Post Pelosi

Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made clear she will not run for Minority Leader after Republicans secured a majority for the coming Congress. Amid career retrospectives on the country’s first female Speaker, which means a leadership fight is now afoot.

Congress has always been a gerontocracy, but the Democratic caucus in recent years was headed by three 80-year-olds, and Pelosi’s departure seemed to usher in a full-scale shift. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer quickly announced he too would step aside from leadership. Majority Whip James Clyburn also released a statement hinting he will let a new leadership team for the caucus take over, though he still wants a seat at the table.

Nancy Pelosi has had enough. Image via Twitter.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat who now chairs the Democratic Caucus, quickly emerged as Pelosi’s successor; he’s the first to say he will run to become Minority Leader in the new Congress. The New York Post reported a week ago that he appeared to be a front-runner to fill Pelosi’s shoes. The Associated Press reports a wholesale leadership change could mean ascension for Reps. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Pete Aguilar of California. Clark already announced a run for Minority Whip.

So, what’s the Florida angle? There’s always a Florida angle … right?

The more change that happens, the more opportunities arise for the eight Democrats representing Florida in the House. While committee Chair positions are out of the question with Republicans taking control, now could be the time Florida members position themselves as ranking members for the next time gavels turn blue.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Co-Chair of Florida’s congressional delegation, remains the most senior Democrat from Florida, elected first to the House in 2004. She made an unsuccessful play for House Appropriations Chair in 2020, losing to Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who was re-elected this year. Wasserman Schultz in the Congress now serves as Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, and at the least should become a ranking member there.

Meanwhile, Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, first won her House seat in 2006. A change in the majority means she loses her chair post on a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, with that entire body’s future in doubt. It will be up to the new Republican leadership whether a similar committee continues.

Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Hollywood Democrat, has served in the House since 2010 and this year Chaired a House Education Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment. Education Chair Bobby Scott won re-election so will become ranking on the full committee.

But depending on how deck chairs get reshuffled in the minority caucus, all have chances to elevate their station. The same certainly goes for those members still building seniority.

Rep. Lois Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat, has served in the House since 2012. Rep. Darren Soto, a Kissimmee Democrat, first won a seat in Congress in 2016. Neither has Chaired a House Subcommittee or served as a ranking member but could rise.

Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, who was just elected in a Special Election earlier this year, celebrated getting on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. That’s a perk of having even a few months of seniority over the six other delegation members elected to their first full terms earlier this month. “Thankful for the warm welcome from Chair @RepGregoryMeeks and committee members,” she tweeted. “Excited for the work ahead.”

Running short

On the Republican side, this week brought a handful of defeats for the Florida delegation, though nothing unexpected.

Sen. Rick Scott waged the first challenge for party leadership that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has seen in 15 years. But the Naples Republican failed to usurp the Kentucky pol, with McConnell winning the top Republican post in a 37-10 vote.

But the Naples Republican said he saw the vote as a step toward course correction.

Rick Scott tries to spin a loss into something like a win.

“Today marks the beginning of a new era in the Senate Republican Conference,” he said. “Throughout my life, and especially during my eight years as Governor of Florida, I have been frustrated by the broken status quo in Washington that continuously fails to deliver on its promises to the American people. That’s why I ran for Senate in 2018 — to end the status quo by fighting every day to Make Washington Work for Florida families. We’ve made progress in this fight, but there is so much more we could get done, both as individual senators and as a Republican Conference, if we commit to a plan and work together as a team to advance conservative policies and ideas.”

Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican who narrowly won re-election this year, nominated Scott to serve as Minority Leader in the coming Session. The nomination came days after Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida’s senior Senator, called for the leadership vote to be delayed until after the runoff for a Georgia seat.

While Rubio and Johnson both won re-election this year, it proved an unsuccessful cycle for Senate Republicans, who unlike House counterparts failed to secure a majority. Indeed a Georgia runoff in December will determine if Republicans suffer a net loss.

That came after high-profile disagreements between McConnell and Scott about the message the GOP needed to promote in the midterms.

Scott lost 37-10 in the GOP caucus but said the run served a purpose. Rubio declined to discuss who he voted for in the leadership election.

“Although the results of today’s elections weren’t what we hoped for, this is far from the end of our fight to Make Washington Work. I will never stop fighting to end Joe Biden’s reckless government spending and the devastating inflation Democrats have caused,” Scott said. “I never thought for a moment that this fight would be easy, but I’m optimistic that, together, Republicans can rescue America with the principles that unite us against the dangerous path Democrats have set it on.”

Long shot

Rep. Byron Donalds also made a play for party leadership in the new House majority. He lost a long shot bid to become the House GOP Conference Chair.

The Naples Republican challenged sitting Conference Chair Elise Stefanik to become part of Republican leadership in the new Congress.

Stefanik won with overwhelming support from the Republican Conference in a 144-74 vote. But the fight was less bitter than the McConnell-Scott battle.

It was a long shot, but Byron Donalds had to try it.

“In life, you either win, lose or fail forward, and I am incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support from my colleagues in my run for Chair of the House GOP Conference,” Donalds said. “Since entering Congress, it has been my honor to work on behalf of the American people and defend our great constitutional Republican, and I look forward to continuing this mission. Now, more than ever, our party must unite and stand even firmer in the trenches to preserve our principles and advance the conservative agenda. I extend my congratulations to my colleague from New York, Chair Stefanik, for winning re-election, and I’ll continue to support her vision for the conference.”

The run was a strident move by Donalds, who just won re-election for a second term. Donalds campaigned on a need to have “strong conservative leadership in the room” when the GOP caucus’ agenda was set, especially with a slim majority taking over control of the House.

Next up?

The next big leadership hunt for a Florida member will probably wait until after Thanksgiving, but the race for House Ways & Means represents Florida’s best shot at boosting influence in the 118th Congress.

Rep. Vern Buchanan, Co-Chair of Florida’s congressional delegation, will make his case to the Republican Steering Committee that he should head up Congress’ most powerful committee.

Vern Buchanan makes a case for leadership.

The Longboat Key Republican faces Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri and Rep. Adrian Smith of Nebraska for the gavel. But Buchanan heads into the race with seniority. He also played a key role in raising four Florida GOP Rep.-elects — Aaron Bean, Laurel Lee, Anna Paulina Luna and Cory Mills — who all won terms and picked up seats for the GOP. That’s especially significant as Republicans take the House reins with a majority of between 119 and 122 seats. That means the Florida races meant the difference between a narrow majority and two more years in the minority.

Buchanan already serves on the GOP Steering Committee but is the only member of Florida’s delegation with a say on who Chairs Ways & Means. But he also has close relationships with many other members, including potential incoming Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Neither Jason Smith nor Adrian Smith serves on the committee.

2024 cometh

Of course, the end of the 2022 Elections immediately means the attention of the political world shifts to 2024 and one election everyone in America prioritizes above the rest. Right now, all eyes are on a pair of Florida men who both know something about the workings of Washington.

Former President Donald Trump just announced in Mar-a-Lago that he will make a third run for the White House, promising to “make America great and glorious again.” The hourlong announcement offered a blast from the past amid questions as to whether Republicans should shop around for a 2024 nominee.

“America’s comeback starts right now,” Trump said.

To the surprise of no one, Donald Trump makes it official. Image via AP.

The early declaration seemed timed to clear the field, even as Gov. Ron DeSantis, a former Congressman, appears to be emerging as more of a favorite with each passing news cycle. Trump has blasted the Governor as “Ron DeSanctimonious,” but omitted any mention of the fellow Floridian in his campaign launch speech.

Meanwhile, the potential DeSantis-Trump matchup seemed to influence the GOP Conference Chair race, where Donalds had to push back on rumors he had chosen DeSantis’ side.

The contest also may have already degenerated some of Florida’s once-famous partnerships. Rep. Matt Gaetz campaigned with DeSantis when the former Congressman first won election as Florida Governor, and he headed DeSantis’ transition team after that 2018 campaign.

But the Fort Walton Beach Congressman this election cycle came out as one of the first officials to endorse Trump in 2024.

“The job President Donald Trump started was not finished. Only Trump can be trusted to enact the ‘America First’ agenda he ran on in 2016. We won’t accept any imitation. Despite what many Washington, D.C., conservative elites want you to believe, we are not in the ‘post-Trump era’ or close to it,” Gaetz wrote in an endorsement in the Daily Caller.

Gold diggers

Rubio wants the U.S. to cut off a major source of revenue and influence for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Characterizing the Latin American leader’s government as a “narco-regime,” he announced bipartisan legislation with New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez to require the administration to intervene against illegal gold mining.

“Illicit gold mining is a major source of financing for the dictatorial Maduro regime and comprises a large share of the international gold market,” Rubio said. “It is time to crack down on this corrupt, criminal enterprise. The United States must hold those involved in this unlawful industry accountable and prevent Maduro and his cronies from reaping further profits while the Venezuelan people suffer unimaginable hardships.”

Marco Rubio seeks to cut off a line of revenue for Venezuela.

The United States Legal Gold and Mining Partnership Strategy Act would require breaking linkages between artisanal and small-scale mining in Latin America and financiers of illegal activity, in part by requiring formalizing of business activities. The bill also looks at protecting environmentally sensitive areas from mining and using sustainable practices in the extraction of minerals.

Menendez said the activities of hostile and greedy regimes like Maduro’s present a threat both to national security interests and the environment.

“The illicit mining and trafficking of gold in Latin America and the Caribbean funds transnational criminal organizations, degrades our hemisphere’s rainforests and biodiversity, facilitates human rights abuses and helps prop up brutal dictatorships like that of Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro,” Menendez said.

“The United States must do more to develop and implement a strategy to combat these harmful effects and work with international and private stakeholders to promote responsible gold supply chains, and I am proud to help lead this bill to do just that.”

No respect?

As a lame-duck session unfolds in Washington, Democrats pushed across a key piece of legislation on a social issue left untouched until after the Midterms. The Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act (HR 8404) and picked up 12 Republican votes to overcome any potential filibuster.

The Respect for Marriage Act codifies that states must recognize same-sex marriage licenses issued by other states. That was established by the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision, but there’s been a push to pass a federal law after Justice Clarence Thomas, in an opinion supporting the overturn of Roe v. Wade, suggested the high court re-examine the marriage equality ruling.

Clarence Thomas wants to revisit same-sex marriage, throwing Congressional Democrats — and some Republicans — into panic mode.

The Democratic-held House already passed the legislation in July, with all Florida Democrats in support, as well as Republicans Kat Cammack, Mario Díaz-Balart, Carlos Giménez, Brian Mast, María Elvira Salazar and Mike Waltz crossing the aisle.

But in the Senate, neither Scott nor Rubio supported the bill. Scott said that was because the bill still lacks protections for religious objectors.

“I proudly support the gay community in Florida and across the nation and will aggressively fight any attempt to take away the ability for same-sex couples to marry and live their dreams in our great country,” he said. “Unfortunately, the bill under consideration by the U.S. Senate does not adequately protect the religious liberties of all Americans, as guaranteed by the Constitution.”

Be prepared

Waltz chaired a panel for the Heritage Foundation on whether the U.S. stands ready for what the world may have in store. The National Independent Panel on Military Service and Readiness was launched last month by the conservative think tank, which tapped the St. Augustine Republican and former adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney to head the effort.

“I’m grateful to the Heritage Foundation for bringing together this panel with extensive experience and hope we can deliver recommendations that will strengthen our military readiness,” Waltz said.

Mike Waltz believes military readiness is a top priority.

“The state of our national security has reached a critical juncture as China, Russia, and other global adversaries threaten global stability while confidence in the U.S. military is declining. We must identify solutions to depoliticize the military and focus the warfighter on lethality and deterring the enemy, not a ‘woke’ agenda.”

Other participants included First Liberty Institute Vice President Michael Berry, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Rod Bishop, Hudson Institute fellows Rebeccah Heinrichs and Jeremy Hunt, government attorney Earl Matthews, former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Polaris National Security adviser Morgan Ortagus.

Marching orders

Rep.-elect Maxwell Alejandro Frost, an Orlando Democrat, hosted a news conference this week alongside activists from March For Our Lives, a Florida-based group he’s been active with for years, and called for the Senate to start an assault weapon ban in the lame-duck session.

Frost invoked mass shootings in Florida and stressed urgency as a similar ban could pass out of a GOP-controlled House next Congress.

Maxwell Alejandro Frost is taking the fight for gun control to Congress.

“The unfortunate truth is that for the 49 at Pulse, for the 17 at Parkland, for the folks at Uvalde and all across this country, justice means more than just putting one murderous person behind bars,” he said. “It means building a world where we can all live without the fear of being gunned down in our communities.”

No neocon?

Meanwhile, Rep.-elect Cory Mills, a Winter Park Republican, joined another presser alongside Gaetz and Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene.

The Army veteran said a new Republican majority should shift U.S. foreign policy in a different direction. “We need to be looking at not just being interventionists but protectionists,” Mills said, “protecting our own borders, protecting Americans here at home and protecting our constitutionality.”

Gaetz, long a part of an anti-war wing of the Republican Party, said he wants an immediate shift in what’s happening in the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

Cory Mills hopes to move U.S. foreign policy in a more positive direction.

“I will not vote for one more dollar to Ukraine,” Gaetz said. “I will not vote for one more piece of material to Ukraine. We are far too entangled in this conflict.”

Gaetz and Mills appearing together at a small press event seemed especially notable, as Gaetz had endorsed Anthony Sabatini, Mills’ Primary opponent, in the race for Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

To the moon

After months of delays, the Artemis I rocket finally launched Nov. 16.

The uncrewed Orion spacecraft continues the first NASA mission to the Moon in decades and has already started sending transmissions with new video and photography of the moon and of Earth as part of tests for deep space communications technology.

The entire mission will run 25 and a half days, NASA expects. The most important portions will come at the end of a round trip when Orion’s heat shields will be tested on reentry and the spacecraft is retrieved after splashdown.

Along the way, NASA will assess numerous technologies critical to plans to send astronauts back to the moon.

The first step back to the Moon — and beyond.

The tests so far have impressed those watching around the world and even encouraged some international agreements to come together. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced that a Japanese astronaut will serve on an upcoming crewed Artemis mission.

“For decades, Japanese and American astronauts have worked together to promote science and exploration in low-Earth orbit. Today’s Gateway agreement represents the fulfillment commitments made by the Biden-(Kamala) Harris Administration and solidifies our nations’ collaboration, which will help ensure continued discoveries on Gateway, the International Space Station and beyond,” Nelson said.

“There is no doubt that discovery strengthens the U.S.-Japanese partnership and discovery strengthens democracy — in the Indo-Pacific and across the globe. With this agreement, the U.S. and Japan will create more well-paying jobs, more research and development capabilities, and a growing capacity to compete in the 21st century together.”

On this day

Nov. 18, 1978 — “Mass suicide at Jonestown” via History.com — Peoples Temple founder Jim Jones led hundreds of followers in a mass murder-suicide at their agricultural commune in Guyana. A group of former Temple members and concerned relatives convinced Rep. Leo Ryan, a California Democrat, to travel to Jonestown and investigate the settlement. Ryan arrived in Jonestown with a group of journalists and observers. As Ryan’s delegation was about to leave, several Jonestown residents approached the group and asked for passage out of Guyana. Jones became distressed at the defection. Jones ordered Ryan and his companions ambushed and killed at the airstrip as they tried to leave. The Congressman and four others were murdered as they boarded their charter planes.

Nov. 18, 1872 — “Susan B. Anthony arrested for voting” via the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle — Anthony was among the dozens of women who attempted to cast ballots on (the) Nov. 5 Presidential Election. Anthony, who at that time had already become a prominent figure in the women’s suffrage movement, had written to fellow suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton that she voted “Republican ticket — straight.” That included Ulysses S. Grant and other candidates who promised to listen to women’s demands. Anthony and her sisters were among 15 women who voted at her polling site, which today houses the 1872 Café, a tribute of sorts to Anthony’s commitment to civil rights for all people.

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Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles and edited and assembled by Phil Ammann and Ryan Nicol, with contributions by A.G. Gancarski and Anne Geggis.

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