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Feasting on ambitions
Ron DeSantis wasn’t in Mar-a-Lago Thursday, but his hopes and dreams were on the menu.
Former President Donald Trump hosted a dinner for members of Florida’s Congressional Delegation supporting his candidacy for President in 2024 — and implicitly not supporting the Florida Governor’s expected bid. A full half of the Republicans representing Florida in the U.S. House showed up.
Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, a stalwart supporter of Trump even before her election to Congress, shared photos of the dinner. She and Trump shared the table with Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Byron Donalds, Carlos Giménez, Matt Gaetz, Brian Mast, Cory Mills, Greg Steube and Michael Waltz.
Signature red baseball caps with Trump’s “Make America Great Again” motto dotted the table alongside floral centerpieces on a gold-embossed tablecloth.
Luna tweeted the photograph with the words “Florida Delegation” and a fire emoji.
Others made clear they were with Trump for the long haul.
Mills, another first-term member of the delegation, tweeted: “America needs President Donald Trump BACK in the White House, and my friends in the Florida delegation are committed to ensuring that happens.”
Donalds posted: “Great dinner last night at Mar-a-Lago with President Donald Trump and members of the Florida delegation. Honored to be a part of this great team.” He posted the numbers 45 and 47, indicating a belief the former President will serve again Grover Cleveland-style and return to Washington as America’s 47th President.
Steube shared pictures of himself with his wife Jennifer and the former President. “Thank you, President Donald Trump, for hosting us last night at Mar-a-Lago with Florida’s America First delegation!” he tweeted. “Honored to be on Team Trump!”
The dinner punctuated a remarkable month in the cold war for delegation endorsements. While Trump shored up loyalists Luna and Gaetz before even announcing his bid, an avalanche of endorsements started April 6 when Donalds came out publicly for the former commander in chief. Mills followed a few days later.
That reportedly prompted a stop-the-bleeding campaign by DeSantis. As first reported by NBC News’ Matt Dixon, DeSantis pollster Ryan Tyson started calling Florida members and asking that they hold off on announcing support until after DeSantis jumps in the race.
But by then, Trump consultant Susie Wiles had already been setting up calls between representatives and Trump. Rolling Stone this week reported the Mar-a-Lago denizen plotted for weeks to orchestrate endorsements ahead of DeSantis’ trip to Washington, D.C.
Sources around multiple delegation members say DeSantis sending a surrogate to woo members, some of whom he served alongside in Congress before his election as Governor, actually hurt his standing. Many expected a call directly from the Governor.
DeSantis did land his first delegation endorsement this week. Rep. Laurel Lee, his former Secretary of State, announced her support the same day DeSantis spoke in D.C. down the road from the White House.
But the day before, Steube kicked off an avalanche of advocacy for Trump. Live on Newsmax, he became the fifth delegation member to endorse Trump. That number would swell to 11 by week’s end. Rep. John Rutherford, who didn’t attend the Mar-a-Lago dinner, endorsed Trump on Tuesday. Giménez’s attendance at the dinner closed the door on DeSantis ever matching Trump in U.S. House endorsements.
A policy to secure shoreline easements from all property owners limited the scope of a hurricane reduction project on Fort Myers Beach. Now Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott want the Army Corps of Engineers to reconsider its stances.
The state’s Senate delegation sent a letter to Michael Connor, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, said the damage the community suffered shows a need to re-evaluate.
“The projects, which frequently include sand nourishments, also have great economic benefits for water-based local economies like ours in Florida,” she said. “Despite the obvious benefits of these projects, misguided policies are obstructing efforts to protect coastal communities.”
The senators wrote an interpretation of the Water Resources Development Act. The Army Corps has acted on a presumption that projects must secure perpetual easements from all upland private property owners within an authorized project’s footprint before that project can commence. But the Senators wrote that has effectively made projects defunct.
“I was saddened to learn that the scope of the federally authorized hurricane risk reduction project for Fort Myers Beach, Florida, one of the communities most severely affected by Hurricane Ian, was severely reduced by the USACE due to the imposition of this burdensome easement policy,” reads the letter, which bears Rubio’s signature first.
“Hurricane Ian’s storm surge destroyed public and private properties and infrastructure along Fort Myers Beach, killing dozens and causing billions of dollars in damage. A properly implemented hurricane risk reduction project could have helped to prevent loss of life and destruction.”
An update to the WRDA passed last year requires a review of policies around construction projects. Florida’s Senators both feel this is an important place to start.
Both Senators also joined forces to introduce bipartisan legislation in the House benefiting Holocaust survivors and their descendants in finally collecting on insurance policies. The Holocaust Insurance Accountability Act would allow individuals to bring legal action in U.S. federal courts to recover benefits.
It’s a bill Rubio has worked on for a dozen years now, having first introduced legislation with former Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat who represented Florida for three terms.
“The Holocaust remains humanity’s darkest hour, leaving a permanent stain on history for all nations,” Rubio said. “Congress must continue to do everything it can to ensure the unresolved issue of Holocaust-era property restitution is finally realized. It is unthinkable that a large number of Holocaust-era insurance claims remain unpaid. It is far past time that survivors and their families retrieve what they are rightfully owed.”
Scott said the bill serves as a reminder the actions of Nazi Germany still have contemporary impacts today.
“The Holocaust is more than a history lesson; it is a stark reminder that evil and hate exist in this world,” he said. “Our memory and support of all of those who suffered must never weaken. Every generation must heed the call to action in the face of evil, and as U.S. Senator, I will continue to support Israel and take action against those who wish to do them harm.”
Another member of the Florida congressional delegation introduced the House companion bill. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat, said it’s not too late to make families whole.
“Holocaust victims and their families — not insurance companies — are the ones who should be heirs to unpaid policies that were set aside for times of trouble,” she said. “This legislation would restore the rights of families whose loved ones endured the worst that humanity can inflict on a people.”
Local governments often end up fronting costs for recovery after hurricanes. Now members of the delegation want the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be required to reimburse that money.
Reps. Neal Dunn, a Panama City Republican, and Darren Soto, a Kissimmee Democrat, introduced the FEMA Loan Interest Payment Relief Act in the House. Both represent parts of the state that have contended with major hurricanes. They notably worked together on a similar bill last year that passed in the House.
“Local governments and electric cooperatives in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District worked hard in the wake of Hurricane Michael to restore services necessary to the disaster response,” said Dunn, referring to a 2018 storm that devastated his home community. “Such entities incur interest on the loans they secure while they await federal reimbursement from FEMA. This cripples communities and puts them on the hook for millions of dollars.
“I am pleased that my bill was passed in the House by a large margin last year. This bill directs the federal government to obligate reimbursement in a timelier manner. Florida’s Second continues to persevere and demonstrate resilience in the face of adversity, and this bill will help folks as they continue to get back on their feet.”
Soto saw Hurricane Ian tear through parts of his district just last year.
“By providing local governments and electric co-ops with access to disaster debt relief, we’re not only easing their financial burden, but we’re also providing relief to ratepayers and investing in the resiliency to protect our future,” he said. “It’s time to support those who are on the front lines of recovery and ensure that they have the resources they need to rebuild and recover stronger than ever before. I am proud to co-introduce the FEMA Loan Interest Payment Relief Act in the House.”
Rubio will carry the bill in the Senate.
“Local governments, electric co-ops, and other entities work incredibly hard to respond to crisis situations,” Rubio said. “This bicameral legislation would significantly reduce the burden of interest payments on loans to the hardest hit communities. Promoting policy that best serves the interest of our fellow Americans remains my priority, especially following a natural disaster.”
The private sector shouldn’t have to compete with the government, according to Rep. Aaron Bean. The Fernandina Beach Republican wants to limit such conflict as much as possible. He introduced the Freedom from Government Competition Act, which would require the federal government whenever possible to procure goods and services commercially.
The bill also calls for an evaluation by federal agencies on efficiencies, and to only keep such work in-house with federal employees if it is inherently governmental in nature and no private service is capable of doing the work or making the products.
“$27 billion. That’s the last estimate of how much our government is wasting on services already provided by American businesses,” Bean said. “Our government has grown too large and wasteful, and my bill says that if small businesses can do the job, then we do not need the federal government competing with them. This will drive down costs for all of us and will result in greater job innovation.”
Groups like the Heritage Foundation and national contractor associations have come out in favor already for the policy change.
“Construction firms invest heavily in their people, equipment, and craft to deliver construction projects, repairs, and maintenance at the highest quality and best price. When the federal government insources construction services, it does so most often at the expense of many small businesses — including veteran, women, and minority-owned firms — and taxpayers,” said Jimmy Christianson, Associated General Contractors vice president of Government Relations.
The Republican-controlled House staked out its position on whether trans women should compete in women’s sports, with a Florida lawmaker leading the way. Steube’s Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act (HR 734) passed on a 219-203 vote in the House.
“The Left’s fervent support of the radical trans agenda has come at the expense of women’s rights across the country. Parents do not want biological men in locker rooms with their daughters, nor do they believe it’s equitable that a male can compete with women in female athletics,” said Steube, a Sarasota Republican. “That is the whole purpose behind the creation of Title IX. Yet the Left wants to destroy Title IX by allowing biological men to erase women’s sports.”
But the bill was passed on a straight party-line vote, with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats voting against. While 13 members of the House sat the vote out, all Florida members cast their lot.
“It is disappointing that we must pass this legislation to safeguard common-sense competition between female athletes, but we took an important step today in strengthening the protections that ensure women’s sports are for women,” said Kat Cammack, a Gainesville Republican.
No Democrats spoke on the floor about the bill, nor did any issue statements as of press time about the legislation.
The bill would require female sporting events at the school level, whether at the high school or college level, to only allow those assigned as female at birth to participate.
After working years in the financial sector, Donalds called on the Securities and Exchange Commission to reject calls to rewrite Regulation Best Interest.
He sent a letter to SEC Chair Gary Gensler saying safeguards exist to ensure brokers did not lose the ability to work with financial professionals, and that the current system works fine.
“There is no credible evidence to date that Reg BI is not working as intended, or that investor protections have been weakened as a result of Reg BI being in place,” Donalds wrote.
He said the Department of Labor in 2016 adopted an anti-investor approach with a fiduciary rule that resulted in an estimated 7 million individual retirement accounts losing access to investment advice. That rule was ultimately struck down by the courts.
“It is telling that many of the same ‘advocates’ who actively supported the 2016 DOL rule are now calling on the SEC to amend Reg BI,” Donalds wrote. “The SEC should reject these calls and instead focus on ensuring robust oversight of the principles set forth in Reg BI as written and avoid attempts to rewrite or ‘freshen’ the rule through guidance, ‘FAQs,’ or other methods that likely violate the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).”
Of note, the pressure from Donalds comes at the same time he has questioned Gensler in public. During a Fox News spot, he challenged recent testimony that Gensler did not know Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016 had funded opposition research from British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who created a dossier that later became public shortly before Trump’s 2016 inauguration.
4/20 didn’t pass by this year without notice from at least one delegation member. Mast, a Stuart Republican, filed a bill Thursday to preserve gun access to those legally lighting up across America.
Many states have legalized marijuana in some form, including Florida, which allows it for medical uses. But since federal law still outlaws the substance, restrictions on gun ownership leave many regular consumers of cannabis compromising their right to bear arms.
“No one should be forced to choose between their rights: you have a right to bear arms, and in many states, you have a right to use cannabis,” Mast said. “Congress needs to legislate based on reality, and the reality is that those who legally use marijuana are being treated as second-class citizens. That’s not acceptable. Government exists to protect the rights of the people, and that’s what this bill does.”
His Gun Rights and Marijuana (GRAM) Act would apply only in states that legalized weed. In those jurisdictions, there would be a carve-out in prohibitions on unlawful users of controlled substances owning guns in the substance in question was marijuana used in line with state law.
Mast said he had heard from numerous veterans in particular about preserving access both to medication and firearms.
“No veteran that I know wants to be forced to choose between a viable treatment option for conditions like PTSD, and the ability to protect themselves and their families,” Mast said. “The GRAM Act is about ensuring no one has to make that choice.”
Jewish military personnel serve with just as much honor as other members of the Armed Forces, but their families still have trouble getting accommodations when it comes to burying them at veteran cemeteries.
Reps. Mario Díaz-Balart and Jared Moskowitz want that to change, and they’re asking the Department of Veterans Affairs to do something about it. The two Florida lawmakers led a letter to VA Secretary Dennis McDonough highlighting three “critical issues” that need addressing.
The first issue is wait times. In the Jewish religion, it is considered disrespectful for the deceased to lie in wait for burial, which must be conducted at the earliest opportunity possible. Usually, that’s within 24 hours after death.
The second issue concerns the amount of time set aside for the funeral ceremony. Currently, the VA allows a 15- to 20-minute time slot per burial, half of which is dedicated to the honor guard and flag presentation.
Finally, completing the burial also stems from the haste at which the ceremonies take place at VA sites. It is customary in the Jewish religion for community members and loved ones of the deceased to participate in filling the grave by hand, using a spade. The act is widely considered the most striking part of the funeral, with mourners sometimes using the back of the shovel to demonstrate reluctance in saying goodbye.
Moskowitz’s Office said he was inspired to seek the change after being contacted by the family of 85-year-old Barry Landsberg, a retired New York City Transit lieutenant who died last month and was buried at the South Florida National Cemetery in Lake Worth.
Landsberg’s wife, Evelyn, said in a statement that he was “a patriot who loved his country and was proud of his Jewish faith.”
“Jewish veterans risk their lives every day for our freedom and prosperity,” he said. “It’s only right that their families can have the burial service that honors them properly.”
After leading Rep. Maxwell Frost to victory in November, Kevin Lata was named 2022 Campaign Manager of the Year.
The American Association of Political Consultants honored Lata at the annual Pollie Awards. The organization recognizes both the top statewide campaign managers in the country and those running regional races. Lata, who managed the successful campaign in Florida’s 10th Congressional District, won the latter. Lata remains Frost’s senior political adviser.
“It was a tremendous honor to help elect Maxwell Frost, the first Gen-Z member of Congress. Maxwell is the first and he certainly won’t be the last,” Lata said.
Frost, an Orlando Democrat, won a reliably Democratic seat in November to succeed former U.S. Rep. Val Demings in the U.S. House. He took 59% of the vote over Republican Calvin Wimbish.
But the more impressive task happened earlier in the year, when the then-25-year-old emerged as the Democratic nominee for the open seat, defeating two former members of Congress, a state Senator and other prominent community leaders.
The Pollies recognize campaign consultants working across the political spectrum. The awards were given out in Palm Springs, California during the 2023 Pollie Awards and Conference.
On this day
April 21, 1789 — “John Adams sworn in as first Vice President” via U.S. Senate Archives — Adams assumed his duties in the Senate Chamber at New York City’s Federal Hall. In a brief address to the Senate, Adams expressed concern about his lack of experience as a presiding officer. “Not wholly without experience in public assemblies,” he commented, “I have been more accustomed to take a share in their debates than to preside in their deliberations.” Adams promised to preside with appropriate “consideration, delicacy, and decorum,” but found it difficult to avoid debate. By the end of his second term, however, Adams had established the role of neutral presiding officer that continues today.
April 21, 2020 — “Donald Trump announces 60-day ban on immigrants seeking permanent status in U.S.” via The Guardian — Trump said he could extend it depending on the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. The President framed the executive order as an effort to protect American workers from foreign competition. He said it would apply only to those seeking green cards and not temporary workers, but he did not explain how those whose applications are currently being processed would be affected. “By pausing immigration, we will help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America reopens — so important,” Trump told reporters.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch, compiled by Jacob Ogles and edited and assembled by Phil Ammann and Ryan Nicol, with contributions by Jesse Scheckner.