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Florida Republicans explain why they attended — or missed — Inauguration Day

Florida’s Republicans show off different rationales for their involvement with Inauguration Day.
The view from the podium where Joe Biden will speak after being sworn-in during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.
The view from the podium where Joe Biden will speak after being sworn-in during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. [ ANDREW HARNIK | AP ]
Published Jan. 20, 2021|Updated Jan. 20, 2021

In these divided times, even the most basic gestures of public service, such as attending the inauguration of the president from the opposition party, must be explained.

Here’s Florida’s Rick Scott, who was one of eight U.S. senators to vote against certifying the Electoral College results of Joe Biden’s victory, explaining to his followers why he attended today’s ceremony.

He later offered encouragement to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Alas, the era of good feelings didn’t last long. Five minutes later Scott criticized Biden’s administration for including the West Bank and Gaza in the name for the U.S. Ambassador to Israel.

For other top Republicans, the busy work of governing gets in the way. Though Sen. Marco Rubio did not vote against certification, he often brandished his support for outgoing President Donald Trump, such as when he cheered a MAGA caravan that swarmed a Biden bus during last year’s campaign.

Rubio was in D.C., but said he wouldn’t attend the ceremony.

He did offer his well wishes, though.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, an ardent Trump ally who spread reckless and false speculation that antifa was behind the violence at the Capitol two weeks ago, said he watched from afar out of a broader sense to avert more unrest.

Thirteen Florida Republican members of Congress voted against certifying Biden’s victory, even after the Capitol insurrection. Gaetz was one of them. So was Rep. Byron Donalds, who said he did attend because he was motivated by a larger altruistic purpose.

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Newly elected Rep. Maria Salazar of Miami, who opposed Trump’s impeachment but missed the vote to certify Biden’s victory, said she didn’t attend the ceremony because of her doctor’s advice.

Rep. Brian Mast also voted against impeachment and certifying the results, but has criticized Trump for his actions surrounding the Jan. 6 riot, which he said it didn’t rise in importance to warrant the invoking of the 25th Amendment. He attended, too, but it didn’t sound like he was celebrating. Here’s a statement issued from his office:

Today I attended the inauguration of President Joe Biden with the backdrop of a dystopian-like Washington, D.C. where military outnumbered civilians by an unthinkable magnitude. We must be better than this as a nation — building our country up through a debate of words and ideas rather than tearing it down with violence.

I did not vote for President Biden, but I am committed to working with him when we can find areas of agreement, especially on the issues that are most important to me personally: fixing Florida’s water issues and serving our veterans. President Donald Trump secured a historic increase in funding for Everglades restoration, and I will hold President Biden accountable to building on this legacy. Likewise, when I disagree with President Biden, I will say so — loudly. His embrace of socialist policies and efforts to appease the radical left, if followed through on, would lead our country down a disastrous path.

Despite the divisions that exist in our nation right now, I do believe there is still more that unites us than divides us, and there is certainly no country I would rather call home!

Florida Democrats, meanwhile, didn’t have to explain themselves. Many who attended simply posted photos of themselves at the event.

Later, Castor tweeted what she said was on the policy horizon.

Meanwhile, back in Florida the state’s top Republican officials were mostly silent.

“Encouraging to see so many of our faith-led government leaders worshiping together this morning, and I pray along with them for the future of our nation,” Attorney General Ashley Moody tweeted. Last year, she formally supported efforts to subvert the results of the presidential election, an effort that was part of an unsuccessful legal challenge that helped inspire those who rioted at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Like Moody, Gov. Ron DeSantis supported taking steps last year to overturn the election results. But he offered no statement on Biden’s inauguration.

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