Community service a legacy of 9/11
Everyone old enough remembers what they were doing on a Tuesday morning 17 years ago today when two airliners flew into the World Trade Center, another into the Pentagon, while a fourth crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
President George W. Bush was in Sarasota reading to school children at Emma E. Booker elementary when Chief of Staff Andy Card whispered into his ear that America was under attack.
Before the day was over, a large number of Senators and Representatives gathered on the Capitol steps and together sang God Bless America. The unity would shortly evolve into collective anger and determination to bring Osama bin Laden and his followers to justice.
In less than eight hours, gaps in the U.S. security apparatus were apparent. The late Congressman C.W. Bill Young of St. Petersburg said just hours after the attack “(t)here is no doubt aviation security broke down.”
As the country remained united, the war in Afghanistan began and the 9/11 Commission, charged with getting to the bottom of what happened, was launched. Among one of the more prominent findings was U.S. security agencies were not talking to each other.
By the time Bush faced re-election three years after 9/11, the harmony was gone. Much of the acrimony originated with Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003 and continued into a bitter campaign with Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry as a third-party group attacked Kerry’s military service and his anti-war protests.
Today, Americans are more divided than ever. Things began to go downhill long before the election of President Donald Trump, but the anger and paralysis on Capitol Hill reached new levels over the past two years.
Everyone who lived through 9/11 will remember it, but a worthy tradition began in 2002 with the establishment of a national day of remembrance. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed a proclamation designating the anniversary as the September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance.
Even the merging of a solemn day with community service drew some criticism from those who were unlikely to approve of anything Obama did. Nearly a decade later, volunteerism with organizations like AmeriCorps or Senior Corps has increased.
Opportunities for community service are not limited to those organizations. For example, Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist advised he was spending part of Tuesday volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul CARES Food Center.
Other elected officials and constituents will participate in related activities, but at least for one day, 9/11, at least gives some pause from the gridlock.
A little God Bless America wouldn’t hurt.
Nelson ad gives Scott low marks
Back to school and election season go hand in hand, and Sen. Bill Nelson had some negative things to say about Gov. Rick Scott‘s record on education in his most recent ad in the Senate race.
“When it comes to education, Rick Scott failed our kids,” declaring early cuts in funding in administration which led to lower teacher pay and per-pupil funding. “It’s no wonder why Florida ranks 40th in education, or why we’re experiencing a shortage of quality teachers.”
To view the ad, click on the image below:
Earlier in the year, Scott was scorned by Democrats for education funding reductions. Scott points to actual funding increases.
PolitiFact rated that claim as “Half True” based on funding not exceeding pre-recession levels “when adjusted for inflation.” A spokesman for Scott said the record funding comment relied solely on the state’s contribution, not the entire amount of funding.
The site ultimately said that in real dollars, that statement is not true. Over the last decade, schools have had more underfunded mandates that weren’t the case pre-recession.
The ad comes from Nelson’s Senate campaign, which has been badly outspent by Scott. Democratic support groups have run negative ads against Scott, but now the campaign is getting into the act.
Nelson and allies have reserved more than $40 million in television ad time until Election Day.
Rubio joins support to rename NATO HQ after McCain
Another tribute to the late Sen John McCain has been proposed by some of those who served with him. Sen. Marco Rubio has joined with colleagues to file a resolution that supports naming the new North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters after the former Senator and Navy officer.
Rubio and Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin filed the Senate version while Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin and Democratic Rep. Jimmy Panetta of California introduced the House resolution.
“There was no greater support of @NATO than @SenJohnMcCain,” Rubio tweeted. I am drafting a Senate resolution supporting the naming of new #NATO HQ after him & calling on @USNATO to support this move.”
There was no greater support of @NATO than @SenJohnMcCain. I am drafting a Senate resolution supporting the naming of new #NATO HQ after him & calling on @USNATO to support this move. As McCain loved to say when asked why he held a certain position “it is the right thing to do”.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 30, 2018
The resolution quotes McCain highlighting the esteem in which he held NATO.
“The price our NATO allies paid in blood fighting alongside us should never be diminished. And we must never forget that America is safer and more secure because it has allies that are willing to step up and share the burden of collective security,” he said in 2017.
The chair of the UK Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee and three former NATO Secretaries General support the initiative. NATO said they would “carefully consider” the request.
Previously, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer proposed renaming the Senate Russell Office Building after McCain. That structure is currently named after former Georgia Democratic Sen. Richard B. Russell.
Republicans: Armstrong biopic ‘wrong stuff’
The film about the first humans to set foot on the moon is still a month away from its premiere in American theaters, but controversy about what is NOT in it is entirely upon us. When conservatives learned the famous image of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planting the flag on the lunar surface was excluded from the film, they reacted with outrage.
Aldrin, 88, joined them, tweeting a photo of the iconic event from July 20, 1969. Some delegation members joined in by blasting star Ryan Gosling’s statement that the landing “was a human achievement” instead of strictly American.
“This is total lunacy. And a disservice at a time when our people need reminders of what we can achieve when we work together,” tweeted Rubio. “The American people paid for that mission, on rockets built by Americans, with American technology & carrying American astronauts. It wasn’t a UN mission.”
GOP Rep. Vern Buchanan of Longboat Key sent an email to constituents calling the omission “the wrong stuff. He added, “Hollywood’s shameful snub of a remarkable ‘American’ achievement has diminished what otherwise might have been a good movie.”
Buchanan also provided a 45-second video of the news coverage from 49 years ago.
And there is still a month remaining before the actual premiere.
Gaetz hosting cybersecurity expo, App Challenge
One of the more popular recent public engagement initiatives has been the Congressional App Challenge. Members have Congress have welcomed the input and ingenuity of middle and high school students as part of competitions around the country.
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach has announced the competition for Florida’s 1st Congressional District, which will accept computer programs (or apps) written in any programming language, and for any platform, including desktop, web, mobile, Raspberry Pi, and others.
The culminating event for the competition will take place at the 2018 Congressional App Challenge and STEM/Cybersecurity Expo on Oct. 27 at the Pensacola campus of the University of West Florida. Students will submit their apps to Gaetz and a panel of judges.
“I am pleased to be hosting the App Challenge again,” Gaetz said. “STEM, computer, and coding skills are extremely valuable in today’s data-driven world, and students who develop these skills are preparing themselves well for the jobs of the future.”
The Congressional App Challenge was created because Congress recognized that STEM and computer-based skills are essential for economic growth and innovation. By some estimates, the U.S. may be short by as many as a million programmers by 2020.
DeSantis resigns, CD 6 statistical tie
Florida’s delegation reduced by one member with the resignation on Monday of Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis. The three-term Congressman informed Speaker Paul Ryan by letter.
“As the Republican nominee for Governor of Florida, it is clear to me that I will likely miss the vast majority of our remaining session days for this Congress,” he wrote. “Under these circumstances, it would be inappropriate for me to accept a salary. In order to honor my principles and protect the taxpayer, I officially resign from the House of Representatives effective immediately.”
Gov. Scott did not immediately indicate he would name a replacement before Election Day. The campaign for the new District 6 representatives may be becoming more competitive.
A poll commissioned by the campaign of CD 6 candidate Nancy Soderberg has her essentially tied with Republican Michael Waltz. The survey of 400 likely voters has Waltz with 47 percent and Soderberg with 46 percent.
The poll, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research carried a 4.9 percent margin of error.
The seat has been a reliable GOP district in recent cycles and is classified as “Likely Republican” by the Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball. Trump won CD 6 by 17 points in 2016.
In addition to the poll, the Soderberg campaign can point to the fact former President Barack Obama narrowly won the district in 2008. Regarding campaign cash, Soderberg had more than $1 million on hand, three times more than Waltz, when the most recent campaign finance reports were released a month ago.
Murphy sells American dream to immigrants
Rep. Stephanie Murphy has a compelling personal story of coming to the U.S. as a young immigrant. She is telling the voters of District 7 that she wants them to have the same opportunities she and her parents had as immigrants.
She is releasing a pair of videos (one in Spanish and the other in English), that advertises that story. The Winter Park Democrat came to America with her family after fleeing communist Vietnam on a refugee boat.
The video also describes her parents who worked cleaning offices so that the family may have a better life. It also points out efforts to work with Republicans to achieve results on behalf of constituents.
To view the English version of the video, click on the image below:
Murphy narrates both the English and Spanish versions of the ad titled “Fair Shot” and “Oportunidad Justo.”
“When you work hard, you deserve to get ahead,” she says in the English ad. “So I’m working with both parties to improve veterans care, invest in schools, and create good paying jobs. And I’m holding Washington accountable — because they work for the people.”
Murphy faces state Rep. Mike Miller in November.
Former Puerto Rico Senator endorses Liebnitzky
Democratic Rep. Darren Soto is winning the money and endorsement race as he campaigns for a second term in Congress. He is heavily favored to defeat Republican Wayne Liebnitzsky and retain his District 9 seat in November.
The district is home to many Puerto Rican residents and Hurricane Maria evacuees. Soto, a Floridian of Puerto Rican heritage, is expected to do well with that voting bloc. But it was Liebnitzsky who earned the endorsement of a prominent former legislator from the island commonwealth.
Former Puerto Rican Sen. Miriam Ramirez gave Liebnitzsky her endorsement, according to his campaign office. She served in the Puerto Rican Senate from 2000-2004 before moving to Florida.
She later served as an adviser to former San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini and is a strong advocate for Puerto Rican statehood. Current San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, a harsh critic of Trump’s efforts after last year’s devastating hurricane, has endorsed Soto as well as Nelson.
The most recent fundraising report from the FEC showed Soto with 10-to-one cash on hand advantage.
Webster among Heroes of Main Street
Several members of the delegation were praised for the advocacy and votes on behalf of small businesses. The National Retail Federation (NRF) named 13 Floridians as a recipient of the Heroes of Main Street Award.
One dozen of the winners were Republicans while Murphy, the Winter Park Representative, was the only Democrat cited by the conservative-leaning group.
“Retailers and consumers are feeling good about the state of the U.S. economy, and a big part of that is the result of lawmakers who have made economic growth and job creation a top priority,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “As Heroes of Main Street, these elected officials truly understand that the decisions they make here in Washington have a real impact on local businesses and communities across the country.”
Among the Republicans cited was Rep. Dan Webster of Clermont. In addition to serving in Congress, Webster is a longtime small-business man in the air conditioning and heating industry.
“The National Retail Federation is an important voice, providing research and feedback on policies that will impact Main Street,” said Webster. “Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, accounting for 55 percent of all U.S. jobs. Republicans in Congress and President Trump are working together to deliver relief to America’s small businesses, by cutting unnecessary red-tape and unscrupulous regulations, and delivering on the promise to reform our tax code.”
Other Florida winners were DeSantis, Gaetz, Ted Yoho, John Rutherford, Francis Rooney, Bill Posey, Brian Mast, Carlos Curbelo, and Gus Bilirakis.
The NRF presented a similar award to Rubio as one of 51 Senators cited.
NRF created the Heroes of Main Street award in 2013, and eligibility is based on critical votes, bill sponsorship and advocacy to advance retailers’ priorities. Recipients have supported policies that recognize the contributions of the retail industry and have worked to encourage a “vibrant, sustained and healthy” retail sector.
Castor blasts GOP-led Obamacare lawsuit
A lawsuit that has bubbled under the surface is going to get a lot more attention soon. A group of Republican-led states is asking a judge to strike down what remains of Obamacare, which could force Americans with pre-existing conditions to find new ways to find treatment if Congress did not pass a replacement.
Florida is part of the lawsuit.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor is railing against the plaintiffs in Texas v. United States. The Tampa Democrat claims the lawsuit is jeopardizing the health care of 130 million Americans.
“Unfortunately for Florida families, Florida Governor Rick Scott and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi have sided once again with Republicans and the Trump Administration to rip health coverage away from our neighbors,” Castor said in a news release.
“This latest attack is disturbing but not surprising — Governor Scott and AG Bondi together with Congressional Republicans have been working to undermine the consumer protections of the Affordable Care Act since it was signed into law.”
One of the provisions of the GOP tax cut plan passed last December was to no longer enforce penalties or collect taxes on Obamacare’s individual mandate. While premiums were already climbing, with younger, healthier Americans opting out, the costs for those needing coverage is rising even more rapidly.
The Trump Justice Department is not defending the law, but analysts say they do not wish the entire legislation to be struck down, fearing it would cause chaos in the insurance market. Instead, they seek to end the mandate once and for all as well as striking down requirements, such as those for pre-existing conditions.
“It is appalling that Republicans are working time and time again to ensure that innocent people could be deprived of affordable coverage for their entire lives,” Castor said.
Whoever loses the case, argued before Judge Reed O’Connor, a former aide to Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, will likely appeal, meaning a final decision is probably years away.
Steube sets Sarasota fundraiser
State Sen. Greg Steube, the GOP nominee for Florida’s 17th Congressional District will be raising campaign cash at an upcoming fundraiser in Sarasota. The event, co-hosted by Ashley Pearce and Alan J. Wildstein, is scheduled for Oct. 2.
Steube is facing Democrat April Freeman in the November race to succeed the retiring Tom Rooney from Okeechobee. The last finance report released two weeks before last month’s primary, showed Steube with $132,000 cash on hand while Freeman had spent all the $28,000 raised up to that point.
The event begins at 5:30 p.m. and the campaign is asking for $1,000 per person to attend. The location of the reception will be provided upon an RSVP.
CD 17 has a Partisan Voter Index of +13 Republican, which means the region performed 13 points better for Republicans than the national average. Rooney defeated Freeman by 28 points in 2016.
On this day in the headlines
Sept. 11, 1991 — The Senate Judiciary Committee began confirmation hearings on the nomination of Judge Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court. Thomas sparred with members of the committee on touchy legal issues after opening his testimony with an emotional account of his rise from poverty in rural Pin Point, Ga.
Asked about the high court’s 1973 decision extending the privacy rights to abortions, Thomas said, “I do not think at this time I could maintain my independence as a member of the judiciary and comment on that specific case.” If confirmed, Thomas will become the second black member of the Supreme Court, succeeding retiring Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Sept. 11, 2001 — Terrorists struck at the pre-eminent symbol of America’s wealth and might earlier today, flying hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon killing and injuring thousands of people. As a horrified nation watched on television, the twin towers of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan collapsed into flaming rubble, while a portion of the Pentagon burned after the attack.
President George W. Bush was informed of the attack while reading to elementary schoolchildren in Sarasota. He said “The resolve of our great nation is being tested …” and “make no mistake, we will show the world we will pass this test.
Bilirakis scores in NFL bet
The NFL season started on Sunday with little controversy involving kneeling and the national anthem. There were plenty of challenges confronting players and coaches, but some members of Congress got in on the act.
Bilirakis of Palm Harbor and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana engaged in a wager on one of those games. Bilirakis’ favorite team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was playing Scalise’s beloved New Orleans Saints, prompting one of those politician-type bets usually saved for a Super Bowl or key playoff game.
It wasn’t the classic example of two high rollers. Bilirakis pledged a local Cuban sandwich while Scalise put up some Louisiana gumbo.
The Saints were heavy favorites, but Bilirakis pledged faith in Bucs’ backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who Bilirakis believed would lead the Bucs to victory. Not many shared that optimism and instead were saying “who dat?”
In the end, Fitzpatrick accounted for 450 yards and 5 touchdowns, helping the Bucs pull the upset, 48-40. Using a crystal ball, Bilirakis said on Friday “I can’t wait to taste some of my friend Steve’s spicy gumbo when I return to D.C.”