Delegation for 4.12.22: Pandemic puzzle — impeach? — amnesty — antifreeze

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Is Joe Biden slow-walking a return to normal?

Puzzling pandemic policy?

If the pandemic is no reason to stop border crossings, then mask mandates on flights should fall as well, according to Sen. Marco Rubio. Florida’s senior Senator sent an angry letter to President Joe Biden calling out hypocrisy in the slow unraveling of COVID-19-related restrictions.

Rubio said Americans have expressed a desire “for months” to move back to normalcy, something Biden seemed to acknowledge in his State of the Union address (which Rubio skipped over COVID-19 requirements). But then the administration extended a mandate on masks during airline flights through the Easter holiday.

Joe Biden’s COVID-19 protocols can be wildly inconsistent. Image via AP.

“The administration’s move, which elicited vocal disapproval from the air industry and lawsuits from 21 states, has only added to the now-familiar frustrations of simply trying to get around the country,” Rubio wrote. “However, while Americans grapple with these now-extended frustrations, your White House has worked overtime to make flying easier for those entering or attempting to move throughout the country unlawfully.”

Rubio has criticized Biden’s move to rescind Title 42, the pandemic-justified removal of undocumented immigrants who came from countries where COVID-19 is a problem. The rule seems to be the one pandemic-era regulation conservatives have wanted to be extended indefinitely.

“Your administration estimates that the change will cause as many as 18,000 migrants per day to pour across our southern border, many unmasked and unvaccinated,” Rubio wrote. “Furthermore, recent reporting suggests that if you proceed as planned, your administration is bracing for a flood of as many as 500,000 migrants to the United States in as little as six weeks’ time. If you allow this surge to proceed, you will be inflicting catastrophe on a nation already reeling from the consequences of your administration’s nonenforcement of our immigration laws.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Carlos Giménez, a Miami Republican, filed legislation that would end all pandemic-related restrictions in the country. The America Reopens Act, also co-sponsored by Gainesville Republican Kat Cammack, Naples Republican Byron Donalds and Miami Republican María Elvira Salazar, touts the support of Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, one of 21 state legal officers suing to end the mask mandate on planes.

“America has made remarkable progress combating COVID-19,” said Giménez, who notably put a number of restrictions — including mask mandates — in place while serving as Mayor of Miami-Dade County. “Millions of Americans have resumed their everyday lives — yet far too many refuse to abide by the science and have remained persistent on keeping outdated COVID-19 mandates in place. It’s time for America to reopen.”

Added Moody, “President Biden’s unfounded and unlawful mandates have frustrated employees, employers, travelers and parents alike. As Attorney General, I’ve taken this administration to court and won several times. I’m proud to stand with Congressman Carlos Giménez in supporting the America Reopens Act. The Biden administration does not have this kind of authority, and this legislation would make that even more clear.”

Impeach the President

Jacksonville Republican John Rutherford on Monday tweeted the ending of Title 42 would be just cause for impeaching Biden.

Rutherford said the action constituted “malfeasance and should be grounds for Biden’s impeachment!” The policy is currently slated to end next month.

Rutherford has been rebuffed in efforts to change policy, unsurprisingly in a Democratic House.

“With record numbers of illegal aliens coming across every day, getting rid of Title 42 would result in disaster,” he vowed in a recap email sent from his office this week. “That’s why I went to the House floor this week to request immediate consideration of the PAUSE Act, which would prevent Title 42 from being rescinded. Unfortunately, House Democrats rejected my request. I will continue to fight to keep Title 42 and to strengthen America’s border policy.”

Irritated by Amnesty

Should Amnesty International still receive federal funding? Sen. Rick Scott wants it to stop based on its “anti-Israel agenda.”

“Amnesty International has proven itself to be a sham of a ‘human rights’ organization that perpetuates anti-Semitic propaganda and refuses to hold the world’s dangerous and genocidal regimes accountable, like Communist China, Iran, Russia and Venezuela,” Scott said.

The organization received $2.5 million from the U.S. Government over the last two years, but Scott and Indiana Republican Sen. Mike Braun introduced legislation that would prohibit any more financial help.

“Just last month, the Amnesty International USA Director said, ‘We are opposed to the idea that Israel should be preserved as a state for the Jewish people.’ Under no circumstances should American taxpayer dollars subsidize this or any organization that continually acts against U.S. interests and demonizes our great ally, Israel,” Scott said. “My bill will cut off Amnesty International from federal funding and relief programs and make it abundantly clear that the United States will not support the radical left’s dangerous anti-Israel agenda. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this important bill.”

Of note, Scott’s concerns about the direction of Amnesty International are bipartisan — at least in Florida. Democratic Reps. Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz all have criticized the organization this year for similar reasons. All three joined in a statement last month from Jewish Democrats in Congress slamming Amnesty International USA Executive Director Paul O’Brien for saying American Jews believe Israel “shouldn’t exist as a Jewish state.”

“We are in full agreement that Mr. O’Brien’s patronizing attempt to speak on behalf of the American Jewish community is alarming and deeply offensive,” the statement read. “He has added his name to the list of those who, across centuries, have tried to deny and usurp the Jewish people’s independent agency.”

Heat and hypersonics

Tension persists between Panhandle Republican Matt Gaetz and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. During a House Armed Services Committee, the Congressman dressed down the General for including socialist writings in military academy curricula.

Austin denied knowing of any examples of professors or instructors encouraging support of socialism. But Gaetz criticized allowing a lecture from Thomas Pickety, who spoke on responding to China’s threat with democratic socialism.

“I don’t know what the context or content of this particular speech was,” Austin responded. “Your question was whether or not we embraced socialism. My answer is no.”

The feisty exchange degraded to both men shouting over one another and interrupting each other. It closed with Gaetz attacking the credibility of the Cabinet member.

“I’m embarrassed by your leadership. I am not embarrassed for my country,” said Rep. Gaetz. “That is so disgraceful that you would sit here and conflate your failures with the failures of the uniformed service members.”

This week, Gaetz sent a letter to Austin with further demands, calling for the declassification of a mid-March briefing on hypersonics. Gaetz said in a private briefing to members of Congress, Pentagon officials said the nation had fallen behind China and Russia in weapons development. But Austin denied that. Gaetz accused the Secretary of contradicting intelligence from those under his command.

“Your testimony on April 5, 2022, and its conflict with your department’s subject matter experts, sends a confusing message to the American people who you have vowed to defend and whose tax dollars are used to fund U.S. hypersonic weapons development,” Gaetz said. “We owe it to them to provide the most accurate assessment of how their tax dollars are being spent to further our country’s defense.”

To watch the exchange, click on the image below:

BRAVE words

St. Augustine Republican Mike Waltz this week released the last entry in a series of children’s books. BRAVE Books published “Dawn of the Brave,” which tells the story of the anthropomorphic members of Team BRAVE as they battle for Freedom Island.

“I’m excited to be part of the BRAVE Team, and love speaking to the next generation about leadership and freedom,” writes the Congressman in an official press kit.

Michael Waltz’s new children’s book extols service to our country.

He will also take part in a real-world game challenge promoting the book, the ninth in a series he has penned.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was among those promoting the title on his own social media.

“(Waltz’s) book, Dawn of the BRAVE, will teach kids the importance of service,” Gingrich tweeted, also noting “all April subscription proceeds of the book will be going to Samaritan’s Purse for its work in Ukraine.”

Romania with love

Stephanie Murphy was spotted in Romania. The Winter Park Democrat traveled to the Eastern European nation as part of a bipartisan congressional delegation, one that also includes Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

She shared pictures on Twitter of a visit with U.S. soldiers but did not disclose the location of that interaction. But the next stop for traveling lawmakers, she shared, was to a nation bordering Ukraine.

“The second leg of our congressional visit is to Romania, a stalwart American ally,” Murphy shared. “We met with the Prime Minister, parliamentary leaders and U.S. and NATO troops stationed in Romania. Romania, like Poland, is doing great work to help Ukrainian refugees.”

The inclusion of Murphy on the trip could likely be credited to her position on the powerful House Ways and Means committee and her long record on foreign policy and service in uniform as a national security analyst in the office of the Secretary of Defense.

Asian Trade

Murphy also led a letter Friday with West Virginia Republican Carol Miller urging more American trade agreements with nations in Southeast Asia.

Murphy, Miller, and nine other House members made the plea to United States Trade Representative Katherine C. Tai to improve trade with the 10 member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“As bipartisan members of Congress who support deepening our economic and trade engagement in the Indo-Pacific region, we encourage you to negotiate market access provisions through trade agreements with friends and partners in the Indo-Pacific as swiftly as possible,” the letter states.

Stephanie Murphy joins West Virginia Republican Carol Miller in calling for more Asian trade.

Murphy is a native of one of those nations, Vietnam. The other members of the association are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

“The U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement in 2017 led Asian governments to pursue several regional and bilateral preferential trade agreements without the United States,” the letter says. “These agreements … have served to transform the Indo-Pacific’s regional trade and digital economy architecture. Meanwhile, America’s leading trade competitors outside of Asia — like the European Union, Canada, and Mexico — are strengthening their own economic engagement with nations in the Indo-Pacific.”

Antifreeze

One bad season shouldn’t put a farm out of business. That’s the bipartisan opinion of Kissimmee Democrat Darren Soto and Sarasota Republican Greg Steube.

The two filed legislation, The Temperature Endorsement for Multi-Peril Policies (TEMP) Act, which they hope to get into the 2023 Farm Bill.

“This winter, a freeze caused significant damages to Florida’s citrus, sugar cane, ornamental plants, and many fruits and vegetables. Currently, specialty-crop insurance policies are expensive, leaving farmers with limited options to mitigate their losses due to freezing temperatures,” said Steube, whose district covers much of rural inland Florida. “My legislation introduces an index-based temperature policy that will give our agriculture producers an additional layer of insurance coverage should temperatures drop below freezing. The Heartland of Florida provides the country with countless products — we must do everything we can to support our agriculture industry.”

One bad season shouldn’t ruin a farmer, say Greg Steube and Darren Soto.

The bill would direct the United States Department of Agriculture to monitor the weather and offer appropriate crop insurance. If temperatures are tracked for an extended period at freezing levels, this would provide indemnity to the farmers and agriculture companies affected.

“As we continue seeing freezing winters, it is critical for us to come together and ensure that our farmers are protected from the things they cannot control,” Soto said. “I’m proud to join Congressman Steube in introducing this legislation to let our agriculture workers know that Congress stands with them.”

Let parents know

If there needs to be an extension of parental rights, Democrats Charlie Crist and Deutch suggest it should let parents know of threats of deadly violence at school. The two just filed the Parents Need to Know Act, which would require schools to inform parents about risks and threats.

“Far too many school shootings could have been prevented if proactive measures were in place to identify and act on warning signs,” said Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat. “We need to do everything we can to prevent these acts of violence and make schools safe for our children — and that starts by keeping parents informed. Colleges and universities that receive federal aid are already required to inform students of dangers on campus. Why aren’t we providing this same information to the parents of our nation’s youngest students? Our bill will do just that, helping to make students safer everywhere.”

The federal bill mirrors similar requirements put in place after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. Deutch represents the Parkland community and has worked with parents of students killed in that attack.

“When we lost 17 teenagers and teachers in our community, the state of Florida took important first steps to prevent future tragedies. In many ways, including parental notification requirements, our state led the way, and inspired other states to take their own steps to keep kids safe at school,” the Boca Raton Democrat said. “But that momentum is not enough. We need to keep moving forward — not only on a state-by-state basis but on a federal level here in Congress.

“Providing parents with timely information about credible threats to their child’s safety is one more step toward keeping all our kids safe from school shootings and other dangers. Let’s pass the Parents Need to Know Act, and let’s make sure we never again have critical information just moments too late.”

Parkland parents Tony Montalto and Phil Schentrup both voiced support for the bill. “If this law were in place in 2018, my daughter Carmen would still be here,” Schentrup said.

“My daughter Gina Montalto was murdered in the tragic and preventable Parkland massacre,” Montalto said. “I know firsthand the heartache families across our nation have felt when they send their kids to school, and they never return.”

Public health or IP

Intellectual property rights need to mean something for research companies, even during a pandemic, said Longboat Key Republican Vern Buchanan. He co-led a letter with Georgia Republican Buddy Carter asking the Biden administration to nix a plan to waive protections on the development of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Intellectual property rights encourage innovation and help boost the economy,” Buchanan said. “The Biden administration’s misguided proposal to waive IP protections will discourage innovation and make it more difficult to achieve the next lifesaving medical breakthrough. It will also serve as a massive giveaway to countries like China, Russia and India that have been stealing American innovators’ intellectual property for years.”

Vern Buchanan is pushing for more protection for intellectual properties.

Buchanan also previously introduced legislation with Nebraska Republican Adrian Smith on the topic. The Protecting American Innovation Act would prohibit administrations from waiving IP protections for U.S. companies and handing over information to hostile nations. He also pressed U.S. Trade Ambassador Katherine Tai at a Ways and Means Health Subcommittee meeting last month on the topic. That came after the administration had come to a consensus under the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement to make the vaccine research widely available.

“Your plan to deprive these American firms of their patent protections is unprecedented and will undermine future investments in lifesaving drugs and therapies,” Buchanan said in the hearing. “We need to protect American jobs and promote domestic manufacturing here in America. Your plan does the exact opposite.”

Latest positive

Florida’s newest delegation member, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, is the latest Florida lawmaker to test positive for COVID-19. Her office confirmed on Friday the Miramar Democrat’s test results.

“Congresswoman Cherfilus-McCormick received a positive test result for COVID-19 and is currently asymptomatic,” Cherfilus-McCormick spokesperson Michael McQuerry said. “The Congresswoman is fully vaccinated and boosted and is thankful for the robust protection the vaccine has provided. The Congresswoman will quarantine consistent with (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidance, and encourages everyone to get vaccinated, boosted and test regularly.”

Around the same time, she was convening local officials for a working lunch on appropriations needs.

It’s Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick’s turn with COVID-19.

“Every year, Congress is responsible for allocating funding for offices, programs and grants administered by the federal government,” Cherfilus-McCormick said. “I have the opportunity to advocate on behalf of programs that are important to Florida’s 20th Congressional District. Joining us for the working lunch were officials from Pompano Beach, Lauderhill and Tamarac to name a few.

“Those in attendance learned how to optimize FY23 Appropriations Requests, Community Project Funding opportunities and more for their municipality and how to work with my Congressional office as a resource for their success.”

Returning to Vern

Another former Buchanan staffer has returned to the Congressman’s office. Chloe Conboy, previously a press secretary for the Longboat Key Republican, now works as deputy district director. That comes after a brief stint when Conboy worked in communications for Manatee County’s government.

“When Congressman Buchanan approached me about rejoining his Congressional Office, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. I am honored to once again serve the entire Suncoast community and help advance Vern’s conservative agenda for the benefit of all Floridians in our region.”

Chloe Conboy returns to the fold as Vern Buchanan’s new deputy district director. Image via Sarasota magazine.

Conboy’s return follows that of Dave Karvelas, a former Chief of Staff for Buchanan who just returned from the lobbying world to work as the Congressman’s senior adviser. On the campaign side, consultant Max Goodman, a former campaign manager for Buchanan, just returned as a political adviser.

On this day

April 12, 1861 — “Battle of Fort Sumter” via National Geographic Society — Forces from the Confederate States of America attacked the United States military garrison at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. No one was killed. The battle, however, started the Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in American history. Seven states, including South Carolina, seceded from the U.S. months earlier. Attempts by President James Buchanan to supply troops at Fort Sumter had failed. When new President Abraham Lincoln (in office just over a month) told South Carolina’s Governor he, too, would try to supply troops at the fort, South Carolina demanded all U.S. troops evacuate Fort Sumter immediately. U.S. troops did not evacuate, but met with overwhelming force, surrendered on April 13.

April 12, 1945 — “Franklin Delano Roosevelt is dead, Harry Truman to continue policies” via The New York Times — Roosevelt, war President of the United States and the only chief executive in history who was chosen for over two terms, died suddenly and unexpectedly at 4:35 P. M. at Warm Springs, Georgia. He was 63. The President, stricken by a cerebral hemorrhage, passed from unconsciousness to death on the eighty-third day of his fourth term and in an hour of high triumph. The armies and fleets under his direction as Commander in Chief were at the gates of Berlin and the shores of Japan’s home islands as Roosevelt died, and the cause he represented and led was nearing the conclusive phase of success.

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

Staff Reports



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