Kathy Castor Archives - Florida Politics

Kathy Castor offers a list of objections to GOP tax bill

As one of only five Democrats on the joint Senate-House Tax Conference committee charged with reconciling the two GOP-passed bills, Kathy Castor is the only representative from Florida.

And like most members of her party, Castor has serious objections about the legislation, as detailed in a new letter to Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, the conference committee chair.

“The tax bill fails to ensure fairness and economic growth for America in the long term,” Castor wrote.

While realizing she is one of a handful of Democrats in the room who has the potential to reframe the proposals, Castor offered in her letter to Brady a series of suggested improvements, starting with education spending, specifically on keeping the graduate tuition waiver, student-loan interest deduction, teacher deductions and lifetime learning credit.

The House tax plan would increase taxes for graduate students by roughly 400 percent and repeal the student loan interest deduction, which allows people with student debt to save up to $625 a year.

The Senate tax bill would also cause a significant loss for recent college graduates.

An average recent college graduate makes $39,000 a year. According to the CBO’s analysis of the Senate tax plan, individuals in every tax bracket below $75,000 will experience a year in which they record a net loss — meaning they’ll pay more in taxes, experience diminished services, or both — by 2027.

“If Republicans intend to make college more expensive for students and families, the approach in the tax framework is how you do it,” the congresswoman snarked sarcastically.

Castor also said the final bill needs to expand clean energy tax credits and maintain the medical expense deduction and the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

She also noted that the bill should not eliminate the private activity bonds that help local communities invest in infrastructure projects. Tampa International Airport officials said that say that if those bonds were eliminated, previous plans to bond a $683 million project would cost an additional $263 million.

And she opposes the elimination of historic preservation tax credits.

“The West River project might go back on the shelf if we don’t have those tax credits,” Castor told Florida Politics Monday. “The YMCA, Metropolitan Ministries and others have relied a lot on these bond programs and tax credits. They’ve gotta be restored or else what the GOP would be doing would be kind of ripping the rug out from under a lot of our redevelopment efforts.”

Republicans claimed Monday they made progress on the bill over the weekend, but the biggest questions regarding the negotiations haven’t been worked out yet.

Though GOP leaders repeatedly affirm that the tax cuts will pay for themselves through economic growth, the Joint Committee on Taxation has said that both versions would add about $1 trillion to the deficit, even after accounting for expected growth.

A Treasury report Monday sought to assure lawmakers that the cost of the package would be more than paid for by future economic growth. It said that the Trump administration’s overall economic agenda would generate about $1.8 trillion in additional revenue over 10 years, more than offsetting the roughly $1.5 trillion cost of the tax cuts.

Nevertheless, the one-page report was widely criticized because it relied heavily on separate and as-of-yet unannounced future initiatives for infrastructure development and welfare reform.

Although proud to serve on the committee, as a Democrat, Castor acknowledged her suggestions aren’t likely to get much of a hearing from the GOP-led board.

“I haven’t seen the GOP’s willingness to work together on it,” Castor said. “It’s unfortunate, and I think folks will remember in November.”

Kathy Castor: If Al Franken must go, so should Blake Farenthold

Last week, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken announced he would soon resign from office following multiple reports of women accusing him of groping and forcibly kissing them.

Immediately after, some rank and file Democrats said Franken was a sacrificial lamb, so the party could go all-in attacking President Donald Trump and Alabama Sen. candidate Roy Moore for their alleged acts of sexual assault.

Tampa U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor does not agree.

“After the seventh women came forward to talk about Sen. Franken, I think people have the right to expect the highest standards of ethics from their elected officials, and they shouldn’t make a lot of exceptions,” the Congresswoman said Monday following a news conference at St. Joseph’s Hospital to note the upcoming deadline for Affordable Care Act sign-ups.

A group of women who have publicly accused Trump of sexual harassment and assault detailed their accounts of being groped, fondled and forcibly kissed by the businessman-turned-politician at a news conference Monday.

At least 13 women have now accused Trump of a range of offenses, from sexual harassment and misconduct to sexual assault, including unwanted kissing and groping. All the alleged incidents took place before he assumed the presidency.

“Folks need to look at President Trump for his past behavior,” Castor said. “I think he has a lot to answer for his very low standards of conduct on sexual harassment and so much more.”

Another member of Congress that Castor feels needs to go is Texas Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold following reports that he had used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle an allegation of sexual harassment from a former communications director in his office in 2015.

“I think it’s outrageous that he’s still there in the current climate with the other resignations,” she said. “I don’ think the Ethics Committee process functions right now. It’s not fast enough. It doesn’t provide the transparency that we need, so I’m hopeful that maybe the GOP will find some religion here and begin to act in a consistent manner.”

To address that issue, Castor is co-sponsoring legislation (HR 4497) with Nebraska Republican Don Bacon to prohibit the use of public funds to pay settlements and awards for workplace harassment and discrimination claims under the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, arising from acts committed by members of Congress.

Farenthold announced Friday that he and his entire congressional staff underwent sensitivity and sexual harassment training last year after two female staffers complained of gender discrimination and “sexualized commentary in his Capitol Hill office, now bringing the total to three women who have complained of either sexual harassment, gender discrimination, or a hostile work environment in his office.

The 51-year-old Castor calls the revelations of sexual harassment that have brought down major figures in show business, the media and politics “remarkable,” and says it needs to spread to other less glamorous industries with similar bad actors.

“We are living through an extraordinary moment of social change in my lifetime,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of trailblazing women around here and in the state of Florida, but it always seems like we’re not able to break through on equal pay and equal treatment in the workplace, and I think this has to do with the millennial generation. That’s a little bit different and a little more focused on equity, and the older generations are catching up.

“I think about my daughters, who are 20 and 18, and what this means for them and other women. I think we’ve got to take great care now to make sure that this movement applies to every sector of the workplace, not just entertainment and politics but folks working on farms, folks working in domestic situations in the retail and hospitality industries. This has to have real meaning; we’ve gotta make sure this movement is as widespread as possible.”

Wengay Newton shrugs off Vito Sheeley criticism of car theft measure

Vito Sheeley, who has filed to oppose Wengay Newton in 2018 for House District 70, blasted the St. Petersburg Democrat Friday for proposing legislation that would criminally charge car theft victims.

“This is one of the worst ideas I’ve ever heard out of Wengay Newton,” Sheeley said. “And that’s saying a lot.”

Making his first run toward elective office, Sheeley had served as an aide to Democrats like Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist.

“We can have a productive conversation about car theft, but throwing victims in jail is just crazy. It’s time for our community to have a serious advocate in Tallahassee — this is embarrassing.”

Newton’s legislation (HB 927) calls for criminal penalties if a car is left unattended without first stopping the engine, removing the key from the ignition, and locking the door. It would be a second-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail.

There are laws on the books right now that allow law enforcement to cite motorists for a noncriminal traffic violation for leaving their car running.  It would enhance the penalty.

Members of the South St. Pete community — including Crist, Newton and state Sen. Darryl Rouson — have convened meetings over the past year with members of the community to address the explosion of youth stealing automobiles. Newton’s proposal is the first piece of legislation proposed to try to address the problem.

When contacted to respond to Sheeley’s criticism, Newton said he didn’t know who Sheeley was and didn’t believe he had to answer to anything he had to say.

“Who is he?” Newton asked. “What has he done for juveniles?”

Newton then told Florida Politics he had to leave for a television interview but would be willing to come back to speak about the bill itself later in the day. He did acknowledge seeing Facebook comments on the bill.

Since entering the race in July, Sheeley has raised $4,222; Newton has raised $14,870.

HD 70 covers parts of Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties.

Alma Gonzalez backed by Kathy Castor and Democratic Labor Caucus as chair election nears

Less than 48 hours before a select group of Florida Democrats chooses their new state leader, Alma Gonzalez announced a series of new endorsements in the race for the party’s state chair.

Tampa Rep. Kathy Castor announced that she was backing the Hillsborough County State Committeewoman, who is competing against Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Terrie Rizzo and Brevard County Democratic Executive Chair Stacey Patel.

“Alma Gonzalez has been fighting for working Floridians, students and seniors her entire career,” Castor said in a statement. “Alma is a passionate advocate for affordable health care, high-quality education, higher wages and a healthy and clean environment.  She is the right leader at the right time for our diverse and growing Florida Democratic Party, and I am proud to endorse her for Chair of the Party.  With Alma’s leadership, we are going to win the Governor’s mansion, keep  U.S. Senator Bill Nelson working for us, and win seats at every level — up and down the ballot — to benefit our neighbors across our great state.”

Tallahassee U.S. Rep. Al Lawson and state Reps. Bobby Dubose of Fort Lauderdale and Joseph Geller from Hollywood also announced their endorsements for Gonzalez, as did the Democratic Labor Caucus of Florida.

“Her long-held support of the struggle for economic justice for all working men and women, continuous union membership, professional legal background, institutional knowledge and experience as a past executive officer in the FDP, two-term member of the Democratic National Committee and experience as an elected county committeewoman has resulted in a majority vote of our governing council, in her favor,” said John C. Parker, the president of the Democratic Labor Caucus.

“As a lifelong union member and activist, my labor brothers and sisters are family. I am proud to have their support,” Gonzalez said. “My involvement in the labor movement has taught me the importance of standing together in solidarity to face the challenges that our working families are dealing with every day.”

That previous labor background includes years serving as legal counsel for the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the state’s biggest government employees union and a potent political force in Tallahassee.

The Florida Democratic Black, Hispanic and Caribbean caucuses have each previously endorsed Gonzalez.

Approximately 182 Florida Democrats will decide on who will become the next party chair Saturday in Orlando.

Old tensions about Cuba resurface at Tampa City Council meeting

A recent trip to Cuba by Tampa City Council Chair Yolie Capin and Councilman Harry Cohen was just the latest by members of the political establishment who have worked for nearly a decade to set up closer relations between the city and the Communist island.

Former Councilwoman Mary Mulhern first visited Cuba as part of a delegation of local business leaders in 2009, and she boarded the first direct flight from Tampa to Havana in 2011 after the Obama administration opened up travel to other U.S. airports beyond Miami, New York and Los Angeles.

Although not nearly as controversial as a decade ago, such trips are still not necessarily universally embraced in Tampa, which houses a huge Cuban-American population, including exiles of the Fidel Castro regime.

After former President Barack Obama made history in 2014 when he announced a full resumption of relations with Cuba, council members rallied to seek a Cuban embassy in Tampa.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn did not endorse the move, saying he always remained loyal to those exiles.

Those tensions came to light at a presentation Thursday when Councilman Mike Suarez, a Cuban-American who never fully embraced the outreach, asked Capin if any members of the delegation had reached out to Cuban dissidents, referring to how former Congressman Jim Davis had done so during a trip in 2006.

Capin said they had not, but appreciated the question.

“Our president just went to China and Vietnam,” Capin said. “He did not ask to see any dissidents.”

“I’m not challenging you at all,” Suarez replied.

Capin had made six trips to Cuba, and she said the issue of meeting dissidents had never come up a single time.

Tampa’s current U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, made her first trip to Cuba in 2013, meeting dissidents at that time. Upon her return, she became the first member of Florida’s congressional delegation to call for the end of the U.S. economic embargo to the island.

Officials Capin met in Cuba asked for “mutual respect for different ideologies,” and dispelled the perception that the country was in “chaos” following Hurricane Irma.

Chambers of Commerce for Tampa and St. Petersburg are considering attending the annual International Trade Fair there, she said.

“In my estimation, Tampa stands to gain thousands and thousands of jobs and transforms us into the global city that we want to be.”

While the local delegation visited the island nation, Donald Trump blamed Cuba for the mysterious attacks that sickened American diplomats there and prompted the abrupt withdrawal of United States embassy staff from Havana.

Cohen said that comment created certain a “chill” on the trip, which he deemed “unfortunate.”

“The international situation I think more than anything, more than anything else, was made clear to us that was going to affect our own region’s ability to engage with the future of Cuba,” Cohen added.

He did say that the Florida Aquarium will continue its partnership with the National Aquarium of Cuba, where it is nurturing and tracking coral reefs in Cuba to learn how to save reefs in Florida better.

Last week, the Trump administration rolled back some of the diplomatic thaw enacted by the Obama administration.

Travelers who visit Cuba under “people to people” guidelines must now book a tour only with an official U.S. group; a member of that team must go with them on the trip.

The administration also issued a list of more than 100 businesses, including 84 hotels, where American travelers cannot go.

Earlier in the council discussion, Luis Viera, another Cuban-American member of the board whose family members are exiles, said he supports Capin and Cohen’s visit as part of what he calls “principled engagement” with Cuba.

He challenged his colleagues to have a dialogue with Cuban-exiles about the relations with the country.

“I think that this would behoove us as council members on this if that’s something that is going to be continued as a policy is to engage members of that community,” he said, “because in the city of Tampa that community is a very large part of our city in terms of the social fabric, cultural fabric, etc.”

Capin said that was an excellent idea.

Two members of the audience questioned the council members visit.

“I have family in Cuba, I want to see a change in Cuba,” said Rafael Pizo, who complained that his family in Cuba still cannot buy aspirin, which had nothing to do with an economic embargo. “This is a tactic by the regime to keep the people down.”

Another unidentified Cuban exile, who spoke in Spanish (with an English translator), said the council was wasting its time trying to do business with the current regime.

“What business can we expect with this regime, they don’t even pay their allies and they pay no debts?” he asked. “To give them our money that we need in our communities for our roads, for our sick, for our social economic programs, we need our money here in our town, not in Cuba, they have nothing to offer us.”

Kathy Castor blasts Donald Trump’s new Cuban travel restrictions

Kathy Castor is not happy with a series of measures published by the White House Wednesday that tightening limits on Americans’ dealings with Cuba.

The Tampa Democratic congresswoman is bothered by the package, which includes a blacklist of state-owned companies and entities, including shops and hotels. It also requires most U.S. citizens wanting to travel to the island to only go as part of organized tour groups, which had been the case before former President Barack Obama loosened the rules nearly three years ago.

The measures come as part of a partial rollback of Obama’s rapprochement with the Communist island that was initially announced back in June by current President Donald Trump.

Those who already booked and paid for a trip on their own will be allowed to go, and transactions with businesses on the barred list can be completed, the administration said. The new rules, which start Thursday, apply only to future travel and commerce.

Eighty-three hotels are on the banned list.

Castor denounced the new regulations as part of a “backward policy” of the Trump administration to “return to failed Cold War isolationist policies toward Cuba and the Cuban people.”

She said America instead should be focused on supporting Cuba’s growing private sector by encouraging more Americans to travel to Cuba rather than adding restrictions on Americans, cultural exchanges and businesses.

“Since the U.S. re-established diplomatic ties with Cuba, thousands of Americans have visited and numerous businesses have explored new markets,” Castor said Wednesday. “These activities have not only opened new economic opportunities for Americans and Cubans alike, they serve as an integral part of our efforts to promote the spread of democracy and ensure the security of our region.”

Castor, who has become the leading voice in the Florida congressional delegation in removing the more than five decades long economic embargo against Cuba, was also disappointed by the lack of any progress regarding the investigation on the unexplained episodes involving health problems suffered by U.S. diplomatic personnel in Havana.

Last month, the State Department ordered 15 Cuban diplomats to leave the U.S. from its Washington Embassy, a move prompted by the mysterious illness affecting U.S. diplomatic personnel and family members in Havana.

The move came after the U.S. had decided to cut its own embassy staff in Havana by similar numbers “to minimize the number of diplomats at risk of exposure to harm.”

“I was advised by Trump administration officials in October that U.S. investigators had left with no determination as to the nature or cause of these incidents,” Castor said. “Furthermore, every day that goes by without adequate embassy personnel available to process visas harms Cuban and American families.

“The U.S. has now effectively ended travel by Cubans to visit their loved ones in the U.S. under the nonimmigrant visa. This is cruel and heartbreaking for many families who I see in my Tampa office regularly.”

 

Democrats across Florida congratulate Rick Kriseman on his re-election

Florida Democrats are more fired up than ever.

A little more than a month ago, Florida Democrats scored a historic victory in the special election for Senate District 40. In a low turnout election, Democrat Annette Taddeo flipped a competitive state Senate seat from red to blue, defeating the well-funded Republican, Jose Felix Diaz.

Re-electing Mayor Rick Kriseman was a significant victory for Florida Democrats. The Democratic mayor faced a tough challenge from a popular, former two-term Republican mayor—Rick Baker.

Throughout the campaign, Florida Democrats from across the state made thousands of calls and knocked on thousands of doors in St. Pete, encouraging progressives to get out and vote.

The Florida Democratic Party made a significant investment in Kriseman’s re-election campaign, putting considerable resources towards on-the-ground organizers and tools to mobilize voters and boost turnout.

“Democrats just keep winning—grassroots enthusiasm is surging across the state, and Florida Democrats are ready to compete in all 67 counties,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel. “When Democrats run on their values, they win. The Florida Democratic Party is ready to flip Florida blue in 2018, and we are committed to winning seats at every level of government—from school board to the United States Senate.”

Here is a compilation of other Democrats reaction to Kriseman’s victory:

Former governor Charlie Crist, via Twitter:

“The people are the boss and they’ve told us they want a vibrant, inclusive, and progressive Sunshine City. Congratulations, Mayor @Kriseman!!!

Gubernatorial candidate and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum:

“Congrats @Kriseman & St. Pete! The politics of division will not fool us again. Florida Democrats have so much to be excited about in 2018.”

Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham:

“The people have voted to keep moving St. Pete forward! Mayor Rick Kriseman’s work to tackle big problems with big solutions earned him re-election tonight. I look forward to working with him as a partner in restoring our promise to public schools, defending our clean land and water, and building an economy that works for every Floridian.”

Gubernatorial candidate Phil Levine:

“Congrats to my friend and fellow Mayor on his hard-fought victory tonight. With the election behind him now, Mayor Kriseman can continue his important work on climate change and making sure St. Petersburg’s vision for being a resilient city comes to fruition.”

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, via Twitter:

Mayor Rick @Kriseman re-elected tonight by #StPetersburg🌞, a community that values everyone & knows their leader does too!

Kathy Castor: Don’t be scared to sign up for Affordable Care Act

On Halloween morning, Tampa U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said Americans shouldn’t be fearful about signing up for the Affordable Care Act, which begins open enrollment on Wednesday.

“Do not let them scare you away from affordable health insurance,” Castor said at a news conference held at the Old Tampa Bookstore in downtown Tampa.

Open enrollment runs from November 1 to December 15 — the shortest period to sign up for Obamacare since the marketplaces first opened in the fall of 2013.

That’s just part of what Castor and other Democrats have been calling the “sabotage” of the ACA by President Trump this year.

The advertising budget for the open enrollment period nationally has been cut to just $10 million, a 90 percent reduction from the $100 million spent by the Obama administration last year.

Grants to navigators — the folks who help people enroll in health plans offered through the insurance marketplace — were cut from $63 million to $36 million.

Jodi Ray is project director for the Florida Covering Kids & Families (FL-CKF) program at the Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies, USF College of Public Health. She is responsible for hiring and training navigators around the state to help adults shopping for subsidized insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces.

“We’ve got navigators all over the state of Florida who are on the ground and in the communities. They will be going to where people are, where they live and where they eat to help sign them up for coverage,” she said.

Adding to the general confusion about the ACA is the well-reported news from earlier this month that Trump has eliminated subsidies to health insurance companies that help pay out-of-pocket costs of low-income people.

Not to worry, insists Ray.

“Individuals who qualify for tax credits will still get their tax credits,” she says. “In fact, as the premiums have gone up, those who have qualified for tax credits will see their tax credits go up alongside that, so they will not be hit by those premium increases.”

Citizens whose income is up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level also will still get cost-sharing reductions, lowering their out-of-pocket costs for deductibles and co-pays. Ray says some consumers could see some of their out-of-pocket costs decrease in 2018.

“There are some gold plans that will cost some consumers less than taking a silver plan, just because of the tax credits,” Ray says, adding that citizens need to shop around for the best plan that works for them.

Those who don’t qualify for subsidies on the ACA, however, will see their insurance premiums rise next year.

Helen Kirton, a health care worker from Tampa and a member of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), criticized President Trump’s proposed federal budget, saying that the cuts to Medicaid and Medicare “are going to be devastating.”

“I need medication to live,” said Dolores Grayson with Organize Florida. She’s on Medicare, which subsidizes the cost of the prescriptions drugs she uses. Without insurance, one of those drugs costs $600 a month.

Ray said she and her fellow navigators will be working harder than ever to sign up as many uninsured people as possible before enrollment ends in December, despite the $900,000 cut to her navigator budget.

The telephone number to call to speak to a navigator is 877-813-9115.

Getting into the Halloween spirit at the news conference was Tim Heberlein with the activist group Organize Florida, clad as the Grim Reaper.

“Do not let them scare you away from affordable health insurance,” Castor concluded, as she gave a wayward glance over to the personification of death.

Veterans recognized at Tampa Vietnam War commemoration

As Veterans Day approaches, more than 40 local members of the armed forces were honored Monday for service during the Vietnam War at a pinning ceremony at Tampa’s Bryan Glazer Family Jewish Community Center.

“Some of you were not welcomed home with open arms — many were — but if you were not … we’re going to rectify that today because you’re all American heroes,” Kathy Castor said in addressing the veterans. “We salute you, love you, and honor you.”

The Tampa-area congresswoman was part of the 50th anniversary Vietnam War Commemoration event, which locally also included the placement of the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall on display this weekend at Hillsborough County’s Veterans Memorial Park.

The intensity and tragedy of that war were brought home to Americans again last month with the broadcast of “The Vietnam War,” the 18-hour PBS documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.

Castor said the series brought back her own memories as a youth about that war, saying, “Walter Cronkite‘s tone changed when we realized, ‘gosh our elected leaders have not been as straightforward as they should during that time.’ Kind of bursting that bubble of idealism …”

Historian and former director of the Florida Studies Program at USF – St. Petersburg Gary Mormino gave a brief recap of Tampa’s history with war, leading up to the social tumult of the 1960s when the war was at its peak.

The 70-year-old academic was in college during that period, and he said there wasn’t a single day then when he didn’t think of Vietnam.

He said the military draft held at that time was unfair and that if the country were ever to employ such a draft in the future, it can’t allow the same type of deferments that allowed many Americans to get out of serving at that time.  Students enrolled in college then could receive draft deferments each year they were in school.

Married men of draft age also could get deferments and were totally out of the draft if they had children.

“Most of my college professors were World War II vets,” he recounted. “Almost none of my colleagues were Vietnam vets.”

Mormino trained “war dogs” for the Vietnam War.

“I’d like to think that one of those dogs to sniff our landmines maybe saved someone in this audience,” he said before thanking the soldiers for their service.

Colonel Troy Pananon, vice wing commander 5th Mobility Wing, MacDill Air Force Base, is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm in Iraq. That war was wrapped up within 100 days and was highly popular in the U.S., as it achieved its mission of moving Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi troops out of Kuwait. It was the country’s first major military action since Vietnam ended in the mid-1970s, and led many analysts to say it ended the “Post-Vietnam Syndrome” that the county and military had been under.

Pananon said he and his fellow soldiers received a “hero’s welcome.”

“I think America learned a hard lesson,” he said in contrast to the welcome that Vietnam vets received in America following that war.

The event was moderated by WFLA TV’s Leslee Lacey, a military veteran herself who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lacey got extremely emotional early on in the proceedings, talking about how divided America was during that time.

“It was a difficult war. It was a misunderstood war,” she said, before breaking down and stopping for several moments.

“There’s no choice for a military member except to follow orders, and Americans who didn’t understand that, I believe understand that now,” she said, adding that most Americans believe it’s of “vital importance” to support veterans.

“Especially you. And if we didn’t do it right back then, we’re going to do it now, and we’ll continue to do it throughout American history,” Lacey added.

Castor said what stood out more than anything from the PBS documentary was the patriotism and love of country from so many Americans.

“The bravery of all of you shone through,” she told a crowd of Vietnam veterans and their friends and family on Monday morning.

Castor said every day was Veterans Day in her local congressional office in west Tampa. “If you have the need for a VA claim or appeal, please do not be shy about it,” adding that her office recovered more than $700,000 in benefits owed to veterans in her district.

“That’s the least we can do for your service,” she said.

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