Delegation for 6.14.24: Ukraine — Pulse — SHEIN — IVF — dead letters

The United States Capitol, often called the Capitol Building, is
A 'watch list' of anti-Ukraine forces in Congress have Republicans outraged.

Ukraine firestorm

The release of a report by a nongovernmental organization slamming anti-Ukraine forces in the United States sparked a political firestorm this week. this week published a study entitled “Roller Coaster: From Trumpists to Communists, Who and How They Advocate for Ending Support to Ukraine.” The study included 390 individuals and 76 organizations deemed obstacles to U.S. support of the Eastern European nation’s ongoing war with Russia.

A significant number of those named were Florida political figures.

Most notable was former President Donald Trump, the presumptive 2024 GOP nominee. However, the list also highlighted Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, along with Reps. Aaron Bean, Gus Bilirakis, Kat Cammack, Byron Donalds, Scott Franklin, Matt Gaetz, Laurel Lee, Anna Paulina Luna, Brian Mast, Cory Mills, Bill Posey, Greg Steube, Michael Waltz and Daniel Webster.

Anti-Ukraine forces are calling for Antony Blinken to look into a new ‘watch list.’

The criteria for lawmakers landing on the list doesn’t seem much of a riddle. All voted against the most recent supplemental foreign aid package to Ukraine.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, who gave mixed messages about whether he supported Ukraine in the war while he ran for President, also made the list. So did several Florida political and media figures who have questioned U.S. support of Ukraine since Russia invaded. Florida residents on the list included right-wing social media influencers Laura Loomer and Rogan O’Handley, Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, former Rep. Madison Cawthorn, former Trump National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and Trump associate Roger Stone.

Gaetz sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, joined by Sen. J.D. Vance, an Ohio Republican also on the list, demanding information about U.S. support of Texty. The Fort Walton Beach Congressman characterized the study as an “enemies list” motivated by U.S. political agendas.

“If this were merely some random news outlet in a foreign nation, such a hit piece would be easily ignored,” the letter states. “But the founder of the group itself, Anatoly Bondarenko, is listed on a U.S. government website as supported by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.”

The letter also notes that all legislators on the list were Republicans. That notably ignores the collective inclusion of “The Squad,” a nickname for a group of Democratic Representatives consistently opposed to military intervention overseas, though none cast votes against the last Ukraine aid package.

The letter alleged that this isn’t the first time a State Department-support group overseas has publicly accused American politicians of pushing “Russian narratives.” It sought any information on U.S. aid that made its way to Texty.

Meanwhile, Texty released a statement, defending the report as one researched and published independently using only resources provided by readers.

“We view this campaign as an attack on freedom of speech and a display of chauvinism against the citizens of Ukraine,” the statement reads. “Our critics believe that we do not have the right to investigate the streams of false information they produce about our country and us, simply because they are U.S. citizens, and we are not.”

Memories and actions

This week marked the eighth anniversary of the Pulse shooting in Orlando when a terrorist killed 49 in an attack on the gay nightclub. Members of the delegation from both sides of the aisle honored the memory of those killed.

Rubio and Scott brought forward an annual Senate resolution commemorating those lost.

“Eight years ago, we witnessed the horrific terrorist attack at Pulse Nightclub that claimed the lives of 49 innocent loved ones,” Rubio said. “On this anniversary, we remember the strength of our community in the face of evil and continue to send strength through prayer to those whose lives forever changed. We will never forget.”

Scott served as Governor during the attack.

“I can’t believe it’s been eight years since we lost 49 innocent lives at Pulse Nightclub in a vicious act of terrorism against Orlando’s LGBTQ and Hispanic communities,” he said. “I remember speaking to and sitting with parents, friends and loved ones in the days and weeks following, the feelings of complete devastation, knowing they’ll forever have a piece of their heart missing. It was a horribly dark time for so many, an evil attack meant to instill fear and spread hate. But it didn’t work.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Darren Soto, a Kissimmee Democrat, visited the site of the shooting, now designated as a national memorial thanks to legislation he helped craft.

Darren Soto pays his respects on the anniversary of the Pulse tragedy.

“Last Congress, we proudly passed a bill to make Pulse a national memorial. Now, this serves as a testament to the strength of our Orlando Strong community,” he said. “As we continue working to combat discrimination and secure safety for all, our 49 angels and the 53 injured will always be at the forefront of our efforts.”

Rep. Maxwell Frost, an Orlando Democrat, gave a speech from the House floor on the tragedy., where he called for policies to curb gun violence.

“I’m angry that we live in a world and that we live in a country where gun violence can drastically change or end your life,” he said.

“I’m angry that I serve in a chamber where, seemingly, most of the folks here don’t want to do a single damn thing about it. And I’m angry that I’ve been fighting for this since I was 15, and we’re still in this fight. And so, I just want to express my condolences and send immense amounts of love to the families and the survivors of the Pulse Night massacre. And tell you all that we will continue to honor the lives of those 49 angels with nothing but action, with nothing but sweat equity until we end gun violence in this country.”

Trashing fashion

As Asian fashion brand SHEIN seeks a listing on the London Stock Exchange, Rubio asserted that the communist clothing would be a bad fit.

The Senator penned a letter to United Kingdom Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt discouraging the listing of SHEIN, a company he said relied on labor abuses allowed in China but unacceptable in the Western World.

Asian fast fashion brand SHEIN seeks inclusion in the London Stock Exchange.

“SHEIN previously sought to list in New York City but failed due to concerns about its unethical and irresponsible business practices,” he wrote. “At the time, I warned U.S. securities regulators about SHEIN’s alleged exploitation of slave labor and trade loopholes. I now feel a duty of friendship to repeat these warnings and urge caution before the United Kingdom allows SHEIN to list in London.”

While SHEIN is based in Singapore, it operates many facilities in China and was founded by Chinese national Xu Yangtian. Rubio has a long history of criticizing China and any business affiliated with the communist government there.

“SHEIN also agreed to Chinese government investigations meant to ensure its data could not leak out of the country. This investigation raises an obvious question: what does the CCP not want us to know about SHEIN?” Rubio wrote. “SHEIN’s ties to modern-day slavery suggest an answer to that question.”

Mixed IVF messages

Even as Scott voted to block a Democratic bill seeking to protect access to in vitro fertilization, he gave a speech on the floor promising to craft legislation that helps families employ such services.

Scott joined a Republican statement slamming the Democratic bill, which read: “Senate Democrats have embraced a Summer of Scare Tactics — a partisan campaign of false fearmongering intended to mislead and confuse the American people. In vitro fertilization is legal and available in every state across our nation. We strongly support continued nationwide access to IVF, which has allowed millions of aspiring parents to start and grow their families.”

Rick Scott attempts to clarify his position on IVF.

Meanwhile, Scott took to the floor to say he supports IVF and said his own family has relied on its availability.

“For me, it’s personal. My youngest daughter has been undergoing IVF treatments to grow her family. But she is just one of countless Floridians and Americans using IVF to grow their families and bring life into the world,” Scott said.

“While IVF remains available in all 50 states, and there isn’t any credible threat to that, I believe it is important for the Senate to make clear our unwavering support for current and aspiring parents using IVF to start and grow their families. We ought to celebrate Americans trying to grow their families.”

He said he’s working with Cammack, a Gainesville Republican, on a bicameral resolution that would affirm families’ need for IVF when faced with infertility challenges.

Lost in the mail

In April, Rep. Neal Dunn demanded an audit of postal services in Leon County regarding slow service and lost mail. Now the results have arrived, and the news isn’t good.

An audit report by the United States Postal Service (USPS) Office of Inspector General found that the Tallahassee Processing and Distribution Facility left thousands of letters behind in processing machines daily, failed to follow security procedures with sensitive marked objects, made thousands of late trips and was unable to meet its scanning goals.

Neal Dunn pushed for an audit of the local postal service. He did not appreciate the findings.

Meanwhile, separate audits showed failures and delays at the Leon Station, Lake Jackson Station and Westside Station Post Office locations, including not following undelivered mail procedures, improperly scanning and handling packages, failing to separate packages to go to other distribution centers properly and following substandard maintenance protocols.

“The Inspector General has confirmed what the people of North Florida already know: their regional USPS service is unreliable and does not meet the national standard,” Dunn said.

“This unacceptable failure at USPS facilities has resulted in poor service, missing letters and packages, and other problems that have disrupted life for the entire community. I’m pleased that my office could deliver results for Leon County and help uncover these egregious flaws. I am grateful to the people of Tallahassee and Leon County Commissioner Brian Welch for working with me to address these inefficiencies, and I look forward to getting them resolved.”

Landing Boeing

Boeing announced a partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Jacksonville to create 400 jobs in Central Florida. The airplane manufacturer will lease the entire Cici and Hyatt Brown Center for Aerospace Technology at the college’s Volusia campus to perform engineering work for Boeing’s Defense, Space and Security aircraft programs.

Waltz, a St. Augustine Beach Republican, cheered the news.

Boeing is partnering with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Jacksonville to create 400 jobs in Central Florida. Image via Boeing.

“Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is an educational pillar in our district and has played a central role in developing the best and brightest in America’s aeronautics industry through its training of pilots, engineers, and investment in research and development,” Waltz said.

“Boeing’s commitment to bring 400 high-paying jobs to Volusia County and partner alongside Embry-Riddle to perform engineering work for Boeing’s aircraft programs and technology capabilities will be pivotal to making Florida a national security hub and boost our local economy. As Chair of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, I look forward to collaborating with Embry-Riddle University and Boeing on this innovative partnership.”

Killing DEI

After DeSantis pushed to eliminate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs in all of Florida’s colleges and universities, Bilirakis and Lee now want the same thing to happen nationwide.

The Palm Harbor Republican and Thonotosassa Republican introduced the Eliminate DEI in Colleges Act with Rep. Jim Baird, an Indiana Republican. The legislation would prohibit federal funding to support schools sponsoring DEI events. Such a move would impact public and private universities with any programs relying on grants.

Gus Bilirakis and Laurel Lee want to make a DEI ban go nationwide.

“By nationalizing Florida’s law, we can ensure that students around the country have access to a high-quality education without facing indoctrination or having woke ideology thrust upon them,” Bilirakis said. “All students will still be able to exercise their First Amendment rights on campus, but their institutions will no longer be allowed to force their leadership’s views upon students and faculty. Additionally, American taxpayers will not be forced to support ideologies that are out-of-line with their values and belief systems.”

The bill federalizes aspects of the Stop WOKE Act in Florida. But notably, federal courts have blocked any enforcement of that law. In March, a decision from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta left in place a November injunction by Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, which he called “positively dystopian” in a ruling. The state has appealed the decision.

Change of heart

Lee earned a critical endorsement this week from Trump. The support came months after the party’s de facto leader called for a Republican Primary challenge against the first-term Congresswoman.

“Congresswoman Laurel Lee is an incredible representative for the fantastic people of Florida’s 15th Congressional District,” Trump posted on his Truth Social account. “Laurel is working hard to Secure our Border, Fight Inflation, Defend our Wonderful Military and Veterans, Promote Election Integrity, and Expand American Jobs and the Economy. Laurel Lee has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”

He never mentioned in the post that as recently as March, he had called for a “great MAGA Republican” to step forward to oust Lee. But he notably has not become further involved in the race since two anti-establishment Republicans filed, citing his request for candidates.

Laurel Lee lands the coveted ‘Complete and Total Endorsement!’

Trump’s initial call for an opponent came after Lee, a former Florida Secretary of State appointed by DeSantis, was the only Florida congressional delegation member to endorse DeSantis over Trump for President this cycle. DeSantis suspended his campaign after a poor showing in Iowa, at which point Lee immediately endorsed Trump.

She cheered Trump’s change of heart as well.

“I am incredibly honored and humbled to have President Trump’s endorsement,” she posted on X. “When he is elected in November, I vow to work alongside him as an America-first conservative to reverse the policies of the (Joe) Biden administration, including the crisis at our Southern border.”

Trump issued his endorsement the same day he met with congressional Republicans in Washington, and Lee posted a photograph of herself with the presumptive GOP nominee for President.

Of note, Trump also endorsed Webster the same day, which prompted the Clermont Republican’s most serious GOP challenger to drop out. Anthony Sabatini said he will instead run for Lake County Commission.

But it was not immediately apparent that the same result would unfold in CD 15, where two Republicans qualified against Lee after Trump initially issued his call for a challenger.

Gaza block

Mast said he doesn’t want any defense spending on reconstruction in Gaza. The House unanimously passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act, including an amendment that would prohibit such spending.

Brian Mast wants zero defense dollars going to reconstruction in Gaza.

“Any group that takes control of the Gaza strip following this war will have ties to terrorism and be opposed to the existence of our ally — Israel,” the Stuart Republican argued.

“Given this reality, even one penny of American tax dollars used to build or rebuild infrastructure in Gaza will just be going to subsidize the next attack on Israel. Our tax dollars should be going to support our allies, not terrorist entities holding American citizens hostage.”

Replenishing relief

Weeks into hurricane season, delegation members have voiced bipartisan distress about a shortage of funds in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund. Based on currently expected spending, FEMA leaders have warned that the fund will be delayed by August.

Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Parkland Democrat, just filed legislation calling for a replenishment of that fund.

As hurricane season gets underway, Jared Moskowitz calls for replenishment of FEMA disaster funds.

“As the former Emergency Management Director for Florida, I’m especially concerned with the financial state of FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund,” he said. “We know this fund is going to run out — and Congress needs to be proactive.”

Moskowitz also participated in a bipartisan push last year for a continued resolution providing dollars to the fund in 2023. However, continued needs have again put the account on track to run out before the start of the new fiscal year in October.

“A major disaster shouldn’t ever be politicized or used as a bargaining chip,” Moskowitz said. “We must demonstrate to the American people that government still works and can carry out basic functions like helping those impacted by disaster recover in their hour of greatest need.”

State budget moves

A State Department and Foreign Operations budget has cleared the House Appropriations Committee. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, dean of Florida’s Congressional Delegation and Chair of the House State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee, headed the budget. The Hialeah Republican heralded the achievement.

The Hialeah Republican noted the budget was 19% lower than requested by the Biden administration and 11% lower than the agency budget last year but still boosts funding for several pro-democracy efforts in the Western Hemisphere.

Mario Diaz-Balart is cheering the State Department and Foreign Operations budget, which cleared the House Appropriations Committee.

“This legislation continues to reestablish American leadership where it has been severely lacking under the current administration, and continues upholding key U.S. priorities by supporting allies such as Israel and Taiwan, and countering adversaries such as Communist China, the terrorist states of Iran and Cuba, and terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah,” Díaz-Balart said.

“This proposed legislation continues advancing global freedom, manifests strong solidarity with our allies, and stands firm against the malign forces undermining U.S. national security.”

On this day

June 14, 1775 —Birth of the U.S. Army” via the Army Center of Military History — When the delegates to the Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia, they learned armed men commanded by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold had captured the British forts at Ticonderoga and Crown Point on Lake Champlain in New York. The constitutional crisis, in which Americans sought a redress of grievances from the British king and Parliament, had become open hostilities. Even though many desired reconciliation, the delegates realized they would have to address the new military situation. The Congress took the next step, eventually transforming a local rebellion into a war for independence when it established the Continental Army.

June 14, 1953 —Dwight Eisenhower warns graduates ‘Don’t join the book burners’” via Americans United for Separation of Church and State — President Eisenhower made the statement during a commencement address at Dartmouth University. At the time, Republican U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin and his allies were running amok, finding communists under every rock. A Red Scare was in full bloom. As part of his tactics, McCarthy sent two aides, Roy Cohn and G. David Schine, to tour libraries sponsored by the U.S. government overseas. Cohn and Schine began demanding the removal of “subversive” material. Eisenhower had been briefed about what was happening in the overseas libraries and decided to use the Dartmouth address to state his opposition.


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

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