Delegation for 10.31.23: Spooky — war — Mexico — speed boat — boos free

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America beats the drums of war.

Specter of war

The House is back in business, but a new effort to separate budget requests for foreign aid created fresh, partisan fissures.

Newly elected Speaker Mike Johnson announced last week he wants separate budget items on support for Israel and Ukraine.

That’s an approach contrary to the desires of President Joe Biden, who sent a supplemental budget request to Congress asking for the funding to be approved collectively. It’s also a different approach from both Democratic and Republican leadership in the Senate.

Mike Johnson seeks to separate funding for Israel and Ukraine.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat and ardent supporter of Israel, considered Johnson’s move folly.

“Support for defending Israel should not come with conditions, be it cutting foreign military financing by 30% or offsetting aid in a time of crucial need,” said Wasserman Schultz, Co-Chair of the Florida congressional delegation. “I am deeply disturbed by Speaker Johnson playing political games with Israeli emergency funding, something our nation has never done in a time of crisis.”

But some Republicans are insisting on the approach. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican who fought prior Speaker Kevin McCarthy primarily over a desire for separate appropriations bills, said he supports funding for Israel but not for Ukraine. At the very least, he said Congress should acknowledge different issues are at stake.

“Israel is a land with a 4,000-year connection to our faith,” he posted on X. “Ukraine is a former Soviet state. These are not the same thing and should be considered independently.”

One Florida Democrat, Rep. Jared Moskowitz, said he would vote for support for Israel in any fashion. But he mocked Johnson’s funding plan, particularly offsetting the cost of Israel aid by offsetting $14 billion in IRS funding, as political theater.

“An obvious trap set by unserious people,” the Parkland Democrat posted on X. “Was this in the Bible? To choose between Israel and the IRS. This is dead in the Senate. It violates Republicans’ single-subject spending rule. It adds to the deficit. Playing political games with Israel’s security. I will support Israel.”

Rep. Byron Donalds, a Naples Republican who vied for Speaker against Johnson, said he agrees with separate funding bills for the different conflicts.

“We have a responsibility to help Israel — our greatest Middle East ally,” he posted on X. “I believe our aid resolution to Israel (separate from Ukraine) will pass, and we’ll ensure that the funding is PAID FOR. Under Speaker Johnson, we’re also back to work and making significant progress on appropriations.”

Scaring Mexico

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced the nation will provide fuel as Cuba suffers an energy crisis. But Sen. Marco Rubio said that runs around the U.S. embargo. He wants the Biden administration to threaten sanctions against Mexico for enriching the Cuban regime.

In a lengthy Medium post, the Miami Republican said government leaders in Mexico have increasingly proven to be negligent, if not hostile, neighbors. Hosting a visit from both Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro for an immigration summit shows a willingness to work with America’s enemies. But the opening of fuel lines shows a total betrayal of U.S. interests.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador wants to gas up Cuba. Marco Rubio is not pleased.

“Mexico’s government has sold more than $200 million in oil to the Cuban regime over the course of 2023,” Rubio wrote, citing investigative reporting by Reuters. The Mexican government called the oil a humanitarian donation, though Obrador this month also acknowledged fuel was being sold to Cuba. That alone demands attention, Rubio said, but he also bristled as Obrador blamed an energy crisis on the island on a U.S. blockade.

“This is communist propaganda, plain and simple,” Rubio said. “The people of Cuba are actually suffering from six decades of illegitimate rule by an inhumane and unjust regime, whose brutal grip on power will only be strengthened by Mexican oil.”

Rubio said Mexican oil giant Perez finances much of its international trade through the U.S. Export and Import Bank. If that includes dealings with Cuba, it flatly defies existing sanctions that Rubio wants to be enforced.

“I urge President Joe Biden to make clear to President Obrador that the United States will not support an anti-American, communist dictatorship at its doorstep,” the Miami Republican said. “Moreover, I urge him to communicate that any attempt by Mexico to circumvent U.S. policy will be met with targeted sanctions on the sectors responsible.”

Boating boogeyman

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) abandoned any consideration of a boating speed limit of 10 knots in the Gulf of Mexico. The move follows months of lobbying by lawmakers in Florida’s congressional delegation.

Conservation groups had petitioned NOAA to enforce the rule to protect Rice’s whales, a recently discovered species living only in the Gulf. But NOAA said it will look at other steps to save the whales before limiting nautical activity.

The NOAA is considering slowing boat speeds to protect whales.

“We have concluded that fundamental conservation tasks, including finalizing the critical habitat designation, drafting a species recovery plan, and conducting a quantitative vessel risk assessment, are all needed before we consider vessel regulations,” NOAA announced in a release.

Sen. Rick Scott cheered the decision.

“This big win is a great step toward stopping Biden’s shortsighted rule impacting a huge portion of Florida’s Gulf Coast with ridiculous limitations on our military training in the area and threats of fines and prison time for Florida’s boaters and fishermen for going over 10 knots,” Scott said.

“For months, I’ve been calling on NOAA to reject this proposed rule, which was not based upon scientific research substantiating the proposed restrictions, and find a better way to look after the Rice’s Whale. As part of that, I made sure that the Senate version of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act included an assessment of the proposed rule’s impact on military activities and any negative impacts on U.S. national security and military preparedness in the Gulf of Mexico. While this news is great for Florida, the fight is not over. We cannot allow the Biden administration to continue putting Florida and our military readiness at risk, and I’ll use my position on the Senate Armed Services Committee to hold Biden accountable.”

The rule would have severely impacted commercial fishing, as well as training conducted in the Gulf by military installations based in the Florida Panhandle.

No boos here

Gaetz spent most of October hearing boos from both sides of the aisle. But the Fort Walton Beach Republican was met with cheers at a Monday campaign rally in Navarre.

The fourth-term Congressman welcomed a crowd of about 550 people, who heard from Gaetz and his father, former Florida Senate President and current state Senate candidate Don Gaetz. At the event, Matt Gaetz said the support in Florida’s 1st Congressional District not only keeps his seat safe but inspires him to fight.

Matt Gaetz finds a friendly crowd.

“In those tough moments in Washington, I could barely keep a food tester employed. I had three die on me last week,” he joked. “I go into those rooms, and sometimes they hate me and are mad at me and are cussing me. But what sustains me is the courage I see come through this community. And it is your prayers.”

The campaign stop marked a return home after a month in the spotlight after the Congressman led the first successful ouster of a U.S. House Speaker in history. Gaetz described Johnson as a man of faith and an experienced lawyer — an improvement on McCarthy, a California Republican.

The way Gaetz describes it, he felt McCarthy had betrayed the caucus in budget negotiations with Biden and a Democrat-controlled Senate. That’s why he decided to make a vacate motion, he told the crowd.

“Powerful people never give it away unless you take it,” he said.

Weird science

As a Congressman and physician, Rep. Neal Dunn hears stories of Florida residents with rare medical decisions requiring special care.

But Medicare and Medicaid won’t always cover the treatments.

For example, Candace Lerman, one of the Panama City Republican’s constituents, faced trouble getting coverage to treat Immune Thrombocytopenia, a condition impacting less than 1% of people worldwide.

Neal Dunn springs into action after hearing horror stories about treating rare medical conditions.

“When I needed my off-label drug for Immune Thrombocytopenia, I had to jump through several hoops,” Lerman said. “Insurance kept denying the treatment, not even sending it to the proper third-party reviewers. They kept trying to push me to take IVIg infusions every other week, which were not working and were (billed) at $175,000 per treatment.”

Hoping to make treatment easier to access, Dunn just introduced the Providing Realistic Opportunity to Equal and Comparable Treatment for Rare (PROTECT Rare) Act. The bipartisan bill would allow Medicare Part D and Medicaid to cover the use of drugs for off-label uses so long as medical literature indicated it was appropriate for treating rare afflictions.

“I hear from many of my constituents who fear that restrictions on off-label drugs threaten not only their quality of life but also their chance of survival. It is important that rare disease patients have access to proven courses of treatment that include off-label uses of drugs when no other viable treatment options exist,” Dunn said. “To ensure that these patients have access to appropriate care, Medicare and Medicaid must be given increased flexibility to cover such treatments if widely available research suggests their use is appropriate.”

He filed the bill with Republican Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania and Democratic Reps. Doris Matsui and Mike Thompson of California.

Lerman praised the legislation.

“There was also no formal PA or appeals process my doctor’s office could leverage. I ended up almost in critical care because my platelets dropped low enough to put me at serious risk of potentially fatal internal bleeding. Because this process took so long, it caused disease progression in a way that made recovery more difficult. Totally avoidable if we had proper protocols in place for rare disease patients to access off-label treatments. I applaud Dr. Dunn for the work he is leading on the Protect Rare Act. It can’t come soon enough.”

Haunting the Corps

An environmental budget bill in the House now includes funding to restore Florida’s beaches after the House passed an amendment filed by Rep. Anna Paulina Luna. The St. Petersburg Republican said the email effectively puts the Army Corps of Engineers on notice for neglecting Florida’s shoreline.

“I’ve battled the Army Corps since I came to Congress because it has failed to renourish Florida’s beaches and is forcing unnecessary and unattainable policies on our citizens,” Luna said. “This is a critical step forward toward ensuring the Corps stops playing political games with our beaches and property rights.”

Anna Paulina Luna puts the Army Corps of Engineers on notice about Florida beach renourishment.

Luna has jostled with the Army Corps over a renourishment project in Pinellas County. The effort has been held up as federal officials seek unanimous support from property owners to sign off on a public access easement. Earlier this year, she called for Congress to defund the salary of the Army Corps of Engineers Assistant Secretary Michael Connor over the matter.

Now, Luna’s amendment to the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act (HR 4394) puts the funding in place for projects to move forward. Luna said right now, nine Florida projects remain in stasis as the Army Corps “refuses to renourish our beaches without stripping property rights from every homeowner.”

Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, Co-Chair of the House Everglades Caucus, also praised the budget for including $425 million for Everglades funding, on top of the $6.3 million for the Corps to create an Operation and Maintenance Regional Sediment Management in Florida and along the nation’s coast.

The budget passed the measure in a 210-199 party-line vote. It now heads to the Democratic Senate.

Under covered

Democrats in the delegation say Florida has wrongly dropped nearly 700,000 Floridians off Medicare or Medicaid.

Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, led a letter from all Democrats in the delegation to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services asking the agency to help as many Floridians maintain coverage as possible.

“Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) has redetermined eligibility for over 2.2 million individuals since the end of the Medicaid continuous coverage requirement. Of the nearly 675,000 individuals who have been terminated from the program, 72% of them were for procedural reasons, not because the individual was no longer eligible for the program,” the letter states.

Kathy Castor seeks to slow the state’s roll on unregistering Floridians for Medicaid/Medicare.

The number includes almost 202,000 children dropped from the federal program, a shift happening as just over 25,000 children get absorbed by Florida’s KidCare program.

“While the state claims that it is doing the ex-parte determination process correctly, there are numerous stories of children losing coverage inappropriately,” the letter reads. “Any gap in children’s health coverage can result in children missing needed care and puts families at risk of medical debt — which remains a leading cause of bankruptcy.”

The letter notes the unenrollment resulted in several legal challenges but said the onus for mistakes should fall on the state, not hundreds of thousands of patients.

“Florida is the only state in the country that has not taken advantage of any of a range of flexibilities offered by CMS to help states process the historic volume of renewals and application determinations on a timely basis,” the letter continues. “The evidence all points to a colossal abdication of responsibility for the well-being of Florida families by the Governor and state officials. We strongly encourage CMS to investigate any and all remedies for Florida families and avenues to direct the state to comply with all federal rules and regulations regarding Medicaid redetermination.”

Treating the neighborhood

After Hurricane Ian, Rep. Greg Stuebe said he had to ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for waivers so a half dozen mobile home parks could receive the support that individual homeowners received.

Now, the Sarasota Republican wants a change in law to treat all communities of similar interests in disaster relief as a standard policy.

Steube filed the Clean Up Disasters and Emergencies with Better Recovery and Immediate Support (Clean Up DEBRIS) Act. The legislation would allow housing cooperatives, condominiums, and mobile homes to access the same benefits as other homeowners.

Greg Stube stands tall for equity among homeowners who survived a disaster.

“After Hurricane Ian, our mobile home parks, condos, co-ops, and HOAs were left to deal with excessive debris throughout their communities through no fault of their own,” Steube said. “My office spent countless hours advocating to FEMA on behalf of communities in my district as we worked through reimbursement issues surrounding debris removal. Last year, we were able to secure several policy waivers from FEMA to help our commercial mobile home and manufactured housing parks get the federal assistance they needed to recover from Ian.

“My legislation, the Clean Up DEBRIS Act, will ensure FEMA provides debris removal assistance to privately owned communities in the aftermath of all major disasters without the need for waivers or special approval. This bill will provide a swift correction to a long, burdensome government process that communities shouldn’t be forced to navigate during storm recovery.”

The legislation quickly gained support from Sarasota County Emergency Services, which worked with every mobile home park Steube secured waivers for last year.

“This is about providing access to vulnerable populations in homes that are most vulnerable to storms and impacts from disasters,” said Rich Collins, Sarasota County Government Director of Emergency Services.

“It allows Sarasota County to take care of the community by providing assistance quickly through debris pick up in manufactured home communities and to support those situations when the parks and associations that manage the properties do not have the insurance or capability to handle the magnitude of debris pick up and support needed to care for the community. This change would ultimately allow for faster recovery. They may, through various legal descriptions, be called commercial, but to the citizen who lives there, it’s called home.”

Bringing home candy

A water installation at the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. U.S. Courthouse in Miami should soon flow again.

Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Hollywood Democrat, secured $3 million to provide for the repairs of the water installation that had been shut down since 2017, according to a news release from her office.

The building is the first federal courthouse in Florida named after an African American official. Judge Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. was the first African American to serve as a Circuit Judge in Miami-Dade County and on the 3rd District Court of Appeal. As a federal judge, he was hailed as a champion of civil rights for the underrepresented.

Miami’s famous federal courthouse is getting a much-needed repair.

The courthouse recently established another place in history — the first one where a U.S. President was arraigned on federal charges.

Donald Trump made history in the sleek glass-and-steel structure in June when he was presented with charges related to his mishandling of classified documents.

Chinese spooks

The Florida Highway Patrol last week apprehended 17 Chinese nationals illegally entering the U.S. by boat in Key Largo. Now, Rep. Carlos Giménez has sounded alarms on the potential trafficking of spies into America through Cuba.

“I’m proud to serve on the Armed Services Committee, Homeland Security Committee, and the new Select Committee on China and have requested additional information from all federal agencies involved,” the Miami-Dade Republican said. “In Congress, I have fought the Biden administration’s shortsighted border policies that have endangered our country and impacted our South Florida community.”

Carlos Giménez decries the arrival of Chinese ‘spies’ in Key Largo.

Florida officials also blamed lax policies by the administration. “While the Biden administration has completely failed at border security, our Florida Highway Patrol troopers stand ready to protect the U.S. border, whether in the southwestern United States or here off the coast of Florida,” said Highway Patrol Executive Director Dave Kerner. “This detention of Chinese nationals shows how an open border allows individuals from enemy nations to enter our communities.”

Giménez told the Daily Mail he’s most concerned about the plans for the Chinese individuals entering the U.S.

“That really kind of concerns me that now they’re trying to make their way in through the Keys — my part of the country,” he said. “I understand that the Chinese are having more and more influence. More and more infrastructure projects, more and more activity in our hemisphere, especially in Cuba.”

On this day

Oct. 31, 1968 — “Johnson halts bombing in Vietnam” via WNYC — President Johnson announced the bombing operation in North Vietnam, known as Operation Rolling Thunder, will halt in anticipation of peace talks in Paris between South and North Vietnam. He asserted the U.S. does not recognize the National Liberation Front, though they will be in attendance and the U.S. has no intention of dictating the future of the people of South Vietnam. Johnson cautioned Americans to be wary of promises made by North Vietnam and asked for support in what he expects will be a lengthy and deliberate process. He mentions his refusal to seek another term with reassurances he is working with each candidate to keep them equally informed.

Oct. 31, 1776 — “King George III speaks for first time since American independence declared” via History.com — In his first speech before the British Parliament since leaders of the American Revolution signed the Declaration of Independence, King George acknowledged all was not going well for Britain in the war. The king spoke about the revolutionary leaders, saying, “For daring and desperate is the spirit of those leaders, whose object has always been dominion and power, that they have now openly renounced all allegiance to the crown, and all political connection with this country.” The king went on to inform Parliament of the triumphant British victory over General George Washington at the Battle of Long Island.

Happy birthday

Best wishes to Rep. María Elvira Salazar, who turns 62 on Wednesday, Nov. 1.

___

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


4 comments

  • Julia

    October 31, 2023 at 3:28 pm

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  • Alexandra Zakhvatayev

    October 31, 2023 at 3:54 pm

    One should look into the CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS FROM RUSSIA THAT MIKE JOHNSON ACCEPTED —- and see if BYRON ACCEPTED TOO! – https://www.newsweek.com/house-speaker-mike-johnson-donations-russia-butina-1838501

    aside from PROLONGING AND DELAYS , WHY does Speaker Mike Johnson & Rep. Byron Donalds want to split UKRAINE AID from ISRAEL AID?

    THEY ERRONEOUSLY CLAIM that 1) the issues are not related and 2) that the only way members will vote on the package is if it’s bundled together.
    THEY’RE WRONG BECAUSE 1) the issues ARE related and 2) AN OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of AMERICANS support aid to UKRAINE & ISRAEL and A BIPARTISAN MAJORITY of Congress supports aid to UKRAINE & ISRAEL.

    we need leaders who UNDERSTAND THESE NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUES!

    the ONLY reason why members such as MIKE JOHNSON and BYRON DONALDS want to split the aid is because TO THEM, it’s more important NOT to help UKRAINE than to HELP ISRAEL!

    These members think that- just because THEY don’t know what victory or strategy in Ukraine is— that one must not exist at all.

    These members think that they’re fiscally conservative – meanwhile for only 3-5% of US BUDGET, we can help prevent a BIGGER WAR IN EUROPE!

    These members DON’T ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT ACCOUNTABILITY, if they did, they’d have voted for the OVERSIGHT MEASURES 3 weeks ago.

    We CANNOT TRUST these members to deliver on their PROMISES once their DEMANDS ARE MET.

    IT IS a FALSE DILEMMA to call for the BIFURCATION of UKRAINE AID from ISRAEL AID.

    CONGRESS RIGHT NOW MUST PASS THE ISRAEL-UKRAINE AID PACKAGE, AS WELL AS THE OVERSIGHT SUPPLEMENTAL PACKAGE TO UKRAINE. CONGRESS MUST FULLY STAND WITH BOTH OUR ALLIES…ISRAEL & UKRAINE… AND FULL SEND SUPPORT IN TIME OF WAR

    https://youtu.be/Le4SVuZ6Gsc

  • Alexandra Zakhvatayev

    October 31, 2023 at 4:04 pm

    I am a republican constituent of BYRON DONALDS. I have taken more time to explain to our constituency the issues of Ukraine than our CONGRESSMAN has.

    You see, Donalds hasn’t made us happy back home. In spite of Fox News gassing up their “rising star”, (which i would liken more to a “hot air balloon” ready to burst any second), his bid for speaker was presented back home as “assurance” this would be political suicide and that he could never go on to become governor. What a way to subdue opposition. Yet still, his activities are so unpopular in Congress, that he’s already eyeing an exit plan for a gubernatorial bid, which I cannot safely say will be viable for him, as our district has so long craved a more long-term incumbent. IF you follow the press activity, the public opinion has grown more and more outspoken against him, in contrast to the popular headlines he may garner through big news agencies. And lastly, there is that one stain that will bring him down, the dying politic of Donald Trump– its no secret Byron is on the phone with Trump all of the time, in fact he brags about it.But I know Byron’s district. Here in southwest florida – we have the fastest growing population with the most republican to democrat per capita in Florida, and Naples is the most wealthiest city per capita in the entire country, a group of people who tend to be concerned with foreign policy. But Donalds is too disconnected to understand this. I can tell you that outside of the TRump republican social club, most of the voters – including republicans – whom I regularly speak to here are ready to reject Trump — its not a basket we’re really interested in putting our eggs in.

    BYRON DONALDS IS A HIPPOCRITE AND THREAT TO OUR NATIONAL SECURITY INTERESTS , DELAYING AID AND MAKING QUID PRO QUOS DURING FOREIGN WARS THAT TAXPAYERS ARE VESTED IN —- PLUS HIS DISINGENUOUS REFUSAL TO SUPPORT UKRAINE AS OUR US ALLY

  • Alexandra Zakhvatayev

    October 31, 2023 at 4:23 pm

    EXCUSE ME! I said for 3 – 5 % US BUDGET Ukraine can defeat Russia —- I actually meant to say for 3 – 5 % US MILITARY BUDGET (key word MILITARY) —- see the info yourself, https://news.yahoo.com/ukraine-used-3-us-defense-203500822.html

    This is no- brainer people – Byron Donalds has failed us as a legislator. he needs to get out of Congress fast and we can only hope he doesn’t go to the governors mansion

Comments are closed.


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