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A Food and Drug Administration decision to revoke emergency authorization for two brands of monoclonal antibody (MAB) therapies opened a new front in the feud between President Joe Biden and Gov. Ron DeSantis.
But it’s a battle Florida’s Republican Governor seems to be fighting alone.
On Wednesday, the DeSantis decried the decision to end Regeneron and Eli Lilly treatments:
“This indefensible edict takes treatment out of the hands of medical professionals and will cost some Americans their lives. There are real-world implications to Biden’s medical authoritarianism — Americans’ access to treatments is now subject to the whims of a failing President.”
The FDA, meanwhile, said it was cutting off the drug supply because the treatments did nothing to combat omicron, the now-dominant COVID-19 variant. In a press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the DeSantis administration gripe “crazy.”
“These treatments, the ones the Governor is fighting over, do not work against omicron and have side effects,” she said.
And Democrats representing Florida agreed, siding with the federal administration.
“Public health experts from the FDA, CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and other federal agencies have been working tirelessly to ensure every American who gets COVID-19 has access to the treatment they need,” said Rep. Lois Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat. “The Biden Administration is following the science of which monoclonal antibody treatments are effective and updating guidance and shipments accordingly. Misleading statements by some elected officials are for the purpose of scoring political points, not saving lives.”
What may be more noticeable than Democrats siding with Biden over DeSantis, though, is the lack of elected Republicans rushing to DeSantis’ defense. While past battles with the administration over vaccine mandates, mask mandates, and other COVID-19 responses often resulted in the delegation’s partisan divide, DeSantis has largely stood alone in this latest battle.
An article in The Washington Post on DeSantis’ objection to losing the MAB shipments quotes other conservative commentators taking his side but no other elected officials or public servants outside DeSantis’ administration.
Notably, both Regeneron and Eli Lilly issued statements that agreed with the FDA decision, as omicron accounts for 99% of cases nationwide.
University of South Florida statistics show that the delta variant still accounts for about 10% of cases in Florida.
The challenges facing Colombians amid political unrest there gripped the attention of many in Florida’s delegation. Sen. Rick Scott held an event in Doral, attended by Reps. Carlos Giménez and María Elvira Salazar, focused on what the U.S. can do to promote freedom and democracy in Latin America.
“The constant attacks threatening the Colombian people and their government are dangerous and reprehensible,” Scott said before referring to influence from the Cuban and Venezuelan governments.
“It’s clear that ELN (National Liberation Army), FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), and terrorist organizations backed by the (Raul) Castro/(Miguel) Diaz-Canel and (Nicolás) Maduro regimes are behind these despicable attacks, which are nothing but a disgusting attempt to destabilize Colombia’s democracy.”
Giménez credited Scott with organizing the event.
“Thank you, Sen. Rick Scott, for hosting a roundtable with community leaders to discuss issues important to the Colombian community right here in South Florida,” he said. “We will always maintain our commitment to the Colombian people, both here in Florida and in Colombia.”
Salazar shared pictures from the event and tweeted support for the same message. “Democracy in Colombia is threatened, so we must make a common front with our Colombian American community in its struggle to stop socialism!” she posted.
All three Republicans are aggressively pushing for more significant U.S. intervention, criticizing the Biden administration for policies like recently dropping FARC from America’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. The State Department says the move occurred based on successful talks between the Colombian government and the anti-government organization.
That hasn’t satisfied hawks in the delegation.
“It makes me furious that in the face of these vicious assaults on democracy, Joe Biden has again and again chosen appeasement over the security and stability of our hemisphere,” Scott said.
“His lack of support is a complete betrayal of the United States and Colombia’s commitment to promoting security, prosperity, human rights and democracy across the Western Hemisphere. Last year, I was proud to introduce a resolution in the U.S. Senate that makes clear that America stands with Colombia in the fight to defend freedom, condemns efforts to undermine democracy, and urges the international community to join the United States in supporting Colombia. I will always support the people of Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua in the fight for freedom and democracy. We won’t stop until all of Latin America sees the freedom and liberty its people deserve.”
Despite 2021 being the year a Democratic President took office and Republicans lost control of the Senate, Sen. Marco Rubio saw a half dozen bills ultimately signed into law. The Miami Republican on Thursday released a list of legislative achievements from the just-closed calendar year.
Successes included passage of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, a Rubio priority and what he hopes will create long-term impacts on trade with China by refusing to import products made with slave labor. Other legislation to become law included the Secure Equipment Act, involving Chinese-manufactured goods, and Reinforcing Nicaragua’s Adherence to Conditions for Electoral Reform Act that touches on Western Hemisphere relations.
More Florida-focused efforts include a Seminole Tribe bill involving real estate, an extension of the National Flood Insurance Program, and a COVID-19 relief bill that could mean material benefit to federal contractors. He also touted Everglades investments and general constituent service.
“One of my highest priorities is making sure my staff, and I are available to help Floridians with whatever federal assistance they may need,” Rubio said. “Overall, my federal casework team helped 21,000 Floridians in 2021. They helped seniors work through bureaucracy, ensuring they received the Social Security and Medicare benefits they paid into for decades. They helped veterans secure the benefits they earned. They helped the unemployed and homeless. They continue to help Floridians impacted by hurricanes. The list goes on because, ultimately, that is what public service is all about — helping constituents.”
Of course, the rundown of accomplishments comes as Rubio braces for an election year. U.S. Rep. Val Demings, an Orlando Democrat, is the favorite for the Democratic nomination.
So, it begins
Already, there is a public back and forth between Rubio and Demings from their respective perches in Congress. The news that Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer would retire prompted a statement from Demings pointedly saying the Senate must give fair consideration to a Biden appointee to the bench.
“I have full confidence that an exceptionally qualified candidate will soon be announced, and I expect all members of the Senate to do their jobs by swiftly and impartially considering Justice Breyer’s nominated replacement,” Demings said.
For what it’s worth, Rubio wants to make sure any appointee will interpret the law and not legislate from the bench.
“I have long said and will always say, whoever the President nominates, I’m going to judge them by that criteria,” he said. “Are they a judge, are they a nominee with a history of understanding that the job of the Supreme Court is not to make the law, but to apply the Constitution to the question before them, irrespective of whether they agree with the policy outcome or not?”
On another law-and-order front, Rubio this week touted the endorsements of 55 Florida Sheriffs. At a presser, he slipped in a subtle job at Demings, suggesting Democrats were aligned with those who “organized to ambush law enforcement.”
”It’s especially sickening when people who should know better decide to align themselves with this effort,” he said.
Demings, a former Orlando Police Chief whose husband also served as Orange County Sheriff, popped back at the insinuation she was less concerned with the safety of officers.
“For him to suggest — the lifelong politician Marco Rubio — that I have turned my back on the men and women that I — while Marco Rubio was home in his bed sleeping — that I helped to go respond to some dark, scary places, dealing with some dark, dangerous people, scary people,” Demings told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “for him to suggest that I turned my back on law enforcement is just an indication of how desperate he is.”
Republican campaign spokespeople slammed two delegation members seeking statewide office — one for embracing Biden too enthusiastically and the other for keeping her distance.
St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist sat down with the Tallahassee Democrat, telling them the Biden administration would “go down in history as one of the best we’ve ever had.”
The Republican National Committee disagreed. “Charlie Crist might want to switch back to the Republican Party where the expectations for a Republican President are clearly a bit higher than the standard Florida Democrats hold for Joe Biden,” said RNC spokesperson Julia Friedland.
Meanwhile, Rubio’s re-election campaign glommed onto a comment Demings made on Facing South Florida, where host Jim DeFede asked if she wants Biden campaigning for her. “I am running my race, and there will come a time as we get closer, I will look at a list of people who I might want to come down,” Demings responded. “I have colleagues in the House of Representatives, senators, and others who want to be helpful. We’ll see what that list looks like. Invite me back, and we’ll talk about it.”
Noticeably absent, the President of the United States.
“Former VP contender Val Demings is once again proving that she’ll go wherever the political winds blow,” said Rubio spokesperson Elizabeth Gregory. “Joe Biden’s approval rating went down, and Demings’ enthusiasm for having him campaign with her in Florida went down with it.”
Okaloosa County’s Teacher of the Year saw her achievements memorialized in the Congressional Record. Matt Gaetz this week rose to recognize Pryor Middle School teacher Brittany Tate.
“In Northwest Florida, we are fortunate to have some of the best teachers in the nation. It is recognized that the teaching profession is one of the most difficult yet rewarding professions in existence. Ms. Tate has performed her teaching duties exceptionally, while also being an active and supportive member of her community,” the Fort Walton Beach Republican said.
“Ms. Tate’s support and outreach extend far beyond the walls of her classroom through her active involvement in her school and community. Ms. Tate has displayed dedication by working with students individually, according to their unique needs, being involved in summer camps, and working in school programs that advance education and foster character. I commend her for her steadfast willingness to serve those that matter most — the students and youth of our nation.”
With Florida third in the nation in the number of incidents of human trafficking, Kat Cammack wants police agencies to have adequate training in dealing with potential crimes.
This week, Cammack introduced the Human Trafficking Awareness Training Act, which would expand Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers’ (FLETC) human trafficking awareness training courses to state, local, tribal, territorial and educational institution law enforcement agencies.
“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, and it has no place in our society,” the Gainesville Republican said. “Our first responders deserve the very best training on recognizing and preventing this horrible trade, and this bill will ensure the experts at FLETC can share their knowledge with other law enforcement agencies across the country. As a proud member of the Homeland Security Committee, I will continue working closely with my colleagues to do everything we can to putting an end to trafficking in the U.S.”
The training provided through courses includes identifying common locations, reporting protocols, and response measures for incidents of trafficking.
Other Florida Republican co-sponsors signed on to introduce the bill, including Byron Donalds, Gaetz and Mike Waltz.
According to Al Lawson, it’s time for the federal government to intervene with a dispute between Florida’s Department of Education and the Jefferson County School District.
This week, the Tallahassee Democratic Congressman sent a letter to U.S. Department of Education Inspector General Sandra Bruce questioning the state’s investigation of a multimillion-dollar contract.
The letter notes the state DOE planned to use federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding to manage the school district and cites a Miami Herald investigation that found a bid contract was tailored for a specific company. It’s a matter already prompting a state Inspector General investigation, but the involvement of federal COVID-19 relief dollars means the federal government holds an interest as well, Lawson wrote.
“It is important that we keep the children of Jefferson County at the forefront of this matter,” Lawson said. “My colleagues and I are working to safeguard their education by requesting the Inspector General review how federal funding is being spent by the FL DOE. These students deserve the proper resources that allow them to excel academically now and beyond.”
Lawson’s letter bears the signatures of several delegation Democrats, including Kathy Castor, Crist, Darren Soto, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson.
In the inaugural episode, he spotlights Waltz, who happens to be the first Green Beret elected to Congress. The St. Augustine Beach Republican spoke to the singer-songwriter about his views on the Afghanistan withdrawal.
“It’s been some of the hardest months emotionally for me, and I know for so many other veterans, I’ve ever gone through,” Waltz said. “Actually, being in a position in Congress in some ways made it worse because so many in my community were looking at me, I think, as someone in a position to influence things but not necessarily kick in the door to the White House.”
Waltz frequently spoke out about Afghanistan, both leading up to the widely-criticized departure and as events unfolded. He was most frustrated for Afghans who worked with the U.S. for years only to see the Taliban return to power, he said.
“So many of our brothers and sisters who stood with us, were willing to die for the American flag and the values it represents, were willing to stand with us and take a bullet, to die for their kids’ future and the fight against extremism, to see them abandoned and betrayed in the way they were was just fundamentally, in every which way, un-American.”
Both Waltz and Ondrasik say they regularly hear from individuals left behind in Afghanistan. Online, Ondrasik said his international humanitarian work inspired him to become more vocal about what’s still happening overseas.
“Between going to work and picking up their kids from soccer, they are organizing sophisticated operations and are saving lives every day, while tragically suffering the heartbreak of the Taliban hunting down and even murdering those they are helping,” he wrote.
To watch, click on the image below:
A decision by the Biden administration to abandon support for the East Mediterranean Pipeline is annoying Gus Bilirakis.
In addition to leaving allies like Israel with less access to fuel, it also hurts allies like Greece, an important nation to the Congressional Hellenic Caucus co-chair, whose grandparents emigrated from the birthplace of democracy.
“The Biden administration’s actions in this matter are particularly objectionable and hypocritical in light of its tacit approval of Russia’s Nord Stream pipeline, which will only deepen Europe’s energy dependence on a volatile adversary,” the Tarpon Springs Republican said. “The administration must realize the significant economic, environmental and national security implications that are at stake in this matter and reconsider its decision to withdraw support for this critical project.”
Joined by New York Republican Nicole Malliotakis, Bilirakis co-wrote a stern letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemning the decision.
“President Biden’s decision to shut down America’s Keystone XL Pipeline, greenlight Putin’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and now disavow the Greek-Cypriot-Israeli EastMed Pipeline is a microcosm of this administration’s failed energy and foreign policy agendas,” Malliotakis said.
Reuters reported the Biden administration recently informed Greece in writing of its misgivings on the pipeline, citing tensions over claims on gas reserves between Turkey and Cyprus. Greece, Israel and Cyprus already signed onto a deal, but they counted on U.S. support for the $6.8 billion infrastructure project.
Vern Buchanan will co-chair a Republican task force to develop health care policy. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy this week formed the Healthy Future Task Force, which Buchanan will lead alongside Kentucky Republican Brett Guthrie.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to drive health care and tax policy this year and well into the future,” Buchanan said. “I’m looking forward to this exciting new challenge to improve the lives of all Americans as well as strengthen the economy.”
The move makes sense following the Longboat Key Republican’s recent appointment as chair of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee; Buchanan also earned a space on the Joint Committee on Taxation.
The bigger picture shows the Congressman’s accumulation of influence in the GOP caucus as he positions to become Ways and Means chair if Republicans retake a majority in the midterms.
Guthrie issued a statement praising Buchanan’s “background in health care policy and business in addition to his leadership on Ways and Means Health Subcommittee.”
Forming a health care agenda will be crucial as Republicans gear up for the campaign trail. The task force will guide proposals, focusing on lowering costs, increasing patient choice on providers and access to personalized health care, encouraging research investment, and ensuring a senior safety net.
Buchanan noted that health care accounts for one-fifth of all U.S. spending, and it holds particular importance in Florida and the state’s 4.7 million Medicare recipients.
Frankel is not just a Congresswoman; she’s a grandmother who is not afraid to say motherhood isn’t always a Technicolor dream. She reflected on the “incredible joys and responsibilities” of parenthood during an online news conference about proposed Florida legislation to reduce the time a woman can get an abortion.
She told those assembled that she had just finished weekend duty with her 3-year-old grandson.
“Whether or not to bring a child into this world is a very personal decision that should be made by the person with someone that they trust and shouldn’t be made by a state Representative or Congressperson or a Governor,” she said.
Frankel fears the current legislation now moving through the Florida Legislature to limit abortions to the first 15 weeks of pregnancy is just the beginning of an even greater effort to roll back reproductive rights in Florida.
“There are already 12 states that have laws on the books that eliminate abortion,” she said, referencing states with “trigger laws” that would take effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned this summer by an expected ruling on a Mississippi law challenging the 49-year-old precedent.
In 2021, 19 states passed 108 abortion restrictions — the highest total in any year since Roe v. Wade affirmed abortion rights in 1973.
On this day
Jan. 28, 1986 — “Challenger explosion stuns nation” via Florida Today — All they found early Tuesday was an empty parachute, a ghostly marker floating in 10-foot seas 20 miles from the launchpad. By Tuesday night, several “small chunks” of the Space Shuttle Challenger had been found in the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Canaveral, but officials said there were no signs of the seven crew members. A nation that had cheered “the magnificent flying machine” as it roared off its launchpad fell into mourning. “Oh no! Oh, God! I can’t look,” spectators cried as the 100-ton orbiter disintegrated in a giant ball of smoke and flame that scarred the cloudless sky above Kennedy Space Center. “There has been an explosion,” Mission Control announced from Houston.
Jan. 28, 1915 — “Woodrow Wilson rejects bill because of literacy test and denial of asylum” via The New York Times — President Wilson sent to the House his message vetoing the Immigration bill. His objections to the measure were that the literacy tent provided for aliens desiring to enter the United States was not a fair test of prospective citizenship and that the bill would prevent this Government from granting asylum to political offenders, thus reversing a policy that had given the nation some of its most distinguished citizens.
Best wishes to Rep. Waltz, who turns 48 on Monday, Jan. 31.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, with contributions by A.G. Gancarski and Anne Geggis.