Delegation for 5.24.22: Banned! — oily — citrus greening — body parts — gassed up

Imprint of the U.S. Capitol building on a dollar bill banknote
Russia rolls up the welcome mat — except for Rick Scott.

No entry

When the Russian Federation announced a ban on nearly 1,000 Americans visiting the country, the list included at least 33 Florida residents, almost all of them sitting members of the delegation.

For many, inclusion in the travel ban served as a point of pride.

“I am banned by China, Nicaragua, Venezuela and now Russia and am running out of totalitarian regimes to offend,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, a Miami Republican.

Joining Rubio on Putin’s antagonist list were all 27 U.S. Representatives from Florida in the House. That included some who voted against recently added appropriations to Ukraine, like the distinctly anti-war Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, as well as every Democrat representing Florida in Congress, including Reps. Val Demings, the likely Democratic nominee to challenge Rubio, and Rep. Charlie Crist, a front-runner for the Democratic nomination of Florida Governor.

Russia keeps the welcome mat unrolled for Rick Scott. Why? Image via AP.

While it’s unclear why only one delegation member failed to make the unwelcome roster: Sen. Rick Scott. Indeed, the Naples Republican openly criticizes Russia with vigor, especially in the wake of the Ukraine invasion. And his rhetoric has arguably been more aggressive than Rubio’s, with Scott openly calling for no-fly zones and demanding more material aid to the Ukrainian resistance combating Russia’s military on the ground. His office noted comments made by the Senator last month accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of “genocidal war crimes” in Ukraine.

So why the omission? “Our office will not pretend to understand the logic of a murderous dictator, but feel free to reach out to the Kremlin about that,” said Scott spokesperson McKinley Lewis.

Much of the national media took note of another Floridian who failed to make the list, former President Donald Trump. The former commander in chief didn’t bear inclusion, but President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris did.

That could be explained away by the fact Trump no longer holds office. But some former elected officials from Florida made the cut. Former Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Ted Yoho, both Republicans, were banned from Russia. The same goes for former Sen. Bill Nelson, the Democrat Scott defeated in 2018. Brevard County Judge Jeffrey Mahl’s name also appeared on the list.

The strangest inclusion of a Florida leader on the list was former Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Democrat who co-chaired the Florida congressional delegation until his death last year. Hastings certainly remained outspoken about issues in Eastern Europe until his final days; he chaired the Helsinki Commission, where he ardently defended the sovereignty of nations in the region.

But since his 2021 cremation, it would seem unlikely he has any plans for traveling to Moscow. At least he can still be exiled in spirit.

Oily freedom

Oil drilling off the coast of Florida has long unified delegation members across the aisle. But with gas prices reaching record highs, there is an increasing appetite among Republican leaders for other petroleum sources, including within the delegation.

It’s become a regular occurrence to attack Biden for turning to socialist regimes before allowing expansion of domestic production. Rubio stressed those points in a series of tweets Monday.

“While Biden and the Left continue to block more American oil production, a rapidly worsening shortage may lead to a rationing of jet fuel and diesel this summer here in the United States,” Rubio said.

Those words came shortly after an affront on Biden’s foreign policy.

Kat Cammack listens to one side of the offshore drilling debate.

“Biden has removed the Marxist FARC in Colombia from the terrorism list, lifted economic restrictions on the Marxist dictatorship in Cuba, and eased sanctions on the Marxist (Nicolás) Maduro regime in Venezuela,” he tweeted.

Notably, a few delegation members even offered an ear to energy companies about oil from the sea.

Gainesville Republican Kat Cammack last month traveled with a congressional delegation led by House Republican Whip Steve Scalise with Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee to Shell’s Appomattox platform, which drills 140,000 barrels each day from the Gulf of Mexico.

Colombian concern

Sen. Scott held a roundtable this week in Orlando with Colombian business leaders, where he promised to continue promoting democracy in Latin America.

“The United States and Colombia share a strong commitment to promoting security, prosperity, human rights and democracy across the Western Hemisphere,” Scott said. “Colombia is our greatest ally in Latin America, and we must stand together for freedom.”

He also threw intense shade about recent administration decisions on potentially easing sanctions with other socialist powers in the region that predictably proved unpopular within Florida’s immigrant communities.

Rick Scott breaks bread with local officials and Colombian business leaders in Orlando.

“Unfortunately, Joe Biden has abandoned Latin America — and his disgusting appeasement of brutal dictators in Cuba and Venezuela only serves to destabilize the region,” Scott said.

“I’m proud to stand with everyone here today as we work together to strengthen support for our great ally, Colombia. I will never stop fighting for freedom and democracy in Latin America.”

Weeding out greening

Cammack and Democrat Al Lawson joined forces across the aisle to try and fight citrus greening. The North Florida Representatives led a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking for approval to be fast-tracked for Vismax, a pesticide proven effective against greening.

“It is critical that we provide Florida citrus growers with every possible resource to combat citrus greening,” Lawson said. “Vismax is a tool that can be effective in preventing further devastation to the state’s successful citrus industry. Approval of this resource must be accelerated to maintain our growers’ livelihood.”

Will citrus greening be a thing of the past?

Greening, a disease impairing crops’ ability to take in nutrients and thrive, has dramatically reduced the productivity of Florida citrus in recent years. Data provided through Cammack’s office found Florida’s citrus industry has declined by two-thirds since the arrival of Huanglongbing in the state, delivering an $8 billion economic blow.

“As the lone Florida Republican on the House Agriculture Committee, I’m committed to ensuring that our domestic producers have access to products and materials that will increase productivity, generate economic growth, and create jobs across the Sunshine State,” Cammack said. “Without EPA approval of Vismax, the citrus industry will experience crippling losses at the hands of infected trees, which is why we need to make this safe and effective treatment readily available to our citrus producers.”

Several delegation members co-signed the letter, including Democrats Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson and Republicans Gus Bilirakis, Mario Díaz-Balart, Scott Franklin, Carlos Giménez, Bill Posey, John Rutherford, María Elvira Salazar and Michael Waltz.

Cop, cop, cop, cop

For quite a while now, Demings’ Senate campaign has routinely referred to her as “Chief Demings” instead of “Congresswoman Demings,” and she’s been quick to remind people on the trail of her 27 years wearing a badge, the last couple as Orlando Police Chief.

Meanwhile, her likely opponent in November, Rubio, has been rolling up law enforcement endorsements, including from the Florida Police Benevolent Association. The PBA gave the incumbent Republican from Miami its backing on Saturday.

The battle over law enforcement credibility is getting testy.

In a WIOD radio interview with Jimmy Felafo, Rubio charged that Demings was “bragging” about her law enforcement career. “I think it’s even worse that she brags about that stuff,” he said.

In that chat, Rubio also falsely implied that Demings supported the protesters of the summer of 2020 over police when she repeatedly said she supported police and recognized protesters had reason to raise the issues of racism still cropping up in law enforcement.

Enough, Demings replied in a statement.

“Marco Rubio has been a career politician for over two decades, while I spent 27 years protecting and serving my community as a law enforcement officer and Orlando’s Chief of Police,” Demings said. “He has some nerve to attack me for ‘bragging’ about my public service. He has no clue what it’s like to work in law enforcement, and it shows. While I was protecting my community, Marco Rubio was playing politics, so yes, I’ll brag about the amazing work law enforcement officers do every day. I’m honored to have been a part of the men and women in blue.”

Nonetheless, Demings hasn’t found much backing from police associations, which typically lean strongly Republican and won’t make an exception for her this year. In addition to the PBA endorsement, Rubio garnered the endorsements of 55 of Florida’s 66 Sheriffs and the 1,000+ member Florida Police Chiefs Association.

To listen to Rubio’s segment, click on the image below:

Long-term

Should long-term care be available to all? Clermont Republican Daniel Webster last week filed new legislation to provide tax deductions to health care providers for pro bono health services to Americans relying on Medicaid, including those using the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The Helping Everyone Access Long Term Healthcare (HEALTH) Act, Webster said, would also help streamline paperwork and bureaucracy for medical professionals.

Daniel Webster is ready to cut the red tape in Florida’s health care.

“This bill helps more Americans have access to the care they need, from the doctor they choose, at a price they can afford,” Webster said. “The HEALTH Act offers a new solution to provide health care services to low-income families and has the potential to help Medicaid and CHIP programs save on costs. This legislation allows doctors and other health care professionals to provide pro bono health care services to low-income individuals, including children in the CHIP program, in exchange for a simple tax deduction.”

The political arm of the Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC) has already come out in support of the legislation.

“AMAC and its 2.3 million members applaud Congressman Webster for introducing this important legislation,” said Bob Carlstrom, president of AMAC Action. “The health care system is struggling right now. Nobody wants to admit it, but Medicaid is not a perfect system. It is confusing and complex, oftentimes not working in the patient’s favor as well as it could. We commend Rep. Webster for not only acknowledging that doctors and patients need better options but also for providing a common-sense solution.”

Doll parts

While a Supreme Court decision will likely determine if lawmakers can further regulate the termination of pregnancies, Lakeland Republican Scott Franklin said Congress can end one practice by abortion providers now. He filed legislation last week to ban the sale of fetal remains completely.

The Prohibiting Abortion Industry’s Lucrative Loopholes Act would stop abortion providers from giving out fetal tissue for reimbursements, gifts and shipping, and processing fees. While a 1993 law prohibits the cash sale of remains for profit, he said a “valuable consideration” loophole effectively lets abortion clinics dispose of fetal parts to universities, labs, and research facilities in exchange for material gain.

Research using fetal tissue is under fire.

“Abortion providers should never be allowed to profit off the death of innocent victims,” said Franklin, a member of the Pro-Life Caucus. “The fact that they can exploit a loophole in the law to do so is a terrible congressional oversight that should have been addressed years ago. I’m proud to introduce this bill so we can close this loophole and block for-profit fetal tissue sales once and for all.”

The issue of selling fetal remains drew national attention in 2015 after a video seemingly showed tissue preserved by Planned Parenthood and sold for profit. But executives for the organization at the time told CNN the material was donated. “The decision to donate fetal tissue for lifesaving scientific research should be honored, not attacked and demeaned,” said Planned Parenthood spokesperson Eric Ferrero at the time.

Wet mast

Stuart Republican Brian Mast touted several provisions of the just-advanced Water Resources Development Act of 2022 that originated in his office. These include a Northern Estuaries Restoration Plan and a $100 million appropriation for new infrastructure protecting the St. Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon and Lake Worth Lagoon.

“Without a doubt, the No. 1 issue for our community is water,” Mast said. “With the Water Resources Development Act, we have the chance to move the ball down the field in that fight, and this year, we got substantially closer to our touchdown: no discharges ever again.”

Water is Job One for Brian Mast.

The Northern Estuaries Restoration Plan would require the Army Corps of Engineers to develop the infrastructure needed to eliminate harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the northern estuaries, a vital issue for Mast since his election in 2016.

“This bill also includes five other provisions I wrote to improve water quality in the Indian River Lagoon, combat harmful algal blooms, remove legacy nutrients from Lake Okeechobee and more,” he said. “Taken together, this bill is a massive win for the environment, public health and economy in our community.”

Pumped up

E15 isn’t for everyone. Seriously. It will destroy engines not designed for ethanol-heavy fuel, including sea vessels.

To better educate the public, West Palm Beach Democrat Lois Frankel filed a bipartisan bill with Georgia Republican Austin Scott calling for better labeling and strong transparency requirements on whether engines can handle gas from the yellow hose.

“Right now, gas pumps lack proper warning signs that using E15 fuel can cause serious damage to small-engine vehicles and machines like boats, lawnmowers, motorcycles and generators,” Frankel said. “This bill will save consumers time and money.”

E15 fuel uses a blend of 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline. That’s an environmentally friendly alternative for modern vehicles, though not for engines predating 2001. Federal officials also say it can make small engines run hot and cause corrosion when stored too long.

E15 fuel is not for the faint of heart.

The bill drops in the hopper at a moment when gas prices may encourage many consumers to grab the pump with the cheapest fuel. It’s also boating season in Florida, leading more captains to pilot crafts into gas stations with all kinds of products.

“Many consumers face confusion around the labeling at gas pumps and are unaware of the negative effects E15 can have on their equipment,” Austin Scott said. “Improving E15 labeling at the pump will allow consumers to be better aware of the damages misfuelling can cause to their vehicles and other equipment.”

National Marine Manufacturers Association lobbyist Callie Hoyt said the legislation could prove valuable to consumers who may be trying to save a buck but end up causing costly damage.

“The destructive properties of E15 when used in boats, lawnmowers, generators, and other small engines remains the same, yet the majority of Americans are unaware, at no fault of their own,” she said. “Thankfully, Reps. Scott and Frankel have spearheaded important legislation to clear up the misinformation around E15 and protect millions of American consumers at the pump.”

Saving Stiltsville

Three Miami Republicans want the federal government to restore the historic Stiltsville structure in Biscayne Bay National Park, which last year was destroyed by a fire.

“As a Miami native, I want to preserve our city’s rich history, and Stiltsville is not only a unique tourist attraction but a testament to the growth of our community over the last 90 years,” said Miami Republican Rep. Salazar. “It is crucial to protect our landmarks, so we never forget our city’s unique beginnings and culture. This has the support of the local community, and I refuse to let Washington bureaucrats destroy Miami’s history.”

South Florida lawmakers call for federal help in restoring Stiltsville. Image via WLRN.

She filed a bill along with Miami-Dade colleagues Díaz-Balart and Giménez to require reconstruction and block the option of demolition.

Salazar also suggested that if the Interior Department tries to remove instead of repairing the landmark, it will violate the agreement behind the Stiltsville Trust, a nonprofit formed from an agreement in 2005. That said, an arrangement with the federal government notably allows the removal of houses that are more than 50% destroyed, though language remains unclear over who makes that calculation.

On this day

May 24, 1818 — “Andrew Jackson captures Pensacola” via The University of Richmond — President James Monroe asked Jackson to combat the Seminole and Creek Indians in Florida to prevent the territory from becoming a safe haven for runaway slaves. After such provocation as this and other attacks near the Florida border, Andrew Jackson pursued the Indians back into Florida, burning their villages and crops. Jackson soon discovered that the British and especially the Spanish in Florida had been supplying weapons and “stimulating the Indians to arms,” as the Richmond Inquirer put it. As a result, on May 24, 1818, Jackson marched on Pensacola and managed to take the Spanish Fort there with little more than a few warning shots.

May 24, 2001 — “Democrats regain Senate power with James Jeffords’ bolt” via CNN — The Senate prepared for a change of power and President George W. Bush faced a new political landscape after Sen. Jeffords of Vermont left the Republican Party, becoming an independent and throwing control of the Senate to the Democrats for the first time since 1994. Jeffords made the announcement at a hotel ballroom in Burlington, Vermont. The announcement had been put off for a day as moderate Republicans asked Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, to create a new moderate leadership position in the Republican Party to keep Jeffords from leaving.

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

Staff Reports



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