TAMPA, Fla. — Hillsborough County Democrat Elio Muller says he was happy that Joe Biden’s inauguration speech was devoid of any policy prescriptions.
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“We have a president that, as everybody just heard, wants to reunite our country,” Muller told Spectrum Bay News 9 immediately following the speech.
“Heal our country. Govern all of us. Those of us who struggled and worked to elect him, but as well as those who struggled to defeat them, and bring us all together. That’s what this inauguration speech was about,” he added.
Muller is the co-founder of “Casa Biden,” the unofficial Hillsborough County office for the Joe Biden presidential campaign last year.
Unofficial because in the year of the coronavirus pandemic, neither the Biden campaign nor the Florida Democratic Party opened up field offices in 2020.
Instead, Muller and fellow Hillsborough County Democrat Vic DiMaio were offered the space on Columbus Drive in West Tampa and opened it up as a de facto headquarters for the campaign in a county where Biden defeated Donald Trump by more than 6.5 percentage points.
Muller, a Cuban native who has worked on Democratic presidential campaigns in Tampa since 1988, said that the centrist-leaning Biden is the man of the moment, following the tumultuous four years of Donald Trump in the White House.
“We have elected a president for healing. We have elected a president with a very big heart, one who is calling us to heal,” he said.
Democrats control all three branches of the federal government – but barely.
They have a narrow ten vote advantage in the House, and the U.S. Senate is literally 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris in the wings if needed to pass strictly party-line votes.
But what about the talk about ending the filibuster, which currently calls for most major proposals to get 60 votes to pass in the Senate?
“I think we should get rid of the filibuster,” said Tampa resident Olivia Thompson. “It has been used as a political weapon to prevent either side from getting things done.”
DiMaio knows such a move could be perilous for Democrats, as that vote could come back and bite them if the Republicans retake the Senate in 2022. Yet he says he believes the Democrats should pull the trigger on what would undoubtedly be a controversial move (which would be opposed by all Senate Republicans, but also West Virginia moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin).
“We have to take every advantage we can to do the good stuff that we can do in the two years that we have before midterms and if the filibuster goes away, it may not be a bad thing,” he says.
Hillsborough Democrat Jose Vasquez’ first response when asked what he’d like to see Biden enact in office was instead to pivot to the upcoming impeachment trial against Trump that is in the hands of the U.S. Senate.
A Puerto Rican native, Vasquez also is supportive of a push to grant Puerto Rico statehood. That issue hasn’t received as much media play as a similar effort to grant Washington D.C. statehood, a move opposed by Republicans as it would give the Democrats two more U.S. Senate seats. Democrats could push for that if they were to get rid of the filibuster.
Olivia Thompson also wanted to emphasize the historic nature of Kamala Harris being sworn in as vice president, becoming the first woman and the first woman of color serving on a presidential ticket.
“As a woman this is a very, very big day,” she said. “And for women of color, it’s an even bigger day. This is history being made and we’re watching it.”