President Joe Biden released a proposed $5.8 trillion budget for the coming fiscal year.
The document contains billions in spending that could reach Florida in critical areas of need. But while a President can release a budget proposal, it’s Congress that holds the purse strings for the federal government.
Within the delegation, members spotlighted various important priorities for the state. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic co-chair of the Florida congressional delegation and member of the House Appropriations Committee, immediately cheered the inclusion of dollars for the Everglades.
“President Biden’s budget request builds on his historic support for Everglades restoration with another all-time high funding appeal of $407 million, or $57 million more than last year’s record request,” she said. “Paired with the $1.1 billion already on our way from the infrastructure law, this level of commitment is unparalleled, and I’m eager to work with my Appropriations colleagues to make more Everglades funding history with President Biden clearly at our side.”
Among Republicans representing Florida, the most attention went toward a contentious plan to raise taxes on the rich by $361 billion over 10 years. While the administration asserts tax hikes will only impact the top 0.01% of households, fiscal conservatives in the delegation warned the impacts could be felt more deeply by the American people.
“Thanks to President Biden and Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi’s reckless tax-and-spending agenda, American families are paying an additional $3,500 a year due to record-high levels of inflation we haven’t seen since the Jimmy Carter days,” said Rep. Vern Buchanan, the Republican co-chair of the delegation and a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. “And yet, the President just unveiled his new budget proposal that seeks to spend an additional $73 trillion over the next 10 years ($8 trillion above what the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted) and impose $58 trillion in taxes on American families and small businesses.
“President Biden is not living in reality if he thinks this plan will do anything to bring down inflation and actually help get our country back on track. We need to restore fiscal sanity in Washington, and that doesn’t start with higher taxes and more spending.”
But individual members dug in and found ways Florida would benefit under the plan if passed as is. Rep. Lois Frankel said the budget showed Biden is “committed to building a better America.”
“I am especially excited by his inclusion of billions of dollars to make high quality, affordable child care more accessible, historic investments to create a more gender-equitable world, hundreds of millions for Everglades Restoration to protect Florida’s drinking water and unprecedented funding to support our veterans, and I look forward to working with the Biden-(Kamala) Harris administration to include these funding priorities,” the West Palm Beach Democrat said.
Forgive & forget?
A rash of complaints from businesses that didn’t have Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans forgiven has Sen. Marco Rubio fuming.
The Miami Republican, a chief architect of the pandemic-era PPP program, sent a letter to Small Business Administration Administrator Isabella Guzman seeking answers.
“As you know, PPP was a historic and bipartisan program that helped small businesses and nonprofits survive the COVID-19 pandemic,” he wrote. “It was based on the simple idea that eligible small businesses and nonprofits could take out emergency loans, and then receive loan forgiveness to the extent they spent the proceeds on essential costs, including payroll and rent. This structure helped millions of small businesses not only survive the pandemic but keep their employees working.”
But he pointed to a report in the Miami Herald indicating many businesses, particularly in majority-minority communities, struggled to have loans forgiven.
“Of further concern, the most recent data available shows that businesses in ZIP codes that are majority Black or Hispanic, including in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Osceola counties in Florida, had some of the lowest 2020 PPP loan forgiveness rates in the country,” Rubio wrote. “For an administration that has pledged to make racial equity a central plank of its agenda, these numbers suggest a remarkable lack of responsiveness to underserved communities.
“These delays have left deserving small-business owners under a cloud of ambiguity or saddled with looming debt payments that they simply cannot afford. This is unacceptable. I call on your agency to do its job and ensure that every PPP loan recipient that is eligible and wishes to apply for loan forgiveness receives it without delay.”
Title 42 stays?
Sen. Rick Scott may have little use for COVID-19 restrictions in the U.S., but he still wants them at the Mexican border. He led a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas regarding reports Biden will soon rescind Title 42. That’s a policy put in place by former President Donald Trump in March 2020 limiting asylum for refugees based on concerns about spreading the coronavirus.
“We understand that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is potentially planning to lift its Title 42 public health policy that enabled the immediate expulsion of immigrants caught illegally entering the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter reads.
“This policy served as an effective deterrent to illegal border crossings by removing the prospect of an illegal alien being permitted to remain in and move freely throughout the United States pending the outcome of immigration proceedings. With this news, there are reports that thousands of migrants are waiting just south of the border in Mexico to cross illegally. Obviously, this is a grave concern that threatens to overwhelm our already strained immigration system and will only exacerbate a disastrous situation at our southern border.”
Thirteen other Republican Senators signed the letter. It goes on to demand details on plans to secure the border in a post-Title 42 world and predicts a surge in illegal crossings.
“The Department should be focused on securing our borders, enforcing all immigration laws and providing all necessary resources to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain and remove all who violate our laws. Ensuring our front-line immigration officers have ample resources to secure the southern border is of critical importance — especially if Title 42 is potentially lifted.”
On the other hand …
At the same time, Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick issued a fresh call to rescind Title 42. She said the policy has negatively impacted not only migrants crossing the southwestern border, but Haitian immigrants located in Florida.
The Miramar Democrat visited the Broward Transitional Center last week with other elected leaders in South Florida.
“I am often asked why anyone would risk their lives to get on a wooden boat, travel for days on sea, sometimes with newborn babies, and the possibility of drowning to death while on a journey to a foreign land where they often don’t speak the language or know anyone?” the Congresswoman said.
“Well, let me tell you what they told me while visiting the detention center where they are being caged — they are left with no alternatives. Many of these migrants are seeking refuge and cannot return to their native country due to fear of persecution, immense violence, and anarchy. It is illegal and unconscionable to repatriate Haitian nationals under these circumstances.”
She continued a persistent criticism of the Biden administration from the left she has leveled since her election in January and said it’s actually a violation of asylum law and U.S. treaties to block refugees or to deport them back to home nationals where their lives are in peril. Yet more than 210 filled plane flights have shipped Haitian nationals back to an island at a time of violent unrest.
“I am calling for the Biden administration to invite families to apply for the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program,” she said.
“I also demand that the Biden administration also enforce the Immigration Naturalization Act provisions and provide Humanitarian Parole to Haitian nationals at the U.S.-Mexico border. We must live up to the ideals of this nation by treating all migrants with dignity and in accordance with the rule of law.”
Citing both Russia’s war in Ukraine and its support for regimes in Venezuela and Cuba, Florida’s Democratic delegation members repeated calls for Gov. Ron DeSantis to pull Florida’s investments out of Russian assets.
“Now is the time for Florida to take decisive action and respond to Russia’s unprovoked attacks on the people of Ukraine,” the letter reads. The letter was led by St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist, who’s running against DeSantis in the 2024 gubernatorial election, and Weston Democrat Wasserman Schultz.
A month into the war, DeSantis has not responded to prior pleas, including from Crist, Agriculture Commissioner and fellow gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried, and other Democrats to divest Florida from Russian assets. The Governor has kept the Russian war on Ukraine at arm’s length. His staff has argued that there is little reason for a Florida Governor to get involved in foreign affairs that do not affect Florida.
Some Republicans, including Rubio and Scott, have also called for strong responses to Russia. That includes Scott’s own call for divestiture.
The Democrats’ latest letter characterizes DeSantis’ ongoing inaction as “refusing to divest from Russian-owned assets and companies.”
Republicans in the delegation this week made noise about silencers and Americans’ right to build their own.
More than 150 House members sent a letter to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Active Director Marvin Richardson condemning the Biden administration’s “continued assault on Americans’ Second Amendment rights.”
“I cannot sit by silently as the Biden administration continually attempts to erode the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens,” said Palm Harbor Republican Gus Bilirakis and a co-signatory. “We must never allow radical, liberal bureaucrats to legislate through agency rule. Rest assured, I will always fiercely defend the Second Amendment along with our other civil liberties.”
Other delegation members on the letter included Kat Cammack, Scott Franklin, Matt Gaetz, Brian Mast, Bill Posey, Greg Steube and Daniel Webster.
The letter said ATF has tried to expand the definition of a silencer beyond the current scope of its authority. He said the agency has started denying requests from law-abiding citizens paying a $200 fee and being licensed to construct homemade silencers. From there, agents then inform applicants they have violated the law if they already assembled the materials, even otherwise non-firearm-related items like flashlight tubes and fuel filters.
“Because of the ATF’s actions, these law-abiding citizens are now concerned that they could be in violation of a law that carries punishments of up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines,” the letter reads.
Eye on Iran
A new nuclear treaty with Iran could call for the nation’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to fall off the U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organization list. But Lakeland Republican Scott Franklin wants to see the distinction remain. He led a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging against giving the group any glean of credibility.
“The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world today,” Franklin said. “Through its sponsorship of terrorism, the IRGC is responsible for the deaths of countless innocent people and at least 600 U.S. troops. It has consistently sought the destruction of our partners and allies in the region, most notably Israel, and has been an obstacle to peace in the Middle East for decades. The Biden administration simply cannot reward this terrorist regime with any sort of legitimacy from the U.S. government.”
A total of 86 House members co-signed, all Republicans. The list included delegation members Bilirakis, Buchanan, Posey, María Elvira Salazar, Steube and Michael Waltz.
“It is critical that we stand by our allies and partner nations and ensure that the IRGC is not given the benefit of removal of sanctions by delisting them as an FTO,” the letter states.
“This would reward them with greater freedom to increase their malign activities. Additionally, delisting the IRGC as an FTO would significantly bolster their financial resources. Many foreign companies abstain from conducting transactions with the IRGC to gain access to the U.S. market but would no longer be subject to such restrictions.”
A fundraiser at Buchanan’s Longboat Key estate raised $1.2 million for Republican efforts to retake the House.
An overflow crowd attended the Saturday event, which raised dollars for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). The amount raised surpassed a goal of $1 million announced in advance.
The overperformance comes as Buchanan vies to chair the influential Ways and Means Committee. With Texas Republican Kevin Brady, the current ranking member of the panel, retiring at the end of his term, Buchanan will be the most senior GOP member of the most powerful committee in Congress.
But he’s only in contention to lead the committee if Republicans can control a majority of seats in the next Congress following the midterms. The success of the Saturday fundraiser left Buchanan as confident as ever that it will happen.
“We all have one collective goal,” Buchanan said, “and that is to fire Nancy Pelosi.”
Also in attendance at the event was House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who likely will replace Pelosi as Speaker if Republicans find success this November. With Biden suffering in the polls amid inflation and international unrest, McCarthy sees an opportunity in the fall.
“We’ve got five seats away from the majority,” McCarthy told attendees. “I’ve never seen the climate in a better place for Republicans.”
Buchanan and McCarthy were both first elected to the House in 2006, and Buchanan called the prospective Speaker a “visionary leader.” McCarthy, in turn, described Buchanan to partygoers in glowing terms.
“There’s one person who knows business better than everybody else,” McCarthy said. “So, when somebody talks about what would happen if you change the tax code and what it would take to create a job, this (Buchanan) is a guy who does it every single day.”
More bluntly, McCarthy when asked about the likelihood of Buchanan chairing Ways and Means said the gavel was “his to lose,” though he noted the GOP steering committee in the House will hold the final say.
Minnesota Republican Tom Emmer, chair of the NRCC, also attended the Longboat Key event. He said this election cycle offers a chance to diversify the House GOP.
“We have more female and Hispanic Republicans seeking office than ever before,” he said.
Undoing an inquiry
Steube said the U.S. shouldn’t stand for anti-Israel efforts being structured into United Nations business. He filed bipartisan legislation this week to abolish the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including inquiries on East Jerusalem and Israel.
“The ongoing anti-Israel commission formed by the U.N.’s discredited Human Rights Council directly obstructs peace in the Middle East and intentionally targets the only democracy in the region,” the Sarasota Republican said. “Our U.S. tax dollars have no place funding an anti-Israel commission. This legislation will abolish the commission while addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council’s anti-Israel bias. The U.S. must always stand strongly with our ally, Israel.”
Texas Democrat Vicente Gonzalez and South Carolina Republican Joe Wilson co-introduced the COI Elimination Act (HR 7223).
“Israel is a long-standing ally of the United States, and it is imperative that we continue to speak out against the Commission of Inquiry’s unfair and one-sided bias,” Gonzalez said. “By abolishing the Commission of Inquiry, we will take a stand to prevent anti-Israel rhetoric in international forums and support Israel and its people.”
Mast says a case against two Marines accused of manslaughter needs to be dropped.
In a letter to Marine Corps Major Gen. James Glynn, the Stuart Republican argues the charges against Marine Gunnery Sergeant Daniel Draher, Marine Gunnery Sergeant Joshua Negron and Navy Hospitalman Chief Petty Officer Eric Gilmet were politically motivated.
Notably, a military judge in February dismissed charges against Gilmet after ruling Col. Christopher Shaw, former deputy director of Community Management and Oversight of the Judge Advocate Division at Headquarters Marine Corps, had threatened an attorney representing him. Mast wants the same outcome for Glynn and Draher.
“I am confident that Major General Glynn will see this for exactly what it is — a concerted effort by his predecessor to demonstrate his commitment to good order and discipline in the aftermath of several high-profile episodes regarding misconduct in the ranks,” Mast said. “Gunnery Sergeants Draher and Negron are unfortunately being used as scapegoats in that effort.”
Mast said he has reviewed video of the Jan. 1, 2019, incident in a Kurdistan bar in which a fight broke out between Gilmet and a U.S. contractor. Knocked unconscious, the soldiers took the contractor back to base, then transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany where he died.
Mast notes Draher in the video of the bar conflict appeared to try and de-escalate the conflict before he and Negron resisted physical attacks in self-defense.
Months later, the three soldiers were charged with manslaughter and now face 22 years in a military brig.
With algal blooms impacting Florida’s coastal community with regularity — occasionally at devastating levels — Byron Donalds wants the microorganisms recognized as natural disasters. The Naples Republican filed bipartisan legislation (HR 7206) to include such events to the applicability of Major Disaster Declarations to preserve vital marine ecosystems.
“Water is Florida’s most important natural resource and serves as the heart and soul of Southwest Florida,” Donalds said. “I’m committed to advancing bipartisan policies that promote the preservation of our waterways against potential long-term damage resulting from harmful algal blooms. This bill gives state and local leaders the opportunity to request federal funding to protect their waterways for future generations to come. I’m thankful for my colleagues’ support in this effort to protect our nation’s marine ecosystems.”
Eight members of the delegation joined as co-sponsors, including Republicans Bilirakis, Mario Díaz-Balart, Franklin, Carlos Giménez, Mast and Posey and Democrats Kathy Castor and Al Lawson.
“Harmful algal blooms not only pose a serious threat to the health of many of our nation’s estuaries, like the Indian River Lagoon but are also dangerous to the economies and communities along their shores,” said Posey, also the founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Estuary Caucus. “This important legislation will help give states and local governments more tools to fight and mitigate their effects.”
Mast suggested the least Washington can do is recognize blooms as disasters.
“Coastal communities in Florida have suffered for decades as a result of the massive toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee by the Army Corps,” Mast said. “The federal government has played a huge role in causing this public health crisis, but they aren’t taking responsibility for their actions. This bill would give the state of Florida and local governments another tool to recoup costs from the federal government for the damage they are causing.”
Bipartisan members of the delegation pushed for the Biden administration to redesignate temporary protected status (TPS) for those fleeing from Venezuela.
Hialeah Republican Díaz-Balart, Kissimmee Democrat Darren Soto and Wasserman Schultz penned a letter to Mayorkas pressing the issue.
“Political instability caused by (Nicolás) Maduro’s authoritarian regime has led to massive food and medicine shortages, 94% of the population living in poverty, 60% of the population is suffering from food insecurity and the country’s economy is crippled,” the letter reads. “Venezuela’s economy has contracted by more than 74% since 2014 which is more than twice the magnitude of the Great Depression in the United States. Venezuela has also experienced some of the highest homicide and crime victimization rates in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
Another 13 members of the delegation co-signed the letter, including Democrats Castor, Cherfilus-McCormick, Crist, Demings, Frankel, Lawson, Stephanie Murphy and Frederica Wilson and Republicans Giménez, Salazar and Waltz.
“Given the grave conditions in Venezuela, and within all applicable rules and regulations, we strongly urge your full and fair consideration of an extension and re-designation of Venezuela for TPS,” the letter states. “We also ask that you move the required arrival date forward to December 31, 2021, to continue to provide safety and support to Venezuelans fleeing the political, economic, and humanitarian crisis currently plaguing their home.”
What, me worry?
Wasserman Schultz is a target of Trump’s lawsuit against former Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton regarding the 2016 election.
The suit has been roundly panned and skewered on late-night comedy show routines since it debuted last week. But if it doesn’t matter what they say about you, only that they say it, Wasserman Schultz is golden. She scores top billing among the list of defendants who became household names during the Robert Mueller investigation.
Wasserman Schultz is listed just three names after the former First Lady, if you don’t count named entities — on the same list as John Podesta, former White House Chief of Staff, and former FBI Director James Comey.
She gets mentioned 14 times in the 108-page lawsuit, including a verbatim account of an appearance on MSNBC in which she “boldly” announced “clear” indications Trump colluded with Russia.
“You know, what’s so disturbing is that Donald Trump is so lacking in confidence about his ability to get elected without the help of a foreign power and particularly a foreign adversary, that they will go to any lengths and he will instruct and allow his colleagues and allies to go to any lengths to be able to secure his success in an election,” Wasserman Schultz is quoted as saying.
On this day
March 29, 2017 — “Ivanka Trump, shifting plans, will become a federal employee” via The New York Times — The elder daughter of Trump is becoming an official government employee, joining her husband, Jared Kushner, in serving as an unpaid adviser to her father in the White House. The announcement amounts to the formal recognition of the value Trump places on the judgment and loyalty of both his daughter and his son-in-law. While relying on family members for advice is hardly unusual for a president, giving them a formal role has few precedents.
March 29, 1929 — “Herbert Hoover has telephone installed in Oval Office” via History.com — President Hoover had a phone installed at his desk in the White House. It took a while to get the line to Hoover’s desk working correctly and the President complained to aides when his son was unable to get through on the Oval Office phone from an outside line. Previously, Hoover had used a phone located in the foyer just outside the office. Telephones and a telephone switchboard had been in use at the White House since 1878 when President Rutherford B. Hayes had the first one installed.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, with contributions by Anne Geggis and Scott Powers.
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