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220 posts from June 2017

June 27, 2017

Democratic congressional candidate bashes Pelosi

Kristenrosengonzalez

@martindvassolo

During a constituent breakfast Tuesday, Democratic congressional candidate Kristen Rosen Gonzalez criticized the leadership of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party’s “political industrial complex.”

Rosen Gonzalez, a Miami Beach commissioner running to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in District 27, addressed her qualms inside the Puerto Sagua Restaurant in Miami Beach.

“When the newly elected people get to Washington D.C., Nancy Pelosi says to them, ‘So, you think you’re gonna do something in Congress? Well, the first thing you have to worry about is getting reelected. So get over to the DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] and start calling'” donors, Rosen Gonzalez said sharply.

“Excuse me?” she continued, to some laughter. “That’s all it’s about. All it’s about is money, money, money, money. And if you don’t like that, then...they don’t consider you viable.”

Rosen Gonzalez, a Miami-Dade College instructor, would need to work alongside Pelosi if she wins. But she said she hopes her candidacy inspires others to “elect candidates who are not going to be beholden to one person.”

Pelosi has faced recent criticism and even calls to resign from her post following the loss of Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s special election. Conservative ads painted Ossoff as Pelosi’s puppet.

Rosen Gonzalez’s appearance was organized as part of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club and moderated by former Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower.

During the hourlong talk, Rosen Gonzalez also criticized Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, arguing “everyone deserves access to healthcare,” and proposed reforms to the pharmaceutical and health-insurance industries.

During a question-and-answer segment, she was asked about her thoughts on police reform.

Last month, the Miami Herald published an email Rosen Gonzalez sent to the city manager, in which she wrote, “We need to give the cops back their bullets, remove their body cams, give them their dignity and let them work all the off hours stuff they want.”

She later apologized for the email, writing in a letter to the editor that the words she chose “do not reflect how I truly feel” and that she voted in favor of equipping Beach officers with body cameras.

“I knew I was gonna get this question. I think I’m gonna get it the rest of my political career, so I’m just gonna have to figure out the best way to answer it,” she said Tuesday. “Body cameras are new, so we have to figure out what the policies are and maybe they’re gonna have to be lenient. And if a police officer says a four-letter word, they don’t get punished or get marks on their record. What I was trying to do was just ask some questions, so that i could figure out how to improve the policies surrounding that.”

Photo: Matias J. Ocner, The Miami Herald

Rick Scott declines to say if he thinks Marco Rubio should vote for the health care bill as written

Rick

@alextdaugherty 

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is crisscrossing Capitol Hill on Tuesday as the Senate wrestles with a bill that would repeal parts of Obamacare. He's meeting with top Republicans Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and senior Republicans like Sen. Orrin Hatch.

But Scott, a Republican and ally of Donald Trump, demurred when asked if Sen. Marco Rubio should vote for the bill as written. Scott will meet with Rubio later on Tuesday afternoon. 

"There's constant conversations and it's changing, so you can't say where it is right now," Scott said. "Let's all focus on the biggest here, and the biggest issue here is cost reduction. What I'm talking about to him right now are the things that are important to our families and our taxpayers." 

Rubio hasn't given any indication that he plans to block the bill's path to the Senate floor, although he's brought three staffers from Tallahassee to Washington to review the bill. 

The staffers are Allen Brown, health care adviser to Senate President Joe Negron; Carol Gormley, health care adviser to House Speaker Richard Corcoran; and Justin Senior, secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

Scott said a big priority for him is to make sure that states who didn't expand Medicaid, like Florida, receive the same per capita funding for Medicaid as a state that chose to expand the program under Obamacare. 

"We're not treated the same way as a state like New York," Scott said, arguing that New York gets $23 billion in federal dollars for health insurance while Florida gets $14 billion, despite Florida having more people to cover than New York. 

"Our federal tax rates aren't lower so why should we get paid less?"

Senate leadership is urging a vote on the health care bill this week, saying that a further delay will make it harder for a majority to support the bill. But a  

"Whoever is paying for it, the Obamacare costs have skyrocketed, people can't afford their health care, employers can't afford their health care and the government can't afford their health care.  

Four Republican senators, including moderates Susan Collins of Maine and Dean Heller of Nevada along with conservatives Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, said they will not allow the legislation to proceed in its current form. The GOP enjoys a four seat majority in the Senate, meaning three Republican dissenters can kill the bill. 

Even if the bill passes the Senate, it could be a tough road to make it through the House. A group of conservative lawmakers dubbed the Freedom Caucus are expected to oppose the Senate bill in its current form. 

"I don't have a vote," Scott said. "But it's very important to repeal and replace Obamacare." 

 

Graham and Gillum push for rejection and alternatives to Senate health care bill

Graham petitionsAs Gov. Rick Scott and other Florida Republicans scramble in D.C. today to try to understand the impact of the proposed Senate health care bill on the state, two Democratic candidates for governor offered their own feedback Tuesday. 

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham delivered a three-foot stack of petitions to the Tallahassee office of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, signed by 4,000 people, urging him to reject the proposal because it will hurt more Floridians than it will help.

"This bill is heartless,'' Graham said, urging Rubio to transcend the partisanship surrounding the issue and reject it for Florida. "He doesn't represent the Republican Party. he doesn't represent Donald J. Trump. He represents the people of Florida and that's why he should vote against this bill."

She was joined by Dr. Louis St. Petery, a Tallahassee pediatrician, who feared that the Medicaid cuts and restructuring in the Senate bill will leave thousands of children in the state without care.

"Don't forget, 52 percent of live births in Florida are paid for by Medicaid,'' he said. "We are not talking about an insignificant number of kids. Over one-third of Florida's children are on Medicaid and pulling the rug out from under that many kids and that many families will be devastating to not only the child but the rest of us in society who have to pay for their health care costs."

Graham said she was "very concerned" about the block grants proposed in the Senate health care bill because they are "not good for Florida" because she has no confidence that Republicans in Washington or Tallahassee will "be used in the best interests of the people of Florida." 

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum suggested the answer is a statewide constitutional amendment declaring healthcare a right. 

"It's time for Florida to finally enshrine healthcare as a right for all,'' he said a statement. "There is a public trust for the government to care for its citizens, and our state can no longer be ambiguous about that moral obligation. When healthcare is under attack in Washington, we're going to lean into the challenge of healthcare in the Sunshine State and live our values."

Gillum's communications director Geoff Burgan said that if elected, Gillum will "push the Legislature to put this on the ballot in 2019, and if they fail to do so he'll campaign for it as well."

"There's an added onus on the Legislature to make sure that health care is actually affordable and accessible,'' he said. "This is a long conversation about health care and it's being brought to the forefront."

He said that Gillum supports the idea because "Floridians have a right to make their voices heard, and he's committed to raising the funds necessary to do that,'' Burgan said. "We'll also be submitting it to the CRC."

Graham dismissed the constitutional amendment as a practical way to effect change. "I think healthcare is a right but I want to make sure the way we go about it as doable." 

She blasted Gov. Rick Scott for failing to take Medicaid expansion while he is now complaining that the state is not getting enough Medicaid money. She said that has resulted in the Affordable Care Act not working as well as it was intended. Graham supported changes to the Affordable Care Act as a member of Congress and said Congress should continue to pursue fixes, not repeal.

"Congress has not done its job,'' she said. "Why? It's the politics. I will never let politics get in the way of doing what's right for the people of Florida." 

 

Man 'fed up' with Republicans threatens Miami lawmaker on Facebook, gets arrested

Steve Stfelizvia @ChuckRabin

Two weeks after a U.S. congressman and four others were shot during a baseball practice in a Washington suburb by a man with a history of lashing out at Republicans, a Florida lawmaker decided he wasn’t taking any chances.

So Sunday, after someone threatened his life on his Facebook page, state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, informed police.

And on Monday, Northwest Miami-Dade resident Steve St. Felix, 33, was arrested and charged with written threats with intent to do bodily injury. Police said St. Felix was “fed up” with the Republican Party — and that he hadn’t taken his meds when he posted the threat.It’s unclear what condition the medications were treating.

The threat — “I’ll kill your ass and you better not show up to the next REC meeting” — was quickly removed from Diaz’s Facebook page, police said. It appeared to refer to the Republican Executive Committee, the name of the local Miami-Dade County GOP.

St. Felix’s listed address is clear across the county from where Diaz lives.

Diaz, 37, is running for a contested state Senate seat. The primary is July 25.

More here.

Photo credit: Miami-Dade Corrections Department

House GOP-backed PAC pledges anti-Pelosi campaign in Curbelo's Miami district

Congress Democrats
@PatriciaMazzei

Get ready, voters in Florida's 26th congressional district: A rash of anti-Nancy Pelosi advertising is coming in the 2018 election.

Congressional Leadership Fund, a political committee backed by the House Republican caucus, pledged Tuesday to devote serious cash next year to running against Pelosi, the House Democratic leader.

The group says it's polled 11 competitive congressional districts -- including FL-26 -- over the past 60 days and found Pelosi is disliked. Her leadership came under political fire last week after Democrat Jon Ossoff lost a special election in Georgia. A defiant Pelosi, a Democratic fundraising machine, made clear she's sticking around.

According to Congressional Leadership Fund, 45 percent of poll respondents in FL-26, which is represented by Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, view her unfavorably, compared to 37 percent who view her favorably.

"During the 2018 cycle, CLF will spend millions of dollars highlighting Nancy Pelosi's toxic agenda and reminding voters across the country that Democratic candidates are nothing more than rubber stamps for her out-of-touch, liberal policies," Congressional Leadership Fund Executive Director Corry Bliss wrote.

Curbelo, who has yet to draw a Democratic challenger, has been repeatedly jabbed recently by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for his support for the House healthcare bill. Another Miami Republican, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, also backed it.

"Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart already made their bed and now they have to lie in it," DCCC Spokesman Cole Leiter said in a statement Monday.

We talk more about Pelosi in our weekly McClatchy politics podcast, "Beyond the Bubble":

Photo credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta, Associated Press

The Trump whisperer: Marco Rubio has the president’s ear on Latin America

Trump Cuba (1)

@alextdaugherty 

Donald Trump has a distaste for the State Department and its legions of diplomats tasked with crafting the nation’s foreign policy.

So when it comes to Latin America, the CEO-turned-president is listening to a man he derided on the campaign trail a year ago: Marco Rubio.

It was Rubio who set up a White House meeting with Lilian Tintori, a human-rights activist married to jailed Venezuelan dissident Leopoldo Lopez. After the meeting, Trump tweeted his support for Lopez, a public rebuke of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

It was Rubio who helped draft a changed Cuba policy in recent weeks, culminating in Trump’s first presidential visit to Miami to fulfill a campaign promise to the conservative Cubans who helped him win the White House.

And Rubio is well-positioned to take advantage of a vacuum of leadership in the State Department and communicate directly with a president who dislikes diplomacy-as-usual on Latin American foreign policy, according to interviews with former Rubio foreign policy staffers and State Department officials.

“They’ve asked for my input on basically every issue in Latin America and the Western Hemisphere and … we’ve been engaged with them and they’ve been very open,” Rubio said. “In some ways, the fact that they didn’t come in with preconceived ideas of what to do has created the space for that debate to occur.”

There’s plenty of space.

Six months into his administration, Donald Trump has yet to appoint dozens of high-level State Department employees, including the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, the top diplomat in charge of Latin America.

And the president bucked the advice of some of his own senior officials and a slew of congressional Republicans in favor of Rubio to finish the Cuba deal.

Rubio “found a way to say, ‘You don’t want to listen to the experts, listen to me,’ ” said James Williams, president of Engage Cuba, a group that lobbies for closer Cuba ties and is opposed to Trump’s policy changes. “He found a really successful way to tell Trump, don’t listen to your own bureaucracy.”

Not that Trump needs an excuse to eschew the federal bureaucracy, which will be massively downsized if the White House gets its way.

Trump wants to cut the State Department’s budget by 30 percent, repeatedly rails against foreign aid and openly disagreed with his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, during a dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

“It is a genuine problem not to have people that are diplomats, trained people that really are very loyal and dedicated American citizens who want to represent their country,” said former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, a Democrat who served under Bill Clinton. “I’ve just been traveling abroad, and our embassies don’t have enough people.”

Read more here. 

Gov. Scott signs school funding, economic development bills

State_of_State_Florida(2)

From the News Service of Florida:

Gov. Rick Scott signed 29 bills late Monday, including measures boosting spending on education, tourism marketing and economic development.

By signing the bills, and vetoing five more, Scott essentially closed the books on this year’s regular and special legislative sessions.

The bills Scott approved included perhaps one of the hardest-fought wins of his time as governor: a measure (HB 1A) that provided $76 million for the tourism-marketing agency Visit Florida; established an $85 million fund to pay for infrastructure improvements and job training to help draw businesses; and set aside $50 million in repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike along Lake Okeechobee.

That legislation was approved in this month’s special session after the House refused to approve direct business incentives that Scott prefers and gave far less for Visit Florida than he had requested during the regular session, which ended in May.

“With this legislation, we can promote public infrastructure projects and job-training projects to continue to grow jobs for families in every community of our state,” Scott said in a statement issued by his office. “We know that for Florida to be competitive in domestic and international markets, we need as many tools as possible to attract growing businesses to our state.”

Scott also signed another bill from the special session (HB 3A) boosting per-student spending in the state’s main formula for funding public education by $100. The budget for public schools had originally only increased spending by $24 a student, leading to charges from critics that it was too stingy and prompting a rare veto by Scott.

The governor hailed the increase Monday.

“Our students are the future of our state, and I’m incredibly proud to sign legislation today to ensure they have every opportunity for success,” he said.

During the special session, some Democrats had complained that the increase wouldn’t offset what they said would be the negative impact of HB 7069, a controversial and wide-ranging education bill Scott approved shortly after the special session as part of a rumored deal with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes.

“It’s an increase — but at what cost?” asked Rep. Cynthia Stafford, a Miami Democrat who pointed out that funding for education is still short of pre-recession levels when inflation is factored in. “The state has recovered, but education funding has not.”

Scott also signed several other education bills Monday, including a measure (HB 15) expanding eligibility for a program that helps pay for educational services for students with disabilities and boosting the size of voucher-like tax credit scholarships that help parents pay for private school tuition.

In addition, the governor approved HB 989, which overhauls the state’s policy on instructional materials to allow any county resident — not just parents — to challenge materials used at schools.

In all, Scott signed 230 of the bills that lawmakers approved during this year’s regular legislative session while vetoing 11. He signed all four bills that passed during the special session.

Photo credit: AP

June 26, 2017

Rubio reviews Senate healthcare bill while protesters ask him to oppose it

Healthcare2 protest lnew cm
@PatriciaMazzei

To study the Senate healthcare bill's effects on Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio last week invited the top three Republicans in the state Capitol -- Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron -- to weigh in on the legislation.

By Monday, three staffers sent by the three state GOP leaders were in Washington, going through the bill with Rubio aides. Scott himself will travel to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to offer his thoughts to Rubio directly.

The staffers are Allen Brown, health care adviser to Negron; Carol Gormley, health care adviser to Corcoran; and Justin Senior secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. 

The Republican senator has yet to say how he'll vote. But he's hardly expected to oppose the legislation, given his past support to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And the state staffers, expected to remain "embedded" in Rubio's office all week, probably won't give him a compelling reason to vote no, either: Scott, Corcoran and Negron chose not to expand Medicaid under the ACA and have been critical of the law. That's even though Florida, with its large uninsured population, was one of the states to see the most people covered under Obamacare.

Rubio outlined his criteria for the bill in a Facebook Live appearance last week. For example, he wants people with pre-existing conditions to be protected and Florida to be "treated fairly" on Medicaid (that is, not penalized for not expanding the program).

Pro-Obamacare activists demonstrated outside Rubio's Doral office Monday to urge him to oppose the Senate's "Better Care Reconciliation Act."

"Rubio, do your job!" some of them chanted.

After the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated Monday that 22 million Americans would lose health-insurance coverage by 2026 under the Senate plan, two Republican senators said they would vote against the bill as written: Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky. Three GOP no's would kill the bill.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Bill Nelson took to the Senate floor to oppose the legislation: "This bill is just as bad as the House bill," he said.

This post has been updated.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, el Nuevo Herald

Here is who's behind the mailer in HB 116 race against Jose Mallea

Conservatives for Truth electioneeringFlorida's porous campaign disclosure laws don't make it easy to peg responsibility when someone launches a critical mailer in a hotly contested race, but in the special election to replace Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in House District 116, the latest missive is the work of some members of the Corcoran leadership circle in the Florida House. 

The mailer by Conservative for Truth PC accuses Republican candidate Jose Miguel Mallea of "raising taxes" because he worked as a staffer for two years with former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz

Somebody appears to have messed up because, according to the Division of Elections, Conservatives for Truth PC was disbanded on Oct. 3. The registered agent, Jose Riesco, revived a new committee on June 21 called Conservatives for Truth. But the mailers don't make that distinction.

The Florida Division of Elections received the paperwork for Conservatives for Truth on Friday. DOE posted them to the state web site today, after an inquiry from the Herald/Times. 

Conservatives for Truth PC raised $466,000 last election cycle -- $306,000 came from Citizens Alliance for Florida's economy, the political committee run by Anthony Pedicini, the consultant aligned with House Speaker Richard Corcoran and heavily financed by the state trial lawyers. Conservatives for Truth in 2016 raised another $50,000 came from the trial lawyers' Florida Justice PAC and $100,000 came from Rebuild Florida (Pepi Diaz's political committee.)

Diaz, a Miami Republican, resigned effective Sept. 26 to run for the special election in Senate District 40 to replace Sen. Frank Artiles, who resigned amid scandal earlier this year.

Mallea faces Daniel Anthony Perez, a 29-year-old lawyer, who appears to have the support of the Corcoran/Trujillo contingent in the House.

Rep. Jose Oliva, the Miami Republican and incoming House speaker who is in charge of re-election Republicans in the next election cycle, has not endorsed in the race and told the Herald/Times he will not take sides. "I'm okay with serving with either of these guys,'' he said. "It's not my role to get involved."

Diaz has also not endorsed in the race.

Although Perez does not have a political committee, he does appear to be benefitting from the committees of his allies. Riesco is not only the registered agent for Conservatives for Truth (and Conservatives for Truth PC), which financed the attack mailer, he is also the registered agent for the political committees run on behalf of Diaz, Reps. Jose Oliva, Jeanette Nunez, Bryan Avila, Manny Diaz, Jr., and Rene Garcia.

Miami Rep. Carlos Trujillo has endorsed Perez but the extent to which he is steering money through his PC is not yet clear. On May 20, Trujillo's political committee gave $10,000 to Rep. Michael Bileca's political committee, which four days later paid The StoneRidge Group out of Alpharetta, Ga., $16,715 for direct mail.

If Riesco's Conservatives for Truth had any part of this, we won't know until they are required to file their first report on July 10 -- just days before the July 25 primary. He could not be reached for comment.  Conservatives for Truth PC mailer

Perez has drawn criticism from Mallea after the Miami Herald reported that Perez had taken his wedding engagement photos in Havana earlier this year. 

Here's the comment on the attack ad from Mallea campaign spokesman Brett Doster:

"Daniel Perez lied about his tourist trip to Cuba and he lied about Jose's Cuban heritage so it's no surprise that he's lying about Jose's record. This new desperate smear is the definition of fake news. We're confident that the residents of District 116 will dismiss the false claims of a man who spends his free time partying in Havana under the oppressive Castro regime."

Florida congressmen: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg should recuse herself for Trump 'bias'

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Seven Florida Republican House members are calling for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to recuse herself from the upcoming deliberation on the travel ban, asserting she has shown "bias" towards President Donald Trump.

“Your public criticism of Donald Trump during the campaign included statements such as ‘I can’t imagine what this place would be - I can’t imagine what the country would be - with Donald Trump as our president’ You referred to Donald Trump as ‘a faker.’ When asked about the possibility of Donald Trump winning the presidency, you responded, ‘I don’t want to think about that possibility, but if it should be, then everything is up for grabs.’ ”

Nearly 60 House members signed the letter, including Florida Reps. Ron DeSantis, Neal Dunn, Daniel Webster, Ted Yoho, John Rutherford, Bill Posey and Francis Rooney.

Read it here.

"As an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court," it reads, "you are required to recuse yourself in cases in which your ‘impartiality might reasonably be questioned’ and where you have a ‘a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party.’ ”

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear the travel ban case, while allowing some of the program to go forward, a partial victory for Trump.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times