In South Florida, Central American policy is domestic policy. Again, that became apparent as a political arrest in Nicaragua drew sharp responses from delegation members headquartered in Miami.
“As the Ortega regime continues to undermine Nicaragua’s democracy, the United States must take swift and meaningful steps to hold all individuals involved in this blatant abuse of power accountable,” said Sen. Marco Rubio.
The Senator’s statement came after Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s regime last week arrested Christiana Chamorro on money laundering charges. Days later, Arturo Cruz Sequeira was arrested for conspiring against the nation. Both were opposition leaders challenging Ortega.
The activity of dictatorial regimes anywhere in the world can draw rebuke from U.S. officials, but the response in South Florida seemed pronounced. There’s a reason for Miami lawmakers to have an outsized interest in the affairs of a Central American nation of 6.5 million. The Pew Research Center estimates 464,000 individuals of Nicaraguan origin live in the U.S., and about a third of those live in Florida. That last Census found the vast majority of Nicaraguans and Nicaraguan Americans in the state call the Miami area home. The metropolitan region hosted nearly three times as many individuals of Nicaraguan descent as any other city in America.
Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, a Miami Republican, has focused her attention in the last week on politics in the nation. “The Ortega regime is persecuting and jailing the democratic opposition in Nigeria. Let me be clear: we have zero tolerance for these vehement violations of Human Rights, she tweeted. She later added, “The Ortega regime must release ALL jailed opposition candidates IMMEDIATELY!”
The U.S. State Department, for its part, has also called for the immediate release of Ortega’s political opponents. The House Foreign Affairs Committee issued a bipartisan statement condemning the arrests, with Salazar as one of the authors of the statement.
Salazar also pressed Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the matter during a Monday hearing in Congress. “I have one question for you, sir: Should this country — have a ‘free trade’ with dictators who rig elections and jail his political opponents?”
Rubio similarly says the time has come for significant consequences for Nicaragua. “The Biden Administration must respond to the continued apprehension of opposition candidates by imposing sanctions as established by the NICA Act. The Senate should also pass the bipartisan RENACER Act to make clear the United States will not tolerate another dictator in our hemisphere. The future of our hemisphere’s democratic order is at stake; the time for action is now.”
As one of the wealthiest members of the Senate, since arriving in Washington, Rick Scott has donated his salary to outside organizations. He just announced two Florida charities, the Liberty Youth Ranch in Bonita Springs and the Advance Senior Center in Kissimmee, will split Scott’s salary from the first quarter of 2021.
Scott will divide his second-quarter salary between two other groups, the Guadalupe Center in Immokalee and the Florida Chapter of the ALS Association.
“The spirit of service in Florida is unmatchable. We have so many incredible organizations and individuals committed to helping others and making our state the best place in the nation to work, raise a family and live your dreams,” Scott said. “My wife, Ann, and I are honored to support the selfless service and missions of Liberty Youth Ranch, Advance Senior Center, Guadalupe Center, and the ALS Association as they tirelessly work to help Floridians, from children to seniors, lead happy lives.”
Each organization will collect some $43,500, based on Scott’s annual Senate salary of $174,000. Investopedia pegs Scott’s net worth at around $220 million.
The Naples Republican holds a long relationship with two of the groups. “We are grateful for U.S. Sen. Rick Scott and his wife Mrs. Ann Scott’s volunteerism and charitable support over the past two decades,” said Alan Dimmitt, president and CEO of the Liberty Youth Ranch. “Starting with Sen. Scott’s late mother, Esther Scott, Liberty Youth Ranch has been greatly blessed by the Scott family’s generational impact in giving every child a chance.”
“Sen. Rick Scott and his wife, Mrs. Ann Scott, have been strong advocates for quality education, literacy and the community of Immokalee,” said Dawn Montecalvo, president and CEO of the Guadalupe Center. “We are grateful for their continued support of Guadalupe Center. Their generous gift will help us create endless possibilities for the students of Immokalee.”
Rubio faces reelection next year, but what are his ambitions from there? During a recent interview with NBC News, the Miami Republican remained reserved about whether he will ever run for President again.
“You can be the world’s greatest surfer, and you can show up to the beach with the best surfboard you can imagine,” he said when asked about 2024. “But if there’s no waves that day, there’s nothing you can do about it.”
That seemed to suggest he sees a path to the White House only under the right conditions. Many indications show that he’s not the first Floridian on the list for many rank-and-file GOP voters. But that could change, mainly if Rubio posts a strong showing in his reelection bid next year (he will face Democratic opposition).
Notably, the latest NBC interview also stresses Rubio embraced his role in the Senate in a way that simply wasn’t as visible when he ran in 2016. During that national campaign, amid criticism that he relied on talking points and too often skipped votes, Rubio folded his campaign after losing Florida to then-part-time-Floridian Donald Trump.
Rubio these days has worked to shape the tone and agenda of the post-Trump Republican Party and could be content to continue doing so.
But he wouldn’t rule out a run.
“I’ve run for President once, so clearly I’ve had (an) interest in the position,” Rubio said. “And so for me to tell you that I would never run again is silly. But what I can’t tell you is, I don’t know what the world looks like in 2024. I don’t know what my life looks like in 2024. I don’t know what the party will be looking for in 2024. A lot of that is going to depend on factors I can’t predict and, frankly, in many cases don’t control.”
Kill the lights
St. Augustine Beach Republican Mike Waltz said it’s time U.S. cyber agents get aggressive with foreign adversaries. Speaking to The Donlan Report on NewsNationNow, the Congressman and former White House counterterrorism adviser said there should be a show of strength to America’s enemies around the globe.
“I want to see the lights flicker in the Kremlin,” Waltz said. “I want to see some capabilities communicated against Gazprom. I want to see some of these criminal hackers frankly show up in some not-so-great places with possibly some harm done to them, or at least demonstrated that we can. These regimes only understand strength.”
Indeed, the aggressive words show a sharp posture against Russia, the home to numerous recent ransomware attacks against U.S. targets.
#Cyberattacks: former White House counter-terrorism advisor @MichaelGWaltz told guest host @LelandVittert that the US needs to establish deterrence.#SomethingToThinkAbout #NewsNation #InTheNews #TDR #TheDonlonReport pic.twitter.com/u4sI7iKCQQ
— The Donlon Report (@TheDonlonReport) June 6, 2021
Waltz said he doesn’t doubt the ability of U.S. coders compared to those of Eastern nations but said the government here has been more reticent to go on hacker offense. He suggested they must show the ability to wreak havoc, the same way it was with America’s nuclear arsenal, to deter further cyberattacks.
“We have the capability,” Waltz said. “But I don’t think, and I don’t think our adversaries think, that Washington and this White House has the will right now, and we’re certainly not communicating it.”
Cranes in the air
Gainesville Republican Kat Cammack made it over to JAXPORT to inspect progress on a harbor deepening project there. As a member of the House Homeland Security, she said Florida’s ports remain a matter of vital national importance.
“Not only did my team and I learn so much about the critical operations happening here every day, but we got to see firsthand the hard work that goes into keeping a large port like this one running smoothly,” Cammack said. “The team took me up in one of the cranes to see the operation up close. Items you have in your homes, that you pick up at the store — those things are coming through this port every day.”
She filmed a Facebook Live from atop that crane, where the Congresswoman was allowed to help load cargo containers. During the process, she stressed the importance of trade to the U.S. and Florida in particular.
“When you think about JAXPORT and all the quantity that comes in and out, about 45% is going out, which is American-made products,” she said. “It’s everything from agriculture to widgets to clothing; you name it. Products that are manufactured here in the U.S. and Florida. All our local mom and pop shops that are exporting to markets all around the world, that is coming through JAXPORT.”
She hopes the improvements there will bring a greater balance between what comes in and what ships out. The fact 55% of goods through the port are imported shows discrepancies she wants to be addressed.
Days ahead of the fifth anniversary of the Pulse shooting in her district, Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy co-sponsored a resolution designating June as Nation Gun Violence Awareness Month. She referenced a pair of high-profile Florida shootings that left dozens of Floridians dead.
“Many families across Florida, especially those who have lost a loved one in the Pulse or Parkland shootings, live every day with the pain and loss caused by gun violence,” Murphy said. “I encourage Floridians and Americans across the country to join us in wearing orange today to honor those whose lives are lost to or upended by gun violence every year. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to pass common-sense gun legislation to keep the most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the most dangerous people.”
As we celebrate the start of #PrideMonth, Central Floridians are reminded of the tragedy that scarred our community 5 years ago when 49 innocent lives were taken from us at #Pulse. We must continue to honor their memories not just with words, but with resolute action. pic.twitter.com/bqHUKdyLoY
— U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy (@RepStephMurphy) June 3, 2021
On June 12, 2016, a shooter killed 49 mostly gay or Latino clubgoers at Pulse before police killed him. Less than two years later, another shooter allegedly shot and killed 17, mostly students, on Feb. 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High; the suspected shooter goes on trial later this year.
Murphy noted gun violence doesn’t just include victims of mass shootings; she cited that an estimated 19,300 died in gun homicides last year, a 15% increase over 2019.
President Joe Biden issued a statement about the Justice Department’s unusual decision opposing the policy of denying Social Security to Puerto Ricans while defending an administration’s right to do so. For Kissimmee Democrat Darren Soto, that showed a reason to promote a personal cause: statehood for the island territory.
“Americans in Puerto Rico would already have equal access to [Supplemental Security Income, Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit] and Medicaid if they were a state,” Soto tweeted, along with the hashtag #PRStatehoodNOW.
— Rep. Darren Soto (@RepDarrenSoto) June 7, 2021
Biden’s press office released a statement that, consistent with Justice Department practice, it will defend the constitutionality of the Social Security Act, which does not offer access to these federal programs or tax benefits despite all residents of the island being U.S. citizens. A case before the Supreme Court questions if that violates the Constitution’s equal protection clause. Regardless of that legal dispute, Biden said he wants the state to treat Puerto Ricans the same as its residents, as a matter of policy.
“I call on Congress to amend the Social Security Act to extend these benefits to residents of Puerto Rico,” he said. “And as I reiterated in my first budget request, I also support eliminating Medicaid funding caps for Puerto Rico and moving toward parity for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to align with States.”
Return of the check
As reports of coronavirus infections decline, more politicians return this month to in-person fundraising. Punchbowl News reports that the trend includes members of Florida’s delegation from both sides of the aisle.
A Jun. 7 edition of the newsletter listed Rubio among Senators hosting live fundraisers. Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor’s leadership committee will host a June 30 fundraiser at Nationals Park in Washington when the Tampa Bay Rays come to town.
Additionally, the Blue Dog PAC, co-led by Winter Park Democrat Murphy, plans to hold an event in The Greenbriar in West Virginia.
That comes after Zoom calls and digital fundraising efforts replace live events for much of the 2020 election cycle. COVID-19 may not be over, but with vaccinations growing around the country (if not at the rate many would like), the desire for facetime with politicians and the call of rubber chicken appetizers is back in force.
Longboat Key Republican Vern Buchanan announced nominations for eight students in Florida’s 16th Congressional Districts who hope to attend U.S. Service Academies.
Air Force Academy nods went to Cody Scott Gross of IMG Academy, Michael Taylor Shaklik of Out-of-Door Academy, Jaxson Crump of Sarasota High and Andrew Fischer of Newsome High. Elizabeth Jendrysik of Riverview High (Sarasota) and Savanah Holt of Riverview Senior High (Riverview) were nominated for the Naval Academy. Military Academy nominations were bestowed on Samantha Vest of Tabb High and Katherine Ward of Riverview High (Riverview).
“I congratulate these outstanding young men and women for their appointments,” Buchanan said. “They should take pride in having successfully competed with so many students from across the country. It is an honor not only for them but for all who have supported them along the way. I wish them the best of luck and have full confidence that they will serve our nation with honor.”
Friend of Ag
Sarasota Republican Greg Steube continued to maintain strong ties with agriculture leaders in the Florida Heartland. At a roundtable with leaders from Florida’s 17th Congressional District, the Florida Farm Bureau honored the Congressman with the Friend of Farm Bureau Award.
That’s after Steube filed and championed efforts on issues from immigration to seasonal imports as it related to agriculture. He’s pushed to move the H-2A visa program under the Department of Agriculture and prohibit citrus import from China.
The gesture from the Bureau also came as Steube vocally took the side of agriculture leaders surrounding Lake Okeechobee regarding water schedules, a sensitive topic causing disagreement with other Republican members of the delegation.
At the roundtable, Steube stressed he would advocate for the industry critical to so much commerce in rural Florida.
“Ensuring that American farmers have an advantage over foreign competition and are not burdened by counterproductive federal regulations is vital for Florida’s agricultural industry,” Steube said. “My team and I will continue to advocate for Florida’s farmers and ranchers as they navigate these challenges moving forward.”
Well, at least one high-profile candidate will challenge Rubio this year. After months of exploring a Senate run, former Congressman Alan Grayson on Monday declared “It’s on” and released an attack ad against the incumbent.
“Watch to see how we’ll beat Marco Rubio,” the Windemere Democrat tweeted. “We can beat Rubio and Keep the Senate Blue; if we work together. Join us!”
An aggressive ad accompanies the post. “Corrupt Marco Rubio has spent years defrauding the people of Florida.” It then goes into a litany of attacks that have been used against the two-term Republican Senator, from the use of a Republican Party of Florida credit card while he served as Speaker of the House to his high vote absentee record while he ran for President in 2016.
The ad closes with a tease to GraysonForSenate.org, a still mainly under construction site adorned with a donation button and social media links.
Of course, he’s not the first or last entry into the race. Allen Ellison, a two-time Congressional candidate, has raised more than $120,000 in his run for Senate. And most eyes among the political class nationwide remain fixed on Rep. Val Demings, who has signaled she will run and forgo a fourth term in the House.
Florida state Rep. Anthony Sabatini said he plans to challenge Murphy for her seat in Congress.
The Howey-in-the-Hills Republican announced in March he would forgo a third term in the Florida Legislature and run for U.S. House. But he raised eyebrows and incumbent ire when he filed in U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster’s district.
That’s where he lives, but signaled earlier that he held hope the Legislature would redraw boundaries, and he would run elsewhere. It’s clear now he doesn’t plan to wait. While the Federal Election Commission website does not yet reflect the change, Sabatini tweeted he has now formally filed in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.
“This pits my campaign against America-Last, corrupt Democrat Rep. Stephanie Murphy. Support my America First campaign,” Sabatini tweeted.
Another Congressional hopeful, former state data scientist Rebekah Jones, also announced on Instagram she’s turned her eyes to a new political jurisdiction. After briefly toying with a run for the seat St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist is vacating, an Instagram post says she will challenge embattled Panhandle Republican Matt Gaetz.
She announced the same day she was suspended from Twitter, seemingly motivated in part to ironically taking advantage of a law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis penalizing social media platforms who suspend candidates for office.
“No more sex traffickers in Congress!” she posted. “Well, at least one fewer with Matt Gaetz gone!”
A flame-throwing former Congressman resigned from his position with a state Republican party amid rumors he may mount a run for Governor.
No, not in Florida. Allen West had led the Texas Republican Party since 2020. But he’s stepping down after less than a year after backing some of Donald Trump’s election conspiracies and openly discussing Texas’ secession from the United States.
He leaves that post amid complaints about the Texas GOP’s financial strength. But West may have his eyes on a Republican primary challenge to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Though Trump has endorsed Abbott, West has not ruled out a run of his own.
West fizzled out of the Florida political scene after losing a 2012 congressional contest to Democrat Patrick Murphy. He’s since visited his former home state to help raise money for at least one local GOP chapter. But West has been chiefly slinging it in the Lone Star State, often continuing his penchant for outrageous comments sure to put his name in headlines.
One of West’s most recent eyebrow-raising remarks came as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit — later thrown out of court — challenging the results of the 2020 presidential election. After the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, West said secession should be an option on the table.
“This decision will have far-reaching ramifications for the future of our constitutional republic,” West said on the SCOTUS stiff-arm. “Perhaps law-abiding states should bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the constitution.”
West’s resignation as head of the Texas GOP kicks in once a new leader is selected on July 11.
On this day
June 8, 1789 — “James Madison introduces the Bill of Rights” via Constitution Daily — Madison addressed the House of Representatives and introduced a proposed Bill of Rights to the Constitution. More than three months later, Congress would finally agree on a final list of Rights to present to the states. Some of Madison’s opening list of amendments didn’t make the final cut in September. The House agreed on a version that had 17 amendments. The Senate consolidated the list to 12. In the end, the states approved 10 in December 1791. One of two amendments rejected by the states was eventually ratified in 1992 as the 27th Amendment; it restricted the ability of Congress to change the pay of a sitting Congress while in session.
June 8, 1982 — “Ronald Reagan addresses Parliament” via Voices & Visions — Reagan addressed members of the British Parliament in London. His speech at Westminster Hall harkened back to Winston Churchill’s 1946 “Sinews of Peace” address in Fulton, Missouri. While Churchill coined “Iron Curtain” in 1946, Reagan introduced one of the most recognizable phrases of the late Cold War: that communism would be left on “the ash-heap of history.” In the aftermath of the speech, some observers saw Reagan offering a coherent grand strategy to end the Cold War; others saw it as a prime example of the administration’s dangerously belligerent policy toward Moscow. Reagan’s performance was, in many respects, an encapsulation of an administration whose Soviet policy was so often pulled in competing directions.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, with contributions by Ryan Nicol.