Delegation for 2.2.24: Groundhog Day — military moms — border battle — Rumble

The United States Capitol building at sunset, Washington DC, USA.
For Congress, it's déjà vu all over again.

All over again

A government shutdown looms over Congress. A Republican Speaker seeks to calm dissent within his caucus. And bills in the Republican-controlled House demand support from Democrats to pass.

It seems like Groundhog Day indeed for Florida’s congressional delegation.

Members of Congress passed a bipartisan tax relief bill, but one that had hard-liners in the GOP up in arms. Within the Florida delegation, every Democrat in the House joined with a majority to pass the legislation (HR 7024). But Florida Republicans split 14-6 on the bill.

For Congress, it’s Groundhog Day all over again.

The bill was crafted in the House Ways and Means Committee, where Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Longboat Key Republican, serves as Vice Chair. He cheered the product coming out of the Committee.

“As someone who spent 30 years building businesses and 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,” he posted online.

But Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, said he saw more giveaways to other states than help for Floridians. He joined a half dozen Florida Republicans in voting “no” and saying the bill eroded tax cuts passed under former President Donald Trump.

“I am calling on all Florida representatives to oppose the efforts to degrade the Trump tax policies with this terrible SALT bill that New York Republicans are trying to bring to the floor,” Gaetz said on his podcast. “People in low-tax states should not have to subsidize people in high-tax states just because local governments want to take more of their money.”

But Democrats said the bill was a good step forward for families and bragged as the majority once again sought help in the minority caucus. New Speaker Mike Johnson refused to stop a vote on the bill this week from progressing as planned.

“Families with children can breathe a little easier as the expanded child tax credit (‘CTC’) will put money back into their pockets so they can better afford food, clothing and child care for their kids,” said Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat.

“The CTC would help approximately 33,000 children in Florida’s 14th Congressional District — mostly from families with income under $40,000 a year. The Child Tax Credit works. Childhood poverty across America dropped dramatically after The Democratic-controlled Congress passed an expanded CTC in the American Rescue Plan. While House Republicans refused to reinstate the ARP level of relief for families, I am gratified that the bill is estimated to lift as many as half a million children above the poverty line. Democrats fought for incentives to build more housing that is attainable for families, and I intend to champion more affordable housing across the Tampa Bay area and oppose Republican efforts to provide handouts to wealthy corporations and tax cheats.”

Military moms

According to Sen. Marco Rubio, joining the military shouldn’t mean sacrificing the opportunity to raise a family.

The Miami Republican this week introduced bipartisan legislation with Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, introduced the Improving Access to Maternal Health for Military and Dependent Moms Act, which would direct the Defense Department to study ways to improve mental health care for mothers at military facilities.

Serving your country doesn’t mean you can’t raise a family.

“Ensuring the well-being of our military families means addressing the unique challenges mothers face while they or their spouses, serve in the military,” Rubio said. “The Improving Access to Maternal Health for Military and Dependent Moms Act is a crucial step toward understanding and overcoming the obstacles to maternal health care within the Military Health System.”

Companion legislation will be carried in the House by GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican, and Rep. Terri Sewell, an Alabama Democrat.

Tester said the military-issued TRICARE must help relieve stress for young mothers in a career that demands a lot from families.

“It’s critically important that mothers who are veterans, military spouses, or currently serving this country have access to quality, affordable health care,” Tester said. “Our bill will help make sure female service members and military spouses can access the same care as civilians through TRICARE, and ensure we live up to the promises we make to them when they sign up to serve our nation.”

Border report

Sen Rick Scott, a Naples Republican, cheered the advancement of a border bill with appeal in the Senate.

The Continuing High-Quality Evaluations of Concerning and Known Persons of Interest through National Training Updates (CHECKPOINT) Act advanced through the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Scott co-sponsored the bill with Sen Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona independent. The bill would require regular updates to the Senate from the Border Patrol on drug seizures.

“It’s heart-wrenching and terrifying that fentanyl continues to flow across our southern border and into U.S. communities where it takes more lives every single day. We cannot allow this drug to continue endangering American families,” Scott said.

Rick Scott is praising a new Republican-backed border bill.

“This common-sense legislation will make several updates to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection training and procedures of the Checkpoint Program Management Office to ensure we are doing everything possible to seize these drugs from dangerous criminals before they harm our communities. I’m glad to have bipartisan support for the Continuing High-quality Evaluations of Concerning and Known Persons of Interest through the National Training Updates (CHECKPOINT) Act, and I’m thankful it passed out of committee this week. I won’t stop fighting for this bill’s full passage so that we may take another step toward ending the deadly fentanyl smuggling happening at our border.”

The bill sets out criteria and categories of drug seizures at the southern border and would require Border Patrol to set public goals on interceptions.

“Our bipartisan bill delivers real solutions to crack down on dangerous human and drug smuggling at Arizona’s border and is now one step closer to becoming law — and one step closer to bringing Arizona families peace of mind,” Sinema said.

Stopping modern slavery

Re. Kat Cammack also focused on immigration policy as the Gainesville Republican introduced the Human Trafficking Awareness Training Act. If passed, the legislation would expand the availability of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers, including for state, local, tribal, territorial, and educational institutions’ law enforcement agencies.

Kat Cammack says human trafficking has no place in our society.

“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, and it has no place in our society,” Cammack said. “Our first responders deserve the very best training on recognizing and preventing this horrible trade, and this bill will ensure the experts at FLETC can share their knowledge with other law enforcement agencies across the country. I will continue working closely with my colleagues to do everything we can to putting an end to trafficking in the U.S.”

Delegation colleague and close ally Rep. Byron Donalds signed on as an introducing co-sponsor.

President Joe Biden’s “administration’s disastrous border policy has supercharged the scourge of human trafficking to unprecedented levels,” the Naples Republican said.

“Now more than ever, it is critical for Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers to provide trainees with the proper tools to identify, respond to, and eradicate human trafficking. It is beyond time that we modernize our nation’s approach to combating the growing issue of human trafficking,” Donalds added, “and I am proud to join Rep. Cammack in support of the Human Trafficking Awareness Training Act.”

Friend indeed?

In a speech on the House floor, Rep. Bill Posey called for states to stop issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented workers.

The Rockledge Republican proclaimed his support for the Protect Our Communities from DUIs Act (HR 6976), legislation to require the deportation of illegal immigrants who have been convicted or committed the offense of driving while drunk or impaired.

Bill Posey takes a hard pass on driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. Image via CQ/Roll Call.

“Over the last few days, I’ve heard more lies about the immigration crisis at our Southern border than any other issue since Obamacare,” Posey said.

He also expressed irritation with some Democrats claiming to have friends across the aisle but dismissing all as “MAGA extremist Republicans.” “You have a right to stand with the drug cartels, but I and the rest of the MAGA Republicans stand with Texas and the United States,” he said, arguing the bill would save American lives.

Blocked calls

Meanwhile, Rep. Darren Soto focused his energy on invasive phone calls. The Kissimmee Democrat introduced the Roboblock Act (HR 7124), which would direct the Federal Communications Commission to enact regulations requiring voice service providers to offer a robocall-blocking service at no charge.

“There is no reason why Americans should be getting flooded with spam calls and text messages,” Soto said. “We must do better to protect them from these bothersome communications. As scammers find more ways to circulate these messages, we must get ahead of it and make sure providers offer robocall blocking services as part of the base price.”

Darren Soto doesn’t like Spam (calls).

The proposal was added to the larger Do Not Disturb Act, an overall privacy package.

Soto noted court decisions have effectively ignored spamming calls made across social media networks, something he considers an oversight as those internet networks increasingly get used for direct communication.

Show me the Petfax

Protecting animals has always been a priority for Buchanan. This week, the Longboat Key Republican co-introduced a bipartisan bill with Rep. Deborah Ross, a North Carolina Democrat, to crack down on puppy mills nationwide.

The Petfax Act would provide pet owners with the care history of animals purchased from breeding facilities. Then, consumers would know if they were supporting a business with a history of abuse.

“Whenever you buy a car, it usually comes with a detailed ‘Carfax’ report detailing the vehicle history, such as owner maintenance, accidents, and overall condition,” said Buchanan, who founded auto dealerships before his election to Congress.

Vern Buchanan is well-known for his love of animals.

“Adopting a pet should be no different. That is why I am pleased to introduce the Petfax Act with Congresswoman Ross to require those who sell pets to provide a ‘Petfax’ report outlining the animal’s health history. Cracking down on these unsanitary and inhumane puppy mills is an essential step in ensuring a safe and healthy future in the animal buying process.”

Buchanan’s Office estimates that 10,000 puppy mills operate in the U.S. today. Too many exist with no accountability to consumers, the Congressman said.

Ross agreed and expected support across the aisle for the bill.

“Far too many animals suffer from inhumane conditions, but adopters are kept in the dark about the animal’s history and where it was bred,” she said. “This bipartisan bill is a crucial step toward ensuring prospective pet owners are equipped with essential information about their new family member and promotes transparency among breeders and sellers, fostering responsible practices within the industry. I’m grateful for the partnership of Congressman Buchanan on this critical issue. As a proud dog owner, I remain committed to creating a future where every pet finds a loving home through ethical and informed choices.”

Ready to Rumble

A video-sharing service headquartered in Longboat Key has become the subject of a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) probe. Now, Donalds wants to know if there’s a political motive to the federal investigation of Rumble.

Last month, Wired broke the news that Rumble, often seen as a conservative alternative to YouTube, was under active scrutiny. Donalds wrote a letter to SEC Chair Gary Gensler expressing concerns the election served as election interference.

Byron Donalds is ready to Rumble.

“It is no secret that Rumble has risen to prominence by serving as the preeminent free speech alternative to Big Tech media platforms. Having gone public in September 2022, Rumble is quickly becoming one of the centerpieces of political and social discourse,” Donalds wrote.

“In 2023, Rumble was granted the exclusive online streaming rights to the Republican presidential primary debates and is home to many who were wrongfully censored or de-platformed by Big Tech, often in coordination with the federal government. With the presidential cycle now in full swing, the timing of this investigation suggests an effort to either implicitly or explicitly influence Rumble’s role in the 2024 election under the threat of constant litigation.”

His letter asks if the administration contacted the SEC about Rumble and if the investigation was based on a report by investor Christian Lamarco’s Culper Research.

Timely appointments

Multiple Florida lawmakers are working together to make sure patients receive timely medical care from Veterans Affairs.

Reps. Scott Franklin, a Lakeland Republican, and Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, a Miramar Democrat, filed the Scheduling for Community Health and Easy Data to Understand for Legislators to Evaluate Services (SCHEDULES) Act.

“As a veteran, I understand how challenging the VA can be to navigate, especially while experiencing a health crisis,” Franklin said. “Far too often, vets suffer in painful or threatening situations waiting for a scheduled specialty care visit. That’s unacceptable. Veterans have earned the highest quality care, and Congress must hold the VA accountable to provide it quickly and reliably. This important bill would ensure the VA swiftly provides, not just schedules, needed care.”

Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick seeks timely health care for veterans.

“Florida veterans in desperate need of care simply cannot afford VA appointment delays,” Cherfilus-McCormick added. “This bipartisan bill helps ensure that VA is responsive to the needs of patients and is swiftly providing the care that they earned serving our country.”

A Senate version of the bill was also introduced by Scott, who co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Jon Ossoff, a Georgia Democrat.

“Millions of veterans rely on the VA, and it is critical that our VA providers are accountable and responsive in delivering essential, and often lifesaving, health care,” Scott said.

“My bill, the SCHEDULES Act, will increase transparency within the VA to require uniform standards across the board so veterans have more insight into when their appointments will be scheduled. As a Navy veteran myself and the son of a World War II veteran, I know that our veterans have sacrificed so much for our freedoms, and they should never be forced to play a guessing game of when they will be taken care of.”

No helping Hamas

Reports that United Nations human rights workers may have provided material help to Hamas have Rep. Brian Mast ready to disband the group involved.

The Stuart Republican filed legislation to eliminate the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and to reassign the duties to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

“UNRWA is a front, plain and simple,” Mast said.

Brian Mast hopes to quash any U.N. workers who have ties to Hamas.

“It masquerades as a relief organization while building the infrastructure to support Hamas. It is indoctrinating Palestinian children to hate all Jews and filling the future ranks of jihadists. It is literally funneling American tax dollars to terrorism. And now we know with certainty that a significant part of the UNRWA workforce are members of Palestinian terrorist organizations, including participants in the Oct. 7 attack. No more. The United States must lead the effort to permanently disband UNRWA and end its nurturing of terrorism.”

Israeli intelligence this week released documents indicating the group was “assisting Hamas with securing humanitarian aid that is transferred to the Gaza strip,” as reported by Sky News. That included allowing Hamas to store weapons at UNRWA facilities, including schools and hospitals and even establishing a network of tunnels with workers’ knowledge.

Mast chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Accountability and plans to co-chair a joint hearing immediately.

Roadmap to success

House Democrats unrolled a higher education agenda to see if the party can regain a majority in this year’s elections, including policies championed by Rep. Frederica Wilson. The ranking Democrat on the House Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee, Wilson touted the plan’s inclusion of her LOAN Act in the Roadmap to College Student Success.

“The Roadmap to College Success is a bold plan that will lower the cost of college, ensure students have access to quality programs, and give students the resources to complete their degree,” Wilson said. “I’m proud that this proposal by House Democrats includes my bill, the LOAN Act, which doubles the Pell Grant, improves loan forgiveness, reduces college expenses, and slashes interest rates for borrowers.”

Frederica Wilson has a roadmap for Congress when Democrats retake the House.

The Hollywood Democrat said the plan recognizes restrictions put in place by the Supreme Court regarding student loan forgiveness.

“I recognize the administration cannot eliminate student loans annually, so what happens to (the) class of 2024, 2025, and so on? What are their options for managing not just the cost of loans but the cost of going to college?” Wilson said.

“That’s why I filed the LOAN Act, to reform the policies that created the student loan crisis. The Roadmap to College Success, coupled with the LOAN Act, will address the root causes of the student debt crisis, enable folks to fulfill their full potential and ensure we support future college students. Democrats’ commitment is clear: our want-to-be-somebody students should not be shackled by a lifetime of debt simply for seeking a college education — a stark contrast to the Republicans’ disastrous proposal. Their plan is nothing short of a dangerous pathway that betrays the promise of higher education for all.”

Fishing for trouble

The Caribbean Sea lies far from China, but Rep. Carlos Giménez said that hasn’t stopped the nation from illegally fishing there. The Miami-Dade Republican filed the Caribbean and Latin America Maritime Security Initiative Act with Rep. Scott Peters, a California Democrat, to curb the unlawful raiding of marine ecosystems.

“Communist China continues to pillage our oceans and undermine the sovereignty of our neighbors and allies by pursuing Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in their territorial waters,” Giménez said.

Carlos Giménez tells China to get out of the Caribbean Sea.

“I’m proud to join Rep. Scott Peters in introducing the bipartisan Caribbean and Latin America Maritime Security Initiative Act to reinforce our commitment to our neighboring countries and protect our sensitive fisheries in South Florida and across the nation.”

The bill would authorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to take immediate action against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the Caribbean Sea and the waters of Latin American nations.

“We must ensure our competition with China prioritizes America’s relationships with states in the Caribbean and Latin America to maintain our status as a leader in both regions and ensure China and other bad actors cannot threaten the ecosystems, food supply, political ties, and international trade system which benefits companies here in San Diego, the U.S., and nations throughout the Caribbean and Latin America,” Peters said.

On this day

Feb. 2, 1848 — “Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo signed” via the National Archives — A Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Limits and Settlement was signed at Guadalupe Hidalgo, thus terminating the Mexican-American War. While the war was ostensibly about securing the boundary of the recently annexed state of Texas, it was clear from the outset the U.S. goal was territorial expansion. Some decades earlier, the United States had secured the Louisiana Purchase. President James Polk now saw it as America’s “manifest destiny” to acquire access to a western ocean by acquiring Nuevo México and the Californias.

Feb. 2, 1948 — “Harry Truman delivers message on civil rights” via the Truman Library Institute — President Truman delivered a “Special Message to Congress on Civil Rights.” In the 3,095-word address, President Truman called for anti-lynching legislation, fair housing oversight, greater protection of the right to vote, an end to discrimination in the federal workforce and the abolition of Jim Crow practices in the Armed Forces. It was the first message of its kind by a sitting U.S. President, and it was inspired nearly entirely by a landmark report published three months earlier by the President’s Committee on Civil Rights.


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

Staff Reports


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