- 2020 election
- Al Lawson
- Alcee Hastings
- Alex Rodriguez
- attorney general
- Charlie Crist
- Darren Soto
- Debbie Wasserman Schultz
- Department of Justice
- Frank Artiles
- Frederica Wilson
- Ileana Garcia
- Jose Javier Rodriguez
- Kathy Castor
- Lois Frankel
- Merrick Garland
- Miami-Dade State Attorney
- SD 37
- Senate District 37
- Stephanie Murphy
- Ted Deutch
- Val Demings
Bitter border battle
A trip to the U.S.-Mexico border has become a pilgrimage for Republicans anxious to highlight a rise in illegal border crossings.
This week, Lakeland Republican Rep. Scott Franklin visited El Paso, Texas, with two fellow members. It was one of several trips that included Florida delegation members.
“What I saw and experienced evoked a wide range of emotions: Heartbreaking instances of young, unaccompanied children abandoned at the border,” he said. “The fear and trauma of our citizens living along the border who are confronted with the drug smuggling and human trafficking operations of murderous cartels. The frustration of solid, law-abiding American citizens who feel their government has betrayed and abandoned them.”
He cited reports from Border Patrol that only 10-12% of those seeking asylum at the point provide legitimate cases, with roughly nine out of 10 sent back home. That alone, he said, shows why the U.S. should restore the “remain in Mexico” policy enforced under former President Donald Trump.
Similarly, Rep. Kat Cammack, a Gainesville Republican, told Fox 35 Orlando she saw shelters in the U.S. that have become overrun as a humanitarian crisis grows. The U.S. Department of Health and Services started an investigation in San Antonio, near where Cammack visited Tuesday, into reports of sexual abuse during site sheltering. And that’s just what happened after children entered the U.S. “I have talked and spoke firsthand with young girls who have been sexually assaulted on their journey over,” Cammack said.
It’s all fed a collective cry from Republicans in the Florida delegation about President Joe Biden’s allegedly lax border enforcement. In a video filmed at the border between El Paso and Juárez, Mexico, Rep. Byron Donalds, a Naples Republican, said border crossings are pulling away from efforts to stop drug smuggling.
“We are being played on the Southern border, and we need President Biden and this White House to change its policies, give our Border security more ability to actually control our border so we can stop people being trafficked — little kids being trafficked — and we can start to control the cartel once again,” he said.
Democrats, though, say the government must fix problems with its immigration system rather than find ways to leave more struggling migrants stranded south of the border. Rep. Darren Soto in an Orlando Sentinel op-ed this week touted the Dream and Promise Act, which just passed in the House. He said the legislation could provide an “earned pathway to citizenship” for childhood arrivals and displaced refugees. “Now the Senate must follow suit and send legislation that provides these crucial immigrants with a pathway to citizenship to President Joe Biden’s desk,” he wrote.
More controversially, Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Hollywood Democrat, suggested a solution that makes many within her Party wince: reopen the Homestead child detention facility to handle the influx of unaccompanied arrivals better.
“The Homestead facility is empty!” she tweeted. “Bring the immigrant children. Send us the girls. Bring them now and hold me and my community responsible for their humane treatment. We will visit often and monitor their care! Miami-Dade is opening its arms!”
Bill Day’s latest
Savage against TikTok
Whatever happened to that TikTok hate we once knew? Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott say it’s still true.
Both of Florida’s Senators joined Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley in introducing legislation barring any federal employers from downloading the social media app to their phones. The move by the GOP Senate trio comes months after former President Donald Trump tried to ban any downloads of the Chinese-owned app for U.S. consumers; that attempt to mute the online phenomenon failed in court.
While it may seem an elaborate ploy to pry kids from their phones, Rubio maintains TikTok poses a national security risk because of the Chinese government’s ownership stake in the software. “TikTok poses a potential threat to personal privacy and our national security interests,” he said. “There is absolutely no reason why this application, which Beijing can use to advance its malign foreign policy initiatives, should be utilized on federal devices. In its current form, this platform is not safe. I’m proud to join Senators Hawley and Scott in introducing this bill.”
Scott said it’s vital that employee mobile devices don’t provide a foothold for China to hack into government servers just so a postal worker can post the dance to a Jason Derulo song.
“We cannot allow federal employees to jeopardize U.S. government networks and national security by using apps like TikTok, which are connected to the Chinese Communist Party,” he said. “Communist China has shown again and again that it will stop at nothing to infiltrate our government networks and steal American technology and intellectual property. I’m proud to join Sen. Hawley on this important legislation and hope our colleagues will join us in quickly passing the No TikTok on Government Devices Act.”
Rubio fumed Thursday about a pending proposal to expand the Supreme Court’s size under Biden, a move that could permanently tip the ideological balance of the high panel.
The Senator, who warned of so-called court-packing schemes during the 2020 campaign season, was in high dudgeon on Fox and Friends over the expected proposal to add four new justices to the current nine. These presumably liberal jurists would remove the court’s long-standing conservative skein.
“They’ve been wanting to do this for a long time,” Rubio noted on Fox and Friends. “There was no problem with the courts until a Republican President was elected and started appointing people to vacancies. Now there’s a problem with the courts.
“The courts have been where they’ve done things for 25 years that they couldn’t get done through the legislative branch. They couldn’t get a bill passed in Congress, or they couldn’t get a bill passed by a state legislature, so they went to a court and got it done. Well, now that there are conservative judges and judges who will interpret the Constitution as it is written, suddenly, we’ve got a crisis in the courts,” Rubio added.
“This is a pure political ploy. Hardball politics. It’s sad it’s not being covered that way by most outlets, but that’s the way it is.”
As National Republican Senatorial Committee chair, don’t expect Scott to anoint winners and losers in primaries. During a live interview with The Washington Post, he said his role is to get Republicans elected in November, not serving as a kingmaker.
That’s in part thanks to his history as an underdog in a GOP contest. “I had a very tough primary back in 2010,” he said. “I think every Republican in the country endorsed my opponent. But I’ve elected to stay out of primaries.”
That referenced the 2010 gubernatorial primary when Scott, then a first-time candidate and retired hospital network CEO, challenged Bob McCollum, a former member of the delegation and the establishment favorite in the race, for the GOP nomination. Scott ultimately won the primary by just over 36,000 votes, the first in a series of suspenseful upsets on his political resume.
While the Senator said he does plan to support incumbents regardless of primary challenges from the right, he will not engage in open nomination contests because he needs to be on the side of whoever wins heading into the general.
“My goal is (to) let the voters make a choice,” he said, “and once the voters choose, then I would like all Republicans, including the former President, to be very supportive of the Republican nominee.”
That last bit, of course, referred to Trump’s apparent desire to exact revenge on Republicans who supported his impeachment or refused to advance his false claims of winning the 2020 election. While Scott just gave him an award on behalf of the NRSC, the Senator said he also politely asked Trump to avoid tearing the GOP apart. “But when I give advice to somebody, I don’t expect them to take it,” he said.
Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz took a break from confronting a sex trafficking scandal to weigh in on policy. He took a shot at the neocons in his party resisting Biden’s announced withdrawal from Afghanistan while sending out a letter on an aisle-crossing issue of fighting animal testing.
The Congressman, who has always had an isolationist anti-war streak, made clear in a tweet he wants troops home sooner than later. “U.S. entanglement in Afghanistan is unpopular everywhere except the swamp of Washington,” he wrote, referencing a Brietbart article. “We must end this war now.”
Biden announced this week he intends U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan before the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the incident that led to the U.S. toppling the Taliban but sparked the longest war in U.S. history.
Gaetz this week also sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding the Justice Department crack down on Live Tissue Training of animals to practice treatment of traumatic injuries.
“The government should abandon Live Tissue Training completely,” he wrote. “Not only is it absolutely inhumane, but it also costs the United States taxpayers an exorbitant amount of money,” he wrote, noting three recent invoices showing nearly $132,000 spent on a small amount of research. Moreover, he wrote, “the ethical treatment of sentient beings should be the policy across the board in our advanced society.”
Besides, what else is the Justice Department investigating these days?
Bail on Beijing?
It’s time to boycott the Beijing Olympics, according to St. Augustine Republican Michael Waltz.
In a video roundtable that included former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and support from former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, he said it’s becoming increasingly clear the International Olympic Committee won’t move the 2022 Winter Olympics away from China. That’s despite a host of human rights violations in Tibet and Hong Kong and a genocide of the Uyghur people.
“Sending a very strong message the world is willing to turn a blind eye to abuses and allow the Chinese Communist Party to whitewash all these terrible things is unconscionable,” Waltz said.
Waltz said the preferable option would be for the Olympics to relocate to a Western nation with a better human rights record. But with the winter games just 11 months away, he said it’s time to take a stronger stand.
The United States should either boycott the games entirely by not sending any athletes, or at least enact a diplomatic boycott and refuse to send any representatives of the U.S. government to the games.
Asked about the potential that would hurt athletes more than China, Waltz turned the floor to Tahir Imin, a Uyghur and former Chinese political prisoner and Zumretay Arkin, a human rights advocate raising awareness of the Uyghur genocide.
“No athlete of conscience would want to be put in that place by the IOC to choose between their careers and a country with ongoing genocide,” Arkin said.
Waltz encouraged any athlete, especially those participating in political protests on other issues, to speak directly with groups impacted by China’s actions. “If the U.S. was imprisoning or benefiting from slave labor of enslaved Muslims, wouldn’t they be calling for a boycott?” he said.
With some 265,000 students who don’t speak English in their home, Florida ranks third in the nation for the number of English Language Learners in the schools. Some of the delegation’s noted bilingual members want to make sure the state has resources to teach English as a second language properly.
Orlando Democrat Stephanie Murphy and Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart on Thursday introduced the ELEVATE Act, which changes Department of Education funding formulas to direct more money for teaching and instruction for students, including those coming into the continental U.S. from Puerto Rico.
“As it is for so many Floridians, English is my second language. I grew up in a Vietnamese-speaking household, and I was fortunate to learn English at school,” Murphy said. “I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation that will ensure Florida schools have the resources they need to help English-learners excel in the classroom and be better equipped to succeed in this country.”
Diaz-Balart said it’s important students are well-served.
“This legislation revises the Department of Education’s grant formula to ensure schools receive the necessary resources to provide high-quality English education to students who relocate from Puerto Rico, and whose primary language is Spanish,” he said. The ELEVATE Act is crucial for communities like Miami-Dade County, which receives the highest amount of English Language Acquisition funding in Florida.”
Rubio, Scott, Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut will carry the bill.
“By correcting this existing flaw, we are ensuring the U.S. Department of Education fully captures the number of K-12 students who relocate to a mainland state from Puerto Rico,” Rubio said.
“I will always do everything I can to support Puerto Rican families and make sure all students have the resources they need,” added Scott.
Ways and Means
Sarasota Republican Vern Buchanan announced he’s running to chair the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. He made his intentions clear after Rep. Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, announced he would not seek reelection.
“The announcement by Rep. Kevin Brady that he will not seek reelection is a huge loss to our party,” said Buchanan. “Kevin has been nothing short of a superstar over the past five years as Republican leader of the Ways and Means Committee. I worked side by side with Kevin and saw his critical leadership in passing the historic Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and the landmark trade deal with Canada and Mexico.”
Buchanan will face competition, according to Roll Call. The longest-serving Republican on the committee is Rep. Devin Nunes of California. However, he would have to give up his position as the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee to lead Ways and Means. Rep. Adrian Smith of Nebraska is third in line in seniority behind Buchanan and expressed interest in the role.
In large part, Nunes was called the front-runner by the political publication due to his relationship with Republican Minority Leader and fellow Californian Kevin McCarthy. That said, McCarthy has a good relationship with Buchanan, and both won election to the House in the same class.
Buchanan worked closely with Brady, particularly on trade issues, serving as a liaison with the White House on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
Past Republican Ways and Means chairs became House Speakers, including Ohio Republican John Boehner and Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan. Buchanan first won election to the House in 2006 and currently co-chairs Florida’s Congressional Delegation.
For the Sarasota Republican to lead the chamber relies on the GOP taking back control of the House of Representatives. Right now, Democrats hold just a six-seat majority in the House, and historically the party out of power in the presidency performs well in the midterms. “At the appropriate time, it would be an honor to be considered for the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee when we win back the House in 2022,” Buchanan said.
Standing for seniors
Florida has a high population of seniors — and thus an increased risk of scams. The House just passed legislation introduced by two delegation members to protect older Americans from getting ripped off by tech-savvy con artists.
Buchanan and Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch introduced the bipartisan Seniors Fraud Protection Act, which ultimately rolled into a broader Fraud and Scam Reduction Act. That just won the support of the House in a 396-13 vote. Should it become law, the bill will create an advisory office within the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Affairs to alert consumers about scams targeting them.
“This is an important safeguard for seniors who have worked their entire lives with the promise of a safe and secure retirement,” Buchanan said. “Unfortunately, criminals are taking advantage of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and working overtime to target them. Scams targeting the elderly threaten more than retirement accounts — they imperil the independence and trust of an already vulnerable community.”
The AARP supported the bill and worked with Buchanan and Deutch on identifying threats to seniors. Deutch said it’s essential the government stay mindful of the vulnerability of the population.
“Seniors are often the biggest targets for scams trying to confuse and cheat them to give up money and personal information,” he said. “We need a stronger federal effort to track, target, and warn against these fraudulent schemes. This bill will strengthen important consumer protections to help seniors protect their assets.”
Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association President Carol Dover this week testified to the Senate about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism and hospitality committee. She spoke to the Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion, where Scott serves as the ranking member and Nevada Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen chairs.
Subsequently, Dover sat alongside tourism leaders from Las Vegas and a committee led by Senators from tourism-dependent states.
“Throughout my tenure at FRLA, I have watched the growth of the hospitality and tourism industry to become the largest one in Florida, a top employer, and the economic engine for our state,” she testified. “Travel and tourism directly affect the success of our hospitality industry, so it is important to share some data from our partners at VISIT FLORIDA on the power of tourism in Florida.”
She noted that in 2019, more than 131 million visitors came to Florida, contributing $97 billion to the state economy. “As we entered 2020, things were looking good,” she said. “We had no idea what was about to hit us. Our industry experienced a severe and sudden shock as we were shut down. More than 934,000 of our 1.5 million employees were almost immediately furloughed or laid off. Businesses including restaurants and bars were shut down, air travel stopped, and business conferences and large events were canceled.”
She thanked Congress for bills that helped rescue the restaurant industry, including $28.6 million in the American Rescue Plan for restaurant revitalization. But she said further support may yet be needed to restore the state of the industry.
On this day
April 16, 1863 — “Abolition in the District of Columbia” via the Library of Congress — President Abraham Lincoln signed an act abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia, an important step in the long road toward complete emancipation and enfranchisement for African Americans. African American citizens of Washington, D.C., three days later, staged a huge celebration. Approximately 5,000 people marched up Pennsylvania Avenue, past 10,000 cheering spectators, to Franklin Square for prominent politicians’ religious services and speeches. Before 1850, slave pens, slave jails, and auction blocks were common in the District of Columbia, a hub of the domestic slave trade. In the words of one slave who worked for a time in the District’s Navy Yard.
April 16, 1947 — “Bernard Baruch coins the term ‘Cold War’” via History.com — Multimillionaire and financier Baruch coined the term to describe relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. The phrase stuck, and for over 40 years, it was a mainstay in the language of American diplomacy. Since Woodrow Wilson’s days, Baruch served as an adviser to Presidents on economic and foreign policy issues. In 1919, he was one of the U.S. advisers at the Paris Peace Conference that ended World War I. During the 1930s, he frequently advised Franklin D. Roosevelt and members of Congress on international finance and issues of neutrality.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, with contributions by A.G. Gancarski.