Delegation for 8.30.22: Race watch — moon shot — savings — addiction — pay up

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As Florida officially enters the 2022 General Election cycle, it’s becoming increasingly clear which congressional contests will serve as the front lines.

Putting aside (for now) the clear headlining contest between incumbent GOP Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic challenger Rep. Val Demings, there are a half dozen standout districts emerging as battlegrounds in significant ways.

One quantifiable measurement came with the closing of voter registration books ahead of the Aug. 23 Primary.

Florida’s 15th Congressional District is showing the smallest gap between registered Republicans and Democrats. Republican Laurel Lee and Democrat Alan Cohn just won Primary Elections last week, both victors in their respective five-candidate fields.

Alan Cohn and Laurel Lee face off in CD 15, one of the most competitive congressional seats in 2022.

Lee won 22,481 votes and Cohn took 14,928, suggesting a substantial enthusiasm gap in this Midterm cycle. But a variety of trendlines hint that CD 15 could be competitive for some time.

Not far behind (numbers-wise) is Florida’s 2nd Congressional District, a showdown between incumbents — Democrat Al Lawson and Republican Neal Dunn.

While the GOP holds a roughly 3,700-voter edge in CD 2, this race may still be more competitive than expected, despite Gov. Ron DeSantis’ map dismantling Lawson’s minority access district.

But Rep. María Elvira Salazar, a Miami Republican, holds the distinction of being the Florida incumbent on most prognosticators’ lists of seats at risk. Sabato’s Crystal Ball has just three Florida seats listed as competitive, all of them still in the Likely Republican column, and Florida’s 27th Congressional District sits among those.

Cook Political Report lists four competitive seats in Florida, but again, only Salazar’s race has an incumbent.

There’s disagreement whether Florida’s 7th Congressional District will host much of a fight this year. Cook lists CD 7 in its “Likely Republican” column of competitive contests; Sabato doesn’t bother, and simply puts the race on the list of safe Republican flips from blue to red.

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy didn’t seek re-election this year and Republican Cory Mills will face Democrat Karen Green for the seat.

Registration books suggest Rep. Carlos Giménez, should be in a competitive race with Democrat Robert Asencio. But the Miami Republican flipped the seat Republican in 2020. Donald Trump won the redrawn Florida’s 28th Congressional District by 6 points, so it seems to avoid any notice in this potentially blood-red year.

Through Aug. 3, Giménez raised upward of $1.8 million for re-election and Asencio pulled in less than $30,000; that could help explain why Giménez escapes the notice of national election observers while Salazar — a close ally — lands on every list.

Then there’s Florida’s 4th Congressional District, the replacement (of sorts) for Lawson’s old seat. Republicans enjoy an edge of 12,500 votes, about 2.3% of the electorate there, though voters in 2020 went for Trump in CD 4 by a larger margin.

Republicans hold a significant registration edge of more than 34,000 registered voters in Florida’s 13th Congressional District. That’s a seat being vacated by Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist as he runs for Governor, and most national observers still see the contest as competitive.

Both Cook and Sabato keep CD 13 on their battleground roundups, albeit still in the Likely Republican column, so expect attention on the race between Republican Anna Paulina Luna and Democrat Eric Lynn.

To the moon

It’s not often the voice of a Democratic President narrates a video from Rubio’s office.

But for the upcoming Artemis moon mission, the Republican Senator released a celebration of the most famous moon mission — using the voice of President John F. Kennedy in the background.

It was the famous “We choose to go to the moon” speech, given at Rice University in 1962, which is credited with galvanizing support for U.S. investment in space.

“Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain?” Kennedy asked. Rubio’s video notably cuts away before one of the most famed phrases — “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard” — and instead, cutting directly to footage of Neil Armstrong take the famed “one small step” onto the moon’s surface.

Kennedy did not live to see that moment, which occurred in 1969 under Republican President Richard Nixon, but the speech would be remembered by history as the driving force behind public support for the moon mission years later.

The video closes with a title card saying: “The United States is going back to the moon.”

Meanwhile, the Senator issued a news release for the video that painted the mission for Artemis in 21st-century national security terms.

“We cannot forget that the moment the U.S. falls from power — the moment the (Chinese Communist Party) achieves global hegemony — is the moment totalitarianism and imperialism retake center stage in international politics,” Rubio said.

He notes the geostrategic benefits of mineral extraction, satellite communication and advanced weapon deployment and paints a picture of a new space race with China.

“We must continue to pursue American greatness, in space and here on Earth, for our sake and the world’s,” he said. “May that be a challenge that, in Kennedy’s words, ‘we are willing to accept, unwilling to postpone and … intend to win.’”

All of this, of note, was tied to the expected Monday launch of Artemis I, but inclement weather put off the first U.S. unmanned trip to the moon in decades. NASA rescheduled the launch from Cape Canaveral for Friday.

To watch the video, please click on the image below:

No China dollars

As Florida Governor, Sen. Rick Scott generously employed tax incentives to attract job investment — but now voted against the CHIPS and Science Act, which directs incentives for microchip manufacturing.

Scott said it because of his concern the dollars would benefit money outsourcing work to China. He is calling for the Inspector General to make sure that doesn’t happen.

In a letter to Commerce Department Inspector General Peggy Gustafson, Scott asked that all federal dollars going to the communist regime be stopped.

“Let’s be clear about what this law authorizes: billions in American taxpayer dollars will be used to prop up and facilitate investments for profitable, multibillion-dollar companies. It is imperative that your office guarantees rules are followed and companies do not take taxpayer money without maximum oversight,” he wrote.

“In March of this year, I questioned Intel CEO Patrick Gelsinger during a hearing in the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on how the government funds in the CHIPS and Science Act would provide a monetary return to hardworking American taxpayers. Regrettably, he was unable to directly answer my questions, and my office never received written analysis as to how grants to companies, like Intel, would achieve a real return. This is not how we, as the fiduciaries of the American taxpayer, should operate.”

Super saver

A new report from Demings’ office suggests families in Central Florida will net savings through reduced health care costs because of the Inflation Reduction Act.

She published two reports prepared by staff for the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, one focused on Medicare and the other on individual constituent savings. It found a family of four in her district will likely save more than $2,800 on premiums thanks to the new law, when premiums were expected to jump 71%. For a single parent with a child and a $30,000 income, there could be $1,260 in savings, while a pair of seniors making $70,000 or less will save $18,420.

The Medicare-focused report suggests that 1.4 million beneficiaries nationwide would see drug costs go down on average by $2,000 a year. About 3,000 beneficiaries live in Demings’ congressional district, she said.

Val Demings insists the Inflation Reduction Act will save Central Florida on health care.

“I’m proud to have been a part of the work leading up to this moment, including prior legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate down the cost of prescription drugs and lower the cost of health care for all Floridians. I’m proud that we beat the pharmaceutical company lobbyists and corporate Republicans in Congress to pass this bill and put Florida families first.”

Tallahassee Democrat Lawson also publicized the data in the reports.

“For far too long, big corporations have forced many Americans to choose between paying for health care — including lifesaving medication and insurance coverage — and putting food on the table. With the Inflation Reduction Act now the law of the land, Democrats in Congress have taken bold steps to rein in out-of-control health care costs,” Lawson said. “I’m proud to have voted for this transformational legislation to lower health care costs for families across my district.”

Processing addiction

Is the government spending too much fighting the opioid epidemic? Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz suggested on his latest Firebrand podcast episode it’s worth looking into.

Speaking at length about federal funding on drug abuse with correspondent Chris Cella, Gaetz suggested rehab may be a racket.

“When you look at some of these rehab centers in Florida, they are cash machines,” Gaetz said. “And then they have the ability to go hire the lobbyists, to be able to go influence the policies, so no matter where somebody is trapped, whether they are trapped in detox, in rehab, in 12 step, you know, relapse, no matter where you are trapped, they’re getting paid off of the grift one way or the other.”

Rehab is a racket, says Matt Gaetz.

Cella said good things like paying for Narcan for paramedics has been a positive from federal involvement but suggested local governments may be better able to tackle problems than any national solution.

Gaetz went further and said the availability of massive government funding for fighting rehab begot an industry reliant people staying addicted.

“They could be doing more harm than good,” he said. “When rehab was something you only got at church, or that you only got through a sincere nonprofit that was not motivated by cash and profits and who their ultimate acquisition would be at some point, but were really motivated by helping people, you might have had less access to those programs but I’m willing to bet they had a higher success rate helping people out of addiction than these addict processing centers.”

Flood of funding

Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy announced more than a million will soon flow to Sanford to cut the possibility of unsafe flooding.

“Stormwater surges in Central Florida threaten critical infrastructure and resident safety,” Murphy tweeted. “That’s why the House just passed my $1.1 million community project to help manage and reduce stormwater floods in the Georgetown Community.”

Stephanie Murphy touts a wave of Sanford flood money.

The funding will go to the city of Sanford to use generally for the management and reduction of stormwater floods. The funding comes by way of a community funding project sponsored by Murphy and approved in Congress. It’s one of many environmental and water projects the Congresswoman has focused on this Congress and during her time in Washington.

One year later

A year after a suicide bomber killed 13 service members in Afghanistan, Hialeah Republican Mario Díaz-Balart issued a statement laying full blame for the incident on the Biden administration.

“President Biden’s abrupt withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the administration’s lack of planning to protect Americans and our allies, had disastrous consequences,” Díaz-Balart said. “Leaving Afghanistan at the hands of the Taliban and surrendering billions in taxpayer-funded weapons and other military equipment to the enemy has endangered our national security and cost the lives of hundreds, including 13 U.S. Marines.”

Mario Diaz-Balart slams Joe Biden for a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Of note, Biden followed a timeline negotiated with Afghan leaders under President Donald Trump, but drew wide condemnation for a botched job in the execution, with the lowlight being the Aug. 26 deadly bombing at Hamid Karzai International Airport.

“One year after this disgraceful withdrawal, our nation continues to mourn the 13 brave servicemen and women who paid the ultimate price as a result of President Biden’s failed Afghanistan withdrawal. The U.S. Congress has yet to receive a full explanation as to that catastrophic retreat, including how many Americans and allies were left behind, why so many Americans and allies were left behind, the vetting process for those brought to the U.S., what plans are underway to safely rescue those still trapped in Afghanistan, whether the administration plans to destroy or recover materiel abandoned to the Taliban, and who will be held accountable for this debacle. We must get answers to ensure that these mistakes are never repeated and so that our national security interests are preserved.”

No red lines

St. Augustine Beach Republican Mike Waltz and Stuart Republican Brian Mast, both war on terror veterans, also barreled into Biden on the anniversary of service members’ deaths and of bodies arriving back home.

Mast called it “the most f-ed up military operation that I have ever witnessed. Waltz complained there had been “nothing, zip, zilch in terms of accountability” for the issue. “I’ve seen privates fired for far less than what happened at the Kabul airport.”

Both appeared in a video released by the Republican National Committee hammering Biden. Waltz spotlighted a moment when Biden appeared impatient and anxious to leave.

“I’ve dealt with Gold Star families my entire career and there is always a level of grief that just breaks your heart,” Waltz said. “But with these families, it is grief on top of seething anger. I think the video of Joe Biden just checking his watch says it all.”

Mast suggested there are also significant long-term consequences on the world stage.

“We have a White House that has zero red lines,” he said. “The world starts to burn when the world leader has no red lines, and that’s the situation we are in right now.”

Waltz said that makes it more frustrated Biden has called the overall withdrawal a success. “The thing that is so frustrating that pisses me off the most is that the suicide bomber that killed our 13 Marines and soldiers” had been recently released from U.S. custody.

To watch the video, please click on the image below:

Pay up Peru

A bipartisan group of lawmakers says it’s far past time for Peru to honor its obligations — for the sake of Florida first responders.

In Florida, the bonds in question are part of pension plans for 50,000 police officers, firefighters, port workers and public employees in cities such as Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Hialeah and North Miami Beach.

Issued initially more than 50 years ago, these bonds — issued by the Republic of Peru — were for municipal worker and trade union pension funds invested in agrarian reform bonds. But in the ensuing years, these bonds have become tantamount to fraud. Peru has not only failed to pay its obligated debt on these land bonds but has also defrauded its government to avoid repayment.

It’s time for Peru to pay up.

Initially, the late Alcee Hastings, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, led the effort to compel Peru to honor this debt. In 2019, he worked with a bipartisan group of U.S. House members from Florida to encourage the Secretary of State to demand Peru honor its debt to a large number of first responders and public employees. The effort largely went on hold during the pandemic, but several Florida delegation members supported a resolution reigniting the issue. The resolution secured 119 co-sponsors, including several members of the Florida delegation: Republicans Bill Posey, Mast, Gus Bilirakis and Salazar, as well as Democrats Demings, Crist, Lois Frankel and Murphy.

On this day

Aug. 30, 1983 — “Guion S. Bluford becomes the first African American to travel to space” via History.com — U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Bluford was aboard the Challenger when it lifted off on its third mission. It was the first night launch of a space shuttle, and many people stayed up late to watch the spacecraft roar up from Cape Canaveral at 2:32 a.m. The Challenger spent six days in space, during which time Bluford and his four fellow crew members launched a communications satellite for the government of India, contacted an errant communications satellite, conducted scientific experiments, and tested the shuttle’s robotic arm.

Aug. 30, 1890 — “Benjamin Harrison signs law requiring meet inspection” via the U.S. Department of Agriculture — Exports of U.S. livestock, as well as animal products, fell under increasingly more stringent restrictions by foreign countries. U.S. producers and packers urged the government to implement an inspection program that would enable them to compete in foreign markets. President Harrison signed a law that required the USDA, through the Bureau of Animal Industry, to inspect salted pork and bacon intended for exportation. In 1891, this law was amended to require the inspection and certification of all live cattle and beef intended for exportation.

Happy birthday

Best wishes to Rep. John Rutherford, who turns 70 on Friday, Sept. 2.

Labor Day

Delegation will take off the coming holiday weekend. The next edition will be on Sept. 9.

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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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