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The prospect of Roe v. Wade getting overturned or gutted has several members of Florida’s delegation girding for a policy battle. Following opening arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, where several conservative justices signaled a willingness to allow a Mississippi ban on abortions as early as 15 weeks into a pregnancy, women serving Florida in Congress spoke up.
“Everyone deserves the freedom to make personal decisions about their bodies without politicians trying to control them,” said Rep. Lois Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat. “The Mississippi case before the Supreme Court today poses the most direct threat to Roe v. Wade in decades and jeopardizes access to abortion across the country. The personal decision of whether and when to become a parent should be in the hands of people, not politicians. And, regardless of the Court’s action, this is a clarion call for the Senate to follow the House’s lead and pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.”
Frankel, who shared a photo this week of herself celebrating Hanukkah with a menorah styled after late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, expressed sincere unhappiness with the direction the high court has shifted following three appointments by former President Donald Trump. But she’s hardly the only delegation member fearful.
“Roe v. Wade is established law,” tweeted Rep. Val Demings, an Orlando Democrat. “There are American women who have lived their whole lives with the knowledge that their personal health decisions were protected. We cannot go backward.”
But not all women in the delegation fall on the same side in the abortion debate. Rep. Kat Cammack, a Gainesville Republican, during a special order on the same day as arguments gave a floor speech, threw her support to limits on abortions at much earlier times than allowed under the Roe decision.
“For me, this is an incredibly personal issue, like it is for millions of Americans with deeply held beliefs and personal experiences. I myself have shared my story on this very floor that I shouldn’t even be standing here, that my mother was urged to abort me,” she said. “I was not wanted. I was unexpected, and I was given very little chance to survive. And yet, here I am. Again, this speaks to the miracle of life. We have the opportunity, brought on by the Dobbs v. Jackson case presented before the Supreme Court, to chart a new course for our nation so that every unborn child has the right to life and the opportunity that it holds while living in America.”
Silencing the right?
Florida’s Senate delegation warned the Defense Department Wednesday against moves to “target” military members on ideological grounds.
Sen. Marco Rubio led a letter with Sen. Rick Scott and 10 other Republican colleagues contending the Department of Defense’s new Countering Extremism Working Group could be used as “a cudgel to harass or silence conservative members of the armed forces.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the group’s formation in the spring. It intends to evaluate whether more robust standards in the military code of conduct are needed against extremism, including discerning ways of screening and combating the so-called “Insider Threat.”
At least some of this action includes monitoring the service members themselves. Acts such as liking specific social media posts are described in the memo as a “gray area.” But for Rubio, Scott, and the co-signers, there are very few gray areas in play. They see the Defense Department’s policy evolution in much starker terms.
“In the wake of the U.S. Department of Justice’s efforts to silence parents protesting anti-American racial indoctrination being taught in schools across the country, we are deeply concerned that this latest effort by the Joe Biden administration will target service members who voice opposition to woke, Leftist ideology under the guise of protecting our ‘national security interest,’” the senators contend.
Law & borders
Scott took directly to the Senate floor with legislation he said would hold Biden’s administration accountable for failing to better police the border. But unsurprisingly, the Naples Republican couldn’t get the Upholding the Law at Our Border Act passed with unanimous consent.
That didn’t mean he wasn’t going to try, he said. During a floor speech, he painted a picture of anarchy in Biden’s immigration policy.
“Just in the short time I was with our brave law enforcement and Border Patrol agents in Yuma last week, we watched dozens of migrants illegally enter the United States through massive gaps in the border wall — gaps that could easily be filled with the piles and piles of fencing sitting and rotting away at Joe Biden’s direction. And we know drugs, like deadly fentanyl, are pouring across the border too. It makes me furious to see this administration so recklessly ignore the law and its duty to protect our borders,” Scott said.
The Senator’s bill would require the Department of Homeland Security inspector general to scrutinize the vetting process for migrants apprehended illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
“My bill, the Upholding the Law at Our Border Act, is a simple piece of legislation that would find out if the Department of Homeland Security is following the laws of this nation. Of course, Senate Democrats blocked it,” Scott said. “It has become crystal clear that under the Biden administration, Senate Democrats have no interest in solving problems; they only know how to cover for Biden’s massive failures.
“I want to ask my Democrat colleagues: how do you explain Biden’s open border policies to the parents and families of the 100,000 lives lost in drug overdoses this year? How do you explain the Biden administration’s decision to leave our borders open, putting our brave Border Patrol agents, American families, and our communities at risk from the savage cartels? The American people deserve better than this, and I’ll never stop fighting to secure the border.”
To watch Scott’s speech, click on the image below:
A Panama City Republican and a medical doctor by trade, Neal Dunn said he will not support any budget that results in lower Medicare reimbursements for medical providers. He issued a statement openly fretting changes in the payment system that could significantly impact Florida’s Panhandle.
“Patients in my district could lose their doctors unless Congress takes immediate action,” Dunn said. “Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, medical providers will endure a 10% cut in their Medicare reimbursement payments. This is bad news for my constituents and the rest of America, especially our seniors.”
That prompted the Congressman to issue an ultimatum regarding his vote.
“If you have Medicare today, will you have a doctor tomorrow? Many providers may be forced to close their doors or stop accepting Medicare entirely, thus limiting access to care when patients need it most,” he said. “That’s my focus heading into 2022. I will vote NO on any legislation that extends government funding beyond Dec. 31 without protecting my constituents’ relationships with their doctors.”
Getting lead out
Delegation members from both sides of the aisle came together to combat lead remediation, with Tallahassee Democrat Al Lawson and Jacksonville Republican John Rutherford forming a cross-party alliance on the issue. Both co-sponsored the House version of the Keep Children and Families Safe From Lead Hazards Act. A Senate companion was filed previously in the Senate by Rubio and Democrat Raphael Warnock.
This legislation would force the Department of Housing and Urban Development to perform yearly inspections on its properties to ascertain the presence of lead-based hazards, such as exterior and interior paint. The department would also have to develop an “action plan” for remediation.
“Every family deserves to live in a home that is free of danger, yet far too many households are detrimentally impacted by lead poisoning,” Lawson said. “Our residents should not have to worry about the risk of lead exposure and the harmful impact this hazardous toxin can cause. The Keep Children and Families Safe From Lead Hazards Act will raise the standard of federally-assisted housing by enforcing accountability and improving the living conditions for our most vulnerable citizens. I am pleased to work with Rep. Rutherford on this critical legislation to protect the safety and health of North Florida’s children and families.”
“It is inexcusable that some living in public housing have experienced dangerous levels of lead exposure, threatening their health and safety,” Rutherford added. “I am proud to join a bipartisan coalition working to hold HUD accountable for any lead-based hazards in their facilities. Thank you to Rep. Lawson for leading this important effort.”
Rubio’s office estimated 6,300 Florida children face the prospect of lead poisoning from older properties, built before bans on lead paints in 1978.
“I first witnessed child lead poisoning at Eureka Gardens Apartments by the nefarious Global Ministries Foundation in 2016. The dangerous conditions at several HUD properties throughout the state of Florida, and the rest of the country, are the result of routine negligence and lack of oversight by HUD,” he said. “Lead hazards pose a serious risk to tenants, especially young children and pregnant women. It is unacceptable for HUD to ignore this threat. My bipartisan bill would ensure that exposure risks are identified and mitigated, so that no family in HUD-assisted housing has to suffer any devastating effects of lead poisoning.”
Running on infrastructure
With plenty of federal spending set to come to Florida thanks to the recently signed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Demings put in the time this week to promote her district’s potential impact.
“When we invest in middle-class America, when we invest in people who have to go to work every day, America does better,” she said.
She held a significant event at the LYNX Central Station in Orlando, joined by husband and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and a host of local leaders, promoting the boost to public transit. She also stopped by Apopka, where local Laborers’ International Union of North America leader David Brier praised Demings in particular for supporting the legislation.
“There’s very few champions in the world who practice what they preach, and Congresswoman Demings is all about the working people,” Brier said. “The infrastructure bill will literally put thousands of people to work … We’re aiming to make careers for individuals, not only in Apopka but in surrounding counties as well. The amount of work is going to be phenomenal.”
Rep. Demings, a candidate running for Senate, separately took the chance this week to contrast her record on infrastructure with Rubio, the Republican incumbent she aims to unseat.
“Marco Rubio voted against the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. I voted for it,” she tweeted.
“Washington has broken Rubio. He’s been so blinded by partisanship and power that he won’t support common-sense investments in ports, broadband, and good jobs.”
St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist said the Federal Trade Commission must do more to stop Spanish-language disinformation campaigns. The Congressman sent a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan asking content moderation efforts must be redoubled.
“Misinformation is a scourge on our democracy, with lies about Jan. 6 and COVID-19 serving as recent tragic and deadly examples of the consequences of misinformation,” Crist said. “But as bad as online misinformation is for English speakers, it may be worse and is far more under the radar for Spanish speakers. In the great state of Florida, where one in five are native Spanish speakers, that’s simply unacceptable. In order to protect Spanish speakers from dangerous, sometimes deadly misinformation, we first need all the facts.”
He said federal law empowers the FTC to require companies to report on business practices regarding misinformation, “as the FTC did with Amazon, TikTok, Facebook, Reddit, Snap, Twitter, WhatsApp, and YouTube in December 2020.”
It’s not just a matter of political discourse, as many fraudulent products sold on Spanish-language platforms resulted in harm to consumers.
“It would be instructive to know specific metrics on how many Spanish-language posts were flagged or taken down compared to posts in English, and how many Spanish-speaking content moderators are employed at each of the above listed social media companies,” he wrote. “Given the lack of information on Spanish-language content moderation, I am requesting the FTC compile this information and provide it to Congress, as it would prove useful for either future enforcement or legislation to safeguard families from misinformation.”
The House on Wednesday passed legislation introduced by Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor to prevent HPV infections. The Congresswoman urged the Senate to pass the Promoting Resources to Expand Vaccination, Education and New Treatments for HPV Cancers (PREVENT HPV Cancers) Act (HR 1550); the bill in the upper chamber awaits a hearing by the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.
Castor introduced the bill in March. On the House floor, she stressed the significance of addressing the human papillomavirus, which leads to 36,000 cases of cancer each year on average.
“If Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the NIH, called a news conference today and announced that we had found a cure for cancer, there would be cause for celebration. Well, since 2006, there’s been a safe and effective vaccine that prevents six types of cancer, including cervical cancer and throat cancer. It’s been a remarkable development,” she said.
“With today’s passage of the PREVENT HPV Cancers Act, we will equip communities across the country with the tools they need to vaccinate, educate and empower our neighbors to receive these lifesaving vaccinations. According to data from the CDC, more than 1 million doses of HPV vaccinations were missed last year. This falling off is worrisome, but we can tackle this problem by helping educate families and parents all across America to avoid these catastrophic diagnoses and save lives in doing it.”
Castor said the bill builds on work already being done in the cancer arena and cheered efforts at the Moffitt Cancer Center by Dr. Anna Giuliano to educate the public about the disease.
Giuliano, director of Moffitt’s Center for Immunization and Infection Research in Cancer, said Castor’s legislation could help further that mission. “Moffitt Cancer Center celebrates this important step toward passage of the PREVENT HPV Cancers Act,” Giuliano said. “The science has been clear for years — we have the tools to eliminate HPV-related cancers globally, starting with cervical cancer. Rep Castor has had a long-standing collaboration with us at the Moffitt Cancer Center in promoting interventions to prevent HPV cancers. We applaud Rep. Castor for her leadership on PREVENT HPV Cancers Act, which could save tens of thousands lives among U.S. men and women per year.”
Many Republicans have fought against federal mandates on employee vaccinations, but what of private employers? Stuart Republican Brian Mast filed legislation Thursday that would stop bosses from inquiring about any workers’ vaccination status.
The Employee Privacy Act would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to make such inquiries illegal and place the threat of a $5,000 fine on any employer in violation. That’s about a third of the $14,000 fine Biden wants imposed on employers keeping on workers who don’t get a COVID-19 vaccine or obtain an appropriate waiver.
“Providing equal work opportunities means that employees are not discriminated against based on the decisions they make for themselves,” Mast said. “However, the last few months have shown us a new form of discrimination: prejudice against the unvaccinated. Employment should be based on merits and not on some political objective that tramples on the privacy of employees.”
Mast’s office said the Congressman is fully vaccinated.
The federal bill comes on the heels of Florida enacting a state law forbidding employers from requiring vaccines.
Two of Florida’s Congressmen want each folding a flag to honor the U.S. service members killed at a Kabul airport in August. Rutherford and Hialeah Republican Mario Diaz-Balart introduced bipartisan legislation, the 13 Folds of Honor Act, that provides a script to be read at burial flag-folding ceremonies honoring service and sacrifice of late service members.
“This legislation honors the 13 service members who courageously gave their last full measure of devotion and sacrifice to our country,” Diaz-Balart said. “It also serves as a sobering reminder that for every fallen service member, there is a story of a Gold Star Family who stands boldly in their legacy. While there are no words to ease their loss, we hope the 13 Folds of Honor script symbolizes our immense gratitude, respect, and appreciation for their service to our nation.”
Diaz-Balart noted the work of Commander Dr. J.B. Holmes of the VFW Post 772 in Golden Gate, a Collier County community in the Congressman’s district.
The Florida members introduced the legislation, along with Republican Kay Granger and Democrat Henry Cuellar of Texas and Democrat Jimmy Panetta of California.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms,” Rutherford said. “This bill will codify the meaningful tribute said while folding a burial or ceremonial flag in memory of the fallen.”
CRT to CCT
American high schools could soon be required to teach the dangers of community dictatorships if Miami Republican María Elvira Salazar and other GOP House colleagues get their way.
On Thursday, Salazar organized a news conference to promote the Crucial Communism Teaching Act, or “CCT Act.” St. Augustine Beach Republican Michael Waltz joined Salazar at that news conference, alongside several members of the House GOP caucus from other states.
The legislation would require high schools across the U.S. to teach “the dangers of communism and totalitarianism, and how they are contrary to the founding principles of freedom and democracy in the United States,” according to a release from Salazar’s office. Florida recently added a similar requirement to its curriculum, per an education bill approved during the 2021 Session earlier this year.
Salazar was born in South Florida to migrants who fled Fidel Castro’s communist regime in Cuba.
“America is the freest, most prosperous country in the world. In one generation, my parents went from fleeing communist Cuba to seeing their daughter represent thousands of other exiles in the United States Congress,” Salazar said.
“The Castro regime claims that they’ve created a system of equality on the island. But the only equality that communism guarantees is being equally poor, equally hungry, and equally oppressed. The Crucial Communism Teaching Act will ensure that our future generations understand the tragic and gruesome history of communism. We must do everything in our power to preserve America’s founding principles of freedom, opportunity, and democracy. The fight to safeguard the American dream for generations to come starts here.”
The push to adjust the nation’s education curriculum comes as Republicans have broadly tried to paint the American Democratic Party as “communist” due to Democratic policies pushing for a larger federal government. Notably lacking from Democrats is any call for one-party rule or dictatorial actions taken in some of the oppressive regimes cited by Salazar and other Republicans.
The messaging has worked for Republicans, however. The party exceeded expectations in Miami-Dade County during the 2020 election, resulting in Salazar defeating Democratic incumbent Donna Shalala and securing her seat in the House. That was partly due to a better-than-expected performance among the region’s Hispanic population, which features many first- or second-generation immigrants who left socialist or communist regimes in Latin America.
On this day
Dec. 3, 2019 — “Kamala Harris ends 2020 presidential campaign” via CNN — Sen. Harris ended her 2020 presidential campaign, an abrupt departure for a candidate once seen as a leading contender for the Democratic nomination. The high point of the California Democrat’s campaign came during the first Democratic debate in June, when she confronted former Vice President Biden on his past opposition to busing as a way to desegregate schools. But the days after the moment, it was clear the confrontation did more harm than good, with Harris being accused of manufacturing a moment where there was little policy difference between the Vice President and her.
Dec. 3, 1828 — “Electoral College certified Andrew Jackson victory” — The election of 1824 had seen John Quincy Adams become President, although Jackson had earned the most electoral votes. By 1828, the voters decided the selection of presidential electors in all but two states, and public opinion was becoming more important than ever before. Jackson’s supporters established pro-Jackson newspapers and helped distribute information and election material. In the end, with 178 electoral votes to Adams’s 83, Jackson became the first president to gain office by a direct appeal to the mass of voters rather than through the support of a recognized political organization.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, with contributions by A.G. Gancarski and Ryan Nicol.