Delegation for 3.16.21: DST — PRO Act — border justice — Haiti protection — OK boomer

capitol u.s. green 9.30.19
Springing forward is for the birds.

Daylight food fight

Sleepy Americans across the nation woke up Sunday wondering where they lost an hour. As Floridians begrudgingly shifted onto daylight saving time, delegation members started what’s almost become a twice-a-year ritual of lobbying to stop the changing of clocks.

Sen. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott last week joined with a bipartisan group of Senators filing legislation to make daylight saving time permanent. “The call to end the antiquated practice of clock changing is gaining momentum throughout the nation,” Rubio said. “Studies have shown many benefits of a year-round daylight saving time, which is why the Florida legislature voted to make it permanent in 2018.”

Marco Rubio and Rick Scott seek to save daylight saving. Image via AP.

Indeed, Sunshine State lawmakers like taking credit for the concept, though there’s some dispute about whose idea it was to stop falling back and springing forward all over again. As a state Sen., Rep. Greg Steube introduced a bill on ending time changes, crediting his barber in a story that’s become part of Florida’s political lore. He’s supported the legislation since arriving in Washington, not long after rallying bipartisan passage of the bill in Tallahassee.

Scott also happily reminds colleagues of the role he played with the Florida bill. “As Governor of Florida, I was proud to sign legislation to make daylight saving time permanent, and I am continuing this effort in the Senate with my colleague, Sen. Rubio,” he said. “Americans could use a little more sunshine after a long winter and an entire year of staying indoors amid the coronavirus pandemic.”

But did any of these Republican pols actually get the ball rolling?

Rep. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat, served in the Senate before Steube even got there. He publicly scoffed this week at the notion his GOP colleagues spawned the idea of permanent DST. “I wrote [the] Sunshine Protection Act to keep daylight saving all year long while a state Senator,” he tweeted. “GOP refused to hear my bill. Then they passed it as soon as I left. It’s funny to me to see them tripping over themselves promoting this idea as their own.”

Whatever the actual timeline, the concept still lacks enough traction to reach President Joe Biden’s desk. At this point, Florida is among 15 states to pass laws, resolutions or voter initiatives to keep DST all year long. But in the three years since the Florida Legislature passed legislation, there’s been little movement in Washington on getting the OK in Congress.

PRO Act

An amendment to the state constitution in 1968 cemented Florida’s position as a right-to-work state. But legislation passed in the U.S. House has the potential to do away with that, and it has many members of the delegation fretting or salivating over the prospect for change.

The Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO) cleared the chamber with a 225-206 vote, and Florida representatives were breaking along party lines. Similar legislation made it through the House in the last Congress, but this time could be more significant since Biden signaled he would sign it into law. That makes a 50-50 Senate where Vice President Kamala Harris breaks ties the only barrier between the bill and federal states.

Rep. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, said that’s bad news for Florida. He co-authored an op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel with Americans For Prosperity state director Skyler Zander that asserted the legislation “would be disastrous for our recovery and our country.” Specifically, the Congressman said the shift would ruin independent contractors’ ability to thrive in the state.

Greg Steube believes the right to organize would be bad for Florida workers. Image via Colin Hackley.

Democrats in the delegation hold a different opinion. If it passes, the bill will significantly increase unions’ power in states where labor traditionally maintains less influence. Rep. Val Demings, an Orlando Democrat, cheered passage of the legislation. She called the PRO Act “the most significant upgrade for workers’ collective bargaining rights in more than 80 years — because unions built the middle class. They can rebuild it.”

Border justice?

Following Attorney General Merrick Garland’s confirmation as Attorney General, Scott sent a letter pushing the Justice Department leader on immigration laws, gun rights, and executive orders.

“As the Attorney General of the United States, you assume an immensely powerful office charged with keeping peace and order throughout the land,” Scott wrote. “I join every American in the expectation that you will properly execute these duties, protecting our American ideals and ensuring our federal, state and local governments are held to the same strict standards of upholding our nation’s laws. I hope we are able to work together to address the important issues facing American families.”

On top of Scott’s list of priority issues was the border crisis, joining several delegation members who are hammering Biden for weakening enforcement and shifting from Donald Trump’s hard-line policies.

The minute Merrick Garland was confirmed, he received a laundry list from Rick Scott. Image via AP.

“Under the Biden administration, we have witnessed a growing humanitarian crisis on our Southern border. I want to be clear — this crisis is occurring because of the dangerous rhetoric of amnesty and open borders advocated for by President Biden. The United States is a nation built on immigration, and we should continue to encourage people to live their dreams in our country — but it has to be done legally. The DOJ must take a firm and objective position on this matter: follow the law as it is written.”

But he also pressed on issues like holding China legally accountable for economic espionage and infiltration of U.S. research institutions, including those in Florida. Scott expressed a desire for Justice to stop infringements on Second Amendment rights and limit executive orders’ authority, which once again is controlled by a Democratic President.

Haiti TPS

Days after Biden extended temporary protected status for Venezuelan refugees, Rubio asked for similar treatment of another migrating group with a significant Florida presence. The Senator called on the administration to offer the same consideration to displaced Haitians.

The Miami Republican joined with New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez to send a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas asking to redesign Haiti for TPS. That will protect Haitians in the U.S. from deportation if they are here because of national disasters and political unrest on the island.

“While the Government of Haiti has been able to receive limited numbers of Haitian nationals removed from the United States, it lacks the capacity to provide the needed reception and care for tens of thousands of returnees,” the letter reads. “As the United States engages with the Haitian government to help chart a way forward, a TPS re-designation would provide a much-needed reprieve for upward of 55,000 Haitians in the United States, including current Haitian TPS beneficiaries. It would also lessen the burden on the Haitian people, government, and aid organizations, and mitigate risks of further destabilization.”

With Florida the closest U.S. state to Haiti, located less than 700 miles away, many Haitians end up living here. U.S. Census data shows more than 1 million Haitian Americans living in the U.S. and more than 424,000 of those in Florida, providing family connections, so when individuals leave the island, they frequently relocate to the Sunshine State.

Just as Rubio pressed the Trump and Biden administrations for TPS protections for Venezuelans, he sees the same urgency for individuals not necessarily fleeing an oppressive government but stringent economic conditions.

OK boomer

Perhaps it should come as no surprise when Panhandle Republican Matt Gaetz and New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez team on an issue. High-profile millennials morphed into near mascots for their respective party base. The two frequently rail against corporate influence and centrism. Now, the two seem prepared to join forces against the War on Drugs.

Last year, Gaetz served as the sole GOP sponsor for legislation decriminalizing marijuana. This week, he’s working across the aisle to fight THC caps on medical cannabis.

“Honored to work with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to reform America’s bad boomer drug laws,” he tweeted.

It’s rare for Matt Gaetz and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to team up on an issue, but it did happen recently.

He linked to a post in The News Station where he voiced frustration with former colleagues in the Florida Legislature aiming to limit THC in smokable marijuana. “I don’t want boomer legislators to be Florida’s new budtenders,” he told the outlet.

The same article quoted Ocasio-Cortez pushing back on policymakers deciding dosages for medication. “Decisions like these should be squarely in the realm of science, physicians — where you have medical experts that are in the most informed position to determine what, particularly any substance with medicinal applications, should be,” she said.

The common ground for the cable fixtures may seem like a matter of strange political bedfellows. Still, both lawmakers share a history of respectively libertarian and progressive ideals pushing them in the direction of legalization. In that sense, it’s no shock seeing both Representatives lit up on the same issue.

More for NATO

The number of NATO members spending required amounts on defense has increased in the past few years, but the delegation members still want more. In a letter to Biden led by Rockledge Republican Bill Posey, nine House members said the U.S. should continue insisting all nations in the treaty to live up to obligations.

“Unfortunately, since the end of the Cold War, many of our NATO allies have historically neglected investing in their own defense and instead have rested in the security blanket provided by the United States,” reads the letter, which also bears signatures from Sarasota Republican Steube and Stuart Republican Brian Mast.

Bill Posey is putting pressure on Joe Biden to put pressure on NATO.

NATO membership requires a commitment to spend at least 2% of a country’s gross domestic product on defense. But an analysis last year by Forces.net found just 10 of the 30 nations in the treaty were doing so. The Posey letter says the U.S., spending 3.6% of its GDP on defense, is one of only three countries to go above and beyond the commitment.

That’s even after NATO has been called upon to act on the treaty. After Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, NATO members agreed to begin spending more and meet the 2% requirement by 2025. “However, many nations still fall far short of this threshold,” the letter reads. The representatives acknowledge progress, with increases in spending by Canada and several European nations, but “we still spend more than all our allies combined.”

“While we want to improve our relations with our European allies, they need to continue their progress in meeting their commitments to their own national defense and to NATO,” the letter says, closing by encouraging a hard-line stance similar to that taken during Trump’s tenure in the White House.

Dump China

Since its formation after World War II, the United Nations gave those in the Allied Forces special treatment. Now, Clearwater Republican Gus Bilirakis wants that to stop for China. The Congressman filed a resolution Monday urging world leaders to boot the Eastern superpower from the U.N. Security Council over human rights violations.

China is not our friend and, indeed, poses the biggest threat to our national security,” Bilirakis said. “The time has come for a new approach in how we interact with China, and removing this repeated human rights violator from the U.N. Security Council is a step in the right direction. We must continue to hold China accountable for its bad behavior and take a firm stance that further misconduct will no longer be tolerated.”

Gus Bilirakis wants to ditch China from the U.N. Security Council.

The change would be a major reconstitution of the international organization. China holds one of five permanent seats on the council, joined by the U.S., Russia, France and the United Kingdom. But the fact China continuously violated international agreements undermines the nation’s international standing, Bilirakis said.

Crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, persecution of religious minorities including the Uyghurs, and border disputes with India all show China to be a bad actor on the world stage, the Congressman said. But the dishonest suppression of data on the coronavirus, which sent the world economy into a tailspin last year, demonstrated to the world an unforgivable lack of transparency and callousness.

“Throughout history, humanity has encountered many faces of evil,” Bilirakis said. “Our brightest moments as an international community have been those in which we present a united front in our efforts to identify and eradicate its presence. Our darkest moments as a human race have come during times when those who knew better stood silently, making excuses for passivity and allowing injustice and persecution to reign. America must remain a beacon of principled courage, recognizing and promoting the basic human rights of all people. If we remain silent in the face of these transgressions, we neglect that moral imperative and do so at the peril of civil society.”

Child tax credits

Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor met Monday with local community leaders to promote the expanded child tax credit and other family benefits included in the American Rescue Plan.

Under the plan, families will receive $3,000 per child and $3,600 per child under the age of six with the expansion of the child tax credit, which is typically only $2,000 per child. Many families will also qualify for monthly advance payments of the credit in the expansion of the child tax credit, in addition to stimulus payments.

Castor, an avid supporter of Biden’s plan, emphasized families’ need to file a tax return to receive the credit. She is working to establish outreach efforts to inform parents across Tampa Bay.

Kathy Castor is pushing Joe Biden’s enhanced child tax credit. Image via NYT/Pool.

“We are getting busy here in the Tampa area on ensuring that the benefits of the American Rescue Plan flow to families who need it,” Castor said.

The package is estimated to cut the child poverty rate in half, which will help lift 100,000 children out of poverty in Hillsborough County alone, Norín Dollard, director of Florida KIDS COUNT and research assistant professor at the University of South Florida, said at the meeting.

There are more than 3.8 million children in Florida who will benefit from this expansion as well. Tampa should receive an estimated $80 million in relief. Hillsborough County should expect $285 million in funds from the plan targeted at keeping first responders, front-line health care workers and essential workers on the job.

Hanging up

Despite the national no-call list and the prosecution of scammers, phones in Florida still ring off the hook (or more likely a charger cord).

Sarasota Republican Vern Buchanan wants that to stop. He’s asking the House Energy and Commerce Committee to hold hearings on the growing number of unsolicited robocalls dialing up Americans.

“It’s time to silence these calls once and for all,” he said.

He cited a report by YouMail that found robocalls jumped up 15% in the past year with 4.6 billion unwanted calls made in February alone, and 386 million of those were in Florida. Based on the current trend, that means 51 billion calls could be sent out in 2021, a 12% jump from last year. That’s despite Congress just two years ago passing the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act, which aimed to stop such nuisance calls.

Vern Buchanan urges Congress to hang up on Florida robocalls.

“A hearing would also provide the committee an opportunity to update the public on the implementation of call authentication technology that was required under the bill,” Buchanan said. “Rigorous oversight is needed to help determine if the TRACED Act is falling short of its goals of protecting the American people from unwanted, disruptive, fraudulent and/or potentially harmful telephone solicitations.”

Buchanan stressed that calls, while annoying, also pose a threat to the public. As the Representative for a retiree-rich community, Buchanan said he’s especially concerned about the victimization of his constituents by fraudsters.

“Our senior citizens are high-priority targets for scam artists and unscrupulous actors. That is why it is so important that we do everything in our power to protect seniors from fraudulent robocalls,” he wrote in a letter to Committee Chair Frank Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat and the main sponsor of the TRACED Act in the House.

“These are more than just a minor inconvenience,” Buchanan wrote. “Phone scams can defraud innocent Americans out of their life savings — especially vulnerable seniors.”

Bipartisan relief

Miami Republican Maria Elvira Salazar celebrated an action by the Biden administration that effectively enacted one of the first bills the freshman Congresswoman introduced. She previously filed the COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan Relief Act with Kansas Democrat Sharice Davids to extend by a year the time businesses had to repay EIDL loans.

The matter became moot when the Small Business Administration on Friday announced it would administratively push off deadlines for 2020 loans from 12 to 24 months; for 2021 loans, the SBA will extend it to 18 months.

Maria Salazar gives some rare props to the Joe Biden administration. Image via Twitter.

“Many of our local job creators applied for EIDL loans at the beginning of the outbreak, and yet the pandemic has continued to take a devastating toll on our small businesses,” Salazar said. “We cannot force our struggling small-business owners to repay these loans at a time when many are barely able to keep their doors open. I am so proud that my bipartisan legislation has officially become SBA policy.”

A tweet from Salazar’s account mentioned the Biden administration by name and stressed the bipartisan nature of the legislation and EIDL program. But that drew some scorn, such as from Heart Television host Soledad O’Brien, who hit the Congresswoman for voting against the Biden-backed COVID-19 relief package with all Republicans. “You voted against it, lady,” O’Brien tweeted. “I hope all your constituents remember that!”

But Salazar stressed her legislation never became part of that package. The former broadcaster fact-checked O’Brien in a tweet of her own. “Journalist to journalist, This has nothing to do with the $1.9-trillion Blue State Bailout,” Salazar responded. “It is a bipartisan policy I introduced separately that was adopted by SBA. You want to talk about anything else other than how New York and California were rewarded, but Florida was punished for OPENING for biz!”

Moving on up

Florida political communications pro Danielle Alvarez just started a new job with the Republican National Committee.

The RNC tapped Alvarez as communications director and national representative, according to POLITICO. That came about five years after Florida Politics correctly listed Alvarez as one of the state’s 30-under-30 rising stars.

Congrats to comms pro Danielle Alvarez, moving up to the national Republican Party.

The Miami native served in 2020 as a representative for Trump Victory. She previously worked in Scott’s administration while he was Florida’s Governor. In statewide political circles, Alvares worked for now-state Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, former Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera, and many state and local political campaigns.

On this day

March 16, 1802 — “Congress establishes West Point” via the Library of Congress — Congress approved legislation establishing the United States Military Academy at West Point, one of the oldest military service academies in the world. Strategically located on the Hudson River’s west bank, approximately 50 miles north of New York City, West Point was first garrisoned in January 1778 and is the oldest continuously occupied military post in America. George Washington transferred his headquarters there in 1779 as a Revolutionary War outpost. In 1780, Benedict Arnold, then in command of the post, tried unsuccessfully to betray it to the British.

March 16, 2016 — “President Barack Obama nominates Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court” via The Washington Post — Obama nominated then-Appeals Judge Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court, calculating that the highly regarded jurist might blunt some of the expected political attacks and ultimately embarrass Senate Republicans into dropping their fierce opposition to the nomination. A moderate who has been on the appellate bench for almost two decades, Garland has served presidents from both parties and was confirmed by the Senate 19 years ago. He is the grandson of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe.

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Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, with contributions by Kelly Hayes.

Staff Reports


One comment

  • irtiza

    March 23, 2021 at 8:56 pm

    ABUJA- The House of Representatives Public Accounts Committee, (PAC), on Tuesday, raised the alarm that the Presidential Amnesty programme had been grossly mismanaged over the years with gross violation of financial regulations.
    This came as the PAC quizzed Col. M . Dixon Dikio (rtd) Interim Administrator of the Programme, over the 21 different audit queries raised by the office of the Auditor General of the Federation against his Agency.

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