The Delegation for 6.8.17 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

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This week’s biggest news events could have long-term effects

Much has happened since our last publication. While our team took a break, events in Washington and around the world did not.

Tops among the serious events was London suffering yet another terrorist attack (not long after The Delegation publisher and his family had walked on the London Bridge). Also creating a firestorm was Kathy Griffin’s attempt at humor featuring the head of President Donald Trump, and Bill Maher’s use of the n-word during an interview with Republican Senator Ben Sasse.

Dominating this week’s national news is Thursday’s much-anticipated appearance of former FBI Director James Comey before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Beginning early in the week, breathless cable news outlets ran countdown clocks until the moment Comey would put his right hand in the air and take the oath pledging to tell the truth. Washington bars are open for Comey hearing happy hours.

Comey’s answers will be parsed into succinct messages that both parties will turn into talking points supporting or condemning the president. Democrats want Comey to say Trump obstructed justice while Republicans want him to say whether or not Trump himself is under investigation.

Speaking of the leader of the free world, Trump’s detractors often shake their head at the way he operates, while supporters nod in the affirmative most of the same time (the Twitter missives are beginning to wear thin on conservatives). The president did not disappoint when, on the eve of Comey’s testimony, he chose that moment to nominate Comey’s successor, Christopher A. Wray.

As Comey was testifying on Thursday, across the pond, Great Britain was voting on whether to fire the Conservative Party and Prime Minister Theresa May. Thursday’s elections were called before the recent terror attacks, but they loom as events that could boost the Labour Party’s (progressive) chances for an upset. A Labour victory would affect U.S. and Great Britain foreign policy in a big way.

Whatever happens, Thursday will be a huge news day with long-term ramifications.

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

Sugar talks might hint at Trump’s NAFTA renegotiation strategy

Florida Crystals sugar barons Alfonso and José Fanjul, who contributed half a million dollars to the Trump inauguration, are hoping the new administration will take on one piece of President Barack Obama’s unfinished business – controlling imports of Mexican sugar.

As the New York Times reports, sugar interests have become a centerpiece of a contentious trade issue between the U.S. and Mexico. With the approaching deadline on a sugar import agreement, many looking at the negotiations for any hints of Washington’s approach to renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“In Mexico everybody is looking at the sugar agreement because it’s a thermometer of how things are going to be managed,” Mexico sugar chamber president Juan Cortina Gallardo told the Times. “It’s a politically sensitive and charged issue.”

The extended battle over a single product raises questions about how NAFTA negotiations could bog down if the Trump administration takes on too much at once. While talks with Mexico and Canada could begin by August, the administration has been silent about its long-term plans.

Airbnb hopes Trump leaves Americans free to travel to Cuba

With President Trump’s policy toward Cuba still unknown, the home-booking website Airbnb is taking pro-active measures to extoll the virtues of traveling to the island nation. Airbnb recently published a report showing Americans are joining other worldwide tourists in finding their way to Cuba in rather large numbers since President Obama began the process of normalizing relations in 2015.

According to the report, more than 560,000 guest arrivals into Cuban homes were recorded since April, 2015, when Airbnb launched in Cuba. Just in 2017, the average number of arrivals totals 70,000.

Over the past 25 months, guests paid more than $40 million to Cuban individuals for home rentals. Any change making travel more difficult would certainly affect the company’s bottom line.

“We’ve spoken with Democrats and Republicans and hope any policy changes support people-to-people diplomacy and the individual Cubans and their families who have been empowered by the chance to earn money and share their space, culture and community with travelers from around the world,” said Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas.

Hurricane season is here

Rubio asks Trump to relax regulations that hinder hurricane relief — With hurricane season officially underway, Sen. Marco Rubio is urging President Trump to make it easier to speed up hurricane relief efforts. Last week he wrote to the president asking for a thorough review of regulations that could be relaxed when disaster strikes in the name of helping victims.

“It is intolerable that in addition to confronting a natural disaster, people also need to navigate a complex web of excessive and overly burdensome federal regulations in the disaster’s wake,” wrote the Florida Republican. “Floridians are eager to see Washington, D.C. refocus and refine the government’s disaster relieve mission to ensure that meeting victims’ needs is always the immediate priority.”

Rubio provided examples including requiring the Veterans Administration “to fully enact the Veterans Choice Program reforms so that veterans living in rural areas” would have full access to medical care. He also mentioned areas where inter-agency cooperation can be improved and stressed the need for temporarily waiving “well-intentioned” rules that hinder relief efforts.

Rubio also asked Trump to “work with my office and the State of Florida” to address “any other regulatory burdens associated with federal disaster relief.”

Ross welcomes hurricane hunters to new home in Lakeland — With hurricane season officially underway, there was no better time for the Republican from Lakeland to welcome the hurricane hunter air operations to his hometown. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) new Aircraft Operation Center (AOC) facility is now officially a part of Lakeland Linder Regional Airport.

Lakeland Linder won out over other suitors, including the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport. Lakeland, behind an aggressive presentation led by airport manager, Gene Conrad, and supported by Ross, was named the winner when NOAA made the final decision in November.

Members of the official party cut the ribbon on the new NOAA Aircraft Operation Center. (Photo via NOAA)

 “It is critically important to stay in our local area,” said Capt. Michael Silah, commanding officer of the air operations section. “They were aggressive and crazy, but they’re our kind of crazy.”

The move was necessitated by the need for NOAA to vacate its former headquarters, a hangar at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. The agency was pleased to stay in central Florida.

“I know the men and women of the NOAA Corps and AOC will continue to brace their selfless mission and never hesitate to respond to unforeseen, and often dangerous, events,” Ross said at the ribbon cutting. “You can rest assured that my colleagues and I will fight to ensure you have the necessary tools and resources to conduct your important work.”

Buchanan urges Trump to fill top positions at FEMA, NOAA — The Sarasota Republican is concerned the slow pace of staffing up the Trump Administration could hurt Florida in the near future. With hurricane season officially underway, Rep. Vern Buchanan is most concerned about the lack of leadership in two critical agencies.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) still have vacancies not only at the top posts, but other jobs remain unfilled.

“These agencies are critical in keeping Floridians safe,” Buchanan said in a release. “I’m a big proponent of hurricane preparedness and part of being prepared is having key personnel in place. The Trump Administration needs to get their NOAA and FEMA chiefs on the job quickly because we don’t know when the next big storm is going to hit.”

Buchanan reminds that Florida ranks second only behind California for overall risk of natural disasters. That state has 6.7 million homes listed in high or very high risk categories, with Florida leading the nation for homes at risk for hurricane damage.

Both agencies are under interim administrators until replacements are named. Florida’s Craig Fugate led FEMA during the Obama Administration.

Rubio visits Naval Air Station Pensacola

Sailors at Naval Air Station Pensacola and Corry Station got a chance to share lunch with a senator recently.

Sen. Rubio joined enlisted sailors for lunch recently, using the visit as a chance to talk with enlisted military members about the Northwest Florida installation. Rubio met with sailors, and had lunch a group of men and women.

“It was an honor to see these sailors at two of the Navy’s most important installations in Northwest Florida working to ensure our cyber defense capabilities and the future of naval aviation,” said Rubio. ‎ “As Florida’s senator, I will continue to support a strong national defense and care for our military personnel and veterans’ communities across the state‎.”

Sen. Marco Rubio visited Naval Air Station Pensacola and Corry Station,where he joined enlisted sailors for lunch. (Photo via Sen. Marco Rubio’s Office).

Located in Escambia County, Naval Air Station Pensacola employs more than 16,000 military and 7,400 civilian personnel. It is home to, among other things, the Naval Aviation Schools Command, Naval Air Training Technical Training Center, and the Blue Angels.

“It was great to spend the day in the Pensacola area to tour NAS Pensacola, the cradle of naval aviation, and Corry Station, the Navy’s premiere cyber and information warfare training center,” said Rubio.

Nelson and Rubio want Cuba to finally pay up for rip offs of Americans

Florida’s senators are joining forces to help force Cuba pay back a nearly 60-year-old debt to Americans. Politico writes Rubio and Nelson “want the Communist government to fork over $8 billion to compensate Americans whose property was ‘stolen’ when the Castro regime nationalized utilities and industries” shortly after the 1959 coup.

In a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the senators urge the Trump Administration to take action.

“While the Cuban Government has manufactured ridiculous counter-claims to avoid responsibility, we urge you to seek fair compensation on behalf of these Americans as soon as possible,” they wrote.

Those counter-claims include Cuba’s contention the U.S. owes that nation $300 billion from the 56-year trade embargo imposed by the U.S. and the costs of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.

A bill in Congress sponsored by Arkansas Republican Congressman Rick Crawford calls for a tax on the sellers of goods to Cuba with proceeds going to those whose assets were taken by the Castro regime. Among those “backing the concept of the bill” is Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo, a Cuban-American.

Rubio and Nelson did not speak to Crawford’s bill, but John Kavulich, president of the U.S. Trade and Economic Council, had plenty to say.

“Cuba pays nothing, and it’s a transfer of money within the U.S.,” he said. “These two members of the United States Congress are establishing a treacherous precedent for resolving issues of expropriation not only with the Republic of Cuba, but with other countries which may take similar actions.”

Nelson, most Democrats opposed to Trump air traffic control privatization idea

Florida’s senior senator is not at all enamored with President Trump’s call to privatize air traffic control in the U.S. At a Monday White House event, the president touted the merits of such a change by saying “this new entity will not need taxpayer money, which is very shocking when people hear that.”

As the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which oversees airport operations, Nelson had plenty to say about the President’s news-making proposal.

“The safety of the flying public should not be for sale,” Nelson said. “Handing air traffic control over to a private entity partly governed by the airlines is both a risk and a liability we can’t afford to take.”

Nelson has long opposed privatization, arguing that smaller airports in mostly rural states and recreational aviation could suffer. Last year, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican, offered a privatization bill that did not make it out of committee. Shuster was at Trump’s side on Monday.

One of Shuster’s committee members, Miami Gardens Democrat Frederica Wilson, is also strongly opposed.

“I do not believe that giving the airlines control of the system from which they will benefit economically, complete with the power to institute higher fees and taxes, is the answer,” she said in a statement.

Hutchinson Island Republican Brian Mast, also a committee member, voiced support for the privatization effort. West Palm Beach Democrat Lois Frankel and Winter Garden Republican Daniel Webster also serve on the committee.


— Sen. Rubio and Rep. Francis Rooney at the White House attended a dinner at the White House with President Trump and several other members of Congress. Rooney, a Naples Republican, used the opportunity to stress the need to include Everglades restoration as a key part of any infrastructure package brought forward.

“Everglades restoration is important to not only the State of Florida but also the entire country. Our economy has been decimated, and local businesses have closed. We all have a vested interest,” said Rooney, who also spoke to Trump about his recent visit to Saudi Arabia. “Our mission at the federal level must be to earn the support necessary to secure federal funding already approved through the Water Resource Development Acts (WRDA) of 2007, 2014, 2016.”

Sens. Cory Gardner, Tom Cotton and Todd Young, and Rep. Lee Zeldin also attended the dinner. According to the White House pool report, the menu included ten herb ravioli with lemon ricotta and a roasted tomato ragout; American wagyu beef tenderloin with sauce choron, glazed market vegetables and pomme soufflé; and a chocolate candy bar nougat glace for dessert.

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POLITCO reported that Sen. Nelson was one of several people who attended Sen. Al Franken’s book party this week in Georgetown. Also in attendance, according to POLITICO, were Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Maggie Hassan, Richard Blumenthal, and Sheldon Whitehouse; Andrea Mitchell, Kasie Hunt, and Mark Leibovich. Franken’s book “Al Franken, Giant of the Senate” was released May 30.

Rick Wilson, a Florida media consultant, in a Vanity Fair article about “the #NeverTrumpers still waging war on Twitter.” Here’s how Vanity Fair contributing editor James Wolcott described Wilson: “A Republican political consultant and media strategist based in Florida, where they play extra not-nice, Wilson goes for the jugular and the groin, once describing some Trump supporters as “childless single men who masturbate to anime.”

Paulson’s Principles: Dems face the best congressional prospects ever!

If Democrats do not make substantial congressional gains both nationally and in Florida in 2018, they may never be likely to win back control of congress.

Conditions have seldom been better for Democrats to pickup many seats in Congress, especially in the House. Let me run down the factors favoring Democrats in 2018.

First is President Trump. Presidents can either unify or divide the nation, and Trump clearly falls in the latter category. Yes, he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 when virtually no one thought he had a chance to win. Nevertheless, he has galvanized Democrats unlike any other person or issue.

President Trump’s approval rate has dropped to 34%, historically low for an incoming president. Democrats by the thousands have turned out to protest Trump and his policies.

One of those unpopular policies is the Republican American Health Care Act (AHCA), passed by the House to “repeal and Replace” Obamacare. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 55% of Americans have a negative view of the AHCA.

Two, President Trump and the AHCA have unified Democrats like never before. Turnout at Republican town halls have been filled with enormous crowds of angry voters. Almost every Republican House member has faced the wrath of large crowds of angry constituents.

In Florida, Republican Congressmen Gus Bilirakis and Brian Mast are just two of the many Republicans to confront voters who promise to oppose them for voting to repeal Obamacare. Over 5,000 individuals RSVP’d to attend Congressman Vern Buchanan’s town hall at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center. 1700 packed the Center and 800 more listened from outside. Another 2,500 were turned away.

Three, because of Trump, the AHCA and angry voters, the genetic ballot leans heavily in favor of Democrats. When asked in the most recent survey which party they would support in the 2018 congressional election, 44% said Democrats and 37% said Republicans. Going into the 2016 election, Democrats led by a single point.

The genetic ballot is one of the best predictors of election outcomes. Controlling for the party that controls the White House, the genetic ballot strongly correlates (+.78) with House election results.

Harry Enten of the FiveThirtyEight, recently wrote that the current genetic ballot “shows the Democrats in a stronger position at this point in a midterm election cycle than any party without control of the House since 1942.” It is hard to imagine a more positive scenario for Democrats.

Two additional factors favor Democrats. First, by the time the 2018 election occurs, Republicans will have controlled the House for eight years and the Florida delegation for a quarter century. At a time where the public demands change, that’s a long time for any party to have political control.

Second, just as Democrats are united, Republicans are divided by their president and his policies. In many southern states, including Florida, the Republican Party is torn apart by intra-party disputes.

One unknown factor going into the 2018 election is how many Republicans will run for reelection and how many will retire. If many Republicans decide to retire, this will greatly benefit the Democrats.

Do Republicans have anything working in their favor? Yes, they are running against Democrats. If the Democratic Party lost the presidency in 2016, in spite of all their advantages and, if the Democrats could only pick up two Senate seats when Republicans had to defend 24 of the 34 seats, then we can never underestimate the ability of Democrats to screw things up.

Gaetz to host another “Open Gaetz Day”

The Republican from the 1st Congressional District will soon be spending a full day with constituents and community leaders. Gaetz will have the “Open Gaetz Day” on Saturday, June 17 in his hometown of Fort Walton Beach.

The day opens with a town hall at 9:00 a.m. followed by a visit with residents of a center housing retired enlisted military members. Following tours of health care facilities, the day concludes with a military roundtable and an appearance at a constituent information booth at a local Latin festival.

“I always look forward to interacting with my constituents and hearing their comments, concerns and even criticisms,” Gaetz said. “I feel it is very important that as their Congressman I remain accessible and open to listening to their ideas. It should be a great day full of events and I hope to see a lot of people out participating.”

Bilirakis hears plea from conservative groups to block hearing aid regulation

A group of Tea Party organizations are calling for Bilirakis’ support against excessive government regulation over hearing aids.

Elizabeth Warren, working with a handful of Senate Republicans, is writing legislation to create an over-the-counter category of a type hearing aids known as personal sound amplification products (PSAPs). The hearing aid industry has come out strongly against the bill, as well as more than a dozen Tea Party-aligned organizations such as Frontiers of Freedom, Conservative Leadership PAC, 60 Plus Association, Tea Party Nation and the Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

In a letter to Bilirakis, the coalition says PSAPs simply amplify sound; they are not medical hearing aids and should not be regulated as such.

Among the reasons the group chose Bilirakis to garner support – as one of the estimated 30 million Americans with some degree of hearing loss, the Tarpon Springs Republican relies on a hearing aid.

Crist, T. Rooney team up to help small business

The St. Petersburg Democrat and Okeechobee Republican are working together to help small businesses with a bill aimed at tax relief that would provide incentives to hire more people and improve wages. The Small Business Tax Relief and Jobs Act of 2017 would allow small businesses to receive an annual tax credit of 3.825 percent.

This amount is significant because it equals half of an employer’s payroll tax obligation. The tax break is for up to three employees and totaling $100,000 in wages.

“The lingering impact of the Great Recession continues to make it difficult for many small businesses to obtain bank loans in order to grow,” said Crist. “I look forward to working with Congressman Rooney to promote this common-sense, bipartisan effort to help our small businesses grow and improve communities across America.”

“This common-sense bill rewards small business for creating jobs in our communities,” said Rooney. “Promoting local businesses and encouraging job growth is not a partisan issue.”

Buchanan, bipartisan delegation briefed on anti-terror measures in Europe, Africa

The Sarasota Republican and a bipartisan Congressional delegation recently returned from a trip to Europe and the Middle East. Buchanan and the group visited Bahrain, Germany and Kuwait to meet with military leaders, foreign officials and military officers and enlisted personnel.

He met with the Commander of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain and spent some time with

Florida troops and sailors, including Navy Master Chief Deborah Mack of Sarasota.

“Deborah and the other troops I met with are true patriots who leave family and friends for months on end to fight for our country,” Buchanan said. “It was a privilege to meet service members from Florida and witness firsthand their love of country.”

Rep. Vern Buchanan meets with Master Chief Deborah Mack, naval analyst from Sarasota. (Photo via Rep. Buchanan’s Office.)

In Stuttgart, Germany, Buchanan and the group met with Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, head of AFRICOM, for a briefing on terror activity on the African continent. AFRICOM is an arm of the Department of Defense and is responsible for the military relationships with 54 African nations.

“Jihadists in North Africa continue to pose a serious threat to global piece,” Buchanan said. “As we saw with Manchester, Africa remains a hot spot for the recruitment and training of terrorists.”

The remainder of the trip to Germany and to Kuwait involved discussions on intelligence operations, threats posed to NATO and efforts to eradicate ISIS.

DCCC tries to rile up Mast town hall crowd with ad buy

The Hutchinson Island Republican fielded questions from a largely hostile crowd at a Stuart town hall on Monday night. To help ensure passions were inflamed, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) “launched a significant digital ad buy” accusing Mast of lying about “his campaign’s use of data from Russian hackers.” The ad came complete with a sinister Vladimir Putin looking over Mast’s right shoulder.

Media estimates pegged the town hall attendance at between 350 to 400. Mast briefly addressed Russia and any possible ties to President Trump, saying he believed the president’s denials and would wait for Congressional investigations and the work of special counsel Robert Mueller. He called any talk of impeachment “irresponsible.”

Health care, specifically Mast’s vote for the American Health Care Act was on the minds of attendees far more than Russia. One said “You’re going to kill me. I’m going to die.”

Another accused Mast of not caring “about the lives of those who would lose their health care.”

“Ma’am, if I didn’t care about you, I wouldn’t have offered my life on the battlefield,” answered Mast, a double-amputee following an explosion in Afghanistan.

Mast had some supporters there as well, but the already agitated, or those inspired by the DCCC, were clearly the noisiest.

Keys activists leave hundreds of ‘coconut telegraphs’ at Curbelo’s office 

In a self-described “coconut caravan,” 10 members of the Upper Keys Action Network (UKAN) left about 300 coconuts at the Miami office of Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

As reported by WLRN’s Holly Pretsky, UKAN was formed after the 2016 election to keep Keys residents politically engaged. The Miami Republican’s district includes the Keys.

The coconuts’ message – calling on Curbelo to hold a town hall in the Keys — were painted with phrases like “Save ACA [the Affordable Care Act],” “country over party,” and “Climate change is real.”

Members of UKAN dropped off 300 coconut messages at Rep. Carlos Curbelo’s office this week. (Photo via Upper Keys Action Network Facebook.)

“The overall message is ‘Hey, come to the Keys. Come meet with us. Come hear what your constituents have to say,’” UKAN organizer Lindsey Crews told WLRN. She said this wasn’t the only time coconuts have been used to send a message to elected officials.

Curbelo didn’t see the “telegrams” in person, however, since he is in Washington D.C. this week.

Race to replace Ros-Lethtinen: Fuhrman out, Richardson in

South Miami Democrat Scott Fuhrman announced this week he won’t run for the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

The Miami Herald reported Fuhram, who lost to Ros-Lehtinen in 2016, suspended his campaign. He cited a lack of support from donors as the primary reason for his decision to bow out.

A slew of Democrats have announced they are running for the seat, including state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez. And this week, state Rep. David Richardson formally announced he was running for the seat.

Mary Ellen Klas with the Miami Herald reported the 60-year-old Miami Beach Democrat said the “most important thing is that anyone working in Washington has got to work in a bipartisan way and, for the last five years, I’ve demonstrated I’ve been able to get things done in the minority.”

Richardson had been considering a run for weeks, telling Scott Powers with Florida Politics in May that he was “taking a strong look at it.”

Ros-Lehtinen announced earlier this year she planned to retire in 2018 at the end of her term.

Murphy cleared of campaign finance violation complaint

The Federal Elections Commission found U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy did not violate campaign finance laws as claimed in a complaint filed against him in 2016, reports Isadora Rangel with TC Palm.

The FEC found “the “the statute of limitations has run on all of the activity at issue and the available record does not support an inference that Ibrahim Al-Rashid made the purported contributions in the names of the alleged conduits,” according to the report.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC affiliated with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, filed a complaint against Murphy in 2016. The complaint alleged Al-Rashid, Murphy’s friend, skirted campaign contribution limits by funneling donations through his then-wife, members of his family and other individuals. The donations totaled nearly $30,000.

The complaint came as Murphy, a Treasure Coast Democrat, was running for the U.S. Senate.

Scott, Lenny Curry D.C. bound

Gov. Rick Scott and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry are expected to attend a “listening session” on infrastructure with President Trump on Thursday, reports Alex Leary with the Tampa Bay Times.

Leary reported a White House spokesman said Scott will join several governors and state, local and private sector leaders interested in “working together to improve our nation’s infrastructure.” Leary reported Leon County Commissioner Bryan Desloge is also expected to attend.

According to A.G. Gancarski with Florida Politics, Curry’s office said the mayor will be participating in meetings “on the Hill and with the administration to discuss Jacksonville needs” during his visit to D.C.

Bondi joins Trump for bill signing

Attorney General Pam Bondi was back in D.C., attending a bill signing ceremony for two bills that aim to help military veterans, law enforcement officers and their families.

Bondi was one of several people who attended a ceremony at the White House recently as President Trump signed the American Law Enforcement Heroes Act of 2017 and the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2017.

“These are much needed bills to help those who sacrifice so much to keep us safe, and I am honored to join the President as he signs this important legislation in support of our military and law enforcement heroes,” she said in a statement.

The first bill, the American Law Enforcement Heroes Act of 2017, encourages police departments that receive federal grants to hire military veterans; while the second bill, the Public Safety Officers Benefits Improvement Act of 2017, changes reporting requirements for the federal office in charge of giving benefits to injured officers and first responders and to the families of those who die on the job, reported Michael Auslen with the Tampa Bay Times.

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Delegation has made key contributions in Congressional Baseball Game

One night each year, Republicans and Democrats take their rivalries outside the halls of Congress and onto the baseball field. Next week, the annual Congressional Baseball Game is slated for Nationals’ Park in Washington.

The Florida delegation has played some important roles in recent years. Last year, Okeechobee Republican Tom Rooney stroked a walk-off single to give Republicans an 8-7 victory and breaking a losing streak dating back to 2008.

Rooney’s game-winner came off former Congressman Patrick Murphy of Jupiter. As Murphy entered the game in relief, he was greeted with taunts of “MAR-CO, RU-BIO,” (the campaign for Senate was fully underway) from GOP rooters.

The game, began in 1909, benefits Washington, DC charities. Throughout the game’s long history, congresswomen were not in the lineup, but that changed in 1993 when three women, including Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, broke into the starting lineup. One former congressman, Orlando Republican Lou Frey, was inducted into the Congressional Baseball Game Hall of Fame in 2008.

This year’s game, to be played on June 15, features four Florida Republicans on the roster. In addition to Rooney, Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach, Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, and Dennis Ross of Lakeland are set to play. No Florida Democrats will suit up.

After last year’s GOP win, the all-time series is tied with 39 wins each, plus one tie

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, 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.