Only two weeks into his first term in Congress, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., is already starting to command a little of the national spotlight.
Soto garnered some national attention this week as he announced that he would not attend President-elect Donald Trump’s inaugural on Friday in protest over his comments about U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. That’s not the only time Soto won national attention. During his first days on Capitol Hill, Soto also received notice for his proposal to let Puerto Rico take part in presidential elections.
There are signs that Soto’s fellow Democrats are starting to notice him. At the end of last week, U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-MD., the Democrats’ whip in the House, tapped Soto to be part of the leadership as an assistant whip.
"I'm excited to announce Congressman Darren Soto is joining my whip team as an assistant whip for the 115th Congress,” Hoyer said. “He is already hard at work representing Floridians in Congress. He will bring an important perspective to the whip operation as a new member. He is a rising star in Florida, and I look forward to working with him to support job creation and ensure that the diverse voices and viewpoints of the people living in Central Florida get the full attention they deserve in the next Congress."
Soto noted his experience in Tallahassee would help him in his new post.
"As Democratic deputy whip in the Florida state Senate, I learned firsthand how to work with my colleagues to get things done for the people of Florida and defend our party’s values,” Soto said. “Now, I am honored by the opportunity to work with Whip Hoyer to use these skills in Washington for the greater good of our country."
During his time in Tallahassee, Soto would often pull in the support of the business community, including in 2012 when he successfully made the jump from the state House to the state Senate. But, in his first speech in Congress, Soto went to bat for President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law.
“I oppose repealing Obamacare without replacement,” Soto said on the House floor. “First, this law protects all Americans with pre-existing conditions, second, it keeps all young adults on their parents’ insurance until age 26, and third, it protects all Americans from bankruptcy if they get sick. Before the act, millions of Americans were simply kicked off their insurance if these problems arose. We Democrats support keeping these protections for all Americans and the Republicans want to repeal them. We support improving the act and the Republicans want to eliminate it. And while many have stoked fear and spread false information for political gain, it's clear that repeal without replacement equals disaster. It will eliminate these protections for all Americans, create chaos for working families, and send our country into another recession. It's clear we need to improve the act rather than repeal it. It's time to do the right thing for Floridians and all Americans.”
In the meantime, Florida Politics reported Republican Wayne Liebnitzky is firing away at Soto for missing the inaugural and has launched a second bid for Congress. Liebnitzky took 42.5 percent of the vote back in November while Soto won with 57.5 percent.
Still, Soto’s main threat in his Central Florida district will be from the left. Soto defeated Susannah Randolph and Dena Grayson in a close primary back in August. Grayson’s husband--former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., held the seat before Soto and has already filed to run again in 2018. While he’s currently running against U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Fla., who beat him in 2010, it’s certainly possible the former congressman could try to claim his old congressional seat.
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