Delegation for 7.5.22: Freedom — border control — inflated feast — fighting hate

capitol u.s. green 9.30.19
America celebrates freedom — with a side order of politics.

Land of the free

There may be no holiday more perfectly suited than Independence Day for political posturing.

With a holiday weekend happening in an election year, the anniversary of the nation’s break from the British Empire offered opportunities for glad-handing at fireworks displays, sharing colorful memes on social media (mostly three specific colors), and issuing bold statements in support of freedom.

Florida celebrates American independence, with a little politics thrown in. Image via Florida Poly University.

“As we celebrate the 246th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, may we never take our liberty for granted nor grow complacent in our responsibility to uphold its ideals,” said Rep. Daniel Webster, a Clermont Republican. “As we enjoy our BBQs, parades and firework shows, we must remember the men and women throughout our nation’s history who pledged their lives to protect our freedoms. The priceless privilege of liberty and opportunities we enjoy in the United States are unlike any other in the world.”

Rep. Darren Soto, a Kissimmee Democrat, campaigned Monday at Fourth of July events at every major city in his district, including Celebration, East Orange, Kissimmee and St. Cloud. Rep. Val Demings, an Orlando Democrat, spent the day at the Metro West Music Works event in her district.

Sen. Rick Scott, a Naples Republican, shared photos from abroad, visiting Camp Humphreys in South Korea to celebrate with service members stationed there. Rep. Brian Mast, a Stuart Republican, attended a military appreciation barbecue, an event also attended by political ally Donald Trump Jr.

Darren Soto makes the rounds for Independence Day. Image via Twitter.

From both sides of the aisle, a holiday celebrating the laying of the foundation for the American system in which all delegation members play a part gave a minute to celebrate the nation in a way that transcends party lines.

“I never take America’s freedoms for granted,” tweeted Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Winter Park Democrat. “Every day, I feel grateful beyond words that this country gave my family refuge during our darkest days. I’ll always be proud to call myself an American. From my family to yours — happy 4th of July.”

At the border

Florida has suffered a sizable share of the burden from the opioid crisis. The state in 2020 saw a rate of 26.9 opioid overdose deaths per 100,000 residents, higher than the national average of 21.4 per 100,000, according to the Kaiser Foundation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports Florida saw more fatal drug overdoses that year than any state but California.

Now, Scott wants a renewed effort in federal laws to stop drug smuggling. On Friday, he filed the bipartisan Eradicating Narcotic Drugs and Formulating Effective New Tools to Address National Yearly Losses of Life (END FENTANYL) Act. That bill would require Customs and Border Patrol to review and update its policies every three years to improve drug interdiction guidance.

Rick Scott calls for tougher federal action on fentanyl.

“For too long, the crushing heartbreak felt from losing a loved one to a drug overdose, and the opioids that cause them, have plagued American families,” Scott said.

“This epidemic, fueled by the massive amounts of fentanyl flowing illegally over our southern border into our communities, has only grown worse under Joe Biden’s failed open border policies. Every life taken by an accidental drug overdose is a preventable tragedy and we must do everything in our power to stop them. That’s why I am leading a bipartisan group of my colleagues to introduce the END FENTANYL Act. We must continue to do everything possible to ensure our brave CBP agents, who are on the front lines of this battle, have every tool needed to fight back, keep these dangerous drugs out of our country and save lives.”

While he leaned into criticism of the Democratic administration, Scott filed the bill with Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, along with Republican Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana.

Inflating roast

According to Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign, this year’s Fourth of July cookout prices were a bit too much to swallow.

With the realization that this Independence Day was the most expensive yet, the re-election team for Florida’s senior Senator pointed a collective finger at Biden and Rubio’s top Democratic challenger, Demings.

Celebrating gets a little more expensive in 2022. Image via American Farm Bureau.

“Everything about the Fourth of July costs more this year: gas, flights, food, you name it,” said Rubio campaign spokesperson Elizabeth Gregory. “Joe Biden and Val Demings sure know how to leave Floridians with less of their hard-earned money.”

The numbers aren’t something the Biden administration wants to parade around. The cost of July Fourth barbecue essentials is up 17% from a year ago, according to a recent American Farm Bureau Federation marketbasket survey.

The survey found that U.S. consumers pay $69.68, about $10 more, for their favorite cookout foods, including cheeseburgers, pork chops, chicken breasts, homemade potato salad, strawberries and ice cream. That’s the average cost of a summer cookout for 10 people, which breaks down to just under $7 per person.

Disarming the IRS

Panhandle Republican Matt Gaetz wants to keep ammunition out of the wrong people’s hands. And by that, he means officials with the IRS.

Following a Fox News report on the IRS buying $725,000 worth of ammo as part of its federal budget, Gaetz filed a bill prohibiting the agency from purchasing any more firepower.

“Call me old-fashioned, but I thought the heaviest artillery an IRS agent would need would be a calculator,” he told Fox host Jesse Waters. “Like, I imagine the IRS in green eye shades and cubicles, not busting doors down and emptying Glock clips on our fellow Americans.”

In apocalyptic terms, Gaetz painted a picture of the Biden administration opening the borders and taking citizens’ guns away, then arming IRS agents to collect the taxes from law-abiding Americans.

His legislation, filed with Republicans Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, Paul Gosar of Arizona and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, would prohibit the agency from acquiring any ammunition in any way.

Of course, the purchase was a routine inclusion in the IRS budget, which has its own criminal investigation unit. The agency conducts its own investigations of significant economic crimes, including fraudulent COVID-19 loan claims and criminal actions conducted using cryptocurrency.

Heave ho

It’s been just a few months since Panama City-based Eastern Shipbuilding Group landed the contract to build four new Coast Guard cutters. But now, the contractor has been passed over for Phase II of the fleet-expanding effort. That means a deal potentially worth $3 billion will sail instead to Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama.

But the potential loss of business has both business leaders and delegation members ready to man the artillery and fight the selection.

“We are extremely disappointed in this decision and are evaluating our options,” said Eastern Shipbuilding President Joey D’Isernia in a statement to WMBB News 13.

The same goes for elected officials.

“The Coast Guard made a mistake in its OPC stage II decision. Eastern Shipbuilding is known for quality products and the Coast Guard knows this,” said Panama City Republican Rep. Neal Dunn. “I am very concerned the foreign company awarded the contract lacks experience in building steel vessels. This will ultimately cost taxpayers more money, and further delay these ships from entering service to protect our nation’s shores. My office will work to push the Coast Guard to reconsider this decision.”

Neal Dunn is fighting to keep a $3B contract at home.

Of note, while Austal has shipbuilding facilities in Singapore, the U.S. division of the company has been headquartered in Alabama since 1990.

Sen. Rubio said Eastern Shipbuilding, which built the first offshore patrol cutters in the Coast Guard fleet in 2016, should be the choice for continuing work. He called the choice of Austal “shortsighted.”

“When I visited Eastern Shipbuilding last year, I saw firsthand their commitment to building reliable, state-of-the-art ships,” he said. “They have proven they can do the job and do it well. This decision will cost taxpayers more money and slow down the delivery of these critical vessels.”

Central Florida funding

Demings announced $18 million in community spending earmarked for Central Florida in the House Appropriations Committee budget.

“As Chief of Police in Orlando, I believed deeply in the power of community partnerships,” the Orlando Democrat said. “That’s why I’m fighting this year for federal funding to support proven community projects that will support local law enforcement, ensure clean drinking water, expand access to health care, grow our economy and keep Central Florida moving. Safe and efficient infrastructure, public safety, and public health are at the heart of every great community, and I am excited for all that we will continue to accomplish in the year ahead.”

Val Demings touts federal cash for myriad Central Florida projects. Image via Instagram.

Projects include everything from new electric vehicle charging stations to a Pine Hills bus transfer center and galvanized water pipes to replace the asbestos-laden system used in Apopka now.

Orlando police will have dashcams funded. Orange County will be able to pay for a floating solar power project. The Hispanic Federal will get money for a college-prep program. Demings’ Office announced 15 total projects to be fully funded in the House budget.

“We are extremely grateful to Congresswoman Demings for including these Orange County Sheriff’s Office initiatives in her funding requests,” said Orange County Sheriff John Mina. “There has never been a more important time to equip deputies with Crisis Intervention Training. And any additional funding for technology to help solve cold cases can bring long-awaited closure to families and loved ones.”

Don’t aid Erdoğan

Tensions between Greece and Turkey persisted for centuries. Palm Harbor Republican Gus Bilirakis wants to ensure the U.S. isn’t boosting the wrong side of the conflict. He and the other co-Chairs of the House Hellenic Caucus, Democrats Carolyn Maloney of New York and Chris Pappas of New Hampshire, issued a letter opposing plans to sell F-16 fighter plane modernization kits to Turkey.

Bilirakis criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and said the U.S. should not support the regime.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is making a big plane buy from the U.S. Is it a good sale?

“Turkey has consistently demonstrated a complete disregard for following international law,” Bilirakis said. “Erdogan repeatedly acts contrary to American interests, with his dangerous behavior contributing to the instability of the region. For all these reasons, we absolutely must not sell Turkey F-16s or F-16 modernization kits.”

The Biden administration, however, has signaled a desire to work with Turkey.

Last week, Celeste Wallender, assistant secretary for Defense for International Security Affairs at the Pentagon, supported a sale.

“The United States supports Turkey’s modernization of its fighter fleet because that is a contribution to NATO security and therefore American security,” she said.

But the plans drew stark criticism even from Democrats leading the Hellenic Caucus.

“Turkish F-16s have flown over Greek islands and violated its airspace hundreds of times in recent weeks, and Turkey has launched a baseless campaign disputing Greece’s sovereignty over its eastern Aegean islands,” Pappas said. “We cannot allow the Erdoğan government to escape accountability for violating U.S. law and the standards of the NATO alliance.”

Charlie Crist, a member of the caucus, also issued a lengthy statement pointedly criticizing the administration. Among his concerns is that there’s no controlling how Turkey uses the military assets.

“Over the last decade, Turkey has not been a productive member of NATO nor a reliable ally to the U.S.,” the St. Petersburg Democrat said. “In addition to Turkey’s aggression in the Eastern Mediterranean, Erdoğan has announced he is on the verge of reinvading Syria with the specific intention of targeting Kurdish forces in the North. Many of these forces have previously fought alongside and assisted U.S. operations in the region. If Turkey were to obtain F-16 fighter systems, they would clearly be used in this new offensive against our Syrian Kurdish allies.”

Investigate hate

Crist wants the Department of Justice to investigate hate in Florida. He sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray after the appearance of antisemitic flyers in Jacksonville, Orlando, Miami and Coral Gables.

“I am deeply disturbed and outraged by these disgusting, hateful pieces of propaganda left at homes in South Florida and across the state — intentionally targeting Florida’s Jewish community,” Crist said.

The flyers attack executives of Disney, including CEO Bob Chapek, who are pictured with blue Star of David symbols stamped on their faces, according to the Miami Herald. The propaganda accuses the corporation of promoting child grooming and attempts at gun control.

Antisemitism rears its ugly head in Sarasota — again. Image via @HollyBullardFL.

Notably, Crist is running for Florida Governor against Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose Press Secretary, Christina Pushaw, employed the term “groomers” to describe opponents of education legislation this year that Disney vowed to help overturn.

Crist said the flyers rely on anti-Jewish tropes and have no place in public discourse.

“The bigoted rhetoric in these flyers echo the same antisemitic tropes used for centuries and are the same lies used by the Nazi party,” Crist said. “As antisemitic hate crimes rise across the country, these flyers serve as a painful reminder of the threats posed by antisemitism and the very real dangers facing our Jewish communities. We must remain vigilant and root out hateful rhetoric before it turns into yet more violence.”

New Israel relationships

A new Prime Minister in Israel won’t serve for long before facing re-election, but Rep. Ted Deutch said the U.S. will maintain a strong relationship with the government there. Deutch, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism, issued a joint statement with Ranking Republican Joe Wilson welcoming Prime Minister Yair Lapid, leader of the liberal Yesh Atid party, into office.

“We send our best wishes to Yair Lapid as he is sworn in as Prime Minister of the State of Israel,” the statement read. “We look forward to working closely with Prime Minister Lapid to continue strengthening the relationship between the United States and Israel, an enduring relationship based on shared values that enjoys deep bipartisan support across America.”

Lapid took the reins for Israel’s government, part of a power-sharing agreement with New Right leader Naftali Bennett.

Yair Lapid is in charge, but for how long?

The coalition took over to deny another term to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Deutch had met with over numerous diplomatic trips for more than a decade. The Congressman notably isn’t seeking re-election and will take over as CEO of the American Jewish Committee at the close of his term.

Drop the debt

It’s time to follow through on promises to ease student debt, according to Frederica Wilson. The Hollywood Democrat chairs the Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee. Wilson sent a letter to Biden calling for the administration to cancel all student debts and strive to make higher education more affordable.

“The State of Florida is leading research programs in departments like cancer research at the University of Florida, marine biology at Florida International University, and bacterial research at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University,” Wilson wrote.

Frederica Wilson says college tuition is too damn high.

“Despite the state’s outstanding production in higher education, the cost of attendance for college in Florida and other states is significantly increasing, making higher education inaccessible and unaffordable. The Florida Department of Health reports that the median household income across the state is $57,403; meanwhile, the average cost of tuition and fees ranges from $10,338 to $38,185 per year. In extreme cases, the cost of attendance compared to the median household income nearly consumes 50% of that income.”

She said in her letter that a generation of students was promised that dedicating themselves to higher education would lead to a more prosperous future.

“Our nation has latched itself to the promise of the American dream and upward mobility; however, with the costs of living skyrocketing, the right to attend college is in jeopardy,” she wrote. “As defenders of democracy, it is our responsibility that Americans get to fulfill their version of the American dream and do so without being penalized by their government.”

On this day

July 5, 1853 — “Frederick Douglass gives ‘What to the slave is the Fourth of July’ speech” via the National Endowment for the Humanities — Douglass, a formerly enslaved person, became a nationally recognized abolitionist orator during the antebellum period. During the Civil War, he worked tirelessly for emancipation, and during the decades following the war was arguably the most influential African American leader in the nation. He addressed the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society in Rochester, New York. “America is young, and that she is still in the impressible stage of her existence,” Douglas said. “Were the nation older, the patriot’s heart might be sadder, and the reformer’s brow heavier.”

July 5, 2016 — “FBI recommends no charges for Hillary Rodham Clinton in email server case” via NPR — Clinton and her staff were “extremely careless” in handling classified data over a private email server while she was secretary of state, FBI Director James Comey said, but the FBI is recommending no charges be brought against her. Comey said his agency found more than a hundred emails that contained information that was classified at the time they were sent and received — emails that should not have been on “any kind of unclassified system,” He added that the FBI also considered it possible that a “hostile actor” had hacked Clinton’s email domain.


Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, edited and assembled by Phil Ammann and Ryan Nicol, with contributions by Renzo Downey.

Staff Reports


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