Delegation for 8.10.21: Climate crisis — military draft — wish list — voting rights

capitol u.s. green 9.30.19
The UN releases a red alert for humanity. Will Congress heed the call?

Red-hot warning

A United Nations report on climate change published Monday sounded alarms on greenhouse gasses and fossil fuel emissions. Describing a “code red for humanity,” it spotlighted data showing an increase in global surface temperatures every decade since the 1950s. It attributed as much as a 1.3-degree rise to human activity and industrial expansion. Moreover, scientists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say little can be done now to stop another 1.5-degree jump in global temperature over the next two years.

For policymakers, including several within the delegation, this prompted a swift response and a commitment to push for more green policies in the U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat and chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, called on fresh urgency around emissions.

The UN releases a red alert for humanity. Will Congress heed the call? Image via AP.

“Clean energy solutions and the rapid phaseout of carbon dioxide and methane pollution cannot wait any longer,” she said. “This report confirms what Americans are experiencing firsthand — the devastating impacts of the climate crisis are here and they are getting worse. Right now, over 100 major wildfires are burning across 15 states. Red tide is plaguing Florida’s coasts, hurricane season is getting longer, and deadly heat waves are scorching communities. Although the situation is dire, today’s report serves as a call to action. Leading experts from around the world are telling us that if we act now, it is not too late to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.”

Rep. Charlie Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat (and candidate for Governor), also chimed in.

“The Climate Crisis continues to threaten our economy, our environment, and our way of life — and this year’s IPCC Climate Report findings makes it very clear — we need action now,” he tweeted.

But what shape will the action take?

The report suggests policymakers place more focus on resilience. With an assessment that significant temperature increases will be inevitable at this point, that means an increase in extreme events, whether in areas hit by “very dry” natural disasters or those who feel the brunt of very “wet events” (read hurricanes in Florida). Even in areas of the world with low emissions, there will be an “increase in the frequency of extreme sea level events, heavy precipitation and pluvial flooding.”

The report recommends limiting carbon dioxide emissions to reach a net-zero emission goal would be the best thing international governments can do to cut down on human-driven global warming. Expect this to come up as the U.S. and other nations seek ways to limit gas-burning engines and expand the availability of electric vehicles.

On the report’s release, Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat, took the opportunity to promote his carbon tax legislation.

“We are already seeing impacts of warmer seas contributing to stronger storms, warmer air producing more torrential rain and floods and ‘thirsty air’ drying out the landscape and amplifying wildfires,” Deutch tweeted.

Cutting releases of methane would also limit the warming of the earth, the report says, which may bring consequences for agriculture. Those lawmakers focused most on the environment say all options must remain on the table.

“The stakes of this crisis demand nothing less than the most ambitious plan for clean energy and resilient infrastructure in American history,” Castor said. “We cannot afford to squander this once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in affordable clean energy, deliver good-paying union jobs, and finally secure environmental justice for our communities. Americans understand this, and it’s why they elected President Joe Biden. With his Build Back Better Agenda and our Climate Crisis Action Plan, we know what it will take to solve this crisis. Congress must act with the urgency this moment demands, and get President Biden’s climate plan across the finish line.”

Drafting daughters

The potential of requiring women to register in the Selective Service System, better known as the draft, spurred worry for Sen. (and girl-dad) Marco Rubio about who gets sent to the front lines. Florida’s senior Senator and five GOP co-sponsors introduced the Don’t Draft Our Daughters resolution opposing any requirement for women to sign up for combat.

Marco Rubio bristles at compulsory military service for women. Image via AP.

The legislation notes the Supreme Court in 1981 ruled an all-male draft didn’t violate the Constitution. At this point in history, it also states, women may voluntarily join the military and serve in any capacity so long as they meet physical requirements. Yet when it comes to combat roles, only a “small subset of women are able to meet the physical fitness requirements for combat roles, and physical disadvantages between men and women often result in excessive fatigue and more frequent injuries to women.” Rubio’s office provides data indicating between 65% and 85% of women fail the Army’s Combat Fitness Test, compared to between 10% and 30% of men.

The fight against draft equality comes after the Senate Armed Services Committee, in its markup of the Defense budget, included a requirement all Americans between ages 18 and 26, whether male or female, sign up for the draft.

Rubio has two daughters who fall into the Selective Service age range and two younger sons.

Beating the debt drum

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed a $1-trillion infrastructure package, but without the support of either of Florida’s Republican Senators. The bill passed by a 69-30 vote. Both of the Florida Senators voted no Tuesday, as they had on procedural votes on Sunday. Sen. Rick Scott decried the spending as the first act in a debt-ballooning scheme that could hurt the U.S. for years.

“First, [Majority Leader] Sen. Chuck Schumer got his $1.2 TRILLION ‘infrastructure’ bill,” Florida’s junior Senator tweeted Sunday. “Now he’s pushing MORE taxes to pay for his $5.5 TRILLION reckless tax & spending spree. Democrats will bankrupt America while raising taxes & driving up inflation just to satisfy Sen. Bernie Sanders and the Squad.”

Rick Scott blasts Democrats on spending. Not so much when Republicans are doing it, though. Image via AP.

He asserted this package should be considered the first step toward a Green New Deal and other items on “Democrats’ wasteful liberal wish list.” Indeed, the next step for the majority seems to be moving toward a reconciliation vote on a more progressive $3.5-trillion spending effort. “Americans can’t afford this radical socialist agenda,” Scott posted.

A Fox News Sunday spot with Scott turned sour when host Bret Baier noted the Senator reported no qualms building up debt when former President Donald Trump occupied the White House. But the message of an uncontrollable debt has been a concern Scott repeatedly raised under Biden, and he’s unrepentant about banging that drum.

The Senator has released weekly updates on the impacts of inflation on the economy. And with a debt ceiling now in need of raising to cover the spending bills coming from Congress, he’s already geared up in opposition to that impending vote this fall.

For his part, Scott said he would support an infrastructure bill that focused simply on roads, bridges, seaports and airports, much of that certain to come to the Sunshine State. But he’s repeatedly expressed duress that the cost of debt will eventually come due.

Future conservatives

As the youngest Republican woman serving in the House, Kat Cammack often takes responsibility for selling conservatism to the next generation of voters. This week, she embraced that role in various ways, including at a Young America’s Foundation event, at the New Hampshire Young Republicans’ annual pig roast, and the conservative publication Campus Reform.

There, she made the case that a conservative approach to college education — focused more on skills than controversial philosophies — makes the most sense for students’ futures.

“We have taken so many of the core elements of what an education is and should be and replaced it with nonsense like this critical race theory that is teaching kids how to be hateful,” she said.

At in-person events, she shared videos of YAF members cheering for the USA.

“It was a blast spending time with so many young people ready to make a difference for our country,” Cammack tweeted.

Deleting kiddie porn

Section 230 notoriously protects social media companies from libel protections while still allowing censorship of content. But does the litigation shield give too much leeway to Big Tech to knowingly carry child porn on its servers with no consequence?

Tarpon Springs Republican Gus Bilirakis thought so and filed legislation to amend the Communications Decency Act. He made a case for reigning in the digital giants in a new op-ed published last week by The Hill.

Gus Bilirakis seeks to bring more decency online.

“Simply put, we have an obligation to do a better job protecting children from online predators,” he wrote. “Parents have a responsibility to monitor their children’s online conduct, but that task has been made more complicated by the fact that Big Tech has constructed barriers that make it difficult for them to effectively do so.”

Moreover, he said the sector hadn’t proven the level of proactive responsibility to be granted legal immunity when allowing the exploitation of children using their technology.

“The federal government should not provide a liability shield to any company that negligently facilitates or allows any form of child pornography or child exploitation on their platform,” he wrote. “Big Tech has failed to put safeguards in place that would help keep our children safe, and they have spent years turning a blind eye to illegal content on their platforms. It is time to end protections for these crimes and give enhanced support to children who have been victimized and exploited.”

Sea cows

For years, members of the Florida delegation pushed for the Fish and Wildlife Service to restore manatees’ status as an endangered species.

Now, Kissimmee Democrat Darren Soto and Longboat Key Republican Vern Buchanan filed legislation to force the issue.

The Manatee Protection Act (HR 4946) would require the federal agency to move the sea cow from the “threatened” column to the “endangered” species list, gaining all the funding for population rehabilitation that comes with that. The move by the Congressmen comes as Florida officials report at least 890 manatee deaths in the state between the start of 2021 and the end of July. That’s 60 deaths more than Florida ever tabulated in a full calendar year.

Darren Soto and Vern Buchanan team up to save the manatees.

“Manatees are beloved, iconic mammals in Florida,” Buchanan said. “This year’s record-breaking number of manatee deaths is staggering and extremely concerning, which is why upgrading their ESA status is absolutely critical. We must do everything we can to protect these gentle giants and Florida’s official marine mammal.”

Soto said the massive die-offs, attributed by many scientists to heavy algal blooms over the past decade, must prompt action in Washington.

“2021 was the deadliest year for the West Indian manatee in our home state of Florida,” he said. “These mass deaths should alarm us all and incite us to take immediate action to protect these precious mammals. By adding the West Indian manatee to the ESA’s endangered list, we are ensuring that necessary steps are taken to prevent any more unnecessary deaths.”

Release the funds

Democrats within the delegation applied a fresh round of pressure on Florida state officials to finally distribute the American Rescue Plan funding to school districts.

In the letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, Senate President Wilton Simpson, and House Speaker Chris Sprowls, say all those dollars should have reached state coffers by June 7.

Kathy Castor demands Florida start spending its relief money. Image via AP.

“The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the delays in receiving federal emergency aid have created budget pressures for many Florida school districts. Florida schools are facing extensive unexpected costs as a direct result of the public health crisis,” the letter states. “Across the state of Florida, school districts are contemplating how to keep students and educators safe, make up for learning losses, attract talented educators, and implement safety protocols with hand sanitizer, air purifiers and PPE. You are forcing some school districts to consider drastic cuts that would prove harmful to our students in the long run. Unfortunately, the State of Florida’s pattern of delay in withholding federal emergency aid likely will increase the negative impact on our school districts, eventually costing taxpayers more money or leading to additional budget harm. It does not have to be this way.”

Castor of Tampa, who led the all-Democratic letter, has been pushing the issue since February.

Eye on Lake O

Naples Republican Byron Donalds continues to keep a close eye on an evolving discharge schedule for Lake Okeechobee. Tonight, he hosts a Congressional Water Roundtable in Cape Coral with Army Corps of Engineers Col. Andrew Kelly, South Florida Water Management District Director Chauncey Goss and Interior Department Everglades Restoration Initiatives Director Adam Gelber.

The freshman Congressman has cautiously followed discussions about releases of the algae-infested water from the lake into the Caloosahatchee River, which runs through Florida’s 19th Congressional District. He’s been careful not to fall too hard on one side of an issue that has pitted GOP delegation members against one another. Different plans have seen predictable disagreement between environmentalists and agriculture interests and between Southeast and Southwest Florida residents.

Byron Donalds is keeping an eye on Lake O.

Donalds earlier this year joined with fellow House Republican Brian Mast in pushing for sending a significant amount of water south, but then signed onto a letter penned by House Republican Greg Steube raising concerns about a (Mast-supported) plan to stop discharging into the St. Lucie River in favor of directing flow to the Caloosahatchee.

Shortly after that letter, he privately met with Kelly and reported progress on plan adjustments to cap westward flows. “We feel it was a productive conversation and will reevaluate things after modifications are officially announced,” he said.

Those changes will likely be discussed at today’s event at 6 p.m. in Cape Coral City Hall.

Wish list

Deutch is turning up the heat on Florida’s two Senators on Wednesday.

That’s when the Boca Raton Democrat visits two sites — a wastewater treatment plant and a street — which are among 14 in Florida’s 22nd Congressional District set to receive $22 million in federal funding, according to two bills passed in the House.

Upgraded wastewater treatment and improved utilities are a part of the funding that needs approval from the Senate by the end of September when the next fiscal year begins.

Ted Deutch is turning up the heat. Image via AP.

“South Florida counties, cities and nonprofits have proposed important projects to help our community, including by upgrading wastewater systems, investing in mental health services and supporting homeless and food-insecure residents,” Deutch said.

“In addition, federal investments into our crumbling infrastructure are desperately needed in every part of the country. I urge Sen. Rubio and Sen. Scott to make sure these important funds make their way to our South Florida community.”

The Representative, whose district includes parts of Palm Beach County, north Broward, and greater Fort Lauderdale, will visit sites Wednesday to talk about the approved funding. The sites include:

— George T. Lohmeyer Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant: approved to get $900,000 for upgrades for the wastewater systems that serve Fort Lauderdale, Oakland Park and Wilton Manors. The funding would make the systems ready to deal with sea level rise, rising temperatures and extreme weather.

— Breakers Avenue streetscape project: approved for $5.2 million to improve lighting and provide underground sewage and water utility improvements in Fort Lauderdale.

— Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale: due to receive $1.6 million from the Small Business Administration to help struggling venues hard hit by COVID-19.

Lobbying on voting rights

State Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson has ancestors who died for the right to vote, so she says there is no way she’s going to miss out on bending the ear of a Washington, D.C. pol or two about the need to pass For the People Act.

The Gainesville Democrat was part of a contingent of about 100 state lawmakers from around the country who converged on the nation’s capital to highlight calls for federal voting reform last week. The clock is ticking on legislation that would override 17 states’ restrictive voting rules passed in the wake of the 2020 election.

But the latest surge of COVID-19 prevented any visits to any Senators’ offices or even Representatives. “It was not as I’d hoped,” Hinson said. “It was done by Zoom.”

The Washington Post reports Sen. Chuck Schumer still wants to get a vote in before the Senate breaks for August recess this week and get the legislation passed. To affect the upcoming midterm elections, and nullify some of the restrictive laws states have recently passed, federal legislation must pass this month, advocacy groups warn.

Yvonne Hayes Hinson says the clock is ticking on voting rights. Image via Florida House.

There are Florida rallies planned for this week — in-person and virtually.

Even if Hinson didn’t get face time with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin — one of the Democrats holding out against changing rules that allow the minority to hold up legislation — she said she did consider the trip worth it.

She had the chance to speak to Democratic Sens. Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and Raphael Warnock at an outdoor rally on the Capitol lawn, days before the 56th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. She was there as the names of people who died either trying to vote or registering people to vote were read.

“I’m willing to get COVID or whatever it takes on this subject,” she said. “No doubt it was worth it. We made a good point.”

On this day

Aug. 10, 1993 — “Ruth Bader Ginsburg sworn in” via The Associated Press — Ginsburg became the second female Supreme Court justice Tuesday, declaring approvingly that ″the times are changing.″ ″In my lifetime, I expect there will be among federal judicial nominees … as many sisters as brothers-in-law,″ the 60-year-old women’s rights pioneer said at her White House swearing-in ceremony. ″That prospect is indeed cause for hope, and its realization will be cause for celebration,″ she said. Ginsburg, who also took a judicial oath in a private ceremony at the Supreme Court building, is the 107th high court justice.

Aug. 10, 1949 — “Department of Defense formed” via Military Benefits — Although the federal government has overseen the U.S. Armed forces since the nation’s inception, the Department of Defense name and centralized defense department was not established until the late 1940s. Established in 1949 thanks to an amended National Security Act, the agency is run by the Secretary of Defense with the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the various military services operating subordinately to the SECDEF. The DoD is described as among the largest employers globally; there are more than 1 million active-duty service members, more than 800,000 members of the Guard and Reserve, and more than 700,000 civilian employees.

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Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, with contributions by Anne Geggis.

Staff Reports



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