The Rooney Roundup – and introducing the Mario Monitor
421 days (1 year, 1 month, 28 days) since Rep. Francis Rooney has met constituents in an open, public forum
With this article we add monitoring of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.), the western side of whose district includes large portions of Collier and Lee counties, including Golden Gate Estates, Immokalee and a major portion of Lehigh Acres.
April 19, 2019 by David Silverberg
It has been a momentous seven weeks since our last Rooney Roundup. In that time Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report was released and the president initiated a purge of the top leadership of the Department of Homeland Security. Congress recessed for two weeks on Friday, April 12 and will reconvene on Monday, April 29.
While Southwest Florida has hardly been the center of national attention, its representatives—Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.)—were active on other issues.
According to WINK-TV, yesterday Rooney issued a statement saying that with release of the Mueller Report the nation should move on. However, as of this writing, such a statement has not appeared on his official website or on his Twitter page. Diaz-Balart has not issued a statement. A query about their positions was sent to both offices by The Paradise Progressive and this report will be updated if an answer is received.
Cutting legal immigration
On April 10, Rooney introduced the House version of the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act (RAISE Act), a bill intended to cut legal immigration to the United States by at least half.
The bill was introduced in the Senate the same day by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) as Senate bill 1103. Cotton introduced it in 2017 in the previous Congress where it was endorsed by President Donald Trump. White House advisor Stephen Miller praised it as “what President Trump campaigned on.” However, it never made it out of committee.
On its first introduction 1,400 economists—including six Nobel laureates—were inspired to write an open letter to Trump and the congressional leadership favoring immigration and opposing the bill’s measures.
“Among us are Republicans and Democrats alike,” stated the letter. “Some of us favor free markets while others have championed for a larger role for government in the economy. But on some issues there is near universal agreement. One such issue concerns the broad economic benefit that immigrants to this country bring.”
The 2019 bill introduced by Cotton and Rooney:
- Would ensure that family members of legal immigrants to the United States would not be automatically admitted to the country, which was done in the past to ensure family cohesion but which critics call “chain migration;”
- It would end the Diversity Visa Lottery program, which provides green cards to applicants from underrepresented countries on a lottery basis to strengthen diversity;
- It would limit the number of refugees offered permanent residency to 50,000 per year, reducing legal immigration by half.
According to Cotton and Rooney, the current immigration system does not favor merit or skill-based immigration, either in allowing the immigration of family members or in the lottery.
This is not Rooney’s first swipe at reducing immigration this year, particularly for asylum-seekers. On Jan. 10, he introduced the Asylum Protection Act of 2019 (House Resolution 481), which reduced the time during which an asylum seeker could apply for asylum, from one year to just 30 days. Furthermore, asylum applications would have to be made at official ports of entry; so a migrant could not ask for asylum at any other point along the border. With only three co-sponsors, the bill remains in committee.
Letter writing campaign
Rooney has still been unable to make the moratorium on offshore oil drilling in the Gulf permanent. In his most recent effort, he and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-1-Fla.) on April 17 sent a letter to Trump requesting an Oval Office meeting on the topic.
Rooney also sent a letter to the commander of the US Army Corps of Engineers asking that the Corps monitor the use of glyphosate-based herbicides in coordination with state agencies. The herbicides can contribute to blue-green algae growth of the sort experienced in Southwest Florida last summer.
While the House of Representatives took votes on major issues over the past seven weeks, Rooney was absent and Diaz-Balart opposed the measures. By missing these votes, Rooney avoided offending both constituents and President Trump. The bills in question were:
- Save the Internet Act of 2019 (House Resolution 1644) restoring net neutrality, which passed 232 to 190 on April 10. Rooney missed this vote, Diaz-Balart voted against it.
- HR 271, which condemned the Trump administration for trying to invalidate the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in court. This bill passed the House by a vote of 240 to 186 on April 3. Rooney missed this vote, Diaz-Balart voted against it.
- HR 1585, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019, which passed the House on April 4 by 263 to 158. Rooney missed this vote, Diaz-Balart voted against it.
- Senate Joint Resolution 7 to remove US forces from the war in Yemen if their activities were not explicitly authorized by Congress. This bill passed the House by 247 to 175 on April 4. Rooney missed this vote, Diaz-Balart voted against it. The bill passed both chambers and was vetoed by Trump.