Delegation for 5.17.24: Cheering section — Cuba — red snapper — Orlando — spyfare

The United States Capitol building at sunset, Washington DC, USA.
Florida’s delegation makes a solid appearance at the Trump trial cheering section.

Being a part of it

Forget the Hamptons. Members of the Florida congressional delegation seeking a reason to spend time in New York all have a courthouse destination in mind.

Reps. Matt Gaetz and Anna Paulina Luna became the latest Republicans spotted at former President Donald Trump’s ongoing hush money trial in Manhattan. The Republican lawmakers also partook in a new tradition, speaking to the press outside the courtroom to denigrate the legal proceedings.

“They are telling people that they can’t have cameras in the courtroom, but if they have nothing to hide, if they are truly being honest about this, why is it that you guys can’t be in the courtroom and see exactly what we’re seeing,” Luna told reporters.

Florida’s delegation makes a solid appearance at the Trump trial cheering section.

Gaetz posted a pic of himself behind Trump in the courtroom and captioned it “standing back and standing by, Mr. President,” invoking instructions Trump once issued to the Proud Boys during a presidential debate. Outside the courthouse, the Fort Walton Beach Republican took shots at Michael Cohen, a former Trump fixer and key witness for prosecutors in the case.

“We watched Michael Cohen get dog walked through the series of lies he’s told,” Gaetz told the press. “There is literally no branch of government that Michael Cohen has not lied to. He lied to investigators, he lied to the Judge who sentenced him, he lied to the United States Congress, and he committed these lies for his benefit.”

The arrival of members of Congress to fight Trump’s media fights for him on the courthouse steps has certainly impacted coverage. Gaetz and Luna, both Trump loyalists, followed several other lawmakers from Florida to sit through proceedings.

Sen. Rick Scott was the first to make the Manhattan pilgrimage May 9. Since then, Reps. Byron Donalds, Cory Mills and Michael Waltz visited the city to support Trump.

Cuba designation

Reuters reported that the State Department this week removed Cuba from a list of countries considered to be “not fully cooperating” with U.S. anti-terrorism efforts.

The decision sparked condemnation from Scott, a critic of the communist nation and Florida’s closest international neighbor. The Naples Republican slammed President Joe Biden, accusing him of seeking to normalize relations with a hostile country.

“Every time President Biden appeases the illegitimate, communist Cuban regime, he helps destabilize the Western Hemisphere, supports terrorism and does a huge favor for America’s enemies in Russia, Iran and Communist China,” Scott said.

Rick Scott condemns the U.S. loosening its stance on Cuba.

“Remember: this is the same regime that has allowed U.S. embassy staff to be attacked in Havana and is hosting Communist China’s spy base just 90 miles from our shores. The sick irony of Biden appeasing the (Raul) Castro/(Miguel) Díaz-Canel regime in exchange for empty promises from the cartel-controlled Mexican government to crack down on illegal immigration is that his weakness will have the opposite effect.”

The State Department stressed a change in Cuba’s activity in a very limited space. Indeed, the country remains on a “state sponsor of terrorism” list, though the slight change in status may signal a coming shift there.

“Any future review of Cuba’s status would be based on the law and criteria established by Congress,” a State Department official told Reuters.

That would be the wrong move, Scott maintained.

“The very regimes that are fueling the massive invasion of our southern border that Biden has encouraged and enabled with his appeasement and failed open border policies will continue — allowing more terrorists, dangerous criminals and deadly drugs to pour into the United States, threaten our national security and kill American citizens,” Scott said, before suggesting what America needs is a change in Presidents.

“Under President Trump, Mexico was forced to cooperate with U.S. border security efforts without concessions for the Cuban regime. Biden is too weak and committed to keeping our borders open to get the same result. I’ll be fighting like hell to reverse this decision.”

Freedom fighter

Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. María Elvira Salazar celebrated an international figure pushing back on communism elsewhere in Latin America. Both separately welcomed Bishop Rolando Álvarez, a Nicaraguan Catholic leader, to Washington.

Rubio, a devout Catholic, presented Álvarez with the John S. McCain Freedom Award, an honor bestowed by the International Republican Institute. He said Álvarez’s fight to keep religious institutions open required “true political courage.”

Marco Rubio greets Nicaraguan Bishop Rolando Álvarez.

“Not only we, but our children, our grandchildren, and every generation that will follow us will have to confront totalitarianism,” Rubio said. “It is embedded in the DNA of humanity. Only a commitment to freedom and democracy can guarantee that it doesn’t return as a scourge on the Earth.”

The government jailed Álvarez after criticizing Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. He chose to remain in the nation even though many other leaders accepted exile, some fleeing to South Florida. He was freed from detention in January.

Salazar, a Coral Gables Republican, hosted Álvarez and Institute leaders on Capitol Hill alongside Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas.

“The Catholic Church in Nicaragua is the one institution that the satanic regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo truly fears,” Salazar said. “Brave Catholic leaders like Bishop Álvarez are doing the Lord’s work in tending to his flock. He is not only deserving of the 2024 Freedom Award but of the Nobel Peace Prize, too!”

Snapper celebration

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced it will raise the catch limits for those fishing for red and gray snapper in the Gulf of Mexico this year, sparking celebration from some Gulf Coast lawmakers.

“Fishing for red and gray snappers is a daily revenue generator for America’s small businesses, especially in the Florida panhandle,” said Rep. Neal Dunn, a Panama City lawmaker.

Neal Dunn celebrates a raise in federal red snapper catch limits.

“Increasing the catch limit for red and gray snappers will dramatically improve conditions for Florida’s charter captains, bait shops, hotels, restaurants, towns and counties. It was past time for NOAA to heed my request to increase the catch limits for both species to better reflect their population in the Gulf and allow Florida anglers to fish these waters responsibly.”

A final rule was announced May 10 after nearly a year of debate, as NOAA recalibrated private data on snapper catches in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. Dunn led a letter last year stressing the fishing industry’s economic importance to the state economy that 25 members of the Florida delegation signed.

City Beautiful

Arts organizations in Central Florida just drew almost $175,000 in federal grants to the region. Rep. Maxwell Frost, an Orlando Democrat, announced four National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grants to four institutions serving his constituents.

That includes $100,000 for the United Arts of Central Florida to fund grants in a four-county area; $30,000 for the Orlando Science Center for a Science of Sound collaboration with the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra; $29,500 for the University of Central Florida Research Foundation to support puppetry and interviewing workshops for Osceola County inmates; and $15,000 to the Dr. Phillips Center of Performing Arts to support the 6th & Jazz program.

Maxwell Frost is touting four National Endowment for the Arts grants to four local arts institutions.

“As a drummer and artist, funding for the arts has always been a priority of mine, which is why I am proud to announce these four federal grants totaling close to $200,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts that underscore our commitment to fostering artistic innovation and accessibility here in Central Florida,” Frost said.

“From empowering independent artists to collaborative science initiatives, these investments not only nurture creativity but also create valuable opportunities for growth for people who want to pursue a career in the arts.”

The funding is part of $2 million for Florida intuitions awarded by the NEA this fiscal year.

Democracy awards

Two delegation members were announced as finalists for this year’s Democracy Awards. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a Palm Harbor Republican, made it onto the list in two categories.

The honors, handed out yearly by the Congressional Management Foundation, recognize non-legislative achievement and performance in congressional offices. Awards in each category will be issued to a Republican and Democratic lawmaker.

Gus Bilirakis is recognized with the 2024 Democracy Award. Image via Instagram. .

“As a Democracy Award finalist in two categories, the Rep. Bilirakis office is clearly one of the best in Congress,” said Bradford Fitch, President and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation. “This designation demonstrates that Rep. Bilirakis has made a significant commitment to being the best public servant for his constituents. Rep. Bilirakis and his staff are to be congratulated for not only being a model for his colleagues in Congress but for helping to restore trust and faith that our democratic institutions can work.”

Bilirakis is a finalist in both Constituent Services and Constituent Accountability and Accessibility, the only lawmaker in Congress to be a finalist in more than one category.

“I’m humbled to once again be recognized for outstanding constituent service and communication as one of the top performers in Congress,” Bilirakis said. “I’m blessed with a top-notch team of professionals who share my passion for public service and work together to ensure continuous improvement. I’m proud of the work we are continuing to do to help individual constituents, and I’m confident we will continue going the extra mile to boost constituent engagement.”

Rubio, meanwhile, was announced as a finalist for the Innovation and Modernization category.

Health care hack

A cyberattack on Change Healthcare has Representatives in senior-heavy districts concerned for constituents. Reps. Vern Buchanan, a Longboat Key Republican, joined Bilirakis to send a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Beccera detailing concerns about the federal response.

“I am continuing to hear from providers in Florida who are still dealing with the fallout from this devastating cyberattack,” Buchanan said. “It’s crucial that the Biden administration gives the needed flexibility to health care providers that are still trying to recover from this historic attack on our nation’s health care system.”

Vern Buchanan urges the federal government to respond to a health care cyberattack.

Change Healthcare, which supports 14 billion clinical, financial and operational transactions each year, suffered the attack in February. While the Florida lawmakers expressed gratitude that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has worked with health care providers, according to the letter, many companies still suffer cash flow problems.

Mary Mayhew, President and CEO of the Florida Hospital Association, said the attack impacted nearly every hospital in the state, including more than 100 that rely solely on Change Healthcare for billing.

“As the acute issues associated with the cyberattack have been dealt with, we expect continued negative impact as hospitals seek delayed payments,” Mayhew said.

“Many hospitals were required to take advanced payments from CMS to ensure their ability to pay providers and support care. Small and rural hospitals tend to have razor-thin margins and may not be able to repay the agency on the truncated timeline required by CMS, especially given the longer-than-expected duration for Change Healthcare to come back online — some Medicare contractors were still offline as late as mid-April. We are grateful for this effort by Congressman Buchanan & Congressman Bilirakis to ensure that hospitals are not required to repay their advanced payments at the cost of being able to continue to deliver care.”

D.C. crackdown

The House passed a bill championed by Donalds cracking down on crime in Washington. The Naples Republican said an unacceptable level of violence has turned Washington into a crime zone.

“Our nation’s capital is experiencing a historic crime wave as a result of progressive, soft-on-crime policy,” Donalds said.

“This man-made public safety crisis is unacceptable. Congress has a constitutional responsibility to oversee the District of Columbia, and it is imperative that we act quickly to assert our control when local government fails to do its job. The American people deserve a safe capital city, and I will not stand idly by as it descends into chaos. I am proud to receive the bipartisan support of my colleagues and look forward to the Senate’s consideration of this important proposal.”

Byron Donalds is looking to crack down on D.C. crime.

The D.C. Criminal Reform to Immediately Make Everyone Safer (D.C. CRIMES) Act (HR 7530) requires that anyone over 18 convicted in the district be sentenced as an adult.

The bill passed on a 225-118 vote, with all House Republicans and 18 Democrats who voted backing the measure. Rep. Jared Moskowitz of Parkland was the only Florida Democrat to support the bill.

But Washington officials have openly scoffed at the legislation. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city’s nonvoting member of Congress, said the legislation would actually hinder the City Council’s authority as local lawmakers increase penalties.

“The bill is an egregious violation of D.C. residents’ right to self-governance, and as the Biden administration rightly states, it highlights why D.C. needs statehood,” Norton said.

Honoring a trooper

Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Zachary Fink died on duty during a collision in February. Rep. Brian Mast wants the 26-year-old honored by renaming a Port St. Lucie post office after him. The Stuart Republican filed legislation to redesignate the Peacock Boulevard facility.

“Trooper Fink dedicated his life to making our community a safer place. His tragic death left us all with a heavy heart,” Mast said. “Trooper Fink’s bravery and selflessness should inspire us all. He is a hero and should never be forgotten.”

Brian Mast honors fallen Trooper Zachary Fink by renaming a Port St. Lucie post office.

Fink died while responding to a call for assistance after a car fled a nearby traffic stop. While making a U-turn, Fink ended up in a collision with a semi-truck. Both the trooper and truck driver died from injuries in the crash, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

A St. Lucie County native, Fink graduated from the Florida Highway Patrol Academy in December 2020.


U.S. intelligence over the last two decades refocused much of its energy on terrorism, but Moskowitz is leading a call to keep a close eye on hostile nations.

He and Rep. Keith Self, a Texas Republican, led a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urging the release of information on the number of encounters the military has had with spies from hostile foreign nations on U.S. bases.

Jared Moskowitz is calling for keeping a closer eye on America’s enemies.

“Since 9/11, our country has witnessed increased threats from foreign adversaries,” the Parkland Democrat said. “However, these adversaries have transitioned from terrorist groups to nation-states with the sole intent on destroying America and our way of life. For Congress to better enact policies to keep our soldiers and the American people safe, the Department of Defense must better inform Congress of attempted encounters on military bases. Transparency is key so we can better protect our country.”

Self pointed to recent spying operations like the notorious Chinese spy balloon that flew over U.S. soil. The letter from the lawmakers asks for a Defense Department update on how many times bases have discovered spying attempts by China, Russia or Iran, what information individuals aimed to gain and what the administration is doing in response.

“This new axis of evil is working nonstop to steal sensitive technology, influence lawmakers and spy on our military,” Self said.

Israel cracks?

Weeks after passing an Israel foreign aid package with bipartisan support, the House took up a bill slamming Biden for conditioning weapons shipments on whether efforts would be put in place to limit Palestinian civilian deaths.

But this time, the bill failed to earn support from many Democrats, including some in the Florida delegation who consistently back Israel. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat, slammed the Israel Security Assistance Support Act (HR 8369) as a “political stunt.”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz calls the Israel Security Assistance Support Act (HR 8369) as a ‘political stunt.’

“Instead of uniting Congress in a bipartisan manner to defeat Hamas and unequivocally support Israel’s survival, House Republicans brought a divisive, unserious bill to the floor with the sole intention of dividing Americans and scoring cheap political points,” Wasserman Schultz said.

“Throughout my career and especially over the past seven months, I’ve provided unwavering support to Israel, its people, and the 130 hostages still held captive by Hamas. I have traveled to the region multiple times since Oct. 7 and used my platform to keep the hostages and victims of Hamas’ sexual violence front and center in the national dialogue. I have and will continue to proudly vote to back Israel’s right to defend itself through the supplemental assistance bills and support their fight to eradicate Hamas as a threat, as well as humanitarian aid for Gazans used as human shields by Hamas. This bill would make America and Israel less safe.”

The legislation passed in the House on a 224-187 vote, primarily divided on party lines.

Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, a Hialeah Republican who chairs the House State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, called the legislation necessary.

“The Israel Security Assistance Support Act mandates that President Biden follow the law — a law that he requested and signed — to send weapons to our friend and ally, Israel. In contrast to the weak and confused policy of the Biden administration, the House is standing solidly with Israel as it wages an existential battle against the terrorist state of Iran and its terrorist proxies Hamas and Hezbollah,” he said.

“We must ensure that Israel has what it needs to eradicate Hamas, which vows Israel’s destruction. We simply will not stand by as the Biden administration pressures Israel to fight for its survival with one hand tied behind its back.”

The legislation drew 16 Democratic votes in favor, including from Reps. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, Moskowitz and Darren Soto of Kissimmee. But the rest of Florida’s Democratic delegation who voted cast “no” votes. All Republicans from Florida who voted supported the bill.

However, the legislation did see a high percentage of Florida lawmakers skip the May 16 vote completely, including Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson and Republican Reps. Gaetz, Luna and Carlos Giménez.

On this day

May 17, 1954 — “High court outlaws segregation in schools” via The Arizona Daily Star — The Supreme Court ruled that the states of the nation do not have the right to separate Negro and white people in different public schools. By a unanimous 9-0 vote, the high court held that such segregation of the races is unconstitutional. Chief Justice Earl Warren read the historic decision to a packed but hushed gallery of spectators nearly two years after Negro residents of four states and the District of Columbia went before the court to challenge the principle of segregation. The ruling does not end segregation at once.

May 17, 2001 — “George W. Bush emphasizes production in national energy blueprint” via CNN — President Bush outlined an energy plan that made a strong push for increasing energy production, using a speech to call for more domestic oil drilling and the construction of new coal-fired and nuclear power plants. “If we fail to act, this country could face a darker future,” Bush said. The measure, which is likely to face a pitched battle in Congress, calls on federal agencies to take dramatic steps to reduce regulations on the energy industry to encourage more output from coal-fired plants, recommends the construction of more than 1,300 new power plants and calls for new oil and gas exploration.

Happy birthday

Best wishes to Rep. Frankel, who turned 76 on Monday, May 16.


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

Staff Reports

One comment

  • My Take

    May 17, 2024 at 3:18 pm

    Crazy GOPer ideologue Pat Buchanan, now retired, once called the US Congress, “Israeli Occupied Territory.

Comments are closed.


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