Delegation for 6.22.21: War pigs — snowbirds — FBI target? — investigations — big refunds

u.s. capitol GREEN
Republicans are resistant to giving Joe Biden war powers.

No war pigs

A vote last week to rescind the 2002 use of force resolution that authorized the Iraq War served to demonstrate a changing foreign policy stance among Florida Republicans. The bill passed on a largely party-line vote, but 49 Republicans cast their support toward the repeal, including Florida Reps. Matt Gaetz, Kat Cammack, Bill Posey, Greg Steube and Byron Donalds.

“Based on the initial framework, the 2002 AUMF [Authorization for Use of Military Force] is now outdated and unnecessary for the President to respond to ongoing or imminent threats in Iraq or elsewhere,” said Steube, who as an Army JAG officer served in Iraq for two years as captain of the 25th Infantry Division.

“Rather than relying on decades-old authorizations, the President is able to use his Article II powers to defend our national security and consult Congress when required. Almost 20 years later, there is no reason why Congress should keep this obsolete AUMF in place.”

The 2002 AUMF is renewed, but not without Republican pushback.

The fact so many Republicans would cast a vote limiting military authorization shows a significant shift from 19 years ago when the AUMF first passed under former President George W. Bush. Then, not long after 9/11, the neoconservative wing of the GOP drove foreign policy decisions in that administration. At the time, the popularity around a potential war with Iraq pushed most of Florida’s delegation to vote in favor of the use of force, regardless of party. Reps. Corrine Brown, Alcee Hastings and Carrie Meek, all Democrats, cast the only dissenting votes from the Sunshine State in the House. Democratic Sen. Bob Graham voted against it in the Senate, but Sen. Bill Nelson, also a Democrat, voted for it.

Today, no delegation members have served long enough to cast a vote in 2002; Nelson lost reelection in 2018, and Hastings died earlier this year. But the unpopularity of the war with the liberal base in the intervening years makes it unsurprising that every Florida Democrat in Washington voted last week for repealing the authorization. The split among Republicans may be more interesting.

For some, the vote followed through on anti-war, isolationist philosophy that grew in the wake of the drawn-out war. It eventually became a central plank of former President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda. “The Iraq War was a tragic failure,” Gaetz tweeted earlier this month.

Posey notably voted in 2013 against authorizing then-President Barack Obama to launch military strikes in Syria. At the time, he stressed the U.S. record on military intervention in the Middle East simply had not worked out. “I opposed U.S. military action in Libya because we had no clear idea of who we were helping to replace [Moammar] Gadhafi, another dictator,” he said then. “That intervention has proved to be very problematic, as I anticipated it would be.”

First elected in 2008, Posey was the longest-serving Florida Republican voting to repeal the use of force authorization. All other members to do so notably arrived in Washington during the Trump era.

Of course, so did some of the members who voted against repeal. Some, like Steube, served in uniform at the peak of the post-9/11 conflict in the Middle East. Reps Mike Waltz and Brian Mast cast ‘nay’ votes. Waltz, elected in 2018, previously served as a counterterrorism adviser in the Bush administration, and Mast served in Afghanistan, losing both legs to an explosive set in Kandahar.

In the Senate, there may still be some recalcitrance among GOP members, including Sen. Marco Rubio, who on Monday joined a letter asking for a classified briefing on the ramification of repealing the Iraq force authorization before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee takes up a companion bill.

“We should fully evaluate the conditions on the ground, the implications of repealing the 2002 AUMF for our friends, and how adversaries — including ISIS and Iranian-backed militia groups — would react,” the letter reads.

Colombia concern

Sens. Rick Scott and Rubio want the U.S. to stand firm with Colombia amid political unrest there. Along with Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida’s Senate delegation introduced a resolution to condemn any efforts to undermine democracy and encourage the international community to support President Ivan Duque.

“The United States and Colombia share a commitment to promoting security, prosperity, human rights, and democracy across the Western Hemisphere,” Scott said. “Colombia is our greatest ally in Latin America and a partner in combating drug trafficking. Right now, Colombia is supporting more than a million Venezuelan citizens who have fled Maduro’s murderous regime. They are an invaluable partner in the fight for freedom and democracy across Latin America.”

Rick Scott is pushing a resolution to support Ivan Duque of Colombia.

But whatever role Colombia plays internationally, domestic issues threaten Duque’s future. Negotiations between the administration there and labor protesters have fallen apart, with a strike committee unilaterally ending talks earlier this month, though protests have paused as well, Foreign Policy reports.

Rubio has called into question the motivations of anti-government forces at work there.

“The ongoing situation in Colombia is of grave concern and must be met with international support and solidarity,” Rubio said. “As members of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, including the ELN [National Liberation Army] and the dissident forces of the FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia], seek to destabilize a democratically elected, pro-American government, our nation must use all tools available to ensure peace and restore stability.”

Three Miami area Republicans — Mario Diaz-Balart, María Elvira Salazar and Carlos Giménez — will sponsor a companion resolution in the House.

Snowbird song

Rubio and Scott also have an eye turned to the north and will renew a push to allow those fleeing the cold of Canada for the Sunshine State to stick around a little longer.

The two Republicans reintroduced the Canadian Snowbirds Act, which would allow Canadian citizens to spend as much as eight months a year in America if passed. That’s two months longer than they now may legally stay.

“Tourism is critical to Florida’s economy and supports more than 1 million jobs all across the Sunshine State,” Rubio said. “This bill will be a huge boost to our state’s economy by allowing the millions of Canadian snowbirds who visit Florida each year to stay here for two more months.”

The bill only applies to visiting rights of Canadian nationals age 50 and over and who own or rent property in the U.S. Focused on vacationers, the legislation does not extend that staying power to those working for American employers, who must seek recognition as residents of the U.S.

Scott said it’s more important than ever for the U.S. to encourage international visitation from the Great White North.

“Throughout my time as Governor, we worked hard to grow Florida’s tourism industry, and we saw a record-breaking number of visitors every year,” Scott said. “Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has severely hurt Florida’s travel and tourism industries. Now, as we continue to recover, we should do everything we can to welcome visitors to our state, like our neighbors to the north, which helps communities thrive, businesses grow, and creates job opportunities for Florida families. I’m proud to join Sen. Rubio in sponsoring this bill to allow Canadian snowbirds to enjoy two more months of Florida’s incredible weather and continue to support our tourism industry.”

King, X and Gaetz?

Some people have suggested Gaetz’s rock star lifestyle drew the FBI’s scrutiny in a sex trafficking investigation. But based on comments the Fort Walton Beach Republican made to far-right outlet OAN this weekend, he may believe he’s the target of a J. Edgar Hoover-esque mission to destroy political opponents.

“The gravest threat to our republic is the utilization of these national security authorities against our own people,” he said. “We see that target the right in politics far more than it ever targets the left.”

Did the rock star lifestyle make Matt Gaetz a target? Image via NBC News.

He acknowledged that wasn’t always the case. “Around the FBI’s founding, there was targeting of a lot of civil rights leaders,” Gaetz said. “Now we see that turned on its head where they are more targeting people who don’t align with the new woke-ism that seems to be taking over just about every aspect of our government.”

The FBI under Hoover notoriously spied on leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.

As Gaetz spoke, the network ran footage of rioters on Jan. 6 storming the Capitol. Many of those individuals now face federal charges.

Gaetz last week sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray demanding information on whether the FBI infiltrating right-wing groups like the Proud Boys and whether any of the rioters were informants.

But it’s hard not to hear Gaetz’s remarks in the context of the FBI’s ongoing investigation into his activity connected to former Seminole County Tax Collector and confessed sex trafficker Joel Greenberg.

Dig deeper

Another member of the delegation isn’t so defensive of investigating rioters who tried to overthrow the government. St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist, a candidate for Governor, pounded Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for letting conspiracy theories fester.

The congressman said the Republican Governor wouldn’t address right-wing extremism or embrace the truth about the November election.

“Three days ago, I challenged Gov. DeSantis to reject the Big Lie and launch a bipartisan investigation into Florida-based hate group members and their connections to the January 6 insurrection at our nation’s Capitol,” Crist said. “Our Governor could have done the right thing to keep Floridians safe and stop violent hate groups from organizing in Florida. Instead, he has chosen partisanship and division.”

Charlie Crist calls out Ron DeSantis to order a nonpartisan investigation of Florida’s ‘outsized role’ in The Capitol insurrection. Image via Facebook.

Crist said DeSantis has refused to openly reject a conspiracy theory that the November election was stolen from Trump. On Jan. 6, Trump supporters sieged the Capitol and disrupted certification of President Biden’s Electoral College victory.

A spokesperson for DeSantis called Crist’s idea for a commission “raw political opportunism” on the part of Crist. “Any individuals who are found guilty of committing crimes should be held responsible for their own actions,” said DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw.

He said it’s necessary to repudiate Trump’s lie about Biden stealing the election.

“If Gov. DeSantis can’t admit the truth about something as simple as who the duly elected President is, is there anything he won’t mislead the public about?” Crist said. “Just as troublingly, his silence is empowering the hate groups that fueled the insurrection of January 6. Floridians deserve better.”

Save Wekiva

It’s time for the feds to step in and examine damage to the Little Wekiva River, according to winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy. The Congresswoman last week wrote a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan asking for an investigation of the Florida waterway to see if the Clean Water Act has been violated.

Her letter follows reports of local construction sites failing to stop the stormwater discharge. This has all led to the river becoming less navigable because of silt and debris.

Stephanie Murphy seeks an EPA study of polluted stormwater runoff in the Little Wekiva River. Image via mapio.com.

“The degradation of the Little Wekiva River hurts our local ecosystems, endangers the safety of our community, and threatens our economic future,” Murphy said. “I asked the federal government to swiftly examine what is occurring, determine if federal laws are being violated, and take appropriate action to restore the river and hold those responsible accountable.”

The concerns arise as the I-4 Ultimate corridor rolls forward. “The permits for this project indicate that several of the multi-acre highway construction sites are connected through underground pipes that discharge into the Little Wekiva River,” the letter reads. “Following various reports of discharge, in fact, flowing into the river, local authorities and residents have submitted various complaints to the permitting agencies. Although inspections have taken place, I believe the extent of the ecological damage warrants an investigation by the EPA.”

A glass to freedom

His writing inspired the 21st century’s hottest musical. Now Ron Chernow hopes his support of Murphy’s reelection inspires donations to the Winter Park Democrat’s campaign.

The historian who wrote “Alexander Hamilton,” and in doing so inspired Tony-winning playwright Lin Manuel-Miranda to pen a biographical Broadway show on the same Founding Father, will be part of a virtual fundraiser for Murphy later this month. Those who want to participate in the virtual conversation on June 29 at 7 p.m. are encouraged to donate. An e-vote suggests $2,500 PAC and $1,000 personal donations for “hosts” and $1,000 PAC and $500 personal donations for “friends.”

But, hey, then your children will tell the story of that night.

Return to spender

Clermont Republican Daniel Webster reached a milestone in his Congressional career. As of Tuesday, his office has returned some $15 million in federal money owed to constituents — in compensation, pensions, or retroactive payments.

The money comes from various sources through the years, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, Internal Revenue Service and Social Security. But it has piled up. In 2021 alone, the Congressman has secured nearly $1.6 million in repayments.

Daniel Webster has made a habit of returning excess funds from his Congressional office, which now reached $15M.

“Providing my constituents first-class assistance with issues involving federal agencies is one of my top priorities.,” Webster said. “Too often, Americans’ attempts to receive the veteran benefits, IRS or Social Security payments they have earned are met with delays. I am pleased that we have been able to intercede on behalf of so many constituents to ensure they receive the services and compensation they have earned.”

He credited staff, who have developed good relationships across federal agencies and have become adept at cutting through red tape.

“I am committed to continuing to work to improve the quality, effectivity and efficiency of our federal agencies,” he said.

Healthy moms

In a letter addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, 167 Congress members — including nine Florida Democrats — pushed to include the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act (H.R. 959) and a permanent expansion of yearlong postpartum Medicaid coverage.

“The maternal mortality rate for Black mothers is 3-4 times higher than the rate for White mothers — a deeply troubling disparity that demands immediate action,” Crist, who seeks the Governor’s seat in 2022, said in a statement. “We need to get serious about passing the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act to reduce this disparity and provide the resources and quality health care Black mothers have too long been denied.”

Delegation members are urging the full $3B for Medicaid coverage to be used to close the maternal health care gap.

In the letter, the Congress members called for leadership to include the total $3 billion allocated in Biden’s plan to address the maternal health crisis.

“The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate of any high-income country and the only rate that is rising,” the letter states, adding that “the risks for pregnant people have only grown during COVID-19.”

Waterways

Stuart Republican Mast and drinkers of water celebrated House passage of the Local Water Protection Act. That’s a bill Mast introduced earlier this year with Minnesota Democrat Angie Craig that will reauthorize a grant program through the Environmental Protection Agency for reducing water pollution.

“If we wouldn’t put it in the bathtub with our kids, we shouldn’t allow it in our waterways,” Mast said. “So whether it’s runoff from agriculture, pollution from septic tanks, herbicides like glyphosate, or any other kind of dangerous water pollution, we need to find a way to stop it at the source.”

Brian Mast celebrates with water drinkers on the renewal of an EPA clean water grant program.

Mast has focused heavily on water issues during his time in Washington. This week, he also introduced the National Ocean Coastal Security Improvements Act with Virginia Democrat Don Beyer, which focuses on resilience in coastal communities like Florida’s 18th Congressional District.

“In Florida, we know all too well that the cliché that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is especially true when it comes to our environment,” Mast said. “Making this investment now is critical to heading off an even more expensive mess in the future. I thank Congressman Beyer for spearheading this legislation and look forward to working with him to get it across the finish line.”

Pride tragedy

Delegation members Ted Deutch and Debbie Wasserman Schultz are safe following a fatal truck accident over the weekend at a Stonewall Pride Parade.

Both Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat, and Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat, attended the Saturday event in Wilton Manors, just north of Fort Lauderdale, when a truck drove into a crowd killing one person and seriously injuring another. Authorities have said the crash was an accident.

Wasserman Schultz, in particular, was in danger. The Congresswoman was in a car readying for the parade right near the site of the crash. The truck thankfully did not strike her vehicle. Nevertheless, Wasserman Schultz said she was “deeply shaken and devastated” that others were hurt.

“My staff, volunteers, and I are, thankfully, safe,” Wasserman Schultz added.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ted Deutch are safe after a deadly accident at the Wilton Manors Pride event. Image via AP.

“I want to thank our first responders for their heroic efforts as both police and emergency medical personnel stepped into action quickly. We’re praying for the victims and their loved ones as law enforcement investigates, and I am providing them with whatever assistance I can. I am so heartbroken by what took place at this celebration. May the memory of the life lost be for a blessing.”

Some reports in the attack’s immediate aftermath, spurred by a false statement from Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, who pegged the incident as a potentially deliberate attack on the LGBTQ community. Trantalis has walked back his statement where he labeled the crash a “terrorist act.” The Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus released a statement noting the driver and victims were both members of their group, and investigators have ruled the incident an accident.

Deutch also attended the event, as did Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried. Deutch also released a statement, saying he was “devastated” by the loss of life.

“Intensely grateful for police who sprung to action before us to save lives,” Deutch added. “I’m so sorry, Wilton Manors. I’m so sorry, my friends.”

Women in charge

More women are taking control of their professional destiny, and Miami Republican Salazar is here for it. On Monday, she and New York Democrat Grace Meng introduced legislation increasing support for female entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses. The legislation would reauthorize the Interagency Committee on Women’s Business Enterprise, which directs federal resources to business owners.

Maria Salazar is helping female entrepreneurs to succeed and thrive. Image via Facebook.

“Women own one in every three small businesses, and that number has only grown over the last year,” Salazar said. “We must continue to work together to give women the resources and tools to further fuel this entrepreneurial spirit. I am proud to join Congresswoman Meng in introducing this bipartisan legislation that will build economic strength for women at a time when it is needed most.”

Backers of the bill say it’s imperative to move this type of legislation now, as the economy and business owners rebound from the pandemic.

“Helping women business owners succeed and thrive is a ticket to helping ensure a strong economy as well as creating jobs and spurring innovation, and our bipartisan legislation would make sure that women entrepreneurs can access the critical government resources they need to help them start, grow, and sustain their businesses,” Meng said. “Our government must be there to help our women-owned businesses, especially as we work to put COVID-19 in the rearview mirror.”

On this day

June 22, 1775 — “Congress issues Continental currency” via History.com — Congress issued $2 million in bills of credit. By the spring of 1775, colonial leaders, concerned by British martial law in Boston and increasing constraints on trade, had led their forces in the battle against the crown. But the American revolutionaries encountered a minor problem on their way to the front: lacking funds necessary to wage a prolonged war. As a result, some of the notes featured likenesses of Revolutionary soldiers and the inscription “The United Colonies.” But, whatever their novelty, the Continentals proved to be an imperfect economic instrument. Backed by nothing more than the promise of “future tax revenues” and prone to rampant inflation, the notes ultimately had little fiscal value.

June 22, 1944 — “Franklin Roosevelt signs the G.I. Bill” via The FDR Library — Throughout World War II, President Roosevelt was concerned with the postwar period, especially with how American soldiers would readjust to civilian life. Most of the soldiers were young men who had spent their youth at war, many of whom had forsaken college or vocational training to fight in the war. To make up for this, Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, also known as the “G.I. Bill.” The G.I. Bill provided new opportunities and resources to veterans such as money for education and training, loan guarantees for homes, job-finding assistance, unemployment relief, and improved VA hospitals.

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

Staff Reports



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