Delegation for 11.28.23: Passing the plate — no charge — Libertarians — military microchips

U.S. Capitol Washington, D.C.
Vern Buchanan shakes the money tree for Mike Johnson.

Top dollar

Rep. Vern Buchanan’s Longboat Key estate has hosted fundraisers for former Speakers John Boehner and Kevin McCarthy.

Now, it’s the setting for Speaker Mike Johnson’s first major fundraiser since his elevation to leader of the House.

The Monday evening event raised $1.4 million. That’s a solid figure, even by Buchanan’s standards. He raised around $1.2 million at a similar event benefiting the National Republican Congressional Committee in March 2022 and pulled in $750,000 at another NRCC fundraiser in May 2021.

Vern Buchanan hosts Mike Johnson in Longboat Key. Image via Buchanan campaign.

A steady rise in goals coincided last year with Buchanan’s bid to become House Ways and Means Chair. While that effort ultimately fell short — the Committee gavel went to Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri while Buchanan became Vice Chair — it cemented the Longboat Key Republican’s reputation as a financial force in the House caucus.

That is, of course, precisely what Johnson needed after his unprecedented rise to power. Previously the Vice Chair of the GOP caucus, a 22-day leadership struggle after McCarthy’s historic ouster resulted in House Republicans choosing Johnson as leader.

But almost immediately, questions arose whether the mid-management leadership member had the fundraising chops to lead Republicans into what could be a difficult election cycle. Before Johnson secured the House gavel, he had only ever raised about $5.5 million over three terms in Congress. American Revival PAC, his leadership committee, raised a little more than $246,000 during the 2022 election cycle. His own House campaign last cycle raised less than $1.4 million.

By comparison, Buchanan raised more than $4.6 million last cycle for his re-election campaign and $4.2 million for the NRCC and Republican candidates for House around the country. That makes him the most successful fundraiser of any House Republican who doesn’t serve as part of leadership.

“It has been a challenge these past couple of months, but Speaker Mike Johnson is just the leader we need to get our country back on track,” Buchanan told event attendees. “We are thrilled to welcome him to the Sunshine State and honored that he chose Southwest Florida as his first stop as we work to expand the House majority.”

Florida’s wealthiest House member made Buchanan a natural choice for Johnson to turn to as he set to prove the caucus can raise the resources to compete.

The event also attracted Republicans in the state delegation to the Gulf Coast. U.S. Reps. Kat Cammack, Byron Donalds, Neal Dunn, Laurel Lee, Anna Paulina Luna, María Elvira Salazar and Greg Steube all attended.

The event also drew some House members from out of town, including U.S. Reps. Ronny Jackson of Texas, Dan Newhouse of Washington, Adrian Smith of Nebraska, and Ryan Zinke of Montana. Several Florida leaders, including former state Senate Presidents Jeff Atwater, Bill Galvano and Tom Lee, were spotted.

Buchanan also gave a tour earlier in the day to the Speaker at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, one of the fastest-growing airports in the country. Democrats scoffed at an appearance at a facilities expansion backed by a 2021 infrastructure package, a priority of President Joe Biden that neither Johnson nor Buchanan voted for. Rep. Kathy Castor called the appearance “awkward” and “shameful.”

But at the facility, Johnson focused his remarks on reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration. He also took a moment to affirm to Florida voters that the state wields significant influence in the House, even without full Chair positions.

“We’re cheering you along in Florida all-around the country because this is a bellwether for what happens in the rest of the nation,” Johnson said. “It gives us hope when a state is well led, and you have great leaders like Congressman Vern Buchanan and others. You have a great delegation of Republican members of Congress from Florida, and they are leaders in every respect in the chamber.”

Return to sender?

Thousands of Floridians on Social Security received a notice last week that they had been overpaid — and needed to return the money. Sen. Rick Scott said that’s not a price seniors in the country should have to shoulder.

The Naples Republican sent acting Social Security Administration Commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi a letter raising alarms on the “shockingly large sums of money” the federal government demanded from citizens.

Kilolo Kijakazi is hearing alarms on the “shockingly large sums of money” the feds demand from Americans.

“If anyone intentionally defrauded the system or lied to receive payments at other taxpayers’ expense, they should absolutely be held accountable and repay this debt to taxpayers,” Scott wrote. “But it’s completely wrong for the federal government to go after well-intentioned Americans who did all the right things and trusted that their government was doing the right thing, too.”

Scott said the administration must hold accountable whoever was responsible for $16 billion in overpayments over five years. He also sent a list of questions, including whether individuals can quickly alert the government if it realizes overpayments have occurred.

But he said the government should only seek refunds from people who received money thanks to government error.

“Hardworking American taxpayers pay into Social Security all of their lives so that they can depend on it in the time they need it most,” he wrote. “The fact that the SSA’s actions are leaving some of them worse off, through no fault of their own, is absolutely unacceptable.”

Libertarian Libertad

Recent elections in Argentina, where voters picked libertarian Javier Milei for President, brought a generally positive reception among Republicans in Florida’s delegation.

For Sen. Marco Rubio, the simple execution of a clean election brought promise.

The idea of secure ballots has led to the newly elected Argentine President Javier Milei. Image via AP.

“Congratulations to the people of Argentina on their peaceful and democratic elections. It is my hope that under the leadership of President-elect Javier Milei, Argentina and the United States will strengthen our bilateral relations,” the Miami Republican said. “By working closely together, we can crack down on narcotics trafficking, counter China’s influence in our hemisphere, and build prosperous communities in both of our countries. I look forward to strengthening our partnership with Argentina.”

Rep. Mike Waltz, a St. Augustine Republican, shared a video of Milei promising to eliminate a federal bureaucracy and cast it as an Argentine version of former President Donald Trump’s “Drain the Swamp” agenda.

Salazar, a Coral Gables Republican and former Spanish-language broadcaster, recalled an interview she conducted with Milei in 2020.

“I interviewed Milei in 2020 when he was a challenging economist. Today he was elected President of the Argentines and demonstrated that it is possible to defeat Socialism in Latin America,” she posted on X. “My congratulations to Argentina and my hug to the President-elect.”

Kissimmee chips

The Defense Department awarded Osceola County a Cornerstone award for its NeoCity effort, promising an initial investment of $2.65 million but laying options that could deliver $289 million to the region. The money will go toward developing next-generation microchips for the military.

Rep. Darren Soto cheered the investment in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

NeoCity gets a wave of federal funding.

“In FL-09, we are leading the way to develop next-generation aerospace microchips, create new high-paying jobs, and defend our nation,” the Kissimmee Democrat said. “We are proud to see Osceola County receive a Cornerstone Award by the U.S. Department of Defense contract to help our nation continue moving toward a strong, secure domestic semiconductor industry.”

The NeoCity mission launched about a decade ago, with tech and academic leaders joining with elected officials to create a 500-acre campus for high-end research. Kissimmee companies BRIDG and SkyWater Technology will be vital in executing the Defense Department contract.

“Through their public-private partnership with SkyWater and BRIDG, the county will have the opportunity to expand their state-of-the-art semiconductor packaging capabilities at NeoCity and establish Central Florida as a hub for this technology,” Soto said. “As work begins on projects funded through this contract, numerous high-quality jobs in research, development, manufacturing, and more will become available to Central Floridians and help keep our local economy strong.”

Osceola County Manager Don Fisher welcomed the announcement.

“We are creating new jobs and a highly skilled workforce as a result of the investment we made in infrastructure at NeoCity,” he said. “The DOD Cornerstone award is building on years of hard work and is another testament to the validity of our goals and the diligence of all of our partners to create new opportunities. This effort starts with our partnerships with the School District, Valencia College and the University of Central Florida. We are creating a pipeline like no other to allow our residents to enter the 21st-century workforce at a level few would have thought possible a few short years ago.”

No justice, no pleas

More than 20 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, one of its masterminds remains in U.S. custody and has yet to stand trial. Steube wants to ensure the long period doesn’t end with an unacceptable plea deal.

The Sarasota Republican filed legislation that would stop the Justice Department from reaching an arrangement with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or any conspirators involved in the 9/11 attacks that would eliminate a public trial or which would remove the threat of the death penalty.

A new bill would stop any agreement with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

“More than two decades after the horrific 9/11 hijackings, the trial of the 9/11 orchestrators must deliver justice for the families of nearly 3,000 victims and the survivors,” Steube said.

“Allowing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his accomplices to escape a public trial and capital punishment would represent a complete failure of this administration to hold accountable the terrorists responsible for one of the darkest days in American history. My legislation ensures that the Biden administration does not permit a plea deal for anyone responsible for 9/11. Justice must be served.”

Pretrial hearings took place earlier this month. At one point, Mohammed and the conspirators were expected to stand trial in January 2021, but the pandemic caused delays, and no current trial date has been set, according to The New York Times. Earlier this year, The Guardian reported prosecutors were considering a deal that would at least eliminate capital punishment as a potential trial outcome.

Frankel out of Progressive Caucus

Another wartime casualty in Israel seems to have emerged: Rep. Lois Frankel’s membership in the Progressive Caucus.

The Intercept first reported on the six-term West Palm Beach Democrat’s departure from the House Progressive Caucus.

Frankel was one of 22 Democrats to vote earlier this month to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan for what was considered anti-Israel comments. She was joined in that vote by her fellow Florida Democratic delegation members, Reps. Jared Moskowitz of Parkland, Soto of Orlando, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, and Frederica Wilson of Hollywood.

Lois Frankel says goodbye to the Progressive Caucus.

Soto and Wilson are still listed on the House Progressive Caucus website, as Frankel was as recently as a month ago.

Progressive Punch rates Frankel’s record as a “strong Dem” and puts her among the more progressive Democrats for her voting record. But the split reflects the progressive voting record caucus’ internal split over Middle Eastern affairs.

Frankel also split with the caucus earlier this month on a $14.3 billion aid package for Israel. Democrats largely voted against the aid package, which appears doomed in the Senate as it redirects funds for the Internal Revenue Service away from that agency and to aid Israel instead, but Frankel voted for it.

Cease-fire support

Support for Israel remains one of a handful of controversial-outside-Florida that still unifies the Florida delegation. That doesn’t mean some Democratic members missed an opportunity to welcome a brief cease-fire after six weeks of war in the Holy Land.

Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, a Miramar Democrat, cast the development as a diplomatic victory for the Biden administration.

“Since the devastating Oct. 7 terrorist attack, the Biden administration has worked tirelessly with our partners in the region in order to free the hostages taken by Hamas,” Cherfilus-McCormick said.

A cease-fire in Gaza is welcomed by some in the delegation. Image via AP/Abed Khaled.

“I am pleased that this deal allows for the release of at least 50 hostages, including Americans, while also providing the civilians in Gaza with needed humanitarian assistance. This deal is a testament to the tireless diplomacy and determination of the Biden administration to free all of the hostages held by Hamas while surging humanitarian aid into Gaza.”

Wilson, a Hollywood Democrat, offered similar sentiments but also emphasized that the violent conflict is far from over, and she remains in Israel’s corner.

“I’m also glad that much-needed aid will be allowed to flow into Gaza to address the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people,” she said. “While this deal does not mark the end of this conflict, we have taken a monumental step toward our shared goal of securing the release of the hostages held by Hamas. I thank the President for his instrumental role in brokering this agreement. As we acknowledge this progress, my unwavering support remains with Israel’s ongoing efforts to secure the release of all hostages still held by Hamas.”

Beauty in exile

The first Nicaraguan pageant queen was named Miss Universe, and Rep. María Elvira Salazar wants to give her a regal welcome to Washington. That, in no small part, can be attributed to Sheynnis Palacios’ outspokenness when criticizing Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s regime.

“Sheynnis and I share a commitment to fighting for democracy in Nicaragua. I would be delighted to host her in the capital of the free world,” Salazar wrote in an open invitation to Palacios.

Miss Nicaragua, Sheynnis Palacios, smiles after being crowned Miss Universe at the 72nd Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in San Salvador. Image via AP/Moises Castillo.

The pageant winner isn’t receiving such a cordial reception at home. After Nicaragua initially announced “joy and pride” over Palacios’ historic victory on the international runway, news emerged that she participated in pro-democracy protests in 2018 at the Jesuit University in Central America.

According to The Associated Press, it made Palacios a hero for the opposition and prompted Ortega to threaten to block her return to her home after the pageant.

But Salazar said Americans should embrace her status among the resistance of a socialist government. The Coral Gables Republican noted that 450,000 Nicaraguans now live in the U.S., many of them refugees. She represents about 30,000 Nicaraguans living in Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

Growing fire

Firehouse Strategies grew its workforce in Washington this month. The public affairs company welcomed Sarah Bartholomey as its new Director of Business Development and Diego Gomez as a project director.

Firehouse Strategies widens its D.C. footprint with Sarah Bartholomey.

Bartholomey previously managed clients for Edelman in its Washington office, while Gomez previously worked for Berman and Company and Echelon Insights.

Firehouse Strategies was founded by Alex Conant and Terry Sullivan, veterans of Rubio’s campaign and Senate teams.

“No matter what issues our clients may be facing, the rapidly growing Firehouse team stands ready to ensure their message wins the day,” reads an email blast announcing the hires.

New College notoriety

New College of Florida will have one of Florida’s top lobbying firms representing its interests.

Ballard Partners was hired to monitor federal education and infrastructure legislation, according to O’Dwyers, a public relations trade publication. The publication also reported Ballard Partners founder Brian Ballard and Daniel McFaul, a former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach, will handle lobbying duties for the New College Foundation.

New College gets some high-powered representation.

According to a plan Corcoran presented to the Board of Governors, the school just released a five-year plan and wants $400 million to pursue it. The university will pursue much of that at the state level, but hiring Ballard Partners for federal lobbying also signals an interest in seeking investment from Washington, D.C.

On this day

Nov. 28, 1914 — “New York Stock Exchange resumes bond trading” via History.com — The NYSE reopens after nearly four months, the most prolonged stoppage in the exchange’s history. The outbreak of World War I in Europe forced it to shut its doors after large numbers of foreign investors began selling their holdings in hopes of raising money for the war effort. All of the world’s financial markets followed suit. They closed their doors by Aug. 1. By the end of November, American officials decided to reopen because bond trading, albeit with restrictions designed to safeguard the American economy, could help prevent the financial ruin of the belligerent countries by raising money for the war effort.

Nov. 28, 1943 — “Big Three convene for Tehran Conference” via the Department of State — President Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin met in Iran, coordinated military strategy against Germany and Japan, and made several important decisions concerning the post-World War II era. The most notable achievements of the Conference focused on the subsequent phases of the war against the Axis powers in Europe and Asia. Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin engaged in discussions concerning the terms under which the British and Americans finally committed to launching Operation Overlord, an invasion of northern France, to be executed by May 1944.

Happy birthday

Best wishes to Sen. Rick Scott, who turns 71 on Friday, Dec. 1.

___

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

Ed. Note — There will be no Delegation this Friday.

Staff Reports


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Comments are closed.


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