Delegation for 8.6.21: Evictions — hostages — inflation — burned — vaxxed

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Rent help is on the way, and America loses a labor union giant.

Rent’s too damn high

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Joe Biden administration announced an unexpected extension to a federal eviction moratorium until Oct. 3.

Delegation Democrats welcomed the decision. While the extension only applies in counties with a high risk of coronavirus spread, that’s everywhere in the state of Florida, thanks to a surge fueled by the hyper-contagious delta variant. But a question remains: what happens as mounting bills loom, a problem that only grew worse during the now-18-month pandemic. 

Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, wants federal funding to help constituents pay the rent. She spoke to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, seeking authority for Tampa Bay governments to fund their assistance programs.

Kathy Castor is helping Hillsborough County make rent. Image via Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call.

She noted Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa joined forces on a $49-million Rapid Response Recovery Assistance initiative. Castor wants federal funding behind that program available to use for helping with rent and utility costs for those still economically impacted by the pandemic.

“Tampa Bay families deserve to stay safe during the upsurge in COVID-19. And, mom-and-pop landlords, (which) represent more than 40% of local landlords nationwide, need to keep their small businesses open and their employees working,” Castor said.

About $34 million in CARES Act funding already went to about 7,000 Hillsborough County residents. As of Aug. 2, local governments approved $15.3 million in funding to assist 4,930 residents. As American Rescue Plan dollars make way to local coffers, Castor said the flexibility to continue that assistance should remain.

“I fought to allocate rental aid directly to counties and cities to help keep our neighbors in their own homes throughout the pandemic, and I urge anyone in need to contact the county and submit an application for ERAP assistance today to avoid eviction and pay rent,” she said. “I am grateful for the continued lifeline that federal funds are providing to families in Hillsborough County and deeply appreciate the tireless work of local public servants who strive diligently to help our fellow neighbors who need it most.”

Rep. Lois Frankel, West Palm Beach Democrat, upped outreach to inform constituents of the moratorium extension.

“Losing one’s home is especially tragic during a pandemic. Congress provided robust funding to help keep people in their homes during COVID-19, with financial help for tenants, homeowners, mortgage holders, and landlords,” Frankel said. “Palm Beach County is using federal funding directly allocated by Congress to provide assistance for renters and owners who are eligible. President Biden’s new eviction moratorium will only give a temporary delay from eviction. All persons in need of help paying their rent or mortgage due to the COVID-19 pandemic should immediately apply for help through the county.”

Palm Beach County has disbursed federal funding to 5,700 families up until now to ensure landlords get paid and families avoid eviction. She noted a rental assistance portal with the county is still operational. Frankel said other towns and cities within Florida’s 21st Congressional District also have programs still in effect.

Like Castor, she feels the $46.5 billion in the American Rescue Plan sent to the county in her district for emergency rental assistance should still be available for use.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Ben Diamond, a candidate for Congress in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, called on Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris to plug issues with the state rental assistance program.

“With Florida now the epicenter of our nation’s COVID-19 surge, a looming eviction crisis could quickly devolve into an even more catastrophic public health crisis,” he said. “We simply cannot allow that to happen.”

Honoring the hostages

It’s been more than 40 years since the Iran hostage crisis upended American politics. Sen. Marco Rubio believes it’s time to honor the 52 Americans at the center of the international conflict. This week, he and California Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla introduced the Iran Hostages Congressional Gold Medal Act, which would bestow the highest award in Congress’ power to grant.

The 52 individuals to receive medals survived 444 days in captivity. The list includes now-Florida resident William E. Belk, Alan B. Golacinski and Steven W. Kirtley.

The situation started when Iran-backed militants stormed the U.S. embassy and took the Americans hostage in protest of America giving refuge to the deposed Shah. A negotiated release of the hostages did not occur until 1981 after many were tortured and some Americans died.

Marco Rubio wants to honor the 1979 Iranian hostages, Image via AP.

Relations with Iran remain hostile to this day. Still, the bipartisan resolution aims to celebrate those who returned home from the crisis while drawing attention to many more taken by the regime over intervening decades.

“As Iran continues to hold American citizens hostage, I’m proud to honor the 52 Americans, including three Floridians, who were held captive during the 1979 Iranian Hostage Crisis,” Rubio said. “Through this Congressional gold medal, we pay tribute to the courage and resilience of our fellow Americans who were the first to be held hostage by the evil regime in Tehran.”

The recognition is something advocates for the hostages have sought for years. “It is past time that these 52 American heroes, whose resolve did not waver under the worst of conditions, be honored by their government,” said Ezra Friedlander, founder of Commission 52. “Fortunately, with the introduction of the Iran Congressional Gold Medal legislation in the Senate, justice delayed will no longer mean justice denied for the patriots who went through hell to defend and uphold our American values of freedom and democracy.”

Grading inflation

Sen. Rick Scott for weeks has been sounding inflation alarms. As the Senate debates an infrastructure package, he offered an amendment requiring that any massive boost in federal spending be accompanied by a Congressional Budget Office analysis on the impact of government spending on the economy.

“I support spending on real infrastructure, like roads, bridges, airports and seaports, but it has to be fully paid for with real money,” he said.

Scott compared the proposal to economic impact statements required on legislation passed by the state of Florida. “We did it when I was Governor of Florida, and we can do it in Washington. It’s time Congress acknowledges that spending hundreds of billions of dollars we don’t have threatens the future of our nation,” he said.

But Democrats shot the amendment down on Wednesday evening before moving forward with a package requiring an increase to the debt ceiling.

“Tonight, Democrats blocked my simple proposal to provide transparency about how government spending impacts inflation — saying it would be ‘too much work’ for the government,” Scott tweeted. “This is exactly why Americans are fed up with Washington.

Sick burns

Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz premiered his rebranded podcast, “Firebrand,” as his platform combating big government, big business and the media.

“The America First movement demands supporters who are informed and active,” Gaetz said. “I’m here to give you details nobody else has and the strategy to use them.”

In the first episode Thursday, Gaetz disputes the sexual misconduct allegations against him. And he takes on Fox News and former Speaker Paul Ryan, accusing the latter of canceling Lou Dobbs.

Matt Gaetz stands his ground. Image via AP.

Once a staple on Fox’s evening circuit, Gaetz said the network isn’t what it used to be. He blamed Ryan for its decline since he joined Fox Corporation’s board of directors in 2019.

“I don’t mind taking on Republicans and Democrats. We are no shills for conservative ink here,” Gaetz said.

Lastly, it features Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, who shares a speaking tour with Gaetz, as the pair discuss the government versus “the people.”

Take your shot

About $3 million in American Rescue Plan funding soon will make its way to Florida’s 5th Congressional District, according to Tallahassee Democrat Al Lawson. That’s money aimed at increasing vaccinations for underserved communities.

The money will be divided into $1 million, going to Madison County Hospital Health Systems, Managed Access to Child Health in Jacksonville, and Neighborhood Medical Center in Tallahassee. The funding comes out of a $121-million pot approved for Health and Human Services and the Health Resources and Services Administration to divvy through grants.

Al Lawson urges North Florida to get its shots.

“This investment will be used to hire and mobilize community outreach workers, community health workers, social support specialists, and others to increase vaccine access for our hardest-hit and highest-risk communities,” Lawson said. “It will also support partnerships between academic and community-based organizations to improve COVID-19 health literacy. We must all work together to get more Americans vaccinated and save lives.”

Trader Vern

Vern Buchanan says new trade deals will boost the country’s economy. This week, the Longboat Key Republican led a letter with Ways and Means Republican Leader Kevin Brady pushing Biden to fast-track talks.

Specifically, he called on the administration to end a trade moratorium and consult Congress to renew the Trade Promotion Authority. Authorization of the TPA expired on July 1.

“In order to pursue new and ambitious free trade agreements, we need to pass the next iteration of Trade Promotion Authority legislation,” Buchanan said. “If we don’t look beyond our borders to expand and sell more of our goods and services, America will lose influence abroad while also losing jobs here at home.”

Vern Buchanan is ready to make a deal.

Buchanan is the ranking Republican in the Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee and was a liaison between Congress and former President Donald Trump’s administration during the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement negotiations. He has also worked on legislation to provide seasonal crop protections for Florida growers.

To continue the development of new trade deals, Buchanan said the TPA must go back into effect.

“TPA is the foremost tool at our disposal to ensure that the United States continues to have a leading role in writing the trading rules that regulate the global economy,” his letter with Brady reads. “TPA renewal is an essential component of a unified U.S. Government approach to determining our international trade negotiation and enforcement priorities. It is only with this unified approach that we can deepen relationships with our allies to counter China through trade policy.”

All Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee co-signed the letter.

Man down

State Sen. Bobby Powell says he’ll remain in the Florida Legislature’s upper chamber rather than run in the Special Election for Florida’s 20th Congressional District. Instead, he’s endorsing state Rep. Bobby DuBose in the congressional contest.

Powell was one of more than a dozen Democrats who weighed a run to replace the late Alcee Hastings, the dean and delegation co-chair when he died earlier this year from cancer. Powell had reportedly been mulling a run for months. 

Bobby Powell’s out of the race. What’s next?

“My family and I are humbled by the friends, supporters and colleagues who have leaned on me and held out support of other candidates until it was decided whether I would run for Congressional District 20,” Powell said.

“The late Congressman Alcee Hastings was an amazing advocate who did a tremendous job serving us, and to be considered as a likely replacement is an honor that is not taken lightly. In consideration of my faith, family, and current roles as Senate Democratic Leader Pro Tempore and Chairman of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, my team and I have made the decision (to) continue serving as State Senator for District 30 and not seek the Congressional office.”

New blood

Meanwhile, a Democrat jumped into what could be one of 2022’s hottest House races.

Janelle Perez will challenge Republican incumbent María Elvira Salazar in Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

The first-time candidate presented herself as an everyday woman alternative to the Miami congresswoman. That outlook will be reflected in her approach to fundraising, campaigning, and, provided she wins, legislating and representing the Democratic-leaning district Salazar flipped red last year.

Janelle Perez is taking on Maria Salazar. Image via Jesse Scheckner.

“I’d really like to start a grassroots movement,” Perez said at a news conference in Little Havana. “The way that I plan on fundraising is reaching out to young people, getting them motivated, getting them wanting to get involved in politics.”

Both Perez and Salazar are the daughters of Cuban exiles. Both grew up in Miami-Dade County. When Perez returned to Miami six years ago after working as a GOP staffer, both were registered Republicans.

At 34, Perez is decades younger than Salazar, a former TV journalist who turns 60 in November. “We need new blood,” Parez said. “We need young people engaged, and we need more young people running for Congress because we have new ideas. We’re ready to take charge. We’re ready to lead a movement, and join me; that’s all I want.”

Perez is the first to announce her candidacy officially, but the race includes two others who filed to run in early July: Angel Montalvo, a Democrat who has reported $1,316 raised so far; and independent Ian Anthony Medina, whose campaign lists no funds raised yet.

Salazar, meanwhile, sits on a war chest with more than $672,000 cash on hand.

Communists and commissions

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy joined several Florida Republicans in Miami-Dade County Wednesday and Thursday for a mini speaking tour on the crisis in Cuba, a continuation of similar events he and others held in Washington, D.C. last week.

By the second day, he’d spoken alongside — among others — Gov. Ron DeSantis, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, fellow House members Mario Díaz-Balart, Carlos Giménez and Salazar, state Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. and former Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo, who is running to be Hialeah’s next Mayor.

The crux of their speeches: Biden must put more pressure on communist Cuba President Miguel Díaz-Canal and deliver sustainable internet service to the island so that its people, who took to the streets last month to protest extreme shortages of food, water, electricity, medicine, and other everyday needs.

Kevin McCarthy and Florida Republicans call Joe Biden to help end the repressive Cuban regime. Image via AP.

Over the days split between two of Miami-Dade’s Cuban enclaves, the City of Hialeah Gardens and Little Havana in Miami, McCarthy largely spoke in generalities, repeating one of several mantras he and the others adopted: “This is not a moment; this is a movement, and we will not stop until we have freedom for Cuba.”

But on Thursday, McCarthy was reminded of his actions — or inaction — regarding another movement that led to an attack on the U.S. Capitol early this year. McCarthy was lamenting hearing of Cubans being “picked up from streets” for speaking out against Díaz-Canel’s dictatorship when Occupy Democrats journalist Grant Stern interjected to ask why McCarthy opposed a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack.

“It’s not a Democratic or Republican issue,” Stern said, “so, why do you oppose the Jan. 6 commission?”

McCarthy ignored the question, and police removed Stern from the room. McCarthy missed that too.

Jon Cooper, a former campaigner for Biden and Barack Obama, later said what happened was “outrageous” and something that “shouldn’t happen in America.”

Fallen giant

The labor movement lost a leader this week. Longtime AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka died on Thursday morning.

American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley, head of the largest federal workers union, mourned the loss. “Through every major fight our union has waged in recent decades, Richard Trumka was standing beside AFGE members, defiantly raising his fist in solidarity,” Kelley said. “During the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, he rallied all of labor to the steps of the White House to stand up for the 800,000 government workers who went weeks without a paycheck. And behind the scenes, he worked tirelessly to help us end a political standoff that was hurting working people.”

The unexpected news of Trumka’s death also inspired tributes from several members of Florida’s delegation.

RIP: Richard Trumka, a labor union giant, dies at 72. Image via AP.

From coal mines to warehouses, construction and electrical workers to plumbers and pipefitters, machine shops to department stores, millions of working Americans are safer and more prosperous because of Rich Trumka,” said Orlando Democrat Val Demings, who is running for Senate. “His family is in my prayers. His work will go on.

I join millions of Americans in mourning the sudden death of Richard Trumka,” tweeted Hollywood Democrat Frederica Wilson. “He was a fierce and fearless warrior for the labor movement and hardworking Americans. He will be sorely missed.

It’s easy for folks to say, don’t forget your roots,” said St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist. “Richard Trumka was the embodiment of someone who never forgot who and what he was fighting for: working people and their rights. Richard and his entire family are in my prayers today.”

On this day

Aug. 6, 1965 — “Lyndon Johnson signs Voting Rights Act” via — President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, guaranteeing African Americans’ right to vote. The bill made it illegal to impose restrictions on federal, state, and local elections designed to deny Black people’s vote. Johnson assumed the presidency in November 1963 upon the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In the presidential race of 1964, Johnson was officially elected in a landslide victory. He used this mandate to push for legislation he believed would improve the American way of life, including stronger voting rights laws.

Aug. 6, 1861 — “Congress passes first Confiscation Act ” via The Lehman Institute — Historian James M. McPherson notes: “Congress took a big step toward legitimizing this concept by passing a confiscation act that authorized the seizure of all property, including slaves, that had been used in aid of rebellion. Nearly all Republicans in Congress voted for this bill, and almost all Democrats and border-state Unionists voted against it. Thus began a process where the emancipation issue defined the sharpest difference between parties.” At the time, Congressman Thad Stevens prophesied that emancipation would eventually become “the doctrine of the whole free people of the North.


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

Staff Reports


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