August 22, 2017

Rubio to make special appearance at Curbelo fundraiser

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@PatriciaMazzei

Sen. Marco Rubio will help raise campaign money for Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo on Thursday in Bal Harbour.

The evening reception will be held at the home of the Falic family, which has been politically active for years, particularly on issues related to Israel. In the past, family members have supported conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz -- as well as Weston Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine , a Democrat in a nonpartisan post.

An invitation to the fundraiser obtained by the Miami Herald shows contribution levels ranging from $2,700 to $10,400 a person.

Curbelo, a prolific fundraiser, has been ramping up his money efforts ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. He's got a fundraiser scheduled for Wednesday with several well-known local Democrats.

August 19, 2017

What the 2018 congressional campaign looks like in 2017

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@PatriciaMazzei

The exasperated man answered the door of his West Kendall home, annoyed at being interrupted from work and hollering at his furry little dog, Sacha, who had rushed to sniff out the unexpected visitors: a pair of high school volunteers holding clipboards and a stack of political fliers.

The volunteers promised they had only three questions. Had he heard of his congressman, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo? (He had.) Which issue — tax reform, the economy, the environment — mattered most to him? (Lower taxes.) Was he familiar with Curbelo’s efforts to combat climate change?

“I don’t believe in that,” the man said in Spanish. “That’s a lie. That’s just normal, in nature.”

The volunteers said thank you. The man picked up his dog and shut the door.

This is what the 2018 campaign looks like — in 2017.

Fifteen months before next year’s congressional midterm elections, political organizations are already involved in field operations, making calls to voters and knocking on their doors in what has become a never-ending campaign cycle.

And in this case, the volunteers sweltering under the summer sun don’t even work for Curbelo.

More here.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

August 15, 2017

Republicans again denounce Trump after he again accuses 'both sides' of violence in Charlottesville

@PatriciaMazzei

Check out Miami Republicans' tweets from Saturday and now, again, from Tuesday, in response to President Donald Trump's insistence that "both sides" -- and not just white supremacists and neo-Nazis -- were to blame for violence over the weekend Charlottesville. The three lawmakers are Hispanic.

Continue reading "Republicans again denounce Trump after he again accuses 'both sides' of violence in Charlottesville" »

Curbelo: After Charlottesville, Trump should marginalize Bannon, Miller

@PatriciaMazzei

President Donald Trump should stop listening to two top White House aides who want to "accommodate" white nationalist groups, Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo said after the weekend's deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Curbelo did not go as far as to call for Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist and senior counselor, and Stephen Miller, Trump's senior adviser for policy, to be fired. But he told CNN the two men should be "marginalized," and the president should give more weight to other advisers, such as new Chief of Staff John Kelly.

"'Alt-right' is about white nationalism. It's about racism. It is about dividing this country," Curbelo said on CNN's "Out Front" with Erin Burnett on Monday. "And regrettably, there are members of the president's staff who at least believe that this movement should be accommodated."

Curbelo named Bannon and Miller and blamed them for Trump's initial "lack of clarity" in his response to the Charlottesville clashes.

"I'm not saying these people are racists," Curbelo said. "I'm not saying they want to advance a racist agenda. But it is pretty clear they think these people should be accommodated." 

Curbelo was one of many Republicans to slam Trump for failing to forcefully denounce white supremacists Saturday. Trump only did so, with apparent reluctance, on Monday.

"Better late than never," Curbelo told CNN. "I'm glad the president came out and called evil by name." But he said he remained "concerned with that glaring omission from Saturday."

"He needs to take steps to make sure things like this never happen again," Curbelo said.

On Wednesday, Trump went back to blaming the violence on "both sides:" neo-Nazis and white supremacists and racists but also their counter-protesters.

He left Bannon's future in question.

"He is not a racist, I can tell you that," Trump told reporters. "We'll see what happens with Mr. Bannon. But he's a good person" who gets treated "unfairly" by the press, he said.

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen began calling for Bannon's ouster in April.

Curbelo heads to Reagan Ranch in California to make tax-reform pitch

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@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo is headed to a storied site for Republicans -- former President Ronald Reagan's California ranch -- to help the House GOP make its tax-reform pitch.

Curbelo will join Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas and other lawmakers at Rancho del Cielo in Santa Barbara on Wednesday. Brady chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, which writes tax policy. Curbelo is the only South Florida legislator on the panel -- which makes him the most prominent local voice on the issue.

It's not the sexiest of political topics, Curbelo readily acknowledges: "It's easy for this issue to become a technical issue."

Republicans intend to return from their August congressional recess and push tax reform, moving on from their failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. A super PAC tied to House Speaker Paul Ryan is already running ads in Curbelo's district urging a tax-code rewrite. His votes will be closely watched by Democrats, who consider Curbelo's Westchester-to-Key West 26th district a top 2018 target.

The most contentious tax question for Republicans so far has been whether to support a 20 percent tax on imports into the country -- the so-called Border Adjustment Tax. Ads have asked Curbelo to oppose it.

Curbelo said tax reform already taken up most of his time in Washington this year, in part because he's had to master the complexities of tax policy.

"Most of what I knew about taxes was how to file them," he said.

Since then, he's tried to simplify the issue by filming YouTube videos in English and Spanish outside a Miami coffee window -- a ventanita. His line? "Tax reform is about people."

Wednesday's event is intended to recall tax reform passed under Reagan, the last major overhaul of the code. Curbelo's piece will be proposing more targeted child tax credits and a larger standard deduction, two changes the GOP says will save families money. Curbelo has also filed legislation to permanently extend IRS tax-prep services for low-income filers, and and to allow marijuana businesses to benefit from tax deductions and credits.

Ahead of Wednesday's talk, Curbelo tried to frame the discussion as a big-picture economic question.

"I actually look at a lot of the pessimism and anger and even some of the violence in our country, and I attribute at least part of it to the fact that we've been growing at a very slow rate for the last decade-plus," he said. "People are hopeless. A lot of people feel like they don't have the opportunities, or have a prosperous future in this country, so they are resentful and they look for scapegoats."

"My big goal in tax reform is to make people happy in this country," he said. "I think we achieve that by getting to 3 percent growth through tax reform and tax simplification and tax reduction."

Photo credit: José A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

August 11, 2017

Anti-Castro politicians talk tough on Cuba after suspected attack on U.S. diplomats

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@alextdaugherty 

As the Trump administration prepares to write new regulations regarding travel to Cuba, Havana and Washington are involved in a diplomatic tug of war that seems straight out of the 1960s.

American diplomats in Cuba left the country after experiencing severe hearing loss attributed to a sonic device, according to U.S. officials. In response, the U.S. government expelled two Cuban diplomats from Washington.

The Raúl Castro government vehemently denied any involvement, and there’s chatter the Russians could have been behind it.

“In terms of the timing ... if this was an intentional thing by the Cuban government, the timing couldn’t be worse or stranger,” said Collin Laverty, president of a company that arranges group trips to Cuba and is in favor of improved relations with Havana. “Relations were good when Obama was in office. This just seems completely out of context.”

Anti-Castro elements of the U.S. government, including Republicans from Miami, are capitalizing on the latest news as a sign that Havana cannot be trusted, even though it isn’t clear yet that the Cuban government tried to harm U.S. diplomats.

 

“The Cuban government has been harassing U.S. personnel working in Havana for decades,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said in a statement. “This has not stopped with President Obama’s appeasement.”

“It shouldn’t come as a surprise the Castro regime can’t guarantee the safety of our diplomats,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, said. “The escalation described in these reports is unacceptable and clearly indicates that the previous administration’s policy of unilateral concessions failed to advance U.S. interests.”

“The Castro regime has a long and documented history of acting in a manner adverse to U.S. national interests,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, said. “The expulsion of two Castro regime officials sends a clear message that this sort of behavior will not be tolerated.”

Rubio played a big role in the Trump administration’s decision earlier this summer to limit some types of travel to Cuba, and the president was eager to please conservative Cubans in Miami who helped him win the 2016 election.

But there are still a lot of unanswered questions regarding the incident, and the State Department declined to go into detail about what happened to the diplomats.

“We first heard about these incidents back in late 2016,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. “When we talk about medical issues, about Americans, we don’t get into it. We take those incidents very seriously, and there is an investigation currently under way.”

A White House official said the State Department and White House are “monitoring” the situation in Cuba.

On Wednesday, an unnamed U.S. official told The Associated Press that investigators were looking into the possibility that Russia or another third party could have carried out the attack without the Cuban government’s knowledge.

But Otto Reich, a former assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs under President George W. Bush, said it’s highly unlikely that the Cuban government would not be aware of a sonic device installed at the house of a diplomat.

Read more here.

August 09, 2017

Center-right group launches TV ads on taxes in Carlos Curbelo's district

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@alextdaugherty 

American Action Network, a center-right group with ties to House Speaker Paul Ryan, will spend $2.5 million in the next few weeks to promote an overhaul of the nation's tax system, the next big legislative fight for Republicans in Congress. 

The TV ad buy includes Rep. Carlos Curbelo's Key West-to-Miami district and the ad argues that the current tax system causes American workers to lose their jobs. 

"We are committed to standing up for Americans who have been left behind by our broken tax code, and sharing real stories to raise awareness on how jobs have fled to countries like China," said American Action Network executive director Corry Bliss. "It’s time for Congress to act and defend hard-working Americans and their families across the country.”

Curbelo is one of 24 mostly moderate House Republicans who are part of the August ad buy. The list also includes Florida Rep. Brian Mast, who won Patrick Murphy's seat after he ran for Senate. Curbelo and Mast's districts are being targeted by Democrats as potential 2018 pickups.

Three Democrats, including Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, are challenging Curbelo while former Senate candidate Pam Keith has filed to run against Mast.  

American Action Network has gotten involved in Curbelo's district before. In 2014, when Curbelo successfully challenged Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia, American Action Network spent $1.2 million against Garcia. 

The organization is expected to spend up to $20 million on an efforts to change the tax code in the coming months, including a $1 million radio campaign launched two weeks ago that also included Curbelo's district.

Republicans in Congress and Donald Trump are pushing for a lower corporate and personal tax rate along with eliminating many deductions, but an overhaul of the nation's tax system hasn't occurred since Ronald Reagan's administration.

 


 

Democrats on Curbelo: 'His town hall schedule doesn't exist'

@PatriciaMazzei

National Democrats are using the August recess -- Congress' longest break of the year -- to campaign against the lawmakers the part plans to target in 2018, including Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

Democrats' familiar line of attack: that Republicans aren't holding enough town-hall style meetings.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has created websites it plans to promote on Google ads purportedly linking to (in this case) Curbelo's town hall schedule. When users click on curbelotownhallwatch.com, they're taken to a page set to look like a 404 web error.

"Whoops! His town hall schedule doesn't exist!" 

There's then a countdown clock saying Curbelo, a sophomore, hasn't held a town hall in "707 days."

Curbelo, however, would likely point this periodic "tele-town halls," which allow constituents from his Westchester-to-Key West district to call in at a set time and take turns asking the congressman questions. Those conference calls, of course, aren't open to the broader public -- and so can't draw protests or other potentially negative attention.

"Congressman Curbelo's vote to rip away healthcare from Miami families shows he's heartless, his refusal to hold a town hall and answer for the Washington-Republican agenda he's supporting shows he's a coward," DCCC spokesman Cole Leiter said in a statement.

UPDATE: Curbelo campaign spokesman Chris Miles countered that the congressman often holds private meetings in person with people who want to ask him questions:

"Carlos is one of the hardest working representatives and regularly meets with his constituents," Miles said in a statement. "Just last week he hosted many residents at our district offices in Key West and Miami. All this in addition to his tele town halls which have reached tens of thousands of constituents."

August 03, 2017

Rubio still considering Trump-sponsored immigration plan introduced in February

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@alextdaugherty 

n 2013, Marco Rubio and three other Republican senators worked with Democrats to draft a bipartisan immigration bill.

Rubio’s 2013 bill, which proposed an expanded visa program for low-skilled workers, failed after the House decided not to vote on it.

On Wednesday, Rubio said he was still considering a different immigration proposal, backed by the White House, that cuts the number of green cards for low-skilled and non-English speaking immigrants. The 15-page plan was first introduced in the Senate in February, and the White House announced its support Wednesday.

Of the four Republican senators who drafted the 2013 bill, Rubio is the only one who hasn’t voiced disagreement.

“I’m glad to see the president is open to a step-by-step approach to improving our immigration laws, and I stand ready to work with my colleagues in Congress on common sense proposals to achieve real progress for Americans on this issue,” Rubio said in a statement. “I continue to support reform that prioritizes welcoming people to our country based on their skills, not just on whether they have a family member already living here.”
 
Rubio’s comments were in contrast to his three GOP colleagues who worked on the immigration bill.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Trump’s proposal “incentivizes more illegal immigration” by limiting the number of visas for low-skilled jobs in tourism and agriculture that would otherwise go unfilled.

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said: “We need to make sure we are responsive to the needs of our economy and I’m concerned that drastic cuts to the number of immigrants fails to meet that goal.”

The other GOP senator who worked on the 2013 bill, John McCain of Arizona, is receiving treatment for cancer. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but in February, McCain told reporters he was “not interested” in the bill.

Rubio, whose parents came to the United States from Cuba and worked in low-skill jobs for a period of time, declined to comment on the immigration policy beyond his statement.

His office said Rubio has always prioritized English-speaking immigrants, citing his work on the 2013 bill that would require green card holders to achieve English proficiency.

“On the day we announced the principles that would shape the immigration bill, we made it clear that English proficiency would now be required for permanent residency for the first time in American history,” Rubio said in 2013.

Rubio did not play a role in drafting the new proposal, his office said.

The White House said the plan, dubbed the Raise Act, will prioritize immigrants who speak English, have special skills and can support themselves financially. The Raise Act will prioritize high-wage immigrants because the White House argues that low-skilled legal immigrants currently drive down wages for all Americans.

Two of Rubio’s South Florida colleagues, Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, said they do not support the new legal immigration proposal.

“I’m against the RAISE Act because it dramatically cuts the number of folks who can enter our great nation by legal means,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. “There are many individuals living in other lands who dream of becoming patriotic, law-abiding Americans but will be prevented from realizing that dream because they do not yet speak English or they lack special skills.”

Read more here.

Another Democrat files against Curbelo, citing health care

PaperShot@PatriciaMazzei

A young Democrat filed to run against Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo this week, saying he was persuaded to go "from canvasser to candidate" after the Republican incumbent voted to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Ricky Junquera, 31, worked as a field organizer in past campaigns for former Rep. Joe Garcia, Curbelo's 2016 opponent. He planned to help Garcia again if he ran. But Garcia appears uninterested -- so Junquera himself jumped in.

"I know the district just as good, if not better, than most people," he said. "I've knocked on those doors."

Junquera, the deputy press secretary for the Sierra Club in the Upper Midwest, recently moved back to Miami to help care for his mother, who has multiple sclerosis.

"When Carlos voted to repeal the ACA, the ramifications don't affect him and his family, but they affect mine, and they affect mine pretty harshly," he said.

Junquera becomes the third Democrat to declare a candidacy against Curbelo. The only one with serious experience as a candidate is Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who ran for state Senate last year and has also attacked Curbelo on health care. Steven Machat is also running.

Curbelo's district, which leans Democratic though he won it by 12 percentage points last year, has one of the highest rates of Obamacare enrollment in the country.

Junquera, who like Curbelo is Cuban-American, accused the congressman of being a lackey of House Speaker Paul Ryan and said if he were elected, he'd better represent working people. For now, he plans to campaign after work and on weekends to see if his candidacy takes off.

"We need leaders who know what it's like to face a mountain of student debt, who have seen firsthand the toll a devastating illness can have on a proud family, and who value programs like the ACA because they provide a helping hand up and hope for a better tomorrow," he said.