Delegation for 9.14.22: Post-Roe — citrus — science — credit due — inflation

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Republicans make a bold move on abortion rights.

Post-Roe reality

The end of Roe v. Wade transformed the legal and political landscape in 2020. Up until this past weekend, however, many Republicans seeking federal office largely punted on ramifications in their own election, instead voicing an intention to leave the matter to states.

But Sen. Lindsay Graham, a South Carolina Republican, changed that when he filed a national ban on abortions 15 weeks into pregnancy, with exceptions for rape and for incest involving minors. This moved the issue from hypothetical to hyper-realistic, especially if Republicans retake majorities in the House and Senate.

Sen. Marco Rubio, the most prominent member of the Florida delegation to clearly say he favors restricting abortions but wants states to make the decision, hasn’t made a major public statement. But he became one of the first two co-sponsors of the bill, after Montana Republican Steve Daines.

Last year, Rubio was among introducing co-sponsors for a Graham-authored “pain-capable” bill that would have prohibited abortions after 20 weeks.

Lindsey Graham breaks the relative silence on the issue of abortion.

The presence of legislation prompted Democrats to jump on their soapboxes. That included Rep. Val Demings, the Orlando Democrat who is challenging Rubio for his Senate seat.

“This is just the next step in Marco Rubio’s fight to ban abortions with no exceptions for victims of rape, incest and sexual abuse,” Demings said, asserting the filed legislation will eventually go much further than it reads today. “In the U.S. Senate, I will never stop fighting to codify Roe v. Wade and protect women’s freedoms.”

Other Democrats also pounced at news of Graham’s bill.

Because she was in her 20s when Roe v. Wade made access to safe, legal abortion a reality, Rep. Lois Frankel over the years had recounted stories of her contemporaries forced into fraught situations.

The latest measure marks a new turn toward “a dark and extreme goal,” the West Palm Beach Democrat said. But it’s not too late for people to realize what’s at stake.

“Women deserve to be in control of their own bodies and have the ability to make decisions about their health, lives, and futures free from interference from their elected officials,” Frankel added.

Frankel was an original co-lead on the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify the right to the procedure in federal law. It’s passed twice in the House, most recently on Sept. 24, but the Senate has failed to act. She vowed to keep pushing. “The fight for abortion access is far from over and House Democrats will continue to push to protect reproductive freedom in this country.”

Citrus scheming

Republican Rubio and Democratic Rep. Al Lawson led a letter demanding an investigation of import practices for fruits and vegetables from Mexico and for U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai’s office to take proactive steps to provide relief for Florida farmers.

“The (Joe) Biden Administration has affirmed its intention to protect and reinvigorate critical supply chains within the U.S., including agricultural supply chains,” reads a petition to Tai. “Mexico’s export targeting scheme, which is affecting U.S.-grown produce during the winter and spring months, is a direct threat to this objective. As this petition discusses and as various government entities, including the U.S. Trade Representative, have confirmed, seasonal and perishable industries such as Florida’s generally do not enjoy access to trade remedies. The provisions of Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, however, are uniquely suited to investigate Mexico’s trade-distorting practices and policies and provide urgently needed relief to Florida’s growers.”

The message lays out concerns Mexico for 20 years engaged in a “scheme to displace Florida’s seasonal and perishable agricultural industry from the U.S. market is an unreasonable trade practice that constitutes export targeting.” That delivered significant economic consequences for employers in a major Florida industry.

A majority of the delegation, including members from both sides of the aisle signed on. That included Sen. Rick Scott, as well as Democratic Reps. Kathy Castor, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Ted Deutch, Darren Soto, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson and Republican Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Kat Cammack, Mario Díaz-Balart, Byron Donalds, Neal Dunn, Scott Franklin, Carlos Giménez, Brian Mast, Bill Posey, John Rutherford, María Elvira Salazar, Greg Steube, Michael Waltz and Daniel Webster.

Weird science

Rubio and Scott also joined with South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott in calling for an investigation into data fraud with Alzheimer’s Research.

“We can never tolerate compromising the integrity of medical research — especially that which focuses on a disease that impacts millions of American families,” said Scott, who serves on the Senate Aging Committee. “(Health and Human Services) must immediately launch an investigation into the misconduct alleged here and get answers for the millions of Alzheimer’s patients, their families and American taxpayers.”

Tim Scott joins Marco Rubio and Rick Scott in calling to further fund Alzheimer’s research.

The three Republican Senators sent a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra after Science magazine published an investigation into whether fraudulently manipulated images had been used in the development of cognition drugs for Alzheimer’s patients. The letter, though, noted that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) continued to fund new research grants to the authors of the criticized study.

“Given HHS’s obligations to ensure integrity in federally funded research, we request that you provide the results of any investigation or consequential administrative actions resulting from allegations of misconduct and conflict of interest,” the letter reads.

It also seeks information on how NIH considers and reviews accusations of fraudulent research in its grant process, and also how it reviews conflict of interest concerns in reviewing applications.

Covering Puerto Rico

Medicaid could run into a financial nightmare in Puerto Rico, and Congress must take immediate action, according to Demings. She sounded alarms on a Medicaid “fiscal cliff” when federal funding covering 1.5 million Puerto Ricans expires this year.

If that takes place, Puerto Rico will have to fund coverage of Medicaid through territorial funding, despite residents of the island being U.S. citizens.

“Congress needs to act with strength and speed to make sure that no Americans in Puerto Rico lose their health care at the end of this year,” she said. “Equal treatment shouldn’t depend on where in America you live. It is wrong and unfair to keep Puerto Rico in this constant cycle where they fear that they will lose their federal services. We need long-term fixes to this broken system to protect the health of Puerto Ricans.”

Val Demings raises alarm on Medicaid for Puerto Rico.

Demings noted she voted in the House for a permanent fix that would supply constant benefits to residents of Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories, but the Senate blocked the measure. That was part of the Inflation Reduction Act (HR 5376) as passed by the House, with the Florida delegation breaking along straight party lines. The provisions involving benefits didn’t make it into the version passed by the Senate and signed by President Biden.

“The Senate has blocked equal treatment for Puerto Rico, and I call on them and all Members of Congress to stop the delays and defend the equal rights of all Americans,” Demings said. “I will continue to fight for equal treatment for our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico.”

Giving credit

Is there still COVID-19 rescue money the state of Florida refuses to disburse to needy families? Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy sent a letter this week to Gov. Ron DeSantis demanding information on why some $35 million in Pandemic Emergency Assistance Fund (PEAF) dollars for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) has only recently been released.

“Your administration received TANF PEAF funds at a time when low-income Florida families were reeling from a year of crisis and economic turmoil and were asking for help,” Murphy wrote. “While Congress answered that call for help, your administration did not distribute these much-needed funds to struggling Florida families for more than a year. Your administration has only recently announced a one-time TANF payment of $450 for nearly 59,000 Florida families, without noting that the payment was only possible because of the $35 million Florida received under (the American Rescue Plan Act), legislation which you have vocally opposed.”

Stephanie Murphy demands to know why the foot-dragging from Ron DeSantis.

The funding became available through the American Rescue Plan Act signed by Biden in March 2021. The package included $1 billion for the HHS to distribute to states.

She slammed DeSantis not only for sitting on the money for a year but also for claiming credit as if state funding covered the checks sent directly to Florida families. “Why are you claiming credit for providing these funds, when they are federal funds made available by an Act of Congress you oppose?” Murphy wrote.

Of note, DeSantis stands for re-election on Nov. 8, when he faces Democrat Charlie Crist, a former Representative who, like Murphy, voted for the funding.

Inflation frustration

Republican Bilirakis used a recent meeting with business leaders as a platform to criticize the Inflation Reduction Act, legislation he said doesn’t appear to have any impact on prices in the private sector.

At an event with 50 small-business owners within the Tampa Bay area, Bilirakis cited economic studies showing the new law will result in $570 billion worth of new taxes, much of which will be shouldered by business owners making less than $200,000 a year. Meanwhile, tax subsidies will go up $580 billion over the coming decade, he predicted.

Gus Bilirakis says the Inflation Reduction Act is anything but.

“It is insanity to think more of the same will produce a different result,” Bilirakis said. “Reckless spending created this problem, and more spending will only worsen it. We can’t spend our way out of this crisis and increasing taxes on job creators in the midst of a recession is one of the worst possible choices.

“These small-business owners were pleading for Washington to stop the pain, to quit spending money our country doesn’t have, and to stop funding the spending spree on the backs of small-business owners. I empathized with their position and promised to bring this message back to my colleagues when I return to Washington.”

Beagle buddies

The rescue of thousands of beagles from a Virginia breeding facility means more four-legged residents of Florida animal shelters.

Sarasota Republican Steube this week visited a few animals saved from testing.

More than 4,000 beagles were rescued from an Envigo facility after a PETA investigation. They were bred in inhumane conditions and sold for medical research. A total of 18 ended up at the Humane Society of Sarasota County, in Steube’s district.

Greg Steube goes to the dogs.

“It is my pleasure to welcome the rescued beagles to Sarasota where each of them have already found a first-time, loving home,” Steube said. “Americans do not want millions of taxpayer dollars used on cruel dog experiments. I recently introduced the Protecting Dogs Subjected to Experiments Act to defund the NIH’s dog experiments and end the demand for mass-breeding facilities like the one these beagles came from. I thank the leadership and volunteers at HSSC for their enthusiasm in taking on this impactful task of finding the beagles homes in our community.”

Steube filed his legislation after revelations of NIH-funded research on canine subjects, including studies that involved cocaine injection, septic shock tests and exposure to life-threatening numbers of ticks and biting flies.

Sarasota leaders said they were happy to take the animals in.

“The Humane Society of Sarasota County recently welcomed ‘home’ 18 beagles who were destined for short lives in a lab for medical research,” said Anna Gonce, executive director of HSSC. “Watching these young pups explore life outside of a kennel for the first time drove home for us the importance of Rep. Steube’s bill. All of these dogs deserve kindness, love and to live their lives in a home.”

Rapid rise

Since his election to Congress, Naples Republican Donalds often brought the Republican message to cable news outlets. Now, he’s hoping to lead the caucus in setting an agenda after the Midterms.

The first-term Congressman announced he’s running for GOP Conference Chair in the next Congress. That would rapidly elevate Donalds to the No. 3 Republican in the House.

Byron Donalds seeks to be the agenda-setter.

“As one of the most prominent voices of the House GOP agenda, I’m the best candidate to lead an effective communications strategy should Republicans take back the House,” Donalds said. “In the weeks and months ahead, we must focus on sending Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi packing by electing a wave of America First candidates. I look forward to earning the support of my colleagues for the Chairmanship of the House GOP Conference in the 118th Congress.”

Of note, the announcement came hours after New York Republican Elise Stefanik announced she would seek another term in the position. Stefanik took over the job after the high-profile ouster last year of Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney, who since lost a re-election bid for Congress.

But Donalds has already racked up some support. Colorado Republican Lauren Boebert, a prominent America First Republican elected in the same class as Donalds, immediately tweeted “I’m for it.”

Wrong frequency

A bipartisan group of lawmakers — with heavy representation from Floridians — has sent a letter to the U.S. Agency on Global Media opposing layoffs at the Office of Cuba Broadcasting.

Miami Republican Díaz-Balart announced the letter. It also bears the signatures of Rubio and Scott, as well as Weston Democrat Wasserman Schultz and Miami Republicans Giménez and Salazar.

Lawmakers sent the letter to acting Agency CEO Kelu Chao and Cuba Broadcasting director Sylvia Rosabal. The message stressed not only the overall mission of the office — imparting information from the Democratic world to the Cuban people — but the coming holiday season when layoffs would take effect. That could reduce staff at Radio and Televisión Martí.

Mario Diaz-Balart fights to keep Cuba broadcasting on the air.

“We are also alarmed by the inclusion of several employees on a preliminary (reduction in force) list, particularly in light of the illegal process that occurred during the 2009 RIF at (the Office of Cuba Broadcasting). For example, we understand that six employees currently listed were also on the 2009 RIF list. These employees were reinstated after a court found that the RIF was implemented illegally,” the letter reads. “Additionally, we are told that two veterans, including one that is a ten (10) point veteran, are also included on the preliminary RIF list. In sum, we are profoundly concerned by the RIF that USAGM plans to implement at OCB, which will result in up to 30 federal employees being laid off in November 2022, just before the holidays.”

Mostly, the letter suggests there was no justification for the reduction in the workforce provided to Congress, where it is still unclear whether the decision arose from budget decisions or a reorganization under the new administration.

“It is unacceptable that the administration is laying off nearly one-third of the staff at the Office of Cuba Broadcasting at a time when we need them the most,” Salazar said.

On this day

Sept. 14, 1901 — “Teddy Roosevelt discovers he’s President” via the Catholic Textbook Project — On Sept. 6, an anarchist’s bullet struck President William McKinley at a public reception for the opening of the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. When Roosevelt received the news, he came to Buffalo; but, as the President seemed to be recovering, he returned to the Adirondacks. But McKinley’s wound became infected, and gangrene began to set in. While sitting in a meadow in the Adirondacks, Roosevelt saw a runner coming up the trail. “I instinctively knew he had bad news, the worst news in the world,” Roosevelt later wrote. McKinley was dead, and Roosevelt was to be sworn in as President.

Sept. 14, 2018 — “Paul Manafort pleads guilty, agrees to cooperate with Robert Mueller investigation” via CNN — After months of vowing to fight for his innocence, former Donald Trump campaign Chair Manafort conceded to committing several federal crimes and agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department, including in special counsel Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. Manafort pleaded guilty in federal court in Washington to one count of conspiracy against the U.S. and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice due to attempts to tamper with witnesses. Mueller’s investigation will continue and delve deeper into what Manafort knows.

Happy birthday

Best wishes to Rep. Murphy, who turns 44 on Friday, Sept. 16.

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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.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.



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