January 30, 2012

Weatherford to West: Legislative maps are not targeting you

As the House prepares to finish up the congressional redistricting maps later this week, Rep. Will Weatherford stepped in to quash a rumor that's been festering in GOP circles for the past month. The gist: Republicans are not targeting Allen West.

The controversial congressman from Broward County has earned a national reputation as a firebrand conservative. But his district is decidedly getting more liberal. Under the House congressional redistricting map, which is expected to be adopted by the Senate, West's district would move west into Plantation, where he lives, and also pick up a swath of Democratic voters.

A personal appeal from Broward Repubican Party Chairman Richard DeNapoli attempted to persuade lawmakers to shift the lines northward along the Palm Beach County coast, giving West a safer Republican district. His fellow Republicans even launched a web site, saveallenwest.com.

Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, is having none of this. He stepped into to fray Monday and posted this statement on his Facebook page:


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January 27, 2012

Allen West on NPR: GOP candidates should go after Obama, not each other

Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation, was interviewed this afternon by Michel Martin on NPR's Tell Me More. The Florida congressman talked about the GOP presidential primary in Florida as well as the forum he held earlier this week in Washington on black conservatism. (Story about that here, from earlier this week.)

Here's what he told Martin about the primary:

"The theme that they should really focus on is, you know, making the case for their vision, for their ideas to be contrasted against that of President Obama so that the people can make the decision of who is the best person to go into that arena of ideas and be able to challenge the president as far as the future and the legacy of this republic. So I think that, you know, people have gotten off-track in a lot of the back and forth, you know, anti-immigrant, Bain Capital, this, that, you know, six of one, half dozen of the other. We've got to get back to the basics. And I'll tell you, a lot of the people that I talked to down in our constituency, that's what they'd like to see the candidates get back towards is talking about ideas and making that contrast."

January 18, 2012

UPDATED In Congress, Democrats say they're targeting Allen West -- but no mention of David Rivera

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has announced its targeted races for November, and -- no surprise for the country's largest swing state -- Florida features prominently on the list.

Among the targets is Rep. Allen West of Plantation, whose reelection fight promises to be one of the highest fundraising races this year, considering how much money West and his Democratic opponents,West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel and Patrick Murphy, have already raked in.

The press release, which is after the jump, also mentions former Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando as having what the DCCC considers good odds for getting elected back to the House under new districts that have emerged in the state's once-a-decade reapportionment process.

Notably absent from the list: GOP Rep. David Rivera of Miami. In the past year or so, Dems have touted Rivera's opponent, state Rep. Luis Garcia of Miami, who outraised Rivera early on in the race while Rivera was under a cloud of legal trouble.

But with the noise about at least one of the investigations fading -- and with new maps reshaping Rivera's district -- the DCCC folks don't appear to consider Rivera one of the most vulnerable House members facing reelection.

UPDATE: Speaking to Florida reporters Wednesday afternoon, DCCC Chairman Steve Israel defended not including Rivera on the list. 

"David Rivera is one of the most challenged incumbents in the United States Congress. We want that district," Israel said. "We're hoping that Luis is able to expand his base and continue to work hard so that he will be eligible for red-to-blue status in the next go-around."

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January 03, 2012

GOP infighting: Flare-up over failure to gerrymander in favor of Allen West

The intra-party infighting that emerges when the once-a-decade process of reapportionment begins has erupted. In an open letter to members of the Florida legislature's redistricting committees, the top brass of the Broward Republican Party have registered this complaint: your maps don't protect our incumbent -- namely Allen West, one of the two black Republicans in Congress.

They have launched a web site, saveallenwest.com, and are urging fellow GOPers to contact their legislators. The problem, they say, is the maps violate the constitutional requirement of compactness. (The Constitution also prohibits protection of incumbents.) West's current district stretches up the coast from Hollywood to Jupiter to capture the wealthier sections of Broward and Palm Beach Counties, while the new map stretches only up to Palm Beach Gardens and includes swaths of the more Democratic sections of Palm Beach and Broward counties farther from the coast, making the district less stringy and stretched out.

Broward GOP Chairman Richard DeNapoli argues the districts should be stretched and calls for a "compact coastal district."

"What does not make sense is that the 22nd Congressional District includes Plantation and Sunrise but excludes the northern parts of Palm Beach County, which would be a natural political and geographic boundary along the coast for what is mainly a coastal district,'' he writes.

"It seems that all the proposed maps for Congressional 22 make strenuous efforts to include the cities of Plantation and Sunrise at the southern end of the district yet exclude coastal areas of northern Palm Beach County, which would constitute a natural political and geographic boundary."

Here's DeNapoli's e-mail:

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December 20, 2011

House Democrats seek -- but fail -- to chastise Allen West for likening them to Nazis

House Republicans voted against taking up a resolution that would have scolded Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation, for likening the messaging of the Democratic Party to that of Hitler's propaganda machine.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 231-188 to table the resolution, which was sponsored by Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md. The vote was largely along party lines.

Several Jewish organizations asked West to apologize last week after he compared the messaging of the Democratic Party to that of Nazis.

"If Joseph Goebbels was around, he’d be very proud of the Democrat Party, because they have an incredible propaganda machine," West told reporters Thursday afternoon in Washington. "Let’s be honest, you know, some of the people in the media are complicit with this and enabling them to get that type of message out."

The Anti-Defamation League said it was "deeply dismayed" by what West said. “Such outrageous Holocaust analogies have no place in our political dialogue," said Abraham H. Foxman, the ADL's national director as well as a Holocaust survivor. "They are offensive, they trivialize real historical events, and they diminish the memory of the six million Jews and millions of others who perished in the Holocaust."

Edwards said Tuesday in a statement that West's "outrageous and insensitive remarks" have "no place in our nation’s political discourse." "This privileged resolution states clearly that this distasteful behavior cannot and will not be tolerated in the House of Representatives," she said. "The American people demand and deserve true leaders who are willing to work together to solve the nation’s economic and fiscal challenges. I ask my congressional colleagues to join me in sending a clear message that we share that priority."

West's spokeswoman Angela Sachitano said in an e-mail that he had no comment. Democrats have "stooped to a new level in their attempts to bring down Representative West, who they have deemed a threat to their power," she said. "Here we are in the midst of serious congressional business, and they are focusing their energy on Representative West."

West, a freshman Republican from a heavily Jewish district in South Florida, made the remarks when he being asked about why the GOP was doing so poorly in pools. A poll released last week by the Pew Research Center found people blame Republicans more than Democrats for Washington's gridlock. The Pew poll warned that public discontent with Congress has reached record levels, a prospect that could make re-election challenging for Republican incumbents.

West told reporters last week that Republicans needed to get better at messaging, and when asked whether to clarify that he was likening Democrats to Nazis, said that reporters would twist his words to suit their agenda.

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U.S. House to U.S. Senate: We're not passing your payroll tax cut as-is

The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday blew off the Senate's bipartisan proposal to extend a payroll tax cut for two months, instead voting for a conference committee that would work on a bill with the Senate.  

Problem is, the Senate is already gone home for the holidays, and won't be returning until Jan. 23. And if the extenstion isn't approved, an estimated 160 million people will see lighter paychecks beginning in January. The tax cut is about $1,000 a year for families, the White House said. 

President Barack Obama told Republicans shortly after their vote that they need to "come together right now and do the right thing," noting that the Senate was able to do so, even if it means they must return after the holiday break to negotiate extending the two-month period to a year. "We have more important things to worry about than politics right now," Obama said. 

But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, wasn't able to muster the votes to pass the Senate bill with the two-month extenstion, and didn't schedule a vote that would have failed -- and would have painted Republicans as raising people's taxes. Instead of voting on the Senate bill, House Republicans voted to meet with the Senate to work out their differences on the tax cut legislation. Boehner went as far as to appoint six "conferees."  

Tuesday's 229-193 House vote was largely along party lines, although seven Republicans did vote with Democrats. Miami Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and David Rivera voted to go to conference with the Senate on the bill, as did and Rep. Allen West,  R-Plantation. Democratic Reps. Frederica Wilson of Miami, Alcee Hastings of Miramar, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston and Ted Deutch of Boca Raton voted for it. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, didn't vote -- his office said he was anavailable because of a family medical issue. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, who is running for U.S. Senate in Florida, also voted with fellow Republicans on the bill. 

Note: Both Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., voted for the two-month payroll tax cut extension last week in the Senate, where it passed 89-10.

December 16, 2011

Federal spending bill passes, without Cuba language

The House of Representatives approved a $915 billion federal spending package this afternoon that will keep the government running through Sept. 30 of next year. The Senate is expected to approve the spending plan as soon as Saturday. 

The bill passed 296 to 121. And that was with the vote of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, who authored a controversial provision rolling back Cuba travel and remittances to Bush-administration levels. The amendment -- which the White House opposed -- nearly hung up budget negotiations as the federal government neared a shut-down. In the end, the Diaz-Balart proposal was stripped from the bill. 

After the vote, Diaz-Balart put out a statement sputtering with anger at the White House. His amendment was proposed during the committee process with "bipartisan support," he said.

"The approved language has been publicly available since June and was included in the conference report– then later stripped out. The language was not inserted secretly, it was not a surprise, nor the result of sly political gamesmanship," he said.

He then lashed out at President Barack Obama's foreign policy: "President Obama's willingness to shut down the United States government to appease a U.S.-designated State Sponsor of Terrorism is appalling and inexcusable," he said. "I hope that the American people see that President Obama would deny Americans essential services, halt checks to our seniors and veterans rather than reverse one aspect of his failed policy toward Cuba."

Miami GOP Rep. David Rivera was the only South Florida House member to vote against it -- he, too, backed the Cuba language panned by the White House. Rivera went a step beyond Diaz-Balart, calling the president the "Castro brothers’ best ally and chief lobbyist in Washington."

"My vote against this budget is intended to demonstrate my willingness to continue fighting the Obama administration’s policy of appeasement and unilateral concessions toward the Castro regime," he said.

Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami and Allen West of Plantation voted for the spending bill, as did Democratic Reps. Frederica Wilson of Miami, Alcee Hastings of Miramar, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston and Ted Deutch of Boca Raton voted for it.

The spending bill affects a wide range of federal programs, and incorporates many of the cuts lawmakers agreed to earlier this year. Among the cuts are Federal Emergency Management Agency grants to first responders. The money was cut by $1 billion to $2.4 billion.

In addition, the measure bars money to transfer, release or assist in the transfer or release of Guantanamo Bay detainees "to or within the United States or its territories."

Once again, Allen West is asked to apologize for something he said


The National Jewish Democratic Council has asked Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation, to apologize for comments he made Thursday likening the messaging of the Democratic Party to the propaganda machine of Hitler's Germany.

“If Joseph Goebbels was around, he’d be very proud of the Democrat Party, because they have an incredible propaganda machine," West told reporters Thursday afternoon. "Let’s be honest, you know, some of the people in the media are complicit with this and enabling them to get that type of message out."

The NJDC asked West to "apologize sincerely and immediately. As we have said repeatedly, invoking the Holocaust to make a political point is never acceptable and should be condemned by all for the sake of the memory of those who were lost."

West's comments elicited a handwritten rebuke from Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. In the letter, obtained by Politico, Conyers notes Goebbels was a "vicious and notorious anti-Semite" and calls on West to "help raise the level of congressional discourse in vigorous debate"  without resorting to personal attacks.

West, a freshman Republican from a heavily Jewish district in South Florida, was being asked about why the GOP was doing so poorly in polls -- a new Pew poll finds people blame Republicans more than Democrats for Washington's gridlock, the Washington Post reported.

West told reporters that Republicans needed to get better at messaging.

And then, apparently realizing the impact of his remarks (see here for previous West coverage), he said this, according to Politico:

"I'm talking about propaganda, OK," he said. "Don't start taking my words and twisting it around. I'm talking about propaganda. And I think that's a very important thing. When you tell me that everyone thinks that the only people on Capitol Hill are House Republicans, it's because that's what's being portrayed, is that there's nobody else up here."

"Once again, you guys will take whatever I say and you will spin it to try to demonize me or demagogue me,” West added. “What I'm talking about is a person that was the minister of propaganda. And I'm talking about propaganda. So please. I'll be prepared to wake up tomorrow and you guys make up some crazy story. Whatever."


December 13, 2011

No surprise -- South Florida House members go party line on payroll tax cut extension

The House just passed a GOP version of the payroll tax cut extension 294-193, largely along party lines. 

It's got some toxic provisions for most Democrats, including a measure that would speed up construction of the Keystone pipeline from Canada. 

Miami GOP Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and David Rivera voted for it, as did Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation.

Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, and Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, voted against it. 

The White House panned the House vote: "This is not a time for Washington Republicans to score political points against the President."

November 18, 2011

U.S. House fails to pass a balanced budget amendment

The U.S. House of Representatives turned down a balanced budget amendment Friday afternoon, with Florida's congressional delegation largely voting along party lines. Although the proposal had 261 votes, 165 members voted against it and it was 29 short of the two-thirds majority needed for passage. Just four Republicans voted against the bill; 25 Democrats voted for it. 

Miami GOP Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and David Rivera voted for the amendment, as did Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation.

Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, voted against it. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, did not vote.