Delegation for 3.28.23: Cuba — Puerto Rico — March Madness — election integrity

Cuban elections? Take them with a huge grain of salt, Marco Rubio says.

Grain of salt

As the world awaits results from Cuba’s Sunday election, Sen. Marco Rubio has already announced an analysis:

Don’t trust them.

“There is nothing Raúl Castro and his puppet leader Miguel Díaz-Canel fear more than free, fair and democratic elections in Cuba,” the Miami Republican said.

Cuban elections are coming, and there is already doubt about free and fairness.

“The peaceful and widespread anti-regime protests of July 11, 2021, showed the criminal Cuban dictatorship that a new generation of Cubans are fed up with the lies as well as their failed political and economic systems. These illegitimate elections are a farce and will do nothing to bring freedom or empower the people of Cuba.”

More than a year after mass protests led some to believe communist reign over the island might end, there hasn’t been a change in government. All 470 seats in the Legislature were up for a vote, but no opposition candidates appeared on the ballot, Reuters reports. President Díaz-Canel is widely expected to win re-election, as anti-government forces encourage a boycott of the election.

Sen. Rick Scott expressed similar mistrust of the process.

“It is evident that the so-called ‘elections’ in Cuba are nothing more than a complete FARCE that will guarantee the illegitimate communist regime stays in power to continue killing and oppressing its people and to continue collaboration with the United States’ enemies,” the Naples Republican tweeted.

“The brave people of Cuba deserve transparent, multiparty and fair elections where they are free to express their desire for PATRIA Y VIDA. We can’t stop our fight until we see a new day of freedom and democracy in Cuba.”

Island oversight

Florida’s Senators also had an eye on another island in the Caribbean, this one a U.S. territory. Rubio and Scott voiced a need for oversight of Puerto Rico’s government and introduced the Financial Oversight and Management Board Integrity Act, which would prohibit consulting groups from advising a national oversight board.

Rubio said that’s necessary after McKinsey & Company came under fire for advising Puerto Rico’s Financial Oversight and Management Board as it gave government contracts to other McKinsey clients. Bankruptcy judges have ordered the island to withhold payments to the consulting firm amid accusations of conflict of interest, Bloomberg reported last year.

Corruption and conflicts of interest abound in Puerto Rico, lawmakers say.

“Government corruption and poor fiscal oversight are hurting the people of Puerto Rico. We cannot allow companies, like McKinsey, to exploit the situation,” Rubio said. “This is common sense: no company should be able to advise the island’s financial oversight and management board while actively advising the very clients who stand to monetarily profit from being granted large contracts from the government of Puerto Rico.”

Scott believes the legislation will help avoid such problems in the future.

“The Financial Oversight and Management Board Integrity Act will help improve transparency and accountability of Puerto Rico’s FOMB,” he said. “I am proud to join Sen. Rubio and our colleagues in the House of Representatives as we fight for a better and more prosperous Puerto Rico and increased oversight of taxpayer dollars.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Darren Soto, a Kissimmee Democrat, will carry a House version of the bill.

“We must ensure that the decisions made by the Financial Oversight and Management Board are in the best interest of the people of Puerto Rico and not influenced by outside interests,” he said.

“It is also our responsibility to ensure the integrity and transparency of government institutions, including the FOMB. The Financial Oversight and Management Board Integrity Act is a crucial step toward achieving these goals by prohibiting third-party advisory or consulting firms from having any conflicts of interest when advising the FOMB. This bill is a necessary measure to safeguard the integrity of our government and protect the interests of our brothers and sisters on the island.”

He will run the bill with Rep. Ritchie Torres, a New York Democrat, and Rep. Jenniffer González Colón, a Republican and Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner.

March Madness

A year of Cinderella stories means the NCAA’s Final Four has no teams seeded higher than No. 4. Who could have predicted this?

Well, Sen. Scott did.

Florida’s junior Senator released his own March Madness bracket earlier this month, and his pick for the University of Miami and Florida Atlantic University to meet at the Big Dance seems suddenly prescient.

Is Rick Scott a March Madness Nostradamus?

So how could he have anticipated that both that the Hurricanes would conquer No. 1 seed Houston, and that the Owls, arguably the story of this year’s Madness, would mount such a fairy-tale run?

It’s reasonable to suspect politics played some role in predictions.

No other Florida teams won a spot in the tourney this year. A look at Scott’s bracket shows relatively conservative guesses, except for prophesying that Florida schools would win out.

For what it’s worth, Scott predicted much of FAU’s rise, but expects Miami to come out on top when the final buzzer sounds on April 3.

Back and forth

The fight for the 2024 Republican nomination continues to feel like a two-Florida man fight between former President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Trump, for his part, continues to slag his one-time protégé. On Monday, he told Fox News that he and DeSantis were “not friends” at any time and that he regretted ever endorsing him.

Among the new claims: a suggestion that DeSantis might have been slinging pizza pies without his backing five years ago.

The 2024 GOP Primary seems a two-person affair.

“I got him the nomination. By the way, he could have never gotten the nomination. He would be working in either a pizza parlor place or a law office right now. OK?”

Meanwhile, DeSantis has made clear he doesn’t feel like being an underling to Trump either at this point. In a buzzy interview with Newsmax, DeSantis said he would be interested in joining a Trump-topped ticket as a running mate.

“I think I’m probably more of an executive guy. I mean, I think that you want to be able to do things. That’s part of the reason I got into this job is because we have action; we’re able to make things happen. And I think that’s probably what I’m best suited for,” DeSantis asserted.

The Governor didn’t warm up to the even more unlikely prospect of Trump serving as his vice presidential running mate.

War games

Rep. Matt Gaetz for years has criticized the U.S. military for becoming too entangled in conflicts around the globe. He questioned military leadership last week on the training provided to warlords in Africa.

Army General Michael Langley confirmed to Gaetz that America had trained and equipped at least 50,000 Africans in the last decade, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea.

“What percentage of the people we’ve trained end up participating in insurrections or coups against their own government?” Gaetz asked.

Michael Langley admits to Matt Gaetz that the U.S. has been arming Africans in the last decade.

Langley said that was a small number, likely under 1%. But Gaetz said that number included figures like Col. Mamady Doumbouya, who would employ his training to lead a coup in Guinea in late 2021, overthrowing President Alpha Condé and allowing Doumbouya to hold power ever since.

But Gaetz said what surprised him was when he pressed Langley on whether the U.S. should be concerned about training people who go on to lead coups d’état.

“Congressman, core values is what we start off with in (International Military and Education Training) programs and we stick to that,” Langley said.

Asked if the U.S. shares core values with Doumbouya specifically, Langley answered “absolutely.”

Langley said that typically, the harvesting of core values in other nations emboldens citizens to demand democracies. “We’ll continue with our persistence in assuring that they harbor democratic norms,” Langley said.

“But General,” Gaetz contended, “that democracy isn’t what emerges.”

Honoring a pact

The PACT Act, a law signed last year that had been championed by Florida delegation members, has quickly helped 130,000 veterans in Florida access $770 million in benefits, according to Soto’s office.

The Kissimmee Democrat held a town hall in Orlando last week aimed at helping more veterans impacted by burn pits use coverage. At the event at the Lake Nona Veterans Affairs Hospital, the Congressman brought in Orlando VA Healthcare System Director Timothy Cooke and St. Petersburg Regional Veterans Benefits Administration Director Julianna Boor to help veterans navigate bureaucratic changes.

Darren Soto goes to bat for veterans in Florida.

“We are honored to serve those who served. That is why we supported and passed the PACT Act prioritizing the health of veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxins, and why we will always support the work of the best VA hospital in the nation right here in Lake Nona,” Soto said. “There are always ways we can continue perfecting our service to the over 80,000 veterans in Orange and Osceola counties.”

The Lake Nona VA Hospital will continue to offer PACT Act clinics. The benefits package has drawn massive interest. There have been 300,000 claims filed under the act in Florida alone since President Joe Biden signed the legislation last year.

Cooke said the town hall gave a chance to interface with veterans about how to utilize benefits afforded to them.

“Veterans were provided with important resources and information about hiring initiatives, PACT Act, access to care, suicide prevention efforts, and more,” Cooke said. “The collaboration between the Orlando VA Healthcare System, the St. Petersburg VA Regional (VBA) Office, and Congressman Darren Soto’s office made the event seamless, and we are ecstatic over the overall turnout. We look forward to hosting similar events in the near future.”

Watching returns

While only a first-termer, Rep. Laurel Lee’s background as a former Florida Secretary of State helped her land a subcommittee gavel already. She led her first congressional hearing as Chair of the Committee on House Administration’s Subcommittee on Elections, where she focused on election security.

The Thonotosassa Republican defended the integrity of the 2020 Election in her role as Florida’s chief elections officer. In her new job, she stressed the importance of reinforcing public confidence in elections by allowing election observers to watch vote counts.

Laurel Lee’s experience in holding elections earns her a Chair’s gavel.

“It’s simple: A healthy elections system includes meaningful election observer access, and we commend the many state and local elections officials, and poll watchers across the country, who worked tirelessly in 2022 to make this key election integrity process work effectively,” she said in opening remarks at the hearing.

She noted that states run elections, but Congress has an observational role important as those elections choose the makeup for both chambers of the legislative branch.

“For years, both sides of the aisle in the House of Representatives have trained and deployed congressional staff to observe House elections across the country,” she said.

“For example, during the 2022 Midterms, the Committee on House Administration Republicans offered multiple trainings and deployed dozens of congressional staff who volunteered to observe elections in many states across our country including Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.”

She notably stressed the importance of public officials honoring the results of elections. She picked an obvious example of when members of Congress cast doubt on the results of a major election: the contest for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District when Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks won by six votes.

“Election observation should never be a partisan issue,” Lee said. “Regardless of one’s party preference, all voters benefit from having well-trained observers on the ground.”

Under the sea

Spying efforts by China have been increasingly brazen — spy balloon, anyone? But Rep. Brian Mast said the U.S. can cut off one potential channel to information at the shore.

The House on Monday unanimously passed the Undersea Cable Control Act, a bill introduced by the Stuart Republican. The bill would require developing a strategy for limiting hostile countries’ access to U.S. goods and technologies via underwater cables.

Brian Mast tells China to stay away from our cables.

“Whether it’s TikTok or a spy balloon, the U.S. has been caught flat-footed in countering Chinese influence. We can’t let undersea cables become another example of that trend,” Mast said.

“We cannot empower the same China that wants to topple America and put communism on top to control one of the most powerful communications tools on the planet. We must protect this infrastructure and technology that Americans rely on every day.”

If signed, the legislation will outlaw Chinese use of existing or new cables, invoking powers from the Export Control Reform Act.

Undersea fiber-optic cables still account for 99% of transoceanic communication. That’s used for $10 trillion in financial transactions, among other communications, according to Mast’s office. China in recent years has invested heavily in international infrastructure with state-owned companies like Huawei and China Telecom installing underground cables connecting six continents.

Gun play

Florida has seen its share of high-profile shootings from Pulse to Parkland to Pine Hills and countless more.

Now, Rep. Lois Frankel wants to know why the state has refused to participate in a gun violence prevention program that could bring $15 million in federal funding to the state.

The funding was made available through a new gun law signed by Biden last June. It provides grants to states that implement red flag laws, which Florida put in place in 2018 after the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Lois Frankel demands answers on Florida’s absence from a gun violence protection program.

“Guns are the No. 1 killer of children in America. Parents should know that when their children go to school, the grocery store, or the movies that they will return home safely,” said the West Palm Beach Democrat. “In a state where the devastating mass shooting at Parkland still weighs heavily on our hearts, it is unconscionable that the DeSantis administration has chosen to reject this crucial federal funding that can help prevent gun violence and save lives.”

A statement from Frankel’s office said Florida should want reimbursement for the cost incurred from using its red flag law, which was used on 9,000 occasions to remove access to guns to those deemed at risk of harming themselves or others.

No port entry

A visit to U.S. ports by diplomatic contingents from Cuba angered several members of the Florida delegation.

Rep. Carlos Giménez wants to make sure a hostile power never receives a port tour again.

The Miami-Dade Republican introduced the International Port Security Enforcement Act, which would prohibit any government on the State Sponsors of Terrorism and Terrorist Organizations list from engaging with Homeland Security officials through the International Port Security Program.

A Cuban port tour raises the ire of Carlos Giménez.

“We are deeply concerned about the U.S. national security implications of allowing government officials with a known adversarial foreign intelligence service to access sensitive U.S. Federal Government facilities,” Giménez said. “Not only is Cuba still a U.S. designated State Sponsor of Terrorism along with North Korea, Iran, and Syria, but Cuba remains a chief counterintelligence threat. The U.S. Director of National Intelligence consistently identifies Cuba as a core and continuing counterintelligence mission, similar to Iran and North Korea.”

It’s a principal issue for Giménez, the only member of Congress born in Cuba. In 1954, his family moved to the U.S. after Fidel Castro’s takeover of the nation, when the Congressman was still a child.

Continued alliances between Cuba and Russia show the national threat the island nation continues to pose, Giménez said. He urged the administration not to allow meetings on U.S. soil with the foreign power.

On this day

March 28, 1979 — “Disaster averted at Three Mile Island” via Pennsylvania State University — The partial core meltdown of Unit 2 at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station was the most significant nuclear accident in American history. TMI-2 suffered a cooling system failure when the secondary water loop stopped flowing. The accident occurred at exactly 4 a.m., which was the exact anniversary of the reactor’s startup. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission never officially identified the cause of the problem but believed that water entered a pneumatic air line that controlled the flow of the secondary loop, causing it to shut down. An emergency cooling water system should have started automatically, but it did not.

March 28, 1946 — “State Department publishes plan to control international nuclear power” via — The Report on the International Control of Atomic Energy soon became known as the Acheson-Lilienthal Report, named for Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson and consultant David Lilienthal. The primary message of the report was that control of atomic energy through inspections and “police” operations was unlikely to succeed. Instead, the report proposed all fissile material be owned by an international agency called the Atomic Development Authority, which would release lesser amounts to individual nations for the development of peaceful uses of atomic energy.


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


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