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The torch relay for the 2020 (err, 2021) Olympic Games in Tokyo finally began last week in Fukushima, Japan.
And after a year’s delay, the Olympics are back in the news — for 2022 — with many in the delegation focused on stopping the Winter Games from taking place in Beijing.
Several lawmakers from the Sunshine State applied pressure toward various entities to hold the Chinese government responsible.
Rep. Michael Waltz used cable news to argue that it’s not too late for the International Olympic Committee to move the Winter Games. The St. Augustine Beach Republican on CNN rattled off a list of international offenses and human rights atrocities attributed to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, such as “the cover-up of the coronavirus, millions dead around the world, and the sad, awful genocide that is going on in Western China — mass internment, concentration camps, a mass sterilization campaign of the Uyghur women, and what the BBC has now exposed as an ongoing rape campaign.”
Sen. Rick Scott, meanwhile, sent letters to companies sponsoring the Olympics urging them to join in calls to move the games. He suggested that financial consequences might be what it takes to get Olympic organizers’ attention.
“As a sponsor of the IOC, you are uniquely positioned to join in this fight and demand the IOC stand for human rights and remove the games from Communist China, or lose your sponsorship and support,” Scott wrote.
Rubio, proudly banned from even visiting China, remains steadfastly against Olympic rings hanging there. For years, Rubio criticized awarding the games to the Eastern superpower.
Scott said he’s also sought a meeting with President Joe Biden to urge the administration to lean on the IOCl; Waltz notably cited State Antony Blinken outlining China’s atrocities.
Last month, Scott led a Senate resolution to pressure the Olympic committee to move the games, with Rubio jumping in as a co-sponsor. Waltz followed suit in the House, adding John Rutherford, Dan Webster, Gus Bilirakis, Scott Franklin, Greg Steube, Mario Diaz-Balart, Carlos Giménez and Maria Elvira Salazar as co-sponsors.
The move made Florida’s Republican delegation the most solidly opposed to a China Olympics of any state in the union.
What’s more, no Democrats (from any state) signed onto either resolution.
But in the likely event the IOC leaves the games in China (as it did when Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Games), there does seem to be significant divergence between lawmakers on how the U.S. should respond.
Waltz is calling for a complete U.S. boycott of the Games. Scott, for his part, said that goes too far.
“Boycotts hurt our athletes,” Scott told Fox News. “We need to move these games. It is not fair to expect our athletes to boycott something they’ve planned their whole lives around.”
Even when the federal government shuts down, members of Congress still get paid. But Scott wants that to end. This week, he reintroduced his No Budget, No Pay legislation in the Senate.
If passed, the legislation would cut Congress off if it can’t pass a budget and meet appropriations bill deadlines.
“There is no reason members of Congress should be held to a different standard than any other American family or business. In the real world, if you don’t do your job, you don’t get paid,” Scott said. “Our No Budget, No Pay bill simply requires Congress to pass an annual budget and meet appropriations bill deadlines or forgo their taxpayer-funded salaries until the job is done. Accountability shouldn’t be controversial.”
Notably, Senate Democrats declined to insert a similar provision proposed by Scott in this month’s COVID-19 relief package. But as individual legislation, the Naples Republican announced he already has a bipartisan list of co-sponsors.
In addition to GOP colleagues Mike Braun, John Barrasso, Richard Burr, Shelley Moore Capito, Joni Ernst, the bill boasts support from Democrats Joe Manchin, Maggie Hassan and Kyrsten Sinema.
“If Congress can’t do our work and pass a budget, we shouldn’t get paid — it’s that simple,” said Hassan. “As New Hampshire Governor, I worked across party lines to pass fiscally responsible budgets, and we have a responsibility to get the job done in Congress too.”
Unionizing against Big Tech
Rubio raised eyebrows when he opined in USA Today in support of unionization for Amazon workers in Alabama. Of course, that move comes after nearly two years of publicly making a case for capitalism that prioritizes workers’ needs and regularly mentions that the post-Trump Republican Party must celebrate blue-collar employees over corporate interests to have a future.
This week, he made the case further during an interview with The American Conversation’s Right Now podcast. He cheered that America remains the easiest place for even those born poor to obtain a comfortable lifestyle.
“That behooves there being friendly relationships between labor and business,” Rubio wrote. “I don’t think one can succeed without the other, generally speaking. Except in the 21st century, we have a globalized economy in which it’s quite possible to be a company like Amazon, with headquarters in the United States, benefiting from our laws, benefiting from the protections of our court system and so forth, but who in many cases don’t have to have American workers in order to make a lot of money.
“You can be a large, multinational, American corporation and make a lot of money, but not necessarily benefit working Americans.”
It may seem odd to see a Republican presidential contender espouse the value of unions. But then, it’s less surprising to see one thrashing a Big Tech company given the current political environment.
“Amazon is openly hostile to everything we would call conservatism, traditional values, traditional views,” Rubio told the podcast. “They are eager participants in the culture war against traditional thought, extending all the way to the censorship of ideas they don’t agree with.
“They were one of the first ones to kick President Trump off web services, which denied his entire political apparatus access to the World Wide Web for a substantial period of time. So they were active, eager culture warriors.
“They’re actively against us on everything — except when someone wants to raise their taxes, or increase their regulations, or they need our help to prevent their workers from unionizing. Then obviously, they want to run under the umbrella of the conservative movement. That’s a good deal. I don’t know why we should be overextending ourselves to rally to their side on these economic issues that they care about when they are hostile toward our values on everything else.”
School choice in Jax
Rubio on Monday also swung through Jacksonville to spotlight the work done by a charter school, where he pushed for broader school reopening and touted school choice. At Jacksonville Classical Academy, one of 14 charter schools opened in Florida in the past year; he praised the tuition-free model of publicly-funded and privately run institutions.
“I’m a big believer in school choice, and in particular the charter school, because it allows for innovation,” he told News4Jax. “It allows for trying new things and new learning environments.”
A release from Rubio’s office praised the Jacksonville Classical Academy in particular as “trailblazing.” “The more variety and the more freedom there is to explore and find ways new ways of teaching people, the better it is,” Rubio told the news station.
Rubio’s office also said the Senator wants to ensure in-person learning remains available to all students. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran have required as much of school districts.
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz is under federal investigation for sexual activity, potentially with an underage girl
Gaetz confirmed to Axios that he was under investigation by the Department of Justice, but denied any wrongdoing. Before speaking with Axios, The New York Times reported three sources familiar with the issue said he was under investigation for having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and for paying her to travel with him, a potential violation of federal sex trafficking laws.
“The allegations against me are as searing as they are false,” Gaetz said in a 13-minute phone interview with Axios. “I believe that there are people at the Department of Justice who are trying to criminalize my sexual conduct, you know when I was a single guy.”
Moments later, Gaetz unleashed on Twitter with a thread claiming he and his family were being extorted.
“Over the past several weeks my family and I have been victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name,” Gaetz tweeted. “We have been cooperating with federal authorities in this matter and my father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI’s direction to catch these criminals.
Gaetz claimed the “planted leak” to the FBI “was intended to thwart that investigation.” He went on to say that “no part” of the allegations against him are true “and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation.
Gaetz demanded the DOJ “release the tapes, made at their direction, which implicate their former colleague in crimes against (him) based on false allegations.”
Gaetz told Axios the allegations stemmed from his “single days.”
“I have definitely, in my single days, provided for women I’ve dated. You know, I’ve paid for flights, for hotel rooms. I’ve been, you know, generous as a partner. I think someone is trying to make that look criminal when it is not,” he said. He continued that he was “absolutely” sure none of the women were underage.
Axios reported earlier in the day that Gaetz privately told confidants he was seriously considering leaving Congress to pursue a job at Newsmax.
White Coat Waste
A watchdog group fighting animal testing praised a bipartisan group of delegation members for their work toward the cause.
Last week, the White Coat Waste Project dubbed Republicans Gaetz, Bill Posey, Vern Buchanan, Brian Mast, and Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz as Waste Warriors. They exposed or stopped $20 billion worth of animal experiments on the federal government dime.
It’s Posey’s first time winning the award, though the other Florida representatives all received honors from the WCW in 2017.
“Representatives Buchanan, Gaetz, Mast, Posey and Wasserman Schultz are all champions for animals and taxpayers,” said Justin Goodman, WCW’s vice president of advocacy and public policy. “We are proud to honor them with well-deserved Waste Warrior Awards for their outstanding leadership to expose and end wasteful and cruel government experiments on dogs, cats, and other animals that are rightly opposed by most taxpayers. We look forward to continuing to work with these Waste Warriors to save more tax dollars and animals from government abuse.”
The group this year celebrated three senators and 21 representatives from both sides of the aisle. While all the Florida lawmakers honored enjoy a reputation for fighting animal cruelty, the WCW award was notable for presenting the story of upsetting experimentation in fiscal terms. While Republicans make up a big chunk of Florida honorees, the vast majority of re[resentatives honored nationwide were Democrats.
Only three Republican Congressmen outside of Florida made the list.
Bipartisan Everglades support
Orlando Democrat Darren Soto and Stuart Republican Mast joined forces for the newest push for Everglades funding. The two led a letter from several delegation members calling on President Biden and Congress to fully fund multiple restoration projects as part of an infrastructure package.
“Everglades restoration is at a critical juncture,” the letter reads, “The partnership between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the State of Florida has already shown its ability to create meaningful improvement in the health of the Greater Everglades ecosystem, and recent historic funding commitments from both the federal government and the State of Florida have accelerated progress.”
The letter explicitly mentions the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Program, where commitments are split evenly between the state and federal governments. The representatives call for total funding of the 2020 Integrated Delivery Schedule for that joint effort.
But that’s not enough, the members assert. “With the current funding timeline of IDS projects, however, the water quality issues plaguing Florida — such as toxic algal blooms that routinely test above the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard of what is safe for human contact — will continue unabated for years.”
Democrat Stephanie Murphy and Republicans Posey, Gaetz, Gus Bilirakis and Salazar joined in the letter calling for more aggressive funding to save Florida’s most striking ecologic treasure.
Carbon pricing progress
The American Petroleum Institute, an oil and gas trade group, now backs a market-based carbon pricing plan, and Florida Democrats Charlie Crist and Ted Deutch say they support that shift.
Crist and Deutch sponsor one such carbon tax plan, along with Democratic Rep. Scott Peters of California. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act sets fees on carbon extraction to make cleaner energy options more appealing. That fee would start at $15 per metric ton of carbon dioxide and its equivalents and rise by $10 every year.
The API has vehemently fought against carbon tax proposals in the past. But late last week, API representatives told the White House the group would be open to backing such a fee proposal, paired with deregulation in other areas. President Biden plans to unveil his own large-scale green infrastructure strategy soon.
As sponsors of a House bill on the subject, Crist and Deutch praised the API’s shift.
“We are encouraged by the growing support for carbon fee policies as effective measures to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement along with Peters.
“The American Petroleum Institute is joining more and more of the private sector in putting their support behind a price on carbon to combat the worsening impacts of climate change. It is past time that Congress take aggressive action against climate change, including with a nationwide price on carbon that will dramatically reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and transition our nation toward a clean, renewable energy economy.”
Crist and Deutch’s legislation aims to lower carbon pollution by up to 45% by 2030 compared to 2016. By 2050, that target would be a reduction of more than 90%. Former Florida Congressman Francis Rooney, a Naples Republican, also served as a sponsor of the legislation during the last Congress before returning from the House.
Cancel that check
Punishing China for the coronavirus has become a path many members of the delegation want explored. Mast, a Stuart Republican, told CBS 12 he wants the U.S. withholding all debt payments to the nation and introduced legislation to require as much.
“There’s been basically nothing done about China and its ties to the pandemic,” Mast said. “Not just the United States of America but the world should be holding China accountable for everything they’ve been culpable in.”
According to the Department of Treasury, China’s holdings of U.S. debt, worth about $1,063 trillion, have long created anxiety among fiscal hawks and those concerned over the Chinese Communist Party’s growing economic power.
At the same time, the idea of the U.S. failing to pay its debts could put the federal government at risk of default, something that could have massive effects on the entire American economy. But Mast talked down concerns about what the course of action would mean for the value of U.S. capital.
“We’ve seen this capital war go on for years,” he said. It’s time for entities like the World Trade Organization to step in and explore how nations handle debt payments to global players like China.
No on Jim Crow
Naples Republican Byron Donalds, as one of the few Black members of the House GOP Caucus, pays close attention when Democrats invoke race in political rhetoric. The freshman lawmaker has quickly worked to set himself apart as an alternative voice on the impact of identity politics, counteracting the notion that voting in favor of conservative policies hurts the Black community as a whole.
Last week, he took personal offense when Biden derided Georgia election reforms as “Jim Crow in the 21st Century.” The President also defended an election bill passed by House Democrats that Donalds voted against.
“Time after time, Democrats resort to the race card to shield them from having to answer for their hypocrisy and radical policies,” Donalds said. “Jim Crow might not mean anything to President Biden, considering he joined segregationists in opposing bussing and eulogized known racists like Robert Byrd, but that dark stain on our Republic is personal to me and many Black Americans like me.”
Donalds dismissed the idea voter ID laws and other Republican-favored measures on election integrity hurt minority voters. “The Constitution outlines the responsibility of administering elections, and that power is for the states, not the federal government,” he said. “Abolishing voter ID laws, ending signature verification, and putting into place taxpayer-funded campaigns is detrimental to every American’s right to a free and fair election — and the harmful rhetoric of President Biden cannot evade this fact.”
As Democrats refer to the Senate filibuster as a Jim Crow relic, Donalds said that misses the point entirely. “In 2005, then-Sen. Biden said, ‘at its core, the filibuster is not about stopping a nominee or a bill; it is about compromise and moderation. That is why the Founders put unlimited debate in. That is what it is about, engendering compromise and moderation.’ Fast forward to today, and now President Biden is irresponsibly injecting race and the travesty of Jim Crow to oppose the filibuster.”
The human resources policies at the White House drew the attention of Florida’s only Democrat holding statewide office. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, one of Biden’s most prominent endorsements in the state before last year’s Democratic presidential primary, penned a letter questioning why the administration still seems to be firing people for past marijuana use.
“There are recent concerns regarding Administration policies on the use of marijuana, concerns which I share as an advocate for modernized cannabis policy,” Fried wrote. “Reports have indicated that dozens of current and potential White House staffers have been adversely affected through the personnel process for prior use of marijuana, despite assurances that such use would not be disqualifying for employment.”
The letter, sent to Presidential Personnel Director Catherine Russell, comes days after a report in The Daily Beast alleging dozens of staffers had been asked to resign or reassigned to remote work. White House press secretary Jen Psaki disputed the number of individuals impacted but confirmed five White House employees lost their jobs over past use.
On this day
March 30, 1822 — “Congress establishes Florida territory” via the Florida Center for Instructional Technology — Andrew Jackson had the responsibility of setting up Florida’s government, and he had a government up and running within weeks. He quickly divided Florida into two parts called counties. The area that was previously called West Florida became Escambia County, and what was once East Florida became St. Johns County. Jackson established county courts and mayors in the cities of St. Augustine (East Florida) and Pensacola (West Florida). Afterward, Jackson left Florida, and empowered William Pope DuVal to lead Florida as Governor.
March 30, 1981 — “Ronald Reagan is shot” via The New York Times — President Reagan was shot and seriously injured outside a Washington hotel by John W. Hinckley Jr. Also wounded were the White House news secretary James Brady, who was left paralyzed by the shooting, a Secret Service agent and a District of Columbia police officer. A rapid series of five or six shots rang out at about 2:30 p.m. as Reagan left the hotel. A look of stunned disbelief swept across the President’s face when the shots were fired just after he raised his left arm to wave to the crowd.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, with contributions by Ryan Nicol.