Francis Rooney splits with Donald Trump on transgender military ban
President Trump made a huge announcement Wednesday about the future of transgender service members. Veuer's Nick Cardona (@nickcardona93) takes a closer look at the numbers behind the policy. Buzz60
WASHINGTON - Reaction was mixed among Florida lawmakers to President Donald Trump's directive Wednesday that the U.S. military no longer accept transgender troops or allow them to serve in any capacity, with Naples Rep. Francis Rooney breaking ranks with his party's leader.
Rep. Brian Mast applauded the move, citing the recommendations from Trump and top generals that having transgender individuals serving "could negatively impact" military readiness.
"The soldier’s job is always dangerous, often deadly, and their limited safety is directly linked to each soldier serving to the left and right," said Mast, R-Palm City, who lost both legs serving in Afghanistan. "Anything which detracts from that already limited safety has no place in this life and death occupation."
But fellow Republican Rooney disagreed.
“While I do not support government funding of transitioning, I do support the inclusion of any and all qualified Americans who can meet the standards necessary to serve in the world’s greatest military," the Naples Republican said, referring to an earlier debate on whether taxpayers should fund transgender surgery for armed forces personnel.
Trump's announcement reverses a policy that began under the Obama administration — and triggered intense criticism from lawmakers and civil libertarians.
In a series of morning tweets, Trump said that, after consulting "with my generals and military experts," the U.S. government "will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military."
The U.S. military, he said, "must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."
President Donald Trump stunned the political world and many prominent Christian conservatives by announcing plans to ban transgender people from the military. (July 26) AP
Trump's decision was made Tuesday, and he informed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis later in the day, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Wednesday. The policy allowing transgender troops to serve was "expensive and disruptive" and affected military readiness, she said.
Democrats disagreed with the move.
"All those who meet the military’s qualifications should be able to serve.” said Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, a senior member of the Armed Services Committee.
“The president’s ban is discrimination, plain and simple,” said Democratic Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee. “Any patriot who wants to defend and protect our country should be allowed to do so. I stand with all Americans who have the courage to volunteer for our military, and am grateful for their selfless sacrifices.”
But the president got a thumbs-up from Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Fort Walton Beach Republican whose Panhandle district counts Pensacola Naval Air Station and Eglin Air Force Base among the military installations in the district.
"This is the right thing to do!" Gaetz tweeted.
GOP Rep. Neal Dunn gave a more understated endorsement.
“I trust the recommendation of our General Staff and the civilian leadership at the Department of Defense," the freshman congressman from Panama City said.
Sen. Marco Rubio's office did not respond to a request for comment.
It’s unclear how Trump's tweets will affect the estimated 6,000 transgender troops who are already in the military. Under the policy announced in July 2016, those troops were allowed to serve openly. Prior to that, the military discharged them for medical reasons.
It's also uncertain whether a series of tweets constitute a presidential directive, and whether Trump must sign documents to make the new policy effective.
After the tweets, the Pentagon issued a statement saying only that it would work with the White House "to address the new guidance" provided by the president.
USA TODAY reporters David Jackson and Tom Vanden Brook contributed.
Contact Ledyard King at firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @ledgeking