January 25, 2018

Curbelo to donate contributions from lawmaker who called a former aide his 'soul mate'

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Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo will donate a portion of at least $6,000 in campaign contributions from a Republican lawmaker who is drawing national attention after using taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment case and referring to the former aide who accused him of harassment as his "soul mate." 

Curbelo's 2018 opponent, Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, demanded that he return the money from Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Pat Meehan

"For years, Congressman Curbelo has received thousands of dollars in campaign cash from Congressman Pat Meehan, who covered up his own history of sexual harassment with our tax dollars,” said Mucarsel-Powell campaign manager Madalyn Blackburn in a statement. “Curbelo’s silence on his colleague’s abuse of power, and his failure to rid himself of this tainted money, raise serious questions about the ethical standards Curbelo holds himself to when his contributors are involved.”

A Curbelo staffer said Thursday he plans to return the funds from the 2018 cycle to a women's organization in South Florida. 

Curbelo received the contributions from Meehan's leadership PAC, a vehicle for lawmakers to support one another with campaign funds. Federal Election Commission records show that Curbelo received a $2,000 donation in June 2017 from Meehan's leadership PAC called Patriots Leading a Majority. Curbelo also received $1,000 in September 2016, $1,000 in October 2016, $1,000 in November 2016 and $1,000 in March 2015.

Meehan's leadership PAC doled out $90,500 to federal candidates during the 2016 cycle and $29,000 so far in the 2018 cycle. At least one other recipient, Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, said he would return donations from Meehan's leadership PAC. 

Curbelo's leadership PAC, What a Country PAC (WACPAC), donated $1,000 to Meehan during the 2016 cycle.

Meehan was removed from the House Ethics Committee, a panel that investigates sexual harassment complaints on Capitol Hill, after the New York Times reported that he used taxpayer funds to settle his own harassment case. Meehan then went public, producing a letter to his former aide that thanked God “for putting you into my life." The former aide accused Meehan of retaliating against her after she started dating someone else. Meehan says he's running for reelection and denies harassing the aide, though he did refer to her as his "soul mate" at one point. 

A slew of lawmakers nationwide, including Democratic Sen. Al Franken and and Republican Florida state Sen. Jack Latvala, have resigned in recent months after various allegations of sexual harassment.  

January 22, 2018

Curbelo says Senate deal to reopen government has enough assurances for Dreamers

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@alextdaugherty

Carlos Curbelo was in a lonely position last week. 

The Miami Republican was the only House Republican running for reelection in 2018 to vote against a short-term spending bill to keep the government open over concerns that it did not contain a solution for nearly 800,000 undocumented young immigrants known as Dreamers who could face deportation in March in Congress doesn't act. 

But Curbelo is now on board after Senate moderates from both parties agreed to reopen the government, at least until Feb. 8, if Republicans hold a debate and vote on a Dreamer solution. 

"So long as the government remains open it would be my intention to take up legislation here in the Senate that would address DACA, border security and related issues as well as disaster relief, defense funding, healthcare and other important matters," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor.

"Today’s statement by the Majority Leader (Mitch McConnell) was significant because Leadership has made a very public commitment the process will move forward in the coming weeks," Curbelo spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez said. "That said, if Feb. 8 comes around and that commitment has not been upheld, the Congressman is prepared to reconsider his support." 

The federal government shut down on Friday night after Senate Democrats didn't go along with the spending proposal passed by the House. 

Curbelo also voted against short-term spending bills late last year because a solution for Dreamers was not imminent. 

"If I get maybe a time-certain commitment from leadership that there will be a vote, maybe I would think about saying 'Okay, that's good enough,'" Curbelo said in December. 

Monday's deal met that time-certain commitment criteria, according to Curbelo's office. 

The Republican National Committee stressed that lawmakers who switched their vote did not get a deal today for Dreamers despite McConnell's intention to take up legislation. 

"Thankfully, Democrats came to their senses and realized that a temper tantrum would never lead to a real bipartisan fix for DACA,"  RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.

"It's worth noting that the only votes that changed from No to Yes were Democrat votes," McDaniel's statement said, which was issued three minutes before Curbelo's (Republican) vote switch was finalized. 

Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was the only Republican who voted against the spending bill passed by the House today amid concerns over Dreamers, breaking with Curbelo on the issue. 

January 17, 2018

John Kelly sits down with the Miami delegation to discuss immigration

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White House chief of staff John Kelly made the rounds on Capitol Hill Wednesday as Congress tries to find a solution for 800,000 undocumented young immigrants and one of the groups he met with were Miami Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart. Texas Republican Rep. Will Hurd joined the Miami trio. 

Kelly, the former head of U.S. Southern Command which is based in Doral, is talking to lawmakers as Congress wrestles with an immigration debate amid finding a way to fund the government past Friday. The White House has not signaled any specific proposals it would support regarding immigration, and congressional leaders from both parties are trying to hash out a deal. 

Kelly also met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which is made up of all Democrats, to discuss immigration. All three Miami Republicans are willing to vote for legislation that stops the potential deportation of Dreamers, but its unclear which specific proposals will earn the votes of enough liberal Democrats or conservative Republicans. 

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Photo courtesy of Curbelo's office.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus spurned Carlos Curbelo, now they're backing his opponent

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The Congressional Hispanic Caucus' political arm is gearing up against Rep. Carlos Curbelo after the Miami Republican caused a stir when he unsuccessfully tried to join the all-Democratic caucus last year. 

On Wednesday, BOLD PAC announced that it's backing Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Curbelo's Democratic opponent, for a Miami-to-Key West seat that is the most Democratic-leaning district in the country represented by a Republican running for reelection in 2018. BOLD PAC's endorsement is a potential source of campaign cash for Mucarsel-Powell as she seeks to unseat Curbelo, a prolific fundraiser himself. 

“I am honored to receive the endorsement of the CHC’s BOLD PAC in my campaign for Florida’s 26th Congressional District," Mucarsel-Powell said in a statement. "We need real leadership in South Florida on issues impacting our families the most: expanding access to affordable health care and a tax reform bill that helps, not hurts, working families. That’s a far cry from our current Congressman, who has put his party’s leadership in Washington ahead of the needs of hardworking people in Miami. As an immigrant, I’ve lived the American Dream and I’ll work every day to make sure that American Dream is alive and well for South Floridians.”

Mucarsel-Powell is the second Miami-area candidate to receive BOLD PAC's blessing. State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, one of a number of Democrats seeking to replace retiring Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, won their endorsement in September. 

"As a Latina and an immigrant, Debbie knows exactly what it means to fight for the right to live the American Dream. Unlike her opponent, she shares our values of passing a clean Dream Act, expanding access to healthcare, and improving the lives of hard-working Florida families,” said BOLD PAC chairman Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif. “There is no doubt she is the progressive voice the families of South Florida deserve and a fighter they can always count on to stand up for them in Congress. BOLD PAC is proud to support Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in her campaign to flip Florida’s 26th Congressional District.”

Curbelo tried to join the caucus for months in 2017, privately meeting with lawmakers and joining the organization's advisory council. But Curbelo's membership application stalled, and he took his grievances with the caucus public. 

“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 after his membership was denied. “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." 

Mucarsel-Powell, a former associate dean of fundraising at FIU and a consultant for non-profits, is the only Democrat raising serious money in an attempt to unseat Curbelo. 

After BOLD PAC announced its endorsement, Curbelo spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez issued a statement: 

"The Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ extreme partisanship has led them to embrace bigotry and discrimination against any Hispanic American who isn't a card-carrying member of the Democratic Party," Rodriguez said. "The Congressman feels sorry for any candidate who feels desperate enough to embrace the endorsement of individuals who promote bigotry and discrimination against fellow Americans of Hispanic descent. Despite many of the caucus' members efforts to segregate and divide America's Hispanic community, Carlos will not stop working with Chairwoman (Michelle) Lujan (Grisham) and others to find a fair solution for Dreamers.”

January 12, 2018

Trump’s ‘shithole countries’ comment may have a silver lining for Haitians

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@alextdaugherty

President Donald Trump’s descent into vulgarity during a high-stakes immigration meeting has brought attention to an often overlooked group in the national conversation: the over 300,000 immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua and potentially Honduras who could be forced to leave the U.S. in 2019.

The president’s remarks — he reportedly said “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out” and “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” — were in reference to immigrants living and working legally in the United States under Temporary Protected Status and to making changes to the visa lottery system.

The more than over 300,000 immigrants whose TPS will expire in 2019 have been largely under the radar compared to the 800,000 young immigrants known as Dreamers brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents. An Obama-era executive action known as DACA that allowed Dreamers to be protected from deportation expires in March, and is at the forefront of immigration discussions in Washington.

Several Miami lawmakers, including Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, along with Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson, have offered legislative solutions that would provide a path to permanent residency for some or all TPS recipients. South Florida is home to the nation’s largest concentration of Haitians along with a sizable number of Salvadorans, Hondurans and Nicaraguans.

“This is obviously tragic and very disheartening and disappointing in every way but I’m generally an optimist and when anything like this happens there’s also opportunity,” Curbelo said. “Now, many more Americans are aware of these immigrants who are in our country legally, who work here, pay taxes here and have been here in some cases more than two decades. All of a sudden they are extremely relevant in discussions regarding an immigration compromise, where before the conversation was almost exclusively about Dreamers and border security.”

Until now, most of the lawmakers pushing for letting TPS beneficiaries stay represent large urban areas like Miami and New York City, and many of them are Democrats outside Miami. Curbelo’s office also said his bill that addresses Dreamers, called the Raising America’s Children Act, has gotten significantly more attention than his bill to help TPS beneficiaries from Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras, called the ESPERER Act.

Curbelo said Trump’s vulgar comments will raise awareness outside Miami, and his spokesperson said “several Republicans have approached Carlos about it. They want to learn more.”

“We’ve added TPS beneficiaries as candidates for inclusion in a deal and that’s good news,” Curbelo said.

Read more here.

Curbelo, Ros-Lehtinen to vote against a spending bill (again) unless there's a DACA fix

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The federal government will shut down on January 19 if Congress can't pass a temporary spending bill, and Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen both said they will vote against the legislation, like they did in December, if an immigration deal is not imminent. 

Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen are frustrated with the pace of negotiations on a solution for 800,000 immigrants, known as Dreamers, who came to the U.S. as young children. Congress must find a legislative solution for Dreamers by March after President Donald Trump announced he will rescind an Obama-era executive order that protected them from deportation. 

"The way things stand today, I plan to keep my commitment to Dreamers and if there’s some breakthrough next week I will consider (voting yes)," Curbelo said on Friday. "If the status quo persists I am going to continue pressuring the leadership in both parties to forge a compromise because 800,000 lives are at risk." 

The two Miami Republicans were the only House Republicans who voted against the bill that keeps the government running due to immigration concerns. If enough Republicans join them, they could gain leverage to forge an immigration deal.

The vast majority of House Democrats voted with Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen against the plan in December, though moderate Florida Democrats like Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Charlie Crist voted in favor of the spending bill, even though Democratic-leaning immigrant advocacy groups urged Democrats to vote against it. 

January 11, 2018

South Florida lawmakers defend Haiti after Trump's "shithole" comment

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The ongoing high-stakes immigration debate in Washington was upended on Thursday when the Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump referred to Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua and African countries as "shitholes" when a group of lawmakers at the White House floated the idea of restoring protections for immigrants who recently lost Temporary Protected Status. 

"Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" Trump said, according to the Post. 

His comments drew condemnation from South Florida lawmakers, home to the nation's largest concentration of Haitians. 

"The president calling a 'shithole country' ignores the contributions thousands of Haitians have made to our community and nation," Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen tweeted. "Language like that shouldn't be heard in locker rooms and it shouldn't be heard in the White House." 

"Under no circumstances is it acceptable to degrade, denigrate, or dehumanize immigrants," Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo tweeted. "The White House must immediately explain the situation and leave no doubt regarding what was said and in what context." 

Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson, who represents Little Haiti and was the subject of public attacks from Trump last year, was succinct in her reaction. 

"Sigh," Wilson tweeted. 

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who was present at Thursday's White House meeting with Republican and Democratic negotiators, was traveling and unavailable for comment, per his office. 

UPDATE: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz weighs in: 

January 08, 2018

Miami Republicans oppose Trump decision to end TPS for Salvadorans

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The Department of Homeland Security announced Monday that it will end Temporary Protected Status for about 200,000 Salvadorans in September 2019, and the three Miami Republicans in Congress voiced opposition to the Trump administration's decision. Monday's move comes after the Trump administration decided to end TPS for Haitians and Nicaraguans last year. TPS allows foreign nationals from countries affected by disaster and unrest to live and work in the United States for a period of time. 

"I am in strong disagreement with the Administration’s decision to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Salvadoran nationals who reside in the United States," said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami. "These innocent people fled their home country after a disastrous earthquake, and while living conditions may have slightly improved, El Salvador now faces a significant problem with drug trafficking, gangs, and crime. Since 2001, these people have established themselves in the United States, making countless contributions to our society and our local communities. As I did with the decisions to end TPS for Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Honduran nationals who reside in the United States, I strongly urge the Administration to reconsider this decision."

"Today’s decision about Salvadoran TPS – and previous decisions about Honduran and Nicaraguan TPS – are disappointing," said Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami. "Many years of short-term extensions have created anxiety and uncertainty, not only for these immigrants and their families, but also for employers and neighbors who have welcomed them to our communities." 

"It is unconscionable that @POTUS would terminate the much needed  status of more than 200,000 people from  who have been here for years, working legally + sending remittances to their families," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, said on Twitter. 

The three Miami Republicans, who all represent districts with large Latino populations, are signed on to a bill that would provide a path to permanent residency and American citizenship for immigrants currently living in the U.S. under TPS from Haiti, El Salvador, Nicarauga and Honduras.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is also in favor of extending TPS for Haiti, and all of the Democrats representing South Florida including Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Frederica Wilson and Sen. Bill Nelson are opposed to the Department of Homeland Security's decision. 

December 15, 2017

Democratic Senator calls out Republicans, including Carlos Curbelo, for supporting tax bill with Arctic drilling

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@alextdaugherty 

Last week, a group of 12 House Republicans, including Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, signed a letter encouraging Republican leadership to pass a tax overhaul without a provision that would allow oil drilling in parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

But the provision was included in the Senate's tax bill, and is likely to stay when House and Senate negotiators finalize the bill on Friday. 

On Thursday, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee called out the 12 Republicans for engaging in "pure posturing." 

"It is now clear that the letter from twelve House Republicans opposing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was pure posturing," Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell said. "If these Republicans want to stop their party from turning the refuge into an oilfield, they should vote no. Lip service won't protect the Arctic." 

Six of the 12 Republicans who signed the letter, including Curbelo, voted in favor of the initial tax bill before Thanksgiving.

Curbelo hasn't indicated that he will vote against the tax bill even though he opposes expanding oil drilling in Alaska's North Slope. He is also the co-founder of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, a group of Democratic and Republican lawmakers who are concerned about the impacts of climate change. 

"I don’t think there’s any one provision that would motivate me to deny tax relief for all of my constituents," Curbelo said this week.

Curbelo has been a vocal advocate for the tax overhaul, frequently appearing with Speaker Paul Ryan and touting the bill in Spanish. 

December 14, 2017

Democratic poll: The GOP tax bill is unpopular among independents in swing Florida districts

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As Republicans negotiate the final touches on a plan to overhaul the nation's tax system, with a few kinks along the way, Democrats say that the GOP tax plan will hurt the majority party at the ballot box if it passes.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a Washington-based organization tasked with electing Democrats to the House of Representatives, found that Democrats and independents living in competitive House districts do not support the GOP-led tax plan. 

The DCCC commissioned an 800 person poll among registered voters in 51 competitive House districts around the country, including Florida districts represented by Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen along with Treasure Coast Republican Rep. Brian Mast and Orlando-area Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy. The 51 districts included 41 Republican-held seats and 10 Democratic-held seats. 

Independents oppose the tax plan 41 percent to 23 percent while Democrats oppose it 71 percent to 6 percent. Republicans favor the plan 53 percent to 12 percent.  

The poll was conducted by GBA Strategies, a Democratic polling operation based in Washington. The poll administered approximately 40 percent of its interviews by cell phone and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points. 

After being surveyed, the DCCC said the generic congressional ballot shifts from a 4-point Democratic advantage to an 11-point advantage, an indication that voters in competitive districts are leaning towards Democrats. 

Democrats must win about two dozen seats to regain control of the House of Representatives in 2018, though that number may fluctuate due to retirements and resignations. Curbelo's seat is rated as a "toss-up" by multiple national prognosticators, while Ros-Lehtinen's seat is rated as "lean Democratic."