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Gov. Ron DeSantis using Florida taxpayer money to fly migrants from Texas to Massachusetts is sparking a national conversation on immigration.
It’s also earning the state’s chief executive a rebuke from the White House.
“Using migrants as political pawns is shameful, is reckless and just plain wrong,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a briefing. “And remember, these are people who are fleeing communism, who are fleeing hardship.”
With the decision is playing out in national news — for more than five days now — DeSantis, widely considered a prospective challenger to President Joe Biden in 2024, continues to defend his actions.
When the state drew in 50 immigrants who crossed the border and were claiming asylum, DeSantis said he actually improved their situation.
“You had migrants die in the Rio Grande. You had 50 die in Texas in a trailer because they were being neglected. Was there a freak out about that?” DeSantis told Fox News Monday. “It’s only when 50 get put into Martha’s Vineyard, which wasn’t saying they didn’t want this.”
But members of Florida’s congressional delegation did not see it that way.
“What we need is real, bipartisan immigration reform, not inhumane political stunts,” said West Palm Beach Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel.
Meanwhile, some Democrats, including Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, are calling on the Department of Justice to begin a probe on the legality of the flights in the first place.
“To use human beings as political pawns as Gov. DeSantis has done is morally reprehensible, meriting an immediate investigation and appropriate action by the Department of Justice on behalf of the impacted migrants,” Fried wrote in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland.
As for Republicans, many in the Florida delegation assert it was the Biden administration looking to distract from failures at the border.
“President Biden has failed to act time and again and yet wants to blame Republicans instead of talking about solutions,” said Rep. María Elvia Salazar in a joint news conference this week.
“We need to fix this problem now and I am the only Member of Congress with an Immigration Reform proposal to actually solve this crisis, the Miami Republican added.
Sen. Marco Rubio is going all-in on a federal abortion ban for pregnancies after 15 weeks.
But the state’s senior Senator continues to couple that with proposals to offer more social support for pregnant mothers.
Rubio is introducing the Providing for Life Act with Utah Sen. Mike Lee. The legislation would increase the Child Tax Credit and allow claiming it for unborn children.
“As we take steps to protect the unborn, we have a duty to address those challenges,” Rubio said. “This comprehensive legislation will provide real assistance for American parents and children in need.”
The proposal follows one Rubio released in June, shortly after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which would allow parents to draw Social Security early for parental leave.
“America’s pro-abortion legal regime may be over, but our work is far from finished,” Rubio said. “Being truly pro-life requires an understanding of the pain and struggle, arising from serious difficulties and responsibilities motherhood entails, which lead a woman to abort her baby.”
Pro-life groups are rallying around the bill.
“Sen. Rubio has gone above and beyond to craft a creative and comprehensive package of policy solutions that support unborn life and family formation. Family Research Council helped author the original child tax credit in 1997, as a way for the federal government to alleviate the extra financial responsibilities placed upon parents raising children,” said Connor Semelsberger of the Family Research Council.
“This package expands upon that principle by reforming important health and welfare programs to be more supportive of life and affirms the principal role that families play in American society. We hope this marks the beginning of a new era in which our public policies both protect unborn life and support new parents.”
Rep. Val Demings, the Democratic challenger for Rubio’s seat, quickly agreed to three proposed debates.
“In November, voters will have a stark choice between a cop on the beat who fights for Florida and a career politician who doesn’t show up for work,” said Demings’ campaign spokesperson Christian Slater. “Chief Demings looks forward to participating in three debates to inform Florida voters about her plans to lower costs, keep communities safe, protect constitutional freedoms, and hold Sen. Rubio accountable for failing to show up for Florida.”
Only one of these debates has a hard date on the calendar. The Before You Vote Florida debate is set for Oct. 18.
Additionally, Demings agreed to a WFTV/WJAX/Bethune-Cookman University and a Spectrum News/Sun-Sentinel/Orlando Sentinel/Tampa Bay Times debate, both expected sometime in October.
Rubio notably already agreed to the Oct. 18 debate, which will take place at Palm Beach State College’s Lake Worth campus.
Flirting with denial
Rubio has largely expressed faith in America’s electoral system, but recent comments he made — and declined to make — suggest that if things go poorly for Republicans this fall, he might adopt rhetoric like that of former President Donald Trump.
Demings is giving Rubio his stiffest test in years. Polling shows the race is in a virtual tie.
When The Washington Post asked if he’d accept the outcome of the Nov. 8 election, Rubio joined 11 other GOP candidates — including DeSantis — in declining to answer the question.
While he generally supported and voiced confidence in United States elections, Rubio has periodically flirted with adopting a more outlying approach.
Recently, he argued it’s the “Marxist misfits” and “laptop liberals” on the Left who “cannot tolerate dissent” from the Right.
In a keynote speech at the National Conservatism Convention in Aventura last week, Rubio said Democrats, not Republicans, are having trouble accepting unfavorable election results.
“They have to control government,” he said. “Which means that, ‘Yes, we’re for elections as long as we win. If we lose, we lost because you suppressed the vote, because the laws of some states didn’t allow people to vote and if they had voted, the outcome would be different.’
“That’s what we’re looking through right now. And some people say, ‘Oh, you’re just paranoid because you’ve been raised your whole life around people who lost their country to Marxism. Yeah, maybe. But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”
Death to dealers
Sen. Rick Scott, Rubio and other Republican Senators filed legislation this week that would make the distribution of fentanyl that resulted in deaths punishable in federal court as felony murder.
It means traffickers shipping the deadly drug across the border could face death sentences if anyone suffers a fatal overdose from the product.
Scott said it’s a major step as more of the drug pours into the U.S. through the southern border.
“People who knowingly distribute lethal fentanyl deserve the strictest sentence possible,” the Naples Republican said. “For too long, people have suffered addiction and death because of this evil drug that is pouring across Joe Biden’s open southern border. Fentanyl has skyrocketed to the No. 1 killer of young people, and to put an end to this crisis, strong actions must be taken. I am proud to join Sen. Rubio in standing up for victims of this crisis and urge the immediate passage of this critically important bill.”
Rubio notes that the drug is increasingly impacting children.
“Fentanyl is killing Americans at a record high,” he said. “This deadly drug is widespread throughout our country and has left no community untouched. This bill would make drug dealers pay the price for selling deadly fentanyl.”
East Asian relations
Stephanie Murphy led a bipartisan delegation of lawmakers through East Asia.
As Vice Chair of the House Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations, the Winter Park Democrat led a seven-member — and Florida-heavy — group of lawmakers as it traveled to Taiwan, South Korea and Mongolia.
“By visiting and meeting with officials in Taiwan, South Korea and Mongolia, our bipartisan congressional delegation sent a powerful message to the world that America stands with her partners in Asia,” Murphy said. “I am grateful to our hosts for receiving our delegation and their commitment to strengthening our bilateral defense and economic relationships. I was especially moved by our meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
“Taiwan is a beacon of hope for democracy’s future in Asia, as well as a vital trading partner for the United States and our allies around the world. This relationship is paramount to our national and economic security, and I was grateful to have the opportunity to discuss these critically important issues with the President.”
In addition, the group met with U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg in South Korea and government officials in all three nations.
The visiting U.S. delegation also included Gainesville Republican Kat Cammack, Lakeland Republican Scott Franklin and St. Augustine Republican Michael Waltz.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is heralding Gus Bilirakis’ record on small business issues. The organization last week gave the Tarpon Springs Republican the Advocate for American Business Award, with Moore Hallmark, vice president and managing director for the business advocacy group, presenting the honor.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, employing almost half of all Americans,” Bilirakis said. “Right now, they are struggling with raging inflation, workforce shortages, supply chain disruptions and excessive government regulation. I will keep fighting to address these challenges while working to create an environment in which innovation, competition and opportunity can thrive.”
Last month, the organization endorsed Bilirakis for re-election.
“Congressman Gus Bilirakis has a record of leading and relentlessly delivering for his constituents,” Hallmark said. “He understands the challenges facing job creators, the workforce and families in Western Florida. Rep. Bilirakis’ commitment to free enterprise and focus on solutions critical to moving his district and our nation forward have earned him the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber.”
National parents’ rights group Moms for America has issued its legislative report card.
What grades were given (or even wanted) seemed to break down along party lines.
“Our Report Card pulled no punches. From Medical Mandates to Mask Mandates, from radical Critical Race Theory to Gender Equality, from the right to keep and bear arms, to School Choice — our 2022 Report Card finds both political parties lacking the will to take necessary steps to protect the interests of America’s moms,” said Kimberly Fletcher, president of Moms for America.
The card gave its own names to make pieces of legislation, like the “Pro Death for Babies Act,” “Ukraine Economy More Important Than the U.S. Economy Act” and the “Stealing Elections Forever Act.” The majority of bills had little to do with education.
Clermont Republican Daniel Webster touted his “A” grade with the organization and released a photo of himself with Fletcher.
“I am honored to receive this recognition of my record of fighting to ensure parents are fully empowered to make the best decisions for their son or daughter,” he said. “I will continue to champion policies that protect the parents’ role in making health care and education decisions on behalf of their minor children, expand parental choice in education, and help parents establish a strong, safe family environment.”
Most Republicans earned an “A” grade. Exceptions appeared to be Miami Republicans Mario Díaz-Balart, Carlos Giménez and María Elvira Salazar, who all earned “C’s.”
Unsurprisingly, every Democrat in the Florida delegation received an “F.”
Are mentions of White privilege too toxic for Department of Defense school materials?
Recently unearthed social media posts from the DOD Education Activity’s Chief of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion raised concerns for Franklin. The Lakeland Republican is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, along with GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, and led a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin sounding alarms on the rhetoric.
Kelisa Wing, who leads DOD’s education wing, came under fire after Fox News reported on a 2020 tweet, saying: “I’m exhausted with these white folx in these sessions. [T]his lady actually had the CAUdacity to say that Black people can be racist too … I had to stop the session and give Karen the BUSINESS … [W]e are not the majority; we don’t have power.”
That crossed a line for Franklin, a veteran Naval aviator.
“Kelisa Wing’s racially motivated statements are divisive and toxic,” he said. “It’s disappointing that the Pentagon failed to perform a thorough vetting of Ms. Wing’s views and rhetoric before placing her in a leadership role involving education curriculum. It’s yet another example of how the Biden administration has sought to politicize our military. Secretary Austin should investigate and take immediate action.”
The letter also calls into question materials Wing helped create, including one on White privilege that stated: “If you are White, you might feel bad about hurting others or you might feel afraid to lose this privilege.”
Twenty-two Republicans in the House co-signed the letter, including Bilirakis, Panama City Republican Neal Dunn, Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz and Waltz.
Vern Buchanan hosted four congressional hopefuls at the Longboat Key Republican’s estate this weekend during a fundraiser for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Republicans Aaron Bean, Laurel Lee, Anna Paulina Luna and Cory Mills all rubbed elbows with major donors to raise money for their campaigns, the NRCC and the Republican Party of Florida.
Buchanan’s event pulled in $200,000 for the NRCC alone.
“Great to be in Longboat Key tonight with my fellow congressional nominees! We’re going to make a great team,” tweeted Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican running in Florida’s 4th Congressional District. “Onward to victory in November!!”
It was an interesting slate of candidates.
All of the candidates are seeking open seats, so Buchanan, co-Chair of the Florida congressional delegation, wasn’t directly helping any effort to unseat a current colleague representing Florida in the House.
All four candidates are favorites in their races — based on historic performance and voter registration — but are running in districts where the GOP enjoys only a slight advantage.
Nobody running in a seat where Democrats hold a numerical advantage was on the joint fundraising committee set up for the event (sorry, Joe Budd).
Guests included Tom Emmer, an Indiana Republican and Chair of the NRCC, RPOF Chair Joe Gruters, former Trump Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland and former Florida Senate Presidents Bill Galvano and Tom Lee.
All sitting Republicans in the delegation were invited, but didn’t benefit directly from the fundraiser, even if they are in races targeted by Democrats this cycle (sorry, Rep. Salazar).
The overall mission of the event remained larger than the guest list. Republicans are still confident they can retake a House majority, and money raised for the NRCC will go to flip or defend seats across the nation.
“The quality of the candidates in this room tonight is outstanding and a big reason why Republicans will be victorious this Fall,” Buchanan said. “The work (House Minority Leader) Kevin (McCarthy), Tom and his team are doing to retake the majority is so important and they know they have my full backing and support.”
Buchanan has now raised $3 million for the NRCC this cycle, and Punchbowl News reports he has pledged to bring in $1 million more.
And candidates expressed gratitude.
“Thank you to NRCC for hosting Victory Day for all Florida nominees,” tweeted Mills, the GOP nominee in Florida’s 7th Congressional District. “Thank you to Rep. Tom Emmer and our host/ Florida delegation leader Vern Buchanan. Florida is ready to save America!”
Byron Donalds took part in a New York conference as a right-of-center voice on solving environmental woes.
“It’s great to be in my former hometown of NYC to attend the 2022 Concordia Summit, where I’ll be laying out conservative solutions on a panel addressing ‘The Climate Emergency,’” the Naples Republican tweeted. “The only way to change people’s minds is to engage in healthy debate, and I look forward to doing so.”
Notably, Donalds recently joined the Advanced Nuclear Caucus in the House and has advocated for water restoration projects in South Florida. He also has expressed skepticism about some alternative energy sources like solar and said it’s critical America’s energy policies still have room for producing oil (though not off Florida’s coast).
Bringing them home
Ted Deutch is continuing his attempts to bring attention to Americans wrongfully held hostage around the world.
The Boca Raton Democrat held a roundtable on Americans detained abroad.
Some of those that Deutch brought to appear before the Congressional Task Force for American Hostages and Americans Wrongfully Detained Abroad were hostages themselves.
Several other participants endured the agony of seeing a loved one held hostage.
Attendees included Sarah Moriarty. Her father, Robert “Bob” Levinson — Deutch’s South Florida constituent — died while a hostage in Iran. Levinson was the longest-held American hostage in history.
Also attending were The Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, detained in Iran for four years before his 2016 release and Anaïse Kanimba, whose father, Paul Rusesabagina, has been wrongfully detained in Rwanda since 2020.
“I know all of us, and the future of our nation’s hostage policy, will benefit from hearing your stories, the stories of your loved ones, and your ideas,” said Deutch, co-Chair of the task force. “Your voice — not mine, not my colleagues’ — is the most important in figuring out how we can support the families currently living this reality and how we can work together to end this horrible practice and bring every American held abroad home as soon as possible.”
A historic move could be the works for a Miami federal prosecutor’s office.
Biden nominated Markenzy Lapointe as the new U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. A partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in Miami since 2017, LaPointe previously served as an assistant U.S. Attorney in the district from 2002 to 2006.
The Florida State University Law graduate (and veteran Marine) also clerked for Florida Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead.
Members of the delegation cheered the appointment.
Frederica Wilson had lobbied for his appointment, including through an op-ed published in the Miami Herald.
“After two years of interim leadership, this appointment will finally install a tenured and tried attorney to lead the agency with a clear vision,” the Miami Democrat said. “He is a homegrown, community-focused, and experienced attorney. If confirmed, Mr. Lapointe’s appointment would make him the first Black person to serve as a U.S. Attorney for the state of Florida and he also breaks a second glass ceiling in becoming the first Haitian American to become a U.S. Attorney. This is an important step toward repairing the trust between our criminal justice system and the community it serves.
“I am confident that his commitment to upholding justice and unquestionable conviction will allow him to successfully shape critical judicial precedent in one of the most diverse regions in the nation, and I urge the Senate to confirm his nomination.”
On this day
Sept. 20, 2001 — “Global War on Terror declared” via the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum — After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, President George W. Bush announced a comprehensive plan to seek out and stop terrorists around the world. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were part of the Global War on Terror, or “GWOT,” but the term also described diplomatic, financial, and other actions taken to deny financing or safe harbor to terrorists. Coalition partners from around the world also took part in the GWOT. “Our war on terror begins with al-Qaida,” he said. “But it does not end there.”
Sept. 20, 1963 — “John Kennedy proposes joint mission to the moon” via History.com — An optimistic and upbeat President Kennedy suggested the Soviet Union and the United States cooperate on a mission to mount an expedition to the moon. The proposal caught Soviets and many Americans off guard. Shortly after his election as President, Kennedy announced he was determined to win the “space race” with the Soviets. Russian and American scientists had been competing to see who could make the next breakthrough in space travel. Outer space became another frontier in the Cold War. Kennedy upped the ante in 1961 when he announced the United States would put a man on the moon before the end of the decade.
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 and Jesse Scheckner.