Delegation for 6.10.22: Terror — Pulse — safe kids — water money

U.S. Capitol Building from the Fifty Dollar Bill
Time to get to the bottom of Jan. 6.

Day of terror

A day before rioters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Miami Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio needed a ride home from jail. He had been arrested for carrying high-capacity ammunition magazines and burning a Black Lives Matter flag in Washington.

But Tarrio didn’t stay in the clink for long before videographer Nick Quested picked him up.

Nick Quested was accompanying the Proud Boys in the lead-up to Jan. 6.

Quested served as a star witness on Thursday night in the first prime-time hearing held by the Jan. 6 Committee. He described following extremist groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers in the buildup to the Capitol riot. Some bits of new information about the day that came to light in the hearing were from Quested’s account of interviews with Tarrio.

“We had no idea of any of the events that were subsequently going to happen,” Quested testified. He said he felt that way up through a Jan. 5 meeting between Tarrio and Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes. He interviewed Tarrio in a Baltimore hotel room, but the following morning would be when the mood turned “darker.” He said as the day progressed, he could see portions of a gathered crowd shift from protesters to rioters to insurrectionists.

The account of Tarrio’s actions leading to Jan. 6 would be among the more riveting stories of a Florida participant in the Jan. 6 disruption of the election vote certification. Tarrio this week was hit with charges of seditious conspiracy, ones his attorneys label as “politically motivated.” While Tarrio ultimately wasn’t in Washington the day of the riots, prosecutors maintain he continued to coordinate activities from his hotel room.

“For anyone who didn’t understand how violent that event was, I saw it, I documented it, and I experienced it,” Quested said.

The testimony surely will do little to shake any impact on Florida, a state that has seen more residents face charges connected to Jan. 6 than any other state, according to USA Today.

Another Floridian was seen in the prime-time hearing — as part of the investigating panel. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Winter Park Democrat, holds one of just seven spots on the Jan. 6 Committee. But outside comments from committee leadership and members didn’t consume much airtime, with witness accounts and new videos serving up most of the content between 8 and 10 p.m.

Stephanie Murphy plays a role in the Jan. 6 hearings.

Various delegation members offered different thoughts on the hearing, televised live more than a year after the riots took place.

“I was trapped in the chamber on Jan. 6 and saw the violence firsthand,” Rep. Darren Soto, a Kissimmee Democrat, said. “Floridians like Enrique Tarrio and Joseph Biggs led the attack on the Capitol and disgraced our state. I take heart hearing from Capitol Officer Caroline Edwards and others who fought for our democracy.”

But the Republicans in the delegation mostly dismissed them as irrelevant. Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted grainy newsreel footage of a poster reading, “Here comes the circus.”

Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart similarly brushed off the substance. “Tonight’s J6 committee hearing is the most blatant attempt to distract the American people from the disastrous and failed policies of the Democratic Party,” he tweeted as the hearing drew to a close.

Rep. Greg Steube, who on Jan. 6 shared a harrowing account of the violence perpetrated against police officers, has since heavily criticized investigations and characterized rioters as mere trespassers. “Rather than addressing all of the crises that Biden created for the American people, House Democrats will be putting on a professionally-produced show tonight,” he posted with a picture of Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a cartoon TV. “This is a desperate attempt to shift attention away from the real issues.”

But Rep. Charlie Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat, suggested the hearings play a critical role in creating a historical record.

“Like millions of my fellow Americans, I watched in horror as a mob stormed our Capitol on Jan. 6 and threatened the very fabric of our democracy,” he said. “It is just as clear now as it was then that we need a full investigation to find out what happened and keep it from ever happening again.”

Death after VA

The death of a Gainesville veteran has members of the delegation demanding answers from the Veterans Affairs (VA) department.

Sens. Rubio and Rick Scott joined with Rep. Kat Cammack in sending a letter calling into question the competency of staff at Malcom Randall VA Medical Center (MR VAMC). The letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough follows up on an Inspector General report in June 2020 detailing the death of a veteran who received treatment at Shands after the local VA facility struggled to verify his eligibility for care. The individual was eventually determined to be a veteran the VA should have treated.

The members slamming the VA, all Republicans, said staff “prioritized determining the patient’s veteran status over rendering him emergency care.” Alachua County EMS transported the patient across the street to UF Health Shands Hospital, but the unnamed patient died approximately 10 hours after admission.

Delegation Republicans urge Denis McDonough to step up for better veteran care. Image via NPR.

The Senators and Gainesville Congresswoman want a review of quality management at the local center and an update on changes in policy since the death occurred. The letter cites recommendations detailed by the Inspector General’s Office, which gave the VA until the end of September to make changes, including further disciplinary action on any staff involved. The delegation members want the matter addressed and all issues settled before the end of June.

“The VA must demonstrate to veterans and their families in the MR VAMC catchment area, and nationwide, that the MR VAMC ED is knowledgeable, competent, and dedicated to its veteran patients,” the letter reads. “Our nation’s veterans have served their country honorably. They should not have to worry about gross incompetence and negligence when they seek care, especially in emergency situations where timely, efficient, and effective care is vital.”

Remembering Pulse

With the sixth anniversary of the Pulse shooting approaching, the Senate passed a resolution through unanimous consent honoring the 49 killed by a shooter in the gay nightclub on June 12, 2016.

“Nearly six years ago, our state, nation, the city of Orlando, and Hispanic and LGBTQ communities were attacked. Forty-nine innocent and beautiful lives were lost. It was an evil and hateful act — an act of terrorism — designed to divide us as a nation and strike fear in our hearts and minds,” Sen. Scott said in a speech on the Senate floor.

“But instead, we came together. We supported each other. And we persevered. We proved to the world what we in Florida already knew: Floridians are resilient.”

Never forget. Image via AP.

The shooter, killed by law enforcement after an hourslong standoff, had planned the attack after a call by ISIS for acts of domestic terrorism in June. The shooting took place on Latin Night, resulting in a high number of victims from Central Florida’s Hispanic community.

Sen. Rubio, who co-introduced the Pulse resolution with Scott, submitted a statement for the Senate record similarly noting the marginalized communities affected by the shooting. He suggested the killer would have been surprised by the ultimate impact of the tragedy.

“Pulse was a well-known nightclub in Central Florida. It was part of the fabric of the local community, and that awful day struck a terrible blow. But the community awoke from the tragedy stronger and more united than it was before,” he said.

“The terrorist would have been horrified to see the First Baptist Church in Orlando — another pillar of the local community — opening its doors to the LGBT community, welcoming them and their families, and holding services there. The terrorist would have hated to see Floridians from all across the state bringing food and water to support victims, families and first responders.”

Protecting our kids

Legislation similar to reforms implemented after the Parkland shooting in Florida isn’t finding the same level of bipartisan support in Washington. There, the Democratic House passed the “Protect Our Children Act,” but on a largely party-line vote with just five “yes” votes from Republicans and two “no” votes from Democrats. No members of Florida’s House delegation broke ranks.

One provision voted on independently, lifting the purchasing age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21, picked up a single GOP vote in Florida. Miami Republican María Elvira Salazar voted with 9 GOP colleagues to support that change. But that marked the only time a Florida Republican voted in favor of a significant bill provision.

Meanwhile, Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz criticized the legislation on the House floor as misguided.

Matt Gaetz voted against the Protect Our Children Act. You heard that right.

“This is no crusade for the children. If it were, you wouldn’t leave our children as sitting ducks in gun-free zones when they go to school every day,” Gaetz said. “Speaker says we need action. Well, we’re for action. How about the action of my bill to create a national Stand Your Ground law to strengthen self-defense or Richard Hudson’s bill for national concealed carry or any number of proposals Republicans have offered to unlock the safe and secure environment when we have our military veterans and our former members of law enforcement able to carry a firearm responsibly in schools to be able to respond to these acts of violence. No, their version of action is more gun control, raising the age to be able to buy certain firearms.”

But Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor said the legislation is a critical step in protecting families.

“Our nation is grappling with solutions to reduce mass shootings and everyday gun violence, including young elementary school students in Texas and New Yorkers shopping at their local supermarket,” she said. “The city of Tampa has experienced multiple deadly shootings this week, and our neighbors have come together to say no more. The loss of life, debilitating injuries, and families torn apart by the scourge of gun violence on our streets, in our stores, and in our schools must be stopped. I am more committed than ever to passing laws to stop the senseless bloodshed and save lives.”

Staying afloat

A Defense Department budget could reduce the number of small boats in the Navy’s fleet, which could mean a reduction in the inventory of vessels at the Port of Jacksonville.

Cammack didn’t want that to happen and wrote a letter to the House Defense Appropriations Committee and Subcommittee aiming to keep the Navy’s Littoral Combat Program afloat.

“The Littoral Combat Ship Program remains a vital part of the Navy’s broader global strategy, and maintaining our fleet size is critically important in maintaining our military’s combatant strength,” the Congresswoman said. “Not only is Florida proud to be home to eight of these Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), located in the Port of Jacksonville, but this program provides employment to folks from my own district, those who live throughout the eastern half of Florida’s 3rd Congressional District.”

Kat Cammack wants to keep the Navy at full strength.

To the committee, she argued the ships supply more than just Florida jobs. They serve a critical role in military readiness, particularly considering potential conflict with powers like China.

“Given the smaller size of America’s fleet, particularly when compared with China, it is vital that we retain our fleet size for the near future,” she wrote in her letter. “Decommissioning the LCS would be a step in the wrong direction, denying our fleet of the ships’ numerous capabilities and cost-savings, particularly when compared with the proposed replacement vessels.”

Tariffs and inflation

With inflation a growing concern, Rep. Murphy wants greater attention on the impact of Donald Trump-era tariffs. She introduced a bill this week requiring the Treasury Department to report to Congress specifically on the effects of the levies on the dollar’s value.

“American families and businesses are struggling with sky-high inflation. Murphy said that the President and Congress have a responsibility to take all reasonable steps to alleviate the economic pain people are feeling,” Murphy said.

Stephanie Murphy seeks an accounting of how Donald Trump’s tariffs are helping create inflation.

“My bill requires the federal government to assess whether U.S. tariffs imposed on a wide range of imported products are a factor contributing to elevated inflation. If the answer is yes, as both common sense and basic economics strongly suggest, the federal government should act to repeal or reduce those tariffs in order to provide price relief to the American public.”

Murphy long criticized the tariffs, which remain in place, as a tax passed down to working-class consumers and U.S. businesses. She cited studies by the Peterson Institute for International Economics and the Progressive Policy Institute to stress her point.

While she stressed criticism of Trump tariffs, many of which remain in place, she noted administrations since the 1960s have employed such tactics to influence foreign entities since the 1960s. Murphy has also pushed in recent years to reauthorize the Generalized System of Preferences, which waived tariffs on products from low-income countries but expired in 2020.

Defending the vote?

Crist said voting rights are under attack in Florida, and the federal government must step up and defend them. He sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding the Justice Department actively protect voters’ access to the polls this year.

“Our right to vote is our greatest defense against tyranny and corruption. But Republicans in Tallahassee are doing everything they can to make it harder for Floridians to cast their ballot,” Crist said. “Limiting drop-box locations, purging voter rolls, and adding cumbersome restrictions to mail-in voting are all designed to keep seniors, people with disabilities, communities of color, and Floridians who work long hours from voting.”

Charlie Crist seeks federal oversight of Florida elections.

Crist, notably, is running against one of those “Republicans in Tallahassee.” He’s challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis. In his letter, he goes after several policies and laws signed by the Governor before the upcoming election. That includes the formation of an election integrity police force, a measure the Governor said will preserve Florida’s reputation for secure elections.

“Twenty years ago, nobody thought Florida was a prime example of how to conduct elections, but we have become a national leader by running the most secure elections in the country,” DeSantis said when he signed that legislation. “We need to do more to ensure our elections remain secure.”

Crist sees the effort in a different light.

“They are even sending an elections police force out into our communities to intimidate voters — straight from the playbook of (Nicolás) Maduro in Venezuela or the Ayatollah in Iran! We can’t let that happen,” the Democrat said. “It is the job of the Department of Justice to safeguard every American’s constitutional right to vote. We need them now to stand up for the people of Florida.”

Money flows

The House this week passed a significant bill funding water projects in Florida.

The Water Resources Development Act of 2022 authorized $184 million in Miami-Dade wastewater infrastructure, improvements to Port Everglades, and a host of other South Florida expenditures related to sustainability and the state’s coastline.

“The Water Resources Development Act helps communities throughout South Florida invest in critical water resource infrastructure as the needs of these flourishing communities continue to grow — especially as the effects of climate change worsen,” said Hollywood Democrat Frederica Wilson, a senior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Frederica Wilson cheers measures to keep Florida moist with clean water.

“I was proud to champion this legislation and vote to approve its passage today. By investing in our economy and our climate future, we are building more resilient communities, strengthening local economies, and protecting the lives and livelihoods of our Florida residents.”

The legislation enjoyed support from both sides of the aisle.

“This bill is an example of supporting real infrastructure, and it goes to prove if we focus on real infrastructure, Congress can come together in a bipartisan manner,” said Miami Republican Carlos Giménez in a speech supporting the bill on the House floor. “This legislation has a lot of wins for South Florida, and if we get provisions to expedite projects in Miami-Dade County and Monroe County, it will prevent future storm damage.”

The Northern Estuaries Restoration Plan was included in the legislation, an effort championed by Stuart Republican Brian Mast. The Congressman said the plan “will be the most consequential legislation our waterways on the Treasure Coast have seen in two decades.” The bill will also direct $100 million to such expenses in the Treasure Coast in Martin, St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties.

The bill would bring spending throughout the state. It covers $1.367 billion in federal funding to protect Route 1 and control coastal storm risk in Monroe County, about $20 million in storm risk management for Treasure Island and Long Key in Pinellas County, and $90 million for similar coastal protection in Okaloosa County. Another $50 million. Goes toward wastewater improvements in Orange County.

“Today’s bill will help ensure that Florida’s ports, coasts, and waterways can remain the veins and arteries of our economy,” boasted Orlando Democrat Val Demings. “We rely on safe, clean water for our recreation, tourism, and quality of life. Today’s bill funds and authorizes projects to protect the Florida Keys, get algal blooms under control, and prevent flooding from Miami to the Panhandle, Jacksonville to Orlando, Tampa to the Everglades.”

Celebrating the Summit

Miramar Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick attended the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.

“This is an opportunity to align regional leaders, the private sector, and civil society behind a new and ambitious economic agenda for Latin America and the Caribbean and address near shoring as an alternative to combat China and Russia’s influence in the region,” she said. “The Summit demonstrates the administration’s commitment to strengthening collaboration with the Caribbean Community and countries across Latin America as we address governance and human rights challenges impacting both the U.S. and our strategic partners.”

Her remarks came days after she criticized a decision to invite Haiti’s transitional government. But she expressed confidence the Summit overall would benefit those involved.

Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick makes a guest appearance at the Summit of the Americas.

Meanwhile, the Congresswoman this week filed the Opportunities in the Americas Act with New York Democrat Adriano Espaillat, a native of the Dominican Republic. The legislation promotes clean energy infrastructure. If passed, it would advance strategic investments throughout Latin America and the Caribbean through increased supply chain resilience, a stronger power grid, and low-increase loans to those who pull business from China and relocate it to nations in the Americas with trade agreements with the U.S.

“The United States has long turned to trade policy as a foundation for supporting economic development and political stability in the Western Hemisphere,” she said. “The introduction of the Opportunities in the Americas Act will further enhance that development and stability. This bill will show that the United States is committed to strengthening and deepening our trade relationship with the hemisphere as well as celebrating its important contributions to the world.”

Signs of weakness

Other members of the delegation dismissed the Summit as a failure.

Republican Reps. Díaz-Balart, Byron Donalds, Giménez and Salazar all participated in a Wednesday news conference dismissing “Biden’s Disaster Summit.”

“This was supposed to be a key strategy discussion for how we move forward as a region, as neighbors, with the United States leading, of course, on the conversation,” Salazar said. “This is the position that the United States has held for a century. Latin America looks toward the United States for guidance, friendship, help, and at this hour, it’s simply not there.”

That could explain the decision by major world leaders like Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to not attend in protest of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua not being invited. Giménez sharply criticized the choice by the Mexican government, but he put the onus on Biden for the hapless position of holding a summit with many a proxy for world leaders.

“Biden’s weakness has given the Mexican government the green light to side with dictators and communists,” Giménez posted on social media. “Today, the Mexican government is more of a friend to Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua than they are to the United States.”

While members of the delegation uniformly said anti-democratic nations should not have been allowed to attend an event hosted on U.S. soil, the fact allies did not defer to America alarmed representatives.

“If there’s one clear thing that’s gone on here, it’s with the Biden administration; we are lowering our standing in the world, not just in our hemisphere,” Donalds said. “There used to be a time where the American press was so consumed about America’s standing in the world but look what’s happened over 17 months. Now we have the Mexican President basically ignoring our invitation to a Summit. When has that ever happened?”

Díaz-Balart said this shows the current administration holds a weaker spot in the world than even prior Democratic administrations.

“I don’t often quote President (Barack) Obama,” Díaz-Balart said, “but he was fond when he met with heads of state, particularly from small nations, he had a line he’d throw in all the time. ‘They are punching above their weight.’ Well, it’s pretty evident that with President Biden in the White House, the United States is punching below its weight, and you see it time and time again with disastrous consequences.”

To watch the speech, click on the image below:

 

On this day

June 10, 1963 — “Equal Pay Act signed into law” via the National Park Service — The Act, signed by President John F. Kennedy, was one of the first federal anti-discrimination laws that addressed wage differences based on gender. The Act made it illegal to pay men and women working in the same place different salaries for similar work. During the first decades of the 20th century, women made up less than 24% of the U.S. workforce. During World War II, however, labor shortages brought large numbers of women into the workplace, and by 1945, women made up 37% of the civilian workforce. Because women had traditionally earned less than men for doing similar work, male workers feared that this growing source of cheap labor would replace them or lower their wages.

June 10, 1898 — “Marines land at Guantánamo Bay” via the Library of Congress — For the next month, American troops fought a land war in Cuba that resulted in the end of Spanish colonial rule in the Western Hemisphere. Cuban rebels had gained the sympathy of the American public while the explosion and sinking of the U.S.S. Maine, widely blamed on the Spanish despite the absence of conclusive evidence, further boosted American nationalistic fervor. Popular demand for intervention in the Cuban-Spanish conflict led Congress to pass resolutions demanding the withdrawal of Spanish armed forces from Cuba, authorizing U.S. aid to affect this, and promising American support for Cuban self-rule.

___

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

Staff Reports


One comment

  • tom palmer

    June 10, 2022 at 3:06 pm

    Dead and injured police officers. vandalized Capitol, nothing to see here. Thanks Rep Steube and other GOP slugs

Comments are closed.


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