Delegation for 3.7.23: Housing — serves — dueling speech — Frost’s music — new VA

US Capitol-building on green background
Congress looks into the Florida affordable housing crisis.


The cost of housing in Florida has rapidly grown. Sen. Marco Rubio now wants the federal government to step in.

“Affordable homes are increasingly out of reach. And, in federally subsidized housing, have seen firsthand the disgusting and inhumane conditions that some residents have been forced to endure due to (the Department of Housing and Urban Development)’s neglect and property mismanagement,” the Miami Republican said. “No one should have to live in fear for their health and safety. I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure decent, safe, and sanitary housing conditions for Florida’s families.”

Marco Rubio is urging the federal government to address affordable housing in Florida.

It’s a distinctly intervention-focused policy from a longtime espouser of capitalism. But he’s rallying Republicans in the state around the message. He just reintroduced the Home Advantage for American Families Act, which he first filed in 2020. Rep. María Elvira Salazar, a fellow Miami GOP lawmaker, will carry the bill in the House. The bill would focus added energy on illicit foreign investment in urban markets in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Rep. John Rutherford, a Jacksonville Republican, will run the House version of Rubio’s Keep Children and Families Safe from Lead Hazards Act, which would push HUD to act on remediating paint and water lines.

“I am proud to join my colleagues in a bipartisan, bicameral effort to ensure that HUD is assessing Section 8 properties for lead-based hazards and is working on plans for remediation,” Rutherford said. “It is unthinkable that families living in public housing have been exposed to toxins that threaten their health and safety without repercussions.”

Rutherford and Sen. Rick Scott, both Republicans, filed the HUD Inspection Reform and Capital Improvement Act. If passed, the measure will require HUD to take enforcement action on failing properties to protect tenants and increase the Department’s authority to hold agency staff accountable for misconduct.

Meanwhile, Rubio is working across the aisle on bills such as the Liberty City Rising Act, which seeks to raise safety standards in the Florida city. He filed that bill with Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Hollywood Democrat, who is carrying the House version.

Rubio is likewise working with Wilson on the Safe Temperature Act, which would require properties receiving federal aid to safely hold temperatures between 71 and 81.

He’s likewise collaborating with Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, on accountability legislation for Section 8 public housing landlords.

Served up

In a less sweeping reform effort, Scott and Rubio are joining forces to end a vaccine mandate and allow tennis star Novak Djokovic to play at the Miami Open on March 19.

The Serbian tennis player, while ranked No. 1 in the world, was recently denied U.S. entry over his shot status and had to withdraw from the BNP Paribas Open.

Both Florida Senators penned a letter to President Joe Biden asking to end the penalties.

Florida Senators seek a waiver to allow Novak Djokovic to play at the Miami Open.

“Mr. Djokovic is a world-class athlete in peak physical condition who is not at high risk of severe complications from COVID-19. It seems both illogical and misaligned with the opinions of your own administration to not grant him the waiver he requests so that he may travel to the U.S. to compete in a professional event,” the two wrote.

“The lack of public health risk, along with the clear benefit of his participation in an event that will be a major driver for our local economies should make the decision before you simple and serve as a precedent for others in his position, while hopefully leading to the full reversal of this mandate for other foreign visitors who wish to legally travel to our great nation.”

The pair pointed to past rhetoric by the President, including stating “the pandemic is over” in September.

Scott notably has likewise filed legislation with Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, which would end any limits on international air visitors being allowed entry to the U.S. based on vaccination status.

Dueling speeches

After a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference where Donald Trump couldn’t mention the Florida Governor’s name, the former President took to Truth Social to offer a withering shot at “Ron DeSanctus.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis skipped CPAC and addressed a competing Club for Growth event in Florida before leaving for Texas and California over the weekend for well-received speeches.

“The Club for No Growth didn’t ‘snub’ me at all, as was reported in the Fake News NYT. It is I that won’t deal with them because, like Ron DeSanctus, they are GLOBALISTS who want to cut Social Security and Medicare, and likewise raise the minimum age for Social Security to at least 70. I am ‘America First,’ and likewise want to protect Social Security and Medicare. In other words, don’t waste your money on Club for No Growth or DeSanctus; it’s just not going to happen!”

At CPAC, Donald Trump has an ‘amazing experience.’

Trump then went on to give CPAC a bit of added glow-up.

“CPAC last night was an amazing experience. The place was packed with great American Patriots and the spirit, love, and enthusiasm was as high as it gets. These are people who do not like hearing that we are a Nation In Decline; they only want to Make America Great Again — And we will do just that!!!”

While Trump was Truthing, of course, DeSantis was speaking, claiming the conservative mantle in a speech in California, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

“I know you guys got a lot of problems out here, but your Governor is very concerned about what we’re doing in Florida, so I figured I had to come by,” DeSantis said, speaking before a crowd of over a thousand people, as reported by ABC.

Democrat Gavin Newsom is a recurrent target for DeSantis, of course, and Golden State Republicans seem to like it. The most recent GOP polling from the University of California Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies shows DeSantis with an 8-point lead over the former President, with other Republicans farther back in the pack.

State Border Patrol

As Florida leaders sharply criticize federal border policy, Rep. Bill Posey said Congress should allow the state to play a role in enforcement. The Rockledge Republican worked with Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody to craft legislation granting added authority to state-level prosecutors.

Bill Posey said Congress should allow the state to play a larger role in border enforcement.

“Maintaining operational control over our borders is critical to our security and our ability to stop drug smugglers, human traffickers, and those on terrorist watch lists, who are invading our country and mean to do harm to our communities,” Posey said. “When the federal government abdicates its role in securing our nation’s borders and refuses to enforce immigration laws, states should have authority to protect their citizens.”

Moody said state Attorneys General should be allowed to step in when the Homeland Security Department will not enforce public safety enforcement laws. She criticized Biden’s handling of the border and said it has led to crises with crime across the country.

The Immigration and Enforcement Partnership Act would let states demand the right to arrest, detain and remove “criminal and arriving aliens.”

“In just two years, Biden has completely destroyed border security,” she said. “U.S. Customs and Border Protection sources report that 1.2 million inadmissible immigrants evaded authorities. The out-of-control Southwest Border continues to allow thousands of pounds of illicit and deadly substances like fentanyl into the country, causing record-shattering drug overdose deaths in the United States. If the federal government refuses to act, then state attorneys general should be able to step up and actually enforce our nation’s laws — to protect the citizens of their states.”

HUD money

Another $30 million will arrive in Central Florida to deal with the affordable housing crisis there. Rep. Darren Soto announced a round of federal grants for the region.

“We are proud to announce that multiple cities and counties across Florida’s 9th Congressional District will soon receive over $30 million in federal funds from the Biden Administration,” the Kissimmee Democrat said. “These funds will be deployed to create added affordable housing across Central Florida, foster community development, and uplift those who are experiencing homelessness. We are grateful to the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Central Florida’s own Regional Administrator Jose Alvarez for prioritizing our community. We look forward to working with local governments to distribute these funds in the most effective and efficient way possible to help our residents. It’s a great day to be a Central Floridian.”

Darren Soto is announcing a round of federal grants for Central Florida.

The biggest chunk of funding is $7.35 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding for Orange County. More CDBG funding will go to Polk County ($4.05 million) and Osceola County ($1.4 million), and the city of Orlando will likewise receive $2.42 million.

Orange county likewise received $3.2 million in HOME Investment Partnership dollars, with that program likewise sending added than $1 million each to Osceola and Polk counties and to Orlando, with the city likewise receiving $5.54 million in funding through the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS.

Local leaders happily collected the checks.

“Cities across the country are working every day to address the tough issues of homelessness, housing affordability, and building livable neighborhoods for all,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

“Support from the federal government is essential to our efforts. Secretary (Marcia) Fudge’s announcement of $5.6 billion in funding to local governments throughout the country will mean added than $9.5 million to the City of Orlando to provide new and rehabilitated affordable housing and to help get those experiencing homelessness connected with resources and off the streets into housing. The City of Orlando appreciates the significant investment by HUD and thanks Congressman Soto for his steadfast support of these essential programs for local communities.”

The beat goes on

Rep. Maxwell Frost already professed love for “Being Funny in a Foreign Language.” Now he’s asking immigration officials not to stand in the way of touring musicians entertaining fans.

The Orlando Democrat — who is notably a musician and music lover — led a letter to Citizenship and Immigration Services to protest a potential increase in visa fees for traveling artists to enter the country.

Maxwell Frost is a notable musician and music lover.

“Our Central Florida entertainment community is still bouncing back from the devastating impacts of the pandemic,” Frost said. “We should be doing everything in our power to help this critical industry and the small businesses that support performers thrive again, not increase costs that only hurt artists and local venues. Our theme parks, music venues, and even our local sports team can and will suffer as a result. This rule cannot go into place.”

If the proposed rule does go into effect, it will bring a 260% increase in the fee for O visas and a 251% hike for P visas.

The theme park industry in Central Florida took a significant hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in many international musicians having to return to their home countries. The potential rule change could likewise make touring harder for any acts with members who are not U.S. citizens.

Venues say this could be devastating to live performance in the country.

“International performers are a mainstay at independent venues and festivals across the country and spur financial benefits and cultural diversity in communities,” said Stephen Parker, executive director of the National Independent Venue Association.

“The USCIS’s proposed rule to added than quadruple visa fees for performers will result in fewer shows being hosted in the United States, harming independent venues and the businesses surrounding them. According to the Music Managers Forum-UK, 70% of U.K. artists planning to perform in the United States would be unable to with the proposed fee increases. These increases will reduce diversity and equity, decrease investment in communities, and inevitably make tickets added expensive for fans.”

Another VA

A new Veterans Affairs facility opened over the weekend in New Port Richey. The facility opened nine years after a 2014 groundbreaking and the securing of $11 million in initial funding.

“Our veterans are our true American heroes, and they absolutely deserve the very best care available,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a Palm Harbor Republican who fought for that early investment. “I’m confident that this new facility, the modern technology and equipment it houses, and the integrated approach it enables will improve the care our local Veterans receive. I invite local veterans and the community as a whole to come out and celebrate its opening as we thank our heroes for their tireless service to our nation.”

Gus Bilirakis welcomes a new VA facility in New Port Richey.

The 140,000-square-foot facility on Little Road will serve an added 50,000 veterans in Pasco County, according to Bilirakis’ office. VA officials say cutting-edge technology will allow for integrated health care to serve patients there.

Spring forward

Time will be of the essence when Rep. Vern Buchanan swings by the clock tower in San Marco Plaza today. He will promote legislation he filed this week to make daylight saving time permanent — something which would remove the need to reset that giant clock and all others in Florida twice a year.

“There are enormous health and economic benefits to making daylight saving time permanent,” Buchanan said. “Florida lawmakers have already voted to make daylight saving time permanent in my home state and Congress should pass the Sunshine Protection Act to move Florida and the rest of the country to year-round daylight saving time.”

Vern Buchanan swings by the clock tower in San Marco Plaza to promote permanent daylight saving time.

Rubio will do his part and push the issue in the Senate, where legislation in fact was passed in the last Congress. Florida’s Senior Senator was blunt in his reason for wanting to stop time shifting.

“This ritual of changing time twice a year is stupid,” Rubio said. “Locking the clock has overwhelming bipartisan and popular support. This Congress, I hope that we can finally get this done.”

But it’s unlikely to happen in the next week. That means everyone should still prepare to spring their clocks forward one hour on March 12.

Immigration oversight

Rep. Byron Donalds wants added transparency in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), where Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas oversees border security and enforcement among other duties. Donalds just filed the Immigration Authorization Act, which would lock up any expenditures in the federal agency not explicitly authorized by Congress.

Byron Donalds is pushing for more transparency in the Department of Homeland Security.

“This simple proposal calls for reasonable transparency and accountability outlining unauthorized DHS programs and offices that sustain the immigration-related duties of the agency tasked with keeping the nation safe,” the Naples Republican said. “The American people deserve to know where their hard-earned tax dollars are going, and this bill does just that.”

Donalds didn’t explicitly spotlight areas where he believes DHS is spending without authority, but the legislation highlights growing tension between the Department and the GOP majority in the House.

Border visit

Several members of the delegation visited the Mexican border to discuss the impact of the drug trade on communities in Texas. Republican Reps. Salazar, Rutherford and Aaron Bean made the sojourn from Florida.

Salazar, a notably moderate voice on immigration, stressed after meeting with law enforcement the urgent need to stop cartels from doing massive business.

Delegation members take a road trip to the Southern border.

“Going to the Southern Border to see firsthand the effects of the Biden administration’s failed border security and immigration policies has been eye-opening,” the Coral Gables Republican said. “Neither those who are coming to apply for asylum nor the Americans who live here are being kept safe by the federal government. I am doing everything in my capacity as a Member of Congress to bring Dignity to American communities.”

Border Patrol agents had nearly 875,000 engagements with illegal crossings in the last four months. Officials in one Texas county told members of Congress that as much as $33 million in profits were made by cartels there in one month alone.

No fly zone

A federal aviation facility in Homestead should only serve a national defense role, according to Rep. Carlos Giménez. That Miami-Dade Republican reintroduced legislation, the Preserving Options for Everglades Restoration and National Defense in the Straits of Florida Act, which would prohibit joint use of the Homestead Air Reserve Base by the Air Force and civil aircraft.

The Congressman last year pushed to include similar language in a defense budget signed by Biden.

Homestead Air Reserve Base should be for national defense only, says Carlos Giménez.

“Preserving the Homestead Air Reserve Base for its original intent and purpose is critical to protecting our national security interests,” Giménez said. “Allowing aircraft not affiliated with our military or armed services to utilize an air reserve facility would only compromise our country’s national security. Extending the prohibition of the joint use of the Homestead Air Reserve Base ensures the protection of our strategic interests and protects the precious South Florida ecosystem caught between Biscayne National Park and Everglades National Park.”

The push is in a significant way wading into a local issue, as private passenger and cargo planes have long sought to use the South Miami-Dade County facility. Giménez notably served as Mayor of Miami-Dade County before his 2020 election to Congress.

On this day

March 7, 1965 — “Civil Rights marchers attacked in Selma” via The New York Times — As the demonstrators crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the police ordered them to disperse. When they stood in place, the troopers charged at them. The first 10 or 20 Black people were swept to the ground screaming, arms and legs flying and packs and bags went skittering across the grassy divider strip and onto the pavement on both sides. Those still on their feet retreated. The troopers continued pushing, using both the force of their bodies and the prodding of their nightsticks.

March 7, 1850 — “Daniel Webster gives speech that cost him his seat” via the U.S. Senate — The Massachusetts Senator rose to stake his career, his reputation, and perhaps the nation’s future on the success of a speech he hoped would unite moderates of all sections in support of Kentucky Sen. Henry Clay’s proposed ‘Compromise of 1850.’ Webster contended that it was pointless to argue about the continuation of slavery where it already existed — it was not going away — or to worry about extending slavery into the arid lands of the southwest, where plantation agriculture stood no chance of flourishing. Asserting that slaveholders were entitled to the protection of their property, he urged the strengthening of fugitive slave statutes.


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

Staff Reports

One comment

  • Richard Bruce

    March 7, 2023 at 2:10 pm

    All housing is affordable. If not, the pricing will go down, not up. The federal Gov’t has no business subsidizing housing in any location, other than federal facilities, like military bases.

Comments are closed.


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