Delegation for 4.6.21: RIP Hastings — Piney Point — Augusta — inflation — Gaetz troubles

capitol u.s. green 9.30.19
Alcee Hastings, the longest-serving member and co-chair of the Florida congressional delegation, dies of pancreatic cancer at the age of 84.

Leader lost

Rep. Alcee Hastings, the longest-serving member and co-chair of the Florida congressional delegation, has died following a battle with pancreatic cancer.

The 84-year-old Hastings announced in early 2019 he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and began receiving treatment at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“In the midst of this traumatizing news, I found myself wondering not only if I would survive this disease, but also if it would impact my ability to perform my duties,” Hastings said at the time.

He did continue to represent the state during those treatments. In summer 2019, he announced he would run for reelection and successfully defended his seat last cycle.

Hastings first won election to the U.S. House nearly 30 years ago, in 1992.

RIP to Alcee Hastings, a South Florida political icon who passed away Tuesday at 84.

Hastings was also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and served as a senior whip in the House.

Hastings began his time in Congress after a controversial tenure serving as a U.S. District Judge in the Southern District of Florida. In 1988, the U.S. House impeached Hastings following bribery and perjury allegations. The U.S. Senate voted to convict and remove him from the position after just under 10 years on the District Court.

However, the Senate did not bar him from seeking future office as a term of his removal. Thus, Hastings was free to run for Congress a few years later.

Delegation will take a deeper look at the impact of Hastings’ career in Friday’s edition.

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of my dear friend, colleague and fellow Fiskite, Rep. Alcee Hastings,” said Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Hollywood Democrat who, like Hastings, attended Fisk University. “He leaves behind an enormous legacy for future generations to cherish and emulate.”

“Alcee and I became good friends over the years as co-chairs of the Florida congressional delegation,” said Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Sarasota Republican. “He was a man of generosity and tremendous dedication to serving his district and the people of Florida. Condolences to his family and staff. He will be greatly missed.”

Piney Point

The potential of an environmental disaster in his district consumed Buchanan’s weekend. A breach in one of three ponds at the Piney Point industrial site left the Congressman sounding alarms late last week. Then Saturday, local officials began evacuating hundreds of homes at risk of flooding.

While the potential disaster has Gov. Ron DeSantis on-site seeking a permanent solution, Buchanan also called for the federal Environmental Agency to provide its own oversight and response.

“The federal EPA just assured me they are going to work to ‘get boots on the ground’ in Manatee County to help confront the contaminated water crisis at Piney Point,” said Buchanan. “I called the EPA to make sure all hands are on deck to deal with this emerging threat at the abandoned fertilizer plant. The EPA’s regional water division director assured me: ‘I understand your concern, I understand the urgency, I am very concerned myself.’”

Vern Buchanan is monitoring a potential disaster in Manatee County’s old Piney Point phosphate plant.

For the part of Pinellas Democrat Charlie Crist, it’s best federal assistance come sooner than later.

“The environmental impact, and potential threat to human health, should be taken with the utmost seriousness,” he tweeted. “The Governor needs to immediately call for federal support to do whatever we can to prevent this disaster of epic proportions in the making.”

As fears grew at the site, Buchanan said the need for support did as well.

“We need all the assistance we can get now that state officials have warned a breach of the holding pond containing millions of gallons of contaminated water is imminent. This has become a full-blown emergency, and we need to take every step possible to protect public health and reduce the impact on homes, businesses and the environment,” he said.

“I appreciate that Gov. DeSantis and Manatee County have declared a state of emergency, but we need the EPA’s assistance as well. And when the time comes, I want to make sure the owner of the property, HRK Holdings, is held accountable for failing over the years to properly protect the public. We’ve known for years that the holding ponds of contaminated water were running out of capacity and threatening the region. But for now, we need to focus on the emergency at hand and contain the impact of more than 400 million gallons of contaminant flowing into the region. The EPA’s financial and technical assistance could be invaluable in ensuring the containment and disposal of the contaminated water.”

Augusta roster?

Sen. Marco Rubio joined conservative voices calling foul on Major League Baseball for moving its All-Star Game from Atlanta. The Miami Republican specifically called out Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred for keeping a membership with the Augusta National Golf Club.

“I am under no illusion that Major League Baseball will sacrifice business revenue on behalf of its alleged corporate values. Similarly, I am under no illusion you intend to resign as a member from Augusta National Golf Club,” Rubio said. “To do so would require a personal sacrifice, as opposed to the woke corporate virtue signaling of moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta.”

The league on Friday announced it would move the All-Star Game in protest of Georgia’s new election law, which includes strict photo ID requirements and a prohibition on handing water and food out to those lined up within a certain distance of polling sites.

While also being located in Georgia, Augusta has its own controversial history of excluding women members and Black golfers.

In a letter to Manfred and shared with the press, he called out the Commissioner for making a decision that could hurt Atlanta’s economy while keeping an Augusta membership card in his wallet.

“I write to ask you whether you intend to maintain your membership at Augusta National Golf Club. As you are well aware, the exclusive members-only club is located in the State of Georgia,” Rubio wrote. “Last week, you ‘decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game’ from Atlanta because of Georgia’s revised election law. It is a decision that will have a bigger impact on countless small and minority-owned businesses in and around Atlanta, than the new election law ever will. And one that reeks of hypocrisy.”

Inflation intervention

Inflation remains one of the most destabilizing economic forces for the middle class and Sen. Rick Scott says it’s time the Federal Reserve did something about it. In an editorial response to The Washington Post, the Naples Republican questioned whether Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has any plan to restrain rising gas and grocery costs.

While Scott, as one of the wealthiest members of Congress, may not run through the checkout lane often on his own, he stressed a personal history, raised by a single mother, as he showed empathy for the working poor.

Rick Scott urges the Fed to intervene in curbing inflation.

“The [Joe] Biden administration has the ability and responsibility to take immediate action to mitigate the effects of inflation, which increases the cost of everyday goods and disproportionately affects low- and fixed-income families,” Scott wrote. “I grew up poor, and my parents struggled for work. Families like mine growing up are impacted each day the Biden administration fails to get this under control.”

Scott said he’d sent direct requests to both Powell and the National Economic Council demanding answers on inflation, but so far to no avail.

“While Mr. Powell continues to ignore the elephant in the room, American families are worrying whether their paychecks will get them through the month,” Scott wrote. “It’s time for the Biden administration and the Federal Reserve to face reality. So what’s the plan, Mr. Powell? The American people deserve to know.”

Thanks, no thanks

As society reawakens after the pandemic year, national Democrats want to visit travelers to Orlando and remind them who to thank. The Democratic National Committee unveiled a new billboard in Orlando praising Bidenand trashing Republican Sens. Rubio and Scott.

“Help is here,” the billboard blasts in all caps. “$1,400 checks. $$$ to reopen schools. $$$ for vaccines.” More pointedly, flanking the message of thanks is a color picture of the Democratic President and black-and-white headshots of the Senators saying: “No thanks to …”

A new DNC billboard will be greeting Floridians in Orlando.

The campaign message refers to the American Rescue Plan, the latest COVID-19 relief bill that passed without the support of any Florida Republicans. The billboard will greet drivers on State Road 528 as they head to the airport; it will be up all month.

“Folks in Orlando and senators traveling home won’t be able to miss this message: Help is here thanks to President Biden and congressional Democrats — but if it were up to Senators Rubio and Scott, Floridians wouldn’t be seeing any of the much-needed relief the American Rescue Plan is delivering,” said DNC Chair Jaime Harrison. “Democrats passed this relief package, which is already providing Floridians with direct payments and resources to help manufacture and distribute vaccines because they knew help couldn’t wait. Now, we’re making sure every Floridian knows it’s no thanks to Senators Rubio and Scott.”

Of course, Biden won’t be on the ballot again until 2024, but Rubio faces reelection next year. Scott also has until 2024, and that assumes he seeks reelection instead of running for President, but he has a lot riding on the midterms as chair of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Extortion coming into view

The question of whether Rep. Matt Gaetz can survive a still unfolding sex scandal seems yet unsettled. The Panhandle Republican continues to lean on growing evidence a group of men tried to use knowledge of a Justice Department investigation to extort his father, former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz.

Air Force veteran Bob Kent admitted to Sirius Radio’s Michael Smerconish that he approached the elder Gaetz about a $25 million “loan” to pay ransom for Robert Levinson, a Coral Springs federal agent believed to have died in Iranian custody. He raised the looming legal trouble facing the younger Gaetz.

“Matt Gaetz is in need of good publicity, and I’m in need of $25 million to save Robert Levinson,” Kent said, according to The Daily Beast.

Matt Gaetz is sticking with the extortion narrative. Image via Reuters.

That jives with a story the Congressman gave when hews broke of a Justice investigation into whether he committed sex trafficking of a minor by traveling with a 17-year-old girl to have sex. Further reporting indicates that accusation stems from ongoing charges against political ally and former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg.

Sources told The New York Times that Greenberg, Gaetz and another person engaged in Republican politics might have had sex with the girl.

But while new accounts appear to bolster some of Gaetz’s claims about a shakedown of his family, they speak little to the initial investigation. Perhaps that’s why politicos in North Florida have already started speculating on who may run in a special election for Gaetz’s seat.

Remembering a matriarch

A community matriarch in Tallahassee could soon be celebrated in the form of a U.S. Post Office named in her honor.

Tallahassee Democrat Al Lawson filed legislation to rename Tallahassee’s main post office after D. Edwina Stephens.

Al Lawson honors community activist D. Edwina Stephens by naming Tallahassee’s main post office after her. Image via Facebook.

The gesture comes about 10 years after Stephens’ death. The nurse and community activist spent much of her life dedicated to improving historically neglected neighborhoods like Southside and the Greater Bond community, according to WTXL.

“Naming a post office in Tallahassee is a meaningful way to honor Edwina Stephens’ enduring legacy and her unyielding fight for justice,” Lawson said. “Warmly regarded as the ‘Mother of the Southside,’ Mrs. Stephens’ influence and kindred spirit will never go unnoticed. She was an inspiration to many and will be remembered as the heart of our community.”

Call genocide a genocide

St. Augustine Beach Republican Michael Waltz continues to lead among Washington voices raising the volume on China — in particular criticisms of Muslim Uyghurs. He sounded praise Monday for Japan.

“Great to see Japan condemn the [Chinese Communist Party’s] genocide of the Muslim Uyghurs and human rights abuses in Hong Kong,” he tweeted. “We must stand together against China’s brutal authoritarian regime.”

Michael Waltz is turning up the heat on China’s abuses.

That came just a few days after Waltz took to the Congressional forum A Starting Point that opponents of China’s actions need to address the scope of injustice adequately. He considers the human rights violations on par with brutal actions by nations led by warlords. Compare the Uyghurs’ treatment, he said, to the genocide in Rwanda, the war nu the Bosnian Serbs on Bosniaks and Croatians, and yes, the Nazi concentration camps and attempts to exterminate the Jews.

“When you’re trying to wipe an ethnic group off the face of the earth and prevent them from having children and spoil their gene pool through a mass rape campaign, that’s pretty sick stuff,” Waltz said.

Will Medicaid have its day?

Tampa Democrat Castor met with state health care leaders Monday to discuss the American Rescue Plan’s impact on the state’s budget — specifically, health care and Medicaid expansion.

Joining the Congresswoman were members of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, Florida Voices for Health and Lower Drug Prices Now to talk about the budget adjustments brought on by the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package.

She highlighted how Florida would receive $10 billion in aid from the package, and that the state could also receive billions of dollars through Medicaid expansion — a move that would impact the state’s nearly $1.4 billion pandemic shortfall.

Kathy Castor touts Florida’s $10B slice of the American Rescue Act pie.

“There have been a number of studies that have demonstrated not only do you improve people’s health care, not only do you improve their access but, the state of Florida would gain billions of dollars and be able to fund additional services for our older neighbors such as services for those who are homebound, home care services,” Castor said about expanding Medicaid.

Before the COVID-19 relief bill’s passage, the federal government offered to pay for up to 90% of new Medicaid costs for states adopting Medicaid expansion, with the remainder left to the state. A new provision in the American Rescue Plan provides even more federal dollars to encourage Medicaid expansion in any state that has not already expanded those benefits. The additional federal dollars would trickle in for two years and cover another 5% of extended access costs.

Florida is one of 12 states that has not expanded Medicaid, although at least two states are moving forward with plans to expand.

Celebrating Ag & Ed

Sarasota Republican Greg Steube took the chance to celebrate his district’s educators and agriculture community in one swoop when he named his March “FL-17 MVP.” He most recently tapped Michele Parmer, a Bartow Middle School teacher for the honor, which spotlights citizens’ achievements in Florida’s 17th Congressional District.

Parmer sponsors her school’s National FFA Organization chapter, which in Florida’s Heartland is pretty serious business. “She has gone above and beyond her role as an educator through dedicating her time to the FFA program and getting our future generations involved in Florida’s thriving agriculture industry,” Steube said of Parmer.

Greg Steube honors Michele Parmer, a Bartow Middle School teacher, as the March “FL-17 MVP.”

Through the club, she’s taught students to grow collars and raise hogs, and continuing the program this year through the challenges of COVID-19 earned special recognition from the Congressman. She will receive a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol in honor of the work she’s done, Steube’s office said.

No discharges to St. Lucie

Piney Point’s environmental threat has been known for decades, but it’s been a dormant menace until now. In the middle of its emerging crisis, Brian Mast continued his crusade against Lake Okeechobee discharges that frequently threaten his district’s Treasure Coast communities.

The Palm City Republican launched yet another attack this week.

Brian Mast is behind several bills to protect the St. Lucie River from Lake O discharges. Image via TCPalm.

Mast, state Sen. Gayle Harrell and state Rep. Toby Overdorf urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to eliminate regulatory discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie River.

“The Army Corps has determined that discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie are unnecessary for flood control and that eliminating these discharges can actually be beneficial to water supply, the environment and more,” Mast said in a news release. “The Army Corps must not settle for incremental progress but rather should take the bold action needed to protect Floridians and stop government-sanctioned poisoning.”

In that release, Mast cited a 2019 EPA report that discharges from Okeechobee damage the coastal environment and have frequently tested above the toxicity limits. It also cited 2019 testimony before Congress the Army Corps had knowingly released toxic water from Okeechobee into the river.

“Nonetheless, the discharges have continued,” the release complains.

On this day

April 6, 1917 — “Declaration of World War I” via the Library of Congress — Congress passed the Declaration of War. Not unlike the War of 1812, the U.S. went into war to protect shipping and the freedom of trade while in international waters. Since the beginning of that year, 19 U.S. merchant vessels were sunk by German U-boats. To combat the U-boats, the U.S. Navy employed destroyers, converted yachts, cruisers, submarine chasers, and other suitable craft to serve as patrol vessels and convoy escorts. It also organized and administered transport service to carry an American Expeditionary Force to Europe and a merchant fleet to support it while reinforcing the British Grand Fleet with a few American battleships.

April 6, 2017 — “Senate pulls ‘nuclear’ trigger to ease Neil Gorsuch confirmation” via National Public Radio — This is how the Senate changes — not with a bang, but with a motion to overturn the ruling of the chair. By a simple majority vote, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, set a new precedent in the Senate that will ease the confirmation for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch on Friday, after 30 more hours of debate on the floor. “This will be the first, and last, partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court justice,” said McConnell in a closing floor speech.

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

Staff Reports


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