Southwest Florida counties, towns get dollar allocations from American Rescue Plan

On March 11, President Joe Biden signs the American Rescue Plan into law while Vice President Kamala Harris looks on. (Photo: White House)

April 7, 2021 by David Silverberg

On March 8, the amounts of funding being allocated to US states, counties and municipalities under the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan were released to the public by the US House Oversight Committee.

Among its many provisions, including the $1,400 checks to individuals and families, the American Rescue Plan is intended to help local governments hurt by the pandemic, the resulting economic slowdown and loss of revenue.

(The full list of allocations for the United States in an Excel spreadsheet can be downloaded here.)

Florida is slated to receive $17.6 billion, of which $10.2 billion will be going to the state government.

When the Plan was being considered in Congress, Republicans vociferously resisted passage of the legislation, especially the provision assisting state, county and municipal governments. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) has called on Florida’s governments to return the checks.

Southwest Florida

According to an April 4 article in the Naples Daily News,American Rescue Plan to bring more than $300M to Southwest Florida,” local officials in Lee and Collier counties have not yet decided how to spend their allocations and were unsure of the procedure for receiving the money.

What follows below are the amounts being allocated to the various counties and local governments under the Plan, arranged by Southwest Florida’s congressional districts. Because congressional districts overlap county lines, each county is listed only once even though the districts may include pieces of different counties.

All of Southwest Florida’s representatives in Congress voted against the Plan.

19th Congressional District

Rep. Byron Donalds

Represented by Rep. Byron Donalds (R).

The 19th Congressional District covers the coastal area from Cape Coral to Marco Island and includes the most heavily populated areas of Lee and Collier counties.

Donalds denounced the American Rescue Plan in the House Budget Committee and on the floor of the House, calling it “nothing more than a liberal wish list.” 

Counties

  • Collier County: $74.65 million
  • Lee County: $149.45 million

Cities and towns

  • Bonita Springs: $25.06 million
  • Cape Coral: $26.87 million
  • Estero Village: $14.23 million
  • Everglades City: $.18 million
  • Fort Myers: $16 million
  • Fort Myers Beach: $2.98 million
  • Marco Island: $2.13 million
  • Naples: $9.28 million
  • Sanibel city: $3.11 million

25th Congressional District

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart

Represented by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R).

The 25th Congressional District stretches from western Collier County east of the coast, includes all of Hendry County and a piece of northwestern Miami-Dade County.

Diaz-Balart called the American Rescue Plan “this fake COVID bill.” 

Counties

  • Hendry County: $8.15 million
  • Miami-Dade County: $526.93 million
  • Collier County: (already listed)

Cities and towns        

  • Clewiston: $3.37 million
  • Doral: $27.63 million
  • Hialeah: $70.61 million
  • LaBelle: $2.19 million

Immokalee is the largest population center in eastern Collier County. However, because it is an unincorporated community without a local government it is governed through Collier County and does not have a designated allocation.

17th Congressional District

Rep. Greg Steube

Represented by Rep. Greg Steube (R).

The 17th Congressional District is a huge district of over 6,300 square miles stretching from eastern Tampa Bay to the northwestern shore of Lake Okeechobee. It includes all of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties, plus parts of Lee (northern Lehigh Acres), Polk and Sarasota counties. Municipalities include North Port, Punta Gorda, Venice, and Okeechobee.

Steube complained that with the Plan, “Democrats chose to turn our nation into a welfare state with more government handouts.”

Counties

  • Charlotte: $36.64 million
  • DeSoto: $7.37 million
  • Glades: $2.68 million
  • Hardee: $5.22 million
  • Highlands: $20.60 million
  • Okeechobee: $8.18 million
  • Lee (already provided)          
  • Polk: $140.57 million
  • Sarasota: $84.12 million

Towns and cities

  • North Port: $29.72 million
  • Punta Gorda: $8.56 million
  • Venice: $10.08 million
  • Okeechobee: $2.44 million

Port Charlotte in Charlotte County is an unincorporated entity governed by the county and so has no specific allocation.

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

Bill aiding farmers and workers shows divide among Southwest Florida congressmen

Farm laborers load freshly picked produce. (Photo: Coalition of Immokalee Workers)

March 30, 2021 by David Silverberg

If you’re like most Americans, you celebrated National Agriculture Day last Tuesday, March 23, by eating.

However, if you forgot National Agriculture Day entirely you can be forgiven. It is, after all, an artificial holiday, dreamed up in 1973 by a trade association, the Agriculture Council of America, a non-profit 501c3 educational institution backed by some of the biggest corporate names in the US agriculture industry.

The folks who didn’t forget National Agriculture Day were politicians of all stripes who want to remain in the graces of the farming industry and its campaign contributions.

In Southwest Florida, a heavily agricultural area, all three of the region’s congressmen—Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.), Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.),  were careful to acknowledge National Agriculture Day on their Twitter feeds, the latter two adding bland bromides to the nation’s farmers.

But when it came to substance, they took very different—and very illuminating—actions.

The action in question was consideration of a bill this month that made fundamental changes to the way agriculture gets done in the United States.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021 (House Resolution (HR) 1603) was a sprawling bill that made fundamental changes to America’s agricultural workforce. It closed legal loopholes while maintaining a strong and healthy—and most of all, legal—labor force.

Among its many provisions, it created a Certified Agricultural Worker (CAW) status for farmworkers, effectively a guest worker program that was long needed. Farmworkers could apply, be verified and receive legal CAW status good for five and a half years, protecting them and their families from deportation, while weeding out people with criminal pasts. The existing H-2A visa status for foreign workers was improved to provide for better compliance by both workers and employers.

These changes would have a major impact on farmworkers in Southwest Florida, particularly in the heavily agricultural areas of Collier, Lee and Hendry counties. It provides a measure of legality and security for the many migrants from Mexico and Latin America while still assisting the growers.

According to Diaz-Balart, who was involved in formulating the bill, “my colleagues and I spent almost a year negotiating” and working on the bill, “painstakingly working out its provisions.” Diaz-Balart’s 25th district includes wide swaths of farmland across the interior of Florida and includes the town of Immokalee in Collier County, a center of the agricultural workforce population.

Diaz-Balart was one of the original cosponsors of the bill, which included 61 Republicans and Democrats. By the end of Democratic and Republican negotiations, what emerged was a “bipartisan, targeted labor solution [that] our agriculture industry needs. This removes opportunities to work illegally in the U.S., strengthens our border security, and ensures we have a reliable, legal workforce for our farms and ranches,” according to Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-4-Wash.).

Diaz-Balart hailed it as “a significant and necessary step once again toward finally solving the labor crisis facing our nation’s agriculture industry.”

In their interests

The bill’s provisions tightening legal eligibility to work in the United States and boosting enforcement of immigration status by the Department of Homeland Security should have delighted Rep. Byron Donalds.

Prior to his election to Congress last year Donalds represented the 80th Florida House District, which includes Immokalee and the agricultural areas around it, so he should be intimately familiar with its growers and workers and their needs. What is more, for weeks he had been hammering away at President Joe Biden’s administration for its handling of the migrant influx at the Southwest Border. HR 1603 addressed many of the legal problems at the destination end of that influx, reducing crime while maintaining the workforce Southwest Florida growers need.

Rep. Greg Steube too should have welcomed the bill. His sprawling district includes vast swaths of farmland stretching from the coast to Lake Okeechobee and includes Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties, plus northern Lehigh Acres in Lee County. Steube, like Donalds, had taken every available opportunity to attack the Biden administration’s handling of cross-border migration.

HR 1603 was fully bipartisan and addressed longstanding concerns of both parties, providing the humane and orderly treatment of farm workers prized by Democrats as well as the legal procedures and immigration security emphasized by Republicans, all while protecting both growers and workers. It was the kind of bipartisan cooperation in the interests of getting something substantive done that people so often say they want to see in Congress. It also had major beneficial implications for Florida.

On March 18, HR 1603 came up for a vote in the House of Representatives. It passed by a vote of 247 to 174. Of that vote, 217 Democrats voted for it as well as 30 Republicans.

Among those Republicans was Diaz-Balart.

And Byron Donalds and Greg Steube…voted against it.

Neither one bothered to issue a statement explaining his vote.

The bill has now gone to the Senate. Given that it is largely flying under the media radar and it’s a strongly bipartisan bill, it has a relatively good chance of passage.

Commentary

Both Donalds and Steube had a chance to benefit their districts, their state and the farms, businesses, workers and people they represent. But that would have involved casting a thoughtful, substantive, well-researched vote. It’s much easier to tweet hysterical attacks on border security, issue anti-immigrant broadsides and oppose any constructive compromises.

And, of course, both tweeted their celebrations of National Agriculture Day.

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

Southwest Florida congressmen stay mum on mass shootings

Police outside the King Soopers grocery store where a shooting took place Monday, March 22, 2021, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

March 25, 2021 by David Silverberg

It should come as no surprise that Southwest Florida’s representatives in Congress have responded to Monday’s mass shooting in Colorado and last week’s shooting in Georgia mostly with silence.

Rep. Byron Donalds

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) retweeted a Boulder Police Department tribute to Officer Eric Talley, the policeman killed at the King Soopers market rampage. Donalds added: “Officer Talley embodied the spirit of a hero, and I pray his loved ones are comforted knowing he died a hero. Thank you to all the brave law enforcement officers who devote their lives to protecting communities across America.” He made no mention of the other victims, who were peacefully shopping when the shooting began.

Donalds was the only candidate of nine in his Republican primary to receive a full endorsement from the National Rifle Association (NRA). He touted his gun ownership in his campaign tagline (“I’m a strong, Trump-supporting, gun-owning, liberty-loving, pro-life, politically incorrect black man”).

Rep. Greg Steube

Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.), whose district runs from Punta Gorda to Venice to Lake Okeechobee, had not issued any statement of any kind as of this writing. He has long been a vocal gun ownership advocate. Almost exactly a year ago he introduced the End the Normalized Delay of Suppressors (ENDS) Act (HR 6126) to try to force the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to more quickly grant permits for the purchase of gun silencers so that killing can be done quietly. The bill was not even considered in committee. He has called for carrying guns on the House floor.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.), whose district runs from western Collier County and Immokalee across the state to Hialeah in the east, has made no statement about the shootings as of this writing.

Having been in office since 2003, Diaz-Balart’s relationship with the gun violence issue is longer and more complex than that of his Southwest Florida colleagues. For most of his congressional career he was a reliable opponent of gun regulation, even to the point that former representative Gabby Giffords, a shooting survivor, publicly endorsed his Democratic opponent, Mary Barzee Flores, in 2018, after the killing of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

In 2019 Diaz-Balart bucked his party and the NRA and voted for the Bipartisan Background Checks Act. That bill required background checks for arms transfers between individuals, closing a major loophole in the gun trade. The bill passed the House but died in the Senate.

This year Diaz-Balart switched his vote and voted against the same bill when it was reintroduced. This time, he stated that while he still supported background checks, the bill was now too far left and was “an overly-partisan and extremist bill that fails to effectively address background checks and imposes measures that amount to clear government overreach.”

This year it passed the House on March 11 by a vote of 227 to 203 but its fate is uncertain in the Senate.

The past and the future

Given this record it was unsurprising that these representatives did not join the chorus of congressional lawmakers calling for new measures to curb the latest wave of American gun violence.

Theirs was not the reaction throughout Florida. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-22-Fla.), whose east coast district includes Parkland as well as Fort Lauderdale, where five people were killed in a random shooting at the airport in 2017, said that the Boulder shooting emphasized the need for action to curb gun violence.

“…That’s why we need to act,” he told CBS-4 television news in Miami. “And that’s why we can’t just shake our head and say that’s one more thing and move on and wait for the next one,” 

Deutch serves as the chief whip on the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, a group of more than 165 members of Congress who work on gun violence issues. He’s long supported a ban on assault-style weapons and broader background checks on gun purchases, measures also advocated by President Joe Biden.

Commentary: The Southwest Florida reaction

Nationally, the reaction to the shootings has been horrified denunciation by officials and private groups and there is new movement in Congress to take action to curb gun violence.

Locally, the reaction is far more muted. While the national chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense has issued numerous statements regarding the recent shootings, the local chapter has not made any public statements or taken any actions to date.

On the gun-saturated southwest coast of Florida, politically, not only is there no apparent urgency, there’s certainly no inclination by any elected official to propose or support gun restraints and no evident political incentive for taking any action at all.

But while expecting any kind of local legislative effort seems beyond hope, what is striking in the current instance is the resounding silence and complete indifference by local public figures toward the victims, their relatives and the survivors.

To date Southwest Florida has been spared any mass shooting. But guns are plentiful and opposition to restraint is fierce.

So if you hear popping while you’re shopping, get down, stay away from the source of the noise or open areas, try to leave if it’s safe and follow all orders from police.

Remember: You’re on your own. At least until 2022 you won’t get any help from your representatives in Congress.

And your surviving relatives shouldn’t wait for any thoughts or prayers from them, either.

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

Southwest Florida reps follow party line in opposing American Rescue Plan, which passes House

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi gavels an end to the vote approving the American Rescue Plan. (Image: C-SPAN)

March 10, 2021 by David Silverberg

The US House of Representatives today approved a Senate-amended version of the American Rescue Plan (House Resolution 1319) by an overwhelmingly party-line vote of 220 to 211.

It will be finalized by the signature of President Joe Biden, expected on Friday, March 12.

All Republicans and one Democrat voted against it: Rep. Jared Golden (D-2-Maine).

In keeping with the Republican Party position, all of Southwest Florida’s representatives voted against it as they had opposed it when it first passed the House on Feb. 27, and took the opportunity to denounce it anew.

The 628-page bill provides families with $1,400 in stimulus payments, speeds COVID vaccine distribution and extends unemployment benefits of $300 a week until Labor Day, Sept. 6.

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) denounced the bill in the Budget Committee and on the floor of the House when it was first introduced in February. Before the vote he announced: “Today, I will again vote in opposition to the non-COVID relief package Democrats are falsely claiming to be COVID-19 relief. My fellow @GOP colleagues and I have exposed the outrageous pork and erroneous spending incorporated in this bloated bill and the people deserve better.”

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) warned before the bill’s passage that: “If this fake #COVID bill becomes law Florida’s seniors will be hit with a $30.8B Medicare cut over 10 years. Also, under the new funding formula #FL will receive about $1.2B less in direct funding than they would have under the formula in past bipartisan COVID bills.”

Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) complained: “Rather than stimulating the already healing economy, Democrats chose to turn our nation into a welfare state with more government handouts. This recent COVID ‘relief’ bill proves that there is no stopping their pursuit of socializing our workforce.”

In contrast, Democrats hailed the passage of the massive bill, the culmination of the efforts of Biden and House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.).

Pelosi called the day “historic” and “a day of fulfillment.”


Statement by President Joe Biden on the House Passage of the American Rescue Plan

For weeks now, an overwhelming percentage of Americans – Democrats, Independents, and Republicans – have made it clear they support the American Rescue Plan. Today, with final passage in the House of Representatives, their voice has been heard.

Now we move forward with the resources needed to vaccinate the nation. To get $1,400 in direct payments to 85 percent of American households. To expand coverage and help with lowering health care premiums. To give small businesses what they need to stay open. To expand unemployment insurance, provide food and nutrition assistance. To help keep a roof over people’s heads. To cut child poverty in half.

This legislation is about giving the backbone of this nation – the essential workers, the working people who built this country, the people who keep this country going – a fighting chance.

I want to thank all the members who voted for it, especially Speaker Pelosi, the finest and most capable speaker in the history of our nation. Once again, she has led into law an historic piece of legislation that addresses a major crisis and lifts up millions of Americans.

On Friday, I look forward to signing the American Rescue Plan into law at the White House – a people’s law at the people’s house.

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

US Senate passes American Rescue Plan; amended bill expected to pass House next week

Rubio, Scott vote against bill with rest of Republicans; Donalds praises defunding Planned Parenthood

The US Capitol.

March 6, 2021 by David Silverberg

Today, shortly after noon, the United States Senate approved the American Rescue Plan (House Resolution 1319) by a party-line vote of 50 to 49.

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.”

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

Donalds sides with Marjorie Taylor Greene while Diaz-Balart votes against her, bucking Republicans

In first floor speech, Donalds attacks $15 minimum wage, Biden plan to aid the needy

Forced to wear a mask under House rules, anti-masker Rep. Byron Donalds delivers his first speech on the floor of the US House yesterday. (Image: C-SPAN)

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.

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg

BREAKING NEWS: Southwest Florida congressmen vote against impeachment, excusing Trump of betraying USA

The US House votes to impeach Donald Trump. (Image: US House)

Jan. 13, 2020 by David Silverberg

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.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi brings down the gavel on the impeachment vote. (Image: US House)

Liberty lives in light

©2021 by David Silverberg

SWFL Reps vote to overturn election despite attack on Capitol; Biden certified winner in early-morning vote

A mob attacks the US Capitol yesterday.

Jan. 7, 2021 by David Silverberg

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.

Rep. Byron Donalds signs the document to register his objection to the Electoral College vote. (Photo: Byron Donalds/Twitter)

“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.”

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