Delegation for 4.26.24: Race on — frustration — sanctions — Africa — 80/20

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Let the 2024 races begin!

And now, 2024

The ballot is set for 2024 for every Congressional race in Florida. And every delegation member up for re-election (save one) will see competition on the ballot.

With the federal qualifying deadline passed, it’s clear that there will be Primaries on both sides of a high-profile Senate race. Incumbent Sen. Rick Scott will have to compete with multiple candidates, most significantly Melbourne lawyer Keith Gross, who, through March, already spent nearly $1.9 million on the race.

The race is on!

But it looks like former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, President Joe Biden’s pick for the Democratic nomination, won’t just stroll into November. Tech entrepreneur Stanley Campbell also qualified for the Democratic Primary. So did former Rep. Alan Grayson, who hasn’t done much active campaigning but has run statewide before.

The biggest news in the House was in Florida’s 8th Congressional District, where former Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos made a last-minute entry into the race for a seat held by Rep. Bill Posey, a Rockledge Republican. Sources say Posey may retire, though he just touted President Donald Trump’s endorsement last month.

The biggest fizzle was an anticipated run from 2 Live Crew leader Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell in the Democratic Primary against Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick in Florida’s 20th Congressional District. Sources close to Campbell say that doesn’t appear to be happening. Two Republicans who filed to challenge Cherfilus-McCormick failed to qualify, making her the only member of the delegation to win re-election unopposed.

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In Central Florida, multiple Republicans also stepped up to answer former President Donald Trump’s call for a GOP Primary challenger against Rep. Laurel Lee. While neither former state Rep. Jackie Toledo nor conspiracy podcaster Brian Perras followed through, Dade City business owner James Judge and Plant City activist Jennifer Barbosa both did, and each has a history of running for Congress.

As for battlegrounds targeted by national Democrats and Republicans, multiple challengers have qualified against Republican Reps. Anna Paulina Luna and María Elvira Salazar and against Democratic Rep. Darren Soto.

Former state lawmaker John Quiñones, the apparent favorite of Washington Republicans, made the ballot in Florida’s 9th Congressional District to challenge Soto. But Quiñones must face Thomas Chalifoux, a veteran who put up a $1 million candidate loan to fund the race, as well as Jose Castillo. Independent Marcus Carter is also waiting in the General against Soto and whoever gets the GOP nod.

Four Democrats qualified to challenge Luna in Florida’s 13th Congressional District. That includes Whitney Fox, Mark Weinkrantz, Liz Dahan and John Liccione, who all have significant fundraising behind their bids. Sabrina Bousbar, who also had some money and a few national endorsements, appeared to be in the process of qualifying as of press time.

As for Salazar’s seat, two well-financed Democrats qualified in Florida’s 27th Congressional District: Lucia Baez-Geller and Michael Davey. Both have more than $200,000 in cash on hand reported as of the close of the first quarter this year. Salazar also attracted a Primary challenge from Royland Lara, who, to date, has reported no fundraising.

Foreign aid frustrations

A controversial foreign aid package that divided Florida’s House delegation found no love among the Sunshine State’s Senate contingent. While ultimately passing with a bipartisan 79-18 vote, both Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott voted down.

With the two Republicans criticizing the legislation, Florida is one of just five states with both its Senators delivering “nay” votes on support to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan. The others were Missouri, Tennessee and Wyoming, which have completely Republican delegations, and Vermont, where progressive Senators have criticized Israel for oppression of Palestinians.

Scott primarily hammered the inclusion of humanitarian support in Gaza. The Naples Republican said there’s nothing to ensure that it won’t materially support Hamas, which ignited the most recent and ongoing Israel-Palestinian conflict with a terrorist attack on Oct. 7.

Rick Scott blasts the latest foreign aid package for including humanitarian support to Gaza. Image via AP.

“I have voted for the Israel aid in this bill, only to see it fail in the Senate with all Democrats voting against it,” Scott said on the Senate floor. “For years, I have voted for significant funding for the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and other key military assets that help Israel defend itself from Iran-backed terrorism and I am leading the Stop Taxpayer Funding of Hamas Act.”

That would condition aid to Gaza on Hamas’ release of hostages and demand assurances that no U.S. aid ends up in the hands of Hamas terrorists.

“Senate Democrats have blocked this bill from consideration or passage in the Senate three separate times, including when I tried to include it in the Senate-passed foreign aid supplemental in February,” Scott said. “It should not be difficult to say that we won’t risk even one dollar of American taxpayer money going to Hamas.”

Rubio, meanwhile, said he could not support sending aid to Ukraine without Congress demanding President Joe Biden change policies on the U.S. border with Mexico.

“If I want to help Israel, if I want to help Taiwan, if I want to help Ukraine, if I want to ban TikTok, I have to vote for spending billions of dollars to give to charity groups so they can fly people around the country here and put them up in hotel rooms, or so they can help resettlement in another country?” the Miami Republican said in his own floor speech.

He called the vote on foreign aid “moral extortion.”

“This bill is not a compromise,” Rubio said. “This bill is basically saying that if I don’t agree to drop my demands that the President secure our border, if I don’t agree to spend billions of taxpayer dollars all over the world to resettle people here and in other places in the midst of our own migratory crisis, if I don’t agree to all of that, then Israel and Taiwan and Ukraine do not get the help they need — and that I support — and that TikTok does not get banned.”

But even with the legislation ultimately losing more than half of Florida lawmakers in the House and Senate, the aid made it to Biden’s desk. The President signed the package on April 24.

“It continues America’s leadership in the world, and everyone knows it,” Biden said at a news conference on the bill.

“It gives vital support to America’s partners so they can defend themselves against threats to their sovereignty and to the lives and freedom of their citizens. And it’s an investment in our own security because when our allies are stronger — and I want to make this point again and again — when our allies are stronger, we are stronger.”

Sanctions overseas

Rubio and Biden did find common ground this week when the President signed three national security bills sponsored by Florida’s senior Senator. Those include the Stop Harboring Iranian Petroleum (SHIP) Act, the Mahsa Amini Human Rights and Security Accountability (MAHSA) Act and the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad International Terrorism Support Prevention Act.

“We have seen the violent acts carried out by the Iranian regime, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas and other terrorist affiliates,” Rubio said.

Marco Rubio finds common ground with Joe Biden. Image via MSNBC.

“For too long, the U.S. was either unable or unwilling to punish these actions. One of Iran’s prime sponsors, the Chinese Communist Party, did not face significant consequences for aiding and abetting the regime’s illicit activities. I encourage the Biden administration to move quickly and use these new authorities to punish the violent acts carried out by these entities and help put an end to their cruelty.”

The SHIP Act imposes sanctions on Chinese refineries engaging with Iranian oil suppliers. The MAHSA Act imposes individual sanctions on leaders of Iran’s Islamist government for human rights violations. Finally, the Hamas sanctions penned by Rubio punish any foreign entity providing material support to Hamas that directly contributed to attacks on Israel, including the Oct. seven attacks that left 1,200 Israelis dead.

Flood insurance relief

As Southwest Florida residents worry about losing a discount on flood insurance, Scott and Rep. Byron Donalds filed legislation to incentivize citizens to maintain coverage.

The legislation (S 4143) would amend the federal tax code to provide an above-the-line deduction for premiums for Americans who purchase flood insurance either through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or a private carrier.

Byron Donalds hopes to keep homeowners afloat with flood insurance. Image via AP.

“As I travel around Florida, I am consistently hearing about how the broken NFIP and its rising costs are hurting Floridians,” Scott said. “I am fighting tooth and nail in Washington to fix it. While we continue to work on permanent solutions to the problems plaguing the NFIP, we need to make sure hardworking folks have access to affordable coverage. That’s why I am introducing and will be fighting to pass legislation that provides a non-refundable tax break to families who purchase flood insurance coverage either through the private market or the NFIP.”

Both Donalds and Scott live in Naples, a community impacted in 2022 by flooding from Hurricane Ian. While they live in Collier, neighboring Lee County has been fighting for weeks with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) about the potential loss of a flood insurance discount amid accusations too much-unpermitted repair work was done after the storm. FEMA granted local governments an extension until June 20 to provide documentation that they have complied with federal rules, as reported by the Fort Myers News-Press.

Donalds said constituents in Florida were already dealing with rising insurance costs before the storm, and Congress needs to provide some relief.

“Over recent years, residents of Southwest Florida and the Sunshine State have been faced with an exponential rise in flood insurance costs,” the Naples Republican said. “This unsustainable trend is severely impacting hardworking Florida families and it is critical that this problem is immediately addressed.”

Africa strategy

After questioning whether U.S. officials in Niger face a security risk, Rep. Matt Gaetz now wonders if the Biden administration’s entire Africa strategy is flawed.

The Fort Walton Beach Republican sent a letter to House Armed Services Committee Chair Mike Rogers calling for an investigative hearing and for Secretary of State Antony Blinken to be questioned by the panel.

Matt Gaetz says the White House’s Africa strategy is flawed. Image via AP.

“The intended purpose of this investigative hearing is to ensure the GFS (Global Fragility Strategy) isn’t negatively impacted by (Department of State’s) recent failures in Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso that have led to a loss of security access for U.S. forces,” Gaetz wrote.

The letter said the U.S. has sent $30 billion in aid to “15 of the most fragile countries in the world” over five years.

“It is incumbent upon (the House Armed Services Committee) to review and discuss these plans with the principal stakeholders to ensure we are not creating a potential second Benghazi incident or a second Afghanistan withdrawal as the joint agency moves forward,” Gaetz wrote.

Tackling 80/20 proposal

The Health and Human Services (HHS) Department this week finalized a rule for Medicaid limiting the amount of coverage on home care that can be spent on providers’ overhead. But Rep. Kat Cammack said the so-called “80/20” rule will hurt states’ ability to provide patient care.

The Gainesville Republican filed legislation that would prevent the implementation and enforcement of the rule.

“The Biden administration’s proposed ’80/20′ rule would require (and) force states to spend billions in new unfunded mandates or force (Home- and Community-Based Services) providers to reduce access to care for those who need it most,” Cammack said.

Kat Cammack blasts the new HHS ‘80/20’ rule for Medicaid.

“Because of top-down demands from the Biden administration, home care agencies can’t keep up with staffing levels and overall care levels while complying with this rule. It’s putting millions of Americans at a sharp disadvantage and only exacerbating the challenging issues we already face.”

Cammack’s office said 6 million Americans rely on regular access to long-term support and HCBS covered by Medicaid. That number will rise significantly by the end of the decade. However, a requirement that 80% of spending on such programs goes directly to workers won’t allow states to address increasing demand when the number of eligible care providers already falls short and hundreds of thousands of Americans remain on waiting lists for services.

HHS officials say the rule will require funding to support providers directly and ensure high-quality care for patients.

“Everyone should have equal access to the critical care they need. Our caregivers — those who are taking care of the ones we love — deserve our respect and full support. That’s why HHS has been at the center of the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to improve care and caregiving for Americans at all stages of their lives,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.

Criminalizing homelessness

As the Supreme Court heard arguments on whether cities can jail or fine people for sleeping outside, Rep. Maxwell Frost joined advocates in Orlando in raising concerns about criminalizing homelessness.

Maxwell Frost stands firmly against the criminalization of homelessness. Image via X.

“It’s a shame that cities across the country are passing ordinances criminalizing folks experiencing homelessness, but the truth of the matter is that what these cities are also criminalizing are the results of the inaction of our elected leaders,” the Orlando Democrat said.

“We cannot arrest ourselves out of this problem. This Supreme Court cannot encourage the actions of cities and governments that have failed to help their people in a time of need. We know the solution to our housing crisis, and it’s not fines and handcuffs.”

Frost rallied with leaders of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida and the Christian Service Center.

Frost also spoke at a news conference last week in front of the Supreme Court with Democratic Reps. Cori Bush of Missouri, Delia Ramirez of Illinois and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, as well as national housing advocates, to draw attention to the Johnson v. Grants Pass case.

Broadband lifelines

The American Connectivity Program (ACP) helps provide broadband access to 1.7 million Floridians, but Democrats in the delegation say the program faces risk under a Republican Congress. Reps. Frost and Soto spotlighted the program at a news conference at Heart of Florida United Way with Deputy Minority Whip Katherine Clark at their side.

Soto, a Kissimmee Democrat, said the need for the program accelerated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress changed laws to ensure many seniors and veterans could use telehealth and access other needed services online.

Darren Soto wants Florida seniors to stay wired.

“We also saw so many Americans shelter at home and turn to the internet for their commerce. So many students have to be educated from home. And each of these instances, they required internet access,” Soto said. “But it became more and more clear that even though we had the technology to be able to connect so many Americans throughout the pandemic and after, we didn’t have the access. We didn’t have the affordability.”

The news conference featured a personal story from former Army Corp. Nelson Garcia, who became a caregiver to his father during the pandemic. “As a veteran grappling with my own mental and physical health challenges, the added responsibility of caring for my father compounded the stress, anxiety and depression I was already experiencing,” Garcia said.

Frost said that story was personal but typical of many families. His district has 100,000 ACP users.

“I was in a room with some seniors in downtown Orlando and one of them came up to me, said, ‘Maxwell, ACP has really changed my life, and at my age I didn’t think there would be much more that could help change my life,’” he said.

Clark said the program could help families save as much as $900 a year, a large amount for many households. “Democrats are going to keep fighting to guarantee this affordable access forever,” she said.

Restoring coverage

Rep. Kathy Castor led a letter signed by every Democrat in the delegation calling for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to stop Florida from dropping children from KidCare.

“While the Florida Legislature voted to expand Florida KidCare eligibility to children with family incomes up to 300% of the federal poverty level (FPL), we urge you not to approve the State’s requested punitive premium structure,” the letter states.

Kathy Castor urges Florida to stop dropping children from KidsCare. Image via AP.

“Florida’s costly barrier to coverage runs counter to Congressional intent. Congress clearly intended that 12-month continuous eligibility be effectuated without any barriers or roadblocks so that children would receive care and coverage under (the Children’s Health Insurance Program).”

The message to CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure calls for enforcement of federal requirements that states provide continuous coverage for children until age 19 once they have qualified for Medicaid and CHIP.

Castor has criticized Gov. Ron DeSantis for cutting off coverage to 22,500 Florida children.

“As members of Florida’s Congressional delegation, we are hopeful that the State will follow through with the proposed expansion of KidCare — and do so in a way that follows the law — allowing up to 165,000 more of our youngest neighbors to have access to high-quality coverage,” the letter states. “Florida children should not experience harmful and unlawful gaps in their coverage, be exposed to unaffordable premiums and be treated more harshly than children from other states.”

Donor-advised funds

Will new tax rules hurt charitable giving and the nonprofit sector? Rep. Vern Buchanan co-led a bipartisan letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen questioning how new regulations related to donor-advised funds might produce a “chilling effect” on giving.

“I am extremely concerned that these new regulations could significantly discourage charitable giving across the country,” said Buchanan, a Longboat Key Republican. “I look forward to the Biden administration’s timely response to our letter given the strong bipartisan support on this issue.”

Janet Yellin gets an earful from Vern Buchanan. Image via AP.

He sent the letter with Rep. Jimmy Panetta, a California Democrat, and 33 lawmakers from the House Ways and Means Committee signed the message, including Rep. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican.

Several national and Florida foundation leaders also have raised concerns about the new rules.

“Donor-advised funds are a critical lifeline to local nonprofits here in Southwest Florida and across our state,” said Roxie Jerde, President and CEO of The Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

“They support organizations’ ability to respond to our region’s emerging needs, from hurricane recovery to literacy support or whatever challenges arise. The current regulations, if approved, would hurt community foundations, the nonprofits we support, and the communities we serve.”

Leadership for the Miami Foundation also raised concerns about the changes.

“Our donor-advised fund holders and their families have committed themselves to giving back and to playing an invaluable role in strengthening our region,” said Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, president and CEO of The Miami Foundation.

“The assets we receive from our fundholders are vital for our community’s health and are irrevocably entrusted to our stewardship. We take this responsibility seriously and use our full authority to ensure all investment strategies align with our mission. The role trusted investment advisers play for many of our donors is strategic and helps us to expand our reach to a broader donor base, ultimately enabling us to strengthen our community impact. Simply put, proposed changes to donor-advised fund regulations will not enhance philanthropic giving. It will hinder the vital work we and other foundations do to build thriving communities.”

Check tour

Rep. Marío Díaz-Balart spent time back in the district presenting federal checks to Southwest Florida organizations.

From funding secured for the Village of Virginia Gardens law enforcement vehicle upgrades to dollars for the repair and rehabilitation of pump stations in Everglades City and Carnestown, the Hialeah Republican traveled through the week to municipalities in Florida’s 26th Congressional District.

Marío Díaz-Balart heads home with a handful of federal checks. Image via X.

He dropped a check worth $180,000 off with the Pace Center for Girls in Immokalee and gave it to President Mary Marx and Executive Director Marianne Kearns at the group’s Collier County headquarters.

“I’m proud I was able to bring back federal funds to aid them in their mission, and I eagerly anticipate the positive impact this will have on future generations,” Díaz-Balart posted on X.

He also provided $4.19 million to the Collier County Commission and $1 million to the Sheriff’s Office to construct a transit maintenance facility.

On this day

April 26, 1865 — “Abraham Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth dies” via — The 26-year-old Booth was one of the most famous actors in the country when he shot Lincoln during a performance at Ford’s Theater in Washington. Many in the audience recognized Booth, so the army was soon hot on his trail. Booth and his accomplice, David Herold, made their way across the Anacostia River and headed toward southern Maryland. A tip led the Union soldiers back to a farm where they discovered Booth and Herold in the barn. Herold came out, but Booth refused. The building was set on fire to flush Booth, but he was shot while still inside. He lived for three hours.

April 26, 1984 — “Ronald Reagan visits China” via POLITICO — President Reagan arrived in Beijing to start a six-day state visit — the first by an American President since Richard Nixon in 1972. During a welcoming ceremony in Tiananmen Square, Reagan was greeted by President Li Xiannian of China with a 21-gun salute. He then attended a banquet at the Great Hall of the People. In his televised speech, he spoke about the need for “mutual respect and mutual benefit” between China and the United States and tried out, with mixed success, a few phrases in Mandarin. Reagan noted that “it was just 200 years ago when the first American merchant ship called on a Chinese port.”

Happy birthday

Best wishes to Rep. Daniel Webster, who turns 75 on Saturday, April 27.


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

Staff Reports

One comment

  • Hillary Clinton

    April 30, 2024 at 3:07 pm

    “That includes Whitney Fox, Mark Weinkrantz, Liz Dahan and John Liccione, who all have significant fundraising behind their bids. ”

    According to the FEC, John Liccione has only raised $849. The remainder of his campaign funds are loans from himself, so hardly ‘significant fundraising.’

    He’s also a jackass and a creep.

Comments are closed.


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