TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) — The shooting massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando continued to reverberate in Washington, D.C., this week, as Democrats staged a daylong “sit-in” on the floor of the U.S. House calling for a vote on gun legislation.
Specifically, the Democrats said they wanted the Republicans to allow the chamber to debate a “no fly, no buy” bill that would bar people on terrorist watch lists from purchasing firearms. The House GOP leadership didn’t immediately give in to the demands, and the incident made news across the country.
While both sides disputed whether the sit-in was a publicity stunt or a justified protest, many Florida Democrats were eager to let their constituents know that they were part of the demonstration.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, considering a run for governor in 2018 after redistricting squeezed her out of a North Florida congressional seat, was one of several House members who sent an email blast to reporters with her remarks — helpfully preserved on YouTube, since Republicans had the C-SPAN cameras in the House turned off. Graham on Wednesday also tweeted out a selfie from the protest with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
During a conference call with reporters to discuss U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s decision to run for re-election, Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy made sure to mention that he was stepping out of the protest for the call. Congressman Alan Grayson, Murphy’s primary opponent for the opportunity to take on the Republican incumbent, also was among those making certain that reporters had his remarks.
One of the last House members to speak during the sit-in was Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who will run in a North Florida district because of redistricting but whose old seat includes Orlando. During a speech Thursday, Brown called the shooting and its fallout “an awakening for the United States Congress.”
“I am so grateful to the members of the United States Congress and how they have stood up for the people of Orlando, Florida,” Brown said.
Even candidates who couldn’t be involved in the protests issued statements in support. Annette Taddeo, a Democrat running against Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo in a South Florida seat, used the sit-in as an opportunity to bash Curbelo in their swing district.
Democrats, though, aren’t alone in promoting some version of the “no fly, no buy” legislation. Not long before the sit-in began, Republican Congressman David Jolly took to the House floor to promote his own version of the legislation. Jolly’s version would allow judges to review the decision to bar an individual on a watch list from purchasing a gun.
“Let’s inject some radical common sense into this debate,” Jolly said. “We can ensure ‘no fly, no buy’ while also ensuring due process and the Second Amendment.”
Of course, Jolly is distinct from his GOP colleagues in at least one crucial way. Thanks to redistricting, he is running against former Gov. Charlie Crist in an overwhelmingly Democratic district, one where the sit-in probably played relatively well.
Murphy, meanwhile, had other problems to deal with Wednesday. In a scalding report entitled “The Making of Patrick Murphy,” CBS Miami argued that the congressman’s resume was a mixture of exaggeration and misleading statements about his time as a certified public accountant and self-proclaimed small businessman.
“Murphy’s rise is extraordinary because of how little he seems to have accomplished to get here,” according to a version of the report on the local station’s website.
For example, the station noted that Murphy obtained his CPA license in Colorado — despite having never lived in the state — after multiple attempts to pass the test. Murphy’s campaign disputed the initial report about the number of times he took the test or portions of it. The report also cast doubt on whether the congressman’s small business experience had been mythologized when he ran for office.
Murphy’s campaign struck back hard, with a sometimes point-by-point rebuttal of the report that even delved into a semantics lesson about the meaning of the term “small business.”
“CBS Miami’s deeply false story is completely inaccurate in several claims,” campaign manager Josh Wolf said.
The campaign took particularly pains to point out material it said was wrong but would “surely appear in Republican attack ads.” Sure enough, GOP groups were already zeroing in on the CBS Miami report to underscore their longstanding claims about “Privileged Patrick” and the perks of his comfortable upbringing.
In one of multiple emails about the report, the National Republican Senatorial Committee giddily said reporter Jim DeFede “blew the doors off of Murphy’s web of deceit, exposing Privileged Patrick for multiple false, shady, and misleading claims about his life before politics.”
It’s not the first time that Murphy has been accused of tweaking his life’s story for political advantage, and it might not be the last. Which version of his biography voters ultimately settle on could decide whether the establishment favorite for the Democratic nomination can clinch the nod and, perhaps, knock off Rubio.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: “We need Senator Rubio back in the Senate.”— U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn), a Texas Republican, on news that Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio would run for re-election after saying he wouldn’t.
(The News Service of Florida’s Brandon Larrabee contributed to this report.)