am proudly supporting Congressman Cicilline’s Equality Act to achieve equality under the law, regardless of who you love or how you identify.”

Murphy posted a video Thursday on social media making an appeal that revisits the tragedy at Orlando’s Pulse gay nightclub and the need for the LGBTQ community of Central Florida to win fuller Civil Rights.

“Congress needs to pass the #EqualityAct — LGBTQ+ people shouldn’t be discriminated against because of who they are or who they love,” she tweeted.

To watch the video, click on the image below:

“Equality under the law for #LGBTQ Americans is near! @HouseDemocrats will pass the #EqualityAct to guarantee nondiscrimination protections for our LGBTQ neighbors in #Tampa and across the country,” Castor predicted in a tweet.

“Housing, jury service and education are basic rights. Yet, in many states, #LGBTQ people can be denied access to these. It’s been long enough. We need the #EqualityAct NOW,” Wasserman Schultz tweeted.

“I am proud to once again be a co-sponsor of the #EqualityAct,” Demings tweeted. “There is still no national law banning discrimination against LGBTQ Americans. Let’s fix that. 2021 is the year.”

Crist tweeted:

“LGBTQ Americans shouldn’t be discriminated against because of who they are or who they love. Proud to join @davidcicilline and co-sponsor the #EqualityAct today. It’s past time we prohibit discrimination against the LGBTQ community!” Soto tweeted.

“Housing, jury service and education are basic rights. Yet, LGBTQ people can still be denied access to these and other rights in many states. The #EqualityAct ends that, and I am proud to support it,” Frankel tweeted.

America in Paris

On the day Biden took office, Scott made clear his skepticism over reentering the Paris accord. But now that it’s happening anyway, the Naples Republican wants transparency on spending American tax dollars.

The Senator sent a letter Wednesday to Korea directly to Dr. Yannick Glemarec, executive director of the Green Climate Fund.

“I share oversight of any funding that may be used to fulfill the United States’ obligation to the Green Climate Fund,” he wrote. “Since President [Barack] Obama entered the Paris Agreement, the United States has sent a billion dollars in American taxpayer money to the Green Climate Fund. As Congress considers additional funding for climate change initiatives, it is imperative that we have as much information as possible about how these taxpayer dollars have been spent.”

Rick Scott wants transparency on how money is spent for the Paris Accords. Image via WCTV.

Scott said he wants to know if money contributed by the U.S. will result in reduction of greenhouse gasses in other nations. He called for a comprehensive list of private contributions, including amounts pledged, as well as an account of how much other nations contribute to the fund.

“In any agreement entered by the United States, we demand accountability, transparency and oversight, and I look forward to hearing from you on how American taxpayer dollars are being used at the GCF,” he wrote. “I will continue to work to make sure American taxpayer dollars are protected, so we have the resources we need to protect the environment and invest in what matters most to Americans.”

One less problem

Rubio recently received good news from Ivanka Trump that she will not challenge him in a primary next year and support his reelection.

“I can confirm that Marco and Ivanka did speak a few weeks ago,” a campaign spokesperson confirmed to Florida Politics. “Ivanka offered her support for Marco’s reelection, and they had a great talk. I can also confirm that we are discussing a joint event to highlight Marco and Ivanka’s successful push to expand the Child Tax Credit.”

Marco Rubio can breathe a sigh of relief; Ivanka Trump is not running for the Senate. Image via AP.

Considering Rubio’s up-and-down relationship with her father, Trump, that’s valuable news in multiple ways. First, it puts to rest speculation that has stirred for months since Ivanka and husband Jared Kushner, both advisers to her father during his time in the White House, moved to Indian Creek Island.

But if Rubio can bring Ivanka beside him on campaign stages, that could bring home Trump supporters who at times questioned his loyalty to the former commander in chief. Rubio and Donald Trump famously faced off in the 2016 GOP primary for President, where Trump defeated the Florida Senator in his home state. While Rubio outperformed Donald Trump ultimately when both shared a ballot later that year, the former President also won the state’s electoral votes in November, while the Senator hasn’t campaigned for himself for more than four years.

Of course, as a Senator, Rubio got along well with the White House on many issues, especially those involving relations with Latin America. But Rubio also declined to go along with any objections to Biden’s Electoral College win in November. Moreover, Donald Trump made clear in a statement this week he intends to get involved in primaries in 2022. With Ivanka on Team Rubio, it’s likely the former President sits this one out. Then again, Donald Trump, Jr. just got a place in Florida, too.

Shotgun on special ops

Winter Park Democrat Murphy will serve as vice-chair of the newly-created House Intelligence and Special Operations Subcommittee.

Murphy was tapped for that role by Washington Democrat Adam Smith, who chairs the parent panel, the House Armed Services Committee.

Democrat Ruben Gallego of Arizona, a former Marine, chairs the Intelligence and Special Ops subcommittee. Also on that are Florida Republicans Michael Waltz of St. Augustine Beach and Scott Franklin of Lakeland.

Michael Waltz and Scott Franklin team up on Special Ops.

Murphy is a former national security specialist with the Pentagon. Her office cited the importance of having Florida representation on the committee, considering the state is home to the U.S. Special Operations Command, located at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

“I am especially proud to have been named vice-chair of the subcommittee that oversees America’s special operations forces, counterterrorism units and military intelligence professionals, who play such a vital role in keeping our country safe and free,” she said.

Saving vote-by-mail?

Tampa Democrat Castor voiced concerns this week about election reforms being considered by the Florida Legislature. She slammed legislation proposed in the Republican-controlled state Senate that would eliminate standing requests for vote-by-mail ballots.

“The Big Lie and QAnon conspiracy theories promoted by the GOP did real harm to confidence in American government. Yet, record participation and the most secure election in American history are something to be proud of,” Castor tweeted on Thursday. “Be aware, however, ‘all over the country [the GOP is] trying to game the system in an attempt to deprive Americans of their fundamental right to vote.’ Read below how Republicans in Florida are once again tampering with Florida’s election laws.”

Kathy Castor is not thrilled with state Sen. Dennis Baxley in his effort to limit mail-in voting.

She pointed to a Tampa Bay Times article on the Florida legislation. Right now, Florida law allows individuals to request ballots mailed to them for each election, but a bill sponsored by state Sen. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican, would change rules, so voters must request one for each election. That came after criticism by Republicans of other states that allow ballots to be mailed to voters without any request at all.

Castor said this would inconvenience voters, including military families registered in Florida’s 14th Congressional District with residence in and around MacDill Air Force Base. “They will hurt all of us, but in our patriotic community of Tampa, the impact on military voters is of particular concern,” Castor said.

Vaccines for vets

Pinellas Democrat Crist is taking a rare step siding with likely future Republican rival Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Crist announced legislation that would expand veterans’ eligibility to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at Veterans Affairs facilities from the current 75 years old to 65. The Vaccines for Veterans Act would allow individual VA medical centers to follow state vaccine eligibility. In Florida, it is 65, a threshold DeSantis often touts when defending his record on COVID-19-related policy.

Charlie Crist announces his push to increase vaccinations among Pinellas County veterans. Image via WFLA.

Crist announced the legislation alongside local veterans who were turned away from receiving a vaccine and officially introduced it Thursday. Despite being otherwise-eligible in their home states, veterans across the country are being turned away by VA facilities due to federal policy that only allows the VA to vaccinate veterans who would typically be eligible for VA health care.

That includes only low-income veterans and those with service-related disabilities.

“With nearly 30,000 COVID-related deaths and Florida seniors struggling to navigate overwhelmed websites for a vaccine reservation, we should be making full use of our facilities and staff who can get shots into arms. And yet, red tape at the federal government means that otherwise-eligible veterans — particularly Vietnam veterans — are being turned away at VA facilities across our state. This makes no sense,” Crist said.

“The Vaccines for Veterans Act would expand eligibility and give local medical directors the flexibility they need to vaccinate as many veterans as possible. This would increase the number of veterans vaccinated and free-up appointments for more seniors. Let’s get it done,” Crist added.

Beach broadband

Natural disasters leave individuals desperate for communication but often with unreliable connections. That’s part of why Clearwater Republican Gus Bilirakis wants greater broadband reliability in flood-prone regions.

The Congressman said many constituents in his Gulf-front district need greater access, a big reason he reintroduced the Coastal Broadband Deployment Act.

Gus Bilirakis believes everyone should have access to broadband communications, particularly during disasters.

“Several parts of my district lie within flood zones,” Bilirakis said. “I want to be sure that all of my constituents have access to 21st-century technologies, enabling them to harness the potential power that these capabilities offer. Being left behind is not an option.”

He’s spearheading the legislation with support from Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The bill would promote upgrades infrastructure, incentive competition, and craft regulations to facilitate more broadband deployment on federal lands.

Bilirakis’ office said 21 million Americans nationwide lacked broadband access even before the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the U.S. economy. The need for communication means for access to health care resources and continued remote work have become all the more apparent.

American masks

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the clearest challenges for health professionals memorably was keeping enough medical-grade masks in stock. But while headlines disappeared, Sarasota Republican Vern Buchanan said the need has not. On Wednesday, the Congressman sent a letter to Biden to fix logistical challenges moving masks from warehouses to hospitals.

“Do everything in your power to support American manufacturers and their continued efforts to produce and distribute critical N95 masks amid the ongoing health crisis,” Buchanan wrote.

The challenge today, Buchanan suggested, is that while many companies upended normal operations at the dawn of the pandemic and turned their efforts toward making masks instead, they didn’t have any way to distribute them. Indeed, many search engines like Google blocked advertisements for masks because of rampant fraud. He pointed to media accounts of Miami Lakes manufacturer DemeTECH sitting on a stockpile of 30 million masks.

Why is a South Florida manufacturer stockpiling masks, Vern Buchanan asks. Image via NBC South Florida.

“These companies need federal help to get their products into the hands of front-line health care workers and the public as soon as possible,” he said.

Since the start of the pandemic, Buchanan has pushed legislation to use American manufacturers instead of relying on China and other nations for a supply chain of medical goods.

Nunes helps Steube

One of the most prominent pro-Trump members of the House, California Republican Devin Nunes, will come to Florida to raise money for Sarasota second-term Republican Greg Steube.

Nunes, ranking Republican on the Select Committee on Intelligence, will not only be in town to shake hands. The fundraiser, scheduled in Sarasota on Feb. 27, will include a panel discussion. Those who just want to hear that talk can pay $100 to attend, while those who want to go to a VIP reception will need to pay $1,500 a person. The cost to co-host the event is $2,900.

California’s Devin Nunes is coming to Florida to shill for Greg Steube.

All of the money will go to the Greg Steube Victory Fund, a joint committee comprised of Steube’s reelection campaign, his associated Getting Republican Elected for Generations (GREG) PAC, and the National Republican Campaign Committee. In other words, more than helping build a war chest for Steube in Florida’s 17th Congressional District, where he took nearly 65% of the vote in 2020, the money could help the Florida Congressman aid other Republicans running around the nation and grow his influence down the road.

On This Day

Feb. 19. 1943 — “Franklin Delano Roosevelt orders Japanese Americans into internment camps” via History.com — President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, initiating a controversial World War II policy with lasting consequences for Japanese Americans. The document ordered removing resident enemy aliens from parts of the West vaguely identified as military areas. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in 1941, Roosevelt came under increasing pressure from military and political advisers to address the nation’s fears of further Japanese attack or sabotage, particularly on the West Coast, where naval ports, commercial shipping and agriculture were most vulnerable. While 9066 also affected Italian and German Americans, the largest numbers of detainees were by far Japanese.

Feb. 19, 1987 — “Ronald Reagan lifts Polish trade curbs, citing progress on human rights” via The New York Times — President Reagan lifted economic sanctions against Poland, calling the action a reward for the release of political prisoners and other moves toward reconciliation with supporters of the banned Solidarity movement and the Roman Catholic Church. The action will reduce tariffs on importing some Polish goods and enable Poland to seek loans from American banks. The sanctions were imposed in 1981 and 1982, after the declaration of martial law in Poland. Martial law ended in 1983, and thousands of political prisoners have been freed, most recently under an amnesty in September.

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Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, with contributions by Ryan Nicol, Scott Powers and Janelle Irwin Taylor.

Staff Reports


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