Polls reflect political climate
With the House not in session this week, the latest round of impeachment depositions will get most of the attention on Capitol Hill. Is this what most Americans want? According to most polls, the answer is “yes” and “no.”
In addition to polling President Donald Trump’s job approval numbers, which continue to be in the red, surveys now ask multiple questions regarding impeachment. Those questions are: do you support the impeachment inquiry, do you support impeachment, or do you support impeachment and removal from office?
The polls seem to accurately reflect that fact the country is split down the middle.
For example, the most recent Fox News poll shows 49 percent favoring impeachment and removal, while 41 percent oppose and another four percent favor impeachment, but the Senate should not remove Trump. The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed almost identical results.
An average of national polls reveal roughly 48 percent favoring impeachment with 44 percent against. Slightly higher numbers support the impeachment inquiry.
While either side customarily welcomes any majority, it would take 67 percent of the Senate, including nearly 40 percent of Republicans (20), to remove the President. Unless an unforeseen bombshell emerges, most, if not all, Republicans will vote against removal, forcing Democrats to defeat Trump at the polls next year.
As the country discovered in 2016, national polls may say one thing, but states may have a different take. The states that put Trump in the White House despite losing the popular vote are not yet on board with removing Trump before they have their say in 12 months.
A New York Times/Sienna survey found 49 percent of Floridians back the inquiry, and 44 percent oppose. On the other hand, 53 percent strongly or somewhat oppose impeachment and removal, while 42 percent favor.
A University of North Florida poll from two weeks ago showed 46 percent of Floridians supporting impeachment and removal with 48 percent opposed. At the same time, in this and most other surveys, Trump’s job approval rating is at or near 10 percentage points underwater.
Other battleground states surveyed showed majorities opposing impeachment in Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Arizona. Majorities or pluralities support the inquiry.
These numbers give those in the Florida delegation enough cover as they campaign for reelection. All Florida Democrats voted for the recent inquiry vote, while all Republicans voted against it.
Democrats stick by the slogan: “No one, not even the President, is above the law.” Republicans are becoming more comfortable describing the current process as “Soviet-style.”
Those two approaches guarantee a polarized process. If further evidence is required, check the polls.
Trump latest to flee
Late last week, Trump announced that he is changing his primary residence and would become a permanent resident of Florida once he leaves the White House. Sen. Rick Scott celebrated the announcement and said Trump is the highest-profile New Yorker to flee New York and move to Florida due to climate and lower taxes.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered a “good riddance” to Trump, while Scott said Trump’s departure and thousands of others is a positive for Florida.
“It’s great for Florida,” Scott said on Fox Business Network. “They can’t pay those taxes. And it’s impossible to do business up there. So they’re going to just keep moving and moving, moving to Florida. It’s a death spiral.”
According to census data, more than 63,000 New Yorkers fled for Florida in 2018. Trump is just the latest.
Despite Trump’s pledge to leave, New York officials are promising audits, something for which he is familiar.
More Holocaust education funded
Last week a high school principal in Boca Raton was fired for casting doubt on the Holocaust, one of the most tragic events in human history. Members of both political parties have called for a focus on education to ensure the Holocaust is not forgotten.
A group of four Democratic Senators, along with Sen. Marco Rubio, sought an amendment to the bill funding the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum that would require the museum to step up education efforts.
Specifically, it would require the Museum to submit a report on its collection and usage of historical documentation, such as survivor testimony, to support the museum’s Holocaust educational programs. The Senate adopted the amendment into the bill that funds the museum.
“We must never forget the stain caused by the Holocaust, and we must ensure future generations know the full history of this horrific genocide,” Rubio said in a joint release. “By providing additional funds and assessing our current education programs about the Holocaust, we will be able to better support the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s efforts to preserve and share the memory of survivor accounts.
In addition to the inclusion of the Senators’ amendment, the Senate-passed appropriations bill increased funding for Fiscal Year 2020 by $500,000 to support the Museum’s operations above the Fiscal Year 2019 enacted levels.
Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin sponsored the amendment and co-sponsored by Rubio, and Democratic Sens. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Jackie Rosen of Nevada and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
Twitter zaps Yoho account
Social media is often the primary platform for individuals to express their political opinions. Twitter has had its share of controversy involving the policing of content, but the latest controversy involved Gainesville Republican Ted Yoho.
Yoho, a strong supporter of Trump, saw his personal Twitter account shut down for nearly two days recently. A message advised visitors it was suspended for violating unspecified rules.
Twitter informed Yoho the company initially believed someone was impersonating him. However, they acknowledged last week that it mistakenly shut down the page, apologized, and promised that such things would not happen again.
“Someone must have reported it. We apologize for our mistake there,” the message to Yoho said. “The team has taken additional steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
The suspension reignited concerns among conservatives that they are being mistreated by Silicon Valley and its social media powerhouses. Yoho’s personal account was never verified by Twitter, had only about 2,000 followers, and averaged only a few posts each month.
His official verified House account, @RepTedYoho, was unaffected.
Lawson calls out colleagues
House Democrats last week pushed through a package of ground rules for the Trump impeachment inquiry. This came despite the objections of Panama City Republican Neal Dunn and Clermont Republican Daniel Webster.
The party-line vote went 232-196, and Lawson explained that the rules and procedures guarantee that all Americans will be able to “see for themselves” what is going on “instead of taking sides.”
Dunn referred to it as:
The reason they haven’t presented any evidence is that they have none. This ‘Soviet style justice’ is an insult to our democracy. This investigation would not stand up in any court in the United States and should not stand up in the House of Representatives. #ImpeachmentVote
— Dr. Neal Dunn (@DrNealDunnFL2) October 31, 2019
Webster described it as “Soviet-style impeachment.”
That rankled Democratic Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee, who fired back at his colleagues.
“It is unfortunate my colleagues would stoop that low,” Lawson said after the House vote. “It seems they will place loyalty to the President above loyalty to the Constitution and the American people. If the shoe were on the other foot, they would be out hollering and screaming about violations to the Constitution.”
ELEVATE Act introduced
The influx of Puerto Rican children into Florida schools following Hurricane Maria has created a need for proper funding to provide English language instruction. Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy and Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart filed legislation in the House to improve the formula used by the U.S. Department of Education to make grants to states that enable them to hire teachers and purchase other necessary materials.
The ELEVATE Act will correct this flaw, which will be especially helpful to states such as Florida. Rubio and Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy filed companion legislation in the Senate.
“This bill is personal for me because I grew up in a household where my parents spoke only Vietnamese, and I learned English in school,” Murphy said in a joint release. “I know firsthand how important it is for young people in this country to become proficient in English. It opens doors of opportunity that would otherwise remain shut.”
Between 2010 and 2017, Florida’s Puerto Rican population rose from 864,000 to 1.1 million — a 27 percent increase. Connecticut’s Puerto Rican population increased from 264,000 to 292,000 — an 11 percent jump.
“The ELEVATE Act is a big win for Miami-Dade County, as they receive more English Language Acquisition funding than any other county in Florida,” said Diaz-Balart.
“This bill will allow Puerto Rican students to be fully counted in the annual grant allocation that states receive under the English Language Acquisition grant program,” Rubio said.
Under federal law, the U.S. Department of Education provides annual English Language Acquisition grants to state educational agencies, who provide most of that funding to school districts in the state. School districts use these grants to help K-12 public school students who are trying to learn English.
Suicide prevention bill introduced
Suicide has become one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., prompting efforts to combat the growing trend. Palm Harbor Republican Gus Bilirakis has joined with New York Democrat Eliot Engel to introduce the Effective Suicide Screening and Assessment in the Emergency Department Act.
The bill would allocate federal funding to emergency departments to help identify and treat individuals with a high-suicide risk. It would also create a voluntary grant program within the Department of Health and Human Services to assist emergency departments in developing protocols for identifying, assessing and treating those individuals.
Since 2001, the suicide rate in the United States has increased by 31 percent, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the country, costing nearly 47,000 lives each year.
“These staggering statistics make it clear that we need improved methods for identifying and assessing the suicide risks of emergency department patients,” Bilirakis said. “As part of my long-term commitment to fixing our broken mental health care system, I want to be sure that we enhance the procedures surrounding the discharge of patients who have attempted suicide or exhibit suicidal ideation to maximize the likelihood that they obtain appropriate follow-up care.”
A 2016 study found that 11 percent of all emergency patients exhibited suicidal ideation, but current screening tools diagnosed only 3 percent of those patients. Statistics also show that up to 70 percent of patients who leave the emergency department after a suicide attempt never attend their first outpatient follow-up appointment.
Affordable flood insurance sought
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is set to expire yet again, and a bipartisan group of representatives is urging leadership to get moving. A letter to House leadership signed by members from both parties expressed concern that proposals so far do not protect consumers from unaffordable rate increases.
The members reminded leadership of the multiple short-term reauthorizations over the past two years and urged a long-term solution that protects consumers at the lowest possible price.
“Since the last long-term reauthorization, the NFIP has been subjected to 13 short-term extensions,” they wrote. “This uncertainty has created significant anxiety for homeowners, renters, and small-business owners in our states.”
They reacted to a reauthorization bill sponsored by California Democrat Maxine Waters, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee. They were pleased with the commitment to a long-term reauthorization but worried about the potential for high premiums.
“However, we are concerned this proposal does not address premium increases our constituents expect under FEMA’s new methodology for determining risk that is poised to become effective in October 2020,” they added. “We look forward to working with you to address the affordability issue in a long-term NFIP reauthorization.
Among those leading the letter signed by 64 members: Democrats Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Miami, along with Republican Francis Rooney of Naples.
Also joining the letter were Republican Dunn, Vern Buchanan, Mario Diaz-Balart and Matt Gaetz. Democrats included Murphy, Val Demings, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Donna Shalala, Darren Soto and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Hill resignation raises questions
Last week, as the House Ethics Committee began an investigation into California Democrat Katie Hill and after she admitted to an improper relationship with a campaign staffer, Hill resigned her seat. She denied the charge currently before the Ethics Committee, which was an inappropriate relationship with a House staffer.
As Porter left, some began to question a situation involving Hastings. He has reportedly been in an extended relationship with current staffer Patricia Williams, yet no investigation is underway before the committee chaired by Deutch.
Deutch has not commented on why an investigation has not begun. He voted for a 2018 rule change prohibiting relationships with staffers.
“Congressman Ted Deutch needs to grow some (courage) and do the right thing by the people,” said Lateresa Jones, Hastings’ 2020 Republican opponent. “This behavior is not acceptable. Alcee Hastings is not above the law.”
While Hastings has pledged to run for reelection in 2020, concern for his health stemming from his bout with pancreatic cancer is on the minds of delegation colleagues.
Mental health grant announced
Rep. Deutch is announcing a $1 million grant to Broward County that will help fund mental health and substance abuse programs. Deutch made the announcement Tuesday morning at the Broward Governmental Center.
That money will come from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The grant will go toward the One Community Partnership 3 (OCP3) Initiative. That organization is a collaboration between the Broward County Human Services Department, Broward Behavioral Health Coalition, Broward County Public Schools, Child Welfare Lead Agency (ChildNet), South Florida Wellness Network, and the Children’s Services Council of Broward.
The initiative aims to help deliver mental health services to young people dealing with trauma, substance abuse and other issues.
“The OCP3 initiative will provide Broward with the opportunity to expand and enhance the existing System of Care into a new population of focus and to enhance service capacity throughout Broward’s school and child welfare systems with the goal of improved mental health outcomes for youth and families, by supporting systems-level change,” according to the group.
Cuban family reunification proposed
With the closure of the U.S. embassy in Havana in 2017, no consular officials were left to process immigration and visa claims, leaving some families separated. The embassy is not likely to open any time soon, prompting Mucarsel-Powell to introduce legislation to reunite families by creating a process for those remaining in Cuba to come to the U.S.
“In the end this is about wanting to find a way to bring families back together, where they belong,” Mucarsel-Powell said, “and everyone who has shared their stories here today should never be in a position where they follow the rules, they do everything right, and they’re just turned away in the very last moment.”
The law would call for allowing family members of those already in the U.S. to live and work until their visa is available. Joining as original co-sponsors are Crist, Shalala, Wasserman Schultz and Kathy Castor of Tampa.
Shalala gets controversial challenger
Going into last week, Shalala knew she was facing a rematch in District 27 with Republican Maria Elvira Salazar. Now, Salazar has a primary against a controversial opponent.
Enrique Tarrio, leader of the far-right group known as the Proud Boys, filed paperwork to run as a Republican. The Proud Boys, who label themselves as “Western chauvinists,” have been linked to acts of violence over the past two years.
In a statement announcing his candidacy, Tarrio described the country’s founding principles and recent steps to move away from them. Shalala was the focus instead of Salazar.
“Unfortunately, career politicians like Donna Shalala have become obsessed with moving America away from these founding principles and toward a Communist police state that thrives on robbing us of our God-given freedoms,” he said. “Shalala is more concerned about being Hillary Clinton’s puppet than serving the needs of District 27.”
The Proud Boys were involved in an incident last year when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came to Coral Gables for a campaign event with Shalala. The incident, which was recorded by Tarrio, forced local police to secure a building where Pelosi and Shalala were inside.
Shalala also has a primary as she fights off an intraparty challenge from Michael Hepburn.
Boeing executives grilled
It was a rough two days for top Boeing executives. President and CEO Dennis Muilenberg and chief engineer John Hamilton were grilled by Republicans and Democrats while the families of victims from two Boeing 737 Max crashes sat behind the two.
The hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee saw Hamilton, and especially Muilenberg, take pointed questions from bipartisan sources. Mucarsel-Powell asked Muilenberg if he was willing to take full responsibility for the company’s failures, chided him on his $23 million salary, and asked whether he would resign.
“I am accountable, and my company is accountable,” he said, indicating he was not resigning. “We can and must do better.”
Other Floridians on the committee include Democrat Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens and Republicans Webster, Brian Mast of Palm City and Ross Spano of Dover.
“I appreciate Boeing sending their CEO and experts to give us clear insight into the development of the 737 MAX and the steps they are taking to ensure the aircraft is safe,” Spano said in a statement after the hearing. “They took responsibility and are working hard to rebuild the public’s trust through culture and process improvement.
On this day
Nov. 5, 2009 — An Army psychiatrist opened fire on fellow soldiers in Ft. Hood, Texas, killing 12 and wounding several others. Maj. Nidal Hassan opened fire in a base auditorium crowded with soldiers preparing to deploy overseas.
A civilian police officer wounded Nidal, who was taken to a hospital and listed in stable condition. President Barack Obama said: “We will make sure we get answers to every single question about this horrible incident. We are going to stay on this.”
Nov. 5, 2014 — The midterm elections brought good news for Republicans as they picked up 13 House seats and nine Senate seats around the country. Republican Carlos Curbelo defeated incumbent Democrat Joe Garcia in District 26, but Democrat Gwen Graham bucked the trend, edging incumbent Republican Steve Southerland in District 2.
With the Republican takeover of the Senate, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell is poised to become Majority Leader. In Florida, the race for Governor was settled by less than one percentage point with incumbent Republican Gov. Scott edging former Gov. Crist to win a second term.