Delegation for 2.27.24: Shutdown? — El Salvador — loopholes — VP pick

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Mike Johnson struggles to prevent a shutdown; some Republicans are to blame.

Looming shutdown?

When new Speaker Mike Johnson pursued a “laddered” budget approach, it still couldn’t move the entire Republican caucus to vote for a funding package. But even some Florida lawmakers who voted against a deal in November saw promise in the plan.

But days ahead of a March deadline to vote and keep the government open, Congress seems to be in a precarious place as ever. The House remains in recess until Wednesday, but Johnson heads into a meeting at the White House Tuesday hoping to cut a deal with a Democratic White House and Senate leadership from both sides of the aisle.

As for Florida’s delegation, the few publicly stating what should happen next want Johnson to hold a hard line.

Mike Johnson fails to move some in the Republican caucus.

“I am not a cheerleader for government shutdowns,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, on Sebastian Gorka’s podcast. “But if we don’t shut down the border, then we have to utilize our leverage and not allow the remaining elements of this (Joe) Biden administration to continue. I’m disappointed there doesn’t seem to be sufficient support among Republicans to really fight (for) the spending cuts we need on the border policies that we must demand. And it feels like we are going to have yet another punt.”

Nobody in the Florida delegation seems to be aching to oust the Speaker, even as many pundits speculate Johnson could face that threat if he caves to Democrats or fails to reach an acceptable deal.

Sen. Rick Scott, a Naples Republican, slammed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for going along with the Democratic majority and President Biden on foreign aid.

“The United States Senate has spent more time crafting a bill to fund the government of Ukraine than it has to fund the government of the United States,” Scott wrote in an op-ed in The Hill. “It’s hard to believe that has happened, especially considering that we now are just days away from a government shutdown deadline with no clear plans from Senate leadership to address it.”

Meanwhile, Democrats lamented a constant stalemate on talks and the fact that a looming government shutdown couldn’t even abbreviate a recess for the House.

“House Republicans adjourned early for a two-week recess even though a huge amount of work hangs in the balance, including the overdue Fiscal Year ’23/’24 budget, a critical national security package, border security and more,” posted Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat.

“This is the least productive Congress in modern times, and it shows.”

Salvadoran salvation?

A massive exodus of refugees from El Salvador in 2022 drove many from the country. But Sen. Marco Rubio said he trusts new leadership to make the country safe and stem the surge of evacuating citizens.

The Miami Republican said he made his first official visit to El Salvador last March after the election of President Nayib Bukele. He credited the world leader with taking decisive action to dissuade violence in the nation.

Another mass migration from El Salvador is less likely under new leadership.

“An unprecedented murder spree pushed the Salvadoran legislature to grant emergency powers to Bukele. Bukele immediately put those powers to use, employing the military to round up every gang suspect,” Rubio wrote in an op-ed for Informe Orwell.

“This approach is not without controversy: 76,000 adults have been abruptly imprisoned, and innocents are only gradually being released. Nevertheless, by the time I visited El Salvador a year later, the unthinkable had happened: gang rule had been replaced by law and order. Now, the gangs ‘do not exist,’ according to the Salvadoran media. The end of the gangs has breathed new life into El Salvador.”

Now Rubio is slamming the Biden administration for sanctioning Bukele and members of his government for corruption. Rubio said if Biden cares about democracies in the Western Hemisphere, he should treat Bukele’s government as an ally.

“I hope the United States and Bukele can cooperate to prevent that from happening and to make our region stronger, safer, and freer for years to come,” he wrote.


The U.S. exempts packages worth less than $800 from duties, taxes and fees. Scott said China has exploited that loophole to ship deadly drugs into the country, while otherwise undermining American manufacturing through unfair trade practices.

The Naples Republican co-led a bipartisan letter with Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Republican, calling for the Biden administration to crack down on such “de minimis” e-commerce shipments.

“De minimis shipments, now numbering 3 million a day, are at an elevated risk of violating (Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act), containing counterfeit goods, exacerbating the fentanyl crisis, or posing a serious health danger to consumers,” the letter reads. “They also legally escape the Section 301 penalty tariffs on Chinese imports and regular import duties designed to safeguard import-sensitive sectors. As a result, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) — one of the worst trade and human rights abusers.”

E-commerce shipment rules allow illegal drugs to enter the U.S.

From counterfeit goods to products made with slave labor, the small shipments evade detection. Even many goods allowed to enter the country are doing so without shippers paying the required tariffs.

“The surge in de minimis shipments from China to the United States drives problems for U.S. businesses across industries from big box stores and retailers to U.S. manufacturers,” the letter reads.

“As a direct result, 2023 saw an 80% surge in U.S. retail store closures compared to the year before. This out-of-control problem impacts the safety and livelihoods of Americans, outsourcing not only our manufacturing but also our retail sectors to China, which — as you know — systematically utilizes slave labor, among other unconscionable practices to undermine our economy.”

In the running

With former President Donald Trump winning his third consecutive delegate contest, he’s on track to be the GOP presidential nominee this year. That has sparked intense speculation about who will be his running mate, and one member of the delegation keeps coming up.

Rep. Byron Donalds told the New York Post he’s “ready to serve” if asked.

“I want to do everything to help win back the White House,” he said.

Could Byron Donalds be Donald Trump’s VP pick?

Meanwhile, national media increasingly list the Naples Republican on a shortlist of names under consideration, alongside such names as former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, former Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, former Arizona Senate candidate Kari Lake, North Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik and Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance.

The Post article also listed Gov. Ron DeSantis, but the recent presidential candidate told his campaign delegates he has no interest.

Donalds spoke this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference alongside many other contenders for the job and laid out a foreign policy vision extremely similar to Trump’s. According to CNN, he told reporters he knows he’s under consideration.

“I guess I’m on the list,” Donalds said. “Look at the end of the day, President Trump is going to make that decision, not me.”

Should Donalds be tapped for the job, it will mark the first time in history that a presidential ticket will include two Floridians, which raises some questions with the Electoral College but which constitutional scholars say is still allowed. As it happens, both Florida politicians are New York transplants.

Trump wingman

Gaetz will hold a town hall with Donald Trump Jr. in Pensacola Tuesday evening.

PublicSquare announced it will host an event at Palafox Wharf Waterfront. The event shows an increasingly close alliance between the Fort Walton Beach Republican and the Trump family. Gaetz has been a loyal supporter of former President Trump’s campaign to return to the White House.

Matt Gaetz and Don Jr. take it to the people in Pensacola.

But it also comes as rumors grow Gaetz could run for Governor in 2026. While he dismissed such talk just last week, he did so while criticizing a proposal to end winner-takes-all Primaries in state races.

The town hall will take place a day before members of Congress are expected to return to Washington. If lawmakers cannot reach a deal on the budget, a federal shutdown could take place as soon as Friday.

Gaetz has pushed for the Republican House to take a hard conservative line on spending. Last year, he successfully led the ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy during similar talks.

Meanwhile, buzz has grown around Gaetz as a national figure who may even have presidential ambitions.

Trump Jr., meanwhile, has remained a popular figure in the same hard-right wing of the party, promoting an “America First” foreign policy embraced by Gaetz.

Rare agreement

For much of his first term in office, Rep. Maxwell Frost has criticized Florida policies executed by DeSantis as Florida’s Governor. But the two may be on the same side — at least broadly — on a proposal to limit social media use by teenagers.

The Orlando Democrat slammed a just-passed bill that would bar anyone under age 16 from having an account on “addictive” social media platforms, calling it “fascist.”

“The Republican-led State Legislature, the so-called defenders of parental rights, have proven that they are hypocrites who care more about having ultimate control over the children of Florida than they do about protecting their rights,” Frost said in a statement.

Maxwell Frost has at least one thing in common with Ron DeSantis.

“The passage of HB 1 represents a blatant and disturbing continued march toward authoritarianism in the state of Florida. Protecting children and teens online is incredibly important and requires legislation that solves the problem without violating the constitutional rights of young people. To unilaterally ban those under the age of 16 from social media use is not only lazy legislating but a brazenly unconstitutional move. This will not stand.”

As it happens, DeSantis has raised similar concerns, though with less explosive language. He said even after the bill passed that he wants parents, at least those of 14- and 15-year-olds, to have a say on what their children do online.

“While I think that there are harms associated with that, I do think parents could supervise in ways where it’s used in ways that could be beneficial,” the Republican Governor said.

The bill is on DeSantis’ desk, where he must quickly decide whether to sign it, veto it or let it become law without his express support.

American vaccines

The coronavirus causing COVID-19 sparked a pandemic, but it remains controversial whether science to fight its impact should be shared freely around the world.

Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Sarasota Republican, said Biden should resist calls to trample on U.S. scientists’ intellectual property rights and share their research internationally. The Longboat Key Republican serves as Vice Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee and led a letter insisting the administration reject a request from the World Trade Organization on the matter.

The message, signed by 20 Republicans on Ways and Means, notably praises the development of COVID-19 vaccines as a great public-private partnership success but says the pharmaceutical companies that developed the product should maintain their rights to the science.

Vern Buchanan seeks to keep American research on COVID-19 in the country.

“We appreciate your willingness to work with other nations and institutions to facilitate the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, particularly in the developing world,” the letter reads.

“We write to you now with great concern that your administration has not yet taken a stand to oppose continued efforts by certain World Trade Organization (WTO) members to take advantage of the tireless work and efforts of American innovators and undermine U.S. leadership in future pandemics.”

India, South Africa and others have lobbied the WTO on the matter. But the letter suggests releasing the information will help America’s allies and enemies alike. That includes China, the country of origin for the coronavirus, and a nation where bad actors routinely try to steal U.S. science while keeping its own biopharmaceutical sector’s work out of global reach.

“With the WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi approaching later this month, we urge you to support American innovators and entrepreneurs by opposing any waiver of the TRIPS Agreement,” the letter reads. “We are here to answer any and all questions and look forward to working with you to ensure America stays the global leader in this field, which will benefit both global health and American workers.”

Got the ouster fever

With the number of Florida measles cases continuing to climb — and state Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo diverging from official advice for containing the spread — Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is calling for him to be removed from his post.

The Weston Democrat appeared at a Sunrise news conference Tuesday morning with Mary Jo Trepka, a Florida International University epidemiologist, and Latha Krishnaiyer, current legislative chair of the Broward County PTA and past president of the Broward PTA and the Florida PTA, to blast Ladapo’s inaction.

The outbreak started Feb. 16 at Manatee Bay Elementary School. On Sunday, Broward County reported two more cases, bringing the number of cases there to eight. The disease also infected an adult in Polk County, making it the first measles case reported there since 2017.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz says Joseph Ladapo must go.

The state’s handling of the situation has come under fire as Ladapo has not ordered unvaccinated children to stay home from school, even though guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control call for unvaccinated children to be barred from school for at least three weeks. Nor has Ladapo advised parents to get their children vaccinated. Instead, Ladapo has said parents should do what they think is best.

Measles is a highly contagious disease that can make the afflicted sick enough to require hospitalization and experience brain swelling that can cause permanent injury, including blindness. About 3% of the children at Manatee Bay Elementary have not had the complete, two-shot combination against the disease, according to reports.

Previously, Ladapo has taken controversial stands on the vaccinations against COVID-19, calling on young men to avoid taking it. And Wasserman Schultz’s office is calling it yet another case of his “dangerous negligence.”

“Eight children in Broward County, including six students at Manatee Bay Elementary School in Weston, have been diagnosed with measles, a highly contagious virus,” a statement from Wasserman Schultz’s office reads. “Yet Florida’s top physician, State Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, continues to take inadequate action to ensure children and families are safe in the state.”

After the beep

An expletive-laden phone call from a Florida man to the House phone lines could soon put him in prison for a long time. A federal jury just found Boynton Beach gay rights activist Frank Stanzione guilty of threatening the life of former Rep. George Santos, a New York Republican.

The Justice Department said Stanzione called Santos last January and left a threatening message, according to WPTV in West Palm Beach.

Florida Man sends a death threat voicemail to George Santos.

A transcript of the conversations makes clear it was not a friendly call.

“You’re gonna get f—— murdered you goddamn lying piece of garbage. Watch your back you fat, ugly, piece of s—. You and (Victim 2) are dead,” the transcript reads.

Santos was expelled from Congress after a House Ethics investigation found evidence he misused campaign contributions and failed to properly disclose his finances.

On this day

Feb. 27, 1993 — “Blast hits World Trade Center” via The New York Times — An explosion apparently caused by a car bomb in an underground garage shook the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan with the force of a small earthquake shortly after noon, collapsing walls and floors, igniting fires and plunging the city’s largest building complex into a maelstrom of smoke, darkness and fearful chaos. The police said the blast killed at least five people and left more than 650 others injured. James Fox, an assistant director of the FBI in charge of the agency’s New York office, said a joint terrorist task force of Federal agents and city detectives believed a car bomb had caused the explosion.

Feb. 27, 1968 — “Walter Cronkite broadcasts his ‘Report from Vietnam’” via the Vietnam War Commemoration — After his trip to Vietnam, the CBS anchor broadcast his coverage of the Tet Offensive. Cronkite concluded his report with a personal commentary, voicing his skepticism of official assertions of military progress. Hundreds of reporters, photographers and camera operators from around the world were covering the war, often under combat conditions. The evolution of television and communication technologies helped make Vietnam the first “living-room war,” and images and reports of the fighting could reach the American public within hours. As many as 66 journalists are killed covering the war.


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

Staff Reports

One comment

  • Dont Say FLA

    February 27, 2024 at 2:19 pm

    Just two or three of the 20+ House Republicans that aren’t running for re-election could single handedly, well, double handedly since it would be two of them, they could prevent this government shutdown while also overriding Unelected House Speaker Maga Lardo and his House N_____ Mike Johson’s obstruction of the border bill that provided, in writing, everything the G0P has said for 30+ years they wanted.

    Just resign now. If you care about the USA, save the USA. Please. All you have to do is walk away today.

Comments are closed.


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