Delegation for 5.21.24: Appeasement — FEMA — Africom — FACE — Haiti

U.S. Capitol
Florida's congressional delegation is not quite happy with softening relations with Cuba.

Cuban appeasement

Cuban Americans in the delegation viewed the State Department’s decision to drop Cuba from a list of countries “not fully cooperating” in counterterrorism as a step toward normalization.

Several Miami-area Republicans in Florida’s congressional delegation declared the decision dangerously consequential. Rep. María Elvira Salazar said the move by President Joe Biden’s administration was either “naive” or “complicit” with Cuba’s communist President Miguel Díaz-Canel and former President Raúl Castro, a military figure in brother Fidel Castro’s communist revolution movement who still wields power and influence in the nation.

Florida’s congressional delegation is not quite happy with softening relations with Cuba.

“This latest move is, without a doubt, another sign that the Biden administration is paving the way to remove Cuba from the list of State Sponsors of Terror,” said Salazar, a Coral Gables Republican.How is it possible that a dictatorship that finances terrorism in Latin America supports Hamas and harbors international terrorists in its territory ‘cooperates’ with the United States on anti-terrorism?”

In the last year of his presidency, former President Barack Obama took steps toward normalizing relations with Cuba, but the Democrat’s moves were reversed when former President Donald Trump, a Republican, took office. Biden, who served as Obama’s Vice President, has engaged with Cuban leaders since taking office as President in 2021.

Officials in Cuba indeed greeted the latest move as a conversation starter to change relations.

“We have expressed to the current U.S. administration, both directly and indirectly that we are ready to sit and talk, on an equal footing, without preconditions, about any of the topics that have to do with relations between Cuba and the U.S.,” Díaz-Canel said in an interview with diplomat Ignacio Ramonet.

But that prospect has only prompted alarm with Republicans raised in South Florida’s Cuban community, a powerful force in state politics.

“President Biden is making it abundantly clear he wants to remove the Cuban dictatorship from the list of state sponsors of terrorism,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, a Miami Republican. “The criminal and illegitimate regime in Havana supports foreign terrorist organizations in Colombia and harbors ETA terrorists as well as fugitives wanted by American courts.”

Rep. Carlos Giménez, the only current member of Congress born in Cuba, said his family had to flee the Castro government. He categorized Cuba as a threat to the U.S., working with hostile entities around the world.

“President Biden’s latest pathetic concession to the murderous, terrorist Castro regime is not only unwarranted and misguided, but dangerous for America’s national security,” the Miami-Dade Republican said.

“Just last week, Raúl Castro’s puppet president Miguel Díaz-Canel was in Moscow meeting with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and conscripting mercenaries to fight in Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. This is the very same regime that actively supports terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, the ELN (National Liberation Army) and FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), among so many others. Why on earth would President Biden continue to reward Havana’s military dictatorship with concession after concession when the Castro regime continues to undermine America’s national security, threaten our allies, and engage with terrorist groups around the globe?”

Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, a Hialeah Republican and the longest-serving member of Florida’s congressional delegation called the move a national security “blunder.”

“The regime is a close ally of every U.S. adversary: the (Nicolás) Maduro dictatorship (in Venezuela), Communist China, Iran, North Korea and Russia,” Díaz-Balart said.

“Cuban troops are trained to fight for Russia against Ukraine, and the regime was caught smuggling 240 tons of weapons into North Korea. Moreover, their espionage network against the United States has been exceedingly damaging, as with the most recent convicted Cuban spy, Manuel Rocha. Granting any ounce of legitimacy to the terrorist Cuban regime only further emboldens it and our other enemies, putting the American people at risk and capitulating to the absurd demand from Mexico’s socialist President that the United States appease the repressive dictatorships in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. The appeasement of our adversaries must end now.”

FEMA funds

An active hurricane season looms, and Florida’s Senators want answers about emergency funding.

Sens. Rick Scott and Rubio wrote a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell demanding answers on whether FEMA has the resources needed to assist people in Florida and beyond when tropical systems wreak their inevitable havoc.

Rick Scott wants to know if FEMA has enough resources to help storm-ravaged Floridians. Image via AP/Rebecca Blackwell.

“Last year, we led an effort in the Senate to fully fund FEMA’s DRF at the levels requested by your agency and the White House. It is gravely concerning to us that now, not even a year later, the Joe Biden administration is projecting another funding shortfall,” the letter reads.

“It is our understanding that your agency expects the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) to run out of funds by August 2024 and may need to activate an immediate needs funding designation as early as June. We cannot stress enough how devastating this funding shortage would be to hurricane and disaster relief efforts in Florida and across the country. FEMA’s latest monthly DRF report, issued May 7, 2024, projects a $1.359 billion deficit in its Major Declarations fund by August, growing to $6.811 billion by September. This is unacceptable going into hurricane season.”

Curing child cancer

The Senate passed a resolution introduced by Rubio raising awareness of incurable pediatric brain cancer. The Miami Republican filed the bipartisan measure with Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat.

“The Senate encourages all individuals in the United States to become more informed about diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma tumors, pediatric brain cancer in general, and challenges related to research on pediatric cancer and ways to advance that research,” the resolution reads.

Marco Rubio wants to raise awareness of incurable pediatric brain cancer.

DIPG brain cancer, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that impacts children, has a survival rate of just 2%, according to the resolution. Most child patients die within 11 months of diagnosis. Most patients receive a diagnosis between 5 and 10 years old.

Several Florida institutions have notably conducted research and treatment trials for DIPG brain cancer. That includes work at the McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Florida and the Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Program at the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Central Florida.

Africom impact

After questioning if the U.S. has properly secured officials in Niger, Rep. Matt Gaetz wants to know more about why the U.S. withdrew troops from Chad.

The Fort Walton Beach Republican sent Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin a letter asking why some 75 Green Berets would soon leave the country. He cited recent reporting from The New York Times suggesting the government in the African nation asked the U.S. to leave.

Matt Gaetz wants to know more about why the U.S. withdrew troops from Chad.

Gaetz called on Austin to report on whether the Defense Department had coordinated with the State Department on the safe departure of troops and any movable military assets. He also asked if the country is in talks with other African nations about reducing troop presence.

The Congressman also expressed concern about the impact of a reduction in troop presence in both Chad and Niger and what it could mean for the U.S. on a global scale.

“What is your plan to effectively resist and counter the influence campaigns of China and Russia within the Africa Command (AFRICOM) Area of Responsibility?” Gaetz wrote.

“Given that you have confirmed the presence of Russian troops at Airbase 101 in Niger, which houses U.S. troops, are there any Russian, Chinese or any non-friendly forces cohabitating or sharing battle space with U.S. forces on military bases in Chad or anywhere else in Africa? If so, list the bases and the number of adversarial troops on base.”

Cutter costs

A Panhandle Congressman heralded the expansion of shipyards in Bay County. That came as a colleague in South Florida raised questions about Coast Guard acquisitions.

Rep. Neal Dunn, a Panama City Republican, cheered Eastern Shipbuilding’s announcement that it would expand its facilities in Bay County.

Neal Dunn is celebrating an expansion of shipyards in Bay County.

“Eastern Shipbuilding’s latest improvement plan will have massive implications that will reverberate throughout Bay County and the country,” Dunn said. “Through its expanded capabilities, Eastern is well-positioned to meet America’s growing national security needs by fabricating world-class vessels while also creating countless jobs in the area. Bay County residents are ready to get the job done, and I’m grateful to Eastern for reinvesting in the community.”

Executives said the expansion would let the company address a Defense Department need.

“We’re in a predicament and we need shipbuilding capacity, so we’re answering that call, Bay County is answering that call, and we hope that it’ll pay off with a lot more work, long-term work, and prosperity for thousands of families that rely on the shipyard to put food on the table,” said Joey D’Isernia, Chair and CEO of Eastern Shipbuilding.

The announcement notably came weeks after Giménez led a hearing of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation and Maritime Security on the Coast Guard’s shipbuilding process. That included the production of cutters, one of the ships constructed by Eastern Shipbuilding.

“The Coast Guard has so far commissioned 54 out of the 71 planned Fast Response Cutters and expanded the areas of operation for these new cutters to the Persian Gulf and the Indo-Pacific,” Giménez said at the hearing.

“The shipbuilder is delivering the new FRCs on schedule at a rate of two per year. Additionally, the Coast Guard will soon commission its 10th out of 11 planned National Security Cutters, and the 11th NSC is currently under construction. The NSCs are already fulfilling critical mission requirements in the Indo-Pacific and elsewhere around the world. However, the Coast Guard has experienced major setbacks with both the Polar Security Cutter and Offshore Patrol Cutter programs.”

Fair of FACE

As pregnancy centers operated by abortion opponents face violent attacks by protesters, Rep. John Rutherford questioned whether federal officials had treated the demonstrators similar to extremists committing crimes at abortion clinics.

The Jacksonville Republican led a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding equal enforcement of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.

“The Justice Department has failed to prosecute a single act of violence against places of religious worship under the FACT Act,” Rutherford said.

Anti-abortion women’s centers are under attack, says John Rutherford.

“In fact, only five individuals have been prosecuted under the FACE Act for attacking pro-life pregnancy centers, while the Justice Department actively prosecutes numerous protests outside of abortion clinics. In the wake of the recent pro-Palestinian protest that interrupted an Easter vigil mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and the over 150 attacks on churches and pregnancy resource centers across the nation since the Dobbs decision, I urge the Justice Department to apply the FACE Act equally and prosecute those who attack places of worship and religious organizations.”

Marilyn Musgrave, Vice President of Government Affairs at Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, said facilities providing pregnancy services to women who elect not to receive abortions deserve protection but suggested the Justice Department used the FACE Act as a weapon against one side.

“President Biden’s Department of Justice is using the FACE Act to target and prosecute peaceful pro-life protesters and people of faith while failing to investigate the numerous attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers and churches across America since the leak of the Dobbs decision,” Musgrave said.

Space secrets

The House just passed an initiative preventing China from benefiting from space research funded through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Three Florida Republicans — Reps. Scott Franklin, Bill Posey and Daniel Webster — championed the effort to combat the Chinese Communist Party’s influence-growing strategies.

The lawmakers crafted the measure with the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and are seeking to protect intellectual property.

Congress seeks to hamstring Chinese influence in space research.

“The CCP has been successful at portraying itself as a benevolent and benign presence in the world community,” said Posey, a Republican representing most of the Space Coast. “In reality, China is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. China views all of its entities through a military lens and works quietly to gain influence all over the world.”

Provisions were added to the legislation reauthorizing the FAA. Biden signed that legislation last week.

“The CCP is a threat to America’s national and economic security,” said Webster, a Clermont Republican. “As the FAA Reauthorization Act includes important investments into research and development that will streamline FAA operations, I’m pleased that our proposal was included to ensure federal dollars aren’t being awarded to entities under Communist China’s influence.”

Franklin said the initiative played a key role in maintaining global U.S. dominance.

“The Chinese Communist Party will stop at nothing to undermine U.S. global leadership and that includes intellectual property theft,” the Lakeland Republican said. “Our provision will safeguard the important R&D included in the FAA reauthorization bill from malign CCP-influence. I’m pleased this common-sense measure passed the House and I thank my colleague, Mr. Posey, for his consistent leadership on American research security.”

Rare success

Lawmakers who want to force bills to the floor regardless of leadership support or legislative speed can always use the discharge petition process. During the 118th Congress, 11 such attempts were made, but most fell short of the 218 signatures required for a member to put a bill on the floor.

Still, Rep. Greg Steube did just that, successfully obtaining signatures to support his Federal Disaster Tax Relief Act (HR 5863). The legislation would provide relief to many Southwest Florida citizens impacted by Hurricane Ian and other federally declared disasters. Steube filed his petition motion (HR 961) on April 30. He secured his 218th signature on May 14.

Greg Steube was successful in obtaining signatures to support his Federal Disaster Tax Relief Act.

“I am grateful for the motivation and support of 217 of my bipartisan colleagues as we join forces to deliver tax relief for Americans all across the country,” the Sarasota Republican said. “In the 30 years of public discharge petitions, this petition is only the third to succeed. That’s a testament to how important this issue is for ALL of our constituents. Floridians have waited since 2022 to receive tax relief from Hurricane Ian, and many other Americans have waited just as long for relief from other disasters. I look forward to swift passage of my legislation on the House floor and urge expeditious consideration in the Senate.”

Of the 218 submitted signatures, 21 came from Florida’s 28-member House delegation, eight of whom signed the measure as soon as Steube submitted it.

A rare lift came from an unusual ally, Democratic Whip Katherine Clark. POLITICO reports that the Connecticut Democrat urged members of her caucus to sign the petition at a meeting last week.

Every Florida Democrat signed the petition, though all but one, Rep. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, had already done so before Clark’s call for signatures. The last Florida member to sign, as it happens, was Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Longboat Key Republican whose district neighbors Steube’s.

Florida energy

The current formula for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) shortchanges Florida, according to the state’s delegation members. Reps. Byron Donalds, a Naples Republican, and Jared Moskowitz, a Parkland Democrat, want to change that.

The two led a letter to Republican and Democratic leaders on the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee that seeks to balance the scales for the Sunshine State.

Jared Moskowitz is pushing the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program to balance the scales for Florida.

“The state of Florida — which has one of the nation’s highest senior populations — receives funding well below the program’s national average and is only able to serve 7% of eligible households,” the letter reads. “Compared to the national average of 17%, Florida receives an alarmingly small fraction of LIHEAP funding — especially when you consider Florida’s rapidly growing population and the large number of Floridians that live on fixed incomes.”

Florida lawmakers want a new formula that guarantees at least 75% of any increase in program funds and awards Florida its proportional share of money.

The letter was co-signed by 15 other Florida congressional delegation members, including three Democrats and 12 Republicans.

Rebuilding Haiti

Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick is calling for Congress to invest $50 billion to rebuild Haiti over the next decade.

The Miramar Democrat introduced a resolution with Democratic Reps. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Yvette Clarke of New York as gang violence continues to destabilize the island nation. The lawmakers introduced the Louverture Investment Plan, named for Haitian independence leader Toussaint Louverture, ahead of Haitian Flag Day on May 18.

Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick has a huge ask of Congress — $50 billion to rebuild Haiti over the next decade. Image via Roll Call.

“It is undeniable that Haiti has made a significant contribution to the struggle for freedom and democracy in the world. Unfortunately, the instability and the current humanitarian crisis have led to devastating famine, violence, and poverty. The importance of United States support for Haiti cannot be understated,” Cherfilus-McCormick said.

Clarke co-chairs the Haiti Caucus with Cherfilus-McCormick.

“I believe we have a moral duty to secure the progress our Haitian neighbors in America, abroad, and across the diaspora are counting on,” Clarke said. “While lives and a nation remain imperiled at this pivotal moment, Congressional inaction is unacceptable.”

Cherfilus-McCormick acknowledged that the plan was ambitious but considered it a warranted expense for a Caribbean nation 700 miles from Florida’s show.

“As the only Haitian American member of Congress, I am committed to strengthening the U.S. and Haiti relationship. This resolution will not only support the well-deserved Reconstruction plan for Haiti but will also encourage a Haitian-led effort to restabilize the country.”

Bipartisan scorn for international court

It turns out that a MAGA Republican and a progressive Democrat do have areas of agreement.

Reps. Brian Mast and Debbie Wasserman Schulz might be known as polar opposites on many issues, but both condemned the International Criminal Court (ICC) seeking to arrest Hamas and Israeli leaders.

The ICC is erroneously equating Israel’s actions with those of Hamas, the Florida lawmakers said.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) seeking to arrest Hamas and Israeli leaders has both sides of the aisle up in arms.

“The International Kangaroo Court is trying to create a false equivalency between Hamas and Israel. Hamas raped and butchered 1,200 innocent Israeli and American citizens on Oct. 7,” said Mast, a Stuart Republican. “Everything Israel has done since has been to secure the release of the remaining hostages, including six Americans.”

The ICC’s chief prosecutor has applied for arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, for war crimes.

Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat, said there is no equivalence between Israel and Hamas.

“Equating a democratic state with a terror group that rapes, murders, delights in acts of genocide and eagerly aims to maximize civilian deaths demonstrates the ICC’s gaping moral failure,” Wasserman Schultz’s statement said. “No other nation is held to this standard.”

On this day

May 21, 1832 — “First Democratic National Convention begins” via the National Constitution Center — A group of delegates supporting President Andrew Jackson met in Baltimore to conduct the first official convention of the Democratic Party, setting some trends that lasted more than a century. Before the elections of 1824 and 1828, political caucuses in Congress usually picked presidential nominees. That practice fell into disfavor as regional candidates sought the presidency outside of the caucus system. After the bitter contest between Jackson and former President John Quincy Adams, their supporters started meeting in national conventions to organize for the next Presidential Election.

May 21, 1998 — “Acid attack on five abortion clinics” via CBS News — A foul-smelling acid was poured at the entrances to five Miami-area abortion clinics, causing minor injuries to three women and prompting an FBI investigation. The Miami-Dade County Fire Department identified the substance in four of the attacks as butyric acid, commonly found in rancid butter and perspiration. Its fumes are not life-threatening but can be nauseating. In at least two oases, the acid was poured through a mail slot. Abortion rights groups said the attacks, similar to vandalism at three Orlando and Daytona Beach-area clinics last weekend, signal a resurgence in violence against abortion clinics in Florida.

Happy birthday

Best wishes to Rep. Steube, who turned 46 on Sunday, May 19.


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

Staff Reports


  • My Take

    May 21, 2024 at 4:17 pm

    Most people simply do not know of the role terrorism played in the founding of Israel.
    The King David Hotel bombing, the Irgun, the Stern Gangs, the shelling to depopulate Arab neighborhoods and villages (with the now revered Davidka weapon).

    Irgun became Likud I believe.

    It was not clean.

    • rick whitaker

      May 21, 2024 at 5:33 pm

      MY TAKE, what about the way israel got it’s material for the a-bomb? the current so-called democratic government of nutandyahoo has removed ALL the respect some countries had for the more democratic form of israel. israel, if you are smart people, why are you letting nutandyahoo ruin your country? hey you smart people of usa, why are you letting maga cultist ruin our country?

Comments are closed.


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