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Florida’s Senators teamed up on a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland spotlighting concerns about spying by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It’s the latest in an ongoing series of China blasts from Republicans Marco Rubio and Rick Scott.
The letter comes amid concerns over a policy shift during the Joe Biden administration, replacing the China Initiative with a “Strategy for Countering Nation-State Threats.”
Senators expressed concern over how the new approach would continue focusing on economic espionage and covert operations.
The letter differentiates between Chinese Americans and the mainland China ruling party.
“Combating the CCP threat should not be confused with bias toward Chinese people, much less Americans of Chinese descent. In reality, the CCP represents neither of these groups of people. Not only does the CCP not represent the Chinese people, but the greatest victims of CCP’s totalitarian model of governance are the Chinese people themselves,” the letter reads.
“The DOJ should continue to take all appropriate steps to dispel any narratives, often perpetuated by the CCP itself, that countering real security threats posed by the CCP implicates Asian Americans.”
However, the letter goes on to suggest a disproportionate targeting of Asian Americans: “Given that the CCP often, though by no means exclusively, seeks out recruits from within the Chinese diaspora, if future prosecutions by the DOJ resulted in a ‘racially disparate impact,’ or one that activists allege creates a ‘chilling atmosphere for scientists,’ will your Department continue to ‘use all of [its] tools to block authoritarian regimes that seek to extend their tactics of repression beyond their shores?’”
Names in the letter include Utah’s Mike Lee, Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy, Texas’ Ted Cruz, Oklahoma’s James Lankford, Wyoming’s Cynthia Lummis and Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, all Republicans.
Scott weighed in on Wednesday on the death of the first female Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, extolling her legacy during an interview where he discussed Ukraine policy.
“Clearly a trailblazer. Clear advocate for democracy all across the world. She will go down in history as a great American and somebody who was always fighting to try to make democracy in the United States and around the world,” Scott said on BBC World.
He made a case for U.S. support of Ukraine, including repeating calls for planes to go to the country under attack.
Scott has been one of the more forceful advocates on the right for American support for Ukraine, and it was apropos he recognized Albright’s legacy. Her tenures as both Secretary of State and Ambassador to the United Nations during the Bill Clinton administration saw the United States reckon with the geopolitical landscape after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Scott, for his part, has gotten increasingly comfortable with Albright-esque turns of phrase.
“Don’t take anything off the table,” Scott said. “I would never tell (Vladimir) Putin what I’m going to do or not going to do.”
Soft on crime?
Meanwhile, Scott took a shot at Biden’s Supreme Court nominee during a political speech in Sarasota. He mentioned the ongoing confirmation hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson, the President’s choice to replace Stephen Breyer on the high court.
“We have a Supreme Court nominee who doesn’t think sexual predators should serve hardly any time,” he said.
Republicans have raised questions about whether Jackson has given lenient sentences as a federal judge. When Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, introduced the notion in questioning this week, Jackson denied that was the case.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” she said. “These are some of the most difficult cases that a judge has to deal with because we’re talking about pictures of sex abuse of children. We’re talking about graphic descriptions that judges have to read and consider when they decide how to sentence in these cases, and there’s a statute that tells judges what they’re supposed to do.
“I impose a significant sentence and all of the additional restraints that are available in the law.”
The Washington Post reports that Hawley focused on a 2013 case where Jackson sentenced then-19-year-old Wesley Hawkins to three months of jail and 73 months of supervised release in a plea deal. That was after authorities seized a laptop containing numerous graphic images of children.
Jackson grew up in Miami and, if confirmed, will be the first Supreme Court Justice from Florida.
Orlando Democrat Val Demings joined a bilateral push among members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence for the American intelligence community (IC) to disclose more information that could protect Ukrainian civilians from the Russian war.
Demings co-signed a letter with other committee members sent to directors of various intelligence agencies. The letter urged the intelligence community to prioritize declassifying American intelligence that could protect Ukrainian civilians. Suggested moves include identifying safe evacuation corridors; declassifying information on Russia’s acts that could amount to war crimes; and documenting and cataloging Russian actions in Ukraine that could lead to potential war crimes proceedings.
“As Russia intensifies its indiscriminate killing of Ukrainians, we believe it is vital the IC continues maximizing intelligence sharing with our Ukrainian and international partners and declassifying intelligence that reveals Russia’s malign intentions and actions, including any potential war crimes. In this ongoing conflict, each day matters, and we hope that, in coordination with our diplomats, you consider all the ways in which you can leverage IC capabilities to help save lives of Ukrainian civilians,” the letter reads.
“Though the possibility of accountability appears distant today, we have a responsibility to bear witness. The present moment tests our collective resolve to defend human rights and freedoms.”
A hero’s dedication
Stephanie Murphy planned to deliver remarks at the dedication ceremony Friday for Sanford’s U.S. Army Reserve Center. The center will be named after the late Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, after the Winter Park Democrat led congressional efforts to award him the Medal of Honor posthumously.
Also scheduled to attend are Army Maj. Gen. Janelle Shawley, Army Command Sgt. Maj. Quentin Fenderson and Cashe’s sister, Kasinal Cashe White.
Cashe, a Sanford native who grew up in Oviedo, saved the lives of numerous soldiers in his unit after an explosive device hit their vehicle in Iraq in 2005. He died from his wounds, but not before dragging others out of the burning vehicle, even while Cashe was on fire.
Murphy picked up on the family’s long-running and largely stalled effort to get Cashe’s Silver Star upgraded to a Medal of Honor. She pushed it through to a successful award last year, with an assist from St. Augustine Beach Republican Michael Waltz, himself an Iraq War Army veteran.
Biden awarded the medal to Cashe on Dec. 16.
In Greg Steube’s opinion, whether you’ve had a COVID-19 shot shouldn’t determine if you get a kidney.
The Sarasota Republican on Thursday filed the Maintaining Objectionable Orders Narrows the Sick’s Hope for Organ Transplants (MOONSHOT) Act. The measure prohibits using COVID-19 vaccination status to determine where a person lands on an organ transplant waiting list.
“There have been several heartbreaking incidents reported in which patients were denied a much-needed organ transplant or removed from the transplant waiting list entirely due to their COVID-19 vaccination status. This can oftentimes have a life-or-death impact,” Steube said.
In January, a Boston hospital denied a heart transplant to a patient based on him not being vaccinated against COVID-19.
“My legislation would stop hospitals from enforcing their overreaching and life-threatening policies that discriminate against those on the organ transplant waiting list based on their vaccine status. Vaccination should be a decision that patients make with their doctors, and those in need of an organ transplant are no exception.”
Meanwhile, Naples Republican Byron Donalds wants to take his mask off during plane trips. The Congressman praised the trade association Airlines for America for calling for an end to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines requiring the use of face coverings during flights.
“During the global health crisis, U.S. airlines have supported and cooperated with the federal government’s measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. We are encouraged by the current data and the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions from coast to coast, which indicate it is past time to eliminate COVID-era transportation policies,” reads a letter.
Signing the message to Biden were CEOs for Airlines for America, Alaska Air Group, American Airlines, Atlas Air Worldwide, Delta Air Lines, FedEx Express, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines Holdings and UPS Airlines.
For his part, Donalds wanted an end to COVID-19-related requirements for quite some time.
“I applaud the members of the Airlines for America for taking matters into their own hands and demanding that the administration drop the useless and ineffective mask policies on airplanes and finally return to normal,” he said.
“The CDC nor the ‘experts’ can provide any data to suggest a single person contracted COVID from flying or that transmission is higher from 30,000 feet. If liberal Los Angles can host a jammed-packed Super Bowl, people can fly maskless or masked if desired. Democrats must terminate their radical mandates and relinquish their authoritarian iron fist on American corporations and citizens.”
Biden imposed a mandate days after taking office in January 2021. The Transportation Security Administration recently extended the requirement through April 18.
Obamacare survives again
Obamacare outlasted the Donald Trump administration — despite his labeling it “a disaster” — and Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz marked the 12th anniversary of its passage with a plea for midterm voters to support Democrats who will preserve it.
A record number of Floridians — 2.7 million — have the “health safety blanket” known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As Wasserman Schultz pointed out in a virtual news conference this week, it has expanded access to care, eliminated lifetime caps on coverage, and secured protections for millions living with preexisting conditions.
“Republicans have spent those last 12 years trying to steal that blanket from American families, but Democrats beat them back,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Yet, as we speak, Republicans are still looking for ways to set this security blanket on fire.”
Even though Trump used the mantra “repeal and replace” with what he said would be a “fantastic” plan, Wasserman Schultz said no viable plan materialized.
“The totality of the current Republican health care plan is three words: Repeal the ACA,” she said.
In January, Florida again led the nation in the number of residents who signed up for individual health insurance coverage during the 2022 open enrollment period.
Floridians like Wasserman Schultz — a survivor of breast cancer — would lose the access to insurance that Obamacare has guaranteed if Republicans take control, she argued.
Health care attack
While new congressional lines are not yet in place, national Democrats already started sharpening attacks on a freshman Republican in the delegation — and it also involved the ACA. On the exact anniversary of the federal law, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee tailored an assault on Miami Republican Carlos Giménez.
An email blast nicked Giménez for campaigning against Obamacare in 2020 when he defeated Democratic incumbent Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. It also looked toward his history as Miami-Dade County Mayor, when he shut down the county’s Health Care Planning Office in 2013 on the first day residents could enroll in the state exchange. Since taking office in the House, Giménez voted against the American Rescue Plan, which also included measures for reducing health care premiums.
All this happened as Florida led the nation in enrollment for plans through the ACA, with the Miami-Dade market the source of about 500,000 enrollments.
“If Carlos Giménez had it his way, he would kick hundreds of thousands of Miamians off their health care plans, because that is exactly what a repeal of the Affordable Care Act would do,” said DCCC spokesperson Abel Iraola. “Giménez’s insistence on taking away health care protections in the most ACA-enrolled county in the country goes to show just how much more he values loyalty to a party over serving his constituents.”
Miami Republican María Elvira Salazar hosted a roundtable with business leaders in South Florida as she promoted the Dignity Act, an alternative immigration reform bill she authored.
“I am very glad to hear from community leaders around Miami and answer their questions about my proposal to address the complex problems our country faces around immigration,” Salazar said. “As your voice in Washington, I am working diligently to solve one of the most complex issues in our community and across America. That is why introduced the Dignity Act, which fully secures our border and addresses the systemic issues in our immigration system through common-sense solutions.”
The proposal could face a tough road forward regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans hold control of the House. Her event showcased support from business and faith leaders in a region rich with constituents with Latino roots not afraid to swing left or right with their votes.
“We congratulate Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar for taking a step forward and proposing the Dignity Law as an alternative to solve an immigration system that needs immediate reform,” said Indira Morales, President of Organización Hondureña Francisco Morazán, a Honduran advocacy group. “The contribution of the 11 million immigrants to the development of this beautiful nation is undeniable, and a humanitarian solution is necessary for thousands of families who find themselves in a migratory limbo.”
Added Edgar Ordóñez, a senior pastor of the New Hope in Christ Ministry: “I think DIGNITY is an answer to a growing immigration problem that no one wants to tackle because it offers a righteous path to what this country is all about. Freedom and opportunity for all.”
The Agriculture Council of America came out in force Tuesday for a piece of bilateral climate legislation as part of National Ag Day. With the message of “Growing a Climate Tomorrow,” lobbyists urged House passage of the Growing Climate Solutions Act (HR 2820), co-sponsored by Democrats Ted Deutch, Al Lawson, Darren Soto and Republicans Giménez, John Rutherford and Salazar, among 70 other Representatives.
A companion bill (S 1251) notably passed in the Senate last June by a 98-2 vote, with both Rubio and Scott voting in support.
The bill would allow farmers and foresters to participate in carbon markets, with a certification program run by the Agriculture Department. It’s a proposal experts believe could reduce pollution and threats to the atmosphere overall without hurting the ability of farmers and ranchers to continue producing food.
On this day
March 25, 1965 — “Salem to Montgomery march ends” via The Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute — During the final rally, held on the steps of the Capitol in Montgomery, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed: “The end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the White man, not of the Black man. That will be the day of man as man.” Afterward, a delegation of march leaders attempted to deliver a petition to Gov. George Wallace but was rebuffed.
March 25, 1776 — “George Washington awarded first Congressional medal” via Armchair General — Appropriately, the first American soldier honored with a medal for combat action was General Washington. The Continental Congress awarded Washington the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of driving British forces from Boston. However, this was not a medal worn on the uniform as we think of military medals today. Washington himself devised the first American combat decoration designed to be worn by the recipient. Washington knew recognizing the heroism and valor of the common soldier reinforced these qualities throughout the entire army.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, with contributions by A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis and Scott Powers.