Evol love — contraception — war footing — home base — valedictorian (again)


Evol love

A vote to codify marriage equality turned a spotlight onto the evolving politics surrounding same-sex marriage.

Less than 20 years ago, President George W. Bush ran on a promise to push a constitutional amendment establishing marriage as a union between one man and one woman. That never came to be, but Bush won re-election. And within a few years, numerous states, including Florida in 2008, put measures in their constitutions prohibiting same-sex marriage.

But when the House this week took up the Respect For Marriage Act (HR 8404), more than half the Florida delegation in the House supported the legislation. That included six Republicans — Reps. Kat Cammack, Mario Díaz-Balart, Carlos Giménez, Brian Mast, María Elvira Salazar and Michael Waltz — who joined with every Democrat from Florida in passing the bill.

Attitudes about same-sex marriage have evolved in the past 20 years.

“I have always supported the right to marry, gay or straight, guided by my belief we are all equal under the law,” Giménez, a Miami Republican, said. “It’s time our laws reflect that. That’s why I voted in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act.”

Díaz-Balart, a Hialeah Republican, offered a more measured statement focusing on the need for all states to treat marriages equally. “The concept of all states respecting other states’ decisions on marriage laws is deeply rooted in American jurisprudence and tradition and coincides with my position on reciprocity between states for concealed carry permits,” he said.

The bulk of Florida Republicans still voted nay. That included Rep. Matt Gaetz, who has often been more libertarian about gay rights but views this as a states’ rights matter.

“In a fit of hysteria triggered by one sentence in a concurring opinion by Justice Thomas, Democrats have moved to introduce a bill codifying Obergefell v. Hodges,” he tweeted, referencing the 2015 Supreme Court ruling making marriage equality the law of the land. “This holding is not in jeopardy. Gay marriage doesn’t offend me nearly as much as offending federalism does through this legislation.”

Hardly any attention was paid to Democratic unity on the bill, but even that marks a shift in politics barely a decade old. The same day Florida passed its ban on same-sex marriage, it also gave its electoral votes to President Barack Obama when he won the presidency in 2008. But that wasn’t any contradiction as Obama still opposed same-sex marriage at the time. He didn’t “evolve” on that matter until 2012 — only after public pressure by then-Vice President Joe Biden. Now Biden leads the party and country, but it wasn’t long ago when Democrats distanced themselves from same-sex marriage. Former Sen. Bill Nelson only shifted his position on the issue in 2013, after his last successful re-election campaign in 2012.

Of course, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat who served as a Republican Governor from 2006 to 2010, voiced support for “traditional marriage” and supported the Florida same-sex marriage ban. He only changed his position in 2013, a move earning him a “Full Flop” from PolitiFact. But he voted in favor of preserving marriage equality this week.

“I’m proud to support the Respect for Marriage Act to protect the rights of all couples across Florida,” Crist said. “Love is love!”

Pre-emptive

Contraception also relates to love and lust; it’s also one of the items the House believes must be taken up before the Supreme Court does.

On Thursday, the House voted to ensure access to contraception. But it wasn’t so popular with Republicans.

Congress wants to make sure you can get one of these. Just in case.

Many said they believe in practice that’s as old as consciousness that love and lust might result in the pitter-patter of little feet, but they wouldn’t vote because of a belief enshrining its access in law might be “a Trojan horse” for abortion, one Republican told The New York Times.

Still, Miami Republican Salazar was among just four House Republicans up for re-election and willing to go on the record supporting birth control access.

Ready for war

Sen. Marco Rubio wants allies in the Eastern Hemisphere ready for war with China. The Miami Republican led a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urging the deployment of intercontinental ballistic missiles to the Info-Pacific region.

The message cites a Defense Department report that says the Chinese military has more than 1,250 ground-launching ballistic missiles and ground-launching cruise missiles already in silos with ranges of 310 to 3,400 miles.

Marco Rubio calls on Lloyd Austin to be prepared for a war with China. Image via AP.

“The U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 2019 provides an opportunity for us to adequately protect our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific from future CCP attempts at nuclear aggression,” the letter notes. “U.S. alliances and partnerships are essential not only for the defense of the U.S. homeland but also to our efforts to build and sustain a rules-based international order. To keep this balance, the U.S. must prioritize the development and deployment of GLBMs and GLCMs in the Indo-Pacific. The permanent, forward deployment of these weapons would demonstrate a strong commitment to our allies and partners that the U.S. is indeed committed to upholding a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Yet there has been a “glaring lack of action” from the U.S. on military readiness in the region.

“The U.S. Department of Defense’s (DOD) Fiscal Year 2023 budget specifically cites more than 100 new intercontinental ballistic missile silos recently built by China and highlights CCP’s growing military power as ‘the most serious potential threat to the U.S. and its allies,’” the letter states. “According to a 2020 assessment submitted by U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) to Congress, INDOPACOM made clear that GLBMs and GLCMS will be critical in breaking through the PLA’s defense systems.

“According to the report, INDOPACOM needs ‘highly survivable, precision-strike networks along the first island chain, featuring increased quantities of ground-based weapons.’ These capabilities would allow INDOPACOM, in the event of an attack, to ensure that the U.S. and allies maintain freedom of movement in the region by denying an adversary’s efforts to restrict operations in a contested environment.”

Intel inside

As the Governor of Florida, Rick Scott often fought with the Legislature about his desire to offer more incentives to companies doing business in the state. But as a Senator, he’s taking issue with federal incentives for tech manufacturing.

In a video shared on Twitter, Scott slammed the CHIPS for America Act (S 3933) advancing in the Senate.

“Inflation is raging over 9% across America, and in Florida, inflation is even higher than that,” he said. “It’s costing Florida families nearly $800 more every month. Now we know what causes this. It’s reckless government spending.”

All that … and a bag of CHIPS.

That’s why he doesn’t want a bill devoting $250 billion that supporters say will keep helping the U.S. superconductor industry compete with China. But Scott said it would help China by giving money to businesses working with the Eastern superpower.

In a Fox Business op-ed, he criticized the bill and U.S. chip manufacturer Intel.

“Intel Corp. made $20 billion last year,” Scott wrote. “We are going to give them some money to build a plant. Then we’re going to give them a tax deduction for building the plant, and then we are going to give them a tax credit for building the plant. And guess what? They can keep doing business in China.

“Sounds like a pro-China bill, not an anti-China bill to me.”

Disney data

Gaetz publicly slammed a former colleague for taking a position lobbying for Disney. During a House Judiciary Committee meeting on a bipartisan data privacy bill, the Panhandle Republican turned fire on a witness, former House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte.

Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, served 13 years in the House but now works as a lobbyist on the hill and counts the Mouse among his clients.

Bob Goodlatte fields a salvo of criticism from Matt Gaetz for his work with Disney. Image via AP.

“It is not just the government that engaged in these really terrifying data marketplaces. It’s the Chinese Communist Party, Russia, big corporations,” he said. “Chairman Goodlatte, does the Walt Disney Corporation engage in this terrifying data marketplace?”

Goodlatte said he did not know of such activity from Disney but came to support the legislation.

Gaetz cites a Los Angeles Times article calling Disney the “happiest surveillance operation on Earth.” He also asserted Disney buys data from brokers and sells data collected on apps aimed at children.

“As you sit here and talk to us about the harm of this data enterprise, are you concerned that the people who pay you also engage in that very same work?”

Goodlatte said Disney and other private corporations handle consumer data differently from what government spies in the U.S. and abroad may do, and a distinction should be drawn.

“What government can do with that data is very different from what individual enterprises can do,” Goodlatte said.

But Gaetz suggested Disney can use data to program behavior, and that’s concerning as the company continues to do business with China.

Pass the ammo

The House Judiciary Committee’s first legislative markup on an assault-style weapons ban in two decades had Gaetz reaching back only as recently as last weekend for evidence such a ban would have prevented a “good guy with a gun” from stopping someone mowing people down.

“It’s a recent example of the weapons you are trying to ban being used to save and preserve life,” Gaetz said.

Matt Gaetz is a little hazy on details. Image via NBC News.

While Gaetz called it a “rifle,” it was a 9 mm pistol that reportedly saved the day. Reports are, though, that the killer of innocent shoppers had a Sig Sauer model M400 5.56 caliber rifle, a weapon that’s been used in some of the deadliest shootings in the country, the Indianapolis Star reported. It allowed the ‘bad guy’ shooter to get off 24 rounds in about two minutes, police said.

But such circumstances in which an armed bystander can stop an attacker are what researchers call “a statistical unicorn.” The Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University found that out of 432 active shooter attacks that occurred between 2000 and 2021, just 22 of them ended with a bystander shooting an attacker, The New York Times reported.

Nope

FEMA will not rebuild a Panama City civic center destroyed by Hurricane Michael in 2018.

A three-judge panel voted 2-1 against a city’s request to pay the total replacement cost of the structure, the Panama City News Herald reported. Panama City had argued the storm caused damage worth more than 50% of the market value of the Marina Civic Center.

“This news is extremely disappointing,” said Panama City Republican Neal Dunn.

For repairing its civic center, Panama City is on its own.

But he agreed with a statement by City Manager Mark McQueen that Panama City would “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” and press on.

“This is not the end, and I am ready to help in any way I can,” Dunn said.

Dunn diligently worked with the city as it sought reimbursement from the federal agency. It’s unclear what options the city will pursue now to compensate for the loss.

River passage

Legislation to provide federal designation to the Kissimmee River flowed closer to becoming law.

The House overwhelmingly passed the Kissimmee River Wild and Scenic River Act (HR 4404), which would call on the Interior Department to study and determine within three years whether to include the water body in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

Kissimmee Democrat Darren Soto cheered passage of the bill, which he sponsored with Florida Republicans Vern Buchanan and Scott Franklin.

Will the Kissimmee River get another chance at federal protection?

“It is critical for us to preserve the historic Kissimmee River as it is home to many of Florida’s endangered species and the heart of the state’s water drainage route,” Soto said. “As we continue working to improve our environment, we must ensure that this natural treasure is able to sustain the growth of future generations. I am thrilled with the progress we’ve made in the House and urge the Senate to promptly send this bill to President Joe Biden’s desk.”

Last year, the Army Corps of Engineers completed a decades-long restoration effort to restore habitats along the river, and inclusion in the federal network would offer protection to the environment around the river moving forward.

Home base

As officials in Miami-Dade County consider allowing civilian flights at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Miami Republican Giménez wants Congress to ground those plans. He filed legislation in the House to prohibit civil aviation at a facility opened for national security use.

“Preserving the Homestead Air Reserve Base for its original intent and purpose is critical to protecting our national security interests,” Gimenez said. “This legislation will ensure the base’s functionality and main objective are stated by law as such. Allowing aircraft not affiliated with our military or armed services to utilize an air reserve facility would compromise our country’s national security. Prohibiting joint use of the Homestead Air Reserve Base limits and ensures the protection of our strategic interests.”

Hard landing: Carlos Giménez wants to ground commercial flights from military bases.

Notably, Giménez sponsored the legislation, as conversations about private airfield use started while he still served as Miami-Dade Mayor in 2020. But he did support a ban on cargo flights, one proposed by now-Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

That addresses an underlying factor in a push for civilian flights — opening a major Amazon facility near Homestead.

Scott and Rubio, who will carry Senate legislation mirroring Giménez’s House bill, also seemed to allude to that in their statements supporting the ban.

“Civil use of HARB would harm our military readiness and jeopardize critical Everglades restoration projects,” Rubio said. “This bill would ensure that corporate special interests do not come before our national security.”

“I’m committed to preserving and enhancing military readiness on our bases, and as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I was proud to lead the effort to include this provision in the National Defense Authorization Act,” added Scott.

Save the whale

Salazar wants the federal government to do a welfare check on two residents of her district, orca whale Lolita and dolphin Lii.

The Miami Seaquarium whale, also known as Tokitae, controversially remains confined in a tank 80 feet wide, 35 feet long, and just 20 feet deep. That’s been her home since 1970 when she was captured from the Puget Sound in Washington. Lii was also caught in the wild and put in the tank in 1988. But MS Leisure, which took over ownership of Seaquarium in March, has kept Whale Stadium, the home of the sea creatures, closed from public view and ended a whale show.

The decision came after the U.S. Department of Agriculture called for repairs to the tank, which had already stopped shows temporarily for months before the ownership change.

Lolita gets a carve-out in federal law.

The change in ownership meant a new USDA permit had to be issued to MC Leisure to keep its animals, but in an unusual move, the agency excluded MS Leisure from requirements of the Animal Welfare Act for Lolita and Lii since the stadium held the mammals from public view.

“Because (1) MS Leisure has made the decision not to exhibit Lolita/Tokitae and the Pacific white-sided dolphin within the Whale Stadium, (2) the Whale Stadium is inaccessible to the public and the animals contained therein are not visible to the public, and (3) the animals in Whale Stadium are separate from, and will not be in contact with, the regulated animals at Miami Seaquarium, these animals (Lolita and her dolphin companion) are not covered by this USDA license,” read an agency explanation when the license was issued.

But public concerns about the animals’ well-being remain.

Salazar and Washington Democrat Suzan DelBene led a letter to the USDA calling for an explanation as to how several laws apply to ownership of the killer whale and the dolphin. These include the Animal Welfare Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the Endangered Species Act as it relates to Lolita.

“We are concerned about the precedent this license has set and look forward to also hearing from you on how this decision will affect all animals held in captivity under the Animal Welfare Act, now and in the future,” the letter states.

Delegation Democrats Frederica Wilson and Ted Deutch and Republican Mast were among co-signatories.

Valedictory redux

When Zander Moricz, the valedictorian for Pine View School in Sarasota County, wrote a graduation speech, the school’s administration demanded the openly gay student not discuss his sexuality. But Education Secretary Miguel Cardona invited the graduate to Washington to give his original speech this week at the Department of Education.

“I was my school’s first openly gay class president, and I am way too young for that to be the truth,” Moricz said in his speech. “But it is my community’s promise that each time a bar is raised, it is used as a rung to be scaled on the ladder we climb toward freedom.”

On this day

July 22, 1937 — “Senate rejects Franklin Roosevelt court-packing plan” via the Supreme Court Historical Society — President Roosevelt submitted a plan to Congress for increasing the number of Supreme Court Justices from nine to as many as 15. Senate Majority Leader Joe Robinson of Arkansas led the fight for enacting it. Robinson opened the proceedings with a two-hour-long speech. Robinson went long rounds with his opposition, bellowing and stamping his feet like an enraged bull. But his trademark vigor flagged, and when he returned to his apartment that night, he dropped dead. Without Robinson’s aggressive advocacy, the bill was doomed. Roosevelt’s plan for enlarging the Supreme Court was defeated.

July 22, 1975 — “Citizenship is voted for Robert E. Lee” via The New York Times — Lee won his final skirmish of the Civil War as Congress agreed to restore his citizenship. It was a hollow victory for the general, who died 105 years ago. But present to applaud House approval of the Senate-passed resolution was his great‐grandson, Robert E. Lee IV, a distillery executive from McLean, Virginia. “It’s an excellent thing for Congress to do, particularly at this time of our Bicentennial,” Lee said. President Gerald Ford is expected to sign the resolution this week, 110 years after Lee started his appeal for restoring the citizenship he lost by commanding Confederate troops.

Happy birthday

Best wishes to Rep. Charlie Crist, who turns 66 on Sunday, July 24.

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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 Anne Geggis.


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