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224 posts from June 2012

June 28, 2012

Congressional Black Caucus, including Frederica Wilson, to walk out on 'Fast and Furious' contempt vote

Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., will lead fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus in walking out on a House of Representatives vote this afternoon on whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation’s highest-ranking law enforcement officer, in contempt of Congress.

If the effort succeeds, which is is expected to do, it will make Holder the first attorney general in U.S. history to be held in contempt.

The issue has devolved into a high-stakes constitutional showdown between the legislative and executive branches of government. The House is demanding more internal Justice Department documents about its handling of Operation Fast and Furious -– a failed gun-tracking effort. The White House has asserted executive privilege to shield the documents, leading to the move to cite Holder in contempt.

Republicans said that they had no choice but to pursue contempt because they’re being blocked by Holder’s Justice Department from seeking the truth about Fast and Furious, an operation in which federal officials allowed guns to illegally "walk" into Mexico from the United States with the aim of tracking drug cartels. Some of the weapons were used in violent crimes; two were found at the scene where a U.S. border agent was killed.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday called the contempt effort "political theater." He said that the administration has negotiated in good faith with House Republicans who "have made the strategic choice to try to score political points...rather than focusing on jobs and the economy."

Congressional Democrats also called the contempt vote part of a partisan election-year witch hunt and an effort to politically cripple an attorney general whose agency is investigating things that many Republicans don't like, including possible voter suppression

FMA continues to seek repeal of hc reform because of concern for Medicare

The head of the Florida Medical Association expressed concern Thursday that the Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act will "weaken Medicare" coverage and the organization will continue to work to repeal those portions of the law.

““The Florida Medical Association believes that health care system in our country should be focused on the needs of individual patients,'' said Miguel A. Machado, FMA president. "The FMA will continue to advocate for policies that increase patient access and choice, enhance the patient-physician relationship, address health care fraud, and eliminate costly regulations. 

"The Florida Medical Association remains concerned that the surviving Act weakens the Medicare program, fails to substantively address medical liability reform, and dramatically increases the regulatory burden on physicians and patients. These issues hinder access to quality health care and the FMA looks forward to working with elected officials to repeal those provisions that are harmful to our patients.”

Bondi shocked, Scott mute on SCOTUS ruling to uphold law they challenged

 Gov. Rick Scott, who launched his political career on the defeat of the Affordable Care Act, refrained from offering a first impression to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling during a brief break in the clemency hearing this morning.

"I need to review it first,'' he said.

When reporters suggested he was a good poker player, the governor responded: "You know, I played poker once and I lost...I have to read it to understand what they actually said."

Attorney General Pam Bondi, whose office joined with other states to lead the legal challenge and who sat in the front row during oral arguments said she was "surprised, shocked.

"The court did say however, that they cannot do this under the commerce clause. You cannot force a person to purchase a product simply by being alive under the commerce clause.

Continue reading "Bondi shocked, Scott mute on SCOTUS ruling to uphold law they challenged" »

Reaction rolling in on health care decision

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.: "What’s important to remember is that what the Court rules on is whether something is constitutional or not, not whether it’s a good idea. And while the Court has said that the law is constitutional, it remains a bad idea for our economy, and I hope that in the fall we will have a majority here that will not just repeal this law, but replace it with real solutions that will insure more people and cost a lot less money."

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.: "A lot of us feel the health-care law wasn’t perfect.  ut it was needed.  Our system was broken and we had to do something.  Insurance companies were refusing to cover people or dropping those who got sick. So, we passed legislation to prevent insurers from running roughshod over people. And today, the Supreme Court upheld most of these reforms. Now, I think it’s time we finish the job of fixing our economy and creating more jobs."

U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers: "Bill Nelson cast the deciding vote on the largest tax ever placed on the American people and he will be held accountable in November by all Floridians. ObamaCare not only kills jobs, burdens families and runs up our already-massive debt, it oversteps its bounds by stripping Americans of their freedoms and mandating compliance with a government edict by calling the law a tax."

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston: "As a breast cancer survivor and one of 129 million Americans with a pre-existing condition, I am overjoyed that the Supreme Court upheld the right of every American to have access to quality, affordable health care insurance. Because of the Affordable Care Act, South Floridians like Lainie Schultz, a young woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer two weeks before her 25th birthday, will not be denied the health care coverage she needs because of pre-existing conditions. Thanks to the tax credit in the Affordable Care Act, small businesses like the GBS group in Pembroke Pines are, for the first time, able to offer health care coverage to their employees. The Affordable Care Act has already made it possible for American families and small businesses to have more control over their health care by reducing costs, increasing choice, and instituting common sense rules."

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami: “While I strongly disagree with the court’s judgment, today’s decision exemplifies why we are a system of checks and balances.  Our work is not finished, however. The court’s ruling underscores the critical role Congress must play by repealing ObamaCare.  America’s healthcare system should empower individuals and families instead of Washington bureaucrats. This ruling imposes a new huge tax on America’s already struggling families and this is unacceptable to those of us who believe that our money should stay in our pockets and not sent to Washington. I have already voted 30 times in Congress to defund, fully repeal or do away with parts of ObamaCare and I will vote that way again."

U.S. Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami: "It is in the best interest of our nation’s economy to repeal the job-killing health care law and replace it with common sense reforms that address what is wrong with the health insurance system in America. We must pass legislation that lower costs and protect American jobs, not threaten them. We must move toward a system that welcomes patient choice and flexibility, instead of more government involvement, by ensuring Americans the ability to make medical decisions without bureaucratic interference."

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar: "The Supreme Court’s ruling today is a real victory for the American people.  This decision upholds the principle that all Americans should have access to affordable, quality health care. Millions of Americans have already benefited from this important piece of legislation. I have always advocated for access to universal health care with a public option.  With the Affordable Care Act, we have taken a huge step towards putting patients and their doctors, rather than big insurance companies, in charge of an individual’s health care decisions.  While I am pleased that this important legislation was upheld by the Supreme Court, there is still work to be done.  I hope that my Republican colleagues will now do their part and end their partisan attacks by putting the interests of Americans’ health care needs first."

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami: "The Affordable Care Act is already paying dividends for millions of Americans, with more improvements to the system going into effect in the next few years. In passing health reform, President Obama and a Democratic Congress made history for our country and progress for the American people. Because of the ACA, affordable health care is now a right for all, not a privilege for the few. Today, the Supreme Court affirmed our progress and protected that right, securing a future of health and economic security for working people and their families, students and seniors."

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami: “Today’s Supreme Court decision is a huge tax increase on the American people. The President’s healthcare bill, which was written behind closed doors, dramatically increases taxes, fees, and the cost of healthcare for all Americans. Obamacare was supposed to lower the price of healthcare. Instead, it has done the exact opposite – the price of healthcare has skyrocketed. With the individual mandate, President Obama is slamming the American people with a burdensome new tax. It has also been a major factor in the sluggish growth of our economy and anemic job creation. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to repeal Obamacare in order to protect Americans’ access to the care they need, from the doctors they choose, at a price they can afford." 

Continue reading "Reaction rolling in on health care decision" »

June 27, 2012

Poll: Fla. Hispanics favor Obama over Romney, 53-37

Latino Decisions has a June 12-21 poll out today of 2000 Hispanic voters in the battleground states of Florida, Virginia, Colorado and New Mexico. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percent for the overall sample and 4.9 percent for Florida.

Overall Obama was leading 63 percent to 27 percent. In Florida, with a much different Hispanic electorate, Obama was leading 53 percent to 37 percent.

Sixty two percent of Hispanic voters in Florida approved of the president's performance and 24 percent disapproved. Also, 63 percent said they were enthusiastic about voting inthe presidential race.

With it's large population of Cuban Americans and Puerto Ricans who don't face deportation issues, immigration is not the hot button issue in Florida as it elsewhere. Still, the poll found 39 percent considered immigration the top issue, 35 percent said the economy and 21 percent said jobs. Forty ffive percent in Florida said they knew someone who is an undocumented immigrant, far fewer than other states polled.

Full results here.

--ADAM C. SMITH

Atwater hopes to reform flawed contracting process by exposing it to sunlight

Florida will spend $47 billion this year hiring outsiders to provide goods and services for the state but hundreds of the contractors will not be required to show they provided services they agreed to and their documentation will be rife with errors.

Those are the conclusions of Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater after a sample audit of the 24,000 state contracts at 33 different agencies found that 35 percent were flawed.

At stake, he said: "Hundreds of millions of dollars" of the state's $70 billion budget, 67 percent of which is outsourced. 

On Wednesday, Atwater unveiled a new web site that details most of the state's contracts so the public can determine if they are being held accountable for the services they are offering. The goal, he said, is to put the heat on the flawed contracting system by turning the public into watchdogs and inviting more competitors to the table.

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Judges continue to grapple with prison privatization

A last-minute change to the state budget last year that would have privatized 29 South Florida prisons continued its march through the courts Wednesday, with judges grappling with how to proceed as the end of the fiscal year looms.

The three-judge panel in the 1st District Court of Appeal may help resolve a year-long dispute over whether top legislators can slip in sweeping budget changes without vetting them through the committee process, and if so, what the limitations are.

“This is a gross misuse of proviso power,” argued M. Stephen Turner, attorney for the Florida Police Benevolent Association, which challenged the privatization plan, winning in lower courts.

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Judge denies request to stop voter purge

TALLAHASSEE —U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle on Wednesday denied a request by the U.S. Department of Justice to stop Florida from removing non-U.S. citizens from the voter rolls.

The Justice Department asked for a restraining order, claiming the removal of noncitizens violates a federal law prohibiting the systemic removal of noncitizens less than 90 days before a federal election.

But Hinkle said his reading of that law does not prevent the state from taking noncitiznes off the rolls.

Attorneys for secretary of state Ken Detzner told the judge that the federal government’s request was meaningless because the purgin has stopped.

Steve Bousquet, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Congress congratulates Miami Heat

Here's an important, bipartisan measure put forth by the U.S. House and Senate yesterday: a resolution congratulating the Miami Heat on its NBA championship.

The House resolution notes, among other things, that "on July 9, 2010, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh were anointed the Three Kings at a ceremony in AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami" and that "the 'White Hot' Miami Heat fans sold out the AmericanAirlines Arena and cheered on their hometown team." (Read the Senate version here.)

The resolution was sponsored by Florida's two senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, and by two members of Congress, Democrat Alcee Hastings of Miramar and Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami. The House measure was co-sponsored by South Florida Reps. Ted Deutch, Mario Diaz-Balart, David Rivera, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Allen West and Frederica Wilson.

Poll: Obama leads Romney 45-41 in Florida

From Quinnipiac Polling Institute: 

Florida's Hispanic voters back Obama 56 - 32 percent, compared to 49 - 39 percent in a June 21 Quinnipiac University poll, conducted before Obama and Romney each made major addresses on immigration policy.

The president leads 85 - 6 percent among black voters while white voters back Romney 50 - 35 percent. Obama leads 47 - 40 percent among women, while men are divided with 43 percent for Obama and 42 percent for Romney.

Obama leads 81 - 7 percent among Democrats and 44 - 37 percent among independent voters, losing Republicans 86 - 8 percent.
 
Voters split 47 - 49 percent in their approval of the job Obama is doing and 46 - 47 percent on whether he deserves four more years.

Florida voters give Obama a split 47 - 47 percent favorability, while Romney gets a negative 37 - 42 percent favorability rating.

Continue reading "Poll: Obama leads Romney 45-41 in Florida" »