When elephants battle: Trump, DeSantis and the future of the MAGAverse

Two elephants battle. (Photo: Tharindu Somarathna, Wikimedia Commons)

Nov. 12, 2022 by David Silverberg

There’s an old African proverb: “When the elephants fight, the grass gets trampled.”

In Florida the elephants are braying and stomping. They’re about to clash in mortal combat. When they collide, it’s going to be painful to be underfoot.

One elephant, of course, is Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who resoundingly won his reelection bid as Florida governor and has done nothing to disguise his 2024 presidential ambitions.

The other is former President Donald Trump who may announce his own bid for the presidency on Tuesday, Nov. 15. He began disparaging his one-time protégé as “Ron DeSanctimonious” at a campaign rally on Saturday, Nov. 5.

Actually, the battle won’t be hard at all for Democrats, liberals and progressives who already reject both men. But Florida Republicans, MAGAts and Trumpers, especially in the deeply conservative far-right southwest corner of the state, are going to have to make a very tough decision.

Sen. Rick Scott

One Florida Man appears to have already made his choice. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), had presidential aspirations of his own. However, his less than stellar performance as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee overseeing the election of a Republican Senate seems to have dampened or extinguished that aspiration.

The evidence of this came when Trump endorsed Scott to be Senate Majority Leader in an interview Trump did on his airplane, which was published on Election Day.

Trump is seeking revenge against Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who had the temerity to fix responsibility for the Jan. 6 insurrection on him.

“McConnell has been very bad for our nation,” Trump said. “He has been very bad for the Republican Party. I would be in favor of somebody else — McConnell has done a very bad job.”

Scott, said Trump, is a “likely candidate” for McConnell’s job in the event of a Trump 2024 victory.

“I think Rick Scott is a likely candidate — he hates the guy,” Trump said of Scott’s feelings towards McConnell. “He’s tough — he’s tough, and I think he would probably go for it. He’d have a lot of support.”

Scott’s presidential ambition only glowed in light of the possibility of Trump not seeking the presidency. Trump’s endorsement seems to indicate that Scott has put that ambition in abeyance.

As of this writing Scott had not issued a public statement regarding Trump’s remarks. He was still awaiting the results of the last nail-biting Senate races and faced the Dec. 6 Senate runoff election in Georgia.

But given Scott’s well-documented friction with DeSantis it certainly seems that this Florida Man has made his choice.

Rep. Byron Donalds

Rep. Byron Donalds, President Donald Trump and spouses in Naples, Fla., at a private fundraising event in December 2021. (Photo: Office of Rep. Byron Donalds)

Perhaps no one faces a bigger choice with more consequences than Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.).

Donalds was endorsed by Trump in December 2021 for his congressional reelection bid. From the beginning of his congressional campaign he made his loyalty to Trump part of his tagline: “I’m everything the fake news media says doesn’t exist: a Trump supporting, liberty loving, pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment black man.”

At the same time, Donalds has been a supporter of DeSantis and has been sure to appear behind the governor in numerous photos and events. He has praised DeSantis’ handling of the COVID pandemic and his response to Hurricane Ian.

Donalds has ambitions of his own. Having won reelection, he now has his eye on the third slot in the Republican House caucus, head of the conference, and has formally announced his bid for the position. Ironically, the election for the position is scheduled on the same day as Trump’s expected announcement, Tuesday, Nov. 15.

In seeking the seat he is going against the current holder, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-21-NY), who is widely seen as overwhelmingly favored by her fellow Republicans, including the entire congressional leadership.

In this inside-player election, Trump’s endorsement carries considerable weight. Trump has snubbed Donalds before and once again, despite Donalds’ slavish loyalty he did it again in his airplane interview.

“I think she’s fantastic,” Trump said of Stefanik without mentioning Donalds, either forgetting or ignoring him.

To date, Donalds has not issued any statement reacting to Trump’s endorsement.

He did, however, issue a tweet on Saturday, Nov. 12, denying a report that he favored DeSantis over Trump in 2024. That came from Fox News personality Jacqui Heinrich who quoted a “House GOP source” as saying Donalds was saying that to Republican members of Congress in his bid to win the conference chair.

“I’m a big fan of Jacqui Heinrich’s reporting, but her ‘GOP source’ is lying,” Donalds tweeted in reply. “My only focus is Tuesday’s vote to become the next Chair of the GOP Conference.”

Alfie Oakes

Officially, the only public position that Francis Alfred “Alfie” Oakes III, the grocer and farmer holds is that of Collier County Republican Party committeeman. However, following the midterm election, he is effectively the political boss of Collier County, Florida, since all his endorsed and funded candidates won their elections. They will likely follow his dictates in their policymaking when they take office in January.

Oakes has always been an ardent Trumper. After talking to Trump on a phone call on Dec. 22. 2020, Oakes posted: “I love our president and his family with every bit of my being! I love all that he has given for our country and all that he stands for! May God bless our great President Donald Trump, his family, his team and all of the 75 million patriots that support him!”

Oakes has also been a DeSantis supporter and has praised his performance as governor.

So which way will Oakes go this time? As of this writing, none of Alfie’s social media postings have made this clear. He also did not respond to a phone call from The Paradise Progressive.

Once Alfie makes his preference known, it should have an impact among his followers, both on social media and among his customers.

Whichever way he goes, one thing is certain, though. He can’t have it both ways.

A land with two capitals and two popes

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, the capital of the United States shifted to the great state of Florida—and that’s where it’s likely to stay for the next two years.

Of course, the regular, permanent seat of government and official capital is right where it has always been, in Washington, DC.

But the United States actually has two capitals.

Washington is just one. The second is the campaign capital. It’s wherever the hottest political action is at the moment. In presidential election years it’s wherever a caucus or primary or other event is deciding the next president of the United States.

For the next two years, Florida will be the campaign capital of the United States. It’s where the battles will take place. It’s the launching pad for two plausible presidential campaigns (or two-and-a-half if Rick Scott is included) and it’s where the media spotlight has turned and is likely to stay until the Republican nomination is clinched.

As of right now, the complete Republican dominance of the governorship, the legislature and the judiciary makes Florida a single-party polity under the absolute rule of Gov. Ron DeSantis (something The Paradise Progressive has characterized as “Florumpia”).

But like the supposedly universal Catholic Church in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Florumpia now has two popes. One is certainly bent on destroying the other for the heresy of being more popular, actually winning his election and failing to pay proper homage. The other pope is not going to accept this lying down.

For true believers in MAGAtism, this presents an enormous dilemma. It is one that is scheduled to culminate at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisc., in the summer of 2024.

But in the long time before then, true believers have to choose sides. Given Donald Trump’s unyielding, absolutist, demand for obedience, there is no middle path.

That’s what total fanaticism gets a true believer: total submission to another’s will or excommunication from sunshine into the eternal fires of Hell.

Or put another way: that’s what it feels like to be trampled by an elephant.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

Rick Scott meets the Peter Principle

Has Florida’s junior senator reached his ‘level of incompetence?’

What has become the iconic photo of Rick Scott, taken in 2012. (Photo: Joe Skipper for Reuters)

Oct. 8, 2022 by David Silverberg

In 1969, Canadian educator Laurence Peter published the book The Peter Principle. In it he put forward the idea that capable people in hierarchical organizations tend to be promoted until they reach what he called their “level of incompetence.”

The Peter Principle has been a management byword ever since.

Today Floridians can see the Peter Principle in action in their junior senator, Richard Lynn “Rick” Scott.

After repeatedly laying out massive amounts of cash to win election as governor and senator in Florida, Scott has now reached a position in the United States Senate and the Republican Party where his judgment, his ideas and his results are questionable, to put it mildly. He’s proposing very extreme measures for the country that are being roundly rejected by his fellow Republicans, his prospects for success in guiding Republicans to a Senate majority dim by the day, and in the wake of Hurricane Ian he’s not even voting to help his state.

It certainly has all the markings of the Peter Principle in action, Florida Man version.

What’s more, despite all this, he clearly has his eyes on the presidency in 2024, which also marks the last year of his Senate term.

So, has Rick Scott reached his level of incompetence?

The cash cushion

Like so many Floridians, the 69-year-old Scott is a Midwestern transplant, having been born in Bloomington, Ill. He received his Bachelor degree at the University of Missouri and his law degree at Southern Methodist University in Texas.

After a stint in the Navy in the early 1970s he worked as a lawyer. In 1989 he was a co-founder of the Columbia Hospital Corporation to provide for-profit healthcare. With Scott as its chief executive officer (CEO) it merged with another company to become Columbia/HCA, the nation’s largest for-profit healthcare company.

But in 1997 Columbia/HCA became mired in scandal when federal agencies accused it of defrauding Medicare, Medicaid and other federal programs. Scott was questioned and invoked the Fifth Amendment 75 times. As a result of a federal lawsuit, Columbia/HCA admitted to the fraud and was forced to pay $1.7 billion in fines to the government. It was the largest settlement of its kind in American history. Although there were no criminal charges against him, Scott was forced to resign as CEO four months after the charges became public.

After a period as a venture capitalist Scott ran for governor of Florida in 2010 after Charles “Charlie” Crist chose to run for the US Senate rather than seek another term as governor.

Scott’s spending on his first political race broke all previous state campaign records. He poured $85 million into the race, more than $73 million of which was family money. The prior record had been held by Crist himself, when he spent $24.6 million in his 2006 gubernatorial bid, a sum that now seemed like a pittance.

Yet for all that spending Scott only narrowly defeated his primary opponent, then-Attorney General Bill McCollum, by 46.4 percent of the vote. His general election victory was even closer: Scott garnered 48.92 percent to Democrat Alex Sink’s 47.67 percent, a difference of only 61,550 votes. It was the closest Florida gubernatorial race since 1876.

In 2014 Scott’s re-election race against Crist cost him $12.8 million of his own money. Campaign finance laws in Florida changed after the 2010 race and so had national campaign finance laws in the wake of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision allowing unrestricted issue-oriented campaign spending.

Between Scott’s contributions and outside spending groups, a study, “Campaign Spending and the 2014 Florida Gubernatorial Race” in the Journal of Florida Studies estimated Scott’s spending at $79 million, or $27.58 per vote, while the Crist campaign effort cost $47.74 million or $17.04 per vote.

Scott won this race too, by a narrow margin: 48.1 percent to Crist’s 47.1 percent, a difference of 64,145 votes.

“While this [spending] would win Scott the election, it would not do so by a larger margin than he won in 2010,” notes the study’s author, Harold Orndorff.

A full policy review of Scott’s term in office is beyond the scope of this essay but suffice to say it featured mostly extreme Republican conservative orthodoxy with a few Scott idiosyncrasies thrown in. Most notable was Scott’s absolute rejection of the idea of climate change to the point where the term was informally banned from use in his administration—and this in an environmentally sensitive state subject to the worst effects of global warming. The full impact—mostly deleterious—of his tenure is a book yet to be written.

Limited to two terms, Scott decided to run for the US Senate against incumbent Bill Nelson in 2018. Once again, he brought out the big bucks to do it, spending a record $64 million of his own money.

After an election so close it was in dispute for weeks and took two recounts, Scott was declared the winner by 50.1 percent to Nelson’s 49.9 percent, a hairsbreadth difference of 10,033 votes.

The lesson of this electoral history is that while Scott has won, it has always been at great expense and by very narrow margins.

Scott is not a natural politician. He doesn’t evoke feelings of warmth or goodwill. He doesn’t inspire great loyalty or allegiance. His policy prescriptions can be idiosyncratic but are mostly conventionally far right. In the days before Donald Trump he was the Donald Trump of Florida, winning over fringe conservatives but also getting enough votes of dutifully traditional mainstream Republicans to just barely put him over the finish line.

A flawed Florida model

There’s no denying or disputing Scott’s victories, no matter how narrow or expensive. He won the elections he entered. But these victories also seem peculiar to Florida, with its fragmented media markets and its distance and popular alienation from the federal government. It’s a land where most people are indifferent to policy, where retirees want to freeze time and where, as political consultant Rick Wilson once said, “everything north of I-4 is just Alabama with more guns.”

As Scott has shown through his vast cash outlays, a politician can buy elections in Florida. But now he’s also showing that his Florida model doesn’t necessarily translate into national success.

In 2020 Republican senators elected Scott to be chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. He was charged with managing all the mechanics of electing a Republican Senate including finding candidates, raising money and aiding their campaigns.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate Minority Leader, was looking to Scott to make him Senate Majority Leader in 2023. With the party holding the presidency traditionally losing congressional seats in its first midterm election and with President Joe Biden having a low approval rating, Scott seemed to have the wind at his back and an easy path ahead.

Instead, as of this writing, Democrats are narrowly favored to keep the Senate (the website FiveThirtyEight.com puts their odds at 68 percent). Republican Senate candidates are foundering (every day seems to bring a new scandal or gaffe to Georgia’s Herschel Walker).

Even McConnell has complained. “I think there’s a probably a greater likelihood that the House flips than the Senate,” he said at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Kentucky in August. “Senate races are just different—they’re statewide, candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome.” It was widely seen as a swipe at Scott’s performance.

Scott for his part seemed to see the NRSC as just a springboard to the presidency. Wags have joked that NRSC really stands for National Rick Scott Campaign.

In defiance of McConnell, Scott, in consultation with Donald Trump, unveiled his own 12-point agenda in February called the “Commitment to America.” It would impose taxes on the poorest Americans and subject Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to five-year reauthorizations, with the possibility of termination. This directly threatens Florida’s many seniors dependent on these programs.

At a time when American states, counties and cities are still recovering from the COVID pandemic and natural disasters, Scott’s plan would cut off their federal funding. It would slash jobs for police, firefighters, teachers and other local public employees. Nationally, there are an estimated 795,000 police, 317,200 firefighters and 3.2 million teachers. All their jobs would be jeopardized. Ironically enough, Scott’s plan would defund the police.

At a time when pro-choice forces are energized and alarmed over the loss of the right to choose and are flocking to the Democratic Party, Scott dodged questions about his support for a proposal to impose a national abortion ban introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

But beyond the national campaigns and the future of the presidency, Scott has actually turned on his own state—and in its greatest hour of need.

After capably handling the onslaught of Hurricane Irma as governor in 2017, Scott failed abysmally as senator after the catastrophe of Hurricane Ian in 2022, which made landfall in Southwest Florida on Sept. 28.

Just two days later, on Sept. 30, when the Senate voted to fund the government until Dec. 16—which included roughly $20 billion in disaster relief funds for the country as a whole—Scott voted against the measure.

Not only was Scott’s vote striking given Florida’s distress, it was at odds with the rest of the Senate’s Republican caucus. The measure, the Continuing Appropriations and Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2023 (House Resolution 6833), also known as a continuing resolution or CR, was endorsed by McConnell and the Senate Republican leadership. Along with all the Democrats, 22 Republicans approved it and it passed the Senate by a lopsided vote of 72 to 25. (Florida’s other senator, Marco Rubio, was absent for the vote. The bill also passed the House by 230 to 201, with all 16 House Republicans from Florida voting against it. Biden signed it into law that day, just before the end of the federal fiscal year.)

It’s worth considering what would have happened had Scott’s negative vote succeeded. The federal government would have shut down. The Federal Emergency Management Agency would have halted operations just as it was getting into gear to help Southwest Florida. There would have been no urban search and rescue teams from other states flying into Florida to save people trapped under the rubble. There would have been no Coast Guard operations to help victims stranded by storm surge. There would have been no federal aid for housing, food, safety, security, or communications.

This is the kind of apocalypse Scott was voting for with his negative vote.

On Sept. 7, well before Hurricane Ian made landfall, Scott forcefully urged Republicans to reject the continuing resolution.

“Today I am urging every Republican to demand that Congress pass a clean CR that simply maintains current federal spending levels,” he declared in a statement. “We cannot cave to the demands of the Democrats carrying out an agenda led by a raving lunatic in the White House.”

That “raving lunatic” visited Southwest Florida on Wednesday, Oct. 5, to see the damage for himself. He pledged the full faith, credit and resources of the United States to help Florida—and especially Southwest Florida—recover and aid the people hurt by the storm.

Revealing the man

Now, all the doubts and criticism of Scott may be rendered moot by a smashing Republican Senate victory on Nov. 8 that vindicates his senatorial efforts.

Perhaps Republicans will win the Senate. Perhaps McConnell will become majority leader.  Perhaps Scott will be hailed as a political genius. Perhaps 2022 will pave the way for Scott’s 2024 nomination as president and his ultimate election to the White House. Perhaps Florida and Southwest Florida in particular will fully recover and rebuild without any federal help at all. Perhaps the disgrace and stigma of the Columbia/HCA fraud will be flushed down the river of history and Scott will be washed clean by the purifying waters of political power.

It could happen.

However, with exactly one month to go until the election that’s not the way it’s looking.

Instead, what appears to be happening is that a man who bought his elections in Florida has now come up against a much more complex political task than he ever faced before. Rather than easily manipulating a disinterested Florida electorate through television ads, Scott is fumblingly trying to juggle diverse and aroused populations throughout a vast country that he doesn’t really understand.

First Lady Michelle Obama once observed: “Being president doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are.”

The same could be said for any high office. Each step up the ladder reveals a bit more about the person you are. With each step upward there are more people scrutinizing your flaws, more people critiquing your moves, and more people watching to see if you fall.

Rick Scott has climbed pretty high. Each step has revealed more about his capabilities and character. It’s been a very enlightening ascent for those bothering to watch. Scott obviously hopes to climb higher. But the ladder is swaying and there’s the pesky possibility that at his current step he may have reached as far as he’s able.

Has he reached his “level of incompetence?” It certainly seems so. However, on Nov. 8, with every vote for every Senate seat throughout the nation, Americans will decide for themselves.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

US Senate passes major gun reform bill; Fla. Sens. Scott, Rubio oppose; passage likely in House

The final vote on Senate 2938 last night. (Image: US Senate)

June 24, 2022 by David Silverberg

By a vote of 65 to 33, he United States Senate last night passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to make American communities safer (Senate 2938) by regulating gun sales and possession.

Both of Florida’s Republican senators, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, voted against the bill.

The bill now returns to the House of Representatives for final approval, which may occur as early as today.

In a bizarre bit of legislative maneuvering, the major provisions were tagged onto a bill that Rubio introduced in May renaming a US courthouse in Tallahassee after Joseph Woodrow Hatchett, a former US Appeals Court judge.

The bill expands criminal background checks for gun buyers, bars a larger group of domestic-violence offenders from being able to purchase firearms, and funds “red flag” programs that would allow authorities to seize guns from troubled individuals.

“Many are comparing the bill being considered in the Senate to what we did in FL. However, they aren’t the same at all,” stated Scott in a tweet explaining his vote.

In 2018, as governor, Scott signed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Act, which went further than the Senate bill in restricting gun sales and establishing “red flag” provisions to allow seizure of guns from people considered a danger to themselves and others. Nonetheless, stated Scott, “The Senate bill is unacceptably weak on protecting due process & automatically restores gun rights to convicted domestic abusers. That’s why I can’t support it.”

As of this writing, Rubio had not issued a statement on any online platform explaining his vote.

Immediately after the 9:42 pm vote in the Senate, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) issued a statement: “On behalf of the House, we applaud the Senate for passing its gun violence prevention package on a strong bipartisan vote.

“Every day, gun violence steals lives and scars communities — and this crisis demands urgent action.  While we must do more, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act is a step forward that will help protect our children and save lives,” she stated.

“First thing tomorrow morning, the Rules Committee will meet to advance this life-saving legislation to the Floor.  When the Rules Committee finishes its business, we will head immediately to the Floor.  And we will send the bill to President Biden for his signature, with gratitude for his leadership.”

All of Southwest Florida’s members of Congress voted against the bill when it was first considered in the House.

Some indication of their likely votes came yesterday, June 23, after a Supreme Court decision striking down a New York restriction on concealed weapons. Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) tweeted: “Today’s SCOTUS ruling is a massive win for our Republic and the Constitution that guides it. As Justice Thomas stated, the Second Amendment is NOT a second-class right, and this 6-3 ruling sets that in stone. DON’T TREAD ON ME & MY RIGHT TO KEEP & BEAR ARMS.”

Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) similarly praised the Supreme Court decision.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) did not issue any statement.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

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

BREAKING NEWS: Scott, Rubio join Senate majority to override Trump defense bill veto

The US Capitol. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Jan. 1, 2021 by David Silverberg

In a major blow to President Donald Trump, the United States Senate voted this afternoon to override his veto of the Department of Defense appropriations bill by a vote of 81 to 13.

Both of Florida’s Republican senators, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, voted with the majority to override. As of this writing, neither had issued a statement explaining his vote.

Their votes were remarkable given both senators’ past vocal support for the President.

The override was also an indication of Trump’s rapidly eroding clout. He had called for an end to Section 230, a non-defense provision protecting Internet companies from liability for postings on their sites and objected to changing the names of military bases from those honoring Confederate generals. When the bill did not include those measures he vetoed it.

The National Defense Authorization Act (House Resolution 6395) provides $750 billion for US military operations and national defense including a pay raise for servicemembers. It will now go into effect.

The 13 members opposing the override included Democrats like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who had insisted that there not be a vote on the defense bill unless there was also one on providing Americans financially hurt by the pandemic with $2,000. House Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, opposed submitting that to a vote and finally proceeded with the override vote separately.

This was the first override of a Trump veto in his presidency.

Liberty lives in light

©2021 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

For the record: SWFL Democrats, Republicans, react to Ruth Bader Ginsburg passing

The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Photo: SCOTUS)

Sept. 19, 2020 by David Silverberg

In a rare show of common sentiment, Southwest Florida Democrats and Republicans expressed respect and admiration for Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on her passing on Friday, Sept. 18.

Immediate reactions to the news of Ginsburg’s death, which was released around 7:00 pm, went out on social media.

“Complete shock and sadness to learn of the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Sending my condolences to her family. We are so fortunate to have had her leadership. Thank you RBG. Now it’s our turn to pick up the fight,” tweeted Cindy Banyai, Democratic congressional candidate in the 19th Congressional District.

“Tonight, as we mourn the passing of one of the most effective Supreme Court Justices in history, we remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s work as critically important in the way that many Americans are able to live their lives in freedom,” stated Annisa Karim, Collier County Democratic Party chair on Facebook. “Not only did she blaze a path for equality for women, she was a staunch defender of everyone’s civil liberties. She used her immense talent to do her work to the best of her ability. The freedoms we have won through her hard work and determination can just as easily be reversed with the appointment of Supreme Court Justices bent on returning the Country to a place of liberty and justice for the privileged few. Her legacy is in our hands now and we must work to protect it because when we succeed in that, we succeed in procuring liberty and justice for all.”

State Rep. Byron Donalds (R-80-Immokalee), Banyai’s Republican opponent in the 19th Congressional District tweeted: “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a pioneer and a tenacious fighter for what she believed in. May she rest in peace, and may God comfort her children and grandchildren at this time.”

Among Republican members of Congress, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) tweeted: “It is a sad day for our nation. Kathleen & I offer our deepest sympathies on the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. The passing of Justice Ginsberg is a great loss for our highest court, and for America. She was a champion of women’s rights and had a love of our country that was unchallenged. Her passion and opinions will remain with us throughout history. May she rest in peace.”

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) tweeted: “Saddened to hear of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing. She was the second woman ever appointed to the Supreme Court. Her legacy and public service to our nation will not be forgotten. My condolences to her family and colleagues. May she Rest In Peace.”

The tweet of Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) took a Biblical turn: “May the Lord be with the family of Justice Ginsburg during this difficult time. Despite our different perspectives, she had an immense impact on generations of women lawyers across our country. Rev. 21:4.” The reference is to Revelations Chapter 21, verse 4 in the New Testament: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Florida’s two Republican senators, who will vote on confirming Ginsburg’s replacement, both praised her service on the court.

“Even those who disagreed with many of her decisions recognize Justice Ginsburg was a woman of extraordinary intellect & an American who had a historic impact on the court & the nation. May she Rest In Peace,” tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio.

“Ann and I send our thoughts and prayers to the family of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during this time,” tweeted Sen. Rick Scott. “She was a trailblazer with a distinguished record of service to her country.”

Scott has since called for a vote on Ginsburg’s replacement before Election Day, Nov. 3.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg