Delegation for 7.18.23: Good defense — oh, SNAP — prison bucks — ESG

US Capitol-building on green background
The U.S. defense budget — usually bipartisan — has become another political football.

Divided on defense

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets the budget and policy priorities for America’s defense efforts, has a lengthy and bipartisan history in the House. But as a divided Congress debates its military spending, the bill cleared the House on a largely partisan 219-210 vote.

The bill contains $886 billion in spending, but including a few conservative cultural policies prompted every Democrat in Florida’s congressional delegation to vote down the bill.

Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Parkland Democrat, bemoaned the gamesmanship of Republicans stripping travel provisions for female soldiers who must travel out of state for abortions, among other provisions. It makes no sense when a Democratic Senate and White House hold the next move, he said.

“The Senate’s going to kick all this back to us,” Moskowitz said. “They’re going to wipe all this culture war nonsense out, and so this is just theater. It’s not about defending the country. They’re holding up 250 nominees in the Senate to our military. We can’t appoint the head of the Marine Corps because of the culture wars, which hasn’t happened since 1910. In October, when we’re going to see the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff retire, we won’t be able to appoint a new person either based on this nonsense if it continues.”

Before hitting Joe Biden’s desk, the National Defense Authorization Act takes a long (and partisan) road. Image via AP.

But House members in the majority had no problem supporting the legislation. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, cheered the bill. “I proudly exercised the voice of Northwest Florida and voted YES on the FY 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, a critically important piece of legislation that funds our military and halts the ‘woke’ indoctrination of our service members,” he said.

While Gaetz had no problem with GOP amendments rooting our diversity, equity and inclusion programs at the Pentagon or prohibiting teaching critical race theory at military academies, he also said there was simply too much at stake for Florida to vote “no.” In Florida’s 1st Congressional District alone, the budget includes $100 million for an advanced helicopter training system hangar at Naval Air Station Whiting Field and $20 million in additional Navy spending in the Panhandle.

Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Longboat Key Republican, celebrated a series of policies he championed that made it into the bill, all with bipartisan support. Those included requirements of black box units on military tactical vehicles and allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish an opioid use disorder status on patients.

“I’m pleased to see these provisions pass the House this week,” Buchanan said, “and (I) am very hopeful they will be enacted into law.”

But Rep. Kathy Castor, whose Tampa area district relies heavily on military spending, said too many poison pills made it into the package for her to support the overall bill.

“The NDAA is radically different from the bipartisan bill that passed out of the House Armed Services Committee that was viewed as a strong defense bill that invested in our nation’s men and women in uniform and their families, promoted innovation and technology, supported strategic alliances, and strengthened our military readiness,” Castor said.

“I was proud to have championed important provisions in the bill that would have directly helped MacDill Air Force Base service members and families, including pay raises and improvements in on-base housing, health care and child care access. House Republicans transformed meaningful defense legislation to attack women and minority service members, leave our military installations vulnerable to higher costs and impacts of climate change and weaken our national security.”

What you eat

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps keep many American children fed. But does it keep them healthy? Sen. Marco Rubio wants to find out.

He filed a bipartisan bill with Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, to require an evaluation of SNAP’s impact on the diet quality of American families. The SNAP Nutrition Security Act collects data on purchasing habits of those using the program and for the Department of Agriculture to evaluate carefully what purchases should be allowed.

“In the midst of America’s obesity crisis, taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be spent on junk food,” Rubio said. “This legislation would strengthen the SNAP program by requiring the USDA to collect data on the impact of SNAP. This data will provide a clearer picture of how SNAP can be used to improve recipient’s health and ensure the program promotes a healthy, nutritious diet.”

SNAP feeds hungry families; but does it keep them healthy?

Booker said SNAP can play a role in improving the nation’s health.

“SNAP plays a crucial role in alleviating poverty and food insecurity, but needs to do better at improving nutrition security and diet quality for program participants,” he said.

And medical research advocates also see a benefit to the legislation; the American Heart Association and Global Food Institute endorsed the bill.

“They say we are what we eat, and if we want healthier communities that are able to feed themselves with dignity, we must make nutrition a priority in the fight against hunger,” said Chef José Andrés, founder of the Global Food Institute. “I applaud this bipartisan effort from Senators Booker and Rubio, and encourage everyone to join them in building longer tables where a plate of food represents a better tomorrow.”

Prison pension

The Senate passed legislation championed by Sen. Rick Scott that would prohibit former members of Congress from collecting a pension even after being convicted of a felony. The No Congressionally Obligated Recurring Revenue Used as Pensions to Incarcerated Officials Now (No CORRUPTION) Act cleared the upper chamber unanimously.

He carried the bill with Sen. Jacky Rosen, a Nevada Democrat.

Rick Scott seeks to prevent felonious lawmakers from collecting pensions. Image via Twitter.

“If you’re a Member of Congress and are convicted of a crime involving public corruption, you should lose all pension benefits provided to you by taxpayers and hardworking families — period,” said Scott, a Naples Republican.

“Making Washington work for American families requires real reforms that end the current dysfunction. I’m proud to see our bipartisan, common-sense legislation pass the Senate and urge the House to take up and pass this bill quickly. We can never stop working to hold elected officials accountable and protect taxpayers’ hard-earned money.”

Unfortunately, Congress has produced its share of convicts, from Republican Rep. Duke Cunningham to Democratic Rep. James Traficant, who continued to collect pensions even in prison. And while most Americans likely would disapprove of paying corrupt politicians in prison, plenty of them cash checks anyway.

“For too long, loopholes have made it possible for corrupt Washington politicians convicted of felonies to continue collecting taxpayer-funded pensions — that’s unacceptable,” Rosen said. “It’s why I worked across the aisle to find a common-sense solution to prohibit these corrupt officials from receiving a pension, and I’m glad to see it’s one step closer to becoming law.”

Notably, the No CORRUPTION Act would only deny pensions to former members of Congress once they have exhausted all appeals. So, for example, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, who went to prison for tax fraud but later had her conviction overturned, would never have lost out on her pension under the bill.

Growing field

More than two months after the first national headlines about the Florida Democrats’ struggle to find an opponent against the famously well-financed Scott, a name unknown to most Floridians is stepping into his first statewide contest after a lopsided defeat in the 2020 General Election to Rep. Matt Gaetz.

Veteran Phil Ehr’s campaign released a 140-second video introducing voters to his 26-year naval career, including rescuing Cubans in the Florida Straits and his Ukrainian humanitarian efforts.

The moody ad full of stormy seas then pivots to Ehr criticizing Scott’s record of Medicare fraud, policy proposals regarding Medicare, and his alignment with similar MAGA-minded politicians in the “Axis of Lies” that threatens to tear the country apart, he says.

The ad shows quick, grainy clips of Scott’s controversial statements.

“Rick Scott is a coward,” Ehr intones. “We can’t trust him in the battle for our rights, the truth and our future.”

Currently, the only other Democrat of note in the race remains former Rep. Alan Grayson, while speculation continues about whether former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell will file.

To watch the ad, please click on the image below:


Tariff tension

A 50-year-old program easing tariffs on developing nations expired in 2020, but Rep. Neal Dunn says it’s time to bring it back. While the General System of Preferences (GSP) sunset when tariffs saw new support amid tensions with China, Dunn suggested the absence of the program gives more advantage to the communist superpower.

“With the Chinese Communist Party becoming more aggressive each day, reducing America’s reliance on China is more critical than ever,” the Panama City Republican said. “China benefits from the expiration of the GSP program, and our companies pay the price. We know GSP works. We know that it has bipartisan support. Legislation to renew the program is long overdue.”

Neal Dunn seeks to reinstate tariffs on developing nations.

He co-led a bipartisan letter with Rep. Jake Auchincloss, a Massachusetts Democrat, to House Ways and Means Committee leaders asking for reauthorization of the program to be explored. Several Florida colleagues from both sides of the aisle co-signed, including Republican Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Kat Cammack, Mario Díaz-Balart, Carlos Giménez, Laurel Lee, Brian Mast, Cory Mills and John Rutherford, and Democratic Reps. Castor, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson.

When still in effect, the program eliminated tariffs for 119 nations, a list that did not include China. Dunn’s Office said the imposition of tariff costs now, in fact, falls on many U.S. companies importing and exporting from countries on that list.

Heparin embargo

The NDAA included a provision to reduce U.S. dependence on Chinese production of heparin. Rep. Bill Posey introduced the language and said Congress should push for domestic drug production.

“Like many lifesaving medications, heparin is predominantly manufactured by China and has been subject to contamination issues and supply chain shortages,” the Rockledge Republican said. “Restoring American production of this essential medicine is important to the lives of Americans and our nation’s security. It’s unlikely to make the headlines, but this is a big step in reducing our dependence on China for essential lifesaving medicines.”

The NDAA offers language aimed at reducing U.S. dependence on Chinese production of heparin.

Many dialysis patients use heparin to reduce blood clots, and it’s also used when individuals go into surgery. The medication is produced from pigs, and recent financial moves by China give the Eastern superpower control over 60% of the world’s pigs.

That level of control on the heparin market has many consequences in the U.S. Posey’s Office noted counterfeit heparin shipped from China resulted in 81 U.S. deaths in 2008.

HAVA voting update

An elections reform bill crafted by Lee advanced out of the House Administration Committee.

“The Committee has worked in collaboration with Secretaries of State, local elections officials, legislators, and voters across the country to craft this legislation to boost voter confidence in our elections and protect free speech,” the Thonotosassa Republican said.

Laurel Lee is working on an issue she knows well — elections reform.

Lee, who once served as Florida’s Secretary of State, was named (as a first-termer) to chair the House Administration Elections Subcommittee. She pulled together the American Confidence in Elections (ACE) Act from that perch. The bill would establish an Election Assistance Commission Standards Board and Local Leadership Council to clear best practices for conducting elections. The bill would give that new entity exclusive authority on voting technology and other innovations like tools for electronic voter rolls.

The legislation also will require regular reports to Congress on compliance with the Help America Vote Act, first passed in the wake of the Florida recount in the 2000 Presidential Election.

The legislation would also prohibit noncitizens from voting and withhold certain federal funds unless states outlaw ballot harvesting. It also called for the end of any outside financial support for election administration, a seeming response to the “Zuckerbucks” that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated to elections offices across the country before the 2020 election.

But Lee said the bill, which now awaits a House vote, respects states’ constitutionally bestowed duty to run elections.

“As Florida’s former Secretary of State, I oversaw the state’s elections as the Chief Elections Official,” she said. “As the third largest state, we produce results on election night — this goes a long way in ensuring voter confidence. The ACE Act reinforces voter confidence in our elections while respecting the Constitution, federalism and conservative principles. This legislation will promote election transparency, increase security and efficiency, and make sure states across the country have access to resources and best practices to do elections right.”


Republicans in the past year have pushed to drive environmental, social and corporate governance, better known as ESG, out of public investment. Rep. Byron Donalds said the federal government needs to stop seeing such corporate decision-making as a plus when it awards federal contracts.

The Naples Republican this week introduced the Proposal Priority Act, enabling companies to exclude ESG from its proposals. He said that would ensure companies focus on corporate growth and competitiveness instead of partisan political agendas.

Byron Donalds wants to scrub ESG from public investments.

“The collusion between social and corporate activists to abuse our proxy system by flooding corporate boards with immaterial, politically motivated proposals is absurd and must end,” Donalds said.

“As a fiduciary by trade and now a House Financial Services Committee member, I am committed to safeguarding shareholder pecuniary interests and protecting organizational judgment from the rogue SEC and corporate activists. Boards of Directors should have one sole mission, which is the financial stability of their respective companies, and my bill calibrates this crucial objective.”

Aiming for reform

On what would have been Jaime Guttenberg’s 20th birthday, Wasserman Schultz reintroduced legislation named in honor of the Parkland school shooting victim. It would require a background check before ammunition purchases. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, filed the legislation in the Senate.

Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat, filed similar legislation in 2021 and remains determined to close a loophole in federal law as soon as possible. It can save lives, she said.

“No person should endure the agonizing pain of losing someone they love to gun violence,” Wasserman Schultz said. “I’m proud to reintroduce Jaime’s Law on her birthday, which is a crucial piece of the multifaceted approach needed to end the gun violence epidemic. Closing the ammunition loophole and requiring background checks for ammunition purchases can save lives.”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz stands tall for gun reforms.

Under current law, dangerous individuals such as violent criminals and domestic abusers are prohibited from purchasing firearms and ammunition. However, unlike firearms, federal law does not require a background check to prevent them from illegally purchasing ammunition. Jamie’s Law would require buyers to either provide a license for the firearm or undergo an instant background check using the FBI National Instant Background Check System before purchasing the ammunition.

California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York require a background check before purchasing ammunition. Still, federal law would keep background check evaders from crossing state lines to states with lax controls on ammunition.

Jaime’s father, Fred Guttenberg, pointed out that when Jaime was born 20 years ago, there were 200 million U.S. guns; now, there are 400 million guns in the country.

“The reality is that we are all now at risk because of this increase,” he said.

“However, we are not powerless. The reality of gun violence in America will not fix itself. We need this lifesaving legislation, or we will continue to face our current daily reality of gun violence and loss of life. We are better than this. Let’s save lives together and pass Jaime’s Law.”

Veteran benefits

If immigrants are willing to put their lives at risk in the U.S. military, they deserve a path to citizenship, according to Rep. María Elvira Salazar. The Coral Gables Republican co-introduced the Veteran Service Recognition Act (HR 4569), which would allow noncitizens to apply for naturalization during basic training when they sign up to serve.

She crafted the legislation with Rep. Mark Takano, a California Democrat.

María Elvira Salazar is making sure veterans get the respect they deserve. Image via Facebook.

“All members of our Armed Forces deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” Salazar said. “Noncitizen veterans, just like their American peers, make the ultimate sacrifice in service of the United States. I’m proud to introduce this legislation with Congressman Takano, which would streamline the naturalization process for noncitizen veterans and would provide due process for noncitizen veterans who were wrongfully deported.”

Salazar helped to bring a bipartisan air to the bill, which mostly had Democrats as introducing co-sponsors, including California Reps. Lou Correa, Zoe Lofgren, Raul Ruiz and Juan Vargas and New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler. Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, the Republican Resident Commissioner of American Samoa, also co-sponsored. Sen. Alex Padilla, a California Democrat, will carry the bill in the Senate.

Firehouse rising

Firehouse Strategies just promoted two employees, Dorinda Moss Verhoff and Kate Brown, to partner. Both joined the lobbying firm in 2019. Verhoff, a longtime Republican fundraiser, has managed marketing and business operations as a company vice president, while Brown has led promotions.

Dorinda Moss Verhoff and Kate Brown are the newest blockbuster hires at Firehouse Strategies.

“We are proud to call them partners and even prouder to call them friends,” reads an email sent by Firehouse Strategies announcing the promotions.

The firm notably holds close ties to Rubio. It was founded by Terry Sullivan, Alex Conent and Will Holley, who all played critical roles in Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign. The Senator’s former Deputy Chief of Staff and State Director, Todd Reid, also works as managing director at the firm.

On this day

July 18, 1940 — “Franklin D. Roosevelt nominated for unprecedented third term” via — Roosevelt was nominated at the Democratic Party convention in Chicago. The President received some criticism for running again because there was an unwritten rule in American politics that no President should serve more than two terms. The custom dated back to the country’s first president, George Washington, who in 1796 declined to run for a third term in office. Nevertheless, Roosevelt believed his duty was to continue serving and leading his country through the mounting crisis in Europe, where Hitler’s Nazi Germany was on the rise.

July 18, 1969 — “The Chappaquiddick accident” via Automotive History — Shortly after leaving a party on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts, Sen. Ted Kennedy drove his mother’s 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 off Dyke Bridge. The accident appeared to have claimed the life of his young passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, but there may be more than what meets the eye. Kennedy did not report the accident until after it had been discovered by a fisherman, some eight hours later. Kopechne was one of the boiler-room girls who served in Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign. The party was a reunion for these girls. When Ted Kennedy declared he was leaving the party, Kopechne supposedly had asked for a ride back to her hotel room.


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

Staff Reports


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