Delegation for 12.5.23: Goodbye Santos — bad call — contagion — sun power
Dark storm clouds above the US Capitol building in Washington DC

Dark storm clouds above the US Capitol in Washington DC
Farewell George Santos!

Hey, hey goodbye

The expulsion of Rep. George Santos from the U.S. House divided Republicans in the House Delegation. While a 311-114 bipartisan vote left the New York Republican without a job, 14 Florida Republicans voted against the move and just six joined Democrats in voting to snuff Santos.

Rep. Kat Cammack, a Gainesville Republican, stressed in a statement that her vote against expelling Santos was not a defense of him. Last month, the House Ethics Commission released a report finding Santos deceived donors and voters about his background, stole from his campaign and reported several fictitious loans.

Time to go, George Santos.

“I am appalled by Mr. Santos’ alleged actions. Members of Congress should hold themselves to the highest standard and Mr. Santos has failed on that accord,” Cammack posted on X. “However, expelling a Member of Congress over actions that are still playing out in the legal system sets a dangerous new precedent in the House of Representatives. My vote today is a reflection of the belief that the American people have a right to determine more — not less — of what happens in Washington; that includes their choice of representation in Washington.”

Not everyone felt that way.

Rep. John Rutherford, a Jacksonville Republican who serves on the Ethics Committee’s Investigative Subcommittee, said overwhelming evidence proved Santos unfit to serve.

“I believe we have a duty and a responsibility to the American public to uphold the integrity of this institution and hold a rule-breaker accountable,” Rutherford said. “Rep. Santos is entitled to due process in his criminal prosecution and will have his day in court. As a Member of the House, however, he must be held accountable to the highest standards of conduct in order to safeguard the public’s faith in this institution. The Constitution charges the House with policing the behavior of its own members, and the House should take whatever action it deems appropriate in light of the ISC’s findings.”

All Democrats in the Florida delegation voted to expel Santos and showed no qualms about it.

“The House Ethics Committee — a bipartisan Committee with nonpartisan staff — investigated Rep. Santos and found substantial evidence of federal crimes along with unethical behavior that was completely unacceptable for a Member of Congress, which is why I voted to expel him,” said Rep. Lois Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat.

But many Republican Party members questioned driving Santos out right at this moment. Democrats took note that included some Republicans in swing districts like Reps. Anna Paulina Luna, a St. Petersburg Republican, and María Elvira Salazar, a Miami Republican.

He’s only the sixth House member in history to face expulsion. Rep. Cory Mills released a video noting that three were kicked out of the chamber when their states seceded in the Civil War. Still, the other two were not expelled until they were convicted of criminal acts.

“We set a very dangerous precedent in America when this institution is allowed to expel and play judge, jury and executioner on someone who had not yet had their constitutional rights to have their day in court,” the Winter Park Republican said.

But Rep. Daniel Webster, a Clermont Republican, said the House had offered plenty of due process. While he has pushed back on premature expulsion efforts, Webster said he voted to kick Santos out of the House this time.

“Because of the lack of due process, I have voted against previous attempts to expel Rep. George Santos. However, the House Ethics Committee has now completed (its) investigation. Congressman Santos refused multiple opportunities to provide evidence or testimony clearing his name,” Webster said. “The detailed evidence, unanimously assembled by the bipartisan Ethics Committee, outlines numerous times that Congressman George Santos broke the law.”

Stop the spread

A respiratory illness has once again surfaced in China, according to Reuters. Sen. Marco Rubio said the U.S. needs to shut down travel with the eastern nation — this time before a local virus becomes a pandemic.

The Miami Republican sent a letter to President Joe Biden co-signed by four GOP colleagues, including Sen. Rick Scott, which called for travel restrictions immediately. The letter notes that a travel ban on China in January 2020 was among those restrictions imposed by former President Donald Trump that Democrats decried, with Biden calling the move xenophobic.

A new respiratory illness is emerging from China.

“But history and common sense show his decision was the right one,” the letter reads.

Rubio said he does not trust the World Health Organization to offer advice that isn’t biased in China’s favor.

“The WHO has requested that the (Chinese Communist Party) share ‘detailed information’ about the mystery illness. However, CCP has an incentive to lie, just as they did throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and any new virus could derail its efforts to stimulate its economy,” the letter states.

“Besides, we should not wait for the WHO to take action, given its track record of slavish deference to the CCP. We must take the necessary steps to protect the health of Americans and our economy. That means we should immediately restrict travel between the United States and the PRC until we know more about the dangers posed by this new illness. A ban on travel now could save our country from death, lockdowns, mandates, and further outbreaks later.”

On the House side, Rep. Carlos Giménez similarly called for travel restrictions.

“Four years after the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the world, there is a mysterious new respiratory illness once again spreading in China. During the coronavirus pandemic, the CCP’s lies and lack of transparency regarding the disease and its origin robbed the U.S. of vital knowledge and hampered our ability to respond,” Giménez told Fox News.

“Communist China cannot be trusted. Until more is known about this mysterious illness, we must immediately ban all travel between Communist China and the United States to guard our public health and protect our country.”

Bad call

Scott followed up scathing criticism of the decision to exclude Florida State University from this year’s College Football Playoff with a letter demanding the Selection Committee hand over detailed information on its decision.

Florida State coach Mike Norvell joins the state in asking WTF?

FSU had an undefeated season and won the Atlantic Coast Conference in a defensive slugfest, even though the team relied on its third-string quarterback. However, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee bumped FSU from its No. 4 slot in the playoff rankings to fifth, ensuring FSU will not compete for the national championship.

Scott sent a letter to Boo Carrigan, the head of the Selection Committee, where the Florida Senator asked for “total transparency from the Committee regarding how this decision was reached and what factors may have been at play in reaching this outcome.”

“While I doubt the Committee’s decision will be reversed to rightly reward FSU for its hard-fought, undefeated season as the Committee has done for other undefeated Power Five conference champions in recent years, I do believe that total transparency regarding how this decision was reached would do tremendous good for the Committee, the CFP as a whole, and the college football community,” Scott wrote.

Rep. Neal Dunn, a Panama City Republican representing FSU, voiced anger at the playoff committee and supported the Seminoles. He notes this slight comes after the NCAA refused a waiver for defensive tackle Darrell Jackson Jr. to take the field after transferring to FSU to be near his ailing mother.

“College football failed Florida State University. It’s a shame that an undefeated team, who earned every bit of their perfect season, won’t even get a shot in the College Football Playoffs. What does college football have against Florida State and Tallahassee?” Dunn said.

“Make no mistake, Florida’s 2nd Congressional District knows our Seminoles are champions even if the selection committee fails to recognize that they earned a chance to prove it.”

Them bones

The Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation recognized Cammack as one of this year’s Congressional Bone Health Champions.

The Gainesville Republican earned the designation after working with the group on a congressional briefing with the Women’s Issues caucus, which Cammack co-chairs, on maintaining bone health over a lifetime.

“The importance of bone health and its impact on an individual’s overall health as well as health care costs is often overlooked by policymakers,” said Foundation CEO Claire Gill.

No bones about it, Kat Cammack is a champion.

“We greatly appreciate Rep. Cammack’s work to raise awareness and shed light on what is a crisis in bone health in the United States. We know what needs to be done to address this crisis. There are simple steps Congress and the Biden administration can take that would greatly improve the care of millions of Americans with osteoporosis.”

The award went to four members of Congress. Cammack shared the honor in the House with Rep. Susie Lee, a Nevada Democrat. The foundation also recognized Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, and Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat.

“It’s an honor to be named one of this year’s Congressional Bone Health Champion Award recipients,” Cammack said.

“As a co-chair of the Bipartisan Women’s Caucus, women’s health is one of our top priorities, and we were fortunate to hold a bone health briefing earlier this year. For women — and adults across the U.S. — bone health is too often overlooked, but it’s an important part of an individual’s overall health. I look forward to continuing to raise awareness around this issue.”

Clawing it back

The pandemic brought on massive spending in the form of loans to businesses struggling to stay afloat. But since then, stories of fraud have made frequent headlines.

The House unanimously passed a bill introduced by Rep. Aaron Bean to claw back $200 million in wrongly secured loans. Bean calls the bill the “We Want Our Money Back Act,” though it’s formally called the PPP/EIDL Fraud Report Act.

“This is a major first step toward restoring the $200 billion stolen from American taxpayers under the watch of the Small Business Administration. I am pleased the House voted unanimously to hold the SBA accountable and strengthen pandemic fraud investigations,” the Fernandina Beach Republican said.

Aaron Bean looks to claw back some PPP loan money. Image via AP.

“This vital legislation will ensure Congress can track the extent of the fraud and the progress in resolving the thousands of investigative leads of alleged fraud, waste, and abuse of taxpayer resources. I encourage my colleagues in the Senate to quickly pass this critical legislation.”

He introduced the bill with Rep. Kweisi Mfume, a Maryland Democrat, after the Inspector General for the Small Business Administration reported excessive fraud associated with two pandemic-era loan programs.

“I am pleased to co-lead this bill with Congressman Aaron Bean, my colleague from Florida, to ensure Congress receives consistent reporting toward our goal of returning billions in stolen pandemic funds to the federal government and bringing white-collar criminals to justice,” Mfume said.

Who’s that upstairs?

Israeli news outlets report that some United Nations personnel took part in holding hostages taken by Hamas. That has Rep. Michael Waltz, a St. Augustine Republican, demanding answers.

“These allegations are incredibly serious and should be investigated not only by the U.N. but by Congress,” Waltz said.

Mike Waltz is furious over the U.N.’s role in holding Hamas hostages.

“We’ve seen time and time again the U.N. use its platform to spread anti-Israeli propaganda and have witnessed horrific comments from U.N. personnel downplaying the terrorist attacks on Oct. 7. These claims further validate House of Representative votes to cut funding to various U.N. agencies who are allegedly assisting Hamas terrorists.”

Almog Boker, a journalist with Israel’s Channel 13, reported one Hamas hostage was held for over 50 days in the attic of a U.N. Relief and Works Agency employee.

Waltz sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres demanding answers and threatening economic consequences.

“As you know, UNRWA provides services for about 5.7 million Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria,” Waltz wrote.

“The Trump administration’s decision in 2018 to stop further contributions to UNRWA came specifically in response to these issues: the intermingling of a radical anti-Israel agenda and actions with the nominally neutral auspices of the U.N. By the time President Trump halted contributions to UNRWA, the U.S. was providing approximately one-third of UNRWA’s budget. Though the Biden administration reversed that policy, this past year, the U.S. House imposed significant new restrictions on the Biden administration’s funding of UNRWA in the Fiscal Year 2024 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations bill.”

Another green path

Gov. Ron DeSantis may have vetoed a program that would have brought Florida $346 million in solar incentives. But Democrats in the delegation want localities capable of receiving those dollars and helping Florida’s environment.

Four Florida lawmakers introduced the Reforming Energy-Efficient Buildings and Appliances Tax Exemptions (REBATE) Act (HR 6536), an amendment to the Inflation Reduction Act that would let local governments receive grants and fund high-efficiency electric home rebate programs. Democratic Reps. Kathy Castor of Tampa, Maxwell Frost of Orlando, Darren Soto of Kissimmee, and Frankel of West Palm Beach were introducing co-sponsors, with Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón also signing.

Despite a Ron DeSantis veto, a solar rebate program is on Darren Soto’s radar.

“Floridians are being gouged by electric utilities in Florida, and Gov. DeSantis’ veto of energy rebates has made it even more expensive for Florida families. Floridians could enjoy lower energy bills if we can unlock the resources to weatherize homes and purchase energy-efficient appliances as the residents of other states are enjoying right now,” said Castor, one architect of the Inflation Reduction Act.

“To put money back into the pockets of our neighbors, the REBATE Act enables local governments to receive and implement energy rebates and discounts in their communities. Democrats in Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act to provide energy cost savings to our neighbors.”

Soto said the legislation builds off sustainability efforts launched by the Biden administration.

“We passed the Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act — both bipartisan measures — to benefit working families and improve our nation for future generations,” he said. “In Florida, we refuse to let politically motivated vetoes get in the way of access to these programs.”

Frankel said it should give Florida access to every dollar nixed by DeSantis’ veto. “This bill would allow Florida communities to access the nearly $346 million in savings available to our state, helping families lower their energy costs and their carbon footprints.”

Frost called DeSantis’ veto “harmful,” but Florida can’t ignore the climate crisis.

“The Inflation Reduction Act is a down payment on the clean energy future we deserve, empowering working people to be able to afford to make the transition to clean energy,” he said.

The fast lane

Many children flying this year can’t bring a parent with them through the PreCheck line at the airport. Rep. Greg Steube says that’s just another sign bureaucrats can’t properly make a clear path.

The Sarasota Republican filed legislation, the Fast Lane for Youths (FLY) Act. The bill would require the Transportation Security Administration to allow caregivers, parents, and guardians accompanying minors or passengers needing help with their flights to use a second gate pass provided to anyone who qualifies for the PreCheck program.

“Parents, guardians, and caregivers who are assisting passengers through the airport should be able to join them in TSA’s PreCheck processing line, so long as they are already PreCheck qualified,” Steube said.

Greg Steube hopes to smooth out the TSA PreCheck line.

“In a stunning display of bureaucratic absurdity, current TSA policies do not provide PreCheck privileges for gate passes even when the passenger and escorts all have been screened through the PreCheck program. My legislation provides a simple legislative fix to allow a more expedient process through the airport for many families this holiday season.”

Free flight home

Many Americans living in Israel have considered that choice since the Hamas attacks in October exposed fresh dangers risked by living there. Reps. Carlos Giménez, a Miami-Dade Republican, and Frederica Wilson, a Hollywood Democrat, said the State Department shouldn’t charge those people for evacuating them.

The two lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill, the Justifiable Use of Money for Peace (JUMP) Act, which would waive state fees in such situations.

Americans who decide to evacuate Gaza shouldn’t have to pay for the flight.

“In times of crisis, the last thing we should burden our fellow Americans frantically trying to evacuate Israel with is bureaucratic red tape and financial strain as they flee the horrors inflicted by Hamas terrorists,” Wilson said.

“The JUMP Act is a beacon of compassion, recognizing the unimaginable pain and trauma victims face. By waiving the U.S. State Department’s repayment requirement, we’re offering solace to those grieving, allowing them to begin the healing process without the added weight of repayments. This bill is a call for empathy, and I urge my colleagues to stand with us in prioritizing the well-being of Americans escaping Hamas terror.”

Giménez said Americans can’t be left in the crossfire of conflict between the Israeli Defense Forces and Hamas. He said the legislation could ease a burden that prevents some from leaving the war-torn region.

“On Oct. 7, Hamas terrorists invaded Israel’s sovereign borders, indiscriminately killing, kidnapping, and torturing thousands of civilians while leaving countless others in desperate need of evacuation back to the United States,” Giménez said. “As the law is written, U.S. citizens and permanent residents that take U.S. government transport are required to repay the cost of their transportation. A victim of Hamas terrorism (amid) an evacuation should not be burdened by cumbersome paperwork or be forced to repay their transportation. I am proud to work with my fellow South Florida colleague Rep. Frederica Wilson to introduce a bill that waives this onerous requirement and allows victims to mourn without a costly repayment looming.”

Catch a Tigertail

Since the 1800s, the Miccosukee Tribe has cared for the Florida Everglades. Now, members of the delegation want more housing to be set aside for the Tribe.

Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat, and Salazar, a Coral Gables Republican, introduced the Tigertail Historical Tree Island Repatriation Act, which would allow the Army Corps of Engineers to adjust a levee in the Tigertail Camp area and realign water flow. That would result in more options for the Tribe to provide housing there.

The Miccosukee Tribe has cared for the Florida Everglades; now, it’s time to take care of them.

“Our friends in the Miccosukee Tribe are good stewards and protectors of America’s Everglades, an American jewel that helps supply drinking water to millions of Floridians.” Wasserman Schultz said. “I’m proud to partner with the Tribe and my Florida colleague on this bill so they can continue to flourish in South Florida.”

Salazar said the bill will benefit the regional community.

“The Miccosukee Tribe (is) an integral part of the South Florida Community,” she said. “This bill will ensure the Miccosukee can use their resources as they need to while protecting our environment and preserving the health of the Everglades.”

On this day

Dec. 5, 1946 — “Harry Truman created Civil Rights Commission” via the Truman Library Institute — President Truman was continually forced to balance his moral and political concerns because civil rights advocates applied concerted pressure on him. In the wake of the Columbia riot, the vicious assault on Isaac Woodard and murders in Georgia and Louisiana, the coalition of organizations composing the National Emergency Committee Against Mob Violence met with the president at the White House. With representatives from the NAACP, Urban League, Federal Council of Churches, American Federation of Labor and the CIO, the delegation reminded Truman “Negro veterans of the late war for human freedom have been done to death or mutilated with a savagery unsurpassed even at Buchenwald.”

Dec. 5, 1988 — “Grand jury indicts fallen evangelist Jim Bakker” via United Press International — A federal grand jury indicted Bakker on charges he bilked millions of dollars from followers of his PTL television ministry to finance his high lifestyle and pay hush money to Jessica Hahn. The 24-count indictment also accused Bakker and former PTL president Richard Dortch of scheming ‘to defraud and to obtain money using false and fraudulent pretenses’ from people who invested $158 million in a PTL vacation resort. While Bakker and Dortch knew the ministry ‘was in poor financial condition,’ they took bonuses totaling more than $4 million between 1984 and 1987, the grand jury said.

___

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

Staff Reports


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