May 28, 2015

In Miami, Obama meets with family of slain journalist Steven Sotloff

@PatriciaMazzei

As part of his visit to Miami, President Obama met Thursday with the family of Steven Sotloff, the journalist who was killed last year by Islamic State.

According to the White House, Obama met with Sotloff's parents, Art and Shirley, and Sotloff's sister Lauren. The family is from Pinecrest.

"The President expressed his and the First Lady's condolences for Steven's death," the White House said. "He appreciated the chance to hear from the Sotloffs more about Steven's work as a journalist, including his passion for bringing the stories of people who are suffering to the rest of the world in the hope of making a positive difference, including in Syria.

"The President also recognized the family's '2Lives: Steven Joel Sotloff Memorial Foundation,' which was created to provide support and assistance to journalists reporting from conflict torn areas of the world."

May 27, 2015

In Miami, Obama sets stage for Democratic donors to wade into 2016

@PatriciaMazzei

In Miami, the early 2016 presidential campaign has for months played out as the Jeb and Marco Show, starring two Republican hometown candidates with little attention paid to anyone else.

Now it’s Democrats’ turn to vie for the spotlight.

President Barack Obama unofficially kicked off his political party’s own local fund-raising season Wednesday, attending a pair of $33,400-per-person events in Coconut Grove to benefit the Democratic National Committee for next year’s election.

Though he didn’t name her, Obama set the stage for his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, to ramp up her own check-collecting from South Florida’s well-heeled donors. Clinton has two private receptions planned for Thursday in the Grove and Coral Gables, followed by two more events Friday in Parkland and outside Orlando.

“An eight-year span in the life of a country is pretty short,” Obama said. “We can get a lot done, but part of what we’re also doing is laying the foundation so that we then pass that baton to the next administration, and we institutionalize some of the progress that we’ve been making.”

More here.

White House 'disappointed' over Florida Medicaid-expansion impasse

@PatriciaMazzei

President Obama's two-day stop in Miami has nothing to do with Florida's upcoming special legislative session forced by a disagreement over how to fund healthcare.

But the White House couldn't avoid a reporter's question Wednesday about the president's opinion on the opposition from statehouse Republicans to expanding Medicaid under Obamacare.

"We have demonstrated a willingness to work closely with state leaders to tailor solutions" to their residents, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said when asked about the issue in a conference call with Florida reporters. "The refusal of Republican officials in Florida to put the interests of their citizens ahead of their own political arguments is something that we've been disappointed by."

Obama arrives Wednesday afternoon for a pair of Democratic Party fund-raisers. Earnest's question-and-answer session was intended to delve into the president's visit Thursday to the National Hurricane Center, where he will ask people to prepare for the annual storm season that formally begins June 1.

Yet with Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP-controlled Legislature still at odds over how to craft a state budget in the special session that begins the same day, Earnest had to address the impasse. He said the U.S. Health and Human Services Department is open to a compromise -- if Florida is.

"There are officials at HHS who continue to be in regular contact with Gov. Scott's office, and we continue to be ready and willing to engage in serious discussions about a Florida-tailored Medicaid expansion proposal that would help 750,000 people in Florida get access to quality, affordable health coverage," Earnest said.

(The number is closer to 850,000 people, according to a different study than the one cited by the White House; the figure depends on how the uninsured are measured. Both studies rely on statistical formulas to update old data.)

Politico: Was that Barack Obama strolling through streets of Havana? LOL

Politico called it "Faux-bama's" tour of Havana.

See for yourself in this photo gallery of Cuban performance artist René Francisco Rodríguez, who last week was seen walking the streets and sipping mojitos in bars dressed as the U.S. president. According to The Telegraph, Rodríguez decided to dress like Obama and record the reaction he received as part of an art performance.

May 21, 2015

President Obama to stop by National Hurricane Center during upcoming Miami visit

@PatriciaMazzei

President Obama will visit the National Hurricane Center in Miami next Thursday for a preparedness briefing in advance of the June 1 start of the annual hurricane season, according to a White House official.

The Hurricane Center is scheduled to announce its 2016 season forecast Wednesday to reporters. The Atlantic has already seen one named storm, Ana.

Also on Wednesday, Obama is scheduled to attend two Coconut Grove fund-raisers for the Democratic Party.

May 20, 2015

Florida Republicans to Obama: Keep LIP program for hospital charity care

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and 11 other Republican members of Florida's congressional delegation sent a letter Tuesday to President Obama asking him to continue the federal Low Income Pool program in Florida.

The Health and Human Services Department plans to discontinue the current form of the LIP program, which provides hospitals with charity-care funding, by June 30. That has thrown Florida's healthcare budget into disarray, forcing a special legislative session beginning June 1 for lawmakers to craft a budget. The Senate wants to expand Medicaid under Obamacare to make up for some of the lost funding; the House doesn't. The feds say they want to work with the state to reach some sort of solution.

"HHS's refusal to continue LIP funding in Florida because the state has not expanded Medicaid is an inappropriate overreach and in direct contradiction to the Supreme Court decision," the Republicans' letter reads. It notes Jackson Health System in Miami would lose $237.2 million next year, and Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach would lose $16.2 million.

"We are requesting your immediate action to reverse HHS's decision to end LIP funding," the members of Congress wrote. "The well-being of Florida's low-income families will remain in jeopardy until your administration approves funding for these vital health services.."

Among the letter's co-signers were Miami Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart, and Ponte Vedra Beach Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is running for Senate in 2016.

President Obama to tap Miami Democratic donors next week

@PatriciaMazzei

President Obama will drop by Coconut Grove next week for two fund-raisers to benefit the Democratic Party.

Political donors have been invited to a pair of May 27 events, according to an emailed invitation obtained by the Miami Herald. The first is billed as a "discussion" at the home of mortgage broker Joe Falk. The second is a dinner at the home of developer Stephen Bittel. Both men raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Obama's last presidential campaign. The events were first reported by the Palm Beach Post.

Between 20 and 25 contributors will have to pay $33,400 to attend the discussion at Falk's home. Between 40 and 45 contributors will have to pay $10,000 each -- or $15,000 per couple -- to attend the dinner at Bittel's home. Both events will benefit the Democratic National Committee.

The 2016 political campaign season is clearly getting into swing: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has planned a Florida fund-raising swing of her own -- and a still-undisclosed public event -- for May 28-29.

May 18, 2015

Obama to curtail military-equipment for police

via @anitakumar01

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will announce Monday that he will limit a federal program that provides military equipment to law enforcement, administration officials say.

The move comes after the uproar caused by the deaths of of deaths of black men by police or in police custody in the last year.

Obama will make the announcement during a visit to Camden, N.J., a city administration officials say improved relations between police and residents after a period of high crime and mistrust.

Last year, Obama asked Congress $263 million over three years to increase use of body-worn cameras, expand training for law enforcement and increase the number of cities where the Department of Justice works with local police. But he didn’t make significant changes to a federal program that provides military equipment to law enforcement, despite complaints after police with riot gear and assault-style weapons responded to protesters of the Ferguson, Mo. shooting.

A task force he created recommended that local police should be prohibited from using federal money to acquire items, including tracked armored vehicles, hih-caliver firearms and ammunition and camouflage uniforms. It also recommended new restrictions on other military-style items, including wheeled armored vehicles, pyrotechnics and battering rams and riot gear.

“The idea is to make sure that we strike a balance in providing the equipment, which is appropriate and useful and important for local law enforcement agencies to keep the community safe, while at the same time putting standards in place,” said Cecilia Muñoz, director of Obama’s Domestic Policy Council.

Obama on Monday will announce $163 million in grants to urge police departments to adopt the suggestions.

--ANITA KUMAR, McClatchy White House correspondent

May 10, 2015

President Obama calls Florida woman on Mother's Day

From the Associated Press:

ORMOND BEACH -- A Florida woman's letter to the White House prompted a Mother's Day greeting from President Barack Obama.

Touched by Obama's words in his State of the Union speech about his own mother, Patricia Church of Ormond Beach penned a note to the president.

On Wednesday, while at her customer service job, she got a stunning call.

"Hi, Patty? Hey, this is Barack Obama," it began. "No way!" she replied. "Way!" the president responded.

Fifty-year-old Church said the call lasted just a few minutes but felt like an eternity. She said Obama offered early Mother's Day wishes and commended her for raising four children on her own.

She told The Daytona Beach News-Journal the president said he understood her struggles because his own mother was a single parent.

April 29, 2015

Marco Rubio says he is more experienced and qualified than Barack Obama was when he ran

Marco Rubio focused quite a bit on his past to make his case for a future presidency during a recent visit to Iowa.

During an interview with the Des Moines Register’s editorial board, the Republican touted his accomplishments to counter criticisms he is still a first-term senator, just as President Barack Obama was when he was elected president.

"I certainly feel I’m running for office with much more experience and qualifications than Barack Obama had when he ran. When Barack Obama ran for president, he was basically a state legislator from Illinois that had served in the Senate for two years," Rubio said April 25. "I, on the other hand, have been a legislative leader from the third-largest state in the country who has served in the Senate four and a half years, and have invested a significant amount of time in national security issues, particularly intelligence."

So is Rubio right in saying his résumé is much more impressive than Obama’s was almost a decade ago? We’ll check both candidates’ curriculum vitae.

Let’s start with an executive summary: Rubio, if he’s elected, will have spent about 17 years in politics and 19 years working overall. Obama had about 12 years in politics and 20 years of overall political and work experience. When you dig into the details, though, the differences between the two men seem fairly marginal.

See what Joshua Gillin of PolitiFact Florida found and see Rubio's Truth-O-Meter record.