January 06, 2011

Diminished Florida Dems ask Republicans to share some clout

Down to just six of Florida's 25 member-delegation, Democrats are asking the new delegation chair, Rep. Cliff Stearns to share his seat at the table.

The delegation has traditionally been run by a co-chair from each party: Stearns' predecessor, Miami Republican Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, co-chaired the delegation with Broward Dem Rep. Alcee Hastings. Stearns, however, an Ocala Republican, has said he'll ask Hastings to be vice chair.

In a letter to Stearns, the Democrats -- including Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson -- say it is their "hope that we may continue the long-standing tradition of a bipartisan, collaborative Florida delegation.

"We expect that the delegation will continue to be led by two co-chairs who will work together to set the agenda for regular delegation meetings on matters of importantce to the people of our state," the six wrote.

January 03, 2011

Wall Street Journal: House ethics panel drops probe of Hastings, others

WSJ: "The House ethics committee dropped an investigation into how six lawmakers spent federal travel funds while visiting foreign countries, citing a lack of evidence and confusing rules on the use of such money.

"The ruling comes after the House's independent ethics board, the Office of Congressional Ethics, found enough evidence to refer the matter to the ethics committee following a Wall Street Journal article in March that said lawmakers had used daily cash stipends to cover expenses that appeared to be unauthorized by House rules.

"The investigation focused on Reps. Robert Aderholt (R., Ala.), G.K. Butterfield (D., N.C.), Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.), Alcee Hastings (D., Fla.), Solomon Ortiz (D., Texas) and Joe Wilson (R., S.C.)."

December 08, 2010

Obama tax deal divides Florida Democrats: Nelson supports, Hastings opposes

President Barack Obama is facing fierce opposition among some Democrats for his compromise with Republicans over extending the Bush-era tax cuts, but Florida Sen. Bill Nelson says he'll vote for the "bipartisan compromise.

"Sen. Nelson shares the concern of many experts who believe tax increases right now would derail an already anemic economic recovery," his office says. "Fact is, the economy’s a long way from being healthy - something Floridians, unfortunately, know better than most - and this series of tax cuts and economic assistance are needed to help bring us back. That’s why Sen. Nelson intends to vote for the bipartisan compromise. "

That's a far cry from Broward Democrat Alcee Hastings, who signed a protest letter along with 25 or so Democrats who called extending the tax cuts "fiscally irresponsible" and "grossly unfair."

"We support extending tax cuts in full to 98 percent of American taxpayers, as the President initially proposed," the letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reads. "(The president) should not back down. Nor should we."

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December 02, 2010

How Florida voted on the Charles Rangel censure

The House just voted to censure New York Democrat Rep. Charles Rangel for financial and fundraising misconduct.

The vote was 333-79. It was only the 23rd time that the House has invoked its most serious punishment short of expulsion. The solemn procedure will force Rangel to appear at the front of the chamber while
Speaker Nancy Pelosi reads the censure resolution.

Democrats Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Kathy Castor and Ron Klein voted for censure. Orlando Democrat Alan Grayson and Jacksonville Democrat Corrine Brown voted against it. Most Florida Republicans voted for it; three missed the vote, as did Democrats Kendrick Meek and Alcee Hastings.

November 09, 2010

Congressional Black Caucus said to be ready to welcome Allen West

The Congressional Black Caucus is said to be ready to allow the black Broward Republican to join the all-Dem group.

"The all-Democratic caucus had wavered over the issue since Tim Scott of South Carolina and Allen West of Florida were elected last week," the AP notes. "Chairwoman Barbara Lee had pointed to the group's liberal mission statement as a potential point of conflict.

"But in a statement Tuesday, the group said the two would be welcomed if they request membership. West has said he wants to join to bring a new perspective to the group. Scott hasn't decided."

In an interview with Fox Business News, West said he "has all the qualifications to join. I am a black American and a member of Congress..." West -- the first black Republican member of Congress from Florida since Reconstruction -- noted that caucus members Alcee Hastings and Georgia Rep. John Lewis had campaigned against him, but that he's "willing to put that aside.

"I'm not a petty or petulant person," West said. "I think that we need to have that discourse and we need to have that intellectual debate within the Congressional Black Caucus..."

October 21, 2010

Hastings: Dear Democrats, vote for Meek or else

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings' office just released this letter addressed to Florida voters:

The funny thing about conventional wisdom in an election year is that it only lasts until the voters decide it is no longer conventional or wise.  The media tells us that Congressman Kendrick Meek cannot win the Senate, that Democrats and independents will split their votes with Governor Charlie Crist, and, in the end, that Marco Rubio will be Florida’s next senator.  But politics is about self-determination and, if Democrats determine to rally themselves behind Congressman Meek, this election will suddenly be about real choice – not electoral mathematics.

There is only one Democrat in this race.  Kendrick Meek has been faithfully serving his South Florida constituents in Congress, bringing much-needed federal dollars to his district and demonstrating progressive leadership on issues ranging from job creation and economic development to United States support for Haiti’s recovery.   Governor Crist is no Democrat, despite what many Democrats want to tell themselves.   Governor Crist may be an independent for the purposes of this campaign, but he whole-heartedly supports the right-wing agenda, from preserving Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy to opposing President Obama’s health care reforms that benefit millions of Floridians across the state.

I understand the temptation for Democrats to hang on to Governor Crist in the hope that he will eke out a win against Rubio.  At least, that is what the conventional wisdom says.  But what if we ignore the talk show certainties and instead create our own reality by rallying around the one true Democrat, Kendrick Meek?  Polls show that combining support for both Crist and Meek would add up to over 50 percent, handily beating Rubio.   Just by switching their allegiance from Crist to Meek, Democrats would suddenly make this campaign very competitive – and very uncomfortable for Rubio.

But here is one bit of conventional wisdom I do agree with: if Democrats insist on stubbornly clinging to Crist, Marco Rubio will indeed win the election.   Floridians are well acquainted with what happens when a few crucial voters support a long-shot third party candidate.  So don’t settle for Crist; what he offers is only a slightly warmed-over version of Rubio’s Tea Party brand of politics.  It is essential for Democrats to stand together united to support the candidate who represents the clearest alternative to Marco Rubio.  The only real candidate of progress in this election is Democrat Kendrick Meek.  I hope that he can count on your vote. 

September 30, 2010

Alcee Hastings takes on the Tea Party and Ronald Reagan

Rep. Alcee Hastings is declining the Fort Lauderdale Tea Party's invite to debate -- but says it's not out of fear.

"Your reaction to my refusal to attend your debate will probably be that I am afraid to debate," he says in a letter he sent to Tea Partiers -- and the press. "Nothing could be further from the truth. 

"The simple reason that I refuse is that I do not think that any of your 41 members or your intended audience are going to vote for me in this election. Instead, I choose to spend my time and efforts trying to turn out the people that I have been privileged and honored to represent over the past 18 years. 

"Tea Party Fort Lauderdale, we have very different ideas. Your basic premise is to take your country back. I want our country to move forward. You represent the “party of me” while Democrats and I represent the 'party of we.'  Two great Americans proved this:  John F. Kennedy said, 'Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,' and Ronald Reagan said, 'Are you better off than you were four years ago?' "

The Broward Democrat has a Republican challenger, Bernard Sansaricq, a Haiti native who was president of the Haitian Senate in 1994.

September 24, 2010

Hastings' campaign to stump for Klein at black churches

Democratic U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings has his own race in November in a Broward-Palm Beach district but his campaign will lend to a hand to a neighboring Congressman starting this weekend.

Campaign workers for Hastings, who is black, will distribute U.S. Rep. Ron Klein's campaign materials at black churches in Palm Beach County starting this weekend and continue for the next several weekends, said Art Kennedy, Hastings' chief of staff on leave from that job to work on Hastings' campaign. Kennedy said that Hastings' campaign workers will also go door to door in some Palm Beach County neighborhoods for Klein.

Klein faces Allen West, a black Republican whose $4 million warchest and youtube video have brought him nationwide attention.

Only about 5 percent of the voters in Klein's Broward-Palm Beach district are black -- so having Hastings stump for the white Congressman is a sign that this could be a close race.

"Every vote is going to count,'' Kennedy said. 

September 08, 2010

Alcee Hastings on Quran burning: "Disgraceful to American values"

"The downright racism behind this hate-filled organization’s threat to burn copies of the Quran is disgraceful to American values. The issue here is not our coveted right of free speech; the issue is American values.

"Hate is hate and this is free speech running amuck.  It is irresponsible to hide behind the First Amendment and knowingly put our U.S. military in harm’s way. Not only do I condemn these proposed actions for their complete disrespect to the Islamic religion, but I condemn these actions for their potential to
incite further violence and hate crimes."

If the book burning proceeds, Hastings said he plans to introduce a House resolution next week condemning the burning.

August 31, 2010

WSJ: Alcee Hastings use of travel stipend questioned

From the Wall Street Journal: "Congressional investigators are questioning a half-dozen lawmakers for possibly misspending government funds meant to pay for overseas travel, according to people familiar with the matter.

"The investigation follows a Wall Street Journal article in March that said lawmakers had used daily cash stipends, meant to cover certain costs of official government travel overseas, to cover expenses that appeared to be unauthorized by House rules. An independent ethics board has referred the matter to the House ethics committee.

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