Delegation for 8.24.21: Evac — TikTok — Cuba protests — Gaetz hitched — LEOs

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Afghanistan brings the heat from both sides of the aisle.

Bug out 

The rapid takeover of the Afghanistan government by the Taliban focused many lawmakers on evacuating Americans and allies. Many Republicans in the delegation say that more wasn’t done early to protect such assets, but some Democrats remain equally preoccupied with the challenges of mid-withdrawal evacuation.

Rep. Mike Waltz says he’s in a race against time to get “hundreds and hundreds” of Afghan residents his office heard from out of the war-torn country as well as rescue thousands of Americans stuck behind Taliban lines. But the St. Augustine Republican fears the worst. The Congressman, a former Green Beret and aide to former Vice President Dick Cheney, sees a chance the situation degrades further.

The Afghanistan pullout gets heat from both sides of the aisle. Image via AP.

“It’s evolving into the largest mass hostage situation in our history,” Waltz said. “It will make the Iranian embassy (takeover) look like child’s play.”

There’s no telling what will happen once President Joe Biden’s agreement with the Taliban expires Aug. 31, Waltz said. Right now, the Congressman’s office is trying to work with people on the ground, directing them to specific checkpoints where they can board planes and fly away. “It’s really insane,” Waltz said of the situation.

For Rep. Lois Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat, the situation hits home. Her son, Ben Lubin, served as a captain in the Marines. His service included a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

“He had an interpreter reach out to him” for help getting out, she said.

When California Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier filed the Improving Access for Afghan Refugees Act last month, Frankel was a co-sponsor. Under the legislation, Afghan residents who fall under specific categories can seek resettlement in this country without the usual required third-party referral.

“We may be ending our war in Afghanistan, but the fight for the rights of Afghan women and other vulnerable groups isn’t over yet,” Frankel said. “This bill will allow Afghan journalists, activists, civil servants, and other brave defenders of civil rights to seek refuge in the U.S. in order to stay safe during this turbulent time.”

Rep. Darren Soto, a Kissimmee Democrat, joined on the legislation last week. “We have a moral obligation to evacuate Americans in Afghanistan, Afghans who helped us during the war, and others who face persecution,” he tweeted.

But there’s disagreement within the delegation as to who should be airlifted first. Rep. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, says the U.S. must prioritize removing its citizens.

“Joe Biden’s lack of a plan to evacuate the remaining Americans trapped in Afghanistan is a reprehensible dereliction of duty,” Steube said. “After causing one of the worst foreign policy blunders in history, he and Vice President [Kamala] Harris must take responsibility for their failures and take steps to prioritize the safe return of American citizens as they face serious threats from the Taliban.”

While barbs from Steube at the White House are nothing new, that assessment appeared in a press release announcing bipartisan legislation co-introduced with California Democratic Rep. Jimmy Panetta. The Prioritize Evacuation of U.S. Citizens in Afghanistan Act would direct the Defense and State departments to submit a plan to Congress to repatriate Americans still trapped in the Central Asian nation. It also calls for the destruction of any U.S. weapons and military assets still on the ground.

Steube criticized the decision to airlift troops from Bagram Airfield while some 10,000 to 15,000 citizens remained behind. That left many seeking to depart through Hamid Karzai International Airport, a facility incidentally named after the Afghan president installed by the U.S. after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

Waltz agreed priority should be placed on evacuating Americans. But he also fears for Afghans who helped the U.S. in the war effort. He laid the blame for the situation squarely at Biden’s feet. “I don’t know if it’s clueless, or heartless or both,” he said.


While many parents of American teenagers may want TikTok off their child’s phone, Sen. Marco Rubio wants the app banned in the U.S. altogether. He called on the Biden administration to block the distribution of the software following the complete corporate takeover of parent company ByteDance by the Chinese government.

“The Biden Administration can no longer pretend that TikTok is not beholden to the Chinese Communist Party,” Rubio said. “Even before today, it was clear that TikTok represented a serious threat to personal privacy and U.S. national security. Beijing’s aggressiveness makes clear that the regime sees TikTok as an extension of the party-state and the U.S. needs to treat it that way.”

Marco Rubio wants TikTok out of the U.S. Image via AP.

It’s the latest volley in the Senator’s battle with the video-sharing service. He called for a federal investigation of TikTok in 2019 following the acquisition of and long shared concerns the communist government’s stake in the company means it can use data mining in ways most users never consider.

“President Biden must take immediate action to remove ByteDance and TikTok from the equation,” Rubio said. “U.S. partners such as India have already come to this conclusion, banning TikTok from their country last year. It is past time we acted on this threat as well. We must also establish a framework of standards that must be met before a high-risk, foreign-based app is allowed to operate on American telecommunications networks and devices.”

Notably, this fight against a state-owned social media company comes as Rubio raises concern about too much private control over the content on a U.S platform. He separately sent a letter last week to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki demanding to know why Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky had his account suspended and why New York Rep. Nicole Malliotakis also had content taken down.

Both recent censorship decisions involved Republican members of Congress.

“A combination of high-profile moderating actions have recently made headlines and raised questions over a pattern of apparent political and religious bias on YouTube’s part,” Rubio said.

More Cuba?

Cuba’s communist government banned protests in the street; that didn’t stop dissenters from organizing online for historic demonstrations last month. After the government shut down most internet access, the U.S. helped establish internet on the island — at the heavy urging of lawmakers in the Florida delegation. But Cuba, in response, expanded its legal ban on criticism of the government to include social media posts.

That has Sen. Rick Scott demanding Biden do more and ensure opponents of the regime have communication outlets intact.

“For over a month, I have called on President Biden to take action to address the illegitimate communist Cuban regime’s internet and cellular blackouts. He has done nothing,” Scott said. “Like in every other crisis under his watch, Biden is shamefully silent. Now, the communist Cuban regime is going further.”

The Senator strongly inferred weakness in the face of other foreign crises signaled failure on the part of the administration.

“Terrified by the freedom movement, [Cuban President Miguel] Díaz-Canel and his Castro thugs are doubling down on its censorship of the Cuban people in its weak attempts to hide this fight from the world and keep them from organizing,” Scott said. “The time for action and leadership is now. President Biden can’t keep ignoring the fight for freedom in Cuba. He must abandon the failed appeasement policies of the past and stand with the Cuban people for a new day of freedom on the island.”

The hefty criticism comes after Scott suggested Biden may need to be removed from office in the wake of a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. Many also expect the Republican Senator to run for President in 2024.

Gaetz gets Luckey

Congratulations to Panhandle Republican Matt Gaetz. The three-term Congressman wed Ginger Luckey in a small ceremony on Catalina Island in California this weekend. He revealed the news in a tweet with the caption, “I love my wife!”

Federal case law has established a spousal testimony privilege.

Matt Gaetz is a Luckey guy. Image via AP.

“When discussing the spousal testimonial privilege, federal courts have held that the witness-spouse is the holder of the privilege. Thus, an individual cannot assert the privilege to restrain their spouse from taking the stand if they wished to testify,” explains Bauer Law Group on its website.

“Importantly, a person’s ability to assert this privilege depends on their marital status with the witness-spouse. If a couple gets divorced, the privilege no longer applies. Thus, former spouses may not exercise this privilege to refuse to testify against their ex.”

Breathing easier

Supporting firefighters isn’t just a political slogan for Kat Cammack. The Gainesville Republican’s husband, Matt Harrison, serves as a SWAT Medic with Gainesville Fire Rescue. It carries extra meaning for her when she announces a grant for a local agency, as she did last week after securing $414,454 to go to the Clay County Fire Rescue Department.

“As the wife of a first responder, I know the importance of doing this important and often dangerous job. This equipment will help these heroes continue their incredible work in our area,” Cammack said. “I’m proud to have authored letters of support and offered guidance to the Clay County team to aid in their grant efforts. Our first responders are heroes, and it’s imperative that we ensure they stay safe while serving our communities.”

For Kat Cammack, supporting first responders is more than a slogan. Image via AP.

The funding comes out of some $320 million budgeted for FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant program. The funding is for better protective equipment for north Florida firefighters, including vehicle exhaust extraction systems that should reduce the carcinogenic threat for personnel.

“This grant will help us grow leaps and bounds in protecting our personnel from the cancerous materials they encounter every day on the job. We’re thrilled to be able to use this money for our team and are grateful to Congresswoman Cammack for her work in helping us receive these funds,” said Clay County Fire Chief David Motes.

Cammack credited grant writers in the agency with landing the check but said she was happy to help usher the application through the process.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our firefighters in Clay County. They’re deserving of this grant and I know they’ll continue to demonstrate the very best of our first responder community,” she said. “As the lead Republican on the Homeland Security Subcommittee for Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery—which directly oversees FEMA — I will always be a champion for our first responders and ensure they can continue to protect and serve our communities.”


Jacksonville Republican John Rutherford on Monday convened sheriffs from around Florida’s 4th Congressional District for a roundtable with his House colleagues. Duval County Sheriff Mike Williams, Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper, Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook and Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith met with New York Republican John Katko and Indiana Republican Greg Pence to discuss police challenges. Randy Reeves, Fraternal Order of Police vice president, also participated.

John Rutherford has the backs of LEOs in Northeast Florida.

“Throughout the country, we are witnessing attempts to delegitimize, demoralize and defund law enforcement,” said Rutherford, himself a former Duval Sheriff. “Congress has a responsibility to support the men and women in blue who risk their lives every day to keep our communities safe. I greatly appreciate hearing from Northeast Florida law enforcement leaders today about how we in Congress can help make their jobs easier and safer.”

At the event, law enforcement defended qualified immunity and accreditation and stressed the importance of building community trust with officers.

Honoring Hatchett

Judge Joseph Hatchett broke barriers and made his mark as Florida’s Voice of Justice before dying in April at age 88. Now, Tallahassee Democrat Al Lawson wants the iconic jurist honored through renaming one of Florida’s most prominent courthouses.

He filed legislation (HR 4771) to designate the Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Tallahassee as the Joseph Woodrow Hatchett United States Courthouse and Federal Building. Every member of Florida’s House delegation signed on as a co-sponsor.

Tallahassee’s federal courthouse could be named for Joseph Hatchett, the first African American on the Florida Supreme Court.

“Judge Hatchett was a social justice pioneer and public servant who devoted his career to advocating for civil rights,” Lawson told the Florida Bar. “Dedicating this courthouse to Judge Hatchett would honor his influence and dedication to the enrichment of Florida and communities of color across our nation. His legacy, especially as the state’s ‘Voice of Justice,’ is long-lasting, and this legislation is a fitting way to memorialize his contributions. I am certain Judge Hatchett’s achievements will continue to inspire the people of Florida for generations to come.”

Hatchett, a Florida A&M University grad who earned his law degree at Howard University, was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court by former Gov. Reubin Askew in 1975 and then to the federal bench by former President Jimmy Carter in 1979. He rose to chief judge of the 11th Circuit in 1996. He retired in 1999 only to enter private practice with Ackerman LLP, where he worked until shortly before his death.

Pork barrel

Americans for Prosperity-Florida rallied critics of a pricy infrastructure bill in Congress to demonstrate in Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy’s district. The organization has sometimes worked with the Blue Dog Democrat on fiscally conservative projects. Still, it appears to be distinctly on a different side from Murphy when it comes to the latest round of spending supported by Biden and championed in the Senate by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“The Biden-Sanders ‘infrastructure’ proposals would be a disaster for the economy and Florida families,” said Skyler Zander, AFP-FL’s director. “As Rep. Murphy prepares to go vote on trillions of new taxpayer-funded spending, it’s crucial she hears from her constituents who are rightfully concerned about wasteful spending and an ever-encroaching federal government.”

Stephanie Murphy feels the heat over budget pork. Image via Facebook.

The group has also sent mailers throughout Florida’s 6th Congressional District labeling the bill not only as pork but the “Whole Hog.”

For her part, Murphy has voiced support for the bill, though not for tying a $1.1-trillion bill already passed to broader spending as some progressives have suggested.

“Now that the Senate approved the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the House must pass it ASAP,” she tweeted earlier this month. “While I support passing a targeted reconciliation bill to help FL families, we shouldn’t hold infrastructure hostage to it. I urge Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi to put the bill on the floor this month.”

Mourning a hero

Naples Republican Byron Donalds took a moment last week to remember a law enforcement official in his district felled by the coronavirus. Deputy Sheriff First Class Steven Mazzotta, an 18-year veteran of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, died from complications with COVID-19 last Monday.

“Deputy Sheriff First Class Steven Mazzotta devoted his life to serving the Southwest Florida community, with a career in law enforcement spanning 18 years. Born into a law enforcement family, with both his brother and his nephew serving within the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Mazzotta wore the badge with honor as he understood the importance of service above self,” Donalds said.

Lee County says goodbye to a sheriff’s deputy lost to COVID-19. Image via Facebook.

While Donalds’ statement did not mention the cause of death, he knows the virus’s reach as he tested positive last year.

“The news of Deputy Mazzotta’s passing is a heartbreaking tragedy, and the entire Southwest Florida community is grateful for his dedication to bettering our community. Along with my prayers, my complete sympathy is with Deputy Mazzotta’s family, as well as his brothers and sisters in blue, during this difficult period of mourning. The men and women in uniform who protect our communities are the bravest among us, and I thank Deputy Mazzotta for a lifetime of dedicated and devoted service.”

Jab approval rating

News of the Food and Drug Administration providing full approval for the Pfizer vaccine took one reason for hesitancy away from the holdouts. It also had members of the delegation using an opportunity to encourage more Floridians to get the jab.

“The FDA’s approval of a COVID-19 vaccine underscores what we have known for a long time: that the shots are safe, effective, and the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” said Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat. “My hope is that this approval could help anyone who was reluctant to get the vaccine have confidence in its safety and encourage more employers to require rigorous testing requirements or proof of vaccination for their employees.”

It should ease concerns as to whether the mRNA vaccine, one of three shots available in the U.S., has the trust and support of the medical world.

With full approval from the FDA, Debbie Wasserman Schultz hopes more people will get the jab. Image via Facebook.

“COVID-19 vaccines cleared a major safety and efficacy hurdle today,” tweeted Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat. “Share the U.S. FDA news with friends and family holdouts, so they get their vaccine shots. It’s the best way to beat back this Delta Variant surge.”

The lack of FDA approval has been widely cited by many who felt the unroll of vaccines was rushed. Steube, a Sarasota Republican opposed to mandating vaccines for the military, had noted the lack of authorization as one reason soldiers might quit before being inoculated. The same day of the FDA approval, news broke the Pentagon will move ahead with such mandates.

As for the other vaccines available thanks to Emergency Use Authorizations, Moderna applied for FDA approval in June, about a month after Moderna, Newsweek reports. Johnson & Johnson has yet to submit its application formally.


Few items on the Democratic agenda boast the priority, prestige or flat-out reverence of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (HR 4), legislation that would largely federalize election laws and stop many tactics voting advocates say suppresses the minority vote. Named for a civil rights activist-turned-iconic congressman, the act just a year after Lewis’ death has a greater chance of passage with a Democrat in the White House. The bill is up for a House vote today.

Now, a Floridian who served alongside Lewis will champion the effort.

Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch re-introduced the bill last week with Alabama Democrat Terri Sewell.

Ted Deutch is all-in on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Image via Facebook.

“John Lewis was a hero of mine before I got to Congress in 2010,” Deutch said. “When we voted that same year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, I congratulated Mr. Lewis on this tribute to his work. He spent the next half-hour sharing with me the immense hurdles that were constantly put before him and the other brave Civil Rights pioneers who simply wanted everyone to be able to vote. It is in memory and honor of the late John Lewis, my colleague and friend, that I am proud to co-sponsor this act.

 “With this bill, we are continuing John’s legacy to ensure that every eligible American is able to cast a vote and have it counted. Especially against the backdrop of today’s coordinated state-level efforts to restrict the right to vote, it is imperative that Congress act to restore confidence and transparency in the election system for every American in every state. Prioritizing accessibility to the ballot and preserving the right to vote for all Americans shouldn’t be partisan, and I hope my Republican colleagues will support this crucial effort to respect and strengthen American democracy.”

On this day

Aug. 24, 1954 — “Dwight Eisenhower’s signing statement for Communist Control Act” via The American Presidency Project — “The American people are determined to protect themselves and their institutions against any organization in their midst which, purporting to be a political party within the normally accepted meaning, is actually a conspiracy dedicated to the violent overthrow of our entire form of government. The American people, likewise, are determined to accomplish this in strict conformity with the requirements of justice, fair play and the Constitution of the United States. They realize that employment of any other means would react unfavorably against the innocent as well as the guilty, and, in the long run, would distort and damage the judicial procedures of our country.”

Aug. 24, 1814 — ‘British days of destruction in Washington” via The White House Historical Association — These were black days for the United States military as British forces handily defeated American militiamen at Bladensburg, Maryland, captured Washington, and put the United States Capitol, President’s House and other prominent public buildings to the torch. Even as the British invasion of southern Maryland and march to Washington in August 1814 threatened to bring the war to her doorstep, First Lady Dolley Madison determinedly went about business as usual. She showed impressive courage awaiting husband President James Madison‘s return from the Bladensburg, Maryland, a battlefield where he had gone to observe the troops.

Happy birthday

Best wishes to Rep. Scott Franklin, who turned 57 on Monday, Aug. 23.


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

Staff Reports

One comment

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