Delegation for 9.24.21: Busted — debt drama — floods — all apologies — gay blood

u.s. capitol GREEN
Will it be the first federal government shutdown of Biden's presidency?

Budget buster

While much of President Joe Biden’s agenda coasted through the House, the high-priced Build Back Better budget has members of his Party balking. That includes several Democratic House members from Florida who expressed their concerns about the direction of talks. Now a deadline looms in less than a week before what could be the first federal government shutdown of the Democratic leader’s presidency.

Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy, leader of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition, suggests it’s likely the House will need more time than initially expected to iron out many details. “I’m not sure that we’re at a place of closing out just yet,” Murphy told The Associated Press. Following a meeting with the President and other moderates in Congress, Murphy expressed optimism a deal will be reached, but perhaps closer to month’s end.

“My meeting with the President was positive and productive, with a candid exchange of ideas and a shared sense of purpose among all of us present,” she said. “I emphasized the importance of the House voting on — and passing — the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Sept. 27, ideally with a combination of Democratic and Republican votes. President Biden deserves tremendous credit for his role in crafting this historic bill, which will dramatically improve quality of life for my constituents, while creating good-paying jobs and helping to combat climate change.

Stephanie Murphy wants budget negotiations to be in ‘good faith.’ Image via Facebook.

“I also made clear I will continue working in good faith to help enact a fiscally-disciplined Build Back Better Act that empowers working families. In order to become law, the size and scope of the bill — in terms of both its spending and tax provisions — will need to be more precisely targeted. This fundamental fact, rooted in political reality, must be accepted.”

That assessment came a week after she announced she would vote no on the $3.5-trillion budget proposal as written, and that she still harbored concerns about spending and tax provisions, without enumerating specifics.

With 19 members, the Blue Dog caucus could hold significant sway on talks considering Democrats now have just an eight-seat majority in the House. That amplified Murphy’s voice in negotiations within the House.

As that debate continues, the House did pass a measure Tuesday that could stave off a shutdown. But with a 220-211 party-line vote, many Democrats left angry at steps taken to keep a majority vote.

Progressives notably demanded the budget drop $1 billion in foreign aid to pay for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, which in May proved effective at stopping 90% of rockets launched by Hamas in a violent conflict before a controversial response by the Israeli government. New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez filed the amendment cutting Defense spending, including the support for the Israeli program.

Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat and ardent defender of Israel, heavily criticized the concession to the left in his Party, noting the cost comes only because of violence instigated by Hamas.

“It needs to be replenished because thousands of rockets were fired by the Hamas terrorists who control Gaza, and the Iron Dome played a critical role in protecting civilians during this bombardment. The House voted to fund missile defense for our ally Israel last December,” he said. When Hamas fired over 4,000 rockets, the Iron Dome saves Israeli and Palestinian lives. Missile defense saves the lives of people terrorists want to kill. That’s why we must support it. I’m incredibly angry that a few of my colleagues want to block this lifesaving support, and bitterly disappointed that the funding was pulled from the Continuing Resolution rather than standing up for our ally.”

Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro introduced a bill to replenish that money, but it’s separate from the bill to stave off a shutdown. When that hit the floor, it passed with only nine votes against; Ocasio-Cortez changed her vote to present.

But the budget — in its current state in the House — appears to lack the votes to pass the Senate. There, Florida has no moderate Democrats holding sway, and the White House made quite clear this week it’s not concerned with suggestions from Florida’s Senate members (see below).

Regardless, it’s clear the fight between the left and the middle still holds the potential to brush large parts of Build Back Better to the side.

Debt ceiling drama

Whatever happens with the debt ceiling, Sen. Rick Scott said it’s most important America’s military remain funded. On Wednesday, the Naples Republican, along with Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey, reintroduced the Full Faith and Credit Act, which would require the federal government to prioritize funding for the military, veterans, and seniors if spending hits the nation’s debt limit before being suspended or raised. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Miami Republican, co-sponsored the bill.

“Washington’s reckless spending is completely out of control. The United States is nearing $30 trillion in debt and Democrats are pushing a radical, socialist tax-and-spending agenda that will push us to an unimaginable $45 trillion,” Scott said. “Too many in Washington have accepted deficit spending, blank checks, tax hikes, and skyrocketing inflation as the status quo. We need to be clear: there will be a day of reckoning for this, and unfortunately, American families will pay the price. It’s time for Congress to take significant action to put our nation back on a path of economic success. I did it in Florida, and we can do it in Washington.”

No matter how the debt ceiling shakes out, Rick Scott wants full military funding. image via AP.

Democrats control both chambers of Congress, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi included an extension of the debt ceiling suspension in a budget that provides for Biden’s proposed infrastructure spending. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled Democrats will need to lift the ceiling without GOP votes.

Notably, there wasn’t much uproar from Senate Republicans when suspending the debt ceiling in 2019 due to a bipartisan deal between the Democratic House and the then-Republican majority Senate. Scott also backed similar legislation in the last Congress as well.

Stopping the flood

Weeks before a new flood rating system goes into effect, Rubio wants the federal government to pump the brakes, lest 80% of flood insurance policies in Florida leap in price overnight.

Florida’s senior Senator joined with New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez and Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy, urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency to delay the Oct. 1 implementation of the updated National Flood Insurance Program ratings.

“We are troubled that FEMA has not publicly conveyed that 75% of primary residences will potentially see premium increases of 18%, the cap under law,” the Senators wrote. “This is a sharp departure from the 6% to 12% percent average increases that primary residence policyholders have seen in recent years. In addition, we still have not received requested information and have little insight into the impact of the new program on grandfathered properties.”

Marco Rubio wants to pump the brakes on new FEMA flood maps. Image via A.G. Gancarski.

A bipartisan group of Senators, most from coastal states, co-signed the message to FEMA.

“We are extremely concerned about the administration’s decision to proceed forward with the implementation of this program without first determining an alternative that avoids the prospect that hundreds of thousands of families will be inclined to forfeit flood insurance on their homes,” the senators wrote.

“This unwillingness to alter the current proposal and the potential for having a significant increase in uninsured homeowners leave Congress in the unfortunate position of having to pass more expensive, less beneficial disaster aid on the back end each time a devastating storm strikes, and homeowners are left unprotected.”

All apologies

It’s still unclear if Panhandle Republican Matt Gaetz will come out of a sex scandal clean, but he has managed to secure an apology from the Government of Israel regarding a peculiar sidebar to the scandal. That came after the Congressman said Jake Novak, broadcast media director for the Israeli consulate in New York, may have been involved in a plot to extort Gaetz’s family over a federal investigation.

On Gaetz’s Firebrand podcast, he said Novak in March contacted Dilbert cartoonist and conservative commentator Scott Adams claiming inside knowledge of a federal investigation of the Congressman. Gaetz has long denied accusations he trafficked a minor for sex and has said the charge stems from this attempt to shake down his father Don Gaetz for $25 million to secure the release of Iranian hostage Bob Levinson (who has long been believed dead).

Matt Gaetz was able to squeeze an apology from Israel.

Panhandle businessman Stephen Alford has been indicted on a charge of charges related to the shakedown plot, though that doesn’t clear Gaetz. The charges against him stemmed from another investigation of former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, who asked for an extension in a plea deal on his sex trafficking charge as he negotiates testimony in other investigations.

Regardless, the Israeli government did criticize its employee’s involvement in the scandal in a statement released Thursday.

“Jake Novak is a staffer at the Israeli Consulate in New York and is not serving in any official diplomatic capacity,” the statement reads. “His correspondence mentioned in this story was not in any way, shape, or form a part of his role at the consulate. After this matter was brought to our attention, it was made clear to Mr. Novak that this is not acceptable by the consulate general, and he must never be involved in such matters again.”

Gaetz, who this week has criticized foreign consulates in general over the matter, tweeted his appreciation. “This is a step in the right direction,” he posted.

Gay blood

Orlando Democrat Val Demings heralded an FDA notice she received as evidence of progress in her efforts to get the Food and Drug Administration to overhaul a decades-old policy that essentially bans blood donations from many gay men.

The FDA advised her and other members that it is assessing “the feasibility and safety of alternative donor eligibility policies … the Agency remains committed to considering alternatives to the time-based deferrals currently in place for MSM (men who have sex with men) that are based on scientific data and that will maintain a high level of blood safety.”

Val Demings looks for an update to decades-old FDA rules about gay blood donations.

Since the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 90s, the FDA has had rules requiring a three-month deferment from donating blood for men who have had sex with another man in the past 12 months.

The issue exacerbated a local tragedy in 2016 after a mad gunman shot up the popular gay Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 and injuring scores. Orlando’s gay community, in particular, lined up to donate blood, only to be turned away. Demings, who entered Congress in 2017, and several other members have urged the FDA to consider recent technology spelled out in the Assessing Donor Variability and New Concepts in Eligibility Study, which could make the deferral rule unnecessary.

Demings said the recent FDA statement indicates the agency is willing and working on it.

“We are glad to see that the FDA remains committed to supporting the ADVANCE Study and open to updating the agency’s outdated, stigmatizing rules regarding blood donations,” Demings and New York Democrat Carolyn Maloney said in a joint statement. “Expanding the number of American blood donors will help us to save lives when tragedy strikes. This is an important step toward fairness and equality for all.”

Ban the Taliban

As criticism continues over the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan, Sarasota Republican Greg Steube wants to ensure the U.S. offers no direct material support to the warlords. He introduced the No Support for Terror Act to bar any taxpayer dollars supporting the Taliban or other groups deemed terrorists or terrorist-harboring nations.

“There is absolutely no excuse for giving our tax dollars to terrorist-controlled countries like Afghanistan,” Steube said. “It is not in our financial or national security interests for us to fund our adversaries.”

Greg Steube calls for a ban on the Taliban — full stop. Image via Getty.

Earlier this month, Steube at a House Foreign Affairs Committee criticized Secretary of State Antony Blinken for the administration letting the Taliban rise to power before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. He said it was particularly unconscionable that the U.S. troops left behind military weapons and equipment as it withdrew American military presence from Kabul.

He’s also upset the International Monetary Fund credited the Afghan government with special drawing rights worth $440 million, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Meanwhile, St. Augustine Beach Republican Mike Waltz urged the Biden administration not to recognize the Taliban government as legitimate.

Waltz made that declaration jointly with South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham after the two took a call from Afghan resistance leader Ahmad Massoud on Wednesday.

“It is clear to us after this conversation that the Afghan Taliban are deeply unpopular and resented throughout the country,” the Waltz-Graham statement read. “Their cabinet and forces are comprised of al-Qaida and other listed terrorist groups. It is in America’s interest that the Afghan Taliban not be legitimized by the international community because they are, and have been, terrorists.”

Haitians hurting

Hollywood Democrat Frederica Wilson turned her anger Thursday toward the President from her own Party. The Congresswoman led a news conference harshly criticizing the Biden administration for deporting Haitians apprehended crossing the border, despite refugees from the Caribbean nation enjoying temporary protected status.

Pictures of Border Patrol agents, including some that appeared to show authorities using horse reins to corral the migrants, generated outrage this week, including upsetting Wilson. “They looked like whips to me,” Wilson said, WPLG reported. She also compared the images to the treatment of slaves.

Daniel Foote, a special envoy to Haiti appointed by Biden this year, resigned from the administration over the “inhumane” treatment and deportation. Many have fled Haiti, especially since the assassination of Jovenel Moïse.

The treatment of Haitian migrants has Frederica Wilson boiling mad.

Sen. Rubio also blamed Biden for the incident, but for differing reasons. “Joe Biden is luring them here, and it’s wrong,” Rubio told Fox News.

While Wilson said, centers are needed to house fleeing Haitians. Rubio said there must be better enforcement of immigration laws.

Meanwhile, Demings, co-chair of the House Haiti Caucus, sought to spread the blame around, calling for changes to an inadequate immigration system she says is at the heart of the problem.

“The unacceptable treatment of Haitian immigrants is a sad symptom of a broken system that for decades under Republican and Democratic presidents has failed to stabilize our border and has harmed innocent families seeking the American dream after fleeing from disaster and danger,” Demings said.

“I have called for immediate action from the administration and from Congress to build a safe, orderly, and controlled immigration system where all people are treated with dignity and respect. The American promise is a special thing. We must live up to it.”

Redistricting underway

Florida lawmakers this week officially kicked off the process of redrawing the state’s Congressional lines ahead of the 2022 elections. That included unveiling a new redistricting website launched Wednesday, which lawmakers and the general public can use to generate maps for consideration. That means Congress members and their supporters can get a close look at the census data for their districts and the area surrounding them.

Drawing lines for now 28 congressional districts in Florida will prove a technical and political challenge. Federal law demands near-perfectly divided districts for the Congressional seats. Based on the 2020 count of residents, the ideal population would make each district home to 769,221 people. The Legislature may vary districts in size by one person.

OK, Florida; have at it.

Based on the current lines, for just 27 districts based on the 2010 Census, which means every district in Florida will change to some degree. Under existing lines, the most populous district is Florida’s 9th Congressional District, represented now by Kissimmee Democrat Darren Soto. Meanwhile, a half dozen jurisdictions are between 2% and 6% under the necessary population, including Florida’s 2nd, 4th, 5th, 13th, 24th, and 27th Congressional Districts. That set includes some battlegrounds, most notably those represented by St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist, who’s running for Governor in 2022, and Miami Republican Maria Elvira Salazar, who flipped her district red in 2020.

Miami-Belgium connection

Biden tapped a South Florida real estate magnate, longtime Democratic donor, and past chair of a Biden presidential campaign to serve as the new U.S. ambassador to Belgium.

The White House announced Michael Adler, chair and CEO of Miami-based real estate firm Adler Group, will replace Chicago businessman and Donald Trump appointee Ronald Gidwitz in the role.

Michael Adler gets an ambassadorship. Image via AdlerGroup.com.

The official title is Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Kingdom of Belgium.

Adler was one of three ambassador nominees announced Wednesday. Others include California nonprofit Heluna Health Chair Erik Ramanathan, nominated to represent the U.S. in Sweden, and Georgia state Rep. Calvin Smyre, picked as ambassador to the Dominican Republic.

Adler and Ramanathan fundraised for Biden’s 2020 presidential run. Both also brought significant donations for the campaigns of former President Barack Obama.

On this day

Sept. 24, 1789 — “First Supreme Court established” via History.com — Congress passes the Judiciary Act of 1789 and signed by President George Washington, establishing the Supreme Court of the United States as a tribunal made up of six justices who were to serve on the court until death or retirement. President Washington nominated John Jay to preside as chief justice, and John Rutledge, William Cushing, John Blair, Robert Harrison, and James Wilson to be associate justices. The Constitution granted the Supreme Court ultimate authority over all laws, especially those whose constitutionality was at issue.

Sept. 24, 1996 — “Bill Clinton signs Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty” via Council on Foreign Relations — President Clinton signed the treaty, which bars signatory countries from exploding nuclear devices. In signing the treaty with the same pen that John F. Kennedy used three decades earlier to sign the Limited Test Ban Treaty, Clinton called CTBT “the longest-sought, hardest-fought prize in arms control history.” Clinton didn’t realize at the time how accurate and prophetic his statement was. CTBT faced substantial Republican opposition from the start. When CTBT finally came to a vote in 1999, it fell well short of the two-thirds vote needed for passage, one of just 21 treaties defeated on the floor of the Senate.

Happy birthday

Best wishes to Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who turns 60 on Saturday, Sept. 25, and to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who turns 55 on Monday, Sept. 27.

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Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, with contributions by Scott Powers and Jesse Scheckner.

Staff Reports



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