Nearly 50 years have passed since NASA last sent astronauts to the moon. A launch this month could start a return journey to the planetary body that so far still is humanity’s only interstellar destination.
“NASA Space Launch System and NASA Orion will soon embark on a test flight going farther than a spacecraft built for humans has ever gone before,” tweeted NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Get ready for Artemis I — we are going!”
The Artemis I moon rocket arrived this week at launchpad 39B at Kennedy Space Center, completing a 10-hour roll from an assembly facility 4 miles away. That treacherous, slow ride marked only the beginning for the 311-foot rocket ship, which later this month will launch an unmanned mission around the moon. Expect liftoff as soon as Aug. 29.
The long-term goal for the Artemis project will be to establish a crewed base camp in lunar orbit and the return of humans to the moon. The project will restart research at a destination left alone since December 1972. NASA plans ultimately for a modern lunar cabin, rover and mobile home on the surface, colonizing a celestial body (other than Earth) for the first time.
All this is just the first major step in the ultimate long-distance project on NASA’s agenda: a mission to Mars.
Notably, authorization for NASA to continue authorization of the Artemis program and operations of the International Space Station passed as part of the CHIPS Act in July.
Defunding the IRS
As Florida’s Governor, Rick Scott held to a constant mission statement: “Let’s Get to Work.” He would regularly chant a mantra of “jobs, jobs, jobs.”
But as U.S. Senator, there are jobs he doesn’t want to fill.
In an open letter published on LinkedIn discouraging job seekers from applying for listings posted by the Internal Revenue Service, the Naples Republican and others in the party hammered a provision of the Inflation Reduction Act to hire 87,000 more IRS agents.
Scott warned to expect layoffs if Republicans put Congress under new management this November.
“These new positions at the IRS will not offer you the long-term job stability you may expect from a position with the federal government. Put another way: this will be a short-term gig,” Scott said. “Republicans will take over the House and Senate in January, and I can promise you that we will immediately do everything in our power to defund this insane and unwarranted expansion of government into the lives of the American people.”
Besides, he wrote, the work may not be as serene as some applicants might expect. He reminds people the jobs in question aren’t the desk work one might expect at a revenue-gathering bureaucracy.
“The IRS made it very clear that one of the ‘major duties’ of these new positions is to ‘be willing to use deadly force,’” Scott wrote. “We aren’t talking about joining your local police force, or even the U.S. military — this is the federal agency charged with collecting taxes. The IRS is making it very clear that you not only need to be ready to audit and investigate your fellow hardworking Americans, your neighbors and friends, you need to be ready and, to use the IRS’s words, willing to kill them.”
Rep. Val Demings, a Senate candidate, announced nearly $62 million in Homeland Security grant funding for the Sunshine State.
That includes more than $22 million for an Urban Security Initiative in the state, including $3.8 million set aside for Orlando. As Chair of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Subcommittee, Demings has oversight of FEMA, the agency behind the grants.
“The safety and security of every American is my top priority,” the Orlando Democrat said. “My bill to support the Urban Area Security Initiative and Nonprofit Security Grant Program is critical for Florida’s synagogues, community centers, and first responders and will help ensure stable funding levels for anti-terror programs.”
Other efforts receiving a chunk of the funding include more than $9.3 million in grants for law enforcement to fight domestic extremism and cyberattacks, about $12 million for port security including almost $2 million for Port Canaveral, and almost $13 million for security at community centers and places of worship.
“As a former law enforcement officer who used UASI funding, this program has been one of my top priorities since arriving in Congress and I am proud of the work we have done to restore Orlando to the list and ensure that our first responders have what they need to do their jobs,” Demings said. “Throughout my time in Congress, I have consistently advocated for increased funding for this critical program. With ongoing threats and violence against faith-based communities, we must continue to invest in their security.”
Port of call
Sen. Marco Rubio visited Jacksonville for a low-key visit to JAXPORT and a business roundtable involving Northeast Florida transportation and logistics leaders.
“I don’t know of any other port facility in America better positioned for the direction the 21st century is going than JAXPORT,” the Miami Republican said. “What that’s going to mean economically for the state and Northeast Florida is phenomenal. So, it’s great to see that today.”
JAXPORT officials thanked Rubio for his support and emphasized the ongoing amount of trade at the Port.
“Cargo activity through our port, and through the private businesses represented today,” JAXPORT CEO Eric Green said, “supports 138,000 Florida jobs and more than $31 billion in annual economic output.”
JAXPORT manages more than 90% of the activity coming from Puerto Rico to the United States mainland, and representatives of the Port’s tenants that do business in Puerto Rico — Tote Maritime Puerto Rico, Crowley and Trailer Bridge — addressed the importance of that trade.
Trailer Bridge and JAXPORT recently agreed to an 18-year contract extension.
Mo money? No problem
Reports this week suggest the National Republican Senate Committee could be yanking dollars out of Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, but what’s the mean for Florida?
The New York Times reported this week that more than $10 million in ads were canceled in those three states — even as NRSC staffers took issue with the characterization.
“The NRSC is not canceling spending. There is money being moved from the (independent expenditure) side back to the NRSC side of the wall,” said Chris Hartline, NRSC communications director. “Nothing in this story is accurate. The NRSC has already spent $36 million on TV and has tens of millions more reserved.”
But for a moment, consider what freeing up $10 million could mean in the Sunshine State.
Three polls this month show the Rubio-Demings race as either tied or with the Democrat up. Granted, other polls are more bullish for the GOP incumbent, but there are indications that Rubio-world would welcome the help.
Hartline confirmed to Florida Politics that the Sunshine State stays a priority for the NRSC.
“(I’m) not gonna get into state-by-state spending decisions (though as I pointed out earlier this week, the stories about NRSC spending were not accurate),” he said. “But we are committed to helping Sen. Rubio win in Florida. And we believe he’ll have a big win in November.”
In the latest in a series of roundtables within Florida’s 12th Congressional District, Palm Harbor Republican Gus Bilirakis met with tourism and hospitality leaders in Spring Hill.
“I am encouraged by the fact that Florida welcomed 36 million visitors during Quarter 1 of this year,” Bilirakis said. “That tells me that people are realizing we are open for business, and we have a great deal to offer.
“However, my goal is to ensure that no one gets left behind. I want to help the industry fully rebound from the pandemic-related struggles it has faced over the past two years and address the hardships all businesses have faced with respect to record high inflation, surging gas prices, a critical workforce shortage and supply chain disruptions. As we seek to restore our way of life and fully recover, we cannot overlook the work that must be done to renew this powerful engine of economic growth for communities across the nation.”
Industry spending dropped 43% in 2020 as international travel to the U.S. plummeted amid COVID-19 restrictions here and abroad.
As Co-Chair of the Travel and Tourism Caucus in Congress, Bilirakis touted legislation he sponsored that was just signed into law to restore resources for the Brand USA program.
The new law authorizes $250 million over three years, coming from the U.S. Treasury’s Travel Promotion Fund, to reinvigorate the industry.
He hopes this helps hospitality continue to rebound in the post-pandemic era. But Bilirakis said that’s not where efforts should stop. As part of the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, he’s also pushing the Commerce Department to develop a 10-year tourism strategy and set annual goals for international visitation.
By Biden’s side
A select group of lawmakers stood by President Joe Biden’s side as he signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law. Among them was Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor.
“Proud to stand with President Biden as he signs the Inflation Reduction Act into law, the most historic clean energy investment ever!” the Chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis tweeted. “It’s a People Over Politics moment — lower costs, more affordable health care, and affordable clean energy. It’s simple — Democrats deliver.”
Castor also released a video touting the various programs included in the legislation, including providing tax credits for electric vehicles and energy-efficient homes, as well as investment in clean technology manufacturing facilities in the U.S.
She previously called the bill the “largest climate and clean energy investment in history, paving the way for reduced pollution, cleaner air, and cost-saving electric vehicles and technologies.”
To watch the video, please click on the image below:
Are all parents represented on a national advisory board providing input on education to the administration?
Scott Franklin led a Republican letter questioning if appointments to the National Parents and Families Engagement Council were cherry-picked to reflect a certain point of view.
“The Biden’s administration’s hand-selection of ideologically friendly organizations to the National Parents and Families Engagement Council shows a clear disdain for the millions of parents across our country who are legitimately concerned about the education of their children,” the Lakeland Republican said.
The letter outlines participation by groups like the National Parents Union and League of United Latin American Citizens, which have openly praised and supported Biden administration policies in the education realm. But there isn’t a similar representation from conservation education reform groups.
“The NFPEC is nothing more than an attempt by the Department of Education to divert attention away from the Biden administration’s systemic failures in education policy. Parents across America who challenge the status quo also deserve a voice. The Department of Education has an obligation to provide answers on their selection process.”
The move comes as parents’ rights groups like Moms for Liberty play a growing role in education discourse on the right.
The letter bears co-signatures from 17 of Franklin’s House colleagues, including Florida Republicans Bilirakis, Byron Donalds, Neal Dunn, John Rutherford and Greg Steube.
Blockchains & blast zones
At a media roundtable at Fort Myers City Hall, Donalds touted the benefits of nuclear energy and the promise of blockchain technology.
“Nuclear power provides the baseload energy everybody needs,” the Naples Republican said. “I don’t care if you are an industrial plant. I don’t care if you are a small business. I don’t care if you are a mom with three kids. Everybody needs baseline cheap and affordable power. That’s what keeps your budgets down.”
He addressed prominent nuclear disasters that sound alarms for many consumers — Chernobyl was trash technology U.S. regulators would never allow, Fukushima resulted from a freak tsunami and (amazingly) the fallout only killed two people — while saying the ability to harness cheap energy outweighs an increasingly small risk.
“If people actually take the time to understand the reality of safety issues associated with nuclear, this is way better than having African children mine cobalt in the Congo with their bare hands, which the Chinese government is doing right now today to get some of the key minerals that go into electric batteries and solar panels.”
Donalds also joined the recently formed Congressional Blockchain Caucus and, despite a recent crash in the Bitcoin market, still believes in a future for cryptocurrency.
“When you have a currency where the user population is actually quite small compared to the U.S. dollar or nation-state currency, you’re going to see massive ebbs and flows of valuations,” he said. “I think the business model for the long-term is quite sound.”
He said the success of crypto, though, depends largely on the market staying outside the control of centralized banks. If the Treasury Department can fully control the market, it will cease to work, he said.
“You want to have a system that is allowed to move through our banking and financial networks that people can readily trade, readily purchase using new tools and it all makes sense,” he said. “There is some semblance of soundness to the process upon which the actual coins or currencies are generated and maintained.”
Touring through Democrat-right southwestern Broward County, Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz played host to delegation member and gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist Wednesday for soul food and an appeal to fire up the base.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, Wasserman Schultz told the crowd at Century Village Pembroke Pines, is a despot who needs to be retired, the Sun Sentinel’s Anthony Man reported.
Earlier, the pair fueled up at Derry’s Family Restaurant in Hollywood. They both ordered extra-large sweet teas. Crist ordered collard greens; Wasserman Schultz had the grilled snapper and grits.
The constituency that made Wasserman Schultz the state’s longest-serving sitting Democrat in Congress gave the pair an enthusiastic welcome. When a Pembroke Pines City Commissioner asked how many had already voted, almost every hand among the 90 assembled shot up.
Hollywood Democrat Frederica Wilson praised a decision by Miami-Dade Schools to provide all students free breakfast and lunch. Now she also wants a salad bar available.
The local district announced this week it would make free meals available to all students, not just those who apply and qualify for certain economic programs. Availability for resources to back feeding more school children could soon expand thanks to the federal Healthy Meals, Health Kids Act which Wilson supported with her vote in the House.
“This is exactly what our students need,” Wilson said. “As a former school principal and educator at Miami-Dade Public County Schools, I’m beaming with pride at the announcement of free breakfast and lunch for MDCPS students. Providing our growing students with reliable and cost-free meals helps support healthier kids who are ready to learn. I commend stakeholders for their years of advocacy and applaud MDCPS for their leadership.”
But she wants to make sure the right food ends up on the table as well. She made sure the Healthy Meals legislation included language requiring every student have salad bar access in their schools.
“I am proud to support the resources needed to feed our kids and give them every tool to succeed and grow, both inside and outside the classroom and to deliver on a long-standing commitment of mine to ensure children have access to more plant-based options as part of their school meals — especially salad bars!” she said.
On this day
Aug. 19, 1976 — “Gerald Ford takes nomination on first ballot” via The New York Times — Ford, who struggled for seven grueling months to avoid rejection by his party, was nominated in his own right at the 31st Republican National Convention on the first and only ballot. The party sent Ford, a political insider who has held elective office for 28 years, into combat against Jimmy Carter, the political outsider chosen by the Democrats, after Gov. William G. Milliken of Michigan halted as the nation’s “President and future President.” Unlike most Presidents, Ford, who inherited the White House after Richard M. Nixon resigned, will enter the general election campaign as the underdog.
Aug. 19, 1919 — “Woodrow Wilson appears before Senate Foreign Relations Committee” via History.com — In a break with conventional practice, President Wilson appeared personally to argue in favor of Senate ratification of the Versailles Treaty, the peace settlement that ended the First World War. The previous July, Wilson had returned from Paris, where the treaty’s terms had been worked out over a contentious six months. Two days later, he went before the Senate to present the Treaty of Versailles, including the covenant of the League of Nations, the international peacekeeping organization that Wilson had envisioned in his famous “Fourteen Points” speech of 1918 and had worked for so adamantly in Paris.
Best wishes to Rep. Castor, who turns 56 on Saturday, Aug. 20.
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 and Wes Wolfe.