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- The Delegation
- Vern Buchanan
Failure to impeach
A series of failed negotiations exposed fissures among congressional Republicans over the past week. That included embarrassing votes on the House floor that fizzled, creating headaches and credibility problems for new Speaker Mike Johnson.
One came as impeachment articles against Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas failed. With many Republicans pressing concerns about illegal immigration as a central issue this year, the base had long pursued accountability for the Cabinet member overseeing border security. Rep. Bill Posey, a Rockledge Republican, had filed impeachment articles against both Mayorkas and President Joe Biden, with oversight of the border as the reason. Different articles, brought by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, ultimately landed on the floor.
Posey felt Republicans had a slam-dunk case.
“Under the Biden administration and Secretary Mayorkas’ tenure, over 7 million illegal immigrants have crossed the border, as well as an untold number of individuals who have evaded (Customs and Border Protection) detection,” Posey said.
“Secretary Mayorkas was also caught remarking that 85% of illegal aliens who are apprehended by CBP have been released into the country, continuing the problematic ‘catch and release’ policy. It’s clear by the growing crisis infiltrating our cities and causing strain on our resources that Secretary Mayorkas must be removed from office and a major overhaul of our border security policy is required.”
But the measure failed on a 216-214 vote. That included a procedural vote from leadership, which has promised to bring the action up again for reconsideration when Republicans “have the votes.” Ultimately, four GOP lawmakers voted with a united Democratic caucus against impeachment.
Democrats in the delegation mocked the failed vote on articles that appear doomed in a Democrat-controlled Senate anyway. Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Parkland Democrat, joked online that the House Oversight Chair would have to lower his sights on the White House roster to avoid further embarrassment.
“It’s time to Impeach Commander the Dog,” Moskowitz posted. “With the failure to impeach Joe Biden and Mayorkas (no evidence), our hero James Comer has just uncovered that Commander the dog has been in charge of the Biden Crime family this entire time.”
On another front, Johnson couldn’t get a spending package passed even with the help of many Florida Democrats.
After weeks of wavering, Johnson took a stand-alone bill to a roll-call vote that would fund foreign aid to Israel amid a war with Hamas. The bill needed a two-thirds vote to pass on the floor but failed on a 250-180 vote. Johnson wooed 46 Democrats to vote up on the bill, including most Florida Democrats.
“I stand proud to join my colleagues in voting to allocate resources to assist Israel in combating terrorism in the Middle East and to protect Americans in the region,” said Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Hollywood Democrat. “It is imperative that we remain steadfast in supporting one of our strongest allies, especially during such a critical period, because when Israel is strong, America is strong.”
The only Democrat from Florida who didn’t go along was Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost, an Orlando Democrat who opposed separating funding from support to Ukraine and other international concerns. He’s also the sole member of the delegation critical of Israel’s current military response.
“The bill that was presented to the House tonight included no humanitarian aid for the vulnerable people of Gaza, included no mention of support for our Ukrainian allies desperately in need of help as they fight off communist Russia and Vladimir Putin, and it included no funding for the security of places of worship across our country that are under constant threat of violence as antisemitic and anti-Muslim rhetoric dangerously continue to rise,” he said. “I continue to believe in a two-state solution for both the Israeli and Palestinian people and believe any aid package must support this mission for lasting peace.”
But the bill was also doomed by 14 Republicans who voted against it, including Florida Reps. Aaron Bean, Matt Gaetz and Cory Mills. None issued explanations for their vote. But a House Freedom Caucus statement criticized the bill for having no funding mechanism, unlike a measure passed by the House in November.
Rep. Scott Franklin, a Lakeland Republican, said Congress needs to support Israel regardless. “As the Middle East inches closer to all-out war, America must send a clear and unequivocal message we stand with Israel in its fight to defend itself. I’m disappointed this bill, which would have provided needed support to Israel and our troops in the region, failed tonight.”
Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, laid responsibility for that at GOP leadership’s feet.
“President Biden proposed a comprehensive security package months ago to protect America and stand with our democratic allies,” she said. “He worked with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to add tough border security measures to the package, but Republicans walked away. Instead, MAGA Republicans stalled aid to Israel, Ukraine and humanitarian interests — and doubled down on political charades in the hope that the American people are fooled into thinking that Republicans are doing something.
“Republicans in Congress are mired in chaos.”
A series of tornadoes in the Panhandle has delegation members seeking federal assistance. Sen. Rick Scott led a letter to Biden, co-signed by Sen. Marco Rubio and 15 House members representing the state, supporting Gov. Ron DeSantis’ request to declare a major disaster in North Florida federally.
“The catastrophic power of these tornadoes, as well as the storm’s lightning, heavy rain and strong winds, have left tens of thousands without power and displaced individuals from their homes,” Scott wrote.
“Preliminary damage assessments indicate hundreds of homes are damaged or destroyed, many of which may be decades old and constructed before the implementation of modern building codes and mitigation measures.”
In addition to seeking a declaration in Florida and statewide hazard mitigation assistance, the letter specifically seeks Individual Assistance and Public Assistance for Bay, Jackson and Walton counties, along with hazard mitigation statewide.
The letter was bipartisan, with signatures from Republican Reps. Bean, Gus Bilirakis, Kat Cammack, Mario Díaz-Balart, Neal Dunn, Franklin, Carlos Giménez, Anna Paulina Luna, Mills, Posey, María Elvira Salazar, Michael Waltz and Daniel Webster, as well as Democratic Reps. Moskowitz and Darren Soto.
“Ensuring the state has access to the federal resources it needs is imperative to protect Floridians, their property and their communities,” the letter reads.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services launched the Acute Hospital Care At-Home program, allowing many patients. Now, Rubio wants to see the program expanded for a wider range of patients.
The Miami Republican introduced the At Home Observation and Medical Evaluation Services (At HOME Services) Act, which would establish a pilot program to allow observation status patients.
“Addressing our health care challenges requires innovative solutions,” Rubio said. “The At HOME Services Act builds on the success of the hospital-at-home program to lower costs and burdens and improve patient outcomes and satisfaction.”
He filed the bipartisan bill with Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat. The Senators say allowing more patients to remain at home while still being observed would free up hospital beds and staff.
“The pandemic taught us that meeting patients where they’re at is possible and often preferred,” Carper said. “That’s why I worked to increase and expand access to hospital-level care from the comfort of home. These services have seen tremendous success for people across the country.”
Finding missing kids
At a hearing on protecting missing and exploited children, Bean offered a stark contrast between the world before and after national databases designed to find kids. He discussed how high-profile kidnappings in the 1980s reshaped parenting in America and led to the creation of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
“In the ’70s, I remember as a child we would leave the house after breakfast and return just in time for dinner during the Summer,” the Fernandina Beach Republican recalled. “Parents were at ease because unsupervised outdoor activity was seen as a safe, integral part of adolescence and we lived in a high-trust society.”
“Though, over time, that image of society slowly faded as communities came apart and the world felt less safe. Then, in response to this general trend and several high-profile child abductions, such as the tragedy of Adam Walsh, President Ronald Reagan signed the Missing Children’s Assistance Act. The MCAA allowed NCMEC to become the national resource center in 1984 with the goal of protecting children from abduction, exploitation and abuse and, in 2023 alone, NCMEC helped authorities with nearly 30,000 cases.”
As Chair of the House Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee, Bean brought leadership for the NCMEC to discuss its work with Congress. He said that work is as important as ever in a world where new threats emerge in cyberspace.
“In an online era, which brings with it new opportunities and challenges, NCMEC stands at the forefront of combating child exploitation on social media. Through partnerships with law enforcement and the private sector, NCMEC has developed innovative solutions to address the evolving landscape of online threats against children,” Bean said.
“Just last week, the country watched as Big Tech CEOs received sharp criticism for rampant child exploitation on their platforms. NCMEC is more important now than ever. NCMEC’s commitment extends beyond the homefront, collaborating with international organizations to combat the global issue of child exploitation.”
Gold Star families
When a soldier dies serving the country, Waltz says the government has an obligation to their families.
The St. Augustine Beach Republican introduced the Protecting the Families of our Fallen Patriots Act this week with Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, a Pennsylvania Democrat. The bipartisan bill would ensure Gold Star families receive all retirement benefits a fallen soldier would be entitled to if alive.
“The surviving spouses of our fallen patriots should be allowed to provide for their young children without the worry of losing part of their benefits,” Waltz said. “These struggling families have already made the costliest of sacrifices for our freedoms, and we have a sacred obligation to ensure they are cared for.”
Both Waltz and Houlihan are veterans themselves.
The legislation specifically would exempt “Mother’s and Father’s” benefits to care for children of fallen service members from the Retired Earnings Tests.
“We must stand by those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation, and one way we fulfill that solemn duty is by taking care of their surviving spouses. Right now, there’s a critical gap in our support system for Gold Star families, and our bipartisan bill will fix it,” Houlahan said.
Revelations that the Georgia prosecutor bringing charges against former President Donald Trump had a personal relationship with an employee has Mills responding with legislation.
The Winter Park Republican filed the Against Federal Funds for Allowing Inappropriate Relationships (AFFAIR) Act, which would prohibit any federal funding to the office of a prosecutor convicted of corruption.
The bill was filed after Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, in a court filing, acknowledged a personal relationship with Nathan Wade, a special prosecutor leading the Trump prosecution. Notably, that filing did not admit to any corruption and Wade said he has separate finances from Willis, including the $650,000 he has been paid for his work on the case.
“I have no financial interest in the outcome of the 2020 election interference case or in the conviction of any defendant,” Wade wrote in filings.
But Mills said the personal corruption proved alarming.
“Not only was Fani Willis’ relationship with Nathan Wade extremely inappropriate and creates concerns around a conflict of interest, but it also potentially shows violations of bias against political opposition and lawfare for election interference,” Mills said.
“Under no circumstance should federal funds be sent to a state or local office if there is unlawful and unethical activity taking place. Our nation was founded on the steadfast tenets that liberty and justice — including the fair and equal application of the law — are crucial to ensuring the preservation of our constitutional republic. I’m proud to introduce the AFFAIR Act to ensure American taxpayer dollars will not be misappropriated or weaponized due to unlawful and unethical activities.”
A new music room at the Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando opened its doors this week thanks to a $750,000 federal grant.
Frost, an Orlando Democrat, presented the check to the venue to help open Judson’s Live. The first term Congressman credited his predecessor, former Rep. Val Demings, with securing the money.
“Judson’s Live is not only a performance venue; it is a transformative space with the potential to empower and uplift our community through the universal language of music,” Frost said. “We are so grateful to the Dr. Phillips Center for continuing to pioneer innovative ways for our community to embrace the arts while making them accessible to everyone. This funding is a testament to the dedication and foresight of former Congresswoman Val Demings, whose leadership and vision have paved the way for this new community space.”
The venue, though, made sure to also offer praise to Frost for his continued support of the arts in Central Florida.
“We’re grateful to Congressman Frost for supporting our vision and mission and to Congresswoman Demings for including the Dr. Phillips Center in 2023 Community Project Funding for District 10,” said Kathy Ramsberger, President and CEO of the Dr. Phillips Center.
“These dollars supported the construction of our fifth venue, Judson’s Live, allowing us to offer unique experiences, showcase local and world-renowned artists, and complete phase two of the arts center.”
An increasing number of Americans each year care for an elderly or impaired relative. Rep. Vern Buchanan said the federal government can do more to ease costs for caregivers.
Buchanan, Chair of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, unveiled the Lowering Costs for Caregivers Act (HR 7222). The legislation would allow individuals to use tax-free health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts on medical expenses for parents and other loved ones without reclassifying them as dependents.
“As millions of Americans learn every year, caring for aging parents or loved ones in their later years can become a significant financial strain for you and your family,” Buchanan said. “With nearly 200,000 seniors in my district, caregiving assistance is critical for many families to give their loved ones a dignified quality of life in their golden years.”
The Longboat Key Republican filed the bipartisan bill with Rep. Mike Thompson, a California Democrat. It also boasts endorsements from the AARP and Fidelity Investments.
“Many households increasingly turn to savings options such as HSAs and FSAs to save for health care, and this proposal will allow individuals to use these funds for medical expenses relating to caregiving costs,” said Karen Volo, head of Health and Benefit Accounts for Fidelity Investments. “As the ranks of those giving and receiving care continue to grow, planning and financial considerations will demand attention and support. This expansion is a great step toward bolstering that support financially.”
If Iran backs terrorist activity around the globe, Moskowitz doesn’t want American-made products available to use. The Parkland Democrat filed the No Technology for Terror Act, a bipartisan bill that would codify a prohibition on any U.S.-made military equipment ever being exported to Iran.
“We need a multifaceted approach to weaken the Iranian regime. While the use of military force against Iranian proxies sends a strong message, there are other steps we must take to undermine the regime and their terror,” Moskowitz said. “By limiting the types of goods that can enter Iran, we are weakening their ability to fund terror and develop weapons to wreak havoc throughout the region.”
He introduced the bill with Republican Reps. Nathaniel Moran and Michael McCaul of Texas. McCaul chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“I am proud to co-lead this bipartisan bill to codify and expand export control sanctions on Iran,” McCaul said.
“Critically, this bill would help restrict the regime’s access to the American goods and technology it needs to manufacture lethal missiles and drones, including those being used to attack our service members in the Middle East as well as by Putin to wage his illegal war against Ukraine. More must be done to counter Iran’s malign influence, beginning with robust U.S. export controls. I urge my colleagues to support this critical legislation.”
Rallying for Machado
As controversy continues around Venezuela’s elections, members of the delegation hosted opposition candidate María Corina Machado remotely for a roundtable before Congress.
The bipartisan event was organized by Salazar, the House Western Hemisphere Subcommittee Chair, who stressed the need for the U.S. to stand with Machado as President Nicolás Maduro’s allies attempt to keep her off the ballot.
“I have sent the message to the White House: We are here to work with them, but we need to make sure there are free, fair and transparent elections where they allow you to run and let the Venezuelan people decide who they want their next President to be,” Salazar said. “There is no Plan B. You were chosen; you played by the rules, and we have to respect that.”
Last year, the Biden administration lifted oil sanctions on Venezuela in exchange for a commitment to run a clean election. Since the South American nation’s Supreme Court booted Machado from the ballot, Florida lawmakers from both sides of the aisle demanded sanctions be restored.
Díaz-Balart, a Hialeah Republican, told Machado there is strong bipartisan support in Congress for her candidacy.
“I, for one, am very frustrated when I see an administration in the United States that seems reluctant or slow to acknowledge just the reality,” he told Machado. “And the reality is that you are the leader. You are the person who is the candidate for President. That’s No. 1. No. 2 is that giving sanctions relief based on fake promises and then even when those promises are broken, still not snapping back those sanctions is something that is unacceptable, but just know that we are working on that.”
Machado, for her part, said she wants to restore the U.S.-Venezuela relations once elected. “We are determined to turn Venezuela into that marvelous nation to which our children can be coming back and will come back,” she said.
On this day
Feb. 9, 1950 — “Joseph McCarthy announces ‘enemies within’” — via A People’s History of the United States — Speaking to a Women’s Republican Club in West Virginia, the Senator from Wisconsin held up papers and shouted: “I have here in my hand a list of 205 — a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.” The next day, speaking in Salt Lake City, McCarthy claimed he had a list of 57 such Communists. Shortly afterward, he appeared on the floor of the Senate with photostatic copies of about a hundred dossiers from State Department loyalty files.
Feb. 9, 1987 — “Robert MacFarlane tried suicide, police believe” via the Los Angeles Times — McFarlane, President Ronald Reagan’s former National Security Adviser and a key figure in the administration’s Iran arms sale operation, took an overdose of 25 to 30 Valium tablets. The overdose occurred about three hours before McFarlane was to testify before the Tower Commission investigating the operation of the National Security Council staff in light of the arms sale scandal. McFarlane, 49, was rushed by ambulance to Bethesda Naval Medical Center, minutes from his home in suburban Bethesda, Maryland, just after 7 a.m., according to Detective Lauren Acquaviva of the Montgomery County Police Department.
Peter Schorsch publishes Delegation, compiled by Jacob Ogles, edited and assembled by Phil Ammann and Ryan Nicol.