November 17, 2017

Carlos Curbelo's district now rated as "toss up" after tax bill passes the House

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@alextdaugherty

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo represents the most pro-Hillary Clinton district in the country currently held by a Republican running for reelection in 2018, and he could be in trouble if Democrats make nationwide gains next year. 

On Friday, the Cook Political Report changed Curbelo's reelection rating from "lean Republican" to "toss up" a day after the House passed an overhaul of the nation's tax code that Curbelo supports. 

"Curbelo impressed in 2016, winning a second term by 12 points while Hillary Clinton carried this 69 percent Latino district by 16 points," Cook editor Dave Wasserman wrote. "But Curbelo also had the luxury of running against Democrat Joe Garcia, who was disgraced by an absentee ballot scandal. And despite his push for a bipartisan immigration reform bill, Curbelo's recent votes in favor of the GOP's healthcare and tax bills give Democrats fodder to tie him to Trump." 

Wasserman also mentioned Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, noting that she captured 46 percent of the vote against sitting state Sen. Anitere Flores in 2016. Flores' district closely mirrors Curbelo's Miami-to-Key West seat. 

"She raised $177,000 last quarter and has a long way to catch up to Curbelo's $1.3 million, but Democrats are encouraged that they flipped a nearby state senate district in a September special election," Wasserman said. "No Republican running for reelection represents a more pro-Clinton district than Curbelo. He's in for another tough race." 

Nationwide, Wasserman rates 17 Republican-held seats as "toss ups" compared to four Democratic-held seats. Retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's open seat, in a Miami district that voted for Clinton by a larger margin than Curbelo's, is rated as "lean Democratic." 

Democrats must win 24 seats nationwide in the 2018 elections to gain a majority in the House of Representatives. 

 

November 16, 2017

Should Hispanic caucus have snubbed Curbelo? Miami Democrat endorsed by group won't say

@PatriciaMazzei

State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, the only Miami Democrat backed so far by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus ahead of the 2018 election, won't say whether the group should have allowed Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo into its ranks, chalking up the dispute to "political gamesmanship."

"I'm not focused on the political gamesmanship of D.C., in fact that's why I'm running, to change that," Rodríguez said in a statement to the Miami Herald. "I'm focused on campaigning in my district and earning the trust and support of CD27 residents to be their voice and champion in Congress."

In September, Rodríguez made much ado about being one of only three Democratic candidates nationwide endorsed by the CHC's political arm. Rodríguez is one of eight Democrats trying to replace retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in a district that leans even more Democratic than Curbelo's neighboring 26th district. 

Despite hailing from opposing political parties, Curbelo and Rodríguez share a Cuban-American heritage and a moderate approach to politics. 

The 30-member CHC is made up strictly of Democrats, some of whom argued that Curbelo -- who didn't seek membership as a freshman two years ago -- was pushing to join now solely to help him get reelected to a district where Hillary Clinton trounced Trump. Curbelo countered he sought to join in February, long before his reelection, to discuss issues affecting Hispanics.

--with Alex Daugherty in Washington

Miami Republicans vote in favor of Trump-supported tax overhaul

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@alextdaugherty 

All three Miami Republicans in the House of Representatives voted Thursday in favor of a $1.5 trillion plan to overhaul the nation’s tax code, though one of them called the legislation a “monstrosity” and left the door open to voting against the final proposal if negotiations with the Senate don’t yield enough changes.

Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen all voted in favor of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which passed by a vote of 227-205. Every Democrat from South Florida voted against the plan with the exception of Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens, who did not vote. Thirteen Republicans, mostly from northeastern states, voted against the plan.

Curbelo, a member of the House tax-writing committee responsible for drafting the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, has been a vocal supporter of the legislation for months and delivered introductory remarks in English and Spanish at a press conference with Republican leadership lauding the bill’s passage.

“What a country and what a day,” Curbelo said. “Today we are one step closer for tax relief for every American family.”

Passing a bill would give President Donald Trump and the GOP their first big legislative triumph in 2017 after an effort to repeal Obamacare stalled earlier this year.

Diaz-Balart also praised the bill in a statement after the final vote.

“Filing your taxes shouldn't be an arduous and burdensome task; this legislation creates a simpler, fairer tax code for individuals, protecting their hard-earned dollars,” Diaz-Balart said. “American families deserve a tax code that allows them to keep more of what they make; for Floridians, that means keeping $1,945 more of their wages. It also creates more than 50,000 new jobs in the Sunshine State, encouraging business owners and revitalizing the job market.”

Ros-Lehtinen had a much different response to the sweeping tax legislation, saying she only voted in favor on Thursday so the House and Senate can hash out differences before drafting a final bill. Ros-Lehtinen said she could vote against the final bill if enough changes aren’t made.

“I will vote for this monstrosity with the hope that many of these things will get taken care of once the bill comes back and we have conference and people come to their senses,” Ros-Lehtinen said before the vote.


Read more here.

Hispanic caucus tells Cuban American he can't join the club — he’s too Republican

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@alextdaugherty

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, made up strictly of Democrats, rejected Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo’s bid to join its ranks Thursday, saying some members are concerned about his stance on immigration.

The caucus, currently made up of 30 members of Congress who are all Democrats, took a vote on Thursday morning after Curbelo appeared in front of the group to make his pitch.

“He made a presentation and it was a good presentation,” said caucus chairwoman Michelle Grisham Lujan, a New Mexico Democrat.

It didn’t work.

“It is truly shameful the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has decided to build a wall around the organization to exclude Hispanic-Americans who aren’t registered in the Democratic Party,” Curbelo said in a statement afterward. “This sends a powerful and harmful message of discrimination, bigotry, and division. Unbelievably, petty partisan interests have led the CHC to formally endorse the segregation of American Hispanics. It is a dark day on Capitol Hill. However, this only strengthens my commitment to working with my colleagues on both sides to urgently seek a solution for young immigrants in the DACA Program.”

Grisham Lujan said Curbelo’s voting record, which includes voting in favor of a proposal to repeal Obamacare, factored into the decision to deny his membership.

“We discussed several items, healthcare, the tax bill, relief for Puerto Rico,” Grisham Lujan said. “Many of those votes in this climate gave members who voted no, and maybe other members, pause over whether or not this was a good time for changing membership.”

Individual members declined to reveal their votes while leaving Thursdays’ meeting, though some members like Arizona Democratic Reps. Raúl Grijalva and Ruben Gallego had previously said they planned to vote against Curbelo’s inclusion.

“Once we've done that [the vote], he can possibly stop complaining that he hasn't been given an audience and start complaining about the result,” Grijalva said earlier this month.

Grisham Lujan implied that she voted in favor of Curbelo’s membership, which also hit a snag after it was reported that Curbelo had a heated meeting with Grisham Lujan over his inclusion.

“I will tell you that I have been a member who has been on the record being favorable to membership by both Senate and House Republicans, and I’ve been consistent in that effort,” Grisham Lujan said after the vote.


Read more here. 

November 14, 2017

All South Floridians in the House voted against flood-insurance overhaul. Here’s why

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@alextdaugherty

The entire South Florida delegation in the House of Representatives voted Tuesday against a proposal to overhaul the National Flood Insurance Program, as Congress seeks a long-term solution for the program saddled with billions in debt after Hurricane Irma.

Miami Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo joined the majority of Democrats to vote against the proposal, which passed by a vote of 237-189, with 15 Democrats voted in favor.

“It doesn’t make the changes that I need to satisfy... a big percentage of my district,” said Ros-Lehtinen, who represents Miami Beach and coastal areas of central Miami-Dade County. “We have a lot of homes that are highly valued and it’s going to incur a lot of cost. It’s got to be fair for everybody. To have a home that you can’t find anybody to insure, that doesn’t do anyone any good.”

South Florida Democratic Reps. Frederica Wilson, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Alcee Hastings, Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch also voted against the bill.

The National Flood Insurance Program is set to run out of money by Dec. 8, and if Congress lets the program lapse, thousands of real estate transactions and construction projects in flood-prone areas could be affected. Florida has 35 percent of the nation’s 5 million policies covered by the federal program — three times as many as the second-ranked state, Texas, which has 593,000 policies.

The flood insurance funding bill was the product of an agreement between House Financial Services Committee chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. Hensarling has fought for years to privatize portions of the flood insurance program in an effort to make it fiscally solvent. Lawmakers from coastal areas, like Scalise, have cautioned that reforms could result in higher premiums and hurt investment.

Read more here.

November 13, 2017

Curbelo hands in formal request to join Congressional Hispanic Caucus (Updated)

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@alextdaugherty

Rep. Carlos Curbelo submitted his formal request to join the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Monday, the latest development in the Miami Republican's months-long quest to join the group that is currently made up of all Democrats. 

Curbelo sent a letter to CHC chairwoman Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., on Monday after the caucus asked him to do so 10 days ago.

"I respect that we will sometimes have a difference of opinions on legislative strategies and goals – that is inevitable when working in the world’s greatest deliberative institution," Curbelo said in the letter. "I am very hopeful that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus will send a strong message to the country that it welcomes all Hispanics and that it rejects the petty politics of exclusion and discrimination." 

A major hangup for some CHC members over Curbelo's potential inclusion is that he has not cosponsored a version of the Dream Act, though Curbelo has said he will vote in favor of any proposal to help undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children if such a bill makes it to the House floor. 

Curbelo asked to join the caucus early this year but his candidacy was delayed for months. The CHC used to include Republican members but several Florida Republicans walked out years ago over differences on Cuba policy and formed their own group, the Congressional Hispanic Conference. That group is chaired by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami. 

The Congressional Black Caucus is overwhelmingly represented by Democrats, though Utah Republican Rep. Mia Love is a member. Curbelo has said that if he is invited to join, he will not participate in CHC meetings where Democrats discuss partisan political strategy and only participate in meetings that are policy-oriented. 

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said he hopes the caucus lets Curbelo in. 

"Carlos is a quality legislator who is always seeking opportunities to reach across the aisle and find common ground on issues like immigration and education," McCarthy said in a statement. "I truly hope the Caucus doesn't send the American people the message that Hispanic Republicans and Independents are not welcome." 

“I feel like when people gather in St. Peter’s Square awaiting the smoke to emerge from the Sistine Chapel,” Curbelo said in October, joking as he likened his acceptance to the group to the top-secret selection of a new pope.

Lesley Clark contributed. This post was updated to include a comment from McCarthy. 

November 10, 2017

Curbelo to receive John F. Kennedy New Frontier award for climate change work

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@alextdaugherty

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo will receive the 2017 John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award, which honors Americans under the age of 40 who are changing their communities and the country with their commitment to public service.

The 37-year-old congressman will receive the award on Nov. 16 alongside May Boeve, the 33-year-old executive director of 350.org, a climate change advocacy group that organized the massive People's Climate March in 2014. 

“With his vision for a New Frontier, President Kennedy challenged young Americans to take on great challenges, solve complex problems and work for a better future” said Jack Schlossberg, a member of the New Frontier Awards committee. “May Boeve and Congressman Carlos Curbelo have each answered President Kennedy’s call to action in our time, taking on the greatest challenge facing the world today – climate change. They remind us that everyone, private citizens and elected officials alike, can make a difference.”

The award's release said that Curbelo "earned a reputation for moderation and a willingness to work across party lines on difficult policy problems" and noted his leadership on the Climate Solutions Caucus, a body of 62 members evenly split between both parties that works to find policies that can address climate change. The caucus's Republicans banded together earlier this year to vote against a proposal that would have nixed a Defense Department report on the threats posed by climate change to military installations.

Past New Frontier award winners include New Jersey Democratic Sen. (and possible 2020 presidential candidate) Cory Booker and Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.  

November 09, 2017

Curbelo gets his Ivanka Trump meeting

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@alextdaugherty

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo had a Capitol Hill sitdown with Ivanka Trump on Thursday, as the president's daughter has become a fixture in Congress while the House and Senate debate a proposal to overhaul the nation's tax code. 

Curbelo, who did not support Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election, is a member of the House tax writing committee responsible for drafting the details of a tax proposal. 

"Great to have Ivanka Trump in the Capitol today to discuss the pro-family Tax Reform being considered by the Ways and Means GOP Committee," Curbelo tweeted.

Trump met with Sen. Marco Rubio on multiple occasions to discuss an expansion of the child tax credit to at least $2,000 in recent months, though Rubio isn't happy that the initial House proposal only expands the current $1,000 credit to $1,600.

The House tax plan, dubbed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, can pass with a simple majority of Republicans in the House and Senate. 

More than a dozen Republicans demand a legislative solution for Dreamers

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@alextdaugherty

In a show of force to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Republican leadership, more than a dozen Republicans from around the country are demanding a legislative solution by the end of 2017 for 800,000 young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents.

There is less than four months left for Congress to find a solution for the young immigrants known as Dreamers before President Donald Trump will cancel an Obama-era executive order known as DACA that allowed Dreamers to be protected from deportation.

The 13 Republicans who gathered on Thursday want to vote on a bill now.

“The reality is that these young people with DACA status are already being harmed today,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., noting that over 22,000 DACA recipients missed an October deadline to renew their status and could be fired from their jobs immediately. “Everyday that Congress fails to act, every time that Congress kicks this can down the road, people, real people, are hurt.”

The group, which included conservative Texas Rep. Joe Barton along with moderate Miami Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, wasn’t the typical cast of characters at an immigration news conference on Capitol Hill.

While Ros-Lehtinen and Curbelo are well-versed on immigration issues and delivered their talking points in English and Spanish, other members at the news conference on Capitol Hill tripped up when reciting details about DACA recipients. Pennsylvania Rep. Ryan Costello referred to DACA recipients as “those who were born here” before being corrected by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

The pro-Dreamer Republicans also included those who are trying to hold on to their seats in the face of well-funded Democratic challengers ahead of the 2018 elections. Issa ranks as the most vulnerable House incumbent in a recent analysis by Roll Call, while New York Rep. John Faso, who also spoke at the press conference, ranks third on Roll Call’s list.

But the Miami Republicans will need every possible Republican on board, even if their support is driven by political calculations, to convince Ryan to put a bill on the floor. Certain conservative Republican members are poised to vote against any proposal that expands immigration protections, but multiple Republicans at the press conference said that a legislative solution for Dreamers would easily garner over 300 votes in the 435 member House of Representatives.


Read more here.

November 08, 2017

Curbelo says ATF regulations on bump stocks are a "waste of time"

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via @kateirby 

Two days into the grief after yet another mass shooting in the United States, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, talked Tuesday about some areas of legislative consensus between Democrats and Republicans on gun issues.

Not on his list: banning or restricting bump stocks, the devices that Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock attached to the firearms he used to kill 58 people on Oct. 1, turning them into virtual machine guns. Cornyn punted on the issue, as many Congressional Republicans have been doing since shortly after the tragedy, the biggest mass shooting in American history.

Immediately following the Vegas shooting, Republicans and Democrats alike seemed open to a possible ban on bump stocks. Even the National Rifle Association said in a statement that bump stocks “should be subject to additional regulations.” Bills were introduced with support from lawmakers in both parties.

The NRA, however, soon made it clear it only supported additional regulations from ATF, not new legislation in Congress; Republican leaders such as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., soon circulated the same message, and the matter was kicked to the agency.

In a letter sent to Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, dated Oct. 12, a group of current and former ATF employees explained why the agency was holding back. Curbelo is sponsoring a bill to ban bump stocks; the NRA has come out against it.

Bump stocks essentially convert legal semi-automatic weapons, which require a pull of the trigger to fire each bullet, into guns more like illegal automatic weapons, which fire a spray of bullets when the trigger is held down.

But “The bump slide, and several other similar after-market accessories that increase the rate at which a shooter can pull the trigger, are engineered to avoid regulation under Federal law,” the letter to Curbelo said. “These accessories DO NOT cause the firearm to shoot more than one shot by the single function of a trigger pull. The notion that ATF chose not to regulate an item it had the authority to regulate is false. The law is very clear and it does not currently allow ATF to regulate such accessories.”

Adding to the confusion, Cherie Duvall-Jones, spokeswoman for the ATF, would not specify, in response to questions from McClatchy, whether the ATF believes bump stocks fall under a ban on machine guns, the classification of which, under the law, can include accessories or parts intended to convert a weapon into a machine gun. She also said the current process does not require the firearms industry to submit items for classification before putting them on the market.

Curbelo has questioned why certain Republicans were still trying to pass the issue off to ATF.

“Obviously, among Republicans and especially leadership, the idea of giving ATF the opportunity to issue new regulations has gained a lot of momentum. I think that is a waste of time because ATF has expressed in the past at least twice that they have no authority under existing law to regulate,” Curbelo told McClatchy recently. “So I’m confident that once they go through this exercise and it yields nothing, our legislation will again feature prominently as THE solution to this situation.”

Read more here.