DeSantis casts himself as the resistance as Florida sues the Biden White House


Throw the book at 'em, gov. - PHOTO BY JOEY ROULETTE
  • Photo by Joey Roulette
  • Throw the book at 'em, gov.

Halloween has come and gone, but Gov. Ron DeSantis is still sporting his superhero costume, casting himself as a powerful line of defense against the White House.

DeSantis last week issued an ominous warning when he and Attorney General Ashley Moody announced a lawsuit challenging moves by the Biden administration to require employees of federal contractors to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccinations by Dec. 8.

“This is not the end of it,” DeSantis said. “I think we know, they always say, ‘Oh, well, we just need to do this.’ And then they go on to the next thing. And then the next thing and the next thing. And so, it's important for us to take a stand, not only for what's at stake here with the folks that could be affected, but also knowing that if you don't give resistance to this, you're going to continue to see other things, and they're going to absolutely do more.”

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. district court in Tampa against several defendants, including President Joe Biden, NASA, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, the federal Office of Management and Budget and the federal General Services Administration.

This isn’t the first time DeSantis has billed himself as standing between Floridians and what the governor frequently characterizes as the heavy hand of the Biden administration.

Portraying himself as the hero to Biden’s villain has been a major part of DeSantis’ playbook, as the governor seeks re-election next year and is widely considered to be a potential Republican candidate for president in 2024.

During an August news conference in Panama City, for example, DeSantis launched into a monologue about issues such as COVID-19 mandates.

“If you’re trying to deny kids a proper in-person education, I’m gonna stand in your way and I’m gonna stand up for the kids in Florida. If you’re trying to restrict people, impose mandates, if you’re trying to ruin their jobs and their livelihoods and their small business, if you are trying to lock people down, I am standing in your way and I’m standing for the people of Florida,” DeSantis said.

When DeSantis tries to stand in the way of Biden, it usually means a lawsuit is coming. The state, for example, is currently battling with the federal government in court about COVID-19 guidelines for the cruise-ship industry and immigration policies.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat running for governor in 2022, criticized the latest lawsuit.

“This daily dose of vitriol from DeSantis is exhausting, dangerous, and doesn’t create a job, lift up a child, or solve any of many challenges of our state,” Fried said in a Twitter post Thursday.

The legal slugfest between DeSantis and the Biden administrations cuts both ways.

The U.S. Department of Education on Thursday filed a complaint requesting that an administrative law judge order Florida to stop withholding funds from school districts that received federal money to cover school board members’ salaries. The cease-and-desist complaint was filed in the federal education department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

The complaint was the latest move after the State Board of Education approved financial penalties that targeted school board members’ pay in eight districts that voted to enact student mask mandates, although several of the districts have walked back or dropped mask requirements.

The federal education department awarded funds to two Florida districts to backfill amounts lost to the state penalties. The state then turned around and withheld amounts equal to the federal money.

In the complaint Thursday, the federal education department wrote that it was notified by school officials in Alachua and Broward counties that the Florida Department of Education “withheld from each (district) monthly state education aid” in the amounts of the federal funding.

“This action taken by the (Florida) department comes after we made repeated requests to work together and protect students, educators, and school communities. We believe Florida’s actions have violated federal law by reducing state funds based on the receipt by districts of federal funds,” the federal department wrote in a statement.

DeSantis on Friday criticized the federal government for trying to intervene as his administration seeks to punish the school board members.

“What is not appropriate is to have the federal government come in, blundering into state and local matters, and acting like they have a right to facilitate a local district breaking state law,” DeSantis said during a news conference in Eustis.

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