Delegation for 6.9.23: Snoops — DNA — opioids — weaponization — punching tickets

U.S. Capitol Building from the Fifty Dollar Bill
Talk of a China/Cuba spy-ops alliance rankles many in the delegation.

Cuban snoops

Will China soon have a permanent spying establishment less than 100 miles from Florida soil?

According to reporting by The Wall Street Journal, Cuba and China may have forged a secret agreement to create an electronic eavesdropping facility. Relying on unnamed U.S. officials familiar with highly classified intelligence, the article says Cuba would build such a facility but collect information for China.

The prospects sparked immediate alarms within the Florida congressional delegation.

Republicans are outraged over a Cuba/China spy ops program. Image via Agence France-Presse.

“Make no mistake, Communist China is posing a direct threat to the United States of America with their new spy base in Castro’s Cuba,” tweeted Rep. Carlos Giménez. “The base is only 90 miles away from my district in the Florida Keys.”

Several of Florida’s leaders demanded immediate action by President Joe Biden to stop any such facility moving forward.

“America’s enemies know Biden is too weak to stand up against them, so they are taking advantage of the hospitality offered by the illegitimate communist regime in Cuba,” said Sen. Rick Scott. “I pray that President Biden will defy our expectations and finally take a stand against this today.”

The White House, for its part, wouldn’t confirm the Journal’s reporting but insisted it is taking Chinese intelligence-gathering efforts seriously.

“I cannot speak to this specific report, but we are well aware of — and have spoken many times to — the People’s Republic of China’s efforts to invest in infrastructure around the world that may have military purposes, including in this hemisphere,” John Kirby, representative for the White House National Security Council, told Reuters.

But Republicans within the delegation voiced fear the recent revelations are just the first troubling ones to go public.

“The threat to America from Cuba isn’t just real, it is far worse than this,” tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio, a Miami Republican.

Rubio serves as Ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee. And while he voiced frustration at whether the Biden administration takes reports seriously, he issued a joint statement with Senate Intelligence Chair Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, making clear the upper chamber does.

“We are deeply disturbed by reports that Havana and Beijing are working together to target the United States and our people,” the joint statement reads.

“The United States must respond to China’s ongoing and brazen attacks on our nation’s security. We must be clear that it would be unacceptable for China to establish an intelligence facility within 100 miles of Florida and the United States in an area also populated with key military installations and extensive maritime traffic. We urge the Biden administration to take steps to prevent this serious threat to our national security and sovereignty.”

Protecting DNA

Does China want a map of your genome? Rubio said the Chinese Communist Party has stepped up legal and illegal efforts to obtain information on genomes for U.S. citizens. It’s time the federal government steps up information security, he said.

The Miami Republican, with Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn, reintroduced the Genomics Expenditures and National Security Enhancement (GENE) Act.

Is China looking to map your genome?

The legislation would direct the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to require mandatory filings on any trading of genetic information and require consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services and foreign deals involving genetic data transactions.

“There is no reason for our lack of oversight on access to American citizens’ genomic data,” Rubio said. “It’s imperative that Congress has a seat at the table to confront this growing national security and privacy threat.”

Rubio introduced a version of the bill in 2021 and has expressed concerns about China targeting the U.S. biomedical industry since at least 2019.

Reversing overdoses

Florida suffers thousands of fatal opioid overdoses each year. But Sen. Scott wants to raise awareness of a tool that could stop some of those from resulting in a loss of life.

The Naples Republican introduced a resolution with Sen. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, to recognize June 6 as Naloxone Awareness Day. Naloxone is an emergency drug that can quickly reverse the impacts of opioids in an overdose situation without providing increased health risks.

Lawmakers float a ‘Naloxone Awareness Day.’

“Too many mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends have been lost to opioid poisoning in America,” Scott said. “Naloxone saves lives, and it is a critical tool in our fight to stop the loss caused by opioids in communities across our nation. I am proud to be joined by Sen. Markey and a bipartisan group of our colleagues in the House to introduce a resolution designating June 6 as Naloxone Awareness Day to bring awareness to the issue and educate Americans about this lifesaving drug.”

Victoria’s Voice, a Florida-based foundation named for overdose victim Victoria Siegel, supports the bill.

“I also want to highlight the Victoria’s Voice Foundation and the Siegel Family for the lifesaving work they do on advocacy and education about the dangers of opioids,” Scott said. “This organization was started following a parent’s worst nightmare — the loss of a child — and they have made it their mission to ensure folks are educated and prepared to save lives.”

Who is weaponizing?

Nearly three years after President Donald Trump lost re-election, Rep. Matt Gaetz wants punishment for those who investigated the former President.

The Panhandle Republican filed a resolution this week to censure Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who chaired the Jan. 6 Committee. Gaetz said Thompson improperly sent records from investigations to the White House for storage.

Matt Gaetz vows retribution for Donald Trump investigations.

“Lawmakers investigating the weaponization of the federal government are unable to determine which records of the Jan. 6 Select Committee were kept or destroyed before Republicans took control of the House,” Gaetz said.

But Gaetz also wants Congress to pressure Mark Pomerantz, a New York prosecutor who investigated Trump in 2021. Republicans on the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government have wanted Pomerantz to answer to a subpoena. Now Gaetz intends to force the issue.

“Through his lack of testimony, Mark Pomerantz has undoubtedly undermined the legitimacy of this witch hunt indictment against President Donald Trump,” Gaetz said.

“Mr. Pomerantz pled the Fifth to nearly every question about his time in the Manhattan DA’s office, despite writing a tell-all book about his time there. I believe Mr. Pomerantz engaged in misconduct in his targeting of President Trump, and his refusal to answer simple questions should not go unpunished.”

As it happens, Gaetz’s push for action against those who in the past investigated Trump came just as new legal threats arose against the former President.

Trump was indicted in federal court this week on charges related to boxes of unclassified documents found at his Florida estate. Evidence was presented to a court panel in Florida, and Trump is expected to appear in court Tuesday.

Ticket taker

As ticket costs for concerts and sporting events balloon, Rep. Gus Bilirakis says consumers deserve at least some transparency. The House Innovation, Data and Commerce Subcommittee Chair introduced bipartisan legislation with Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky, the Committee’s ranking Democrat, requiring an all-inclusive cost for tickets presented to buyers before purchasing.

“There is nothing more disappointing for an avid fan than being lured into the prospect of an affordable ticket to see his or her favorite sports team or band only to learn later in the checkout process that the final price tag is significantly higher,” Bilirakis said. “Our pro-consumer bill brings much-needed transparency to the whole ticketing industry, and I’m committed to working toward reforms that protect consumers and provide certainty in the marketplace.”

Gus Bilirakis is pushing ticket prices out of the shadows.

The TICKET Act would impose similar restrictions on event tickets to those already in place for airline tickets. The total price, including merchant fees, taxes, and anything else upping the charge, would need to be included on the ticket and in any marketing materials promoting the event under the bill.

“Fans are incredibly frustrated by how hard it has become to buy event tickets. With every ticketing debacle, from Beyoncé to Taylor Swift and so many more, their frustration grows,” Schakowsky said. “By introducing the bipartisan TICKET Act today, we are proud to be responding to the voices of so many fans to make this process easier and more transparent.”

Saving Black moms

More than $2 million will help Black mothers in Tampa Bay with the costs of new babies.

Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, announced the grant from HHS to Evara Health to improve health outcomes for Black mothers and babies.

“It is unacceptable that Black mothers are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than White mothers, due largely to health and social disparities,” Castor said.

Kathy Castor steps up to support Black mothers with new babies.

“Evara Health has been on the forefront of working together to ensure that moms and babies across Tampa Bay get the care they need, improve health outcomes, confront racial disparities in maternal care, and make sure children and their mothers are healthy and have every opportunity to thrive. This significant grant funding will support Evara’s innovative work in improving the lives of many of our neighbors.”

Dr. Deanna Wathington, a member of the Black Infant and Maternal Mortality Task Force, joined Castor for the announcement. She said data points to disparities in care that reach beyond economics.

“No matter the education level of a Black woman, her chances of experiencing morbidity and mortality are much higher than other women,” Wathington said. “I am one of those women who, even with my M.D. and MPH, struggled to get the care I needed after experiencing complications during the birth of my first child. Thanks to the good graces of some of the hospital staff that were involved, I’m still here to tell this story all these years later. But my story is not unique; it is a very common issue that occurs every day, and I’m thankful for the work being done to improve it.”

Evara Health officials said they would use the grant money to tackle the problem directly.

“It’s inconceivable that in this day and age, women continue to face significant risks during childbirth, particularly those from marginalized communities,” said Evara Health CEO Elodie Dorso.

“The $2 million grant that we are so excited to have been awarded offers us a unique opportunity to create a lasting impact. With these funds, we can focus on implementing creative and innovative solutions that directly address the underlying causes of the disparities in our community.”

Thoroughbred rescue

Rep. Vern Buchanan praised Churchill Downs for taking new steps to protect the health of racehorses.

That comes after the Longboat Key Republican, as Co-Chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, applied pressure on America’s most famous horse track following the deaths of a dozen thoroughbreds.

Churchill Downs gets kudos for acting on racehorse deaths. Image via AP.

Churchill Downs has suspended racing operations for now as it reviews all safety protocols. While investigators continue to study the 12 deaths in a month, Churchill Downs stated that “no single factor has been identified as a potential cause, and no discernible pattern has been detected to link the fatalities.” Nevertheless, the track limited the number of horse starts over eight weeks and enacted ineligibility standards for poor performance.

Buchanan and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, released a statement as the Kentucky track continues its work.

“A dozen racehorse deaths at one track in such a short period of time is extremely concerning and entirely unacceptable,” the statement reads.

“The newly announced safety precautions from Churchill Downs and (the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority) are long overdue. The health and safety of the horses and their riders should be the top priority. We will continue to insist HISA make its investigation public and look forward to working with industry stakeholders to conduct any necessary oversight or implement any recommended changes to prevent these deaths moving forward.”

All aboard

When a storm knocks out roadways, Rep. Byron Donalds wants trains back on track as soon as possible.

“Just months ago, Hurricane Ian made landfall in Southwest Florida, causing historic devastation in our community,” the Naples Republican said. “Among one of the hardest hit entities in Southwest Florida was the Seminole Gulf Railway — which incurred catastrophic damage. When a storm of this magnitude hits any area of our nation, it is the federal government’s responsibility to make available the necessary resources to rebuild and restore vital components of a community.”

Byron Donalds wants the trains running on time.

He has reintroduced The Short Line Railroad Relief Act (HR 3782), which would provide immediate financial support to keep steel wheels turning after a disaster. And industry leaders remind events of all kinds can stop the trains; then they need to be in motion the most.

“In the event of a natural disaster, short-line railroads can play a critical recovery role, moving relief goods in and debris of all kinds out, yet no significant federal disaster relief options are available to them beyond small loans,” said Chuck Baker, president of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.

“The Short Line Railroad Relief Act would provide parity across transportation modes, allowing for immediate deployment of grant funding to short line railroads, enabling them to turn their attention to rebuilding the local economy, particularly crucial in the small town and rural communities that we serve. Representative Donalds was spurred into action by the devastation to the Seminole Gulf Railway in his district, caused by Hurricane Ian last year. The concern, however, is applicable nationwide, resulting in Congressional support throughout the country for this effort. We applaud each of the co-sponsoring members of Congress for their leadership.”

Safer railways

Meanwhile, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said there are resources on the way to make some of Southeast Florida’s rail networks safer. She announced $15.7 million in funding to Broward County and Fort Lauderdale, courtesy of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program.

“I want to deliver safer, speedier travel and cut down commute times in South Florida, and that requires an across government effort, so I’m proud that President Biden and Congress partnered to deliver that help to our community,” the Weston Democrat said.

Rail safety is Job One for Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Image via AP.

“These rail improvement grants will help our community save lives and arrive to work, school and shops more swiftly. That’s why I did not hesitate to write to Secretary Pete Buttigieg (to) urge him to fund Broward County’s application.”

Broward County will receive the bulk of the funding, $15.4 million, to improve exit gates and medians for 21 existing Florida East Coast Railway road crossings. Brightline uses that line for passenger travel as well. The funding will see a 20% local match by the region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Another $280,000 goes to Fort Lauderdale to study 15 intersections within the city to find ways to improve safety and reduce delays.

Fighting an epidemic

Mothers Against Prescription Drug Abuse (MAPDA) honored Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart with the 2023 Humanitarian Award for his efforts in curbing the opioid crisis.

Mario Díaz-Balart is recognized for his work to curb the opioid crisis.

“The threat of prescribed and illicit opioid overdose among Americans is more prevalent than ever before,” the Hialeah Republican said. “With 300 Americans dying daily from fentanyl poisoning, we must redouble our efforts to combat the opioid and fentanyl epidemic that continues to plague our nation. I am grateful for (MAPDA’s) advocacy and commitment to this important mission, and I am honored to receive the 2023 Humanitarian Award.”

Mary Bono, a former Congresswoman who served with Díaz-Balart, chaired the board for MAPDA and praised the Congressman’s work.

“All of us at Mothers Against Prescription Drug Abuse thank Congressman Diaz-Balart for his dedication and leadership in addressing the opioid and fentanyl epidemic that is affecting every single community in America,” Bono said.

Chinese refugees

As China continues to bring charges against Uyghurs protesting ethnic persecution by China, Rep. María Elvira Salazar wants the U.S. to provide refugee status to those fleeing the nation. The Coral Gables was the only Republican to serve as an introducing sponsor for the Uyghur Human Rights Protection Act, which would expedite asylum applications for minorities fleeing the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

“The Uyghur Genocide perpetrated by the Chinese Communist Party is one of the most horrific crimes against humanity we have ever witnessed,” Salazar said.

María Elvira Salazar wants the U.S. to provide refugee status to Uyghurs.

“Our refugee system was designed to provide protection to those who need it most. We must ensure this system is ready to receive those that are able to escape the systematic persecution and torture Uyghurs and other oppressed minorities are suffering from in Xinjiang.”

The legislation would grant a Priority-2 designation for the Uyghurs, the same priority available to nationals fleeing Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

Other introducing sponsors include Democratic Reps. Jennifer Wexton of Virginia, Gregory Meeks of New York, and Don Beyer and Gerry Connolly of Virginia.

On this day

June 9, 1915 — “William Jennings Bryan resigns as Secretary of State” via Today in World War I — The break between Secretary Bryan and President Woodrow Wilson at a contentious cabinet meeting had not been repaired. Bryan felt Wilson and his advisers were being too generous to the Allies when both sides were violating the rights of neutrals (even if the Germans were doing it more violently). Bryan held that American citizens had no right to expect safety on a passenger ship of a belligerent nation. In contrast, Wilson disagreed and asserted these rights in a draft note to the Germans. Bryan felt continually sidelined; Wilson increasingly handled foreign policy without him.

June 9, 1954 — “Joseph Welch rebukes Joe McCarthy” via Today in Civil Liberties History — At the Army-McCarthy hearings, where Sen. McCarthy recklessly accused the Army of employing Communists, McCarthy attacked one of the Army’s civilian attorneys for his alleged left-wing associations years earlier. Another legal team member, the prominent Boston attorney Welch, rebuked McCarthy on this day, asking rhetorically, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you no sense of decency?” Shamed, McCarthy did not reply. Welch’s rebuke was a pivotal event in the downfall of McCarthy.


Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch, compiled by Jacob Ogles, edited and assembled by Phil Ammann and Ryan Nicol.

Staff Reports

One comment

  • Eduardo Dot Com 👍

    June 9, 2023 at 5:53 pm

    Rubio and Fraud Scott don’t know what they are talking about. Any Chinese spy base can itself be spied on if it’s that close… and we can figure out what they are up to if anything.

Comments are closed.


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