Delegation for 12.8.23: Maduro — NAS Pensacola — stuttering — no more hate?
US Capital in Washington,DC.

US Capital Building.
Lawmakers call for more action to end Nicolás Maduro’s regime.

Opposing Maduro

Political contests in Venezuela increasingly have the attention of Florida’s congressional delegation. GOP lawmakers in the Sunshine State want Joe Biden’s administration to do more to bring an end to Nicolás Maduro’s regime and promote opposition leader María Corina Machado.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Miami Republican, pressed Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing to hold Maduro accountable after Maduro reneged on a deal about upcoming elections.

Venezuela agreed to hold fair elections this year as the U.S. lifted trade sanctions on oil. But after Machado, a politician Maduro barred from holding office, won an opposition Primary, the Venezuelan President’s allies challenged the fairness of that election.

“Maduro lied to the Biden administration. It is time for President Biden to reverse his failed strategy and reimpose sectoral sanctions against the criminal Maduro narco-regime until there is real movement by Maduro to release U.S. citizens and hold truly free and fair elections,” Rubio said. “Concessions to the Venezuelan dictator have only emboldened him and his thugs.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Rick Scott, a Naples Republican, introduced a resolution passed in the Senate by unanimous consent recognizing Machado as the legitimate candidate who should face Maduro on the ballot. Rubio co-sponsored the resolution.

Lawmakers seek an end to Nicolás Maduro’s regime.

“Brave Venezuelans participated in this election at great personal risk but did so united by their dedication to ridding Venezuela of the brutal oppression brought on to them by Nicholas Maduro and return freedom and democracy to their country,” Scott said in a floor speech. “This is a significant moment in the Venezuelan people’s fight for freedom and true representative government.”

Three South Florida Republican Representatives — Mario Díaz-Balart of Hialeah, Carlos Giménez of Miami-Dade and María Elvira Salazar of Coral Gables — introduced a companion measure in the House.

“The murderous Maduro regime is threatening, intimidating and silencing opposition candidate María Corina Machado,” Giménez said. “This blatant attack on democracy shows the regime’s desperation in the face of impending defeat. The Venezuelan people are determined to free themselves from communism with María Corina and the United States must stand with the freedom-loving people of Venezuela.”

Added Salazar, “The Venezuelan opposition overwhelmingly chose María Corina Machado to lead the fight against the Maduro regime in the upcoming elections. The United States must offer its full support for her and her campaign as millions of Venezuelans around the world rally around her struggle against the dictatorship.”

Díaz-Balart, the dean of the delegation, put a significant onus on Biden for placating Maduro.

“I strongly opposed the Biden administration’s decision to relax sanctions on the Maduro dictatorship while establishing an arbitrary Nov. 30, 2023, deadline, which was done purportedly to encourage free and fair elections in Venezuela,” he said. “That deadline has passed and the administration has failed to reimpose tough sanctions. The U.S. must stand unequivocally with the Venezuelan people in their brave struggle for freedom, human rights, and democratic government.”

It’s not shocking that Florida voices are leading the conversations about Venezuela in Congress. Of the 640,000 individuals of Venezuelan origin in the U.S., nearly 47% live in Florida, according to Pew Research. That far eclipses second-ranked Texas, home to 15% of Venezuelans in the U.S.

Remembering NAS Pensacola

Florida lawmakers marked the fourth anniversary of a shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola. Scott and Rubio led a bipartisan resolution in the Senate remembering three U.S. service members killed by a Saudi military trainee, Mohammed Alshamrani.

“Today, we remember the lives of three brave Americans we tragically lost,” Scott said.

NAS Pensacola marks a grim anniversary.

Joshua Kaleb Watson, Mohammed Haitham and Cameron Walters dedicated their lives to serving and protecting our country and are missed every day by their friends, family and all who knew them. This act of terror never should have happened and following the attack, I fought for significant reform through my Secure U.S. Bases Act that became law, and I will never stop working to make sure our bases are safe, and this never happens again. Although it has been four years, the pain caused by the loss of these sailors will never go away.”

Rubio called the deaths a “senseless act of terrorism.”

In the House, Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, introduced legislation seeking accountability for Saudi Arabia over the attack in his district. His bill would end U.S. support of a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, halt any officer exchange programs with the nation’s military, prohibit the export of weapons, and authorize those victimized by the attack to sue the Saudi government for damages.

He also wants to pull $1 billion in support for Ukraine to provide damages to families of the slain service members and for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“Four years ago today, our community was rocked when a Saudi student opened fire on Naval Air Station Pensacola,” Gaetz said.

“Since then, it became evident that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States were insufficient in vetting foreign students — allowing those with radicalized views access to our military bases. My legislation holds Saudi Arabia accountable and puts an end to the exchange programs with them. More importantly, the bill will help give justice and financial help to the survivors and grieving families of the terror attack victims.”

Speaking for stutterers

Congress lures eloquent speakers to its ranks. One Florida lawmaker said she wants to use her voice now for those struggling to communicate.

Rep. Kat Cammack just launched the Congressional Bipartisan Unified Voices Caucus to speak for those who stutter. The Gainesville Republican held a news conference with Rep. Troy Carter Sr., a Louisiana Democrat and the Caucus co-founder.

To speak for those who stutter, Kat Cammack launched the Congressional Bipartisan Unified Voices Caucus.

“As we embark on this journey, it is essential to underscore the significance of the cause we stand united for,” Cammack said. “Stuttering, a communication challenge affecting over 70 million people worldwide and approximately 3 million Americans, demands our attention and advocacy. The Caucus that Congressman Troy Carter, Sr., and I are starting is a testament to the bipartisan commitment we share to address the needs of those who stutter.”

Health care access will be part of the work, Carter said.

“Access to effective speech therapy, with specialized interventions, is not just about improving speech; it’s about enhancing social and emotional welfare, promoting greater confidence and fostering more effective communication,” he said. “It can make the difference in a child’s achievement, an adult’s success and a community’s understanding.”

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a former Charlotte Hornets forward who founded Change & Impact, a nonprofit serving those who stutter, joined the lawmakers.

“It’s an honor to be here today to witness the bipartisan support for a cause and community that is so special to me,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “I give great thanks to Congressman Troy Carter and Congresswoman Kat Cammack for both making a commitment to stuttering advocacy and awareness. I’m excited for the opportunities ahead.”

Added to Oversight

Yet another Florida delegation member now sits on the House Oversight Committee. Rep. Michael Waltz, a St. Augustine Beach Republican, joins the panel as the House appears increasingly anxious to impeach Biden.

“Over the last three years, we’ve seen an unprecedented expansion of the federal government that has empowered Washington bureaucrats and caused further hardship for Americans across the country,” Waltz said.

Mike Waltz is a new face on the House Oversight Committee.

“I look forward to working with (Chair) James Comer to ensure the government is functioning as Congress intended it to and reign in the Biden administration’s regulatory overreach, wasteful spending, and unlawful power grabs across the federal bureaucracy. Additionally, I look forward to using my national security background in investigating illicit financial schemes to further help (Chair) Comer’s inquiry into the Biden family’s foreign financial dealings with America’s adversaries.”

He joins four other Florida lawmakers on the panel, including Republicans Byron Donalds and Anna Paulina Luna and Democrats Maxwell Frost and Jared Moskowitz.

Foreign funding

As China and other foreign powers finance research at U.S. universities, Rep. Bill Posey wants more transparency from scientists seeking federal support.

The Rockledge Republican filed the Grant Recipient Accountability for Necessary Transparency Act (GRANT) Act, legislation that could require federal grant-seekers to disclose any overseas financing for their work.

Bill Posey seeks more transparency from scientists in grant requests.

“It’s common for foreign researchers from countries like China to join a taxpayer-funded research project after the grant was applied for and awarded, allowing foreign researchers to influence or take taxpayer-funded research back to their home countries without the proper oversight,” Posey said. “This bill allows for more accountability of taxpayer dollars and the research it’s used to fund.”

Posey cited an Inspector General report for the Environmental Protection Agency that spotlighted concerns about undisclosed foreign gifts. Officials for several federal agencies collaboratively issuing grants found six universities received awards of $1.3 billion from foreign sources, including China, Qatar and Russia, over seven years.

The legislation requires grant-seekers to disclose within 30 days if they receive money from any “countries of foreign concern,” including China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela.

Carbon offsets

While the Climate Crisis Committee Rep. Kathy Castor once chaired was dissolved, the Tampa Democrat still wants Congress to consider policies to reduce greenhouse emissions.

She led a group of Democratic lawmakers in introducing the Clean Competition Act, which would impose a carbon border adjustment on energy-intensive imports while incentivizing the decarbonization of domestic manufacturing.

Sheldon Whitehouse levels the playing field with the Clean Competition Act.

“As we work to reduce climate pollution and boost American jobs, we need a renewed focus on leveling the playing field for American goods and products that compete against products from countries that pollute and use unfair advantages,” she said.

“The Clean Competition Act is an important complement to the new wave of American manufacturing jobs boosted by the historic Inflation Reduction Act. American industries are leveraging a wide range of technologies to drive down industrial air pollution and achieve greater sustainability. Our Clean Competition Act will help reward these innovations, strengthen America’s industrial base, and protect us from unfair competition in the global marketplace while ensuring that China and other nations are doing their part to reduce pollution and environmental impacts.”

If passed by this Congress, the bill would impose the adjustment on energy-intensive industries in 2025 and then expand in 2027 to cover imported goods of significant size, such as cars.

Fees would start at $55 per ton, with most of the money raised redirected through grants for clean energy technology research to reduce carbon footprints. About 25% of revenues would go through the State Department to help developing nations decarbonize.

The bill may have a challenging path in a Republican-controlled House. A companion will be carried in the Senate by Democratic Sens. Martin Heinrich, Brian Schatz and Sheldon Whitehouse.

“There is bipartisan momentum for a carbon border adjustment in the Senate,” said Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat. “This is a solution endorsed by industry and experts across the political spectrum.”

Gun runner control

The U.S. needs to keep better traffic of firearms sold to hostile powers in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick. The Miramar Democrat was among the introducing sponsors for the Americas Regional Monitoring of Arms Sales (ARMAS) Act, legislation that would mobilize resources to disrupt gun traffickers in the Western Hemisphere.

“Weapons trafficking by way of the United States is a major contributor to Haiti’s growing gang crisis and the current instability that plagues the country,” said Cherfilus-McCormick, Co-Chair of the Haiti Caucus.

The U.S. needs a better accounting of arm sales overseas, says Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick.

“The implementation of stronger transparency, accountability and oversight mechanisms for U.S. arms exports would address this regional issue and stop guns from getting into the hands of dangerous criminals.”

The Democratic sponsors of the bill said efforts to stop firearms trafficking in the region were weakened in 2020 when former President Donald Trump shifted the oversight from the State Department to the Commerce Department.

Since then, the National Security Council has seen a 30% annual increase in U.S. firearms being sold globally, which includes an 82% jump in such trafficking in the Caribbean and Latin American nations. Meanwhile, 75% of guns apprehended in the Dominican Republic originated in the U.S., as did 70% of those secured in Mexico.

In addition to shifting the policing of such activity back to the State Department, the legislation would require reporting to Congress on sales and prohibit the Commerce Department from promoting the sale of guns overseas.

Safe space

Parents rallied in Washington this week behind proposed protections for children online. Rep. Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat, joined other sponsors of “Sammy’s Law,” which could lead to better alerts for parents about problems on social media.

The bill is named for Sammy Chapman, who died from a fentanyl overdose after being approached by dealers on Snapchat.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz honors Sammy Chapman, who died from a fentanyl overdose after being approached by dealers on Snapchat.

“All parents worry about what their child is seeing or receiving on social media. As the mother of three children who grew up with the world at their fingertips, I constantly worried about what my children were exposed to online, on social media, and through apps that profit from sharing messages (that) are intentionally designed to disappear without a trace,” Wasserman Schultz said.

“I am proud to introduce bipartisan legislation to give parents a more balanced level of access to supervise and manage their kid’s social media and online presence during the most vulnerable stages of a child’s life.”

Her bill would create a “right to know” for parents that ensured they could access their own children’s social media and data use. The hope is that this will send red flags to parents about dangerous online activity, from narcotics deals to cyberbullying.

“If social media platforms gave our family the choice to use third-party safety software, Sammy might still be alive.” Reads a statement from Dr. Laura Berman and Sam Chapman, Sammy Chapman’s parents. “We urge Congress to pass this vital legislation without delay to protect the millions of children at risk on social media every day.”

Beating back hate

Fighting antisemitism remains a battle Florida Representatives intend to wage together. Three of the six lawmakers behind the just-filed Commission to Study Acts of Antisemitism in the United States Act (HR 6578) hail from the Sunshine State: Democratic Reps. Moskowitz and Wasserman Schultz and Republican Rep. Salazar.

“Before Oct. 7, antisemitism was on a sharp rise, but now we’ve seen it skyrocket, especially online,” Wasserman Schultz said. “This bipartisan, bicameral inquiry, which is supported by Jewish civil society leaders and experts, will complement the implementation of President Biden’s first-ever National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism and inform key policy decisions in combating this disturbing trend.”

Fighting antisemitism is a battle Florida delegation members vow to wage together.

All the Florida lawmakers signed onto the bill represent South Florida, which has a significant Jewish constituency. Both Moskowitz and Wasserman Schultz are Jewish themselves.

Salazar said the fight against bigotry should unite all of Congress.

“There is no room for antisemitic hatred in the United States,” Salazar said. “The federal government must respond to the unacceptable rise of antisemitism our Jewish communities face. This bill will give federal, state, and local officials the ability to zero in on the roots of this hatred and crush it.”

Battling book bans

The war over words — and sometimes illustrations — has the majority of Florida’s Democratic congressional delegation warning Gov. Ron DeSantis about the state’s No. 1 position in the number of books moved off school shelves or restricted.

DeSantis signed bills in 2022 and 2023, which Democrats say effectively empowers those who want stories by and about people of color and LGBTQ individuals rolled out of school libraries.

Thanks to Ron DeSantis, Florida is No. 1 … in banning books. Image via Never Back Down/X.

Democrats warn the book war could have implications for community libraries. And that, in addition to the hostility toward librarians, threatens everyone, the letter says.

The Florida Department of State, which oversees the state’s Division of Library and Information Services, quietly announced in October that American Library Association grants are not allowed — at least for this year.

“These combined actions, if left unchecked, will foment a noxious climate of repression and marginalization that degrades learning, understanding and undermines all Floridians’ basic freedoms,” the letter says.

Reps. Wasserman Schultz and Cherfilus-McCormick led the letter, co-signed by Reps. Castor, Lois Frankel, Frost and Darren Soto.

On this day

Dec. 8, 1863 — “Abraham Lincoln issues Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction” via History.com — By this point in the Civil War, President Lincoln clearly needed to make preliminary plans for postwar Reconstruction. The proclamation addressed three main areas of concern. First, it allowed for a full pardon and property restoration to all engaged in the rebellion, except for the highest Confederate officials and military leaders. Second, it allowed for a new state government to form when 10% of eligible voters had taken an oath of allegiance to the United States. Third, the Southern states were encouraged to enact plans to deal with formerly enslaved people so long as their freedom was not compromised.

Dec. 8, 1987 — “Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev sign missile treaty” via The New York Times — With fervent calls for a new era of peaceful understanding, President Reagan and USSR President Gorbachev signed the first treaty reducing the size of their nations’ nuclear arsenals. The President and the Soviet leader, beginning three days of talks aimed at even broader reductions, pledged to build on the accord by striving toward what Gorbachev called ”the more important goal,” reducing long-range nuclear weapons. The leaders were said to have reviewed previous proposals to further those negotiations and established an arms-control working group of ranking officials to hold parallel sessions.

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

Staff Reports



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