Delegation for 12.7.21: Opportunity — boycott — prisons — tough odds — ringing seniors

capitol u.s. green 9.30.19
Did Vern Buchanan get a power boost?

Opportunity knocks

Did Rep. Vern Buchanan just become one of the most influential members of the U.S. House?

Well, sort of.

News that California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes will take a job working with former President Donald Trump’s social media upstart portends huge possibilities for Florida. That’s because Buchanan in 2022 is in place to be the senior Republican on the House Ways & Means Committee — and likely chair if the GOP takes the House.

Did Vern Buchanan just pick up a little more power? Image via Facebook.

“As I indicated earlier this year, I will be running for the Ways and Means chairmanship, but my first priority is to help Republicans win back the U.S. House majority in 2022,” Buchanan said.

It makes sense considering the former Florida Chamber of Commerce chair’s interest in tax policy and trade; he served as House liaison on Trump administration negotiations of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, as just one example.

That said, there’s a series of events that must take place for Buchanan to grab the gavel. First, the GOP needs to have a strong performance in November. Democrats enjoy just an eight-seat majority in the House (not counting a still unfilled but Democratic-leaning Florida seat last held by the late Rep. Alcee Hastings). But there’s good reason to believe that will happen. In the last two midterms that followed a presidential election, the party out of power netted dozens of seats and retook the House majority. Flipping four or five seats red honestly feels like a modest ambition.

Of course, Buchanan himself will need to retain his seat. He was targeted by national Democrats the last two cycles, but then again, he won both races by landslides.

None of the now-10 congressional redistricting drafts produced by the Florida Legislature so far show much change in Buchanan’s district. In fact, it could become even safer. He does face a primary challenge this year from activist Martin Hyde — “The ways and means to defend one’s family are more important than being an establishment figure on the Ways & Means Committee,” Hyde said. Still, Buchanan has far more money raised and remains a heavy favorite.

Buchanan also must actually win election to the chair. Expect Rep. Adrian Smith, a Nebraska Republican, to explore a bid. But Buchanan enjoys a good relationship with Minority Leader and would-be House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, with the two Republicans both winning House seats in 2006. Buchanan enjoys seniority and significant respect for his expertise in economic policy.

“There is no more solid member of Republican leadership than Vern,“ said Florida-based lobbyist Brian Ballard.

It all feeds the perception that Buchanan doesn’t need the planets to align anymore but to hope they stay in the proper orbit. Once that happens, the purse strings for the nation could be held by the gentleman from Longboat Key.

Diplomatic boycott

President Joe Biden on Monday announced the U.S. will not send any government officials to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The action is in protest of the human rights violations on the part of the Chinese government.

But, unlike the full U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, American athletes will still travel to China and represent the nation.

Members of Congress, including several within the Florida delegation, have pushed for action to communicate America’s dismay at the choice of Beijing to host a Games. But reactions varied as to whether a diplomatic boycott speaks loudly enough on the world stage.

“A diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics doesn’t go far enough,” said Rep. Mike Waltz, a St. Augustine Republican. “It’s disgraceful U.S. companies will rake in millions off the Olympics while whitewashing an ongoing genocide and other atrocities in China.”

Waltz has called for a complete boycott of the 2022 Olympics and led a news conference earlier this year with bipartisan House members and human rights activists spotlighting abuses on the Uyghur Muslims.

Sen. Rick Scott never called for an athlete boycott but said that, at this point, a diplomatic boycott isn’t enough. The administration must also provide a plan to protect American athletes participating in the Olympics.

“Time and time again, Biden does the bare minimum when it comes to dealing with China, and it’s absolutely unacceptable,” the Naples Republican said. “Now, the Biden administration is going to engage in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Olympic Games, distracting from the fact that Biden has spent months ignoring calls from me, human rights groups, and others to demand that the International Olympic Committee move The Games to a country that actually respects human rights. Biden’s weak choice for a diplomatic boycott also does NOTHING to ensure the safety of American athletes who will undoubtedly be targets for Communist China to surveil and steal data and personal information.”

Telescopic loss

The Senate may not often memorialize machinery, but the collapse of the Arecibo Observatory telescope in Puerto Rico warranted special attention.

Sens. Marco Rubio and Scott introduced a resolution acknowledging the knowledge gleaned through the largest single-aperture telescope, which was last operated by the University of Central Florida from 2018 until its collapse last year.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, all Democrats, co-introduced the bipartisan resolution while Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón, a Republican, filed a House companion.

The Arecibo Observatory telescope gets special recognition. Image via AP.

“The radio telescope significantly advanced the field of radio astronomy, the first detection of extrasolar planets, innumerable contributions to the field of time-domain astronomy, and the study of interstellar medium and played a key role in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence,” the resolution reads.

The 305-meter telescope was initially completed in 1963 and supported by the National Science Foundation, and later by NASA and several universities. A series of cable failures led to its collapse on Dec. 1, 2020. It appeared that resulted from a manufacturing defect with cables installed in the 1990s.

The resolution encouraged the National Science Foundation and NASA to study replacing the scientific capabilities lost in the disaster utilizing new technology at the same site.

Blue slip

The National Defense Authorization Act has been tied up in the Senate thanks to an amendment by Rubio that seeks limits of business with China. The Miami Republican played a crucial role in blocking unanimous consent of the defense budget to force an issue on China using Uyghur Muslims for forced labor.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, criticized the delay to Punchbowl News. “This will be the first time that an NDAA bill has not moved forward, and it all falls on the shoulders of one Senator — Marco Rubio,” he said.

Marco Rubio is getting on the wrong side of Chuck Schumer.

Rubio, for his part, defended the move, noting the Senate had already adopted his amendment through unanimous consent before, but the issue was coming up again because the House would not adopt it. Democrats say the measure, involving imports from China, could kill the bill because revenue matters must be taken up in the House, but the Senator said there’s an insignificant dollar amount tied to his amendment.

“This is about the fact that they don’t want this bill to pass over in the House,” Rubio said.

4Q donation

Just a week after announcing the charities where he will donate his third quarter senatorial salary, Scott revealed where he will send his fourth quarter paycheck. The last money Scott collects this calendar year will go to the Navy SEAL Foundation.

“My wife Ann and I are proud to both come from hardworking military families,” Scott said. “Our upbringing, as well as my own service in the Navy, means that we know firsthand the sacrifices our men and women in uniform, and their families, make to serve our nation. With more than 1.5 million veterans calling Florida home, I’ve worked hard as both Governor and now Florida’s U.S. Senator to make sure our state is the most veteran-friendly in the nation and honor the American heroes who protect our freedoms. Today, Ann and I are proud to support the Navy SEAL Foundation and its incredible efforts to support members of the Naval Special Warfare community and their families.”

Rick Scott picks another charity to donate his pay. Image via AP.

William Strong, chair of the 2021 Naples Navy SEAL Foundation Evening of Tribute, said the timing of the donation was notable. The Foundation marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in its fundraising this year.

“As we solemnly mark in 2021 the 20th Anniversary of the attacks on our Nation, we are reminded that our freedoms remain under attack,” Strong said. “Navy SEALs and other men and women in uniform fight every day to preserve these freedoms. When the Navy SEALs execute the highest risk, no-fail operations, they can take comfort knowing that the Navy SEAL Foundation and its community of supporters are standing with them and their families. Sen. Scott and Mrs. Scott’s gift allows the Foundation to execute its mission. We are extremely grateful to Sen. Scott and Mrs. Scott for their generous gift.”

Prison conditions

Matt Gaetz has taken a profound interest in the living conditions for certain federal prisoners. This afternoon, the Fort Walton Beach Republican is participating in a news conference on the conditions those arrested after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot must endure at the District of Columbia Jail.

Gaetz will appear with several controversial Republican House members, including Louie Gohmert of Texas, Paul Gosar of Arizona and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, a full lineup of the “Four Gs.

The ‘Four G’s’ take on prison conditions.

Among that group, he’s a member in good standing in the House of Representatives. This year, both Greene and Gosar have been stripped of all committee assignments for threatening rhetoric about Democratic colleagues.

But he’s also the one with perhaps the most acute reason to care about living conditions for the incarcerated. Federal investigators in Central Florida continue to probe sexual allegations about the Panhandle Congressman, with former Seminole County Tax Collector and Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg cooperating.

The news conference, including the release of “Unusually Cruel: An Eyewitness Report from the DC Jail,” will be at 1 p.m.

Big if

The future of Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy has generated heated speculation throughout the year. A comment at the Leadership Blue convention in Orlando stirred fresh wonder.

“You know what? I’ve run tough races where the odds have been against me and I’ve won,” Murphy told POLITICO. “I’m confident that if I run, I will win. We are still taking a look. I think there’s still a lot of time between now and the elections, and right now, I’m focused on doing my job.”

Stephanie Murphy is not easily deterred. Image via Facebook.

That significant “if” prompted Republican groups gearing up for the midterm to nudge the incumbent toward retirement. She’s already the top Democratic target in Florida for Republicans in 2022, and conservative groups have already launched campaign ads slamming her Build Back Better vote.

“Stephanie Murphy would be wise to join the long list of retiring Democrats and save herself the embarrassment, and voters the effort, of kicking her out of office,” said Congressional Leadership Fund press secretary Cally Perkins. “Democrats are flooding the exits because they know their days in the majority are numbered.”

If she backed out of a re-election bid, the conservative organization said Murphy would be the 20th House Democrat to call it quits before what appears to be a challenging midterm for the left.

Giving a ring

Palm Harbor Republican Gus Bilirakis will be on hand this weekend to announce the gift of surveillance for Pasco County’s senior citizens.

On Saturday, the Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas and Ring will launch an initiative to give out 1,000 Ring Video Doorbells, complete with yearlong subscriptions to Ring Protect in the Pasco-Pinellas region. The goods will be available only to residents ages 60 and up.

Gus Bilirakis wants to put a Ring on it. Image via Twitter.

Anna Marie Winter, executive director of AAAPP, will kick off the program alongside Bilirakis and Jaime Hjort, a Ring representative, in Oldsmar at the TLC Adult Day Care and Recreation Center at 11 a.m.

PIE slice

The St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport just landed a $10-million check from Washington. St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist announced two grants funded through the American Rescue Plan just arrived at their Pinellas County destination.

A $9.8-million appropriation will support PIE’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, covering airport operations, personnel, cleaning, sanitation, janitorial services, debt service payments, and efforts to combat the coronavirus spread. A second grant for just under $980,000 covers rental assistance for concessionaires at the airport.

Charlie Crist gives St. Pete/Clearwater a slice of the federal PIE. Image via AP.

“The American Rescue Plan is still delivering for Floridians as we continue in our fight against COVID-19, and I’m grateful this relief is headed straight home to Pinellas’s own St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport,” Crist said. “So many Florida businesses that support our robust tourism economy have been hit hard by the economic impacts of COVID-19, and in response, Congress provided tangible relief ­— all without a single Republican vote — because it was simply the right thing to do. The jobs and well-being of every Floridian will always be my top priority.”

Increasing infrastructure

On Monday, leaders from local labor unions joined Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor to celebrate the signing of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and talk about its impacts on the Tampa Bay area.

Biden signed the $1.2 trillion law the week before Thanksgiving. Castor said it’s a massive investment in the U.S. and significantly benefits the Tampa Bay area.

“We know the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that was just signed by President Biden a few weeks ago is the most historic investment of our generation in infrastructure in repairing our roadways, our bridges, our water systems and wastewater systems, improving transit that we desperately need here in the Tampa Bay area.”

Kathy Castor touts some big infrastructure upgrades in Tampa Bay. Image via Facebook.

Castor said the new law will help advance and take advantage of ongoing programs in the area, including by working in concert with new apprenticeship programs in Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa. Castor is the chair of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and has for years championed electric vehicle usage in Tampa Bay. She’s helped spur the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority’s acquisition of electric busses and has supported more electric vehicle charging stations throughout the city.

Shawn McDonnell is president of the West Central Florida Labor Council and a member of the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers. He called the law “great” and said it’s already working for the Bay area. McDonnell said the law’s provisions for apprenticeship programs have allowed Tampa and Hillsborough County to capitalize on investments in clean-energy vehicles.

The trillion-dollar law had been one of Biden’s early promises, and getting it passed was a hard-fought battle. According to the White House, the legislation will help ease inflationary pressures and strengthen supply chains by making long-overdue improvements for our nation’s ports, airports, rail, and roads. The law is expected to help create 1.5 million jobs every year over the next decade. It also includes income guidelines to ensure workers are paid.

CMS mandate

Buchanan led a Republican letter fighting against the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine for Medicare and Medicaid service providers. In a letter written with Indiana Republican Larry Bucshon and signed by 113 other members of the House, Buchanan urges Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to drop the requirement to avoid a workforce dilemma.

Vern Buchanan urges Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to drop the vaccine mandates. Image via YouTube.

“Ensuring continuity of quality care should be the primary goal for CMS, especially during this period of stress and uncertainty for patients and providers,” Buchanan said. “This mandate could eviscerate the size and strength of our health care system and lead to unintended consequences for America’s seniors, many of whom rely on Medicare as their only option for health care coverage.”

The federal mandate requires health care workers to be vaccinated or obtain a legitimate exemption by Jan. 4.

Notably, the Sarasota Memorial Health Care System in Buchanan’s home district announced it would enforce the mandate despite a challenge waged by the state of Florida against the federal regulation. But Buchanan said he’s most concerned about the impact the rule could have on small doctors’ offices that could be crippled if they must lay off just a small number of unvaccinated employees.

“We fully support your agency’s goal of ‘[e]nsuring patient safety and protection,’ but if seniors are unable to access care because their provider no longer participates in the Medicare program, this rule will undermine its stated goal,” the letter reads. “By subjecting providers to egregious federal overreach, our nation’s most vulnerable populations will be at risk, and America’s seniors will bear the brunt of any provider loss due to noncompliance with this heavy-handed and constitutionally dubious vaccine mandate.”

Assailing Austin

Sarasota Republican Greg Steube, who called for Biden’s resignation over the death of U.S. military during the Afghanistan withdrawal, told Fox News this week that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin needs to pack his things at the Pentagon.

“Complete weak leadership. Austin shouldn’t be the Secretary of Defense,” Steube said. “When Republicans take the House back this fall, I think you’re going to see real action, real investigations on the information that they know, and they knew at the time.”

Greg Steube tells Lloyd Austin to pack his bags and go. Image via AP.

Steube’s comments came after Austin acknowledged media regrets about certain instances during the evacuation.

“I regret that we lost 13 of our finest at Abbey Gate,” Austin told Fox News. “I regret that we lost 10 civilians at an errant strike.” That referenced service member deaths at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul and a later retaliatory drone strike that killed civilians instead of anyone involved with terrorist group ISIS-K.

The Congressman said regrets aren’t enough. “How did a drone run by the United States military attack civilians and kill them? There still have been no repercussions from that from the mainstream media here on the left,” Steube said. “We still have Americans on the ground in Afghanistan.”

But Steube said he’s most upset the Biden administration keeps categorizing the withdrawal from Afghanistan as a successful mass evacuation.

“How you could describe that as a success, which they described it that way, every American knows that was not a success,” Steube said. “Those 13 service members that died, those deaths could have been prevented from strong leadership in our country and taking the action that they needed to take to prevent that loss of life. We never should have left the ground in Afghanistan while we still had Americans on the ground, not to mention the $80 billion worth of military equipment that we surrendered to terrorists.”

Helping Haiti

Following natural disasters, a political assassination, and subsequent political unrest, the economic future of Haiti remains chaotic. Two South Florida Congresswomen hope to help the island nation along.

Democrat Frederica Wilson and Republican Maria Elvira Salazar introduced a bill to reauthorize the Haitian Hemisphere Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement (HOPE) Act and the Haitian Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act. Both involve cutting or eliminating duty fees for exports to the U.S.

The HOPE Act, initially passed after another era of unrest in 2005, reduces duty for apparel shipped from Haiti to America. The HELP Act, first created after the 2010 earthquake, provides duty-free status to some 5,000 types of clothes or shoes. Together, they make for 93% of exports from the island to the U.S. with no extra taxing.

“I am incredibly proud to be a lead co-sponsor of the Haiti Economic Lift Program Extension Act, which will help boost the Haitian apparel industry’s economic stability and is sorely needed in a nation where there is so much economic and political insecurity,” said Wilson, a Hollywood Democrat who represents a high concentration of Haitian Americans. “Apparel exports represent a significant portion of the nation’s exports and have created tens of thousands of jobs. This extension will create even more.”

Maria Salazar and Frederica Wilson team up to help Haiti out of its chaos.

Salazar said now is the moment to act and help the Caribbean nation, thereby providing a dose of stability in the region.

“In 2021 alone, the Haitian people have suffered a devastating earthquake, the assassination of their President, emboldened criminal gangs, and an ever-growing economic crisis,” Salazar said. “The HELP Extension Act will allow the Haitian people to improve their livelihoods and rebuild their country by ensuring the 60,000+ Haitians in the textile industry continue to enjoy the benefits of unfettered trade with the United States. As one of our closest allies in the Western Hemisphere, we have an obligation to ensure the well-being of our Haitian neighbors. That is why I am proud to introduce this crucial bill.”

Meanwhile, Rubio will carry the Senate companion with Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy.

“As Haiti continues to confront political corruption, natural disasters, and rampant crime, it is clear that it is in our national security interest to support our regional neighbor,” Rubio said. “This bipartisan bill will help strengthen Haiti’s economy and benefit the U.S. by decreasing our nation’s dependency on goods manufactured with forced labor in China. Our mutual benefit will encourage safety and prosperity in our hemisphere.”

On this day

Dec. 7, 1787 — “Delaware becomes the first state to ratify the Constitution” via — In Dover, the U.S. Constitution is unanimously ratified by all 30 delegates to the Delaware Constitutional Convention, making Delaware the first state of the modern United States. Less than four months before, the Constitution was signed by 37 of the original 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention meeting in Philadelphia. The Constitution was sent to the states for ratification, and, by the terms of the document, the Constitution would become binding once nine of the former 13 colonies had ratified the document. Delaware led the process, and on June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the Constitution, making federal democracy the law of the land. Government under the U.S. Constitution took effect on March 4, 1789.

Dec. 7, 2015 — “Donald Trump calls to ban all Muslims entering the U.S.” via The Guardian — Trump, the leading contender to become the Republican Party’s nominee for U.S. presidential candidate, has called for a “total and complete shutdown” of the country’s borders to Muslims in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack. Trump made his most extreme pledge yet — in a race in which he has consistently pushed the boat out on issues of race and immigration — in a statement released to the media through his presidential campaign team. He said there was such hatred among Muslims worldwide toward Americans that it was necessary to rebuff them en masse until the problem was better understood.


Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, with contributions by Daniel Figueroa IV.

Staff Reports

One comment

  • Alex

    December 7, 2021 at 1:52 pm

    Gaetz is concerned about the jail conditions the poor victimized Jan 6th terrorists have to endure.

Comments are closed.


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