Delegation for 3.12.24: Dealer’s choice — private eyes — clock block — IVF — hecklers

The United States Capitol building at sunset, Washington DC, USA.
A new budget means tens of millions for the Sunshine State.

Deal or no deal

A stalemate broke with the House passing a budget package now signed by President Joe Biden. The deal unlocks tens of millions in spending specifically earmarked for Florida while avoiding a government shutdown. But it divided Florida’s delegation sharply — not just along party lines.

While the House voted 339-85 for the bill, 12 of Florida’s 30 Representatives voted “no” on the deal. Many hailed from the “America First” wing of the party and said they couldn’t support the spending package.

Joe Biden signs the big check to keep the government open.

“We keep spending the American people’s money irresponsibly,” posted Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, a St. Petersburg Republican, on X. “We need to keep fighting to change Washington. I’ll keep opposing bills that do not have the best interest of the American people.”

She wasn’t alone in the sentiment in the Sunshine State. Out of the 83 Republicans who voted “no” on the deal, 11 hailed from Florida. When the Senate voted, GOP Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott were among just 22 “no” votes, all but one of which came from Republicans.

However, a majority of Representatives from the Sunshine State voted “yes,” and they pointed to millions at stake in federal spending directly benefiting Florida.

Rep. John Rutherford, a Jacksonville Republican, said the legislation cuts overall spending and “protects conservative priorities” such as fully funding national security. He also said that a Republican majority in the House had stopped wasteful spending, such as hiring another 4,700 bureaucrats in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“This isn’t the bill I would have written, but it shows what can be done when we work through regular order to further the conservative policies and spending cuts that American voters sent us to Washington to achieve,” he said.

Rep. Neal Dunn, a Panama City Republican, noted that the bill has $15 million for his region, including $5 million for potable water redundancy improvements at Panama City Beach, $2.7 million for airport improvements in Tallahassee and $3 million for improving capacity at the Second Harvest of the Big Bend Impact Center.

“The package continues critical investments in agriculture research and infrastructure while also cutting $977 million from the Department of Justice and preventing the agency from abusing their power,” he said. “I’m proud to have voted in support of these improvements that will benefit my constituents, Florida farmers and our veterans.”

Democrats in the delegation also touted state wins. Rep. Lois Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat, cheered $11 million for National Park Service Everglades restoration and $425 million for South Florida Ecosystem Restoration.

“In the first six 2024 funding bills, Democrats put People Over Politics and made government work for people,” she said. “These domestic investments keep our government open and help Americans with the high cost of living, create good-paying jobs, protect women’s rights, honor our commitments to our veterans and confront the climate crisis.”

But not every Democrat got on board with the plan. Rep. Maxwell Frost, an Orlando Democrat, cast one of two votes against the deal from his side of the aisle, even as more Democrats than Republicans voted for the bill overall. He attributed that to the bill, including the “greatest rollback of background checks for gun purchasers in the recent history of our country,” saying he couldn’t tolerate such a concession.

“While I acknowledge that difficult decisions had to be made to achieve this deal, and I was ready to support a bipartisan compromise, this bill includes a Republican poison pill that, despite Democrats’ best efforts, could not be removed,” Frost said.

Somebody’s watching you

Rubio said he doesn’t want China spying on Americans at every doorstep.

As doorbells with surveillance technology grow in popularity, Florida’s senior Senator has sounded alarms on products from Eken, a Chinese company whose products do not thoroughly encrypt video and sound transmitted from the device.

He sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Jessica Rosenworcel urging a federal investigation of the company and retailers selling the devices to consumers.

“Eken devices are not only unsafe — they may be illegal,” the Miami Republican wrote.

Private eyes, they’re watching you.

He said the devices, which can be purchased through Amazon, Walmart, Sears, and other sellers, are among many low-end “fast technology” products coming from Chinese companies.

“These devices often sacrifice essential security protocols for cost advantage, a fact recently proven by testing engineers who successfully hacked an Eken video doorbell remotely,” Rubio wrote.

“Consumers use the Aiwit app, owned by Eken, to access the video feeds from their doorbells. However, Eken fails to encrypt any data transmitted from the doorbell to the app via the internet. This appalling security flaw exposes users’ home internet protocol (IP) addresses and Wi-Fi network names. Criminals, stalkers, and even foreign intelligence operatives can easily exploit this vulnerability to monitor the comings and goings of individuals from a home.”

He voiced concern specifically about Amazon’s selling the product and endorsing it with an “Amazon’s Choice” and an “Overall Pick” badge.

But he said the products lack proper FCC IDs and exceed safe radio frequency standards, making them both a security and a health risk.

Lock the clocks

Daylight saving time this week meant another time change — and a chance for Florida lawmakers to call to stop the clock.

Scott signed legislation as Florida’s Governor seeking federal authorization to go on DST permanently, but that’s been ignored since 2018. He and Rubio, meanwhile, continue pushing the Sunshine Protection Act, which would put the entire country on DST permanently.

Florida wants to stop changing the clocks.

“It’s time to lock the clock. Floridians are sick of changing their clocks because we all want more sunshine,” Scott, a Naples Republican, said. “It’s time for Congress to act and I’m proud to be leading the bipartisan Sunshine Protection Act with Sen. Rubio to get this done. When I was Governor of Florida, I signed this bill into law on the state level. Now it’s Washington’s turn and we should finish the job by passing this good bill today.”

Of note, some previous champions of DST in the Florida government now have offices in Washington. Rep. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, sponsored the Florida law to do so while serving in the Florida Senate. Rep. Darren Soto, a Kissimmee Democrat, had championed such an effort in prior years during his time in the state Senate as well.

Well, not that conception

An Alabama Supreme Court decision determining that a complete abortion ban prohibited in vitro fertilization left Republicans clamoring to clarify pro-life policy in a post-Roe world. That included Rep. Kat Cammack, a vocal abortion opponent, filing a resolution supporting access to IVF treatments.

“There is nothing more pro-life than helping women start and raise families,” the Gainesville Republican said. “IVF has done just that for decades, allowing thousands of American couples to become parents and experience the joys of raising children. I’m proud to lead this resolution in the House that supports women, families, children and states’ rights. Thank you to my friend and colleague Sen. Scott for his leadership and support for IVF and American families.”

Kat Cammack is pro-life and pro-IVF.

The bill states that Americans facing infertility should have access to treatments, including IVF, and that the procedure should remain legal nationwide. The Alabama Legislature held a Special Session rapidly to pass a new law and remove restrictions.

Scott carried a companion resolution in the Senate.

“IVF is a wonderful thing that enables so many Americans struggling with infertility to have children and start a family,” he said. “I have friends and family members who have used IVF and so do countless Floridians and Americans. While IVF remains available in all 50 states, I believe it is important for the Senate to make clear our unwavering support for current and aspiring parents using IVF to start and grow their families. I am proud to lead this resolution in the Senate and have Rep. Kat Cammack’s support in the House of Representatives.”

Importantly, the resolution is not binding law.

Charter course

The Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee held a hearing on charter schools. Rep. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, opened the meeting as Chair and extolled the value of privately managed public schools.

He said the meeting coincided with a time of year when many parents sit by the computer eagerly awaiting news of whether their child can secure a limited slot at such a school.

Aaron Bean goes to bat for school choice.

“Each year, in the spring, thousands of parents, families and eager young students gather around their computers to wait — and to pray — for a name to appear,” he described. “The room is still. Parents sit silently with bated breath. They know the next few minutes could have a profound impact on the course of their children’s lives. A name appears, and happiness erupts. A lucky winner has been picked. With the good fortune comes the opportunity for a student to escape an abysmal traditional public school and enroll at a school that meets his or her individual needs.”

Bean said he knows such lottery systems have problems as well.

“I also recognize there is a flip side to this story. Charter schools have limited seats and the lottery system, while fair, does not pan out for every family,” he said. “For the smiles, there are tears. This is the sad reality, but it isn’t an argument against these schools. On the contrary, it’s an argument for expanding charter school access so every child can receive a high-quality education, no matter his or her ZIP code.”

He urged Congress to provide more available school choices in districts across the country.

Tough on China

Rep. Mike Waltz said the international community has done too little to stop human rights abuses in China. The St. Augustine Beach Republican co-led a bipartisan letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and to U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield advocating for those arbitrarily detained by the Eastern superpower, including Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities.

He shared the story of specific political prisoners.

Mike Waltz wonders why more isn’t being done about China’s human rights abuses.

“This month marks the fifth anniversary of the unjust 20-year sentencing of Dr. Gulshan Abbas, a retired medical doctor, Uyghur, and mother who was imprisoned by the Chinese government in retaliation for her sister’s advocacy for Uyghur human rights abuses,” Waltz said. “Sadly, Dr. Abbas is only one of many Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities wrongfully held in Chinese prisons with immediate family members that are U.S. citizens.”

That includes Abbas, who has two daughters with U.S. citizenship among other relatives.

“The harassment of U.S. citizens and their loved ones must end. That is why I am proud to send this bipartisan letter urging the U.S. State Department to call for the immediate release of these wrongfully held individuals, an end to the transnational repression efforts by the Chinese government against their family members in the U.S., and for China to be held accountable for its gross human rights violations.”

The letter was co-led by Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, and Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee. GOP Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Dunn, Scott Franklin, Carlos Giménez and Cory Mills were among the co-signers on the message.

Helping new mothers

The House passed legislation championed by Florida lawmakers that aims to decrease pregnancy-related deaths nationwide. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, and Cammack were introducing sponsors on the Preventing Maternal Deaths Reauthorization Act (HR 3838), which requires improvements in maternal health care throughout pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum periods.

Kathy Castor stands tall for maternal health care throughout pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum periods.

“Congress and partners across America must help ensure that every mom has access to the care they need before, during and after pregnancy, keeping families healthy and whole,” Castor said. “This legislation will help more moms have safe pregnancies and assist local community organizations in Florida (to improve) the quality of care for new and expecting mothers. I urge the Senate to take this legislation up swiftly and get it to President Biden’s desk. We need more research, prevention, and evidence-based best practices to meet the needs of pregnant and postpartum women in America.”

The bill passed in the House on a 382-12 vote. Medical leaders cheered the legislation.

“This bill will ensure continued support for the critically important work of state maternal mortality review committees, which are vital to our ability to address the rising rates of maternal mortality in the United States,” said American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists President Dr. Verda J. Hicks.

Heckler arrest

Disruptions to the State of the Union have become an annual part of the event. This year, it was the guest of a Florida lawmaker who made one of the biggest stinks during Biden’s speech.

Steve Nikui, a Gold Star father invited by Rep. Brian Mast, was removed from the House chamber and arrested after shouting “Remember Abbey Gate, U.S. Marines” during the President’s remarks. Nikui’s son, Kareem Nikui, was among 13 American service members killed at a Kabul airport during the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Brian Mast’s +1 causes trouble at the SOTU.

Mast escorted Nikui as he was taken into custody and detained well past midnight in the U.S. Capitol Police headquarters.

“Mr. Nikoui lost his son due to Joe Biden’s incompetence and lost another son to grief over his brother being killed,” Mast. “This man and his family have given America more than I could personally bear and to attack him with a BS charge of ‘demonstrating’ is a disgrace.”

Kareen Nikoui’s brother, Dakota Halverson, died from suicide shortly before the anniversary of the attack.

Steve Nikoui’s ex-wife, Shanna Chappell, confirmed to the New York Post that the disruption had been planned and that she supported the protest. “He shouldn’t have been arrested; he’s a Gold Star father,” she said. “He’s in the same room as the man that he knows is responsible for our son’s death, so why was he arrested?”

Haiti in crisis

As Haiti spirals into crisis amid gang violence and political turmoil, Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick said the U.S. needs to step in. After the island nation’s government declared a state of emergency, the Miramar Democrat issued a joint statement with Democratic Reps. Yvette Clarke and Ayanna Pressley, other Co-Chairs of the Haiti Caucus, calling for facilitated change.

The U.S. pressures Ariel Henry to step down.

“The time has come for Prime Minister Ariel Henry to do what is right for the Haitian people. He should not return to Haiti, and he should immediately hand over power to a transitional consensus government,” the statement reads. “It is crucial that all parties in Haiti urgently put aside their differences and form a transitional government that does not include Ariel Henry, criminals and/or associated organizations. No one’s personal ambition is worth the blood of innocent Haitian lives.”

Henry is currently in Puerto Rico, and U.S. diplomats have already suggested he would be in danger if he returned to Haiti right now.

The Haiti caucus leaders suggested as much based on a deteriorating situation on the island.

“At least 80% of Port-au-Prince is under the control of the gangs, while de facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry is out of the country and has no credibility to lead,” the caucus statement reads.

“Last year alone, there were nearly 5,000 murders, 2,000 kidnappings, and more than 310,000 people who have been internally displaced. Gangs are routinely using sexual violence and have threatened to start a civil war. Enough is enough. We urge our colleagues in Congress to join the Biden-(Kamala) Harris Administration and the international community in funding urgent assistance to restore security for the Haitian people. Every day we wait for this critical funding, more Haitians will die. The clock is ticking.”

Early Tuesday, Henry announced he plans to resign.

Saving the Glades

Will Biden budget $725 million for the River of Grass?

The bipartisan Everglades Caucus, led by Reps. Mario Díaz-Balart, a Hialeah Republican, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat, sent a letter to the President seeking that level of funding for various restoration efforts.

The letter reads, “The Everglades is a national treasure, one of the true ecological wonders of the world, and further efforts to preserve this unique ecosystem will prove imperative to its long-term viability.”

Will the Everglades see $750M for conservation efforts?

“Comprised of the diverse habitats and sweeping watershed that includes over 2.5 million acres of federally protected lands and waters at Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, and 14 National Wildlife Refuges, as well as 2,800 nautical miles of marine habitat at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary; and environmentally and culturally significant Tribal Lands. Everglades restoration is no small undertaking but is undoubtedly a worthy one.”

The letter bears the signatures of 20 members of Florida’s delegation from both sides of the aisle, and details how 9 million Floridians rely on the Everglades for drinking water. That’s just one key reason, lawmakers said, to support water quality and circulation restoration.

“For more than 20 years, the efforts by our State and Federal partners have proved America’s commitment to restoring our cherished wetlands,” the letter states. “Continued restoration of America’s Everglades is a global model for large-scale ecosystem restoration and infrastructure investment that supports economic vitality and promotes a wide range of ecological and community resilience benefits. With this in mind, we ask that you join us in building on decades of upward momentum for a restored Everglades for the people of Florida.”

Protesting a condemnation

Code Pink disrupted a news conference led by Cuban American members of Congress, most from Florida, in front of the Capitol.

GOP Reps. Díaz-Balart, Giménez and María Elvira Salazar spoke out from the House Triangle against several members of the House Progressive Caucus visiting the communist nation. The three South Florida Republicans have all heavily criticized any talks between the Biden administration and the Cuban government and argue against any type of normalization.

Code Pink hijacks a D.C. protest against communist Cuba.

“The bottom line is we want for the Cubans what we have here in the United States: Freedom, liberty, human rights, and a free-market economy,” said Salazar, a Coral Gables Republican. “The Biden Administration and those of my colleagues who just went to Cuba must open their eyes, not drink the Kool-Aid, and not negotiate with the snake of the Cuban regime.”

Code Pink partly disrupted the event, but Salazar said that’s a sign Americans enjoy freedom unavailable to dissidents on the island.

“I wish the average Cuban could have the same privilege that you’re having right now,” she said.

“Well thank you for giving us the privilege to be here,” one protester responded.

However, the Representatives only wanted to offer dissent a platform for so long.

“Move aside,” Díaz-Balart asked. “This is our news conference, so please move away a little bit.”

Giménez made sure to voice frustration, as well, with Democrats who had visited with individuals in the Cuban government during a trip to Havana.

“It is reprehensible for U.S. Members of Congress to appease and lobby for a brutal dictatorship that oppresses its people, tramples on human rights, and violently squashes political opponents,” the Miami-Dade Republican said. “Communist Cuba poses a direct threat to U.S. national security and will stop at nothing in its pathetic efforts to undermine the free world.”

On this day

March 12, 1933 — “That first fireside chat was all about the banks” via the Library of Congress — The Great Depression was the main worry for America. Clearly, people were scared and confused by everything going on with the banks and the economy, so President Franklin Delano Roosevelt reached out directly via radio. He gave the first of his fireside chats and got right to the point: “I want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the United States about banking — with the comparatively few who understand the mechanics of banking but more particularly with the overwhelming majority who use banks for the making of deposits and the drawing of checks.”

March 12, 1947 — “Harry Truman introduces anti-communism doctrine” via the Department of State — The Truman Doctrine effectively reoriented U.S. foreign policy away from its usual stance of withdrawal from regional conflicts to one of possible intervention in faraway conflicts. The Truman Doctrine arose from a speech delivered by President Truman before a joint session of Congress. The immediate cause was an announcement the British Government would no longer provide military and economic assistance to the Greek Government in its civil war against the Greek Communist Party. Truman asked Congress to support the Greek Government against the Communists. He also asked Congress to aid Turkey, which had previously been dependent on British aid.


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

Staff Reports


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