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Delegation for 8.23.19: Electability — climate ‘adaptation’ — Gaetz civility? — Paraguay — gun laws

Voters determine electability

The long process to establish a Democratic nominee to take on President Donald Trump continues with the nearly two dozen — and decreasing — candidates still trying to gain traction. Former Vice President Joe Biden continues to hold a double-digit lead in the polls over the others but is supported by only by a little more than a quarter of Democratic respondents.

In the end, it will be the voters who determine who is more electable.

His advantage continues despite a few verbal missteps on the campaign trail. The likely reasons he stays on top is because many Democrats like him and know him as a moderate, as opposed to progressives or socialists such as Sens. Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.

The ultraliberal views espoused by some of Biden’s opponents are not a recipe for success in Florida, the biggest swing state in next year’s election. Prominent Florida Democrats are looking for electability and believe only a centrist candidate can deliver the state’s 29 electoral votes and appeal to swing voters.

Broward County is Florida’s most Democratic and a group of former elected officials is calling for that centrist candidate. The Real Solutions Caucus, headed by former Florida Senate Democratic Leader Steve Geller and includes former Congressman Ron Klein, recently put out a list of 10 acceptable candidates who they feel could win the state.

Sanders and Warren were not on the list, while Sens. Kamala Harris and Corey Booker, along with Mayor Pete Buttigieg were.

Electability is becoming the theme of the campaign with Biden and Sanders touting a recent Morning Consult poll showing they are the only ones leading Trump in head-to-head matchups. Biden’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, made a plea to voters supporting other candidates that others may be “better” on certain issues than the former Vice-President, but “your bottom line has to be that we have to beat Trump.”

If Biden falters, Democrats are likely to nominate a far more progressive nominee, much to the concern of the party establishment. That could impact down-ballot races, including those affecting the makeup of the delegation.

For example, centrists in swing districts such as those represented by Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park and Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg, along with centrist challengers seeking to flip a red district, hope to be in step with the person at the top of the ticket. It will not matter to those representing dependable blue districts. 

At the same time, the possibility always exists that Trump could finally go too far for GOP-leaning swing voters, no matter the state of the economy, and cause pain for himself and his party. Delegation Republicans will be more interested in talking about their message instead of responding to a tweet from the President.

In the end, electability is demonstrated with elections. Once the primaries and caucuses begin, real voters will decide who is electable.

Rubio proposes climate ‘adaptation’

Sen. Marco Rubio weighed in on the issue of climate change with an op-ed published in USA TODAY. While acknowledging rising sea levels, especially in South Florida, he mocked proposals such as a carbon tax and the Green New Deal as “unrealistic and dangerous.” 

In a USA TODAY op-ed, Marco Rubio acknowledges rising sea levels but mocked a carbon tax and the Green New Deal.

“The cost would set our state back, depriving us of the resources we desperately need to continue to adapt,” he wrote. “Despite the high costs, none of those advocates can point to how even the most aggressive (and draconian) plan would improve the lives of Floridians.”

Rubio offered the Central Everglades Planning Project as a more effective way to mitigate flooding in the region. He also pointed to a study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as something that will help “realistically plan for the impacts of climate change on our coastal infrastructure.”

The second-term Republican defines his position as calling for “adaptation” to the changing climate, instead of spending large sums of money in an attempt to change it. 

“Adaptation has been perhaps the most quintessential human trait,” he said. “Instead of restricting options for our next generation by borrowing against their future, we should choose adaptive solutions deliberatively, buy time and maximize the choices available to them in the decades and centuries to come.”

His critics mock that stance, instead insisting that far more proactive measures are necessary.

Ad targets Rubio

A group of Republicans seeking passage of election security legislation is going after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and four other Senators, including Rubio. Republicans for the Rule of Law is taking out ads on the Senators urging them not to let McConnell “stand in the way” of enhancing security for the nation’s elections.

The purpose of the 30-second ads, is to have Republican Senators push McConnell into putting security bills either passed by the House or Senate-sponsored bills up for a vote. 

to view the ad, click on the image below:

Rubio, along with Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen, is sponsoring the DETER Act, which calls on the Trump administration to present a strategy to prevent interference from Russia or other hostile nations from interfering in U.S. elections.

“How do you defend not letting these bills come to the floor for debate and discussion?” said Bill Kristol, former editor of conservative Weekly Standard and a dedicated never-Trumper. “What’s the rationale for literally doing nothing?”

The ad is currently running on Fox and Friends daily and will also air on Fox News Sunday and NBC’s Meet the Press in the Senators’ hometowns.

Besides Rubio and McConnell, the other targets are Roy Blunt of Missouri, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, James Lankford of Oklahoma.

Scott makes big donation 

Sen. Rick Scott has made a significant contribution to children’s reading programs with a hefty donation. The first-term Republican announced this week he is donating his second-quarter salary to the Literacy Council Gulf Coast, based in Bonita Springs.

“Growing up, my mom taught me that a good education was the foundation for success, and she was right — it’s what gave my wife, Ann, and I a shot at the American dream,” Scott said in a news release. 

“We want everyone to have that same opportunity to live their dreams, which is why, as Gov., I invested record funding for our K-12 schools and Ann spent her days as Florida’s First Lady promoting literacy and traveling across the state to read with students.”

Rick Scott cuts a big check to the Literacy Council Gulf Coast.

U.S. Senators earn a gross salary of $174,000 per year, meaning the Literacy Council Gulf Coast will soon receive $43,500, courtesy of the Scotts.

“I believe there is nothing more important than investing time in Florida’s children who will one day become our state and national leaders, and I’m proud to support this wonderful organization and its incredible work to promote literacy,” said Ann Scott.

Gaetz calls for civility

This week, Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz called for more civility in everyday discourse following an explanation as to why he was not meeting with constituents in person. Gaetz told listeners on a Pensacola radio station that due to advice from Capitol Police, he is keeping a lower profile.

He has not completely cut off public contact, but for the time being, he is not holding town halls or full-day public events known as Open Gaetz days. Capitol Police informed Gaetz of “very specific death threats against me and my family.” He was recently confronted by a constituent who threw a beverage on him.

After the Florida Bar found Matt Gaetz ‘unprofessional, reckless and insensitive,’ the Panhandle Congressman is calling for more civility in everyday discourse.

Gaetz is somewhat known for being confrontational and has even admitted that he has gone too far on occasion on social media. He said that people should “recognize the humanity of people” that share different political views.

Responding to a question about his use of social media, Gaetz said people engage in what he referred to as “keyboard courage” and “I am not immune to that.

“I need to be better on social media, I think we all need to be better on social media,” he said.

Gaetz appeared on the radio program just days after the Florida Bar found no probable cause to pursue sanctions against him for an incendiary tweet against former Trump lawyer, Michael Cohen. The bar did say the tweet was unprofessional, reckless and insensitive.”

“People who don’t hold our political beliefs or our ideology, that doesn’t make someone a bad person, that doesn’t make them a bad neighbor, it wouldn’t make them a bad ball coach or a scoutmaster,” Gaetz said in the interview on News Radio 92.3/1620 in Pensacola.

Murphy announces grant

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is providing a nearly $500,000 grant designed to help combat the opioid epidemic in Central Florida. Murphy announced the grant earlier this week.

The grant was awarded to the University of Central Florida (UCF) and will be used to train a new generation of professionals involved in the prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts. There are an estimated 2.1 million Americans addicted to opioids, typically painkillers.

Stephanie Murphy is touting an HHS grant to help Central Florida combat the opioid crisis.

“It breaks my heart to see communities all across Florida and the country be devastated by the opioid epidemic,” Murphy said. “These funds will help stem the alarming rise in opioid overdoses in Central Florida, and to recruit an army of professionals that will enhance prevention and treatment efforts and save lives.”

The funds are part of HHS’s Opioid Workforce Expansion Program that provides grants train and increase the number of behavioral health professionals. The program also looks to resolve the specific concerns of children, adolescents, and transitional-age youth in high need and high demand areas who are the most at risk for behavioral health disorders, including opioid addiction.

Murphy touted a bill she co-introduced that was passed into law which ensures that states have effective plans in place to protect infants who are victims of the opioid epidemic. The Assisting States’ Implementation of the Plans of Safe Care Act established a grant program to help Florida and other states develop evidence-based policies and procedures, so drug-dependent babies receive proper care at the hospital and the necessary family, community, and medical support once they are discharged.

Advocates flood Crist’s office

Earlier this week, Crist had an office full of guests in his downtown St. Petersburg office. About 30 supporters of Medicare for All piled inside the office lobby to persuade him to support the Medicare for All Act of 2019.

The bill, touted nationally by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, would establish a national health insurance program that is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Its focus is to cover all U.S. residents, provide automatic enrollment upon birth or residency in the U.S., and cover items and services that are medically necessary or appropriate to maintain health.

Supporters of Medicare crowded the offices of Charlie Crist this week, calling for ‘Medicare for All.’

The consensus among the group is the bill could “fill the gap that the medical community currently has.” One of them admitted to having good health insurance through his union, but still believes in “a level playing field.”

Only three members of the delegation, South Florida Democrats Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings and Frederica Wilson are among the bill’s 117 co-sponsors. The advocates indicated they would next visit the office of Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor to seek her support. 

Stearns receives minor penalty

Former Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns of Ocala is getting off lightly after he was accused of misusing campaign funds leftover from his days in Congress. Sizable Federal Election Commission (FEC) fines were possible for the practice of having a “zombie campaign,” but in the end, the final penalty was $6,900 according to a memo from the FEC.

Stearns will also reimburse $8,000 to his defunct campaign committee.

Some think Cliff Stearns got off easy for his ‘zombie campaign’ violations.

FEC Chairwoman Ellen L. Weintraub expressed frustration with the outcome.

“Given Congress’ specific interest in prohibiting the conversion of campaign funds to personal use by former officeholders after they have retired, been defeated, or died, the Commission should vigorously pursue allegations that a former elected official used his campaign account as a personal checking account,” she said.

“It is frustrating that, in order to secure Republican votes to move forward in this case, both the charges and the penalty had to be slashed.” 

The commission membership is equally divided between Republicans and Democrats. Weintraub is a Democratic member.

Castor lamented the leniency and pointed to her legislation designed to address the issue.

“Cleaning up corruption is at the top of my #ToDo list & the FEC ruling on a recent #ZombieCampaign case shows the need for my bill,” she tweeted. “It’s wrong for former members of Congress & candidates to keep campaign accounts open & convert those funds for personal use.”

Castor’s bill was part of the broad For the People Act passed by the House, but is destined to die in the Senate.

Steube: Protect Florida agriculture 

As the pending trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, the United States Canada Mexico Agreement (USMCA), is yet to be ratified by Congress, concern for Florida agriculture persists. That does not mean the agreement will not be approved, but separate legislation is pending in the House and Senate that would protect domestic produce from unfair competition from Mexico.

Longboat Key Republican Vern Buchanan and Tallahassee Democrat Al Lawson introduced the Defending Domestic Produce Production Act in January. The bill would lower requirements for American farmers to call for inquiries into potential illegal dumping of fruits and vegetables by Mexican farmers.

Sarasota Republican Greg Steube, whose district produces more citrus than any other, is urging his House colleagues to move on the bill. He cites an influx of oranges from other countries as a problem and cities his alliance with a citrus trade organization.

“I’m working on a number of issues important to groups like the Gulf Coast Citrus Growers Association, including the Defending Domestic Produce Production Act which will allow for seasonal growers to collectively petition and lodge trade complaints to help combat Mexican, Chinese, and Brazilian oranges that come into the United States,” Steube said in a news release.

“I’m a co-sponsor of this bill, and I know the importance of getting provisions like this passed for our farmers.”

Every member of the delegation is co-sponsoring the bill. Rubio is sponsoring the Senate version with Scott among three co-sponsors. 

Optimistic on gun laws

Palm City Republican Brian Mast is optimistic new gun restrictions will pass this year. He feels confident a meaningful background check bill will pass along with, perhaps, restrictions on assault weapons could emerge as well. 

“One of the changes is that you see a lot more [Republican] representatives from across the country … that are stepping out in ways they didn’t previously step out,” Mast said. “I’m glad to see them doing that.”

Brian Mast feels confident that some sort of gun restriction will pass this year.

His support for such legislation is significant because he was one an A-rated member by the National Rifle Association (NRA). His grade had dropped to an “F” when he was successfully running for reelection in November.

Perhaps Mast’s optimism was heightened by Trump’s comments that he might go along with increased background checks. The President has since appeared to backtrack as he talked about a “slippery slope” when passing gun restrictions.

“We have very, very strong background checks right now,” the President said from the Oval Office this week. “But we have sort of missing areas and areas that don’t complete the whole circle, and we’re looking at different things.” 

Mast made his break with the NRA and announced support for an assault weapons ban on February 23, 2018, just nine days after the mass shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Props for Paraguay

Paraguay leaders this week took the step of classifying several Middle East organizations as terrorist groups. It’s a move that Francis Rooney strongly supported. Always a diplomat, the Naples Republican praised the South American government for working with the U.S. to specifically fight Hezbollah.

Paraguay’s new President Marito Abdo is doing the right thing designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, says Francis Rooney.

“President Marito Abdo has done the right thing in designating Hezbollah as an international terrorist organization,” the Congressman said in a statement. “Paraguay is an important ally of the United States, and we look forward to working closely to counter Hezbollah’s destructive influence in the region.”

It’s a sign the former ambassador to the Holy See still sees coalition building as a critical piece of foreign policy. 

Rooney’s comments echoed those of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who condemned Hezbollah as agents of a malicious Iranian agenda posing as defenders of Lebanon. And while Paraguay sits in an entirely different hemisphere, Pompeo still felt the action was important, he told The National.

“This important step will help cut off the ability of these groups to plot terrorist attacks and to raise money around the world, including in the Western Hemisphere,” Pompeo said. 

Frankel visits India

West Palm Beach Democrat Frankel recently returned from a weeklong bipartisan fact-finding trip to India. The trip, organized by the Indian government, included policy discussions with local and global leaders, visits to military installations, and learning about India’s history and culture. 

It came at a time when tensions between India and Pakistan are on the rise. Frankel sought insight on efforts to maintain peace and stability in Kashmir.

Lois Frankel meets with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar during a congressional delegation to India.

“As the world’s oldest and largest democracies, the U.S. and India can work together to tackle the climate crisis and promote a more peaceful and prosperous world,” said Rep. Frankel. “On this insightful visit, we heard from business leaders and government officials about India’s efforts to develop renewable energy sources, invest in women’s empowerment and promote democracy.”

The group began their trip in Mumbai, meeting with local police, historical societies, and business leaders. They visited a naval base to learn about maritime cooperation between the two nations. 

Members also attended the 73rd Independence Day Celebrations at the Red Fort before traveling to Agra and the Taj Mahal. Additionally, they participated in the India-U.S. forum in New Delhi, meeting with the Ministers of Commerce and Industry, Urban Development and Civil Aviation, and Petroleum. 

During the forum, Frankel spoke on a panel about the value of soft power and the importance of elevating the economic status of women.

Jewish members rip Trump

The war between Trump and Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib opened another front this week with his comment that Jews voting for Democrats show “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” That was personal and constituted fighting words to Jewish members of the delegation.

 Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch tweeted:

When asked to expound later, Trump said the disloyalty was toward Israel. Frankel also took great offense.

She tweeted:

Ironically, the foundation for Trump’s statement was within the context of lumping Omar and Tlaib together as anti-Semites. Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman-Schulz added to the chorus of accusing Trump of the offense.

“Jewish people have been white nationalist targets for centuries,” she said via Twitter. “No US President nor any world leader should use this hateful rhetoric. For Trump to accuse American Jews of dual loyalty is a disgraceful anti-Semitic attack Jews everywhere should condemn.”

CD 26 primary develops

A Republican primary for the District 26 seat held by Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is taking shape with a second challenger announcing this week. Omar Blanco, president of the Metro-Dade Firefighters Local 1403, joins restaurant owner Irina Vilariño in the race to try to reclaim the seat Mucarsel-Powell won from Carlos Curbelo in 2018. 

Vilariño took Blanco’s entry in stride, saying “I’m happy that he’s running. That’s what democracy is all about.”

A second Republican has joined Irina Vilariño, setting up a GOP primary to see who will challenge Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

It sets up a primary between an ideological conservative and a union leader perhaps slightly left of center. Because of Vilariño’s conservatism, Blanco indicated he does not believe she can defeat Mucarsel-Powell in a purple district.

Both candidates support Trump, but Blanco believes the hyper-partisanship is preventing progress on major issues confronting the country. He starts with a significant fundraising deficit as Vilariño collected $232,000 through July.

Blanco has the potential to develop a strong ground game with the help of a union known to engage in strong campaign volunteerism. He and his colleagues were successful in pushing the Florida Legislature into passing a bill that provided greater health care for firefighters contracting cancer that was related to their jobs. 

On this day

August 23, 2001 — Florida agriculture interests are urging Congress not to give President George W. Bush “fast track” trade authority. If granted, Bush promised to create the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), which would eliminate tariffs in 31 Western Hemisphere countries.

Tampa Democrat Jim Davis said he could support FTAA, but was concerned about negative effects on the state’s citrus industry. Tomato growers protesting outside of Davis’s Tampa office urged him to help block fast track and lamented the negative effect NAFTA has had upon their livelihoods. 

August 23, 2008 — Delaware Sen. Biden made his first public appearance as Sen. Barack Obama’s running mate with a campaign stop in Springfield, Ill. Biden, who is noted as a foreign policy expert, is said to shore up a weakness of Obama, who lacks any significant experience in that area.

Obama introduced Biden as “that scrappy kid from Scranton who beat the odds.” Biden told those in attendance “I’m here for the cops and the firefighters, the teachers and the line workers.” Biden’s critics brought up the six-term Senator’s propensity for gaffes.

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