Maxwell Frost: ‘The Republican Party, at least in Congress, is not ready to govern.’

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By Giselle Balido

October 16, 2023

Committed to the fight for Medicare for All, gun violence prevention, affordable housing, and environmental protection, the Gen Z Florida Congressman spoke to Floricua about how politics directly impacts the lives of everyday Floridians.

Maxwell Alejandro Frost, the first Gen Z American to be elected to Congress, moved to Washington, DC, with a promise to change his Orlando-area district and the state of Florida by building a multigenerational, multiracial movement of working-class people to tackle the problems regular families face.

These range from unaffordable housing and a healthcare system that sees close to a million Floridians without coverage, to the escalating gun violence that makes Florida #2 in the nation when it comes to death by firearms.

“[One of] our top first three bills coming out of our office will be around gun violence. We lose 100 lives a day in this country due to gun violence,” Frost said to Floricua during a one-on-one interview earlier in the year.

True to his promise, Frost joined forces with Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) to advocate for the first ever Office of Gun Violence Prevention, which President Biden created through executive action in September. Frost recently spoke with Floricua to talk about this, and other pressing issues facing everyday Floridians across the state.

The current gun laws in Florida are extremely loose and reckless. How will the Office of Gun Violence Prevention impact us here in our state?

We’re really excited about this office for many reasons, but it is going to have three specific functions. The first is expediting the implementation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. What is that? Well, last year, Congress passed the first piece of gun violence prevention legislation in 30 years. So, the new office is going to work at speeding up the funding and grants that are coming from that bill.

In fact, a few days ago I presented to the city of Orlando a check for $1.5 million from the bipartisan Safer Communities Act. So, the office is already working very quickly. The second thing they’re going to be doing is managing the president’s portfolio on executive actions with gun violence.

And the third thing is trying to figure out what it looks like to respond after a shooting in a community. The president cares about this issue; he cares about the victims and families and survivors. [But] Congress is paralyzed right now. And so, this office will also work at figuring out what the president can do without Congress to save lives.

As you mentioned, Congress is paralyzed due to the Republicans’ inability to agree on a Speaker of the House. How does this affect the issues we’re talking about?

This is the first time in the history of our country that a speaker has been ousted, and by members of his own party. Congress can’t work and, I’ll be honest, even if Congress was working, I’m not sure I’d see really good meaningful gun legislation passed because the Republicans are running the show right now. The House of Representatives cannot do anything in terms of legislation because we don’t have a Speaker of the House.

How does this directly affect Floridians?

Let’s say something happens in Florida. I want to bring up legislation to help with it. I can’t introduce a bill right now that can be voted on, because the committees are not working. So, there’s real, local impacts here that maybe people don’t feel immediately, but over time can have a real impact on us. This is very personal to me, because I want people in Orlando to know we have money in the appropriations process for our community that’s ready to go; money for community violence intervention, money in there for transportation, for affordable housing.

But it’s really unfortunate that unless we get a speaker, that money will not come to the district. The fact that Republicans cannot get it together to elect their own Speaker, even though they have the votes to elect whoever they want, [shows] they can’t even do that. It’s gotten to the point where it’s not about, ‘Oh, I disagree with you because you’re a Republican and we disagree on the policy.’ It’s chaos over there. And so, it just shows the Republican Party, at least in Congress, is not ready to govern.

RELATED: ‘Worse Than Trump’: Rep. Maxwell Frost Speaks

Florida is one of a handful of states that has not expanded Medicaid, leaving somewhere around a million people without healthcare. You have called for ending what you call “the illness industry”. What do you mean and how can that be achieved in our state?

I’ve always said that we don’t really have a healthcare system. We have an illness care system, right? It’s not health care, it’s helping people when they get to the brink. Number one, health insurance is just too damn high in this country. Co-pays, deductibles, pharmaceuticals, or drugs and medicine. It gets to the point where people have to pick between a procedure or the medicine they need to live or rent or food on the table.

And I believe that in one of the richest countries on the face of the earth, healthcare should be a basic right. Because of the way that our healthcare system works it really doesn’t incentivize or push people to help people have preventative care. And so, what happens is most folks wait until they’re on the brink. They end up in the hospital and they rack up bills that can make them broke. And the fact of the matter is that over roughly 60% of this country cannot afford an unexpected $400 bill tomorrow. We have to fix this system. I personally believe that no one should be profiteering off of the health and off of the illness of our people.

What are some of the initiatives you’re working on, regarding healthcare?

I’m proud to be a cosponsor of Medicare for All, which would essentially over the course of several years lower the age of eligibility for Medicare until all people are covered. Not only does it ensure that everybody has health care, but it strengthens Medicare to cover more than it already covers. And so that’s my North star. We’re working to get there; the bill has over 100 cosponsors in the house. I’ve also cosponsored legislation to help fix the system as is as we fight for Medicare for all. So, it’s an all-out battle up here to ensure health care for people.

Reproductive rights are being debated right now in the state Supreme Court, which will soon rule on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ six-week abortion ban. What do you expect will be the result of their deliberations and what are you prepared to do if the verdict is not favorable?

Well, I’ve come to learn that it’s never wise to expect anything from a judiciary, let alone a super conservative Supreme Court like the one we have here in Florida and the federal Supreme Court as well. And so, we’ll see what happens. We’re ready to fight no matter what. I’m confident that we will be able to get abortion on the ballot in 2024. Poll after poll shows that most Floridians will vote yes on it. There are many avenues of this work going on, whether it’s taking to the streets, getting those ballots in, as well as petitions in fighting for federal legislation and protections from the Biden administration.

RELATED: Florida’s #2 in Mass Shootings. Here’s How Maxwell Frost Wants to Change That.

What, in your opinion, would a six-week abortion ban mean for women in Florida and across the south?

It would be devastating. It’s essentially a full abortion ban. Most people don’t know if they’re pregnant by that time and so essentially it would outlaw abortion in our state and it’s not just about our state. It’s also about the region. If we’re able to pass this ballot initiative, Florida will be a hub of reproductive freedom for the Southeast because in the Southeast, pretty much every state has banned abortion. And what we know to be true is that these abortion bans don’t stop people from getting abortions, they stop people from getting safe abortions.

And it’s not just about abortion, the procedure itself, but about reproductive care in general and reproductive healthcare bodily autonomy, civil rights, and liberties. Even if you don’t agree with the ability for people to have the choice on abortion or you don’t agree with abortion or whatever, think about this: this is a legislature, this is a governor, is controlling what you can do with your body.

Going into 2024 it looks like we’re headed for a Trump-Biden rematch. What would you say to young people or other groups who might feel turned off by that or disengaged right now politically?

Young people are voting at higher numbers now than ever in our country’s history. It’s an exciting time. I think it’s coupled with many things, especially the social movements we’ve seen over the last several years–from March for Our Lives to the Black Lives Matter uprising after the brutal lynching and murder of George Floyd and people like Brianna Taylor to what we’re seeing across the country on climate crisis. And so, what I would tell young people is this is the fight for our present and our future and to win, we got to use every tool in our toolbox.

And so, I always encourage people to protest; create through the arts. Think about how we use culture. Vote, register people to vote, run for office. We don’t have enough time to throw out any part of our movement because I can promise you this, the opposition is using everything they got and in order to protect the climate, in order to do what we need to do, we need to get out, we need to go and we need to ensure that this movement of fascists that are looking to really rule our country and morph it into a white Christian nationalist country can’t get anywhere near the White House, near the governor’s mansion, near any seat of power.

And we have the ability to deeply impact that.

 

Author

  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

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