Delegation for 3.24.23: Return to history — purse strings — construction — spaced out

U.S. Capitol Building from the Fifty Dollar Bill
The latest on Capitol Hill, from the people who make it happen.

Returning to history

Sen. Marco Rubio has tossed plenty of barbs at President Joe Biden’s State Department over the past two years.

It thus came as somewhat of a surprise when at a Senate Appropriations hearing, Secretary of State Antony Blinken admitted he (broadly) agrees with Rubio’s assessment of the U.S. position on the world stage.

Blinken told Senators responsible for funding his agency that the U.S. stands at an “inflection point” in a “post-Cold War world.”

Antony Blinken and Marco Rubio share common ground.

Rubio used a similar characterization of “return to history” in speeches over the past year.

“The values that unite us are also usually important to the strength and solidarity of these alliances and partnerships,” Blinken told the panel. “Now, not every country that we need to be working with is in the same place that we are. I think we recognize that, and we need to make sure that we’re adjusting and flexible enough for that.”

But Rubio brought with him significant concerns about whether those adjustments took global values into account.

“I’m really concerned about whether we can continue to afford to do some of the things that we’re doing. I don’t mean from a dollar standpoint, but from a geopolitical standpoint,” Rubio said.

“For example, last summer, the State Department released a report attacking the Solomon Islands for their stance on same-sex marriage. It alienated their partners there. The next week, they signed a mutual security agreement with Beijing in the Pacific, and the Prime Minister declined to participate in the commemoration of the memorial marking the Battle of Guadalcanal.”

Blinken stressed diplomacy continues in that nation — and throughout the Eastern Hemisphere.

“When it comes to our engagement in the Asia-Pacific region, the Indo-Pacific, we have put that on full throttle,” Blinken responded. “We’ve reopened an embassy, as you know, in the Solomon Islands. We’re looking at other places in the Pacific islands where we can make sure that we’re present in ways that we haven’t been in recent years, precisely because we are engaged in a competition. And I could go down the list of different collections of fit-for-purpose partnerships that we built to deal with exactly the world that you’re describing.”

The meeting wasn’t necessarily a “kumbaya” moment.

Rubio voiced deep concerns over the standing of the U.S. in the long run and expressed a belief the world may be at a pivotal moment that too few players in the West realize.

“None of these issues are going to matter if 15, 10 or five years from now, we live in a world in which the dominant economic, military, and technological power in the world,” he said, “is in the hands of authoritarian regimes who resemble what the vast majority of human history looks like — led by despots, where there are no individual rights and all these things that have made not just our prosperity and freedom possible, but the world a better place. Isn’t it time for us to view the world through the lens of the beginnings, the early stages of a geopolitical conflict?”

But after weeks of back-and-forth between Rubio and the administration over Cuba policy, and years of tension regarding the response to China, the conversation in the Senate hearing closed on a cooperative note.

“I share the basic picture that you’ve painted,” Blinken told Rubio. “And really welcome working with you to figure out the most effective ways to deal with it.”

Scolding spending

The House Freedom Caucus may have added a couple of Senators, including Sen. Rick Scott.

The Naples Republican participated in a joint news conference slamming the lack of budget restraint in Washington.

“As a parent and a grandparent, you don’t say, ‘You know what, I’m going to leave a whole bunch of debt to my kids and my grandkids,’” he said. “You would never even think about doing that.”

The House Freedom Caucus nabs a couple of Senators.

America’s wealthiest Senator also lamented the rich getting richer as inflation crushed the working class.

“Everything is caused by reckless government spending,” he argued.

As it happens, another Naples Republican in the delegation appeared at the news conference.

Rep. Byron Donalds thanked Scott and Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee for joining the crusade against spending.

“What you have here are leaders committed to getting our country back on track,” Donalds said.

He called Biden’s budget proposal “insane” for spending $7 trillion while the federal government can only raise less than $5 trillion.

“If Joe Biden was your husband he would say, ‘Honey I know we only make four thousand a month but let’s spend seven thousand a month.’ You know that does not work,” Donalds said. “Every wife in America would shudder.”

Stopping construction

For years, there was tension between Rep. Matt Gaetz and the FBI.

Now he’s coming for its house.

The Fort Walton Beach Republican introduced the FBI Washington Field Office House Arrest Act, which calls for Congress to cease all spending on a new agency headquarters. Congress in 2022 budgeted $375 million for a headquarters just outside the District of Columbia.

Matt Gaetz wants to torch plans for a new FBI headquarters.

“There are still good men and women in the FBI whose task and purpose are to defend our country, but the FBI’s weaponized Washington Field Office is rotten to the core,” Gaetz said.

Of note, Gaetz spent much of the last two years as the target of a federal investigation after accusations of sex trafficking. Prosecutors informed him last month he will face no charges.

But Gaetz said the bill was prompted by other findings in recent work of the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of Government.

“We have uncovered extremely disturbing testimony from FBI whistleblowers that the Washington Field Office is targeting Americans who oppose their corrupt political agenda,” he said.

“The cancer at the Washington Field Office has metastasized so large that the entire body is in critical condition. Gifting the FBI a new headquarters larger than the Pentagon would condone, reinforce, and enable their nefarious behavior to levels we have never seen before.”

Pay attention

When Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping set up a joint meeting in Moscow, the world took notice.

Winter Park Republican Rep. Cory Mills said The Hague should as well.

“This morning begins a three-day long meeting of two nations who have plans for global domination,” Mills said. “This begins on the tail of the International Criminal Court issuing an arrest warrant of President Putin for his war crimes in Ukraine and President Xi Jinping’s violations of U.S. airspace.”

Better keep an eye on these two.

Mills has been among those concerned about foreign aid in Ukraine and said he won’t support further funding without an audit. But he made clear he holds no affection for either the Russian or Chinese regime now.

“Together, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin represent the greatest existential threat to American freedom. Their genocidal policies have extinguished countless lives. The economic, resource, and cyber warfare on America has cost us billions each year,” he said. “These two regimes have no place in the free world, and I will work to ensure there is accountability for their malign activities.”

Galaxy quest

Space routinely has brought two Central Florida representatives together despite otherwise seeming light-years apart ideologically. Reps. Bill Posey, a Rockledge Republican, and Darren Soto, a Kissimmee Democrat, co-sponsored a set of tax incentives for companies launching payloads into orbit through U.S. spaceports, which would create an obvious boon around Kennedy Space Center.

“Our domestic space launch industry is in our national security interest and America is up against unfair trade practices from nations like China and Russia that heavily subsidize space launches,” Posey said. “Our bill provides a powerful incentive for our space firms to keep investing to support America’s growing commercial space sector, further advancing our leadership in space and securing the ultimate military high ground for years to come.”

The American Space Commerce Act would authorize incentives for 10 years.

Frank DiBello says Congress could play a critical role in Florida’s space industry.

“As the U.S. strives to strengthen our leadership in space exploration, it is critical for us to prioritize domestic investments and incentivize companies to launch on American soil,” Soto said. “In Florida, this bipartisan effort would help our busy spaceport in Cape Canaveral continue to grow and thrive.”

Scott and Rubio will carry the bill in the Senate, and both painted the resolution in terms of national security. “Every day our nation is competing against known adversaries like Communist China and Russia in the space launch industry, and we must put American interests and national security first,” Scott said.

Space Florida CEO Frank DiBello said the legislation could play a critical role in the industry.

“This bill will ensure that the U.S. remains the world leader in space by supporting the development of domestic launch capabilities,” DiBello said. “It is the strength, innovation and agility of the commercial space marketplace which best enables American leadership in space.”

Pushing down Parkland

The parents of a Parkland shooting victim were escorted out of a House hearing Thursday, sparking outrage among Democrats in the delegation. Capitol Police arrested Manuel Oliver, who, along with his wife Patricia, was kicked out of a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

A video shared online showed Patricia Oliver had shouted during a recess at Rep. Pat Fallon, who asked Capitol Police to have her removed. “What are you going to say about Joaquin?” the mother asked, referring to her 17-year son. “What are you going to tell me about Joaquin? He got shot four times. They destroyed his head, and his blood (was) everywhere.”

Shortly after officials removed the couple, ABC News reporter Will Steakin captured footage of police wrestling Manuel Oliver to the ground. Police later told NBC News Oliver was given a citation for obstructing the hearing but never thrown in jail. The “woman who also disrupted the hearing was not arrested because she followed the lawful directions of our officers,” the agency told the news network.

To watch the incident, please click on the image below:

Rep. Maxwell Frost, an Orlando Democrat attending as a member of the House Oversight Committee, said Fallon’s handling of the situation created the problem. He called out the incident from the dais.

“Republicans on this committee choose to sit in front of those parents, and the survivors and organizers, and advocates that are in the audience right now — people who are reliving their trauma listening to this, people impacted by gun violence across the nation … and show that their priority is gun lobby money, manufacturers who profit off deaths, and creating fake narratives for political gain,” Frost said.

“Again, the leading cause of death for kids in America is guns, and today’s hearing is about distracting the people from the truth.”

Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Parkland Democrat who has worked with Parkland families since the shooting in 2018, slammed Republican leadership for disrespecting the Olivers.

“Don’t lecture us about free speech or weaponizing government when you’re arresting parents of dead kids for speaking their truth,” he tweeted.

Stopping the violence

Frost, a first-termer (and youngest member of Congress), introduced his first bill in the Chamber.

The former March for Our Lives activist filed the Gun Violence Protection Act. The legislation would establish an office within the Department of Justice dedicated to the issue. Frost envisions that office assembling a group of those most affected by gun violence to work with federal agencies to advance policy and collect data on crimes committed with firearms.

Maxwell Frost hits the ground running for the fight to curb gun violence.

“As someone who grew up in a generation defined by mass shootings, an organizer to end this violent cycle since I was 15, and a survivor of gun violence myself, I came to Congress to continue the fight for a nation without fear, that’s why I ensured this was the first legislation I introduced,” Frost said.

“In Orlando, just a few weeks ago, three people were shot and killed, including a 9-year-old girl. Gun violence is a daily event in this country, so, at the federal level, we must work on this issue every single day until we end this epidemic and establish this as a national priority — an Office of Gun Violence Prevention is the right first step.”

Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, both Connecticut Democrats, will carry the Senate version of the bill.

The bill received the endorsement of Florida activists who survived the Parkland shooting.

“Gun deaths are a crisis in America, and it demands a crisis response. For some time now, March For Our Lives has called on the President to establish an Office of Gun Violence prevention to help coordinate the government’s response to the epidemic of gun death This bill would do just that, and ensure that the government takes a holistic approach to ending gun violence at its roots,” said David Hogg, a March For Our Lives co-founder who called Frost a “dear friend.”

Opening fire

At least a dozen candidates for office believe the U.S. military illegally leaked their private records to a Democratic opposition research firm. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, a St. Petersburg Republican first elected in November, is among them.

She has demanded an accounting of any records released by the U.S. Air Force regarding her own personnel file, and last month said the leak will likely lead to a criminal investigation.

Now she wants to know if data on her time in uniform went out during her first run for Congress in 2020 but said the Air Force won’t fulfill a request for information.

Anna Paulina Luna sounds the alarm about leaks from the military.

“We have been told by the Air Force that the person who leaked these records was not just a low-level enlisted member, but a GS-12 federal employee,” she said.

“If accountability is not met, mark my words, they have not seen the end of this investigation. We will be using the Holman rule, a tool that can either cut the salary or fire a specific federal employee, to pursue justice for this unacceptable abuse of power.”

The fight between the military branch and Congresswoman plays out weeks after a controversial article in The Washington Post questioned elements of Luna’s personal biography. The newspaper had to run a correction on portions of that article.

Luna said there should be accountability if individuals in the Defense Department break the law to engage with political forces.

“The DOD and U.S. Military answers to the civilian sector,” she said. “They are not above the law and they’re about to find out what happens when you play games with Congress.”

Not liking Mondays

The 2022 data is in, and Florida’s delegation is getting some notice in a Hall of Shame in both the House and Senate chambers.

Legistorm crunched the numbers on the highest staff turnover last year and declared the “Worst Bosses of 2022.”

In the House, Democratic Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick was seventh worst overall. When filtering out Republicans, the Miramar Democrat was the fifth worst blue team boss.

Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick faces criticism over her management style.

Considering there are 435 voting Representatives in the House, that’s quite a showing for a first-term lawmaker.

In the Senate, neither of the state’s two Republican Senators made the overall top 10, but Sen. Marco Rubio took No. 7 for “Worst Bosses of 2022” among Senate Republicans.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, famously sat atop the list previously, when her affinity for using a hair comb to deliver salad to her mouth was reported. But she’s been dethroned as having the most staff turnover. Now, Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, is in the top spot, according to the Legistorm analysis.

Shadow ban?

The Chinese Communist Party delivers messaging across a number of platforms, including in the digital realm. Meanwhile, it notoriously has outlawed anti-government speech for decades. But Rep. Brian Mast said if the regime there can censor its own citizens, the U.S. can demand social media based in the U.S. de-platform the Chinese propaganda.

The U.S. hopes to deplatform China for its propaganda.

The Stuart Republican introduced the China Social Media Reciprocity Act. The legislation would prohibit Chinese officials from using U.S.-based social media platforms as long as the government there is restricting American-generated content of digital spaces under its control.

“Every day, Chinese officials lie through our social media. They have two goals: to sow division in America and sing the praises of a brutal dictator in Beijing and communist ideology,” Mast said.

“Rather than stopping these blatant lies from the Chinese Communist Party, American social media platforms instead banned and flagged numerous conservative users from freely expressing their opinions. Freedom of speech is a cornerstone to democracy. If the Chinese government insists on banning freedom on their own soil, then they should not be able to use American platforms to mislead Americans on American soil.”

Mast’s Office specifically pointed to Twitter taking down criticisms of alleged human rights violations in Hong Kong, Tibet and the Xinjiang Province.

The coastal border

With a Republican majority in place, Rep. Carlos Giménez moved into the Chair’s seat on the House Homeland Security Investigations Subcommittee on Transportation and Maritime Security. Setting the agenda for the first meeting this week, the Miami-Dade Republican turned a spotlight on illegal immigration by sea.

The Florida Keys in recent months have seen thousands of migrants, largely from Cuba and Haiti, landing on shore. He said Congress must hold the administration accountable and needs to find ways to secure the coastal border in addition to land connections through Mexico.

Carlos Giménez takes charge.

“As the representative of the Florida Keys, I am intimately familiar with the migratory and illegal narcotics crisis on the open sea, and along our coasts,” Giménez said.

“For the last two years, the Biden administration’s policies have caused unlawful migration to surge month after month, creating an unprecedented situation, including in my community in South Florida. This past January, Florida’s Dry Tortugas National Park temporarily was forced to close down to the public due to almost 300 arrivals by sea. The U.S. Coast Guard removed the migrants from the park onboard a Coast Guard cutter and transferred them ashore to Key West.”

Moving up

Tom Quinn has been promoted to Managing Partner at Miami-based LSN Partners’ Washington office, the firm announced.

Quinn joined LSN Partners two years ago and has helped the firm establish an office, build a D.C. team and grow its federal practice, which represents “some of the most innovative clients in the nation’s capital.”

Tom Quinn gets a bump to Managing Partner at LSN Partners.

Quinn has nearly two decades of experience advising corporate, political and academic leaders on complex processes within the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. LSN Partners’ release said Quinn “successfully positions clients as subject matter authorities and recipients of significant federal awards to support national security programs, workforce development, and infrastructure.”

Quinn began his career working for Rep. Peter Visclosky, an Indiana Democrat who served on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

With expertise in national security and infrastructure policy, Quinn has helped build successful public-private partnerships focused on regional economic development. He has also worked for a prominent lobbying firm in Washington and amassed a diverse portfolio of clients.

“Since joining LSN, Tom has proven to be a results-driven and well-respected leader and team member,” said Alex Heckler, the firm’s Managing Partner. “Tom’s ability to solve complicated problems through federal advocacy strategies is acknowledged by all who work with him.”

On this day

March 24, 2017 — “House Republican leaders abruptly pull their rewrite of the nation’s health care law” via The Washington Post — It was a dramatic defeat for President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan that leaves a major campaign promise unfulfilled and casts doubt on the Republican Party’s ability to govern. The decision leaves President Barack Obama’s chief domestic achievement in place and raises questions about the GOP’s ability to advance other high-stakes priorities, including tax reform and infrastructure spending. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, remains without a signature accomplishment as Speaker, and the defeat undermines Trump’s image as a skilled dealmaker willing to strike compromises to push his agenda forward.

March 24, 2019 — “Justice Department releases key findings from Robert Mueller report” via CBS News — In what the White House claimed as a “total and complete exoneration” of Trump, Attorney General William Barr said special counsel Mueller did not find Trump campaign associates had “conspired or coordinated” with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign. In his four-page summary to the chairs and ranking members of the Judiciary Committees in both chambers of Congress, Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein also determined, without considering a long-standing Justice Department opinion stating sitting presidents cannot be indicted, that Mueller’s findings were not “sufficient” to prove Mr. Trump committed obstruction of justice.

Happy birthday

Best wishes to Rep. Laurel Lee, who turns 49 on Sunday, March 26.


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 and Drew Wilson.

Staff Reports


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