Delegation for 2.18.22: Divided — Clinton again — National Guard — vaxxed out

Imprint of the U.S. Capitol building on a dollar bill banknote
Partisanship is nothing new, but never like it is today.

Polar opposite

A new study shows the sitting Senate to be the most politically polarized since, at least, the immediate aftermath of the Civil War.

Just published in DeGruyter’s The Forum, researchers Carlos Algara and Savannah Johnston explore data-driven measures of legislative activity and electoral outcomes through the history of the upper chamber. Unsurprisingly, they found less deliberation and more partisanship than any time since Senators were first directly elected in 1914.

Much of that division is a result of more organized and polarized political organizations across the American populace. More than 90% of Senators hail from states carried in the last election by their Party’s presidential nominee. That includes Florida, represented by Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, and went to Republican Donald Trump in the last two presidential election cycles. The last four years have been the first time two Republicans represented the state in Florida’s history. But it comes when Democrats narrowly control the House and, since the 2020 election, the Senate and White House as well. More important than who sits in the Majority Leader’s office, though, maybe that tribalism crippled the legislative process.

Divided: It hasn’t been this bad in a long time.

“Greater polarization coincides with higher levels of observable obstruction, conflict on Capitol Hill, and less consideration of floor amendments or committee meetings,” said Algara, of Claremont Graduate University. That all undermines the Senate’s reputation as the greatest deliberative body in the world.

Both Algara and Johnston, of Providence College, previously held positions as Congressional Fellows with the American Political Science Association; anecdotally, they said they could see the breakdowns in the lawmaking process. Their study puts a numeric value to the findings, looking at the level of bipartisan legislating, consideration of amendments and productivity of the chamber dating back to the 40th Congress in 1867.

While the Senate remains consistently less polarized than the House, the Senate in the 117th Congress has reached new heights in the data sets. The only period that even rivals the Senate polarization came in 55th and 60th Congresses from 1897 to 1901.

“Moreover, the contemporary Senate mirrors the House in the degree of ideological polarization between the Democratic caucus and Republican Conference. The 117th House is only 4% more polarized than the 117th Senate. This suggests that despite not being subjected to redistricting and potential partisan gerrymandering like the House, the Senate experiences similar levels of heightened partisan polarization,” the study notes.

For his part, Rubio responded to the report by noting his record of working across the aisle. That work received recognition when the Center for Effective Lawmaking ranked him as the most effective Republican Senator in the 116th Congress.

The Miami Republican’s legislative effectiveness score was behind only Democratic Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan. The score was based on passing 10 bills over the two-year Congress. Rankings for the 117th won’t be published until the close of the Congress in January when a new class of lawmakers arrives.

Hounding Hillary

Some things never get old in Washington, like visiting The Smithsonian or investigating the Clintons. Right now, Scott wants to make sure the latter pastime doesn’t go away just because Democrats run the Justice Department.

The Naples Republican sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland seeking assurance that a special counsel investigation of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign continues to be funded and allowed to proceed unabated.

National pastime: More calls to investigate Hillary Clinton.

“As you are aware, Special Counsel (John) Durham continues to uncover alarming information related to the origins of the FBI investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections,” Scott wrote. “Those findings include the highly concerning and potentially criminal, manipulation and exploitation of federal law enforcement resources to target American citizens, including a presidential candidate, based upon fabricated evidence that had been procured and disseminated by individuals closely connected with a rival political campaign. The fraudulent abuse of the FBI’s investigative powers by those malign actors has left a dark stain on the reputation and credibility of the nation’s premier law enforcement agency.”

The comments allude to recent filings by Durham suggesting technicians with ties to the Democratic Party exploited access to servers in Trump Tower to seek out connections between Trump’s campaign and Russia. But there are no allegations as of yet of any illegal activity.

Forty-five Republican Senators signed on to the letter, including Rubio.

Girding the Guard

Rubio and Rep. Mike Waltz led a letter backed by the entire 29-member Florida delegation asking the National Guard to address an imbalance in personnel.

“Florida’s population continues to grow, along with its mission sets,” said Waltz, a St. Augustine Beach Republican. “The current force allocation structure limits the Florida Guard’s ability to rotate personnel, putting greater demands on our Guard and their families. This ultimately affects recruitment and retention of qualified personnel and mission readiness. We must address this growing problem to ensure the safety of Florida’s citizens.”

Guarded: Florida National Guard ranks are a little thin.

Today, the state has one of the lowest ratios of National Guard personnel-to-population in the country, ranked 53 out of 54 jurisdictions with a guard. That’s despite the state frequently seeing the need to activate the Guard.

“In the last 28 years, there have been 48 National Guard activations in Florida, and many of these activations required a multi-state response,” the lawmakers wrote. “Hurricane Irma in 2017 required approximately 2,200 Guard personnel from 22 states. FLNG is strained for resources in responding to natural disasters, and with most states still using their Guard personnel for COVID-19 efforts, we are concerned about the lack of Guard resources in Florida in future weather events that typically garner a multi-state response. The limited resources allocated to Florida has affected the FLNG’s ability to rotate personnel and putting greater demands on Guard families.”

The state, on average, sees the third most damage from natural disasters per household of all states in the country.

The National Guard expects to release a Force Reapportionment report March 1 and expects to release a study on reapportionment of resources before the end of the fiscal year.

Case closed

If one of the nation’s few offices processing visas can’t handle the workload, Tallahassee Democrat Al Lawson said they need to spread their cases out to colleagues.

He led a letter to the Homeland Security Department about a backlog at the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Nebraska Service Center calling for some of their cases to shift to the other four service centers in the country that aren’t reporting the same delays.

Spread the love: Al Lawson wants to share the visa workload.

“It is alarming that expedited visa requests are not being processed on time and that Congressional caseworks are not receiving timely responses,” the Congressman said. “The delay in expedited visa processing can negatively impact immigrants and their families by causing job loss, homelessness and overall anxiety on their status in the country.”

A total of 61 other House members signed on to the letter. Lawson said over the past three months, congressional offices have not received timely responses from the Nebraska office. Many caseworkers have waited 60 days, with a few being told it could still take longer to address requests. In October 2020, CIS distributed caseloads around the nation’s five offices amid the pandemic, and Lawson said it’s time to take that step again.

Stopping checks

Florida has seen its share of scandals about China secretly funding research at academic institutions. Now, Rockledge Republican Bill Posey wants to ban U.S. taxpayer dollars supporting efforts at Chinese institutions completely. This week, he and New Mexico Republican Yvette Herrell filed the Stop Funding Our Adversaries Act.

“This legislation is a common-sense step to protect the interests of the United States and make sure (Chinese Communist Party)-entities like the Wuhan Institute of Virology, who should be investigated as a likely source of the COVID-19 pandemic, never see a cent of American funding again,” Posey said. “A growing and unchecked China is one of the biggest threats to the United States and their bad-faith actions have affected American patients and inventors, targeted our position as leader in space and threatened our nation’s cybersecurity.”

Cut it: Bill Posey wants to ban any U.S. investment in China.

University of Florida professor Lin Yang was indicted last year to obtain $1.75 million for research while concealing a partnership with the Chinese government and a nonprofit he founded in the eastern nation.

The CEO of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer & Research Institute in Tampa also resigned, along with five others, following revelations of employee involvement in China’s “Thousand Talents” program recruiting American researchers.

Seabass stock

Crimea isn’t the only territory Russia has claimed recently. American fish processors report they have been denied access to the Georgia Patagonian Toothfish Fishery, one of the richest sources of Chilean seabass on the planet.

Orlando Democrat Val Demings wrote a letter, with Rhode Island Democrat David Cicilline, demanding an intervention into this foreign “gamesmanship.” The House members sent the letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, calling to defend the rights of fish processors and sellers.

“Florida fish processors, sellers, restaurants, and grocery stores have been locked out of a $100 million market due to diplomatic gamesmanship by Russia. Livelihoods are on the line,” Demings said.

All about that bass: Chilean Seabass is the latest beef with Russia.

“It is critical that the administration along with our allies around the world reject Russia’s cynical and dishonest efforts to hurt hardworking American businesses and U.S. consumers. The South Georgia fishery is among the most sustainable in the world. It is well-managed and environmentally responsible. We call on the administration to work with our allies and ensure continued access by American businesses to this important source of good jobs and sustainable food.”

The fishery belongs to the United Kingdom, and activity there is regulated by the international Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). In 2004, it became the first toothfish fishery globally to be certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.

The U.S. typically imports 3 million pounds of fish from there annually, about $50 million worth. But October, Russia blocked catch limit recommendations. NOAA, as a result, has said it may prohibit toothfish imports from the fishery.

“There is no substitute for those imports. An import moratorium would be devastating for U.S. companies and workers who rely on toothfish imports from the South Georgia fishery, it would increase prices for other fish imports and adversely impact restaurants, and it would undermine the integrity of the CCAMLR process,” the letter states.

Vax out

Palm Harbor Republican Gus Bilirakis and four other Florida Republicans signed a partisan letter Wednesday urging the Department of Defense to suspend involuntary discharges of service members for refusing to get COVID-19 vaccinations.

Leading the letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin was Missouri Republican Vicky Hartzler. It also was signed by Republicans Neal Dunn, Brian Mast, Posey and Waltz, plus 35 other Members from other states.

Reporting for duty: Gus Bilirakis urges Lloyd Austin to bring back vax resisters.

The letter asks Austin to delay involuntary discharges from the military because of vaccine refusals until the agency fully complies with a provision in the recently passed National Defense Appropriation Act. That act requires the Department of Defense to establish uniform procedures under which members of the military can be exempt from President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

“During this challenging time in which our country is facing multiple threats from hostile nations, we need to be strengthening, not eroding our military forces,” Bilirakis said. “Additionally, all Americans deserve the freedom to make their own personal choices about their health care decisions, including those who bravely serve in our nation’s military.”

Investigate AHCA?

St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist wants a federal investigation into Florida’s handling of Medicaid dollars for children with disabilities. He sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requesting an investigation of Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration.

His letter follows up on reporting by Alexandria Glorioso of Barred Owl Press on the case of a Marion County family left without care for their disabled 15-year-old son after a provider shut down. The caregiver business was among a number to close in the region reportedly because the state had stopped processing claims. One of the state’s contracted Medicaid providers apparently stopped providing reimbursements to caregivers Oct. 1, but AHCA failed to investigate until after the publication of Glorioso’s report in January.

Misspent: Charlie Crist calls for the feds to investigate Florida’s mishandling of Medicaid money.

“This is a pattern of neglect that started with the unemployment fiasco that hung over 1 million Florida workers who lost their job during the pandemic out to dry,” Crist said. “Now it’s children with disabilities and their families, along with the small businesses that care for them, who are feeling the pain. Since Gov. (Ron) DeSantis seems more interested in stoking culture wars and playing politics instead of doing his job, I’m calling on the federal Medicaid agency to investigate how this could have happened and how we can keep it from happening again. Florida families who have a child with a disability deserve answers.”

Crist notably has filed to challenge DeSantis for Governor this year.

Crist, who formerly served as Governor, said it shouldn’t take embarrassing stories in the media for Florida to ensure its neediest families have access to medical resources. “When an embarrassing story matters more to an agency than thousands of Florida’s most vulnerable families, there’s a problem,” he wrote.

“In order to safeguard Florida families and federal taxpayers’ investment in Florida’s Medicaid Waiver, I request that CMS investigate how this could have happened, why families and small businesses were made to suffer so long, and what steps need to be taken to keep this from happening again.”

Veteran scholars

Members of the military famously move a great deal, thanks to new missions and transfers. Longboat Key Republican Vern Buchanan wants to make sure their college credits move with them. He filed legislation that would ensure student veterans could easily transfer course credits between institutions.

“America’s veterans have selflessly sacrificed and put it all on the line to defend our country and our way of life,” Buchanan said. “The VETS Credit Act will ensure that no veteran loses valuable G.I. Bill credits if their school closes or the program ends abruptly. This legislation would also help ensure that the VA notifies, and the student understands, the processes in place to restore that potentially lost eligibility.”

Giving credit: Vern Buchanan says veterans’ college credits should be fully transferrable.

The Veterans Eligible to Transfer School (VETS) Credit Act (HR 6604) would direct the Veterans Affairs Administration to provide certificates of eligibility providing proof of restored benefits for credits covered by the GI Bill, which covers college education for those who enlist.

Advocacy groups for veterans have come out in favor of the bill.

“When a student veteran faces the collapse of their school, added layers of bureaucracy only serve to worsen an already difficult situation, veterans should have the option to apply to a quality school without waiting on unnecessary mandates from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,” said William Hubbard, vice president of veteran and military policy at Veterans Education Success. “We’re very grateful to Congressman Buchanan for seeking to cut through this red tape.”

Save that cash

Democrats in the Florida delegation say DeSantis’ refusal to enforce a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health workers could cost the state. West Palm Beach Democrat Lois Frankel led a letter to AHCA Secretary Simone Marstiller warning the state will miss out on $1.2 million in Medicare and Medicaid funding if it doesn’t start enforcing federal law.

The CMS on Nov. 5 issued a ruling requiring vaccines for health care workers at any Medicaid-certified provider or supplier, and the Supreme Court upheld that mandate on Jan. 13. But the next day, AHCA made clear Florida won’t evaluate compliance. The federal government notified Florida on Feb. 8 it would lose funding through CMS because of the refusal.

Use it or lose it: Lois Frankel warns the state may lose out on millions.

“Clinical trials and real-world data have proved that vaccinations reduce the spread of disease, severe illness, hospitalization, and death. While your administration may not agree with the CMS rule on vaccination requirements, it remains the law of the land. This latest action is in violation of your obligations under federal law and is costing Florida taxpayers over $1.2 million. We urge you to reverse course immediately.”

All 11 Democrats representing Florida in the House co-signed the letter.

Investigation update?

It’s been weeks since several bomb threats were phoned to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the nation, including Bethune Cookman University in Daytona Beach. Now Hollywood Democrat Frederica Wilson wants to know what investigators have learned, irritated that nobody has bothered to call Congress.

The House Higher Education and Workforce Investment Committee Chair demanded an update to lawmakers, especially since new threats continue to be documented.

Memory hole: What’s up with the HBCU bomb threats, asks Frederica Wilson.

“I am outraged that the United States Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security have failed to brief Congress on developments made in its ongoing investigation of bomb threats made against HBCUs,” Wilson said. “Over the course of almost two months, HBCU students, staff, and faculty continue to be terrorized by racially charged threats and — today — Claflin University was evacuated following yet another bomb threat. I, along with many of my colleagues, have called on both the Department of Justice and Homeland Security to brief Congress on their investigation into these hate crimes and to ensure the safety of HBCU campus communities. As these threats of violence continue to rob students of their sense of safety and security, it is long past time for these federal departments to deliver this briefing.”

Wilson earlier this month led a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland calling for a federal investigation.

Wilson said members of Congress and the schools themselves should not be left waiting.

“Far too often, the concerns and priorities of our HBCUs, some of America’s most historic institutions, do not receive the level of attention they deserve,” Wilson said. “This letter serves as a reminder to HBCUs and students that we value not only their contributions to our country, but their overall safety, and delivers a strong message to perpetrators that any threat to the well-being of students will not be tolerated.”

Ten other House members co-signed Wilson’s letter, none from Florida.

Rep. Byron Donalds, like Wilson, is an HBCU alum. The Naples Republican has separately called for a House Oversight investigation of the threats.

Cruising free

Miami Republican Carlos Giménez pushed this week to lift travel advisories against cruising. He led a letter to Jeffrey Zients, the White House COVID-19 coordinator, urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to dispose of a Level 4 Travel Advisory warning against cruises.

While the CDC did not completely lift restrictions, it did drop to Level 3 warnings for cruises a day after Giménez sent his letter. That means the agency no longer recommends against taking cruises but advises all passengers to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus causing COVID-19 — including boosters.

Set sail: Carlos Giménez puts pressure on Jeffrey Zients to let cruises do their thing. Image via The Washington Post.

The pandemic completely shut down the cruise industry for most of 2020 and much of 2021. Operations in the U.S. started up again in June. The letter asserts the CDC should not stand in the way of difficult economic recovery for one of the worst-hit industries, especially one that has reopened with such caution.

“Since that time, more than 100 cruise ships have returned to U.S. waters, carrying more than 2 million people,” the letter says. “Unlike other comparable industries in the travel and tourism sector that are not subject to the CDC’s Level 4 travel warning, the cruise industry utilizes comprehensive protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including testing, vaccination, screening, sanitation, mask-wearing, and other science-backed measures.

“In fact, testing rates on cruise ships are more than 20 times greater than the testing rate on land, and vaccination rates onboard a cruise ship significantly outpace land-based environments, with many ships having upward of 100% of passengers and crew vaccinated. Indeed, these rates of testing and vaccinations far exceed what has been done on land.”

The bipartisan letter was signed by 29 House members, including 14 Florida Republicans and two Florida Democrats.

“Policy decisions related to public health should be rooted in science and data, not politics,” said Rep. Bilirakis, co-chair of the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus and one of the co-signatories. “There is clear evidence proving that cruise lines have been operating during the pandemic with appropriate safeguards to protect the public. It is wrong for the CDC to continue unfairly targeting this industry without regard to the financial detriment continued overregulation has had on the industry and related small businesses.”

No deal

Fourteen of Florida’s 16 Republican members signed a partisan letter urging the Biden administration to include Congress in any new Iran nuclear deal.

The letter spells out what Republicans would insist on to offer their support for any such deal, and warns Biden not to try an agreement without the approval of Congress.

They sought guarantees from the White House that officials would oppose lifting any economic sanctions without verifications. The letter also asks for an investigation of whether Russia’s involvement as an intermediary in U.S. negotiations with Iran has weakened Biden’s hand in the Ukrainian crisis.

In the loop: Congress wants heads up on any Iranian nuclear deal.

One-hundred-sixty-five Republicans signed a letter to Biden, including all Republican members from Florida, except Matt Gaetz and Posey.

The letter demands Senate ratification, and warns Biden, “you do not have the power.”

“Indeed, if you forge an agreement with the Supreme Leader of Iran without formal Congressional approval, it will be temporary and non-binding and will meet the same fate as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.”

That, of course, referenced the deal former President Barack Obama struck with Iran, which Trump terminated.

The members wrote, “The Iranian regime brutally represses, persecutes, tortures, and murders its own people. It wastes the Iranian people’s resources on terrorism, foreign aggression, missiles, and nuclear weapons capabilities. We hope to see the day where all U.S. sanctions on Iran can be lifted, when the U.S. and Iran can enjoy normalized relations, and when the people of Iran have a government that respects human dignity. But that day will not come if you provide sanctions relief that will fuel the regime’s corruption and incompetence at the expense of the Iranian people.”

On this day

Feb. 18, 1861 — “Inauguration of Jefferson Davis as president of the Southern Confederacy” via The New York Times — The Inaugural ceremonies were the grandest pageant ever witnessed in the South. There was an immense crowd on Capitol Hill in Alabama, consisting of a great array of the beauty, military and citizens of the different States. Davis commenced his address precisely at 1. “Called to the difficult and responsible station of Chief Executive of the Provisional Government which you have instituted,” he said. “I approach the discharge of the duties assigned me with a humble distrust of my abilities, but with a sustaining confidence in the wisdom of those who are to guide and aid me.”

Feb. 18, 1969 — “The Richard Nixon Doctrine is announced” via History.com — President Nixon announces that henceforth the United States will expect its Asian allies to tend to their own military defense. The Nixon Doctrine, as the president’s statement came to be known, clearly indicated his determination to “Vietnamize” the Vietnam War. When Nixon took office in early 1969, the United States had been at war in Vietnam for nearly four years. The bloody conflict had already claimed the lives of more than 25,000 American troops and countless Vietnamese. Despite its best efforts, the United States was no closer to victory than before.

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Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, with contributions by Scott Powers.

Staff Reports


2 comments

  • politics

    February 19, 2022 at 9:10 am

    There is a whole lot of stew here but target people yes i see that my opinion is they past you around like a passing pack sold you to the dark web to cover it up. I do not think it was Russia they were looking for altogether.Lets just say if they listen in on you they can steal your ideas includes business and concepts.before you Paten and get exclusive rights.
    I believe on should be able to communicate to themselves with out harassment
    FbI and all that also has infiltration and you should really get a judge warrant.
    And we all are not talking . .the democrats either.
    spyware tv is also another one.
    Their are many on your computer that tracks you down too so to say Russia is not the only party.
    It seems someone somewhere wanted this including texting to be a open book to locate your every movement this is hostile and deadly.

  • comment

    February 22, 2022 at 1:09 pm

    I say we say humans are a threat in their own seriously they should not throw stones.they might receive one.. that’s a circling idea.

Comments are closed.


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