Delegation for 7.11.23: Talking Cuba — Tesla fight — diversity — good drugs

Watercolor sketch or illustration of a beautiful view of the US Capitol building in Washington DC in the USA
Florida lawmakers hold out hope for change in Cuba.

Cuba talks

Supporters of democracy took to the streets in Cuba two years ago today in what initially was a peaceful uprising capable of ending decades of communist rule. While the idea of deposing the Cuban government doesn’t seem as close to the horizon as it once appeared, Florida lawmakers remain hopeful for change on the island nation.

On Monday, the House State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee held a field hearing in Hialeah Gardens. The meeting was led by Chair Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, and attended by Florida’s congressional delegation members from both sides of the aisle.

“After 60 years, we are still trying to bring freedom to that island,” said Rep. María Elvira Salazar, a Coral Gables Republican and Subcommittee member.

To watch a video of the announcement, please click on the image below:

But she also sounded alarms on recent interactions Cuba stepped up with enemies of the U.S. Reports went public last month about a deal with China to establish (or expand) a spy base in Havana to eavesdrop on U.S. intelligence. Russia reportedly increased its presence on the island. And for the first time, Cuba hosted the leader of Iran for a state visit.

All that shows why the U.S. must view what happens in Cuba with urgency, according to Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, a Hialeah Republican and dean of the Florida delegation.

“For so many years, we have been talking about how this cancer on the island of Cuba has not only been a cancer to its own people, but it’s been a national security threat to the United States,” he said. “We’ve seen example after example.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic co-chair of the state delegation, thanked McCaul for holding the meeting in South Florida. In addition to being home to the highest concentration of Cuban Americans, a congressional meeting 230 miles from Havana also sends a message to the Cuban government.

“Having this briefing, this committee meeting, here, as close as we are to Cuba, it is so critical because we know they are watching,” she said. “We know that their eyes are on this hearing. They might be making it difficult for the Cuban people, the average Cuban person, to get access to the internet, but they have it and I’m sure somewhere, one of their lackeys is livestreaming this. We are all going to make sure we address this together, and we send them a strong message that we’re going to number their days of oppression.”

The hearing attracted Rep. Michael Waltz, a St. Augustine Republican, to drive down from Northeast Florida. He reminded that his Cuban constituency remains strong, but as a former Green Beret, he also feels a kinship for those fighting for democracy around the globe, he said.

“The reason I’m here and all of us are here is we hate and will always oppose communism,” Waltz said. “We are willing to die for our freedoms. We are willing to die for other people’s freedoms, and we need to say loud and clear, bipartisan as Americans, communism has killed more people around the world than fascism, colonialism, or any other type of ism. More have died at the hands of communist regimes. The only thing equitable about communism is everyone is equally poor.”

Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Parkland Democrat, described why he related to oppressed voices for Cuba in different terms. His Jewish ancestors fled Europe after the rise of the Third Reich.

“As someone whose grandparents escaped fascism and authoritarianism in Poland and Germany and Czechoslovakia, I stand with the Cuban people,” he said. “We all stand with the Cuban people in their fight for freedom.”

McCaul noted he filed a bipartisan and bicameral resolution that demands human rights, not engagement, remains the top priority with any U.S. talks between the U.S. and Cuba. That’s legislation Sen. Marco Rubio, a Miami Republican and Florida’s senior Senator, will run in the upper chamber.We have an obligation to support the Cuban people,” McCaul said.

Marco v. Tesla

While Elon Musk has cozied close to several Republican leaders, count Rubio a skeptic of the billionaire’s intentions.

Florida’s senior Senator expressed irritation when Musk’s Tesla reached an agreement with rival automakers in China.

Musk signed a pledge to uphold “core socialist values” and compete fairly within China’s electric vehicle market, according to the Financial Times. Sixteen manufacturers signed the agreement, which came about after Tesla had priced its Model 3 and Model Y cars in the market below similar products from competitors.

Marco Rubio is having none of Elon Musk’s shenanigans.

Rubio expressed disapproval.

“Now that Tesla pledged to uphold China’s ‘core socialist values,’ how long will it be before they weaponize the company against America?” Rubio tweeted.

Musk further upset American conservatives by teleconferencing into a Shanghai conference that he believed China would benefit from artificial intelligence.

“I think China will have very strong AI capability,” Musk said, drawing a rebuke from the conservative National Review.

Land of Abraham

During a trip to the Middle East, Sen. Rick Scott met with leaders of all nations who entered the Abraham Accords — Bahrain, Israel and the United Arab Emirates — in 2020.

Rick Scott’s Middle East visit offers an insight into regional stability. Image via Rick Scott’s Office.

The Naples Republican left with an understanding of the greatest threat to regional stability.

“In Israel, Bahrain, the UAE and throughout the Middle East, terrorism and its primary sponsor Iran, remains a grave and ever-present threat,” he said.

“Think about this, right now, Israeli soldiers’ remains, like Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were murdered, are being held hostage. But thanks to the Abraham Accords and the strong resolve of the U.S., Israel and our partners in the region, we will triumph over our enemies.”

Scott referenced Israeli soldiers killed in the 2014 Gaza War with Palestinians. The return of their bodies and release of other captives has been a point of contention in recent treaty talks. Scott said the U.S. has and must remain a stalwart ally of Israel in any regional diplomacy.

“I have had the privilege of visiting Israel five times during my time as Governor and now U.S. Senator for Florida. Each visit reinforces how important it is for our national security and prosperity,” Scott said.

“The U.S. needs partners like Israel and the Gulf States who are willing to put their own resources and people on the line to combat Iran and the terror groups it supports. This is the way forward for all who seek greater economic and security benefits in the region and beyond. I am more certain than ever that this is the position of Israel and glad to see the Gulf States that have signed the Abraham Accords believe likewise.”

Military weed

Even though most states, including Florida, have legalized marijuana in some form, a history of using it can cost a military recruit their uniform.

Rep. Matt Gaetz said it’s to smoke that policy out.

The Fort Walton Beach Republican filed a bipartisan measure with Rep. Robert Garcia, a California Democrat, that would mellow rules on enlistment even for those who used marijuana recently. It makes no sense, Gaetz said, to prohibit people using a legal substance from serving their country, especially as the Armed Forces face “a recruitment and retainment crisis unlike any other time in American history.”

Matt Gaetz wants past marijuana use to be a disqualification for military service.

“I do not believe that prior use of cannabis should exclude Americans from enlisting in the armed forces. We should embrace them for stepping up to serve our country,” he told NBC News.

Garcia and Gaetz filed an amendment to the Defense budget in the House.

Right now, 23 states allow recreational use of marijuana. Another 15, including Florida, allow it only to be used as a prescription medicine. But a citizen initiative in the state already has the signatures to put an adult use constitutional amendment on Florida’s statewide ballot next year if the Florida Supreme Court approves the language.

The AI economy

What’s the future of America’s economy?

Rep. Darren Soto said Congress needs to figure that out now. The Kissimmee Democrat filed bipartisan legislation authorizing the National Science Foundation and the Labor Department to study the impact AI will have on the U.S. workforce.

“I’m proud to work across the aisle to help our local communities prepare for the ways in which artificial intelligence will shape the workforce, the economy and our way of life,” Soto said. “As AI continues to grow rapidly, the Jobs of the Future Act will ensure we have information on industries projected to have the most growth, demographics affected by these changes and more.”

Is AI the future of American commerce?

He filed the Jobs of the Future (HR 4498) with GOP Reps. Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Oregon, Andrew Garbarino of New York and Democratic Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware. The lawmakers say changes evolving technology will deliver to the economy need attention in all parts of the country.

“The future of work is changing and, as co-chair of the Future of Work caucus and Chair of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Subcommittee on the Homeland Security Committee, I know how important it is that we are prepared to meet this new demand,” Garbarino said. “That includes proactively exploring opportunities for retraining and upskilling America’s workforce.”

Soto sees significant impacts in Central Florida’s economy on the way.

“In Central Florida, AI is increasingly being utilized in tourism, agriculture, aerospace, at Lake Nona’s Medical City, and at NeoCity for microchip manufacturing, so it is important for us to have this data,” he said. “We hope the report generated as a result of our bill will help organizations identify opportunities for workers and prepare for the changes created by AI.”

Luna time

The youngest Republican in Congress took a nontraditional path to the Longworth Building. Indeed, the course from social media influencer to elected official didn’t exist a decade ago.

In recent months, the tale of Rep. Anna Paulina Luna captured the attention of Time magazine, which published a feature this week on the populist’s life in the halls of power.

“I have opened my world up to Time,” Luna shared on Twitter. “They investigated and this is my story.”

An influencer goes to Congress.

The outlet treated her as a reverse version of online powerhouses like Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose notoriety in Congress turned into online followings. Instead, Time described Luna as “the first social media influencer to parlay an online audience into a seat in Congress.”

The article also revealed personal details of the 34-year-old’s life, including her nonbinary sibling Ricci Amitrano. The magazine also delved into her family history, including her late and legally troubled father. That’s a topic discussed by a Washington Post article earlier this year that was derided for inaccuracies.

But the article mostly focused on her shift from a military model to an Instagram influencer and eventually to a political candidate. In November, she won an open seat in Congress in her second run for office. The article notes she’s among the Florida Congressional Delegation’s most vulnerable members in the coming election.

But should she win a second term, the article quotes a delegation colleague also elected in November. Moskowitz said if she can prove her mettle without Gov. Ron DeSantis lifting all Republicans on the ticket, “then she’ll become a bigger star than she already is in the Republican Party.”

Medical shortages

The pandemic and related supply chain crisis made good drugs hard to find.

Rep. Kathy Castor hosted a roundtable with health care professionals, advocates and Tampa Bay families to discuss a medical supply crisis reaching crisis conditions. The Tampa Democrat’s office said drug shortages reached a five-year high after a 30% spike last year in the number of drugs reaching that level of scarcity.

“The shortage of lifesaving medications and medical devices has become a national crisis, forcing families to take less than their prescribed dosage or risk going without the care they need,” Castor said.

Kathy Castor talks about a crisis in the medical supply chain. Image via Kathy Castor’s Office.

“This nationwide crisis was worsened by manufacturing and supply chain disruptions driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. As we work to build a more resilient supply chain, we must address these life-threatening shortages that persist to this day. I’m proud to be leading the effort in Congress, alongside dedicated advocates like Laura Bray, to get our neighbors the medical care they need. I encourage my Republican colleagues to join me in fighting to ensure no family finds themselves in this dire situation again.”

Bray, the Chief Change Maker for Angels for Change, testified to the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee in May. The advocate said shortages demand attention because they threaten patients’ lives, including her daughter, who is fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Castor earlier this year filed the Medical Device Shortage Reduction Act (HR 3807), which would require manufacturers of critical medical devices to report supply interruptions likely to lead to shortages, similar to what is required of drug manufacturers. Democratic leadership has pushed the House to include the measure in its legislative authorizations this Congress.

Dumping diversity

Rep. Greg Steube wants cadets who declined the COVID-19 vaccine back in America’s military academies. He also wants Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs out.

The Sarasota Republican submitted more than a dozen amendments to the House Defense budget, including some focused on the Armed Forces’ institutes of higher education.

“My amendments are common sense and will make our nation safer and stronger,” Steube said. “To name a few: Military personnel who chose to avoid the COVID-19 vaccine should be reinstated with back pay, DEI activities should not be funded in the Armed Forces, and state sponsors of terrorism should not be able to purchase U.S. real estate.”

Greg Steube seeks payback for military cadets. Image via AP.

Steube wants to reinstate all military discharged over the vaccine mandate, including cadets or midshipmen at a federal service academy. He’d like to backpay anyone denied pay over their forced departure from uniform.

The Congressman also wants to follow Florida’s lead in denouncing DEI efforts from the Defense Department. The first amendment touted in Steube’s news release announcing his proposals would prohibit any use of federal funds for such programs at National Academies or any function of the Defense Department.

Street song

A street in Hialeah now honors a democratic movement in Cuba. Díaz-Balart joined Hialeah Mayor Esteban Bovo and members of the City Council to rename West 8th Street as Patria v Vida Avenue.

The name comes from a song that became the anthem of protests in Cuba two years ago.

Hialeah honors a song of Cuban freedom. Image via Facebook.

“‘Patria y Vida’ has become a mantra and a movement for thousands of Cubans who took to the streets to peacefully protest the brutal and murderous Cuban dictatorship two years ago July 11,” Dîaz-Balart tweeted.

“The Cuban people’s fight for freedom and democracy continues. This street and plaza renaming ensures that the cause of freedom is immortalized and preserved for generations to come.”

The city passed a resolution to give the road its new moniker. Still, the Congressman promised action in Washington to support pro-democracy activists in the communist nation some 100 miles south of the plaza.

On this day

July 11, 1804 — “Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr’s duel” via PBS — The men clashed repeatedly in the political arena. The first significant skirmish was in 1791 when Burr successfully captured a United States Senate seat from Philip Schuyler, Hamilton’s powerful father-in-law. In 1800, Republicans Burr and Thomas Jefferson tied in balloting for the presidency; Hamilton lobbied Congress to decide the election in Jefferson’s favor. It was the New York Governor’s race of 1804, however, that pushed the two men to violence. Burr turned his back on the Republicans and ran as an independent. The prospect of Burr leading New York mortified Hamilton, who tried to convince New York Federalists not to support Burr. The Burr campaign failed.

July 11, 1952 — “Dwight Eisenhower nominated on the first ballot” via The New York Times — The General of the Army won a hard-fought first-ballot nomination as the Republican candidate for President and Sen. Richard M. Nixon of California was chosen by acclamation as his running mate for Vice President. The former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe went before the 1,206 Republican delegates to accept the nomination and pledge to lead “a great crusade” for “total victory” against a Democratic administration he described as wasteful, arrogant, corrupt and too long in power. He said he would keep “nothing in reserve” in his drive to put a Republican in the White House for the first time since 1933.

Happy birthday

Best wishes to Rep. Cory Mills, who turns 43 on Thursday, July 13.


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

Staff Reports


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