- Al Lawson
- Anthony Fauci
- Barack Obama
- Bill Posey
- Brian Mast
- Byron Donalds
- Charlie Crist
- Colin Powell
- Darren Soto
- Debbie Wasserman Schultz
- Dick Cheney
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- Florida Delegation
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- George H.W. Bush
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- Merrick Garland
- Michael Waltz
- Nicolas Maduro
- Rick Scott
- Stephanie Murphy
- Ted Deutch
- Val Demings
- Vern Buchanan
At long last, Congress passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill.
On Friday evening, the House passed a $1-trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act by a narrow 228-206 margin. The chamber concurred with Senate legislation, which means the bill heads straight to President Joe Biden’s desk. In the end, six progressive Democrats voted against the bill, and 13 Republicans voted for it. But the Florida delegation broke along straight party lines.
Rep. Mike Waltz pointed out as much in a tweet where he tagged all Democratic members. “The so-called infrastructure bill does nothing to solve Florida’s long-standing needs for building new shipyards and spaceports or fixing the unfair bridge and clean water formulas that shortchange Florida,” the St. Augustine Republican tweeted. “States should be allowed to use unspent COVID funds on infrastructure!”
But Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, found it startling that no Republicans from the state crossed the aisle. “Bizarre and backward: No Florida Republican in Congress supported the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act despite the needs — like clean water and resilience — in our growing, dynamic state,” she posted.
The price tag certainly made many a conservative balk, but the legislation holds the potential to direct plenty of spending to the Sunshine State. As passed, the legislation dedicated $40 billion to bridges, $39 billion to transit, $25 billion to airports, and $17 billion to seaports. Beyond those traditional infrastructure spends, there’s also $65 billion for broadband, $55 for bringing water, $50 billion for water resilience, and $21 billion to environmental remediation, all of which could benefit projects in Florida.
“Goodbye, crumbling roads and bridges! Welcome, universal broadband and clean water!” wrote Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Hollywood Democrat, on Facebook. “Our nation will have brand-new, transformational infrastructure! Let’s #BuildBackBetter and create millions of Jobs! Jobs! Job! Thank you, President Biden!”
Still, Rep. Bill Posey, a Rockledge Republican, slammed the late-night vote. “Just after midnight, I voted against Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi’s latest plan to greenlight trillions of dollars in new spending to transform America,” he said. “The legislation doubles down on key policy failures that have produced rising food and gas prices, disruptions in the nation’s supply chain, a crisis at our southern border, and out-of-control vaccine mandates. People are tired of being dictated to by Washington and are frustrated by the disconnect between them and this radical agenda to remake the country and restructure their lives.”
The vote on infrastructure that occurred ahead of the social-services-focused Build Back Better legislation can be tallied as a victory for Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Winter Park Democrat, and the moderate Blue Dog Coalition she leads in the House. The larger spending package procedurally took steps forward in Congress but awaits a vote.
“The bipartisan infrastructure bill will dramatically improve quality of life in Florida by providing residents with better roads and bridges, modern air and seaports, high-speed broadband, and clean water,” Murphy said, publishing a release outlining several Central Florida projects that could benefit from federal funding.
“I’ve been fighting for this historic legislation since it passed the Senate in August and am thrilled we are finally sending it to the President’s desk to be signed into law,” she said. “I’m pleased we also moved the separate Build Back Better Act forward for consideration today. I’m committed to enacting a fiscally-disciplined bill that combats the existential threat of climate change, lowers the cost of prescription drugs without compromising innovation, and invests in working families.”
The infrastructure bill also may have set up a key point of public debate in Florida’s flagship federal contest in 2022. Sen. Marco Rubio, the Republican incumbent, voted against the package in the Senate, and Rep. Val Demings, his likely Democratic challenger, eagerly touted her yea vote on the bill in the House.
“Today’s vote was about jobs and America’s future. When we invest in middle-class America, when we invest in people who have to go to work every day, America does better,” Demings said.
“Our communities need this funding now. Democratic and Republican mayors who are clear-eyed know that investing in our supply chain infrastructure can’t wait, jobs can’t wait, repairs can’t wait, fighting climate change can’t wait, and protecting our health and safety can’t wait. As Florida’s families worry about our decaying infrastructure and inflation driven by an inadequate supply chain, this is a significant victory for Florida and will help build the kind of 21st-century infrastructure that we need to clean up our economic blockages and get the economy moving smoothly for working families across our state.”
That’s starkly different from Rubio’s take on the bill in August. “I support investing in roads, bridges, broadband, and efforts to mitigate against sea level rise, and I hoped there would be a bill I could vote for,” the Miami Republican said. “But this bill was negotiated in secret, rushed through the process without meaningful opportunities to have input, and adds a net increase of $350 billion to the national debt. I can’t vote for a bill like that.”
It should be noted Rubio did successfully push for a Senate amendment to dedicate $5 billion for the Everglades.
Demings tied her vote for the spending to her personal American story. “During the debate over this legislation, I thought of my parents, who played by the rules and worked hard as a maid, janitor, and in other odd jobs nearly every day of their lives,” the Orlando Democrat said. “Today’s Floridians deserve an economy where hard work actually gets you ahead, not one where health care, child care, senior care and housing take every dollar you make.”
When Rick Scott served as Florida’s Governor, the state declined to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. As a Senator, Scott doesn’t want the state punished for holding to that position but fears provisions of the Build Back Better Act would do just that.
The Naples Republican said language negotiated by House Democrats will cut funding to charity hospitals in states that “rejected the disaster of Obamacare” and refused any expansion. He sent letters to House members in 12 such states, including Florida, urging them to vote no on the bill.
“President Joe Biden’s ‘Build Back Better’ plan not only raises taxes on millions of American families and businesses and further fuels our nation’s raging inflation crisis but,” he wrote. “It also harshly punishes charity hospitals that provide care to those most in need.”
His office calculated a proposed 12.5% cut in Disproportionate Share Hospital Payments would create massive losses in the form of reduced payments to states’ Uncompensated Care Pools. Scott’s office predicted a $31-million reduction in Florida, based on the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission estimates. Hospitals in the 12 impacted states collectively would take a $4.2-billion hit.
Some of the larger states, he said, will feel further pain.
“While House Democrats’ proposed reduction to our states’ UCP is a harder figure to estimate, it will affect Florida, Kansas, Tennessee and Texas,” Scott wrote. “This funding is typically negotiated between the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the state under a budget-neutral 1115 waiver. To be clear, any cuts to these programs will only serve to hurt charity hospitals providing care to the poorest families.
“Making drastic cuts to these valued and incredibly important programs defies reason. House Democrats are choosing to impose needless cuts which would hurt charity hospitals and harm the poor.”
Patria Y Vida
Could the summer protests in Cuba spur the U.S. to guarantee internet access around the globe? Rubio filed legislation laying out a strategy to secure access and stop aggressive government efforts to censor online dissent.
The Protecting Against Tyrants by Restoring Internet Access and Yielding Vital Interconnectivity in Designated Areas Act draws inspiration from Rubio’s ancestral home. The bill’s anagram title, PATRIA Y VIDA Act, shares a name with the protest song embodying the anti-communist movement in the streets.
“From Havana and Hong Kong to Caracas and Tehran, oppressive regimes are restricting their citizens’ access to uncensored internet with the hope of silencing voices of dissent and hiding the realities on the ground,” Rubio said.
“The PATRIA Y VIDA Act requires the U.S. government to support technologies that will circumvent these tyrannical efforts. The world witnessed how the Cuban people stood up against over 60 years of communist rule in this summer’s organic protests, which were ignited in large part by the internet. We cannot forget the clamor of ‘Patria y Vida’ and people’s desire for internet freedom worldwide.”
He introduced the legislation with Scott and Tennessee Republican Sen. Bill Haggerty.
“This summer, the message of ‘Patria y Vida’ spread from Cuba across the world, making it clear that the time of the illegitimate communist Cuban dictatorship is over, “ Scott said. “Even in the face of internet blackouts, the Cuban people rose up and proved they could not be silenced by the cowardly communist regime. Now it is time for America to act. As the world’s greatest beacon of democracy, the United States do everything in our power to support freedom and democracy activists across the globe fighting against oppression and tyranny. I urge my colleagues to join in supporting this important bill.”
Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr also endorsed the effort.
“Senator Rubio’s early leadership on restoring Internet services in Cuba rallied support to this cause,” Carr said. “I am pleased that this legislation sets forth a smart, two-part plan for restoring Internet services in Cuba and in other territories where oppressive regimes depend on darkness to maintain control. Passing the PATRIA Y VIDA Act would show America’s support for freedom and advance our country’s strategic interest around the world.”
Rubio this week swung through The Villages to pay respects to the many veterans in America’s largest retirement community. The Veterans Day event was held in partnership with the United States Vietnam War Commemoration.
The Senator recognized all veterans in attendance and presented them with a commemorative pin.
Stopping the clock
The former Governors in the delegation disagree on many significant issues, but Scott and Rep. Charlie Crist both groused about changing their clocks this weekend.
Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat and former Governor, issued a call for Congress to pass the Sunshine Protection Act and make daylight saving time permanent.
“Twice a year, most Americans are asked to take part in the outdated ritual of changing their clocks,” Crist said. Floridians know that ‘fall back’ robs them of an hour of daylight after work or school, and they also know it’s a health and safety issue. People feel more blue when they get less sunshine.
“Setting clocks back also leads to more car accidents, higher energy use, and messes up kids’ schedules — something Florida parents know all too well. Enough! Congress should pass the Sunshine Protection Act, so this is the last time we ever have to set our clocks back. Let’s bring more sunshine to the Sunshine State!”
He referenced federal legislation that would enact a change sought by the Florida Legislature since 2018 when Scott served as Governor. Now, Scott and Rubio filed federal legislation in the Senate to allow the change to take place.
“Changing the clock twice a year is outdated and unnecessary,” Scott said. “We need to give families in Florida more sunshine, not less! I’m proud to be leading this bipartisan legislation with Sen. Rubio that makes a much-needed change and benefits so many in Florida and across the nation. It’s time for Congress to act, and we can begin by having the U.S. Senate pass this good bill today.”
Panhandle Republican Matt Gaetz continues to embrace the mantle of enforcer for his party’s Donald Trump loyalists. On Monday, he turned his social media sights on another House colleague, New York Rep. John Katko.
“There have been five defining votes for Republicans in the 117th Congress: Impeachment; J6 Committee; Remove (Marjorie Taylor Greene); (Steve) Bannon; Biden Spending Bill,” Gaetz tweeted. “Rep. John Katko voted against us on all of them. He is the GOP lead on the Homeland Security Committee, with support from ‘Leadership.’”
Who counts as “us” remains somewhat unclear, but all those votes saw a majority of Republicans, including all Florida GOP House members, in opposition. The list expanded beyond Twitter shorthand and covered votes to impeach Trump for inciting an insurrection, forming the Jan. 6 Committee, stripping Greene of committee votes, holding Trump adviser Bannon in contempt for refusing to testify the House about the Jan. 6 riot, and passing the infrastructure package.
Notably, three of those five votes were related to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Gaetz has previously criticized other Republican leaders for failure to defend Trump properly and for casting similar votes. He went so far as to campaign against Liz Cheney in her home state of Wyoming. He’s also feuded with Illinois Republican Adam Kinzinger, who in turn became the first House Republican to call on Gaetz to resign after news of a sex scandal broke.
Members typically fight for every federal dollar they can get to the state of Florida. But Gainesville Republican Kat Cammack led a letter signed by multiple delegation members angry at the Department of Education supplementing some Sunshine State school districts.
Specifically, she voiced frustration at the administration replacing money withheld by Florida to districts defying Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates in schools.
“Not only have the funds for these Florida counties been misappropriated but the federal Department of Education cannot be used as a political tool to punish decisions that are clearly under the state of Florida’s purview,” Cammack said. “We urge the Biden Administration and the Department of Education to end their retaliation against the Sunshine State and get back to its mandate: educating American students.”
Ironically, it was an act of punishment that prompted the administration’s decision. The Board of Education in Florida withheld money equal to School Board member and superintendent salaries for districts that required masks on students and didn’t allow for parent opt-outs.
Cammack argued interfering with state business effectively punished Florida by directing funding to defiant districts that could have been spent elsewhere in the state. “We urge you to immediately end the retaliation against Florida, the Florida Department of Education, and our children,” the letter reads.
Six other GOP members of the delegation signed the letter, including Posey, Dan Webster of Clermont, Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, Scott Franklin of Lakeland, Greg Steube of Sarasota and Byron Donalds of Naples.
Rent too high?
If anyone should get a discount buying or leasing federal property, it’s the federal government, according to Webster. The House just passed a bill he introduced and sponsored to allow the General Services Administration to negotiate better deals in such situations.
The bargain pricing legislation (HR 2220) would allow for prices below free market value on leases and purchases, to the degree an act of Congress can help to set terms. The bill applies for any deals entered into as of Jan. 1 this year.
“Every dollar spent in Washington is a dollar taken out of a hardworking American’s pocket,” Webster said. “I ran for Congress pledging to eliminate waste and improve efficiencies, so we are better investing taxpayer dollars. With today’s action, we are one step closer to removing unnecessary obstacles that increase costs and replacing them with common sense practices that will save money. I thank my House colleagues for their support for this common-sense bill and encourage my colleagues in the U.S. Senate to pass it in a timely manner.”
GOP members of the delegation continue spotlighting the Biden direction for the Internal Revenue Service to track transactions in bank accounts collecting upward of $10,000 over the year.
“In an attempt to pay for their so-called ‘social infrastructure’ bill, President Biden and Democrats in Congress unveiled a disturbing new plan that should rightfully scare every American with a bank account,” wrote Longboat Key Republican Vern Buchanan in a Fox Business op-ed.
“Under the administration’s initial proposal, the IRS would be allowed to track the personal bank accounts of individuals with a balance of $600 or more as well as anyone that conducts $600 worth of transactions in a single year.”
He notes that even many of his Democratic colleagues in Congress balked at the plan, which in part sparked the change to the $10,000 threshold. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia earned a mention in Buchanan’s write-up. Crist also released a statement last month voicing his opposition.
Buchanan went as far as to say the policy change violates constitutionally protected privacy for Americans.
“The need to uphold the Fourth Amendment and preserve our civil liberties is as important as ever,” he wrote. “We must never allow our basic freedoms to be violated in the name of partisan politics. The American people also need to know they can be critical of their government without fear of retribution from the heavy hand of the IRS.”
Cue the pushback
Meanwhile, several Democrats in the delegation sought out protections for local governments that prioritized pandemic prevention in place despite resistance from their state leaders.
West Palm Beach Democrat Lois Frankel led a group of House members to introduce the Let Our Cities And Local businesses Help Employees Achieve Long-Term Health Act (LOCAL HEALTH). Florida Democrats Darren Soto of Kissimmee, Crist, Ted Deutch of Boca Raton and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston were introducing sponsors.
“We should not just stand by and let Governors put politics over the health and safety of our communities by restricting critical tools like vaccines and masks,” Frankel said. “Local governments, agencies, and private businesses in our communities that want to follow CDC guidelines should be supported, not punished. This bill would protect them from dangerous state overreach that we’ve been seeing across the country, including in my home state of Florida.”
The bill would allow any local governments and private businesses to implement public health measures backed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to curb the spread of COVID-19. That includes requiring masks, social distancing, testing and vaccinations.
“Business owners and school leaders need the flexibility to adopt smart, CDC-backed pandemic measures to keep children, customers, and all our residents safe,” Wasserman Schultz said. “When authoritarian governors bully mom-and-pop shops and educators into risking people’s health or hurting their bottom lines, we need added protections. Congresswoman Frankel’s bill does that, and Florida needs it. Our Governor handcuffs and threatens businesses and local communities just for adopting common-sense safety measures for face coverings, vaccines and social distancing. People and businesses deserve security and flexibility, and know-nothing, overreaching Governors need to stop jeopardizing our public health.”
Crist, who is challenging DeSantis’ reelection, said the Democratic bill represents the small-government approach. “It’s simple. If a business wants to say no shirt, no shoes, no vax, no service — they should be able to. If a parent or local school board wants to follow expert advice to keep children safe, healthy and in school — they should be able to,” he said. “No Governor should defund our public schools just because parents and school boards are doing what they can to keep schools open and safe. Why does Gov. DeSantis think he knows better than Florida parents and the school boards they elect? It’s about respect. I’m proud to support legislation that keeps local decision-making where it belongs: locally.”
Salazar signs on
Miami Republican Maria Elvira Salazar signed on as the most recent Republican delegation member to co-sponsor the Growing Climate Solutions Act. She joins Jacksonville Republican John Rutherford on the GOP side supporting the bill. Boca Raton Democrat Deutch co-sponsored the bill from its July filing and Tallahassee Democrat Al Lawson co-sponsored it as well.
The bipartisan legislation, among other things, allows farmers and foresters to participate in carbon markets, with a certification program run by the Agriculture Department. Supporters hope a connected education program will encourage the participation of leaders within those business sectors.
The Growing Climate Solutions Act boasts support from 60 leading agricultural and environmental organizations. Rubio was among the introducing sponsors in the Senate, which has already approved the bill.
On this day
Nov. 9, 1906 — “Theodore Roosevelt travels to Panama” via The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History — With the Panama Canal project finally realized and underway, President Roosevelt became the first U.S. President to make an overseas diplomatic visit while in office when he journeyed to Panama to inspect the construction of the canal. Roosevelt’s trip to Panama was well-timed. The project had suffered many setbacks, including outbreaks of disease among workers and fatal accidents. Roosevelt pushed for better working conditions and improvements in health care for canal workers, and worker morale was almost certainly boosted by the President’s visit.
Nov. 9, 1862 — “Ulysses Grant expels Jews from his military district” via History.com — Then-Gen. Grant was trying to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi, the last major Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. Cotton supplies were short in the North, and speculators could buy bales in the captured territories and sell it quickly for a profit. Grant’s father came to visit him along with friends from Ohio. Grant soon realized the friends, who were Jewish, were speculators hoping to gain access to captured cotton. Grant, furious, fired off his notorious Order No. 11: “The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the department within 24 hours from receipt of this order.”
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles.