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The House voted to lift the debt ceiling but with the condition of significantly scaling back federal spending.
That’s a far cry from what President Joe Biden wants, and Senate Democrats may yet reject Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s deal.
Most Florida Republicans cheered on passing a conservative plan that avoids default.
“After two years of out-of-control government spending, our debt has increased to $31 trillion,” tweeted Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a Palm Harbor Republican. “It’s unsustainable and fueling inflation. I’m committed to a responsible and sensible solution that would limit irresponsible spending, save taxpayer dollars and grow our economy.”
All Florida Democrats voted against the plan, calling the move a threat to programs benefiting millions.
“Under this bill, nearly 30,000 Floridians in Central Florida will see housing costs rise, about 8,000 jobs will be lost, over 65,000 families will find their Social Security payments in jeopardy, and health benefits will be at risk for 245,000 people. And that’s only the beginning,” said Rep. Maxwell Frost, an Orlando Democrat.
“Congressional Republicans are using the life and well-being of Americans as a bargaining chip, and they are willing to default on our debt, shut down our economy, and hurt working people if they don’t win.”
Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Hollywood Democrat, tweeted a photograph of herself with McDonald’s mascot Ronald McDonald, who she said comported himself better in the halls of Congress than GOP colleagues.
“There are a lot of clowns in Congress,” she posted. “At least this one didn’t write a debt limit bill to take food away from grandparents and cut help for low-income families.”
Four Republicans joined Democrats in voting no, including Rep. Matt Gaetz.
“As our nation is careening into a $32 trillion debt, Congress shouldn’t be making final changes at 2 a.m. — the morning of the vote — to legislation raising the debt limit $1.5 trillion,” The Fort Walton Beach Republican said.
“While I applaud the work of my Republican colleagues to demand better energy policy, regulatory reform, welfare-to-work requirements and less spending, a troubling fact remains. This plan will increase America’s debt by $16 trillion over the next 10 years. Gaslighting nearly $50 trillion in debt to America is something my conscience cannot abide at this time.”
But enough Republicans supported the bill to barely pass it on a 217-215 vote.
“The regulatory regime has gone unchecked for decades and it’s time we return power to the American people, not the nameless, faceless bureaucrats in Washington,” said Rep. Kat Cammack, a Gainesville Republican.
Democrats seized on the votes of moderate Republicans who supported the plan to fuel political attacks. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee called the vote a “hostage-taking scenario” and attacked Rep. María Elvira Salazar for supporting the plan.
“María Elvira Salazar’s vote today thrusts our nation one step closer to defaulting on our debts. Salazar is willing to push the U.S. economy closer to a job-killing recession, all while increasing costs, jeopardizing hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs, and making South Floridians less safe,” said DCCC representative Nebeyatt Betre. “Salazar would rather play politics by kowtowing to extreme MAGA Republican Party bosses than work in the interest of South Florida families.”
Salazar signaled her position for months, talking to Bloomberg TV in January. “There’s waste, there’s fraud, there’s a lot of problems in every branch of government and we should be going there and cutting,” she said. “But at the same time, we are the United States, and we need to be responsible; we need to be paying our debts; we cannot default on our debts.”
The Federal Elections Commission voiced support for Sen. Marco Rubio’s push to validate credit card processing for political donations.
Rubio has filed legislation, the Codification of Verified Values Act, which would require the use of CVV numbers by websites like ActBlue that direct credit card payments to political campaigns. He amplified that call after reports of the Democratic website potentially charging thousands in recurring payments from donors.
“We’ve seen alarming reports of fraudulent donations being reported to the FEC by ActBlue,” the Miami Republican said. “Cracking down on credit card fraud and foreign political donations used to be a bipartisan idea. This is a common-sense reform that should pass by unanimous consent. If not, those in opposition should be forced to explain why they support allowing foreign money into U.S. elections.”
The FEC responded to Rubio’s letter by noting the Commission has recommended campaigns use CVV codes historically. It provided an advisory to former Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd’s presidential campaign in 2007 that said as much.
“The Commission approved a requester’s proposed use of credit card security codes to verify the contributor’s physical possession of the credit card as part of its alternative verification process to meet the requirements for matchable contributions under the Presidential Primary Matching Payment Account Act,” reads the FEC response.
Of note, while Rubio has focused on recent allegations against ActBlue, similar accusations have also been directed at WinRed, a Republican fundraising site, as well. Both ActBlue and WinRed are being investigated by state attorneys general.
What’s the buzz?
Are electric cars actually a net negative on the environment? Sen. Rick Scott expressed skepticism about the vehicles and has now filed legislation requiring a study of the carbon footprint of electric cars on the nation’s grid.
The Directing Independent Research to Yield Carbon Assessment Regarding Electric Vehicles (DIRTY CAR EV) Act would press the Comptroller General, Energy Secretary, and Environmental Protection Agency to conduct research.
“The Biden administration continues to push the use of electric vehicles by forcing the automotive industry to shift away from the use of fossil fuels,” Scott said. “We need clear data on what impacts this will have on American families and our environment. There is ample evidence to suggest that EVs are not as clean as people are being led to believe and folks deserve to know the truth. Knowing the carbon footprint of each electric vehicle and the impact on our electrical grids are key to making informed decisions and preventing widespread government regulations and gross overreach.”
The EPA, for what it’s worth, already has a webpage on electric cars that aims to dispel the “myth” that electric vehicles are worse for the environment than gas-burning cars.
“Some studies have shown that making a typical EV can create more carbon pollution than making a gasoline car. This is because of the additional energy required to manufacture an EV’s battery,” the website states. “Still, over the lifetime of the vehicle, total GHG emissions associated with manufacturing, charging, and driving an EV are typically lower than the total GHGs associated with a gasoline car. That’s because EVs have zero tailpipe emissions and are typically responsible for significantly fewer GHGs during operation.”
Punishing gun thieves
Supporters and opponents of gun control measures acknowledge many criminals obtain firearms unlawfully.
Rep. John Rutherford, a Jacksonville Republican, would like Congress to focus on holding those stealing guns to account.
He filed the Federal Firearms Licensee Protection Act, which would enhance penalties for those who steal guns from any federally licensed firearms or ammunition dealer. The bill would impose a minimum prison sentence of three years for burglary and five years for robbery.
Rutherford introduced the bipartisan bill with Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat.
“As crime rises across the nation, additional steps must be taken to prevent criminals from stealing and trafficking firearms for violent crimes,” said Rutherford, a former Jacksonville Sheriff. “During my career in law enforcement, I saw firsthand how (Federal Firearms Licensee) dealers were targeted by criminals. This legislation will ensure that those who rob and burglarize federally licensed gun dealers receive adequate punishment for their crimes.”
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms recorded 2,254 such burglaries and robberies between 2017 and 2021.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Firearm Industry Trade Association support the bill.
“This bipartisan legislation is what true gun safety looks like. Congress is sending a clear message that the safety of our communities is nonnegotiable and targeting firearm retailers to steal guns in order to commit further crimes is intolerable,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF Senior vice president and general counsel.
“The firearm industry is grateful to Congressman Rutherford and Cuellar for reaching across the aisle to provide those firearm retailers who follow the law the protection they deserve. This legislation assigns the responsibility for crime where it belongs — with the criminal. These are real solutions that make our communities safer.”
Save the groves
Reps. Scott Franklin, a Lakeland Republican, and Darren Soto, a Kissimmee Democrat, are crossing the aisle for agriculture. The pair filed legislation to make citrus groves eligible for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program.
That’s a land conservation effort overseen by the Farm Service Agency. Franklin and Soto want to see a subprogram that could provide grants to farmers for land that is impacted by greening, at risk of development, or home to endangered species habitats.
As written, the program would be available to lands used for citrus for more than 10 years. A total of 100,000 acres of property nationwide could be enrolled.
“Amending the CRP to include Florida citrus groves gives our farmers needed time to rehabilitate their crops and continue our state’s long tradition of providing domestically sourced orange juice,” Franklin said.
“While Florida taxpayers pay into the CRP, our state has been chronically underrepresented in the program. At a time when our citrus growers are struggling to recover from last year’s severe hurricane season, now is the perfect opportunity to level the playing field. Not only would this inclusion provide time to recover, but it ensures Florida farmland is preserved for future use.”
Florida Farm Bureau President Jeb Smith said it’s important citrus be included more in the federal program.
Soto noted the industry in Florida has endured a number of challenges in recent years, from greening reducing juice yields to Hurricane Ian destroying many of the state’s crops last year.
“As we work to address the challenges facing our Florida citrus industry and support our growers and farmers, we must also prioritize the protection of the land on which these crops are grown,” Soto said.
“The subprogram this bill proposes for the Conservation Reserve Program will provide citrus growers with a valuable option to conserve their land while we continue to develop new treatments for citrus greening and recover from the damage caused by hurricanes. The subprogram will also help prevent the permanent loss of Florida’s agricultural lands to development and protect critical wildlife corridors. This is a timely and important bill to help Central Florida growers recover and thrive.”
Rubio, Florida’s senior Senator, will carry the Senate companion. Reps. Cammack and Salazar, both Republicans, are signed on as co-sponsors for the House bill.
Bilirakis and Soto came together on another bill of particular importance to those living on Florida’s soft soil. The Palm Harbor Republican and Kissimmee Democrat introduced the Sinkhole Mapping Act, which calls for a U.S. Geological Survey study of what triggers sinkholes.
There remains some mystery about what causes land in Florida and other places to simply collapse, sometimes under homes and buildings. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says “probable triggering mechanisms” include drought, construction terraforming, blasting, heavy ground loading, heavy rainfall, and heavy groundwater pumping.
But the Florida lawmakers want USGS to provide more. They want a public website displaying zones nationwide that face greater risks of sinkholes so that community planners and emergency managers can use the information.
“In recent years we have seen throughout Tampa Bay how dangerous sinkholes can be for neighborhoods,” Bilirakis said. “To improve public safety and consumer protection, we need to study the causes and remedies of sinkholes while developing geological maps to delineate the highest risk areas for sinkholes to occur. I look forward to working on this important bipartisan initiative with my colleagues.”
Another bipartisan bill filed by two members of the delegation takes aim at sex dolls designed to look like real children.
Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Longboat Key Republican, previously filed legislation seeking a ban on the products. Now he has reintroduced the Curbing Realistic Exploitative Electronic Pedophilic Robots (CREEPER) Act 2.0, this time with Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Parkland Democrat.
“This is sickening and cannot be allowed to continue,” Buchanan said. “As we recognize National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we need to enact a national ban on these obscene products that are known to encourage pedophilia and the exploitation of children.”
The bill draws from a law passed in the Florida Legislature and builds on a federal statute passed in the House in 2017. The original bill in Congress covered only the sale and transport of dollars, while Buchanan would outlaw the possession of devices.
Moskowitz, a first-term member, said he’s happy to champion the ban.
“Protecting kids from predators is just common sense. It’s really sickening that these dolls are allowed, and I’m proud that Florida was a leader in banning these products back in 2019,” he said. “Sheriffs, district attorneys, and child safety advocates have gotten behind this bill, and I stand with them in this effort to fight child exploitation.”
The law gained momentum in Florida after a Miami family realized a doll manufacturer had based a product on online photos of their child without permission.
Victims & eviction
Nobody who flees their home because of abuse should have trouble finding a new place to stay, according to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The Weston Democrat filed legislation with Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, a New York Republican, which would crack down on housing discrimination against victims of domestic violence, sexual violence and sex trafficking.
“For far too long, survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking have been forced to choose between confinement with their abusers or homelessness,” Wasserman Schultz said.
“Even as they are victimized, they can — and have been — evicted on the grounds of involvement in criminal activity. I am proud to introduce legislation that will remedy this injustice, expanding the protections granted by the Fair Housing Act to allow people to escape abusive situations.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, National Homelessness Law Center, National Housing Law Project, National Low Income Housing Coalition and National Network to End Domestic Violence all support the bill.
“Housing is safety for many survivors,” said Monica McLaughlin, Senior Director of Public Policy at the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “Facing housing discrimination based on their experience of violence further endangers them. This bill will ensure that survivors are not revictimized by housing discrimination.”
Juan Guaidó, a Venezuelan opposition leader, landed in Miami this week after being ejected from Colombia. Now Salazar said the Biden administration should provide him with asylum, even though the foreign leader hasn’t asked for it.
“Miami is home to millions of exiles from socialist regimes across Latin America, and we now count Guaidó as another among us,” said Rep. Salazar. “President Biden must stand with the democratic forces in Venezuela by granting asylum to Guaidó and his family and confront President Petro’s shameless deportation of Guaidó.”
Just in 2019, former President Donald Trump recognized Guaidó as Venezuelan’s interim President amid concerns that Nicolás Maduro’s re-election had been tainted by corruption. But Maduro has held on to power since and Guaidó has lost his spot as leader of the National Assembly. The Biden administration in January confirmed to Axios it no longer recognizes Guaidó as the nation’s leader.
Neither does Colombia, which is part of the reason Guaidó was ejected from crossing into the country on foot in hopes of attending an international summit there. Salazar criticized Colombian President Gustavo Petro for the move, as the nation previously promised to welcome all refugees from the neighboring nation.
But Guaidó was sent to Miami, not Caracas. Salazar noted South Florida is home to the largest Venezuelan diaspora in the world, and he and his family should be welcome here.
“Juan Guaidó must be offered asylum in the United States and for his wife and two daughters who are still in Venezuela,” she wrote in a letter to Biden. “His life is in danger. He has been persecuted by the regime and the latest reports suggested that his arrest, imprisonment, and possible torture were imminent. There is no possibility of return as the Maduro regime continues to hold at least 282 political prisoners in Venezuela.
“Please take the side of democracy and no dictatorship, unlike President Petro of Colombia, and stand up for the democratic forces of Venezuela against political persecution.”
On this day
April 28, 1965 — “U.S. troops land in the Dominican Republic in attempt to forestall a ‘communist dictatorship’” via History.com — President Lyndon Johnson sent more than 22,000 troops to the island nation. Johnson’s action provoked protests in Latin America and skepticism among many in the United States. Troubles in the Dominican Republic began in 1961 when longtime dictator Rafael Trujillo was assassinated. Trujillo had been a brutal leader, but his strong anti-communist stance helped him retain the support of the United States. His death led to the rise of a reformist government headed by Juan Bosch, who was elected President in 1962. But Bosch was overthrown in 1963. Political chaos gripped the Dominican Republic as various groups struggled for power.
April 28, 1967 — “Muhammad Ali refuses induction into Army, stripped of title” via Sports Illustrated — A 25-year-old Ali denied his call for military service while citing religious reasons. As punishment, Ali was convicted of draft evasion, stripped of his heavyweight title, suspended from boxing, sentenced to five years in prison, and fined $10,000. The Supreme Court allowed him to avoid jail time. Widely considered among the greatest boxers of all time, Ali was called to join the armed forces while the United States engaged in the Vietnam War. The army lowered its classification for draftees in 1966, allowing Ali to qualify after he originally failed his test in 1964 due to his dyslexia.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch, compiled by Jacob Ogles and edited and assembled by Phil Ammann and Ryan Nicol.