The Delegation for 6.21.17 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

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An eventful two weeks on Capitol Hill

Over the past two weeks, shootings, Kumbayas, tensions in Syria, and a hotly contested special election have relegated the incessant chatter and leaks about Russia to second tier status. The investigation goes on, but the issue – and the leaks – now share the spotlight with more timely events. Health care will soon take center stage.

This race in the Atlanta suburbs was for a GOP-leaning seat once held by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. It was set up as a referendum on President Donald Trump and was the talk of the political world in Florida and around the country.

With the GOP holding serve with Karen Handel’s victory, Republicans in swing districts such as Carlos Curbelo, Brian Mast and Mario Diaz-Balart might be breathing a bit easier, at least for a while. For Democrats like Stephanie Murphy and Charlie Crist, the results likely triggered an opposite reaction.

When it comes to health care, perhaps the GOP is trying to take advantage of the noise surrounding the Trump/Russia hysteria and the other front burner issues. With all of the distractions, the Senate is going full speed trying to pass their version of the repeal of Obamacare.

Florida’s senior senator, Democrat Bill Nelson is not happy about this at all. He offered the common view among his party’s caucus in the Senate.

“If you’re going to fix the health care system, you’re going to have to do it together in a bipartisan way, building consensus” he said earlier this week on the Senate floor. “And that’s what I urge the Senate to do instead of what we are seeing behind closed doors.”

Nelson’s counterpart, Republican Senator Marco Rubio, also advises against limiting input.

“The Senate is not the place where you can just cook up something behind closed doors and rush it for a vote,” he said. “So, the first step in this may be crafted among a small group of people, but then everyone’s going to get to weigh in.”

Rubio’s scenario seems to describe the next step in the Senate process. The closed doors are set to open with a “discussion” bill set to emerge this week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the real debate will begin “likely next week” after receiving a score from the Congressional Budget Office.

At that point, the come-togetherness of the House and Senate spawned by the recent shootings, will likely devolve back into name-calling and other rhetorical bomb throwing. With public opinion seemingly shifting away from Republican plans, some running for re-election in 2018 may have an important piece of history in their minds.

They are in the same place Democrats were in 2010 following passage of Obamacare. It would be no surprise to see the final bill include measures that do not kick in until after 2018.

While that could Republicans through this cycle (but Democrats were hammered in 2010), the American Health Care Act had better work….or else prepare for consequences.

Meanwhile, here are this week’s insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State.

Rubio, Diaz-Balart join Trump in Miami for new Cuba policy rollout

Florida’s junior senator predicted he would be pleased with President Trump’s new Cuba policy once it was revealed on Friday in Miami. He was not disappointed.

As Sen. Rubio and Miami Republican Rep. Diaz-Balart urged, Trump rolled out his new policy that forbids travelers to Cuba from engaging with entities that have ties to the Cuban military. The military controls much of the tourism industry. In Trump’s remarks, he said he was “canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba.”

Speaking before Trump, Rubio offered his view of the difference between the policies of the Obama and Trump administration.

President Donald Trump shows a signed executive order on Cuba policy during an event in Miami on Friday. (Photo via the Associated Press.i)

“A year and a half ago, a president, an American president, landed in Havana, to outstretch his hand to a regime,” Rubio said in reference to former President Barack Obama. “Today, a new president lands in Miami to reach out his hand to the people of Cuba.”

As expected, the President did not close the American Embassy, nor ban travel to the rogue island nation or hinder the ability to acquire items such as Cuban cigars.

Diaz-Balart took his opportunity at the microphone to praise Trump’s commitment to freedom for the Cubans.

“I have a message for the Cuban people, and to all of those struggling for freedom, President Trump stands with you,” Diaz-Balart told the supportive crowd. “He will not stand for the suppression of basic rights.”

Paulson’s Principles: Rubio drafts new Cuban policy

In 2014, the Obama Administration overturned a half-century travel ban by Americans to Cuba and opened up diplomatic relations with the Cuban government. As a result of those changes, travel to Cuba has sky-rocketed.

80,200 individuals traveled to Cuba from the city of Tampa in 2016. During the first five months of 2017, 63,635 individuals have flown to Cuba, most by way of SW Airlines. Two cruise ships also depart from Tampa with Cuban destinations.

In reversing Obama’s policy, President Trump maintained he was keeping his campaign promise to roll back the “terrible and misleading deal” by Obama. The last week of the campaign, Trump campaigned in Miami at the Bay of Pigs Museum. He promised changes in Obama’s Cuban policy and received the endorsement of Brigade 2506, veterans of the 1961 failed invasion of Cuba. This was the group’s first endorsement of a presidential candidate.

Senator Rubio was the key architect of the new policy, along with input from Representative Mario Diaz-Balart and Governor Rick Scott. Trump praised Rubio for “working diligently behind the scenes with the administration.” Rubio considered it a personal victory and Tweeted a photo of himself and Diaz-Balart with a comment that they “hammered out new Cuban policy.”

The new policy keeps in place diplomatic relations, and allows travel and money to flow to Cuba. The major change is that it prohibits Americans from staying in lodging or eating in restaurants controlled by the Cuban military. About 80% of tourism in Cuba is controlled by the military.

Facilities controlled by Groupa de Administration Empresarial, S.A. (GAESA) will be off-limits to American visitors. They must stay in lodging and eat in restaurants owned by Cuban citizens. This, according to Rubio, will benefit Cuban entrepreneurs and not the military.

The new policy will also require the Justice Department to report on American fugitives in Cuba. The best-known fugitive is Assata Shakur, also known as JoAnne Chesimard, who was convicted of murdering a New Jersey trooper in 1973. She escaped from prison and fled to Cuba.

The overall response to Trump’s new Cuban policy was generally negative among both Republicans and Democrats. This was not surprising since public opinion polls found that most Americans and most Cuban-Americans backed the Obama changes.

Congresswoman Kathy Castor led the opposition to the Trump changes, calling Trump’s new policy “regrettable,” saying that “it takes us backwards.” Tampa is home to the third largest Cuban-American population in the nation.

The policy was supported by Cuban-American members of the Florida delegation. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the senior Republican member of the Florida delegation and a frequent critic of the president, commented that she “fully supported President Trump’s announcement on his new Cuban policy and I commend my legislative brothers, Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, for playing an instrumental role in crafting this initiative.”

Obama’s Cuban policy was achieved through executive order with no congressional action required. Trump’s changes were also done by executive order. Who knows what will occur with the next regime.

Delegation works toward flood insurance reform

Flood insurance plans put Rubio, Elizabeth Warren in same boat, upsetting Florida agents —A fix to the federal flood insurance program, curbing costs and threats to real estate markets have created an unlikely duo — Rubio and liberal firebrand Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

But as The Palm Beach Post reports, Florida agents, facing a Sept. 30 deadline to reauthorize the flood program, are rising alarm, provoked by a House agreement that seeks to slash payments to agents and other private groups that sell and administer National Flood Insurance Program policies. Florida is the No. 1 flood insurance market, with about 40 percent of the 5 million flood policies in the U.S.

“I am deeply concerned that Congress is attacking this essential lifeline to hard-working American insureds by trying to underfund its administration,” said Corey Mathews, CEO of the Professional Insurance Agents of Florida.

Crist pushes flood insurance affordability — The St. Petersburg Democrat is seeking measures for more affordable flood insurance. He is proposing two amendments to legislation aimed at renewing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The lack of affordable flood insurance would be “devastating for communities like Pinellas County.”

He contends affordability is not covered in the legislation under discussion in the House Committee on Financial Services. One measure proposed by Crist calls for repealing “unnecessary rate hikes,” while another prevents NFIP policy holders from being forced “into the volatile private insurance market.”

“Pinellas families know the cost of flood insurance is already too darn high,” Crist said at last week’s committee hearing. “We need to come together and do the right thing for middle class families, helping preserve the American dream of home ownership.

Floridians account for one-third of all NFIP policies in the nation and paid almost $1 billion into the program last year.

“Affordability means that families will be better able to protect themselves before a disaster rather than relying on the good graces of FEMA after the fact,” he said.

Republicans Dennis Ross and Bill Posey are also members of the committee.

Gaetz holds “Open Gaetz Day” on Fort Walton Beach

Rep. Matt Gaetz spent a recent Saturday hanging with his constituents, hosting a town hall, chatting with residents at an assisted living community, and attending a military roundtable to talk about the everything from the defense budget to PTSD.

The day-long event was the most recent “Open Gaetz Day,” giving Fort Walton Beach residents a chance to get to know their congressman and talk to him about the issues important to them.

Gaetz kicked off his day with a town hall at KC’s Sandbar on Miracle Strip Parkway, before visiting residents and staff at the Bob Hope Village Hawthorn House.

Rep. Matt Gaetz answers questions during a town hall meeting as part of his “Open Gaetz Day” in Fort Walton Beach on Saturday. (Photo via Rep. Matt Gaetz Office)

The congressman also toured the Fort Walton Beach Medical Center and Ambulatory Center, which, as a state representative, Gaetz played a key role in helping expand care to trauma patients. After the tour, he attended an employee appreciation event.

Gaetz also stopped by the newly opened Aquatic Center at the Children’s Center, followed by a military roundtable. He ended the day at the Latin Salsa Festival at Fort Walton Beach Landing.

Pensacola set to welcome new Coast Guard cutters

More than 150 Coast Guardsmen and women, along with their families, will soon be calling Pensacola their new home. Last week the U.S. Coast Guard announced the Coast Guard Cutter Decisive and the Coast Guard Cutter Dauntless would relocate to Pensacola.

Both crafts, 210-foot Medium Endurance Cutters, will be docked in their new home not later than August, 2018. They will join the Coast Guard Cutter Cypress, which is already based at the Naval Air Station Pensacola.

“This is incredible news for Pensacola and for all northwest Floridians,” said Rep. Gaetz. “Not only is northwest Florida gaining 152 new families, but the safety and security of the Emerald Coast and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico is significantly enhanced.”

Coast Guard cutters routinely conduct drug enforcement missions, patrol for illegal immigration attempts by sea, search and rescue, maritime law enforcement and defense readiness. In 2016, the crew of the Dauntless worked with the Royal Canadian Navy to seize 26 tons of cocaine worth $715 million.

The Decisive is currently ported in Pascagoula, Miss. while the Dauntless is based in Galveston, Texas.

Yoho urges Ben Carson to reverse Obama-era ‘Housing First,’ reinstate homeless shelter funds

Rep. Ted Yoho, joined by 22 other House Republicans, co-signed a letter calling Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson to reverse the “Housing First” emphasis in policies during the Obama administration.

“Housing First” holds that the best solution for homelessness is moving people into permanent, independent housing as quickly as possible. To implement those guidelines, HUD began increasing programs following that approach, cutting support for traditional shelters.

GOP lawmakers say that because of Housing First, successful homeless shelters in their districts have lost federal funding; they believe Carson needs to review the policy now.

“The Housing First approach may work for some, but it isn’t — and can’t be — the answer for all,” says California Republican Darrell Issa, who also signed the letter. “This misguided policy has caused some of the most effective homeless assistance programs in our district to walk away from the funding they need to help families get back on their feet.”

Rutherford: ‘Not concerned’ about Russian collusion with Trump campaign

Rep. John Rutherford wants officials to look into Russia’s attempt to interject itself into the 2016 election, but doesn’t think there was any collusion between Russians and the Trump campaign, reports A.G. Gancarski with Florida Politics.

“If they were going to find collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, I think it would have already been uncovered,” said Rutherford, a Jacksonville Republican and an ally of President Trump. “So I’m not concerned at all about that. And I’m also not concerned about this idea that somehow … whatever the conversation was with [former FBI Director James] Comey, obstruction of justice.”

A member of the House Judiciary Committee, Rutherford said he doesn’t expect the panel to take up the issue of Russian interference in the election any time soon. Rutherford said he believes the “Intelligence Oversight Committee in the House and the Senate is doing their job.”

Lawson bill seeks to extend life of Social Security, provide more benefits

The Democrat from Tallahassee has introduced legislation aimed at preserving the long term health of Social Security while extending benefits to certain Americans. The Social Security for Future Generations Act of 2017 would, among other things, extend the life of Social Security by 15 years, increase some benefits, and levy payroll taxes on wages above $250,000.

“As the program is currently operating, the Social Security trust fund will be depleted by 2034,” Lawson said in a release. “I call on my colleagues in the House to join me in increasing benefits and extending the life of one of our nation’s most sacred commitments.”

Lawson’s proposal would also extend student benefits to age 22, create a “sustainable benefit” for those who lose a spouse or loved one, provide across-the-board cost of living adjustments, and establish a minimum benefit for long-term low wage workers.

The bill has gained 17 Democratic co-sponsors including Alcee Hastings of Miramar and Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens. Among the interests groups signing on are the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, Social Security Works, Alliance for Retired Americans and Justice for the Aging.

Murphy helps family reclaim father’s military medals

With all of the rancor on Capitol Hill and the shooting of Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise, the Winter Park Democrat had the chance to make a constituent happy. On Saturday, Murphy presented military service awards to the daughter of a World War II veteran.

Paul Linton was a naval officer aboard the USS Harry Lee in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. During his service, Linton earned 6 medals as a navigator, but his daughter Marie and her siblings played with them “and lost them or destroyed them,” she said.

Marie Delaney asked Murphy if she could help to have the medals re-issued.

“I said ‘why don’t we see if we can get his medals’ just to have them for the family and his grandchildren so they would know what their grandfather did,” Delaney said.

Murphy was happy to help.

Rep. Stephanie Murphy presented Marie Delaney with six medals her father, Paul Linton, a naval officer during World War II, was awarded over the weekend. The original medals were damaged or lost over the years, and Delaney asked Murphy for her help to get them re-issued. (Photo via Rep. Stephanie Murphy’s Facebook page.)

“They should be so proud of their father for his service to this country and the man he was,” Murphy said at a ceremony in Oviedo. “I’ve so enjoyed meeting the family and hearing the clear lessons he’s taught his family, and they carry on his legacy.”

On the eve of Father’s Day, memories of her late father rushed to her.

“To honor my father, that we have these back – all of them – it’s just for his children, myself included, that we can see just what our dad did,” said Delaney

Castor: Despite Trump policy, Tampa Bay area will continue to engage Cuba

The Tampa Democrat is not a fan of President Trump’s new Cuba policy. Two hours after Trump spoke in Miami, laying out an order prohibiting transactions with Cuban military-controlled entities, Castor said the Tampa Bay area will continue to engage the communist island.

“I think President Trump’s new policy is regrettable and it takes us backward, because what it will do will really complicate our neighbor’s ability to travel to Cuba,” Castor said. “It’s going to make it more expensive, more costly and add bureaucratic red tape.”

Trump’s order specifically limits commerce with GAESA, the business conglomerate owned by the Revolutionary Armed Forces. According to the Miami Herald, GAESA controls more than 50 enterprises.

The president’s call for more freedom for the Cuban people drew skepticism from Castor as well.

“When you look at what they’ve said in Saudi Arabia, the relationship with Turkey, the Philippines, where the leader there is outright taking the lives of some of his citizens, there’s a great inconsistency there,” Castor said.

Buchanan touts legislation to target synthetic opioids

Rep. Vern Buchanan is co-sponsoring legislation that targets synthetic opioids like fentanyl. The Sarasota Republican supports efforts to strengthen the hand of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in their efforts to intercept these narcotics that are killing Americans at an alarming rate.

The INTERDICT Act would help stem the flow of fentanyl and other drugs by providing border agents with drug-detecting chemical screening devices at ports of entry. It authorizes $15 million in federal resources for the screening devices and for hiring scientists to assist in the effort.

A lethal dose of heroin next to a lethal dose of fentanyl (Photo: New Hampshire State Police)

“Fentanyl is a real and alarming threat to the Suncoast,” said Buchanan in a release. “American border patrol agents are on the front lines and need the resources to block these deadly drugs from entering our country.”

Two counties in Buchanan’s district, Sarasota and Manatee, had the highest and second-highest number of fentanyl-related deaths per capita in the state in 2015.

Fentanyl is 50 times more powerful than heroin. A lethal dose of the drug is similar to two or three grains of salt.

It can be produced in other countries and sent to the U.S. via mail. Buchanan is also a co-sponsor of the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Protection (STOP) Act, a bill designed to target this method of transporting killer drugs.

T. Rooney language saves rural VA clinics

The Okeechobee Republican reacted strongly to a recommendation that the Veterans’ Administration close two rural clinics in south Florida. Early last week, Rep. Tom Rooney and Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart wrote to Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, calling on him to reject the recommendation.

Instead of waiting, Rooney went ahead and got the funding for the clinics. Late last week, the House Appropriations Committee, of which Rooney and Diaz-Balart are members, passed their 2018 appropriation which $250 million for rural health thanks to language inserted by Rooney.

“Our men and women who selflessly put their lives on the line have a hard enough time receiving care as it is without the VA closing the clinics that are closest to their homes,” said Rooney, an Army veteran. “This bill is a prime example of the bipartisan work that occurs in the House of Representatives every day.”

The appropriations bill passed the full committee by voice vote. In another sign of true bipartisanship, the GOP-dominated committee inserted language proposed by committee member and Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz that exempts the Veterans Crisis Line from the federal hiring freeze.

Both the new language and the full appropriations bill were approved by voice vote.

Frankel touts FEMA grant to cover hurricane costs

The West Palm Beach Democrat was happy to tout a $1 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The funds come to help cover the costs incurred when Hurricane Matthew swept through the area in October.

The grant covers costs incurred by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office as they worked to protect citizens before and after the storm approached. Fortunately, the area was spared a direct hit.

“Hurricanes wreak havoc on communities and also their budgets,” Frankel said in a statement. “This grant offers relief to Palm Beach County’s Sheriff’s Office, allowing them to put their resources toward serving the county.”

This grant is the second federal reimbursement over recent weeks. Frankel, Boca Raton Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch and local officials sought, and ultimately received, reimbursements for heightened use of local law enforcement covering President Trump’s visits to his Mar-a-Lago estate.

National Democrats take aim at Rick Scott over health care

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is once again targeting Gov. Rick Scott over his support of the Republican health care agenda.

The committee announced this week it was launching full-screen, Google takeover ads featuring new versions of a DSCC called “The Price” aimed at Scott’s support of the health care plan and its impact on Florida families. The ad, which the national Democratic organization says will reach targeted voters in Florida who make up key elements of the 2018 midterm electorate, is part of an ongoing six-figure digital ad buy.

“Rick Scott cannot escape the toxic impact his health care proposals will have: spiking costs, sabotaging care and stripping coverage for hardworking families in order to give another handout to himself and big insurance companies,” said David Bergstein, a spokesman for the DSCC. “This week the stakes for middle class families could not be higher — if Scott has his way the consequences for Floridians who actually work for a living will be expensive and horrific. We are standing with voters in opposing a plan that is deeply unpopular in Florida, and will hold Gov. Scott accountable for his actions.”

The 30-second spot features images of a man and woman selling their vehicle and jewelry, before appearing at the hospital bed of a child. At the end of the advertisement, the words “What will Rick Scott’s health care plan cost you?” flash across the screen.

Scott is believed to be preparing for a run against Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018.

Mark your calendars

Happening Sunday:

Seminar series features Diaz-Balart, Mast — The Florida House on Capitol Hill’s popular intern summer series is in full swing.

The annual series gives Florida college students a chance to interact and exchange ideas with each other, members of the Sunshine State’s congressional delegation, and business and government leaders.

According to the Florida House, Rep. Diaz-Balart is scheduled to speak at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Upcoming speakers include Rep. Brian Mast on June 29 and Rep. Castor on July 13. A tour of the Supreme Court is tentatively scheduled for 10 a.m. on July 6.

Seminars begin at 8:30 a.m., with a light breakfast served at 8 a.m. The seminars take place at Florida House. Students interested in attending can RSVP to each event at rsvp@floridahousedc.org.

JAX Chamber talks priorities in D.C.

The JAX Chamber is making good use of its connections in the nation’s capital.

About 30 members of the JAX Chamber traveled to Washington, D.C. last week for its annual D.C. Fly-In.

The annual trip is an opportunity to meet with the congressional delegation and federal agencies to talk about the priorities for Northeast Florida’s business community. The group has expanded the number of international meetings over the years, calling on embassies to build and strengthen relationships with partners across the globe. This year, members attended meetings on several issues, including transportation, energy, military and international trade.

Members of the JAX Chamber attended an event at the White House last week as part of its annual D.C. Fly-In. (Photo via the JAX Chamber.)

“Any time we have an opportunity to sell Jacksonville and talk about our city, we do it, and we’ve seen tremendous success from recent D.C. Fly-Ins,” said Daniel Davis, the president and CEO of the JAX Chamber. “When we’re up there, people know we’re a city with a strong port, that’s making huge strides in energy and is open for international business.”

A.G. Gancarski with Florida Politics reported members of the Jacksonville delegation attended a White House event organized by Omarosa Manigault, who recently married Pastor John Newman. Gancarski reported Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to President Trump, also made an appearance at the event.

Matt Brockelman with Southern Strategy Group has a cool behind the scenes look at the trip to D.C.:

Meek joins King & Spalding

Former U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek has joined King & Spalding as a senior advisor in the government advocacy and public policy practice in Washington, D.C.

“Congressman Meek has built a strong reputation as a bipartisan leader and is highly-regarded by his fellow lawmakers as a strategic negotiator and advocate for his constituents,” said Tom Spulak, chair of the firm’s Government Advocacy and Public Policy practice, in a statement. “Our clients will benefit from his insights and his deep experience as a legislator at the state and federal level.”

Meek will focus on health care, homeland security, agriculture, and financial services sectors. He is expected to split his time between D.C. and Florida, according to POLITICO Influence.

Former U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek has joined King & Spalding as a senior advisor in the government advocacy and public policy practice. (Photo via the Associated Press.)

“King & Spalding’s stellar reputation in the area of government advocacy and its deep bench of talent from both sides of the political aisle made it a great fit for me,” said Meek in a statement.

According to POLITICO Influence, Meek is the second former Florida congressman to join King & Spalding this year. In March, former Rep. Ander Crenshaw joined the firm as senior counsel.

Meek served in the U.S. House from 2002 until 2010, during which he served on the House Ways and Means Committee. He sponsored and passed legislation focused on tax, trade and health care issues.

Meek did not run for re-election in 2010, choosing instead to run for U.S. Senate, where he came in third behind then-candidate Republican Marco Rubio and then-independent candidate Charlie Crist. Prior to serving in the U.S. House, Meek served in both the Florida House and Senate.

McFaul talks Scalise shooting

Dan McFaul, a partner at Ballard Partners in Washington, D.C., said he hoped “some good” could come out of a shooting at an Alexandria, Virginia baseball field that left several people, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, injured last week.

“When something serious like this happens, you see partisanship dramatically go down,” said McFaul to Rick Outezen on his Pensacola Speaks podcast last week.

McFaul served as Rep. Jeff Miller’s chief of staff, as well as a stint as Rep. Matt Gaetz’s chief of staff, before joining Ballard Partners. Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, was on the congressional baseball team, but was not present at the practice.

Members of both congressional teams bow their heads for a moment of silence for Rep. Steve Scalise before the Congressional baseball game on June 15, 2017 in Washington. The annual GOP-Democrats baseball game raises money for charity. (Photo via the Associated Press.)

The Louisiana Republican was one of five people injured when a gunman opened fire at the field where GOP congressmen were practicing for their annual charity baseball game against Democrats. The Associated Press reported a bullet entered Scalise’s hip and shattered bones, blood vessels and internal organs, causing massive internal bleeding that put his life at risk. He has undergone several surgeries, and was upgraded from critical to serious condition over the weekend.

McFaul said it “was a shock” when he heard about the shooting on the radio. Still he said he was hopeful something good could come from it.

“There’s things that are more important than party, and certainly this is one of those things,” he said. “It’s my hope some good can come from this, some lessons can be learned and we can all learn to play a little nicer with each other.”

Ros-Lehtinen a popular teammate on Congressional Women’s Softball team

Last week’s Congressional Baseball Game, won by Democrats 11-2, attracted nation-wide attention and record-breaking charitable fund raising following the shootings in a Virginia park the day before. A similar event, the Congressional Women’s Softball Game is less known, but gaining extra attention this year.

The game features a bipartisan group of Congresswomen against women members of the media known as the Bad News Babes. Just days before the game is set to be played, the event, just like the men’s game, is breaking fundraising records. More than a quarter-million dollars has already been raised to benefit the game’s charity, the Young Survival Coalition, which supports young women with breast cancer.

One who has been there since the event began in 2009 was Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. She is clearly among the most popular players on the team.

With her impending retirement from Congress, many teammates are already lamenting her impending departure from the game. Ros-Lehtinen is one of three captains for the Congressional team along with Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz and New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who has been a member of the Congressional Women’s Softball team since it started, was expected to play in her penultimate game this week. She’s retiring when her term ends in 2018. (Photo via the Congressional Women’s Softball Game)

“Ily has one of the best attitudes of anyone on our Congressional Women’s Softball Team,” Illinois Democrat Cheri Bustos told Roll Call. “She shows up to every practice, dutifully will run out to right field, catch what she can and run after what she misses – smiling all the way.”

Ros-Lehtinen will likely have one more game in 2018 before her retirement, but her absence will be felt.

“She has been a consummate teammate, starting as a softball novice in our first year to becoming a team co-captain,” said Wasserman Schutlz. “She truly embodies the spirt of the game, where partisan differences are set aside for some healthy athletic competition and the pursuit of a higher cause – raising the funds to tackle the critical issues unique to young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer.”

As Ros-Lehtinen prepares to step aside, another Floridian joins the roster for the first time. Winter Park first-term Democrat Stephanie Murphy seeks to help her teammates beat the press.

 

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.