Delegation for 6.18.24: Defense — Corps oversight — adoptions — sugar-free — coastal

The United States Capitol building at sunset, Washington DC, USA.
Democrats decry how the extreme right uses the defense budget to advance culture war issues.

Negotiating defense

The House and Senate have a Defense budget. While it still may take some work to align the chambers, lawmakers in Florida’s congressional delegation touted wins that they hope will make it to President Joe Biden’s desk.

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes $923.3 billion, an increase of about $25 billion over baseline spending. Sen. Rick Scott, a Naples Republican, said that consists of a good chunk of dedicated dollars for the Sunshine State.

“For our service members in Florida, I fought aggressively in this NDAA to secure a 4.5% pay raise, $3 million for Child Development Center construction to increase access to child care for military families in the Panhandle, and with Russian warships now 90 miles off our shores, I made sure that Homestead Air Reserve Base will continue to serve a critical mission for years to come,” Scott said.

The House budgeted fewer dollars, about $883.7 billion. The bill cleared off the floor but on a narrow and largely partisan 217-199 vote. Florida Republicans all voted for the package, while the state’s Democrats all voted “no.” The divide came primarily due to culture war demands inserted by the House GOP Majority.

Congress has a Defense budget; now it needs to reconcile both houses.

“The NDAA is a historically bipartisan bill dedicated to strengthening our national security and protecting our service members. However, extreme House Republicans have made it their latest tool to further their deadly mission of banning abortion,” said Rep. Lois Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat. “Servicewomen stand up for our freedom; now we must stand for theirs. It’s time for Republicans to value the health and futures of our service members rather than relentlessly attacking their personal freedoms.”

However, some members pushed for social policy demands to be included. For example, Rep. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, introduced an amendment to the bill that would ban “radical gender ideology or pornographic content” from any education materials in Defense Department schools.

“A litany of examples exist of inappropriate and pornographic material that is available in DOD schools. Radical gender ideology and pornographic content have no place in an educational setting and could seriously harm the educational and psychological development of school children belonging to our U.S. service members,” he said. “Yet, radical leftists desire to use schools as a tool to indoctrinate our children as soon as they enter kindergarten. Congress has the power to put a stop to it in DOD schools, and I’m glad my colleagues supported my efforts today on the floor.”

As for more material gains, GOP lawmakers said the budget contained plenty of wins that deserved bipartisan consideration.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, secured $98.5 million for the Advanced Helicopter Training System Hangar at NAS Whiting Field for TH-73 helicopters and $42 million to maximize the Eastern Gulf Test & Training Range testing capability. “This bill is a huge victory for Northwest Florida’s military mission and further cements our reputation as the premier location for military training in the United States,” he said.

Rep. John Rutherford, a Jacksonville Republican, pushed for $55 million for Northeast Florida for the planning and design of a much-needed additional Child Development Center at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, a waterfront emergency power solution at Naval Station Mayport and an F35 Aircraft Engine Repair Facility at Fleet Readiness Center Southeast. “If we want to keep America safe, we must provide for our military and their families,” he said.

Other members of the delegation pressed for broadly supported Defense policies. Rep. Vern Buchanan, Republican Co-Chair of Florida’s congressional delegation, passed 18 amendments to the NDAA, ranging from providing service members care for opioid addiction to funding Israel‘s Iron Dome defense system and demanding Defense assessments of China’s military use of artificial intelligence.

“These 18 amendments seek to address the health, safety and security of our active-duty troops and their families as well as improve military readiness and ensure we remain the world’s preeminent fighting force,” Buchanan said. “I’m humbled to see so many of my proposals pass the House this week with broad bipartisan support and am committed to seeing these enacted into law.”

Army Corps oversight

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) administrative oversight regularly creates tension with Florida’s congressional delegation members. Now, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle demand a reinterpretation of regulations.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican and the state’s senior Senator, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democratic Co-Chair of the state delegation, led Florida lawmakers in a bicameral call to greenlight critical hurricane risk reduction projects legislatively.

Marco Rubio gets proactive with critical hurricane risk reductions.

A letter from the lawmakers to the Senate Environment & Committee leaders and the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee seeks consideration of an amendment that would advance dozens of stalled projects in Florida. Rubio’s Office shared proposed language for the Water Resources Development Act, identifying 27 specific projects.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle — and the Capitol Complex — endorsed the tactic. Scott co-signed, as did 23 members of the House delegation, including 20 Republicans and three Democrats, in addition to Wasserman Schultz.

The letter says the Army Corps had applied a “deeply flawed interpretation” of federal law.

“For years, the USACE worked with local project sponsors to construct storm surge-resistant shoreline features pursuant to mutually agreed upon project construction agreements,” the letter reads. “Several years ago, the USACE unilaterally altered the terms of this work without the consideration or consent of local project sponsors, bringing many projects to a grinding halt. Many projects have not been properly maintained due to this policy failure, leading to progressing erosion and heightened storm surge risk to coastal communities.

“Local project sponsors and the communities they serve simply seek the certainty that the USACE will uphold its commitments to nourish and maintain these vital shore projects in a manner that is consistent with existing project construction agreements. Our provision would codify these existing agreements and direct the USACE to accommodate the commitments to local project sponsors therein.”

The harshly worded letter said Army Corps testimony to Congress proved the agency “surrendered responsibility for their capricious policy failure, and Congress must step in.”

Haitian adoptions

Three Republicans in the delegation have urged the State Department to expedite the adoption of Haitian children being taken in by American families.

Scott and Rubio, along with Rep. Neal Dunn, sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas urging work with Haitian government officials.

Neal Dunn talks about cooperation with Haitian officials to boost adoptions.

“Given the hardships in Haiti, we request an expedited processing timeline in collaboration with Haitian authorities,” the letter reads. “The lack of accountability and oversight in Haiti’s institutions poses risks to vulnerable children, and delays exacerbate their vulnerability.”

Last month, Rubio sent a similar letter, but instability has worsened the situation in Haiti.

“The lack of accountability and oversight in Haiti’s institutions poses risks to vulnerable children, and delays exacerbate their vulnerability,” the latest letter states. “As representatives of our constituents, we implore you to act swiftly and compassionately. The well-being of these children must be our top priority.”

Whole foods

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna wants more pure foods on U.S. grocery shelves. She filed legislation to ban certain additives.

The Do or Dye Act, she said, would limit certain color additives from being used in foods, including Red No. 40 and Yellow Nos. 5 and 6. Meanwhile, the Stop Spoonfuls of Fake Sugar would restrict high-fructose corn syrup.

Anna Paulina Luna wants to keep high-fructose syrup out of American diets.

Both bills would redesignate the ingredients as “adulterated,” imposing new regulations from the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

“It is time that we stop allowing unaccountable corporations and the complicit Food and Drug Administration to poison our families,” said Luna, a St. Petersburg Republican.

“Far too many Americans are suffering needlessly from type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, and mental health conditions as a result of artificial and harmful ingredients that are in nearly every refrigerator and pantry in our country. Not only are we consuming spoonfuls of high-fructose corn syrup every day, but many of the foods and snacks we consume have dyes linked to an alarming number of health conditions.”

Trump zone?

Could much of the U.S. coastline soon be renamed for Donald Trump?

Steube filed legislation to name the nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) the “Donald John Trump Exclusive Economic Zone of the United States.”

That would mean waters extending 200 nautical miles from the coast would bear the name of the former President.

Greg Steube hopes to name offshore American waters after Donald Trump.

“Floridians know the great value of our coastal natural resources and how important it is to have a President who cares about the strength and resilience of our oceans. During his time in office, President Trump took several commendable actions for our oceans as part of his work to make America strong, secure, and economically prosperous,” said Steube, a Sarasota Republican. “I’m honored to introduce legislation that will rename our coastal waters after President Trump and serve as a reminder of his many contributions to our nation for generations to come.”

Steube said it was fitting that Trump, during his first term, coordinated a number of ocean science and technology efforts through the Ocean Policy Committee and directed the government to establish a strategy to map the Alaskan coastline to advance our understanding of our oceans and coastlines and promote efficient permitting related to ocean exploration activities.

Parkland closure

The Parkland shooting in 2018 came to define much of Rep. Jared Moskowitz’s service. He represented Parkland in the Florida House when the tragedy occurred. Since his election to Congress, he has led officials, including Vice resident Kamala Harris, through the closed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High building, where 18 died.

Now, that building is being demolished.

“Our community was forever changed by the tragedy that occurred here on Feb. 14, 2018. I never thought I’d see the high school where I graduated from turned into a war zone,” the Parkland Democrat said. “What I’ve seen in that building is truly haunting — windows with bullet holes, homework scattered everywhere, blood in the hallway.”

The scene of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School massacre is now being torn down.

With those experiences behind him, he reflected on the meaning of the building being torn down this week.

“The people of Parkland will no longer have to pass by this horrific reminder of our grief,” he said. “The families of those innocent lives taken that day will never be able to move on; just move forward.”

Going postal

The Postal Service, as an independent agency, operates outside the administration. In its fiduciary role, it means Congress holds some of the only oversight power. Wasserman Schultz wants lawmakers to have greater ability to exercise that.

The Weston Democrat said the U.S. Postal Service has shut out Congress too often when members investigate reasons for delays and poor delivery rates.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz will not be denied.

“When the time came for me to inspect a postal facility, to do a walk-through, to drop by and really see what was going on there in my district, I was denied — not once, but twice,” Wasserman Schultz said. “That’s simply unacceptable. We are Members of Congress. We do oversee the Postal Service. And when there is an issue, that service cannot be an impenetrable force field. They do not have the right to block access to us or to our staff to conduct the proper oversight.”

She filed an amendment to the postal budget that would allow members of Congress unrestrained access to any postal facility. She said that would provide information so equipment failures and delays, as well as a propensity to lose mail and packages entirely, can be rapidly addressed. Any post office denying such access would lose federal funding. The measure was co-introduced by Reps. Ashley Hinson, an Iowa Republican, and Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat. It passed in the House unanimously.

Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, a Hialeah Republican, supported the amendment in the House Appropriations Committee.

“The USPS’s lack of financial accountability to Congress leads to unresponsiveness to both members of Congress and the public they serve,” Díaz-Balart said. “Excessive red tape and bureaucracy are just two of the many existing issues. That’s why during the full Committee markup for the FY25 Financial Services and General Government funding bill, I supported Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s amendment, which rejects bureaucratic overreach by allowing unannounced visits by Congress members to USPS facilities, ensuring greater accountability.”

Close to home

An unnerving presence of Russian warships in Cuba had South Florida officials sounding alarms.

Rep. Carlos Giménez, a Miami-Dade Republican, condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin for collaborating with the communist regime in Cuba and for deploying warships with hypersonic missiles into the Western Hemisphere for any purpose.

“Make no mistake, the murderous military regime in Havana poses a direct national security threat to America,” the Cuban American Congressman said.

Russian warships in Cuba are raising huge red flags in South Florida.

“Our community understands this firsthand being only 90 miles away from the shores of the very same dictatorship that supports Putin’s barbaric, illegal invasion of Ukraine. Instead of granting concession after concession to the (Raul) Castro regime in Cuba, which is actively inviting Russian warships to our seas, President Biden must impose consequences on Communist Cuba to curb this pathetic, dangerous behavior.”

Other Republicans criticized Biden for showing weakness by allowing ships to act close to Florida.

“The Russian Army is involved in Cuba. Putin’s strength versus Biden’s weakness,” posted Rep. María Elvira Salazar, a Coral Springs Republican. “It’s time for America to be the leader of the free world again!”

The administration did respond to the arrival of warships, deploying its vessels and aircraft to track every Russian craft. That occurred after some ships came within 30 miles of the Florida coast, The Miami Herald reported.


Díaz-Balart was on hand Tuesday for a ribbon-cutting in Everglades City for a new Wastewater Treatment facility. The Congressman made the trip to the small municipality after helping secure $6.5 million in federal funding for the project. Mayor Howie Grimm and City Clerk Dottie Joiner were also at the event.

Everglades City celebrates its new Wastewater Treatment facility.

Grimm announced last month that the plant was fully operational.

The funding was used to rehabilitate the main Everglades City Wastewater Treatment Plant and lift stations in the city limits and in the communities of Chokoloskee, Charlestown, and Copeland.

On this day

June 18, 1812 — “War of 1812 begins” — President James Madison signed a declaration of war against Great Britain, marking the beginning of the War of 1812. Frustrated by Britain’s maritime practices and support of Native American resistance to Western expansion, the U.S. entered the war with ambitious plans to conquer Canada, a goal that was never realized. The strength of the British army proved too great for U.S. forces. Both on land and at sea, U.S. troops suffered great losses. In 1814, British troops entered Washington, D.C., and burned the Capitol and the White House. By December, both the Americans and the British recognized that it was time to end the conflict.

June 18, 1983 — “First American woman goes to space” via NASA — Astronaut Sally Ride became the first American woman in space when she launched with her four crewmates aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger on mission STS-7. Ride and five other women had been selected in 1978 for NASA Astronaut Group 8, the first American selection class to include females. With the advent of the space shuttle, NASA expanded astronaut selection from only pilots to scientists and engineers, and women became eligible for selection. Ride served as Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) for STS-2 and STS-3 in late 1981 and early 1982 and became an expert in using the shuttle’s robotic arm.


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

Staff Reports

One comment

  • Marco is confused

    June 18, 2024 at 6:20 pm

    I am shocked Marco wants to help brown immigrants from Haiti .. what is in it for him ? Won’t they send their worst children? Those with trauma in need of mental health care ? Those that Trump says will take a white kids seat in school ? Have these MAggots gone off script. The USA rrethugriplin party has no soul and does not care about the pain of immigrants. What gives ?

Comments are closed.


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