Trump tweet unifies Dems
Trump rocked the Sunday morning news cycle with a tweet aimed at the four most outspoken liberal members of the Democratic caucus known as “The Squad.” The targets of the missive were Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
In a series of tweets, President Donald Trump urged the four to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”
Omar, a naturalized citizen from Somalia, is the only foreign-born member of the four. Ocasio-Cortez has Puerto Rican ancestry, while Pressley, an African American, was born in Chicago.
Tlaib, a Palestinian-American born in Michigan, responded by repeating a famous quote from earlier this year, telling a group in Michigan “We’re going to impeach the MF’er, don’t worry.”
The outrage over Trump’s tweet poured in from around the country, including from within the delegation.
“President Donald Trump proves virtually every day that he is totally unfit for the office he holds,” tweeted Orlando Democrat Val Demings.” I am ashamed to see an American president tell Members of Congress to “go back” to their countries. This is what racism and ignorance look like.”
Kissimmee Democrat Darren Soto reiterated in a tweet that America is “a nation of immigrants” and “Pres. Trump’s hateful words cannot alter this fundamental & noble truth.”
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham was one of just a few Republicans weighing in. Graham urged Trump to “knock it down a notch” and concentrate on their policies and refrain from personal attacks.
Sen. Rick Scott said Trump’s approach was “clearly not the way I would do it, but let’s remember the position that these Democrats have taken. They’ve become the anti-Semitic party now, and so that’s wrong.”
Other Republicans said, in effect, it was just a matter of Trump being Trump. Marc Short, Chief of Staff to Vice President Mike Pence, said: “I don’t think that our president’s intent in any way is racist.”
While most Republicans are not speaking out to the media, there is angst about not only the content of the tweets but the timing. With Pelosi openly feuding with the four, Trump has now allowed Pelosi and House leadership to rally around them.
The intraparty rift occurred, ironically, when Pelosi called out the young Democrats for their tweets. One by Ocasio-Cortez called out Pelosi for “singling out” women of color for criticism.
Holocaust education bill filed
Last week a Palm Beach County school principal was reassigned after a report emerged that he expressed doubts to parent the Holocaust occurred. Later in the week, Sen. Marco Rubio and three bipartisan colleagues introduced a bill that would fund education efforts in public education to teach the history of the Holocaust.
The Never Again Education Act would establish a dedicated federal fund to provide teachers with resources and training necessary to teach students the important lessons of the Holocaust. Joining Rubio in filing the bill is fellow Republican Kevin Cramer of North Dakota along with Democrats Jacky Rosen of Nevada and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
“The Holocaust is humanity’s darkest hour, and we must never forget the stain it has left on history,” Rubio said in a joint release. “Incredibly, there are still some who deny the existence of the mass murder of 6 million Jewish people or, even worse, wrongly manipulate the horrors of the Holocaust to score cheap political points in today’s partisan climate.
“It is our duty to ensure that future generations know the history of the Holocaust in its entirety, so that the millions of innocent lives lost will never be forgotten and that the evils of anti-Semitism will never be repeated,” he added.
The funding could cover training for educators, textbooks, transportation for survivors to be brought to a school, and certain other educational materials that present historically accurate information about the atrocities of the Holocaust. The bill also directs experts at the Department of Education to work with trained Holocaust educators on regional workshops to help teachers incorporate the sensitive subject of the Holocaust into their classrooms.
The legislation is the Senate companion to a House bill filed in January by New York Democrat Carolyn Maloney. The Maloney bill has 209 co-sponsors.
Peace Corps in China
Last week, Sen. Scott met with Peace Corps Director Dr. Judy Olsen. While the agenda consisted of multiple issues, the Corps’ presence in China was at the top of Scott’s list.
When asked if the Peace Corps would end its programs in China, Scott said Olsen “refused.” Following the meeting, Scott issued a statement blasting the organization’s presence in the country.
“(W)hat the Peace Corps shouldn’t be doing is propping up our adversaries with U.S. tax dollars,” Scott said. “Let’s remember, China is a wealthy nation that certainly has the resources to fund initiatives. There is no reason the U.S. should be giving millions in foreign aid to China every year, and there is no reason American taxpayers should be sending volunteers to do the work of the Communist government of China.”
Earlier this month, Scott wrote to Russ Vought, the Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget seeking a breakdown of U.S. funding provided to China and Chinese-related enterprises.
“We are spending U.S. taxpayer dollars without even measuring the ROI (return on investment) for U.S. taxpayers,” Scott wrote. “That is unacceptable, and this is just one example of irresponsible spending. I fear the total number our country spends to prop up China, a developed nation, will be staggering.”
Scott asked for the information within 30 days.
Raids ‘war against children’
As the time for planned ICE raids approached, Democrats decried the impending action of sending family members back to their countries of origin. From Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on down, Democrats offered advice to those who might have ICE knocking on their door.
The planned raids, which were to include Miami, were generally described as an exercise in cruelty by instilling fear into those who might be deported. Delegation Democrats blasted Trump.
“This is a war against children, it’s not just a war against immigrants,” said Donna Shalala of Coral Gables, who further described the raids as “pure evil” for frightening children. Her colleague from Miami, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell said, “If Trump has his way, children will be taken by the government at schools, children may come home and find that their parents are no longer there because they have been taken by ICE.”
As the week progressed and tensions increased, the Republican message was that each of those targeted for deportation was the subject of a judge-ordered removal; attempts to help those targeted for deportation is in defiance of the law. Others pointed to the flaws in the current system.
“Until we have a real fix of a system that is totally broken and has gotten worse, these things are going to continue to happen,” said Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart. “It’s not an issue of what I support or not. ICE is going to follow the law, and I expect them to follow the law and to do so in a way that’s honorable.”
As the new week began, little had happened. Some described the hype as more political noise than police action. Hurricane Barry and the New York blackout dominated the weekend news. So too did an inexplicable tweet from Trump about sending four of the more outspoken liberal Democrats back to their countries of origin (see below).
HUD inspections bill filed
Companies receiving federal assistance to provide safe and affordable housing are required to have those properties inspected under the law. If a new bill becomes law, those inspections will be tougher.
Demings and fellow Democrat Al Lawson of Tallahassee have introduced the HUD Inspection Act of 2019. The law would require the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to enforce federal laws more stringently.
The bill would require HUD to take additional action when properties with federal assisting fail to comply with federal housing laws.
“It is my firm belief that everyone should have access to decent, safe and affordable housing regardless of their income or ZIP code,” Lawson said in a joint release. “This bill will provide much-needed transparency in the inspection process and strengthen enforcement actions against property owners who fail to maintain their properties.”
An NBC investigation revealed that there was an increase of more than 30 percent of failed physical inspections. Even though these failed inspections are required for HUD and the landlord’s action, many residents are sometimes left for months without upgrades or improvements to living situations.
“Every American should have the right to live in a safe home,” Demings said. “This important new legislation will crack down on property managers who receive federal money while allowing their buildings to fall apart.”
Among the bill’s 11 co-sponsors is St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist. Rubio is the lead sponsor on the Senate companion bill filed in April.
Yoho still undecided for 2020
Questions still surround Rep. Ted Yoho as he decides whether to run for reelection after pledging he would not. Yoho is raising money, but not with any urgency.
The Gainesville Sun first reported that Yoho quietly filed his own statement of candidacy before Christmas. This contradicts what the four-term Republican told FloridaPolitics.com last year when he said they could “bank” on him not running for a fifth term.
He has raised just over $27,000 during the first six months and spent more than $152,000. Despite this, Yoho still has $225,000 cash on hand through June 30.
Those numbers are a far cry from the $930,000 raised in the 2018 cycle. He is also still leasing campaign vehicles and holding events from his campaign fund through the second quarter.
“I am filed for the 2020 election with the Federal Election Commission per FEC rules and regulations,” Yoho said in a statement. “My team and I am focused on being the best Representative possible for District 3 for the next two years. My wife and I will reevaluate and make a formal announcement in the future about our decision.”
Homestead facility winding down?
Several Democratic representatives have visited the youth detention center in Homestead over the last few months seeking a look for themselves on the treatment and living conditions for teenage migrants Another group that included members from Florida became the latest earlier this week.
They toured the for-profit detention shelter in Homestead, where it was reported a minimum of 55 migrant teens separated from their parents at the Southern border are being held. Among the group of 11 were Crist, Debbie Wasserman Schultz from Weston and Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach.
“It’s critical we continue shining a bright light on the treatment of migrants by the U.S. Government,” Crist said in a news release before the tour. “No human being in our custody should ever endure the conditions that have been exposed in recent weeks at U.S.-run migrant detention facilities.“
The visits from Democratic leaders are the result of a Congressional report from the Democratic majority of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that analyzes documentation on family separations subpoenaed from the Trump administration. The report contained information of at least 2,648 children who have been separated from their parents while attempting to enter the country.
Following the visit, those touring the facility held a news conference. There were no claims of mistreatment, but there was plenty of suspicion when it was learned there were around 1,000 fewer kids there than July 3.
“This place had notice that we were coming a week ago, and all of a sudden, things start moving rapidly,” Crist said.
Also, the Department of Health and Human Services, which operates the facility, informed that no other children would be sent there. Several Democrats, including Wasserman Schulz, have demanded the facility be closed.
“These children came to the U.S. with hope in their eyes, many from terrible conditions in their home countries,” Frankel tweeted. “We must treat them with humanity & kindness & reunite them with their families as quickly as possible.”
Buchanan tops $1 million
This week second-quarter fundraising reports are due, but that has not stopped some from announcing their hauls. Last week, St. Petersburg Democrat Crist reported a $431,000 quarter with more than $2.3 million cash on hand, while Mucarsel-Powell announced a $600,000 quarter and more than $1 million total for the year.
Longboat Key Republican Vern Buchanan has been among the more prodigious fundraisers within the delegation. The veteran lawmaker, who is also the delegation’s co-chair, will report raising $372,000 for the quarter and slightly over $1 million for the year.
“I’m humbled by such a strong show of support so early in the campaign,” Buchanan said. “People are responding to my positive agenda to keep the economy strong, secure the border, protect veterans’ benefits, and safeguard Social Security and Medicare.”
Buchanan is replenishing a depleted war chest after spending $4.3 million to beat back a challenge from attorney David Shapiro in 2018. Along with Dover Republican Ross Spano, Buchanan is on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “2020 Republican Retirement Watch List.”
Mast gains Corps admission
Recently, Palm City Republican Brian Mast achieved a seemingly breakthrough moment when questioning Major Gen. Scott Spellmon of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) regarding discharges from Lake Okeechobee. When asked directly by Mast whether the Corps knowingly discharged “toxic” water leading to unhealthy algal blooms, Spellmon answered “yes.”
“This is a big deal because, with this admission, the Army Corps has an obligation to prioritize and protect public health when they make decisions about managing Lake Okeechobee,” Mast said in an email to constituents.
Mast has been an outspoken critic of the Corps for the discharges. With the planned upgrades to the Herbert Hoover Dike, the lake will hold higher levels in the future, but in the meantime, Mast seeks to prevent the Corps from conducting any further releases.
“Now that the Army Corps acknowledges that the water they are discharging is toxic, they cannot continue to willfully and knowingly poison our community,” Mast said. “The Army’s mission is to defend the American people, so they have a duty to prioritize protecting public health when they make operational flood control decisions.”
Controversial spending bill passes
Late last week, the House passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act by a 220-197 vote. The bill calls for $733 billion in spending to cover military pay and funding defense and deterrence strategies.
The bill received no Republican support with eight Democrats also voting against it. Florida Democrats gave it their full support.
“House Democrats just passed a national defense bill that will ensure our nation provides for our men and women in uniform and strengthens our military resolve around the world, including by ensuring the reckless decisions by President Donald Trump don’t lead us to unnecessary conflict,” said Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch in a statement.
Several provisions were added at the insistence of progressive Democrats, including one limiting the President’s authority on how to spend the money, which was needed to ensure they would vote for the bill. Republicans consider the outreach to progressives a guarantee the bill has no chance in the Senate.
“Instead of working across the aisle, (Democrats) passed a partisan version of this legislation that fails to strengthen our national security, including by blocking efforts to secure our border for purely political reasons,” said Mast.
Last month the Senate passed its version that is $17 billion more than the House version, by a strong 86-8 majority. House Republicans are counting on the Senate’s near-consensus to help carry the day in the House and Senate conference to develop a final bill.
“It is our fundamental responsibility to provide for the common defense and protect our great nation, and not hold our military hostage,” said Panama City Republican Neal Dunn. “House Democrats either need to work with us to put together a viable piece of legislation, or we need to stop wasting time and pass the Senate bill.”
Mueller testimony delayed
As this week’s scheduled appearance before two House committees by special counsel Robert Mueller approached, it became apparent not all members would have an opportunity to question him. With two hours allotted for each the Judiciary Committee and the Intelligence Committee, who have a combined membership of 72, it became physically impossible to allow each member five minutes to question Mueller.
Members were informed that some of them would not get their five minutes, including Sarasota Republican Greg Steube, a junior member of the Intelligence Committee. He voiced his displeasure to Chairman Jerry Nadler and anyone listening that limiting the questioning to 11 of the 41 members was wrong.
“Apparently, Chairman Nadler doesn’t think that the people of Florida — and a number of other states — deserve a voice in one of the most important hearings of this Congress. Instead, he wants to limit debate to only a #Famous11 while denying me and my colleagues the opportunity to ask questions of Mr. Mueller. The American people deserve better.”
Fortunately for Steube and the other members, Mueller agreed to postpone the hearings to July 24, when all members of both committees will get their chance. He will join fellow Republican Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach and Democrats Deutch, Demings and Mucarsel-Powell of Miami during the three-plus hour Judiciary hearing.
The Intelligence Committee is slated to begin at noon. Demings is the only Floridian on that panel.
School safety bill launched
Last week, Deutch and Diaz-Balart introduced the EAGLES Act, legislation named for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Eagles. The bill calls for expanding the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) with a greater focus on school violence prevention.
“Sadly, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School endured a tragedy that resulted in the loss of 17 Eagles,” Deutch said in a joint release. “This bill will prevent violence in other communities across the country.”
“All parents should feel confident that when they drop their child off at school, that child is in a safe environment,” said Diaz-Balart. “That is why school safety should remain a top priority in our country, and that begins by taking the appropriate measures to prevent targeted violence and school violence.
The Senate version of the bill was introduced by Rubio, Alabama Democrat Doug Jones and Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley.
“The National Threat Assessment Center has been essential to thwarting mass shooters and targeted violence since it was first created in 2008,” said Tony Montalto, President of Stand with Parkland and father of Gina Montalto one of the 17 people murdered at school in the 2018 Parkland shooting. “The EAGLES Act is a critical expansion of the program that prioritizes school violence and directs key funding to prevent the next mass school shooting.”
On this day
July 16, 1969 — Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins blasted off from Cape Kennedy on their way to the first landing on the moon. The scene around the area was unprecedented as traffic backed up as much as 10 miles by onlookers who wished to witness history.
No one was interested in politics on this day. Sitting together in an exclusive section were former President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife Lady Bird Johnson, along with then-Vice President Spiro T. Agnew and Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, who Johnson defeated in a landslide in 1964. Goldwater greeted Johnson with a bear hug.
July 16, 2016 — Indiana Gov. Pence is joining Trump on the Republican ticket for November. Trump made the announcement while dealing with the need to unify his party, with the hope that a strong conservative such as Pence might do the job.
Several prominent Republicans such as Reps. Dan Webster and Bill Posey will not be there, nor will Sen. Rubio, who will offer remarks to attendees via video. Reps. John Mica and Ron DeSantis will be going to Cleveland.
Happy birthday (July 16) to Rep. Ross Spano from Florida’s 16th District.
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