- Al Lawson
- Byron Donalds
- Caribbean Basin Security Initiative
- Charlie Crist
- Donald Trump
- Eastern Shipbuilding Group
- Florida Delegation
- Greg Steube
- Joy Reid
- Kat Cammack
- Kathy Castor
- Kevin McCarthy
- Lois Frankel
- Marco Rubio
- Maria Elvira Salazar
- Matt Gaetz
- Michael Waltz
- Neal Dunn
- Protecting American Capital Act
- Rick Scott
- Ron DeSantis
- SAFE Act
- Scott franklin
- Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick
- Stephanie Murphy
- STOP CCP Act
- TASK Act
- The Delegation
- Val Demings
To the stars
When Alan Shepard became the first American to go to space, he rode atop a Mercury Redstone that launched from Cape Canaveral. When Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong flew to the moon, their flight departed from Kennedy Space Center. Should the nation’s new contingent of space soldiers also set up shop on Florida’s Atlantic coast?
Certainly, Florida’s congressional delegation thinks so. A bipartisan band of star watchers representing the Sunshine State this week urged Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall to make Florida the permanent headquarters for the Space Force’s Space Training and Readiness Command, or STARCOM.
Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and Reps. Stephanie Murphy and Bill Posey penned a bipartisan, bicameral letter arguing the Space Coast has always been the first stop on America’s passage to the final frontier.
“Every crewed mission to space in our nation’s history has launched from Brevard County, Florida,” the letter notes. “From Apollo, to the Space Shuttle, and the future Artemis missions, Florida has served as our nation’s gateway to the stars. NASA and DoD (the Department of Defense) formed significant bonds with the local community, private industry, and academic institutions for more than half a century.”
Specifically, the lawmakers advocated for the Patrick Space Force Base and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
All but four members of Florida’s congressional delegation co-signed the letter; Democratic Reps. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Val Demings, Lois Frankel and Al Lawson did not.
The letter from Florida lawmakers arrived weeks after the Air Force announced Patrick SFB was among six finalists for STARCOM. Whichever base is chosen will be one of three field commands responsible for the development, education and training of the next generation of space professionals, as well as establishing the new field of space warfighting doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures and testing new Space Force systems.
Site surveys begin this month. Other bases in the running include Los Angeles Air Force Base and Vandenberg Space Force Base in California and Buckley Space Force Base, Schriever Space Force Base and Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado.
A number of criteria, including community support, will dictate the final selection, military officials state. Staff at Patrick AFB note the base remains the only finalist with capacity for Delta 10 wargaming.
While Rubio didn’t have a vote on disbanding the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a delegation member from Orange County expressed fury at his vocal support of the deal. Demings, an Orlando Democrat and likely the challenger Rubio will face in the 2022 General Election, slammed the sitting Senator over the elimination of Walt Disney World’s self-governing district.
Demings on MSNBC dissed a bill signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis that dissolves Reedy Creek next June. Host Joy Reid, whose own reporting career began in Florida, asked Demings about the potential “debt bomb” the move could deliver to local government.
“Disney is in my district. I represent Disney,” Demings said. “Disney has been a great community partner for well over 50 years.”
Demings continued by saying, “Clearly this decision to strip away Disney’s independent status is not clearly thought out. I don’t know if it was made in the heat of the moment but it does come with a cost.”
Earlier in the day, Rubio told local Orlando station Fox 35 he had no problem with the decision.
“I don’t think Disney is immune from any criticisms that it receives and frankly I think it should always be questioned about whether it should have anything that’s special like being its own county,” Rubio said.
Chinese investment crackdown
Sen. Scott has introduced more bills in the Senate aimed at limiting China’s financial power over U.S. investors.
“We know Communist China will stop at nothing to exploit American markets and take advantage of U.S. investors and companies doing business within its country,” Scott said. “Communist China poses a clear and present threat to the U.S. economy and its top targets are our investors, markets, supply chains and jobs. I continue to strongly advocate for all American investors and business leaders to cut ties with Communist China, and forcing transparency to expose both financial and national security risks is absolutely necessary to achieve this.”
He introduced the Sanction Transactions Originating from Pernicious Chinese Companies and Policies (STOP CCP) Act to close sanction loopholes. It also expands the jurisdiction of existing U.S. investment restrictions targeting Chinese entities placed on a Chinese military industrial list.
The Protecting American Capital Act, introduced with Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, would require the Treasury Department to provide an annual report on U.S. financial exposure from investments in the Chinese economy.
The Transactions and Sourcing Knowledge (TASK) Act, co-sponsored by Rubio, would direct the Securities and Exchange Commission to crack down on transactions with businesses benefitting from forced labor in the Xinjiang region.
Finally, the Secure America’s Financial Exchanges (SAFE) Act would require companies going public to disclose to investors any ties to the Chinese government before being listed on American financial exchanges.
“Chinese companies largely operate under the control of the Chinese Communist Party, and if they continue to act in bad faith, we cannot as a country continue to invest and provide capital to their regime. This package will do just that,” Scott said. “I’m proud to have such strong support from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in our fight to hold Communist China accountable and keep Americans’ finances and retirements safe.”
The release of post-Jan. 6 audio of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy trashing other Republicans continues to shake Washington. The recordings have also now rattled Florida, as criticisms of Panhandle Republican Matt Gaetz surfaced.
The New York Times published recordings of McCarthy expressing dread that far-right members of his own caucus would incite violence against the government. He identified Gaetz by name in a Jan. 10 call with other party leaders, including Minority Whip Steve Scalise. He did so as Gaetz stepped up criticisms of Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney, then the GOP Conference Chair.
“He’s putting people in jeopardy,” McCarthy said about Gaetz. “And he doesn’t need to be doing this. We saw what people would do in the Capitol, you know, and these people came prepared with rope, with everything else.”
Gaetz, one of former President Donald Trump’s most vocal defenders before and after the ex-President’s supporters stormed the Capitol, responded to the release of the audio with a scathing statement on the leadership of his own party.
“Rep. McCarthy and Rep. Scalise held views about President Trump and me that they shared on sniveling calls with Liz Cheney, not us,” Gaetz said. “This is the behavior of weak men, not leaders. Folks know what I think because I tell them clearly, directly, as I did when I held the largest event in Wyoming political history (without a rodeo element) days after these recordings were taken.
“While I was protecting President Trump from impeachment, they were protecting Liz Cheney from criticism. They deemed it incendiary or illegal to call Cheney and (Adam) Kinzinger ‘Anti-Trump,’ a label both proudly advertise today. On the bright side, you no longer have to be a lobbyist with a $5,000 check to know what McCarthy and Scalise really think. You just have to listen to their own words as they disparage Trump and the Republicans in Congress who fight for him.”
A Coast Guard decision to add to its fleet could mean jobs for Florida’s Panhandle. The military branch just announced a change to its contract with Panama City-based Eastern Shipbuilding Group to call for construction of another offshore patrol cutter.
Panama City Republican Neal Dunn welcomed the news.
“The U.S. Coast Guard’s decision to include a fourth offshore patrol cutter in their contract with the Panama City-based Eastern Shipbuilding Group is outstanding news for Florida’s Second Congressional District,” the Congressman said.
“This OPC program generates hundreds of skilled jobs and provides economic benefits for thousands of families in our district. Additionally, this is a vital program for U.S. security and contributes to Florida’s commitment to economic opportunity. I’d like to congratulate the Eastern Shipbuilding team. I know you will do an exceptional job, and I appreciate your contributions to our district.”
OPCs remain the highest investment priorities for the Coast Guard. The military branch will use the ships for work suited neither for national security cutters, which are best used to patrol open ocean, nor for fast response cutters, designed to serve areas much closer to shore. The new ships will replace 270-foot and 210-foot endurance cutters in use now.
St. Augustine Beach Republican Michael Waltz wants the Treasury Department to investigate Forbes over a business deal with a Chinese company. He sent a letter this week to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to scrutinize the purchase of Magnum Open, a Chinese special purchase acquisition company.
Forbes last August announced it would go public following a $630-million merger deal with Magnum Opus. But Waltz expressed concern as Magnus Opus received seed money from the China Investment Company (CIC), a business arm of the Chinese Community Party. CIC Chair Peng Chun personally signed off on funding for the company days ahead of the Forbes deal.
“The timing of Magnus Opus’s meeting with Forbes’ representatives so soon after receiving its seed money from CIC raises questions about the initial intent of investment,” Waltz wrote. “The potential ownership of a major American media company by an arm of the CCP raises serious national security concerns and whether the deal should be allowed to move forward.”
While Waltz praised Forbes’ history covering media in the U.S., he expressed fear that state-run media in China instead spread propaganda advancing the nation’s interests.
“Should the CCP have a major footprint in a respected U.S. media entity, they will be able to spread that propaganda through a platform here at home, undermining American interests,” Waltz said.
He also offered to meet with Yellen to discuss the deal in a “secure setting” if necessary.
Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor offered rare praise to DeSantis for vetoing a net metering bill she feared would discourage use of solar power.
“Solar power is a cost-saver and job creator,” Castor said. “Florida is blessed with abundant and affordable solar energy, and all Floridians should be able to access this renewable resource to help them save money on their electric bills, avoid the volatility of fossil fuel prices, and catalyze the continued growth of the solar industry that creates good-paying jobs and strengthens local economies.”
DeSantis for his part said now simply isn’t the right time to take away required payments to rooftop solar users generating excess power on utility grids. Power companies like FPL have pushed for years to kill the payouts, characterizing them as subsidies.
“Given that the United States is experiencing its worst inflation in 40 years and that consumers have seen steep increases in the price of gas and groceries, as well as escalating bills, the state of Florida should not contribute to the financial crunch that our citizens are experiencing,” DeSantis said in a veto message.
Whatever the reason, Castor suggested use of more clean energy should unify leaders across party lines in the Sunshine State. She suggested Rubio and Scott on this issue should follow DeSantis’ lead.
“Stopping harmful anti-solar legislation is just the first step — let’s work together in a bipartisan way to promote energy independence and security through lower cost clean energy,” she said. “I’m calling on Florida’s U.S. Senators to help get the House-passed clean energy and manufacturing incentives to President (Joe) Biden’s desk so he can sign them into law. Let’s keep working to increase solar energy and lower costs for our neighbors — and provide a livable climate for our kids.”
Pricy Caribbean trip
The House this week passed a bill that will direct $374 million to go to the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative over the next five years. The legislation passed the lower chamber on a 340-86 vote, with broad bipartisan support including most members of the Florida delegation.
“Many Floridians maintain close ties with loved ones across the Caribbean — or spend a significant amount of time there themselves. It is part of what makes Florida such a great place to call home,” said St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist.
“However, our closest neighbors face significant threats to their safety, including from severe weather, China, and socialist and communist dictators — threats we also face here at our shores. This bill will boost security partnerships with some of our closest neighbors so we can work together to confront these threats head on.”
The bill will deliver $74.8 million to Caribbean countries in the international partnership. The funding will go to improve response to natural disasters, drug trafficking, maritime security and combating communist and socialist dictators, according to Crist.
But not all members were on board with the high-priced spend. Delegation members voting against authorizing the funding included Republicans Kat Cammack, Byron Donalds, Scott Franklin, Posey and Greg Steube.
Forcing a vote
The Democratic majority won’t hear Sarasota Republican Steube’s bill on barring transgender women from women’s sports. But the Republican Study Committee (RSC) may force a vote anyway.
RSC Chair Jim Banks, of Indiana, filed a discharge petition to bring Steube’s Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2021 (HR 426) directly to the House floor. He characterized the matter as a civil rights issue and suggested letting trans women compete in sports based on their gender identity hurts women’s equality.
“Congress passed Title IX 50 years ago, but the Left is now scheming to effectively destroy that important civil rights protection,” Banks said. “House Republicans must respond by strengthening protections for female athletes and by forcing Democrats to publicly state whether they support women’s right to compete on a level playing field. I’d like to thank Greg Steube, as well as Heritage Action, my fellow RSC members and the numerous groups supporting his important bill.”
Steube has pushed the last two Congresses for the House to approve legislation forcing athletes to compete in sporting events based only on the gender assigned on their birth certificate.
“Allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports is anti-science and an affront to female athletes around the country. We have seen this practice prevent talented athletes from achieving their goals; stripping them of records, rosters, and scholarships,” Steube said.
“By refusing to allow a vote on protecting women’s sports, Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi is enabling Congress to evade this critical and timely issue facing students across the country. Tonight, Republicans filed a discharge petition to force my bill, The Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act onto the House floor. Instead of paying lip service to women, I hope my colleagues across the aisle will actually do something for women and girls by signing onto this petition. As the left perpetuates a craze to eliminate gender, the American people deserve to know where their elected representatives stand on protecting women’s sports.”
Iran to Venezuela
Miami Republican María Elvira Salazar fears a treaty with one nation hostile to the U.S. could also help another. She filed the Iranian Nuclear and Venezuelan Energy, Sanctions, and Terrorism Government Accountability Report (INVESTIGAR) Act this week. The bill, if passed, would require the Biden administration to report on any financial benefits Venezuela may receive from a nuclear deal with Iran. This includes potential benefits to Venezuelan oil companies effectively controlled by President Nicolás Maduro that would work around U.S. sanctions.
“For years, the Iranian and Venezuelan regimes have bonded over their hatred for the United States. Iran has recruited Venezuela as its proxy for terror, even supplying their government with advanced drones to use against the U.S., Colombia, and Jewish communities throughout the Western Hemisphere,” the Congresswoman said.
“Not only would a new Nuclear Deal arm an American enemy with nuclear weapons, but it would also empower Nicolás Maduro in our own region. If President Biden follows through with the new deal, he must understand the disastrous external impacts the negotiation will have within our own region.”
Notably, the bill boasts bipartisan support, including from Winter Park Democrat Murphy.
“As the Biden administration considers whether or not to reenter the nuclear agreement with Iran — alongside Russia and China — it is critical that the administration consider not only the potential advantages of the deal to U.S. national security, but also the very real disadvantages,” Murphy said. “Unfreezing Iranian assets could enable Iran to increase support for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and for the murderous Maduro regime in Venezuela. The U.S. needs to be clear-eyed about these threats and their impact on our security and the security of our allies.”
A number of Republican delegation members also co-sponsored the bill out of the gate, including Mario Díaz-Balart, Franklin, Carlos Giménez and Waltz.
The legislation comes after the Biden administration reportedly entertained allowing oil imports from Venezuela to make up for losing access to Russian oil amid the invasion of Ukraine. Congress effectively shot down such considerations immediately.
On this day
April 29, 1974 — “Richard Nixon announces release of Watergate tapes” via History.com — President Nixon announced to the public he would release transcripts of 46 taped White House conversations in response to a Watergate trial subpoena issued in July 1973. The House Judiciary committee accepted 1,200 pages of transcripts the next day, but insisted the tapes themselves be turned over as well. Nixon took elaborate pains to explain to the public his reluctance to comply with the subpoena, and the nature of the content he planned to release. He cited his right to executive privilege to protect state secrets and stated that the transcripts were edited by him and his advisors to omit anything “irrelevant” to the Watergate investigation or critical to national security.
April 29, 2004 — “George W. Bush, Dick Cheney meet with 9/11 commission” via CNN — President Bush said he “answered every question” posed to him by the 9/11 commission during what was described as an extraordinary session at the White House with the panel investigating the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “It was wide-ranging, it was important, it was just a good discussion,” Bush told reporters in the White House Rose Garden, shortly after the closed-door session ended. The entire 10-member bipartisan commission — known formally as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States — attended the meeting in the Oval Office.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles