US House passes American Rescue Plan aiding needy and speeding vaccines; all SWFL Reps vote ‘no’

Rep. Byron Donalds presents proxy votes for fellow congressional Republicans during last night’s legislative session. (Image: US House)

Feb. 27, 2021 by David Silverberg

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.” 

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

US House votes to override Trump on defense, add $2,000 in unemployment relief–UPDATED

Rooney votes for veto override and praises Pelosi, Steube votes against help for the unemployed

The US Capitol dome. (Photo: AotC)

Dec. 29, 2020 by David Silverberg

Dec. 29, 9:00 am updated with Rooney statement, Steube statement, Senate developments

In a momentous night of legislating, the US House of Representatives last night voted to provide Americans who have lost jobs due to the pandemic with $2,000 in stimulus funds. It also overrode President Donald Trump’s veto of the US Defense appropriations bill.

Votes by members of the Southwest Florida delegation were mixed.

The additional relief funds were provided in the Caring for Americans with Supplemental Health (CASH) Act, House Resolution (HR) 9051. It passed by a vote of 275 to 134.

On this vote, Reps. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) voted in favor of the resolution.

“Last night I supported an additional stimulus payment of $2,000 for the hard working Americans suffering financially from the deadly Covid virus,” tweeted Rooney this morning. “Thank you [House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.)] for swiftly bringing this to the House floor. It is my hope that
[Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)] will do the same in the Senate.”

Rooney’s praise for Pelosi was remarkable, coming from a conservative Republican.

Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) voted against the bill, denouncing it in a tweet, stating: “Americans don’t need inadequate stimulus checks and forced government dependency to get them back on their feet—we need efforts to safely reopen and return back to normal.”

In addition, he issued a longer statement explaining his vote, in which he called the bill an “unnecessary redistribution of wealth.” His position put him at odds with President Donald Trump of whom he has been a vocal defender. Trump called the previous $600 stimulus payment “measly” and demanded the $2,000, which Republicans had been blocking.

The vote to override the president’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), HR 6395, was much more lopsided in the House, 322 to 87, demonstrating overwhelming bipartisan support for US military forces.

In that vote Rooney voted for the override, while Diaz-Balart and Steube opposed it, siding with the president.

As of this writing, none had issued statements explaining their positions on this bill.

Trump vetoed the defense bill because it did not strip protections from social media companies like Twitter, which have increasingly flagged his baseless and inaccurate charges of voter fraud and because he opposed changing the names of military bases from those of Confederate generals.

“With this overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, the House has upheld our sacred constitutional responsibility to keep our country and our people safe,” stated House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.).  “The National Defense Authorization Act has been passed on a bipartisan and bicameral manner for 60 years, and it will become law, despite the President’s dangerous sabotage efforts.”

She concluded: “The President must end his eleventh-hour campaign of chaos, and stop using his final moments in office to obstruct bipartisan and bicameral action to protect our military and defend our security.”

After long negotiations on pandemic relief and overall government appropriations, Trump suddenly denounced the bill that both houses of Congress passed and demanded that it provide more than the $600 originally allotted for out of work Americans. Although Pelosi tried to get the increased amount passed immediately by unanimous consent, it was blocked by Republican members, necessitating a new bill and a new vote.

Both bills now go to the Senate. The NDAA previously passed in the Senate by a vote of 84 to 13, enough to override a veto. The Senate override vote may be taken today, Dec. 29.

On the CASH Act, it was not clear whether Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would allow it to come to a vote. As of this writing Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), is threatening to filibuster the Defense bill unless McConnell agrees to submit the CASH Act to a Senate vote.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

BREAKING NEWS: Trump caves, signs pandemic relief bill; SWFL programs saved

President Trump after signing a bill. (Photo:AP)

Dec. 27, 2020 by David Silverberg

Under immense pressure from both congressional Democrats and Republicans, as well 14 to 20 million desperate Americans whose unemployment benefits ran out last night, President Donald Trump relented tonight and signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which had been passed by Congress last week.

As of this writing, a formal statement from Trump, who spent the Christmas holiday playing golf at his resort in West Palm Beach, Florida, had not been issued.

The 5,593-page bill appropriates money for nearly all the government’s operations next year as well as providing Americans laid off by the pandemic with $600 in benefits. It also pays for purchasing and distributing the COVID vaccine.

After months of negotiations and passage by both houses of Congress, Trump suddenly chose to denounce the bill on Tuesday, Dec. 22, throwing the government into chaos and threatening much-needed relief for Americans unemployed by the pandemic. People who needed unemployment benefits were denied them for a week, since the president missed the deadline for aiding them. His action could have also shut down the government at a critical time.

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) issued a statement immediately following the signing: “The signing of the bipartisan, bicameral coronavirus relief legislation is welcome news for the 14 million Americans who just lost the lifeline of unemployment benefits on Christmas Weekend, and for the millions more struggling to stay afloat during this historic pandemic and economic crisis.”

She continued: “Now, the President must immediately call on congressional Republicans to end their obstruction and to join him and Democrats in support of our stand-alone legislation to increase direct payment checks to $2,000, which will be brought to the Floor tomorrow.  Every Republican vote against this bill is a vote to deny the financial hardship that families face and to deny the American people the relief they need.”

Trump’s capitulation means that Southwest Florida—in addition to unemployment benefits for Southwest Floridians and vaccine distribution—will get the funding critical to Everglades restoration, agricultural support, and low-income and homeless housing programs. (For a fuller discussion of the benefits to Southwest Florida, see Trump suddenly attacks pandemic relief bill, dealing heavy blow to Southwest Florida.)

Comments from Reps. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.), who both introduced provisions to the bill, were not immediately available after the news broke.

However, yesterday, Dec. 26, Rep.-elect Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) went on Fox News to blame the holdup on Pelosi.

Rep.-Elect Byron Donalds on Fox News yesterday. (Image: Fox News)

“It is clear that Nancy Pelosi was playing politics with this bill,” said Donalds. “This is her fault. This is at her feet.” He called the bill “Pelosi’s wish list” and “a disaster” and said “It was awful, unconscionable, it was asinine and it has put everybody in the lurch.”

After Trump suddenly demanded that the $600 payment to individuals be increased to $2,000, Pelosi tried to increase the amount but was blocked by Republicans. A stand-alone bill increasing the amount is expected to be introduced in Congress tomorrow.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Trump suddenly attacks pandemic relief bill, dealing heavy blow to Southwest Florida

President Donald Trump in his Twitter video last night, denouncing the pandemic relief bill just passed by Congress. (Image: White House)

Dec. 23, 2020 by David Silverberg

President Donald Trump’s sudden attack on the $900 billion coronavirus relief bill passed by the House and Senate on Monday, Dec. 21, deals severe blows to Southwest Florida and to the provisions that benefit the region.

Yesterday, Dec. 22, Trump, without warning congressional Republicans, issued a 9-minute, 53-second video on Twitter. In it he explained his reasons for trying to overturn the results of the presidential election and then denounced the laboriously negotiated and passed Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The bill funds the US government through the next fiscal year but most importantly to most Americans suffering from the pandemic, it provides $600 in payments to those who have lost their jobs.

Equally important, it provided funding for COVID vaccine acquisition and distribution.

In his video, Trump called the bill “a disgrace,” attacked it for funding foreign aid and a variety of domestic purposes and demanded that it provide $2,000 for each American.

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) immediately agreed to try to provide the $2,000, this after weeks of negotiations during which they struggled to get Republican negotiators to raise the relief amount from an original offer of $300 to $600.

“Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks,” tweeted Pelosi. “At last, the President has agreed to $2,000—Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it!”

The bill includes provisions directly affecting Southwest Florida that were inserted by Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.).

According to Diaz-Balart, the bill funds local infrastructure, school safety, Everglades restoration, agricultural support and housing programs for low-income families and the homeless. Patients are protected from surprise billing and, in a move of particularly local interest, the Moore Haven Lock and Dam on Lake Okeechobee is re-named in honor of Julian Keen, Jr., a Florida Wildlife Conservation officer who was killed in LaBelle in June while trying to stop a hit-and-run suspect. (The full text of Diaz-Balart’s statement is below.)

Of critical importance to Southwest Florida is the inclusion of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) in the bill. WRDA provides authorization for every water-related infrastructure project in the country and has been a particular focus of Rooney’s efforts.

When WRDA was finalized earlier in the month he stated: “Passage of WRDA is an important step in finally advancing the 68 Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) projects that have been previously approved. These projects will significantly reduce discharges to the Caloosahatchee, reduce the toxic algal blooms that have plagued us in previous years, and improve overall water quality in SWFL.”

As Rooney points out, the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee Watershed include 16 counties and 164 cities. They have a $2 trillion economic impact on the state and support $1.3 trillion, or 55 percent of the real estate value in Florida. Four dollars in economic benefits are produced for every dollar invested in the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee Watershed.

The bill that Congress passed includes $250 million for Everglades restoration for fiscal 2021.

Analysis: Coming up next

While Trump has not formally vetoed the appropriations bill, it is unclear what the next courses of action will be, since it cannot be finalized without his signature. As Pelosi noted, she may try to get a new version of the bill passed through “unanimous consent” in which all the members of the House agree to simply pass it without objection—dubious in this Congress.

Otherwise, the entire 5,593-page bill will have to be renegotiated and passed by both House and Senate before Dec. 29 when funding for the government runs out. If Congress cannot do that, the government will shut down and the results will be truly and fully catastrophic: vaccines will not be purchased or distributed, Americans will not get any financial pandemic relief and the economy is likely to crash. All this will come when coronavirus cases are peaking, Russia is hacking the US government without any resistance or defense at the highest level and Trump is continuing to resist and deny the outcome of the presidential election.

If Trump had objections to the bill while it was being negotiated he should have expressed them and his concerns would have been incorporated at an earlier stage. But that kind of involvement in governing and attention to detail is not his style and all reports are that he simply ignored it.

Southwest Floridians should make no mistake about this: they are directly affected by Trump’s incompetence, grandstanding and mismanagement. People who don’t get coronavirus care or the vaccine will die—likely in large numbers. But perhaps the chaos and distress he is causing is exactly what he intended.


Full statement on the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart following its passage:

“The FY2021 funding bill includes big wins for our nation and for Florida. This bill prioritizes funding to enhance our infrastructure, support our military and law enforcement, and strengthen our national security. In addition, school safety remains a top priority, Everglades Restoration receives a significant influx of funding, and programs that our farmers and growers rely on will continue. It also supports critical housing programs such as the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Homeless Assistance Grants.

“Attached to this bill are several legislative priorities, including an end to surprise billing—patients will now know the real cost of a scheduled procedure before it takes place. Additionally, this bill includes the final version of WRDA 2020, thereby ensuring the Moore Haven Lock and Dam is renamed in honor of fallen FWC Officer Julian Keen, Jr.

“We have already seen Florida capitalize on the programs these bills fund, and with its passage today, our state will continue to benefit from them moving forward.”

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

UPDATE: Sen. Scott, Rep. Steube vote against pandemic relief bill passed by both House and Senate

The US Capitol at dawn.

Dec. 22, 2020 by David Silverberg

Southwest Florida Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) and Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) were among the members in the minority of their respective chambers who voted against a massive, $900 billion coronavirus relief bill that passed both the House of Representatives and the US Senate last night.

The Senate vote was 92 to 6 in favor of the bill. In contrast to Scott, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) voted in favor of it.

Among its many other provisions, the bill will provide $600 to Americans making less than $75,000 per year who lost jobs in the pandemic.

The Senate vote came at 10:48 pm, two hours after the House approved the measure. The Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 (House Resolution 133) passed in two House votes, the first approved by 327 votes to 85 and the second by 359 to 53.

The bill now goes to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it today. The bill passed in both chambers by veto-proof margins.

In both cases, Southwest Florida Reps. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) voted in favor of the measure.

“We must help Americans & small businesses in need but we can’t keep operating this way,” stated Scott in a tweet. “Once again, in classic Washington style, vital programs are attached to a massive omnibus spending bill that mortgages our kids & grandkid’s futures. Therefore, I can’t support this bill.”

“My job here in the Senate is to solve problems & make a difference,” tweeted Rubio following the Senate vote. “That is what we did for #SmallBiz earlier this year with #PPP [the Paycheck Protection Program]. And that is what we did again now.”

Calling it “a so-called relief bill,” Steube charged that “instead of addressing the economic suffering of Americans, Democrats have manipulated this process to force their radical agenda on the American people during a time of crisis,” he tweeted. He expanded on his objections in a longer statement.

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) said in a floor speech that while there was more work to do to stop the pandemic and help Americans, the bill “will meet the needs of the American people—to crush this virus and to do so in a way that brings us all into the future in a very safe way.”

The 5,593-page piece of legislation also includes another bill of vital importance to Southwest Florida, the Water Resources Development Act, which governs all the water sources in the region.

Both Diaz-Balart in the House and Rubio in the Senate claimed credit for a provision allowing citizens married to spouses who were previously ineligible for benefits to now collect them.

“The CARES ACT [a previous relief bill] contained an oversight that prevented otherwise eligible American citizens from getting assistance because they were married to a non-citizen,” tweeted Rubio. “I filed a bill to fix it.”

“As I have stated before, there is no reason to justify why a US Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident should be excluded from receiving a benefit meant for Americans simply due to the legal status of a spouse,” stated Diaz-Balart. “I am thrilled to see that this provision was taken into consideration in this new COVID relief bill, and I look forward to seeing the great impact this will make in helping the American people.”

The final bill was the result of a deal reached between the House and Senate leadership after long and difficult negotiations. However, with millions of Americans facing the consequences of lost jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic, the pressure to reach an agreement was intense.

In addition to providing paycheck protection and passage of the Water Resources Development Act, the bill, based on a House-Senate bipartisan agreement:

  • Accelerates vaccine distribution;
  • Ends surprise medical billing;
  • Supports small business;
  • Helps community lenders;
  • Assists renters;
  • Strengthens low income housing tax credits;
  • Supports paid sick leave;
  • Enhances unemployment insurance benefits;
  • Provides nutrition assistance for the hungry;
  • Aids education and child care;
  • Expands grants for education;
  • Encourages clean energy;
  • Helps fund international vaccine efforts.

“We are disappointed that Republicans have refused to recognize the need to honor our heroic frontline workers by supporting robust funding for state and local governments,” stated Pelosi.  “State and local governments need much more funding to prevent senseless layoffs and critical service cuts.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has stated that, once signed, government-issued checks could go out as soon as next week.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

US House passes massive $900B pandemic relief bill; Rooney, Diaz-Balart approved, Steube opposed

The US Capitol.

Dec. 21, 2020 by David Silverberg

The US House of Representatives tonight passed a massive $900 billion coronavirus relief bill, which will provide $600 to Americans making less than $75,000 per year who have lost jobs in the pandemic.

Passage of the 5,593-page bill, the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 (House Resolution 133), which originally dealt with US-Mexican relations before it was extensively amended, required two votes. The first passed by 327 votes to 85.

Southwest Florida Reps. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) both voted for the measure. Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) voted against it.

The second portion of the bill passed by a vote of 359 to 53, with Rooney and Diaz-Balart again voting for it and Steube again opposing it.

“I voted NO on tonight’s so-called relief bill,” Steube tweeted. “Instead of addressing the economic suffering of Americans, Democrats have manipulated this process to force their radical agenda on the American people during a time of crisis.” He expanded on his objections in a longer statement.

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) said in a floor speech that while there was more work to do to stop the pandemic and help Americans, the bill “will meet the needs of the American people—to crush this virus and to do so in a way that brings us all into the future in a very safe way.”

The gigantic piece of legislation also includes another bill of vital importance to Southwest Florida, the Water Resources Development Act, which governs all the water sources in the region.

The bill included one proposal by Diaz-Balart. It allows citizens who file taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) rather than a Social Security number to receive benefits. Legal Permanent Residents can receive stimulus payments as well. Under previous versions of the Paycheck Protection Program both groups were ineligible for payments. This also applies to ITIN users married to spouses who are ineligible for payments.

“As I have stated before, there is no reason to justify why a US Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident should be excluded from receiving a benefit meant for Americans simply due to the legal status of a spouse,” stated Diaz-Balart. “I am thrilled to see that this provision was taken into consideration in this new COVID relief bill, and I look forward to seeing the great impact this will make in helping the American people.”

In addition to providing paycheck protection and passage of the Water Resources Development Act, the bill, based on a House-Senate bipartisan agreement:

  • Accelerates vaccine distribution;
  • Ends surprise medical billing;
  • Supports small business;
  • Helps community lenders;
  • Assists renters;
  • Strengthens low income housing tax credits;
  • Supports paid sick leave;
  • Enhances unemployment insurance benefits;
  • Provides nutrition assistance for the hungry;
  • Aids education and child care;
  • Expands grants for education;
  • Encourages clean energy;
  • Helps fund international vaccine efforts.

“We are disappointed that Republicans have refused to recognize the need to honor our heroic frontline workers by supporting robust funding for state and local governments,” stated Pelosi.  “State and local governments need much more funding to prevent senseless layoffs and critical service cuts.”

The bill now goes back to the Senate, where it is expected to pass quickly—possibly within hours of the House’s vote—and then be signed by President Donald Trump. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has stated that, once signed, government-issued checks could go out as soon as next week.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

With one week to go: Southwest Florida’s state of play today

Cindy Banyai and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) in Forth Myers on Saturday, Oct. 24. (Photo: Banyai campaign)

Oct. 27, 2020 by David Silverberg

Today marks one week before the General Election and while there’s saturation media coverage of national politics, there’s little publicly available data to determine the exact state of play in Southwest Florida.

Still, the national situation provides some context, particularly when it comes to Southwest Florida’s premier federal electoral contest, the battle to fill the seat of retiring Republican Rep. Francis Rooney in the 19th Congressional District.

But it’s not just politics that tells this year’s story because the COVID-19 virus has a vote—and this year, it is exercising that franchise in Lee and Collier counties.

The battle in the 19th

In the 19th Congressional District, the coastal area from Cape Coral to Marco Island, Cindy Banyai, Democratic candidate for Congress, has maintained a vigorous campaign schedule, is active on social media and has racked up numerous new endorsements.

“Things are going very well and we’re optimistic heading into the last week of the elections,” Banyai told The Paradise Progressive. “We had some very promising polling numbers come back and our team is running through the finish line.”

After testing positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 16, prior to President Donald Trump’s visit to Fort Myers, Byron Donalds, her Republican opponent, announced yesterday, Oct. 26, that he had tested negative for COVID-19 and positive for antibodies and would return to the campaign trail for the last week of campaigning.

Donalds has not been running any advertising and the outside political action committees like Club for Growth that powered his primary bid are nowhere in evidence now.

While Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka came to Southwest Florida to campaign, neither mentioned Donalds during their appearances nor did anything to boost his campaign. His website has not announced any new endorsements since the primary.

From Minnesota with love

On Saturday, Oct. 24, Banyai and other Fort Myers Democrats welcomed Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) to Fort Myers for a get-out-the-vote rally and speech.

Klobuchar, who arrived in a massive Biden/Harris campaign bus, said in an interview with Fox4 News: “People should not assume that areas like this that have traditionally been Republican, that everyone thinks the same. A lot of people have decided: ‘I’m going to put my country first and maybe I don’t agree with everything Joe Biden says but he’s a good person and he has competence.’”

“It was great to hear from Sen. Klobuchar,” observed Banyai. “She gave us some insight on how to win hearts and minds across party lines.”

Since the Aug. 18 primary, Banyai has been endorsed by numerous individuals and organizations. Other Democratic candidates include Andrew Ellison, Democratic congressional candidate in the 17th Congressional District; Jacquelyn McMiller, Democratic candidate for mayor of Fort Myers; Sara McFadden, Democratic candidate for Florida House District 106; Joshua Lopez, Democratic candidate for Florida House District 77; Shawn Williams, Democratic candidate for Florida House District 78; and Todd Truax, Democratic candidate for Lee County Commissioner District 3.

Organizations endorsing her candidacy include: the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida; the Progressive Club of the Islands; the Democratic Women’s Club of Florida; the LGBTQ Democratic Caucus; the Lee County LGBTQA Democratic Caucus; Votewater.org; the Sunrise Movement; and America Youth Climate Action.

The broader context

If either local candidate is able to ride the coattails of the candidate at the top of the ticket, the advantage would seem to go to Banyai.

Nationally, former Vice President Joe Biden and running mate Kamala Harris have an 87 percent chance of winning the presidency, according to the website FiveThirtyEight.com’s Election Forecast. This site aggregates and analyzes numerous polls and data sources to reach its conclusions, making it more authoritative than just individual polls. What is more, rather than make hard predictions, FiveThirtyEight deals in probabilities, which is a much more reasonable way to project future outcomes.

Trump’s chances will likely also be hurt by the dizzying 615.19 point drop in the Dow Jones average that occurred yesterday on news that a compromise stimulus bill looked unlikely to be passed before the election.

In Florida, FiveThirtyEight.com projects Biden/Harris as “slightly favored” to win with a 66 percent chance of flipping the state.

Focusing on Southwest Florida’s Lee and Collier counties, 252,237 voters, or 51.56 percent of the electorate have voted in Lee County and 137,619 or 59.39 percent of voters have turned out in Collier County.

Ten days before the election, Collier County Democratic turnout was the highest in Florida, according to Florida Politics, and Democrats were turning out in record numbers in other traditionally Republican counties.

Likely to add to the urgency of Democratic voting was the Senate’s confirmation last night of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court in a rushed process to beat the election.

“Congratulations on our newest Justice, Amy Coney Barrett, on her confirmation to the United States Supreme Court,” tweeted Donalds following the confirmation. “Justice Barrett will honor the rule of law and uphold the Constitution.”

“It’s truly disappointing to see Senate Republicans ram through a Supreme Court nominee so close to the presidential election when they denied an early election year appointment to Obama,” Banyai told The Paradise Progressive. “We should be concerned not only with the record of Barrett, who puts corporations ahead of people and threatens women’s rights and equality, but the jeopardy our democracy is put in when we no longer have an unbiased judiciary.”

The impact of COVID

Beyond the normal political considerations of an election campaign, the COVID pandemic continues to have an impact on everything: daily life, campaigning, and political passions—as witness Donalds’ infection.

Florida is seeing a rise in new cases, despite official efforts to dampen the impact of the statistics.

As of this writing, the Florida Department of Health lists 771,989 cases in Florida and 16,449 deaths overall since the start of the pandemic.

However, Rebekah Jones, the dissident data scientist who left the department, charging that the state government under Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) was deliberately underreporting the impact of the plague, puts the overall number of state cases at 854,256 and deaths at 16,652.

In Lee County the Department of Health puts the cases at 22,541 and deaths at 506 with new cases at 172 yesterday. It does not provide the daily number of deaths.

However, Rebekah Jones puts Lee County’s toll at 24,009 cases and 516 deaths, with 176 new cases yesterday and no deaths.

In Collier County the Department of Health puts the cases at 13,972 and deaths at 253 with new cases at 48 yesterday and no daily reporting of deaths.

By contrast, Rebekah Jones puts Collier County’s toll at 15,413 cases and 260 deaths, with 48 new cases yesterday and no deaths.

With two largely unmasked gatherings to celebrate the visit to Fort Myers of Trump and then his daughter Ivanka, local COVID cases are likely to surge in the days ahead.

On Oct. 22, the Collier County Commission voted 3 to 2 to extend its mask mandate another six months. Donalds testified against the mandate when it was first considered in July. The Paradise Progressive reached out to the Donalds campaign to request his comment on the Commission’s latest decision but has not received a response.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

In-person voting starts, Donald disses Donalds; women, Dems, rise and ride: The SWFL roundup

A Collier County voter puts his ballot in an official drop box at the Collier County Supervisor of Elections office. (Photo: Author)

Oct. 19, 2020 by David Silverberg

Early in-person voting begins today in Southwest Florida’s Lee and Collier counties.

Voting by mail has already been massive, according to both counties’ election supervisor offices. In Lee County, 135,997 votes had been cast, a turnout of 27.80 percent, as of yesterday, Sunday, Oct. 18, at 11 am. In Collier County, 61,940 votes had been cast, 26.73 percent of the electorate, as of the same date and hour.

The in-person voting comes after an extraordinarily eventful weekend that began with a presidential visit to Fort Myers on Friday, Oct. 16—and the remarkable snub of what many had considered a rising Republican star.

Donald disses Donalds

President Donald Trump does his shout-outs to local officials and supporters–but not Byron Donalds–during his speech in Fort Myers on Oct. 16.

Friday should have been a big day for Republican state Rep. Byron Donalds (R-80-Immokalee), who is running for Congress in Florida’s 19th Congressional District.

Instead, it was a day that saw him forced to declare that he had come down with COVID-19. And to add insult to injury he was ignored and overlooked by his hero and idol, President Donald Trump.

During the Republican congressional primary this summer, few candidates touted their loyalty and subservience to President Donald Trump more than Donalds, who amidst his many accolades said he was “incredibly proud to stand with President Trump.” In the traditional mafia-like mindset in which Trump operates, such loyalty by a soldier should be repaid in kind by the mafia chieftain.

When the Godfather came to Fort Myers, it was an opportunity for a laying on of hands, for a blessing from the Boss himself in front of lots of local media and adoring Trumpers. It might have been the moment when Donalds decisively clinched the election 18 days before the votes were counted.

Instead, Donalds was tested for COVID-19 before meeting with Trump and turned up positive, which he announced on his Facebook page around 5 pm. He couldn’t come in contact with the president and instead of a public anointing it was his very public infection that was the headline about him dominating local news.

But beyond the embarrassment of a vociferously anti-mask Donalds catching COVID, there was the added disrespect (dissing) from his idol and hero.

In his speech at the Caloosa Sound Convention Center, Trump went through a series of shout-outs to local politicians and worthies, acknowledging and praising them.

One should not underestimate the importance of these shout-outs during political speeches and events. They’re something every politician does and while they may seem boring and formulaic to those in the audience, they’re critical to those named. In the case of a politician who has a blindly loyal following like Trump, they are an essential blessing and benediction—especially to candidates running for election.

In the middle of his speech Trump took the time to do a round of shout-outs. He named Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), whose popularity he compared to Elvis; he lauded as “warriors” Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-12-Fla.)—“great job, Gus”—and Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.)—“another friend of mine.” Mayor Randy Henderson (R) was praised—“good job, Randy”—as was Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello (R)—“great job, great job.” He said he was honored by the presence of World War II and Korean War veteran Wally Cortese—“You look good, Wally, I’ll tell you. Two wars and you’re looking—you’re looking good,” (interestingly, not “thank you for your service.”). He also thanked members of the Golden Gate Veterans of Foreign Wars honor guard.

And even if Donalds wasn’t present in the audience, any experienced observer of political rituals would have expected a shout-out to a faithful follower, especially one running for Congress from the president’s party, an ally whom the president would theoretically need in a second term. So the next name to trip from the president’s tongue should have been…Byron Donalds.

But there was no naming of Byron Donalds. Instead the president moved on to tell the audience how he was fighting to protect them from “the China virus” and the “radical-left movement.”

Make no mistake: Byron Donalds has been endorsed by Trump, who issued a tweet in his favor on Sept. 10—well after the Aug. 18 Republican primary. An endorsement during the primary race could have made all the difference in the world to Donalds. However, Trump has only been endorsing Republican candidates after they’ve won their primaries in what he regards as safe districts—to preserve his record of seeming infallibility in picking winners.

Nor was there a subsequent word of sympathy or a get-well wish from the notoriously unempathetic president. Indeed, Donalds got more compassion from his Democratic opponent Cindy Banyai who tweeted: “I wish him and his family well as he recovers.”

Apparently, when you’re COVID-infected you’re already dead to Donald Trump.

Democrats, women, rise up and ride

Wally and Carol Hedman, organizers of the “Dump Trump” caravan are interviewed before setting out in Fort Myers. (Photo: Author)

While the president’s visit brought out his supporters, it also mobilized Democrats and other Biden/Harris supporters.

On Friday, activists conducted a Ridin’ for Biden, “Dump Trump” caravan to counter Trump’s appearance in Fort Myers.

Inspired by an editorial in The Paradise Progressive, activist Wally Hedman, who has organized Biden/Harris rides in the past, served as organizer and lead driver for the caravan.

Consisting of 20-plus cars festooned with flags, signs and bunting, the caravan traveled up Route 41, through downtown Fort Myers and onto Martin Luther King Blvd., prior to Trump’s arrival.

The event was covered by WINK News’ Zach Oliveri and Fox4 News’ Rob Manch and the Fort Myers News-Press. NBC2 News did not cover it.

The “Dump Trump” caravan under way through the streets of Fort Myers. (Image: Fox4 News)

It demonstrated a Democratic presence amid the raucous Trump gathering.

Democratic demonstrators were also on the sidewalks outside the Caloosa Center to show their opposition to Trump. While there were some arguments with Trumpers, there were no physical altercations or arrests.

The following day the local chapter of the national Women’s March took to the streets of Fort Myers when approximately 300 supporters lined the sidewalks to “affirm our shared humanity and declare our bold message of advocacy and self-determination,” according to the local Women’s March website. “We march against sexism, racism, homophobia, religious discrimination, misuse or abuse of power, sexual abuse, discrimination against immigrants, gun violence, denial of environmental injustice, and lack of respect for human dignity,” it stated.

Participants in the Fort Myers Women’s March Day of Action protest on Saturday, Oct. 17. (Image: NBC2)

Superspeader event

Trump’s appearance at the Caloosa Center was invitation-only and limited to 400 people, although some random people on the street were allowed in just prior to the start of the event. Inside, attendees were distanced from each other and masks were worn. People coming into contact with Trump were tested for coronavirus prior to the event, which is how Byron Donalds’ infection was discovered.

An unmasked Trumper confronts masked Biden/Harris supporters during Trump’s visit to Fort Myers. (Photo: Fox4 News, by Juan Reina)

However, on the street outside numerous Trumpers were largely unmasked and crowded together, creating conditions for a COVID superspreader event.

As of Sunday, Oct. 18, the Florida Department of Health was reporting 755,020 cases in the state and a total of 15,967 deaths among state residents. In Lee County that came to 21,625 cases and 492 deaths. However, the Florida COVID Action Site created by dissident data scientist Rebekah Jones, who has charged that the state is suppressing coronavirus data, reports 824,724 cases and 16,118 deaths statewide. In Lee County, it reports 23,005 cases and 502 deaths since March 1.

With an incubation period of 10 to 14 days, Lee County medical facilities should start seeing an influx of coronavirus victims from the Trump visit around Halloween.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

BREAKING NEWS: Anti-masker Byron Donalds tests positive for COVID-19 – UPDATED

President Donald Trump is greeted by Byron Donalds at a conference in October 2019.

Oct. 16, 2020 by David Silverberg

5:50 pm – added comments from Cindy Banyai, corrected date in caption.

Republican congressional candidate Byron Donalds, a fierce opponent of mask mandates who has spoken out against them and ostentatiously refused to wear a mask in public, has tested positive for COVID-19, he announced on his Facebook page today.

Donalds is running in Florida’s 19th Congressional District against Democrat Cindy Banyai.

“Before today’s event with the President, I was give [sic] a COVID-19 quick test, per White House staff protocol, and results were positive,” he wrote. “I proceeded to take a PCR antigen test, and those results have come back positive as well. My wife and oldest son were both tested today and their results are negative. I currently feel fine, but am taking all necessary precautions and will be quarantining at home. We have notified the organizers of the events I have attended in recent days. I look forward to recovering fully and earning the support of voters on November 3rd.”

Donalds was to have attended President Donald Trump’s event in Fort Myers today.

Donalds has repeatedly denigrated mask mandates in debates with Banyai and argued that local governments do not have the authority to impose them. He spoke against them when the Cape Coral City Council and Collier County Commission considered them. After he met unmasked with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Sept. 23, Banyai called on him to quarantine, which he said he didn’t have to do because he had tested negative.

On her Twitter feed, Banyai wished Donalds well: “I wish him and his family well as he recovers,” she tweeted. In another tweet she stated: “This reaffirms that I made the right decision for myself, my family, and #OurCommunity to cancel my participation in the Estero debate last week. That debate was directly after a MAGA event in Collier that may very well become our very own #SWFL super-spreader event.” And she added: “Please, for your health and for the vulnerable in #OurCommunity, continue to social distance, wear masks, and sanitize hands. We care about you.”

This report will be updated as new information becomes available.

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg

Trump campaign acknowledges risk of rally COVID spread–but avoids responsibility

Preparations under way for the Trump rally in Sanford, Fla., scheduled for tonight. (Image: News6)

Oct. 12, 2020 by David Silverberg

The re-election campaign of President Donald Trump acknowledges that his rallies may spread COVID-19—but requires attendees to sign away any rights to compensation should they come down with the virus.

Trump, who was diagnosed with coronavirus on Oct. 2, will hold a rally at Orlando Sanford International Airport in Sanford, Fla., tonight at 7:00 pm. It is the first rally outside Washington, DC since his diagnosis.

On the Trump-Pence campaign website, would-be attendees are told: “By registering for this event, you understand and expressly acknowledge that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present. In attending the event, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19, and waive, release, and discharge Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.; the host venue; or any of their affiliates, directors, officers, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers from any and all liability under any theory, whether in negligence or otherwise, for any illness or injury.”

A White House gathering on Sept. 26 to introduce Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett has been characterized by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as a “superspreader” event for infecting at least six people present, who then spread the virus among numerous other White House staff and administration officials.

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg