Delegation for 10.1.21: No deal — Cuba talk — stocked up — boosters — welcome back

capitol u.s. green 9.30.19
America's infrastructure will have to wait.

No deal!

Democrats in the Senate failed to reach a deal on a budget with more than $4 trillion in spending.

Though legislation passed to provide immediate government funding and stave off a federal shutdown until at least Dec. 3, Speaker Nancy Pelosi canceled a late-night vote on a $1-trillion infrastructure package.

Rep. Stephanie Murphy, the Winter Park Democrat and co-chair of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition, said ahead of that move that it would be a “breach of trust that would slow the momentum in moving forward.”

Murphy is part of the small group of moderate Democrats at the center of negotiations between Congress and the White House and was among five House members who met last week with President Joe Biden about reaching a consensus.

But the White House made clear this week that the President will only negotiate so much, expressing open frustration with Democratic holdouts, particularly West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.

Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are holdouts that killed the current infrastructure deal.

Indeed, after Manchin released a statement labeling Biden’s $3.5-trillion Build Back Better plan as “fiscal insanity,” even Senate Republicans felt like he’d effectively adopted the outlook of the GOP.

“These first two paragraphs look awfully familiar. Did Sen. Joe Manchin plagiarize from me and Senate GOP?” said Sen. Rick Scott. “Just kidding, Joe. But always appreciate someone else calling for fiscal sanity in this building!”

The Naples Republican and Sen. Marco Rubio have been mainly sidelined on budget matters as Democrats seek to pass a budget through reconciliation with no Republican votes. But Florida’s junior Senator offered plenty of commentary on the potential of increasing federal debt spurring further inflation.

The Progressive Caucus has started to push back and say moderates must be less recalcitrant in the House. The largest caucus in the House, its membership includes three Democrats from the delegation: Reps. Darren Soto, Lois Frankel, and Frederica Wilson.

There’s unbeatable unity on the left, Soto said.

“President Biden and the Democratic Congress are united, and we are keeping our promises to the American people who put us in office,” he said during a speech on the House floor.

But leadership also won’t put a vote on the floor that could fail. Members throughout the Democratic caucus increasingly expressed frustration at the time it’s taking to reach common ground; some leaders suggest that’s still weeks away.

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Wednesday evening, Murphy suggested that failure to reach any deal before the end of September would hurt all parties involved.

Murphy said that leadership promised a separate vote on infrastructure, suggesting that progressives effectively reneged on that arrangement this week, throwing the process into turmoil.

“We had a deal with Speaker Pelosi, and she put it in a statement that she’d not only put the infrastructure bill up for a vote but also rally the vote for that,” Murphy said. “Then every single Democrat in the House voted on a rules package that embodied that agreement. So, we have that commitment of everybody that we are moving forward.”

Now it’s October, and there’s no resolution to talks yet.

Cuban missive crisis

Rubio and Scott expressed collective outrage after leaders in Mexico invited Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to a state-sanctioned celebration.

In a Spanish-language letter to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Florida Senate delegation derided the Cuban leader and questioned the judgment of governments embracing the regime.

“We hope that your decision to receive the narco-dictator Nicolás Maduro and the puppet of the Cuban dictatorship Miguel Díaz Canel is not indicative of a departure from the principles of your country in respect of democracy and freedom,” a translation of the letter reads.

Miguel Diaz-Canel and Nicolás Maduro are giving heartburn to Florida’s Senators.

Rubio has frequently derided Maduro as a narco-state leader propped up by drug trade money. He also characterized Diaz-Canel as a figurehead of the Fidel and Raul Castro regimes of post-revolution Cuba. The timing of Canel’s recent visit to Mexico read as remarkably tone-deaf in the U.S. months after protests put the future of the island’s communist government in jeopardy.

“As Senators of the state of Florida, we represent a large community of Mexicans, Venezuelans, and Cuban Americans. The recent decision to host Maduro and Diaz-Canel during Mexico’s Independence Day celebrations has upset many members of these communities,” the letter said.

“For more than six decades, the Castro brothers and now Diaz-Canel have oppressed the people of Cuba. The regime prevents Cubans from electing their leaders democratically, owning private property, expressing their views freely, accessing the internet, and participating in private companies. The historic protests that erupted on July 11 on the island of Cuba were an emphatic reaction against this regime, not against U.S. policy. For you, as the president democratically elected by the people of Mexico, choosing to grant legitimacy to this undemocratic regime is disrespectful to the Cuban people’s struggle for their freedom and also overshadows the historical symbolism of the Grito de Dolores.”

The Senators said it would be wiser for the Mexican government to use its connections within the Latin American world to help the U.S. bring the out-of-step regimes in Venezuela and Cuba to justice.

“As part of that cooperation, Mexico has been supremely receptive in extraditing other criminals involved in these crimes. Narco-dictator Nicolás Maduro should not be the exception,” the letter reads. “It is with the deepest respect for the people of Mexico and the democratic values of the country that we urge you to take action in this regard. Our countries have mutually benefited from many decades of close cooperation and brotherhood. We stand ready to help you take these steps and further deepen the relationship between Mexico and the United States.”

STOCK up

Another member of Florida’s House delegation appears to have violated the STOCK Act.

John Rutherford earlier this year disclosed five stock transactions, each one worth between $1,001 and $15,000. It means the Jacksonville Republican could have made as much as $75,000 in the trades.

The error was first reported by Business Insider, who closely watched financial disclosures and previously flagged STOCK Act violations by Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor, Stuart Republican Brian Mast, and Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Hot stock tips from John Rutherford? Image via AP.

Rutherford’s tardy reporting occurred between Oct. 21 and Dec. 22; the STOCK Act requires reporting each trade to the House clerk’s office within a month of the transaction. Instead, none were reported until February.

Transactions included purchases of Tyson Foods on Oct. 21, Deutsche Post on Nov. 13, Svenska Handelsbanken on Dec. 7, and Compagnie de Saint Gobain on Dec. 22. He sold shares in the American Electric Power Company on Oct. 21, buying the Tyson shares.

Rutherford spokesperson Alex Lanfranconi told Insider the filing was late, but the Congressman had not been charged a $200 fine for the late reporting.

“Any late periodic transaction reports have been submitted in full and accepted by the House without (a) fine,” Lanfranconi said. “Rep. Rutherford is in regular contact with the House Ethics Committee to confirm all disclosure requirements are met in full.”

This month, a Florida Politics analysis of financial disclosures showed Rutherford was among 21 members of Florida’s Congressional Delegation with a net worth potentially greater than $1 million.

Crist boost

On Wednesday, St. Petersburg Democrat and gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist got an additional booster shot against COVID-19.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the third jab, just approved for individuals 65 and older and those with compromised immune systems, improves protection against COVID-19 and the Delta variant. Crist turned 65 in July.

“I got my booster shot today,” Crist tweeted. “Do your part to keep friends, family and fellow Floridians safe — go get vaccinated, and let’s put an end to this pandemic, once and for all!”

Rare earth

Afghanistan has remained politically unstable for decades and has long held a coveted supply of precious metals underground.

Greg Steube doesn’t want that to provide the Taliban a foundation to build wealth and power. The Sarasota Republican filed legislation that would introduce economic sanctions on any entities engaging in transactions for earth minerals from Afghanistan while the terrorist-sponsoring state holds control.

Greg Steube wants to cancel Taliban cash.

“The Biden administration’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan has given the Taliban control of one of the largest deposits of rare earth minerals in the world, which jeopardizes our national security,” Steube said. “Banning the Taliban and China from profiting off of rare earth minerals is common sense.”

He said a critical goal of the legislation, developed with the help of the Republican Study Committee, is to create consequences for China if it begins doing business with the Taliban.

Lakeland Republican Scott Franklin signed on as a co-sponsor.

Cancer coverage

Gus Bilirakis announced new legislation that will allow for industrywide coverage expansion on rare cancer diagnoses.

The proposal, called the Cancer Patient Equity Act, would require Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to cover molecular diagnostics at the time of a cancer diagnosis. This form of precision medicine is often not covered by insurance providers.

Gus Bilirakis takes on legislation helping to diagnose rare cancers.

The Palm Harbor Republican unveiled the bipartisan bill with North Carolina Democrat G.K. Butterfield during a news conference with the SHEPHERD Foundation.

“Every cancer patient deserves the best chance of survival, and we must create a streamlined regulatory system and payment model to realize this important goal,” Bilirakis said.

The bill aims to give more patients access to data to help with treatment options and their risk of developing rare cancer. Bilirakis said he hopes it will “remove bureaucratic hurdles” that currently slow down patients from accessing care.

Smoldering sin

The Labor Department poured down penalties on a Tampa lead smelting plant.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration found Gopher Resource has exposed workers to toxic inhalation hazards, knowingly allowing dangerous levels of cadmium, lead, and inorganic arsenic well above allowable levels. As a result, parent company Envirofocus Technologies faces $319,876 in recommended fines.

“This employer put their bottom line above the safety and well-being of their workers,” said OSHA Area Director Danelle Jindra. “Every worker has the right to a safe workplace, and they should never have to decide between their own health and earning a living. Continuing to put workers in harm’s way is unacceptable, and OSHA will continue to hold employers like Gopher Resource responsible.”

Tampa Democrat Castor praised the move while condemning the practice long left unchecked in her district.

Kathy Castor says who smelt it, dealt it.

“Today’s damning OSHA report and penalties confirm that Gopher lead smelting plant sacrificed the health and lives of Tampa workers and their families for corporate profit. This is a failure on all levels — violations including toxin exposure above the permissible limit, broken respirators, and damaged equipment should have been addressed immediately,” the Congresswoman said. “Now, our neighbors will deal with the consequences of Gopher’s greed. These violations by Gopher make it clear that the health of our neighbors was jeopardized every day they came to work with damaged, lead-exposed equipment. No one should be forced to choose between a paycheck and a hazardous workplace. I will continue to work diligently in Congress and with local partners to help our neighbors who are suffering from Gopher’s failures.”

She also said the failures, only made public after a Tampa Bay Times investigation, show the shortcomings of relying purely on the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to catch bad actors in today’s world. She’s now calling for an update to the federal statutes.

“A 50-year-old law cannot meaningfully oversee the 21st-century workplace, and I’ll continue advocating to update the law, increase OSHA’s resources and increase allowable civil penalties. The civil fines and penalties allowed by OSHA are woefully inadequate, and too many companies like Gopher can just chalk it up to the cost of doing business,” Castor said.

“That’s why I am proud that we have included a provision in the Build Back Better package to provide for a tenfold increase in allowable OSHA civil penalties. No monetary penalties against the company will fully rectify the harm our neighbors have suffered, but today’s OSHA citation is an important step in holding Gopher responsible for their misdeeds.”

Reconcile this

For 800,000 Floridians without health care, the passage of a budget reconciliation bill could be much more than a faraway game of political brinkmanship. It could open the door to health care long denied, according to Ted Deutch.

One line item in the budget would expand Medicaid in the 12 states, including Florida, where state Republicans have refused matching federal funds to expand Medicaid since the Affordable Care Act went into effect. As a result, the Boca Raton Democrat said health care is still out of reach for adults who earn more income than Florida’s threshold for eligibility but less than the minimum income to be eligible for tax credits in the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

Ted Deutch says budget reconciliation could take down long-denied health care. Image via AP.

Deutch promulgated the idea of having the Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services work directly with the willing counties and cities.

“This budget process is Florida’s best chance for Medicaid expansion,” he tweeted on Aug. 25. “As many as 800,000 Floridians have been waiting for over seven years. The Florida GOP denied them. Now is the time to end the Medicaid gap.

Some estimates are that it would mean health care coverage for 2 million adults; others say it’s 4 million. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the effect would be almost immediate, starting in January 2022.

Posting Bondi

A shake-up at former President Donald Trump’s Super PAC ended with putting former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in charge. Corey Lewandowski, a former Trump campaign manager, had chaired Make America Great Again Action but was fired this week following new allegations of sexual misconduct, Fox News reports.

Taylor Budowich, a Trump senior adviser, announced on Twitter that Bondi would take the reins.

“Pam Bondi, the very talented and honorable former AG of Florida, has our complete faith and confidence in taking over MAGA Action,” Budowich tweeted. “Corey Lewandowski will be going on to other endeavors, and we very much want to thank him for his service. He will no longer be associated with Trump World.”

Pam Bondi is back in the Trump fold.

Bondi has long had a good relationship with the former President, endorsing Trump in 2016 and serving on the legal team for Trump’s first impeachment trial. Bondi remains a partner with the Washington office of Ballard Partners. The former President now operates his political operation out of Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach County.

Return to Rick

Scott hired Alexandra Ojeda to serve as Florida state director for his Senate office. She previously worked on Scott’s 2018 Senate campaign as his Hispanic outreach director and later as his Spanish-language press secretary.

In October, she will start in the new capacity after most recently serving for Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody. The Puerto Rico native holds a law degree from the University of Puerto Rico, where she served as a member of the Law Review.

Alexandra Ojeda is back in Rick Scott’s office.

“I’m glad to welcome Alex Ojeda back on my team as State Director,” Scott said. “She’s done an incredible job serving the people of Florida in her roles in Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office and my Senate office, and I have no doubt she will go above and beyond to lead our hardworking team throughout the state and help Floridians receive any federal support and information they need.”

Ojeda has long served Florida Republicans in capacities on the campaign trail, Tallahassee, and Capitol Hill. She interned for former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican, after being awarded the Cordova & Fernos Scholarship in 2008. After graduating from law school, Ojeda returned to Washington and worked for The Washington Center as federal relations manager. She later moved to Florida to work for the Tampa Bay Partnership and later for Scott.

Ojeda lives in Tampa with her husband James and is licensed to practice law in Florida.

On this day

Oct. 1, 1890 — “Yosemite National Park established” via History.com — An act of Congress creates Yosemite National Park, home of such natural wonders as Half Dome and the giant sequoia trees. Environmental trailblazer John Muir (1838-1914) and his colleagues campaigned for the congressional action, which was signed into law by President Benjamin Harrison and paved the way for generations of hikers, campers and nature lovers, along with countless “Don’t Feed the Bears” signs. Native Americans were the primary residents of the Yosemite Valley, located in California’s Sierra Nevada, until the 1849 Gold Rush brought thousands of non-Indigenous miners and settlers to the region.

Oct. 1, 1971 — “D(isney) Day: Mickey rolls out mat” via the Orlando Sentinel — Mickey Mouse rolls out the welcome mat today as Walt Disney World, a $400 million fairyland six years in the making, opens. Neither government officials nor Disney executives know what to expect today. Crowd estimates range from 10,000 to more than 50,000. While Disney officials refused to estimate, Lt. Aubrey O’Pry, district commander of the Florida Highway Patrol, went out on a limb and predicted between 20,000 and 28,000. O’Pry feels Disney World has played down its opening nationally, billing the first three weeks as a “shakedown” period — to oil the machine expected to attract 10-12 million guests in its first year.

___

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

Staff Reports


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