February 09, 2018

How South Florida lawmakers voted on a budget deal without a DACA fix

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@alextdaugherty

The federal government briefly shut down while you were sleeping, as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul held up a massive $300 billion budget bill that keeps the government running until March 23rd because it increased the federal deficit. House Democratic leaders also opposed the bill because Speaker Paul Ryan hasn't committed to an open debate on a solution for 690,000 DACA recipients who could be eligible for deportation as soon as March. 

The bill eventually passed the U.S. Senate at 1:30am by a 71-28 margin and the U.S. House at 5:30am by a 240-186 margin. President Donald Trump signed the bill into law on Friday morning, reopening the federal government after it shut down at midnight. The massive budget bill included billions in disaster funding for Florida and Puerto Rico along with an increase in defense spending and budget caps. 

Here's how South Florida's members of Congress voted: 

Sen. Marco Rubio (R): Yes

Rubio praised the deal as a bipartisan compromise that gave Florida much-needed disaster relief. “While no one wants to have a hurricane and no one wants to have a natural disaster, I think this is a response that we should be happy about,” Rubio said on Wednesday. He did voice concerns over the deficit despite voting yes. 

"Throughout my time in the Senate, my support for increasing the debt limit has been consistently conditioned on meaningful spending reforms that address our long-term debt," Rubio said in a statement after the vote. "This budget deal does not do that. We must begin to seriously address the long-term drivers of our debt and get our fiscal house back in order. We cannot do that if we continue to govern through short term continuing resolutions that inefficiently spend taxpayer dollars and fail to provide the certainty required for effective planning."

Sen. Bill Nelson (D): Yes

Nelson spoke alongside Rubio on the Senate floor to praise the deal after it was announced. "Senator Rubio and I have been talking about all the things we have done together in trying to get this disaster aid package to finally come to the point at which we can say we are so thankful that we see a path forward,” Nelson said.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R): Yes

Curbelo had voted against multiple spending bills because a DACA solution wasn't imminent. But hours before the vote on Thursday Curbelo switched his stance after Ryan said he would "bring a solution to the floor." 

In a statement released Thursday, Curbelo said Ryan "delivered his strongest commitment yet that legislation will be considered on the floor of the House" and that was enough to change his vote. 

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R): No 

Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring in 2018, was the only Republican in Congress to join Democrats and vote against the budget bill because it didn't include a DACA solution. 

“I will vote NO, as I have pledged to do so in the past," Ros-Lehtinen said in an email on Thursday. 

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R): Yes

Diaz-Balart, an ally of leadership, has consistently voted in favor of short-term spending bills in recent months. 

"This bipartisan legislation continues government operations and funds programs that are critical to Americans across the nation. It also invests in our military during a time where we must provide our troops with the proper resources to defend our country, help our allies, and stand up to our adversaries," Diaz-Balart said in a statement. "I represent parts of Florida that are still rebuilding from Hurricane Irma, and the $89.3 billion supplemental will go a long way in helping these communities recover from storm damage."

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D): No

Wilson, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus that opposed the deal and one of the more liberal members of Congress, voted no. 

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D): No 

Wasserman Schultz was a firm no hours before the vote as some Democrats wavered on whether or not to follow leader Nancy Pelosi and vote no or vote to keep the government open without a DACA solution. 

Rep. Ted Deutch (D): Yes

In a statement, Deutch said he voted for the budget bill to keep the government open "finally beyond just weeks." The bill keeps the government running until March 23rd. 

"Tonight, I voted for a compromise budget deal because it will allow us to keep the government running, finally beyond just weeks," Deutch said. "This bill helps the millions of Americans in Florida and Puerto Rico, Texas, California and the Virgin Islands whose lives were turned upside down by natural disasters. It provides a potential lifeline to families struggling with opioid addiction."

He also added that Congress must focus on passing the DREAM Act to help DACA recipients. President Donald Trump has indicated he does not support the DREAM Act. 

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D): No

Hastings is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus that opposed the deal and is one of the more liberal members of Congress. 

December 12, 2017

Florida Dem accused of sexual harassment gets support from Congress

Alcee2 (1)

@alextdaugherty

The phrase “I believe the women” has become a motto for lawmakers in the wake of career-ending sexual harassment allegations against Rep. John Conyers and Sen. Al Franken. But when sexual harassment allegations against South Florida Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings from 2011 resurfaced last week, the reaction was different.

“I believe him,” said Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Miami Gardens Democrat.

Capitol Hill news outlet Roll Call reported on Friday that a woman who accused Hastings of unwanted touching and lewd remarks in 2011 received a $220,000 taxpayer-funded settlement, the largest amount reported since a wave of sexual harassment allegations began sweeping through Congress.

The 81-year-old Hastings denies the allegations and said he had no previous knowledge that taxpayer funds were paid out to Winsome Packer, a congressional staffer who worked for a commission that studies security and cooperation in Europe. Court documents show that he was removed from the sexual harassment lawsuit in 2012. Packer continued the lawsuit against the commission after Hastings was removed, and the payment was made in 2014, according to Roll Call.

“I am outraged that any taxpayer dollars were needlessly paid to Ms. Packer,” Hastings said in a statement. “At no time was I consulted, nor did I know until after the fact that such a settlement was made.”

Hastings, who lives in Miramar and represents majority African-American neighborhoods in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, has been a magnet for controversy throughout his four decades in public office, and he has survived every time.

Hastings was stripped of his federal judgeship in 1989 after he was impeached and convicted of bribery and perjury, but successfully ran for Congress in 1992. His longtime girlfriend who works at his district office in Florida received the $168,411 maximum congressional salary for years. And the 2011 sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Packer and funded by conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch was rife with tabloid fodder and embarrassing anecdotes.

But Hastings has been reelected with ease every two years.

“If there is someone in the United States House of Representatives who can survive this, it’s Alcee Hastings,” said Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. “My goodness, he’s been impeached by this body. Alcee Hastings, God bless him, he doesn’t care about...news cycles.”

Read more here.

October 31, 2017

South Florida lawmakers propose a path to legal status for Haitian TPS recipients

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@alextdaugherty 

A bipartisan group of South Florida lawmakers introduced a bill on Tuesday that provides a path to permanent residency for thousands of foreign citizens who participate in a temporary program that allows them to work and live in the United States.

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo introduced the Extending Status Protection for Eligible Refugees with Established Residency Act, which provides a pathway to permanent legal status for certain Haitians, Nicaraguans, El Salvadoreans and Hondurans who arrived in the United States before Jan. 13, 2011.

South Florida Democratic Reps. Frederica Wilson and Alcee Hastings also signed on to the legislation, which applies to participants in the Temporary Protected Status program, along with Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

“While hoping and waiting they would be able to return to their native countries for years, Nicaraguan, Salvadoran, Honduran and Haitian migrants have become essential parts of the South Florida community by contributing to our local economy and our culture,” Curbelo said in a statement. “While I will continue to support extensions for Temporary Protected Status, this bipartisan legislation would give these migrants the peace of mind to continue giving back to their communities, contributing to our economy and supporting their families.”

Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras are the three countries with the most participants in the program, which is administered by the Department of Homeland Security. About 300,000 people from those three countries participate in TPS, and the bulk of Haiti’s 50,000 TPS recipients live in South Florida.

“I am proud to be part of this bipartisan effort to provide a permanent solution for families living in the United States with temporary protected status,” Wilson said in a statement. “It is in the meantime imperative that we not forget the economic, cultural and other contributions that people living and working in the United States thanks to this measure are making to both to our nation and their native countries.”

The Trump administration faces multiple looming deadlines for extending the Temporary Protected Status program in Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras. Haiti’s status is set to expire in January 2018 after then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly extended TPS for six months instead of the usual 18 in May.

Kelly also said Haitians “need to start thinking about returning.”

Extending TPS for Haitians is a source of bipartisan agreement among Florida lawmakers, including Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson. But the Trump administration terminated Sudan’s TPS status in September, an indication that they could decide to end other countries’ TPS status.

Currently, citizens from nine countries are eligible for TPS. The bill to provide a path to permanent residency does not apply to TPS recipients from Nepal, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria or Yemen.

Read more here.

September 18, 2017

Every South Floridian in Congress wants to extend Haiti's TPS

Alcee2

@alextdaugherty 

Every member of Congress from South Florida is in favor of extending a temporary program run by the Department of Homeland Security that allows Haitians to live and work in the United States. 

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, led a letter on Monday to acting DHS secretary Elaine Duke signed by every member of Congress who represents Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties urging the Trump administration to extend Haiti's Temporary Protected status for 18 months. 

"The Haitian people, and now their government, continue to work diligently to rebuild the country after the earthquake, cholera outbreak, and Hurricane Matthew," the letter said. "This work will be made more difficult if the country must also welcome back over 50,000 Haitian nationals at once." 

Former DHS secretary and current White House chief of staff Gen. John Kelly extended Haiti's TPS status for six months instead of 18 earlier this year and he also said that Haitian nationals in the United States should begin making plans to return home. Haiti's TPS status runs out in January 2018. 

Hastings was part of a group of Democrats who huddled in the Haitian embassy last week to discuss a strategy for getting more awareness about how important TPS is for Haiti. 

The letter was also signed by Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson along with Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart, Carlos Curbelo, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Frederica Wilson, Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel. 

View the letter here.

June 14, 2017

Alcee Hastings endorses Andrew Gillum for Florida governor

Alcee2
 
@amysherman1
 
U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, has endorsed Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in his 2018 race for Florida governor.
 
Hastings, who has served 13 terms, is the longest serving member of the Democratic Florida delegation and represents a heavily left-leaning Broward/Palm Beach district. Hastings chose Gillum over his former Congressional colleague, Gwen Graham, and Orlando businessman Chris King who are also running. This is the first endorsement by a sitting member of Congress from Florida in the race so far.
 
Here is Hastings' statement from the Gillum campaign press release:
 
“We live in historically troubling times, and last year's election result proved that the stakes are high. I feel it necessary to make my voice heard early in this process, so that Democrats and all Floridians understand what is at stake in the 2018 election. For the last 20 years, under Republican rule in Tallahassee, communities of color across the state have suffered from a lack of job opportunities, poor access to quality public education, and access to quality and affordable healthcare. As Democrats, we need to make significant changes, and in this spirit, I believe that Mayor Andrew Gillum is the right choice to lead our state.
 
“Mayor Gillum is an innovative pragmatic progressive leader that Florida desperately needs to confront our biggest challenges: attacking climate change, rebuilding our economy, protecting access to healthcare, and revitalizing public education. He has shown the courage to stand up for what he believes in, and he has never hesitated to give a voice to those who need one most. Floridians can trust Andrew Gillum to rebuild our state into one that works for everyone.
 
“There are outstanding Democrats that have announced or are mentioned as running for governor in our state.  My support of Andrew should not be construed as being against others.  I will vigorously support the Democratic nominee for governor and do all that I can to ensure that our state goes from Red to Blue in 2018."
 
This post was updated to reflect that Hastings is the Democratic dean of the Florida delegation.
 
 

June 13, 2017

VA accountability bill sponsored by Rubio and Nelson passes House, heads to Trump's desk

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@alextdaugherty 

A bill sponsored by Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson that aims to make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire bad employees passed the House by an overwhelming majority on Tuesday, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign it soon. 

The bill, dubbed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, passed the House by a vote of 368-55. A group of liberal Democrats, including South Florida Reps. Alcee Hastings and Frederica Wilson, voted against the bill. 

The legislation would authorize VA secretary David Shulkin to fire or demote senior and non-senior employees and lowers the burden of proof needed to dismiss an employee. The bill also protects whistleblowers by not allowing Shulkin to fire employees who have filed a formal complaint regarding conduct at the VA.

In 2014, the VA was rocked with scandal after a some veterans died while waiting months for appointments at the Phoenix VA hospital and employees created secret lists to cover up the delays. 

The House passed a similar bill earlier this year that passed largely along party lines when the largest union of federal employees opposed the swift appeals process for employees accused of misbehavior.

The Senate revamp of the bill lengthened the appeals process to please Democrats and won the approval of the union, and it passed the upper chamber on a voice vote last week. 

December 23, 2016

Florida members of Congress tell feds: Pay our state for Trump's Mar-a-Lago security costs

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via @learyreports

President-elect Donald Trump's travel to Florida is causing steep security costs and lawmakers want the federal government to pay.

Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio along with Reps. Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel and Patrick Murphy sent this letter:

Dear Attorney General Lynch and Secretary Johnson,

We are writing to make you aware of the attached request from the Mayor of Palm Beach County regarding reimbursement for ancillary costs associated with helping protect President-elect Trump, who has often visited his home in the area.

According to Mayor Burdick, the county spent approximately $250,000 to provide security support for the President-elect during his four-day visit over Thanksgiving alone.

Congress appropriated $7 million to the Department of Justice in the recently-passed government funding bill (P.L. 114-254) to reimburse State and local law enforcement agencies for overtime costs associated with protecting the President-elect before his inauguration.

We urge you to consider using those funds or any other resources that you deem appropriate to help the county offset these costs.

We appreciate your attention to this matter.

Photo credit: AP

October 20, 2016

Hastings leads black lawmakers on Broward blitz for Clinton, Murphy

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@jamesmartinrose

Rep. Alcee Hastings is bringing a group of fellow African-American members of Congress to South Florida for a two-day push to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump in the key battleground state.

Hastings, a 12th-term congressman from Miramar, will be joined by Reps. Charlie Rangel and Hakeem Jeffries of New York, and by Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green of Texas in a swing through Broward County.

Almost 30 percent of Broward residents are black, forming one of the state's largest African-American voting blocs and a hub of a critical demographic group for Clinton to win the nation's biggest swing state in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

"With the rhetoric that we've heard from the Republican ticket, there can be little doubt how dangerous a Trump presidency would be for our country," Hastings told the Miami Herald. "We are here, first and foremost, to rally the African-American community in South Florida to elect Hillary Clinton as president and Patrick Murphy as our next United States senator."

Murphy, a Democratic congressman from Jupiter, is running against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Miami.

The congressional group's first stop was slated to be tonight at 7 p.m. to address a meeting of the Haitian American Democratic Club at Diecke Auditorium in Plantation.

Hastings and his Congressional Black Caucus colleagues had six events planned for Friday:

9 a.m., Breakfast at Betty's Soul Food Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale;

Noon, Visit the combined Clinton/Hastings campaign offices, 1033 NW Sixth Street, Fort Lauderdale;

12:55 p.m., Lunch at Ponderosa Soul Food Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale

1:40 p.m., Visit the headquarters of the Broward Democratic Executive Committee, 8320 W. Sunrise Boulevard, Plantation

3 p.m., Visit the Clinton campaign office, 3519 North Pineland Road, Sunrise;

4 p.m., Canvas homes on foot in Sunrise neighborhood around the Clinton campaign office.

Photo credit: Matias J. Ocner, Miami Herald

 

 

  

June 22, 2016

Grayson, Murphy join fellow House members in sit-in over gun bills

@ByKristenMClark

Several Florida Democrats -- including U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy, the two main contenders in the Democratic primary for Florida's U.S. Senate race -- are among the dozens of members of Congress participating in a sit-in protest this afternoon on the U.S. House floor to persuade Republican leaders to take up "no fly, no buy" legislation.

The protest began before noon, led by Rep. John Lewis of Georgia.

Both Grayson and Murphy support the "no fly, no buy" bill, which would prevent people on the FBI's terrorist watchlist from buying guns. A Senate vote on the issue failed earlier this week.

Just after 2 p.m., Murphy stepped away from the sit-in for about 15 minutes to speak with state and national reporters on a conference call arranged by his U.S. Senate campaign for Murphy to comment on Republican Marco Rubio's decision today to seek re-election. Murphy said gun control reform "is going to be one of the defining issues of this Senate race," and he blasted Rubio for voting against reform proposals.

Many members of Congress, including Grayson and Murphy, shared pictures of themselves on social media to capture the sit-in, since the official House cameras were turned off amid the disruption. (As an alternative, CSPAN was airing a live Periscope feed from U.S. Rep. Scott Peters of California.)

Continue reading "Grayson, Murphy join fellow House members in sit-in over gun bills" »

June 06, 2016

Alcee Hastings' Pants on Fire claim about a dog meat festival in China

Every June, the city of Yulin in China’s southwestern Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region hosts a spectacle that has drawn international condemnation.  An estimated 10,000 dogs are butchered as part of a dog meat festival that started about six years ago.

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., moved to put his colleagues on record against the practice. In a House resolution, he highlighted that "dogs who reach the slaughterhouses are typically beaten to death with shocking brutality, without any regard for their welfare," and that the dog meat trade "poses a risk to human health by exposing people to a multitude of diseases, including rabies and cholera."

Action is needed, the resolution continued, because the Dog Meat Festival in Yulin "threatens global public health."

We are not insensitive to how ugly the scene might well be in Yulin.

But our focus is on whether this festival in itself poses a threat to global public health.

Keep reading Jon Greenberg's fact-check from PolitiFact Global News Service here and check out our full Truth-O-Meter record for Hastings.