Delegation for 1.26.24: DOA — bad deal — living longer? — truckin’ — border blame

The United States Capitol building at sunset, Washington DC, USA.
Donald Trump helps kill a border bill in Congress — hoping the issue will remain politically favorable.

Border deal DOA

News that Donald Trump blew up a bipartisan deal on the border upset several Republican Senators across the country. But Florida’s Senate contingency stood with the Florida-based political leader and 2024 Republican presidential front-runner.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Miami Republican, suggested online that no acceptable deal would ever be reached with Democratic President Joe Biden in office.

“A ‘deal’ will allow Biden to pretend he’s doing something about the border, but it won’t solve the problem,” Rubio wrote on X. “If he won’t even enforce our existing law, he is NOT going to enforce even tougher ones.”

Donald Trump helps block a border deal — for political gain.

According to reporting by CNN, this sort of political calculus upset many of Rubio’s peers. After a GOP Senate caucus hearing where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, asserted Trump had strong-armed House Republicans into opposing any deal, many voiced frustrations.

“The idea that someone running for President would say ‘Please hurt the country so I can blame my opponent and help my politics is a shocking development,” Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican and the 2012 Republican nominee for President, told CNN and other gathered press.

But Sen. Rick Scott, who stands for re-election this year, said at a news conference he supports taking a hard line.

“If we cannot secure our border, we need to close the border,” the Naples Republican said. “If we have a President that doesn’t want to secure the border, let’s close the border until we get a President that actually is going to enforce our laws.”

Democrats in Florida’s delegation called such logic the height of cynicism and said they intend to pillory Trump and the entire GOP ticket on the tactic this year.

“Donald Trump just killed the Republican Bill to stop the border and fentanyl crisis so that he can use it as an election issue for the next 10 months,” posted Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Parkland Democrat. “Donald Trump now owns the border crisis.”

But Rep. Byron Donalds said handwringing by either House Democrats or Senate Republicans won’t change anything. The House will not accept any deal that has come down from the upper Chamber to date. The Naples Republican told Real America’s Voice that House members won’t accept a deal allowing 5,000 illegal border crossings a day, which adds up to 1.8 million people a year.

“The Senate can negotiate anything they want but having seen some of the outlines from that negotiation, that bill’s dead on arrival in the House of Representatives,” he said.

Weak deal

Scott said the Justice Department negotiated a lenient deal for the man accused of leaking the Senator’s tax returns.

The Naples Republican intends to say as much as Charles Littlejohn’s sentencing hearing, where he will testify as a victim. He also sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding he attend.

“By harassing prominent Republicans and embarrassing Americans, Mr. Littlejohn’s crimes were entirely aligned with the agenda of the Biden Administration,” Scott wrote in the letter. “And now the Biden Justice Department will allow him to plead to just a single criminal count.”

Rick Scott blasts Charles Littlejohn for his lenient punishment.

The federal government says Littlejohn leaked tax information for Scott, Trump and prominent business leaders, including Tesla and X owner Elon Musk and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

In October, Littlejohn, an IRS contractor, pleaded guilty to one count of publicly disclosing tax return information without authorization. He faces a sentence of up to five years, though guidelines signal prosecutors will seek an eight- to 14-month prison term.

“By using his role as a government contractor to gain access to private tax information, steal that information and disclose it publicly, Charles Littlejohn broke federal law and betrayed the public’s trust,” Garland said in a statement after Littlejohn pleaded guilty. “In every case, the Department of Justice is committed to following the facts wherever they lead and holding accountable those who violate our laws.”

Prosecutors say Littlejohn stole information from an IRS database and evaded protocols to cover up that he sought the information. According to the Justice Department, the contractor then stored the data and leaked it to the news media.

The New York Times published information from the returns in September 2020, a couple of months before the presidential election.

Live long and prosper?

If the National Institutes of Health (NIH) no longer prioritizes lengthening the lives of Americans, Rubio wants an explanation why.

The Miami Republican sent a bipartisan letter with Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, to NIH Director Monica Bertagnolli about why the agency recently revised its mission statement and dropped the phrase “lengthen life” from its goals.

Monica Bertagnolli is grilled for dropping ‘living longer’ in the NIH mission statement.

“Amid the rising openness of some countries, such as Canada and the Netherlands, as well as a handful of states toward physician-assisted suicide, we are concerned that eliminating the stated goal of lengthening life within the NIH’s mission statement without explanation or justification could have a negative impact on people’s existing attitudes toward the quality of life of people with disabilities,” the letter reads.

Of note, Duckworth is disabled and uses a wheelchair after losing her legs in a military helicopter crash in 2004.

“People with disabilities deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect as non-disabled people, but stereotypes and bias in the research and health care sectors continue to prevent people with disabilities from getting the care they need, when they need it,” Rubio and Duckworth wrote.

“One survey found that over 80% of U.S. physicians who responded said they believe people with a significant disability have a worse quality of life than non-disabled people. Evidence suggests this could lead to discrimination in how doctors recommend physician-assisted suicide. With such pervasive, harmful views impacting so many Americans, it is imperative that the mission of the nation’s biggest funder of biomedical research be crystal clear.”

McCarthy’s revenge?

The Ethics Committee has kept a probe open on sex trafficking accusations, even as federal prosecutors abandoned the pursuit of criminal charges against Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican.

This week, CNN reported the committee had brought in the woman at the center of accusations, an individual who Gaetz allegedly traveled with across state and national lines when she was 17 with an expectation of sex.

The war of words continues.

Gaetz, for his part, has consistently denied having sex with an underage woman or paying for sex. As he has in the past, Gaetz pointed CNN at the fact some of the people who initially made details of the federal investigation public have since pleaded guilty to trying to extort Gaetz’s family.

Still, CNN’s reporting suggests the House probe has expanded, and lawmakers requested the Justice Department to provide all materials regarding the accusations against Gaetz.

Of note, Gaetz led the charge to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and the California Republican frequently suggested the effort was motivated by Gaetz hoping to avoid further investigation by the Ethics Committee.

McCarthy has since resigned his seat in Congress, but the probe of Gaetz continues.

Park and play

The Interstate 4 corridor is about to get a lot friendlier for truckers. The Department of Transportation awarded a grant worth $180 million, bringing an extra 917 truck parking spaces online at four sites along the federal interstate.

Democrats in the region heralded the deal, made possible by the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) package signed by Biden.

“The announcement of an over $180 million INFRA grant to add more than 900 parking spaces along I-4 is wonderful news. This will not only help reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also help prevent accidents and prioritize the safety of our nation’s truck drivers,” said Rep. Darren Soto, a Kissimmee Democrat.

Will I-4 become friendlier for trucking?

“If truck drivers find safe parking, they can properly rest, take breaks during unsafe conditions, and prevent issues that further slow our supply chains. I’m proud to have voted to pass the Infrastructure Law during the 117th Congress to expand these funding opportunities and create others. Democrats will continue investing in America to improve our infrastructure for future generations.”

Florida Trucking President and CEO Alix Miller cheered the deal. The association worked with FDOT in order to secure the funding for the locations. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded Florida $180,009,420 for the creation of 917 spaces at four locations on I-4 in Central Florida.

“Florida Trucking is proud to have partnered with FDOT on this funding request — I-4 is one of the busiest corridors for freight movement in the country, with far too few parking options,” Miller said.

“Our state leadership prioritizes the trucking industry and the safety of our drivers, who often have no other choice than to park illegally when they are tired or for their federally mandated rest time. This project will make all motorists safer on our roads and improve the efficient movement of freight as we drive the economy forward. We thank our state and federal partners for recognizing the importance of truck parking.”

Rep. Maxwell Frost, an Orlando Democrat, said the funding is needed on one of Florida’s most infamously congested roadways.

“Central Florida’s I-4 corridor has the highest unmet truck parking demand in the state, leaving a lasting negative impact on truck drivers’ safety and our supply chain’s ability to deliver for Floridians,” Frost said. “I’m thankful that our federal government is stepping in to protect hardworking drivers who deserve safe roads and sufficient parking spaces for rest when needed. Securing an over $180 million investment in Florida’s infrastructure and the safety and well-being of all our drivers on the road is a win-win for the Sunshine State.”

School choice

A group of Florida Republicans were among those seeking to designate this week as National School Choice Week.

A total of 50 lawmakers served as introducing co-sponsors to a resolution identifying Jan. 21 through 27 as a celebration of vouchers, opportunity scholarships and all forms of nontraditional schooling. That included seven Florida Republicans: Reps. Aaron Bean, Kat Cammack, Donalds, Neal Dunn, María Elvira Salazar, Mike Waltz and Daniel Webster.

The House has yet to vote on the legislation that encourages parents to explore resources available in their home states regarding education.

Florida Republicans are looking to designate National School Choice Week.

Webster, a former Florida House Speaker, said it’s no surprise Florida lawmakers make up such a large portion of School Choice champions.

“From passing Florida’s first school choice bill to voting to pass H.R. 5, the Parent’s Bill of Rights Act last year, I will always stand with students and parents,” Webster said. “National School Choice Week recognizes the importance of ensuring quality educational opportunities are available to all parents and students. I am committed to supporting policies that ensure every child has access to a high-quality education.”

Reversing Dobbs

The Dobbs decision last year ended a half-century of American women enjoying a constitutional right to abortion. Could Florida providers put the issue back in court again?

Rep. Kathy Castor met with Planned Parenthood leaders about legally challenging restrictions imposed in Florida and other states. She met with them on Monday, the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

“Everyone deserves the fundamental freedom to decide their own pathways in life,” the Tampa Democrat said.

Kathy Castor meets with Planned Parenthood leaders about legally challenging restrictions on abortion. Image via Castor’s Office.

“The anniversary of Roe v. Wade provides an opportunity to call for the return of our rights and freedoms to determine when and if to have children in the face of Republican-imposed abortion bans and costly waiting periods. Congress should codify the right to abortion care up to the time of viability — the standard for over 50 years under Roe v. Wade until the constitutional right was taken away by an extremist Supreme Court. I heard today from dedicated individuals about the many barriers that providers and patients are facing regarding abortion care: mandatory waiting periods, nonsensical bans, dangerous emergencies and more,” Castor said.

Elsewhere, Rep. Lois Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat, discussed the need to reverse actions in 14 states, including Florida, on limiting access to women’s reproductive care.

“Today should be a celebration of reproductive freedom. Instead, because Roe v. Wade has been undone, women are perilously losing health care, doctors live in fear of being prosecuted, and Republicans are racing full steam ahead toward a nationwide abortion ban,” she said.

“Americans overwhelmingly agree that women — not politicians — should have the freedom to determine whether or when to start or grow a family. Democrats are united in the fight to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act and protect abortion access across the country.”

Castor said those rights hopefully can come back.

“Republicans pretend to be a party that protects children and their families, but their actions speak louder than their words as they turn their back on families again and again by slashing resources for affordable housing, necessary health care, nutritious food, child care, breastfeeding support and more,” said Castor. “I will continue to fight on behalf of women and families in Florida and across America, supporting the right of everyone to have control over their bodies and their futures.”

Border blame

During a House Homeland Security Committee meeting last week, Rep. Laurel Lee put much of the onus for the current border crisis on Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

“For months now, we have been hearing the staggering statistics about the catastrophe at our Southern border, the millions of migrants coming across our border illegally, the human trafficking, the fentanyl, the lost unaccompanied minors,” Lee said. “But today, we hear something that is even more important than that.”

Laurel Lee wants Alejandro Mayorkas to take the blame for the Southern border crisis.

The hearing, entitled “Voices for the Victims: The Heartbreaking Reality of the Mayorkas Border Crisis,” spotlighted victims of crimes tied to the crisis.

Lee said the administration has actively ignored the crisis, even stepping in the way of states like Texas intervening.

“What do we have instead? An administration that has deliberately subverted the laws, who have deliberately defied the orders of courts which have ordered that they desist these unlawful policies,” Lee said.

Seeking forgiveness

A Supreme Court ruling last year stopped Biden’s sweeping student loan forgiveness action, though the administration has explored more modest programs within the court’s guidelines.

However, Rep. Frederica Wilson, Ranking Member of the House Higher Education Subcommittee, wants the administration to do more. The Hollywood Democrat and other House and Senate leaders co-led a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona calling for a session with lawmakers to discuss relief for loan holders.

Frederica Wilson urges a meeting with Miguel Cardona over student loan relief.

“While we appreciate the efforts of the Department and the negotiating committee, we are concerned that, without full consideration of cancellation targeted toward borrowers facing financial hardship, the rule will not provide adequate debt relief for the most vulnerable borrowers,” the lawmakers wrote.

“The Department should announce a fourth session of the neg-reg to allow the appropriate time for negotiators to discuss and vote upon a relief proposal for borrowers experiencing financial hardship.”

The letter was spearheaded on the Senate side by Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. In the House, Wilson worked with Reps. Jim Clyburn, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley on the language.

Cardona has held three sessions with a negotiating committee on what loans can be tossed legally and lawmakers want a fourth, this one on expanding the definitions of financial hardship “that is not otherwise addressed by the existing student loan system.”

Trip to Taiwan

Taiwan welcomed Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart and the Congressional Taiwan Caucus to the Republic of China, a title still maintained by the tiny Asian nation separate from communist China. The Hialeah Republican, along with Democratic Rep. Ami Bera of California, led the bipartisan delegation of lawmakers on a trek to Asia following the election of new President Lai Ching-te.

The delegation met with the new leader and outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen. Lai said the meeting showed a continued relationship with partners in the U.S. government.

“I hope the United States can continue to firmly support Taiwan, deepen bilateral cooperation and relations and work with other democratic partners to ensure peace and prosperity in the region,” he told Reuters.

Mario Díaz-Balart joins the Congressional Taiwan Caucus for a visit to the Republic of China. Image via Díaz-Balart’s Office.

“I also hope that the two Co-Chairs and our friends in the U.S. Congress can continue to support Taiwan in bolstering its self-defense capabilities.”

Díaz-Balart told the international press the U.S. remains committed to supporting the nation amid continuing tension with communist China.

“Rest assured that you have the support of the United States Congress,” he said, according to Reuters.

The Congressman also said meeting with Lai and incoming Vice President Bi-khim Hsiao was an honor. He shared pictures with members of the new administration and longtime associates from the former, celebrating the democratic transition of power.

“It was a privilege to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen again and to have the opportunity to express my gratitude for her tireless efforts to strengthen U.S.-Taiwan ties.

On this day

Jan. 26, 1961 — “John Kennedy appoints first female presidential physician” via — Just about a week after his inauguration, President Kennedy appointed Janet Travell as his personal physician, making her the first woman in history to hold the post. Travell possessed an impressive resume that included graduating with honors from Wellesley College, internships in cardiology, a professorship in clinical pharmacology at Cornell University, and an established reputation as a pioneer in treating chronic myofascial pain. Travell also designed prototypes of what would now be called ergonomic chairs. By the time she became the official presidential physician, Dr. Travell, an orthopedist, had worked closely with Kennedy for five years.

Jan. 26, 1998 — “Bill Clinton’s famous denial” via Time magazine — Clinton uttered 11 words that would go down in history: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky.” Though the definition of “sexual relations” — and other phrases — may be questioned, even in hindsight, Clinton did eventually end up admitting to an affair. So why did he say those words in the first place? While Special Counsel Kenneth Starr was trying to make his case, Clinton’s job was to persuade the American people to reserve judgment, let the investigation proceed and bear with the Great Explainer’s refusal to explain much of anything.


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

Staff Reports


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