US House fails to override Trump veto; Rooney bucks GOP, Diaz-Balart sticks with party line

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March 26, 2019 by David Silverberg

Updated 10:20 pm with vote link and Diaz-Balart vote.

Today, March 26, the US House of Representatives failed to override President Donald Trump’s veto of House Joint Resolution 46, which would have terminated his declaration of a national emergency on the southern US border. The vote was 248 to 181, short of the two-thirds needed to override the veto.

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) stuck to his previous position against the national emergency and voted to override the veto.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) voted to sustain the veto.

In his statement announcing his vote, Rooney declared: “My vote to override a veto of the resolution to rescind the national emergency declaration was based on the US Constitution and had nothing to do with President Trump.”

He continued: “My vote was based on the rule of law and the Constitutional separation of powers. Although it is true that there have been over 60 national emergency declarations since 1976, no previous declaration was in direct contrast to a vote of Congress and none dealt with appropriation and allocation of money – which is the sole responsibility of the Congressional branch.”

Rooney further stated: “I care deeply about securing our border and have both cosponsored and voted in favor of multiple bills to accomplish this and provide fixes to our broken immigration and visa systems. We need to secure our southern border and control who enters and leaves. This can be accomplished with the right combination of defensive barriers including walls and fences, surveillance technology, and vigorous enforcement of our laws.”

Diaz-Balart did not issue a statement explaining his vote.

The other 12 Republicans who voted against the declaration on its first passage on Feb. 26 did so again and were joined this time by a 14th, Rep. John Katko (R-24-NY), who had been absent from the first vote.

In a statement following the vote, the bill’s original sponsor, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-20-Texas) and Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) issued a joint statement: “Both chambers of Congress – a Democratic House and a Republican Senate – resoundingly rejected the President’s sham emergency declaration by passing HJRes.46.  This will provide significant evidence for the courts as they review lawsuits.  The President’s lawless emergency declaration clearly violates the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, and Congress will work through the appropriations and defense authorization processes to terminate this dangerous action and restore our constitutional system of balance of powers.

“In six months, the Congress will have another opportunity to put a stop to this President’s wrongdoing.  We will continue to review all options to protect our Constitution and our democracy from the President’s assault.”

With the House failing to override the veto the Senate is unlikely to vote on the matter since both chambers must be in agreement. However, as of this writing, no formal Senate announcement had been made.

Liberty lives in light
© 2019 by David Silverberg

Editorial: Override vote is choice between dictatorship and democracy

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Next Tuesday, March 26, the US House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on whether to override President Donald Trump’s veto of its bill terminating his national “emergency” declaration. The Senate may vote the same day or shortly thereafter—or not at all.

The importance of this vote cannot be overstated. It is nothing less than a choice between dictatorship and democracy.

Trump is walking a path that dictators have walked before. He has declared a national emergency where none exists to grant himself extraordinary powers.

This is not just a fight about money; it’s a fight about freedom. He is seeking to take the power of the purse away from the people. He is trying to reduce the legislative branch of government to irrelevance. He is discarding the Constitution.

But as bad as that is, equally worrisome is Trump’s proven record of insatiability. No matter what he gets, he will always want more. Any measures to appease him will only lead him to demand more of everything—money, power, control. If Trump’s declaration stands, over time he will use his emergency powers to crush dissent, a free press and an independent judiciary. He has already threatened violence against his critics, whose criticism is legitimate and sanctioned by the Constitution.

He has to be stopped and overriding his veto is at least a place to begin.

As though to emphasize the current danger, history itself seems to be screaming a warning. The House of Representatives voted against Trump’s emergency declaration on Feb. 26. That was the eve of the anniversary of the 1933 Reichstag fire, which Adolf Hitler and the Nazis used to declare a national emergency in Germany and suspend freedom of expression, the press, assembly, privacy, habeas corpus, unreasonable search and seizure—in short, all the freedoms guaranteed in America by the Bill of Rights. Then a physically intimidated and purged Reichstag passed an Enabling Act that formally established the Nazi dictatorship. All this occurred exactly 86 years ago.

Haven’t we learned from history? If we’re to remain a democracy these lessons have to be heeded: Despots never stop their quest for power on their own until someone stops them—and if they can’t be stopped legally, the only recourse becomes violence. Democracy has to be protected. Freedom has to be preserved. The Constitution has to be defended.

The way to do that now, in our own time, is to override Trump’s veto.

The role of Florida’s delegation

The initial votes on terminating the emergency declaration (House Joint Resolution 46) revealed splits among Florida’s senators and representatives of Southwest Florida. A vote for the resolution was a vote to terminate the emergency, a vote against it was to continue it.

Sen. Marco Rubio voted for the resolution, stating: “We have an emergency at our border, which is why I support the president’s use of forfeiture funds and counter-drug money to build a wall. However, I cannot support moving funds that Congress explicitly appropriated for construction and upgrades of our military bases. This would create a precedent a future president may abuse to jumpstart programs like the Green New Deal, especially given the embrace of socialism we are seeing on the political left.”

Sen. Rick Scott voted against the resolution, stating: “For years, everyone in both parties has said they want to secure our border, but they never did anything about it. It’s time to get serious about border security and the safety of American families. That’s why I support the president’s efforts to secure the border and voted against the resolution of disapproval today.”

When it comes to Southwest Florida, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.), whose district includes large portions of Collier County, voted against the termination. His website does not include a statement explaining his vote. (A request for a statement has been made to his office and will be added to this report if it is made.)

But by far the most interesting vote was cast by Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.). Rooney joined 12 other Republicans in voting for the resolution to terminate the emergency.

Rooney’s statement was revelatory: “I voted for the resolution because I believe in the rule of law and strict adherence to our Constitution. We are, as John Adams said, ‘A nation of laws, not men.’ The ends cannot justify the means; that is exactly what the socialists want.”

The reader can ignore Rooney’s gratuitous swipe at socialism (and Rubio’s too) since that’s just an effort to justify a break with the party line; it’s his belief in the rule of law and adherence to the Constitution that counts. Clearly he believes Trump’s declaration violates both those principles.

Just how momentous Rooney’s break with Trump is on this issue can only be appreciated in the context of his record.

Rooney has been a committed, conservative Trumpist since running for Congress in 2016. He shared the stage with Trump during their election campaigns. Rooney called for a pro-Trump political purge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in December 2017 and has never recanted or retreated from that position. He buys the idea of a “deep state” and regards public service, public servants and liberals as enemies and has little use for public education. Rooney voted repeatedly to continue Trump’s shutdown of the federal government. He voted against making Robert Mueller’s report public. He put forward legislation to advance the Trumpist agenda and voted with Trump 95 percent of the time in the 115th Congress and until this vote, 100 percent of the time in the 116th. Even Trump personally characterized as “brutal” Rooney’s defense of Trump actions.

Nor has Rooney previously shown much respect for the Constitution. Last year he attempted an unsuccessful legislative end-run to cut short congressional terms by cutting salaries, in violation of constitutional provisions on terms, an effort he has now abandoned.

Rooney has consistently been an enthusiastic Trump supporter, enabler and booster.

So when even Francis Rooney—even Francis Rooney!—sees Trump’s emergency declaration as an unjustified means to an end that violates the rule of law and the Constitution, it’s time to sit up and take notice.

The reckoning

In the first round of voting, HJRes 46 did not pass by the two-thirds margins that would indicate an assured veto override; as a result, much of the political betting is that the veto will stand.

However, the importance and possibilities of the coming override vote should not be dismissed. It is a second chance to set things right.

As stated at the outset of this essay, this is not politics as usual. This is not another routine procedural vote in the US Congress. This is a matter of freedom or tyranny, democracy or dictatorship—it’s a moral question, not just a political one. The true question at issue is: Will the United States continue to function as a representative democracy?

Those legislators who think they can appease Trump or that his emergency declaration will be a one-time departure from the Constitution or that they are not putting the nation and its future at risk by voting with him are wrong.

Nor should they think that their vote in favor of Trump will endear them to him. The nature of despotic rule is that it is whimsical, capricious and arbitrary. Do they think they’ll earn his favor? Donald Trump has consistently turned on his supporters and enablers. But that’s also the nature of despotism: no one is safe and the despot is ultimately loyal to no one but himself. It’s why the founders created a nation built on laws and not men.

Those who voted against the emergency declaration are already under pressure to change their votes. The arguments no doubt run the range from high principle to political expediency to crass rewards and punishment.

It’s unclear whether Scott or Diaz-Balart will change their votes, although they should. If Diaz-Balart votes to sustain the emergency declaration he will be making possible an American Castro, the kind of despot who forced his family to flee Cuba—a situation with which he is intimately familiar.

Rubio and Rooney have taken commendable positions against the emergency declaration. For them, maintaining those positions by voting to override is more than just a matter of political consistency—it’s a moral duty.

The override vote will be a critical moment in the life of the nation, a nation founded in opposition to one-man rule, whether hereditary monarch or usurping despot.

It was that principle and the values of freedom and democracy that made America great. Now it’s time to sustain that greatness.

When the vote is called, gentlemen, do what’s right.

Liberty lives in light

For further reading and research:

  • From WGCU and PBS:

The Dictator's Playbook

The Dictator’s Playbook

Learn how six dictators, from Mussolini to Saddam Hussein, shaped the 20th century. How did they seize and lose power? What forces were against them? Learn the answers in these six immersive hours, each a revealing portrait of brutality and power.


  • Available at the Collier County Public Library:

On Tyranny 3-5-19

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder, published by Tim Duggan Books.




Regarding the “emergency” on the border:

© 2019 by David Silverberg

BREAKING NEWS: Senate votes against Trump ’emergency;’ Rubio, Scott split

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March 14, 2019 by David Silverberg

Updated 4:28 pm with Trump reaction, 9:46 pm with vote correction

By a vote of 59 to 41, the United States Senate voted today to approve House Joint Resolution 46, overturning President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration on the border.

Twelve Republicans joined Democrats in voting to terminate the emergency declaration.

Florida’s two Republican senators split, with Marco Rubio voting against Trump to terminate the emergency and Rick Scott voting with him to continue it.

Other Republicans who voted to terminate the state of emergency were Mitt Romney and Mike Lee of Utah, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Rob Portman of Ohio, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

After the vote President Trump issued a tweet with the single word “VETO!” He then elaborated in a second tweet a few minutes later (capitalization his): “I look forward to VETOING the just passed Democrat inspired Resolution which would OPEN BORDERS while increasing Crime, Drugs, and Trafficking in our Country. I thank all of the Strong Republicans who voted to support Border Security and our desperately needed WALL!”

The House and Senate are expected to attempt an override of any veto, which will require a two-thirds vote in each chamber.

In the House, on Feb. 26 Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) joined 11 other Republicans who voted to terminate the emergency while Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) voted with the president.

Liberty lives in light
© 2019 by David Silverberg


Rooney breaks with Trump again, joins Rubio, Scott and Mast in decrying Everglades underfunding in new budget

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Florida Republican senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott denounce Trump’s new budget for its lack of Everglades restoration funding.    (Photo: Orlando Sentinel)

March 14, 2019 by David Silverberg

In yet another break with President Donald Trump, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) has joined Florida’s Republican senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and Rep. Brian Mast (R-18-Fla.) in criticizing anemic funding for Everglades restoration in the president’s proposed budget.

The full text of their joint statement (their capitalization):

“For the third year in a row, the administration’s budget request underfunds critical projects in South Florida. It is incredibly short-sighted to continue to underfund a series of projects that are absolutely necessary to ensure the environmental sustainability and economic vitality important to the State of Florida and enjoys broad bipartisan support in Congress. Failing to meet the basic federal funding commitments to restore the Everglades is contrary to the administration’s goal of improving project partnerships and cost-sharing with states. Successive Florida Governors have remained committed to this goal, pushing state funding of this 50/50 federal-state partnership to historic highs. Congress and the Army Corps of Engineers envisioned a $200 million per year federal commitment when the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was first authorized nearly 20 years ago, and it is time for the administration to meet that commitment.”

Neither Rooney nor his office issued a separate statement regarding his position.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.), whose district includes parts of Lee and Collier counties and a substantial portion of the Everglades, did not join the other lawmakers. A request for comment has been made to his office.

(This report will be updated as new developments warrant.)

Liberty lives in light
© 2019 by David Silverberg


US House approves major reform bill; Rooney, Diaz-Balart oppose change

US_Capitol_west_side 3-2-19March 8, 2019 by David Silverberg

The US House of Representatives today, March 8, passed the For the People Act (House Resolution 1), by a vote of 234 to 193, largely along party lines.

The bill, introduced in January by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-3-Md.) and heavily amended, aims to “expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, and strengthen ethics rules for public servants,” according to its text.

“HR 1 restores the people’s faith that government works in the public’s interest, the people’s interest, not the special interests,” stated House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) at a press conference prior to passage of the bill. “It ends the dominance of big, dark, special interest money in politics and it empowers small donors and the grassroots.  It ensures clean, fair elections and fights voter suppression.  It cleans up corruption, returning integrity to Washington, DC.”

Southern Florida representatives Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) both voted against the measure.

In a statement, Rooney argued that the bill “would take taxpayer money to fund political campaigns, expand the federal bureaucracy, and create opportunities for voter fraud.” Diaz-Balart similarly argued the bill “aims to use the electoral system to achieve a pre-determined result.”

The bill incorporates numerous Democratic and progressive reform proposals, many of which were part of numerous 2018 congressional campaigns. Among its provisions the bill expands early voting, reforms redistricting, makes Election Day a federal holiday, enables automatic voter registration and imposes stricter disclosure rules for a variety of political activities.

The bill also targets President Donald Trump by requiring that presidential and vice presidential candidates publicly disclose 10 years of tax returns.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has announced that he will not allow it to come to a vote “because I get to decide what we vote on.” Trump has also vowed to veto it if it gets to his desk.

Liberty lives in light


A busy week in Congress: ending the national emergency, gun violence and education policy

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March 1, 2019 by David Silverberg

While the nation was transfixed by the open House Oversight Committee hearing of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer (who also testified at two closed hearings), work done elsewhere more directly affected Southwest Florida.

Ending the state of emergency

As reported earlier this week, on Tuesday, Feb. 26, the House of Representatives voted 245 to 182 to terminate Trump’s state of emergency on the southern border. The legislation is now in the Senate.

In a startling break with his Republican colleagues and the president, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) for the first time in this session, voted with the Democratic majority and against the president’s wishes.

He joined 12 other Republicans in rejecting the state of emergency declaration, made on Feb. 15. Prior to that vote, Rooney had voted 100 percent with the president’s agenda in the 116th Congress.

To see more coverage of the state of emergency vote, see: US House votes to terminate state of emergency; Rooney breaks with party to oppose Trump.

Opposing gun restrictions

This week was a particularly active week in addressing gun violence in the House as it considered two sweeping measures. The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 (House Resolution 8), would require background checks on all firearms sales. The Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019 (HR 1112) would lengthen the waiting period for a gun purchase from three days to ten.

Rooney voted against both measures, which nonetheless passed the chamber with votes of 240 to 190 and 228 to 198 respectively.

In past appearances, Rooney has staunchly maintained that gun restrictions were unconstitutional, although in a May 30, 2018 appearance at The Alamo gun range and store in Naples, he said that while he could go so far as to support a limit on the size of gun magazines, “I just think we have to think real careful it doesn‘t become a slippery slope.  You know, maybe you say if you use a magazine over a certain size you got to do it at a place like The Alamo or some kind of secure environment,” he said at the time.

However, he added, “…the thing that scares me is that a weapons ban, the last weapons ban, empowered the anti-Second Amendment people so much that they are using it against us now.”

In voting against HR 8 Rooney stated: “While we must continue to take action to end gun violence, what we do must actually be effective. Last year, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law, the Fix NICS Act, which penalizes federal and state authorities that fail to report relevant information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).”

In voting against HR 1112, Rooney argued that it did not address issues raised by the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding gun safety.

Supporting Betsy DeVos

This week Education Secretary Betsy DeVos introduced a new initiative to promote private schools. The initiative would provide a tax credit for donations made to private school scholarships, called Education Freedom Scholarships (EFS).

In Congress, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in the Senate and Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-1-Ala.) in the House introduced Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act (not yet numbered at the time of this writing) to promote the program. Rooney signed on as a co-sponsor.

According to the Department of Education statement accompanying its unveiling, the “EFS will be funded through taxpayers’ voluntary contributions to state‐identified Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs). Those taxpayers will then receive a non‐refundable, dollar‐for‐dollar federal tax credit. EFS will not create a new federal education program but instead will allow states to decide whether to participate and how to select eligible students, education providers, and allowable education expenses.”

DeVos hastened to assure the public that the program would not hurt public education. “The policy would not rely on any funds currently allocated to public education, nor would it create a new federal education program. Participation would be voluntary for students, schools, and states,” she announced in a statement.

Despite these assurances, Democrats were quick to blast the proposal as another Trump administration effort to undermine public education.

“House Democrats will not waste time on proposals that undermine public education. We’re focused on reversing our chronic underfunding of public schools so that all students – regardless of their background – can learn in schools that are healthy, safe, and provide a quality education,” stated Rep. Bobby Scott (D-3-Va.), chair of the House Education and Labor Committee.

Surprisingly, criticism also came from conservative institutions like The Heritage Foundation. Lindsey Burke, director of the Foundation’s Center for Education Policy, and Adam Michel, a senior policy analyst in the Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget, warned that the proposal could reverse the nation’s school choice gains and recent tax policy reforms.

“It’s wonderful that the Administration wants to advance school choice but a nationwide federal tax-credit scholarship program is the wrong way to do it,” they wrote in a Heritage Foundation statement. “This could open the door for further education regulations down the road that neutralize the advantages of private education as well as impede future tax reform efforts.”

Rooney, whose education was entirely private, parochial and religious, has long been critical of public education for “driving an agenda of secularism, materialism and willingness to sacrifice principles for material possessions,” as he put it in his Alamo appearance.

Rooney has accompanied DeVos on several trips to Southwest Florida to tour schools here.

The initiative and its accompanying legislation chiefly benefits wealthy donors who can afford to make large financial contributions to private schools, providing them with another tax break. The scholarships benefit private and for-profit schools that chiefly cater to wealthy children.

(It is worth noting the warning made in the book Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House by Omarosa Manigault Newman, who served in the early Trump administration as liaison to the African-American community, about Betsy DeVos: “Her plan, in a nutshell, is to replace public education with for-profit schools”—all of them, the entire system, not just a few. “In each cabinet meeting, I was seated in the row near her. I can tell you, after a year of sitting in those meetings and observing her, that she’s woefully inadequate and not equipped for her job. She is just as horrible as you suspect she is. … She does not care about your children. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.”)

Coal lobbyist confirmed as EPA administrator

In the Senate, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, was confirmed as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The vote on Thursday, Feb. 28, was 52 to 47 with both of Florida’s Republican senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, voting in favor of Wheeler’s confirmation.

Liberty lives in light


US House votes to terminate state of emergency; Rooney breaks with party to oppose Trump

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The US Capitol at dawn.  (Photo: Architect of the US Capitol)

Feb. 27, 2019 by David Silverberg

Updated 11:40 am with Rooney statement and link to bill

Last night, Feb. 26, The US House of Representatives voted 245 to 182 to terminate President Donald Trump’s state of emergency on the southern border.

In a startling break with his Republican colleagues and the president, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) voted with the Democratic majority to pass the bill. Until now Rooney has voted 100 percent with the president’s agenda in the 116th Congress. He joined 12 other Republicans in rejecting the state of emergency declaration, made on Feb. 15.

In a statement, Rooney declared: “I voted for the resolution because I believe in the rule of law and strict adherence to our Constitution. We are, as John Adams said, ‘A nation of laws, not men.’ The ends cannot justify the means; that is exactly what the socialists want.

“We need to secure our border and control who enters the United States but this emergency declaration is not the answer – fixing our broken immigration system is: adopting skill-based immigration, not family-based; policing visa overstays; ending the diversity lottery; making E-verify required of all employers; and stopping asylum abuse by requiring that asylum claims can only be made at a legal point of entry to the United States.”

The bill, House Joint Resolution 46, introduced on Feb. 22 by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-20-Texas), now goes to the Senate.

Should the bill be passed in the Senate, President Trump is widely expected to veto it.

Trump’s emergency declaration came after Congress passed a federal spending bill that did not include Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall. At the press conference announcing his state of emergency declaration, Trump stated that he did not have to declare a state of emergency but that it would facilitate his getting the money more quickly. In addition to the congressional vote, the declaration is being challenged in court.

In addition to Democratic arguments that there was no national emergency at the border, that the declaration was an unconstitutional end-run to get money Congress had not appropriated and that success on this issue would lead Trump to declare further emergencies every time he wanted something, conservatives were also critical of the declaration. For example, the conservative, Koch-brothers funded Cato Institute, an ideological think tank, also argued against it in an essay, “There Is No National Emergency on the Border, Mr. President.”

Ironically, the vote against the declaration of emergency came on the eve of the 86th anniversary of the Reichstag fire in Germany. On Feb. 27, 1933 a fire broke out in the Reichstag building housing Germany’s parliament. A Dutch communist was held responsible and Adolph Hitler and the Nazi party used the incident to declare an emergency in Germany and pass laws that consolidated an unchecked Nazi dictatorship.

Liberty lives in light


Rooney reaches 1-year mark in avoiding constituents, town halls

05-31-17 Rep. Francis Rooney town hallRep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) at a May 31, 2017 town hall in Bonita Springs.   (Photo by author)

The Rooney roundup

365 days since Rep. Rooney has met constituents in an open, public forum

Feb. 22, 2019 by David Silverberg

Today, Feb. 22, marks one year since Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) has faced constituents in person in an open, public forum to hear their concerns and answer their questions.

It was on Feb. 22, 2018 that Rooney held his last two town hall meetings, one on Marco Island, the other in Fort Myers.

Since then he has refused to make any appearance where members of the public could attend to ask him questions about his policies and positions.

He also refused to debate his Democratic opponent, David Holden, during the run up to the midterm congressional election. The Collier County League of Women Voters invited both candidates to a debate, scheduled for Sept. 17. Rooney responded in a letter to the League that he had “no availability” on that date and “no future availability.”

He subsequently announced that he had no need to debate or make public appearances because “everyone knows my positions.”

In the year since his last town hall meetings Rooney has only spoken to small, invited groups in very controlled circumstances. On May 30, 2018 he spoke to an invitation-only audience at The Alamo gun range and store in Naples. That appearance was organized by the Florida Citizens Alliance, an advocacy organization critical of secular public education.

Rooney also joined President Donald Trump on stage at a rally in Hertz Arena in Estero on Halloween, Oct. 31, 2018, which was not an occasion for listening to constituent concerns. Trump praised Rooney for his “brutal” defense of the president and his policies. (In December 2017 Rooney called for a purge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to eliminate any anti-Trump elements in the leadership.)

Rooney was with then-Gov. Rick Scott (R) on his bus during his campaign for the US Senate when Scott turned and fled from red tide protesters in Venice and canceled a Naples campaign stop.

Rooney’s last town halls were contentious and combative. They were held only eight days after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. On Marco Island, when asked if he would support a semi-automatic weapons ban, Rooney replied: “How willing are we to throw the Constitution out the window?” The answer elicited angry shouts and catcalls.

In Fort Myers Rooney was confronted by six surviving students of the shooting. Though stating that “irresponsible people” shouldn’t have guns, his opposition to a ban or any other strong gun control measure led to jeers and angry shouts from the audience.

“Children are…dying at my school!” yelled Michael Weissman, who had graduated from the school the year before. “You are heartless!”

“I am for making sure that people who are dangerous don’t get guns in their hands,” Rooney said, to a chorus of boos. “I’m not voting to abdicate the Second Amendment.” Students from Naples and Palmetto Ridge high schools chanted: “Tell us Rooney how you dare, to put us all in the cross hairs” and “Close down the NRA; we don’t want it anyway.”

At the town hall meetings Rooney also refused to acknowledge constituent concerns about climate change. At a town hall on May 31, 2017 and then again at Marco Island on Feb. 22, 2018 he stated: “I think that there is very complex issues surrounding global warming. Sea levels have been rising since the ice age.”

Since his election in November 2016, all of Rooney’s town halls have been contentious as he has characterized the Affordable Care Act as “socialism,” deflected constituent concerns about Trump’s collusion with Russia and said the Environmental Protection Agency needed to be “reined in.”

Nonetheless, after a particularly intense meeting in Cape Coral on March 3, 2017, Rooney praised the importance of meeting constituents in town hall forums.

As he told the News-Press: “[Town hall meetings] are critically important because this is democracy at work. This is what our country is built on.”


Rooney acknowledges climate change for first time, breaks with Trump

For the first time since being elected to office, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.), has publicly and officially acknowledged the reality of climate change.

The acknowledgment was buried at the bottom of a press release accompanying release of the The Southwest Florida Climate Metrics Survey by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

“If there is any state whose people should be embracing the impacts of our changing climate, it’s Florida. We are the state most at risk for sea level rise than any,” Rooney stated in the release. “This survey proves climate change is an issue important to our voters and there is more we should do to protect ourselves from future impacts.”  [Emphasis ours.]

This is the first time Rooney has used the term “climate change” in public and acknowledged its reality.

In the past Rooney has always dodged acknowledging climate change or using the term, stating, as he did in multiple town halls, that sea levels have been rising since the ice age.

If in fact Rooney is acknowledging the reality of climate change he is breaking with President Donald Trump who as recently as Jan. 20 mocked the idea of global warming, tweeting amidst the plunge in temperatures caused by the polar vortex: “Wouldn’t be bad to have a little of that good old fashioned Global Warming right now!”


If Rooney is truly acknowledging climate change and a concern for the environment, there are ways to display the outward sign of his inward grace:

  1. He can publicly embrace America’s re-entry into the Paris Climate Agreement;
  2. He can endorse the Green New Deal to hold back carbon emissions and;
  3. He can hold an open, public town hall, explain his new position to his constituents and listen to their climatic concerns, which are amply documented in the Conservancy survey.

We shall see—but don’t hold your breath.

Liberty lives in light

Rooney votes against compromise spending bill that averts government shutdown

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The Rooney Roundup

359 days since Rep. Francis Rooney has appeared in an open, public forum

Feb. 15, 2019 by David Silverberg

Yesterday in the US House of Representatives, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) voted against the compromise spending bill averting another government shutdown.

Despite Rooney’s opposition, the spending bill, House Joint Resolution (HJRes.) 31, passed last night by a vote of 300 to 128.

The spending bill, which had already passed the Senate, now goes to President Donald Trump’s desk for signature. Once signed, it will fund the full government for a year, preventing another shutdown. However, President Trump has announced that he will be declaring a national emergency and redirecting unobligated funds to his border wall —funding which may have been destined for Everglades restoration, Hoover Dike repairs and Hurricane Irma assistance in Southwest Florida.

Foreign affairs: US involvement in Yemen

Yesterday Rooney also voted against ending US engagement in hostilities in the war in Yemen.

Despite his opposition, the Yemen war resolution (HJRes. 37) passed by a vote of 248 to 177.

Rooney stated that resolution would set a bad precedent: “…it establishes a precedent that any disgruntled Member of Congress in the future can deploy to challenge United States security assistance to other countries, which is a vital part of our foreign policy and national security. Any challenge to the use of such assistance could endanger U.S. allies like Israel or our counter-terrorism partners.”

Saudi Arabia is currently at war with Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Rooney opposes sea level rise but doesn’t acknowledge climate change

In an environmental first for Rooney, on Friday, Feb. 8, he introduced House Resolution 112, “expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that sea level rise and flooding are of urgent concern impacting Florida that require proactive measures for community planning and the State’s tourism-based economy to adapt.”

The resolution is not legislation and has no binding power or authority. It merely expresses an opinion and invites the House to concur.

The resolution acknowledges the threat of sea level rise to Florida military bases, the Kennedy Space Center, businesses and the Everglades. As a result of these effects it: “(1) acknowledges the significance of sea level rise and flooding throughout communities across the country and in Florida; and (2) affirms the need for greater adaptation funding and the incorporation of historical flooding and sea level rise projections into planning.”

In a statement accompanying the resolution Rooney stated: “Sea-level rise, storm surge and flooding currently threaten millions of homes across the state of Florida. I introduced this resolution to express my grave concern about the dangers associated with rising seas, and to stress the need to proactively prepare for future effects, such as increased risks of flooding from stronger hurricanes.

“Without preventive actions taken now, we risk the future livelihoods of our beautiful Florida communities. That’s why I’m calling for greater funding and the incorporation of sea-level rise projections to better plan for such events.”

The resolution has three other co-sponsors as of this writing. It was referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.


First, Rooney’s acknowledgment of sea level rise and his recognition that preparations must be made for it, is commendable.

However, missing from this resolution is any acknowledgment of the cause of sea level rise: climate change. Apparently, Rooney is not ready to go that far. In his last public appearance before constituents on Feb. 22, 2018 on Marco Island, Rooney dismissed climate change, stating: “We definitely need to learn all we can about why these sea levels are rising. I’m just not sure how much is man-made and how much is not. I think that there is very complex issues surrounding global warming. Sea levels have been rising since the ice age.”

To date, Rooney has not issued any statements expanding or altering this position.

Dealing with the effects of climate change while denying its cause is a common Republican tactic. It allows Republican politicians to stay in line with Trump’s climate change denial while recognizing that they nonetheless have to deal with its effects in their states and districts. (For a larger discussion of this strategy with a particular focus on Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), see “Why conservatives keep gaslighting the nation about climate change,” from

Given Rooney’s prior legislative record of failing to advance any standalone bills past the committee referral stage and the paucity of co-sponsors of this resolution, the resolution is unlikely to move forward in the House or have any larger impact.

Foreign affairs: Rooney opposes US troop withdrawal from Syria

In a rare dissent from President Donald Trump, on Feb. 1 Rooney authored an op-ed in The Hill newspaper, “Stay in Syria to Counter Iran,” opposing a sudden pullout of US troops from Syria.

“Regardless of the past decisions which drew the United States into the conflict in Syria, we should not abandon our role in the fight against the Islamic State. A withdrawal would give back all that we have achieved and would be an abandonment of our Kurdish allies. The void we would leave will create space for other power players with interests adverse to ours, like Russia and Iran, to gain ground in the Middle East,” Rooney wrote.

Trump’s precipitous decision to withdraw all US troops from Syria on Dec. 19 led to the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and passage on Feb. 5 of the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 (Senate 1), a resolution against withdrawal. The House has not yet considered it.

Rooney has previously supported Kurdish independence, writing in Oct. 2017 that: “Given our own tradition and the recent history of Iraq and Kurdistan, we should at least consider the potential strategic advantages of Kurdish independence.”

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Trump nominee for Interior Dept. could roll back protections against SWFL oil exploitation

02-05-19 David Bernhardt DoInt. cropped

David Bernhardt, nominee for Interior Secretary.    (Photo: DoInt.)

Southwest Florida could feel a major impact if David Bernhardt, currently the number two official at the Department of the Interior, is confirmed as secretary, with the potential to roll back oil and gas regulations and restraints just when private landowners and the oil industry are mounting a new exploitation effort aimed at Florida.

Bernhardt was nominated to be secretary by President Donald Trump on Feb. 4.

The US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is expected to hold hearings on Bernhardt’s nomination sometime soon. (As of this writing, a date had not been set. This report will be updated when it is announced.)

The 49-year-old Bernhardt is a former oil industry lobbyist whose policy positions were closely aligned with Ryan Zinke, his predecessor as secretary. In the past Bernhardt has lobbied on behalf of Delta Petroleum Corp., Noble Energy Inc. and California’s Westlands Water District, a government agency that has fought environmental regulation.

Zinke and Bernhardt’s shared policy positions included opening up federal lands to oil exploration and exploitation and removing environmental protections and regulations.

As Bernhardt put it in an interview earlier this year with E&E News, an energy and environmental publication, “I can’t think of an instance in the past year where I’ve done something where I would not be very confident that he and I were 100 percent on the same page on.”

During the government shutdown, Bernhardt was criticized for having unpaid Interior Department employees working on opening up US waters to oil and gas drilling and issuing permits for seismic drilling. Though initially deemed non-essential employees and therefore furloughed, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management brought back at least 40 employees to work on offshore oil and gas projects.

Bernhardt has also been criticized for making the department less transparent and making information more difficult to access, avoiding the congressional confirmation process for key subordinates and limiting the scope or weakening laws like the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.

In addition to his own inclinations, Bernhardt has cover from President Donald Trump himself, who, in his State of the Union speech, boasted of unleashing a revolution in oil and gas production and whose April 2017 executive order opening up federal lands to oil exploitation remains in force.

Even Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.), a pro-Trump Republican, has complained that the Interior Department has a “drill-baby-drill” approach to offshore oil exploitation, threatening the beaches of Southwest Florida.

“The military is our ally on this [a permanent oil drilling moratorium in the eastern Gulf of Mexico],” Rooney told an audience at an invitation-only meeting at The Alamo gun range and store in Naples on May 30, 2018. “The Department of the Interior is not.  They want to ‘drill- baby-drill.’ They are Republicans, right?”

Bernhardt’s nomination on Feb. 4 unleashed a torrent of criticism and opposition. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, (D-2-Hawaii), called Bernhardt “a walking conflict of interest” in one tweet and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) called him “another scandal-plagued fox guarding the henhouse,” in another.

“Bernhardt might as well be an ideological clone of Ryan Zinke. The American public deserves a true steward who will protect our lands, our wildlife and our waters – not another industry shill who will continue to sell our precious natural resources to the highest bidders for exploitation,” stated Ana Unruh Cohen, managing director for government affairs for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental activism group. Her sentiment was echoed by other environmental organizations.

The Naples-based Conservancy of Southwest Florida has not yet taken a position on Bernhardt’s nomination.

The Bernhardt nomination comes just as activity is mounting among private landowners and oil companies to exploit potential oil reserves beneath the Everglades.

On Tuesday, Feb. 5, the Florida First District Court of Appeal ruled that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection had to issue a permit for an exploratory oil well to Kanter Real Estate LLC, a company that owns about 20,000 acres in the Everglades near the city of Miramar.

The Burnett Oil Company is already exploring areas in the Big Cypress Preserve. Tocala LLC, based in Mississippi, has received a permit to detonate explosives in 6,000 holes in an area just north of Big Cypress. Trend Exploration, based in North Fort Myers, has applied for a permit to explore in Caracara Prairie Preserve in Collier County.

(For a fuller account of oil activities in the Everglades and the region, see David Fleshler’s Feb. 3 article, More oil drilling proposed for southern Florida in the South Florida Sun Sentinel.)

Analyis: The rush is on but not necessarily the boom

While the regulatory climate and the presidential mood are promoting oil exploitation in marginal oil producing regions like Southwest Florida, the real determinant will be oil prices. The higher the prices and the demand, the greater the likelihood that the risk and expense of Southwest Florida oil exploration and drilling will be worthwhile.

02-07-19 crude-oil-price-history-chart-2019-02-07-macrotrends

Crude oil prices over the past 70 years.   (Source:

The oil industry tends to be one of boom and bust and while the general trend of prices has been up, at the moment prices are relatively stable. Oil exploiters have to factor in the lead time of exploration and extraction as well as the potential profits as they decide to pursue oil in places like Southwest Florida.

Some politicians may think that they can have acceptable oil exploitation on land while not harming the shore. But pro-exploitation advocates should remember: Exploitation will be on both land and sea. If it’s worthwhile to drill on land, it will also be worthwhile to drill offshore and it’s very unlikely that oil companies will pursue one and not the other.

The danger of oil exploitation in Florida, of course, is pollution either of the water table on land or along the beaches on shore. Pollution of the aquifer will make life unlivable on land, while pollution on shore will destroy tourism and the Southwest Florida economy.

Either way, the Southwest Florida environment is under increasing threat. There is no reason to expect any support or sensitivity from the Trump administration.

Offshore oil rigs 11-2-17

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