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Full blown — PACT — terrorism — fire drill — addiction


By any other name

Has the nation entered a full-blown economic downturn?

House Democrats this week expect to pass the Inflation Reduction Act to calm rising prices and stabilize the U.S. economy.

“Working families and small businesses are the backbone of our economy, but big corporations continue raising prices making it harder for Americans to get by,” tweeted Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat. “I am proud to support the House Democrats bill to grow opportunity for families and put (money) back into Americans’ pockets.”

But the policy tactic has the delegation divided, both about the challenges that lay ahead and the solutions.

Define ‘recession.’

Sen. Rick Scott has pounded President Joe Biden for more than a year over inflation and spending. Now he said the administration’s “reckless spending” sent the nation into a genuine recession, and answering involving the printing of more money will make matters worse

“Now, Democrats will do two things: they’ll say that the U.S. isn’t in a recession and that their new, partisan tax-and-spending spree will reduce inflation. It’s all lies,” Scott wrote in an open letter to House members. “Joe Biden’s Recession has begun and more spending will never equal less inflation. It’s time for Republicans and Democrats in Washington to wake up and stop endorsing reckless, inflation-fueling spending that is crushing American families.”

Republicans have pounced at President Joe Biden’s administration for a refusal to say the nation entered a recession.

“Most economists and most Americans have a similar definition of recession — substantial job losses and mass layoffs, businesses shutting down, private sector activity slowing considerably, family budgets under immense strain,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in a press gaggle. “In sum, a broad-based weakening of our economy. That is not what we’re seeing right now.”

But the Oxford dictionary defines a recession as a period of temporary economic decline during which trade and industrial activity are reduced, generally identified by a fall in gross domestic product in two successive quarters. The GDP declined 1.6% in the first quarter of the year and 0.9% in the second. Consumer confidence remains high. The nation saw 372,000 jobs added in June and national unemployment sits at 3.6%.

With the Midterm Elections mere months away, the disputes over terminology and forecasts for the economy continue to swirl. So do disagreements about the policies advancing in Washington.

Rep. Val Demings, an Orlando Democrat, said the House’s Inflation Reduction Act will save many Floridians on energy costs and other help.

“This bill will reduce the cost of prescription drugs, make health insurance more affordable, cap out of pocket costs, reduce your energy bill, reduce the federal deficit, and bring down inflation,” she said.

But Republicans suspect otherwise.

“Democrat leaders in Congress are now pushing a bill, wrongly titled the ‘Inflation Reduction Plan,’ which would raise taxes on American businesses to provide $60 billion for new environmental justice funding and $80 billion in increased IRS funding, among other things,” said Rep. John Rutherford, a Jacksonville Republican. “This expansion in federal spending fails to include meaningful reform to correct a broken system.”

PACT Act

Sen. Marco Rubio took a digital victory lap following the passage of landmark legislation expanding health care benefits for veterans suffering from illnesses due to their in-service exposure to burn pits.

On Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the Senate overwhelmingly approved the bipartisan bill by an 86-11 vote, Rubio’s re-election campaign released a new 30-second video describing him as “a driving force” behind passing the bill.

Marco Rubio makes a PACT.

The Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins (PACT) Act, the bill includes key provisions from legislation Rubio and New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand introduced in early 2021, including removing a requirement for veterans to prove a direct connection between their military service and a health condition for more than 20 categories of diseases.

Rubio has remained a vocal advocate for expanding health care benefits for veterans by removing critical hurdles in the qualifying process. In a June video released to his YouTube page, he called the work “very rewarding.”

The bill, now on its way to Biden’s desk, is a major win for veterans who have developed cancer and other ailments after being exposed to toxins in smoke emitting from open-air pits the military uses in some countries to burn garbage and human waste.

It will expand benefits for 3.5 million veterans exposed to burn pits during the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs currently rejects about 70% of disability claims stemming from burn pit exposure for lack of evidence and data from the Defense Department.

Terror

Anti-terrorism legislation championed by Demings in the House moved one step closer to passage in the Senate this week. The Homeland Security Capabilities Preservation Act would help begin creating a plan to deploy anti-terrorism grants through the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI).

“The safety and security of every American is my top priority,” said Demings, the Democrat challenging Rubio for his Senate seat. “My bill to support the Urban Area Security Initiative is critical for Florida’s first responders and will help ensure stable funding levels for anti-terror programs that keep us safe. As a former law enforcement officer who used UASI funding, this program has been one of my top priorities since arriving in Congress and I am proud of the work we have done to restore Orlando to the list and ensure that our first responders have what’s needed to keep us safe.”

Val Demings is a champion of law and/or order.

The House already passed the bill in a voice vote in March. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced the bill, making it ready for a vote on the floor.

National police organizations say it’s important for the bill to become law.

“This important program assists high-threat, high-density urban areas in efforts to build and sustain the capabilities necessary to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism,” said Patrick Yoes, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police. “By directing DHS to submit a plan on how to make federal assistance available to former UASI jurisdictions, which your legislation does, will undoubtedly save lives and prevent future acts of terrorism. On behalf of the more than 364,000 members of the Fraternal Order of Police, I am proud to offer our support for this legislation.”

Chinese fire drill

Nothing brings leaders across the aisle together like chest-pumping military exercises by the Communist Party of China.

Scott, who in recent weeks offered unfettered praise to Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her visit to Taiwan, noted he received a similar welcome when he visited the Asian nation this summer.

“When I was in Taiwan, Communist China flew sorties over the Taiwan Strait to show its displeasure with my visit,” Scott said. “Now Xi Jinping is huffing and puffing again because Speaker Pelosi rightly traveled to Taiwan and again expressed America’s unwavering commitment to the security of our democratic partner.”

Nancy Pelosi makes her way to Taiwan — and China’s bad side.

The Chinese government responded to Pelosi’s visit by ordering three days of live-fire drills in six different maritime areas around the island nation, a seeming demonstration of its ability to dominate in case of war. The Chinese government Friday announced sanctions against Pelosi and suspended climate change talks with the U.S.

“Xi is showing the world exactly what he plans to do when he attempts to take Taiwan by force, but the United States will never be intimidated by weak, overly-sensitive dictators,” Scott said. “No American is going to be intimidated by Xi or allow his threats to weaken our resolve to support democracy in Taiwan and security in the Indo-Pacific. Here is my message to Xi and the People’s Liberation Army: these actions earn you nothing but embarrassment and worldwide condemnation.”

Scott also promoted two bills he filed — the Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act and Deterring Communist Chinese Aggression against Taiwan through Financial Sanctions Act — that would show which side America will take in a conflict in Southeast Asia.

“We must be absolutely clear about where we stand, end our policy of strategic ambiguity and put Beijing on notice that the consequences of invading Taiwan will be devastating,” he said.

Addicted

Palm Harbor Republican Gus Bilirakis will speak next week to Tampa Bay leaders about the impacts of the opioid crisis in the region. Live Tampa Bay will host the free event at 4 p.m. Aug. 10 at Advent Health Center Ice in Wesley Chapel.

The Congressman noted that more than 30 Tampa Bay residents died from opioid overdoses in 2021, double the number the losses the region felt two years prior.

Gus Bilirakis seeks to end the pill-popping. Image via AP.

“Addiction has ravaged our community for many years. This epidemic and its consequences have touched every community, every demographic, and every single one of us in some way,” Bilirakis said. “Tragically, despite historic increases in federal funding in recent years to tackle this issue, the problem is only getting worse. Fortunately, we are seeing a strong, bipartisan coalition of leaders working to find solutions, but we’ve got to do better.”

Bilirakis recently secured $2 million for rehabilitation centers in Pasco and Pinellas counties, as well as $800,000 for a Pasco County addiction treatment center, but said more must be done.

A new low?

A decision by Gov. Ron DeSantis to suspend Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren, a Democrat, drew sharp criticism from delegation members representing Tampa Bay.

“Florida’s extreme MAGA Governor shows how far out of the mainstream he is as puts his personal politics above the interests of Florida women and families to control their own bodies and make the decision that’s best for them,” Castor said.

“State Attorney Andrew Warren is a trusted leader in Hillsborough County, duly elected by our neighbors with the discretion to make prosecutorial decisions. Unfortunately, this is a new low for Ron DeSantis as he attempts to distract from his numerous failures as Governor including higher costs for Floridians, dirty bays and waterways and low education rankings to name a few. The Republican agenda is clear: criminalize women’s health care, roll back our rights and feed your political ambitions rather than the people you are elected to serve. I will continue to stand up to this overreach and make plain just how extreme and reckless DeSantis and Republicans have become in a state that deserves so much better.”

Have we hit rock bottom?

St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist, who is running against DeSantis for Governor this year, doesn’t represent Hillsborough County but took the suspension as an affront to the region.

“The people of Hillsborough elected Andrew Warren not once, but twice, because of his commitment to safety and justice for all people,” Crist said. “This action by Gov. DeSantis is that of a wannabe dictator who puts partisan politics first. He doesn’t give a damn about women or average Floridians. It’s a flagrant abuse of power. If Gov. DeSantis was truly worried about the people of Florida, he would focus on the affordability crisis that’s crushing our state and squeezing working families.”

DeSantis, a former Congressman and likely candidate for President, pushed Warren aside over the prosecutor’s public statement he would not enforce bans on gender-affirming health care for minors or a ban on abortions 15 weeks or later into a pregnancy.

“Andrew Warren has put himself publicly above the law,” DeSantis said. “The Constitution of Florida has vested the veto power in the Governor, not an individual State Attorney.”

Hard landing

Defending the land may have new meaning in a global economy. Sarasota Republican Greg Steube filed legislation this week to stop international adversaries from buying property in the U.S.

The Protect Our Land Act specifically prohibits foreign adversaries or state sponsors of terror, or any individuals controlled or affiliated with them, from purchase public or private real estate anywhere in the country.

“Why in the world would we want China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, and other adversarial countries to purchase thousands of acres in strategic U.S. locations?” Steube said. “I am introducing common-sense legislation to block these individuals from land purchases. My bill will curb malicious foreign activities on American soil and make America safer.”

Greg Steube believes American lands should stay American. Image via AP.

The Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act already requires foreign entities to disclose purchases of agricultural lands. According to a 2020 report, foreign individuals held an interest in 37.6 million acres of U.S. farmland. That’s nearly double the amount from a decade ago, Steube’s office said.

“Nefarious foreign acquisition of our U.S. land jeopardizes everything from our national security to our food security,” Steube said.

More power

Naples Republican Byron Donalds introduced a bipartisan resolution pushing for greater expansion of nuclear power in the U.S.

“Nuclear energy creates less pollution, generates more energy, and is far more reliable and sustainable than any other source of energy,” he said. “The United States must adapt to the changing times, modernize our energy infrastructure, and support the allocation of federal resources into the advancement and expansion of nuclear energy. The benefits of nuclear energy are countless, and this resolution signifies the bipartisan support in Congress to renovate our nation’s energy makeup and to restore America as an energy leader on the global stage.”

Byron Donalds is ready to go nuclear.

He filed the bill days after helping form a micronuclear caucus in the House.

Gainesville Republican Kat Cammack joined as an introducing co-sponsor on the resolution.

“As a large advocate for U.S. energy independence, I’m proud to join Rep. Donalds on his resolution,” she said. “The United States is rich in natural resources and has some of the cleanest, safest, and most efficient production practices in the world. Under the Biden administration, our energy independence has been squandered, leaving Americans without jobs and prices sky high. It’s far past time that we tap into our rich resources and unleash our domestic capabilities by removing the red tape and producing our own energy, including nuclear, one of the cleanest sources of renewable energy available.”

Stocky

A Florida lawmaker took issue with the financial activity of a Miami Republican María Elvira Salazar after she failed to report a massive stock transaction for months.

The Congresswoman on June 10 revealed she made a February transaction worth as much as $500,00 regarding Cano Health assets. The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act requires members of Congress to report such commercial activity quickly, and Salazar should have reported the transaction no later than March 10.

Former state Rep. Juan-Carlos Planas filed a former Ethics complaint against Salazar. “As a member of the House of Representatives, it is critical that Rep. Salazar complies with her financial disclosure obligations so that the public is granted full and timely disclosure of her finances,” he wrote. “I respectfully request that you promptly investigate this matter.”

What is it with Congress and stock trades?

Beyond the violation itself, Planas said he was especially irked as Salazar had hammered former Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala for similarly violating the STOCK Act by failing to report the sale of a number of health care stocks.

“This is the same thing she complained about Donna Shalala and then she did the same thing,” Planas wrote in the complaint.

Planas served as a Republican in the Florida House but switched to be a Democrat around the time Donald Trump first ran for President.

RIP

Flags on Thursday flew half-staff Thursday in remembrance of Indiana Republican Jackie Walorski. Biden offered praise to the House member, who died following a car crash that also claimed the lives of two staffers.

“We may have represented different parties and disagreed on many issues, but she was respected by members of both parties for her work on the House Ways and Means Committee on which she served,” he said.

RIP: Jackie Walorski was a respected member of Congress who left us too soon.

DeSantis, pursuant to orders from Biden, called for flags in the state to be lowered for his former House colleague. “Walorski was determined to create opportunities for American workers and families to thrive by focusing on helping small businesses and manufacturers grow,” DeSantis said.

Members of the delegation mourned the loss.

Longboat Key Republican Vern Buchanan said he was “deeply saddened by the passing of my friend, Jackie Walorski, and her two staffers. Jackie served on the Ways and Means Committee with me since 2017 and fought tirelessly for her constituents. Praying for their families, staff and loved ones.”

From the other side of the aisle, Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch also felt the loss personally. “This is a devastating and shocking loss. Jackie served with distinction as Ranking Member of the Ethics Committee. I was proud to serve alongside her on Committee and to work closely with her on the Congressional Study Group on Germany. I valued her insights and appreciated her leadership,” he said. “As partisan as Congress has become, it is still a family, and this loss hits close to home. Jackie Walorski was a colleague and a friend. She cared deeply about the House and about her constituents, and she will be dearly missed by all of us.”

On this day

Aug. 5, 1861 — “First federal income tax levied” via Seattle University Law Library — President Abraham Lincoln signed the Revenue Act, passed by Congress, implementing the first income tax ever levied by the federal government. A month earlier, Lincoln met with Congress to deal with the national emergency caused by the outbreak of the Civil War. To generate the funds necessary to pursue the war efforts, Lincoln and Congress decided to impose a 3% tax on annual incomes over $800. In 1871, Congress repealed Lincoln’s tax law, but passed the 16th Amendment in 1909, which established the federal income tax system in place today. In 1913, Congress ratified the 16th Amendment.

Aug. 5, 1981 — “Ronald Reagan fires 11,359 air traffic controllers” via History.com — President Reagan began firing air traffic controllers striking in violation of his order for them to return to work. The executive action, regarded as extreme by many, significantly slowed air travel for months. Two days earlier, almost 13,000 air traffic controllers went on strike after negotiations with the federal government to raise their pay and shorten their workweek proved fruitless. The controllers complained of difficult working conditions and a lack of recognition of the pressures they face. Across the country, some 7,000 flights were canceled. The same day, Reagan called the strike illegal and threatened to fire any controller who had not returned to work within 48 hours.

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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 Jesse Scheckner.


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