Delegation for 9.9.22: Crested wave — abortions — Charlie Crist out — pump up the volume

capitol u.s. green 9.30.19
While Republicans fight, the red wave is turning blue.

Wave goodbye

Could a red wave have crested too soon?

A growing number of prognosticators in the last week pulled back on predictions of a massive Republican takeover for both chambers of Congress. In fact, with the election less than two months away, FiveThirtyEight and Cook Political Report predict Democrats will hold on to a majority in the Senate, a change from forecasts through most of 2022, and Sabato’s Crystal Ball sees tossup contests in Nevada and Georgia deciding who holds the gavel in January.

None of this is good news for Sen. Rick Scott, Florida’s junior Senator and Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC).

While a feud rages on, the red wave may be turning blue.

Of late, more headlines have been made by an apparent feud between Scott and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell about the management of the NRSC’s resources and recruitment ability.

An analysis by Crystal Ball editor Kyle Kondik says a lot of problems for Republicans stem from their Senate nominees being particularly green, with first-time candidates running statewide in critical states. “The Republican candidates in four of those races — Arizona’s Blake Masters, Colorado’s Joe O’Dea, Georgia’s Herschel Walker, and Washington state’s Tiffany Smiley — have no elected experience at all,” he wrote.

Scott, for his part, defended a strategy of leaving the vetting of candidates to voters, a touchy subject for a man twice elected Florida Governor while challenging establishment favorites.

“A lot of the Washington crowd, what they want to do is pick the candidates,” Scott said.

Despite the bad press, NRSC staff members are still confident they can run the boards in the first Midterm under a still-unpopular Democratic President, Joe Biden.

Of note, most analysts still expect Republicans will take the House. But many see signs there could be more races where Democrats put up a significant fight. That includes a South Florida contest where Democrats are looking to flip a Republican-held seat to the blue column.

The Economist’s election forecast moved Florida’s 27th Congressional District into the tossup column, the only Florida race in that category to date. The outlet became the first to list CD 27 as a jump ball, but that’s sure to lead to re-examination by other observers.

Of note, the model still gives incumbent GOP Rep. María Elvira Salazar a 64% chance of retaining the seat, but a vote share formula predicts Democrat Annette Taddeo winning 48.9% of the vote and with a decent shot at unseating the Republican.

“As voters continue to hear our campaign’s message and learn more about the myriad ways the incumbent is failing them, we are confident our momentum will continue to grow, and we will deliver real leadership for the people of Miami in our district,” said Nick Merlino, Taddeo’s campaign manager.

VA abortions?

As abortion becomes an increasingly significant issue in this year’s Senate race, Sen. Marco Rubio slammed a plan for the Veterans Affairs Administration to provide abortion counseling at its facilities.

“The VA should focus on taking care of the brave men and women who served our country,” the Miami Republican said. “Instead, President Biden is trying to turn local VA facilities into abortion factories. It is grotesque and illegal. The Senate needs to pass my Prohibiting Abortion on Federal Lands Act to protect life and block President Biden from further abusing his presidential power.”

Marco Rubio wants to ban federal VA facilities from performing abortions.

He referenced a bill (S 4519) that would prohibit abortions from being provided on any property owned by the federal government, including VA facilities.

Rubio’s remarks came after the Biden administration announced it would make abortion services available at Vas under certain circumstances, even in states banning the procedure, CNN reported.

The Senator said the insertion of abortion services into the VA’s menu of services would not only inject the agency into a highly emotional political issue but violate the Veterans Healthcare Act of 1991.

Conducting business

The Commerce Department announced an investment of $50.8 million through the American Rescue Plan for Florida’s semiconductor industry. Funding was allotted through the Build Back Better Regional Challenge with a requirement that it goes to “Building Central Florida’s Semiconductor Cluster for Broad-Based Prosperity,” a joint project for the Osceola County Commission, Orlando Economic Partnership, University of Central Florida and Bridging the Innovation Development Gap.

The grant means new “good-paying jobs right here in Central Florida,” said Rep. Val Demings, an Orlando Democrat running for U.S. Senate. She lobbied Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on funding the effort earlier this year.

Val Demings says Central Florida is ready to ‘Build Back Better.’

“Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, which I was proud to support, we are growing an economy that works for everyone and reclaiming the computer chip manufacturing industry from China,” the Democratic Senate candidate said. “This competitive grant will help the growing semiconductor cluster at NeoCITY invest in research and production, plus new training and education programs to make sure that these new jobs are available to all Floridians. I’ll keep fighting in Congress to create new jobs and keep Florida on the cutting edge of science, technology, and manufacturing.”

NeoCITY will house a specialized semiconductor cluster on 5,000 acres.

Constituent recognition

The Congressional Management Foundation offered praise to Scott’s Senate staff with a CMF Democracy Award for Best Constituent Services. The honor went to both the Naples Republican and Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, a Pennsylvania Democrat.

“Americans usually only hear about Congress when something goes wrong. The Democracy Awards shines a light on Congress when it does something right,” said Bradford Fitch, president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation. “These Members of Congress and their staff members deserve recognition for their work to improve transparency in government, foster innovation in Congress, modernize their work environments and serve their constituents.”

Congress recognizes the stars of constituent services.

Scott embraced the recognition.

“My team and I work every day with one mission in mind: to make Washington work for Florida families. That’s the promise I ran on, and today’s recognition by the Congressional Management Foundation is proof that our amazing team, which operates across 10 offices in the state and in D.C., are getting good work done for the people of Florida,” Scott said.

The Senator credited a commitment to making services available to a diversity of constituents across the third most populous state of the union.

“Florida is a unique state with a variety of cultures, languages, communities and needs, and our Constituent Services team goes above and beyond to connect Floridians with the services and resources they need from their federal government, keeping them informed and fighting to make taxpayers’ government work in their best interests,” Scott said.

“Our first three years have been filled with challenges — from dealing with a global pandemic to navigating a record inflation and supply chain crisis — but through it all, our team has been on the front lines of our communities to help Floridians and make sure their needs are met. Representing hardworking Florida families is the greatest job in the world. We love what we do, and we are going to keep fighting every day to make a difference.”

Crist out

The delegation grew a bit smaller as August ended. On the heels of winning the Democratic nomination for Governor, Charlie Crist resigned his House seat officially as of the close of business Aug. 31.

House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro praised the St. Petersburg Democrat as he turned his attention to state politics. “Over his last three terms in office, Rep. Crist has led with conviction in support of legislation that helps veterans find necessary treatment, grows the use of solar energy in Florida and supports victims of domestic violence,” she said in an extended statement.

The Republican National Committee pounced and accused Crist of moving out on pure ambition. “Charlie Crist treats taxpayer-funded jobs like a game of musical chairs,” said RNC spokesperson Julia Friedland. “Floridians can’t wait to cut the music on his career for good in November.”

Charlie Crist gives up his seat.

Of course, his opponent, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis also left his seat in Congress when he ran to be Florida’s chief executive back in 2018. Like Crist, DeSantis gave up his seat shortly after securing his party’s nomination for statewide office.

Regardless, the departure of Crist brings immediate consequences. The Democratic majority now sits at just eight seats. That’s with five vacancies in the chamber, three of those seats last held by Democrats. For the curious, three opened thanks to Democratic resignations, including Crist’s, and the last two represent seats held by Republican members who died in office, Alaska’s Don Young and Indiana’s Jackie Walorski.

Meanwhile, Crist leaves a seat, Florida’s 13th Congressional District that most prognosticators believe will be won by a Republican in fall, bringing Republicans a more consequential step closer to a majority.

Endangered rattlers

It looks like a shipment of Florida stone crabs will soon land on Mississippi’s shores.

Tallahassee Democrat Al Lawson, a Florida A&M University alum, made a friendly wager with Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson in favor of his alma mater winning the Orange Blossom Classic last week over Jackson State University.

“FAMU is sure to take the victory this year,” Lawson predicted ahead of the game. “The student-athletes have been diligently training and practicing under Coach (Willie) Simmons so I am confident they will take the win. Both teams are talented, but the Rattlers are ready to show Coach (Deion) Sanders and Rep. Thompson how to play when they’re on the gridiron in Florida.”

Always time for a friendly wager.

Except the Rattlers couldn’t back the Congressman up, falling to the Tigers in a 59-3 rout. Maybe having Fort Myers native Sanders coaching the team during a game played in Miami Gardens made a difference. But that means Thompson can keep the Mississippi mud pies he confidently wagered.

“Coach Sanders is going to lead us to an undefeated season in the SWAC,” Thompson said pregame. “I know both teams will be successful on the field but understand Rep. Lawson that Tigers have never feared rattlesnakes.”

Vax revamp?

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now backing off a push for COVID-19 vaccine mandates, St. Augustine Republican Michael Waltz said it’s time for the Department of Defense to withdraw its own demands. He led a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin calling for reconsideration of a requirement that all military personnel receive the jab or risk discharge.

Mike Waltz takes a stand against vaccine mandates for the military.

“Our military has been crippled by the restrictive COVID-19 policies that the Department of Defense under the Biden Administration have implemented,” Waltz said. “Right now, approximately 45,000 National Guardsmen are currently unable to participate in crucial training because of the current mandate in place. Additionally, our military could lose hundreds of highly trained, specialized, and skilled active service members that our nation has invested millions into training if this mandate is not lifted.”

A total of 14 Republican House members signed the letter, including Lakeland Republican Scott Franklin. Of note, both Waltz and Franklin served in the military themselves, Waltz as a Green Beret and Franklin as a Naval aviator.

Rural pharma

Tarpon Springs Republican Gus Bilirakis, a University of Florida graduate, will speak at his old campus with pharmaceutical students and practicing pharmacists about the challenges of delivering medication to rural areas.

The sojourn to Gainesville follows up on the Congressman filing the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act (HR 2759), which would categorize pharmacists as health care providers. Medicare does not recognize pharmacies as such today, even in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic when pharmacists played a role in both testing and vaccinating the public.

Gus Bilirakis heads to his alma mater for a talk on health care access.

“I’ve been proud to co-sponsor this legislation each year since 2015, because I have long-recognized that pharmacists play a critical role in patient care, ensuring better equity, efficiency, and safety in our communities,” Bilirakis said. “With a medical physician shortage across the country, pharmacists have stepped up to reduce barriers in access and timely care, providing many of the same services that physicians do.”

Bilirakis stresses his legislation doesn’t change the scope of practice but could affect reimbursement and aid pharmacies serving communities of less than 50,000. Incidentally, that’s 77% of all pharmacies in the country.

“Advancing this legislation would be a huge step forward in providing better access to services such as point-of-care testing for infectious diseases, smoking cessation services, diabetes monitoring, and complex medication management for chronic diseases,” he said.

“In many rural and other underserved areas, pharmacists may be the only available practitioner in the vicinity that is able to provide these types of services, and states have started to recognize that in their Medicaid programs as well. It’s time for Medicare to catch up with the realities occurring throughout the country and help our seniors have timely and efficient access to pharmacist services.”

Michigan money

Longboat Key Republican Vern Buchanan traveled to his native Michigan to raise more than $100,000 for House Republicans.

The Longboat Key Republican rallied the six-figure haul, which will go to the National Republican Congressional Committee, at a home he owns in Torch Lake, Michigan. The fundraising trip for Buchanan came as the GOP aims to retake a majority in the U.S. House.

Success in that effort in turn could elevate Buchanan to Chair the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.

“This November our top priority must be to fire Nancy Pelosi so we can put an end to (Joe) Biden’s reckless agenda,” Buchanan said. “That’s why it is so important to support these amazing candidates here tonight.”

Vern Buchanan is the big gun at an NRCC fundraiser.

U.S. Reps. Jack Bergman, Bill Huizenga, John Moolenaar and Tim Walberg, all Michigan Republicans, also were part of the event. In addition, four Republicans running in key Michigan congressional contests attended the event: Tom Barrett, John Gibson, John James and Paul Junge, as did Indiana congressional candidate Rudy Yakym.

NRCC Chair Tom Emmer, a Minnesota Republican, also attended the event and praised Buchanan as a “great team player” for hosting it.

“When we take back the majority, a lot of that will be because of the work Vern has done,” Emmer said.

In total, Buchanan has raised $2.75 million for the NRCC’s 2022 efforts.

Pumping up the volume

Having coasted to a Primary victory over a rival she bested by just five votes only nine months earlier, Miramar Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick made a splash in Roll Call this week.

The Miramar Democrat was featured in a Q&A as the first Haitian American elected to Congress as a Democrat. She had some frank words about her colleagues who, she said, don’t understand the urgency of the situation Haiti is facing and the need for U.S. action to stabilize it. Roll Call reports a colleague asked her, “What’s the rush?’

Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick made a splash with her stance on Haiti. Image via CQ Roll Call.

“We’re seeing boatloads coming to our border,” she said. “We’re seeing boats capsized. Every time a boat comes, my constituents are waiting for their family members on the other side. My phone rings off the hook. But that isn’t the reality for many, many members in Congress.”

Asked about how Democrats can stem the Republican Party’s increasing popularity with immigrant communities, Cherfilus-McCormick said a good dose of C-SPAN might do the trick.

“Show them what’s being said on the floor,” she said. “The community would be like, ‘What? How dare you?’”

Gun control

The same day a shooter killed four people in Memphis, Tennessee, multiple Democrats in the delegation this week chose to vocally reaffirm their desire for stricter gun regulations. Both Cherfilus-McCormick and Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz issued nearly identically headlined news releases on Sept. 7 to renew “vows to keep working to prevent gun violence.”

“Gun violence is a public health crisis that claims far too many lives. Families across America feel its impact every day. In my own state, Parkland and Orlando suffered horrific mass shootings, stealing dozens of innocent lives, and upending entire communities in its wake,” said Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic Co-Chair of Florida’s delegation.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz vows to do something — anything — to curb gun violence. She is not alone.

“Democrats just led the way in turning the Safer Communities Act into law, and it will save countless lives. But Republicans still stand in the way of more needed reforms. We must push to get weapons of war off our streets, which means passing common-sense reforms, like banning the sale of assault weapons and firearms with high-capacity magazines. We have more work to do until we keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.”

Biden signed the Safer Communities Act (S 2938) into law in June.

Cherfilus-McCormick similarly stresses the consequences of violence and need for limits of access to firearms.

“Gun violence is a tragedy that strikes every community and weighs on the heart of every American. We cannot stand by and watch more innocent Americans lose their lives,” she said. “I am proud to work for Safer Communities, putting People Over Politics with common-sense reforms to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.”

Both listed other legislation they support Wasserman Schultz pointed to Jaime’s Law, named for Parkland victim Jaime Guttenberg. Both boasted about their votes in favor of the Bipartisan Background Checks Act.

Faith in Nicaragua

Miami Republicans Carlos Giménez and Salazar say it’s time for the U.S. to more firmly intervene in Nicaragua to protect religious freedom.

In a letter to Ambassador Rashad Hussein in the Office of International Religious Freedom, the South Florida Representatives sounded alarms on repression under Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. That includes the expulsion of the Apostolic Nuncio, Catholic Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, in March.

Carlos Giménez and Maria Elvira Salazar sound the alarm on Nicaragua.

“Religious organizations, such as the Catholic Church, had been one of the last places where Nicaraguans could practice their faith and enjoy a small measure of religious expression,” the letter reads. “However, the authoritarian Ortega dictatorship has revealed that it will not tolerate even this most fundamental right and will continue to suppress religious belief and practice for the Nicaraguan people.”

The silencing of religious voices follows the incarceration of several of Nicaragua’s political opponents before his recent reelection.

The fact that the regime now targets spiritual voices to end all dissent warrants action by the State Department, and by defenders of religious freedom in particular, Giménez and Salazar argue.

Of note, the latest American Community Survey shows Florida as the state with the second highest concentration of Nicaraguan Americans, behind only Texas, with a high concentration of more than 153,000 here living in South Florida.

On this day

Sept. 9, 1776 — “Congress renames the nation United States of America” via History.com — In a congressional declaration, delegates wrote, “That in all continental commissions, and other instruments, where, heretofore, the words ‘United Colonies’ have been used, the stile be altered for the future to the “United States.” A resolution by Richard Henry Lee issued the resolve, “That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.” Thomas Jefferson’s edited Declaration of Independence had said “these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES.” By September, the Declaration of Independence had been drafted, signed, printed and sent to Great Britain.

Sept. 9, 1985 — “Ronald Reagan backs down, orders limited South Africa sanctions” via the Los Angeles Times — President Reagan, bowing to political pressure under the threat of a foreign policy defeat, backed off from his previous opposition and ordered limited economic sanctions against South Africa in a move “aimed against the machinery of apartheid.” Reagan, in an Oval Office ceremony, signed an executive order limiting bank loans and sales of computer and nuclear technology, as well as taking steps to halt U.S. imports of the Krugerrand to underscore U.S. displeasure with apartheid. In addition, Reagan dispatched U.S. Ambassador Herman W. Nickel back to Pretoria after a three-month absence with a strong letter urging changes in South Africa’s racial policies.

___

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

Staff Reports


One comment

  • PeterH

    September 9, 2022 at 3:22 pm

    The Republican roster of US Senate celebrity candidates lack the legal expertise, quality and integrity skill set to represent State electorate interest. At least six are in trouble with the electorate.

    US House members are elected by around one million voters in a particular district. The district lines are typically drawn by statisticians, state representatives or in Florida’s case by the Governor. These district lines can be drawn to influence election outcome …. thus the term “Gerrymandered district!” Typically but not always the Party’s president does not win the House in the midterms….. especially when voter turnout is lower. VOTE!

    At the end of the day voters make the final decision based on candidate policies, disposition, likability and hopefully competence comes into the decision making process.

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