Delegation for 10.11.22: Holidays — hurricane stats — flexing — storm damage

Imprint of the U.S. Capitol building on a dollar bill banknote
Another Columbus Day, another controversy.

By any other name

While most federal employees enjoyed a day off Monday to recognize one of 11 federal holidays, there still are disagreements over what to call the day.

An official list of days that all nonessential employees have off each year shows Oct. 10 as Columbus Day. President Joe Biden also issued a proclamation recognizing the Italian explorer, but for the second year in a row, issued a second proclamation recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day.

“I learned long ago that Tribal Nations do better when they make their own decisions,” Biden said in the latter. “That is why my Administration has made respect for Tribal sovereignty and meaningful consultation with Tribal Nations the cornerstone of our engagement.”

Once again, Columbus Day is celebrated — with another year of controversy.

As for Florida’s congressional delegation? There seemed distinct disagreements as to which holiday to celebrate in public communications.

Rep. Brian Mast, a Stuart Republican, tweeted a painting of Christopher Columbus with a post celebrating the European explorer.

“530 years ago, Christopher Columbus landed in America and began a new chapter of world history,” Mast wrote. “His adventure is a reminder that our nation is built by those who are willing to take risks.”

Similarly, Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a Palm Harbor Republican, posted an image depicting Columbus kneeling on the ground in the New World.

“As we recognize Columbus Day, we celebrate the adventurous and courageous spirit of Christopher Columbus, a man whose New World discoveries contributed to the settlement of our great nation!” Bilirakis tweeted.

But Rep. Val Demings, an Orlando Democrat and Senate candidate, recognized the holiday celebrating Native Americans. “This Indigenous Peoples Day, we recognize and honor the past, present and future of Indigenous cultures and histories in America, while also advocating for their representation, equality, safety, health and justice,” she posted.

Similarly, Rep. Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat, also posted on the more recently celebrated recognition of native cultures. “We celebrate and honor the rich and diverse culture, traditions and contributions of Native Americans,” he tweeted.

Ian by the numbers

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) continues to open disaster recovery centers throughout the state to help those affected by Hurricane Ian. FEMA just this week dispatched teams to set up shop at the W.H. Stuart Center in Polk County, Seminole State College in Seminole County, and the Wauchula Civic Center in Hardee County.

“Disaster Recovery Centers provide survivors with information from Florida state agencies, FEMA, and the U.S. Small Business Administration,” reads a release from FEMA. “Survivors can get help applying for federal assistance and disaster loans, update applications and learn about other resources available.”

The numbers show Hurricane Ian was a blockbuster. Image via AP.

There are now a total of 10 centers operating in nine counties. Two of those were in Lee County, where the storm made landfall on Sept. 28.

Meanwhile, some $190 million in federal aid has been authorized for 129,000 households damaged by the storm in 21 counties: Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Flagler, Hardee, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns and Volusia counties.

About 350 individuals to date have taken advantage of a sheltering program helping residents stay at participating hotels and motels in Florida, Georgia or Alabama. There are 700 FEMA inspectors assessing damage statewide. And $13.2 million has been set aside by the Small Business Administration for disaster loans to homeowners, renters and business owners.

Meanwhile, Rep. Byron Donalds, a Naples Republican, will host a town hall in part of his district most impacted by the storm. The event, focused on property restoration, will take place at Cape Christian on Wednesday starting at 5:30 p.m.

“This Town Hall event will allow residents, business owners, and nonprofits the opportunity to access resources, share their concerns, ask questions, and receive firsthand information on ways to restore their property,” Donalds announced.

Taiwanese flex

In the continued rhetorical war with China, Sen. Marco Rubio keeps burnishing his credentials as a long-sanctioned American.

Florida’s senior Senator stepped away from storm recovery Monday to recognize Taiwan National Day, the 111th anniversary of the founding of Taiwan.

“Taiwan’s robust economy and steadfast commitment to democracy is admirable. It is a valued ally of the United States and plays a critical role in preserving peace, promoting democracy, and providing stability in the Indo-Pacific,” Rubio said. “(China President) Xi Jinping’s heightened campaign of international aggression toward the island makes it all the more important for our nation to support Taiwan’s sovereignty.”

Marco Rubio goes to bat for Taiwan.

An announcement referenced Taiwan as the Republic of China, a moniker held up by the independent government, in solidarity with Taipei. He also promoted legislation he filed to provide military technology and training in case of armed conflict with communist-run China.

Also in on the message is Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, co-chair of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus. He posted social media messages in support of the independent Asian nation.

“I congratulate the people of Taiwan on their 111th National Day,” the Miami Republican tweeted. “Taiwan continues to exemplify perseverance, resilience, and a thriving democracy. I cherish the close friendship shared between our two great nations.”

Herschel’s team

Sen. Rick Scott, in his role as Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, will rally alongside Senate candidate Herschel Walker of Georgia. The event comes in the wake of reports that shows fervently anti-abortion Walker paid for a past lover’s abortion years ago.

“They picked the wrong Georgian to mess with,” Scott tweeted. “I’m on Herschel’s team!”

Fox News, which has been an asset to Walker throughout the campaign, broke the news, with Scott offering an extended version of his tweet as a statement.

“The Democrats want to destroy this country, and they will try to destroy anyone who gets in their way,” Scott told Fox News Digital. “Today it’s Herschel Walker, but tomorrow it’s the American people.

“I’m on Herschel’s team — and they picked the wrong Georgian to mess with. I’m proud to stand with Herschel Walker and make sure Georgians know that he will always fight to protect them from the forces trying to destroy Georgia values and Georgia’s economy, led by Raphael Warnock.”

Flipping the seat Democrat Warnock won in 2020 is still key to Republican hopes of retaking a majority in the Senate.

Fear no third rail

Rubio is gambling that Medicare seniors won’t mind paying more for their prescription drugs in the name of supporting pharmaceutical research and development.

He joined fellow Republican Sens. James Lankford, Mike Lee and Cynthia Lummis in introducing the Protecting Drug Innovation Act, which would roll back the feds’ authority to negotiate, set and control drug prices under Medicare.

Marco Rubio hopes seniors will be OK with higher drug costs.

“Democrats’ price controls will hurt Floridians,” Rubio said. “There will be less innovation, which means lifesaving cancer drugs may not be developed. There will be less production, which means life-sustaining insulin may be harder to find.”

That’s a misleading claim, according to The New York Times. But it definitely would take off the cap that limited seniors’ out-of-pocket drug costs to $2,000 a year.

His challenger seized on the opportunity to fire off a barrage that Rubio is costing seniors. Demings immediately criticized the bill.

“Shame on him for leading the fight to hike drug prices on Florida’s seniors and putting big Pharma special interests ahead of doing what’s right,” Demings said. “Floridians deserve a Senator who shows up and works for them. In the Senate, I’ll always fight to lower costs for our seniors.”

Investigating Haiti

While Haiti continues to deal with a series of corruption crises, Demings and Miramar Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick just introduced legislation calling for a U.S. investigation of organizations supporting Haitian gangs and crime rings.

“Governments must protect their citizens. I’m fighting for a Haiti free from fear and gang violence, where the Haitian people have the safety and freedom to build their own future,” Demings said.

Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick urges Haiti to stand up for freedom.

“This new legislation will help us identify bad actors behind Haiti’s lawlessness and hold them accountable. After the brazen assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, killings and kidnappings have soared, with the backing of Haitian political and economic elites. The United States must take concrete steps to hold these criminals accountable and help the Haitian people achieve stability, freedom, human rights, and democracy.”

The Haiti Criminal Collusion Transparency Act was introduced by co-chairs of the House Haiti Caucus, including the two Florida Congresswomen.

Cherfilus-McCormick, the first Haitian American elected to Congress, also led a letter to Biden this week calling for sanctions against perpetrators and entities from the private and public sectors responsible for financing the insecurity in Haiti.

“Mr. President, as evidenced, the insecurity crisis in the Republic of Haiti is dire, and the Haitian people are living in terror daily,” the letter reads. “Your administration has a moral and legal obligation to use every tool at its disposal to protect the national security and strategic interests of the United States and the region.”

The message was co-signed by Demings, Lois Frankel, Al Lawson, Darren Soto and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, all Democrats.

Storm damage

Neal Dunn recalled the four-year anniversary of a storm that changed the Panhandle, in the aftermath of one that altered the landscape of Southwest Florida.

Hurricane Michael made landfall in 2018, during the Panhandle Republican’s first term in Congress.

“Hurricane Michael seems like a lifetime ago. It also feels like the storm hit FL-02 just yesterday,” he tweeted Monday. “Though we have not fully recovered, we’ve come a long way. I pray we never face such devastation again, but if we do, I’m confident we’ll be ready. We are 850 strong!”

But Lawson at the same moment critiqued his House colleague and congressional opponent, on a difference in voting records around disaster recovery.

“After voting against disaster relief that would help Southwest Florida, my opponent is now groveling to President Biden and asking for (money). Pitiful,” Lawson tweeted. “Leadership means doing your job when it is in front of you, not asking someone else to do your job for you.”

He referenced a letter sent by most House Republicans in Florida seeking House Appropriations action on Hurricane Ian relief, a week after every Florida Republican in the House voted against a budget resolution that included that funding.

Dunn and Lawson are the only incumbent members of the House delegation battling one another in elections this year as a result of congressional redistricting.

Money back guarantee

Clermont Republican Daniel Webster announced he brought back an estimated $3.7 million in federal money owed to his constituents this year. The estimate includes money secured with the help of Webster’s office from the Internal Revenue Service, Veterans Affairs Administration and Social Security, among other federal agencies.

Daniel Webster puts a priority on getting money back to constituents.

“Providing my constituents with first-class assistance with issues involving federal agencies is one of my top priorities,” Webster said. “Too often, Americans attempting to secure the veteran benefits, IRS or Social Security payments they have earned are met with delays. I am pleased that we have been able to intercede on behalf of so many constituents to ensure they receive the services and compensation they have earned.”

The office cleared a milestone after securing $80,000 for a VA claim made by a constituent in The Villages exposed to Agent Orange during his time in the service.

This year has been a particularly bountiful one, according to totals kept by the office. Since his election to the House in 2010, Webster has helped secure $17 million for individual Florida taxpayers.

Fortifying Key West

Before Hurricane Ian hit Southwest Florida, it hit Key West. And while the Monroe County community didn’t suffer the storm at the same strength as Fort Myers Beach, it still is a barrier island often impacted and vulnerable to weather events.

A grant just announced by Miami Republican Carlos Giménez may help better fortify the island community. FEMA disbursed $4.5 million to the utility board for Key West’s Electric Resilient Infrastructure Project. The money comes on top of $2.4 million granted by FEMA in 2020.

Carlos Giménez wants to shore up Key West. Image via NY Post.

“This is a huge win for Key West. Monroe County remains a high-risk area for tropical storm and hurricane damage,” the Congressman said. “This project will undoubtedly help keep South Florida the greatest place to live, work, and raise a family. In Congress, I’ll keep fighting for more resources and assistance for Monroe County in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. This includes fighting to secure Category A designation from FEMA and Monroe County’s inclusion on President Biden’s list of counties set to receive full individual and public assistance from FEMA.”

The grant money will fund the strengthening of overhead power lines and the replacement of 423 wooden power poles with ductile iron ones. Those new poles, which feed main electrical sources in Key West’s power grid, should withstand storm winds of 145 miles per hour, a mid-strength Category 4 hurricane.

Opening borders?

It can take years for the State Department to issue visas. Miami Republican María Elvira Salazar wants the process streamlined. She introduced the Visitor Visa Wait Time Reduction Act with Nevada Democrat Susie Lee in hopes of speeding the appointment process.

If it becomes law, the legislation will require the State Department to outline steps to address delays for each diplomatic post in which wait times for visas extend more than 100 days. Average wait times on nonimmigrant visas now sit at nearly 250 days, though some must wait longer.

Maria Salazar is helping streamline the visa process.

“The current wait times for non-immigrant visas are totally unacceptable and the State Department must take action to address this,” Salazar said. “Many of my constituents are suffering from this backlog, which keeps them from seeing their family members and hurts our local businesses which rely on tourism.”

There are inequities from nation to nation. For Bogota, Columbia, for example, the wait time for a visa lasts 850 days. Meanwhile, it takes about seven weeks for visas to be issued in the United Kingdom and less than six weeks in Australia.

Hill to Tallahassee

Global public strategy firm Mercury announced the addition of top political strategist and government relations expert Eric Johnson as Managing Director in its Florida office. Johnson brings more than 30 years of political and government experience in Washington and Florida at the local, state and federal levels.

“Eric is a pro at what he does and a fixture in Florida and D.C. politics. Over the years, he’s addressed major public affairs challenges and led key strategic communications efforts for national political leaders, corporations and nonprofits,” said Mercury Partner Ashley Walker. “We are thrilled to have Eric join the Mercury team and deliver exceptional work to our clients.”

Eric Johnson makes a major move.

Before joining Mercury, Johnson founded Johnson Strategies, where he served as a political adviser and media consultant for candidates seeking public office at all levels. Johnson has also served as Chief of Staff to Democratic former Reps. Robert Wexler and Patrick Murphy and ran winning campaigns for former Rep. Ted Deutch and Murphy when he defeated Republican former Rep. Allen West in what was at the time the nation’s most expensive congressional election in history.

Most recently, he served as the strategist for former Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz’s congressional campaign.

“I am honored to be joining the team of experts at Mercury,” Johnson said. “I look forward to continuing my commitment of lifting up the next generation of leaders and organizations while providing successful outcomes for our clients at Mercury.”

On this day

Oct. 11, 1986 — Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev meet for Iceland summit” via the Nuclear Threat Initiative — The Reykjavik summit has remained in history as a near successful attempt of leaders of nuclear powers to agree on the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. As such, Reykjavik has become a symbol of sorts — an example that nuclear disarmament is within reach if political leaders have the courage to make such a decision and break through bureaucratic politics and the maze of arcane nuclear balance theories. George Schultz, Secretary of State at the time, recalled Reykjavik brought together two leaders who passionately believed in nuclear disarmament, both prepared to act on that belief.

Oct. 11, 1992 —At debate, George Bush stresses his experience but two rivals cite economic lag” via The New York Times — In the long-awaited first debate of the 1992 Presidential campaign, with his presidency in jeopardy, Bush asked the American people for more time to right the economy, but his economic stewardship drew withering fire from Bill Clinton and Ross Perot. Trailing badly in the national polls, the President promised to make James Baker, former Secretary of State, the overseer of all domestic programs once Election Day had passed. It was an effort to suggest he understood the urgency of American economic problems, something many voters doubted.


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

Staff Reports

One comment

  • Paul Passarelli

    October 11, 2022 at 5:31 pm

    Happy Columbus Day everyone!
    Even my stalkers.

Comments are closed.


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