In January 2018, Donald Trump signed the Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act into law following its unanimous passage in the Senate. The House vote would have been unanimous as well if not for Matt Gaetz. Even though Florida’s two senators at the time, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, co-sponsored the Senate bill, Florida Rep. Gaetz refused to join his Republican and Democratic colleagues (and even Trump) in supporting this unusually bipartisan legislation.
The Act gave the federal government greater funding to fight human trafficking. Now that we know Gaetz is under investigation for that exact crime, his lone dissent has morphed from astoundingly stupid to alarmingly suspicious. When Gaetz became the only member of Congress to vote against the Act in 2017, he mansplained himself by grumbling that the Act would strengthen the federal government, and “voters in Northwest Florida did not send me to Washington” to do that.
Congressional Republicans are now following Gaetz’s pathetic lead, throwing themselves in front of moving trains of popular legislation under cover of some ridiculous excuse for why the bill is toxic. Unlike the case with Gaetz, who concealed a personal interest in weakening anti-human trafficking laws, these new dissenters appear hellbent on dissenting for dissent’s sake. Bucking the universal consensus is itself a headline that sends a message to the Trumpian base that they are fighting for them against a swampy system. It’s garbage used for fundraising success.
Most recently, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, who proved his bona fides with insurrectionists by offering them a fist pump of solidarity ahead of the January 6 attack on the Capitol, cast the sole Senate vote against the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. Rather than stand up against the recent wave of discrimination and violence against Asian Americans, Hawley dismissed the legislation as “too broad.” The bill passed the Senate on Thursday with a vote tally of 94-1, reflecting Hawley’s contemptible bravado.
Back on the House side, Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert foreshadowed Hawley’s stunt with an exceptionally depraved vote of their own. The TRANSPLANT Act, which reauthorizes the National Marrow Donor Program, passed the House, 415-2, a week prior. In casting their lone dissenting votes, the deplorable duo took a stand against saving the lives of thousands of people with leukemia. Greene went a dangerous step further by falsely claiming that “[n]othing in this bill prevents the funding of aborted fetal tissue by taxpayers,” prompting a swift rebuke from the Program.
While this emerging pattern is disturbing, it’s also a reminder of where we are now. With Joe Biden in the White House and Democrats controlling both chambers of Congress, America is in a better place and we’re climbing higher every day. The United States is enacting key legislation despite the craven bluster of a few unhinged, self-interested dissenters. We’re marching on the fast track toward improving lives and making history—and it‘s only April.