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241 posts from January 2009

January 29, 2009

The next best thing to Obama's Blackberry

You've probably read about President Barack Obama's suped-up, super-secret Blackberry accessible only to a small circle of his closest advisors, friends and family members. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston didn't make the cut but has the next best thing: White House Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel's Blackberry.

Wasserman Schultz knows Emanuel well. When he was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the 2006 election, he recruited Wasserman Schultz to help lead the party's efforts to take over Republican seats. Along with other members of the recruitment team, they met once a week at 8 a.m. for nearly two years before the election.

Asked whether she had the president's ear, Wasserman Schultz said, "I'm hopeful I would get my calls returned."

Already a rising star in the party, Wasserman Schultz was recently named vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. She's also in charge of helping vulnerable incumbents win re-election through the DCCC, so get used to her frequent television appearances. (She was on TV about once a day during the last few months of the election and is currently doing at least two interviews a week.)

As for yesterday's Republican wall of no against the stimulus package, she said, "We really meant it when we said we wanted to work in a bi-partisan way, but I guess they didn't...If they continue to go in this direction, they are going to further marginalize themselves."

The congresswoman is hosting a town hall on the economy at 7 p.m. tonight at Nautilus Middle School in Miami Beach.

Time to talk taxes -- income & services -- Wetherell says

The only solution to Florida’s budget problems lies in raising more revenue, says Florida State University President T.K. Wetherell.

If that means a personal income tax, a tax on services, it’s worth considering, Wetherell said Thursday at Capital Tiger Bay in Tallahassee.

“We need to have a tax discussion that transcends the bureaucracy,’’ Wetherell said. “I had hoped the Constitutional Revision Commission could do it but they got more balled up in politics than the

FSU is facing $60-million in budget cuts this year and the probable loss of 200 staffers as they struggle to meet revenue shortfalls during an economic downturn.

Florida cannot continue to run quality programs at its colleges and universities and other state agencies without revenue it can count on, he added. Millions of dollars from a federal stimulus plan is not the
answer because it is not recurring money and merely postpones the problem for two years.

If Florida doesn’t find the courage to pay for higher education, Florida State and Tallahassee “will wither on the vine.’’

Florida’s historically low tuition is part of the problem, he noted. Students at FSU pay $3800 a semester for tuition. Wetherell noted that tuition for his grandson in kindergarten at a private school in
Tallahassee is $8,000 a semester.

Wetherell, a former house speaker, said the situation today is the worst he’s seen in 35 years as a Florida educator.

-- Lucy Morgan

Obama: "This one hung up on me. Twice."

Seems President Obama has a good memory for members of Congress who hang up on him. Meeting this week with House Republicans in a bid to gain support for his economic stimulus package, Obama gave Ileana Ros-Lehtinen a squeeze on the shoulder and told the assembled, "This one hung up on me. Twice."

The Miami Republican last month twice hung up on the new president, figuring it was a prankster. They finally talked after Rep. Howard Berman, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, vouched for the president. Among the topics covered, Ros-Lehtinen said she urged the president to put Haiti at the top of his priority list.

Continue reading "Obama: "This one hung up on me. Twice."" »

"Mr. Cornyn, meet Mr. Buchanan"

Mel Martinez, who recently introduced Senate hopeful Marco Rubio to national Republican bigwigs, has done the same for Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Sarasota Republican considering his own bid for the seat Martinez is vacating.

Martinez on Wednesday escorted Buchanan over to the National Republican Senatorial Committee offices to meet with committee chair Sen. John Cornyn, who is recruiting candidates for the open seat. Gov. Charlie Crist is expected in town next week and his calendar no doubt will include some time with Cornyn. A spokeswoman for Buchanan says the sophomore legislator is "still considering how he can best serve the people of Florida and his district."

Martinez, for the record, is remaining neutral in the race.

Wanted: Big-name candidates for open Senate seat

Since Republican Mel Martinez announced two months ago that he would step down in 2010, more potential candidates for his seat are bowing out than jumping in.

U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami and state Sen. Dan Gelber, both Democrats, are the only elected officials who have launched campaigns so far. Two political heavyweights -- former Gov. Jeb Bush and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink -- have turned down appeals to run, and on Tuesday, Attorney General Bill McCollum and U.S Rep. Allen Boyd decided to pass.

Everyone has their reasons -- not wanting to give up a good gig, or take time away from their family, or run for a job that they don't really want. But looming in everyone's mind is the daunting pricetag of a Senate campaign -- estimated at $25 million.

More here.


January 28, 2009

Boyd one of 11 Democrats to vote against Obama stim plan

North Florida's Allen Boyd, who today took himself out of the running for US Senate, was one of just 11 Democrats to vote against the economic stimulus package.

In a release the Blue Dog Democrat (who last week was tagged as one of 10 Democrats Barack Obama should look out for), questioned whether the package would create jobs, help small businesses, and "truly strengthen our economy in the short and long term.

"The bill, at a price tag of $819 billion, includes $526.5 billion in spending initiatives and $275 billion in tax provisions," he said. "In order to fund the plan, the government will have to borrow the money adding an estimated $347 billion in interest payments to service the debt, which means that the actual, long-term cost of the stimulus package is $1.2 trillion.

“I have serious concerns that this level of deficit spending without a plan toward fiscal responsibility will only make our economic problems worse. This stimulus package does not address the issues that we know are at least partly responsible for the economic downturn, and that is years of irresponsible fiscal policies rooted in out-of-control spending and borrowing.”

Continue reading "Boyd one of 11 Democrats to vote against Obama stim plan" »

ACORN denounces Brown-Waite's "bluster"

ACORN is blasting Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite's for blasting ACORN:

“It’s too bad that Ginny Brown-Waite could barely last a week into the Obama presidency to fall in line with the right-wing Republican leadership and start throwing mud at President Obama, ACORN, and sound economic policy."

Continue reading "ACORN denounces Brown-Waite's "bluster"" »

New RPOF $$ man

The Republican Party of Florida has named Ambassador John Rood as its new finance chairman, replacing the controversial Harry Sargeant III. 

"Ambassador Rood is both a longtime supporter of the Party and a successful entrepreneur,” party chief Jim Greer said. “We look forward to working with him to develop our short and long-term financial goals and to secure the resources necessary to elect Republican candidates across Florida.” 

Rood founded The Vestcor Companies in 1983, focusing on real estate investments, development, and construction. In 2004, President George Bush appointed him US Ambassador to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas where he served until 2007.  

Florida Senate releases stimulus wish list

Sen. Jeff Atwater sent a letter to U.S. Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart spelling out what lawmakers would like to see in terms of stimulus dollars. Read it here. He specifies that stimulus money would be spent on Medicaid, teacher merit pay and national board certification. He also says the Senate would use it to generate jobs "linked to our research universities" and to also fund the state's economic development pot called the Quick Action Closing fund. They even say they'd try to use it to stabilize the state catastrophe fund.

McCollum, Boyd out of Senate race

So much for the free-for-all expected for Florida's open seat. Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd are the latest politicians to say thanks, but no thanks to a Senate campaign.

"Unless circumstances change it is my intention, at the appropriate time, to announce that I will be seeking re-election as Floridas Attorney General," McCollum says in a press release, leaving the door open every so slightly.

"With 12 years of service under my belt, I am in the unique position in the House to build on past legislative accomplishments, and I will have an even stronger voice in policy decisions that will affect our economy and fiscal outlook,'' Boyd says in a press release. "In these difficult economic times, my background in business, my reputation as a consensus builder, and my commitment to fiscal responsibility are needed in Congress."