Barely a week remains in Donald Trump’s term. Still, House Democrats think that’s just enough time for one more impeachment. House leadership Monday introduced a single article of impeachment against the President. Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled the House will vote Wednesday, significantly abridging the process compared to charges passed in Dec. 2019.
Should the House impeach Trump, it will mark the first time the House impeached an American President twice. The fact proves all the more historic considering the Mar-a-Lago Republican won election to only a single term and weathered his first impeachment trial barely a year ago.
Democrats within Florida’s Delegation lined up among at least 180 co-sponsors for the article, unrolled days after a riot at The Capitol forced many into lockdown, fearing for their lives as insurrectionists desecrated the seat of U.S. power.
“Congress has a constitutional and moral obligation to provide a check and balance on the President; to hold him accountable for inciting violence and insurrection; and to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States,” tweeted Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Winter Park Democrat
Some expressed near-glee at the opportunity to mar Trump’s legacy with an unflattering distinction. Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Miami Gardens Democrat, made clear she’s “looking forward to casting my vote to make Donald Trump the first President in American history to be impeached twice.”
Most, if not all, of Florida’s Democrats in the House appear postured to vote for the quick impeachment. That served as a striking juxtaposition to when most Florida Republicans, after spending The Capitol riots in lockdown, still closed the evening by voting against certification of electors for two states won by President-elect Joe Biden.
But one Republican swayed by the riots to affirm Biden’s win despite previously supporting a court challenge also spoke out against impeachment. Rep. Michael Waltz, a St. Augustine Republican, condemned the plan, fearful another impeachment trial will further divide the nation.
“The President himself has publicly expressed his intent for an orderly transition, and Democrats should not be throwing gasoline on the fire rather than lowering the temperature of political discord,” Waltz said.
The vote seems inevitable, nonetheless.
Today, House Democrats plan to pass a resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to sideline Trump through the 25th Amendment. Presuming such a demand goes unmet, an impeachment vote comes Wednesday. But there are differing ideas as to where proceedings should go from there.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate Majority Leader, largely divorced himself from Trump by championing the election certification but seems in no rush to launch an impeachment trial. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, takes control of the Chamber as soon as Vice President Kamala Harris takes office and casts a tiebreaking vote to put Democrats in the majority. Punchbowl News reports Schumer may yet hold a trial on Trump’s impeachment charge after leaving office if only to ensure the outgoing President can never seek federal office again.
The Associated Press reports House Democrats may hold off on sending articles to the Senate for 100 days to allow the new Biden administration to focus on other priorities.
Regardless, neither of Florida’s Republican Senators will welcome another impeachment trial. “Biden and the Democrats have chosen to use this as an opportunity to talk about ridiculous things like ‘let’s impeach a President’ who isn’t even going to be in office in about nine days,” Sen. Marco Rubio told Fox Business. Meanwhile, Sen. Rick Scott tweeted, “Impeachment does NOTHING to help American families or bring our country together.”
Republicans since the riots showed less interest in cozying up to Trump. Still, when social media companies shut down the President’s Facebook, Instagram and all-important Twitter accounts, many conservatives piled onto Big Tech’s bold move.
Rubio considered it a step too far — and a sign communications companies hold too much control over the marketplace of ideas. “We are now living in a country where four or five companies — unelected, unaccountable — have the power, a monopoly power to decide we are going to wipe people out — we’re just going to erase them from any sort of digital platform, whether it’s selling things and the like,” he told Fox News Business. “Even if you don’t like Donald Trump, that should be very concerning that they have that power. It’s also very cynical, by the way, OK. Facebook, Twitter, these are not moral champions here. The reason why these guys are doing it is because Democrats are about to take power and they view this as a way to get on their good side to avoid any restrictions or any sort of laws being passed that hurt them.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz, an unwavering Trump supporter, said the decision to ban Trump from social media portends trouble for all conservative voices. The decision for app stores and web hosts to shut down alternative platform Parler, run by former Florida Congressional candidate Dan Bongino, demonstrated as much, he suggested. “Big Tech no longer wants to create an opportunity for everyone to be able to contribute ideas,” Gaetz told Fox News. “They want to be able to define the four corners of acceptable debate.”
Rep. Kat Cammack issued a statement defining the action against Trump as “social media censorship. “The right of free speech is a cornerstone of our Republic and any free society,” she said. “When an organization eliminates an individual’s ability to freely debate, those institutions trample on the most important work of our Founding Fathers. Conservatives have grown unacceptably and unrightfully accustomed to censorship by Big Tech over the past few years. The blatant hypocrisy of a duly elected national leader being removed from social media platforms, while those same platforms continue to allow vitriol from known terrorist leaders and authoritarian dictators around the globe, must not be ignored.”
Rubio pumps PPP
As one of the Paycheck Protection Program’s original architects, Rubio pressed hard for a new round of funding. With a second-round available this week, Florida’s senior Senator wants as many business owners as possible aware there’s new money available.
“Help is finally here for American small businesses,” Rubio said. “The hardest-hit businesses can now receive a second round of PPP, which will cover an expanded list of expenses and provide greater support to weather the second — and, hopefully, the last — wave of the pandemic.”
Rubio served as the chief author for the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, and Venues Act. The new round of PPP brings $284 billion online, prioritized for hard-hit small businesses and underserved communities. That brings the total amount of PPP authorized during the COVID-19 pandemic up to $800 billion and total small business relief to more than $1 trillion.
“PPP has saved countless small businesses from closing their doors and saved tens of millions of jobs in the first round,” Rubio said, estimating the initial program saved as many as 51 million jobs and 5.2 million small businesses. “I am proud of the improvements we made to the program to ensure PPP can help businesses, including increased assistance to restaurants and the hospitality industry. I appreciate the round-the-clock work of the Treasury Department and the SBA to update the rules of the road and prioritize borrowers in underserved communities.”
Unity, until 2022
Less than a week after rioters besieged The Capitol Complex, Sen. Scott said it’s important everyone in Washington “get some unity going.” Still, as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign, he turns his eyes toward the midterms and an opportunity for Republicans to retake the Senate.
In Georgia last week, Democrats won two special Senate elections, ushering in a 50-50 Senate controlled by Democrats once Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ takes office and casts a tiebreaking vote. But as Democrats embark on two years with full control of Congress and the White House, that sets the stage for a solid 2022 performance by Republicans if voters recoil from a progressive agenda.
“I would have rather won these two Georgia seats, but I think we’re going to see a clear choice,” Scott told Fox News. “Over the next two years, the Democrats are going to try to do a whole bunch of things that the public doesn’t want. They don’t want packing the Supreme Court. They don’t want higher taxes and more regulation. They don’t want the police defunded. I think the Democrats now have the ability to go do some things. I think it’s going to help define them, and I think it’s going to help us have a big win in 2022.”
Senate Republicans have to defend a few swing-state seats, including one in Florida, where many expect Rubio to seek reelection. But Scott also plans to go on offense and pick off several freshman Democratic Senators. He’s eyeing Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly and Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, the latter two elected in special elections and headed right back to the ballot. All three represent states Biden won in November but by close margins bitterly contested by Trump’s legal team.
At the same time, Scott’s vote against certifying Pennsylvania’s slate of electors could complicate fundraising. Axios reports companies including Verizon, Comcast, AT&T and Marriott plan to suspend all donations to politicians who cast votes against certifying Biden’s win. While Scott only ever signaled support for challenging Pennsylvania’s results, which even if successful would not overturn Biden’s victory, doing so after the riots rankled CEOs uninterested in supporting sedition.
But Scott has stressed two parts of his political background. The routine self-funder doesn’t waste money in campaigns. And slim margins aside, he doesn’t lose.
Gaetz texting mystery
Critics of Gaetz, one of Trump’s most ardent defenders in Congress, seized on images of the Representative on his phone as The Capitol was evacuated. Many speculated online he must have been communicating with insurrectionists breaching The Capitol. But it turns out the Fort Walton Beach Republican was returning a text to one of Florida’s most prominent Democratic officials.
When a user asked on Twitter, “Who was Matt Gaetz texting as The Capitol was being overtaken by terrorists?” Gaetz responded with a somewhat surprising answer: Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.
“She was the first person to text me to ask if I was OK,” he revealed. “I told her I was fine.”
Fried later confirmed the text exchange with her own tweet on the same thread. “That is correct,” she wrote. “I care about the well-being of ALL of our elected officials.”
It may surprise some to know the high-profile politicians from opposite parties would be in communication. The only Democrat holding statewide office in Florida, Fried has openly mulled challenging Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a close friend of Gaetz, in the 2022 Governor’s race. Gaetz maintains a reputation as a right-wing firebrand who cavorts with some of his party’s fringe elements and withstood serious flak for taking to the floor after the riots to insist antifa must have been responsible for the riots, a theory that did not bear out.
But then, Gaetz and Fried share some values. Both represent pro-marijuana legalization wings of their respective parties. Just this month, Fried offered praise to Gaetz for a speech on the floor advocating for an end to the war on drugs. “It’s up to our generation to keep moving this forward,” she tweeted.
Dunn dings COVID-positive colleague
Democrats have attacked Republicans who won’t adhere to masking guidelines, especially after several House members tested positive for COVID-19 after being in lockdown during the riots. But Big Bend Republican Neal Dunn lambasted Democrats for letting a coronavirus-infected member vote in person simply to ensure Pelosi stayed Speaker.
“On the first day of the 117th Congress, the Democrats showed a blatant disregard for public health guidelines by allowing a Representative who tested positive for COVID-19 to vote on the House floor,” Dunn wrote in a letter to constituents.
He noted Wisconsin Democrat Gwen Moore voted six days after testing positive. “This was irresponsible and in direct contradiction to the rules of the House established by the Speaker and Attending Physician,” Dunn wrote. “This highlights the highly subjective enforcement of the rules.”
It proved particularly irritating to Dunn, a surgeon who survived COVID-19 last year.
He joined members of the GOP Doctors Caucus in drafting a letter to the Attending Physician of the House demanding answers to why Moore was allowed to vote and criticizing the decision to come.
No pardon for rioters
Pinellas Democrat Charlie Crist spoke out against pardoning those arrested concerning the armed insurrection at The Capitol Wednesday.
Crist’s proclamation followed reports Trump may consider pardoning the individuals arrested for The Capitol’s violent breach, which led to five deaths, including a Capitol Police officer. So far, at least 90 people have been arrested.
“As our nation continues to grapple with last week’s horrifying attack on democracy, one thing remains clear: the insurrectionists who committed this attack must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Crist said in a statement. “Those who committed acts of terrorism, which resulted in the deaths of two Capitol Police officers, must be held to account for their crimes.”
In a tweet Monday, Crist said those arrested “need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Last week, Crist was the first member of the Delegation to call for invocation of the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. In the following days, Crist wrote a letter to Vice President Mike Pence echoing his sentiments.
Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor met with community health officials Monday to discuss the vaccine rollout among underserved communities, including veterans and people of color.
“There’s no secret that this has been entirely too chaotic,” Castor said about Florida’s vaccine rollout. “The groundwork is being done. We have a particular focus in this very diverse community on an equitable and fair rollout.”
Castor heard from Dr. Kevin Sneed, dean of the USF College of Health Taneja College of Pharmacy, who has been working since the summer to educate underserved members of the Black and Latino community as the director of the program WE-CARE, which stands for the Workgroup Enhancing Community Advocacy and Research Engagement.
For Tampa Bay veterans, the James Haley VA Hospital has been vaccinating its most vulnerable since Dec. 21, said interim Director David VanMeter. The rollout started by vaccinating veterans 85 and older, and just last week moved to start vaccinating veterans 75 and older.
Of the service area’s 25,000 veterans in that age bracket, the hospital already vaccinated upward of 4,000, VanMeter estimated. The VA will call, email, and send letters to eligible vets to amp up vaccination efforts, and have also vaccinated about 3,000 staff members.
Castor ended the meeting with a nod to the inauguration of President-elect Biden and his vaccine rollout proposal. “We’ve got to pull together and get this done,” Castor said. “As we see the vaccine rollout, it’s going to get better.”
Winter Park Democrat Murphy frequently turned to three themes throughout her congressional tenure: bipartisan efforts, independent commissions and national security concerns. She combined all three in her latest proposal: a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate the violent insurrection provoked by Trump last week at the nation’s Capitol and federal authorities’ disturbing lack of preparation.
Others in Congress made similar calls, but Murphy’s might stand apart for its emphasis on long-term fixes for national security vulnerabilities.
“The assault on The Capitol exposed our vulnerability to domestic and foreign terrorists who seek to harm our nation. I’m calling for a bipartisan commission with subpoena power to investigate who knew what & when, recommend ways to bolster our defenses and help prevent future attacks,” Murphy tweeted.
Florida’s interstates draw millions worth of investments from the federal government. But Fort Lauderdale Democrat Alcee Hastings doesn’t want backroads forgotten. On Monday, the Representative introduced the Farm-to-Market Road Repair Act of 2021 to expand the surface transportation block grant program to rural roads. His hope? Making sure Florida’s farm communities enjoy safe roads for shipping produce.
“America’s agricultural industry plays a pivotal role in the economy within my district and across our nation,” Hastings said. “Farmers and ranchers provide the communities they serve with fresh products daily, ensuring consumers have an adequate and healthy food supply. Unfortunately, many roads are deteriorating. As Congress debates how to move forward with a bold plan to address infrastructure, we need to ensure road-repair projects like these do not fall by the wayside as we seek to address other larger infrastructure projects.”
It’s not the first time Hastings worked to obtain land grants to better pave roadways connecting farms to markets. A similar initiative the Congressman introduced landed last year in the Moving Forward Act. Replicating that move requires action each Session, and Hastings feels confident the bill will find bipartisan support and pass again.
Deutch remains Ethics chair
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the decision to reappoint Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch as chair of the House Ethics Committee. He took over that role after Democrats’ success in the 2018 election, which allowed his party to regain control of the House. After the 2020 election, the chair positions were once again up for grabs, but Deutch held on to his role leading the committee.
“Returning to the helm of this vital Committee, Chairman Deutch will build upon his outstanding work in the last Congress to restore transparency, accountability and integrity to Washington,” Pelosi said. “His firm, fair leadership, is urgently needed to help restore the American people’s faith in the integrity of government at this difficult time.”
Deutch said the work of the committee would be critical, alluding to The Capitol riots.
“Never has it been more important to restore the American people’s faith in our government and their elected officials,” he said. “We must hold ourselves to the high ethical standard that is expected of us and is owed to the People’s House. I commit to every American that I will diligently continue my work to make the House more transparent and accountable by enforcing the House ethics rules to their fullest.”
Deutch previously served as the House Ethics Committee ranking member before Democrats regained control of the House in 2018. The committee reviews and adjudicates ethics issues among House members related to items such as travel and financial disclosures.
Wasserman Schultz v. Brooks
Sunrise Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz introduced a resolution to censure Alabama Republican Mo Brooks for statements she argues contributed to last week’s Capitol building invasion.
The Alabama Congressman was one of several speakers at the “Stop the Steal” rally, which occurred before a crowd stormed The Capitol. At that speech, Brooks and other speakers repeated false and conspiratorial charges that Democrats “stole” the 2020 presidential election from Trump. During the rally, Brooks also told the crowd that day was “the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.”
Wasserman Schultz and New Jersey Democrat Tom Malinowski now say a reprimand for Brooks is in order.
“Congressman Mo Brooks aided Trump in inciting an angry mob of rioters to attack our cradle of democracy by urging a fuming crowd galvanized on lies to ‘stop by The Capitol’ and start ‘kicking ass,’ ” Wasserman Schultz said.
“Not only did Congressman Brooks fuel an insurrection against the body he serves in, his words helped spark chaos, destruction, injuries and death. Censure seems too trifling a punishment in this horrific case, but it’s the minimal level of accountability Congressman Brooks should face from the same Congress he goaded rioters to assault.”
Brooks responded to criticism about his remarks, stating, “I make no apology for doing my absolute best to inspire patriotic Americans.”
Beyond refusing to apologize, Brooks went further by stating The Capitol invasion wasn’t even orchestrated by Trump backers, but rather far-left antifa members. There is no evidence that is true, and indeed several individuals arrested since the attack expressed longtime support for Trump.
International relations with Cuba continue to be a local domestic issue for South Florida. Miami Republican Maria Elvira Salazar jumped at the State Department will list the nation 90 miles to the south as a “state sponsor of terrorism.”
Bloomberg News reports Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to place the nation back on the list years after former President Barack Obama began normalizing relations after decades of an embargo. The normalization largely stalled at the beginning of the Trump administration, which reversed pieces of the engagement policy almost immediately.
Making significant policy changes now will surely make it more difficult for the Biden administration to pursue a cooperative posture with the socialist country. Salazar, for one, applauds that.
“The brutal Castro dictatorship has been terrorizing the people of Cuba for decades and propping up the oppressive dictators in Venezuela and Nicaragua,” she tweeted Monday. “This decision to list the regime as a State Sponsor of Terrorism has my full and unequivocal support!”
She stood with other Cuban Americans within the Delegation.
Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart criticized the Obama administration for ever-shifting the nation’s stance toward the island nation. ”The Trump Administration and Secretary Pompeo has placed the Cuban regime back where it belongs — on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list — due to its support of terrorist groups such as the FARC and ELN, harboring fugitives such as terrorist Joanne Chesimard and propping up the [Nicolas] Maduro regime,” he tweeted. “The previous administration should never have delisted Cuba, particularly when the regime’s intelligence services aided international terrorist organizations and in the violent suppression of the people of Venezuela.”
Rubio, one of the most vocal Cuba hawks in the Senate, issued a lengthy English and Spanish statement celebrating Cuba’s re-designation.
“For far too long we have seen the cozying up of the Castro regime, now ruling under its puppet Miguel Díaz-Canel, with designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations such as the dissident elements of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and members of the National Liberation Army (ELN),” Rubio said.
“It’s no secret that Raúl Castro and Miguel Díaz-Canel are providing a safe haven to terrorists and are actively propping up malign actors in our region. Today’s reversal is long overdue and one for which I long have called. The incoming Biden Administration should follow this policy and continue to hold the Cuban regime accountable for its destabilizing activities in our hemisphere.”
The first classes held by Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government & Public Service will launch this week. More than a dozen already enrolled in the Master of International Policy, with student orientation set to take place Thursday and classes beginning next Tuesday.
“We are thrilled to welcome this inaugural class,” said Jay Silveria, executive director of the Bush School in Washington, D.C. “Despite some modifications to keep the current coronavirus situation at bay, we believe the Bush School’s new Washington, D.C. site will offer students an unparalleled learning experience. Our faculty members not only have stellar reputations as experts in their respective fields but also can provide our students with real-world, hands-on experience in the areas of national security, intelligence and diplomacy.”
Classes will be held in person, but with social distancing promoted and masks required. Protective shields will also be used in class.
The new school, located downtown blocks from the White House, Freedom Plaza and Black Lives Matter Plaza, expects to build both on the resources within the nation’s capital city, including guest speakers of national and international prominence, and the traditions and roots of Texas A&M. Organizers believe the Bush School could become the center of the university’s intellectual activity in Washington, with plans for seminars and conferences on policy issues facing the nation.
On this day
Jan. 12, 1932 — “First woman elected to the United States Senate” via Constitution Daily — A recent widow became the first woman to win election to the United States Senate when Hattie Ophelia Wyatt Caraway defeated two male opponents in a special race in Arkansas. Caraway’s husband, Thaddeus, had been an elected official who represented Arkansas for 10 years in the Senate and eight years in the House. His unexpected death from a blood clot on Nov. 6, 1931, led to his wife’s appointment to the Senate until an election could be held for a permanent replacement two months later. She received the official Democratic Party endorsement against two men, Sam D. Carson and Rex Floyd.
Jan. 12, 1971 — “Congressional Black Caucus organized” via BET — The Congressional Black Caucus was formed to represent the Black members of the United States Congress and to support programs and services that positively influence the African American community. Its founding members included Shirley Chisholm, William L. Clay, George W. Collins, John Conyers, Ronald Dellums, Charles Diggs, Augustus F. Hawkins, Ralph Metcalfe, Parren Mitchell, Robert Nix, Charles B. Rangel, Louis Stokes and Walter Fauntroy.