Delegation for 2.21.23: Democracy — baby food — backing the blue — new oath — troubled water

capitol u.s. green 9.30.19
Cuba remains a hot topic for the Florida delegation.


Florida leaders continue to dominate any conversation about U.S. relations with Cuba.

Several members of the state’s congressional delegation proposed new sanctions on the communist country with the introduction of the Denying Earnings to the Military Oligarchy in Cuba and Restricting Activities of the Cuban Intelligence Apparatus (DEMOCRACIA) Act.

When it comes to Cuba, Florida’s delegation always has a say.

“For six decades, the Cuban people have faced unimaginable horrors that have denied their fundamental human rights, subjected them to imprisonment and abuse, and limited the prosperity of millions,” said Byron Donalds, a Naples Republican.

“The Cuban people need and deserve the full support of the United States in their relentless and righteous fight for liberation from the Communist Cuban regime.”

Donalds introduced the House bill with Reps. Mario Díaz-Balart, a Hialeah Republican, and María Elvira Salazar, a Coral Gables Republican.

Cuban Americans in the delegation said the bill carries personal significance.

“As the daughter of Cuban exiles, I am committed to fighting against the murderous regime that forced so many of us to flee,” Salazar said.

“The DEMOCRACIA Act will ensure that any foreign company choosing to do business with the (Raúl) Castro regime will be blocked from doing business with the United States. We will not stand idly by as foreign businesses supply oxygen to a brutal dictatorship. The United States must not do business with dictators.”

The legislation would impose individual sanctions on any members of the Cuban government, as well as their families. The sanctions would fall on any foreign individual who engages with Cuba’s defense, security or intelligence agencies, and on anyone who was involved in human rights abuses or terrorism supported by the regime.

Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott will carry the bill in the Senate, along with fellow Republican Sens. Tim Scott of South Carolina, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama and Roger Marshall of Kansas.

“The illegitimate, communist Castro/(Miguel) Díaz-Canel regime harbors terrorist groups, has eliminated free and fair elections, threatens and arbitrarily arrests critics, journalists and political activists, and props up other ruthless dictators, like (Nicolás) Maduro in Venezuela and (Daniel) Ortega in Nicaragua while providing a foothold in Latin America for Russia, Iran and Communist China to spread their influence,” Scott said.

“As the Cuban people’s fight for freedom from the oppressive and illegitimate communist Cuban regime continues, the United States must stand with the Cuban people.”

Rubio said Cuba threatens regional stability, thus involving Florida more than any other state.

“Expanding from existing legislation, the DEMOCRACIA Act seeks to impose a cost on individuals who continue to oppress the people of Cuba,” Rubio said. “From their puppet leader, Díaz-Canel, to their GAESA cronies, the Cuban dictatorship has continued to illegally enrich itself while everyday Cubans remain targets of oppression, censorship, and human rights violations. As a State Sponsor of Terrorism, the Castro/Díaz-Canel dictatorship continues to threaten our regional stability through their active support of anti-democratic regimes in our hemisphere.”

Díaz-Balart, dean of the Florida delegation and Representative, has pushed for greater sanctions for years.

“I am proud to, once again, join my colleagues in this crucial legislation to impose tough sanctions on those who enrich the murderous, oppressive, and anti-American Cuban dictatorship,” he said.

“As brave pro-democracy and human rights activists continue to face brutality, imprisonment and repression for simply demanding freedom, this legislation will deny resources to the regime’s machinery of oppression, including the Cuban military and state security.”

Safer baby food

Is baby food as safe as it once was? Scott has been calling for answers since 2020 on why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) changed allowable levels of lead, cadmium and mercury in baby food and prenatal vitamins.

While the agency just announced recommendations for lower lead limits, the Naples Republican said the agency has still not gone far enough.

Rick Scott demands answers about baby food safety.

“A 2018 study by Consumer Reports found that 34 of the 50 popular baby foods tested had concerning levels of lead, cadmium, or arsenic,” Scott wrote in a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf.

“The World Health Organization lists lead, cadmium, and arsenic as three of the Top 10 Chemicals of Public Health Concern. Reports indicate that a majority of the food in the marketplace already complies with these new standards. FDA’s recent guidance does not reduce levels significantly enough for children and completely fails to address other toxic metals found in baby food.”

He asked a series of questions of the agency about acceptable lead levels and about why the FDA hasn’t pursued even lower levels.

“Babies are our future and continuing to risk their health based on outdated guidelines places the security of the American people’s future at risk,” he wrote. “I look forward to working with you and my colleagues in Congress to find ways to better protect our most vulnerable and safeguard the future of these young Americans.”

Rubio v. Buttigieg

Before Rubio demanded Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s resignation after a train derailment, he joined calls for a change in regulations.

The Miami Republican was among 22 Senators who signed a letter requesting the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) waive testing and allow more automation. Indeed, the October 2021 letter appears to be the last communication Rubio appears to have sent to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) about rail safety before a major train derailment on Feb. 3 in East Palestine, Ohio.

Marco Rubio is calling for Pete Buttigieg’s resignation.

Rubio’s Office challenged the characterization of the 2021 letter as seeking a loosening in regulations. Rather, it said the FRA has procedures in place allowing testing of automated systems to go forward, and Senators wanted an explanation why those procedures were not being followed. A spokesperson for Rubio’s Office pointed to a USDOT report calling many inspection protocols “outdated.”

The calamitous train wreck, which prompted an evacuation days after the crash as officials conducted a controlled release of chemicals, has prompted heavy criticism of Buttigieg and President Joe Biden’s administration.

Rubio’s response has been especially strong.

The Senator in a letter to Biden argued that Buttigieg “repeatedly demonstrated a gross level of incompetence and apathy that is detrimental to the safety and prosperity of the American people.” He asserted that negligence regarding the Ohio derailment follows a two-year pattern.

Notably, Rubio was among 13 Senators in 2021 to vote against confirming Buttigieg.

Buttigieg, for his part, issued a series of proposed reforms today to prevent derailments and require railroad company Norfolk Southern to contribute to cleaning up the environmental disaster at the Ohio-Pennsylvania border.

Backing the blue

Gov. Ron DeSantis found his way to New York on Monday for an event with law enforcement. He spoke at “Law and Order in New York,” voicing support for officers and taking his battle against “wokeness” on the road.

“I visited Staten Island to talk about how law and order has been central to Florida’s success,” he tweeted. “Florida leads the nation in protecting (law enforcement officers) and our crime rate is at a 50-year low, while NYC saw a 23% surge in major crime in 2022. Anti-police politicians should stop catering to the woke mob.”

Ron DeSantis visits NYC to meet (and recruit) LEOs.

The event comes ahead of an expected run for President. DeSantis also plans to speak at a similar event in Chicago. This comes after years of policies in Florida including recruiting from other states.

Ukraine or Ohio?

Growing voices within Congress have started not only to call for less U.S. involvement in Ukraine, but to attack President Biden for his support.

Rep. Matt Gaetz slammed Biden’s visit to Ukraine on Monday, specifically hitting the President for visiting the East European nation before heading to a train derailment in Ohio.

Matt Gaetz says Joe Biden should be in Ohio, not Ukraine.

“When our border is in crisis, Joe Biden goes home to nap in Delaware. When Ohio burns with toxic chemicals, Biden’s admin says everything is fine,” Gaetz said. “So on Presidents Day, I’m not surprised that Biden is ditching America for Ukraine. He ditched America’s interests since the start of his presidency. They can keep him!”

Gaetz earlier this year introduced legislation calling for a halt to all foreign aid to Ukraine.

Second oath

More than 1,000 gathered in Orlando to watch a ceremonial swearing in for America’s youngest Congressman. Rep. Maxwell Frost, an Orlando Democrat, took his oath a second time at an event, with former Rep. Val Demings symbolically handing off the job of representing Florida’s 10th Congressional District.

“Here in Orlando and across Central Florida, we have so much to be proud of, but we also have so much we need to fight for,” he said.

Maxwell Frost celebrates his ceremonial swearing-in.

“I always say, if you love someone, you want them to have quality health care, you want them to have affordable housing, the right to vote, to have food on the table, to get a good education, to have safety in their communities.”

Frost, a 26-year-old and the first Generation Z member of Congress, has already earned national attention since his election in November. Now he promises to leverage that into good for the community.

“That’s why I got into this fight; that’s why I wanted to represent you all, the people living in the very community I grew up in,” Frost said.

New digs

A change in the shape of the district means Rep. Vern Buchanan no longer has a need for a Sarasota headquarters but does need more branches to the north.

To that end, the Longboat Key Republican has announced three new district offices. One is in his hometown on the Manatee County side of Longboat on Gulf of Mexico Drive. Another is in Brandon on Vonderburg Drive. Both of those offices will only be open for pre-scheduled appointments.

Darren Soto and Vern Buchanan are both opening new offices in their districts.

Meanwhile, a district office in Lakewood Ranch, on Enterprise Circle, will have regular hours.

Further north, Rep. Darren Soto opens a new office today in Orlando. The Kissimmee Democrat will open the South Semoran Boulevard locale with a ceremony at 5:30 p.m.

No visitors?

The ejection of several teenagers who wore anti-abortion caps to the Smithsonian has Rep. Greg Steube demanding answers.

The Sarasota Republican sent a letter to Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch describing a hostile welcome to 12 students in town for the March for Life protest in January. The students wore blue caps with the words “Rosary Pro-Life” on them but were stopped by security.

“Upon entering the museum, museum staff mocked the students for holding anti-abortion beliefs, shouted obscenities toward them, and made comments that the museum was a ‘neutral zone’ where they could not express such statements on their clothing,” Steube wrote. “When the students refused to remove the anti-abortion hats, they were forced to leave the museum by the staff.”

Harassing students for anti-abortion hats has set off Greg Steube.

Steube cited a Fox News interview with the students’ accounts. The Smithsonian has acknowledged security wrongly asked for the removal of the clothing in question.

“Asking visitors to remove hats and clothing is not in keeping with our policy or protocols. We provided immediate retraining to prevent a re-occurrence of this kind of error,” the Smithsonian said in a statement reported by CNBC. “The Smithsonian welcomes all visitors without regard to their beliefs.”

Abortion opponents are suing the museum over the incident. Steube wants to see security footage of the incident in question and the names of all Smithsonian staff involved in the matter.

Dems in Trump zone

Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick hosted the top congressional Democrat, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, at a standing-room-only event in Palm Beach County — a territory she deemed “the fighting zone,” The Palm Beach Post reported.

“As we come to the close of Black History Month, we see that our community has been attacked by Tallahassee over and over again,” the Miramar Democrat said. “And it’s important that we stand together and that everyone knows that when you attack one of us, you attack all of us.”

Hakeem Jeffries heads to Donald Trump’s backyard.

She noted former President Donald Trump was likely having a party just a few miles away.

The blue team suffered unexpected losses in the reliably Democratic stronghold in November, but Cherfilus-McCormick had strong words for Democratic priorities in front of the crowd of about 300 on Monday. Without mentioning him by name, according to the Post, she and Jeffries took aim at Gov. DeSantis’ fight with the College Board over an African American studies course the Governor said doesn’t meet Florida standards.

“We know that there’s some folks here who want to erase Black history, act like it doesn’t exist,” Jeffries said. “Black history is American history and we will never allow it to be erased. Not here, not now, not ever.”

Jeffries, in line to be House Speaker should the Democrats again regain a majority, received the title “soon-to-be-Speaker.”

“We’re ready today. We’re ready tomorrow, and we’re also ready for 2024,” Cherfilus-McCormick said.

Troubled water

News that Brightline will limit access to the St. Lucie River for nearly a month has Rep. Brian Mast steamed.

The Stuart Republican pressed numerous federal agencies for years regarding plans for a bridge over the river.

He asked Coast Guard Rear Admiral Brendan McPherson for a full economic analysis of what economic impact the access limitation will cause and how boaters and businesses will be insulated from the effects of construction.

A Brightline closure has Brian Mast steamed.

The Coast Guard responded by saying the maritime community was on board with a solid 21-day block in access as opposed to months of intermittent and unpredictable limits. “We recognize that closures of any length are not ideal,” McPherson wrote back.

That didn’t cool down the Congressman.

“It never stops,” Mast said.

“This is going to be a major disruption to hundreds of boaters who rely on access to the Intracoastal, not to mention have a huge impact for businesses on both sides of the bridge. I find it hard to believe that this was the best that Brightline could do; instead, it’s just forced our community to pick the lesser of two evils.”

Access will be cut off beginning May 1.

Ready for takeoff

When the next generation of F-35 fighter jets takes off, Rep. Carlos Giménez wants them to land in Homestead. Following a tour of Homestead Air Reserve Base, the Miami-Dade Republican said the military hub needs to house combat-ready aircraft in the future.

“Miami-Dade County is a regional hub for so many of South Florida’s military installations including Homestead Air Reserve Base, SOCOM, and SOUTHCOM,” Giménez said. “As a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, I look forward to working with my colleagues and (fighting) for the brave men and women who serve our nation, right here in South Florida.”

Carlos Giménez wants F-35 fighter jets to land in Homestead.

He met with the 482nd Fighter Wing and the 93rd Fighter Squadron Makos, which both maintain fleets of F-16 aircraft ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.

He received briefings from Commander Col. Joshua G. Padgett, Vice Commander Col. Surya James Frickel and Command Chief Master Sergeant Jeremy M. Allen while at Homestead. He also received a briefing last week at Southern Command from Commander Gen. Laura Richardson on military readiness to deal with narco-terrorists and socialist dictatorships in the region.

On this day

Feb. 21, 1965 — “Malcolm X assassinated” via — Onstage at the Audubon Ballroom, X was gunned down as his pregnant wife and four daughters took cover in the front row. Three members of the Nation of Islam — Mujahid Abdul Halim, Muhammad A. Aziz and Khalil Islam — were soon after charged with first-degree murder. Islam and Aziz maintained their innocence. During the 1966 trial, Halim confessed to the crime and testified Islam and Aziz were innocent. All three men were found guilty, however, and sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. In 2021, Aziz and Islam were exonerated after an investigation that included the discovery of key FBI documents withheld from the defense and prosecution during the trial.

Feb. 21, 1972 — “Richard Nixon visits China” via the Wilson Center — The visit was a visual spectacle for the U.S. President, his entourage, and much of the rest of the world, which closely watched the American leader’s travels inside the world’s largest communist country. A whirlwind tour through three of China’s major cities brought Nixon to several famed historical sites and cultural performances and face-to-face with senior Chinese leaders. Photographs of Nixon standing on top of the Great Wall, viewing The Red Detachment of Women, or toasting Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai circulated widely around the globe. It was a stunning development in international politics, one that has often been hailed as a “week that changed the world.”


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

Staff Reports


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