Both of Florida’s Republican senators, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, voted against the bill along with the rest of the Republican caucus. One senator, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), did not vote.
The Senate worked through the night to consider and vote on numerous amendments following a demand by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) that the 628-page bill be read aloud in its entirety, an effort that added 12 hours to deliberations.
The amended bill now returns to the House of Representatives to be voted upon with the Senate amendments. The House is scheduled to reconvene at noon on Monday, March 8 and a vote may take place on Tuesday.
All of Southwest Florida’s members of Congress, Reps. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.), voted against the bill when it was first considered in the House last Saturday, Feb. 27. Their positions are not expected to change when it returns to the House. Donalds has strenuously spoken out against the bill on the House floor and in subsequent statements.
Immediately after the Senate vote today Donalds tweeted: “I am happy to see that PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] money will no longer be going to institutions like Margaret Sanger’s Planned Parenthood. Taxpayer dollars should never fund abortion on American soil or abroad.” He also expressed thanks to Democratic senators who rejected a minimum wage increase: “Thank you to the Senate Democrats who sided with Senate Republicans on rejecting the $15 minimum wage increase. Bernie, Pelosi, and Schumer want to run America like California, New York, and Vermont; let me remind them that there are 47 other states in our union.”
Among its many provisions, the $1.9 trillion spending bill provides for $1,400 in economic stimulus to American families, $300 in weekly unemployment benefits to workers affected by the pandemic until Sept. 6, funding for COVID vaccine distribution, and aid to state and local governments affected by the pandemic.
In her own statement following Senate passage House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.), stated: “Today is a day of great progress and promise for the American people, as the Democratic Senate has passed President Biden’s American Rescue Plan to save lives and livelihoods.”
She concluded: “The American Rescue Plan is a beacon of hope for America’s families and a sign that, as President Biden has promised: Help Is On The Way.”
Editor’s note: With this article we open the Donalds Dossier, an occasional series of articles tracking, reporting and analyzing Rep. Byron Donalds’ activities in representing the 19th Congressional District of Southwest Florida in the US Congress.
March 3, 2021 by David Silverberg
Today marks two months since Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) took the oath of office—and it has been two of the most momentous months in American history.
Just how momentous needs to be fully appreciated: during the past 60 days a coup nearly succeeded, the Constitution was nearly demolished, an election was nearly overturned, the Capitol was violently attacked, congressional leaders were nearly killed, the Vice President was nearly lynched, a president was impeached for a second time and democracy barely survived—and all this amidst a deadly pandemic.
Into this turmoil stepped Byron Donalds, a former Southwest Florida state lawmaker, banking executive and financial advisor who unreservedly pledged his personal loyalty and complete obedience to Donald J. Trump during his election campaign.
Throughout the events of his first two months in office, Donalds has remained ideologically consistent: still pledged to Trump and Trumpism and opposed to any Democratic measure brought forth in the House of Representatives.
A man in microcosm
Jan. 6, the day of the Capitol attack, illuminated Donalds in microcosm. In the morning he attended Trump’s anti-election rally on the Ellipse outside the White House. Then he went to the Capitol building at 11:17 am where he signed his objection to certifying the election. When rioters entered the building to stop the vote count he fled to safety with other members. That night, after the riot, when members returned, he voted against certifying the election, which was the object of the attack.
At 10:09 pm in a lengthy Twitter statement, Donalds called the rioters “lawless vigilantes,” “a bunch of lunatics” and condemned their actions as “thuggery.” He later altered the tweet to remove the criticism and watered it down to just state that the rioters “do not embody my constituents’ values and heart.” Despite their actions, he tweeted, “they will not alter my decision to object to the Electoral College certification.”
Donalds’ vote against it notwithstanding, Joe Biden’s election was certified and Donalds attended the inauguration on Jan. 20.
So despite Trump’s and Donalds’ best efforts, the results stood—including Donalds’ own election to his office—and there is still a legislative branch of the United States government in which he can serve.
A vocal ideologue
After an initial pause, Donalds has shown himself an active and vocal representative, taking to all forms of media—social, right-wing and mainstream—to get out his messages. For all the talk, his positions have been orthodox conservative and Trumpist. He:
Opposed invoking the 25th Amendment and voted against the second impeachment of Donald Trump, calling the trial “a partisan political sideshow;”
Voted against stripping Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-14-Ga.) of her committee assignments;
Condemned halting construction of the Trump border wall;
Supported retaining the Hyde Amendment prohibiting US funding in any form for abortions;
Denounced the Biden administration’s proposed immigration reforms;
Accused the Biden administration of planning to vaccinate terrorists and undocumented migrants before American citizens;
Denounced teachers’ unions for pressing for safe classrooms;
Praised Rush Limbaugh as being “our voice” and said his passing was “a tremendous blow to generations of patriots;”
Some of these positions were merely cosmetic or superficial but Donalds’ really substantive efforts surrounded the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, aimed to stimulate the economy, bring relief to those affected financially by the pandemic and speed vaccine distribution.
Marching the party line
Donalds followed the Republican Party line against the plan but added his own extra effort from the beginning, when the legislation was in committee. Donalds sits on the Budget Committee and, in keeping with the Republican position, denounced the plan as “nothing more than a liberal wish list under the guise of COVID-19 relief, but in reality, this bill is using the pandemic to push forth the radical and misguided policies of the far-left.”
He opposed every aspect of it. First, he opposed using a procedure known as “budget reconciliation” to get it through Congress (which allows it to pass by a simple majority vote). He vehemently inveighed against the $15 minimum wage provision, which more than 60 percent of Florida voters approved in their own referendum last year. He opposed use of Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) funds for non-profit corporations, particularly denouncing Planned Parenthood’s receipt of the funds. He also complained that aid was going to states that skewed Democratic like New York and California that had locked down to halt the spread of COVID-19. He called these public health precautions “authoritarian measures,” and contrasted them with Florida’s lack of restrictions despite the virus (which he himself caught in October but from which he recovered).
The very night that the bill passed, Donalds joined other Republican freshmen in the Capitol to further denounce the bill. While the other members stood behind him, masked as required by House rules, Donalds, a vehement anti-masker, said that he’d forgotten his mask in his office. He proceeded to argue that the only reason Democratic members were supporting the bill was because they feared House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) and needed the support of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. (Unlike the Republicans, who never acted out of fear of a presidential tweet.)
For all that, of course, the American Rescue Plan passed the House by a vote of 219 to 212 at 2:00 am on Saturday morning, Feb. 27.
On the fast track
Donalds, one of only two Black Republican members in the House (the other is Rep. Burgess Owens (R-4-Utah)), is clearly on a fast track in the Republican caucus and in the conservative movement.
The Republican leadership gave him committee assignments that offer numerous opportunities for political advantage. He sits on the Oversight and Reform Committee, which frequently generates headlines for its investigations and revelations of government misdeeds and shortcomings. His seat on the Budget Committee puts him in a very prominent position for consideration of the Biden administration’s annual budget initiatives, in this year’s case the American Rescue Plan. He also sits on the House Small Business Committee, which while generating fewer headlines, is helpful in the district.
(By contrast, Republicans have traditionally assigned less promising members to the Education Committee, which they regard as a backwater. It generates few headlines, offers few opportunities for high-profile work and congressional Republicans generally despise the Department of Education, which it oversees. It was where former Rep. Francis Rooney was initially placed and where Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was consigned before she was stripped of her committee assignments.)
Donalds also received recognition from the conservative movement at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the conclave that gathered in Orlando last week. While he was not one of the main speakers, he was given a seat on a panel discussing the political utility of supporting law enforcement, a slot in keeping with his rank as a freshman House member. On that panel he argued that while criminals need to be punished, they also need to be reintegrated back into society once they’ve completed their sentences. Donalds himself was arrested at 19 for drug possession and theft.
Back in the district…
While Donalds has been active on the front lines of conservatism and Republican ideology, he’s done little to no visible work in Congress yet on local issues like ensuring Southwest Florida’s vaccine allocation (dealt with in a broader sense by the American Rescue Plan he opposed), protecting the environment, strengthening measures against harmful algal blooms, bolstering infrastructure resilience against climate change or ensuring water purity. These were not key issues in his election campaign, either.
He has held no public town halls or constituent listening sessions—impossible in person right now, although possible virtually.
He did, however, conduct a very limited outreach session to local black businesses in a virtual roundtable on Thursday, Feb. 25, which was closed to the media.
Hospitality—and then some
One of Donalds’ more interesting efforts with local businesses occurred prior to the election. On Oct. 26, 2020 he sponsored an online roundtable with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association to discuss the needs and challenges of Southwest Florida’s hospitality industry with seven local restaurateurs and business owners. It didn’t hurt that he was connecting with local businessmen as early voting was taking place.
Two of the major points to come out of that panel were the need for COVID liability protection for local businesses and opposition to a minimum wage hike, opposition that Donalds clearly shared and took to Congress during the American Rescue Plan debate.
At the time Donalds agreed that economic stimulus was necessary but said it had to be targeted in concert with state governments. Ultimately, he voted against the stimulus contained in the American Rescue Plan.
Among the panelists was Alfie Oakes, the extreme conservative grocer and farmer. Oakes told the panel that COVID is “not a pandemic in my mind.” If any of his employees became sick “We would get some hydroxychloroquine and give it intravenously and within two days they were perfect. We didn’t jump into the fear of everything.”
But even Oakes, a vehement anti-masker, had to admit that despite his having called it a “hoax,” COVID caused him some concern. “Some people may still think I’m handling this in a reckless manner,” he said. “I have customers coming in, he’s 97, his wife is 94, they’re not wearing masks and I was worried for them but they’re still shopping every day. They didn’t buy into the fear.”
Oakes, who is otherwise a vociferous opponent of the federal government, stated that the PPP program helped stave off layoffs on his farm and the federal Farmbox program, which provides food to the needy directly from farms, aided his enterprise.
When it came to raising the minimum wage, Oakes said, “It would be asinine. It would be socialism. The people it would hurt are the people who it’s supposed to help. I’d have to squeeze more out of existing employees. It is a total liberal sham and I pray it doesn’t pass as I hope that Joe Biden doesn’t get elected.”
Analysis: Getting what you say you want
Make no mistake; in Byron Donalds the majority of voters in the 19th Congressional District got what they said they wanted: “a strong, Trump-supporting, gun-owning, liberty-loving, pro-life, politically incorrect black man,” as he put it during his campaign. His actions in office to date have followed logically for someone meeting that description.
Donalds is clearly ambitious and his election put him on a path to greater national glory and possibly higher office. But it’s not an easy path, it’s more of a tightrope over a chasm and Donalds is like a juggler trying to walk it while keeping three balls in the air.
One ball is the Republican congressional leadership. Donalds has to keep them happy to advance. So he follows the Party line, with which he seems to actually agree at the moment. So far they like him, are promoting him and he seems to really share their pronouncements and positions.
The second ball is Donald Trump and he is a ball that isn’t perfectly spherical and doesn’t follow the normal laws of aerodynamics. Donalds has to stay in his good graces or at least out of his line of fire. At CPAC, Trump declared that he will be staying in the Republican Party, he will be purging its heretics and when it comes to the 2024 presidential race, “I may even decide to beat them for a third time. Okay? For a third time. True.” To keep from dropping this ball, Donalds has to go along with the complete and utter fantasy that Trump won and had the election stolen from him. It takes a lot of willful credulity and a lot of sycophancy to keep that ball in the air—and it’s a ball that can fly off in any direction at any moment or suddenly hit him in the face.
The third ball is the “base,” the conservative movement and Donalds’ hard-core Trumper constituents in Southwest Florida. This includes the “lawless vigilantes” and “bunch of lunatics” who attacked the Capitol but whose votes Donalds needs to stay in his seat. These have been among some of Donalds’ most faithful supporters and donors to date. Donalds has to be conscious, though, that on Jan. 6 these people were a lynch mob just as surely as the lynch mob that rampaged through Fort Myers in 1924—only in 2021 they were seeking to hang the faithful and subservient Vice President of the United States. They could riot again, in person or at the ballot box, and turn against anyone, including him.
If Donalds can keep all three of these balls in the air and keep his footing on the tightrope, he just may get to the other side of the chasm.
And what is on that other side? Presumably whatever Donalds thinks constitutes “success.” But what Donalds considers “success” for himself may not necessarily be “success” for Southwest Florida.
This morning at 2:01 am, by a vote of 219 to 212, the US House of Representatives passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, House Resolution 1319, providing $1.9 trillion in relief, support and COVID countermeasures.
Unsurprisingly, Southwest Florida’s members of Congress, Reps. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.), all followed the Republican Party line and voted against it.
The bill proposes providing every needy American household $1,400 in immediate cash relief. It will boost the national vaccination program by setting up federal vaccination sites and increasing testing. It will support small businesses and is projected to boost an economy badly damaged by the pandemic. (A full analysis of the impact of the plan and the need for it can be read here.)
Donalds had long opposed the bill, which was first considered by the Budget Committee, on which he sits. When the committee considered the bill on Feb. 22, he called it “bloated and misguided” and denounced it for supporting Planned Parenthood and women’s choice. He also attacked the plan in his first speech on the House floor on Feb. 3.
On Friday, Feb. 26, Donalds appeared on WJLA-TV, a local Washington, DC television station to further denounce the bill, accusing Democrats of “using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to pass just about every liberal wishlist policy.” He also said that state and local governments only needed help because they mismanaged their economies and they should imitate Florida, which has opened up despite the pandemic.
“Unfortunately in too many states and too many localities, they have decided to go with these radical, drastic lockdown policies that have hurt businesses and have hurt Americans,” he said.
(According to state official figures, as of this writing Florida has had 30,624 deaths since the start of the pandemic. According to the COVID Action Site created by dissident data scientist Rebekah Jones, the actual number is 31,162, or 538 more than the official number.)
With House passage the Recovery Plan bill now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to be narrowly approved.
A provision providing for a $15 minimum wage was stripped from the bill when the Senate parliamentarian ruled that it could not be included as part of a budget reconciliation bill.
Donalds vociferously opposed raising the minimum wage throughout its consideration in the House, arguing that it “will be devastating to businesses in my district and throughout our country. Democrats need to leave their radical policy echo chambers and listen to the American people.”
In a speech advocating passage, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) said “This legislation is transformative, lifting 12 million Americans out of poverty and generating $1.25 for every dollar spent. And a great source of pride for us all, because this legislation will cut child poverty in half.” She also vowed “we will continue our ‘Fight For 15’ [an increase in the minimum wage], which would give 27 million Americans a raise.”
In first floor speech, Donalds attacks $15 minimum wage, Biden plan to aid the needy
Feb. 4, 2021 by David Silverberg
Tonight, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) voted to allow Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-14-Ga.) (also referred to by her initials, MTG) to retain her committee assignments in the House of Representatives—in contrast to fellow Southwest Florida congressman, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.), who voted to strip them away.
Donalds, along with fellow Southwest Floridian Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.), was in the minority and House Resolution 72 passed by a vote of 230 to 199.
Committee assignments are critical for members of Congress to have input into legislation, represent their districts and contribute to governing the United States.
Greene had propagated baseless conspiracy theories like QAnon, called for the assassination of fellow members of Congress, including House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.), denied the reality of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, said the Sandy Hook and Las Vegas shootings were fake and staged by anti-gun activists, made anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic accusations including that lasers in outer space run by the Rothschild family created California wildfires, and supported former President Donald Trump’s contention that he won the election, which he has conclusively been shown to have lost.
The resolution was extremely short and simple:
“Whereas clause 1 of rule XXIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives provides, ‘A Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.’; and
“Whereas Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene should be removed from her committee assignments in light of conduct she has exhibited: Now, therefore, be it
“Resolved, That the following named Member be, and is hereby, removed from the following standing committees of the House of Representatives: Committee On The Budget: Mrs. Greene of Georgia. Committee On Education And Labor: Mrs. Greene of Georgia.”
House Resolution 72
As of this writing, Donalds had not issued a statement on his vote.
In contrast, Diaz-Balart tweeted: “I’ve previously stated that MTG’s comments are unacceptable, & today I voted to remove her from her committee assignments.” Diaz-Balart went on to list Democratic members whom he thought should also be punished for their remarks including Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-5-Minn.), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-43-Calif.) and former representative Cynthia McKinney. “If MTG is being removed from her committee positions for her past inappropriate comments, then these members should’ve received the same treatment. I’ll continue to demand that Democratic leadership & the press stop the double standard & hold these members equally accountable.”
As of this writing Steube had not issued a statement on his vote but had tweeted criticism of Democrats for not wishing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance before House Judiciary Committee hearings.
Donalds denounces Biden
In addition to his vote to protect Greene, Donalds delivered his first floor speech on Wednesday, Feb. 3, denouncing President Joe Biden’s plan to stimulate the economy and assist Americans in need due to the pandemic.
Donalds participated in the debate over House Concurrent Resolution 11, establishing the US budget for fiscal year 2021 and setting future budget levels for the decade ahead.
The bill passed by a party-line vote of 218 to 212, with Donalds voting against it.
“This budget resolution is not about economics, it is not about COVID-19, it is not about helping our schools reopen,” Donalds said in his 4-minute speech. “This budget resolution is purely politics. It is an opportunity to push through an agenda through budget reconciliation where, if you actually studied our economy, and studied the fact that now close to 40 million Americans have been vaccinated by the vaccine from the tracks that are getting reopened. We should study this. We should be more targeted and we should not be putting forward a massive spending bill where no study has ever been given.”
In the speech he argued that $1 trillion from the previous year had already been appropriated and not yet spent. He argued that opening up economies—despite the pandemic—was the best way to fight unemployment. He also opposed raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, which is in the Biden plan, arguing that it would actually decrease employment.
He opposed a $170 billion provision to help local school districts reopen, pointing out that teachers picketing for safe schools, particularly in Chicago, would not help schools reopen, unlike Florida, where schools are opening despite the pandemic. “All they need is leadership,” he said of schools. “They don’t need more money.”
He also opposed any aid to state and local governments. “If you want to help state and local governments take care of their revenue problem, you should open up. They should not come back to this Capitol and get money. Because why should Florida pay for New York?”
He also sent a letter with his objections to Pelosi.
Donalds now on committees
Donalds has now received his committee assignments and sits on the Committee on Oversight and Reform, House Budget Committee, and House Committee on Small Business.
On the Oversight and Reform Committee, Donalds will sit on the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee and the Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee.
Other well-known members of the full Oversight and Reform Committee include three Democratic members of the progressive “squad:” Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-14-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-13-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-7-Mass.). Rep. Jim Jordan (R-4-Ohio), a vocal defender of Donald Trump, sits on the Republican side.
On the House Budget Committee, Donalds will be serving with Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-3-Colo.) an extreme right-wing member. This was the committee on which he would have served with Greene had she kept her assignment.
GOP freshmen reps offer cooperation to Biden but Donalds missing from letter
Jan. 21, 2021 by David Silverberg
After only 18 days in Congress, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) already has a challenger when he next faces election in 2022—Democrat Cindy Banyai, who opposed him last year.
Banyai announced her candidacy late on Tuesday evening, the night before President Joe Biden was inaugurated.
“It would be my great honor to serve the people of Southwest Florida in Congress,” Banyai stated in her announcement. “We need someone who will work for our community, not participate in political charades that destabilize our country. If we want unity and a government that works, we need someone who will put the people first. I am proud to announce I am running for US House of Representatives Florida 19 again in 2022. It’s time to make Trump’s crony, Byron Donalds, a one-term Congressman.”
Banyai, who holds a doctorate from Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Japan, runs her own consultancy based in Fort Myers, Banyai Evaluation & Consulting, LLC, specializing in assisting non-profit organizations. She is also an adjunct professor in political science at Florida Gulf Coast University.
The Donalds record so far
Donalds’ most important policy vote to date was to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Banyai noted that Donalds’ vote “placed him in what some are calling the ‘Sedition Caucus’ for participating in Trump’s political theater that in part inspired the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6,” she stated. “Donalds ran on unwavering support for Trump and has demonstrated that is his priority in his early days in office, despite Trump’s incitement of the attack on the US Capitol. We need true servant leaders, not sycophants, and I am ready to serve.”
Donalds attended the inauguration of Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris yesterday. However, he did not sign a letter from 17 Republican freshman representatives to Biden stating that “we are hopeful that – despite our ideological differences – we may work together on behalf of the American people we are each so fortunate to serve.”
Three members of the seven-member Republican “Freedom Force,” signed the letter. The “Freedom Force” is a Republican imitation of the Democratic “Squad” of four progressive representatives. The three signers were Reps. Stephanie Bice (R-5-Okla.), Carlos Gimenez (R-26-Fla.) and Nicole Malliotakis (R-11-NY).
“Of course Byron Donalds is not a signatory,” tweeted Banyai. “He went to the inauguration today, but it wasn’t because he is ready to put partisan politics aside and work for the people.”
As of this writing, Donalds had not made a statement on his decision not to sign the letter.
According to local media reports, Republicans in the heavily conservative district have been leaving the Party since the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, which could be a factor in the election.
Further, while the candidates will be running in what is now the 19th Congressional District, which covers the coastal area from Cape Coral to Marco Island, by the time of the election the district’s boundaries may change as well as its number due to redistricting following the 2020 Census. The 2022 election could feature a significantly different population and area.
The letter from the Republican freshmen to President Joe Biden:
While the US House of Representatives voted today to impeach President Donald Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol and the legislative branch of government, Southwest Florida’s congressional representatives voted against impeachment to keep him in office.
Reps. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) all voted against impeaching the president and also against having Vice President Mike Pence invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution.
As of this writing, none had issued statements explaining their votes. None made statements on the House floor. None addressed Trump’s responsibility for the insurrection.
Today the House passed one article of impeachment in House Resolution (HR) 24, approving it at 4:33 pm by a vote of 232 to 197. Ten Republicans voted to impeach the president, none from Florida. Four Republicans and one Democrat did not vote.
“President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government. He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States,” stated the text of HR 24, after recounting Trump’s attempts to overthrow the results of the 2020 election and his incitement of the mob.
“Wherefore, Donald John Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law. Donald John Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.”
The article will now be sent to the Senate where, if voted upon, a two-thirds majority can remove the president from office. As of this writing, such a vote seemed doubtful for a variety of procedural and political reasons.
The first measure up for a vote, HR 21, urging Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, came at 11:24 pm last night and passed by a largely party-line vote of 223 to 205. Only one Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-16-Ill.) voted for it. Well before the vote Pence indicated that he would not invoke the amendment.
While Trump is the first president to be formally impeached twice on two separate occasions and in two different bills, it took three tries for Congress to impeach President Andrew Johnson in 1868. Johnson was ultimately acquitted by a single Senate vote.
Although the Southwest Florida congressional delegation did not address their impeachment votes, Steube did spend time commenting on other matters. He took time today to attack Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-15-Calif.), one of the House impeachment mangers, for comparing Trump to deceased terrorist Osama Bin Laden.
In an interview yesterday with the PBS News Hour, Swalwell stated that Trump himself must be held accountable for the attack, pointing out that while Bin Laden was not in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, “it was widely acknowledged that he was responsible for inspiring the attack on our country and the president, with his words, using the word ‘fight’ and with the speakers he assembled that day who called for ‘trial by combat’ and said ‘we have to take names and kick ass’ that is hate speech that inspired and radicalized people to storm the Capitol,” he said. “And when you read the indictments from the US attorney’s office, they cite that they were called there by the president. They were in the Capitol because the president told them to do so. So we must hold this president accountable. I’m comparing the words of an individual who would incite and radicalize somebody as Osama Bin Laden did to what President Trump did. You don’t actually have to commit the violence yourself but if you call others to violence that itself is a crime.”
Steube stated in a tweet: “Comparing Trump to Bin Laden is an insult to every American we lost on 9/11, their families, and all of our service members who put their lives on the line to protect us from terrorists. Swalwell is the one threatening our national security. Resign.”
Steube has not to date criticized or condemned Trump for his words at the rally preceding the attack on the Capitol.
President Donald Trump must be removed from office immediately.
He is a danger to the United States, he is completely unfit for office and he appears to have lost the capacity for rational thought. He publicly engaged in sedition, incited a riot and arguably committed treason by trying to overthrow the rightful government of the United States. He cannot be trusted to act in the best interests of the country and he cannot be allowed to have any further authority over the vast, destructive powers of the United States military. He is actually a clear and present danger to all life on this planet.
It now appears that the Vice President and Cabinet will not remove him under Amendment 25 of the US Constitution. There is momentum in Congress to impeach him a second time and this time it could succeed in removing him. This might not seem necessary with only 12 days to go (as of this writing) but the threat is so great and his crimes so obvious that the effort should be made.
If he had any shred of decency, dignity or care for the country he would resign—but that is not likely from this sick and twisted man.
Southwest Florida’s role
The representatives and citizens of Southwest Florida did not cover themselves in glory during the current crisis.
Its congressional delegation—Reps. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) all voted to overturn the election of President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris and negate the votes of 80 million Americans. Notwithstanding their protestations to the contrary, they attempted on a legal and procedural basis to accomplish what the rioters tried on a violent and physical basis: to stop the proper functioning of government, cancel the results of a legal election, overturn democracy and install autocratic rule at the behest of a would-be dictator.
Trump’s more extreme supporters from Southwest Florida traveled to Washington, DC to register their protest—and some illegally entered the Capitol and participated in the riot and rampage that occurred there.
Now, in the bizarre and delusional mythmaking that characterizes Trumpism, they are asserting that the rioters who invaded the Capitol and battled police were somehow not Trumpers, were disguised anarchists, were a small minority, were agents provocateurs.
This is straight out of the George Orwell book. In fact, to quote his novel, 1984: “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” Or, as Donald Trump himself said in 2018: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,”
Anyone who watched the horrendous invasion of the Capitol simply knows that this wasn’t true. This was a mass riot by tens of thousands of people attacking the legislative branch of the United States government in its own home at the incitement of a delusional president who had been defeated in an election.
No amount of mythmaking and self-delusion will change that fact, whether the mythmakers are in Southwest Florida or anywhere else.
It’s worth noting that there is also a Southwest Florida connection to the physical building: it is the Capitol Visitors Center, the secure underground entrance to the Capitol Building where visitors are normally screened and which includes an extensive museum, offices and educational facilities. As the acting Architect of the Capitol put when it opened on Dec. 2, 2008, it is “a respectful and dignified way to enter the people’s house.” It was built by Manhattan Construction Co., owned by retired congressman and Naples resident Francis Rooney. Being underground, the Visitors Center did not appear to be a target of the rioters and there are no reports at this time of damage to it.
On a personal note: For many years, this author covered Congress and spent a great deal of time in the Capitol Building. In fact it was love and respect for the institution, particularly the House of Representatives, that inspired him to write a comprehensive citizens’ guide to Congress.
To go to work in or around the US Capitol Building and its complex each day is to be awestruck anew by its dignity and majesty. Every corridor and room has its hallowed past and reminders of the people who served this republic with distinction. The whole building is a physical expression of the greatest democratic experiment in history and inspires respect and reverence.
There is no single word to express this author’s feelings as he watched insane, raging rioters rampage down hallways he intimately knew, defile the floors of the House and Senate, saw police overwhelmed in the Capitol Crypt or watched a pitched battle in the magnificent Rotunda, the sacred space between the House and Senate. Like their ignorant leader these people had no reverence, no piety and no patriotism for what that building represents.
Now one knows how it must have felt when the barbarians overwhelmed the defenses of Rome and went on a rampage through its precincts in the year 410. And in the Jewish tradition, one suddenly gets the sense of the impact of the defilement of the sacred Temple in Jerusalem by pagan invaders.
In the case of the Jewish Temple, in the year 164 before the Common Era, Greek invaders were expelled and the Temple reconsecrated. It was this reconsecration that is commemorated by Hanukah (which means “dedication” in Hebrew), the Jewish festival of lights. The story is that a small supply of the Temple’s hallowed oil miraculously burned for eight days.
Perhaps in our current context it is also an important reminder for everyone that reconsecration can occur and that wounds can heal and vandalism be repaired—with dedication.
The next stage of the American political drama will be played out in Washington among a handful of people with the institutional responsibilities for the functioning of government: the President, the Speaker of the House, the Senate majority and minority leaders and the bodies of the US House of Representatives and the Senate.
Citizens of the United States and Southwest Florida can make their lawful voices heard. They’ve already made their preferences known through their votes in the presidential election; it was this preference that Donald Trump attempted to steal.
Donald Trump has demonstrated that democracy and the machinery to implement it cannot be taken for granted; it has to be defended. Supporters of America’s democracy have acted and continue to act in a lawful and orderly fashion, in contrast to Trump and his followers, who have shown themselves riotous, seditious and disorderly.
Lawlessness and anarchy have to be suppressed and punished through legal, lawful means. The representatives of Southwest Florida have stated with their votes, actions and failure to criticize or condemn Donald Trump, which side they are on.
If America’s electoral machinery continues to function as intended, the next legal chance for citizens to make a difference will occur in two years when there is another election. In Florida, that election will include the office of governor, a senator and all representatives.
If America is to continue as a democracy, over the next two years lovers of democracy will have to mobilize, stay alert, be vigilant and active. The last election is over but the struggle continues. And as events at the Capitol demonstrated, everything—absolutely everything—remains at stake.
Despite a mob attack on the United States Capitol yesterday, Jan. 6, incited by President Donald Trump, when the roll was called all of Southwest Florida’s congressional representatives voted to aid and abet the president’s effort to overturn the 2020 election.
The roll call vote by the House of Representatives occurred at 3:00 am this morning. The motion was on objections raised to certifying the Electoral College results from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Had the objection been sustained the Electoral College vote would have been rejected and the election overturned.
While Reps. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) voted to sustain the objection, it was defeated by a vote of 282 to 138.
At 3:26 am this morning, Vice President Mike Pence certified that Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had won the 2020 presidential election by an Electoral College vote of 306 to 232.
Evolution of the day
Yesterday morning saw SWFL’s representatives confidently preparing to overturn the election through legal, procedural means.
“I’m walking into the Capitol to sign the objection to the Electoral College certification. It’s important we always uphold our laws and our Constitution, no matter what,” tweeted Donalds at 11:17 am.
“I’m objecting to the electoral votes of GA, PA, WI and MI,” tweeted Steube at 11:23 am. “If we fail to challenge the blatant improprieties that have marred the 2020 election, we let honest votes go uncounted. Anything less would fail our country now and into the future.”
The representatives were entering the Capitol at the same time a pro-Trump rally was taking place at the Ellipse in front of the White House. Trump addressed the rally and told rally-goers “we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you,” and “you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated, lawfully slated. I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” (Trump did not march to the Capitol.)
The Trumpers then marched from the area of the White House to the Capitol, which they attacked throughout the afternoon, breaching the perimeter and vandalizing the interior of the building before being evicted in the evening.
“On my fourth day as a United States Congressman, I followed Capitol staff into a safe room with a gas mask in hand rather than representing my constituents,” recounted Donalds in a statement on the events.
“I witnessed our law enforcement officers being injured, gassed from their own tear gas and afraid for their lives as they attempted to hold the line,” recalled Steube in his own statement. “I and three other Members were barricaded in a room surrounded by demonstrators until the hallway was clear for us to get out.” Steube expressed thanks to Kim Campbell with the House Sergeant at Arms office, Officer Reginald Cleveland of the Capitol Police and two other officers barricaded in the room.
During the worst moments of the protest Donalds condemned the violence: “Americans have the right to peacefully protest & demand their government works for them—that doesn’t mean we resort to violence. Rule of law must stand during our nation’s brightest & darkest hours & that includes right now. We are better than this. There is no place for anarchy,” he tweeted at 2:49 pm.
Once the violence was over, the rioters were ejected and the Capitol secured in the evening all three representatives condemned the violence.
Diaz-Balart issued a statement in both English and Spanish at 5:23 pm saying that the violence undermined the nation’s values and principles and lawbreakers should face the full consequences of their actions. At 5:39 pm Steube condemned the actions and called them “completely unacceptable.”
At 10:09 pm in a lengthy statement, Donalds called the rioters “lawless vigilantes” and condemned their actions as “thuggery.” Nonetheless, he tweeted, “they will not alter my decision to object to the Electoral College certification.”
None of the members criticized or condemned Trump for his role in inciting the assault.
In contrast, retired congressman Francis Rooney issued his own statement on Facebook as the violence peaked at 3:49 pm: “All of America should be saddened and sickened by today’s events at the US Capitol,” he wrote. “President Trump is complicit in inciting violence to contest an election that is over and adjudicated. This must stop now.”
Despite release of a phone call in which President Donald Trump blatantly attempted to overturn the legitimate outcome of the 2020 presidential election, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) has reaffirmed that he will vote to decertify those results when Congress votes on the results on Wednesday, Jan. 6.
“Every Floridian & American deserves to believe that our elections result from a transparent & lawful democratic process,” Donalds announced in a 10:53 am tweet this morning. “I’m proud to stand with @Kat_Cammack [Rep. Kat Cammack (R-3-Fla.)] & @BrianMastFL [Rep. Brian Mast (R-18-Fla.)] to object to the certification process on January 6th & restore faith in our election system.”
Donalds was sworn into office yesterday, Jan. 3, with the rest of the 117th Congress.
After taking the oath of office, Donalds voted with 208 other Republicans for Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-23-Calif.) for Speaker of the House. He was defeated by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.), who won with 216 votes.
Both of Southwest Florida’s other representatives, Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.), also voted for McCarthy.
Donalds’ affirmation of his challenge to the 2020 presidential election results follows release yesterday of an hour-long phone call between Trump and his lawyers and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and lawyer Ryan Germany. In the call Trump tried to bully, cajole and plead that Raffensperger illegally alter the certified, audited and recounted results of the Georgia election to make him the winner.
In a major blow to President Donald Trump, the United States Senate voted this afternoon to override his veto of the Department of Defense appropriations bill by a vote of 81 to 13.
Both of Florida’s Republican senators, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, voted with the majority to override. As of this writing, neither had issued a statement explaining his vote.
Their votes were remarkable given both senators’ past vocal support for the President.
The override was also an indication of Trump’s rapidly eroding clout. He had called for an end to Section 230, a non-defense provision protecting Internet companies from liability for postings on their sites and objected to changing the names of military bases from those honoring Confederate generals. When the bill did not include those measures he vetoed it.
The National Defense Authorization Act (House Resolution 6395) provides $750 billion for US military operations and national defense including a pay raise for servicemembers. It will now go into effect.
The 13 members opposing the override included Democrats like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who had insisted that there not be a vote on the defense bill unless there was also one on providing Americans financially hurt by the pandemic with $2,000. House Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, opposed submitting that to a vote and finally proceeded with the override vote separately.
This was the first override of a Trump veto in his presidency.