Gun control coming?
Almost a week after the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, the political rhetoric is still heated. Before traveling to both cities, Donald Trump was described by opponents as a “racist,” “white nationalist,” and other less polite names.
Since the attacks, he has toned down — at least for him — some of his Twitter missives but did tell presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke to “be quiet.” O’Rourke, who formerly represented El Paso in Congress, earlier called Trump a white nationalist and engaged in an expletive-filled rant.
Protesters were there as well, highlighting the deep divisions.
The term “white nationalist” has risen to the surface over the past week. There is no question the El Paso shooter was targeting Hispanics, leaving behind a manifesto that rants against illegal immigration.
With the Dayton shooter apparently holding more liberal views, the focus on white nationalism was mostly on El Paso. Prominent Republicans either agreed there was a problem with the trend or at least the term.
Sen. Marco Rubio compared the ideology to Muslim jihadists, saying both are equally dangerous and need to be “crushed.” Sen. Rick Scott said “White nationalism is a cancer on our country. We all stand united against evil.”
Even Trump said “these sinister ideologies must be defeated” while some accuse him of being one of them.
Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz said, “This manifesto from [the El Paso] shooter uniquely expressed vile ideologies from white supremacy, so there is no hesitation in any political party to call that out.”
Republicans now must confront the issue of gun control, which is gaining steam. Calls for a special session to pass two House bills involving comprehensive background checks would be on the agenda.
Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch touted a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, signed by nearly all House Democrats demanding the bills be taken up immediately. The Bipartisan Background Checks Act passed in February by a 240-190 vote, while the Enhanced Background Checks Act passed 228-198 in March.
“Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans have refused to bring these bills to a vote,” said Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor in an email to constituents. “Their inaction is inexcusable.”
Trump said before leaving for Ohio and Texas that he was “all in favor” of background checks. He then questioned the “political appetite” for bringing those about.
Other pieces of legislation, known as red flag bills that involve confiscating the weapons of those deemed a threat, are also possible (see Rubio below).
The talking points for the rest of the August recess are now written.
GOP praises Venezuela embargo
The Trump administration applied maximum pressure on the Venezuelan regime of President Nicolás Maduro by placing a complete embargo on the socialist country. This amounts to freezing all assets of the government.
This action delighted both Florida Senators and South Florida Republicans within the delegation. Scott seeks to ensure the embargo’s success by repeating his desire for a naval blockade to ensure no Venezuelan oil reaches Cuba.
“We need to understand that Cuba is key to the problems in Venezuela,” Scott told TV Venezuela. “The thugs in Cuba have shown they are violent and dangerous.”
Rubio praised the embargo and guidelines from the Treasury Department designed to guarantee a free flow of aid to the Venezuelan people.
“America was the first country to recognize Interim President Juan Guaidó, and we reiterate our unwavering support to the democratically elected National Assembly,” Rubio said in a news release. “Any country or individual doing business with the Maduro crime family will face sanctions as they are perpetuating the agony of the Venezuelan people.”
Another constant critic of Maduro, Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart, also welcomed the dramatic steps.
“Today’s sanctions are another step toward achieving freedom and restoring democracy and prosperity for the Venezuelan people while protecting the national security interests of the United States,” he said in a statement. “I will continue working with my colleagues and the administration until the Venezuelan people are finally rid of the malignancy that has oppressed them and destabilized the region for far too long.”
Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz also offered support for the sanctions but chided Trump and the Republican-led Senate for not addressing Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelans. In a statement, she said: “It is disingenuous to advance economic sanctions without providing protections for the Venezuelans who have fled here because of the conditions necessitating those sanctions.”
Rubio flags gun bill
Sen. Rubio was among the first Republicans to advocate for passing what is known as a “red flag” law. The Extreme Risk Protection Order and Violence Prevention Act, filed initially in 2018, would allow those deemed to be a threat for a mass shooting to have their firearms confiscated.
Rubio is urging Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham to take up the bill considering last week’s tragedies in El Paso and Dayton. Co-sponsors include Independent Sen. Angus King and Republican Susan Collins from Maine, along with Rhode Island Democrat Jack Reed.
“My bill simply seeks to incentivize states to enact their own risk protection orders, and ultimately, allow those who seek to do harm the ability to get the help they so desperately need,” he wrote.
“To have a chance at preventing tragedies in the future, we must be able to identify dangerous behavior that will enable the appropriate individuals to take legal action to remove firearms from dangerous individuals.”
Following the tragedy in Parkland on Valentine’s Day, 2018, the Florida Legislature passed a red flag law as part of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act. then-Gov. Rick Scott signed the measure into law, at which point the National Rifle Association immediately filed a lawsuit against it.
Graham apparently needs no convincing about the wisdom of the policy but may prefer to push a similar bill he is sponsoring along with Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer described red flag laws as “an ineffective cop-out” for stronger gun control laws.
Senators target Google
A business arrangement between Google and the Chinese communications giant Huawei has drawn the attention of three Republican Senators. Rubio and Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Josh Hawley of Missouri are questioning why Google would work with Huawei to build a “smart speaker” into American telephones that would enable “untrustworthy companies” to snoop on telephone calls.
In a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, the Senators asked what steps the country took to ensure the arrangement would not be detrimental to Americans. Huawei is under heavy American sanctions that cripple its ability to do business in the U.S.
“What due diligence did Google perform before agreeing to help Huawei put a listening device into millions of Americans’ living rooms?” they wrote. “What consideration, if any, did you give to the national security risk posed by Huawei before agreeing to work with them on this sensitive project?”
The Senators accused Google of “putting profits before country.” They also cited reports the project was recently “suspended,” prompting them to ask if it will be resume if the suspension is lifted.
Google was given until August 30 to provide answers.
Rhetoric vs. McConnell escalates
Trump is not the only Republican hearing harsh rhetoric in the wake of the weekend tragedies in Ohio and Texas. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has heard his share of attacks lately, but it has now become far uglier. A group of about two dozen protesters visited his Louisville home, chanting slogans against Trump, while one had some chilling words for McConnell, who was home at the time recovering from a fractured shoulder.
Someone should “stab the m**********er in the heart,” shouted one of those in front of McConnell’s home. Others called him names such as “murder turtle.”
A CNN contributor started a #MassacreMoscowMitch hashtag, but eventually took it down, blaming “bad faith” conservatives.
Florida Democrats have no use for McConnell either, but their rhetoric against the Senate he leads was far more civilized.
Wondered Rep. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach via Twitter:
— Rep. Lois Frankel (@RepLoisFrankel) August 6, 2019
In another tweet, Wasserman Schulz said, “The callous indifference the Republican Senate and Trump are showing toward human life is revolting — from Trump fanning the flames of white supremacist extremism to the Majority Leader calling himself a “Grim Reaper” while blocking gun reform legislation.”
Yoho speaks, Gaetz ‘canceled’
Following the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, the cable channels were looking for members of Congress to appear on their news programs to talk about gun control and other related issues. CNN made a concerted effort to get Republican officials on their schedules, making it a point to list all 49 who turned down their interview request.
CNN anchor Jim Sciutto said 50 were invited, but only one, Gainesville Republican Ted Yoho, accepted their invitation. Yoho said the country needs to come together and speak about the tragedies and solutions “as a nation.”
Those on CNN’s list included Scott, Reps. Vern Buchanan, Mario Diaz-Balart, Neal Dunn, Brian Mast, Bill Posey, Francis Rooney, Ross Spano, Greg Steube, and Daniel Webster.
Fort Walton Beach Republican Gaetz was not on the list but indicated he was willing to talk to CNN. In a tweet, he said the network canceled on him twice:
I was scheduled for @ErinBurnett today. She cancelled.
Then I agreed to go on @AC360. They cancelled later in the day.
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) August 6, 2019
CNN fired back that Gaetz was “declined,” but he provided email trails that indicated he was scheduled for the Cooper show before the attacks occurred.
Crist unveils new memorial
St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist honored Purple Heart recipients this week at the War Veterans Memorial Park near the Bay Pines Veterans Affairs facility in St. Petersburg. The second-term representative unveiled a new memorial honoring those who have received the prestigious award.
Crist unveiled the memorial alongside community leaders Wednesday on the 7th annual Purple Heart Day.
The Purple Heart is a badge of merit awarded to those who are wounded or killed in action. George Washington created the award for recognition of those who fought in the Revolutionary War.
The medal today consists of a bust of Washington and the coat of arms he wore on his uniform.
Pinellas County was officially designated a Purple Heart County in 2017 in recognition of the county’s service to veterans, active-duty military, and their families. The county moved to create a memorial after receiving that designation.
“We can never fully repay our Purple Heart veterans and families for their sacrifice, but we can honor them. Proud to help unveil the new Pinellas Purple Heart Memorial in War Veterans Memorial Park,” Crist wrote on Facebook following the unveiling.
Spano under attack again
A local Democratic Party official has filed two new complaints against Dover Republican Ross Spano. It is the third complaint filed by Lakeland Democratic Women’s Club President Jan Barrow.
Barrow filed what is her second complaint against Spano with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) as well as with the House Office of Congressional Ethics. Both stem from Spano’s 2018 campaign, where he may have violated campaign laws by using proceeds from personal loans to help fund his campaign.
Spano’s campaign indicated the personal loans totaling $180,000 had been repaid. The maximum contribution permitted by an individual to a campaign is $2,700.
Spano’s latest FEC report shows a bank loan of $250,000 which allowed him to repay the previous loans, according to his spokeswoman, Sandi Poreda.
In her latest complaints, Barrow said Spano should have returned the loans he knew to be illegal. Poreda described Barrow’s filings as “obviously politically motivated.”
While the FEC decides what, if any, action it will take, the Office of Congressional Ethics will determine whether it will refer a complaint to the House Committee on Ethics.
Senate Dems back Deutch
In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case that allowing virtually unlimited spending in election cycles did not violate the Constitution. Opponents, mostly Democrats have railed about it ever since.
Someone who has tried to do something about it is Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch, who introduced a constitutional amendment in 2017 and again in 2019. He describes the Citizens United decision as “disastrous.”
From climate change to gun violence, the issues that are most important to the American people are dominated by the will of the bottomless pockets that fund elections rather than the will of voters,” Deutch said when he launched the Democracy for All amendment in January. “We need to overturn Citizens United to get big money out of politics, strengthen our democracy, and restore power to the American people.”
Seven months later, a companion bill in the Senate has emerged with the entire Senate Democratic caucus behind it.
“The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United to eliminate aggregate limits on the amount of money an individual can give to a political campaign is potentially one of the most damaging I have seen since joining the Senate,” said Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware. “The decision allows the wealthiest Americans and the corporations they represent to have even greater influence in our democracy.”
Unlike Florida, the process for amending the U.S. Constitution is far more complicated. For the amendment to move forward, two-thirds of each chamber must vote for it, followed by the ratification by three-fourths (38) of the states.
Never too late
This week, Frankel had the opportunity to thank a veteran from her district for his service nearly seven decades ago. The West Palm Beach Democrat visited the home of 88-year-old Gerald Camen to present three medals to the Korean War veteran.
Frankel gave Camen a Bronze Star medal, along with one for national defense and another for United Nations Service. Frankel was awarded a peck on the cheek from Camen.
“It’s never too late to say ‘thank you’ and to award you what you deserve,” Frankel said to Camen and a group of about 30 who witnessed the event.
During his time in Korea, Camen was wounded when hit by shrapnel but is no big deal to him.
“It’s a nothing,” he said. “I was lucky.”
On this day
August 9, 1974 — President Richard M. Nixon became the first chief executive in history to resign from office. Vice President Gerald R. Ford was sworn in as the 38th President of the United States.
In a speech to the nation from the East Room of the White House, Ford told Americans, “our long national nightmare is over.” Acknowledging that he is the first to become President without being elected Vice president, Ford recognized he did not rise to the efforts through ballots, but “I ask you to confirm me with your prayers.”
August 9, 2012 — As the Republican National Convention prepares to come to Tampa, speculation on who presumptive nominee Mitt Romney will choose as a running mate is intensifying. Among those gaining a lot of attention is freshman Sen. Rubio along with Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.
The excitement for Rubio goes through peaks and valleys, but some seek “a charismatic Hispanic” to join Romney on the ticket. Polls show President Barack Obama holds a double-digit lead among Hispanics in Florida, a must-win state for Romney.