Delegation for 5.24.24: Farmed — defense — leadership — Haiti — race map

U.S. Capitol Building, Washington, DC USA.
The federal farm bill gives Florida much to celebrate.

Farm bill barnburner

Members of the House Agriculture Committee dug into the long-awaited farm bill draft filed this week in the chamber. At a lengthy markup meeting on the bill, Florida members explored what the Sunshine State may reap and sow from the legislation in its current form.

Rep. Kat Cammack, a Gainesville Republican, said Florida has much to celebrate in the legislation, particularly for growers of specialty crops. The bill includes crop research initiatives and an advisory committee to examine crop insurance. It also increases mandatory funding levels to $175 million for specialty crop research, representing a $95 million boost since the last Farm Bill’s passage in 2018.

Kat Cammack says Florida has much to celebrate in the farm bill, particularly for growers of specialty crops.

“Florida is home to 300-plus specialty crops. People typically think of the big ones, like citrus and sugar cane, but add to the list fruits and vegetables, dairy and livestock, and Florida is one of the nation’s leading agricultural states and we’re damn proud of it, too,” Cammack said. “This bill is a win for Florida’s producers and I’m grateful to my colleagues and Chair (G.T.) Thompson for listening to Florida producers and our priorities in producing a bill reflective of the necessary changes to keep up with the changing landscape of Florida agriculture.”

The House’s farm bill draft also puts minerals central to agriculture production, such as potash and phosphate, on the nation’s critical minerals list.

Rep. Darren Soto, a Kissimmee Democrat, said he’s pleased by many of the Florida priorities included in the bill. That includes giving the Agriculture Department the standing disaster block grant authority during hurricanes, boosting research dollars to combat citrus greening, and expanding programs to help meat and poultry producers. He also appreciated the inclusion of research on combative invasive species and uses for artificial intelligence in agriculture, which is now being studied at the University of Florida.

But the Democrat stressed a belief that only a bipartisan bill will be able to pass in the closely divided House and the Democratic Senate before landing on President Joe Biden’s desk. He said he prefers the legislation coming out of the Senate, which provides more funding to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and said the House bill still falls short. Soto has also been a chief advocate of moving Puerto Rico citizens, many of whom live in Central Florida, to SNAP instead of the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.

“I also remain deeply concerned about the cuts to food assistance. This would cause Florida about $2.1 billion in food assistance,” he said. “Over the next few years, 15% of folks in Florida’s 9th Congressional District rely on these programs.”

He noted that as a matter of process, agriculture-friendly lawmakers on both sides of the aisle probably want to produce a bill with broad committee support so that fiscal hawks in the House Rules Committee don’t get a chance to tear the bill apart before a House vote.

Cammack suggested that Democrats are playing a risky game if they try to blow up the House version of the bill. She indicated that SNAP cuts were being overstated and that federal spending on that program had grown 427% over two decades.

“I fear that recent and confirmed reporting of a directive from Democrat leadership to members of this committee to tarnish this House Farm Bill in order to hold out for a better Dem product in the Senate is clouding my colleagues’ judgment,” she said.

Soto, for his part, said he’s willing to consider the House Farm Bill draft an “opening offer” still subject to improvement and promised he would keep an open mind moving forward.

Gunning for defense funds

Pieces are falling in place for defense spending bills, which could also contain huge ramifications throughout the state of Florida.

The House Armed Services Committee finished a markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 2025 fiscal year, including millions in spending designated for Florida.

“I’m proud to join to support this defense bill that will ensure the U.S. military remains the strongest fighting force in the world and modernize our armed forces to compete with current and emerging threats,” said Rep. Michael Waltz, a St. Augustine Beach Republican. “It’s critical we continue to support our service members and their families, who have answered the call of duty and provide our warfighters with training, equipment, and support they need to protect our great nation.”

Mike Waltz is glad to support the latest National Defense Authorization Act.

He pointed to numerous policy issues, including preventing the investment of federal retirement funds in Chinese military projects. Waltz also spotlighted some national programs sure to benefit Florida in part, such as spending $1 million to establish 4,000 ROTC programs by 2031. There is also $11 million for water infrastructure at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, $6.87 million for Naval Air Station, JAX and $10.4 million to design a communications center and upgrade infrastructure at Marine Corps Support Facility Blount Island Command.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, cheered the inclusion of more than $240 million for Northwest Florida’s military mission.

That includes $98.5 million to continue building the Advanced Helicopter Training System Hangar at NAS Whiting Field, $66.7 million to construct a four-story Weapons Technology Integration Center and a multi-level facility to house the 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing headquarters at Eglin Air Force Base and $16.5 million for a Hurricane Restoration Consolidated (A) School Dorm at NAS Pensacola to house and protect students during severe storms.

“Last night’s passage of the NDAA out of committee was a major victory for Northwest Florida’s Military Mission and will further cement our reputation as America’s premier location for military training,” Gaetz said.

Rep. John Rutherford, a Jacksonville Republican, made note of the Military Construction (MILCON) and Veterans Affairs budget, which includes significant Florida-specific spending.

“Not only does this bill bolster our national security and honor our commitment to our veterans, but this year’s bill also brings over $20 million to Northeast Florida through Community Project Funding, including for the planning and design of a much-needed additional child development center at Naval Air Station Jacksonville and a waterfront emergency power solution at Naval Station Mayport,” said Rutherford, a Jacksonville Republican.

“These wins for our local military community strengthen readiness and support our military families.”

Leadership play

Sen. Rick Scott announced that he is pursuing the Senate GOP Leader position, offering another option for the post-Mitch McConnell era. He cited a need for “dramatic change” in an upper chamber that often doesn’t align with House Republicans’ priorities.

While Scott got just 10 votes in 2022, he told Fox News host Laura Ingraham why he was running for a second time and noted that the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee is glad he’s running.

Rick Scott is taking another shot at Senate leadership.

“We need to see change. I talked to (Donald) Trump about this today. He said he’s excited I’m getting into the race,” Scott said.

“I am a change agent. I was a change agent in business. I did turnarounds. I changed Florida, and we’re going to change the Senate and we’re going to be the Senate that helps Donald Trump get his conservative agenda.”

Scott’s desire to lead the caucus has led to Democratic criticism, suggesting that his bid only increases the stakes of November’s Senate race in Florida.

“Self-serving Rick Scott is a danger to Florida families and as Senate leader, he would be a disaster for Americans,” said former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Democrat running against Scott this cycle.

Intelligence authority

Sen. Marco Rubio has been hyper-focused on national security in the upper chamber. The Miami Republican serves as Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. This week, the committee unanimously passed an authorization act for the new fiscal year.

“Our Intelligence Authorization Act represents significant improvements to our national security tools, legal authorities, Intelligence Community workforce and ensures resources are focused on the most pressing threats, specifically from China, Russia, Iran and their partners, including Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea, as well as terrorist organizations,” Rubio said. “Importantly, this bill takes unprecedented steps to address counterintelligence risks to our National Laboratories by prohibiting visitors from foreign adversary nations, thereby protecting America’s research and competitive advantage. I look forward to moving our bipartisan legislation to the full Senate and final enactment.”

Marco Rubio has been hyper-focused on national security.

The legislation, which Rubio crafted closely with Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, would increase oversight of China, enhance surveillance and study of biotechnologies through the National Counterproliferation and Biosecurity Center, and boost sanctions on supporters of terrorist and ransomware networks and supporters.

It would also impose more significant limits on foreign nations’ access to sensitive areas such as the Department of Energy while enhancing the sharing of intelligence with allies around the globe.

“This year’s bill enhances the IC’s ability to identify and counter emerging technological threats posed by adversarial nations, including foreign adversaries’ efforts to use and dominate areas like artificial intelligence, biotechnologies and next-generation energy,” Warner said.

Disaster assistance

Scott and Rubio urged Biden to declare the May 10 tornadoes in Tallahassee as a Major Disaster. The Republican Senators sent a letter to the President asking him to approve Gov. Ron DeSantis’ request for the designation, which would allow access to federal disaster relief assistance.

Marco Rubio and Rick Scott seek a ‘major disaster’ declaration for Tallahassee. Image via AP.

“In light of the extraordinary scope of the destruction and the extent of outstanding cleanup and recovery efforts, federal assistance is needed to ensure Floridians fully recover,” the letter reads. “As such, we urge you to approve the state of Florida’s request, subject to all applicable laws and regulations, which will provide the assistance necessary to ensure the safety of our state.”

DeSantis requested public assistance for Baker, Gadsden, Hamilton, Lafayette, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Suwanee, Taylor and Wakulla counties and Hazard Mitigation statewide. The state asked for individual assistance to be provided in Leon County, which suffered the brunt of the disaster and where two deaths were reported.

Nurturing moms

The health of mothers and babies appears to be a bipartisan priority for Florida lawmakers. Democratic Reps. Kathy Castor and Lois Frankel joined GOP Rep. María Elvira Salazar to introduce the Connected Maternal Online Monitoring (MOM) Act.

The legislation, co-introduced with Republican Rep. Julia Letlow of Louisiana, aims to improve health outcomes for pregnant and postpartum women. Specifically, it would require greater access to devices and services to monitor life-threatening complications for mothers and children and require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to explore further ways to improve conditions for young families.

Keeping new moms connected is a bipartisan affair.

“Medicaid is key to keeping moms and infants healthy and well,” said Castor, a Tampa Democrat. “The bipartisan Connected MOM Act will help ensure that families have access to the technology needed for a safe pregnancy. Together, we can reduce maternal mortality and improve outcomes for children too through expanded and modern care delivery.”

All three Florida women in the delegation are mothers and suggested that Washington take a nurturing approach.

“Ensuring that expectant mothers have access to every tool necessary is vital to supporting maternal health and to our nation’s future,” said Salazar, a Coral Gables Republican. “I am proud to co-lead legislation that would give new and expecting mothers and their children the head-start they deserve with the best technology our country has to offer.”

The legislation addresses a growing public health crisis, said Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat.

“The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate in any developed nation in the world, disproportionately impacting communities of color,” Frankel said. “Virtual medical monitoring can identify pregnancy and postpartum complications, aiding medical providers and improving health outcomes for expectant mothers and their children.”

Who posted that?

Soto filed the Stopping Hijacking of Identity Expressly for Libel on Domains (SHIELD) Act (HR 8463), which would provide legal recourse for individuals who have social media accounts hacked to post libelous, scandalous or criminal content.

Hacked social media users could have some recourse.

“The internet is a vastly different place today than it was nearly 30 years ago when the Communications Decency Act was signed into law,” the Kissimmee Democrat said. “It is now time to review common-sense reform that gives individuals legal recourse when their identities are used online by bad actors to spread libelous content. With the SHIELD Act, we’re holding those who commit these crimes accountable and ensuring that victims have somewhere to go to defend their reputation and receive justice.”

Breathe easier

With his latest bill, Rep. Maxwell Frost is aiming for the skies.

The Orlando Democrat filed the Safe Air on Airplanes Act with Republican Rep. Mike Lawler of New York and Democratic Rep. John Garamendi of California. That legislation would require commercial aircraft to phase out bleed air systems, which allow harmful engine fumes into passenger and crew cabins when malfunctioning bins.

Maxwell Frost says all airline passengers deserve to have clean air.

“It’s unacceptable and a huge failure of the airline industry that the millions of passengers and crew flying daily are at risk of inhaling dangerous, toxic fumes and chemicals when they step onto an airplane,” Frost said. “Flight attendants like Shannon De Witt and all passengers and flight crews deserve clean air on each and every flight they take. Airplane safety is top of mind for Americans and clean, safe air to breathe needs to be a part of this conversation.”

Island medicine

Years after the pandemic exposed a reliance on drugs from the other side of the world, Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a Palm Harbor Republican, filed the bipartisan Supply Chain Security and Growth Act. He introduced the legislation with five lawmakers around the country, including GOP Reps. Nicole Malliotakis and Lawler of New York, Democratic Reps. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey and Nydia Velázquez of New York, and Democratic Resident Commissioner James Moylan of Guam.

The bill aims to leverage Investment Tax Credits to facilitate a rapid movement of critical U.S. supply chains to Puerto Rico instead of hostile nations like China. He noted that 80% of all pharmaceutical ingredients used in the U.S. currently come from China.

Gus Bilirakis hopes to have more resources diverted to Puerto Rico.

“Throughout the country, Americans are continuing to suffer from shortages in critical medications because our pharmaceutical supply chain relies too heavily on foreign sources — especially those located in China — which are vulnerable to disruptions amid growing Chinese aggression,” Bilirakis said. “I’m proud to be working with my colleagues on this important legislation that will solve this problem by encouraging the development of medications that are Made in the USA.”

Mustang meat ban

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, a St. Petersburg Republican, dropped legislation in the hopper that seeks to stop hunting of mustangs for meat. The Wild Horse Integrity and Slaughter Prevention Act would update existing laws by providing criminal penalties for acquiring horses and burros for commercial sale and creating an adoption process instead.

Anna Paulina Luna is a hard pass on horsemeat.

“Although the United States has banned horse slaughter facilities, many individuals are still seeking to circumvent our laws and profit off of these federally protected animals by shipping them off to slaughterhouses abroad,” Luna said. “My bill would incentivize the adoption of wild horses and burros to individuals who truly seek to care for the animals while disincentivizing criminals seeking to adopt the animals for nefarious purposes by charging them with a felony.”

Storm deduction

The House passed legislation that could provide tax relief to thousands of Floridians impacted by Hurricane Ian and other storms. After successfully bringing the Federal Disaster Relief Act to the floor through a discharge petition, Rep. Greg Steube argued on the floor that Americans impacted by major disasters need every opportunity to get back on solid footing financially.

“Floridians in my district are rightly outraged that it has taken Congress more than a year and a half to provide disaster tax relief for Hurricane Ian,” the Sarasota Republican said. “Many other Americans have waited just as long for relief from other disasters. My successful discharge petition ensured disaster tax relief would get a second chance in the legislative process. I’ve demonstrated that I won’t back down until disaster tax relief is delivered.

Greg Steube argues that Americans impacted by major disasters need every opportunity to get back on solid footing financially.

“Thank you to my House colleagues on both ends of the political spectrum for your support. This issue truly transcends political ideology. It is solely about helping our fellow Americans who have been through some of the toughest events anyone can imagine. Their resilience proves the critical nature of this legislation. I hope our colleagues in the Senate act quickly and that President Biden will recognize the importance of signing my legislation into law.”

Steube’s constituents in Florida’s 17th Congressional District felt the impact of Hurricane Ian in 2022, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration now ranks as the third-costliest hurricane in history. However, he noted that many others in disaster areas will benefit if the bill becomes law. That includes storms like Hurricane Fiona, Idalia, and Nicole and those impacted by a train derailment last year in East Palestine, Ohio.

The bill would require the IRS to exclude taxpayer gross income, for tax purposes, any amount received by an individual taxpayer as compensation for expenses or losses incurred due to a qualified federal natural disaster.

VA bill delay

Unexpected health events mean unplanned medical bills. But Reps. Brian Mast and Bilirakis want a change in billing procedures for the Veterans Affairs (VA) administration that could soften the blow. The two filed the Emergency Community Care Notification Time Adjustment Act with Rep. Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican.

The legislation won’t eliminate the cost of treatment for veterans, but it would require the VA to issue bills three days after patients are discharged from care. Right now, bills come three days after admittance.

Brian Mast seeks to soften the blow of surprise medical bills.

“When you or your loved one is facing a health emergency, the last thing on your mind is filling out a form for the VA, but under the status quo, that’s an oversight that could cost you thousands of dollars in surprise medical bills,” said Mast, a Stuart Republican. “All too often, the bureaucracy of the VA stands in the way of the VA’s mission: to provide the best possible care for those who have served our nation. Our bill is a simple fix that will help veterans receive the care they earned and deserve.”

Bilirakis said veterans shouldn’t be discouraged from seeking care by fear of the surprise cost.

“When veterans are in the midst of a medical emergency, their sole focus should be on getting well,” he said. “They should not have to worry about how the provider will get reimbursed by the VA or be saddled with fears of getting stuck with the bill. The flexibility our common-sense bill affords to veterans is the least we owe to our nation’s heroes.”

Haiti holdup

The State Department wants to spend $94 million for Multinational Security Support in Haiti, where gang violence has created destabilizing unrest. But congressional Republicans have placed a hold on that mission. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick has now co-led a letter demanding an end to that obstruction.

Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick has a simple request for Haiti.

Cherfilus-McCormick is the only Haitian American in Congress. The Miramar Democrat — along with Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, and Resident Commissioner Stacey Plaskett, a Virgin Islands Democrat — wrote to Rep. Michael McCaul, the Republican Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Jim Risch, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

It contains a simple request: Lift the hold.

“The situation in Haiti is dire,” Cherfilus-McCormick said.

“According to the United Nations, over 2,500 Haitians were killed or injured by gang violence during the first three months of 2024. Nearly 4.4 million people in Haiti are facing famine, and approximately 398,000 people have been forcefully kicked out of their homes by gangs. The Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission is essential to providing stability to Haiti and protecting America’s national security. For over six months, Congressional Republicans have refused to provide the resources needed to carry out the MSS, despite the deteriorating situation on the ground.”

In March, McCaul and Risch said they placed the hold because of the Biden administration’s lack of transparency.

“The human suffering and devolving crisis in Haiti is tragic,” a joint statement from the Republicans said in March. “Yet, after years of discussions, repeated requests for information, and providing partial funding to help them plan, the administration … sent us a rough plan to address this crisis. Whether it’s ‘credible and implementable’ remains to be seen. Given the long history of U.S. involvement in Haiti with few successful results, the administration owes Congress a lot more details in a more timely manner before it gets more funding.”

Every Democrat in Florida’s congressional delegation signed onto Cherfilus-McCormick’s letter, but no Republicans did the same.

Another map challenge

A federal lawsuit filed in South Florida challenges Florida’s congressional map. However, in a twist from prior challenges to Florida’s redistricting process, the latest complaint alleges state officials wrongly used race as a motivating factor to create noncompact districts.

The lawsuit focuses on four House seats (Florida’s 19th, 26th, 27th, and 28th Congressional Districts) and seven Florida House jurisdictions. All are located in Southwest and South Florida and are currently represented by Republicans.

A federal lawsuit alleges Florida officials wrongly used race as a motivating factor to create noncompact districts.

It was filed by progressive groups Cubanos Pa’Lante, Engage Miami and the Florida International University’s ACLU Club. The complaint lists five South Florida residents claiming standing, including former state Rep. Cindy Polo and Cubanos Pa’Lante co-founder Mike Rivero.

“As a proud Cuban American, I’m standing up for my community and against the politicians who are suppressing our diverse voices through racial gerrymandering,” Rivero said. “From my native Miami to my current home in Southwest Florida, these maps divide cohesive communities and lump other distinct areas together in districts that just plain don’t make sense.”

The lawsuit argues that the lawmakers approved maps that lumped voters together based on race but treated Hispanic voters as monolithic, ignoring the different cultural needs of varied South Florida communities. Plaintiffs argue that they ignored the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Baggage check

Visiting members of Cuba’s socialist regime got a special, TSA-led tour of Miami International Airport (MIA) security areas this week, and Miami-Dade officials said they were kept in the dark.

Republican federal lawmakers are demanding more information about why the TSA gave Cuban officials a tour of the areas. Rep. Carlos Giménez, a Miami-Dade Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, said his chamber will launch an investigation and introduce legislation to prevent such an incident from happening again.

Carlos Giménez demands more information about why the TSA gave Cuban officials a tour of MIA.

He and four other GOP lawmakers — Rubio, Scott, Díaz-Balart and Salazar — also penned a joint letter chastising the federal administrators who authorized it this time. In the message to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and TSA Administrator David Pekoske, the quintet expressed “profound concern and outrage” over the tour.

“As you know, the Cuban regime is designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism (SSOT) and has absolutely no reason to be invited to tour sensitive areas or view security protocols of an American airport whose sole purpose is to safeguard the millions of travelers that pass through the U.S. commercial aviation system every year,” the letter reads.

Mark Howell, a regional representative for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), said his agency “routinely works with all countries with direct flights to the United States … to foster strong global aviation security posture.”

That includes Cuba, which has direct flights to six stateside airports. Howell noted the TSA and Cuba have cooperated on civil aviation security “for many years,” including during Trump’s presidency when a Republican administration was rolling back normalization efforts launched by Democratic President Barack Obama.

On this day

May 24, 1818 — “Andrew Jackson captures Pensacola” via the National Park Service — President James Monroe ordered Jackson to this area to defend the U.S. borders. Instead, Jackson invaded Spanish West Florida and occupied Pensacola with his troops for 14 days after the Spanish surrendered on May 28. Though Jackson left shortly after, the United States occupied the area for nine months when Pensacola was returned to Spain. While he forced out any threat, Jackson illegally occupied a territory belonging to a neutral country. This unlawful action could have led to war with Spain and the United States government debated whether they should end Jackson’s military career.

May 24, 1900 — “William Carney becomes first Black American to earn the Medal of Honor” via — Recognized for heroically protecting the American flag during the Civil War, Army Sgt. Carney received the nation’s highest military decoration. Carney was born into slavery in Virginia in 1840. Although he was born into slavery, Carney’s family relocated to Massachusetts. In 1863, Carney joined the Union Army as part of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment, the first Black regiment from the North to serve in the war. It was during his unit’s first major battle that Carney saw the flag bearer get hit by bullets and rushed to catch the flag from him before it hit the ground.

Happy birthday

Best wishes to Sen. Rubio, who turns 53 on Tuesday, May 28.


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

Ed. Note: There will be no edition of Delegation on May 28 following Memorial Day. Enjoy the unofficial start of Summer!

Staff Reports


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