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The elections are over, but the maneuvering for power in a new Congress has only just begun.
While Election Day did not produce the size of Republican majority conservatives wanted, most projections show the GOP will control the chamber come January. But with Florida offering the Republicans a bright light during a (somewhat disappointing) national election could bode well for Florida’s congressional delegation.
A prime example is Rep. Vern Buchanan’s bid for House Ways & Means Chair received a lift. He’s a close ally to California Republican Kevin McCarthy, who is a leading contender for incoming House Speaker and a fellow member of the class elected in 2006.
Buchanan also spent much of the last week campaigning alongside Minority Whip Steve Scalise for candidates across the country. Scalise is another rumored run for Speaker should McCarthy’s bid fall short.
Over the course of the last campaign swing, Buchanan directly raised more than $600,000 for Republicans to make a final push. The GOP Steering Committee in the House will decide who wields gavels in the 118th Congress.
Most likely, Buchanan will make a presentation to the committee in the last week of November or the first week of December, as will competitors Reps. Adrian Smith of Nebraska and Jason Smith of Missouri.
In many ways, those close to Buchanan feel that the Longboat Key Republican’s chances improved because of how the Midterms played out. The GOP overperformed in Florida, and as a result, will send 20 Republican Representatives to the House.
As of early Friday, it looks as if Republicans will go to Washington with as few as 222 seats. That’s the number of races where Republicans are in the lead, according to The New York Times.
That’s a slim majority — control of the House is secured at 218 seats. It’s also a caucus where Floridians make up nearly 10% of House Republicans. While incoming first-term lawmakers have no say on Chairs, the influence within the caucus has leaped significantly, with Florida now rivaling Texas’ 24 GOP seats.
Buchanan personally raised money for all four of the new Florida Republicans: Rep.-elects Aaron Bean, Laurel Lee, Anna Paulina Luna and Cory Mills. Moreover, the four GOP pickups in the House represent a sizable number of the gains for the party, which has 16 pickups and counting, by the latest CNN projections.
The fact Florida performed so much better for Republicans than other states also make it increasingly hard to justify why the Sunshine State has no members of leadership in Congress.
All this, piled on top of Buchanan being the senior-most Republican on the Ways & Means Committee, puts him in a helpful position when Chairs are selected.
While most Florida Republicans spent Tuesday evening reveling in victory, Sen. Rick Scott found little to celebrate.
As Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), Scott’s job for the Midterms was simple: regain a Republican majority in the Senate. Leading into Tuesday, he projected confidence — asserting Republicans could ride a red wave to as many as 55 seats in the upper chamber.
Instead, it looks questionable that the GOP can even reach the necessary 51 votes.
The mission is not over. A close contest in Georgia means Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker will fight through a runoff. Just as occurred two years ago when Warnock won his seat on the eve of Jan. 6, the political world has already started to descend on the Peach State in a race that could well decide which party controls the Senate.
Even that, though, depends on results in a pair of Western states. The Tucson Sentinel just named Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly winner in the Arizona race over Blake Masters (not yet called by The Associated Press as of this writing).
Meanwhile, Republican challenger Adam Laxalt could flip the Nevada seat red by defeating Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. That race is still too close to call.
Laxalt leads by less than 1 percentage point while more than 10% of the state’s votes are still uncounted.
Of course, with all races that remain close, the NRSC will likely stay engaged in those states until the bitter end, including potential recounts and court challenges.
Scott’s path to cementing a Senate majority before a Georgia runoff required winning both Arizona and Nevada. But if Democrats manage a victory in both states, they’ll have a majority on lock — despite the Georgia outcome.
Either way, underperformance nationwide seems to have tamped down regular questions about whether Scott will make a play for Majority Leader over sitting Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
Control of the Senate will decide what the future looks like for Sen. Marco Rubio in the chamber. Florida’s Senior Senator dominated Rep. Val Demings in the Senate race, so he secured his seat in the Senate over the next six years. But the unsettled races across the country could determine if he regains the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
It’s a position Rubio held briefly before, from May 2020, after North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr stepped away from the role amid a stock trading scandal, until January 2021, when a Democratic majority formally took over.
If Republicans can secure a majority, expect a transition that will put the Intelligence gavel back in the Miami Republican’s hands.
Otherwise, Rubio would stay as Vice Chair to Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner.
Regardless, when he begins a third term in the U.S. Senate, Rubio will climb up the ranks of seniority, from the 46th most senior member of the chamber in the 117th Congress to the 39th longest-serving member in the 118th.
Scott, meanwhile, goes from 90th in seniority to 84th.
Byron Donalds still wants the steering committee to consider his bid to become GOP Conference Chair when the new Congress convenes. He announced his candidacy to be the No. 3 Republican in the House back in September and just doubled down with a new ad released on social media this week.
The video pieces together cable news clips and media interviews featuring the Naples Republican over the course of his first term. Some feature Donalds making partisan arguments and throwing jabs at President Joe Biden from the floor.
There’s also more recent shots from Donalds’ hurricane-ravaged district in the wake of Hurricane Ian.
It closes with Donald making an appeal from the right on who should lead the caucus.
“We should have a strong conservative in the leadership room,” Donalds said.
As Donalds enters his second term in Congress, most are not predicting an easy path to leadership. Current GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik made clear she wants to stay in the role, one she has held since the ouster of Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney.
But just as Florida’s increased share of the GOP caucus bolsters Buchanan’s bid for Chair, it could also lift Donalds’ chances.
Many members are still nonplussed about GOP performance in the Midterms, and some want to see a change at the top.
To watch Donalds’ video, please click on the image below:
The Tuesday elections brought six new members in total into the Florida delegation: Republicans Bean, Lee, Luna and Mills and Democrats Maxwell Alejandro Frost and Jared Moskowitz.
While the new lawmakers won’t be sworn in until January, official duties begin (in effect) on Monday, when all are invited to Capitol Hill for new member orientation. Normally, the first orientation Session runs for three days. Then, members will return to Washington after Thanksgiving for more basics of how to serve in the storied body of Congress.
These Sessions won’t typically focus on the newsworthy political drama of the day but on the basics of serving. Incoming members will sign up for health care benefits, set up email addresses and receive basic workplace orientation as with any job in the federal government.
But the trip to Washington also will offer a chance for members to hire Hill staff and begin setting up Capitol offices. As the Rep.-elects built a legislative team to work on the Hill, governing agendas, as opposed to campaign messaging, will come into focus.
It’s clear some members of the delegation are not enthusiastic about elevating Minority Leader McCarthy to the position of Speaker of the House. Two days after the Midterms, as members awaited confirmation the GOP will hold a majority, Panhandle Republican Matt Gaetz took a swipe at the chamber’s top Republican.
“McCarthy. McConnell. McDaniel. McFailure,” Gaetz tweeted, also throwing shade on Senate leadership and at Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel.
Gaetz made clear he does not blame President Donald Trump, as pundits have, for the party’s weak performance. Rather, he penned a piece for the Daily Caller asserting Trump should become the Republican presidential nominee again in 2024.
“The job President Trump started was not finished. Only Trump can be trusted to enact the ‘America First’ agenda he ran on in 2016,” Gaetz wrote. “We won’t accept any imitation. Despite what many Washington, D.C., conservative elites want you to believe, we are not in the ‘post-Trump era’ or close to it. We are still in the midst of the revolution started by Trump when he rode down that golden escalator.”
Perhaps even more interesting than Gaetz’s continuing adoration for Trump is how the op-ed was framed. The conservative website presented the piece as a dueling counterpoint to those who want Gov. Ron DeSantis as the nominee in two years. Former Trump adviser Christian Whiton wrote that now is DeSantis’ moment and that it’s time for the party to move on from his former boss. Gaetz, meanwhile, served as a perpetual presence alongside DeSantis when the Governor campaigned in 2018. But now he wants to stand with Trump supporters.
Can Neal Dunn and Al Lawson remain bipartisan friends forever?
Panama City Republican Dunn came out on top of one of only two House races in the country featuring two incumbents. That means Lawson has only a lame-duck Session to look forward to before clearing out his office — at least for now.
If a new Florida congressional map was an attempt to oust Lawson by cutting up a Black-controlled blue seat, as the Tallahassee Democratic Rep. has contended, it proved successful. But that adds fodder to ongoing lawsuits challenging Florida’s redistricting process for diminishing Black voting power.
In other words, there’s a chance Lawson could make a return if a potential court-approved replacement map allows it. Even then, his odds depend on whether he can maintain a strong profile in the region in the meantime.
It took three years before a congressional map drafted by the Legislature in 2012 was ruled unconstitutional, thereby creating a political opportunity for Lawson to win his seat in 2016.
For now, Dunn and Lawson, despite the hard-fought race that just concluded, appear to remain collegial. The Tallahassee Democrat reports Dunn stepped away from a victory speech to take a call from his colleague/opponent and was overheard saying: “Thank you very much. You’re a gentleman and you’ve been a good friend for many years.”
Mother Nature has paid no heed to the political schedule for delegation members. First, Hurricane Ian crashed into the state on Sept. 28, giving Southwest Florida representatives the October surprise of rushing to help constituents bounce back from a Category 4 storm. Now Hurricane Nicole, while a weaker storm, barreled into Florida’s east coast just after Election Day.
Brian Mast called for the Army Corps of Engineers to cease releases from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River as the Treasure Coast deals with the impacts of the Category 1 storm.
“Our community has enough to clean up after this storm without the threat of toxic discharges into our waterways,” the Stuart Republican said. “The Army Corps choosing to discharge water on top of the flooding that is already occurring would be an unforgivable betrayal of the people on Florida’s Treasure Coast.”
In a letter to Jacksonville District Commander Col. James Booth, Mast pointed to Corps science that suggests an increase for blue-green algal blooms because of millions of gallons of water being added to the lake.
“That, combined with the severe wind and rain stirring up the nutrients already filling the Lake, makes now a horrible time for Lake Okeechobee water to be sent to the St. Lucie River estuary,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, Sarasota Republican Greg Steube has continued to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on debris cleanup from Ian, which still lines many streets more than a month after the storm.
“After advocacy from the county and my office, I’m pleased that FEMA recognized the serious challenges Sarasota County is facing as they work to remove a great volume of debris from Hurricane Ian on commercial properties. The approval of several policy waivers will have a big impact in helping our mobile home communities recover from the hurricane,” Steube said. “My office stands ready to advocate to FEMA for requests made by any municipality or county in Florida’s 17th Congressional District.”
Hollywood Democrat Frederica Wilson wants a rapid change in approach by the DeSantis administration in Florida with the handling of a baby born in the U.S. Her concern is for BabyEctor Jean, an infant facing deportation to Haiti.
“Born in Broward County in February 2022, BabyEctor is an American citizen by birthright and deserves the security, stability and liberty of America. Furthermore, Haiti is in no condition to receive BabyEctor,” wrote Wilson in a letter to state Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Shevaun Harris.
Political instability in Haiti, which led to reduced staffing at the Haiti embassy, should be enough reason not to send the child to the island right now instead of leaving the baby placed with foster parents in Florida. But additionally, the infant also faces a threat to his health on the island amid a cholera outbreak.
“Haiti’s security challenges and a recent cholera outbreak continue to blanket the news. It’s unconscionable that DCF would think it’s appropriate to strip an American baby of their birthright and send them to a nation where they have never lived,” Wilson wrote.
Wilson has advocated for Temporary Protected Status for refugees from Haiti. But she said there are also special circumstances in this case.
“BabyEctor has medical needs that would render him especially vulnerable in Haiti, where the health care system is severely dilapidated,” Wilson wrote. “BabyEctor’s ear infections and well-documented cardiovascular disease require treatment and surgery that are virtually inaccessible in Haiti. Moreover, the lack of accessible health care in Haiti has been exacerbated in recent months by the exodus of medical professionals due to security reasons.”
On this day
Nov. 11, 1620 — “Pilgrims dock at Plymouth Harbor” via History.com — The famous Mayflower story began in 1606, when a group of reform-minded Puritans in Nottinghamshire, England, founded their own church, separate from the state-sanctioned Church of England. Accused of treason, they were forced to leave the country and settle in the more tolerant Netherlands. After 12 years of struggling to adapt and make a decent living, the group sought financial backing from London merchants to set up a colony in America. 102 passengers — dubbed Pilgrims by William Bradford, a passenger who would become the first Governor of Plymouth Colony — crowded on the Mayflower to begin the long, hard journey to a new life in the New World.
Nov. 11, 1983 — “Ronald Reagan addresses Japanese parliament” via POLITICO — Reagan became the first U.S. President to address the Japanese parliament, known as the Diet. On the second day of his visit to Tokyo, Reagan spoke to some 700 parliamentarians a generation after U.S. bombers had left the island nation in ruins. In his 3,400-word speech, the President pledged to work toward the control and elimination of nuclear weapons. These remarks elicited the loudest applause from his audience, mindful of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that hastened the Japanese surrender in 1945, ending World War II.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles and edited and assembled by Phil Ammann and Ryan Nicol.