June 23, 2016

Rubio votes against gun-control compromise, Nelson votes in favor

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio helped kill a compromise gun control measure today. Sen. Bill Nelson voted in favor of the amendment by Sen. Susan Collins, which would restrict people on the government no-fly list from buying guns.

Rubio, now a candidate for Senate, has drawn criticism from the left for opposing a number of gun measures that followed the Orlando tragedy. His office said he reviewed Collins' "no fly, no buy" plan but he was not expected to back it with the NRA coming out in opposition.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Rubio, Nelson split on House Zika funding bill

@PatriciaMazzei

Lost in the shuffle of Wednesday night's dramatic sit-in by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives was passage of legislation setting aside $1.1 billion to prevent the Zika virus.

That's less than the $1.9 billion President Barack Obama had requested, an amount that received bipartisan support in Florida, the state with the highest number of confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne illness.

The bill now heads to the Senate, and Florida's two senators had quite different reactions to the legislative package.

"The House Zika bill is a disaster," Democrat Bill Nelson said in a statement. "Not only does it take $500 million in health care funding away from Puerto Rico, it limits access to birth control services needed to help curb the spread of the virus and prevent terrible birth defects. This is not a serious solution."

Republican Marco Rubio said some money was better than nothing.

"At this point, I support getting something on Zika done," he said in a statement. "Congress has shamefully wasted too much time already, and with summer here, the price of inaction will be devastating. Although this does not fully fund the president's request, it is at least a significant improvement from what the House passed earlier this year."

All three Miami Republicans in the House voted for the legislation, which was sponsored by one of the local congressmen, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, as part of a broader budget bill.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo said the Zika funding is insufficient but a starting point.

"While this bipartisan compromise fell short, it is a step in the right direction," he said in a statement. "Importantly, it avoids a funding cliff at the end of the summer which was a major flaw in the original House-passed Zika bill I opposed. I will continue to call for as much funding as possible to ensure the residents of South Florida, and the nation, are no longer threatened by the Zika virus."

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 20, 2016

Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson voted on party lines on gun votes

Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio voted on party lines this evening on four gun bills that surfaced after the Orlando massacre. All four bills died.

“What am I going to tell 49 grieving families? What am I going to tell the families of those that are still in the hospital fighting for their lives?' Nelson said at a news conference after the votes. 'What am I going to tell the trauma surgeon whose blood-stained shoes have been shown in a picture on so many news programs and who said he didn’t know, in the midst of the screams and the cries, if they were black or white, or gay or straight, as they brought in over 40, all at one time, into that trauma operating room?  What am I going to tell the community of Orlando that is trying to come together in the healing?  Sadly, what I am going to have to tell them is that the NRA won again.”

Rubio issued a long explanation for his votes. “At the end of the day, we know that law-abiding Americans will abide by whatever laws are passed affecting their Second Amendments rights, and that criminals and terrorists will keep ignoring these laws. Senators Cornyn and Grassley have struck the proper balance between addressing gaps in the law that could be exploited by terrorists while taking care not to place new burdens on lawful gun owners who simply want to protect themselves and their families. We know that the impetus for today’s votes was the Orlando terrorist attack. We can’t say for sure if anything in our laws would have stopped this maniac from carrying out some form of attack, but I know that the proposals I supported today would specifically fill gaps that are evident after this attack and protect people who may one day find themselves needing firearms to protect themselves. The Democrat proposals are politically-motivated and driven by a larger ideological agenda to disarm Americans.”

Democratic measures:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein's proposal to allow the attorney general to deny firearms and explosives to suspected terrorists.

Nelson voted yes; Rubio voted no.

Sens. Chris Murphy, Cory Booker and Chuck Schumer plan to expand backgroud checks, including at a gun show.

Nelson voted yes; Rubio voted no.

Republican measures

> Sen, John Cornyn's plan to delay the sale of guns to terrorism suspect for three days or longer.

Nelson voted no; Rubio voted yes.

> Sen. Charles Grassley's plan to increase funding for background checks but not to expand them.

Nelson voted no; Rubio voted yes.

Full Rubio statement:

“I supported Senator Cornyn’s bipartisan proposal, because in the case of the Orlando terrorist, it would have left him on the national background check system for five years and triggered additional review when he attempted to purchase a gun. This reasonable proposal would protect law-abiding Americans by ensuring that their Second Amendment rights are not denied unless terrorism suspicions are adjudicated by a court, following actual notice and a hearing. After all, the standard for denying someone any constitutional right must be a high one; it cannot be ‘because the federal government says so.’

“I opposed Senator Feinstein’s proposal because it would not prevent terrorist attacks, but it would deny thousands of law-abiding Americans their constitutionally protected right to bear arms without any due process. Our terror watch lists are a mess that need to be fixed. We know there are thousands of innocent Americans who have been put on these lists without any justification, and getting their names cleared can be an arduous process. That is a fundamental violation of our constitutionally protected Second Amendment rights. Of course, no one supports terrorists getting any weapons, but we must also make sure that law-abiding Americans can own firearms to protect themselves.

“I opposed Senator Murphy’s proposal because it places too many burdens on law-abiding Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights, specifically as it relates to the transfer of firearms between friends and neighbors, and could criminalize many routine activities that occur between gun owners. This proposal places all the burdens on law-abiding Americans, who will grudgingly comply with everything, while criminals and terrorists ignore them. I instead supported Senator Grassley’s proposal, which makes improvements to the national background check system without infringing on the rights of honest, law-abiding Americans.

“The Orlando terrorist attack has left a major void in the hearts of all the impacted families, their friends and others like me who have been deeply moved by what we’ve learned over the last eight days about the 49 people who were killed. These were young people in the primes of their lives, sons and daughters, taken too soon. This terrorist attack reminds us of the high stakes in this war on terror and how we cannot continue to allow radical Islamic terror groups to plan and train for attacks against the United States and our allies abroad, or allow their efforts to inspire homegrown terrorist acts like this.  Even as we fight terrorists overseas and strengthen our abilities to prevent homegrown extremism, we cannot undermine the American people’s Second Amendment rights to protect themselves and their families.

“At the end of the day, we know that law-abiding Americans will abide by whatever laws are passed affecting their Second Amendments rights, and that criminals and terrorists will keep ignoring these laws. Senators Cornyn and Grassley have struck the proper balance between addressing gaps in the law that could be exploited by terrorists while taking care not to place new burdens on lawful gun owners who simply want to protect themselves and their families. We know that the impetus for today’s votes was the Orlando terrorist attack. We can’t say for sure if anything in our laws would have stopped this maniac from carrying out some form of attack, but I know that the proposals I supported today would specifically fill gaps that are evident after this attack and protect people who may one day find themselves needing firearms to protect themselves. The Democrat proposals are politically-motivated and driven by a larger ideological agenda to disarm Americans.”

Senator Cornyn amendment #4742:

·         This amendment provides law enforcement with appropriate tools to investigate and detain terrorists while preventing them from obtaining firearms and also protecting fundamental due process rights. After taking appropriate steps to confirm the identity of the prospective transferee and confirm or rule out their connection to terrorism, federal prosecutors will have the needed authority to arrest and detain terrorists immediately.

Senator Grassley amendment #4751:

·         This amendment addresses gun violence by improving federal and state law enforcement’s ability to share and access records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Additionally, the amendment provides better protections from gun violence by addressing mental illness in the criminal justice system and strengthening laws against trafficking of illegal firearms.

-- Alex Leary, Tampa Bay Times

June 13, 2016

After Orlando shooting, Sen. Bill Nelson pushes bill to prevent terror suspects from buying guns

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson on Monday joined fellow Democrats in pushing for a bill that would prevent terror suspects from obtaining guns and explosives.

The FBI, Nelson said, was "handicapped" in dealing with the Orlando shooter, who had been investigated before but the cases had closed. The "Denying Firearms And Explosives To Dangerous Terrorists Act" would ban people on a terrorist watch list from getting weapons.

Said Nelson: "If the FBI did not have to close those cases, could make a notation, then when that fellow went in last week to purchase an AR-15 and an automatic handgun, he would have come up on their radar."

<<< Politifact: "Terrorist watch list no obstacle to buying guns, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy says" >>>

The legislation, which Democrats noted began under President George W. Bush, came up last year and was defeated on a party-line vote. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the sponsor, said she hoped Florida Sen. Marco Rubio would support the legislation.

Nelson also said he was "disgusted" by some of the politics surrounding the shooting. "What we've got to do is come together as a country," he said. "That's the American spirit."

Democrats said it would be the first in a series of gun regulations they would push in light of Orlando.

June 12, 2016

Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson on the Orlando shooting

Here is what some Florida politicians are saying about the Orlando shooting:

Sen. Marco Rubio:

“I am devastated by this heartbreaking act of terrorism in Orlando. Jeanette and I join all Floridians and all Americans in grieving for those who lost their lives and praying for those who were injured in this senseless act of hatred, violence and terror. I want to thank the heroic police officers and first responders who prevented further loss of life, including the officer at the nightclub who first engaged the shooter. I would also like to encourage anyone living in Central Florida to donate blood to help the injured. As local, state and federal authorities investigate the perpetrator of this attack, my Senate office and I stand ready to assist - both by making sure the full weight of the federal government is used to hold anyone responsible for this incident to account, and also with any constituent service needs that arise for the impacted families. Confronting the threat of violent homegrown ‎radicalization is one of the greatest counterterrorism challenges our law enforcement and intelligence community faces. ‎We must do more at every level of government and within our own communities to identify and mitigate this cancer on our free society and prevent further loss of innocent life.”

Sen. Bill Nelson:

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of all the victims of this horrific attack in Orlando. I have spoken with the FBI and there appears to be a link to Islamic radicalism. I have conferred with additional sources and they think there is likely a connection with ISIS. So as we all mourn the senseless loss of life and investigators continue to learn more, we must remain vigilant and remember that if you see something, say something.”

 

May 25, 2016

Marco Rubio reports another $100K from book sales

via @learyreports

Marco Rubio earned an additional $102,500 in 2015 from book royalties, his financial disclosure form shows. That adds to the $1 million or more he'd already earned from two books, chiefly An American Son published in 2012.

He also earned $9,016 for teaching at Florida International University. His wife shows "partnership distributions" for JDR Events but Rubio is only required to say it was more than $1,000.

Bill Nelson reported $49,100 in retirement income from his time in state government and about $5,600 from an IRA. More detail here.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Zika funding inaction frustrates Florida members of Congress

via @learyreports

With Congress set to go on -- another -- vacation, Florida lawmakers are worried about Zika funding. 

Sen. Bill Nelson today sent Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a letter urging him to keep the chamber in session.

"Though the House passed a stand-alone bill to provide a mere $622 million and the Senate attached $1.1 billion in Zika funding as an amendment to a larger appropriations package, we are still weeks away, at best, from passing a final bill out of Congress," Nelson wrote. "Without the passage of a stand-alone Zika funding bill by the Senate, there is no clear path forward. I have tried repeatedly to pass a bill to fund the Administration’s request and send it to the House. Unfortunately, each attempt was blocked. For these reasons, I ask you to exercise your power as the Senate majority leader to take up consideration of a stand-alone funding bill (S. 2843) to address Zika, and to even delay the Memorial Day recess if Congress needs more time to pass the bill."

Sen. Marco Rubio was on the floor Tuesday making a similar call for action. "For all of us as Americans but especially for all of us as elected leaders, It is long past due to take this virus seriously. Because the virus is not just serious; this virus is deadly serious and so far, I must say that congress is failing this test.”

Rep. Vern Buchanan is asking House and Senate leaders to appoint conference members to work out differences on spending measures.

"The cost of delay is unacceptably high," Buchanan wrote in a letter to Republican and Democratic leaders. "We are seeing the effect of this disease in Florida, where mosquito season has already begun. Currently, Florida has more than a quarter of all U.S. Zika cases. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said this weekend that mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus are expected to enter the U.S. mainland and begin infecting Americans within the next 'month or so.' "

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

May 04, 2016

Jose Javier Rodriguez revs up Florida Senate bid with help from special guests

Jjr fundraiser 0503

@ByKristenMClark

MIAMI -- If there was any doubt about the importance of District 37 in terms of Florida Democrats' desire to win back a few seats in the state Senate in November, look no further than the campaign kick-off of Jose Javier Rodriguez on Tuesday night in Miami.

Gathered with a few dozen family, friends and supporters at the Segafredo restaurant in Brickell, the two-term state representative had two high-profile Democratic guests in attendance to help him raise money: current U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Senate candidate and current U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy. Incoming Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, of Miami Gardens, was also there, hoping to see Rodriguez join his ranks next year.

Nelson spoke for about seven minutes, urging the crowd to open their wallets in support of Rodriguez so he can help bring back "common sense in our state Legislature."

"The Senate certainly works in a more collegial way than the House but then they’re going to have to work together all the more," said Nelson, himself a former state legislator. "If you bring people into the Senate like Representative Rodriguez and make him Senator Rodriguez then that’s what’s going to turn the tide. And that’s what’s going to turn the state of Florida back to a much more mainstream position, instead of an extreme."

District 37 is expected to be one of the more competitive contests in the state, with Rodriguez facing current Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, one of the chamber's moderate conservatives. (Mercedes Christian has also filed as an independent candidate in the race.)

Continue reading "Jose Javier Rodriguez revs up Florida Senate bid with help from special guests" »

April 28, 2016

Three Floridians among Obama nominees to federal district bench

@jamesmartinrose

President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated U.S. magistrate judges in Jacksonville and Ocala and a prominent Tampa lawyer for federal district court seats, adding their names to a backlog of dozens of judicial picks the Republican-controlled Senate has failed to confirm.

Obama named Magistrate Judge Patricia D. Barksdale of Jacksonville and Tampa white-collar defense attorney William F. Jung to the Middle District of Florida, and he chose Magistrate Judge Philip R. Lammens for the Northern District of Florida.

"There is a judicial emergency in the Middle District of Florida right now," Sen. Bill Nelson said. "Sen. Rubio and I have conferred on these three nominees, and even in this highly partisan environment, I'm hopeful that we can get them approved quickly."

Aides to Rubio confirmed that the two senators had worked together in recommending the Florida nominees to Obama.

Rubio, however, declined to say whether he would push for his Senate Republican colleagues to confirm them. Republicans are refusing to hold hearings or to vote on Obama's nomination last month of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

With 85 federal district seats unfilled nationwide, Florida has three of 28 vacancies deemed "emergency" by the U.S. Judicial Conference, the policy-making body for federal courts overseen by the Supreme Court.

The emergency designation is based on a combination of the length of vacancy and how many cases are pending before a court.

Both seats that Obama moved to fill Thursday for the Middle District of Florida are among the 28 emergency vacancies, with one seat empty since June 30, 2015, and the second seat unfilled since August 1 of last year.

The Middle District of Florida had 9,401 cases in 2015, which is considered a heavy load. It stretches from south of Naples on the Gulf Coast to the Georgia border and includes Jacksonville, Tampa and Orlando.

Obama also nominated five other district judges to seats in Nevada, Colorado, North Carolina and the District of Columbia.

"Throughout their careers, these nominees have displayed unwavering commitment to justice and integrity," Obama said of his eight choices for judicial promotion. "Their records are distinguished and impressive, and I am confident that they will serve the American people well from the United States District Court bench."

The Senate on April 11 unanimously confirmed Waverly Crenshaw Jr., an African-American lawyer from Nashville, Tenn., to a federal district judgeship.

The Senate confirmed just 17 of Obama's judicial nominees last year, the fewest since 1960.

Before becoming a U.S. magistrate judge in 2012, Lammens was a federal prosecutor in Jacksonville, the city's No. 2 attorney and a civil trial lawyer in the torts division of the U.S. Justice Department. He earned his law and undergraduate degrees from the University of Florida.

A U.S. magistrate judge since 2013, Barksdale also previously worked as a federal prosecutor in Jacksonville. She, too, has undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Florida.

Jung is a founding partner of the Jung & Sisco law firm in Ocala, specializing in white-collar criminal defense. He was a federal prosecutor in Miami in the late 1980s and clerked before that for then-Supreme Court Justice William H. Rehnquist. Jung received his law degree from the University of Illinois and his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University