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My Turn
Other Views from Those in the Know
Robert W. McKnight
Former State Legislator
Fla. Congressional Delegation Bigger, Less Powerful

During the last two years, Florida’s 25 members of Congress enjoyed extraordinary political clout — from the chairperson of the entire Democratic Party to the Republican chairs of two of the most important committees in the U. S. House of Representatives, Foreign Affairs and Transportation. 

The expectations for 2013-2014 were for even more clout, with the addition of two members to the House delegation.  And the icing on the cake was that Florida’s senior U. S. Senator was re-elected for another six-year term.

But now that the committee assignments have been announced, it would appear that the country’s third largest delegation does not have a single member chairing any of the seven most important committees in the House — Financial Services; Judiciary; Transportation; Foreign Affairs; Homeland Security; Administration; and Rules. 

The same result applies to the five most important committees in the Senate — Appropriations; Budget; Energy and Natural Resources; Foreign Relations; and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. 

Moving over to the Executive Branch, there is no Floridian sitting in the President’s Cabinet.  This is the same Florida that candidates President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said repeatedly was the most important state to their election. 

This strikes me as a perfect opportunity for bi-partisan cooperation among the chairs of the Florida Democratic and Republican parties.

So, with that discouraging political outlook in Washington, let’s look at some of the individuals with clout:

Senate:  Sen. Bill Nelson continues plodding service and Sen. Marco Rubio needs to remember his constituents rather than his dreams of the presidency.

House:   Democrat Debbie Wasserman Shultz will remain as Chair of the Democratic Party with questionable benefits to the state; Congresswoman Kathy Castor climbs the ranks, primarily of the liberal wing of the party; and Congressman Alan Grayson returns to the House with an eager press following his liberal flailing.

Among the Republicans, former Chairs Bill Young (major appropriations subcommittee), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Foreign Affairs) and John Mica (Transportation), will continue to have a major influence in Washington, but without the same authority they have had in the past.  Perhaps the most promising sign for Republicans in the Florida Delegation is the seniority elevation of talented Congressmen Ander Crenshaw and Dennis Ross.

The disappointing committee assignments for such a large and important delegation should not go without response. 

The leadership of the delegation should counsel with the chairs of the two parties in the state to seek subsequent new chairmanships and seats in the President’s Cabinet. 

As has been said before, Florida Delegation, “Let’s Get to Work.”

Robert W. McKnight is a former member of the Florida Senate and House of Representatives.  He has written two books about Florida politics and provides political commentary on Facing Florida, The Huffington Post and The Contributor.  His blog is www.flpoliticalcommentary.com and he can be reached at [email protected]

© Florida Voices   

Published Thursday, January 10, 2013