Delegation for 7.26.22: Shifty — terrorism — disasters — decade — money flow

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Cuba shift

Looking at Cuban policy — as Florida’s congressional delegation views it — might suggest a broad consensus on international relations.

Nevertheless, a vote in the House showed greater division among Democrats nationally.

Case in point, Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib offered an amendment this week to an appropriations bill that would have effectively ended economic sanctions on Cuba, at least regarding the importation of U.S. food to the island.

“This would help ease the food shortages in Cuba and help US agricultural producers, including many here in Michigan,” Tlaib tweeted.

A shift in Cuba policy?

The measure went down on a vote of 260-163, with every member of Florida’s House contingent voting “no.” But Florida’s 11 Democrats made up a full 20% of the 55 Democratic “nay” votes in the House. The majority of House Democrats, 162 of them, favored the legislation.

Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, a Miami Republican and staunch critic of Cuba’s communist government, gave an impassioned speech on the floor opposing Tlaib’s measure, and he expressed relief that a majority of House members shot the amendment down.

“While Marxist dictatorships have their apologists within the Democratic Majority, I am grateful for the support of colleagues on both sides of the aisle who stood with the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom today,” he said. “Because of their firm, bipartisan support, we were able to defeat an amendment that would have extended credit to the Cuban people’s oppressors.”

Still, the vote showed a marked divide in the opinions of the majority of House Democrats and those in Florida. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Gregory Meeks and House Rules Committee Chair Jim McGovern, Democrats from New York and Massachusetts, respectively, issued a joint statement urging members to vote for Tlaib’s measure, stating “Cuba faces its most devastating economic crisis in 30 years, forcing tens of thousands of Cuban people to spend hours in line waiting for food each and every day.”

That’s not to say Democratic leadership has swayed decisively for the Cuban government. Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was among those who voted “no” on Tlaib’s amendment. And while a majority of Democrats may support allowing food to go to Cuba, most also voted in favor of a House resolution last year in support of Cuban protesters opposing the communist government; Tlaib was among just 40 Democrats opposed to that measure.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic Co-Chair of Florida’s delegation, made the case from the floor that those opposed to the Cuban regime should also support sanctions.

“I want to be very practical about my opposition to this,” she said. “The reality is the amendment will not alleviate the suffering of the Cuban people. Quite the contrary, in fact, it may exacerbate their pain by simply enriching a tyrannical regime whose violence and repression keep their cruel grip on power.”

FARC-ed up

The Joe Biden administration’s decision to remove the terrorist designation for the Revolutionary Forces of Colombia, better known as FARC, drew criticism in Florida from the right and left.

Sen. Marco Rubio wants the Senate to force the group back on the notorious list.

“For decades, the Colombian people have been innocent targets of the FARC’s terrorist attacks,” Rubio said. “The Biden Administration’s decision to delist this guerrilla group as a Foreign Terrorist organization not only failed the Colombian American community but also set back our region’s security.

He introduced legislation with Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, requiring re-designation and imposing sanctions on seven individuals with ties to FARC. These include Colombian Sen. Sandra Ramirez Lobo Silva and former Colombian Sen. Piedad Córdoba.

“Since Córdoba’s ties to the FARC are well known,” Rubio said, “she can expect to be subject to U.S. sanctions if it is enacted.”

Over six decades, violent conflict between the Colombian government and FARC resulted in 220,000 deaths. FARC landed on the U.S. terrorist organizations list in 1997 and remained until late last year, in response to the Colombian government continuing peace accords negotiations with the group.

It’s a disaster

With Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in Orlando to speak to a National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives conference, Val Demings made sure area leaders got a few minutes with him.

The Orlando Democrat, Chair of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery, encouraged Mayorkas to sit down Monday for behind-closed-doors chats. with area Mayors, first response leaders and hospitality representatives, including from Orlando International Airport and Visit Orlando.

The discussion ostensibly covered some friction points local officials have with federal disaster response agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) notoriously slow reimbursements of local disaster relief expenditures. That is according to officials who spoke with the media afterward. They said the discussion covered potential disasters ranging from terrorism to hurricanes to effects of climate change.

Val Demings ensured local Mayors got face time with Homeland Security. Image via @FlaDems/Twitter.

“We talked about tourism and making sure every tourist that comes through the gates either at OIA or some other means gets here safely and they feel safe,” said Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson. “Because those 76 million people not only support Orlando, they support the little town of Apopka.”

“The Secretary: I think we asked him, I would say, tough questions,” Demings said. “They were direct about grant funding and FEMA’s responses, reimbursements, delays in reimbursements. And we reminded him of how much we needed his support and help to make sure there is no challenge we can’t meet here in Central Florida.”

10 years gone

It’s been a decade since a suspicious car crash claimed the lives of Cuban dissident leader Oswaldo Payá and associate Harold Cepero Escalante. Sen. Rick Scott marked the occasion with a call for the Biden administration to condemn Cuba’s human rights abuses.

The Senator’s Office characterized Payá’s and Escalante’s deaths as an “assassination” and called for accountability for the “illegitimate communist Cuban regime.”

The suspicious death of Oswaldo Payá still has Cuban Americans outraged — a decade later. Image via AP.

The men died after a vehicle with state government license tags rear-ended the car where they were passengers and ran it off the road. Payá was a longtime leader of the Christian Liberation Movement and worked for more than a decade for a peaceful revolution against the government led at the time by Raul Castro, according to The Washington Post.

“I join Rosa Maria Payá and the freedom-loving people of Cuba in commemorating the 10th anniversary of the ruthless murder of the Cuban dissidents and freedom fighters Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero Escalante at the hands of the evil Castro Regime,” Scott said.

“Oswaldo Payá was fearlessly dedicated to seeing freedom and democracy return to Cuba and it terrified the regime. Sadly, Oswaldo and Harold are just two of the countless lives cut short by the illegitimate communist Cuban regime. For decades, we have seen how the cowardly regime oppresses, attacks, kidnaps, tortures, jails and murders the brave people of Cuba who only ask for their God-given basic human rights. The oppression must end. The United States must lead the freedom-loving nations of the world in the defense of human rights in Cuba and Latin America.”

Scott has called for more significant U.S. intervention since anti-government protests broke out on the island last July. He also wants greater aid in ending President Miguel Díaz-Canel’s regime.

“Our fight to regain democracy and freedom in Cuba, defend human rights across the hemisphere and hold the Castro/Díaz-Canel regime accountable for its atrocious crimes against humanity remains as alive and strong as the legacy of Oswaldo Payá,” Scott said. “As we honor the lives of Oswaldo and Harold today, we are again reminded why we can’t stop fighting to see a new day of freedom, ‘Patria y Vida’ in Cuba.”

Money flow

A minibus appropriations bill (HR 8294) included more than $18.5 million in funding for community projects in North Florida. While earmarks are still controversial in the House — the bill passed in a 220-207 straight party-line vote — Tallahassee Democrat Al Lawson proudly touted the funding.

“I am elated to secure this necessary funding for residents in my district,” the Congressman said. “All of the projects included in the appropriations legislation strengthen the communities by investing in the livelihood of my constituents. I will always advocate for funding that is beneficial to the families in my area.”

Al Lawson goes with the flow. Image via @AlLawsonJr/Twitter.

The district’s community projects included several sewer expansion programs: $4 million for Gretna’s sewer, $3.9 million for septic-to-sewer conversions in Midway, and $3.5 million for a septic phase-out program in Jacksonville. Those were just some of the highest ticket items, with other funding including $3 million for a 20,000-square-foot food facility for Second Harvest of the Big Bend and $1.2 million for a teen center in Gadsden County.

Notably, most of those projects, not including the Jacksonville project, serve communities that sit on a new congressional map in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District. That means Lawson can tout projects where he voted for the funding, but Republican opponent Neal Dunn voted against it. Redistricting put the two incumbent Representatives in the same GOP-leaning district.

Nope

GOP members of the delegation are sticking to their guns in voting down the collection of community projects.

“I opposed the newest installment of Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi’s Socialist Spending Spree, which prioritized woke social spending at the expense of fiscal responsibility and will do nothing but tighten inflation’s grip on our economy,” said Rockledge Republican Bill Posey.

Clermont Republican Dan Webster argued that the current economic climate offers a particular reason for fiscal constraint, an attribute always in short supply in Washington.

Nancy Pelosi faces a fresh fusillade from delegation Republicans.

“At a time when we are experiencing the highest inflation in 40 years and Americans are struggling to pay for goods, Congress should be focusing on finding ways to cut federal spending. Instead, this out-of-control spending package would further drive inflation and prioritizes liberal initiatives that are out of touch with everyday Americans,” he said.

“Hardworking taxpayers make tough financial decisions to stay within their budget. They expect their representatives to do the same. I have supported and introduced legislation that prioritized and reduced spending. Democrats continue to reject commonsense budgeting, refuse to work with Republicans, and despite skyrocketing inflation, choose to spend recklessly. For these reasons, I must vote against this spending bill.”

He predicted the added spending by the federal government would worsen inflation rates.

Tampa bucks

Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor joined with a “yes” vote on the bill, and Tampa Bay will get dollars for its passage. That includes $5 million that should arrive soon at the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority to use for improvements at 285 different HART bus stops.

Another $3 million will go to the Skills Center Collaborative to create an employment opportunity center for low-income youth. The City of Tampa, meanwhile, will see $2 million flow there for the Hillsborough River Reservoir Dam, which Castor recently toured with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

Kathy Castor brings home the bacon. Image via @USRepKCastor/Twitter.

“My top priorities for Tampa Bay area families are lowering costs, strengthening our schools and colleges, improving our infrastructure, and boosting veterans and military families. This package tackles the most urgent challenges facing our nation, including increasing the supply of affordable housing, combating the climate crisis and caring for our heroic veterans. With our neighbors in mind, the Democratic House took another strong step today in our fight to advance health, opportunity, and security for all,” she said.

“Tampa residents are being pinched by the hot housing and rental market, and Democrats are pressing to ensure that our communities remain accessible and affordable for those who call Tampa home. With this goal in mind, we prioritized affordable housing in this package, including funds for rental assistance for over 2.3 million homes, expanded housing assistance for low-income families, more funding designated to build new affordable housing, and improvements for existing communities.”

No. 51?

For the first time, a congressional committee passed legislation allowing Puerto Rico to obtain statehood.

“Today’s the day, after 120 years,” said Darren Soto. “Our fellow Puerto Ricans back on the island who pledge allegiance to our flag, pay certain fed taxes already, and have served in our military all that time, dying for our country, for our freedom, for a country where they can’t even vote for the President of the United States, their commander in chief.”

Darren Soto cheers the advance of Puerto Rican statehood.

The Kissimmee Democrat has worked with Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl Grijalva as a co-sponsor of the legislation. The bill, if passed, would allow Puerto Rico to obtain statehood as part of the United States; it has been a territory of the U.S. since the 1898 Treaty of Paris brought a close to the Spanish-American War.

Even if signed by the President, the island would only transition to become a state following a majority vote of its residents.

Truckin’

Brian Mast says America could solve its supply side woes with big rig solutions. The Stuart Republican filed five bills last week to deregulate the trucking industry.

The bills, if passed, would allow longer and heavier semitractor-trailers, letting them grow to 33 feet and 97,000 pounds. Mast also wants to drop a 12-cent federal tax on truck chassis, which most truckers have to buy as part of startup costs, and he also wants to repeal a 24.3-cent tax on diesel fuel.

Brian Mast says big rigs are part of fixing a broken supply chain. Image via @BrianMastFL/Twitter.

Mast also aims to drop the limit on how many hours truckers can spend on the road, a regulation the Department of Transportation waived during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic without any disastrous effects.

“For almost a year, families have struggled to get the items that they need, from refrigerators to baby formula. It should not be that way in America,” Mast said. “This is the most efficient economy in the world, and only when the government gets in the way do private companies get stuck.”

He discussed the potential changes during a testy exchange with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “Today, it became clear that the administration has no plan to get America moving,” Mast said, “and so I’m introducing five bills that will force them into action to cut red tape and let truckers drive.”

More separate, less equal

The Supreme Court ruled more than 68 years ago that states could not racially segregate public schools. Yet, a new report from the Government Accountability Office shows America’s schools are growing less diverse by the year.

Frederica Wilson said it’s a problem the nation must face.

Brown v. Board of Education made it clear that segregated schools provide our students fundamentally different educational opportunities. As a lifelong educator and having personally attended segregated schools as a child, I know this to be the case because I have lived it,” the Hollywood Democrat said.

“While the report breaks my heart, it confirms what we have been hearing from educators on the ground for years. We cannot allow our public education systems to subdivide, segregate and subjugate our students because of the color of their skin. We must stand up and fight for equal funding, equal educational outcomes, and the support necessary to make sure our Black and Brown students are not being placed into a new system of separate and unequal schools that will impact their lives and that of their children for generations.”

Fredericka Wilson says America must face facts on diversity.

The report showed a significant uptick in racial and socio-economic segregation between 2000 and 2014 in K-12 schools attended by Black or Latino students. The report also found that 45% of White students in America attend schools where less than 25% of students are part of a different race or ethnicity. The same goes for 31% of Hispanic students and 23% of Black students.

“Because diversity within a school is generally linked to the racial/ethnic composition of the district, school district boundaries can contribute to continued divisions along racial/ethnic lines,” the report reads. “For example, about 13,500 predominantly same-race/ethnicity schools (about 14% of all public K-12 schools) are located within 10 miles of a predominantly same-race/ethnicity school of a different race/ethnicity; of these schools, 90% have a different same race/ethnicity pair in a different school district.”

In response to the data, Wilson filed two pieces of legislation to encourage more diversity within schools. The Strength in Diversity Act would provide school districts with resources for integrating schools. The Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act would allow parents, students, and outside groups to sue school districts and bring racial disparity claims under the Civil Rights Act.

On this day

July 26, 1775 — “U.S. Postal Service created” via History.com — Benjamin Franklin, as the first U.S. postmaster general, put in place the foundation for many aspects of today’s mail system. In 1753, Franklin, who had been postmaster of Philadelphia, became one of two joint postmasters general for the colonies. In 1774, the British fired Franklin from his postmaster job because of his revolutionary activities. However, the following year, he was appointed postmaster general by the Continental Congress. Franklin held the job until late 1776, when he was sent to France as a diplomat. He left a vastly improved mail system, with routes from Florida to Maine and regular service between the colonies and Britain.

July 26, 2017 — “Donald Trump to reinstate military ban on transgender people” via CNN — Trump announced Wednesday he plans to reinstate a ban on transgender individuals from serving “in any capacity” in the U.S. armed forces. The decision reversed a policy initially approved by the Defense Department under President Barack Obama, which was still under final review, to allow transgender individuals to serve in the military openly. Defense Secretary James Mattis previously announced he was delaying the plan’s enactment to begin allowing transgender individuals to join the U.S. military. “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve,” Trump tweeted.

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Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, edited and assembled by Phil Ammann and Ryan Nicol, with contributions by Scott Powers.

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