Delegation for 3.5.24: New leadership — leverage — IVF dissent — spaced out — MadSoul

The United States Capitol, often called the Capitol Building, is
Will Rick Scott become the next Senate Minority Leader?

Another leadership run?

Will a leadership vacuum in the Senate create an opportunity for a Floridian to lead the chamber?

News that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will step down from caucus leadership this year has sparked questions about Sen. Rick Scott’s ambitions.

The Naples Republican has yet to formally announce a bid for the post, but Scott’s clearly giving it some thought. On Turning Point USA founder (and part-time Longboat Key resident) Charlie Kirk’s podcast, Scott said he definitely sees a need for a dramatic change in how Senate Republicans operate. When asked about a leadership run, Scott said he’s “seriously considering it.”

“This is a big opportunity,” Scott said. “I mean, look, think about this. We could actually have somebody that actually believes in this country and believes in solving the problems of this country running the Republican Senate.”

Mitch McConnell is out. Will Rick Scott get in?

Scott has repeatedly been at odds with McConnell, culminating in 2022 when Scott challenged McConnell for his post in the Senate. Since then, Scott has questioned McConnell’s handling of budget negotiations, foreign policy and simple caucus communication. McConnell, meanwhile, has also delivered retribution on Scott, yanking him off the Senate Commerce Committee and openly questioning whether Scott would face a “challenge” winning re-election after publishing an agenda many saw as an attack on Social Security.

There’s obviously little love lost between the Republican Senators. Scott issued a statement the day McConnell announced his retirement from leadership that spotlighted the divisions between himself and the leader and hinted immediately at another potential run to lead the caucus.

“I have been very clear and have long believed that we need new leadership in the Senate that represents our voters and the issues we were sent here to fight for,” Scott said. “As everyone knows, I challenged Leader McConnell last year. This is an opportunity to refocus our efforts on solving the significant challenges facing our country and reflect the aspirations of voters.”

Notably, Scott’s Democratic opponent, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, also jumped on the news to call Scott “extreme” and in public service for “self-gain.” “It would be disastrous to have someone like Rick Scott, if he goes back to the Senate, become Senate Majority Leader,” she said.

That’s a policy argument, of course, and the notion that Scott could become the Senate’s leader in only his second term is likely one the incumbent could easily turn to his advantage. But what are the odds he could win the post, presuming voters return to Washington?

When he challenged McConnell for caucus leader, Scott won 10 votes, giving him support to build upon. But there will undoubtedly be competition, including from McConnell loyalists who did not appreciate the Florida Senator’s first grab for the crown.

The Hill reported that three other Republicans — Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming, John Cornyn of Texas, and John Thune of South Dakota — are front-runners. Cornyn and Thune both served for periods as the No. 2 Republican behind McConnell, and both reportedly were burning up phones Wednesday whipping votes.

Meanwhile, Axios reported Friday that former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, may favor Sen. Steve Daines of Montana for the job.

For now, Scott said he wants to ensure the Senate Republican Leader indeed sets out an agenda that American voters can support when they vote.

“If we want to go the same path we’ve been going down, you shouldn’t elect me. I’m not going to do that,” he said. “If that’s the plan, if the Mitch McConnell plan is where we want to go going forward, then no one should pick me because I’m not doing it.”

Incubating dissension

An Alabama Supreme Court ruling that embryos are considered children under state law delivered a long-sought conservative goal of codifying personhood at every stage of development. But it seems that the unintended results are not that popular on either side of the aisle.

Immediately following the decision, Alabama IVF clinics shut down the availability of the procedure whereby an estimated 12 million humans have come into existence since it started in 1978, according to the National Institutes of Health. Defendants are asking Alabama’s high court to rehear the case, but the implications are reverberating nationally, with federal efforts afoot to protect the procedure.

And, if Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is any indication, Democrats are going to make Republicans own this issue in 2024 as a result of their push to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Alabama’s IVF ban gets a chilly reception in Florida.

“The Alabama Supreme Court just ruled that embryos are children, inflicting legal chaos and uncertainty on doctors, fertility clinics and prospective parents,” the Weston Democrat said at a news conference at her Sunrise office.

There, she introduced her guest at the State of the Union address — a woman who underwent six rounds of IVF. Wasserman Schultz told the assembled that she conceived that way.

“This decision is yet another attack on women’s freedoms,” Wasserman Schultz said of the Alabama ruling.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, was blocked by one Republican from bringing an effort to protect IVF to the Senate floor last week.

You could almost hear the exhale of relief from Sen. Marco Rubio as he performed the jujitsu of not endorsing the decision yet not exactly criticizing Judges who effectively shut down IVF in Alabama.

“Unfortunately, you have to create multiple embryos (with IVF), and some of those are not used, then you’re now in a quandary,” the Miami Republican told reporters, as reported by HuffPost.

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna stated that states should act to protect IVF, but the St. Petersburg Republican took her name off a bill that would have done the same. Her name was mistakenly added, according to her social media post.

But there was no fence-sitting for Scott, at least when posting on X. He quote-tweeted Trump’s Truth Social post to support the procedure.

“Any attempt to restrict IVF must be rejected,” Scott wrote.

Giving up leverage?

After years of calling Ukrainians “inspiring” for fighting back against a Russian invasion, Rubio said it’s time to get real on the nation’s position.

The Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chair, in an appearance on Fox News Sunday, said Ukraine cannot achieve an all-out victory against President Vladimir Putin.

“We have the reality that Ukraine is small compared to Russia in terms of size and its ability to conscript people,” Rubio said. “In the past, I have tried not to talk about this publicly because I thought it undermined the leverage that Ukraine had, but now it’s the reality: neither side is going to be able to achieve victory as defined in the most idealistic terms.”

Marco Rubio waves off any talk that the end of the war in Ukraine will end smoothly.

Rubio said it’s still too early to discuss settlement terms of the war but that world leaders need to consider the endgame. While he asserted that Putin has failed in efforts to take over all of Ukraine, the focus now needs to be on positioning the country best in peace talks.

“I want Ukraine to have the most amount of leverage possible. When the time comes for those conversations to happen, they’re not going to have leverage if Putin feels like he has the upper hand, that he has ways to gain and force Ukraine into a situation where they basically become a satellite state, which is what he wants,” Rubio said.

“He wants Ukraine to be like Belarus. He wants to keep territory, and then, whatever is left over of Ukraine, he wants it to be a country that is forced to remain neutral and that is in his orbit and sphere of influence. I want Ukraine to have the most amount of leverage, and to do that, we have to help them.”

But Rubio maintained that Congress should only support funding for Ukraine after President Joe Biden takes executive actions to secure the U.S. southern border.

Space jam

In the glow of the first commercial lunar landing, the delegation wants to ensure that the U.S. remains the leader in the Space race.

Rep. Neal Dunn filed a bipartisan bill with Rep. Salud Carbajal, a California Democrat, to amend the tax code regarding spaceports. Rubio carries a Senate companion with Sen. Ben Ray Luján, a New Mexico Democrat. The Secure U.S. Leadership in Space Act would call for all ports, including Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, to enjoy the same tax and free bond status as airports and seaports.

“Given the global instability, the U.S. must make the development of our space infrastructure a priority to remain competitive with our adversaries,” Dunn said. “Our airports and seaports receive tax-exempt bonds, and our spaceports should receive the same. This would incentivize private-public partnerships that bolster innovation and spur economic growth.”

Neal Dunn is working to keep the U.S. ahead in the space race.

As international rivals like China and Russia — and even allies like India — make interstellar strides, Rubio said it’s important for the U.S. to lead the way in charting the stars.

“In the race for space dominance, we cannot afford to fall behind,” he said. “As adversaries like China continue to expand their presence in space, it’s imperative the United States takes decisive action to bolster our own capabilities. The Secure U.S. Leadership in Space Act of 2024 is a critical step toward ensuring our nation maintains its competitive edge.”

Space Florida CEO Ron Long also championed the federal legislation as a way to spur further investment in aerospace in the Sunshine State.

“This strategic policy change empowers our state and national leaders to leverage the power of financial markets to accelerate space infrastructure development and bolster the economy,” Long said. “Florida leads the nation in prioritizing space transportation development through our designation of space as a mode of transportation. This policy change will help bring that same level of investment to states across the nation, signaling to investors that space infrastructure is a viable investment that helps revolutionize the way we approach the space economy, all while reducing the burden on taxpayer dollars.”

Soul campaign

Democrats had a clear message as they rallied in Orlando at the Rep. Maxwell Frost-fronted MadSoul music festival: Don’t give up on Florida.

Frost, the first member of Generation Z to be elected to Congress, announced he is running for re-election at his musical festival, which included cameos by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and entertainer Lin-Manuel Miranda.

A star-studded music festival suggests Florida is still in play for Democrats.

“What we’re showing not just our city and our state, but the entire country, is: Don’t give up on Florida,” Frost told the crowd. “Don’t give up on the South. Don’t give up on us. We’re not defined by Donald Trump and fascist Ron DeSantis.”

About 3,000 people gathered at Loch Haven Park, a grassy field just north of Downtown Orlando. The vibe was laid-back with a political twist and included food trucks, alcohol for sale, and voter sign-up booths.

Frost and AOC told the crowd that the festival was meant to bring people together and show liberals are fighting together in the state.

“They will not keep us down. You can cut down every flower, but you can’t stop Spring,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “You’re never going to let them take this state because we’re taking it back for all people. Ron DeSantis, you should be scared.”

Digital drag

Rubio will also run the Senate companion bill for a priority of Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a Palm Harbor Republican, seeking to address reimbursement issues with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Bilirakis earlier this year, Bilirakis filed the Preserving Access to Patient Reimbursement Act with Rep. Chris Pappas, a New Hampshire Republican. He filed the bill after many veterans in his district called his office, frustrated at the VA’s slow turnaround on processing travel reimbursements since a filing process went digital.

“It is simply unconscionable that the VA would implement a nationwide policy that threatens to leave many of our most vulnerable Veterans behind,” Bilirakis said.

Without travel reimbursements, Gus Bilirakis says veterans struggle to access health care. Image via Instagram.

“By effectively eliminating access to the travel reimbursement program for some Veterans, the VA is jeopardizing their ability to get the health care they’ve earned and deserve. While we are working to expand broadband connectivity throughout the country, there are still swaths that do not have access, including parts of my district. Also, many elderly Veterans and those with physical impairments do not have the capability to navigate the online portal. All of these Veterans deserve access to care and to the reimbursement program. I will not stop fighting until a common-sense solution is implemented.”

Rubio said it’s become clear that a move away from paper filing had the opposite effect of what was desired. He’s now running a Senate version of the bill along with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona independent.

“While the intention of the VA’s new web-based travel program may have been good, the computerized system has missed its mark and created a barrier for many of our veterans. My Preserving Access to Patient Reimbursement Act would ensure that our nation’s veterans continue to have access to paper forms,” Rubio said.

Bilirakis welcomed Florida’s senior Senator to the bipartisan fight.

Crime spree

As record numbers of migrants illegally enter the country, Republicans have spotlighted crimes occurring as a direct result. Rep. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, called for answers about a rape in Englewood by a Honduran migrant.

In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, he noted the February arrest of 25-year-old Santo Felix Cruz-Ramos.

“According to the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, Cruz-Ramos was observed on video entering the hotel room of a female victim where she alleges that he forced himself on her,” Steube’s letter said. “Surveillance video showed Cruz-Ramos running out of the victim’s room after the alleged sexual assault. During questioning, Cruz-Ramos informed Charlotte County Sheriff’s Deputies that he illegally entered the United States.”

Greg Steube focuses his ire on migrant crimes in Florida, warning of an ‘epidemic.’

Steube called for detailed reports on any interactions Cruz-Ramos may have had with Homeland Security, including with Customs and Border Control when he entered the country, whether the agency ever lodged him, and whether there might be other criminal charges pending.

But he also categorized the crime as part of a larger problem. Border Patrol has arrested some 12,000 aliens with criminal convictions just this fiscal year, Steube’s Office said, and many still end up released in the U.S.

“Thanks to Joe Biden and Alejandro Mayorkas, the world’s criminals know they can easily enter our country and terrorize our citizens. Florida is a law-and-order state,” Steube said. “The Biden administration must answer for when this criminal illegal was released into the interior of the United States and what was known about him. As the federal representative for Charlotte County, I take seriously my responsibility to provide oversight of the Biden Administration’s Department of Homeland Security. Floridians deserve better.”

Water wars

For weeks, Rep. Brian Mast has demanded information on the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to release discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Now, the Stuart Republican wants more information on the lake’s management since a change in leadership at the Jacksonville District.

Mast spoke with District Commander Col. James Booth at a meeting of the Rivers Coalition in Stuart last month but said he was distressed that Booth could not answer basic questions about the benefits of the $1.5 billion Herbert Hoover Dike repairs.

Mast offered his thoughts on the matter in a letter to Booth.

Brian Mast demands answers from the Army Corps of Engineers.

“One benefit from the completed HHD repair project that is especially important to my Treasure Coast constituents is that it increased the capacity of Lake Okeechobee to hold water without risk of dike failure, which in turn should reduce the need for damaging discharges,” Mast said. “At least, that is how the project was sold to me each time the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) came to Congress to ask for federal funding. When I asked this question at the Rivers Coalition meeting, I was told that you were unable to share with our community what the new risk threshold numbers were. As taxpayers who funded this repair project, we are entitled to this information.”

At the meeting, Mast said he can appreciate the argument that releases are better now than in the heat of Summer when algal blooms can make the water toxic. But he said residents in his district still need more assurance that improvement efforts on lake management will begin in the short term.

Celebrating a role model

Biden honored a Florida delegation member for community service. AmeriCorps presented Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Miami Democrat, with the President’s Lifetime Achievement.

“As a former educator, elementary school principal, school board member, state legislator and founder of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project — Rep. Wilson has dedicated her life and career to dismantling barriers and creating opportunity for children and families too often overlooked,” said Michael Smith, AmeriCorps CEO.

5000 Role Models was a program Wilson founded that aims to break the school-to-prison pipeline in communities of color.

Frederica Wilson is recognized for her dedication to community service.

In a personal letter to Wilson, Biden also praised her work as an example for others.

“We are living in a moment that calls for hope and light and love,” the President wrote. “Hope for our futures, light to see our way forward, and love for one another. Through your service, you are providing all three.”

Wilson said she was humbled by the recognition.

“I’m deeply honored to receive the President’s Volunteer Service Award, emphasizing the power of community and service,” Wilson said. “My dedication to uplifting America’s children, whether as an educator, principal or through initiatives like 5000 Role Models of Excellence, underscores the importance of unlocking our children’s potential and removing barriers to success.”

Booing Cuba

A decision by members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to visit Cuba has Rep. Carlos Giménez incensed.

Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota were part of a contingent visiting the communist nation last month in a trip that went undisclosed until a Miami Herald report. Staffers for Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, also reportedly traveled with the lawmakers.

A visit to Cuba has Carlos Giménez up in arms.

“Representatives Jayapal and Omar traveled to Cuba last week, where they met with people from across Cuban civil society and government officials to discuss human rights and the U.S.-Cuba bilateral relationship,” the Congressional Progressive Caucus confirmed in a statement after media accounts published.

Giménez, the only Cuban-born member of Congress, criticized any meeting with the Cuban government or attempt at normalizing relations with the regime.

“Communist Cuba must remain on the List of State Sponsors of Terrorism,” Giménez said in a statement. “Recently, Members of Congress traveled to my native Cuba to meet with the murderous regime that has killed thousands and forced millions more into exile. There is no negotiating with these pathetic thugs.”

On this day

March 5, 1770 — “The Boston Massacre” via the Library of Congress — British sentries guarding the Boston Customs House shot into a crowd of civilians, killing three men and injuring eight, two of them mortally. Surrounded by jeering Bostonians slinging hard-packed snowballs, the small group of soldiers lost control when one of their numbers was struck. The soldiers fired despite explicit orders to the contrary. African American sailor Crispus Attucks was the first to fall. Attucks’ past remains mysterious, but he likely escaped slavery around 1750 and spent the next 20 years working on whaling ships. The only victim of the Boston Massacre whose name became widely known, Crispus Attucks was memorialized as the first hero of the American Revolution.

March 5, 1868 — “Impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson begins” via — For the first time in U.S. history, the impeachment trial of an American President got underway in the Senate. Johnson, reviled by the Republican-dominated Congress for his views on Reconstruction, was accused of violating the controversial Tenure of Office Act, passed by Congress over his veto in 1867. At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Johnson, a Senator from Tennessee, was the only Senator from a seceding state who remained loyal to the Union. Johnson built his political career on defending the interests of poor white Southerners against the landed classes.


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

Phil Ammann

Phil Ammann is a Tampa Bay-area journalist, editor and writer. With more than three decades of writing, editing, reporting and management experience, Phil produced content for both print and online, in addition to founding several specialty websites, including His broad range includes covering news, local government, entertainment reviews, marketing and an advice column. Phil has served as editor and production manager for Extensive Enterprises Media since 2013 and lives in Tampa with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul. He can be reached on Twitter @PhilAmmann or at [email protected].


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