Midweek cloture allowed deliberation over a $1-trillion infrastructure package to advance in the Senate. But that happened without the support of Florida Sens. Marco Rubio or Rick Scott, who each voted nay on allowing debate on the INVEST Act, along with 35 other Republican colleagues.
“The infrastructure package announced today continues the trend in Congress of insane deficit spending. Let’s not forget, this is just the first step in the Democrats’ plan to pass their $5.5 trillion tax and spend liberal wish list. Our nation is facing a nearly $30-trillion federal debt crisis,” Scott said. “There are real infrastructure needs across the country. But, with growing inflation and many families struggling to financially recover from the events of the last year, it is not wise to throw fuel on the fire that is the raging inflation crisis and labor shortage we are seeing across America.”
Going a step further, the two were part of a group of seven GOP Senators who, on the day of the cloture vote, introduced legislation the same day of the cloture vote that would require a fiduciary impact analysis on all bills passed by the Senate. The express goal would be to expose to actual impacts of “reckless government spending.”
“The [Joe] Biden Administration believes more government spending is what will make life better for American families,” Rubio said. “But misguided policies have consequences. Hardworking Americans are sick of paying more at the gas pump and at the grocery store. It is clear that President Biden’s reckless and irresponsible agenda is causing the rise in inflation and hurting the American people. This bill would hold Congress accountable by requiring transparency on the inflationary impact of legislation.”
“I’ve heard countless stories from families across Florida that are having to cut back on purchases because of rising costs,” Scott continued. “We know that reckless government spending causes inflation, but President Biden and the Democrats have absolutely no plans to slow down spending or get our debt under control. It’s shameful, and I won’t just stand by while they try to drive our nation further into the ground with these horrible policies. Congress must get real about the true cost on every American family that this recklessness brings and start spending responsibly.”
Of course, the legislation won’t impact the infrastructure bill, the product of negotiations between the White House and a group of moderate Senators. The bill emerged on Wednesday. It remains unclear if the bill can get 60 votes in Senate and avoid a filibuster, and Democrats have said they may yet work to force through a broader $3.5-trillion package through a budget reconciliation vote. But the compromise legislation negotiated on the GOP side primarily by Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman was enough to convince Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to vote yes on cloture, bringing plenty of caucus members with him.
Earlier this month, a more expansive version of the INVEST Act cleared the House on a near-party line vote, with all Florida Democrats voting in favor while all Republicans voted against it.
“For too long, Congress has failed to act boldly when it comes to our infrastructure, leaving our country with congested roads, failing sewer systems, lead in our pipes, unsafe bridges, infrequent and unreliable bus service and slow-moving trains,” said Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Hollywood Democrat, at the time. “It’s time to build back better, reconnect communities, and restore our global competitiveness with the INVEST in America Act, legislation that will help create millions of good-paying jobs and support U.S. manufacturing.”
The White House shouldn’t demand social media companies censor content, according to Rubio, and neither should China and other nations around the world. Now, he’s filed legislation that would require tech companies to make it known when requests come in.
Florida’s senior Senator filed the PRESERVE Online Speech Act, which would require internet companies to publicly disclose within seven days any government requests from the U.S. or foreign nations to moderate content outside, except for law enforcement proceedings. Companies that fail to comply could face $50,000 fines, directed to the Federal Communications Commission to provide more rural broadband access. The FCC would, in turn, produce annual reports to Congress on the requests for moderated content.
“Americans should know when governments — especially their own — request or pressure internet companies to censor legal speech,” Rubio said. “But while transparency is critical, it alone will not change the poisonous role that Big Tech and social media corporations are playing in our national politics.”
Four other Senators signed on as immediate co-sponsors, including Sen. Scott. “We already know that Big Tech companies pick and choose which viewpoints are allowed on their platforms, and now the Biden administration expressed their willingness to help them censor the American people,” Scott said. “That’s unacceptable. The federal government’s role should be to promote free speech of the American people, as protected by our Constitution, not limit it. This bill will hold Big Tech accountable and protect Americans’ rights.”
The pushback from GOP Senators comes following confirmation by White House press secretary Jen Psaki that administration staffers occasionally reach out to platforms to “flag misinformation.”
“We are regularly making sure social media platforms are aware of the latest narratives dangerous to public health that we and many other Americans are seeing across all of social and traditional media,” Psaki said, “and we work to engage with them to better understand the enforcement of social media platform policies.”
Rubio has also filed a separate bill that would gut social media companies’ legal immunity regarding content posted to the platforms if they moderate selective political views.
“That is why I also introduced the DISCOURSE Act, which would strip Section 230 protections from large tech companies that drop the pretense of neutrality by censoring specific viewpoints or creating and developing content, including through algorithmic amplification,” Rubio said. “We need to step up to the plate to stop Silicon Valley-Democrat collusion before it’s too late.”
While the Olympics play out in Japan to limited crowds and little applause, alongside a coronavirus surge in Tokyo — Sen. Scott remains increasingly concerned about the next games. He slammed President Biden for silence on the topic of moving the Winter Olympics from China in 2022. The Senator introduced a resolution in February to call the International Olympic Committee to scrap plans for Beijing and the Hebel province to host the midterm sporting event.
“It’s been five months since I asked President Biden for a meeting to discuss my call to move the 2022 Olympic Games out of Communist China. Since my request, he’s been totally silent,” Scott said. “It’s shameful. As our nation watches the 2020 Olympic Games and cheers on our great athletes competing on the world stage, we can’t ignore the fact that in just seven months, the International Olympic Committee is choosing to host The Games in Communist China — which is committing a genocide against the Uyghurs.”
Since his election in 2018, Scott heavily criticized the human rights record for the Eastern superpower, which last hosted an Olympics in 2008. That includes quashing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and draconian oppression of Muslim communities in eastern provinces.
“President Biden has immense power to help facilitate the relocation of The Games and is refusing to do anything. He’s ignored my calls, and he’s choosing to ignore General Secretary Xi [Jinping]’s horrific human rights abuses. If Biden truly stands for human rights, he will take the meeting with me and immediately begin this process by offering to host The Games in the United States and providing the necessary federal resources to get this done. There’s no excuse.”
In a state rich in football history, few names in Florida carry the heft of Bobby Bowden. So it delivered a blow when the legendary Florida State University coach, who retired in 2009 after leading the Seminoles to 12 conference titles and two national championships, revealed he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
But before the coach moves to that eternal skybox, Panama City Republican Neal Dunn wants Congress to run one more play in Bowden’s honor. The Congressman introduced legislation to award the sports legend with the Congressional Gold Medal.
“Coach Bobby Bowden is a leader on the field and in his community,” Dunn said. “While his grit and determination led the Seminoles to victory on many occasions, his kindness and generosity are what make him one of the most highly respected individuals in the state of Florida. Coach Bowden’s spirit is the American spirit of which we can be proud and seek to emulate in both large and small ways.”
Tallahassee Democrat Al Lawson, who represents FSU in the House, co-sponsored the resolution. “Bobby Bowden has made an immeasurable impact not only on the Florida State University football program and its players but also on his community at large,” Congressman Lawson said. “He has influenced the minds of our nation’s future leaders and instilled in them that through a quality education and hard work, there are no boundaries. Many coaches can coach, but only a small number, like Bobby Bowden, can guide their student-athletes beyond the sports arena. I am proud to support this measure to award Coach Bowden with the Congressional Gold Medal for his decades of leadership and service in the community.”
Other members of the delegation, which includes five Seminoles, joined the call to honor the coach.
“Two national championships, 12 Conference titles, and 377 college football wins makes Coach Bowden one of the winningest coaches in college football history. Despite his success and glory as a man of God and devoted family man, the legacy of Bobby Bowden far surpasses the football field. His advocacy for philanthropy and leading with faith in God is a testament to his character,” said Naples Republican (and FSU alumnus) Byron Donalds. “Even beyond his tenure, Coach Bowden transformed lives, shaped minds, and mentored boys into men through the game of football. Bobby Bowden is revered, not just as the heart and soul of the Florida State Seminoles, but the entire State of Florida.”
The administration must turn attention to increased unrest in Haiti, Orlando Democrat Val Demings said. She co-led a letter to Biden along with other co-chairs of the House Haiti and Caribbean Caucus. Among other items, the group called for extending temporary protected status for Haitians in the U.S.
“Our efforts are guided by our deep commitment to the well-being of the Haitian people and the Haitian diaspora and supporting the Haitian-led transition being developed by civil society presently,” the letter reads.
The caucus leaders, including Democrats Andy Levin of Michigan, Yvette Clarke of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, stressed the importance of supporting “Haitian-led solutions” for the future but said direct engagement needs to take place. The nation continues to reel from the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. New Prime Minister Ariel Henry has promised elections “as quickly as possible.”
Demings and caucus leaders, in the meantime, said they do not want to see military engagement with Haiti or any suspension of Haitian citizens’ civil rights. They expressly stated an election should not be “rushed.”
“We support U.S. assistance to protect Haitian public infrastructure, increase vaccine allotment and improve humanitarian aid,” the letter states.
Also, the U.S. should address the causes of political instability in Haiti and work closely with the Caribbean Community and Dominican Republic to combat human, arms, and drug trafficking in the region and end oligarchical control of the Haitian national government.
Home rescue attempt
With the federal eviction moratorium set to expire Saturday and Biden saying his hands are tied, Demings is helping push a last-second rescue attempt.
Demings on Thursday co-sponsored new legislation to extend the federal eviction moratorium to the end of 2021.
The moratorium was initially scheduled to end Saturday following a Supreme Court ruling which cut it short. On Thursday, Biden said he could not extend it himself and called for Congress to do so.
The moratorium was established at the start of the COVID-19 crisis as millions of people struggled to keep their homes in the crashing economy.
“As Floridians work hard to get back on their feet during this pandemic, we need to keep families in their homes and prevent homelessness, especially for children, seniors and at-risk individuals,” Demings said. “The eviction moratorium has saved countless Floridians from disruptions that can unravel the careful balance of their lives. I strongly support this extension, especially as Florida’s COVID-19 cases once again begin to skyrocket. Please get vaccinated and together, we will get through this.”
The Congresswoman cited data showing millions of renters are facing eviction — as many as 12 million Americans as of a report this month from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Congress has provided $46.5 billion to support emergency rental assistance programs, but those programs are only beginning to ramp up, and state and local governments need more time. Only $3 billion out of the allocated $46.5 has been spent.
Leave them kids alone
Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor said it’s time for Congress to increase internet protections for children and teenagers. She introduced reforms to the Kids PRIVCY Act and Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act that would restrict companies from tracking the online activity of minors.
“Online and digital technology, tracking and data gathering have outpaced current privacy protections for children and consumers,” Castor said. “Companies shouldn’t be allowed to unreasonably track and target children. Many companies have been violating the minimal privacy protections in place today as devices and applications have become more sophisticated in targeting kids. The 117th version of the Kids PRIVCY Act builds on COPPA’s strengths, expands privacy protections for children and teenagers, and incorporates key elements of the U.K.’s Age-Appropriate Design Code. It’s time to strengthen online protections for our youngest neighbors and bring these safeguards into the 21st century.”
Several child advocacy groups came out in favor of the bill, which would ban targeted ads for children, require opt-in consent before gathering personal data, limit sharing of data of children’s internet habits with third parties, and create a particular class of teenagers age 13 to 17 with even stricter limits on data collection.
“The legislation will create the safeguards young people deserve,” said Josh Golin, executive director of Fairplay. “And by banning surveillance advertising to children and teens, the bill will allow young people to safely use the internet without being exposed to harmful, exploitative data-driven marketing. Anyone with concerns about how children are treated online should support this important legislation.”
A House spending bill is funding three priorities for Longboat Key Republican Vern Buchanan. The delegation co-chair crowed at the support for fighting the opioid crisis, reducing veteran suicides, and addressing a spike in manatee deaths.
“I’m pleased to see several of my top priorities pass the House this week with broad, bipartisan support and will work to see them enacted into law,” Buchanan said. “All three of these provisions focus on important issues that directly affect the people in our community and our environment.”
The items Buchanan’s office championed included funding the FIGHT Fentanyl Act, which raises the classification for the deadly drug, as well as a $2 million appropriation to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to scrutinize a record increase in manatee fatalities and another $2 million to study a high rate in veteran suicides over the past five years.
Betting the farm
Sarasota Republican Greg Steube said a proposed change to U.S. taxes could specifically harm American agriculture. In an op-ed published this week by the Orlando Sentinel, the Congressman noted an entire industry couldn’t become a victim to politics.
He criticizes a change included in the Sensible Taxation and Equity Promotion (STEP) Act, which would codify a President Biden-endorsed change to the estate tax.
“Their proposed tax plan revisions target the financial foundation of family farms, ranches and crop producers,” Steube wrote. “At their core, the suggested changes create an enormous tax burden on the transfer and ownership of privately held land used for production.”
The changes would calculate capital gains taxes based on the land value, including appreciation on a family farm that changes hands in an inheritance. “Farmers’ assets are typically tied up in land, machinery and the like, causing them to rely heavily on cash flow,” Steube wrote. “By not taking into account this common-sense fact, tax proposals like these would make our domestic production of food far less practical and competitive.
“D.C. Democrats justify this burdensome tax proposal as a tax on the rich, but this is not an accurate reading of agricultural economics. These new tax burdens would irreparably harm family farmers and the ranchers and growers responsible for feeding America.”
A bipartisan group of Florida lawmakers is asking the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to take “urgent action” to improve water quality in the Indian River Lagoon estuary and help prevent further casualties among Florida’s manatee population.
Through July, Florida has already recorded the most manatee fatalities ever in a single year. That tally is at 841 as of July 2, according to the letter sent to NOAA Administrator Richard Spinrad.
Rubio signed the letter along with Republican Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Carlos Giménez, Brian Mast, Bill Posey, John Rutherford, María Elvira Salazar and Michael Waltz and Democratic Reps. Lawson, Stephanie Murphy and Darren Soto.
The letter notes that 435 of the manatee mortalities this year occurred in the Indian River Lagoon estuary, “likely due to starvation as the result of a shortage of available food resources.”
NOAA declared the situation an “unusual mortality event,” which triggers an investigation into the causes. But in the letter to Spinrad, the Florida delegation urged the agency to do more.
“Addressing the root causes of algal blooms and hypoxia is necessary to prevent the deaths of manatees and other wildlife in the future,” the letter reads.
“Improving ecological conditions within the Indian River Lagoon by improving water quality, preventing harmful algal blooms, and planting new seagrasses should all be priority actions to achieve these goals. We respectfully urge you to designate the conditions within the Indian River Lagoon as a Hypoxia or Harmful Algal Bloom of National Significance in order to help achieve these goals and support our irreplaceable wildlife.”
Mast, of Stuart, has joined bipartisan pushes to look into the manatee deaths throughout the year. He cited algal blooms as the cause and, as he frequently done, ripped into the Army Corps for its discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
“Seeing manatees dying in record numbers as the result of a man-made issue is unacceptable,” Mast said. “In many ways, manatees are the canaries in a coal mine. Our manatees, our dolphins, our children all suffer when toxic algal blooms are sent into our estuaries, and it’s past time for the state Legislature and federal government to take every possible step to stop the discharges and address the root causes of the problem.”
Those discharges are necessary but can also spread algae that grow inside the lake to other waterways, officials say.
Sandra Day O’Connor broke barriers as the first woman to wear robes in America’s highest court. Ruth Bader Ginsburg became a celebrated figure in the judiciary and pop culture for her colorful and powerful dissents. West Palm Beach Democrat Lois Frankel now wants both women remembered by all who visit the nation’s Capitol.
The Congresswoman this week introduced legislation to install statues of the U.S. Capitol or its grounds honoring the two women.
“Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor broke rock-hard barriers becoming the first women to sit on the Supreme Court and proved that women belong anywhere decisions are being made,” Frankel said.
The bill has already been co-sponsored by leaders of the Democratic Women’s Caucus, which Frankel co-chairs, and the Bipartisan Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues. Companion legislation was filed in the Senate by Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski.
Former President Ronald Reagan appointed O’Connor to the Supreme Court in 1981 and retired in 2006. Former President Bill Clinton named Ginsburg to the court in 1993, and she served until her death in September.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved legislation from Miami Republican Salazar to ramp up sanctions on Nicaragua’s regime.
The measure was filed in response to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s arresting opposition leaders ahead of the country’s November 2021 elections. Salazar helped sponsor the bipartisan Reinforcing Nicaragua’s Adherence to Conditions for Electoral Reform (RENACER) Act of 2021 alongside New Jersey Democrat Albio Sires.
The bill will task the U.S. with working with Canada and the European Union to bring forward those sanctions. The measure will also increase oversight on international financial institutions to ensure money does not reach the Ortega regime without reforms.
Salazar is now pressing the House to take up the measure for a full vote.
Several other members of the Florida delegation served as original co-sponsors on the bill, including Democrats Murphy, Soto, Ted Deutch, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Republican Mario Díaz-Balart. Rubio helped sponsor the Senate version.
According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 464,000 people of Nicaraguan origins reside in the U.S. About one-third of that population lives in Florida alone, with many concentrated in Miami-Dade County. Salazar represents Florida’s 27th Congressional District, which covers parts of Miami-Dade.
Salazar has also worked on the Nicaragua Free Trade Review Act of 2021, which requires the U.S. Trade Representative to report to Congress on whether Nicaragua is complying with an existing free trade agreement, which went into effect in 2006.
“Under Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua has become a land of oppression,” Salazar said. “Ortega’s thugs are jailing political opponents and violently silencing dissenting voices.”
Resign to run
Five elected officials formally resigned their positions to run in the upcoming Special Election in Florida’s 20th Congressional District.
That decision is final but doesn’t kick in until the Jan. 11 Special General Election contest. That means state Sen. Perry Thurston, state Reps. Bobby DuBose and Omari Hardy, and Broward County Commissioners Dale Holness and Barbara Sharief will all be out of their current positions by early next year.
One of them could succeed the late Fort Lauderdale Democrat Alcee Hastings, the co-chair and dean of the delegation when he died in early April after a cancer battle.
Florida law requires elected officials seeking another office to resign their original position to run in another contest. The moves come just days ahead of the deadline for the CD 20 election. Candidates who currently hold office must resign at least 10 days before qualifying in CD 20 begins on Aug. 9 (that’s today).
On this day
July 30, 1863 — “Abraham Lincoln issues ‘Eye-for-an-Eye’ order” via the African American Registry — President Lincoln issued what order warning the Confederacy that Union soldiers would shoot a rebel prisoner for every Black prisoner shot. It also would condemn a rebel prisoner to a life of hard labor for every Black prisoner sold into slavery. The order had a slight “restraining” influence on the Confederate government’s voiced policy, but individual commanders and soldiers continued to murder captured Black soldiers. Although this act appeared to be motivated by feelings of compassion toward the slaves, it was intended primarily as another way to intimidate the Confederacy.
July 30, 1965 — “Lyndon Johnson signs Medicare into law” via History.com — At the bill signing ceremony, which took place at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, former President Harry Truman was enrolled as Medicare’s first beneficiary and received the first Medicare card. Johnson wanted to recognize Truman, who, in 1945, had become the first President to propose national health insurance, an initiative that was opposed at the time by Congress. The Medicare program, providing hospital and medical insurance for Americans age 65 or older, was signed into law as an amendment to the Social Security Act of 1935. Some 19 million people enrolled in Medicare when it went into effect in 1966.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, with contributions by Ryan Nicol and Scott Powers.