May 24, 2018

How a Miami Republican is leading a last-gasp shot at an immigration vote in Congress

Curbelo

@alextdaugherty

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo is leading a last-gasp shot to change the nation's immigration laws after years of inaction, and he's been furiously trying to rally dissatisfied Republicans over the past three weeks to bypass House Speaker Paul Ryan and force a series of votes on the House floor on immigration in the next few days..

Here's what you need to know.

On May 9, Curbelo introduced a petition to change the rules in the House of Representatives to allow votes on four immigration-related bills. The bill that receives the most support beyond a simple majority passes the House and heads to the Senate for consideration.

Within hours, 17 Republicans signed Curbelo's petition, including Miami Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Curbelo and California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham have led an arm-twisting effort over the past two weeks to get more Republicans on board, and now they are two Republican signatures short of the 25 GOP votes they need to reach a majority if every single Democrat signs the petition.

The petition would force a vote on the following bills:

A conservative immigration bill embraced by the majority of House Republicans that doesn't have enough support to pass.

▪A bill called the DREAM Act that would protect DACA recipients and DACA-eligible young people who didn't sign up for the program from deportation and give them a path to citizenship.

▪A bill that gives DACA-eligible young people a path to citizenship while also including funding for border security.

▪A fourth bill of Speaker Ryan's choosing.

Read more here.

May 22, 2018

Democrats reserve $1.9 million in Miami TV airtime ahead of 2018 election

Debate 27

@alextdaugherty

A Washington-based organization that seeks to elect Democrats to the House of Representatives is locking in its TV airtime for the fall. 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced Tuesday that it reserved $1.9 million in the Miami market ahead of Election Day 2018. Campaign committees and other political organizations typically reserve airtime in advance to receive cheaper advertising rates. The Miami reservation, part of a $12.6 million nationwide ad buy was first reported by Inside Elections.

It's not clear yet which Democrats stand to benefit from the outside television presence. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Mary Barzee Flores will likely be the Democratic nominees challenging incumbent Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart, while five Democrats are seeking to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for an open seat that is expected to be a pickup opportunity for Democrats in November. 

None of the Broward County-based seats, currently represented by Democrats Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Alcee Hastings and Ted Deutch are expected to be competitive races for Republicans. 

The GOP equivalent of the DCCC, the National Republican Congressional Committee, previously announced a $3.2 million ad reservation in the Miami media market in March as part of a $46.3 million ad buy nationwide. Running TV ads in Miami is an expensive proposition and most congressional campaigns must run English and Spanish language ads. 

The NRCC does not get involved in Republican primaries, but their money will likely be spent to support Curbelo, Diaz-Balart and whoever emerges from a nine-way GOP primary in Ros-Lehtinen's seat. 

A Super PAC called the House Majority PAC that also seeks to elect Democrats to the House of Representatives also announced a $1.1 TV ad reservation in March.

May 18, 2018

Miami Democrats pounce on Trump 'animals' comment — Republicans say it's overreaction

Mario Diaz-Balart

@alextdaugherty @newsbysmiley

Donald Trump used the word "animals" while talking immigration Wednesday, and Democrats pounced.

They'd been waiting.

At a White House event discussing California's sanctuary city laws, Trump listened as a local sheriff lamented that the state's policies prevent local law enforcement from referring MS-13 gang members to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation. And then Trump vented.

"You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are," Trump said in response, without explicitly mentioning the gang. "These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before."

The comments set off another round of condemnation from the left for a president who's become known for using inflammatory language to communicate a hard-line stance on immigration. Democratic leaders quickly framed the comments as the latest affront from the president who opened his campaign in 2015 by referring to Mexicans as drug dealers, criminals and rapists.

But the White House defended Trump's remarks on Thursday, and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said people decrying Trump's remarks are defending MS-13. Trump said the same Thursday evening.

"Frankly, I don't think the term POTUS used was strong enough," Huckabee Sanders said.

Regardless, Republicans spent Thursday playing defense, which is where Democrats want them.

Heading into the mid-term elections, Trump's penchant for incendiary, off-the-cuff remarks is among the reasons the country's minority party is so optimistic they can win in November, particularly in areas like South Florida, where high percentages of voters were either born in a different country or born to parents who fled to the U.S. to find a better life. The president's knack for offending other cultures and dragging lawmakers into his vortex could be a great equalizer even for strong incumbents.

As the White House tried to explain Trump's comments Thursday, Democratic challengers in South Florida sought to put their opponents in the same position. Mary Barzee Flores, a former judge and trial lawyer running against longtime Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, called the incumbent a "coward" for staying silent on Trump's latest remarks.

Read more here.

May 17, 2018

Hispanic conservative group offers support for Carlos Curbelo's immigration plan

Curbelo (1)

@alextdaugherty

A national Hispanic conservative group is providing political support for Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo after he bucked GOP leadership last week in an attempt to force a vote on immigration legislation. 

The LIBRE Initiative, a group backed by the Koch brothers, is releasing mailers in Curbelo's Miami-to-Key West congressional district this week thanking the incumbent facing a tough reelection effort for trying to get an immigration bill passed in the House of Representatives. 

Curbelo initiated a petition last week that would allow the House of Representatives to vote rapid fire on four immigration bills while bypassing House Republican leaders. The bill that gets the most support beyond a simple majority passes the House of Representatives and heads to the Senate for consideration. 

Curbelo's petition currently has the support of 20 Republicans, and it needs the support of about a half dozen more along with all Democrats to be successful. The Miami Republican initiated his effort after leadership stalled on putting a slew of immigration bills on the floor for consideration. About 690,000 DACA recipients are waiting for the courts to finalize their legal status after President Donald Trump's move to end an Obama-era program that protected them from deportation stalled earlier this year. 

"I don't know that there's ever been a more fair, open and inclusive process than the one were proposing, and those who fear it is probably because they believe their own ideas are weak and they don't want to see what the scoreboard's going to say about that," Curbelo said. 

The LIBRE Initiative's effort in Curbelo's district is part of a seven-figure campaign by the group, which includes a national television ad and advocacy on Capitol Hill and mailers to other lawmakers from both parties outside Florida. The group is also investing in voter education and outreach efforts in Central Florida, where thousands of Puerto Ricans have moved since Hurricane Maria in October of last year, ahead of the 2018 election.  

"Our nation deserves leaders that are willing to take on the big issues facing our communities," LIBRE president Daniel Garza said in a statement. "This is why we’re highlighting the work of Congressman Carlos Curbelo, so Latinos and others understand that he is working toward a permanent, bipartisan, solution for Dreamers and improvements to border security. Sitting on the sidelines while Dreamers and our communities face growing uncertainty is not an option."

Curbelo faces a likely challenge from Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in November, provided both win their primaries against long-shot opposition.

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May 09, 2018

Miami Republicans defy GOP leadership to force votes on a DACA solution

Mario Diaz-Balart

@alextdaugherty

Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart are trying to force votes on four immigration bills, bypassing Speaker Paul Ryan and House GOP leadership which has been resistant to any immigration proposal that doesn't have 218 Republican votes.

Curbelo filed a petition on Wednesday that would require Congress to vote on a proposal known as "Queen of the Hill," an arcane legislative maneuver that allows the majority of Congress to vote on a legislative solution for DACA recipients who are currently mired in legal limbo after Congress and the White House failed to find a solution earlier this year.

The courts are trying to determine the legality of President Donald Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, an Obama-era executive action that protected 690,000 young immigrations from potential deportation.
 
Read more here.

May 04, 2018

The field for three competitive Miami-Dade congressional races is now official

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

@alextdaugherty

Candidates for federal office in Florida had until noon Friday to make their bids official, and all four incumbents running for Congress in Miami-Dade districts will face opposition in November. 

Two of the incumbents, Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Miami Gardens Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson will face primary challenges, though they will be overwhelming favorites to win the August primary election. Wilson will be heavily favored to keep her seat in a deep blue district against a candidate who has also filed to run for U.S. Senate in Florida and Congress in California. While Curbelo's primary will likely be non-competitive, he likely faces a competitive general election challenge from Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell

Two Democrats who considered challenging Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart dropped out after former judge Mary Barzee Flores switched races yesterday. Diaz-Balart and Barzee Flores will not have primary challengers. 

And Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz, the fourth incumbent running for reelection in Miami-Dade, won't face a Democratic primary like she did in 2016. Tim Canova is running again after raising millions but falling well short of knocking off the former DNC chair, but this time he's running as an independent. There will also be a Republican primary in Wasserman Schultz's Democratic-leaning district. 

The largest primary field on both sides is the race to replace retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The district is considered a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats and four of them, former University of Miami president Donna Shalala, state Rep. David Richardson, former Knight Foundation Director Matt Haggman and Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez have all raised over $100,000. TV journalist Maria Elvira Salazar and former Miami-Dade commissioner Bruno Barreiro have raised the most money on the Republican side. The race to replace Ros-Lehtinen is the most crowded in Florida as 9 Republicans, 5 Democrats and 1 no party candidate have filed paperwork to run. 

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott both qualified to run for Nelson's Senate seat, as expected. Neither faces a competitive primary. 

Full list of Miami-Dade congressional candidates below: 

District 27 (Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is retiring): 

Elizabeth Adadi (R)

Bruno Barreiro (R)

Angie Chirino (R)

Kristen Rosen Gonzalez (D)

Matt Haggman (D)

Mayra Joli (NPA) 

Stephen Marks (R)

Michael Ohevzion (R)

Maria Peiro (R)

David Richardson (D)

Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera (R)

Maria Elvira Salazar (R)

Donna Shalala (D)

Gina Sosa (R)

District 26 (incumbent Rep. Carlos Curbelo is running for reelection) 

Carlos Curbelo (R)

Souraya Faas (R)

Demetries Andrew Grimes (D)

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D) 

District 25 (incumbent Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is running for reelection) 

Mario Diaz-Balart (R)

Mary Barzee Flores (D)

District 24 (incumbent Rep. Frederica Wilson is running for reelection) 

Frederica Wilson (D)

Ricardo De La Fuente (D)

District 23 (incumbent Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is running for reelection) 

Tim Canova (NPA)

Don Endriss (NPA) 

Joseph Kaufman (R)

Carlos Reyes (R)

Carla Spalding (R)

Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D)

One year ago Carlos Curbelo tried to repeal Obamacare. Democrats aren't forgetting

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@alextdaugherty @newsbysmiley

On the House floor one year ago, Democrats were jubilant in defeat.

Republicans had just passed a bill to repeal major portions of Obamacare without any Democratic support, and the minority party was convinced the vote would send them into the majority by January 2019.

"Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, hey, goodbye,” Democrats sang, repeating a juvenile political spectacle first used by Republicans in 1993 when Democrats passed a Bill Clinton-sponsored tax bill.

Despite the theatrics, the Republicans' political prognostications in 1993 were right. They gained 54 seats and control of Congress.

Now, Democrats are trying to use healthcare to engineer a similar wave, and Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo's Miami-to-Key-West district is ground zero for their efforts. Curbelo won reelection in 2016 by 12 percentage points despite representing a Democratic-leaning district that voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by 16 percentage points, and his seat is a top priority for Democrats as they seek to win 24 seats to gain control of the House after the November elections.

On the one year anniversary of the House vote to pass the American Health Care Act, known as the AHCA, Democrats are spending millions to remind voters in districts like Curbelo's that their representative voted to essentially repeal Obamacare, the sweeping healthcare law passed solely by Democrats in 2009. Democrats are so confident that Curbelo's healthcare record will be his political undoing that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi traveled to South Miami-Dade on Thursday to appear with his Democratic opponent and trash his record.

"Today we’re talking about the one-year anniversary of a very destructive bill that the congressman from this area, Mr. Curbelo, voted for to the detriment of people in this district,” Pelosi said, adding that Curbelo's support for the GOP tax bill that became law late last year further eroded affordable healthcare by removing penalties for the individual mandate. “What they couldn’t achieve in the president’s [healthcare] bill, they tried to do some of in the tax bill. So elections have consequences. Legislation affects peoples’ lives. We’re just trying to show the connection."

Curbelo welcomes the attention on healthcare, and says his position on Obamacare hasn't changed since he first ran for Congress in 2013.

"We need to keep the good in the law. That means protections for those with preexisting conditions, doesn’t discriminate against women, and allow young people to stay on their parent's plans until they are established and can purchase their own health insurance," Curbelo said. "And we need to replace the bad with something that works better. A year later I still get some complaints in my office about" Obamacare.

Read more here.

April 27, 2018

Carlos Curbelo signs the DREAM Act

IMG_IMG_curbelo_6_1_1TCH_7_1_USCSTTBR_L357400841 (1)

@alextdaugherty

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo announced Friday he will sign onto the DREAM Act, a bill that protects young immigrants who stand to lose protection from deportation if President Donald Trump successfully cancels an Obama-era executive action known as DACA. 

"We're closer than ever to meaningful compromise on immigration," Curbelo said on Twitter. "Thankful to Rep. Jeff Denham for his work to force a vote on possible solutions in the House. Today, I co-sponsored 2 bills I would support – Rep. Will Hurd & Rep. Pete Aguilar's USA Act and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard's DREAM Act."

Immigration activists have asked Curbelo for months to co-sponsor the DREAM Act, which is considered the most expansive piece of immigration legislation that would protect the young immigrants known as Dreamers from deportation. Curbelo wrote his own piece of immigration legislation, dubbed the Recognizing America’s Children Act, a more conservative version of the DREAM Act designed to capture more Republican support.

Curbelo had previously said he would vote for any immigration bill, including the DREAM Act, if it made it to the House floor. The sole immigration bill that was recently considered by House leadership is a conservative plan that Curbelo doesn't support and the U.S. Senate tried and failed to pass a slew of immigration bills in February.

Curbelo, a Miami Republican facing reelection in a Miami-to-Key West district that voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by 16 percentage points, joins retiring Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as a DREAM Act cosponsor. Ros-Lehtinen introduced this Congress' version of the DREAM Act in July 2017, and Curbelo is the sixth Republican to sign onto the bill.

Read more here.

April 25, 2018

Curbelo, Ros-Lehtinen rank among the most bipartisan members of Congress

IMG_IMG_curbelo_6_1_1TCH_7_1_USCSTTBR_L357400841

@alextdaugherty

When French President Emmanuel Macron stressed the importance of climate change during a joint address to Congress on Wednesday, three Republicans stood up and joined Democrats to applaud him. 

The trio, Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, along with Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, also happen to be the three most bipartisan House Republicans, according to new rankings complied by Georgetown University. 

Ros-Lehtinen, who has signed on to the DREAM Act, was ranked as the most bipartisan House Republican while Curbelo, who introduced a bill to ban bump stocks, ranked third out of 236 House Republicans. The rankings are based on the number of bills introduced in 2017 by an individual lawmaker that receive support from lawmakers of the opposing party and by signing onto bills introduced by a lawmaker from the other party. 

"The Index rewards those who prioritize governance over posturing and aims to encourage members of Congress to seek areas of consensus as opposed to simply using legislation to delineate differences," Georgetown University's Lugar Center says on its website. The center uses metrics to award more weight to bills that attract substantial bipartisan support, and does not include ceremonial bills like naming post offices that typically receive support from both parties. 

Curbelo is up for reelection in a Miami-to-Key West district that is the most Democratic-leaning in the country currently represented by a Republican running for reelection, and is campaigning in part on a record of working with Democrats on certain issues like climate change. He's distanced himself from President Donald Trump, who lost his district by 16 percentage points, on a number of issues, though he did accompany the president on a recent visit to Key West and helped write the GOP tax bill that became law late last year. 

Ros-Lehtinen, a frequent critic of Trump, is retiring this year. Democrats are favored to flip her seat in November. 

Both Curbelo's and Ros-Lehtinen's rankings from 2017 were up compared to rankings issued after the 114th Congress. Ros-Lehtinen ranked fifth among House Republicans while Curbelo ranked 7th. Former Florida Rep. Gwen Graham, now running for governor in a contested Democratic primary, also ranked among the top 10 most bipartisan lawmakers before leaving Congress. 

In the Senate, Republican Marco Rubio ranks 10th among 100 senators while Democrat Bill Nelson ranks 36th. 

Here's the bipartisan rankings for Miami-Dade's congressional delegation: 

-Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehinen (R) 2nd out of 435 members 

-Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R) 4th

-Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz (D) 160th 

-Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R) 225th 

-Rep. Frederica Wilson (D) 412th 

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."