Delegation for 4.19.24: Foreign aid — new sanctions — impeachment? — mental health — caregivers

U.S. Capitol
Congress tries to pass a foreign aid package, while many in the delegation soured on the details.

Who wants their MTV?

A divisive rules vote unfolded Friday on a $95 billion foreign aid package. Now, disagreements within the GOP caucus could put Speaker Mike Johnson’s leadership position on the line mere months after he secured the gavel.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, who played a central role in ousting former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, hasn’t tried to be the face of the recent battle. But the Fort Walton Beach Republican has made clear he’s unhappy with the direction of spending talks.

“Border is open. Debt is $34.5 trillion. We borrow a trillion dollars every 100 days,” Gaetz posted on X.

Gaetz was ultimately among nine Florida representatives to vote “no” on a rule allowing the package to be voted on this weekend.

Matt Gaetz was one of nine delegation members who voted ‘no’ on advancing the latest foreign aid package.

“I can’t vote to proceed onto a $98-billion foreign aid bill with no corresponding budget cuts. Borrowing money from China to give it to Ukraine does not make America stronger. I don’t think believing these things makes me a political terrorist.”

He’s not the only Republican from Florida who is sour on the legislation. For days, St. Petersburg Republican Rep. Anna Paulina Luna has heavily criticized rule changes being negotiated to allow the votes to go forward on an aid package.

Luna told CNN she would not back any spending deal for aid to Ukraine, Israel or Taiwan the way each is constructed now.

“Will this actually benefit the world?” she said. “I think it’s important for the American people to know that within this package that they are trying to bring to the floor, there’s actually funding of both sides of what’s happening in Israel as well as with Hamas. I simply can’t get behind that.”

But other members of the delegation are playing a key role in putting the spending packages together. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, a Hialeah Republican, said the House needs to show leadership and move on aid to allies around the globe.

“As (Chair) of the Subcommittee that provides funds for national security and foreign assistance priorities, I am proud to be an original co-sponsor of these important pieces of legislation,” said Díaz-Balart, who chairs the House State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee.

“The strategic alliance between our most dangerous adversaries, such as communist China, Russia and the terrorist State of Iran, poses a direct threat to our national security. This bill fully funds our security commitments to support Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, which are confronting existential challenges as they face threats from dangerous, anti-American regimes. Passage of this critical national security legislation will support U.S. interests in the Middle East, Europe, and the Indo-Pacific and make us safer here at home by supporting our military.”

He called passage of the bills critical and said a vote against any of the measures would give moral support to America’s adversaries.

For what it’s worth, Gaetz has said he doesn’t want to see another motion to vacate filed. “I think a motion to vacate is something that could put the conference in peril,” he told CNN. But he may be reconsidering as Johnson continues to move forward.

Rep. Kat Cammack told Florida Politics earlier in the week that a move to remove Johnson would backfire. She said conversations with the Speaker’s Office are focused on avoiding any such vote while Republicans enjoy a historically small margin.

“That will absolutely freeze the House completely,” she said. “Or for the first time ever in American history, the majority could switch over.” Cammack ultimately voted in favor of advancing the aid package.

Back against Maduro

Florida delegation members on both sides of the aisle welcomed the decision by President Joe Biden’s administration to restore sanctions against Venezuela. But they did so with starkly different tones.

The Biden administration last year agreed to lift Donald Trump-era sanctions against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s regime on the condition that it would allow fair elections to take place. But then, allies to the administration in the nation’s courts blocked opposition candidate María Corina Machado from the ballot.

Nicolás Maduro faces another round of new sanctions.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Miami Republican, said the decision to put sanctions back in place was appropriate but said removing them in the first place was a demonstration of foolish diplomacy. He and Sen. Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican, issued a sharply critical statement that classified oil and gas sanctions as “long overdue” and “insufficient.”

“Nicolás Maduro has violated yet another negotiated agreement by undermining the democratic opposition’s presidential candidate María Corina Machado. At the same time, Maduro represses Venezuelans at torture centers like El Helicoide and is unjustly holding members of Machado’s team,” the statement reads.

“Both the U.S. and the international community must respond to these assaults and continue to hold the Maduro regime accountable. For three long years, President Biden has repeatedly appeased and granted concessions to Maduro and his cronies, even as the criminal regime has increased repression on Venezuelan democratic opposition and continues to threaten neighboring democratic countries. The Biden administration should finally undertake diplomatic efforts to persuade the European Union and other democratic partners to increase sanctions on the regime and enforce the March 2020 indictment of Nicolás Maduro and members of Cártel de Los Soles.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat, also said the trade restrictions needed to be back in place but said the “snap back sanctions” demonstrated the Biden administration was serious about safeguarding democracy.

“Venezuelans deserve real democracy, and I’m proud that President Biden took strong action today to help deliver it. I commend President Biden’s decision to fully enforce the terms of the Barbados Agreement by snapping back sanctions on the Maduro dictatorship’s illicit oil profits. I know the people I represent appreciate the administration’s commitment to amplify the voices of Venezuelan Americans who demand democracy,” Wasserman Schultz said.

“The need for action was clear: The regime refused to register opposition candidate María Corina Machado or her substitute, Dr. Corina Yoris, and Maduro has demonstrated his cruel neglect for his obligation to provide for a free and fair election by continuing to terrorize, harass or imprison human rights defenders, charitable organizations and journalists. These unacceptable breaches of the Barbados Agreement, a good-faith effort by the President and Venezuela’s democratic opposition, which was agreed to by Maduro and designed to make progress toward a return to democracy, have been met with a swift and forceful response.”

What impeachment?

The quick dismissal of a House impeachment or Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas angered Republicans from Florida eager to punish the Cabinet member for border policy.

“Today, Democrats in the Senate said that impeachments by the United States House of Representatives don’t matter,” said Sen. Rick Scott, a Naples Republican. “According to what Democrats did today, we don’t need to hold impeachment trials here in the Senate. It doesn’t matter if, for example, you are a Cabinet Secretary who has instructed his agency to ignore the law and not execute the laws of the United States. It doesn’t matter if, by ordering an agency to ignore the laws of the United States, Americans are murdered.”

The Senate quickly dismissed the impeachment of Alejandro Mayorkas.

Rep. Laurel Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican, was among the impeachment managers to deliver papers on Mayorkas to the Senate. She called the dismissal a swipe at law and order.

“I am extremely disappointed that Senate Democrats refuse to hold a trial and hear the evidence on the articles of impeachment,” she said. “Secretary Mayorkas has willfully and deliberately refused to follow the laws of the United States, and the Senate has failed to uphold its constitutional duty to hold a trial. This is a slap in the face to Americans who are endangered by Mayorkas’ lawless border policies.”

For his part, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said it was the impeachment itself over policy disagreement instead of high crimes or misdemeanors that thumbed a nose at the process.

“For the sake of the Senate’s integrity and to protect impeachment for those rare cases we truly need it, Senators should dismiss today’s charges,” he said.

Mental health

As the state of Florida and the federal government fight over whether to keep children on Florida KidCare, Rep. Neal Dunn wants to make sure at least mental health services remain for children on Medicaid programs.

The Panama City Republican introduced the Improving CARE For Youth Act with Rep. Angie Craig, a Minnesota Democrat. The legislation would allow same-day billing for mental health services for youth Medicaid beneficiaries who are being seen for a primary care service.

Neal Dunn wants to ensure mental health services remain for children on Medicaid.

“Our youth’s mental health is worse than it’s ever been, especially following the destructive COVID-19 lockdowns,” said Dunn, a medical doctor by trade. “Protecting the future of the youth in our country is too important to be hindered by a Medicaid billing restriction. Fixing same-day billing for Medicaid beneficiaries may seem like a small change, but it will have a big impact. We must ensure all children have access to the quality care they need.”

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) backed the bill.

“As a family physician, I know that improving access to mental health and primary care services for Medicaid beneficiaries is critical, particularly as we continue to see increased rates of youth mental health concerns,” said Dr. Steven Furr, President of the group.

“That’s why the American Academy of Family Physicians is pleased to endorse the Improving CARE for Youth Act, which will ensure Medicaid coverage of mental health and primary care services provided on the same day. The AAFP has long supported efforts to improve behavioral health integration in primary care and we are pleased this bipartisan legislation will help address coverage and financial barriers for patients.”

Caring for caregivers

In a state with a sizable elderly population, Cammack said it is important that caregivers receive appropriate support from the government.

The Gainesville Republican co-introduced a bipartisan bill, the Alleviating Barriers for Caregivers (ABC) Act. The bill would require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Social Security Administration to review the eligibility determination and application processes, procedures, form and communications of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the Children’s Health Insurance Program to reduce administrative challenges for caregivers.

Kat Cammack says it is important that caregivers receive appropriate support.

“America’s family caregivers work round-the-clock to provide essential care for their loved ones and over half — 56% — act as advocates on behalf of their family members,” Cammack said. “The last thing these caregivers need is more red tape that distracts from their support for those in their care. I’m honored to introduce this bipartisan and bicameral ABC Act with my colleagues to lower the burden around the important medical decisions caregivers must make every day. Together we can support the 48 million caregivers that make up a critical part of our health care landscape in the U.S.”

A number of health care organizations and senior advocacy groups endorsed the change, including AARP.

“Family caregivers are the backbone of our nation’s long-term care system, and they are overwhelmed managing their loved one’s care,” said AARP Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer Nancy LeaMond.

“The Alleviating Barriers for Caregivers Act could help reduce the stress family caregivers experience by making it easier to navigate resources, eligibility, benefits, and health systems when providing care. AARP thanks Representatives Cammack, Magaziner, Malliotakis, and Panetta for their dedication to family caregivers and urges Congress to swiftly pass this important bipartisan, bicameral legislation.”

Streamlining relief

The House Small Business Committee advanced a bill that Rep. Aaron Bean said will ease access to disaster relief for rural communities.

The Fernandina Beach Republican had introduced the Rural Small Business Resilience Act (HR 7948) with Rep. Chris Pappas, a New Hampshire Democrat, and Jared Goldman, a Maine Democrat.

Aaron Bean hopes to ensure help is there for rural communities during a natural disaster.

“In the wake of a natural disaster, making sure small businesses can get back up and running is crucial,” Bean said. “As we enter hurricane season in Northeast Florida, I’m proud to work with Congressman Pappas to eliminate bureaucratic red tape and get much-needed emergency relief resources into the hands of those that really need it.”

The legislation would increase outreach and marketing after a disaster, so more residents are aware of available assistance.

“We know that rural small businesses face unique challenges and that a one-size-fits-all approach by government agencies is simply ineffective in providing the support they need,” Pappas said.

“This bipartisan legislation would require the Small Business Administration to tailor its outreach and marketing efforts to reach rural businesses and ensure that small businesses in rural areas have full access to SBA disaster assistance. I remain committed to ensuring New Hampshire’s Main Street economy can grow and thrive, and I will continue to work in a bipartisan fashion to build support for this and other legislation to help Granite State small businesses.”

COPPA refresh

Congress took its last major stab at making the internet safe for children in 1998, before social media or widely available streaming video. Rep. Kathy Castor says it’s time to hit the refresh button.

The Tampa Democrat this month unveiled the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act (HR 7890), an update to landmark internet regulation that deals with data privacy and a host of challenges for children wading through the modern information superhighway.

Kathy Castor says it’s time to hit the refresh button on online safety for kids.

“Online apps and tech companies are exploiting our kids and causing harm, so it is urgent that Congress pass a data privacy law that protects the personal privacy of Americans, especially our children and teens,” Castor said. “For many years, I’ve called out the manipulative and dark practices of Big Tech platforms. I’ve sounded the alarm about how incessant surveillance and tracking harms young people and how Big Tech platforms use manipulative design to addict kids to their products and repeatedly expose young people to harmful content.

“That is why I have introduced the bipartisan Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA 2.0) to update youth privacy protections online. COPPA 2.0 builds upon current law to strengthen protections related to the online collection, use and disclosure of personal information of children and minors up to age 16. This bill will address the excessive collection and surveillance of youth, ban harmful targeted advertising and prompt Big Tech platforms to provide young people and parents with the tools needed to navigate the online world.”

She also filed the Kids Online Safety Act (HR 7891), or KOSA, which would prohibit most data collection on children.

For both bills, Castor has bipartisan co-sponsors. She filed COPPA 2.0 with Rep. Tim Walberg, a Michigan Republican. Castor introduced KOSA with Reps. Gus Bilirakis, a Palm Harbor Republican, and Kim Schrier, a Washington Democrat.

Healthy AI use

As Chair of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, Rep. Vern Buchanan has already convened House Republicans on the role artificial intelligence will play in medicine’s future. Now he’d like to hear from the government experts working in the field.

The Longboat Key Republican led a letter to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), a congressional agency advising Congress on Medicare. He voiced concern that the agency has greeted AI with overt hostility that could set the industry in America back.

Vern Buchanan says AI can be used for good.

“I am deeply concerned about MedPAC’s negative and impractical guidance and recent work on digital health (AI) tools,” Buchanan said. “It is my fear MedPAC is taking marching orders from the Biden administration on AI and providing unhelpful feedback to Congress on how these new products could help lower prices in the Medicare space.”

He worries that current policies coming from MedPAC disincentivize the use of AI tools to improve health outcomes and to control costs.

“For Medicare to meaningfully transition to value-based care, payment policies need to maximize efficiencies in care delivery and enhance patient safety using digital health tools,” the letter to MedPAC reads. “Yet MedPAC’s recommended approach would effectively punish providers for using — and innovators for developing — digital health tools that improve health outcomes and control costs.”


A Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) applies duties and other trade policies to some 3,500 products moving into the U.S. Now, Rep. Greg Steube wants Congress to dictate which countries benefit instead of leaving it to the administration.

The Sarasota Republican’s legislation, the Preserving America’s Interests and Security in Trade Act (HR 7986), just advanced out of the House Ways and Means Committee on a 25-17 vote.

Greg Steube wants Congress to dictate which countries benefit from trade policies instead of leaving it to the administration.

“Rather than relying on President Biden’s weak entreaties to our adversaries of ‘Please Don’t Do It,’ we need substantive policy with force to advance America’s interests abroad. This must be a key principle in our trade policy,” Steube said.

“Preserving America’s Interests and Security in Trade Act is a much-needed step to strengthen our national security and advance our foreign policy goals. If a country is allowing China to build military bases on their soil, they should not receive special trade preferences from the U.S. If a country is strengthening its ties with Iran, they should not receive economic benefits from us. The essential reforms included in my bill will help ensure that the U.S. uses GSP to counter the growing aggression of countries like China, Iran, Russia and North Korea.”

Haiti Horrors

The Biden administration once again is flying Haitians in the U.S. back to Port-au-Prince, according to The New York Times. Officials confirmed to the paper of record that dozens were put on planes Thursday and sent back to the country, where the Prime Minister recently resigned, and the capital city has been taken over by gangs.

That’s not an environment where refugees should be sent, according to Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick. The Miramar Democrat and only sitting Haitian American member of Congress issued a rare rebuke of an administration led by her own party.

Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick is offering a rare rebuke of the administration on deporting Haitian refugees.

“I am deeply outraged about recent reporting that the Department of Homeland Security has resumed deportations to Haiti,” Cherfilus-McCormick said.

“A country facing a political crisis of epic proportions, where basic human rights can no longer be protected, women and girls are being sexually abused on a daily basis, young boys are recruited into becoming child soldiers, over 5 million are heading toward famine, and 80% of the capital is controlled by gangs.  The reality is that life in Haiti is currently unbearable. Deportation, under these circumstances, is simply an act of atrocious cruelty. We are either the leader of the free world who welcomes all refugees seeking safety, or we’re not. I urge the Biden-(Kamala) Harris administration to reverse this misguided decision and stop deportations immediately.”

Deal too good?

Should Temu be added to the list of online brands Americans cannot access?

Rep. Brian Mast wants the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to probe the discount retailer’s ties to communist China.

Brian Mast wants the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Temu and its ties to China.

“Whether it’s TikTok or Temu, behind these friendly English words, hide three nefarious letters — CCP,” the Stuart Republican said. “We need to be clear, if you’re a company operating within the U.S., you don’t get to hide your links to the Chinese Communist Party. That’s why I’m asking the FTC to probe Temu’s parent company for their links to the CCP and their questionable business practices.”

The House Foreign Affairs Committee member sent a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan noting Temu’s marketing claims of being headquartered in Boston when its parent company, Pinduoduo, has ties to the China Agriculture University.

Mast said the company appears to be masking unfair trade practices and wants to see a crackdown on those actions.

On this day

April 19, 1775 — “Lexington and Concord: The shot heard round the world” via American Battlefield Trust — Facing an impending rebellion, British General Thomas Gage decided to seize weapons and gunpowder being stored in Concord, Massachusetts, to prevent violence. Patriot spies soon got wind of Gage’s plan. The King’s troops marched into the small town of Lexington. When the vanguard of the British force rushed forward upon the town green, Captain John Parker immediately ordered his company to disperse. At some point a shot rang out — historians still debate who fired the shot. The nervous British soldiers fired a volley, killing seven and mortally wounding one of the retreating militiamen.

April 19, 1995 — “Bomb kills dozens in Oklahoma federal building” via The Washington Post — An apparent terrorist car bomb exploded outside a federal office building, collapsing the north face of the nine-story concrete building, injuring hundreds of workers, and killing at least 31, including 12 children who attended a day care center on the second floor. Local officials said they feared the toll would rise quickly because by early evening more than half the estimated 550 people who worked in the building were still unaccounted for. Assistant Fire Chief John Hansen said rescue workers had seen “many more fatalities in the building that we are working around” while searching for survivors.


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

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