Delegation for 2.16.24: Flight delay — leaky — remembrance — gun action — algae in bloom

U.S. Capitol Washington, D.C.
A missed vote and an airport photobomb is peak Florida.

Layovers & photobombs

Flight delays in Palm Beach County added a Florida-based wrinkle to the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Rep. Lois Frankel was one of just two Democrats to miss the roll call on impeachment, which cleared the House by a slim 214-213 vote. The West Palm Beach Democrat quickly stated to clarify that she would vote against the impeachment, as she had a week prior.

“House Republicans’ vote to impeach Secretary Mayorkas despite having no evidence of wrongdoing was a shameful political stunt that does nothing to fix our broken immigration system,” Frankel said. “Unfortunately, my flight from Palm Beach to Washington was severely delayed today.”

Brian Mast gets photobombed.

But she referenced that her absence, in effect, was offset by another Florida member who was not voting. Rep. Brian Mast, a Stuart Republican, also faced the same flight delays.

“I waited at the airport for eight hours, which caused me, along with a Republican colleague on the same flight, to miss the vote,” Frankel said. “Had I been present, I would have voted no, as I did last week.”

Mast, in a social media message of his own, made clear he would vote in favor of the impeachment.

“Thankfully, despite mechanical failures on my flight, we still had enough votes to impeach him tonight,” Mast wrote on X. “He has abandoned the trust of the American people, and he deserves to be impeached.”

The Republican outlined his reasons for supporting Mayorkas’ removal when Frankel walked past him in the airport.

The Florida lawmakers did disagree on impeachment and therefore negated much significance to their absences. But both may share a similar opinion about the Palm Beach International Airport service.

Rep. María Elvira Salazar, a Miami-Dade Republican, also missed the vote. She supported impeaching Mayorkas a week prior when a motion failed in a tie vote. But Salazar’s Office said a medical emergency prevented her from traveling to Washington this week.

The only other member to miss the recent tally was Rep. Judy Chu, a California Democrat recovering from COVID-19.

Intel leak

The House Intelligence Committee briefly set the nation abuzz when it released information to all of Congress about a “serious national intelligence threat.” But Sen. Marco Rubio, ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, was among those quickly pouring cold water on the heated matter.

Speculation rapidly kicked off Wednesday when House Intelligence Chair Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican, distributed info throughout the House.

Mike Turner leaks sensitive info, causing a ruckus in the House.

“I am requesting that President (Joe) Biden declassify all information relating to this threat so that Congress, the administration, and our allies can openly discuss the actions necessary to respond to this threat,” Turner said.

But Rubio issued a joint statement with Sen. Mark Warner, the Senate Intelligence Chair, seeking to de-escalate panic.

“The Senate Intelligence Committee has the intelligence in question and has been rigorously tracking this issue from the start,” the statement read. “We continue to take this matter seriously and are discussing an appropriate response with the administration. In the meantime, we must be cautious about potentially disclosing sources and methods that may be key to preserving a range of options for U.S. action.”

For his part, Turner issued a message the next day saying his statement had been made with White House knowledge. “Language in the bipartisan notification issued by the Chair and Ranking Member to all Members of the House was cleared by the administration prior to its release,” he said. “The House Intelligence Committee voted 23 to 1 to make this information available to members of Congress. White House officials confirmed that, in their view, the matter was ‘serious.’”

Meanwhile, chatter in political circles suggested the most likely reason for the action was reports of hypersonic missile capability by Russia, information that has already been made public.

Parkland remembered

The sixth anniversary of the Parkland shooting had a couple of members of the delegation recalling the impact of the event when they held state office.

Sen. Rick Scott served as Governor at the time of the shooting. This week, he and Rubio sponsored a Senate resolution passed by unanimous consent. The Naples Republican also posted his thoughts on the tragedy.

Rick Scott offers thoughts on the anniversary of the Parkland massacre.

“Six years ago, the world witnessed a horrific attack and the senseless loss of 17 innocent lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida,” he wrote on X. “They were sons, daughters, parents and partners. Some were educators, athletes, musicians — many of them just kids, with a life full of promise ahead of them. I think of them often, and my heart breaks knowing they never got the chance to pursue their dreams and that their families will always have a piece of their hearts missing.

“Earlier this week, I filed in the Senate a resolution honoring the 17 beautiful lives that were stolen from us that day. That resolution was unanimously passed by the United States Senate. While we can’t bring back the lives lost on that tragic day six years ago, I will always work to honor them and do everything in my power to protect our students and educators and ensure they have a safe environment to learn and succeed.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Parkland Democrat, gave his own speech in the House. He served in the Florida House at the time of the shooting and penned a school safety and gun control bill ultimately signed by Scott.

“Today is Valentine’s Day, but I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day anymore,” he said. “I haven’t celebrated Valentine’s Day in six years. Today is a difficult day for myself and many in the city of Parkland and my constituents.”

He recalled getting a call from his wife about a mass shooting at his alma mater. He has since taken members of Congress on tours of the school, with the building where the murders occurred still preserved in the condition it was in 2018.


The Biden administration angered many immigration hard-liners when it took down barbed wire fencing Texas installed at the border. Now, Rep. Matt Gaetz wants to outlaw the federal government taking such action.

The Panhandle Republican filed the House legislation after the Supreme Court sided with the administration and said federal officials could take down the razor wire. Gaetz wants to address that in statute and filed a companion bill to one already introduced in the Senate by U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio.

Matt Gaetz wants the feds to leave razor wire alone.

“The Supreme Court gave the Biden administration the ability to destroy border fencing erected by Texas to protect its citizens from illegal aliens,” he said. “My legislation, along with Sen. Vance’s, will codify that states along the Southern Border have the right to protect their territory. Since the Biden administration refuses to take action, Congress must empower states to defend themselves against the unprecedented invasion at the Southern Border.”

Gaetz’s legislation excludes any fencing designed to encourage illegal immigration.

Veteran contractors

Veterans signed over their bodies and welfare to the U.S. For those who go on to found defense contracting companies, Rep. Michael Waltz said it’s time the nation offered something in return.

The St. Augustine Beach Republican filed a bill with Rep. Jimmy Panetta, a California Democrat, which would set goals for the Defense Department to increase contracts with veteran-owned businesses.

“It is a win-win scenario for both our Department of Defense and veteran-owned small businesses to work together,” Waltz said. “Not only will it help promote entrepreneurship among our veterans, but it will create jobs here at home and strengthen our military’s supply chains.”

Mike Waltz pushes for more defense contractors run by veterans.

The bill boasts support from veteran groups.

“The American Legion fully supports Rep. Waltz’s bill expanding Veterans First Contracting Preference to the Department of Defense,” said Chanin Nuntavong, Executive Director of The American Legion. “This legislation will increase the number of veteran-owned small businesses by tens of thousands, create hundreds of thousands of new veteran jobs, strengthen national supply chains, and create a desperately needed recruiting incentive for our Armed Forces recruiters.”

Of note, Waltz, before his election to Congress, founded a contracting firm, Metis Solutions. He sold his stake in the firm in 2020.

Honor with action

Reps. Maxwell Frost and Moskowitz filed legislation clearing the way for merchant codes to allow credit companies to flag suspicious gun purchases. The Identify Gun Stores Act would override laws in several states, including one signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis last year.

Moskowitz, a former member of DeSantis’ administration, said Congress has to do more to curb gun violence in the country. He held a news conference in Washington calling for action on the sixth anniversary of the Parkland shooting that claimed 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in 2018.

Maxwell Frost says gun companies deserve no credit.

He served in the Florida Legislature at the time and recalled how the tragedy pressed lawmakers to enact Florida’s first new gun safety laws in decades.

“Why does it take a Parkland, or a Uvalde, or quite frankly, when gun violence impacts an individual family?” Moskowitz said, also referencing a school shooting in Texas in 2022. “Why do we need these mass events to get our attention?”

Frost referenced another Florida shooting when discussing the newly filed bill. The Orlando Democrat said if credit card companies could track gun purchases, it might have prevented the Pulse shooting in 2016.

“The Pulse nightclub shooter racked up more than $26,000 in credit card charges on guns and ammunition in the 12 days ahead of his killing spree,” Frost said, “and before he did that, the shooter ran several online searches to determine whether or not the unusual spending would get flagged by credit card companies or not.”

The legislation filed by Frost and Moskowitz would specifically preempt states from outlawing specific merchant codes for firearm sales.

But some states have done just that, including Florida. Such a ban was part of a digital currency ban DeSantis signed in May. At the time, the Governor suggested using special merchant codes for firearms could lead to controls on legal purchases of guns.

“Maybe you bought a firearm last week and they don’t want you to buy another one this week,” DeSantis said. “Anyone with their eyes open can see the dangers of what this type of arrangement would mean.”

FISA reform?

Reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) has drawn dissent on the left and right over privacy concerns. But Rep. Laurel Lee just filed legislation she hopes can address those concerns without taking a valuable tool away in fighting terrorism.

Laurel Lee seeks common ground between left and right.

The Thonotosassa Republican introduced the Reforming Intelligence and Securing America (RISA) Act, which would reauthorize FISA for five years but with some key changes. Those include requiring the Attorney General to implement accuracy checks on applications, increasing penalties for those who violate the authorities granted in FISA, and requiring additional reporting to Congress on the conduct of intelligence officials.

“FISA is an indispensable tool that protects us from national security threats within the United States and abroad,” Lee said. “The RISA Act will bring meaningful change to surveillance operations that protect us against adversarial threats in addition to safeguarding our civil liberties. This bill also increases transparency in surveillance applications and will hold government employees accountable who violate the authorities in FISA.”

It remains to be seen if the legislation can win over skeptics.

“You want surveillance? Get a warrant,” Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, a St. Petersburg Republican, posted on X a day after Lee’s bill was introduced. “I’m still a no on FISA reauthorization.”

Life of service

A Veterans Affairs (VA) medical center in West Palm Beach could soon be renamed for a local Vietnam War Army soldier. Reps. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, a Miramar Democrat, and Mast introduced legislation this week to name the facility the Thomas H. Corey Health Care System.

Corey served in Vietnam for two years before he was shot and paralyzed during the Tet Offensive at age 24. But the quadriplegic continued to serve his brothers in arms, advocating for veterans services until the Jupiter man died in 2022 at age 77.

Thomas H. Corey is honored by the West Palm Beach VA facility.

“We owe Thomas Corey and his loved ones a debt of gratitude. His service continued long after his deployment in the Vietnam War, following him to West Palm Beach, where he became a community leader and was an unwavering advocate for local veterans,” Cherfilus-McCormick said. “Naming the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center in his honor is a small token of appreciation for the countless sacrifices he made.”

Mast, himself a wounded military veteran, said renaming the medical center was an appropriate way to honor Corey’s memory.

“Thomas Corey’s life shows no injury was big enough to eclipse his mission to serve others,” Mast said. “Renaming the VA Medical Center after Thomas is a recognition he deserves for his tireless work to locate the remains of his brothers-in-arm left behind in the jungles of Vietnam and his passionate advocacy for veterans in our community.”

All 28 members of Florida’s House delegation signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation.

Bracing for blooms

High rainfall around Lake Okeechobee means the Army Corps of Engineers will release discharges. The Corps’ Jacksonville District announced high water levels in the lake mean excess water must be sent to the east, west and south.

That means communities will be on alert for blue-green algae blooms in the St. Lucie and Okeechobee rivers. Beginning Saturday, 1.2 billion gallons per day of lake water will flow through the St. Lucie Lock and Dam, 2.6 billion gallons will go through the Julian Keen Lock and Dam in Moore Haven, and 323 million gallons south through the C-51 canal.

The St. Lucie Lock & Dam is having a record season.

Mast, a longtime critic of the release strategy, criticized the move and said it was based on outdated science. He sent a letter to Col. James Booth, Jacksonville District Commander, saying the discharges only occur now thanks to the mismanagement of the Lake.

“During the last dry season, for example, Lake Okeechobee never got below 13 feet, and we are now going to pay the price for the mismanagement in the form of dead seagrasses, killed off oysters, and major threats to public health,” the Stuart Republican wrote. “Without the foresight to see medium to long-term impacts of dry season management, the USACE has put all the surrounding communities and estuaries at severe risk,” he said.

His office estimates it will take 40 days of discharges to drop the lake levels by an inch overall. The Congressman demanded to know what has delayed the implementation of a new management system for water levels.

Earlier this month, the Army Corps announced it had sent a record amount of water south, part of a long-term strategy to avoid discharges into communities in the east and west of Lake Okeechobee.

Sexual war crimes

The House voted unanimously to condemn Hamas’ practice of rape and sexual violence in its war with Israel. Reps. Mario Díaz-Balart, a Hialeah Republican, and Frankel had introduced the House resolution after terrorist attacks in October.

“The U.S. Congress stands in strong, bipartisan solidarity with the victims of terrorism and sexual violence. Hamas’ atrocities were shocking in their depravity, and this resolution roundly condemns the hatred, antisemitism, and cruelty of Oct. 7,” Díaz-Balart said in a statement. “It’s an honor to work with my colleague, Lois Frankel, to hold Hamas terrorists accountable, and for supporting the victims by telling the truth of the horrors that they endured.”

The House moves to condemn Hamas’ campaign of rape and sexual violence.

The bill cited reports from a music festival attacked by Hamas, where more than 30 bodies of women were found with their clothes torn off and with other signs of sexual abuse. The New York Times reported some victims suffered particularly grisly consequences, including nails driven into their groins.

“On Oct. 7, Hamas terrorists attacked Israel, mercilessly killing 1,200 people; raping, mutilating, burning, and assaulting their victims to inflict physical and psychological pain, unleashing trauma that continues to plague a grieving Israel. The brutality was planned and calculated,” Frankel said. “Sadly, Hamas’ savagery has been met with a shrug — and even denial — from many corners of the world. Our resolution loudly and clearly condemns all rape and forms of sexual violence as weapons of war, including those acts committed by Hamas terrorists.”

The Florida lawmakers introduced the measure with Reps. Kathy Manning, a North Carolina Democrat, and Jen Kiggans, a Virginia Republican. Numerous Jewish advocacy groups and supporters of Israel endorsed the bipartisan resolution.

Attention on atrocities

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz also drew attention to sexual violence by Hamas, hosting an event with Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog. The Weston Democrat said the use of rape as a weapon of war cannot be tolerated by the U.S.

“It’s unacceptable that skepticism still follows survivors, and unconscionable that hate and bias are driving people to ‘believe only some women,’” Wasserman Schultz said.

As a weapon of war, Hamas uses rape and other atrocities.

“We cannot equivocate. We cannot let this revolting ideology create a permission structure for premeditated and intentional rape. And we cannot give an inch to those who would overlook sexual violence specifically against Jews, because they are the heirs to the darkest moments in our history. Today we helped lift that silence and confronted the hate that feeds it.”

Frankel and Cherfilus-McCormick both attended the event in Washington.

At the event, Emhoff said the Biden administration has fought a rise in antisemitism since well before the Hamas attacks.

“We all have to stand up against hate and barbarism and terrorism, wherever it raises its ugly head,” Emhoff said.

Herzog said he hoped Wasserman Schultz’s event would attract attention to the issue and demonstrate support that existed for Israel on both sides of the aisle in Congress.

“Today, we shine a light on the horrors inflicted upon Israeli women on and since Oct. 7 and amplify the voices of those still suffering from the aftermath,” Herzog said. “It may be difficult to bear witness to these atrocities, but we must not allow Hamas’ violence against women to go unnoticed. When so many have been unwilling to believe Israeli women, the evidence shows their hypocrisy.”

On this day

Feb. 16, 1968 — “First 911 call is placed in the United States” via — Now taken for granted as the first course of action in the event of an emergency by nearly all of the nation’s 327 million people, 911 is a relatively recent invention and was still not standard across the United States for many years after its adoption by Congress. The Federal Communications Commission decided to act in 1967, but the number itself came not from the government but from AT&T, the corporation that controlled nearly all phone lines in the U.S. via its long-distance service and ownership of local Bell Telephone subsidiaries.

Feb. 16, 1959 — “Fidel Castro inauguration as Prime Minister of Cuba held” via the Cuban Embassy — Castro took office as Prime Minister of the Revolutionary Government in a ceremony at the then Presidential Palace (today the Museum of the Revolution), which was broadcast on radio and television. At that time, he expressed that the Revolution would have many obstacles ahead and although it would not be able to do things perfectly, it would be permanent the purpose of rectifying everything in which it was not correct. Likewise, he pointed out that “what the Revolution will never do is to temporize with a denial of the principles for which we have been fighting.”

Happy birthday

Best wishes to Reps. Kat Cammack and Neal Dunn, who respectively turn 36 and 71 today, Feb. 16.


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

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