Delegation for 6.24.22: Bye Roe — fallout — gun safety — defense — lab access

U.S. Capitol Building from the Fifty Dollar Bill
Did America just turn back the clock 50 years?

The end

The monthlong wait is over.

Friday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court ended the constitutional protections for abortion — which had been in place for nearly 50 years.

The opinion by the Court’s conservative majority to overturn Roe v. Wade will now set off “trigger bans” on abortion in roughly half the states.

Unthinkable just a few years ago, this decision is the culmination of decades of efforts by anti-abortion advocates. The crowning achievement was an emboldened right side of the Court, fortified by three appointees of former President Donald Trump.

The ruling came more than a month after the leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito indicating the Court was looking to take this momentous — and historic — step.

It puts the Court at odds with a majority of Americans who favor preserving Roe, according to opinion polls.

Alito, in the final opinion, wrote that Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that reaffirmed the right to abortion, were wrong from the day of decision and must be overturned.

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision,” Alito wrote.

Authority to regulate abortion rests with the political branches, not the courts, he continued.

Joining Alito were Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. The latter three justices are Trump appointees. Thomas first voted to overrule Roe 30 years ago.

Fallout

The decision immediately rockets abortion rights to front-burner status in the U.S. Senate race in Florida and in other contests throughout the state and country.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, an ardent anti-abortion Republican, wrote an op-ed first published in the Washington Examiner that said the ruling was “long overdue.”

“But even if America’s pro-abortion legal regime is overturned, our work is far from over,” he said. “We can and must do more for unborn children and their mothers. What we need is an anti-abortion plan for post-Roe America. Fortunately, there are some concrete steps policymakers can take — steps that would make a world of difference to parents and children in need.”

He said Congress should respond to the verdict with steps like giving mothers tax credits for unborn children and making the adoption tax credit fully refundable.

Marco Rubio says overturning Roe was long overdue.

“All these steps and more would provide real, meaningful aid to mothers and their babies — and they are all included as provisions in the Providing for Life Act, a new bill whose framework I have introduced this week,” he said. “With the end of Roe potentially just over the horizon, I hope my colleagues in Congress realize the importance of this moment and support my bill accordingly.”

On the opposite side of the spectrum was Rep. Val Demings, the Orlando Democrat challenging Rubio in the midterms this November. Her campaign called the overturn of Roe “dangerous and tragic.”

“I’m sick and tired of our basic, fundamental right to privacy being politicized,” she said. “Because of today’s ruling, women will be forced to put their lives on the line, victims of rape and incest will be forced into pregnancy, and we cannot say we control our own bodies in this country. Our daughters and granddaughters have lost a right we fought so hard to protect.”

She promised to make preserving the ability of women to control their own bodies would be a major plank of her Senate campaign.

“Let me be clear: Despite today’s decision, this fight is far from over,” she said. “In the U.S. Senate, I will stand up, speak out, and relentlessly fight for a woman’s right to choose her own destiny. We refuse to go back to allowing our personal decisions to be made by politicians like Marco Rubio who has obsessively fought to ban abortions, even in cases of rape and incest.”

Shots fired

As the nation grapples with another deadly school shooting, another SCOTUS decision is shaking up the gun rights debate.

The 6-3 decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen significantly reduces the ability of states to impose licensing limits for carrying handguns.

In the conservative majority, three of the six Justices who ruled were appointed by Trump.

Besides prompting immediate pushback from the White House and President Joe Biden, members of the delegation — on both sides of the debate — immediately weighed in.

“The Supreme Court’s decision, in this case, will gut communities’ ability to protect our schools, churches and communities from gun violence,” said Demings, an Orlando Democrat running for Senate. “We can protect our communities and the Second Amendment at the same time by focusing on common-sense reforms. Members of Congress need to show the basic courage to stand up to the gun lobby.”

But Rep. Kat Cammack, saw the ruling as vindication for gun owners.

You can only guess where Kat Cammack stands on guns.

“Today, the Supreme Court struck down New York’s unconstitutional restrictions on citizens’ right to conceal carry,” the Gainesville Republican tweeted. “Politicians cannot trample the Second Amendment to cater to their political agenda, ignoring the Constitution and the freedoms it guarantees. (The Second Amendment) shall not be infringed!”

As the opinion came out, the Senate debated a major bipartisan gun reform bill in the wake of a shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas. The shooter killed 19 children and two teachers.

The Senate passed the bill — though both of Florida’s Republican Senators voted “no.”

That legislation deals with red flag laws and seizing weapons from individuals posing a danger to themselves or others. Now the measure goes to the House for a vote.

Some experts feel the broad opinion released by the court could complicate this bill. But there is also likely a legal battleground that just opened up around the nation.

The New York law struck down by Justices required gun owners to show a “proper cause” for a license to conceal a handgun. The decision at once tosses laws in six states — not including Florida.

Justices in the majority opinion made clear any gun restrictions must be interpreted based on the intent of the Founding Fathers (in the 1700s), which will fuel the debate over existing statutes.

Observers can also expect states that are arguing “constitutional carry” — allowing any guns to be carried without a permit and openly — to consider whether now is the right time to take a shot at passage.

Later on Friday, the House easily cleared the bipartisan gun safety package, sending the first major response to nearly three decades of mass shootings to Biden’s desk.

Misfire?

While Rick Scott served as Florida Governor, he signed a red flag law now being touted as a possible solution to gun violence nationwide.

However, the junior Senator voted against a similar measure as a Senator on Wednesday.

This seeming dichotomy left many struggling to understand his motives, which he sought to explain in a lengthy statement. Scott said the process that led to the bill language simply wasn’t the same in Washington as in Florida:

“Over the last two weeks, I’ve seen many people compare the bill being considered in the Senate to what we did in Florida.

“These bills are not the same at all. One was the product of a collaborative, well-defined and transparent process.

Rick Scott touts his success as Florida Governor in red-flag laws. Image via AP.

“The other was the result of secret backroom dealings that did not include input from the majority of Republican members, committee hearings, nor opportunities for amendments, giving members barely an hour to read the bill before we were asked to vote on it.”

Nevertheless, 14 Republican Senators supported the bill, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican, collaborated with Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, on the bill.

Much like the Parkland bill Scott signed after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Cornyn negotiated across the aisle in the wake of a national tragedy impacting his constituents in Uvalde; he crossed Party lines to work with a Senator championing the issue since the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in 2012.

Scott acknowledged that, as well as the fact the final legislation incorporated language he filed in Washington since arriving in the Senate in 2019.

“Since the tragic shooting in Uvalde that took the lives of 19 children and two teachers, I have heard from many Floridians about the need to support common-sense legislation that follows the action Florida took after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018,” Scott said. “While there are elements of the bill now being considered in the Senate that I support, like the Luke and Alex School Safety Act that I have been fighting to pass for years, the Senate also, unfortunately, decided to take action that is not consistent with the aggressive due process protections that I fought for when I was Governor.”

China follow-up

Bringing a stop to the use of forced labor in China has been a high international priority for Rubio. He sponsored the bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), which Biden signed earlier this year.

But now, Rubio says the administration needs to step up and actually enforce the law.

In a RealClearPolitics op-ed, Rubio called the law the “most significant change in America’s relationship with China since 2001, when the communist nation joined the World Trade Organization.”

Marco Rubio takes a hard line on the use of forced labor in China.

It forbids companies from importing goods mined, produced, or manufactured in whole or in part through slavery using the Uyghurs or other ethnic groups oppressed by the Chinese government.

“If our customs agents enforce the UFLPA strictly, they will protect American consumers from unknowingly sending their hard-earned money to companies that use forced labor. Other countries may even follow America’s ethical leadership in an effort to end state-sponsored slavery,” Rubio wrote. “But we cannot take that outcome for granted. The Biden administration is under immense pressure from nationless corporations and the regime in Beijing to find loopholes and carve-outs that would effectively gut the new law.”

Of note, the op-ed came out just before Rubio signed a letter criticizing Biden for a moratorium on tariffs for solar panels, which could effectively encourage importation of goods produced in the Uyghur region.

“Already the United States is over-reliant on China for solar power,” the letter said. “Currently, 80% of our solar panels come from China or Chinese companies, and this reliance is not market-based. China has used a variety of anti-free market practices, such as industrial subsidies, to come to dominate the solar sector.”

Military mission

A House budget crafted by the House Armed Services Committee includes more than half a billion dollars for the Panhandle. Matt Gaetz pushed for the budget to include $525 million for the region, including funding for research and development for advanced munitions technology.

“Northwest Florida’s Military Mission is essential to America’s national security,” the Fort Walton Beach Republican said. “Northwest Floridians take great pride in their contributions to the defense of our nation. The funding secured in this legislation is a testament to that spirit and ensures our military mission and community will continue to thrive. This legislation also provides much needed relief to our service members who are suffering under Joe Biden’s inflation.”

Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range is getting an upgrade.

Budget items included $140 million for Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range for upgrades as the facilities become a center of hypersonic weapons testing. The CH-47 Block II program received a $216-million bump sponsored by Gaetz for the production of three new aircraft. Gaetz also landed $8 million for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Munitions Directorate on Eglin Air Base to develop advanced munitions technology strategies. Niceville-based Integrated Solutions for Systems got $5 million for expansion of research into 3D printing of armaments.

Honoring an activist

The Mother of the Southside now has a post office bearing her name.

Biden signed a bill championed by Tallahassee Democrat Al Lawson to rename a South Adams Street post office after D. Edwina Stephens.

“The Southside community adored Edwina Stephens for her work to advance the neighborhood,” Lawson said. “The opportunity to name the main post office after such a social justice giant is incredible. She was committed to fighting for civil rights and advocating for projects that enhanced the community.”

Joe Biden signs the bill establishing a ‘D. Edwina Stephens Post Office.’

Stephens, who died following a car crash in 2011 at age 86, was the first Black surgical nursing supervisor at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and fought for equality in Florida. That included facilitating the hiring of Winn Dixie’s first Black cashiers and shutting down a medical waste facility located in Tallahassee’s Black community, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

The bill renaming the post office was co-sponsored by every member of Florida’s House delegation.

Defense measures

U.S. armed forces could soon help prepare Taiwan in case of military conflict with China.

That’s thanks to an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act filed in the House by Michael Waltz.

“As a Green Beret and combat veteran, I know firsthand the importance of a well-equipped, well-prepared military force to protect our great country,” the St. Augustine Beach Republican said. “Right now, our country faces numerous threats from adversaries like the Chinese Communist Party, whose technology and military capabilities are advancing as rapidly as its ambitions. This year’s defense bill will help us ensure America can face those challenges and any others while protecting our strategic interests at home and abroad — while improving the quality of life for the men and women of our armed services and their families.”

Michael Waltz has Taiwan’s back.

The amendment authorizes joint military exercises with Taiwan to help prepare the island from a Chinese invasion or military aggression. The measure was one of several amendments passed that were offered by Waltz in a House Armed Services Committee markup this week.

He also advanced language create gender-neutral fitness standards for occupational specialties in the Army, coordinate research and development on blockchain technologies, leverage research assets with Israel on diagnosing and treating post-traumatic stress disorder, exempt Gold Star families from the naturalization process, and prohibit the Defense Department buying goods from the Uyghur region, among others.

Analyzing influence

Another Armed Services Committee member, Stephanie Murphy, also announced wins for Florida.

The Winter Park Democrat said a measure passed for a K9 memorial at the National Navy SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, a facility she championed with Stuart Republican Brian Mast. She also touted improvements to TriCare coverage on breast reconstruction surgery after traumatic injuries.

Murphy, Vice Chair of the Intelligence and Special Operations Subcommittee, also pushed for a $10 million increase in funding allotted for Special Operations Command.

Language from a bill she introduced was also added to the budget that would require assessment reports on efforts by Russia to expand its influence within Latin America and the Caribbean. She and Waltz similarly pushed for updates on efforts by China to improve its reach to the Bahamas and other nations in the region.

“America faces the most complex set of international threats in a generation,” Murphy said. “The Armed Services Committee has crafted a bipartisan bill that will help deter Russian and Chinese aggression, enable the U.S. military to increase assistance to our allies and partners like Ukraine, and provide our troops with the resources they need to accomplish their missions.”

Lab work

There should be no age limit to access laboratory services as part of health care, according to Gus Bilirakis.

The Tarpon Springs Republican was part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers this week to introduce the Saving Access to Laboratory Services Act (SALSA), legislation that looks to protect seniors’ access to care amid cuts to Medicare.

“Seniors deserve access to high-quality medical care, which includes diagnostic laboratory services and other tests with the potential to save lives through early detection and individualized assessment of patient needs,” Bilirakis said. “Our bipartisan SALSA legislation will help ensure that continued access and I urge my colleagues to expedite its passage.”

Gus Bilirakis says access to lab work should be for all.

He introduced the bill with Democrats Bill Pascrell of New Jersey, Scott Peters of California and Kurt Schrader of Oregon and with Republican Richard Hudson of North Carolina.

Sponsors expressed concern Medicare cuts could affect seniors significantly, especially those in underserved areas and with chronic conditions. Planned annual cuts could also result in many physicians limiting what lab services they offer.

Since the Protecting Access to Medicare Act passed by Congress in 2014, some 72% of clinical laboratory tests have faced Medicare payment cuts based on poor implementation by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, according to a release from Bilirakis’ office.

Juiced

A budget for the Agriculture Department just approved by the House Appropriations Committee includes $71 million for Florida’s citrus industry. St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist, a candidate for Governor, celebrated the inclusion of the funding along with other spending, including $3 million he championed for pet-friendly animal shelters that supply companion animals for survivors of domestic abuse.

Crist cheered expansion in funding for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other financial aid for families included in the budget.

Can Charlie Crist keep the juice flowing?

“This bill delivers big for Florida’s families and farmers through robust funding for nutrition assistance programs and support for Florida’s citrus industry — a top priority of mine,” Crist said. “This year’s Agriculture appropriations bill also addresses the baby formula shortage and helps us prevent future toxin-related recalls. In the richest country in the world, parents should not have to worry whether they can find formula for their babies and if that formula is safe. This bill will help Florida’s families put food on the table and feed their children, while also supporting family farms across the Sunshine State.”

Techie

Scott Franklin introduced legislation to set up a Technology Competitiveness Council, a federal entity that would pursue advancements in artificial intelligence, revise intellectual property laws and evaluate the integration of electrical systems in the Defense Department.

“Maintaining America’s technological edge is critical to our national security,” the Lakeland Republican said. “This Technology Competitiveness Council will provide national strategic direction to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our private and public sector technology efforts. It will reduce duplicative efforts, streamline budgeting and expedite critical decision-making processes. In short, it will help ensure the United States remains on the vanguard of technological innovation. I’m proud to join my colleagues from both sides of the aisle in leading this effort.”

Scott Franklin hopes to boost the nation’s tech support.

He filed the bipartisan legislation with Republican Don Bacon of Nebraska and Democrats Salud Carbajal of California and Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania that would create the council. The group would report directly to the President, chaired by the Vice President, offering direction on a national technology strategy and vision.

Field goals

House Republicans heading into the Midterms made clear at a Thursday news conference they intend to make transgender participation in women’s sports a major issue in the election. Sarasota Republican Greg Steube, who for years sponsored legislation prohibiting trans women from taking part in such events, sat alongside House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy during a panel on the topic.

Greg Stube looks to block trans athletes from playing in women’s sports.

“It’s a sad day in America when we actually have to pass a bill to say that women’s sports is going to be women’s sports and men’s sports is going to be men’s sports,” Steube said.

The GOP members making their case argue Title IX protections that require equal offerings in collegiate sports for male and female athletes also should restrict athletes assigned male at birth from competing in women’s sports even if they identify as female.

Cammack also spoke at the event. “It is a slap in the face to every single woman and parent who has fought for their child to have an opportunity to play,” she said.

Anti-vax state?

Democrats within the Florida delegation joined together in demanding Gov. Ron DeSantis order COVID-19 vaccines for the state’s youngest constituents.

Lois Frankel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz led a letter, signed by all 11 Democrats in the delegation, to DeSantis and state Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo. The missive takes issue that Florida was the only state refusing to preorder vaccines for children ages six months to 5 years old, “senselessly delaying access to a lifesaving vaccine for over 1 million children in this age group.”

Ron DeSantis takes a hard pass on vaccines for young children. Image via Orlando Sentinel.

Moreover, Florida is recommending against parents getting vaccines for children altogether.

“You continue to spread disinformation about the safety and efficacy of vaccines,

confusing parents and jeopardizing the health of their kids,” the letter reads. “COVID-19 vaccines have been rigorously tested for safety and efficacy and both clinical trials and real-world data have proven that they reduce the risk of transmission, serious illness, hospitalization, and death — for all age groups.”

In Florida, more than 2 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic and nearly 500 have died.

“Just the fear of illness or the ability to spread COVID-19 has led millions of parents to keep children from normal socialization,” the letter closes. “You are the only Governor in the United States who has refused to order these vaccines, creating obstacles for parents who want to have their child vaccinated against COVID-19. We urge you to reverse course immediately and allow all legal means of distribution.”

On this day

June 24, 2021 — “Many feared dead after Surfside condo collapses” via The Associated Press — A beachfront condo building partially collapsed outside Miami. The tower resembled a giant fractured dollhouse with one side sheared away. Dozens of survivors were pulled out, and rescuers kept up a desperate search for more. A wing of the 12-story building in the community of Surfside came down with a roar around 1:30 a.m. By late afternoon, nearly 100 people were still unaccounted for, authorities said, raising fears that the death toll could climb sharply. Officials did not know how many were in the tower when it fell.

June 24, 1957 — “Supreme Court rules government can ban obscenity” via ThoughtCo — What is obscenity? This was the question put before the Supreme Court in the case of Roth v. United States in 1957. It’s a major decision because if the government can ban something as “obscene,” then that material falls outside the protection of the First Amendment. Those who wish to distribute such “obscene” material will have little if any, recourse against censorship. Even worse, allegations of obscenity stem almost entirely from religious foundations. This essentially means that religious objections to a specific material can remove basic constitutional protections from that material.

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Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, with material from The Associated Press.

Staff Reports



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