Delegation for 1.23.24: DeSantis out — off the ballot — VA delays — puppies

The United States Capitol building at sunset, Washington DC, USA.
DeSantis drops out, while Florida's delegation coalesces behind Trump

One Florida man down

Florida’s Presidential Primary isn’t until March.

But for the political class, the race for the GOP nomination effectively ended Sunday after Gov. Ron DeSantis pulled the plug on his ailing presidential campaign.

Dropping a 4 1/2-minute video on X, the platform where his campaign held its glitchy launch, the state’s top elected Republican said he saw no viable path forward. Instead, he endorsed the only other Floridian in the race, former President Donald Trump.

To watch the video, please click the image below:

“I signed a pledge to support the Republican nominee,” DeSantis said, “and I will honor that pledge.”

Florida’s political establishment has largely followed through on that. The entire Florida Cabinet is now endorsing Trump, and many state lawmakers who previously backed the Governor have shifted allegiance to the GOP front-runner.

Of course, Trump was always the favorite within Florida’s congressional delegation.

Indeed, in the days leading to Tuesday’s Presidential Primary in New Hampshire, a drumbeat of Florida endorsements was already coming for Trump at a pace reminiscent of last April’s push for Sunshine State supporters to counterprogram DeSantis’ entry to the contest. A week before the Governor’s concession, Sen. Marco Rubio announced his support for Trump.

In the last 24 hours of DeSantis’ campaign, Reps. Aaron Bean, Kat Cammack and Scott Franklin also endorsed the former President.

“I fully endorse Donald J. Trump to be our Republican nominee,” Franklin posted online. “We must reject the failed schemes of Joe Biden and unite our party around the proven policies and tested leadership of Donald Trump. The stakes couldn’t be higher. The future of our Republic depends on it.”

Bean’s support seemed especially bruising. The Fernandina Beach Republican enjoyed a path to Congress thanks only to a DeSantis-driven redistricting process that dismantled a Democratic-leaning district in North Florida and rebuilt a GOP seat that included the former state Senator’s turf.

Yet, he saw more electoral promise with Trump.

“Let’s unite our party, take the fight to our opposition, and win conservative victories in November with Donald Trump as our nominee,” Bean said in a statement.

Once DeSantis conceded, it released the supporters he had.

That included Rep. Laurel Lee, the one and only member of the delegation to support DeSantis’ campaign. The Thonotosassa Republican followed the Governor’s lead and backed Trump.

“While I was proud to support my former boss, Ron DeSantis, during his campaign,” she said in a statement, “I have great faith in the leadership and proven track record of President Trump.”

So, where do things stand now?

Of the 22 Republicans in Florida’s congressional delegation, 20 have backed Trump, with Reps. Mario Díaz-Balart and María Elvira Salazar, both Miami-Dade Republicans, as the lone voices still on the sidelines.

At this point, Trump faces only former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, his administration’s United Nations Ambassador for most of his first term.

No elected official from Florida of significance has endorsed her campaign, according to the FiveThirtyEight election tracker. More significantly, she trailed DeSantis in endorsements overall, and his support in Florida and elsewhere appears to be consolidating behind Trump.

How long the Primary continues will become clearer tonight.

Ballot brief

Meanwhile, Trump remains ineligible for the ballot in two state Primaries on the horizon.

But Republicans in Florida’s delegation intend to remedy that.

Sens. Rick Scott and Rubio signed an amicus brief filed by Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, supporting Trump’s challenge of a Colorado Supreme Court ruling disqualifying his presidential candidacy.

Marco Rubio and Rick Scott are working furiously to keep Donald Trump on the ballot.

So have many Floridians in the House, including Reps. Bean, Gus Bilirakis, Cammack, Neal Dunn, Franklin, Carlos Giménez, Anna Paulina Luna, Brian Mast, Cory Mills, Bill Posey, John Rutherford, Michael Waltz and Daniel Webster.

“The Colorado Supreme Court has no authority to remove Donald J. Trump — the leading presidential candidate — from the ballot in the 2024 presidential election,” said Webster, a Clermont Republican. “I am confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will reverse this disastrous decision. It is the American people who decide who is elected President, not liberal activists.”

A decision will likely also determine if Trump can appear on the ballot in Maine, where the Secretary of State also booted him from the ballot on the grounds he encouraged an insurrection.

Equal crime; equal time

If members of the military sexually exploit children, Rubio wants them to face the same penalties as civilian child molesters.

The Miami Republican filed the Parity for Recidivist Child Exploitation Offenders Act to ensure the Uniform Code of Military Conduct imposes the same treatment of offenders as they would face under federal or state law.

Rubio says ‘equal crime, equal time.’

“Those convicted of multiple child pornography and related offenses should face increased sentences,” Rubio said. “Ensuring that this loophole is closed is long overdue, and it is with great pride that I introduce this legislation with bipartisan and bicameral support. We must continue to work hard against the great evil of sexual abuse, especially relating to minors.”

He introduced the legislation along with Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.

“Ensuring that all repeat sex offenders, including those with prior military convictions, are equally held responsible for their crimes and sentenced accordingly is of the utmost importance,” Gillibrand said.

VA delay

Despite years of complaints, veterans continue to endure long wait times for appointments at Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities throughout the country. Scott wants to work across the aisle to tackle the issue and co-led a letter with Sen. Jon Ossoff, a Georgia Democrat, demanding improvements at the VA.

The letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough cited shortcomings the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office repeatedly found. Still, it noted the VA has yet to follow many recommendations offered in the past.

“The GAO’s findings are consistent with what we have heard from our veteran constituents. Every month, our veterans contact us for assistance with scheduling appointments, with some waiting months for certain types of community care appointments,” the letter states. “Veterans have also reported significant administrative delays … between referral to the community care program and the scheduling of an appointment.”

Rick Scott wants to speed up the VA appointment system.

The letter bears signatures from Senators across several Southern States and from both sides of the aisle, including Rubio.

“Ongoing failure to make consistent improvements to community care wait times is unacceptable,” the letter continues, “and we are concerned that the lack of care time standards for community care only exacerbates the problem.”

It asks several specific questions about scheduling at community care centers, implementation of standards improvements, how the agency responds to appointment delays, and what can be done in the next 90 days to produce change.

Feeding time

Americans with metabolic disorders shouldn’t struggle to afford appropriate foods, according to Rutherford.

The Jacksonville Republican filed bipartisan legislation with Rep. Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat, to cover the costs of medically necessary food, vitamins and individual amino acids for those with special dietary needs.

John Rutherford is pushing for a broader definition of necessary health care items.

“Our health systems must be structured to support innovative treatments,” Rutherford said. “As Co-Chair of the Crohn’s and Colitis Caucus, where I advocate for those living with digestive diseases, I am excited to join Rep. McGovern to introduce this important legislation that would make medically necessary nutrition more easily accessible to patients across our nation.”

The Medical Nutrition Equity Act (HR 6892) would provide aid nationwide. Already, 40 states require coverage of medically necessary nutrition, though at varying levels. The legislation builds on efforts already introduced with military-focused TriCare.

Rutherford’s Office noted about 2,000 babies are born each year with metabolic disorders.

“As a dad and husband, I can’t imagine not being able to access the food your child or your partner depends on to live,” McGovern said. “To me, this is simple: no one should struggle (to get) medically necessary formulas, and insurance companies shouldn’t be creating more barriers to receiving proper care.”

Manifest destiny

The House passed privacy legislation sponsored by Waltz to stop personal information from appearing on public cargo manifests. The St. Augustine Beach Republican sponsored the bipartisan bill with Rep. Bill Pascrell, a New Jersey Democrat.

Mike Waltz calls out shipping companies to keep personal info off cargo manifests.

“The personal information of every American should be safe and secure,” Waltz said. “However, due to the current public disclosure of cargo manifests, our service members and their families experience a higher risk of identity theft and fraud as they move abroad. It is critical we take the necessary steps to protect them against dangerous and fraudulent activity. That’s why I am proud to pass legislation in the House to secure international travel and help safeguard the livelihoods of Americans.”

The Moving American’s Privacy Protection Act (HR 1568) would require Customs and Border Protection to remove Social Security and passport numbers before manifests become public records. The bill passed the House on a voice vote and now heads to the Senate.

Get well & get out

Following Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s failure to disclose a hospitalization, some delegation members say it’s time the military figure did the honorable thing and quit.

Mills, a Winter Park Republican, led a get-well-and-go-away letter to the Cabinet member.

Republicans say get well and get out.

“Through media reports, Congress recently learned that you underwent a medical procedure on Dec. 22, 2023. Ten days later, on Jan. 1, 2024, you were admitted to intensive care due to complications from your earlier medical procedure. It was not until Jan. 9 that you informed the President and American people of your prostate cancer diagnosis,” Mills wrote.

“We recognize that medical issues are a deeply personal matter for most Americans. However, by accepting the role of Secretary of Defense, you committed to making sacrifices, including the disclosure of personal emergencies that may inhibit your ability to lead.”

Luna and other Republican lawmakers co-signed the letter.

Mills, who last year filed impeachment papers for Austin over a widely criticized withdrawal operation in Afghanistan, said the failure to inform even the White House of a medical incapacitation left the country in a dangerous position. It also undermined the credibility of military leadership at a time of unrest overseas.

“While I wish Secretary Lloyd Austin a speedy recovery, his decision to not notify President Biden and (National Security Adviser Jake) Sullivan, among others, is a huge national security breach and he may have violated U.S. Code by not disclosing his temporary vacancy,” Mills said.

Corner kick

Rep. Kathy Castor recently became part of an effort to bring the FIFA Women’s World Cup to America. The Tampa Democrat and other Co-Chairs of the Congressional Soccer Caucus filed a House resolution supporting the United States Soccer Federation’s bid to co-host the international tournament in 2027.

Other lawmakers participating in the effort include Republican Reps. Don Bacon of Nebraska, Darren LaHood of Illinois, and Democratic Rep. Rick Larsen of Washington.

“Women’s soccer is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, and no country is better positioned to showcase the sport than the United States,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement.

Kathy Castor will be a key factor in the FIFA Women’s World Cup coming to the U.S. in 2027.

“The Women’s FIFA World Cup is poised to break attendance records, generate economic growth and tourism, and lead to further development in women’s soccer and youth sports. With state-of-the-art infrastructure and a plethora of potential host cities, holding the tournament in the United States would set a new standard for quality and security. We look forward to working with the White House, relevant federal agencies, and our state and local partners to support the efforts of the U.S. Soccer Federation to bring the 2027 FIFA Women’s World Cup to the United States.”

The resolution specifically supports a proposal from the New Heights Bid Committee.

Tax package

The House Ways and Means Committee has advanced a bipartisan tax reform proposal on a 40-3 vote. Rep. Vern Buchanan, Vice Chair of the Committee, said the legislation will benefit Florida families.

“America is at an economic crossroads, fighting for competitiveness in an increasingly global 21st century,” the Longboat Key Republican said.

Vern Buchanan calls for the U.S. to modernize its tax code.

“As someone who spent 30 years building businesses, as well as a former (Chair) of the Ways and Means Tax Subcommittee, I know from experience that making our tax code more competitive means greater prosperity for American families and businesses. I’m pleased to see this important legislation pass out of Committee and move one step closer to becoming law.”

Buchanan remains the senior-most Republican on the Committee and has played a role in crafting major legislation. He sits on the Joint Committee on Taxation and has chaired or served as a ranking member of every Subcommittee under the Ways and Means umbrella.

His Office distributed a detailed explainer on the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act.

The $78 billion tax cut, as passed by the House, would allow small businesses to completely deduct costs of new and used equipment, extend research and development expensing by allowing immediate deductions on U.S.-based R&D, expand access to the Child Tax Credit and enhance accessibility for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.

Puppy love

Stopping experiments on dogs and cats has proven to be an issue with support from across the political spectrum. As evidence, Rep. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, co-led a bipartisan letter to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Monica Bertagnolli to stop funding such animal testing.

“On both sides of the political aisle, Americans don’t want the government conducting painful, cruel experiments on dogs and cats,” Steube said. “Right now, our tax dollars are enabling these experiments at the NIH. I thank my colleagues for joining me in holding the NIH accountable for their failures to curb experimentation on dogs and cats.”

He penned the letter with Rep. Dina Titus, a Nevada Democrat.

Greg Steube is going to the dogs.

The lawmakers pressed scientists on how much federal funding last year went toward painful tests on cats and dogs and what steps NIH has taken to find alternative research methods. It also wants to know what procedures exist to retire animals from testing who have lived in labs for years.

“The National Institutes of Health is the single largest funder of inhumane research on dogs and cats and must be held accountable for its actions,” Titus said. “Their resistance to instituting safe, reliable and cost-effective alternatives to animal testing, despite overwhelming evidence and clear and consistent bipartisan support, is alarming.”

Steube worked for years with White Coat Waste, especially during the pandemic, highlighting NIH-funded projects the group said unnecessarily rely on animal testing.

“Our investigations have documented how the NIH is the government’s largest funder of cruel dog and cat experiments, some of which involve inflicting severe pain and suffering that’s intentionally unrelieved. Taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent and shouldn’t be forced to fund barbaric animal labs that butcher beagles and cripple kittens,” said Justin Goodman, White Coat Waste Project senior vice president.

Shots fired

Rep. Jared Moskowitz knows more than he ever wanted about school shootings.

The Parkland Democrat served in the Florida Legislature during the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, which left 14 students and three faculty members dead — similar to what occurred in Uvalde, Texas, in 2022.

He now co-chairs the Congressional Bipartisan School Safety and Security Caucus, which has scrutinized police response to the Uvalde massacre. A report this week by the Department of Justice (DOJ) found severe shortcomings in law enforcement.

Jared Moskowitz has become a reluctant expert in school shootings.

“When 17 people were killed at my alma mater, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, the armed school resource officer on-site did nothing to save the lives of children and staff members being murdered,” Moskowitz said in a statement. “Today, I am profoundly saddened by the report showing another failure to respond at Robb Elementary, where 21 people were gunned down in 2022.”

The shooting at Robb Elementary resulted in the deaths of 19 children and two school officials.

“I want to thank the DOJ for releasing this report, but it raises an important question: Why does this keep happening?” Moskowitz said.

“Why, when kids and staff members are crying for their lives, are the people sworn to protect and defend them not following protocols and procedures? As the only emergency management director in Congress, I know how crucial it is to have a rapid response to these events. If they don’t dare to protect students when they’re being shot at, they have no business wearing those uniforms. It is critical that we have a nationwide standard for law enforcement responses to active shootings to prevent future tragedies like those that happened in Uvalde and Parkland.”

On this day

Jan. 23, 1973 — “Richard Nixon announces end of U.S. involvement in Vietnam” via The New York Times — President Nixon said the accord would “end the war and bring peace with honor.” The Paris Peace Accords, negotiated by National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger and North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho, called for a cease-fire to begin on Jan. 27 between North and South Vietnamese troops that would allow American troops to start a 60-day withdrawal. North Vietnam agreed to release all American prisoners of war. Pleased by the long-awaited development, ending the longest war in American history, Nixon said the Hanoi-Washington agreement “meets the goals” and has the “full support” of President Nguyen Van Thieu of South Vietnam.

Jan. 23, 1870 — “The Marias Massacre of Montana” via Legends of America — The massacre, which killed some 200 Piegan Indians, primarily women and children, was described by one company commander as ‘the greatest slaughter of Indians ever made by U.S. troops.’ Amid low-level hostilities, a young warrior named Owl Child stole several horses from Malcolm Clarke, a White trader. Afterward, Clarke tracked down Owl Child and beat him in front of his camp. Humiliated, Owl Child, with a band of rogue Piegans, sought revenge and killed Clarke. The killing inflamed the public, which caused General Philip Sheridan to send out a band of cavalry.

Happy birthday

Best wishes to Reps. Bean and Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, who respectively turn 57 and 45 on Thursday, Jan. 25.


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

Staff Reports


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