Delegation for 2.6.24: Deal or no deal — Hamas — senioritis — insurrection

The United States Capitol building at sunset, Washington DC, USA.
On the cusp of a new budget deal, Republicans kick it to the curb.

Deal or no deal

The Republican House appears on the verge of getting its way regarding a Senate-negotiated budget package. That means kicking the deal to the curb.

At a caucus meeting, most Republicans in the Senate, including Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, demanded a border deal be retired.

By the meeting’s end, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would recommend a “no” vote on the supplemental package coming to the floor Wednesday.

Republicans get what they want in a new budget deal, meaning they are ready to kick it to the curb.

That has Scott voicing anger at how a deal unacceptable to House Republicans and most of the Senate GOP ever became a consideration.

“Again and again, Senate GOP Leadership has shoved bad bills through without questions or input from members. Today, we said enough,” the Naples Republican said. “Republican Senators and the voters we represent will not be sidelined or ignored.”

He repeated a similar sentiment at a midday news conference Tuesday. Scott asserted that the deal, which most controversially would not mandate a border closure until there was a seven-day average of 5,000 migrant encounters per day, would effectively codify President Joe Biden’s “bad border policies.”

Rubio similarly called the deal “an easy no.” He said it would be better not to pass any border legislation.

“Anyone who says Biden needs new laws to stop the migrant crisis is a liar,” Rubio posted on X. “The law RIGHT NOW says if the President finds that the entry of any aliens would be detrimental to the U.S., he can ‘suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens.’”

In the House, the developments generated celebration among many Republicans in the Florida delegation and irritation among Democrats. As the deal dissolved with no backup plan, Rep. Matt Gaetz posted a meme from “Apocalypse Now,” showing actor Robert Duvall’s character famously saying, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning!”

On Fox News, Rep. Kat Cammack, a Gainesville Republican, called the budget deal “garbage” and said it would send money to the wrong places in the world. “It’s the Ukraine aid package, a money-for-Palestine package, an assistance-to-Arab-partners package, and the American people know it,” she said.

Democrats said if the goal is to undermine Biden in the fall, refusing to reach a solution to the problem will backfire.

“MAGA Republicans own this border crisis now! Instead of working in a bipartisan fashion to address the issue,” posted Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Hollywood Democrat. “Republicans prioritize political stunts over solutions in an attempt to exploit our broken immigration system for the 2024 election. They’re putting politics over people.”

But what happens now? Some delegation members are trying to find a way to fund at least some priorities immediately. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, a Hialeah Republican, issued a statement supporting a stand-alone bill on funding aid to Israel, something Speaker Mike Johnson announced earlier this week he would pursue separately from the budget deal crafted in the Senate.

“As (Chair) of the Subcommittee on the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs of the House Committee on Appropriations, I am proud to be an original co-sponsor of this important legislation,” Díaz-Balart said, “which provides urgently needed funding for our friend and ally Israel and support for U.S. Forces in the region. Israel must defeat the terrorists of Hamas, and it will do so with robust U.S. assistance. Iran and its proxy, Hamas, pose an existential threat to Israel, and their terrorist actions must be stopped.”

On that, Florida Democrats are willing to go along with a plan if it has a path forward.

“I will vote yes on the House bill to send critical aid to Israel and protect our U.S. troops in the Middle East,” posted Rep. Lois Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat. “We must not let a divided Congress embolden Israel’s adversaries and put our military in harm’s way.”

Halting Hamas sympathy

Floridians once again are leading a push against Hamas infiltration within United Nations humanitarian efforts. Rubio sent a letter to U.S. Secretary-General António Guterres calling for the immediate resignation of Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

Rubio sent the letter along with Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, following reports that the agency provided material support to Hamas before terrorist attacks in Israel.

Marco Rubio wants none of this support for Hamas.

“Of the 12 UNRWA individuals who took part in the Oct. 7 attack, six have been identified as committing violent and barbaric acts against civilian women, children, elderly and men,” the letter reads.

“It must be noted that the victims were not just Israeli civilians but also included at least 200 citizens of other U.N. member states, including Argentina, Canada, China, France, Germany, Nepal, the Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Lazzarini’s lack of care or regard for these victims is a blatant disregard for the values that the U.N. claims to espouse.”

Last week, Rep. Brian Mast, a Stuart Republican, filed legislation calling for eliminating the UNRWA altogether.

The letter from Rubio and Collins said there must be institutional change.

“Incitement to discrimination, hostility, and violence by UNRWA staff is unacceptable. While Lazzarini has terminated a few employees during his tenure, he only did so as a result of international pressure,” the letter said. “He has never taken proactive steps to root out antisemitism from within the organization, nor has he held the significant number of pro-terrorist employees, who still remain on the payroll of UNRWA, accountable for their hate.”

Senior issues

The population in the Sunshine State remains one of the most elderly in the U.S. That means senior issues loom large for many officials, including Scott.

The Naples Republican held a roundtable in his hometown, where the median age is above 66. He heard from community members about the need to safeguard specific programs and combat inflation.

“I got to hear from Florida seniors about what more I can do in Washington to help them. I’ve been in Washington for five years and every day, I have to fight to remind the people up there that they work for you,” Scott said.

Rick Scott is standing tall for Florida seniors.

He took a few partisan shots as he kicked off a re-election year. Democrats have attacked his record, including calling for a five-year sunset on any federal programs. But he promised to stand by programs like Social Security.

“Democrats have waged a war on seniors by causing skyrocketing inflation, which hurts those on fixed income, who rely on programs like Social Security, the most. I am fighting to pass my Protect Our Seniors Act to safeguard Social Security and Medicare benefits from cuts and political games in Washington,” Scott said.

“I’m also working to make sure that Florida seniors don’t have to face uncertainty because of skyrocketing inflation and federal incompetence like what we’ve seen at the Social Security Administration with overpayments and demands of immediate financially crippling clawbacks from innocent seniors. I promised Floridians I would fight, and I will never go back on my word.”

What insurrection?

As multiple states consider barring former President Donald Trump from the ballot, Rep. Matt Gaetz wants Congress to undercut the principal reason. The Fort Walton Beach Republican hosted a news conference Tuesday on a resolution he’s submitting declaring that President Trump did not participate in an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.

“President Donald J. Trump did not engage in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or give aid or comfort to the enemies thereof,” the Gaetz resolution reads.

Matt Gaetz wants to make clear that Donald Trump did not participate in an ‘insurrection.’ Image via AP.

The Colorado Supreme Court and the Maine Secretary of State have taken a contrary position, suggesting the former President’s insistence the 2020 Election was stolen. His speech on the morning of Jan. 6 led to the Capitol riot and attempted to overturn the election results.

Gaetz said he has 25 co-sponsors on the bill, which would issue a “sense of Congress” that Trump didn’t engage in anything to be confused with an insurrection.

Clocking in

Years after the coronavirus-causing COVID-19 reached U.S. shores, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to allow many workers to work remotely. Rep. Michael Waltz, a St. Augustine Beach Republican, said that has come at a price and the practice should stop.

He sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf questioning current telework practices.

“It has been four years since the pandemic hit our country, yet a number of federal agencies that adopted telework policies have still not fully reopened to serve the American public,” Waltz said. “This has especially harmed much-needed services from the FDA as the agency continues to restrict required in-person meetings needed to approve medical therapies for the American public. It’s past time to reopen.”

Michael Waltz questions the wisdom of working remotely.

For his part, Califf has suggested a hybrid work environment has worked well both for employees and the public it serves.

“Looking forward, it’s not so much about COVID-19. Instead, the hybrid work environment is the best way to optimize the ‘balanced scorecard’ that defines our work: productivity, employee satisfaction, constituent satisfaction and cost,” Califf wrote in a lengthy blog post on the FDA website.

Waltz said Congress deserves to know more about that, including the cost of allowing more remote work. He also notes that many seeking approvals from the FDA face in-person meeting requirements.

He also noted White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients said in August that agencies should aggressively execute a return to in-person work at all federal agencies.

Azerbaijani aid

While high-profile debates unfold in Congress over funding to Israel and Ukraine, Rep. Gus Bilirakis wants to stop any foreign aid landing in Azerbaijan. The Palm Harbor Republican introduced a measure in the House against any taxpayer funding going to the former Soviet republic.

“Current law prohibits United States assistance to the Government of Azerbaijan until the President determines and notifies Congress that the Government of Azerbaijan is taking demonstrable steps to cease all blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh,” Bilirakis said. “Yet, the Biden administration has repeatedly waved this provision under the guise of preventing international terrorism.”

Gus Bilirakis wants no money to go to Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan and Armenia have been engaged in hostile conflict for more than 30 years and Azerbaijan displaced 100,000 Armenians in September after claiming a successful anti-terrorism operation, according to Responsible Statecraft.

“Given the political and humanitarian crisis that has resulted from Azerbaijan’s recent aggression toward neighboring Armenia, it is unconscionable that U.S. tax dollars are going to support this brutal regime,” Bilirakis said. “Those dollars could better be used here at home. Our legislation would stop the Biden administration from circumventing the law and prevent any U.S. aid to Azerbaijan for at least the next two years.”

Docket delay

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna quickly took credit for one of the high-profile cases against Trump being taken off a March docket.

“Yesterday, I sent a letter to Special Counsel Jack Smith requesting him to produce information about his investigation into President Trump. Only a few hours later, my office found out that his case against Trump was removed from the Washington, D.C. docket,” the St. Petersburg Republican said.

Anna Paulina Luna takes credit for a docket change.

“My colleagues and I have grave constitutional concerns about the appointment of Jack Smith. Despite this case being dropped from the public docket, we still have questions for Jack Smith and will get those answers for the American people. Jack Smith now has eight days to respond.”

She sent a letter to Smith questioning the validity of his appointment as Special Counsel.

But as numerous outlets reported, the removal from the docket, while setting speculation afire online, wasn’t a cancellation of the case. Instead, District Judge Tanya Chutkan signaled she would not send juror questionnaires until a question was resolved whether Trump could be held criminally liable for actions taken as President.

“The court will set a new schedule if and when the mandate is returned,” Chutkan wrote in a federal order.

Mauritanian refugees

The number of refugees coming to the U.S. from Mauritania spiked by thousands in the last six months, according to The Associated Press. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick wants Biden to offer Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

The Miramar Democrat co-led a bipartisan letter to Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ur Jaddou seeking either TPS or a moratorium on deportations of individuals from the West African nation.

The request comes as stories come in from the nation of “extraordinary conditions including slavery, forced statelessness, land grabbing, ongoing racial and ethnic discrimination and other human rights abuses.”

Refugees coming to the U.S. from Mauritania spiked by thousands, Image via AP.

“Human rights experts have described Mauritania as an apartheidlike state where Black individuals suffer from systemic oppression and marginalization at every level of society. If deported back to these conditions, Black Mauritanians would likely face violence and potentially death,” the letter reads.

She sent the letter with Reps. Joyce Beatty, an Ohio Democrat, and Mike Carey, an Ohio Republican. Co-signatories on the letter include Florida Democratic Reps. Maxwell Frost and Wilson.

Cherflius-McCormick, along with Frost and Rep. María Elvira Salazar, a Coral Gables Republican, notably sought a similar designation for Nicaraguan refugees last year and successfully championed an extension of TPS for Haiti nationals. She said the situation with Mauritania should be treated the same.

“The U.S. must be a country that stands against racial discrimination and enslavement,” the letter reads. “We respectfully request that you designate Mauritania for TPS in order to save lives, keep families together, and promote a humane and effective immigration system.”

Helping troops conceive

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) updated its health care guidelines to make coverage of in vitro fertilization services available to military families.

The decision was applauded by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who has worked to raise awareness of infertility issues.

“I applaud VA for its decision to align their policy with the Department of Defense, to modernize their outdated fertility treatment rules and increase opportunities for reproductive health care access among veterans that truly meets the needs of service members and their families,” the Weston Democrat said.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz seeks to boost the military’s baby production.

“As someone who struggled to start a family, I know firsthand how vital it is to have access to in vitro fertilization. I fought for years to make changes in the Military Construction and VA Appropriations bill to replace their outdated and discriminatory policy and expand these benefits to veterans equitably.”

A new range of services covered includes lab work, infertility assessments, surgery and artificial insemination. Services are still only available to married couples, and the VA won’t cover the involvement of a third party, such as surrogacy or the use of donor eggs or sperm.

Wasserman Schultz said it’s a step forward in recognizing family planning as essential health care.

“Our service members put their lives on the line for our country and deserve equal access to the tools and resources available to start their own families,” she said. “I’m gratified and elated for the veterans who already face heartbreaking personal challenges to start a family and who will no longer have the law stand in their way too.”

Stars align

Some of the nation’s most famous artists just endorsed Salazar’s legislation (HR 6943) combating using artificial intelligence to create fraudulent art. Florida talents like Gloria Esteban and the estate of Tom Petty signed on a letter alongside celebrities including Cardi B and Bradley Cooper.

“I am thrilled to have the support of nearly 300 artists, songwriters, actors, and other creators for my landmark No AI FRAUD Act,” Salazar announced. “You don’t have to be a musical artist to see the threat AI abuse poses to the American people. Let’s get this bill signed so we can protect ourselves from criminals profiting off our creativity.”

The Human Artistry Campaign published a full-page ad in USA Today with more than 300 signatures. Some of the more notable actors and recording stars on the list included Kevin Bacon, Kelsea Ballerini, Kristen Bell, Mary J. Blige, Common, Sheryl Crow, Chuck D, Lauren Daigle, Rosario Dawson, Laura Dern, Fran Drescher, Missy Elliott, Vince Gill, Clark Gregg, Julianna Margulies, Reba McEntire, Debra Messing, Bette Midler, Nicki Minaj, Offset, Questlove, Smokey Robinson, Kyra Sedgwick, Kiefer Sutherland, Lainey Wilson and Trisha Yearwood.

A huge list of celebrities are calling for an end to ‘AI fraud.’

The legislation would establish an artist’s rights to their voice and likeness at the federal level and allow them to sue anyone wrongfully using that to create deepfakes. Salazar filed the bipartisan bill with Rep. Madeleine Dean, a Pennsylvania Democrat.

On this day

Feb. 6, 1899 — “Treaty of Paris ratified” via PBS — After heated debate, Congress approved the treaty by a two-thirds margin (57-27). President William McKinley signed the treaty, and the United States emerged as an imperial power. Under the treaty’s terms, the U.S. gained possession of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines for $20 million. As for Cuba, the U.S. could neither keep it without reneging on the Teller Amendment nor release the island without abandoning it to the revolutionary aims of the Cuban insurgency. Despite U.S. support for pro-American candidates, Cubans elected the more radical forces of Cuba Libre, forcing policymakers in Washington to reinterpret the Teller Amendment.

Feb. 6, 1998 — “Bill Clinton signs bill renaming National Airport for Ronald Reagan” via The Associated Press — The House and Senate each voted to rename the capital’s Washington National Airport in honor of the ailing 40th President in time for his 87th birthday. Despite complaints from Democrats that local rights were being trampled, President Bill Clinton signed the bill. “I think for him it came down to a question of honoring Ronald Reagan,” his spokesperson Mike McCurry said. On a 76-22 roll call, with all the “nays” coming from Democrats, the Senate voted to rename the airport. Later, the House passed a slightly different bill, 240-186, leaving out the word Washington.

Happy birthday

Best wishes to Rep. Gus Bilirakis, who turns 61 on Thursday, Feb 8.


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

Staff Reports


  • Tony the Greek

    February 6, 2024 at 3:21 pm

    LOL. So instead of getting 80% of what you want, we now face the chance of getting 0% of what you want with a left-winf immagration when the Dems win control of congress later this year…

  • Michael K

    February 6, 2024 at 4:44 pm

    Republicans: The party of no. No interest in addressing the complex issues around immigration. They will complain and campaign – but do nothing to govern – except to take away basic rights and cut taxes for the uber-wealthy.

  • Jeff

    February 7, 2024 at 9:52 pm

    To the comments above. Approving anything with a monthly allowable quota is unacceptable. Also you’ve not mentioned anything on further funding the Ukraine war. We need a real solution. No more chaos and close border until you’ve established control. No more funding for wars in an immigration bill. Real solutions, not future economic burden.

Comments are closed.


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