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A murky map
The Florida House published its latest draft map for the soon-to-be 28 U.S. House districts in Florida, and there are significant differences from a map approved by the state Senate.
The lower chamber of the Florida Legislature made clear it’s not going along with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desire to dispose of Florida’s 5th Congressional District, represented by Tallahassee Democrat Al Lawson. But it does dismantle Florida’s 7th Congressional District to combine it with portions of Florida’s 10th Congressional District. CD 7 and 10 are represented today by Democrats Stephanie Murphy and Val Demings, neither of whom will run for another term in the House this year, and the change will likely result in two Orlando area Democratic seats instead of the current three.
But where does this leave the process as qualifying week sneaks ever closer on the calendar? The House Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee meets this Friday to presumably advance a map to the full House Redistricting Committee for a meeting on Feb. 24. Based on the course of state legislative maps, the final House cartography should hit the floor about a week later and pass on a near party-line vote.
But while the House and Senate were content to leave the design of legislative maps to each respective chamber, the congressional map is a different animal. Leaders in the Senate and House must come together in conference and settle on a single map. Florida’s Legislative Session ends March 11, so that leaves about a week and a half between when the House likely will pass its map and when state lawmakers plan to go home and focus on their re-election efforts. Of note, the Senate treated Demings’ CD 10 as a Black performing seat, even if it’s not majority-minority, so disagreements reach deeper than a vision on where a few lines must fall.
Then there’s the question of the Governor. A day after the Florida Supreme Court refused to opine early on whether the state constitution required preservation of CD 5, DeSantis told a gathering of supporters in the Panhandle that he still had problems with the Legislature’s proposals.
“We will not be signing any congressional map that has an unconstitutional gerrymander in it, and that is going to be the position that we stick to,” DeSantis said. “Just take that to the bank.”
Of note, the map could become law without DeSantis’ signature, but a threat of a veto seemed clear. If he rejects the map, that sends state lawmakers back to Tallahassee to draw new plans that presumably don’t include CD 5.
But various parties, Lawson chief among them, promised to fight to preserve the Black minority access seat in court, citing federal Voting Rights Act protections. Unlike state legislative maps, there’s no automatic review of congressional districts by the state Supreme Court. That said, it still seems likely the U.S. House lines land in front of a judge for an urgent ruling based on threats of litigation from minority advocacy groups like Latino Justice, which believes Florida needs more minority access seats.
Regardless of any of this political and legal wrangling, the deadline for candidate qualification has not changed — and likely won’t. Already, the state during redistricting years allows congressional candidates to qualify a month later than normal, alongside state candidates as opposed to early in the year. That means anyone who wants to run for U.S. House, including the 24 members of the delegation with re-election accounts open with the Federal Election Commission, must make clear what district they intend to run in and meet all state requirements no later than noon June 17.
New World Order
The prospect of war in Ukraine has Sen. Marco Rubio issuing strong rhetoric girding the nation for the future. During a radio interview last week, the Miami Republican redoubled previous warnings, suggesting Russia may very soon embark on a show of military strength not seen since the old Soviet Union days.
“This is probably the most dangerous moment since the end of the Cold War. Incredibly tense,” Rubio said on the “Brian Rust Show.” “I say this to you hoping that I’m wrong; I really do. Usually, I don’t hope I’m wrong — this time, I do. But I think the world’s going to look very different in 60 days.”
The Senator expects Moscow to commence next week with “the single largest military exercise they’ve conducted since the end of the Cold War.”
“Naval assets, air assets, ground assets, nuclear forces will be mobilized for it. There will be multiple theaters operating simultaneously. So, this is a huge exercise,” he said.
On Monday, Rubio issued more warnings in a video on Twitter, tying it to expansions of power by China. “Beijing and Moscow are making an argument that they want a New World Order, a world order where big, powerful countries like them get to dominate their region, and their countries neighboring them are basically underneath them, under their power and their control,” he said.
For some time, Republicans have heavily stressed the impact of inflation on Americans. It’s been a message Sen. Rick Scott hammered now for more than a full year.
His office sent out a release spotlighting Bureau of Labor and Statistics data released last week showing a 7.5% year-over-year spike in the Consumer Index Price.
The year of steady and sharp increases covered in the spike starts in January 2021, right about when President Joe Biden took office. By comparison, the CIP rose 1.4% from January 2020 until January 2021.
“January’s CPI data marks a sad anniversary for American families: one year of Joe Biden’s failed policies and reckless spending causing historic inflation and skyrocketing prices,” Scott said. “President Biden has taken our economy and flushed it down the drain. Worse, he doesn’t seem to be bothered by that at all.”
Over the last year, Scott offered weekly updates on the impacts of inflation. He continues to lay responsibility for the escalating cost of living at the President’s footsteps.
“While Biden is in Delaware every weekend enjoying his ice cream, families are struggling to make ends meet,” Scott said. “Our poorest families, like mine growing up, are having to make the tough choice between buying gas and groceries. I have been calling attention to this crisis almost every day for a year. I have introduced legislation, and I have repeatedly asked the President and the Federal Reserve to take action. They haven’t done a thing to fix it. All we see from this administration is finger-pointing. Biden needs to take responsibility TODAY and get this crisis under control. Americans deserve better.”
On Monday, Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch invoked the memory of each of the 14 students and three staff members killed four years ago in the Parkland school shooting tragedy as he urged Biden to use his State of the Union address to get momentum going on gun safety measures.
Deutch said his heart is with the Parkland and Coral Springs communities on Valentine’s Day, in remembrance of that day in 2018 that broke so many hearts. Republican Sens. Rubio and Scott also joined him. Democratic West Palm Beach Rep. Lois Frankel also marked the occasion.
In addition to those killed, 17 others were wounded in the shooting rampage through Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
“We need Congress to do things that can save lives and that aren’t controversial: universal background checks, safe storage requirements, banning ghost guns and tougher gun-trafficking laws,” Deutch said. “Anything we can do to spare one more community — one more family — the pain that we have experienced in Parkland and Coral Springs and South Florida is what we must do.”
Scott on Monday tweeted a video of a speech he made on the Senate floor last week in which he too invoked those lost. He and Rubio introduced a resolution honoring the Parkland victims. It passed unanimously.
“My heart breaks knowing they’ll never get to pursue their dreams, and their families will always have a piece of their heart missing,” Scott said of the victims.
Rubio also took to the Senate floor last week in memory of the Parkland victims.
“Today, we stop and remember those who lost their lives on that day and those whose bravery saved lives on that day,” Rubio said, focusing his comments on school safety.
Deutch said he wants to see progress — whatever form it may take.
“We need to start saving lives and preventing more broken hearts,” Deutch said.
Frankel, like Deutch, also demanded more change, including gun safety.
“It’s time to stand with the survivors of the Parkland shooting and pass common-sense gun legislation, invest in the proper mental health services, and fund the security and community resources they have been advocating for since 2018,” she said.
Nearly all of Florida’s delegation signed on to a letter urging Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to approve Florida’s request for emergency relief after the Great Freeze in late January damaged citrus.
The bipartisan letter was led by Gainesville Republican Kat Cammack and Kissimmee Democrat Darren Soto and signed by both Republican Sens. Rubio and Scott, plus 23 other Florida members.
They’re throwing their support behind a request from DeSantis backed by Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried asking the federal Department of Agriculture to issue a disaster declaration for counties impacted by the freeze that hit the Sunshine State two weeks ago.
On Feb. 3, DeSantis issued an emergency order covering 30 counties to help with an emergency harvest, particularly Valencia oranges, which were almost ready for picking. Fried also asked for emergency relief.
“As you know, from Jan. 29 through Jan. 31, areas of Central and South Florida saw temperatures plunge to their lowest in more than a decade. This record-breaking drop and subsequent, prolonged freeze, damaged crops in areas across the state,” the members’ letter explains.
“We respectfully ask that you urgently review and respond to the state of Florida’s request and issue a disaster declaration, subject to all applicable laws and regulations, for all counties impacted by the freezing temperatures.”
The other House signatories included Republicans Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Mario Díaz-Balart, Byron Donalds, Neal Dunn, Scott Franklin, Carlos Giménez, Brian Mast, Bill Posey, John Rutherford, María Elvira Salazar, Greg Steube, Michael Waltz and Daniel Webster and Democrats Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Demings, Deutch, Frankel, Lawson, Murphy, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson.
Panhandle Republican Matt Gaetz rushed to defend former President Donald Trump and suggest recent revelations about Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign vindicate the Republican leader after years of investigation.
Trump on Monday issued a statement regarding a court filing from Special Counsel John Durham suggesting tech workers with links to the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign worked with the CIA to gain access to his campaign servers and communications at the White House to try and prove a link with Russia.
“Can you imagine that, what should be the biggest story of our time, bigger than Watergate, is getting absolutely no mention, in The New York Times, Washington Post, ABC Fake News, NBC Fake News, CBS Fake News, ratings-dead CNN or MSDNC,” Trump said in a statement dismissively renaming television outlets.
Gaetz unsurprisingly sided with the former President. “He’s right. They called him a Russian Agent. They called me (Vladimir) Putin’s lawyer. They were lying to cover up their own crimes,” Gaetz tweeted. “We were right. It was Hillary. Keep that in mind as the ‘powers that be’ which tried to frame Trump continue their pursuits. Also, remember who was telling you the TRUTH!”
But of note, many of the outlets named have both covered the filing and debunked much of what Trump said. The New York Times noted Durham never accused anyone of infiltrating communications. The technology experts in question weren’t working with the Clinton campaign, and the investigation of Russian communication to phones used in the White House may have been an investigation from when Barack Obama was still President.
Where do border crossers actually find the coyotes transporting them into the country? Sometimes they just look on Facebook. Rep. Cammack said that makes the tech company complicit. The Gainesville Republican sent a letter to Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who created Facebook, slamming his company’s stated policy allowing advertisements for transporting people and goods into the U.S. illegally.
“I am deeply concerned about Meta’s recent decision to allow ‘content soliciting smuggling services and sharing information related to illegal border crossing.’ Meta’s decision will undoubtedly continue to exacerbate the crisis at the Southwest border, as it has over the last year, by encouraging and facilitating criminal activity,” the Congresswoman wrote.
She said a humanitarian crisis at the border has led to the Border Patrol needing to care for more unattended children and process a rapid influx of migrants, something that hurts efforts to actually secure the border. She said this also has contributed to an uptick in fentanyl coming into the U.S.
Cammack said she sent similar communications to Meta last year and received confirmation the company would take action to limit the marketing of illegal services, but that hasn’t happened to date.
“I strongly urge Meta to promptly change the company policy to explicitly prohibit content that encourages illicit border crossings and trafficking,” she wrote.
The Fleet Reserve Association has now advocated for America’s veterans for nearly 100 years. Palm Harbor Rep. Bilirakis wants the century of service honored with a commemorative coin.
He filed a bill with California Democrat John Garamendi that would direct the Treasury Department to mint a special coin to honor the anniversary.
“For one century, the FRA has served as a strong voice in Washington,” Bilirakis said. “The organization has been instrumental in advocating for Sea Service Members and their families, including successfully fighting back against proposed cuts to benefits and supporting enhanced eligibility and benefits for Veterans. The organization has been a valued partner in my fight to rectify the injustice of concurrent receipt. Together, I am optimistic that we will be able to ensure all Veterans finally receive the full benefits they’ve earned and deserve. I am honored to help commemorate this prestigious organization’s tireless work and legacy of success.”
If the legislation passes, the coin would be minted in time for the centennial of the FRA’s founding charter in 1924.
To learn more about the Fleet Reserve Association, click on the image below:
Expect a $29.3 million investment from the feds to charge up electric vehicles on Florida’s roads. Rep. Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat, announced the Department of Transportation just directed that amount in grant money to the state to encourage an alternative to the gas pump.
The funding comes through the National Electric Vehicle Formula Program, part of the Biden administration infrastructure package passed last year. About $5 billion will be distributed over five years to encourage electric car use. The transportation grant announced by Crist’s office comes in the 2022 fiscal year.
“Electric vehicles are the future, and I’m thrilled to be a part of efforts to modernize and invest in EV infrastructure, like charging stations. We need to make EVs a viable option for anyone in the Sunshine State who wants it.” Crist said. “This year alone, Floridians can look forward to $29 million to help build out a network of EV charging stations along our highways. Not only will this monumental investment preserve our state’s beautiful environment, but Floridians can also look forward to the creation of good-paying jobs. A win-win.”
Another $18 million in infrastructure funding will end up in Miami-Dade County. Rep. Wilson, a Hollywood Democrat, announced that much would go to public transit projects in Florida’s most populous county.
“This monumental funding is the result of the unrelenting efforts of President Biden and House Democrats,” Wilson said. “My mantra in Congress has always been ‘Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!’ and I look forward to the unprecedented advancements that this funding will provide throughout the district for both infrastructure and jobs.”
Wilson was part of a relatively low number of sponsors on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. “As Founder and Chair of the Florida Ports Caucus and one of only five Democratic members permitted to co-sponsor this bill in the House of Representatives, I am proud to have fought tirelessly to secure such critical funding for my constituents,” she said.
Miami-Dade leaders said this burst in funding would go to immediate use easing traffic concerns in the metropolitan region.
“Improving our public transit system is one of my top priorities,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. “I am grateful to the Biden administration, Congresswoman Wilson, and all of our federal partners. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allows us to accelerate transit improvements with the goal of delivering the best transportation experience for our community.”
Added Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works Director and CEO Eulois Cleckley, “Thanks to this increase in formula funding, we have already begun to advance several projects and programs that modernize our aging infrastructure, improve service reliability, and support our existing transit services for the residents and visitors of Miami-Dade County.”
Miramar Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick was among more than a dozen Black women in the House praising Biden’s commitment to name a Black woman to the Supreme Court.
“I joined 13 of my fellow Black women in Congress to commend President Biden’s historic nomination commitment and to share our priorities,” she tweeted, along with a copy of the letter.
Led by Missouri Democrat Cori Bush, the letter notes the lack of representation in the federal government that Black women face. “There is not a single Black woman in the United States Senate to vote to confirm the first Black woman nominated to the Supreme Court,” the members wrote. “[W]e write as a collective to commend you for this historic announcement, and ask that the nominee reflect a deep and abiding commitment to adjudicate with moral and legal clarity.”
The letter notes only seven justices in 233 years fell outside the demographics of White men. It’s no coincidence, the letter notes, changes in that uniform representation — beginning with Thurgood Marshall’s confirmation in 1967 — coincided with strides in civil rights often driven from the bench.
“It is long past time for a Black woman to be on the Supreme Court, and we commend your unwavering commitment to correcting this long-standing injustice on the nation’s highest court so that our institutions can be closer to reflecting the diversity of race, gender, and lived experience in America.” The letter closes.
“The appointment of a Black woman justice with an established record of working to advance racial justice and eradicating entrenched White supremacy is of the utmost importance in reviving the Supreme Court’s credibility, and we look forward to supporting the administration and U.S. Senate in getting this done.”
MacKensie Kvalvik, communications director for Rep. Murphy, announced she’s leaving the Congresswoman’s staff at the end of this week. Kvalvik’s LinkedIn page shows she’s held her current title since July, and served as Murphy’s press secretary before that starting in January 2021. She’s also worked in press shops for California Democrat Harley Rouda and Illinois Democrat Mike Quigley, and in 2020 worked four months as a press intern for Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Eduardo Carrizosa will take over for now as press secretary and digital director in Murphy’s office. Murphy has announced she will not seek a fourth consecutive term in the House.
On this day
Feb. 15, 1933 — “Franklin Delano Roosevelt escapes assassination attempt in Miami” via History.com — A deranged, unemployed bricklayer named Giuseppe Zangara shouted, “Too many people are starving!” and fired a gun at America’s President-elect. Roosevelt had just delivered a speech in Miami’s Bayfront Park from the back seat of his open touring car when Zangara opened fire with six rounds. Five people were hit. The President escaped injury but the Mayor of Chicago, Anton Cermak, who was also in attendance, received a mortal stomach wound in the attack. Several men tackled the assailant and might have beaten him to death if Roosevelt had not intervened, telling the crowd to leave justice to the authorities. Zangara died on the electric chair on March 20, 1933.
Feb. 15, 2019 — “Trump declares a national emergency, provokes a constitutional clash” via The New York Times — Trump declared a national emergency on the border with Mexico to access billions of dollars that Congress refused to give him to build a wall there, transforming a highly charged policy dispute into a confrontation over the separation of powers outlined in the Constitution. Trying to regain momentum after losing a grinding two-month battle with lawmakers over funding the wall, Trump asserted that the flow of drugs, criminals, and illegal immigrants from Mexico constituted a profound threat to national security that justified unilateral action.
Best wishes to Rep. Dunn, who turns 69 on Wednesday, Feb. 16, and Rep. Cammack, who turns 34 the same day.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, with contributions by A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis and Scott Powers.