April 18, 2018

Curbelo to appear with Trump in Key West (updated)

Curbelo

@alextdaugherty 

Rep. Carlos Curbelo is headed to Key West with President Donald Trump tomorrow, but don't expect the duo to applaud the sunset at Mallory Square. 

The president will visit Naval Air Station Key West for a few hours on Thursday to receive a briefing from the Joint Interagency Task Force South, and Curbelo said Wednesday he'll join Trump on Air Force One for the quick visit.

"I’ll go ahead and break the news that I will be traveling with the President tomorrow, and will be arriving with him, and will be out at JIATF, and I am very grateful that he is taking the time to visit such a valuable asset for law enforcement, for our military, for our partners from other nations from the region," Curbelo said to U.S. 1 Radio News. "And I think for the Florida Keys it is wonderful that a president is visiting, taking the time to learn about a facility that is not only so critical for our national security, but obviously employs a lot of people in the Florida Keys." 

Curbelo doesn't have much of a relationship with Trump. He was the first Republican lawmaker to suggest Trump could be impeached and declined to vote for him in 2016. Since Trump assumed office Curbelo criticized some of his policy decisions like withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord and recently called on EPA secretary Scott Pruitt to resign amid mounting ethics issues. 

Trump was in Hialeah on Monday to tout the tax bill, a law Curbelo helped draft, but Curbelo wasn't there. He was traveling home from the Summit of the Americas in Peru. 

Curbelo is in the midst of a contentious reelection campaign against Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in a Democratic-leaning district, and appearing with Trump in public could be fodder for his opponent. The event on Thursday is an official White House event and not a campaign stop, though Trump riffed about his 2016 victory in Florida on Monday. 

UPDATE (4/19): Here's what Curbelo talked about with Trump, per his office. 

“I also appreciated the opportunity to travel with the President ‎and his team," Curbelo said in a statement. "I was able to stress to him the importance of finding a compromise on immigration that protects young immigrants brought to our country as children and also strengthens border security. We discussed FEMA's role in hurricane recovery, Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, and as we were arriving at our destination I shared with the President that sea level rise is increasingly a concern in the Keys and throughout South Florida."

April 13, 2018

Curbelo won't appear with Trump in Miami on Monday

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@alextdaugherty @newsbysmiley

President Donald Trump is coming to South Florida to talk up the GOP tax bill on Monday, but a Miami Republican who played a role in its creation—and who is facing a tough reelection—won't be there. 

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a member of the House tax writing committee that drafted the tax bill signed into law by Trump late last year, is in Lima this weekend at the Summit of the Americas and won't be back in time for the Monday afternoon event, according to spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez

"Congressman Curbelo is part of the U.S. Delegation to the Summit of the Americas, taking place in Peru this weekend, promoting our engagement in the region," Rodriguez said in an email. "The delegation is not set to return until Monday so he is currently not expected to make it back in time to attend the event in Miami." 

Curbelo had plans to attend the summit well before Trump’s event was announced, Rodriguez said. 

The Monday event is an official White House event and not a Trump campaign stop, though Curbelo appearing alongside a president who overwhelmingly lost Curbelo's Miami-to-Key West district to Hillary Clinton could be ad fodder for Democrats seeking to defeat him in November. Curbelo's campaign previously said he doesn't invite people to campaign with him but "anyone who wants to support Carlos' efforts and endorse his bipartisan approach to public service is welcome to do so." 

Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who doesn't have a serious Democratic opponent and who has worked with Trump on Cuba policy and immigration, confirmed that he will attend the event, though details have not been publicly released yet by the White House. 

Sen. Marco Rubio's office did not immediately respond when asked if he plans to attend, though Rubio is also attending the Summit of the Americas in Peru. 

The GOP’s biggest LGBT advocate is retiring. Here’s how the party plans to move ahead.

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@alextdaugherty

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuba libre in hand, was busy waxing nostalgic with former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart about their efforts to undermine Fidel Castro when the animated discussion was interrupted by Caitlyn Jenner.

The world’s most recognizable advocate for transgender causes wanted to hug the retiring Miami lawmaker with a history of bucking and pushing the Republican Party on LGBT issues.

“Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is a person of many firsts, and if you know anything about me I love firsts,” Jenner said at a recent gala honoring Ros-Lehtinen’s career. “The first Latina elected to Congress, the first woman elected to Congress from Florida, the first Republican in the House to support marriage equality, and she did it in a very big way.”

Jenner, also a Republican, and Ros-Lehtinen are at odds with the majority of Republican lawmakers. President Donald Trump has announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military via tweet and multiple state legislatures have considered legislation that would restrict access to restrooms, locker rooms, and other sex-segregated facilities on the basis of sex assigned at birth.

“Fighting for gay rights, transgender rights is such an important part of my DNA and what I do,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

Ros-Lehtinen introduced legislation in 2015 that would prohibit schools from discriminating against students based on sexual orientation or gender identity. She also signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief in a Supreme Court case seeking to protect access to public accommodations for transgender students. And Ros-Lehtinen’s son, Rodrigo, is the first openly transgender child of a sitting member of Congress.

“The most important job Ileana’s had... is being a mom,” Jenner said. “For the trans community we have many, many issues. The suicide rate for young trans youth is nine times higher than the general public, we have homelessness, we have young trans people being kicked out of their homes all across this country. Transgendered kids … may be bullied in school, they may be a little different, but when they go home, [if] they go to a safe place and a loving family, that is by far the most important thing we can do for our kids. So Ileana, I want to thank you for that.”

But Ros-Lehtinen, the only Republican in Congress with a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBT rights organization, won’t be in office next year.

Her retirement and a potential wave election for Democrats in 2018 could make pro-LGBT Republicans a rare breed in the next Congress. Four of the eight Senate Republicans endorsed by the Log Cabin Republicans, a pro-LGBT group, could be gone next year, and nine of the 11 House Republicans endorsed by the group are retiring or face tough reelection campaigns.

Ros-Lehtinen was honored by Jenner at the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute's annual gala. The institute recognized Ros-Lehtinen with its Leadership in Public Service Award and Leadership in International Relations Award, and it renamed the latter award after Ros-Lehtinen in her honor.

Read more here.

April 11, 2018

Miami Republicans say lame-duck Paul Ryan unlikely to go rogue on immigration

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@alextdaugherty

The three Miami Republicans in Congress don't think House Speaker Paul Ryan will change course and force a slew of immigration bills onto the floor for a vote now that he's announced he'll leave office at the end of his term. 

"I don't that you'll see a rogue speaker," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is also retiring after the 2018 elections. "I think he'll be doing more or less what he's been doing, listening to the conference and making decisions that he thinks are in the best interest of the conference. It would be ideal for him to pass a Dreamer bill or put something else up for discussion. I don't suspect that he will do that." 

Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo are hopeful that Ryan will continue to listen to the more moderate wing of the Republican caucus.

"We have this log jam of issues that don't get resolved here, whether it be immigration or a number of others," Curbelo said. "I think Speaker Ryan's intention when he took over was to allow the House to work its will and have a more open process and in that regard I think he could have done a little better." 

Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen voted against a slew of spending bills in recent months over inaction on immigration. But Curbelo changed course and voted in favor of a spending bill in the midst of a debate on young immigrants who came to the U.S. as young people because he argued enough progress had been made, a decision that angered some activists in his majority Hispanic district. 

"I changed my vote on two occasions when there was measurable progress," Curbelo said. "In one case Senator (Mitch) McConnell kept his word with regards to a immigration debate and votes on the Senate floor and the second time the Speaker made a commitment that the House would take action," Curbelo said. "Now the last time, the omnibus vote, no progress had been made and I reverted to my original position. The Speaker remains committed to solving this issue so I think we're going to have a chance to." 

Curbelo said "it's possible" that Ryan could choose to hold votes on immigration, though Republican leaders will likely have the ultimate say on whether something gets to the floor before the 2018 election. 

"I'm going to keep working on it and I can tell you that Paul Ryan has been one of the people that I've always been able to confide in on that issue," Diaz-Balart said, adding that he doesn't know that Congress will act on DACA after a deadline mandated by President Donald Trump was rendered useless by the courts. 

Democrats face long odds in effort to topple Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart

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@alextdaugherty

Democrats are scrambling to find a credible challenger for Mario Diaz-Balart.

They may not find one.

Though a slim majority of the Miami Republican’s district voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, Democrats don’t control any significant state or local offices in the area, depriving them of a potential bench to take on a well-known and well-funded incumbent in the 2018 election.

“That’s a district that is very hard to win for a Democrat, especially if you’re not Hispanic and don’t speak Spanish,” said Raúl Martínez , a Democrat who served as mayor of Hialeah from 1981 to 2005 and who unsuccessfully challenged former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, the congressman’s brother, in 2008. “You’ve got to remember this district was hand-drawn for Mario. It takes Hialeah and the conservative areas and goes all the way to Naples. The alligators in the middle don’t vote and the Florida panthers don’t vote.”

There are just more than three weeks before congressional candidates in Florida must decide whether to run for the August primary election, and Martínez, along with other Republican and Democratic sources, could not name a Democrat with deep connections to the district that could seriously threaten Diaz-Balart.

National Democrats insist there’s still time for a candidate to emerge, though Politico Florida reported House Minority whip Steny Hoyer recently tried and failed to persuade former Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman, who is running in a crowded Democratic primary to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, to take on Diaz-Balart.

Read more here.

Curbelo narrowly beats Dem challenger in fundraising but maintains cash advantage

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@alextdaugherty

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo raised $560,000 in the latest fundraising quarter, essentially matching Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell's $500,000 haul

But Curbelo still maintains a healthy advantage in cash on hand. His campaign said Wednesday he has $2.1 million to spend, a record for the campaign. Mucarsel-Powell's campaign said they have about $700,000 cash on hand. 

"Carlos continues to draw major support from Republicans, Independents, and Democrats from South Florida and throughout the country - people who believe in his bipartisan approach to leadership," Curbelo spokesperson Chris Miles said in an email. "The American people are done with extremists in both parties who are committed to obstruction and to further poisoning our country's politics for personal gain. Carlos will never stop working to find bipartisan solutions on issues like jobs and the economy, immigration, infrastructure, gun safety, and the environment notwithstanding the petty attacks of self-serving politicians in both parties."

But House Speaker Paul Ryan's retirement announcement on Wednesday could affect Curbelo's fundraising. Ryan traveled to South Florida weeks before the 2016 election to raise cash for his political ally and Ryan's lame-duck status will likely make it harder for Curbelo and other Republican incumbents to benefit financially from the 2012 vice presidential candidate.  

Curbelo represents the most Democratic-leaning House district in the country currently held by a Republican running for reelection, though he bested President Donald Trump's performance in the district by about 28 percentage points in 2016. 

April 05, 2018

Gun-related town halls are a partisan affair in South Florida (updated)

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@alextdaugherty

A national group that promotes face-to-face interactions between lawmakers and constituents is working with the March for Our Lives organizers to host town hall events on preventing gun violence during the current congressional recess, and no South Florida Republicans are planning to attend. 

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, who represents Parkland, held a town hall earlier this week, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, will hold a town hall on Saturday in Pembroke Pines, while Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens, will host a town hall tonight in Miami Gardens. 

The three Republicans from Miami-Dade County, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo, do not have any town hall events scheduled during the recess. 

A March for Our Lives-affiliated event is being held in Curbelo's district tonight, though Curbelo's office said he was not invited to the event at John A. Ferguson High School. While pro-gun control student activists from Parkland have demanded town hall events during this congressional recess, Ros-Lehtinen, Diaz-Balart and Curbelo have not held any in-person town hall events since the beginning of 2017, according to the Town Hall Project. Curbelo and Diaz-Balart both hold office hours with staff at various locations throughout their districts. 

Curbelo's seat is a target for Democrats in 2018 while Ros-Lehtinen is retiring and Diaz-Balart does not have a serious Democratic challenger. 

Neither of Florida's two senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, have held an in-person town hall since the beginning of 2017, according to the Town Hall Project.  

UPDATE (4/6/18): A student organizer with pro gun-control group Students Demand Action said Curbelo was invited to the town hall event in his district, but he declined citing a scheduling conflict. 

William Breslin, who lives outside of Curbelo's district, said he called Curbelo's official office three times before receiving a response that Curbelo could not attend. Breslin then invited Curbelo's Democratic opponents after the congressman declined the invitation, he said. 

Information on upcoming town halls: 

Town hall with Frederica Wilson and state Rep. Shevrin Jones: 

Thursday, April 5 6:30pm

Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Complex Auditorium

3000 NW 199th St. 

Miami Gardens, FL 33056 

Town hall with Debbie Wasserman Schultz: 

Saturday, April 7 2pm 

301 NW 103rd Avenue

Pembroke Pines, FL 33026 

Town Hall for Our Lives West Miami-Dade

Thursday, April 5 7pm

John A. Ferguson High School 

15900 SW 56th St. 

Miami, FL 33185

April 03, 2018

Democratic polling shows a tight race for Carlos Curbelo

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@alextdaugherty @newsbysmiley

New polling from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee shows that Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo could face a serious challenge for his seat in November. 

The DCCC, a Washington-based organization that seeks to elect Democrats to the House of Representatives, released polling that shows Curbelo with a five percentage point lead over likely Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. The polling also shows Curbelo losing to a generic Democrat by two percentage points. 

The poll's results, which shows Curbelo up 45 points to 40 points over Mucarsel-Powell, are based on a survey of 418 likely 2018 general election voters in Florida's 26th Congressional District and was conducted by the DCCC from March 17th to 22nd. Respondents’ information came from the voter file and the poll was conducted through all live calls, on cells and landlines, with a bilingual option. The poll's margin of error is +/- 4.9%. 

"Month-by-month, week-by-week, primaries will produce battle-tested and uniquely qualified Democratic candidates," the DCCC said in a press release. "And vulnerable House Republicans will be forced to face reality: According to a sample of newly released polling data from a wide variety of districts, Democrats are poised to take back the House."

Curbelo, who has been a target for national Democrats since winning office in 2014, will be a tough opponent despite representing a Miami-to-Key West district that voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by 16.3 percentage points in 2016. He won reelection in 2016 over Democrat Joe Garcia by 12 percentage points, and leads Mucarsel-Powell in fundraising by a significant amount. 

Curbelo's district performed an average of 6 percentage points more Democratic than the nation did as a whole between the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, so Curbelo is polling ahead of the Democratic average in the district according to the DCCC's own polling. 

March 22, 2018

Two bills supported by Parkland families included in massive spending package

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@alextdaugherty

The House and Senate are scheduled to vote on a massive $1.3 trillion spending package on Thursday and Friday, and the spending bill includes two bills that were a priority for the families of victims of the nation's deadliest high school shooting in Parkland. 

The STOP School Violence Act and Fix NICS Act are both in the package. Both bills received widespread support from both parties though a few Republicans were opposed to the Fix NICS Act, which aims to improve the background check system for guns by penalizing federal agencies that fail to report records, and increases federal funding for reporting domestic violence records.

"Today, we’re moving a little closer to turning the voices of the students marching across the country into action. While we still have so much work to do, I am happy to see some movement on bipartisan legislation I’ve worked on with Senator Rubio to help address gun violence in our country, including the Fix NICS Act and the STOP School Violence Act, which funds programs to help keep our schools safe," Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said in a statement. 

The spending bill also stipulates that the Centers for Disease Controls can conduct research on gun violence, a measure pushed by Orlando Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy after the Parkland shooting. A number of Republicans, including Miami Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, have backed the idea. Previously, the CDC was not allowed to spend money to research gun violence due to an amendment passed in 1996. 

"We are very happy that by the end of this week there should be close to a billion dollars over the next ten years available so that states can set up these systems to identify potential shooters and stop them before they kill anybody," Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said in a statement. 

March 15, 2018

Court action takes pressure off Democrats to deal with GOP on immigration

Immigration Congress

@alextdaugherty

Democrats no longer have an incentive to give Republicans concessions in the ongoing immigration debate on Capitol Hill.

Money for Donald Trump’s border wall in exchange for a DACA solution? No chance.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients have been spared from deportation — for now — by a federal court order, giving Democrats the space to attack Republican-controlled Washington for failing to broker a DACA solution without getting blamed for inaction if deportations were to begin.

“Should we give a border wall for nothing? No, I don’t think so,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said. “There’s not a whole lot of reasons to negotiate, to do anything that is not already covered by the court decision.”

Pelosi’s comments on Thursday were in stark contrast to the way Democrats talked about DACA a few months ago, when Democratic Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Ill., said “I'll go down there with bricks and mortar and begin the wall” if it led to a solution for DACA recipients. Just six weeks ago Pelosi gave the longest speech in the history of the House of Representatives, urging Democrats to reject a spending bill because it didn’t contain a permanent solution for DACA recipients.

But that was before a March 5 DACA deadline was rendered largely meaningless by the courts.

“While I’m happy that the DACA folks have a little bit of breathing space... the flipside of that is people have less incentive to risk it to do real negotiations,” said Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who has been talking to Democrats, House Leadership and President Donald Trump in recent months to find a DACA solution. “I think this process works on pressure and deadlines and so that hasn’t been helpful in that sense. Again, I’m relieved for the folks, but we need to find a long-term solution and right now I will tell you that momentum is kind of gone, but it’s going to come.”

DACA, created by President Barack Obama, allows certain young immigrants to live and work in the U.S. without the threat of deportation. Trump announced last year that he would not renew the program, but the Supreme Court declined to hear a fast-tracked appeal by the Justice Department that could have ended the program last month, putting its status in limbo.

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo has said several times in recent weeks that Congress works best under pressure, and the momentum to strike a deal is lost without a deadline that leads to negative consequences like deporting immigrants or a government shutdown.

Read more here.