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On the brink
The White House informed federal employees to brace for a shutdown Friday.
Meanwhile, members of Congress were told to take the weekend off as negotiations dragged over funding the government.
One Florida lawmaker accustomed to the spotlight has put himself at the center of negotiations. Rep. Matt Gaetz threatened to force a vote to potentially remove Speaker Kevin McCarthy unless the House undertakes individual consideration of a dozen appropriations bills, and he’s made the tour of right-wing media outlets to make his case.
In an interview with far-right podcaster Tim Pool, he swore a government shutdown is not his goal. Instead, he said McCarthy must fulfill promises he made during the protracted battle to secure the Speaker’s gavel earlier this year.
“McCarthy must either come into compliance with the deal he made in January, he must do so very quickly, or there will be a motion to vacate,” the Fort Walton Beach Republican said.
The failure to strike a budget deal now has a growing number of House members upset. News that members would be sent home for the weekend appeared to anger Rep. Byron Donalds, whom McCarthy tapped as chief sponsor of a continuing resolution to keep the government funded for 30 days.
“Absolutely not!” he posted on X after the Speaker’s Office announced its work was done for the week. “We have a job to do, and we should stay until the work is complete!”
Privately, sources close to negotiations concede there’s not enough time to negotiate a deal before the Sept. 30 deadline.
That means a shutdown will happen, sources said, but the hope is it won’t last long.
A Republican source near the talks said some of the conversation centers around ensuring the Republican House doesn’t take all the blame. The House wants a budget deal that funds the border and disaster relief but doesn’t pour millions more into Ukraine aid, as the White House has requested. If the House can pass a deal, even one that the Democrat-controlled Senate rejects, House members can at least tell constituents back home they tried.
But if a shutdown drags on longer than a week, House sources acknowledge it’s more likely Democrats will get everything they want in talks. Already, some moderate Republicans signaled they could support a discharge petition by House Democrats to fully fund everything President Joe Biden has requested in a budget.
Democrats in the House are already working to put the burden of blame for a shutdown on the House majority.
“The difference between Republican and Democratic leadership is Democrats deliver results for the American people, while Republicans waste time with political stunts instead of getting to work to prevent a government shutdown,” posted Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Hollywood Democrat. “The distinction is unmistakable.”
A change in dress code for Senators on the floor has Republicans’ undergarments in a ruffle. Sen. Rick Scott led a letter to Democratic Majority Leader Charles Schumer, calling for him to reverse the shift in decorum.
“The Senate is a place of honor and tradition, and the Senate floor is where we conduct the business of the American people,” the letter reads. “It is where we debate the policies which impact every American family and, when necessary, it is where we must make the gravest decision imaginable — whether to send our fellow Americans into battle to defend the freedoms we all hold dear. The world watches us on that floor, and we must protect the sanctity of that place at all costs.”
Forty-six lawmakers co-signed the letter, including Sen. Marco Rubio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Schumer announced earlier this week that a dress code, while informal, will no longer be enforced. The change was widely seen as a response to Sen. John Fetterman, a Pennsylvania Democrat, choosing to work in casual clothes, sometimes casting votes from the doorway of the Senate chamber to avoid running afoul of rules on attire.
The wardrobe requirements apply only to Senators. Staff and visitors must still wear formal attire on the floor.
Rubio wants the federal government to keep close tabs on businesses tied to China and Russia while doing business in the U.S.
Rubio, along with Scott and Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, introduced legislation that would impose sanctions on several companies owned by the Russian government. The Halting Enrichment of Russian Oligarchs and Industry Allies of Moscow’s Schemes to Leverage its Abject Villainy Abroad (HEROIAM SLAVA) Act would sever the ability of businesses, including Rosneft, Gazprom, Rosatom, Aeroflot and English-language media outlet RT from accessing U.S. capital.
“The U.S. will never support Putin and his immoral war,” Rubio said. “We have a moral duty, and it’s in our national security interest, to do everything in our power to limit any U.S. funds that enrich the pockets of the Russian regime. This bill is vital to limit Putin and his cronies from accessing American capital and putting it toward evil.”
Heroiam Slava has become a Ukrainian rallying cry in the ongoing war with Russia.
“Vladimir Putin is a thug, and the United States cannot continue to allow him and his evil regime to access American money. The HEROIAM SLAVA Act will stop these state-owned and Putin-backed war-funding enterprises from accessing capital through strict sanctions.”
Rubio and Rep. John Moolenaar, a Michigan Republican, sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen this week urging an investigation of Gotion, a Guoxuan High-Tech subsidiary. The letter asserted the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) controlled the business.
“The extent of the CCP’s control over Guoxuan is explicitly mentioned in the company’s corporate bylaws, which require the company ‘to carry out Party activities in accordance with the Constitution of the (Chinese Communist Party),’ the letter states. “In 2021, Guoxuan High-Tech hosted several company retreats where employees were mandated to recite a pledge of loyalty to the Party, including to ‘fight for communism.’”
Et tu, Koch?
News of a mill closing in Perry, just weeks after Florida’s Big Bend suffered the brunt of Hurricane Idalia, has Rep. Neal Dunn fuming.
The Panama City Republican, who lobbied for the farm bill to include protections for the timber industry, slammed the decision by Georgia-Pacific to close the Perry Foley Cellulose facility, eliminating 525 jobs in the area.
“Today’s Georgia-Pacific announcement is extremely disappointing. This closure impacts thousands of my constituents following a devastating hurricane, a time when communities need reliability and stability the most,” Dunn said. “What’s even more concerning is that Georgia-Pacific neglected to give local leaders ample notice so we can support Taylor County through this difficult time. They ought to be ashamed.”
Dunn has also pointed out that Koch Industries owns Georgia-Pacific. That’s especially notable in the political world, as the Koch family has been famously active in funding Republican political causes such as Americans for Prosperity.
Dunn said he will demand support for laid-off employees at the mill. He has urged Georgia-Pacific to provide workers six months of severance pay and benefits, allow paid leave for employees to seek new work before the plant closes, and donate the buildings left behind to local government. And Dunn suggests he will seek accountability from the whole of Koch Industries.
“Make no mistake, moving forward, my eyes will be on Koch Industries and Georgia-Pacific to guarantee that they actively support their employees in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District,” he said.
From the heart
Heart disease remains the top killer of Americans, both men and women, and most races and ethnicities — regardless of political party. With that in mind, Reps. Kat Cammack and Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick introduced legislation designating September as “National Cholesterol Education Month” and Sept. 30 as “LDL-C Awareness Day.”
“As a Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Women’s Caucus, much of our work focuses on issues that affect women, especially related to health care,” said Cammack, a Gainesville Republican. “Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S. and it’s been one of our top projects over the last several years to ensure women are equipped to best care for themselves and their families. Learning more about cholesterol and its effects on heart health can help to raise awareness and encourage women to be screened and treated.”
Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or LDL-C, is a chief cause of cardiovascular illnesses and is a particularly acute problem among racial and ethnic minorities.
Miramar Democrat Cherfilus-McCormick, a health care executive, stressed the need for education on bad cholesterol.
“With cardiovascular disease on the rise, heart health awareness can go a long way in saving lives,” she said. “Greater education is needed to address this public health crisis head-on and address inequities that can be starkly seen among underserved populations and communities of color. I am proud to introduce this bipartisan resolution so that cardiovascular disease prevention never falls by the wayside and this disease is treated with the sense of urgency it deserves.
Going for gold
Part of the power for some authoritarian leaders in Latin America derives straight from the ground. Gold mining operations have propped up President Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua and President Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela.
But Rep. Cory Mills said those minerals wield only as much value as others are willing to pay. He filed a bipartisan bill with Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove, a California Republican, seeking to cut off those regimes’ mining revenues.
“Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro relies on profits from illicit mining, trafficking, and commercialization of gold, which feeds a cycle of egregious human rights abuses throughout the region,” said Mills, a Winter Park Republican. “The Maduro regime’s close alignment with our adversaries, like China and Russia, has continued to propel their ruthless oppression.”
Kamlager-Dove noted the economic leverage for those nations impacts politics throughout Latin America and in many island nations near Florida.
“Illicit gold mining in Latin America and the Caribbean — which has the world’s highest illegal gold extraction rates — perpetuates human rights abuses against indigenous communities, causes massive environmental destruction, and provides lucrative financing for transnational criminal organizations that threaten the rule of law and democracy across the region,” she said.
The United States Legal Gold and Mining Partnership Act would implement a partner strategy to block profits from the gold trade returning to Maduro and Ortego, hopefully also cutting off funds from recirculating into drug and human trafficking.
The bill serves as a House companion to legislation already filed by Rubio in the Senate.
Gun control win
Democrats in the delegation cheered an executive order by Biden creating a federal Office of Gun Violence Protection. For those members closely associated with the gun control movement, the move was validating even as political fights forced much of the work on the Hill to a standstill.
“My hometown of Parkland, Florida, was shattered when a gunman took the lives of 17 people at my alma mater, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I’ve seen the horrific scene firsthand. I’ve met with parents who now visit their kids in cemeteries. Far too many communities in America have suffered the same pain as Parkland,” said Parkland Democratic Rep. Jared Moskowitz.
“I am extremely grateful to President Joe Biden for saying enough is enough and creating an office of gun violence prevention in his administration. This is a strong step forward, and I look forward to working with the office as a legislative ally in Congress. We no longer need moments of silence; we need moments of action to protect our children, our schools, and our nation from gun violence.”
Rep. Maxwell Frost, an Orlando Democrat, sought to create such an office by statute through the first bill he filed as a member of Congress. His office viewed the White House move as validation. He will stand alongside the President today at a formal ceremony regarding the office, as will many family members of those killed in the 2018 Parkland shooting.
“As a lifelong organizer and survivor of gun violence, I introduced legislation to create the first-ever Office of Gun Violence Prevention back in March because I refuse to ever accept that the senseless gun violence destroying our communities is normal,” Frost said. “Today, I am thrilled that President Biden has answered our call. This office is the first critical step to tackling gun violence head-on and ensuring that the federal government can lead in the fight to live in a world where we never lose another life because of a gun. This is a win for the gun violence prevention movement and a win for the American public.”
Notably, creating the office by order instead of a bill means Biden can dissolve it, or whoever succeeds him in office, at any point.
As the House and Senate go into conference on a massive defense budget, two Florida lawmakers will play a key role in negotiations.
Reps. Carlos Giménez, Transportation and Maritime Security Subcommittee Chair, and Daniel Webster, Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chair, were tapped as conferees for the Republican-controlled House. That will put them in the room where it happens as differences in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) get ironed out with the Democrat-majority Senate.
“Providing for the common defense is one of the fundamental congressional responsibilities; I am honored to be named as a conferee to the NDAA conference committee,” said Webster, a Clermont Republican. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure critical House policies and reforms are kept as we work with our Senate counterparts to ensure our service members have the resources and tools needed to remain the world’s finest fighting force.”
Giménez, a Miami-Dade Republican, said the role will allow him to advocate for some key spending projects in Florida, including preserving the use of Homestead Air Force Base for military purposes.
“It is an honor and a privilege to be selected by Speaker Kevin McCarthy as a chief negotiator for this year’s National Defense Authorization Act,” Giménez said. “As the only Member from South Florida serving on the Armed Services Committee, I am proud to work for an NDAA that fully funds our military, supports our service members, and protects our community from the growing threats posed by Communist China, Communist Cuba, the regime in Iran, and Russia.”
An oil cleanup effort at SeaPort Manatee has cost the Coast Guard $825,000 to date. But while the environmental crisis has been contained, it sounds like authorities are no closer to identifying the spill’s origin.
Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Longboat Key Republican, said the parties responsible for dumping 19,000 gallons of water at the port must be found. He relayed information from Coast Guard Capt. Michael Kahle about the state of investigations.
“After testing four oil samples from the spill against the 26 potential storage facilities and vessels at the port, the results were inconclusive. Capt. Kahle has sent the samples off for an additional round of DNA testing, hoping to find a potential match for the spill,” Buchanan posted on X.
Buchanan said the costs of the cleanup effort should not fall on the taxpayer and that the responsible party must be held accountable.
“I sincerely appreciate the great work the Coast Guard has done to clean up the spill in a timely manner, but area residents deserve to know exactly what happened and who is responsible,” Buchanan said.
Members of Florida’s delegation from both sides of the aisle want sanctions on Maduro’s regime in Venezuela.
Reps. María Elvira Salazar, a Coral Gables Republican, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat, introduced legislation targeting individuals in Maduro’s orbit who have tried to prohibit democratic challengers from running against the incumbent leader.
In the Latin American nation, the Maduro-controlled National Electoral Council has tried to prohibit individuals running against Maduro from appearing on the ballot there, according to Reuters. The Venezuelans Overcoming Interference and Corruption in Elections (VOICE) Act seeks to safeguard Maduro’s critics, including María Corina Machado, Henrique Capriles and Freddy Superlano.
“In the face of renewed regime tactics to eliminate political opposition and steal the 2024 elections, the United States must support María Corina Machado and all those who are risking their lives to face the dictatorship,” said Salazar, Chair of the House Western Hemisphere Subcommittee. “The VOICE Act restores the focus on Venezuela so that the dictator Maduro and his band of criminals can’t keep getting away with the looting and destruction of the country.”
Wasserman Schultz said it’s important to protect democracy in the South American nation.
“With backing from America’s most dangerous adversaries, Maduro and his cronies continue to draw from the dictatorial playbook to the detriment of Venezuelans,” she said. “This legislation draws a red line when it comes to his desperate attempts to cling to power by disenfranchising his opponents. The U.S. and its allies must stand united in our efforts to restore democracy in Venezuela.”
The Democrat’s office noted the Biden administration’s commitment to ensuring free elections overseas. The Republican said efforts of multilateral institutions like the Organization of American States, which has offered technical assistance to Venezuela to ensure accurate elections.
On this day
Sept. 22, 1981 — “First woman joins the Supreme Court” via The San Diego Union — The Senate, ending an all-male tradition nearly two centuries old, unanimously confirmed Sandra Day O’Connor as an associate justice of the Supreme Court. O’Connor, a 51-year-old Arizona state appeals judge, will be sworn in time to join the court for its 1981-1982 term opening. The vote was 99-0. After the vote, O’Connor appeared on the steps of the Capitol with Senate leaders, Vice President George Bush and Attorney General William French Smith. Grinning jubilantly, she said she was overjoyed by the depth of Senate support for her nomination.
Sept. 22, 1862 — “Abraham Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation” via History.com — President Lincoln issues a preliminary Proclamation, which set a date for the freedom of more than 3 million enslaved in the United States and recast the Civil War as a fight against slavery. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, shortly after Lincoln’s inauguration, he maintained that the war was about restoring the Union and not slavery. Lincoln avoided issuing an anti-slavery proclamation immediately, despite the urgings of abolitionists and radical Republicans and his personal belief slavery was morally repugnant. Instead, Lincoln chose to move cautiously until he could gain broad support from the public for such a measure.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch, compiled by Jacob Ogles, edited and assembled by Phil Ammann and Ryan Nicol.