Delegation for 2.25.22: Ukraine — man w/plan — refreshing — mine shaft — gas pains

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Ukraine and blame — everyone has an opinion.

Back in the USSR?

As Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the hawks in Florida’s delegation made their voice heard, calling for harsh punishments.

In a statement highly critical of President Joe Biden’s international record so far, Sen. Rick Scott said the U.S. must push for “devastating sanctions that cripple the Russian oligarchy.”

“We must be clear about what has occurred over the last 24 hours: at the direction of Vladimir Putin, Russia has violated the sovereignty of a free country and American partner, committed a blatant act of war and unlawfully and violently invaded Ukraine,” the Naples Republican said.

“Freedom in Europe is under attack, and we must acknowledge that Putin’s goal is to seize further control of wealth and power across the continent. The United States must respond with devastating sanctions and severe consequences that cripple the Russian oligarchy and Putin’s thugs and cronies both in and outside of the Kremlin.”

Joe Biden gets pressure from all sides. Image via AP.

As far as treatment of Russia goes, Democrats representing Florida in Congress seemed to hold a similar view. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, expressed more confidence the administration would effectively hold the Eurasian superpower to account.

“The violent attack on Ukraine and innocent civilians by Russian dictator Vladimir Putin will be met with the harshest sanctions to ever emanate from the free world and defensive military support for Ukraine and Eastern Europe,” she said.

“Freedom-loving people across the globe will see a strong, coordinated response from the United States, NATO and our allies. While President Biden and world leaders work together to stand up for Ukraine and democracy, Americans should unite in support of our democratic ideals and freedom and security for all people. My heart remains with the people of Ukraine as they face this unprovoked attack.”

In the delegation, the most significant difference in many ways between Republican and Democratic responses to the news out of Eastern Europe was just how much they blamed Biden.

Scott said the President “spent the last year driving America backward.” Rep. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, said: “Our allies and adversaries alike see that U.S. leadership is nowhere to be found.”

But Rep. Charlie Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat, predicted: “The U.S., European Union and our allies will meet these transgressions with fierce, unyielding pressure as we stand in solidarity with Ukraine and her people.”

And Rep. Lois Frankel praised Biden for coordinating efforts multilaterally with other G-7 leaders. “As President Biden said in his remarks this afternoon, Putin’s aggression cannot and will not go unanswered,” the West Palm Beach Democrat said. “Make no mistake that the United States, in lockstep with NATO and allies from around the world, will hold Russia accountable for its actions and the U.S. Congress stands ready to work with President Biden to issue a strong and unified response.

Rep. Dan Webster took a slightly different approach. While the Clermont Republican has leveled plenty of critiques on the administration, Webster held off in a statement on Ukraine from directly assailing the administration. But he made clear his desire for strength in America’s foreign policy.

“President Biden needs to be strong, forceful and clear-eyed — now is the time to impose real and significant economic and diplomatic costs on Russia for its invasion, not slaps on the wrist,” Webster said. “Like it or not, the U.S. is a signatory to the Budapest Memorandum in which we, along with the U.K. and Russia, provided security assurances to Ukraine in exchange for giving up their nuclear weapons after the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

Best laid plans

Scott, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, shook up the national political conversation with an 11-point political agenda for the midterms. The red meat platform presented starkly conservative messaging — and fueled immediate criticism from Democrats.

The plan stokes culture wars on abortion and anti-LGBTQ stances, quoting the Bible and making a case for a heartbeat bill:

“Men and women are biologically different, ‘male and female He created them.’ Modern technology has confirmed that abortion takes a human life. Facts are facts, the earth is round, the sun is hot, there are two genders, and abortion stops a beating heart.”

But the section earning the most attention and immediate pushback involves taxes. “All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount … Currently over half of Americans pay no income tax.”

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee immediately responded with radio ads.

“We’re making sure voters know the facts about Senate Republicans’ agenda: a tax hike on millions of seniors and over half of all Americans,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Communications Director David Bergstein. “At every opportunity, Republicans are pushing the interests of the ultra-wealthy and big corporations that get rich by spiking costs — all while working families pay the price. In 2022, voters will hold every GOP Senate candidate accountable.”

Scott, for his part, went to Fox News to deny interest in taxes. There, host Sean Hannity (falsely) stated there’s nothing in the plan about raising taxes on half of Americans, and Scott seemed to agree. “Of course not,” Scott said. “[Democratic Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer, who wants to raise taxes for everything while I’ve cut, as I was Governor, I cut taxes and fees 100 times. But Chuck Schumer, he’s all in to take every dime you have.”

The plan also states, “No ballots that show up after Election Day will be counted, ever.” This passage should be little surprise to those following Scott’s narrow win in 2018 after a recount when he fought in court against counting any vote-by-mail arriving after Election Day regardless of whether it was postmarked before.

But perhaps the most striking part of the plan is how much it promotes Scott. His name appeared in a 31-page document a total of 36 times, but no Republican Senators up for re-election this year, including Sen. Marco Rubio, are mentioned anywhere.

To hear the DSCC ad, click on the image below:

Restore, refresh

Sen. Rubio and Rep. Carlos Giménez want to reauthorize the South Florida Geographic Program. The Miami Republicans introduced the South Florida Ecosystem Enhancement Act in the Senate and House, respectively, which would reauthorize and reform the program to support ecosystem restoration and monitoring in the region.

“Restoring South Florida’s ecosystems is crucial because these habitats are the beating heart of Florida’s lifestyle and economy,” Rubio said. “Reauthorizing the South Florida Geographic Program is an important step to restoring these unique habitats.”

Marco Rubio and Carlos Giménez seek a jump-start on South Florida restoration.

The legislation boasts support from Audubon Florida, the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, the Coastal and Heartland National Estuary Partnership, the Everglades Foundation, the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, and the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.

The delegation members said the bill would aid a natural resource critical for the entire country.

“South Florida includes some of the nation’s most rich ecosystems expanding from the Everglades to the Florida Keys,” Gimenez said. “It’s an honor to partner with Sen. Marco Rubio to introduce the South Florida Ecosystem Enhancement Act. Our bill reauthorizes the South Florida Geographic Program and helps get much-needed money to South Florida ecological restoration projects. These projects will help preserve South Florida’s precious ecosystems for generations to come.”

Enemy mine

St. Augustine Beach Republican Michael Waltz expressed alarm this week at a Canadian investment in a Chinese government-owned mining operation. Now he wants to know what the Biden administration knew about the deal ahead of time. The Congressman, along with New York Republican Elise Stefanik and Texas Republican Lance Gooden, issued a letter seeking info on the acquisition of Neo Lithium Corp and the results of the U.S.-Canada Joint Action Plan for Critical Minerals Cooperation.

“Just this week the Biden administration touted its efforts to secure domestic supply of critical minerals that economic, energy and national security relies, yet our neighbors in Canada, that we have an existing action plan to address this very issue with, have rubber-stamped the Chinese Communist Party’s acquisition of a lithium mine in the Western Hemisphere,” Waltz said.

Golddigger: Michael Waltz demands to know what the administration knew and when did they know it.

“A sale of this magnitude to our greatest global adversary is deeply concerning and runs counter to the stated goal of securing a critical mineral supply chain for the U.S. and our allies. The United States and Canada have been collaborating within an action plan for two years; this result raises serious questions about the attention and progress the two countries are putting into securing the critical mineral supply chain.”

Waltz for years has sounded alarms both about China’s human rights record and its aggressive economic expansion. The letter puts pressure on Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Interior Secretary Debra Haaland, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

Funding the schools

Kissimmee Democrat Darren Soto wants the Department of Education stepping in as Gov. Ron DeSantis, and the Republican Legislature defund certain school districts.

He sent a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona sounding alarms on a plan to withhold $200 million collectively from 12 school districts that instituted mask mandates during the 2021-22 school year. All 11 Democrats in Florida’s House delegation co-signed the message.

Defund the schools? Darren Soto blasts Ron DeSantis for threatening to withhold funds for 12 school districts.

“Florida is the third-largest state, but unfortunately ranks 46th in per-pupil support,” the letter states. “These additional reductions in funding exacerbate an already strained system.”

The Central Florida Congressman noted the Orange County School District alone would lose $16.5 million, while three South Florida school districts would take a $128 million combined hit.

The school districts that implemented mandates taught more than half of the students enrolled in Florida public schools. Those districts installed mask mandates during a surge in delta variant infections near the start of the school year, shortly after DeSantis issued an executive order forbidding such requirements.

In the 2020-21 school year, nearly every district in Florida instituted mask mandates for the entire year.

Gas pains

As a war in Ukraine impacts international fuel costs, Orlando Democrat Val Demings wants House hearings on gasoline prices in the U.S. She reiterated a call for the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law to hold a hearing on the topic.

“I grew up the daughter of a maid and janitor, and affordable gas was critical for my family. Floridians need lower gas prices,” she said. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will cause major harm to Florida families at the pump. But even before the invasion, the largest oil and gas companies made hundreds of billions in profits last year, pocketing those gains with stock buybacks. We need to hold international producers and big corporations responsible as they continue to see massive profits while families struggle to make ends meet.”

Painkiller: Val Demings calls for the feds to weigh in on gas prices. Image via AP.

Demings is currently running against Rubio for Senate. She suggested Congress can ease the pain of rising prices at the pump.

“There are several actions we can take right now to protect consumers from Russian market disruptions and profit-driven price hikes,” she said. “The administration should restrict gasoline exports out of the U.S., and we should move forward with additional financial assistance to families. Additionally, the House Judiciary ACAL Committee should hold a hearing at the soonest opportunity so we can crack down on anti-competitive practices and potentially illegal price manipulations and work to bring down prices for families at the pump.”

Canceled

Webster wants to financially starve the resettlement of migrants illegally crossing the Mexican border. He filed the Stop The Betrayal Act (HR 6522) with Iowa Republican Ashley Hinson that would prohibit federal funds from being used to transport undocumented immigrants.

“I will keep advocating for and supporting policies that secure our borders and reform our immigration laws,” Webster said. “This is one of my top priorities, and I will continue to advocate for using Congress’ constitutional power of the purse to prohibit this lawless administration from continuing these actions.”

No free ride: Dan Webster wants to cancel tickets for undocumented immigrants. Image via TCPalm.

The legislation comes months after controversy about flights into Jacksonville, with Republicans in the delegation demanding information from the Department of Homeland Security on whether immigrants were being resettled in Florida.

Caring for kids

Democrats representing Florida in the House called on DeSantis to rescind executive orders to deny care of unaccompanied children crossing the border. Reps. Crist of Tampa, Frankel of West Palm Beach, and Frederica Wilson of Hollywood led a letter to the Governor calling for a reversal.

“The actions taken by Gov. DeSantis and his administration rob Florida nonprofits and faith organizations of resources they use to care for children and reunite them with their families,” said Crist, who is challenging DeSantis for Governor. “I’m proud to join with my Florida colleagues, immigrant advocates and spiritual leaders of all faiths in demanding that Gov. DeSantis turn away from this shameful, punitive act and put children ahead of politics.”

The kids are all right? Frederica Wilson calls for less ‘punitive’ treatment of unaccompanied minor immigrants.

Six other Democrats in the delegation signed the letter. Advocacy groups for immigrant children also chimed in, including First Focus on Children and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. “Florida has a noble history of welcoming immigrant children who are victims of political, social, and economic crises, including 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban minors in 1960 to 1962 in Operation Pedro Pan. All children deserve to be treated with dignity, and all children deserve to be with loving families, no matter where they come from.”

The Representatives leading the letter said this was a matter of dignity and humanity.

“Children deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of where they come from,” Frankel said. “Many of these kids fled to our country to escape violence, and the Governor’s decision to put their care at risk by threatening the organizations keeping them safe is un-American, inhumane, and wrong.”

“It is disheartening that Gov. DeSantis is willing to jeopardize the welfare of children who, in many instances, have put their lives on the line to escape traumatizing and dangerous conditions,” Wilson said. “These policies, which have no valid justification, cruelly and unnecessarily deny children the care and support that licensed caregivers are best able to provide. Child welfare experts, community and faith leaders, and Floridians agree: all children deserve to be treated with dignity.”

Thin Blue Line

Longboat Key Republican Vern Buchanan held a roundtable with Southwest Florida law enforcement officials on strategies to address crime.

“Our brave law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every single day to help those in harm’s way,” Buchanan said. “They need to know that we have their backs. As crime skyrockets across the country, today’s roundtable was important to hear directly from our front-line heroes about what they are seeing in our community as well as nationwide and learn what more we can do to support them and combat this disturbing trend.”

Vern Buchanan wants to thicken the thin blue line, Image via Buchanan’s Office.

The Bradenton event brought together voices including Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Blevin, acting Sarasota Police Chief Rex Troche and Longboat Key Police Chief George Turner, and command officers in the Manatee and Sarasota County Sheriff’s Offices.

“To bring in all of the chiefs and majors from the area and have a roundtable to discuss some of the challenges is amazing,” Troche said.

The Congressman also promoted his Thin Blue Line Act, which would increase federal penalties for murder or attempted murder of law enforcement officers and making it more likely cop killers face the death penalty. His office noted 73 police officers were shot dead nationwide in 2021, a 28% increase over the prior year; ambush-style attacks went up 125% year over year.

Truckin’

Naples Republican Byron Donalds this week became the latest Florida Republican to act on behalf of Canadian truckers trying to illegally cross the border without providing their vaccination status.

He led a letter to Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the COVID-19-related restrictions.

Byron Daniels, sending love to the Great White North. Image via CQ Roll Call.

“Draconian COVID-19 mandates such as those implemented by the authoritarian Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau and his appeaser, President of the United States Joseph R. Biden, have devastated each nation’s economy thereby inhibiting the free flow of commerce throughout North America,” Donalds said.

“Once hailed as heroes, American and Canadian truckers are being lambasted as the enemy in their fight for freedom and medical autonomy. Truckers are the backbone of our nations, and they deserve our unyielding support. I am proud to lead this effort in supporting the Freedom Convoy and demanding answers from both the American and Canadian governments about the global economic impacts of the trucker protests resulting from the countries’ overreaching vaccine mandates.”

Pro tip

This week, Ted Deutch filed bipartisan legislation encouraging greater transparency in the federal government. The Boca Raton Democrat and California Republican Darrell Issa introduced the Protecting and Enhancing Public Access to Codes Act to ensure access to specific rules and regulations.

I can see clearly now: Ted Deutch and Darrell Issa push for greater federal transparency.

“The Pro Codes Act is a win for transparency and public safety,” Deutch said. “Vital information contained in codes must remain free and available to the public. At the same time, we must reward investments made by standards development organizations. This legislation will protect the copyright of codes when they have been incorporated by reference.”

The legislation will partly protect codes and standards protections by ensuring copyright protections don’t extinguish too quickly. The bill promises free access to the public, but it still makes sure those who invest in code development can sell materials in specific formats, so long as it does not interrupt public access to information.

On this day

Feb. 25, 1839 — “Seminoles shipped west from Tampa Bay” via The Great Seminole Nation — Then-Gen. Zachary Taylor conducted 96 Seminoles to Tampa Bay. Captain Pitcairn Morrison then brought them west. The party ascended the Mississippi River, stopping at Fort Jackson, Louisiana, to switch to the Buckeye. They passed Natchez on March 28, where a boiler on the steamer exploded and killed a number of passengers. The party arrived at Little Rock on April 2, which was delayed by low water levels. They arrived at Fort Gibson on April 13.

Feb. 25, 1962 — “Legal Tender Act passed to help finance the Civil War” via History.com — This ended the long-standing policy of using only gold or silver in transactions, and it allowed the government to finance the enormously costly Civil War long after its gold and silver reserves were depleted. Soon after the war began, the federal government began to run low on specie. Several proposals involving bonds were suggested. Finally, Congress began printing money, which the Confederate government had been doing since the beginning of the war. The Legal Tender Act allowed the government to print $150 million in paper money that was not backed by a similar amount of gold and silver. Many bankers and financial experts predicted doom for the economy.

Happy birthday

Best wishes to Rep. Soto, who turns 44 today, Feb. 25.

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Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles.

Staff Reports



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