Delegation for 12.9.22: Defense — global — risky business — musical Chairs — free speech? – Florida Politics

On defense
A deal struck on the National Defense budget drew praise in the Florida congressional delegation from both sides of the aisle.
With hundreds of millions going to facilities in the state and more supporting contractors and industry-adjacent work in the Sunshine State, lawmakers from around Florida found reason to tout the budget back home.
Rep. Carlos Giménez noted a provision critical to Homestead Air Reserve Base. It would stop the Secretary of the Air Force from entering an agreement that would “provide for or permit the joint use of Homestead Air Reserve Base by the Air Force and civil aircraft.”
“Preserving the Homestead Air Reserve Base (HARB) for its original intent and purpose is critical to protecting our national security interests,” the Miami-Dade Republican said. “I am encouraged that our efforts to preserve HARB were included in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and will ensure the base’s functionality and main objective as stated by law, remain as such. Allowing aircraft not affiliated with our military or armed services to utilize an air reserve facility would only compromise our country’s national security. Prohibiting the joint use of the Homestead Air Reserve Base ensures the protection of our strategic interests and protects the precious South Florida ecosystem caught in between Biscayne National Park and Everglades National Park.”
Rep. Kathy Castor noted the NDAA includes increased military pay and help for service members based near MacDill Air Force Base to access affordable housing.
“Our service members and their families also need lower costs to combat the rising cost of living while they’re serving our nation at home and abroad, so the increase in military basic pay by 4.6% for our troops was a priority for me for their service and sacrifice,” a Tampa Democrat said. “A hot housing market also required adding funds to the basic allowance for housing to ensure that military families can find adequate housing wherever they may serve and lower costs at the same time. We also provide support for the costs of everyday food and products service members purchase from commissaries. Important missions at MacDill AFB are receiving vital investments, including $50,000,000 for construction of a Special Operation Forces Operations Integration Facility and an investment in the Joint MISO WebOps Center (JMWC) at MacDill AFB to help modernize their work in the global information space.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz celebrated that a Republican provision eliminating COVID-19 vaccine mandates made the cut. But he also saw good news just in dollars for his Panhandle district, including $779 million going directly to Northwest Florida’s military mission.
“Congress is duty bound by the Constitution to ensure the brave men and women that volunteer to defend our country have everything they need to be the most lethal fighting force in the history of the world,” Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, said. “I applaud the passage of the FY23 NDAA, which makes America stronger and further solidifies Northwest Florida’s critical role in our country’s national security.”
But Gus Bilirakis, while supporting much of the bill, said he ultimately had too many philosophical objections to its substance. He voted “nay.”
“Poison pills contained within the package include increased funding for Ukraine without strong measures to ensure transparency or accountability, further erosion of Americans’ Second Amendment rights, and overall increased spending levels without appropriate offsets,” the Palm Harbor Republican said. “Americans are suffering from devastating inflation and Congress cannot keep writing checks that fuel this problem.”
Rubio worldwide
Sen. Marco Rubio is preparing for a third term in the Senate by making the rounds discussing critical foreign policy matters in Europe and Asia. In multiple speeches, he stressed the shifting state of the world and the demand for change in U.S. foreign policy as a result.
The 51-year-old Rubio said he grew up in a period of triumphalism, when the collapse of the USSR led to a belief that Western ideology had won, and democratic capitalism would sweep the world. But that’s not what the intervening decades wrought.
Rubio spoke at an American Affairs conference on the economic threats from communist China and the military position of a theocratic Iran.
“There are three things that I want everybody to keep in mind. No. 1 is the world is rapidly moving toward a geopolitical arrangement split into the United States and its allies, China and junior partners like Russia and Iran, who don’t benefit from the Western-led order, and then dozens of developing countries that are saying, ‘We’re going to cut the best deal we can by leveraging each side against the other,’” he said at the American Affairs conference.
He also virtually joined the Hudson Institute and said Iran has effectively become a nuclear power.
“The Iranians have also continued to increase their enrichment capability, and they’re doing it because they think it’s ratcheting up pressure on the West to cut a deal with them,” he said. “The timeline they face is that, at some point, if they are in violation of these U.N. mandates, there’s going to be automatic snapback sanctions put in place that the Europeans will have to be a part of as well. They’re on the clock in regards to that. And then they have a domestic group inside the country that basically doesn’t want there to be a deal.”

Remembering NAS Pensacola
It has been three years since a Saudi military trainee opened fire and killed three U.S. sailors at the Naval Air Station Pensacola. The Senate this week passed a resolution introduced by Sen. Rick Scott to honor the fallen.
“Today, in recognition of the third anniversary of the terrorist attack at NAS Pensacola, we come together to honor the brave men and women in uniform, and commemorate the legacy of Mohammed Haitham, Joshua Watson and Cameron Walters,” Scott said, naming those killed in the attack. “These three young men dedicated their lives to the service of our country but were tragically and senselessly taken from us in an act of terror at NAS Pensacola. We must honor them, their families, and the brave sailors and law enforcement officials who looked in the face of pure evil and ran toward it to save the lives of others.”
Scott also promoted legislation he filed, the Secure U.S. Bases Act, which aims to prevent similar inside attacks from happening again. The legislation was included as part of the National Defense Authorization Act in 2020.
“We also join together to condemn the evil that exists in the world and reiterate our commitment to fighting against it,” Scott said. “This act of terror should never have happened, let alone on a United States military base.”
Notably, Gaetz the day of the anniversary also introduced a bill in response to the shooting, which occurred in his Panhandle district. The Saudi Arabia Dec. 6, 2019, Anti-Terror and Accountability Act would halt any soldier exchange programs with Saudi Arabia — where the shooter originated — and would also cut off U.S. support for the Saudi coalition in Yemen.
“The terrorist was a combatant participating in a Pentagon-sponsored training program, which granted him access to NAS Pensacola,” a release from Gaetz’s Office reads. “This bill will hold the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accountable for aiding and abetting terrorist attacks within the United States while financially supporting the victims of the NAS Pensacola Terrorist Attack.”
Gaetz’s bill would also take away $1 billion in funding for the war in Ukraine and put it in the Justice for United States Victims of State-Sponsored Terrorism Fund.
McCarthy at risk?
A Republican majority in the House for the 118th Congress is secure, but Kevin McCarthy’s potential Speakership is clearly not.
A handful of Republicans within the caucus continue to complicate the California Republican’s path to 218 votes, and Gaetz is one of them.
“Kevin McCarthy is not the right leader for the moment,” Gaetz wrote in an op-ed published on RealClearPolitics. “Fortunately, enough Republicans recognize that to stop him from being the next Speaker of the House. Five House Republicans, including myself, have announced that we will not vote for McCarthy during the Jan. 3 speaker election. As many have privately also informed McCarthy of their plans to vote for someone else.”
Gaetz has long held a grudge against McCarthy, ever since reports that McCarthy said Gaetz’s rhetoric after the Jan. 6 riot was “endangering the security of other lawmakers and the Capitol complex.” At the time, Gaetz was criticizing then-Republican Party Conference Leader Liz Cheney for voting to impeach President Donald Trump.
While Gaetz initially seemed interested in promoting Jim Jordan as a possibility, he has now offered support to Arizona Republican Andy Biggs as an alternative to McCarthy. Biggs announced his candidacy this week.
Will any other Florida Republicans join in this act of resistance? Rep.-elect Anna Paulina Luna, a St. Petersburg Republican, hinted she’s unhappy with national Republican leadership.
“The Republican Party needs to take notes from Scott Presler,” she tweeted, referencing the just resigned Georgia Republican Party State Chair. “Good leadership accepts responsibility for losses and makes changes.”
Ways outstanding
The uncertainty could also be delaying races for contested Chairs in the House. That’s important for Vern Buchanan, who remains in a battle for Ways and Means Committee Chair. He will be the senior-most Republican on the powerful committee when a new Congress opens Jan. 3, and appears to be the front-runner to lead the powerful panel but remains in a heated race with Nebraska Republican Adrian Smith and Missouri Republican Jason Smith.
Speculation about how the contest turns out is picking up even as a potential decision gets delayed. Buchanan, a Longboat Key Republican, pushed back hard on a Punchbowl News report that he might resign from Congress if he loses a leadership race.
“I’m committed to helping elect Kevin McCarthy Speaker and continue to work every day to earn the support of the Steering Committee to become the next Ways and Means Chairman,” Buchanan said.
The Punchbowl report suggested Buchanan could quit ahead of a vote on the next Speaker. Those close to Buchanan, though, say the Congressman would never end a 16-year career on Capitol Hill in such petulant fashion. Besides, he’s confident the gavel will land in his hand no matter when the GOP Steering Committee makes a decision.
“I was never contacted for that story,” Buchanan said, “but the notion that I would consider resigning is laughable and ridiculous.”
Steering role
The co-Chair of the Florida congressional delegation has been named to a leadership role in the House.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz will be one of three co-Chairs of the Steering and Policy Committee — putting the Weston Democrat in a key leadership position.
The Committee handles recommending candidates for election as Chair or Ranking Member of House Committees, nominating Democratic Members for their House committee assignments and coordinating with Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries in setting the Caucus policy agenda.
“As part of this leadership team, I will work hard every day to assist Leader Jeffries and my colleagues to ensure we are prepared for this next Congress under a new generation of Democratic leaders.” Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat, said. “I am committed to working with my fellow co-chairs and colleagues to ensure that every segment of our Caucus is valued, included, and has a voice as we do the people’s work to protect and expand on the historic policy gains we have made on behalf of the American people.”
California Democrat Barbara Lee and Michigan Democrat Dan Kildee of Michigan will serve as her fellow co-Chairs on the Committee.
Campus speech
As a Gainesville Republican, Rep. Kat Cammack’s district includes the state’s most prominent college, the University of Florida. She took part in an event this week spotlighting concerns about whether conservatives on campuses are having their First Amendment rights properly safeguarded.
At an Annual Campus Free Speech Roundtable of Republican House members, Cammack retold a story from her college days of a Latin American politics professor blaming the world’s greatest conflicts on White Republican men. She said she was almost kicked out of the class for arguing with the professor.
“The issue of free speech on college campuses is one of the most important of our time, and something that should be at the forefront of lawmakers’ minds as we head into the 118th Congress,” Cammack said. “As one of the co-chairs of the Campus Free Speech Caucus, we’re taking this mission to the next level and encouraging colleagues to have the important discussions with the schools in their districts about what they’re doing to defend and protect this First Amendment Right.”
While Cammack was the only member of the Florida delegation at the event, she wasn’t the only Representative there with roots in the state. Utah Republican Burgess Owens, whose father taught for 40 years at Florida A&M University, also spoke, and he shared a different kind of tale. He said the value of free speech was instilled in him in the 1960s when as a child, he saw protests in Tallahassee by Black students who were not allowed inside the Florida State Theatre. Protests in that era led to peaceful change in the Civil Rights movement, he said, and today’s college students would be wise not to stifle disagreement on campus.
“We have a real issue in our country when our young people don’t understand the most fundamental part of our country, which is being able to speak our voices and articulate ourselves and know that we can be safe in that process,” Owens said.
Saving citrus
Lakeland Republican Scott Franklin and Kissimmee Democrat Darren Soto led a letter co-signed by most of the Florida delegation seeking support for the state’s citrus industry. The two hope House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro will supply supplemental disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Ian, which affected 90% of Florida citrus.
“The most recent damage assessment released by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services indicated more than 375,000 of the roughly 400,000 acres of Florida citrus were impacted by Hurricane Ian,” the letter reads. “This culminated in an estimated $675.5 million in preliminary damages to the industry. Subsequently, Hurricane Nicole also made landfall on the east coast of Florida on Nov. 10, 2022, inflicting more damages, which included additional fruit drop and standing water.”
The message bears signatures as well from 15 other members of Florida’s House delegation, all of whom saw damage in their districts, a sign of the magnitude of the storms. Co-signatories include Republicans Bilirakis, Buchanan, Cammack, Byron Donalds, Neal Dunn, Giménez, Brian Mast, Bill Posey, María Elvira Salazar, Greg Steube and Michael Waltz. Democrats Castor, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Val Demings and Al Lawson also signed on.
The letter notes citrus farmers faced challenges, like greening, before the storm. Now the entire industry, one providing an annual impact in Florida of $6.67 billion while providing 33,000 jobs, faces an existential threat.
“A thriving citrus industry remains critical for Florida’s economy, environment and way of life,” the letter states. “Growers are proud to produce products that support the economy, taste good and are good for you. Despite immense challenges, the industry has a long, bright future ahead of it, but growers require assistance to help recover from these recent storms.”
Ian extension
Donalds and Rubio also led a delegation letter to the President seeking an extension for 100% federal reimbursements on ongoing cleanup from Ian.
“More than two months since Hurricane Ian made landfall, far too many communities in my district are still reeling and require additional recovery assistance,” Donalds wrote. “I am proud to lead this bipartisan letter supporting Gov. DeSantis’ request for FEMA’s 100% cost share for communities hardest hit by this deadly storm.”
As a representative of Lee County, where Ian made landfall on Sept. 28, Donalds’ name holds a rare station on a bicameral letter ahead of the state’s senior Senator. Other co-signatories include Bilirakis, Buchanan, Cammack, Mario Diaz-Balart, Dunn, Franklin, Gaetz, Giménez, Mast, Posey, John Rutherford, Salazar, Soto, Steube, Waltz, and Daniel Webster.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has requested full reimbursements be provided through the Federal Emergency Management Agency until at least late January on debris removal and other expenses. The letter supports that request.
“We firmly believe that the gravity and scope of this disaster, particularly the time required to remove debris, justifies 100% federal funding through Jan. 19, 2023,” the letter reads.
“To assist Florida’s communities devastated by Hurricane Ian, we ask that you exercise your authority to approve this assistance.”
Relief for Haitians
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced Temporary Protected Status (TPS) will be granted to more Haitian refugees and for a longer time. TPS will now remain in place at least until Aug. 23, 2024, and the program will be open to Haitian nationals living in the U.S. as of Nov. 6, 2022.
“We are providing much-needed humanitarian relief to Haitian nationals already present in the United States,” Mayorkas said. “The conditions in Haiti, including socioeconomic challenges, political instability, and gang violence and crime — aggravated by environmental disaster — compelled the humanitarian relief we are providing today.”
That’s something members of the Florida delegation have demanded for months, and they later cheered the administration’s move.
“This decision provides much-needed humanitarian relief for Haitians living in the United States while also allowing tens of thousands of undocumented Haitian nationals to live and work in the U.S. temporarily and legally,” said Miramar Democrat Cherfilus-McCormick.
The growing crisis in Haiti includes unprecedented political instability, gang violence and socioeconomic challenges. We must lead by example in the compassionate, equitable, and just treatment of all migrants, regardless of the perilous homeland they are fleeing or their demographic background. As the beacon of democracy throughout the world, we must model being good neighbors and welcoming with dignity according to the rule of law.”
Keeping children safe
A bill championed by Wasserman Schultz now heads to Biden’s desk. The House passed the PROTECT Our Children Act (S 4834) this week after the Senate already accepted the bill through unanimous consent. If signed, the bill will implement a national strategy to combat child exploitation and online sex predators.
“Our lives are increasingly intertwined with the internet, and those who would commit crimes against our children know that all too well. With the passage of the PROTECT Our Children Act, we can help make the internet a safe space for all children and guard against those seeking to exploit them,” Wasserman Schultz said. “I’m proud to have introduced this bipartisan legislation to build on the advances we have made so far since the original PROTECT Act that I authored over a decade ago. We all have a role to play in keeping our children safe.”
If signed, that will ensure the continued existence of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
Wasserman Schultz co-introduced the House version of the bill with Ohio Republican Steve Chabot, New Hampshire Democrat Ann Kuster and Pennsylvania Republican Guy Reschenthaler. Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas carried the bill in the upper chamber.
“Law enforcement officers need access to every available tool to prevent the perpetrators of online child exploitation from committing future abuse,” Cornyn said. “By providing the necessary resources to counter the pervasive threat of cybercrimes, this bill would help law enforcement respond to the alarming number of children who are targeted, and I urge the President to sign this legislation into law as soon as possible.”
No respect?
With the 2022 races wrapped up, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee already pounced at a vote by Salazar they suspect will draw fire in South Florida.
The Coral Gables Republican voted against the Respect for Marriage Act (HR 8404), despite voting for the marriage equality protecting bill in July.
“Maria Elvira Salazar’s vote change shows Floridians that she is willing to say and do anything to get elected,” DCCC spokesperson Tommy Garcia said. “Salazar’s shameless vote against the Respect for Marriage Act sends a clear message that she doesn’t believe people’s right to marry whomever they love should be protected.”
She’s not the only Florida Republican to have changed her vote. Díaz-Balart earlier this week said he would vote “no” out of concern about religious freedom protections in the Senate-passed version of the bill. It’s telling that the DCCC only sent out a release criticizing the vote from Salazar, who stands for one of Florida’s most competitive congressional districts.
Salazar cited similar reasoning when she explained switching her vote.
“I am disappointed to see the final House version of the Respect for Marriage Act did not include full protections for churches and Americans with sincerely held religious beliefs,” she said. “I voted for the first version of the bill because I believe in human dignity and respect for all individuals. However, we cannot pass laws that advance one’s interest and bypass long-held legal protections for others. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans were prevented from including vital protections for religious Americans in the version that passed, including the Rubio and Lee Amendments. We must uphold the rights of all Americans and protect our religious institutions and faith community.”
But Cammack, Giménez and Waltz, the only other Florida Republicans to support the bill when it passed the House in the summer, remained “yea” votes when the bill was passed and sent to Biden’s office to be signed.
All other Florida Republicans voted against the bill, while Democrats in the delegation all supported it.
On this day
Dec. 9, 2008 — “U.S. says Rod Blagojevich tried to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat” via the Chicago Tribune — The Illinois Governor and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested for what U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald called a “political corruption crime spree” that included attempts to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the President-elect. Blagojevich and Harris were named in a federal criminal complaint that alleged a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy aimed at providing financial benefits to the Governor, his political fund and to his wife, First Lady Patricia Blagojevich. Blagojevich was taken into federal custody by FBI agents at his North Side home.
Dec. 9, 1861 — “Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War established by Congress” via Essential Civil War Curriculum — The Joint Committee was created following the Federal disaster at Ball’s Bluff and during its four years of existence investigated a variety of war-related activities and enterprises. A small engagement near Leesburg, Virginia ended in disaster when Union forces were trapped without the proper transport to retreat across the Potomac River. The Union officer commanding, Colonel Edward Baker, was a friend of President Abraham Lincoln and was killed in the engagement, much to the shock of the congressional fraternity in the nation’s capital.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles and edited and assembled by Phil Ammann and Ryan Nicol, with contributions by Anne Geggis.

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