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4 Southern U.S. House Democrats in Trump seats break with party on coronavirus vote

Georgia’s Lucy McBath is only Southern Democrat in a seat Trump carried to vote for $3 trillion spending bill

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Four of the five Southern Democrats trying to hold seats from U.S. House districts that President Donald Trump carried in 2016 have voted against a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package pushed through the House by Democratic leaders late Friday.

The lone Southern Democrat in a Trump seat who voted for the measure was U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, who represents a district in Atlanta’s near northwest suburbs. She came under immediate fire from her leading GOP opponent for supporting “her San Francisco buddy,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in the vote.

Voting no were U.S. Reps. Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, and Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger, both from Virginia.

Five other Democrats who in 2018 flipped Republican-held districts that Trump didn’t carry in 2016 voted for the measure, including Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida, Jennifer Wexton of Virginia, and Colin Allred and Lizzie Fletcher of Texas.

The measure, dubbed as the HEROES Act by its sponsors, passed the House on a mostly party-line vote of 208-199. It would provide nearly $1 billion to state, local and tribal governments that have seen their tax revenues plunge during the coronavirus shutdown, along with $100 billion for farmers who have faced market dislocations.

The measure would also provide another round of $1,200 stimulus payments to Americans, including undocumented immigrants; extend supplemental federal unemployment payments until January; forgive $10,000 in student loan debt for every borrower; provide money for election security; and inject $25 billion into the U.S. Postal Service.

The $3 trillion price tag for the package — along with the provisions on student loan debt, election security, and including undocumented immigrants in stimulus payments — have drawn strong opposition from Republican leaders in the Senate, who have pronounced the plan dead on arrival.

By voting against the bill, the Southern Democrats in Trump districts were trying to avoid being tagged with support for a doomed, partisan spending plan that could be weaponized by their Republican opponents in the fall.

Cunningham, who represents the 1st District in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, called the bill “Washington politics at its worst.”

“While South Carolina families, small business owners, and workers are struggling, now is not the time to advance a partisan wish list or refuse to come to the negotiating table,” Cunningham said in a statement. “At a time when our country is in real trouble, we should not be spending precious time on one-sided solutions that aren’t going anywhere.

Horn, who represents the 5th District in and around Oklahoma City, called the measure “a messaging bill” that lacked bi-partisan support and was “a disservice to the American people, especially during a time of crisis.”

“This is not the time for partisan gamesmanship, this is the time to find common ground and deliver help where it is needed most,” Horn said in a statement.  “In response to COVID-19, our relief efforts must be targeted, timely, and transparent. The HEROES Act does not meet those standards.”

Luria, who represents Virginia’s 2nd district in the Hampton Roads area, noted that the bill would double federal spending this year “and spending of this scale requires careful consideration and input from all members, not just one party.”

“Relief legislation must address the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as pave the path to economic recovery,” Luria said in a statement. “Unfortunately, there are many elements of the bill that are unrelated to addressing Americans’ most immediate needs associated with COVID-19, which distract from addressing our most urgent priorities during this pandemic.”

Spanberger, who represents the 7th District in and around Richmond, said some of her Democratic colleagues “have decided to use this package as an opportunity to make political statements and propose a bill that goes far beyond pandemic relief and has no chance at becoming law, further delaying the help so many need.”

“We must come together to build a targeted, timely relief package that avoids partisan posturing and instead prioritizes combating our nationwide public health emergency, addressing catastrophic unemployment rates, and protecting the security of the next generation,” Spanberger said in a statement.

After the vote, McBath released a statement in which she did not offer a detailed explanation for her support of the bill, beyond saying that she was “fighting” for more funding for hospitals, first responders and the unemployed.

“This pandemic has caused grief for thousands, financial difficulty for millions, and drastic changes to the lives of every American,” she said. “Families across the country agree that more must be done to protect the health and financial well-being of our loved ones.”

But her leading Republican opponent, Karen Handel, charged that McBath “voted with the far left of her party to approve a $3 trillion partisan spending spree on out-of-touch, liberal priorities.”

“Nancy Pelosi has a true and loyal friend in Lucy McBath,” Handel said in a statement posted on Twitter. “When faced with backing the Speaker’s extreme agenda or representing the interests of [her district], McBath chooses her San Francisco buddy every time.”

McBath unseated Handel in 2018 in the 6th District, which Trump narrowly carried in 2016. Handel will face four other GOP candidates in the June 9 primary for the right to take on McBath again in November.

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Joe Biden sweeps to another victory in Florida Democratic presidential primary

Biden has now gone 10-for-10 in Southern primaries; Trump clinches GOP nomination

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

MIAMI (CFP) — Former Vice President Joe Biden easily vanquished his last major Democratic rival, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, in Florida’s Democratic presidential primary Tuesday, in a race overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden took 62 percent of the vote, sweeping every one of the state’s 67 counties. Sanders took just 23 percent.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump’s victory in the state’s Republican primary, against minor opposition, put him across the delegate threshold to clinch his party’s 2020 nomination. The president changed his residency to Florida earlier last year.

Florida election officials opted to proceed with Tuesday’s primary despite the national coronavirus shutdown. The run-up to election day was subdued, with neither Democratic candidate holding any rallies or campaign events. Trump has also called a halt to rallies with his supporters.

Biden speaks via video after Florida win

Biden’s win in Florida was wide and deep, taking his string of Southern victories to 10. His delegate margin over Sanders from the Sunshine State alone was more than 80 delegates.

The closest Sanders came to Biden was in Alachua County, home to the University of Florida. where Biden won by 11 points. But Sanders was pummeled in the heavily Democratic counties in South Florida, failing to clear 20 percent of the vote in either Broward or Palm Beach counties and getting just 22 percent in Miami-Dade.

Despite the concerns about coronavirus, the total turnout of Democratic voters was 1.7 million, about the same as it was in 2016, when Sanders took 33 percent of the vote in a race against Hillary Clinton. However, Florida makes extensive use of early voting that was less impacted by the pandemic.

Sanders, who was in Washington as the Senate considers emergency legislation to deal with the pandemic, did not make any public appearance after the vote.

With traditional election night celebrations canceled, Biden had to make do with a web video shot in his home in Wilmington, Delaware.

“We’ve moved closer to securing the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, and we’re doing it by building a broad coalition that we need to win in November,” Biden said.

As he did when he swept through the primaries a week ago, Biden also out an olive branch to Sanders and his supporters.

“Senator Sanders and I may disagree on tactics, but we share a common vision,” he said. “Our goal as a campaign, and my goal as a candidate for president, is to unify this party and then unify the nation.”

Four Southern states have yet to vote in the presidential race — Georgia, Louisiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

Georgia’s primary, scheduled from March 24, has been moved to May 19; Louisiana’s has been moved from April 4 to June 20; and Kentucky’s has been moved from May 19 to June 23. West Virginia’s primary is still scheduled for May 12.

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Andrew Gillum withdraws from politics, enters rehab after encounter with police in hotel room

Gillum, the Democratic candidate for Florida governor in 2018, was found “inebriated” in a Miami Beach hotel room where drugs were present

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

MIAMI (CFP) — Andrew Gillum, who narrowly lost a bid for Florida governor in 2018, has announced he will withdraw from political life and enter a rehab program for alcoholism after after police found him “inebriated” Friday night in a Miami Beach hotel room where paramedics had been called to treat a man for a drug overdose.

Police found what they believe was crystal methamphetamine in the room with Gillum and his companion, Travis Dyson, who was taken for treatment at a local hospital.

Andrew Gillum

Gillum, 40, was not arrested or charged and denied he was using drugs.

He announced Sunday that he would enter an undisclosed treatment facility for “alcohol abuse,” which he attributed to depression in the wake of his defeat in the governor’s race.

“This has been a wake-up call for me,” he said in a statement. “I am committed to doing the personal work to heal fully and show up in the world as a more complete person”

Gillum said he would be “stepping down from all public facing roles for the foreseeable future,” including working as a political analyst for CNN and leading an organization he set up to help his gubernatorial run, Forward Florida Action, which has been working to register 1 million new voters ahead of the 2020 election.

According to the police report of the incident, paramedics and police were called to a hotel in South Beach by a man identified as Aldo Mejias, who told them he arrived at the room to find Dyson and Gillum “under the influence of an unknown substance.”

Dyson was having trouble breathing, and Gillum was vomiting in the bathroom, the report said.

When police arrived, Gillum “was unable to communicate with officers due to his inebriated state,” according to the report. Gillum left the hotel on his own, police said.

Police found three small baggies of what is believed to be crystal meth in the room, according to the report.

Mejias told police he had given Dyson his credit card to rent the hotel room. The report does not describe what connection, if any, he had with Gillum.

In 2018, Gillum, then mayor of Tallahassee, surged to a surprise win in the Democratic primary for Florida governor. He lost to Republican Governor Ron DeSantis by 34,000 votes in November.

Last year 2019, a federal grand jury subpoenaed records from Forward Florida and Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign. The scope of the federal investigation is still unclear, and no charges have been brought.

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2 Southern Democrats named as House impeachment managers for Trump Senate trial

U.S. Reps. Val Demings of Florida and Sylvia Garcia of Texas among group of 7 managers

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Two Southern U.S. House Democrats — Val Demings of Florida and Sylvia Garcia of Texas — have been selected to present the case for impeaching President Donald Trump in his Senate trial, which begins next week.

The selections were announced Wednesday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as the House approved a resolution to send over two articles of impeachment to the Senate accusing Trump of abusing his power and obstructing Congress.

At a news conference where she unveiled the seven impeachment managers, Pelosi said the “emphasis is on litigators, the emphasis is on comfort level in the courtroom, the emphasis is on making the strongest possible case to protect and defend our Constitution, to seek the truth for the American people.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveils impeachment managers with Sylvia Garcia at far left and Val Demings at far right. (From Washington Post Live)

Demings, 62, who represents an Orlando area district in the House, is the only non-lawyer among the managers. However, she has a background in law enforcement, serving 27 years as a police officer in Orlando, where she worked her way up to chief before retiring in 2011. She was elected to Congress in 2016.

In a statement, Demings said she was “honored to have the opportunity to help defend our republic in this incredible moment in history.”

“I hope that every American who believes in democracy will take a stand,” she said. “The president has been given an incredible responsibility and opportunity to serve the American people. Instead, he has abandoned his oath of office and the Constitution, choosing to put his interest before the national interest.”

Garcia, 69, who represents a Houston-based district, is one of just two freshmen House members selected as a manager.  She is a former municipal judge in Houston.

In a tweet, Garcia said she was “honored” to be named as a manager.

“The Constitution will be our guide,” she said. “We won’t waver in our commitment to democracy. And we’ll present the truth to the American people.”

The impeachment articles allege that Trump withheld military aide from Ukraine in an effort to pressure Ukrainian officials to launch investigations into a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, and then obstructed efforts by Congress to investigate those allegations.

The president has insisted that he did nothing improper in urging Ukraine to investigate possible corruption.

While the prospects for an impeachment conviction in the Republican-controlled Senate would be appear dim, Demings said she has “not written off the Senate.”

“Each senator still has the power to do the right thing,” she said in her statement. “I know that as each senator considers whether to side with justice or corruption, the voices of the American people will matter.”

The other impeachment managers are Adam Schiff of California, Jerry Nadler and Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Zoe Lofgren of California, and Jason Crow of Colorado.

Schiff chairs the House Intelligence Committee, which took the lead in investigating the Ukrainian controversy, and Nadler chairs the House Judiciary Committee, which drew up the articles of impeachment. Crow joins Garcia as the only freshmen legislators among the group.

Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the Senate trial, which will operate under rules passed by the Senate. A two-thirds majority — 67 senators — is required to convict Trump and remove him from office, something that has never happened before in American history.

Trump is just the third president in history to be impeached by the House, following Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998; neither was convicted by the Senate. The House was preparing to impeach Richard Nixon before he resigned in 1974.

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10 Southern U.S. House Democrats in seats flipped in 2018 all vote to impeach

List of supporters includes 5 Democrats who represent districts Trump carried in 2016

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

WASHINGTON (CFP) — All 10 Southern U.S. House Democratic freshmen who flipped seats in 2018 voted in favor of impeaching President Donald Trump Wednesday, including five who represent districts the president carried in 2016.

The impeachment vote is likely to become a pivotal issue next year as these Democrats try to hang on to their seats against Republican challengers, in an election where Trump is at the top of the ballot.

After more than 10 hours of often acrimonious debate, all 50 Southern Democrats in the House voted for both of the articles of impeachment, which charge Trump with abusing his power and obstructing Congress.

Southern Republicans stuck with the president, with all 102 voting no.

The Democrats from districts Trump carried who voted yes were Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria of Virginia, Lucy McBath of Georgia, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, and Joe Cunningham of South Carolina.

All of them had announced prior to the vote that they would support impeachment; McBath had already voted in favor in the House Judiciary Committee.

The two articles of impeachment were also supported by five other Democrats who flipped GOP-held seats in 2018 in districts that Trump did not carry — Colin Allred and Lizzie Fletcher of Texas, Jennifer Wexton of Virginia, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala of Florida.

Two other Democrats who hold seats the GOP is targeting in 2020 — Stephanie Murphy and Charlie Crist from Florida — also voted for impeachment.

The lone Republican in a Southern seat carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, Will Hurd of Texas, who is retiring in 2020, voted no, as did 13 other Southern Republicans who have announced they won’t seek another term next year.

The two articles of impeachment now move to the Senate for a trial, which is expected to begin in January. Trump will be removed from office if two-thirds of the senators vote to convict him on either article.

The final vote on the first article of impeachment was 230 to 197, with just two Democrats — Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey and Collin Peterson of Minnesota voting no. No Republicans voted yes.

The second article of impeachment passed 229 to 198, with another Democrat — Jared Golden of Maine — joining the GOP in voting no.

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