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A major shift in policy on importing Venezuelan oil could have significant political consequences in Florida.
And delegation members responded quickly to the development.
Amid supply issues tied to the war in Ukraine, President Joe Biden began to ease sanctions Saturday on the South American nation, allowing Chevron to resume limited drilling there, as reported by NPR. That’s a change after years of the U.S. forbidding such energy exploration for fears Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was siphoning profits, as all oil companies doing business there must work in partnership with the government-run PDVSA.
“Truly incredible,” tweeted Rep. Vern Buchanan, the Republican co-chair of Florida’s congressional delegation.
“President Biden would rather cut deals with a dictator than unleash American energy independence,” the Longboat Key Republican added. “Why rely on Venezuela’s oil reserves when we have the ability to produce and refine cleaner oil right here at home?”
Notably, Buchanan is running to chair the House Ways & Means Committee, which deals with trade matters, when Republicans take over the House in January.
Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, who has been deeply engaged with Latin American issues, condemned the policy shift.
“It’s unconscionable that the Biden administration canceled the Keystone Pipeline and banned CLEANER domestic production in North America only to give the green light to pump blood oil from Venezuela, further enriching Maduro’s narco-terrorist regime,” the Hialeah Republican said.
Reps. Michael Waltz and Matt Gaetz, both Republicans, also slammed the move as boosting a corrupt regime.
But amid the policy change, Democrats in the delegation remained conspicuously silent.
That’s especially notable, as Democratic opposition to opening oil commerce with Venezuela effectively nixed a shift in policy earlier this year, bolstered in large part by concerns raised by Florida members.
Weston Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, co-chair of the state’s Congressional Delegation, in March openly opposed ending sanctions.
Whether Democrats from Florida work privately or publicly to quash opening oil lines despite past concerns remains to be seen.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, 53% of Venezuelan immigrants in the U.S. live in Florida. Most of those live in Miami-Dade, Broward and Orange counties, which, along with Harris County, Texas, hosts 45% of all Venezuelans in America from 2014 through 2018.
Plans for a White House “Disinformation Governance Board” last year quickly fell apart, but Sen. Marco Rubio wants to make sure the Biden administration isn’t continuing the same work under different branding.
Rubio sent a letter last week demanding any information on communications between Homeland Security and major social media companies.
“When the federal government colludes with social media platforms behind closed doors to censor Americans’ speech, it sets a dangerous precedent that cannot be easily undone,” the letter reads. “Without transparency, authoritarians masquerading as elected officials will continue their campaign of pressuring social media platforms to censor content that is not government approved, chilling free speech and causing irreparable damage to democratic institutions in the process.”
The letter notes that while the short-lived disinformation board was dissolved in August, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency just launched a Misinformation, Disinformation and Malinformation team with a similar mission, including censorship of “misinformation” identified on major platforms.
“In order to achieve its goal, your administration has systematically and improperly pressured social media companies to moderate content, limit free speech, and control what Americans see online,” the letter reads. “In fact, Facebook developed a portal specifically designed to identify and process content that officials of the U.S. government flag as problematic.”
Sen. Rick Scott swung through The Villages — in an official role — to hear about issues affecting seniors’ pocketbooks.
Billed as a field hearing of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, Scott heard from state officials and local leaders on retirement security, health care and fiscal health.
“I was proud to be in The Villages, America’s largest senior community, to hold a hearing and hear from our experts about how America’s raging inflation crisis is hurting seniors on fixed incomes and eroding their retirement accounts,” Scott said.
“For too long, Washington has mismanaged Medicare and Social Security, leading these critical programs to the brink of bankruptcy, and now reckless federal spending is adding insult to injury with skyrocketing prices. Between these issues and the growing threats posed by scammers trying to defraud seniors, we must do more to protect aging Americans. Our seniors have given their lives to supporting their families, working in their communities, and trying to secure the blessings of liberty for our nation, and we must support them. Today’s Aging Committee hearing brought needed public awareness and valuable expert input about tackling the challenges faced by American seniors, and I’ll never stop fighting for them.”
Among the speakers was Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, who said protecting older citizens is still a priority for the state.
“This was a productive hearing about senior scams and how we can work together as a state to better protect the nearly 5 million seniors who call Florida home,” she said. “As Attorney General, I will always do everything within the power of my office to protect seniors — including working with Florida’s great Congressional leaders.”
Champion for kids
The First Focus Campaign for Children celebrated several delegation members for their advocacy for children.
Topping the list was Kissimmee Democrat Darren Soto, one of 40 House members recognized as “Champions for Children” by the organization.
“Children too often are an afterthought when it comes to policy and legislation,” said Bruce Lesley, First Focus Campaign for Children president.
In addition to its Champions, the group also named another 40 House members as “Defenders of Children,” the second tier of celebrated lawmakers.
Democratic members Kathy Castor, Lois Frankel, Al Lawson, Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson each made the cut.
“When we work to improve outcomes for children, we invest in our nation’s future,” Wilson said. “I am proud of our achievements on behalf of children this Congress. We must continue to build on our progress in the 118th Congress.”
Point of sale
Among the bills passed in the lame-duck Session was a bipartisan bill from Palm Harbor Republican Gus Bilirakis.
The Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers (INFORM Consumers) Act (HR 5502) cleared the House and now awaits action in the Senate.
The bill would require online seller platforms to authenticate third-party vendors to cut down on the sale of stolen or counterfeit products. The legislation was filed in response to growing concerns about unsavory merchants doing business under the auspices of Amazon, eBay, Facebook Marketplace and other widely recognized sites that allow third parties to mark goods.
“This pro-consumer legislation enacts uniform, nationwide rules to promote safety, increase transparency, and provide greater accountability for online sales,” Bilirakis said. “It will provide a layer of enhanced protections for consumers from stolen and counterfeit goods without adding undue burdens on small mom-and-pop businesses. This bill is a win-win for consumers and legitimate businesses in the online marketplace.”
He introduced the House bill with Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky, chair of the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, where Bilirakis serves as the ranking Republican.
“For too long, criminals have raked in profits by selling dangerous, counterfeit, and stolen products online. Consumers deserve to shop with the peace of mind that they get what they pay for,” Schakowsky said. “Today, we took a stand for consumers and said enough is enough. The INFORM Consumers Act, which I introduced with my friend, Rep. Gus Bilirakis, passed the House with bipartisan support, and will protect consumers and legitimate businesses by holding online marketplaces accountable. We must protect Americans online. I urge the Senate to swiftly pass this bill.”
Castor took a moment to remember a fallen colleague. Virginia Democrat Donald McEachin, who served on the Castor-chaired House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, died Monday after a long battle with cancer.
“Rep. Don McEachin served with honor, distinction and a profound commitment to environmental justice,” the Tampa Democrat tweeted. “For Climate Crisis colleagues, he was a guiding light and shined the way on a path toward equity and smart policy to remedy the burden of pollution on people’s lives. We lift up his family, staff, constituents and friends — and pray that his life of service to others and the love and respect we have for Donald is a comfort to those who will miss him and are saddened by his passing.”
Similarly, Soto noted McEachin’s legacy on environmental causes.
“Devastated to learn of the passing of my colleague Rep. Donald McEachin,” the Kissimmee Democrat tweeted. “It was an honor to serve beside him on the Energy and Commerce Committee as he advocated for climate action. His legacy will live on as we work to improve our planet.”
Home front care
Helping troops in need should extend to the home front, and two Florida members are working together to make sure that support is there. Miramar Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick and Stuart Republican Brian Mast introduced legislation, the Veterans Homecare Choice Act, which would supply veterans access to home care professionals.
That would address what Stuart’s office characterized as an oversight in the Veterans Community Care Program. Care costs were reimbursed by the Veterans Affairs Department from 2014 to 2018 but that changed with the VA MISSION Act.
“Veterans, more than anyone, have earned the right to live their lives as they see fit, especially as they age,” said Mast, a veteran who himself was injured on duty. “If they choose to stay in their own homes as they get older, red tape in Washington should not prevent them from making that choice. This bill is a simple fix that will expand access to valuable home-care services that improve the lives of veterans and their families.”
Cherfilus-McCormick, who previously ran a health care support business, said the change in law was needed.
“As a Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I am deeply committed to ensuring that the men and women who bravely defended our freedoms have the opportunities they need to achieve an overall better quality of life,” she said. “As a former CEO in the health care industry, I know firsthand the impact this bill will have on veterans’ access to much-needed home-care services. It is an honor to join my colleague from the Sunshine State to ensure veterans and their families have the resources they need to live meaningful lives long after they hang up their uniforms.”
Cherfilus-McCormick sounded alarms at a potential migration crisis that could soon affect Florida. She criticized Dominican Republic President Luis Abinader’s decision to deport “dark-skinned” immigrants, according to an alert issued by the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo.
“Under the orders of President Luis Abinader, the Dominican Republic has deported thousands of Haitian migrants and is engaging in discriminatory and racial profiling tactics to carry out its ill treatment of Haitians,” Cherfilus-McCormick said.
“Historically, race relations have unfortunately factored into the fractured relationship between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Dating back to the late 1930s, the Dominican Republic carried out an ethnic cleansing campaign against Haitians, which resulted in at least 25,000 deaths. Nearly a century later, structural racism is still rearing its head, yet this time, it poses a global threat to Black people who may travel to the Dominican Republic, irrespective of nationality. In effect, the Dominican Republic’s deportations of its ‘darker’ neighbor amount to a modern-day ethnic cleansing.”
The Congresswoman has also pushed against the U.S. deportation of Haitian refugees because of political unrest in the Caribbean nation. Cherfilus-McCormick said the actions by the Dominican Republic, a nation that shares a land mass with Haiti, were an awful development.
“The mass repatriation of Haitian migrants by the Dominican Republic is inhumane and must cease. Between July and October 2022, Dominican immigration authorities reportedly deported nearly 44,000 migrants, many of whom are Haitians. What is more, it has become apparent that Haitian migrants and other Blacks are being targeted because of their skin complexion,” she said.
“Additionally, according to UNICEF, the Dominican Republic has expelled at least 1,800 unaccompanied children since January 2022. Children lack the legal means to provide proof of citizenship. It is obvious that Haitian migrants and children are being denied due process. The sole factor used to determine whether someone should be deported is race. This is reprehensible.”
Pursuing a family is something House members across the aisle can agree all Americans should be able to do, so Wasserman Schultz formed a bipartisan caucus with Missouri Republican Billy Long. The Family Building Caucus will spotlight and try to aid families with medical challenges to having children.
Wasserman Schultz shared her own story of infertility issues when she was 29. She had twins following in vitro fertilization and later a third child.
“I know firsthand the importance of scientific advancements for families affected by infertility, and I have and will continue fighting to ensure that Congress sets aside vital resources needed to research and address this disease,” she said. “I am so heartened and inspired to join forces across the aisle to work with other lawmakers who share the same passion or experiences. I want to sincerely thank Congressman Long for joining me to launch this Family Building Caucus.”
Long said infertility issues continue to grow in the country, making the matter even more pressing.
“Just last week, a study in the journal Human Reproduction Update found that male fertility has decreased 51% since 1973,” he said. “We should be working to build resilient families and addressing the significant fertility rate decreases is a major part of that effort.”
Caring for elders
The challenges of caregiving don’t present themselves exclusively to those old enough to handle the struggle. Two members of the delegation want more attention paid to the number of youths who must make sacrifices to care for a loved one. West Palm Beach Democrat Lois Frankel and Coral Gables Republican María Elvira Salazar introduced legislation with California Democrat Barbara Lee that designated Nov. 13 through 19 this year as National Caregiving Youth Week.
“All over the country, there are children and teenagers who are forced to set aside their own needs like schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and time with their friends to serve as primary or secondary caregivers for members of their family,” Frankel said. “November is National Family Caregivers Month, and we’re proud to recognize the work and sacrifices these brave children and teens make for their loved ones.”
Groups like the American Association of Caregiving Youth cheered the designation, and the lawmakers expressed hope it would provide further support to those giving up so much time for others.
“Our country is home to millions of kindhearted youth who care for family members that need their help,” Salazar said. “I am honored to co-lead this resolution recognizing caregiving youth whose sacrifices humble and inspire all of us.”
Global women’s rights
As Salazar prepares for a second term, she enjoys growing demand as a voice on foreign policy. She will be one of the headliners for Foreign Policy’s Her Power summit, which will focus on global gender equality and women’s rights.
Salazar is one of two sitting members of Congress, along with Nevada Democrat Dina Titus, who appears on an all-female slate of speakers. The organization notes Salazar’s advocacy for democratic values around the world, noting her focus on the Latin American nations of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua but also noting involvement with U.S. partnerships with Israel, Colombia and Taiwan. It also notes Salazar, a former journalist, remains the only U.S. Spanish-language interviewer to ever conduct a one-on-one interview with former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
The Dec. 1 event begins at 9:30 a.m. at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.
David Jolly, a former Republican delegation member, offers some advice for the Democratic caucus.
The bipartisan Facts First USA group — which he co-chairs with Democrat Maria Cardona — started distributing a memo on how to brand California Republican Kevin McCarthy’s campaign for 218 votes for Speaker.
“The goal of such a campaign is to highlight the corrupt process through which McCarthy is trying to gain power, which should be the REAL scandal in the minds of the public,” reads the memo, penned by Facts First President David Brock. “And just as John Quincy Adams said his presidency was dogged by the corrupt bargain — when Speaker of the House Henry Clay pushed Congress to elect Adams over Andrew Jackson who led the popular and Electoral College vote and was then named as Secretary of State by Adams — any subsequent investigations undertaken by House Republicans will themselves be irretrievably tainted.”
The memo, first reported by POLITICO, comes as Republicans choose a Speaker to preside over a historically slim majority. A handful of Republicans, including Panhandle Republican Gaetz, have openly said they will not vote for McCarthy as Speaker. Of course, Gaetz’s favored choice of Ohio Republican Jim Jordan has reportedly given his support to McCarthy in exchange for a promise to Chair the House Judiciary Committee, so anything can still happen.
Jolly notably served in the House with McCarthy from 2014 to 2017, a period that included the last time McCarthy made a push for Speaker. In 2015, McCarthy dropped out of the race to succeed John Boehner as Speaker following comments an investigation of the Benghazi response served primarily to politically damage former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ahead of her bid for President.
But since Jolly’s defeat by Democrat Charlie Crist in 2016, he has further distanced himself from Republicans, even starting the Forward Party.
We the People
First Lady Jill Biden announced the holiday theme for the White House this year. In election year spirit and on the heels of a better-than-expected performance by Democrats, the theme is “We the People.”
“As our country gathers for the holidays, traditions may vary, but our shared American values — a belief in possibility, optimism, and unity — endure season after season,” reads a letter from President Biden and First Lady Biden. “For this year’s holidays at the White House, we hope to capture the spirit embodied in the very idea of America: We the People. During your visit to the People’s House, through rooms full of history and holiday décor, in the mirrored ornaments and reflective lights, our hope is that you feel at home and find yourself in the great story of America. May the promise of We the People light our path forward into the New Year and bring us together always.”
Biden unveiled décor at a special event Monday. The White House expects 50,000 visitors this holiday season.
On this day
Nov. 29, 1947 — “U.N. votes for partition of Palestine” via History.com — Despite strong Arab opposition, the United Nations votes for the partition of Palestine and the creation of an independent Jewish state. The modern conflict between Jews and Arabs in Palestine dates to the 1910s when both groups laid claim to the British-controlled territory. The Jews were Zionists, recent emigrants from Europe and Russia who came to the ancient homeland of the Jews to set up a Jewish national state. The native Palestinian Arabs sought to stem Jewish immigration and set up a secular Palestinian state.
Nov. 29, 1963 — “Lyndon Johnson calls for the Warren Commission” via the National Constitution Center — President Johnson used his constitutional powers to issue an executive order to ask for a special Commission to investigate John F. Kennedy’s assassination a week earlier. The seven-person Commission was officially known as the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy. But it soon became known as the Warren Commission after the name of the group’s Chair, Chief Justice Earl Warren. Over the next nine months, it held public hearings, gathered evidence, and issued a controversial report on the Kennedy assassination and the death of alleged shooter Lee Harvey Oswald.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles and edited and assembled by Phil Ammann and Ryan Nicol.