Delegation for 5.13.22: No war — inflation — formula politics — moon crops

capitol u.s. green 9.30.19
Before another dime goes to Ukraine, Republicans want to see receipts.

Anti-war right

Is support among Florida Republicans waning for funding the war in Ukraine?

The House easily passed a new $40 billion supplement to fund Ukraine’s response to an invasion from Russia. Only 57 Representatives cast “no” votes, all of them Republicans. But more striking than Party was the geographic makeup of the opposition.

Six of the “nay” votes came from Florida’s delegation, about 10.5% of the votes cast against the funding and more than any other state but Texas, which has a larger delegation. Indeed, more than a quarter of the votes against the appropriation came from Texas or Florida. And 36 of the votes, or 63%, came from Representatives from the South.

Rep. Greg Steube stressed that he supported past material help to Ukraine, including voting in April in favor of lending equipment and $14 billion in military and humanitarian assistance. But the Sarasota Republican needs to see some accountability on those dollars before the U.S. sends more.

Some Republicans are hesitant to send more money for Ukraine support.

“Congress has not received a single report on how much of this funding was spent, if any, nor assurances that the funding even reached Ukraine. Today less than six hours before a vote, the Democrats dropped a massive, last-minute bill to send $40 billion more without any safeguards, assurances of use, or proof of a strategic plan for the U.S. role in Ukraine,” he said.

“We have an invasion at our Southern Border, and the amount Democrats hope to provide Ukraine tonight is nearly equivalent to the yearly budget of (Department of Homeland Security)’s Customs and Border Protection, Coast Guard, (Transportation Security Administration), and (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) combined — meaning we could nearly double our resources to secure our homeland with this $40 billion investment. As inflation remains at a 40-year high, Congress must take seriously our responsibility to be good stewards of Americans’ taxpayer dollars by putting the critical needs of America First.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz spoke on the floor in fear of a bipartisan march to war with Russia.

“Unity always seems to come before the worst decisions we make,” the Fort Walton Beach Republican said. “Our drive to unity often overruns our reason and discernment. The post 9/11 consensus gave us the Iraq War, the PATRIOT Act. The COVID lockdowns and mandates came from unity bundled by fear. Defund the Police took off because dissent wasn’t allowed. You were shouted down as a racist, just as now, questioning our actions in Ukraine makes you a traitor.”

Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Kat Cammack, Byron Donalds and Brian Mast joined in casting “nay” votes. Of note, five of the six Florida dissenters became members of Congress since the 2016 rise of the Donald Trump-driven America First agenda within GOP politics. Most are under 45, perhaps signaling a long-term shift in Republican dogma on foreign policy.

The outlier seems to be Bilirakis, a 59-year-old Palm Harbor Republican first elected to Washington in 2013 who comes from a Pinellas County political legacy family. But he explained through a social media post his skepticism about the need for more U.S. investment in the war so quickly.

“Only about 10% of the humanitarian aid already provided by the U.S. has been spent,” he tweeted. “Additional taxpayer funding, as we suffer our own set of crises, is therefore premature.”

Inflation intensity

As the latest producer price index showed inflation persisted at record levels in April, Sen. Rick Scott continued to hammer President Joe Biden. Indeed, the week was marked by a public back-and-forth between Scott, the National Republican Senatorial Committee chair, and Biden. That was capped with the President laughing off a call from Florida’s junior Senator that the commander in chief resigns.

Outside of the public tussle, Scott’s office issued a statement laying out specific things Biden must address.

“Americans want one thing from Joe Biden right now: take ownership of the raging inflation crisis you have created and take action now to fix it,” he said Thursday.

This time, it’s personal.

“Families want Biden to show up and do the job, but he just hides in the White House and points fingers at others. The sad reality is that Blame-Game Biden has no plan to bring inflation down. Biden is unwell, incoherent, and unfit for office. It’s clear that the most effective thing Joe Biden can do to solve the inflation crisis he created is resign.

“He is the problem. His reckless spending is what fueled this inflation. But instead of charting a path forward, he’s obsessing over my plan to rescue America from the suffering he’s caused. American families deserve better, and that starts with ending reckless spending, balancing the budget, and getting this country back on the path to economic prosperity.”

Scott’s Office highlighted certain consumer products that have seen enormous year-over-year price increases. That includes a 161% jump in the price of eggs, 118% jump in heating oil, 85% rise in the cost of wheat, and a 55% jump in gas prices.

Abortion extremism?

Sen. Marco Rubio took to Fox News for an interview with pundit Sean Hannity, where the Senator criticized Democrats for extremist views on abortion and mob violence. As the Miami Republican seeks to rally his base ahead of a re-election vote in the Midterms, he discussed an array of fears about activity on the Left.

That included criticizing demonstrations that have broken out at the homes of Supreme Court justices since the leak of a draft opinion likely signaling an overturn of Roe v. Wade.

“For the Left, violence, intimidation, and all these things are appropriate as long as the people doing it hold the position that they agree with,” Rubio said. “We saw that in the summer of 2020 when they were saying, ‘Look, riots are the language of people that feel like they have no power, and they can’t speak out.’ It’s the same here. They’re saying, ‘Well, these are people who are outraged.’ They’re cheered on.”

But he also suggested Democrats deserve more scrutiny on the issue of abortion. While Republicans frequently field questions on how many restrictions they want, he said liberals are never questioned on an absolute stance in the opposite direction.

“You cannot be a Democrat nominee for a major office and support a single exception or a single restriction. You can’t support a single one of them,” he said. “The press never asks them about it. Ask them. I hope the press will ask them, ‘What restrictions do you support?’ They will not answer that because you can’t get the overall (party) endorsement unless you are in favor of taxpayer-funded abortion at any time during the pregnancy, on-demand up to the moment of birth. That’s the only way you can get their endorsement. Every Democrat either doesn’t want to talk about it, admit it, or just refuses to answer the question. They know the media won’t ask them.”

To watch the segment, click on the image below:

Justice for Pensacola

Nearly three years after a terrorist killed three during a mass shooting at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, Rep. Gaetz said his community needs answers about potential foreign support for the attack. Specifically, he questioned Admiral Michael Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations, during a congressional hearing about Saudi Arabian involvement. The shooter, who was killed, was a member of the Saudi military sent by the government to train at the base.

“The picture emerges that definitely, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was not doing enough to send only their best people, as one might say,” he said. “They were not doing enough to monitor potential radicalization, and frankly, we weren’t doing enough to ensure that was happening. What assurance can you give my constituents in Pensacola that we have improved?”

Michael Gilday gets grilled over the Pensacola Naval base shooting.

Gilday said screening processes tightened since the shooting for all foreign students from any military, even allies, who train in the U.S. “We have, leveraging the intelligence community and the FBI, made significant changes,” he said.

Gaetz also wants to see greater accountability for the foreign government. He also wants swifter cooperation from the Navy in investigating Saudi leadership.

“The Navy ought to stand up for our sailors, their family members, and the law enforcement that protects them,” he said. “I want your assurance that the Navy will do everything possible to provide the documentation and evidence requested by victims of the NAS Pensacola terrorist attack in litigation against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

War footing?

At the same meeting, Michael Waltz also pressed Gilday about the readiness for military conflict with China.

The St. Augustine Beach Republican sounded alarms on recent intelligence reports suggesting China will retain naval overmatch capabilities in the Western Pacific by 2027.

Gilday agreed with that assessment.

The Congressmen expressed concerns that the U.S. military’s shipbuilding capacity can’t match needs and showed a growth chart indicating actual construction of vessels has fallen well short of planned volume.

Is America ready for a war with China? Michael Waltz wants answers.

“I’m not buying that we can make up for a 105-ship delta that they can concentrate in one ocean with short supply lines,” Waltz said. “The problem with your divestment strategy (is) we are at our lowest point in 2027 when they’re at their highest point.”

Gilday noted the Navy is also modernizing ships, which will arm much of the fleet with more powerful missiles and military capacity. He also said much of the “planned” shipbuilding is aspirational and exceeds what is necessary for preparedness.

Waltz remained skeptical.

“These budgets are setting us up to lose in a war with China, and that is a disservice to the sailors that are going to be out there on old broken-down ships and outnumbered in five years,” he said.

Political formula

Cammack has spurred national concern about whether more is being done to keep baby formula inventory at the border than available to citizens. This week, a New York Times report raised awareness of a nationwide shortage of formula, explicitly noting a 56% supply shortage in San Antonio, Texas.

That prompted the Gainesville Republican to spotlight a notable contrast. The Congresswoman shared photos of the Ursula Processing Center at the U.S. border, where shelves at a food center are lined with unused formula, and at a grocery in her district short on inventory.

According to Kat Cammack, running out of baby formula is not a good look for America. Image via AP.

“The first photo is from this morning at the Ursula Processing Center at the U.S. border. Shelves and pallets packed with baby formula,” she posted. “The second is from a shelf right here at home. Formula is scarce. This is what America last looks like.”

She shared a widely distributed TikTok video complaining the federal government continues to send pallets of formula for migrants crossing the border even as nearby food outlets struggle to stay supplied. That has since generated talking points repeated by congressional Republicans nationwide.

At the same time, Orlando Democrat Val Demings, running against Rubio for his Senate seat, offered a different set of concerns. She said domestic producers of formula need to do more to get products directly to families.

“I call on the major formula producers and the administration to work together and around the clock to supercharge domestic production and get formula to Florida’s families,” she said.

Her concern is a shortage of competition leading to a scarcity of products, noting contamination of one supply ended up impacting an entire market.

“In the longer term, this is yet another example of how ordinary Americans are harmed when a few giant companies control the market for critical products. We’ve seen it with oil and gas companies, internet companies, and more. I plan to push for further investigations into lack of competition that drives up prices and puts American families at risk for the sake of corporate profit,” she said.

“I also strongly support investigations into whether the (Food and Drug Administration) could have done more to prevent the recent contamination of formula that helped trigger this shortage. This is yet another example of how critical it is to have strong watchdogs to protect the health and safety of American families.”

Hometown security

Orlando, Tampa and South Florida will get another round of federal money to pay for anti-terrorism training and programs through the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Area Security Initiative.

Demings, who pushed through reforms five years ago to allow cities like Orlando to qualify, announced that this year law enforcement departments in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach market will get $14.75 million; the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater market will receive $3.8 million, and the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford area will get $3.8 million.

Val Demings touts the latest wave in Central Florida anti-terrorism funds.

The amounts are the same as last year’s grants, but up from what the cities received in the previous three years.

The program provides cities with money to help with terror-prevention planning, organization, equipment, training, and exercises in urban areas that could be potential targets.

The allotments are based on the alignment of local programs to the four national priority areas: cybersecurity, soft targets or crowded places, intelligence and information sharing and emerging threats.

Mental money

Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor wants greater mental health resources available in U.S. schools. She filed new legislation, the Advancing Student Services in Schools Today (ASSIST) Act, to generate a 90% increase in Medicaid matching funds for grants issued through the Health and Human Services Department. The legislation would allow states to increase pay rates for suppliers.

“The current state of child and adolescent mental health is a national emergency, and we need urgent action to expand capacity to deliver appropriate care to meet children’s mental and behavioral health needs,” Castor said.

“Providing children with services where they are improves mental health outcomes and reduces substance-use disorders among youth. I have heard from students, parents, and providers across the Tampa Bay area that the significant shortage of mental health care providers is keeping our neighbors from getting the critical care they need. The ASSIST Act would help remove the cost barrier for providers to care for children in schools, with a sustainable funding mechanism to provide effective services to our nation’s youth. This is a common-sense step to keep our youngest neighbors safe, healthy and engaged in school and their community.”

Kathy Castor seeks to bring mental health resources directly to the people. Image via Facebook.

The legislation has the support of America’s largest teachers’ union and mental health organizations.

“AFT’s educators and school staff have seen up close the mental health challenges facing students,” said Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers president.Far too many children and adolescents are struggling with social isolation, depression or going through the trauma of having lost a loved one, be it to COVID, gun violence or other trauma. Now more than ever our kids need dedicated support, including the counselors, social workers, and school psychologists they can often only access at school. I thank Rep. Castor for introducing the ASSIST Act, which will increase the number of mental health professionals in schools and urge its consideration and passage.”

Added American Psychological Association CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr.: “As schools continue their efforts to address the impacts of COVID-19 on their students, including related to their social and emotional well-being, increasing school-based mental health services — where shortages existed even before the pandemic — is critical. The American Psychological Association supports the ASSIST Act and applauds Rep. Castor’s efforts to provide sustainable funding to ensure that more schools can hire and retain mental and behavioral health providers, both in response to COVID-19 and in the long term.”

Project runway

Nearly a million dollars will land in Venice soon, courtesy of airport improvement grants from the Federal Aviation Administration.

“I’m pleased to announce we’ve secured nearly $900,000 in federal funds to rehabilitate the Venice Municipal Airport runways,” Steube announced. “This investment in our district will help Southwest Florida keep pace with the growing tourism demand and ensure our airport runways are in top shape for the aviation industry.”

Take me to the pilot: Greg Steube helps land much-needed airport cash in Venice.

The Florida Department of Transportation has the runway for the municipal airport scheduled for rejuvenation this year, the first time that rehabilitation happened since 2014. The quality of the runway makes it eligible for federal funds to extend its useful life.

The federal dollars, available to facilities in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems, will go toward removing and replacing existing markings, sealing cracks and applying a new seal coat to the runway. That will be conducted over a two-week process.

District business

Donalds held a roundtable this week with business leaders at Sanibel Captiva Community Bank’s Fort Myers office. The Naples Republican discussed the ways federal banking regulations impact community banking.

“We appreciate Congressman Donalds’ time and interest in meeting with our team learning more about community banking,” said Sanibel Captiva Community Bank President Kyle DeCicco. “I hope the shared insights can help make a positive impact on our evolving industry.”

Byron Donalds suggests local banking can be even more successful with federal support.

John Wright, the bank’s executive vice president, CFO and COO, also joined in the conversation.

Donalds touted the visit along with several other stops in his district in a newsletter to constituents.

“I had the privilege of meeting with members of the Sanibel Captiva Community Bank to discuss the challenges community banks are facing, federal regulations, and the success they are having in their community,” he noted.

He also met with small-business owners at Zeppe’s and at Neighborhood Organic.

Medal of Honor

The House this week passed a bill to honor South Florida resident Benjamin Ferencz, the last living Nuremberg Trials prosecutor. If the Senate passes the bill as well, he will receive the Congressional Gold Medal.

“It is an honor to recognize the last living Nuremberg prosecutor, 102-year-old Benjamin Ferencz, with the Congressional Gold Medal — Congress’ highest expression of civilian appreciation,” said West Palm Beach Democrat Lois Frankel, one of the bill’s chief sponsors. “Mr. Ferencz’s lifelong commitment to justice, peace, and human dignity is an inspiration to all who value freedom and humanity. Now, the U.S. Senate must get this bipartisan bill over the finish line so that we can give Mr. Ferencz the recognition he deserves.”

Benjamin Ferencz is one of the remaining people who experienced the Holocaust first-hand.

Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch, another sponsor, said the timing is right to recognize work done to prosecute those who perpetrated the Holocaust in World War II.

“Mr. Ferencz’s lifetime of work carries particular significance today. At a time when there are fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors to share their experiences, Mr. Ferencz, the last remaining prosecutor from this tribunal, is a shining example to us all of the continued importance of speaking out, showing zero tolerance for war crimes, and ensuring what happened during the Holocaust never happens again. In honoring him, we commit to continuing his efforts.”

The bill was championed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Bilirakis.

“The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. Certainly, Ben Ferencz, who has spent more than 50 years prosecuting war crimes and genocide, qualifies for this prestigious honor,” the Tarpon Springs Republican said.

“Throughout history, humanity has encountered many faces of evil. Our brightest moments as an international community have been those in which we present a united front in our efforts to identify and eradicate its presence. Mr. Ferencz has been at the helm leading that important work, and I am humbled to help honor him.”

Moon farming

A University of Florida research project could have consequences for the expansion of intergalactic life. Scientists at the Gainesville school worked in cooperation with NASA and found a way to grow plants in moon sand retrieved by Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong.

“This research is critical to NASA’s long-term human exploration goals as we’ll need to use resources found on the moon and Mars to develop food sources for future astronauts living and operating in deep space,” said NASA Administrator and former Sen. Bill Nelson.

Growing seedlings in moon dust? Yep, it’s a thing. Image via UF.

“This fundamental plant growth research is also a key example of how NASA is working to unlock agricultural innovations that could help us understand how plants might overcome stressful conditions in food-scarce areas here on Earth.”

The announcement earned praise from members of the delegation and generated optimism about a return to the moon to do some planting.

“Researchers at the University of Florida have, for the first time, successfully grown plants in lunar soil collected during the Apollo missions. This study reinforces our state’s essential role as (a) hub for the U.S. space industry and solidifies Florida as (a) leader in space discovery!” tweeted Clermont Republican Daniel Webster.

So, what’s next?

NASA said scientists are preparing to continue research on the surface of the moon, enabled by the upcoming Artemis missions that plan to send astronauts to the celestial body’s South Pole.

Miami heat

A new survey of voters in Florida’s 27th Congressional District shows Democratic Miami Commissioner Ken Russell in a “dead heat” with incumbent Republican Rep. María Elvira Salazar.

The survey, commissioned by Russell’s campaign and conducted by Orlando-based public opinion research firm The Kitchens Group, polled 350 likely voters online and by phone in the newly drawn CD 27 from April 18 to April 21. The sample was balanced with “known demographic factors,” according to a summary from The Kitchen Group.

The margin of error was 5.2 percentage points.

Pollsters found that Salazar, who unseated Democratic former Rep. Donna Shalala by a 2-percentage-point margin in November 2020, held a 47% favorable rating and a 34% unfavorable rating. She was most popular with men, voters over 65, Cuban voters and Republicans.

Horse race: It’s a dead heat between Ken Russell and María Elvira Salazar.

Russell, meanwhile, scored 38% favorability, with 14% of respondents rating him as unfavorable. His most favorable ratings came from men, voters 18 to 34 and Democrats.

Notably, 30% of those polled said they didn’t recognize Russell’s name. Another 17% said they were unable to rate his favorability. Just 9% said they didn’t recognize Salazar’s name. The same percentage said they couldn’t rate her favorability.

But if the two candidates were to square off last month, 43% of respondents would vote for Salazar compared to 41% for Russell; 15% said they were undecided while 1% refused to answer the question.

While Salazar enjoyed support in this question from the same demographic groups that ranked her favorably earlier in the survey, Russell’s support came from voters 50 to 64, white voters, African American voters and Democrats.

Salazar received 82% of the Republican vote. Russell got 78% of the Democratic vote. With independent and nonpartisan voters, Salazar saw 37% support compared to 33% for Russell.

Thirty percent of independent voters are undecided, The Kitchens Group said.

In a related question, 36% of respondents said they would definitely vote to re-elect Salazar, while 23% said they’d prefer to consider another candidate and 24% expressed an ardent desire to replace her in office. The remainder were unsure.

“This contest is a dead heat and well within the margin of error for the survey,” Kitchens Group personnel wrote.

On this day

May 13, 1958 — “The day Venezuelans attacked Richard Nixon” via the Association for Diplomatic Studies & Training — President Dwight Eisenhower sent Vice President Nixon on a tour of Latin America to improve relations. Unfortunately, the tour would create even more friction, as it was punctuated by protests in various countries, including Ecuador and Peru. His May 13 visit to Venezuela turned violent and threatened the safety of the Vice President, his wife, and his support staff. Robert Amerson, who was press attaché in Caracas, explained the fragile transition Venezuela was undergoing at the time and how the public’s opinion of the U.S. — and Communist Party agitprop — made for a very unwelcome visit.

May 13, 1864 — “First soldier buried at Arlington” via the Library of Congress — A Confederate prisoner of war was buried on the grounds of Arlington House, now Arlington National Cemetery. The prisoner, who had died at a hospital, was the first soldier buried at the cemetery, located on the Potomac River opposite Washington. It now contains the graves of soldiers from every war in which the United States has participated, including the American Revolution. The Union Army had transformed Arlington House into a military headquarters and the grounds into a camp.

Happy birthday

Belated best wishes to Rep. Gaetz, who turned 40 on Saturday, May 7.


Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, with contributions by Scott Powers and Jesse Scheckner.

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