Don’t Mess with Matt
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R), the Yosemite Sam of Florida politics, has extended a warm, heartfelt threat to the Iranian government after President Trump himself threatened to shoot at Iranian military vessels that pose a threat to U.S. forces in the Middle East.
Gaetz says that if Iranian aggression continues, they will be met with the same fate that their terrorist amigo Soleimani met back in January. READ MORE
More Money Coming…Finally
After blocking supplemental COVID-19 stimulus funding, House Democrats finally came to their senses and voted to send more money via the PPP to cash-strapped businesses being impacted by the spreading virus. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D), whose congressional district is one of the most affected by the virus, voted against the measure. READ MORE
This is the same AOC who wants people to boycott their jobs once the work restrictions are lifted. READ MORE
Nikki is still upset…
Still bothered about Gov. Ron DeSantis shunning her from the Re-Open Florida Task Force, AG Commissioner Nikki Friend (D) has decided to throw herself into discussion anyways. Fried has offered up a list of recommendations to the task force in a 10-page report. Of these recommendations, several issues echo the Democratic “wish list” that national Democrats have been pressing while they held up stimulus funding
“As the Constitutional officer responsible for overseeing our state’s agriculture industry, and as your colleague on the Florida Cabinet, independently elected by the people of the great state of Florida, I am obliged to provide you with the following recommendations to be considered by the Re-Open Florida Task Force,” reads the report’s opening letter from Commissioner Fried to the Governor. “Without question, Florida agriculture is critical to feeding our families, is an essential part of our economy, and is central to our 500 years of history and heritage.”
Meanwhile, Attorney Ashley Moody, who is on the task force, is suing advertisers and businesses who are using the pandemic to prey upon Floridians with “Fake” stimulus check gimmicks. READ MORE
Starting, maintaining, and growing a small business is tough. Getting your ideas off the ground, finding the right staff, managing financials and handling day-to-day operations while you are also building a business, present challenges that on their own can prevent some entrepreneurs from starting their own company. In Florida, however, we have another, much more difficult problem to contend with: lawsuits. READ MORE
Venezuela and U.S. Oil Wins Big
President Trump promised to help the ailing energy sector. The first step was to help U.S. oil companies stave off pressure from Russia and China in Venezuela. This is “Yuuuuge!” READ MORE
The numbers are flattening…
Here is a snapshot of the most up-to-date numbers from the Florida Dept. of Health:
Visit The Floridian
“Trump administration renews key oil industry license in Venezuela” by The Floridian’s Javier Manjarres – With the U.S. oil industry treading in unchartered and uncertain economic waters as a result of the spread of the Coronavirus and a price war initiated by Russia, the Trump administration has taken several bold steps to follow through with their promise help the ailing energy sector. In addition to pulling off what was nothing less than a coup when he convinced Russia and Saudi Arabia to put their difference aside and cut oil production, President Trump pushed for and got a $2 trillion stimulus package to help small businesses and Americans during the shutdown of the U.S. economy. The U.S. Treasury has renewed a license that allows Chevron Corp. and U.S. oilfield service providers Halliburton, Schlumberger, Baker Hughes, and Weatherford International, to continue working in Venezuela, conducting limited maintenance of essential activities.
“Ocasio-Cortez Votes Against Coronavirus Relief Aid For Her Ailing Constituents” by The Floridian’s Mona Salama – Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) was the lone House Democrat on Thursday to vote against the $484 billion coronavirus relief package that provides additional funds for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that ran out of money two weeks ago dedicated to small businesses; as well as aid to hospitals and to expand coronavirus testing. The House overwhelmingly passed the package 388-5-1. The measure, which the Senate passed unanimously on Tuesday, provides an immediate $310 billion to replenish the PPP that provides forgivable loans in the form of a grant to small businesses devastated by the pandemic. Roughly $60 billion of the additional PPP funds would be directed to rural and minority-owned companies. It also provides another $60 billion for an economic disaster-relief program, $75 billion for hospitals and health care facilities to address coronavirus expenses and lost revenue and $25 billion to facilitate and increased coronavirus testing.
“House Passes $484 Billion Coronavirus Relief Package” by The Floridian’s Mona Salama – The House on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to pass the $484 billion coronavirus relief bill that includes additional money for the small businesses loan program, as well as aid to hospitals and to expand testing, sending the fourth bipartisan coronavirus bill to President Trump desk for his signature. The vote was 388-5, with one member, Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) voted present. Four Republicans who voted no were Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Ken Buck of Colorado, Jody Hice of Georgia and Thomas Massie of Kentucky. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York was the only Democrat to vote against the bill. Ocasio-Cortez, who represents a district that has been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus, argued that the series of relief packages passed by Congress have not going far enough to help people in need and the current measure doesn’t have a safeguards to ensure mom-and-pop businesses receive such funding before big companies like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Shake Shack.
“OPINION: Effects of Liability Cases Are Felt Beyond Businesses” by Michelle Smith via The Floridian – Starting, maintaining, and growing a small business is tough. Getting your ideas off the ground, finding the right staff, managing financials and handling day-to-day operations while you are also building a business, present challenges that on their own can prevent some entrepreneurs from starting their own company. In Florida, however, we have another, much more difficult problem to contend with: lawsuits. Lawyers across Florida have been misusing our courts to fill their pockets at the expense of local businesses for years, and it’s slowing down the entire state economy as a result. Among the toughest types of lawsuits for local businesses to deal with are referred to as “premises liability” suits, meaning that business owners are liable for wrongdoings or injuries that happen in their place of business, often regardless of whether the incident was legitimate or even preventable in the first place. At their core, many premises liability cases fail to recognize that it is impossible to prevent every potential accident from happening.
“Gaetz threatens Iranians with same fate Soleimani met” by The Floridian’s Javier Manjarres – One of President Donald Trump’s staunchest supporters in the U.S. Congress, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R), appeared on Fox News’ “Hannity” show where he threatened Iranian officials with death, telling them that if they continued threatening and attacking U.S. assets in around the world, President Trump would help facilitate a meeting with them and their old friend General Soleimani. You can count on Trump making that happen. “So, the message is very clear to any Iranian official that would engage in terrorism: Either get your act together or get prepared to meet General Soleimani,” said Rep. Gaetz. Here is Gaetz’s full remarks: “[A]s it relates to Iran, Sean, the United States doesn’t seek a war with Iran,” he said. “Such a war would certainly be lost with Iran, but the winner would undoubtedly be China. And under President Trump’s doctrine, we are not going to engage in endless foreign wars, but we will take out terrorists. So, the message is very clear to any Iranian unofficial that would engage in terrorism: Either get your act together or get prepared to meet General Soleimani…”
“Florida AG Ashley Moody sues “fake” stimulus check advertisers” by The Floridian’s Javier Manjarres – Florida’s Attorney General Ashley Moody is putting her foot down on the shady and deceptive way some businesses are exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic for fiscal gain. Moody’s Consumer Protection Division has filed a lawsuit and motion for a temporary injunction against Traffic Jam Events, LLC and it’s owner David J. Jeansone for allegedly sending out tens of thousands of letters with Monopoly-style fake federal stimulus $3,000 checks to lure Floridians into attending an automobile tent sale. The checks look as if the government has made that money available to the recipients of the checks. The automobile that supplied the cars for sale and hired the advertising company, MK Automotive, Inc., is “cooperating with the investigation and has entered an assurance of voluntary compliance with the Attorney General’s Office,” according to Moody’s office.
“Rick Scott Urges Government Oversight in Coronavirus-related funding for Hospitals” by The Floridian’s Daniel Molina – Florida Senator Rick Scott (R) directed a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, asking for information regarding the agency’s plan to oversee and administer Coronavirus-related funding for health care providers. The Florida lawmaker also asked to ensure that taxpayer dollars are effectively being used, noting that health care providers need to be given the proper resources to keep Americans healthy. In the letter, the former Governor of Florida stated that “the protection of taxpayer dollars is one of the most important roles of the federal government, and we must work to ensure that taxpayer funds are spent responsibly and that assistance is only provided to those in need.” He also detailed that “this year’s federal budget deficit will be the largest in the history of our nation, in excess of the cumulative deficits for the first 200 years of our country’s existence.” Governor Ron DeSantis (R) has already signaled that the sunshine state is ready to open up again albeit in a slow process.
“Lois Frankel calls Trump racist for suspending immigration” by The Floridian’s Javier Manjarres – When President Donald Trump announced that he was signing an Executive Order to “temporarily suspend immigration into the United States” in order to protect the lives and jobs of “our GREAT American Citizens,” congressional Democrats were appalled and called Trump’s actions “racist” and xenophobic. “In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States,” tweeted President Trump. No sooner than the announcement was made, Florida Congresswoman Lois Frankel (D) responded by stating that the Trump administration “always falls back on xenophobia” when one of their plans fail or slightly misses its mark. “Blaming immigrants will not keep Americans safe from #COVID-19,” tweeted Rep. Frankel “We need tests & leadership, not finger-pointing & thinly-veiled racism.”
“Florida coronavirus update for Friday: State death toll nears 1,000 out of about 30K cases” by Orlando Sentinel Staff – Florida’s coronavirus death toll is approaching 1,000 as the state added another 60 deaths on Thursday. The state now has 29,648 cases and 987 fatalities, with more than 1,000 cases added on Thursday. Nationwide, there are over 869,000 cases and close to 50,000 deaths. Worldwide, there are over 2.7 million cases and over 191,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center. Central Florida has 3,480 cases, the most in Orange County at 1,274, followed by Osceola’s 449, Volusia’s 420, Polk’s 379, Seminole’s 340, Brevard’s 235, Lake’s 217 and Sumter’s 166. (See details on all Central Florida cases here). South Florida still accounts for 59 percent of the state’s total, with 17,573 cases among Miami-Dade (10,588), Broward (4,431) and Palm Beach (2,554) counties.
“How is Florida’s stay-at-home order playing in the race to unseat Charlie Crist?” by Tampa Bay Times’ Kirby Wilson and Steve Contorno – The Republican candidates vying to unseat U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist are not running the race they expected. Instead of campaigning on the robust economy that defined much of President Trump’s presidency, or railing against the president’s enemies in Congress, the candidates have been forced to focus on the coronavirus. But the rapidly evolving health and economic crisis brought about by the disease is becoming more political by the day. A small but vocal minority of mostly conservative voices — including, at times, Trump himself — are calling for a reopening of the country against the advice of public health officials. That creates an interesting dilemma for the candidates running to win the Republican nomination in the race for Florida’s 13th District. Do they call for an immediate end to the state’s Safer at Home order? Or stand by the state’s popular Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, as he considers a more deliberate lifting of the stay-at-home measure?
“Reopening Florida task force hears hospitals’ pleas to resume elective surgery soon” by Miami Herald’s Lawrence Mower and Jeffrey S. Solochek – Florida hospitals want to start performing elective surgeries when Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order prohibiting them expires in two weeks, they told a task force on Thursday. The hospitals statewide have lost an estimated $400 million to $500 million in revenue as they set aside beds for COVID-19 cases that haven’t materialized. Each COVID-19 patient costs hospitals an estimated $6,000 to $8,000, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration. Bringing back elective surgeries, which are lucrative procedures for hospitals, could help pad their bottom lines. Elective surgeries, such as knee replacements or kidney stone removals, are procedures that can be scheduled in advance, but that doesn’t mean they are optional or unnecessary. “The pandemic has had a major impact on finances of institutions like Tampa General,” said John Couris, the hospital’s president and CEO. “It is not sustainable for the obvious reasons.”
“DeSantis’ task force to reopen Florida under pressure to deliver report Friday” by Local 10’s Glenna Milberg – The pressure is on as the “Re-Open Florida” task force meets to deliver a report Gov. Ron DeSantis has asked to have Friday. Four working groups, and four phone meetings, laying the groundwork for how to open the state for business and stop the economic hemorrhaging brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. “If someone happens to think something is not essential, I can tell you the person in that industry whose job is in jeopardy sure thinks it’s essential to them,” DeSantis said. As businesses restart, the task force wants masks worn in public areas. They’re also considering asking workers to take their own temperatures before coming in. So far there has been no hard date for a reopening decided. The task force is considering everything from healthcare to tourism to business to education. And the discussion goes beyond just opening businesses and relaxing stay-at-home orders.
“House approves $480 billion package to help small businesses and hospitals, expand Covid-19 testing” by CNN’s Clare Foran, Haley Byrd and Manu Raju – The House of Representatives voted Thursday to approve a roughly $480 billion package to deliver aid to small businesses and hospitals and expand Covid-19 testing, the latest attempt by lawmakers to blunt the devastating impact of the pandemic. The vote was 388-5. The measure passed the Senate earlier this week and will now go to President Donald Trump, who has expressed support for the legislation and indicated that he will sign it. The total price tag of the bill is approximately $484 billion. It will add to the already historic levels of spending to deal with the pandemic by authorizing an additional $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, which was set up to help small businesses struggling from the economic deep freeze triggered by coronavirus. Funding for the program ran dry earlier this month, prompting an outcry from the business community. In addition, the legislation provides $75 billion for hospitals and health care providers to address coronavirus expenses and lost revenue and $25 billion to facilitate and expand Covid-19 testing.
“Michigan Gov. Whitmer faces protest outside her home as lawmakers mull curbing her powers” by Fox News’ Dom Calicchio – Protesters gathered outside the home of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday — the same day reports emerged that she plans to extend the state’s coronavirus stay-at-home order by two weeks until May 15. The demonstration, dubbed “Operation Queen’s Castle,” featured an image of Whitmer wearing a crown, FOX 2 of Detroit reported. “We wanted to send Gretchen Whitmer a message, we didn’t want to surrender our liberties just for a little temporary safety,” Brian Pannebecker, who helped organize the protest, told the station. Meanwhile, the Michigan Legislature has scheduled a special session for Friday with the goal of creating an oversight committee to review Whitmer’s coronavirus orders and possibly strip her of some of her powers, the Detroit Free Press reported. Critics have accused Whitmer, a 48-year-old first-term Democratic governor, of overstepping her authority with a series of measures intended to stem the spread of coronavirus in the state. April 9 revisions to her initial stay-at-home order included bans on visiting friends and relatives or traveling to vacation homes, and halts on sales of items such as furniture and gardening supplies.
“Lawmakers Set to Take Gloves Off in Next Coronavirus Aid Fight” by WSJ’s Natalie Andrews and Lindsay Wise – With the passage of the latest coronavirus economic-relief bill, lawmakers are now turning to the next round. But Democrats, Republicans and the Trump administration have sharp policy differences over what should be in the package—and whether it is needed at all. Since the beginning of March, Congress has approved bills for coronavirus research, expanding paid leave and $2.2 trillion for economic aid, topped off with $484 billion in additional relief focused on small businesses and hospitals on Thursday. The unprecedented string of bills was driven by consensus among party leaders who tamped down dissent within their caucuses as they worked out deals with the White House. This next round of talks promises to be tougher, with lawmakers raring for a fight over more state, local and tribal aid money, payments to households and businesses, mail-in voting, workplace-safety standards and other contentious issues, amid re-emerging concerns about deficit spending. Complicating matters: President Trump is eager to expand the stimulus menu, backing measures such as infrastructure spending and a payroll tax cut.
“The Cold Calculations Governors Will Have to Make Before Reopening” by NY Times’ Peter Baker – How many deaths are acceptable to reopen the country before the coronavirus is completely eradicated? “One is too many,” President Trump insists, a politically safe formulation that any leader would instinctively articulate. But that is not the reality of Mr. Trump’s reopen-soon approach. Nor for that matter will it be the bottom line for even those governors who want to go slower. Until there is a vaccine or a cure for the coronavirus, the macabre truth is that any plan to begin restoring public life invariably means trading away some lives. The question is how far will leaders go to keep it to a minimum. Some of the more provocative voices on the political right say that with tens of millions of Americans out of work and businesses collapsing, some people must be sacrificed for the greater good of restoring the economy quickly. To many, that sounds unthinkable, but less inflammatory experts and policymakers also acknowledge that there are enormous costs to keeping so much of the work force idle, with many of the unemployed struggling to pay for food, shelter or medical care for other health challenges.
“Biden says he thinks Trump will try to delay the presidential election” by CNN’s Kate Sullivan – Former Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday he believes President Donald Trump will try to delay November’s presidential election. “Mark my words: I think he is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held,” Biden said at a virtual fundraiser, according to a pool report. Biden has maintained the November election should not be postponed and has previously made similar comments. Trump cannot unilaterally change the date of the election in November, as it has been set into law by federal statute and Congress would have to OK such a move. However, that has not stopped some Democrats from worrying that he will try to do so, and voters had asked the previously large field of Democratic presidential candidates if they had concerns that Trump would try to delay the election or refuse to leave office if he were defeated in November. CNN has reached out to Trump’s campaign for comment on Biden’s accusation. Fears over the coronavirus and its spread have increased concerns over how the election will be held safely, with new calls to expand access to voting and voting by mail. Biden said Congress needs to ensure that states have sufficient funding for expanded voting options during the pandemic.
“Trump says he thinks Kim Jong Un health report is ‘incorrect’” by Fox News’ Brie Stimson – President Trump Thursday said he thinks a report that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be “gravely ill” after surgery is “incorrect.” “I’m hearing they used old documents,” Trump said when asked about Kim during the White House’s daily coronavirus press briefing. “I hear the report was an incorrect report. I hope it was an incorrect report.” Trump on Tuesday said he wished Kim well but stressed he didn’t know the veracity of the report, adding that he doesn’t give much “credence” to CNN’s journalism. He said at the time he might contact North Korean officials about Kim but Thursday told reporters he “didn’t want to say” if he had. “We have a good relationship with North Korea, I have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un and I hope he’s OK,” Trump said. “I think it was a fake report done by CNN,” he added. The Daily NK — an online news periodical based in Seoul and published in Korean, which is run mostly by North Korean defectors — reported that Kim, 36, is said to be recovering from surgery at a local villa. The report also said Kim has been in poor health due to “heavy smoking, obesity and overwork,” according to a translated version of the Daily NK’s report, citing an unnamed source.
“States See No Immediate Sign of Financial Help” by WSJ’s Scott Calvert and David Harrison – States across the country face an increasingly grim financial outlook due to the coronavirus pandemic shutdown—with no near-term sign the federal government will come riding to the rescue. House lawmakers on Thursday approved another round of aid, but there was no direct help for states. The $484 billion bill, which the Senate approved Tuesday, replenishes two depleted small-business relief programs, offers additional assistance to hospitals and funds an expansion of testing capacity nationwide. States are hemorrhaging money responding to the public-heath crisis at the same time tax revenues are cratering because of widespread stay-at-home orders and business closures. Some governors have already frozen or cut billions of dollars in spending. The nation’s governors are pushing Congress to give states $500 billion to make up for lost revenues. The bipartisan National Governors Association is also asking Congress to help with health-care costs, unemployment-insurance payments and access to test kits and protective equipment.
“Maxine Waters says her sister is dying of coronavirus” by CNN’s Allison Gordon – Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat and chairwoman of the influential House Financial Services Committee, said Thursday that her sister is dying of coronavirus in a hospital in St Louis, Missouri. “I’m going to take a moment to dedicate this legislation to my dear sister who is dying in a hospital in St. Louis, Missouri right now, infected by the coronavirus,” Waters said on the House floor ahead of a vote on a package worth more than $480 billion in Covid-19 response. While speaking, Waters lowered her face mask to be heard, one of multiple lawmakers seen wearing face masks Thursday. Waters was speaking in support of the already passed Paycheck Protection Program and the pending Health Care Enhancement Act, which is expected to pass a House vote on Thursday. President Donald Trump has publicly supported the bill, indicating he will sign it when it reaches the Oval Office. This legislation would provide $370 billion in funding for small business loans and $100 billion for hospitals and additional coronavirus testing.
“Michigan Democrat facing censure for ‘thank you’ to Trump should join GOP, president says” by Fox News’ Dom Calicchio – President Trump on Thursday night shared some advice for Michigan state Rep. Karen Whitsett, the Democrat who recently survived a bout with coronavirus – only to now face possible censure by some fellow Democrats. “Should join the Republican Party!” the president wrote on Twitter. Trump was responding to a message posted by Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, who retweeted a Detroit News story reporting that Whitsett was facing a possible rebuke for having said “thank you” to President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence during a recent White House meeting. Whitsett had thanked Trump and Pence because she attributed her recovery from the coronavirus to having taken the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine — a treatment Trump has frequently supported during White House news briefings. The congresswoman said the drug had “saved my life.”
“Supreme Court Expands Conditions for Deporting Lawful Immigrants With Criminal Records” by WSJ’s Jess Bravin – The Supreme Court widened the grounds for deporting lawful immigrants with criminal records in a Thursday ruling. The court split 5-4 along ideological lines, with conservatives in the majority, in interpreting a 1996 law laying out the conditions for deportation. The result means that Andre Barton, a lawful immigrant who has lived in the U.S. since childhood, faces mandatory removal to his native Jamaica. “Removal of a lawful permanent resident from the United States is a wrenching process, especially in light of the consequences for family members,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote for the court, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch. “Congress made a choice, however, to authorize removal of noncitizens—even lawful permanent residents—who have committed certain serious crimes.” The case turned on whether the term “inadmissible,” as it appears in the statute, can refer to a green-card holder who already lives in the U.S., as the government argued, or only to someone seeking admission to the U.S.
And then he sinks lower.
If Trump is punishing scientists who insist our coronavirus response be based on science, not hype, he is putting more lives in danger.
Congress must find out.
Coronavirus this, Coronavirus that…