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234 posts from February 2009

February 24, 2009

Yes she can!

Sharp-eyed viewers say Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen managed to score a kiss from the president, even from three seats back.

Her office says she got a kiss, hug and a smile from the president. Also getting a presidential handshake, Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, who planted himself in an aisle seat and was spotted several times checking his Blackberry -- or sending out word of his primo spot.

Can Ileana grab a hug from three seats back?

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who has made a name for herself snagging a sweet seat at State of the Union addresses -- close enough for a presidential smooch as the chief executive walks onto the House floor -- had to abandon her hopes Tuesday for an aisle seat.

"Too much going on," she told NP this afternoon. "You're not supposed to reserve it and leave and I had back to back appointments."

But look for the Miami Republican nevertheless. In an e-mail, she says she's secured a primo spot: "3rd from the aisle."

Llorente gets Kottkamp's help in SD 38 race

Llorente_2State Rep. Marcelo Llorente is getting some help from Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp as he begins raising money for what could be a bruising state Senate contest in Miami.

His Republican primary opponent so far is Rep. David Rivera and it's expected that Rep. Anitere Flores will also get in the race.

Miami banker gets a seat with the First Lady AND a House resolution

The news that Miami banker Leonard Abess Jr. and bank employee Geneva Lawson will sit with the First Lady tonight at President Barack Obama's speech to Congress has prompted Rep. Kendrick Meek to offer a congressional resolution honoring Abess's generosity.

"Mr. Abess' selfless generosity proved that although we are currently in an era of economic downfalls, unethical behavior and corporate conspiracy, one can still stand strong on their own charitable, altruistic morality," Meek said of Abess's decision to take $60 million in profit from the sale of a bank and give it to his employees for bonuses. "Now, Mr. Abess will receive a prized bonus of his own when he will have the opportunity to watch President Barack Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress from First Lady Michelle Obama's box on February 23, 2009. Ms. Geneva Lawson, a 51 year employee at City National Bank of Florida, will also accompany Mr. Abess to see history in the making."

See it here: Download Resolution .

  

Mel Martinez vows to block changes to Cuba travel

Mel Martinez says he's told Senate leadership that he'll oppose any legislation that would change U.S.-Cuba policy -- a move that could make it more difficult to move any changes out of the Senate. 

"Modifying our nation's policies at this point would be counter-productive and reward a repressive, authoritarian regime that has shown little concern for the security or well-being of its citizens," Martinez said.

Democrats in the House have tucked a repeal into a massive spending bill that hits the House floor Wednesday and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, said she's disappointed that the regulations would be relaxed without getting something out of Cuba.

"Not to get any concessions from the Castro regime,'' she said. "The Castro brothers will be very happy.''

Tampa Democrat Rep. Kathy Castor called the provision that would allow family members to more frequently visit their relatives in Cuba a "victory for families."

“As Americans, we cannot allow our policies to bring more hardship to those we intend to help,” Castor wrote. “As Floridians, we cannot expect the Cuban people, many of whom are family to us, to endure more pain.”

Meek ambushed by FOX News

U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek's office alerted reporters to his appearance today on FOX News, saying it was "to discuss the president's address to Congress."

But business new anchor Neil Cavuto took the Miami Democrat by surprise and tried to elicit a no-new-taxes pledge. "When we look at tax hikes, congressman, is it just a 'rich' problem?'' he asked.

Meek: "I wouldn't say it's a 'rich' problem, and as it relates to tax hikes that's not what I came on the show to talk about. We're here to talk about being able to balance this economy back and looking forward to the president addressing the nation tonight and the joint session of Congress."

Cavuto: "But you know part of what he's going to talk about is hiking taxes on the rich to get that budget deficit halved in four years, right?"

Meek: "Well, there's going to be a discussion that we're going to have...on how we bring down the deficit."

Later in the interview, Cavuto tried again for the read-my-lips moment: "You would argue that you don't hike taxes when you have a recession, right?"

Meek: "Well we're not doing it now, and I can tell you right now we have to bring balance in our tax structure...I'm just going to be very blunt with you. I don't want to play in hypotheticals."

Odom resigns from Citizens board

Jay Odom has resigned from the board of directors for Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-run insurer, citing "time constraints" with his family.

Odom, 52, sent a letter to the board and Senate President Jeff Atwater announcing his resignation. Odom was last appointed to Citizens by then-Senate President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie.

The news comes on the same day the Republican Party of Florida said it is no longer contracting jet services from Odom.

Odom is considered to be a subject in the grand jury investigation into Rep. Ray Sansom's dealings with a Panhandle college.

But the marketing director for Odom's Crystal Beach Development said the Sansom matter had nothing to do with the decision to step down from Citizens. "Jay has been on there for six years. He feels that he's done everything he can to move that project along," Owen Martin said in an interview. "It now takes up more time than he has available. He wants to spend more with his family and his business."

Even in DC, David Rivera attracts protestors

In town for a fundraiser for his state Senate race, Miami Republican Rep. David Rivera has attracted a protest.

A press release from an "informal group of local Cuban Americans and their allies" says it will protest Rivera's fundraiser today at a DC restaurant.

"Rivera is one of the principal architects of President Bush's 2004 Cuban policy reforms that severely limited the capacity of Cuban Americans to travel to Cuba to see family and send money transfers," the release states. "The fact that Rivera is holding a fundraiser in Washington DC for a Florida State Senate race is further evidence that Cuban policy during the Bush administration became a domestic issue when it should remain a foreign policy matter that serves the interests of the United States AND the Cuban American exile community."

The protest -- and the fundraiser -- come as Democrats are preparing to pass legislation that will lift those restrictions.

"My only hope is that some day the people of Cuba will have the same right to protest inside Cuba as these pro-Castro apologists have here in the United States," Rivera said.

Mel Martinez backs Solis for labor

Mel Martinez just spoke on the Senate floor in support of President Barack Obama's nominee for Labor Secretary -- Hilda Solis -- noting she'd be the first Hispanic to hold the post.

The California congresswoman's nomination has been held up amid Republican grumbling about her work for a pro-labor group that supports legislation to make it easier for workers to organize unions. She also had to answer questions about tax liens filed against her husband.

Mayors: If the governors don't want the money, we'll take it

The nation's mayors -- led by Miami's Manny Diaz -- tell President Barack Obama they'll be more than happy to take any economic stimulus dollars rejected by GOP governors.

In a letter to Obama, the US Conference of Mayors said it was "concerned to hear that some governors and some states may choose to reject selected funding provided under the new law. 

"As a nation, we cannot allow our citizens and communities to needlessly suffer when assistance is available to help them survive and rebuild in these troubling times," wrote Diaz, who chairs the US Conference of Mayors. "That is why we ask you and your administration to devise a mechanism that will allow cities and our residents to have full access to all programs funded under ARRA in the event that any state chooses to reject such funding."

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