TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott was supposed to start his new job as a U.S. senator Thursday, but he delayed his swearing in ostensibly to keep his promise to fight for Floridians every day of his term.
So what’s he doing while other senators take their oath in Washington? His official public schedule has him beginning the day at 3:15 p.m. for about two hours of “staff and call time.”
But even that’s a busy day compared with most since the Nov. 6 election, contradicting a central campaign theme and the “Let’s get to work” motto he used to win office in 2010.
The governor who campaigned on the idea that senators need to work a full week to earn full pay has kept a part-time schedule since the Nov. 6 election, but he’s also not getting paid — Scott doesn’t accept a salary.
In the 58 days since the election, his official schedule posted online and emailed to media has been blank 41 days. Many of the 17 days that do list events, like Thursday, don’t show a particularly busy pace.
That doesn’t mean the governor’s not working, said spokesman McKinley Lewis, who listed several activities that haven’t appeared on the governor’s public schedule over the past two months. That includes dozens of judicial and other government appointments, issuing of tens of millions of dollars in economic development grants and unscheduled daily calls with staff and others.
“Gov. Scott is one of the hardest working governors in the country, doesn’t take a salary and works every day on behalf of Floridians,” Lewis said.
The governor’s official schedule doesn’t list political activity or trips to Washington to prepare for his new job. And, of course, there was time spent with family during the holidays.
Scott’s political activities also continued after the election. Nearly two weeks of recounts took place before he could be declared a winner over Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson by about 10,000 votes of more than 8 million cast.
Still, work has been a big theme for Scott.
Before the election, Scott went on a statewide “Make Washington Work” campaign tour. His Senate policy papers said congressional members “get paid an annual salary for a reason: to work for Americans. This means a full work week, not just a few days with long vacations on top.”
He proposed that senators don’t get paid their annual salary unless they work full time, whether in Washington or at home. He also called for the elimination of extended breaks.
Scott received permission from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to be sworn in Jan. 8, when Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis replaces him.
If Scott had taken his new office Thursday, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera would have been sworn in as governor for the last five days of Scott’s term. Scott’s decision means Lopez-Cantera will be a less notable figure in Florida history books and won’t get a portrait among the other past governors in Florida’s Capitol, like Wayne Mixson did after serving as governor for three days in 1987 when Bob Graham left office early to be sworn in as a U.S. senator.
“When Gov. Scott was elected governor of Florida, he promised to fight for Florida families every single day of his term,” spokesman John Tupps said last month when Scott made his decision to complete his term.
The irony is that he’s not fighting for Florida in Washington while the federal government is in a partial shutdown, and he doesn’t appear to have much left to do as governor.
On the days since the election that Scott’s schedule did show activity, many were light.
On Nov. 9, the only item was a call with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
On Nov. 11, he had a briefing on severe thunderstorms and a meeting with DeSantis. On Nov. 12, he had two weather briefings. The only event on Nov. 13 was another weather briefing.
Among other activity: attending funerals for President George. H.W. Bush and a Miami-Dade police officer who died on duty, two Christmas parties, a Christmas tree lighting, handing out holiday baskets to poor families in Miami, awarding college scholarships at a Hispanic heritage dinner, announcing unemployment figures and a two-day swing to meet with sheriffs in counties hit hard by Hurricane Michael.