The House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump on Wednesday for inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and many members of Congress were in the unusual position of having witnessed the events firsthand just a week earlier. But despite the close-up view, Democrats and Republicans had very different takes on what happened and who was to blame. The dichotomy was illustrated in speeches made in the House chamber during the lead up to the impeachment vote. The opposing rhetoric — emblematic of deep political divisions across America — highlights the challenges ahead as we try to mend the damaged nation.
Here are what some Florida representatives had to say from the House floor, edited for length.
I rise to support the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump for seditious acts against America. ... His act shows contempt for the rule of law, the Constitution and the foundation of any democracy — a peaceful transition of power. President Trump is a clear and present danger to American lives and democracy and leaves us no choice but to immediately remove him from office.
— Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston
The attack on the Capitol and the Congress was the single most depraved betrayal of the U.S. Constitution ever committed by a president. ... Violence during the transfer of power, Confederate flags, anti-Semitic paraphernalia desecrated this Capitol. ... Donald Trump’s defilement of this Capitol will not stand. It demands impeachment now.
— Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa
I was in the gallery right behind us when the Capitol was breached. Then domestic terrorists breached the rotunda. I heard the loud sounds of gunshots through this sacred chamber and my last images were brave Capitol Police, guns drawn to protect us. This was the first armed insurrection in over 200 years. And who incited this insurrection? Donald J. Trump. Our resolution states these protests were encouraged by him. He urged millions of his followers to come and “stop the steal,” which is a lie, and let’s say this now for the record and for the ages, Joe Biden won. For this high crime, nearly ripping our country aback, we should be removing him by the 25th Amendment or he should be impeached.
— Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando (speaking the night before in the House chamber)
I rise with a very simple question. On Jan. 6, thousands broke the law by taking siege of our Capitol here with us inside. Has any one of those individuals who brought violence on this Capitol been brought here to answer whether they did that because of our president? (Mast then stood silently at the lectern for 30 seconds.) It appears I will receive no answer.
— Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City
Now more than ever in our lifetimes, we are a divided nation. One of the reasons — the resist movement, which has harassed, harangued and otherwise denigrated the president since the second he became the nominee. While his sins may be different than yours or mine, they are clearly not treasonous. ... I beseech my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, if you truly want our nation to heal, vote no on this resolution. It reeks of nothing more than revenge and sets a dangerous precedent.
— Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge
The president ... created soaring highs for our economy, rising wages before the pandemic, 400 miles of wall to stop the caravans, who drew down troops in the Middle East and showed empathy for the forgotten men and women of our country. It’s why so many people love him so much. … This president has faced unprecedented hatred and resistance from big media, big tech, and big egos, from congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle. … I denounce political violence from all ends of the spectrum, but make no mistake, the left in America has incited far more political violence than the right.
— Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach
For three years, Democratic members of this body and the mainstream media lied to the American people that the Trump campaign colluded and conspired with Russia. For years after an exhaustive investigation there was no evidence. Should Democratic members of this body resign for lying to the American people repeatedly and sowing division? ... The president didn’t even mention violence last Wednesday, much less provoke or incite it. There was no crime committed and therefore no basis for impeachment. You have created a mockery out of the impeachment process, and I urge all my colleagues to stand against it and fight this latest fraud being perpetrated against the American people by the radical left.
— Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota
Florida’s congressional delegation voted along party lines, with one member not voting.
Democrats Yes: Castor, Crist, Demings, Deutch, Frankel, Hastings, Lawson, Murphy, Soto, Wasserman Schultz, Wilson
Republicans No: Bilirakis, Buchanan, Cammack, Diaz-Balart, Donalds, Dunn, Franklin, Gaetz, Gimenez, Mast, Posey, Rutherford, Salazar, Steube, Waltz
Not voting: Webster
Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, and editorial writers John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news