April 27, 2017

Trump calls out Democrats about position on Puerto Rico Medicaid shortfall

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump has a new target: Sen. Bill Nelson and others trying to address a health care funding crisis in Puerto Rico.

“The Democrats want to shut government if we don't bail out Puerto Rico and give billions to their insurance companies for OCare failure. NO!” Trump tweeted this morning. Last night he said, “Democrats are trying to bail out insurance companies from disastrous #ObamaCare, and Puerto Rico with your tax dollars. Sad!”

It seems Trump is referring to an effort from Nelson and Sen. Robert Menendez to address a Medicaid shortfall for Puerto Rico. The Democrats this week are pressing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the issue, noting that $6.4 billion in funding under the Affordable Care Act is set to run out at the end of the year, despite expectations it would last through 2019. The gap leaves Puerto Rico “facing a Medicaid cliff that will have far-reaching consequences for both the island and the continental United States,” Nelson and Menendez wrote to McConnell.

The Democrats were members of the bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico, which issued a report in December that included a call for Medicaid funding. Sen. Marco Rubio was a member of the group and signed onto an April 7 letter urging Health Secretary Tom Price to address the Medicaid issue.

We've asked Rubio for comment in light of Trump's comments.

UPDATE: As of 1:45 p.m., Rubio has not responded.

Despite what Trump says, it’s not clear Democrats are threatening to hold up a spending bill over the issue.

Rubio and Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, are working the Territory Health Insurance Tax Relief Act of 2017, which would exempt health insurance providers in U.S. territories from paying a tax, “which has been passed on to consumers in the forms of higher premiums.”

“It is unfair to Puerto Ricans to have to pay this ObamaCare tax and endure higher premiums, only to be excluded from participating in the same health system that the rest of the United States does,” Rubio said in a news release. “As we work on the larger goal of repealing and replacing ObamaCare, this legislation would repeal the law’s costly and unfair tax on Puerto Rico and help begin the process of revitalizing the health care system on the island.”

April 19, 2017

DNC chair Tom Perez calls out Carlos Curbelo in Miami

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@amysherman1

During his speech to introduce Bernie Sanders in Miami, Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez bashed U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Miami Republican for his position on health care reform and for doling out PAC money to Republicans who have opposed immigration reform.

Curbelo “voted for Trump’s half-baked health care plan out of committee and what did he say? ‘No one will lose coverage,’” Perez said at the James L. Knight Center Wednesday. “That’s bullshit my friends.”

Curbelo voted for the bill in committee but expressed “serious concerns” after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the policy would force 14 million Americans to drop or lose their insurance coverage. When the bill collapsed in March Curbelo refused to say how he would have voted on the bill

Curbelo, who represents a left-leaning district, is one of the most targeted Republican members of Congress in the nation.

Perez also called out Curbelo for how he doles out money from his leadership PAC. Perez said that Curbelo promised that his PAC to boost other Republicans would only go to those who supported Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) -- a program to help undocumented immigrants who arrived as children avoid deportation.

“Guess what it happened?” Perez said. “That turned out to be a lie."

In 2016, Curbelo opened a political action committee to raise money for those Republicans who might need some financial support for taking a moderate immigration tack. Curbelo said at the time that potential beneficiaries could be Republicans who, like him, "voted against punishing people who were brought to this country as children and who are de facto Americans."

He was referring to a House vote to end President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which granted legal status to immigrants who had been brought into the country illegally as children.

Curbelo told the Herald in 2016 that the 47 Republicans who received money from WACPAC indicated to him in off-the-record conversations that they are committed to immigration reform.

This blog has been updated to reflect Curbelo's statements about when he opened a PAC.

April 12, 2017

Curbelo says he raised $610K in first quarter

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@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo has yet to draw a single opponent ahead of his 2018 reelection. And he's stepped up his fundraising to try to keep it that way -- or at least to make potential contenders think twice about taking him on.

The congressman's team told the Miami Herald that Curbelo collected more than $610,000 in the first quarter of 2017, bringing his cash on hand to more than $600,000 to kick off his second term in office.

That's not much less than the $645,000 Currbelo raised the first quarter of 2015, after he had just been elected to Congress for the first time. He knew then he'd almost certainly face a difficult reelection campaign in 2016, given that Democrats do better in presidential years.

"This is a strong start for the campaign and shows that again Carlos will have the resources to share his record of putting South Florida and the country above the petty partisanship that is regrettably so prevalent in Congress," said Chris Miles, Curbelo's 2016 campaign manager.

Democrats consider the 26th district a top target, given that Hillary Clinton won there by 16 percentage points. But in the same election, Curbelo comfortably held on to his seat with a 12-point margin over challenger Joe Garcia.

Last cycle, Curbelo amassed $3.8 million, compared to Garcia's $1.4 million. In 2014, when Garcia was the incumbent and Curbelo the challenger, Curbelo raked in $2.4 million, compared to Garcia's $3.8 million.

Photo credit: Carl Juste, Miami Herald staff

April 11, 2017

Pro-Obamacare group says it's airing TV ads against Curbelo

@PatriciaMazzei

A political group that wants to keep the Affordable Care Act said it's airing television ads against seven Republican members of Congress -- including Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo -- while they're in their home districts for the next two weeks. 

Save My Care, a pro-Obamacare organization funded by labor and other liberal groups, said Monday it is spending seven figures on the campaign, which tells viewers to call their lawmakers and urge them to "stop trying to repeal our health care."

Besides Curbelo, the other targets are Reps. Mike Coffman of Colorado, Darrell Issa of California, Tom MacArthur of New Jersey, Brian Mast of Florida, Martha McSally of Arizona and David Valadao of California.

 

 

April 07, 2017

Curbelo may be the most endangered Republican in Congress, report suggests

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@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo better get used to that political target on his back.

The sophomore congressman might be the single most vulnerable Republican in the country going into the 2018 election, according to a new analysis of partisanship in congressional districts.

The Cook Political Report, which has been publishing its Partisan Voting Index since 1997, found that Curbelo represents the most Democratic of districts held by Republican members of Congress.

Florida’s 26th district, which extends from Westchester to Key West, performed an average of 6 percentage points more Democratic than the nation did as a whole between the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, Cook Report editor David Wasserman found in his report, released Friday.

“In the modern era, it takes considerable personal appeal to win a House election in a district that fundamentally favors the opposite party,” Wasserman wrote. “There are several members on both sides who have successfully run ‘against the grain.’ However, these members are also likeliest to be among the top targets for the opposite party in 2018 and beyond.”

No. 3 on the list of the 10 Republicans in the most Democratic districts is Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, whose 27th district — a stretch of coastal southeastern Miami-Dade County — performed on average 5 points more Democratic at the presidential level than the rest of the country.

More here.

Photo credit: Jose A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

March 29, 2017

Curbelo on health care: 'We should continue working on this'

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@PatriciaMazzei

The Republican effort to overhaul the nation's healthcare system isn't over yet, at least not for Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

Curbelo told constituents Wednesday he's committed to replacing the Affordable Care Act, even after the American Health Care Act, House Republicans' proposed alternative, was unceremoniously withdrawn from consideration last week due to insufficient GOP support.

"I believe we should continue working on this -- if not this year, next year -- and figure out a way to empower consumers," Curbelo said on a telephone "town hall" meeting organized by the AARP for seniors in his 26th congressional district. The congressman hasn't held any in-person town halls.

The call wasn't solely on health care. But coming days after the AHCA's failure, a majority of listeners' questions inevitably focused on what would happen to the system in place known as Obamacare. The AARP had opposed the legislation.

One caller, Alonzo from Miami, called the AHCA a "horrible bill" and asked Curbelo why he supported it. Curbelo noted he backed it on the Ways and Means Committee but later had concerns.

"I had not made a final decision on the bill," he said -- in part because he knew he probably wouldn't have to. "I had known for some days that there wasn't sufficient support here in the House...so I doubted that there would be a vote."

Some callers helped Curbelo make his points about the existing ACA being too costly for some people -- especially in the Florida Keys, where the federal insurance marketplace only offers a single provider.

"This is the first year that I have not been able to afford healthcare," said Sally, an X-ray technician from Summerland Key who said she chose to pay her mortgage instead. "What do I pick: health care or my house?"

Another caller, Julia from Miami, questioned seeking to overturn the ACA entirely.

"Why don't you take the time and the effort to fix the Affordable Care Act, instead of throwing away all the effort and time that has gone into getting it done?" she asked. "Isn't it much better to just change it?"

Curbelo responded that a lot of conservative Republicans opposed the replacement bill because they argued the GOP was doing just that -- trying to pass "Obamacare 2.0," or "Obamacare lite."

"For a lot of people, this was a political effort: It was about a law named after a president," Curbelo conceded. "I took a much more sober approach to it."

For now, however, he acknowledged that nothing would be undone.

"That effort is kind of on pause," he said, "and we'll just have to see if there's the political will to get it going again."

Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

Miami Republicans divided over internet privacy rules

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@PatriciaMazzei

Two Miami Republicans, Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart, voted this week to lift restrictions on internet providers from tracking and sharing personal data without consent, joining a Republican majority that sent the legislation to President Donald Trump's desk.

Diaz-Balart's office said he supported the bill because it "eliminates confusing regulations" that allow both the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission to regulate the internet. The FCC rules that would be repealed by the law apply only to major providers like Verizon but not to giant websites like Google.

"This evens the playing field for the entire internet," Diaz-Balart spokeswoman Katrina Valdés said in a statement. "At the end of the day, the bill doesn't strip consumer privacy, but rather, strengthens the power of the one agency that had already been enforcing it."

Curbelo made a similar argument.

"The FCC has been trying to expand its rulemaking authority and grow our government and regulations in a way that inhibits the free market competition," he said in a statement. "This joint resolution does not modify or reduce existing privacy regulations, and does not put consumers at any increased risk."

But the third local Republican lawmaker, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, disagrees. Ros-Lehtinen was absent from Tuesday's vote because she had to go out of town to be with her daughter, the congresswoman's office said Wednesday. But if Ros-Lehtinen had been in Washington, she said she would have broken with Diaz-Balart and Curbelo.

"I would have voted no on the bill because of the potential for individuals' private information to be shared," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement to the Miami Herald after a reporter inquired about her absence. "Many treat their online searches and activity as a part of their private lives and to have that information exposed for no or little other purpose than targeted advertising or data mining betrays the public's trust." 

All House Democrats voted against. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which plans to target Curbelo in the 2018 election, accused him of putting "corporate interests over the private, personal interests of Florida."

When the Senate passed the measure last week, Floridians Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio split their votes along party lines. Rubio, a Republican, voted in favor, while Nelson, a Democrat, voted against.

This post has been updated.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, el Nuevo Herald

March 28, 2017

Miami Republicans call Trump order on climate change 'dangerous,' 'misguided'

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@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo on Tuesday once again criticized President Donald Trump, their party's leader, this time over his executive order undoing many of the Obama administration's climate change rules.

The reversal is "troubling" and "dangerous," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. Curbelo called Trump's action "misguided."

Both lawmakers represent coastal South Florida districts directly affected by rising sea levels and other effects of global warming. They have already been critical of Trump's executive order on immigration.

"The administration's decision to roll back emissions standards is troubling due to the impact it has on sea level rise and ocean acidification on our South Florida beaches," Ros-Lehtinen said. "Instead of taking this dangerous path, we should be working to promote clean energy and other methods that will help preserve our environment for future generations to come. My coastal South Florida district is negatively impacted by this order and it takes us backward during a time when we should be monitoring climate change and working assiduously to stop its damaging impact."

"While I am encouraged the Administration did not ask the EPA to reconsider its endangerment finding, which declares greenhouse gas pollution threatens human health and welfare, today's rollback of emission standards is misguided," Curbelo said in a statement of his own. "Climate change is occurring and it is not a coincidence global temperatures have risen at the same time tremendous amounts of carbon dioxide have been added to the atmosphere.  We see the effects of climate change firsthand in South Florida, resulting in rising sea-levels, bleached coral reefs, and salt water intrusion. Climate change is also a threat to our national security and local economies across the country. We cannot, and must not, ignore these challenges.

"I continue to believe economic growth and dealing with this threat are not mutually exclusive. We have a responsibility to our citizens and future generations to support market-based solutions, investments, and innovations that could alleviate the effects of climate change and make our nation more resilient. In South Florida we know well that the economy and the environment are one in the same. Weak environmental policies ultimately lead to the destruction of jobs and quality of life. I hope the Administration will work with me and my colleagues in the Climate Solutions Caucus to Act on this in a responsible, bipartisan way going forward, but today that is clearly not the case."

Democrats also decried Trump's action -- including Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman.

 That prompted the National Republican Congressional Committee to criticize Luján for caring "more about serving his far-left environmentalist financial backers than New Mexico families."

The same NRCC will be tasked next year with defending Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen from almost-certain challengers in their Democratic-leaning districts.

Photo credit: José A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

March 27, 2017

Democrats launch first video ads against Curbelo and Diaz-Balart over healthcare votes in committee

@PatriciaMazzei

Republicans failed last week to pass an Affordable Care Act replacement -- but not before two GOP lawmakers from South Florida voted for the proposed American Health Care Act in congressional committees.

Those votes by Miami Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart will be highlighted in a new digital ad campaign -- the first of the 2018 election cycle -- by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which says it's spending five figures to roll videos against 14 vulnerable Republicans who also voted in committee for the doomed legislation.

"You deserve better," the ads say. 

The ads, geographically targeted and set to pre-roll ahead of videos on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, are geared at "swing voters 35 years and older, grassroots activists in the districts, and those that have engaged with the topic of 'healthcare' on social media," the DCCC said. 

The party will be spending more in Curbelo's swing 26th district than in any other district in the country -- six times more, to be exact -- in order to test which voters might be more persuaded by healthcare attack.

Curbelo voted for the AHCA in the Ways and Means Committee but later said he was undecided on the final bill; Diaz-Balart voted in the Budget Committee and ultimately said he'd vote for the legislation. It never came to a vote because Speaker Paul Ryan withdrew it, knowing he didn't have enough Republican support.

"This targeted ad campaign makes clear that Representatives Curbelo and Diaz-Balart’s vote for this devastating Republican repeal bill will not be forgotten," DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján said in a statement. "Curbelo and Diaz-Balart knowingly voted for a bill to raise premiums and deductibles, slap an age tax on older folks, and rip insurance away from 24 million hardworking Americans."

The National Republican Congressional Committee came to Curbelo and Diaz-Balart's defense, particularly noting Curbelo's ambivalence toward the final bill.

"Congressman Curbelo and Congressman Diaz-Balart promised to reform health care, and were committed to moving proposals forward to continue the debate," NRCC spokeswoman Maddie Anderson said in a statement. "For his part, Curbelo never came out in support of the bill because he was working to secure changes would be made to in the Senate to protect his most vulnerable constituents, and that the Administration would rectify Obama's disastrous funding cuts to Florida's Low Income Pool."

This post has been updated.

Curbelo, Rutherford played it safe on health care

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON — Some of their responses came slowly, others right away. But each Republican member of Congress from Florida indicated their stance on the Obamacare replacement that imploded Friday.

Except two.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Miami and Rep. John Rutherford of Jacksonville refused to give a position.

Curbelo’s spokeswoman later said he was undecided. “He had not made a final decision because he was working with Senate offices to get assurances on increased tax credits for lower income Americans and with administration officials on restoration of Florida’s Low Income Pool funding. It was clear to him the bill needed improvement and he was fairly certain that we would not be voting today.”

Curbelo voted to advance the bill in the Ways & Means Committee, before the legislation faced a damaging assessment from the Congressional Budget Office. The details then changed to appease conservatives.

Rutherford would not answer a simple yes or no question on the bill.

“Maintaining a status quo is not an option,” he said after it was pulled from the floor. “There is a widespread consensus that President Obama’s signature health care law is broken and unsustainable. I remain committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare to improve and protect Americans’ access to quality, affordable health coverage.”

His reticence stands out because Rutherford had appeared with Vice President Mike Pence at a Jacksonville event designed to sell the Obamacare replacement.

Trump reportedly wanted a vote, even if the bill would die, so that he could see who was on his side — a feeling shared by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz.

“Today the Republican controlled House of Representatives let down President Trump and, more importantly, the American people,” Gaetz said. “We did so in the most cowardly, craven way possible by failing to  vote on the repeal of Obamacare. … We should know who was willing to stand with President Trump and who wasn’t. Now we never will."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times