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2024 is on
President Joe Biden is releasing a campaign video to formally set the framework of the 2024 Presidential Election in place.
While Democratic overperformance in the Midterms largely brushed aside suspicions Biden would not seek a second term, the announcement this morning made it official. Coming four years to the day after Biden announced his 2020 bid for the White House, the President leaned in on the same rhetoric.
“I said we are in a battle for the soul of America,” Biden said. “And we still are.”
To watch the video, please click on the image below:
But in the Sunshine State, eyes immediately turned to the Florida Republicans appearing in the same video. Both Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump appear in a still photo, with the former President laying his hand on the shoulder of the Florida Governor.
“Around the country, MAGA extremists are lining up to take on those bedrock freedoms,” Biden says as an image of both men flashes on the screen.
DeSantis and Trump are notably not warming up to one another these days, as they prepare to engage one another in a Republican Primary. Trump recently sent out a blast email attacking DeSantis’ tenure and highlighting areas where Florida ranks low nationally.
For now, DeSantis isn’t responding — at least not personally. A super PAC connected to his presumed candidacy put out an ad offering to foot moving expenses out of Florida for Trump if he hates it so much.
As the still Cold War for the GOP nomination unfolds, it’s clear Biden also has his eyes on Florida. Regardless of who he faces next November, the President intends to paint the GOP with the same “Make America Great Again” branding that Trump employed in his upset win seven years ago.
A gas shortage has Florida’s congressional delegation seeking federal waivers for distributing the commodity.
Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott together sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency about flooding in South Florida and the impacts on fuel supplies.
“We write to urge you to expeditiously approve the State of Florida’s request for temporary waivers of gasoline Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) and blendstock requirements for fuel in South Florida pursuant to the Clean Air Act (CAA) in all counties requested by the State,” the letter states.
“Approving these temporary waivers will allow delayed deliveries of non-summertime fuels to reach consumers and prevent additional cascading impacts on gasoline and fuel supplies in South Florida.”
The message noted the record 25 inches of rain dropped in Broward County in a matter of hours April 12. That inundated cities with flooding. It also shut down Port Everglades, where 40% of gas for the state of Florida arrives. The flooding damaged 12 fuel terminals at the port, taking them out for a week. The effects of that will linger, the Senators wrote, with non-summertime fuels scheduled to arrive May 1 but not facing delays.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Parkland Democrat, sent his own letter to President Biden from the House side. Like the Senators, he noted Gov. DeSantis asked the White House to declare a Major Disaster in Broward County.
“Joint State & Federal Teams have conducted damage assessments in the impacted flood areas and completed physical assessments over the weekend,” he wrote. “Teams have assessed over 1,300 homes and it is estimated that there are over 1,000 with major damage.”
A growing number of Republicans in the House seem prepared to push deadlines on debt ceiling talks. Rep. Matt Gaetz, for his part, said he doesn’t want that to impact members of the military. He filed legislation that would require all active duty and reserve troops to receive their paychecks no matter what.
“While President Joe Biden and lawmakers in Congress negotiate the debt limit plan, I hope we can all agree that our military service members should be paid without delay, regardless of how long discussions may take,” he said. “My legislation, the Armed Services Always Paid (ASAP) Act, will ensure our military receives pay in the event of any lapse of appropriations.”
Florida’s 1st Congressional Delegation notably serves as home to the highest concentration of active-duty military of any district in the country, according to Gaetz’s Office.
Quite a few Florida legislators are being recognized for taking the “right” stances on issues from the Conservative Political Action Coalition.
Scott was one of 21 Senators honored with the Award for Conservative Excellence, for his 91% rating. Rubio’s 87% earned him the Award for Conservative Achievement.
In the House, Rep. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, was the only Florida legislator with a perfect 100%. But others weren’t far behind, including Reps. Byron Donalds of Naples and Brian Mast of Stuart (94%), Kat Cammack of Gainesville and Gaetz (91%) and Scott Franklin of Lakeland (88%).
“The CPAC team is proud of the 52 consecutive years of rating Members of Congress. Getting beyond what a politician says and looking at how they vote is a needed form of transparency. As America is engaged in an internal struggle for her very survival, talk is cheap. Conservatives are the leaders intellectually and organizationally in the pushback against big corporations, Big Tech, Big Media, Big Unions and academia, and our ratings help separate the big talkers from the truly courageous.” stated CPAC Chair Matt Schlapp.
The report, “considered the ‘gold standard’ on evaluating political ideology, includes an exhaustive compilation of over 20,000 votes cast by all 535 members of Congress across the full spectrum of policy issues.”
On the table
Florida continues to suffer from gun violence. Rep. Maxwell Frost wants to know why the state keeps leaving money on the table to fight the problem.
He led a letter from all Democrats in the Florida congressional delegation to Gov. Ron DeSantis questioning why the state was among just six that didn’t seek federal grants for emergency risk protection programs. That’s despite Florida having a red flag law that can be used to seize guns from those posing a threat to themselves or others, though that’s notably legislation DeSantis said he would have vetoed were it passed while he was Governor.
Frost, himself a survivor of gun violence, said Florida has suffered too many high-profile shootings to ignore the problem.
“In the last decade, 9,229 Floridians were killed by someone using a firearm,” the letter stated.
“In 2022 alone, 1,130 Floridians were killed by someone using a firearm. This is not acceptable. These are not just statistics; these are real people, each leaving behind a traumatized and grieving community of loved ones. Leaving money on the table that can save the lives of Floridians is a significant step backward in ending this senseless violence.”
Frost noted his home community of Orlando has too often been the site of nationally watched shootings. That includes a series of murders in Pine Hills that claimed the lives of a 9-year-old child and a reporter.
Place in history
The Armenian Genocide of Christians in the Ottoman Empire took place just over a century ago. As many as 1.2 million Armenians died between 1915 and 1923, but the event doesn’t hold the same place in school history books as other 20th-century events like the World Wars. Rep. Gus Bilirakis wants to make sure schools have the resources to teach about what took place.
The Palm Harbor Republican filed bipartisan legislation Monday, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. Democratic Reps. Anna Eshoo and Ted Lieu and GOP Rep. David Valadoa, all of California, co-introduced the Armenian Genocide Education Act, which would direct the Library of Congress to develop collections and digital resources to foster an understanding of what occurred.
“Our darkest moments as a human race have come during times when those who knew better stood silently, making excuses for passivity and allowing injustice and persecution to reign. We must acknowledge the atrocities of the past so that we might hopefully prevent them in the future,” Bilirakis said. “One of the best ways to achieve this goal is through education and awareness, which is why I am proud to co-lead the Armenian Genocide Education Act again in the 118th Congress.”
Eshoo said it’s important to recognize the event and end 100 years of silence in history.
“By ensuring students have access to the resources necessary to understand why and how the Armenian Genocide occurred, the Armenian Genocide Education Act preserves the legacies of the victims, combats genocide denial, and ensures that future generations learn the lessons of this dark chapter of history,” she said. “This legislation honors the memories of my ancestors and all those who perished at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.”
Hands off data
Digital privacy remains an issue with broad bipartisan interest, but where legislative bodies struggle to pass bills addressing the matter. But Rep. Kathy Castor is ready to hit the refresh button and take another swipe.
The Tampa Democrat reintroduced the Protecting the Information of our Vulnerable Adolescents, Children and Youth (PRIVACY) Act.
“Children are spending more time online than ever before, and it’s time that Congress address the evolving online landscape, especially the tracking and data gathering that has vastly outpaced online privacy protections for kids,” Castor said.
“I’m proud to reintroduce my Kids PRIVACY Act, endorsed by parents, safety advocates, and pediatricians to update COPPA, protect children online, and hold Big Tech accountable. Parents and families deserve a 21st-century privacy law that can contend with a 21st-century internet. Companies continue to knowingly target kids, and it is past time they are penalized for violating privacy protections. Let’s come to the table, Democrats and Republicans, to strengthen protections for our youngest neighbors and bring these safeguards into the modern day.”
The bill would ban companies from targeting advertising at minors, require opt-in consent on sharing data, allow consumers to correct personal data, and require user-friendly terms of service, among other measures. The bill would also strengthen federal enforcement via civil penalties and ban self-regulation and forced arbitration.
Privacy advocates rallied around the bill.
“Corporate surveillance practices have been able to proliferate unchecked. Children and teens need effective and strong safeguards to protect their privacy, to guard against manipulative practices that foster addiction-like behaviors, and to end discriminatory practices online,” said Katharina Kopp, Director of Policy for the Center for Digital Democracy.
“Rep. Castor’s ‘Kids PRIVACY Act’ will enable regulators to keep young people safe and prevent them from being targeted with unfair marketing practices. It will ensure the best interest of children and teens online.”
Aiding Alzheimer’s patients
Researchers at the University of South Florida have led the way in finding new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. Now Rep. Vern Buchanan wants to make sure patients have access.
The Longboat Key Republican held a news conference in Sarasota on Monday calling for action on his Mandating Exclusive Review of Individual Treatments (MERIT) Act. The bill would ensure seniors have access to new treatments for Alzheimer’s.
“The federal government should make it easier for seniors to access breakthrough treatments, not unreasonably restrict potentially life-changing drugs for our nation’s most vulnerable patients,” Buchanan said. “By requiring drugs to be evaluated for Medicare coverage based on their own merit, my legislation would help Americans suffering with Alzheimer’s access these FDA-approved treatments.”
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, though, limited coverage for Aduhelm, a new treatment for the condition, even those already approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It marked the first time Medicare patients were denied coverage of an FDA-approved drug.
Dr. Clifton Gooch, USF Neurology Department Chair, said Congress should make sure treatments that effectively help patients reach the population.
“We need the MERIT Act. We need action taken to be able to make these drugs accessible to patients who need them — Alzheimer’s patients,” Gooch said. “Every day, about 2,000 patients will progress from the mild form of the disease, where these drugs work best, to the moderate to severe form of the disease, where the drugs may not work at all.”
Cost of withdrawal
Did the abandonment of military equipment in Afghanistan contribute to inflation? Donalds wants Congress to try to quantify any relationship. The Naples Republican filed the pointedly titled Big Biden Blunder Act, which would demand an inquiry into the hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 and the impact of leaving $85 billion in gear behind.
“The Biden administration’s disastrous, hasty and poorly executed withdrawal from Afghanistan has left a permanent stain on our nation’s military prestige,” the Naples Republican said. “Thirteen dead U.S. service members, over $85 billion of military equipment and hundreds of Americans left behind, coupled with the images of desperate individuals falling to their deaths from the wings of American aircraft, will forever haunt and tarnish the Biden administration’s foreign policy agenda.”
The bill calls for the Comptroller General to report on the economic effects on the Armed Forces.
“This debacle never should have happened and has only emboldened the worst fantasies of our hegemonic adversaries. We need answers and accountability now because Biden’s promise to Build Back Better has resulted in nothing more than a Big Biden Blunder,” Donalds said.
The new leader of Colombia visited Washington for a summit with Biden at the White House. But two members of the delegation greeted President Gustavo Petro with open skepticism.
Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, who co-chairs the Congressional Colombia Caucus, visited with Petro and stressed the long-term partnership between the nations over decades. But he said cozying up with Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro, a leader not recognized by the U.S. a few years ago, could put a division between the allies.
“I joined a caucus meeting today with Colombia’s newly elected president in respect for the long-standing relationship between the United States and Colombia, our close ties to the Colombian people and to express my grave concerns directly with the new government,” Díaz-Balart, a Hialeah Republican, said. “Since the highly successful Plan Colombia, the United States has provided more than $13 billion in assistance to promote security, eradicate drug trafficking, and combat terrorism in Colombia. However, the actions and comments from Colombia’s new president have put the largely successful U.S.-Colombia relationship in jeopardy.
“As Chairman of the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee, I will not permit U.S. taxpayer dollars to support a government in Colombia that sustains the Maduro regime with intelligence-sharing or funding, allows Russia a foothold in the country, partners with the Cuban regime to facilitate human trafficking, or that enables drug trafficking and production.”
He said continued support of anti-American governments would destroy the foundation of U.S. relations.
Rep. María Elvira Salazar, a Coral Gables Republican, was less diplomatic. She attacked Petro as another socialist following in the path of Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega.
“Unfortunately, President Petro did not feel the need to answer the real questions that thousands of my Colombian American constituents demand answers to,” she said. “Petro is just another socialist following the same strategy Castro, Chavez, and Ortega used before him — distract in order to conceal your intentions.”
Meanwhile, Salazar greeted another leader, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso, and tweeted that “neo-Marxists” in Congress are making enemies of that nation’s pro-business leader.
On this day
April 25, 1898 — “U.S. Declares War on Spain” via the Library of Congress — The Monroe Doctrine, which since 1823 had viewed any European intervention in the Americas as a threat to U.S. security, coupled with the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine in Havana harbor, precipitated U.S. engagement. Coverage by Hearst newspapers and the nascent film industry solidified public support for involvement in Cuba’s struggle for independence. Within months, Spain’s overseas empire, which had begun with Columbus’s voyages of discovery, finally collapsed under the United States’ two-pronged war strategy. Commodore George Dewey sailed to the Pacific the day war was declared.
April 25, 2019 — “Joe Biden announces he is running for President in 2020” via CNN — After months of deliberation, former Vice President Biden announced his decision to run for President for a third time, answering one of the biggest outstanding questions about the makeup of the 2020 race. In his campaign announcement video, Biden rebuked the White supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 and Trump’s handling of the aftermath. “He said there were, quote, ‘some very fine people on both sides,’” Biden said. “With those words, the President of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it.”
Best wishes to Rep. Daniel Webster, who turns 74 on Thursday, April 27.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch, compiled by Jacob Ogles and edited and assembled by Phil Ammann and Ryan Nicol, with contributions by A.G. Gancarski.