Delegation for 5.17.22: Cuban shift — on hold — HELPERs — farewell — aging well

Imprint of the U.S. Capitol building on a dollar bill banknote
Joe Biden seeks to relax restrictions on Cuba; the delegation has something to say about that.

Embargoed debate

A significant shift in U.S.-Cuba relations is introducing an important foreign policy debate to Florida politics in 2022, including a high-profile U.S. Senate race.

Sen. Marco Rubio joined foreign policy hawks, including the other Cuban Americans in the delegation, to issue a joint statement condemning President Joe Biden’s return to former President Barack Obama’s “failed policy of unilateral concessions.”

But the incumbent Republican’s Senate campaign also sent a missive directed squarely at Rep. Val Demings, the Orlando Democrat challenging Rubio this fall.

Joe Biden’s moves to open travel to Cuba has shaken up South Florida politics. Again.

“Every time Joe Biden makes another disastrous foreign policy decision, Val Demings tiptoes around it with a half-baked response. So, when Demings does put out a halfhearted statement about today’s horrendous move, know that her words won’t change her record of supporting Joe Biden’s agenda 100% of the time,” said Rubio representative Elizabeth Gregory. “Demings had nothing to say about the plight of the Cuban people until she announced her run for Senate, and her political games won’t fool Florida voters.”

Demings indeed issued a statement early Tuesday, one that embraced portions of the new Biden policy but still called for strict economic sanctions on Cuba.

“We must maintain a strong economic embargo and make Cuba’s Communist regime pay for its human rights abuses,” she said.

“I am encouraged by policies that will reunite families and raise the cap on family remittances but allowing investments in the Cuban private sector and easing travel restrictions will only serve to fund the corrupt dictatorship. In the Senate, I will always put the Cuban people and their struggle for freedom and democracy first and hold the corrupt regime accountable for its crimes.”

The statement proved to be among the more critical of the administration among Democrats, but nowhere near as harsh as those coming from the right, particularly those like Rubio raised within South Florida’s Cubano community.

“The regime in Cuba threatened Biden with mass migration and have sympathizers inside the administration,” Rubio asserted on Twitter, “and the result is today we see the first steps back to the failed Obama policies on Cuba.”

Hold up

Sen. Rick Scott, for his part, wants to go beyond critical statements.

Until Biden reverses course, Scott is vowing to use his position in the Senate to put a hold on administration nominees connected to Cuba policy.

Rick Scott wants a little less conversation and a little more action. Image via AP.

“Joe Biden’s appeasement of the illegitimate communist Cuban regime is disgusting,” Scott said. “The administration claims they are helping the people but have done nothing to secure the freedom of political prisoners like José Daniel Ferrer, who are subjected to physical and psychological torture in an attempt to end their life. Since the July 11 protests, instead of standing with the freedom-loving people of Cuba, Joe Biden has shown weakness and cowardice — bowing to the demands of a murderous regime instead of standing for democracy and human rights. It is sickening and why I will be holding all relevant nominees that have been reported favorably by committees to the Senate Floor until the decision is reversed.”

After former President Donald Trump reversed normalization efforts with Cuba, Scott said Biden’s move was a step backward.

“Biden can frame this however he wants, but this is the truth: this is nothing but an idiotic attempt to return to Obama’s failed appeasement policies and a clear sign of support for the evil regime,” Scott said. “Maybe Joe Biden is hoping that he, like his pal Obama, will also get to sit front row with the regime at a baseball game. There is no reasonable justification for this. It will funnel tons of cash to the regime and its military forces — giving it even more power to keep the Cuban people under its communist control. And the cost of this disastrous policy choice? More brutal oppression for the Cuban people.”

Cop talk

Rubio will take the occasion of National Police Week to promote his legislation helping ensure first responders can access the home market. He’s the sponsor of the bipartisan Homes for Every Local Provider, Educator, and Responder (HELPER) Act (S 2981) with Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia, and the two will appear together at a 4:30 news conference Tuesday to spotlight the bill.

The bill would set up a new, one-time-use home loan program for law enforcement officers, firefighters, medical first responders and teachers.

Marco Rubio is chipping away at Val Demings’ strengths as a former police chief. Image via Business Insider.

Democratic Rep. Al Lawson and Republican Rep. John Rutherford, both from North Florida, will serve as prime sponsors — both are expected to attend the news event.

That’s especially notable as Rubio faces Demings, a former Orlando Police Chief, in this year’s Midterms when support for law enforcement will be a significant point of debate. Lawson and Demings worked together on several issues. Both hold membership in the Congressional Black Caucus.

At the event today, Rubio will stand alongside the president of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, the chair of the Fraternal Order of Police for the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee, and the D.C. Fire Fighters Association. It begins at 4:30 p.m. at the Senate Swamp.

History’s eyes

While former Vice President Walter Mondale died in 2021, a mass memorial service in his memory took place last week.

Afterward, Rep. Stephanie Murphy also took to the House floor to praise the leader.

During his time in office, Mondale managed to touch her life even though she was living on the other side of the globe, the Winter Park Democrat said.

Walter Mondale gets a fitting send-off from a Congresswoman whose life he helped save.

“Unbeknown to him, Mondale had a major impact on my life and on the lives of other refugees fleeing violence and oppression in Southeast Asia,” the Congresswoman said. “The moral courage he displayed then should influence and inspire world leaders now as we confront a new refugee crisis spawned by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

Murphy and her family fled Vietnam two years after President Jimmy Carter’s administration came into the White House. While former President Gerald Ford’s administration had put a cap on South Vietnamese refugees of around 130,000, Mondale advocated allowing more families into the U.S.

That would open the doors to America for Murphy.

“Mondale chaired a meeting during which he grew impatient with the officials from the Defense and State Departments. ‘Are you telling me that we have thousands of people drowning in the open sea, and we have the 7th Fleet right there, and we can’t help them?’ he asked,” Murphy recounted in her speech.

While Navy leaders expressed reluctance to participate in rescue missions on open seas, the administration demanded it. The rescue saved thousands more; a young Murphy was on board one of those boats at sea.

The same welcome must greet those fleeing oppression from East Europe and other places around the globe in modern times, Murphy said.

“History will not forgive us if we fail,” she said. “History will not forget us if we succeed.”

Gas pains

Are gas prices up because of world events, inflation, or just greed?

Demings last week joined as a co-sponsor of the Price Gouging Prevention Act of 2022, which would outlaw manipulation of gasoline prices during abnormal market disruptions, including the pandemic.

She is not going after the corner gas market. She cites a study from the Economic Policy Institute indicating half the price increases on gas since 2020 fueled profit margins for energy corporations.

“As the daughter of a maid and a janitor, my family valued every dollar. We are sick and tired of seeing a split screen of skyrocketing prices alongside skyrocketing corporate profits. It’s simply unfair to force working families to tighten their belts while America’s CEOs and corporate shareholders are thriving at our expense,” Demings said.

“There’s no excuse for using national emergencies to price gouge hardworking families. This bill is a targeted and strategic measure to hold the biggest companies in the world accountable for bad behavior while protecting small businesses and our communities. I thank Congresswoman (Jan) Schakowsky for her leadership and call on our House and Senate colleagues to join us and stand with working Americans, not corporate donors.”

Demings also continues to work with Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor and Democratic leaders on The Oil and Gas Industry Antitrust Act, which would authorize the Federal Trade Commission to investigate price manipulation by gas companies, including artificial reductions in refinery capacity and exploiting monopoly conditions.

Disinformation deliberation

With open criticism of the Biden administration’s disinformation board, Gus Bilirakis and other Republican leaders now want answers from tech companies on their level of involvement with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program.

As a subcommittee ranking party member, the Tarpon Springs Republican joined House Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Ohio Republican Bob Latta in issuing letters to Meta, LinkedIn, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat and Reddit.

Joe Biden’s ‘Ministry of Truth’ has Republicans up in arms.

“We fully expect this will mean DHS will seek information from your company about conservative users since President Biden has essentially identified them as political enemies,” the letters all read.

The letter also accuses Disinformation Governance Board chair Nina Jankowicz of a “history of hostility to free speech” and a record of spreading “misinformation” like promoting the Steele Dossier.

But primarily, the letter seems to aim at stopping the censorship of expression under the guise of ending misinformation.

“Notably, the Biden administration has a history of pressuring your company to censor certain speech and silence individuals, and we are concerned the creation of this board will result in an increase in such efforts,” she said.

Thin blue line

With attacks on police up 125% this year, Vern Buchanan led a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling for a vote on his This Blue Line Act. The bill comes for cop killers and would add a first responder’s murder or attempted murder as an aggravating factor in federal death penalty cases.

Vern Buchanan signs a letter calling for stricter penalties for cop killers.

“Our brave law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every single day to help those in harm’s way,” the Longboat Key Republican said. “It’s time for Congress to pass my bill, the Thin Blue Line Act, and send a strong message to police and first responders that we have their backs.”

He said National Police Week offers the perfect occasion to hold a vote on the bill.

Fifty-two Republican House members co-signed the letter, including delegation members Bilirakis, Kat Cammack, Neal Dunn, Scott Franklin, Carlos Giménez, Bill Posey, María Elvira Salazar, Greg Steube and Michael Waltz.

The National Fraternal Order of Police reports that 123 officers have been shot this year, with 19 killed. That’s a 35% spike in violent attacks compared to last year. Buchanan also noted ambush-style attacks are up 125% and were the cause of six of the fatal shootings of police.

“We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to police officers and first responders all across the country, and they need to know that we have their backs,” the letter states. “And anyone who targets them because of the uniform they wear needs to know that there will be severe consequences.”

Algae plan

A bill deeming algal blooms as natural disasters could soon head to the President’s desk. Brian Mast said his South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act appears to face smooth waters to become law.

That’s important in South Florida, the Stuart Republican said, especially after years of water discharges from Lake Okeechobee precipitated algal blooms harmful to his constituents.

“The east and west coasts of Florida have been treated like the state’s own personal septic tank for years,” Mast said. “Even the federal government has been in on the abuse, manipulating our waterways and flushing toxins into our communities with no regard for public health. This bill will force the federal government to take responsibility for that harm and develop an action plan to combat toxic algal blooms in our community.”

Brian Mast seeks to bump algae blooms to federal disaster status.

The legislation adds to the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act, a 2017 law championed by Mast and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, which called on the study of harmful algal blooms. The new bill now requires an action plan, the first of its kind to combat blooms in Florida. If the bill is signed into law, a task force will study algae specifically in the Greater Everglades region.

After Nelson lost his re-election bid in 2018, Rubio picked up the cause in cooperation with Scott. Both sitting Senators praised the just-passed legislation.

“Harmful algal blooms can sicken Floridians, damage local economies, and destroy our ecosystems,” Rubio said. “This will help our coastal communities prepare for and mitigate the devastating impacts. I urge President Biden to sign this bill into law so we can begin addressing these challenges.”

“I won’t stop fighting to protect Florida’s beautiful waters, environment, and natural resources for future generations, and I urge President Biden to quickly sign this important bill into law,” Scott added.

Falling in line

Lois Frankel called in April for a meeting on ensuring healthy aging. This week, the “Healthy Aging: Maximizing the Independence, Well-being, and Health of Older Adults” hearing will touch on issues from treating falls to improving nutrition and dealing with elder justice.

“We have over 365,000 seniors living in Palm Beach County, and one of them is very special to me — my 96-year-old mother,” the West Palm Beach Democrat said. “After her recent fall and recovery, I learned that she was one of 36 million older Americans who fall every year. Through further research, I discovered that medical expenses related to elderly falls cost our health system billions of dollars annually. While there are strategies for prevention, current investments in federal fall prevention programs are too small. Our hearing brought this important information to Members, with policy recommendations for going forward.”

Frankel previously penned a letter calling on greater interagency cooperation between the Health and Human Services Department and the Community Living, Aging and Disability Services Administration, as well as for $1 million in funding for such an effort, as part of an effort to prevent and better treat falls.

To watch highlights of the hearing, click on the image below:

Trade links

A former member of the delegation will launch a book tour from James Bacchus, who served in the House from 1991 to 1995, to support the newly published “Trade Links: New Rules for a New World” with Cambridge University Press. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Orlando Democrat will appear Tuesday at the University of Central Florida’s downtown campus, where he will speak at the Dr. Phillips Academic Commons building at noon.

James Bacchus returns to UCF’s downtown Orlando campus for a book tour launch.

Bacchus now works as a professor of global affairs at UCF, making the venue a natural fit. The book explores how to modernize free trade in the age of climate change and sustainability demands. The former Congressman previously served as the founding judge and later chief judge for the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization.

On this day

May 17, 1980 — “Riots shake Miami” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Things reached a boiling point when an all-White jury in Tampa cleared the four police officers charged in the beating death of insurance agent Arthur McDuffie of all wrongdoing following a four-week trial. The trial moved to Tampa after defense attorneys argued the officers would not get a fair trial. The jury deliberated for less than three hours. Miami’s usually sunny sky was caked with dark smoke for the next three days. Rioters looted and burned a three-mile swath of stores and businesses along Seventh Avenue next to Interstate 95. The rest of Miami stayed glued to the television, afraid to go outside.

May 17, 1881 — “Frederick Douglass becomes recorder of deeds for Washington, D.C.” via Black Then — In the years before taking the position, Douglass was active with his speeches and writing. The orator also took several positions and participated in different projects. He was with the failed Freedman’s Savings Bank a decade earlier and was its last president. He also ran a newspaper — which ended the same year the Freedman’s Savings Bank went bankrupt. Douglass worked for U.S. diplomatic efforts abroad in politics and governance, particularly in the Caribbean. He was often in a leadership or ambassador role that used his speaking, diplomacy, and writing abilities.

Happy birthday

Best wishes to Rep. Lois Frankel, who turned 74 on May 16.


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

Staff Reports

One comment

  • tom palmer

    May 17, 2022 at 1:36 pm

    I would take Rubio more seriously if he also proposed an embargo on China.

Comments are closed.


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