Delegation for 3.1.22: Outta here — SOTU — Pulse — no control — Miami justice

capitol u.s. green 9.30.19
Another Florida Democrat to retire; how will the delegation stand?

Deutch out

After seven terms in the U.S. House, Rep. Ted Deutch will not seek an eighth.

The Boca Raton Democrat announced Monday he will not run for re-election; instead, Deutch will take a position as the next CEO of the American Jewish Committee.

“In my seven terms in Congress, I have worked hard and tried to find common ground. I’m proud of my work to make our communities safer from gun violence, strengthen Social Security and protect our most vulnerable seniors, and ensure Holocaust survivors can live in dignity,” Deutch said.

“I’m proud of the many bipartisan ways we’ve come together — to provide resources for those battling eating disorders, to help seniors at risk of fraud, and to combat climate change. And in a dangerous world, I’ve worked with my colleagues to fight terrorism and rogue regimes like Iran, and to support our military and veterans, including securing recognition for heroic World War II, Korea, and Vietnam heroes who had been denied the honor they deserved.”

Out of here: Eight is more than enough for Ted Deutch.

The sunsetting of Deutch’s House career prompted praise from colleagues within the delegation. Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Hollywood Democrat who previously served with Deutch in the state Senate, recalled the duo’s long friendship and similar career path. “Since his election to Congress in 2010, he has exemplified unparalleled knowledge of foreign affairs and integrity, specifically as Chairman of the Ethics Committee. We’ll miss you, Congressman Deutch!” she tweeted.

A new retirement also prompted cooing from the right.

“In South Florida, Republicans very much look forward to flipping Ted Deutch’s seat and making it even more painfully obvious why Democrats can’t even recruit candidates there,” said Julia Friedland of the Republican National Committee.

Deutch is the 31st Democrat to announce he won’t seek re-election, the fourth from Florida. No Republicans in the Florida delegation signaled an intent to retire (yet).

Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Winter Park Democrat, called Deutch a terrific member. “His retirement is a loss for this institution, for his colleagues who will miss him dearly, and — above all — for his beloved South Florida constituents,” she posted. “He’ll be a superb leader of the American Jewish Committee.”

But Murphy is also bowing out of Congress at the end of the term, announcing in December she would retire. Meanwhile, Reps. Charlie Crist and Val Demings will forgo re-election to run for Governor and Senator, respectively.

Redistricting hasn’t concluded in Florida, but Deutch and Demings will most likely leave behind Democratic-leaning seats. That’s not necessarily true of Crist and Murphy, who could vacate swing seats or even Republican-friendly territory depending on which plans go into effect for the 2022 election cycle.

Skipping SOTU

President Joe Biden today will give his first official State of the Union address. But there’s some question as to which Floridians expect to attend. In an interview last week, Sen. Marco Rubio told Spicer & Co. he wouldn’t attend the speech this year based on objections to COVID-19 precautions.

“They want you to take a test, wear a K-95 mask, and sit up in the gallery and go through a metal detector. I’m done with all that theater stuff,” Rubio said. “Back in March or April of 2020, we didn’t know a lot about this disease, and we were a lot more careful about it. Now we’ve got vaccines, we’ve got treatments, we know a lot more about it. At some point, we’ve got to end with this stuff. It’s just theater, it’s just a game, so you know what, I’ll watch the replays on television.”

No dice: Marco Rubio takes a pass on the SOTU. Image via A.G. Gancarski.

Meanwhile, Sen. Rick Scott, as of Monday, told News Talk 101 he also was contemplating skipping, more because of political objections.

“I don’t want to feel so obligated to stand up and say, ‘That’s a lie.’ Because that’s what you feel like,” Scott said. “What you feel like when you’re listening … is like ‘that’s not true’ and ‘that’s not true’ and ‘that’s not true.’ And so, why do it?”

Also not participating? The Florida National Guard. Gov. Ron DeSantis announced via a tweet he would refuse to dispatch any guardsmen from the Sunshine State to Washington, rejecting a request from Biden.

Miami robes

When Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson as an associate justice for the U.S. Supreme Court, he likely set in motion the seating of Florida’s first member of the highest court in the land. A graduate of Miami Palmetto Senior High and former clerk to Justice Stephen Breyer will likely succeed her old boss on the bench. But she will have first to navigate confirmation in a 50-50 Senate.

A look through the 17 chief justices and 103 associate judges to ever serve on the Supreme Court shows none hailed from Florida. So, will fellow Floridians back her when the fight comes before the 100 kings in the Senate?

Rubio released a statement that clarifies local nostalgia won’t be what drives the decision on his fellow Miami native.

“President Biden wrongly believes the Supreme Court should act as a legislative branch, actively overriding the will of the people and the Congress,” Rubio said. “My decision will be based on whether Judge Jackson has a demonstrated commitment to original intent, judicial restraint, and the understanding that the Supreme Court is a ‘trier of law’ appellate court and not a ‘trier of fact’ trial court. I will not support any nominee that believes it is appropriate for judges to craft new policies and create rights instead of interpreting and defending the Constitution as written.”

Rubio didn’t cast a vote when the Senate confirmed Jackson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in a 53-44 vote last year. Scott, meanwhile, voted against confirming her to the job she holds today. He hasn’t offered any comment to date on how he will greet Jackson’s potential ascension, but that prior vote signals the Naples Republican won’t be the one ushering her nomination through the Senate.

Handle with care

While most Americans would like to see their mail shipped with greater priority, Scott said U.S. Postal Service reform isn’t something that should be rushed.

Scott and Sen. Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican, sent a letter to Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer suggesting a legislative package needs more careful inspection.

“To date, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has not held one hearing or member meeting on this bill, nor has the bill even been considered at a markup. The bill increases costs in the Medicare program, which will lead to higher premiums and more national debt,” the letter reads.

You can’t rush snail mail, says Rick Scott.

“We simply want the U.S. Senate to have the opportunity to work on this, improve it, and deliver a bill that truly works. This bill does not fix the underlying issues with the Postal Service, nor does it make it profitable. This bill does not reduce the cost to the federal government, but instead reduces the cost to the Postal Service and shifts that increased cost to Medicare beneficiaries.”

The Postal Service Reform Act of 2022 (HR 3076) passed in the House via a 342-92 vote on Feb. 8. In the lower chamber, Florida Republicans Vern Buchanan, Kat Cammack, Byron Donalds, Scott Franklin, Matt Gaetz, Bill Posey and Greg Steube were among the “no” votes.

Scott and Risch voiced support for some reforms included in the legislation, such as enhanced support for rural communities, but there needs to be greater comprehensive reform before the bill leaves the Senate. It also deserves to have its impact scored by the Congressional Budget Office, which has already flagged a $6.1 billion increase in Medicare costs between 2025 and 2031 associated with the legislation.

Scott specifically called for a fiscal analysis looking beyond a 10-year horizon.

“Without doubt, we support getting something done to reform the Postal Service and ensure it is more accountable to taxpayers, but we must have the opportunity to improve this bill before voting on it,” Scott wrote.

Plan B

​​The Florida House has moved forward with a strategy for congressional redistricting, but Tallahassee Democrat Al Lawson isn’t impressed. The Congressman criticized a controversial plan that includes a map replacing his Tallahassee-to-Jacksonville spanning district with a heavily Black seat confined to the Jacksonville area.

“I am disappointed that Speaker (Chris) Sprowls caved to the demands of Ron DeSantis to push a partisan, unconstitutional congressional map. Never in our state’s history has the Florida Legislature submitted two maps for review — one that is clearly unconstitutional and a second ‘in case we get caught’ map,” he said.

Meh: A two-map solution does little for Al Lawson. Image via Facebook.

Of note, the Florida House did not consider either of two draft maps submitted by DeSantis’ office that would have eliminated any minority access seats north of Palm Beach County. And sources within Tallahassee believe Lawson or another Black Democrat would win in the seat on the House’s primary map.

But Lawson said dissolving the existing configuration of the district, which was put in place by the Florida Supreme Court in 2015, ignores a shared history in connected communities.

“The proposed Congressional District 5 divides minority communities of interest across North Florida, leaving all Black voters west of Jacksonville unrepresented,” he said.

“Following the Civil War, newly freed African Americans remained in what is now the I-10 corridor where many of their descendants continue to reside. House Bill 7503, as amended, adopts the intent of Ron DeSantis’ unconstitutional map by denying these communities of interest a voice in Congress.”

Checking for Pulse

Rep. Demings of Orlando joined in wide criticism of legislation being considered in the Florida Legislature regarding teaching about LGBTQ identities. She condemned the measure critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill as it’s under Florida Senate consideration.

“It is disgraceful that cynical, ambitious politicians are endangering LGBTQ children, treating them as political pawns, trying to criminalize their very existence,” she said. “We have a sacred responsibility to protect the health and safety of all children and to help them flourish and grow.”

Val Demings draws a bright line from Pulse to Don’t Say Gay.

Demings represents the Orlando area in Congress, and her husband, Jerry, was Orange County Sheriff during the response to the 2016 Pulse shooting, the deadliest attack against LGBTQ people in U.S. history.

“Under this bill, a teacher could be sued for telling their class about the Pulse shooting or for allowing a student to talk about their gay parents. This is a bill of censorship and fear,” she said.

“When did we become so afraid of each other? In the greatest nation on Earth, we should not be afraid of our neighbors and our differences. As a former social worker and police detective, I investigated crimes against children. I choose to continue to stand up for all children. My message is this: leave our kids alone.”

Out of control

Daniel Webster says it’s time to close a loophole in gun laws. Not the gun show loophole.

The “gun control loophole.”

The Clermont Republican said vague language in the federal statute allows the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to conduct crackdowns that violate the constitutional rights of legal gun owners. He wants to scrub the words “any other weapon” from the National Firearms Act.

Webster filed language with Texas Republican Chip Roy in the House to do just that.

Gun grab: Daniel Webster loses control. Image via AP.

“The right to safe and responsible firearms ownership is part of America’s Constitution and continues to contribute to individual and public safety,” Webster said. “I will not stand by and allow the ATF and (Department of Justice) to attack our constitutional rights and target law-abiding citizens.”

Webster said that blasting the expansive “any” language from the law would protect ownership rights for open-barreled rifles and short-barreled shotguns. The group Gun Owners of America agrees and endorse the legislation.

“The federal government has no business taxing and registering privately owned firearms with a catchall term like ‘any other weapon’ or AOW,” said Aidan Johnston, GOA director of federal affairs. “With the Biden administration weaponizing definitions from the draconian National Firearms Act of 1934 to ban as many as 40,000,000 lawfully acquired guns like AR-15s, Rep. Chip Roy’s repeal of federal AOW regulations could not come at a better time.”

Eye eye

Congress may not be able to restore eyesight to the blind. But Palm Harbor Republican Gus Bilirakis said at least Medicare could help cover low-vision devices.

The bespectacled Congressman introduced the bipartisan Medicare Demonstration of Coverage for Low Vision Devices Act with New York Democrat Carolyn Maloney. If passed, the bill will create a five-year national demonstration project to prove the value of covering devices Medicare doesn’t pay for today.

“As a visually impaired American, I have firsthand knowledge of the difficulties that accompany this condition. Simple tasks can be a significant challenge, and low-vision assistive devices are often required for essential life function,” Bilirakis said.

See clearly: Gus Bilirakis understands visual imparity.

“Sadly, many of these products are out of reach for seniors who live on a fixed income, and the devices’ exclusion from Medicare necessitates a difficult choice between extreme financial hardship or disengagement from these vital activities. I view this legislation as a preventive measure that will help seniors stay healthy, active and self-sufficient for a longer period of time. This is not only better in terms of quality of life for our seniors, but also will result in reduced overall financial cost to the Medicare system. I am hopeful that the demonstration project authorized by this good, bipartisan legislation will help validate this approach.”

Low vision devices include magnifiers and special optical devices. Several senior and vision advocacy groups endorsed the bill.

“Medicare coverage of low vision devices would be life-changing for Americans with vision impairments,” Maloney said. “It would give them the ability to partake in everyday activities, whether it be reading a book, watching television, or safely crossing the street. We must ensure that Medicare beneficiaries have affordable access to necessary medical devices.”

Farmhand

As the Representative for Florida’s rural Heartland, Steube wants agriculture leaders to offer formal guidance on issues important to them. Last week, the Sarasota Republican’s office formed an Agriculture Advisory Committee.

“Agriculture is the backbone of Florida’s 17th District. As your Representative, it’s my job to advocate in Washington for Florida’s growers and agriculture workers,” the Congressman said. “Thank you to all the organizations who participated in our advisory meeting launch. I look forward to many more discussions of our shared goals and legislative priorities. Together we’ll ensure Florida’s agriculture industry continues to remain strong.”

Saddle up: Greg Steube rides tall for Florida agriculture. Image via Facebook.

The committee met for the first time at the Agri-Civic Center Exposition Hall in Arcadia, where members tackled issues including water, livestock, immigration labor visas, the supply chain and the priorities of the upcoming Congressional Farm Bill.

Steube’s district covers heavily agricultural areas in Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands, Okeechobee and Polk counties. Redistricting plans in the Legislature show Polk County likely will become part of a Central Florida district next year, but the other areas will remain in Steube’s district, which may be renumbered. A plan proposed separately by DeSantis would shed coastal areas from Steube’s district while keeping much of Polk and leaving the rural inland portions intact.

On this day

March 1, 1974 — “Federal grand jury indicts seven Richard Nixon aides” via The New York Times — A federal grand jury today indicted seven men, all former officials of Nixon‘s administration or his 1972 re-election campaign, on charges of covering up the Watergate scandal. Never before have so many close and trusted advisers of an American President faced criminal accusations in a single indictment. The indictment accused one defendant, H.R. Haldeman, the former White House chief of staff, of lying when he quoted the President as saying “it would be wrong” to raise hush money for the perpetrators of the original Watergate burglary.

March 1, 2014 — “Barack Obama warns Vladimir Putin against military intervention in Ukraine” via Reuters — President Obama warned Russia against any military intervention in Ukraine after the country’s new leaders accused Moscow of deploying forces in the Crimea region. A week after Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in Kyiv, armed men took control of two airports in Crimea in what Kyiv described as an invasion and occupation by Moscow’s forces in a region with an ethnic Russian majority. Acting President Oleksander Turchinov said Russia, which has a naval base in Crimea, was following a scenario like the one before it went to war with fellow former Soviet republic Georgia in 2008 over two breakaway regions.

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

Staff Reports



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