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Sen. Marco Rubio for years has pushed to recast the Republican Party as the voice of working-class Americans, not of corporations. It’s no surprise then that he has punched on President Joe Biden’s plans to stop a holiday season rail strike.
The Miami Republican called on the administration and freight rail companies to go back to the table with unions and hammer out a pro-worker deal. He also promised to vote against a bill that would force a strike to end and for unions to accept a contract with too few sick days.
“Just because Congress has the authority to impose a heavy-handed solution does not mean we should,” Rubio said. “It is wrong for the Biden administration, which has failed to fight for workers, to ask Congress to impose a deal the workers themselves have rejected. I will not vote for any deal that does not have the support of the rail workers.”
It’s a marked shift from the politics of yore.
Indeed, critics of Biden’s plan have pointed out that, as a Democratic Senator in 1992, he was one of a small number of Senators to vote against a similar strike-averting deal. And to this day, unions remain a traditionally Democratic voting bloc.
But Rubio clearly aims to turn the narrative on its ear.
“This whole episode highlights many of the ongoing problems in our economy. On the one hand, Wall Street’s drive for efficiency has turned rail workers into little more than line items on a spreadsheet. On the other hand, you have union leadership so disconnected from its rank and file that they struck a deal their members can’t support,” the Senator said.
“Instead of relying on Congress to carry their water, the parties should go back to the negotiating table and strike a fair deal that workers can accept.”
That said, most Democrats voted for an amendment to the strike-ending legislation that would have at least provided the week of sick leave that workers desired. Rubio crossed the aisle to support that, but the 52-43 majority vote wasn’t enough to overcome a 60-vote threshold.
Rubio then voted against the overall resolution to end the strike, which passed on an 80-15 vote.
Rubio’s stance put him in line with Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. It also put him in lockstep with perhaps the most liberal incoming member of Congress from Florida, Orlando Democrat Maxwell Alejandro Frost. “I just don’t understand how someone making $174,000 a year and being driven around in a damn SUV everywhere can go in and vote against only seven days of paid SICK LEAVE for railroad workers,” the Rep.-elect tweeted after the Senate vote.
Sen. Rick Scott, a Naples Republican, notably voted against both the amendment and the final measure.
Scott may have lost his bid for Minority Leader, but he’s not done being a thorn in Sen. Mitch McConnell’s side. He was among four Senators who sent a letter to the Senate’s top Republican demanding the GOP caucus serve as a serious check on spending.
That includes making sure a short-term continuing resolution funding the federal government is really just for the short term. The letter, also signed by Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana, said Senators want a measure passed, but that the government should only be funded until shortly after a Republican majority takes control of the House in January.
“The American people made their voices heard at the ballot box. Using the Democratic process, millions of Americans sent a message — they want divided power in Washington to curb the worst excesses of both parties,” the letter reads.
Of note, Senate Republicans gained no ground in the upper chamber — as Scott helmed the National Republican Senatorial Committee — and a Georgia runoff will determine if the caucus actually suffers a net loss. Through the cycle, Scott and McConnell openly feuded about whether the party should run on a fiscally hawkish platform advanced by Scott, or to just run as a foil to the Biden administration. Signing the letter firmly entrenches Scott as a voice in the conservative wing of the minority party.
“Now is the time for Republicans to get serious about leading America toward a better future. The current Continuing Resolution funds the federal government through Dec. 16, 2022,” the letter closes. “We must not accept anything other than a short-term Continuing Resolution that funds the federal government until shortly after the 118th Congress is sworn in. No additional spending, no additional policy priorities should be included. Any urgent items that require the Senate’s attention should be considered separately and under their own terms.”
The University of Florida is still the research engine in the state.
Kat Cammack met with scientists at her hometown university to see how agricultural work could address world hunger and malnutrition.
“Food security is national security, which is why it’s so important to work together in support of necessary sustainable and innovative solutions to the problems our food supply chains face,” the Gainesville Republican said.
“Our farmers, ranchers and producers work tirelessly to feed our nation and the world, and I’m grateful to the University of Florida and its Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) for their critical investments into research and development on these fronts. We’re always looking for better ways to best support the folks who feed, clothe, and fuel our country, and I’m grateful to the Farm Journal Foundation and the University of Florida for making today’s event possible.”
Cammack’s Office made clear it considers further investment into such research as a solid use of federal funding, noting an average $20 return on every dollar of investment. A release from the office called for further public support of areas like animal health, environmental and food safety research, and small farm techniques that could be shared overseas.
That’s a stance for which UF officials voiced their expected support as well.
“UF/IFAS (University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences) continues to innovate the way to increase food production globally with less environmental impact,” said Scott Angle, UF’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “That challenge is getting steeper, but so is the UF/IFAS commitment with the recent launch of our Global Food Systems Institute and our historic investment in artificial intelligence to revolutionize agriculture. Our solutions to the challenges of producing food in a subtropical/tropical climate make our science directly applicable in large regions of the world that face food insecurity. At the same time, what we learn abroad helps Florida farmers and ranchers.”
Sanctity of marriage
Senate passage of the Respect for Marriage Act this week drew attention, as the bipartisan bill preserves recognition of marriage for same-sex couples across state lines. Val Demings took note that the bill, once signed into law, also guarantees court reversals will not deny protection for interracial couples as well.
“Equality under the law is an American value and this vote should have been 100 to zero,” the Orlando Democrat said after the Senate passed the bill. “Nevertheless, I am glad the Senate has moved to protect the rights of all Americans to have their marriage treated with equality and respect. When the judicial branch of government fails to protect basic fundamental rights, Congress must take every necessary step to ensure that our freedoms are protected. This vote is a step in the right direction in fulfilling America’s promise, but there is more to do.”
The legislation was put together in direct response to a portion of the majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. Justice Clarence Thomas asserted the court should reconsider all substantive precedents and called out the 2015 Obergefell decision that made marriage equality the law of the land.
“We have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents,” Thomas wrote. “After overruling these demonstrably erroneous decisions, the question would remain whether other constitutional provisions guarantee the myriad rights that our substantive due process cases have generated.”
The Respect for Marriage Act means all states now must recognize legal marriages authorized in a U.S. state. That preempts any such legal challenge to Obergefell in any practical sense.
But as Thomas’ critics note, the Justice never did attack the 1967 Loving decision protecting interracial marriage from state prohibitions, though that case was partially decided on different legal grounds than Obergefell.
It’s nominating season time, and Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor just announced nominations for 21 Tampa Bay graduating seniors to enter military academies.
“These talented student leaders are critical to the future of America. Their commitment to serving our country will make our patriotic Tampa Bay community proud,” Castor said.
“I am grateful for the service of my dedicated Nomination Committee that thoroughly reviews each application and meets with interested students. I know that this year’s nominees will represent Tampa Bay and America well in all that the future holds for them.”
Nominations in Florida’s 14th Congressional District for 2022 went to: Joshua Willke of Cambridge Christian School for the U.S. Military Academy; Kalesha Bowers of Wharton High School for the USMA; Skyllar Erikson of Robinson High School for the USMA and U.S. Air Force Academy; Juan Figuera-Parra of Jesuit High School for the U.S. Naval Academy; Grayson Gallagher of Jesuit High School for the USNA; Katherine Merrill of Academy of the Holy Names for the USNA; Lea Visher of Brooks-DeBartolo High School for the USNA and U.S. Air Force Academy; Luke Hamilton of Plant High School for the USNA and USAFA; Trace Benn of Jesuit High School for the USNA; Agustin Barrido of Berkeley Prep for the USNA and USAFA; Damien Uzonwanne of Berkeley Prep for the USNA and USAFA; Austin White of Robinson High School for the USNA and USAFA; Grace Houghton of Stuggart High School for the USNA and USAFA; Grant Creedican of Jesuit High School for the USNA; Elaiza Varela of Sickles High School for the USNA and USAFA; Emma Stone of Freedom High School for the USNA; home-schooler Jean-Carlo Zapta for the USAFA; Turner Ashby of Plant High School for the USAFA; Oliver Hewitt-Qualls of Plant High School for the USAFA; Reagan Wilson of Sickles High School for the USAFA; and Adrianna Cook of Ramstein High School and Falcon Foundation Prep School for the USAFA.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Naval Academy refuses to provide diplomas to Midshipmen who defied a COVID-19 vaccine mandate and refused the jab. Now, Greg Steube said the military needs to provide Congress with answers as to why it took this drastic step.
The Sarasota Republican sent a letter to Vice Admiral Sean S. Buck, the Academy’s Superintendent, asking for an explanation of what granted authority to block graduation access.
“Denying diplomas to otherwise qualified Midshipmen based solely on COVID-19 vaccination status would not only be a waste of our country’s four-year investment in Midshipmen who are eager to serve our nation but could disrupt military readiness in a year that every branch had trouble recruiting,” Steube said.
“The U.S. Naval Academy must provide full transparency of their process to deny diplomas due to the absurd COVID-19 vaccination mandate, including details of cases where Midshipmen’s religious exemption requests were also denied.”
Co-signatories on the letter include Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz and St. Augustine Republican Mike Waltz.
Celebrating the Glades
Everglades National Park just turned 75 years old. That prompted South Florida members to celebrate the national treasure.
Miramar Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick introduced a resolution in the House (HR 1474) recognizing the park. It quickly drew a number of co-sponsors from the Florida congressional delegation including Democrats Lois Frankel, Al Lawson, Stephanie Murphy, Darren Soto and Frederica Wilson and Republicans Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Byron Donalds, Brian Mast, John Rutherford, María Elvira Salazar and Waltz.
Brian Mast touted the bipartisan cause.
“The Everglades is a national treasure — home to more species of plants and animals than any other ecosystem in the continental United States. President (Harry) Truman knew that it was worth protecting 75 years ago, and now it’s up to us to protect it for the next 75,” the Stuart Republican said. “It’s more important than ever that we continue to prioritize projects like the EAA (Everglades Agricultural Area) Reservoir to send the water south and restore this one-in-a-million ecosystem.”
Stop the deportations?
With reports of racially screened deportations in the Dominican Republic continuing, Cherfilus-McCormick also signed on to a letter calling for both the State Department and the United Nations to intervene.
The Congresswoman spoke out immediately after U.S. Embassy workers first sent an alert about Dominican Republic President Luis Abinader’s actions. But as Abinader has publicly brushed off the criticism, Cherfilus-McCormick has now asked for action from Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
“The deportation of Haitian migrants run counter to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk’s, recent calls ‘for deportation to Haiti to stop, given the human rights and humanitarian crises the country is facing,’” the letter reads.
The letter cites reports that now 60,000 Haitians and people of Haitian ancestry, often taken into custody based on the darkness of their skin, have been forcefully sent to Haiti. Cherfilus-McCormick also documents the unrest on the island, particularly since the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse.
“Given the historical context of Dominican Republic-Haiti relations, it is evident that race factors into the marginalized treatment of Haitian migrants by the Dominican Republic government,” the letter states.
“There is widespread video evidence that the National Police are targeting individuals who have African-like phenotypic (i.e., Black) features and deporting them. Black citizens, residents, and migrants in the Dominican Republic are in such grave danger that even Black Americans have been cautioned against traveling to the country, as they are equally at risk of detention or deportation. If the Dominican Republic continues its discriminatory, anti-Black practices, we fear that Black people from all nations may be subjected to inhumane treatment by the Dominican Republic.”
Cherfilus-McCormick notably has also called on the U.S. to extend protections for refugees in the U.S. Now she said steps must be taken to stop unfair practices from a nation that shares a land mass with Haiti.
New members of Congress today went to an office lottery this morning in hopes of getting prime space.
“We have a few options for us to choose from so keep your fingers crossed for us to pick a low number,” said Rep.-elect Anna Paulina Luna. The St. Petersburg Republican noted she is still on the hunt for a district office as well, but the lottery will land her a place in one of the office buildings in Washington.
Frost similarly posted a video from the lottery. A low number, he explained, will let the incoming first-year lawmakers compete faster for empty office space, but only after returning members of Congress have their shot at open rooms.
The last picks go to newbies, but low lumbers get a first shot at what’s left.
To watch the Frost video, please click on the image below:
On this day
Dec. 2, 1823 — “Monroe Doctrine declared” via POLITICO — President James Monroe proclaimed in his annual message to Congress a new foreign policy initiative. In essence, he told the European powers that the Western Hemisphere would no longer be open to them for colonization. The United States, Madison said, would regard any efforts to extend the political influence of the Old World into the New World “as dangerous to our peace and safety.” Madison also pledged that the United States would not interfere in European wars. During much of the 19th century, Presidents invoked the doctrine to buttress interventionist policies in the Americas, often with strong congressional support.
Dec. 2, 2016 — “Donald Trump’s Taiwan call breaks U.S. policy stance” via the BBC — President-elect Trump spoke directly with the President of Taiwan, breaking with U.S. policy set in 1979 when formal relations were cut. Trump’s transition team said he and Tsai Ing-wen noted “close economic, political and security ties” in a phone call. The move risked angering China, which sees Taiwan as a breakaway province. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi dismissed the call as a “petty trick” by Taiwan, Chinese state media said. Trump tweeted Tsai had called him to congratulate him on winning the U.S. election.
Best wishes to Sen. Rick Scott, who turned 70 on Monday, Dec. 1.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles and edited and assembled by Phil Ammann and Ryan Nicol.