Nelson would be happier than most with Kavanaugh delay
Senate Republicans hoping the Judiciary Committee would hunker down and vote out the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, now realize they have one more desperate roadblock to sidestep. With a name now attached to the woman accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct more than 30 years ago, the committee’s scheduled Thursday vote is now in jeopardy.
For those old enough to remember back to October 1991, they might be uttering Yogi Berra’s line about “déjà vu all over again.” It was that autumn 27 years ago when law professor Anita Hill rocked Capitol Hill with accusations of sexual impropriety against nominee Clarence Thomas.
After lamenting a “high-tech lynching,” Thomas was ultimately confirmed by a 52-48 vote. Before allegations by the California research psychologist against Kavanaugh became public last week, many were predicting a similar vote when the nomination came before the full Senate.
Calls to delay Thursday’s vote quickly began with Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin taking the lead. Other Democrats followed, but retiring Arizona Republican Jeff Flake said the accusations needed to be addressed and fellow committee Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he would “gladly listen,” and “compare that against all other information we have received about judge Kavanaugh.”
“If the committee is to hear from Ms. (Christine Blasey) Ford, it should be done immediately so the process can continue as scheduled,” said Graham.
Through her attorney, Ford has indicated a willingness to testify before Congress.
Democrats have long hoped to drag out the confirmation process until after the midterms, if at all possible. Should the “blue wave” occur and sweep out the GOP majority, Kavanaugh’s nomination would be doomed.
That would be just fine with Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who is engaged in a tight race against Gov. Rick Scott. While some red-state Democrats running for re-election will find it politically healthy to vote for Kavanaugh, Nelson is in a tougher spot.
While some Trump-voting Democrats might hold a “no” vote against him, enough of the Democratic base could turn on him if he votes for the nominee. A recent poll revealed that 80 percent of Florida voters would not base their vote on this issue, but 31 percent of Democrats said they would be “less likely to vote for Nelson if he votes to confirm Kavanaugh.”
On Monday, Nelson called for an “investigation” into the allegations. He also affirmed his readiness to meet with Kavanaugh, a meeting he has “requested four times.”
This is the era of the “#MeToo” movement, where women are coming forward, and now believed, with accounts of harassment and assault perpetrated on them by powerful men. Bipartisan efforts to further mainstream the issue continue in Congress (see below)
Such a movement did not exist in 1991 while the Thomas hearings were in progress.
Kavanaugh has a letter of support signed by 65 women who knew him during his high school days saying Ford’s accusation does not fit the Kavanaugh they knew then or know now.
This will be a big week for the future of Kavanaugh and the person who nominated him, President Donald Trump. If there are further delays by the end of the week, Nelson will consider it a victory.
Rubio campaigns for Tennessee Senate candidate
During the campaign for Nelson’s Senate seat, Scott and his surrogates have regularly criticized the incumbent Democrat on his three terms in office. One of those critics has not been Marco Rubio, who pledged not to attack the state’s senior Senator and is keeping that pledge.
To help the GOP keep their Senate majority, Rubio traveled to Tennessee in support of his party’s candidate, Rep. Marsha Blackburn. In support of Blackburn, Rubio warned that her opponent, former Gov. Phil Bredesen, is “trying to pull a fast one.”
Bredesen is one of those Democrats who tell voters “they are middle of the road, moderate, work with both sides,” he told a Blackburn campaign event in Brentwood, Tenn. Those promising moderation, Rubio said, “when they get to D.C., they vote 99.9 percent of the time with people that Tennessee would never vote for if they ran for office, here.”
Rubio praised Blackburn as “a great candidate,” while her opponent “is trying to pull a fast on you.”
A spokeswoman for Bredesen responded in a statement: “Just like Governor Bredesen, Tennesseans are independent thinkers who can make up their own minds and don’t need to be told what to do by out-of-state politicians.”
The latest Real Clear Politics average of polls shows the race as a dead heat.
Scott distances himself from Trump in new Spanish ad
Following Trump’s much-panned comments regarding the Puerto Rican death toll estimates, Scott was in the position of publicly disagreeing with the President. Now he has released a new Spanish-language ad that looks to put some space between himself and Trump.
The ad, titled “Compromiso,” features Scott speaking in Spanish about his promise to put voters in front of partisan politics.
“When I don’t agree with what President Trump does or says, I’ve said it,” Scott begins.
To view the video, click on the image below:
“My only commitment is with you,” he continued. “For me, what’s important is that your family have the best opportunities. I ask for your vote so that together we can make Washington work for our families.”
Following Hurricane Maria last year, Scott and Nelson received similar levels of approval for their handling of Puerto Rican evacuees into Florida. The two candidates are also in a dead heat among Latino voters.
House, Senate negotiators agree to avoid shutdown
One of the issues now destined to play a minor role in the fall campaigns is the seemingly never-ending threat of a federal government shutdown. A stopgap spending bill was agreed upon by House and Senate negotiators late last week which would keep the money flowing until December 7, will be voted on this week in the Senate and next week in the House.
This action is usually necessary when Congress cannot agree on spending bills, forcing either a stopgap measure or a massive omnibus spending bill covering multiple agencies. Last year, the $1.3 trillion price tag of the omnibus bill brought Trump to pledge he would never sign another one like it.
This year, Congress is doing a much better job of getting the individual spending bills debated and passed. The deadline is October 1, but when it became apparent a few would remain, the desire to prevent a shutdown prompted the stopgap measure.
All of that depends upon whether Trump will sign the bill, but negotiators have been told he would approve it. It will be attached to funding bill covering the Department of Defense and other programs, making a veto highly unlikely.
Previous stopgap or omnibus spending bills have met opposition from members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz is one of those who oppose such legislation on principle, but with Congress on track to complete the bills before the year ends, conservatives may wind up supporting it in the end.
Voting “no” on defense funding might be difficult as well.
Chief Justice flexes muscle in ‘dark money’ case
Candidates from both sides have long complained about third party attacks from organizations funded in part by anonymous donors contributing “dark money.” As one organization was about to unwillingly reveal their donors after a federal appeals court refused to issue a stay on a lower-court ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts stepped in, blocking the ruling.
The affected party in the case was former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove and his Crossroads GPS organization that was trying to influence a 2012 Ohio U.S. Senate race. Those involved with these organizations argued that if the ruling stood, a chilling effect on independent expenditures might have followed.
“Upon consideration of the application of counsel for the applicant and the response filed thereto,” Roberts wrote in his brief order, “it is ordered that the order of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, case No. 16-259, is hereby stayed pending further order of the undersigned or of the Court.”
Third party groups such as Majority Forward is one of many that have become involved in campaigns around the country. While both parties benefit from the secret resource, Majority Forward came to the rescue of a prominent Floridian.
As Scott was dramatically outspending Nelson earlier this year, it was the $2.7 million provided by the dark money group that kept the three-term Democrat from being totally overwhelmed by Scott’s advertising onslaught.
While Scott is expected to be well-funded, other Republicans are expected to take full advantage of current law. Democrats are outraising Republicans, including incumbents, in several races around the country as they seek to regain the majority in both the House and Senate.
Murphy, Curbelo warn of ‘deep fakes’
Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Kendall and Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy from Winter Park have both expressed concerns about “deep fake” videos. Both have also called on intelligence leaders to assess the potential threat.
Curbelo and Murphy signed a letter with Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff from California calling on Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to publicly report on the implications of new technology potentially affecting affairs in a democracy.
“You have repeatedly raised the alarm about disinformation campaigns in our elections and other efforts to exacerbate political and social divisions in our society to weaken our nation,” the letter reads. “We are deeply concerned that deep fake technology could soon be deployed by malicious foreign actors.”
‘Deep Fake’ videos are created by an artificial intelligence-based human image synthesis. It is used to combine and superimpose existing images and video onto source images or videos. Essentially, it is designed to put the likeness of a selected person on video to make it appear that person was doing something they were not.
“Deep fake technology can be used by our enemies to undermine our nation’s security and democracy, which is why the Intelligence Community must provide a comprehensive report to Congress on the threat posed by deep fake technology,” said Murphy, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
“We need to know what countries have used it against U.S. interests, what the U.S. government is doing to address this national security threat, and what more the Intelligence Community needs to effectively counter the threat.”
Curbelo agreed with Murphy claiming that fake video technology has the potential to disrupt every aspect of society, including elections.
“With implications for national security, human rights and public safety, the technological capabilities to produce this kind of propaganda targeting the United States and Americans around the world is unprecedented,” Curbelo said.
Webster praises passage of VA funding
Last week, a series of spending bills were approved and sent to Trump for his signature. Among those was a bipartisan VA funding bill that earned effusive praise from Republican Rep. Daniel Webster of Clermont.
Webster was laudatory of the process that led to passing the spending bills. Funding for federal agencies has recently been lumped into huge spending packages.
“For the first time in 8 years, Congress is not funding these agencies through what is commonly called a Continuing Resolution — a slush fund that allows the agencies to follow their own path independent of proper congressional oversight,” Webster said in a news release. “There is more work to be done if Congress is serious about reducing the spigot of spending, which requires returning to the budget process our Founding Fathers envisioned.”
Among the areas covered includes funding to enhance the VA’s electronic records system, enhanced mental health treatment, infrastructure upgrades to combat cyberattacks from hostile nations, and funding for family housing.
In addition to funding military construction and the VA, the three-bill spending package also includes funding for energy and water, along with appropriations for the legislative branch. The Senate approved the measure 92-5 while the House voted 377-20 in support.
Democratic poll gives Carlson one-point lead in CD 15
Republican Ross Spano is heavily favored to win the District 15 House seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Dennis Ross, but a poll conducted by Spano’s opponent says it is anyone’s race. According to an internal poll, Democrat Kristen Carlson leads Spano by one point, 48-47.
Carlson outraised Spano by nearly $100,000 during the primary campaign, but Spano had a $60,000 advantage in cash on hand as of the last FEC fundraising report on August 8.
Carlson is a former prosecutor and general counsel to the Florida Department of Citrus. Spano is a state representative who was backed by Rubio in last month’s primary.
The Larry Sabato Crystal Ball and the Cook Political Report list the race as “Likely Republican” while Roll Call’s Nathan Gonzales rates it as Solid Republican.
The survey contacted 400 likely voters with a 4.9 percent margin of error.
Mast named subcommittee chair
For the second time this year, Republican Rep. Brian Mast has taken on a different role in his committee assignments. On Monday, he was named the chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster.
Mast’s appointment is effective immediately and lasts through the end of the 115th Congress, which occurs in January 2019. He replaces Duncan Hunter of California, who was indicted on multiple charges of campaign finance fraud.
“Oversight of the Coast Guard and the nation’s maritime transportation system is a vital responsibility of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee,” said Shuster. “Brian is an effective member of this subcommittee and has a firm grasp of the issues. He understands the critical nature of the Coast Guard’s missions and is ready to take the gavel.”
In May, Mast was appointed to the House Veterans Affairs Committee. He welcomed his new role in a statement.
“Maritime transportation is a critical issue for Florida, and the Coast Guard has an important presence in our state, which is why I asked Chairman Bill Shuster for the opportunity to take on leadership of this subcommittee,” Mast said. “The Coast Guard plays an essential role in maintaining the rule of law on our waterways, including securing our borders and enforcing marine pollution laws. Working together, I’m confident we can ensure they have the tools they need to succeed at these critical missions.”
His future in keeping the gavel depends on first defeating Democrat Lauren Baer in November and the Republicans maintaining a majority in the House.
Frankel, women’s caucus hold hearing on workplace harassment
As the anniversary of the Harvey Weinstein assault allegations approaches, the House Caucus for Women’s Issues recently hosted a hearing about what has become the #MeToo movement. The hearing was appropriately titled “#MeToo, What’s Next? Turning a Movement into Action.”
Caucus members heard from leaders from some industries to discuss ways to promote respect and dignity in the workplace, and ultimately to find innovative and creative solutions to the problem of workplace harassment. The hearing was hosted by caucus co-chair Lois Frankel and the caucus leadership group consisting of bipartisan Members of Congress.
“Women, like men, go to work to take care of their families,” said Frankel, a Democrat from West Palm Beach. “Sexual harassment is a real economic issue and a big factor that’s holding women back from opportunities and advancing in their careers. We heard the wisdom of our panelists on some solutions, and I hope measures going through the House like reauthorizing VAWA, banning mandatory arbitration, boosting spending for the (Equal Employment Opportunities Commission), and passing the EMPOWER Act will help create safer workplaces.”
This is the third hearing in a series of hearings on sexual harassment in the workplace conducted by the caucus. The first hearing focused on sexual harassment in the service sector and the second heard from survivors and experts from fields where women are often outnumbered.
South Florida Republicans join call for new Violence Against Women Act
With the issue surrounding sexual harassment and sexual violence playing out in the Kavanaugh hearings, legislation combating the menace was set to expire on September 30. As Congress is dealing with preventing a government shutdown (see above), Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the law will receive the same extension until December 7 as the stopgap spending bill.
Before its inclusion in the funding bill, 46 Republicans called on Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to reauthorize the law. In a letter, the signees said VAWA “has helped to protect and support millions of Americans who have faced domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.”
Among delegation Republicans signing the letter included Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, as well as Carlos Curbelo of Kendall.
“This is not a partisan issue,” the letter continued. “VAWA has been continually reauthorized on a bipartisan basis in Congress. We must act now to strengthen and maintain this critical law.
Congress first passed the VAWA in 1993 and most recently reauthorized it in 2013. Along with passing other spending bills, it is likely to be reauthorized during a lame-duck session of Congress in November or December.
Mucarsel-Powell under attack from multiple angles
Florida’s 26th Congressional District Democratic candidate Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is the target of numerous attacks on behalf of Curbelo as well as another from his campaign. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is revisiting allegations of ties between her and a Ukrainian oligarch named Ihor Kolomoisky.
Mucarsel-Powell has already faced scrutiny over her husband’s work for Kolomoisky during the Democratic primary. She called the ad “a complete lie.”
It claims Mucarsel-Powell’s campaign “has received thousands in contributions from Kolomoisky’s associates.”
Also, Curbelo is criticizing his opponent for accepting money from the BOLD PAC, chaired by Democratic Rep. Tony Cardenas. Cardenas was accused of molesting a 16-year-old girl in 2007, which he denies.
BOLD PAC, which serves as the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, also contributed $5,000 to Mucarsel-Powell’s campaign. The caucus denied admission to Curbelo in 2017.
On this day in the headlines
September 18, 1978 — President Jimmy Carter announced to the world Sunday night that a “framework for peace” in the Middle East has been reached at a summit meeting with Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Menachem Begin. Carter said the documents signed by the two leaders at Camp David “will provide that Israel may live in peace within secure borders.”
The agreement calls for a five-year transition period during which Palestinians will “retain full autonomy.” It also allows Israel to station troops at locations within the West Bank and Gaza.
September 18, 2012 — Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is dealing with a new headache as a video surfaced of him telling wealthy donors that almost half of Americans “believe they are victims.” Romney told the gathering “there are 47 percent of people who are with (Barack Obama), who depend on government, who believe they are victims.”
The campaign went into damage control putting out a statement that Romney “wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy.” An Obama adviser said the Democratic campaign might use Romney’s comments from the fundraising video in television advertisements.