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New Sheriff in town
A 22-day saga finally ended this week with the election of a new Speaker of the House.
The Florida congressional delegation predictably broke along partisan lines on whether new Speaker Mike Johnson would serve as a uniting force during internal feuding or move the entire chamber onto a hard-right path.
On Wednesday, Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, became the first Speaker candidate this year to win the support of all 20 GOP lawmakers representing Florida in the House.
Fernandina Beach Republican Rep. Aaron Bean said Johnson was a worthy choice and well-suited to bring the GOP conference back on track.
“Mike has the conservative credentials, fortitude, and the determination to lead this body to accomplish the work our constituents sent us here to do,” Bean said. “Under his leadership, we will restore our economic prosperity, secure our border, rein in government abuse and fight for our fundamental freedoms.”
But Democratic lawmakers see Johnson as divisive, suggesting he would hurt Congress in the long haul.
Just as all House Republicans united behind a Speaker for the first time in the 118th Congress, Democrats stood behind Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.
Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, called Johnson a particularly poor alternative.
“Speaker Johnson’s record is very concerning for my Tampa Bay neighbors as he has voted to gut Social Security and Medicare, criminalize abortion, repeal marriage equality and abandon our allies,” Castor said. “Johnson was intimately involved in the effort to throw out fairly-cast votes in (the) 2020 Election, which should be disqualifying to serve as Speaker.”
Similarly, Rep. Lois Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat, said the House handed the gavel to MAGA extremism and pointed to the Johnson-led but Supreme Court-rejected legal challenge to President Joe Biden’s election as proof.
“Mike Johnson was a central architect of the former President’s dangerous, shameful effort to overturn the 2020 Election, has supported numerous bills to ban abortion nationwide and proposed a budget to cut Social Security benefits,” Frankel said. “With my House Democrats, I remain committed to putting People Over Politics — working to lower everyday costs, defend reproductive freedom, and protect our national security.”
Republicans have the majority, and Johnson secured the gavel as the first lawmaker capable of winning over every GOP member.
In a late-night conference vote Tuesday, Johnson handily beat Naples Republican Rep. Byron Donalds, as more write-in votes came in to reinstate ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy than for the only Florida lawmaker to step up to the plate.
While Donalds rallied a good deal of support from Florida lawmakers in his bid, all delegation Republicans were willing to move into Johnson’s camp. That’s saying something, as eight of Florida’s 20 House Republicans at some point refused to support the prior four GOP conference choices for Speaker.
Most notably, Rep. Matt Gaetz refused in January to support installing McCarthy in the first place, and he made the motion earlier this month to vacate, effectively firing McCarthy as Speaker.
“If it took 22 days to take the gavel away from Kevin McCarthy and give it to Mike Johnson, those are the 22 most productive days that we have had in the 118th Congress, Gaetz said on his podcast, “because we not only have our man but we have a plan for how to reduce spending,” Gaetz said on his podcast.
A decision by some chapters of Black Lives Matter (BLM) to support Palestinians — sometimes with graphic imagery of open celebrations for Hamas attacks on civilians — has Sen. Marco Rubio calling for a change in name for a Washington park.
The Miami Republican sent a letter to Miami Mayor Muriel Bowser demanding the city rename Black Lives Matter Plaza, an area in front of the White House given its current moniker in 2020 amid the George Floyd protests.
Rubio referenced an image shared by the BLM Chicago chapter showing a paraglider with a Palestinian flag, a direct reference to the attack on an Israeli music festival, and a post by the Washington, D.C., chapter of BLM saying Israel is guilty of apartheid.
“These posts are meant to delegitimize Israel and rationalize brutal attacks on the Jewish people. It is hard to escape the conclusion that these statements are motivated by an ugly animus against the Jewish people,” the letter reads.
“BLM Grassroots said the Hamas attack ‘must not be condemned but understood’ as resistance to ‘75 years of settler colonialism and apartheid.’ Those 75 years account for the entire existence of the Jewish state. You stated after the attacks that you ‘reject terrorism in all its forms’ and that ‘antisemitism has no place in our institutions, our country, our world or our hearts.’ We wholeheartedly agree with this statement. We further believe that movements that celebrate violent antisemitism should not be honored by the government with a plaza, especially one located directly outside of our nation’s White House.”
Sen. Rick Scott, a Naples Republican, co-signed the letter. So did Republican Reps. Scott Franklin, John Rutherford and Michael Waltz.
This week, Scott called for the Senate to immediately pass a significant aid package to support Israel in its fight with Hamas. But he said Congress should reject a demand by Biden also to pass support for Ukraine.
The White House wants Congress to take up a $106 billion combined package.
“The Senate needs to vote on aid for Israel now — by itself. Everyone in Washington knows that what the President has proposed will never pass in the House,” Scott said. “It is unserious and needs to be discarded and moved on from. Americans should be disgusted that President Biden and Washington’s ruling class continue to use crisis after crisis to push massive spending packages for issues that have no business being voted on together.”
While Scott has personally supported Ukraine in defending itself from a Russian invasion, he said the Biden proposal ties too much together, knowing Ukraine has mixed levels of support in the House.
“There is overwhelming bipartisan support for Israel, and we can get an aid package passed in the Senate quickly,” Scott said.
“The same cannot be said about Biden’s asks on Ukraine aid, which is far broader than just lethal aid to defeat (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, or his horrific idea to give billions to bail out sanctuary cities and push policies that actually make the raging national security crisis on the border even worse. Needlessly delaying this action in search of some doomed grand bargain only hurts the United States, our ally Israel and the urgent mission to rescue the Americans being held hostage in Gaza by Iran-backed Hamas.”
Next Israel ambassador?
Rubio has also been a steadfast Israel supporter but has a different gripe with Biden’s handling of relations with the country. He said he will oppose Biden’s pick for U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Jack Lew.
Florida’s senior Senator voted against Lew’s nomination at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and intends to do so again on the floor.
“America’s next ambassador to Israel must stand unequivocally with our strongest Middle East ally in the wake of barbaric attacks by Iranian-backed Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists,” Rubio said. “The United States must be represented by a person of utmost integrity, sound judgment, and a track record of excellence.”
Lew served as Treasury Secretary under former President Barack Obama, working on a controversial treaty with Iran that Rubio opposed at the time.
Given ties between Iran and Hamas, Rubio said that history proves especially intolerable now and that a U.S. representative to Israel must stand against Iran.
“After (a) thorough review of Mr. Lew’s qualifications record, including his history of misleading and lying to Members of Congress,” Rubio said, “I will not support his nomination for this critical post.”
Lew told the Senate Committee he holds no sympathy for Iran, calling the nation an “evil, malign government.” The Committee advanced him on a 12-9 vote, with one Republican member supporting his appointment.
Having already ousted a Speaker, is Gaetz now gunning for the leader of the Air Force?
The Fort Walton Beach Republican wrote to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, accusing him of prioritizing diversity initiatives over recruiting more cadets.
“Under former President Donald Trump’s 2020-21 recruiting policies, the (Department of the Air Force) hit its staffing and recruiting goal. Contrast that with last year under the Biden Administration, where the Army, Navy, and Air Force fell short of their recruiting goals,” Gaetz wrote.
“The DAF is a key contributor to the misapplication of defense priorities, with DEI memoranda that send command signals to recruit a certain number of Americans based on superficial characteristics, like race or sex. According to your memo, the DAF sought to recruit in FY 2022 8.5% Black men, 4.5% Black females, 6.5% Asian men, and 0.5% Native American females.”
He alleged the entire Department of Defense had become an “echo chamber” engaged in a “social experiment.”
The argument comes a few months after Gaetz and Scott sounded alarms on the possible relocation of Special Operations Command away from Florida’s Panhandle. However, the Air Force just announced a move of about 600 of 9,000 service member positions to Arizona over five years.
Congress could keep red snapper season going this year instead of allowing federal agencies to declare a short period for fishing.
The House Natural Resources Committee advanced a bill sponsored by Rutherford that would prevent the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from shutting down snapper fishing in the South Atlantic.
The Jacksonville Republican is critical of shortening seasons for fishing, which severely impacts the fishing economy on Florida’s Atlantic coast. Last year, Rutherford secured federal funding to conduct a detailed count on fish populations, the South Atlantic Great Red Snapper Count, and he wants any close-to-season delayed until after that study is complete.
“The Red Snapper Act will address long-standing management concerns held by thousands of anglers across Florida and the South Atlantic and will help support our nation’s local economies,” Rutherford said. “In Florida’s 5th Congressional District alone, the recreational fishing industry supports nearly 4,500 local jobs. Florida’s anglers deserve dependable access to red snapper fishing. I am grateful to House Natural Resources Committee Chair Bruce Westerman, committee members, co-sponsors, and advocates for their role in moving this legislation forward.”
Fishing organizations heralded the legislation, as did the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) thanks Congressman Rutherford for his leadership on this legislation,” said Jessica McCawley, director of FWC’s Division of Marine Fisheries Management. “The snapper-grouper fishery is both popular and economically important to the state of Florida and has been for generations, so it is critical that fishery managers have the most current and independent data before making management decisions. The Red Snapper Act will prevent closures until all the necessary data has been analyzed; this is great, conservation-centered policy.”
Most people who die in hurricanes are senior citizens. Now, Reps. Maxwell Frost and Daniel Webster want to review what can be done to prevent those deaths.
The Fixing Gaps in Hurricane Preparedness Act would task NOAA with conducting a review on how to communicate storm preparedness to certain populations better.
The legislation focuses on how better to meet the needs of seniors, people with disabilities, non-English speakers, and rural and urban populations.
“With Florida and our people on the front lines of worsening hurricanes and storms, the Fixing Gaps in Hurricane Preparedness Act will help pave the way for new steps that will help protect the most at-risk folks from the worst of a natural disaster,” said Frost, an Orlando Democrat.
“Our emergency communications and preparations systems need to meet Floridians where they are at — whether you’re a senior, someone living with a disability, or a non-English speaker — you deserve to have the knowledge and tools necessary to protect yourself from a hurricane, and this bill does just that.”
Webster, a Clermont Republican, said it’s crucial to improve outreach ahead of disasters reaching communities.
“As Floridians, we are not strangers to the terrible power and ravages of hurricanes and tropical storms, and we recognize the need for emergency relief when such tragedies occur,” Webster said.
“In the wake of natural disasters, seniors, people with disabilities and those in rural areas are often most vulnerable. The Fixing Gaps in Hurricane Preparedness Act will help federal agencies evaluate how these harder-to-reach populations receive emergency notifications and identify shortcomings to improve preparedness and assure that assistance will swiftly reach those at the time of need.”
Frost and Webster represent neighboring Central Florida districts. They also serve on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. That committee seeks to reauthorize the Weather Act, which improves forecasting technology. The Florida lawmakers would like to see the language of the bill added to that bipartisan legislation as an amendment, or they would like the bill passed independently on its own.
The House Natural Resources Committee also approved a measure filed by Rep. Anna Paulina Luna.
The St. Petersburg Republican filed an amendment to the Sea Turtle Rescue Assistance Act (HR 2560). The legislation seeks to establish a grant program to recover, care for and treat stranded sea turtles and would fund research on turtles. Luna said the original legislation limited access to funding for rehabilitation programs, including any efforts based in Florida. Her amendment would expand who could access the granting.
“Florida offers state-of-the-art rehabilitation programs to help care for stranded sea turtles, who already face endangerment. In fact, many sea turtles who are rescued across the United States are sent to us for care,” Luna told Florida Politics.
“I’m very proud that my amendment was passed because it will allow Florida to have more access to funding so we can continue rehabilitating stranded turtles. This is a huge win for our state and, of course, all our beautiful sea turtles who will benefit as a result.”
A cool $106 million just blew in Florida’s direction to help low-income families pay utility bills or put HVAC systems in their homes.
The Health and Human Services Department announced the grant through its Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Members of the Florida delegation see the award as a significant win for families who suffered through a record hot summer.
“LIHEAP funding has been a lifeline for South Florida families, ensuring all our residents feel safe and can escape scorching temperatures, especially during scorching heat waves that seem to get hotter and last longer every year,” said Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Hollywood Democrat. “I’m thankful to the Biden Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services for helping Florida families have the support they need to stay cool, safe and secure. With these critical funds, we’re not just providing financial relief; we’re offering peace of mind to Floridians when they most need it.”
Much of the funding, $100 million worth, comes precisely from money funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a Biden administration priority.
“Florida families should never have to choose between living in extreme heat or putting food on the table, but that’s exactly the choice too many working people are facing in our state,” Frost said. “Over $100 million coming to Florida means warmer winters, cooler summers, and safer homes for low-income households, particularly those with seniors, individuals with disabilities, and young children. Thanks to President Biden and our Democratic colleagues in Congress, Florida families are going to see their energy costs go down and their quality of living go up.”
Vaping has seeped into the culture, but before enough research was done on the health impacts of e-cigarettes.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz wants to step up studies better to understand the impact of tobacco delivery on adolescent brains. She reintroduced the Preventing Opportunities for Teen E-Cigarette and Tobacco Addiction (PROTECT) Act in the House.
“The profit-driven, predatory drive to hook America’s young people on e-cigarettes and tobacco products demands an aggressive counterattack, and this bill would arm parents, health care providers, schools and policymakers with the vital tools we need to defeat the perils children face with this ongoing epidemic,” the Weston Democrat said.
“Through research, guidance and messaging, this legislation would develop targeted strategies to aggressively address the dangers caused by e-cigarettes. At all costs, we need to ensure our young people do not become addicted to these harmful products. I am proud to help lead this important legislation that takes a bold step toward addressing this urgent public health issue.”
The legislation would authorize the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to spend $500 million over the next five years on research and education about the effects of tobacco products. Beyond science, the money can be used to research effective messaging to keep teenagers away from vapes.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, filed the companion bill in the Senate.
“JUUL, Puff Bar, and other e-cigarette manufacturers have taken a page right out of Big Tobacco’s playbook, using deceptive marketing tactics and preying on impressionable youth by promoting extravagant flavors and products,” he said. “By improving research, education, and outreach, the PROTECT Act would equip the CDC as well as states and localities with the funds and tools necessary to protect young people from the e-cigarette industry’s manipulative practices.”
Climate tech hub
The Commerce Department announced 31 tech hubs across the country will be eligible to compete for Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs funding. That includes the South Florida Climate Resilience Tech Hub, led by the Miami-Dade Innovation and Economic Development Office and help efforts in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Rep. María Elvira Salazar, a Coral Gables Republican, cheered the decision.
“Miami is ground zero for sea-level rise, and we continue to lead the charge in developing resilient infrastructure,” Salazar said. “Miami is home to more than 100 tech companies. We attract world-class talent and researchers — the establishment of a Tech Hub in Miami ensures we continue leading in innovation and technological advancement, while creating new jobs, growing our economy, and promoting national security.”
Salazar has pushed to create the National Resilience Strategy through the National Climate Adaptation and Resilience Act and recognizes the tech hub in her district as a critical step. The South Florida tech hub will focus on developing, commercializing, and scaling critical coastal infrastructure.
On this day
Oct. 27, 1810 — “James Madison annexes West Florida” via the Warfare History Network — President Madison issued a proclamation in Washington giving former Mississippi Gov. William Claiborne the go-ahead to take possession of West Florida as part of the New Orleans territory. The proclamation read in part: “I … have deemed it right and requisite that possession should be taken of the said territory in the name and on behalf of the United States.” The French reaction to the President’s annexation announcement was swift. General Louis Turreau, French ambassador to the United States, called in Secretary of State Robert Smith for urgent talks, but Smith smoothly denied any U.S. participation. Madison’s covert operation to annex East Florida came without the consent or knowledge of Congress.
Oct. 27, 1978 — “Jimmy Carter signs measure to curb unemployment” via The Washington Post — At a White House ceremony crowded with labor, civil rights and other liberal political leaders, President Carter signed the Humphrey-Hawkins “full employment” legislation but used the occasion to focus attention as much on inflation as joblessness. Carter’s use of the signing ceremony to drum up support for the administration’s new anti-inflation plan was a final symbol of the changes the legislation went through before finally gaining the President’s support late last year. The bill, in its original form, would have committed the federal government to reduce overall unemployment to 3%, required massive new job programs to reach that goal and instituted comprehensive national economic planning.
Best wishes to Rep. Byron Donalds, who turns 45 on Saturday, Oct. 28.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch, compiled by Jacob Ogles, edited and assembled by Phil Ammann and Ryan Nicol.