March 21, 2017

Latino group pushes Curbelo, Diaz-Balart to vote against GOP health plan


A liberal Latino group has become the latest organization to release ads to pressure Miami Republicans to oppose the House plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.

NCLR Action Fund -- as in the National Council of La Raza -- issued a "call to action" Tuesday asking lawmakers in key districts to vote against the American Health Care Act on Thursday. Among the targeted legislators: Miami Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart.

"The Affordable Care Act has provided over 4 million Latinos health insurance and millions more have gained greater access to quality health care," NCLRAF's political director, Rafael Collazo, said in a statement. "Latino voters want their federal officials to protect those gains. Voting for the AHCA would be an immense setback for Latinos."

The organization plans radio and digital ads in seven districts with significant Latino populations. The other five districts are represented by Will Hurd of Texas, Mike Coffman of Colorado, Jeff Denham of California, David Valadao of California and Darrell Issa of California.

March 20, 2017

Labor union targets Curbelo on 'Trumpcare'


A liberal labor organization has begun a web campaign urging Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo to oppose the House GOP's healthcare legislation.

UNITE HERE is going after 15 Republicans in moderate districts with its "Don't Tax Our Health Care" campaign, which includes web ads, direct mail, neighborhood canvassing and protests outside lawmakers' offices, according to the organization.

“Trumpcare is a disaster for working people,”UNITE HERE President D. Taylor said in a statement. “It fulfills none of the promises that Trump and the Republicans ran on. Where’s the better coverage at lower costs? How does this rein in out-of-pocket and prescription drug costs? The truth is Trumpcare isn’t about fixing the ACA with ‘insurance for everybody’ that would be ‘much less expensive and much better,’ as President Trump promised. It’s about destroying it with a half a trillion-dollar tax cut for the rich on the backs of the poor, the sick, and the vast majority of Americans who get coverage through work.”

Curbelo is getting hit from all sides on the healthcare plan, which is scheduled for a House vote on Thursday. A political committee affiliated with Speaker Paul Ryan is imploring the congressman to back the legislation. Curbelo already voted for it once, on the Ways and Means Committee, but has since noted he has "concerns" after the Congressional Budget Office found millions of Americans would drop or lose insurance coverage.


New batch of digital ads pressure Curbelo, Ros-Lehtinen to back GOP health plan


Ahead of this week's expected House vote on the Republican healthcare plan, a political group linked to Speaker Paul Ryan is putting out a new batch of digital ads meant to nudge two South Florida members of Congress to vote in favor.

Starting Monday, American Action Network's web campaign will target 29 Republican lawmakers, including Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, both of Miami, whose Democratic-leaning districts have among the highest number of Obamacare enrollees in the country.

"Tell Congress it's time for better health care," the display ads say. There will also be video ads.

Ros-Lehtinen has said she won't vote for the American Health Care Act as written because it would leave too many people uninsured. Curbelo, who voted for it in committee, late last week expressed some concerns and said he would work with Ryan and other House leaders to improve the legislation. American Action Network had already backed Curbelo with TV ads to bolster his position.

A vote is planned for Thursday,

March 17, 2017

Curbelo says report on GOP health plan raises 'serious concerns'



Miami Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo says that a report about his party's health care plan "raised some serious concerns" but he didn't provide any specifics.

The report by the Congressional Budget Office predicted that 14 million Americans will lose their health care plan if the American Health Care Act is enacted. That number would rise to 21 million in 2010. More than 1.7 million Floridians have signed up for coverage under the current Affordable Care Act, more than any other state.

Last week, before the CBO released the report, Curbelo voted in the House Ways and Means Committee to move the bill forward.

Here is Curbelo's statement to the Miami Herald Friday: “The CBO report issued earlier this week raised some serious concerns, and I have been working with colleagues in both chambers to strengthen and improve this legislation. The status quo under the Affordable Care Act is not an option. I refuse to condemn my community and the country to a health care system burdened by ever-increasing costs, fewer options, government threats and fines against citizens, rampant fraud, inefficiency, and mismanagement. My goal is to assist the most vulnerable Americans and I remain confident there is potential for the Bettercare proposal to do just that.”

The three Miami GOP members in Congress have taken somewhat different approaches to the GOP health care plan offering varying degrees of criticism.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has been the most critical: she has said she won't vote for the GOP health care plan.

“After studying the impact of this proposed legislation on my district and speaking with many of my constituents, I have decided to vote no on the bill as currently written," she said in a statement to the Miami Herald. "The bill’s consequences for South Florida are clear: too many of my constituents will lose insurance and there will be less funds to help the poor and elderly with their healthcare."

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said Thursday he had "serious concerns" with the bill but he voted for it in committee:

“Today’s vote was merely a procedural advancement of the bill from the Budget Committee to the Rules Committee, where legislative changes can and must take place. My committee vote does not mean I will support final passage of this legislation as it presently reads. I have clearly stated that I have some serious concerns with the bill in its current form. This isn’t the end of the road, but rather, one step of a long process that will include conference with the Senate.

“It is well known the Affordable Care Act is collapsing; out-of-pocket costs and premiums have skyrocketed, insurance companies are leaving the exchanges, and state marketplaces have fewer choices. In Florida’s 25th District, the impact of Obamacare is significant. Residents in two of the three counties I represent, Collier and Hendry, only have one insurance provider, resulting in no choice or competition. I will continue working with my colleagues to ensure the replacement addresses the varying health insurance needs of our country, lowers costs, and bolsters the economy.”

Nationally, one-third of counties only have one insurer on the federal exchange. The CBO concluded that under the health care plan premiums will rise 15 to 20 percent in 2018 but by 2026 would be 10 percent lower.

This post has been updated to include that Curbelo voted to move the bill forward in committee

March 16, 2017

American Bridge launches ads against Carlos Curbelo, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen about Trump and Russia



The liberal group American Bridge is targeting two Miami GOP members of Congress -- Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen -- related to President Donald Trump's ties to Russia.

The digital ads lead viewers to a website which encourages voters to contact members of Congress to ask them to demand a special prosecutor to investigate Trump. Similar digital ads nationwide target 27 Republicans who won districts that Hillary Clinton won in November. The ads will air in Florida and other states for a week and coincide with the March 20th House Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia's role in the United States' presidential election.

Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen have made some past written statements showing support for an investigation.

Ros-Lehtinen responded in a written statement about whether she supports an investigation:

"The Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russian activities, which includes Russian interference in our elections, began before the current administration took office and is ongoing. As a member of the Intelligence Committee, I'm committed to helping ensure a truly bipartisan and complete investigation is conducted. It is important that, when completed, our Intelligence Committee’s Russia report become public so that the American people can fully comprehend the desperate and dangerous attempts of Russia to influence our political institutions." 

It is clear that Putin’s regime has sought to undermine our nation’s interest and I have led the push for sanctions on human rights violators by leading the effort to ensure the Sergei Magnitsky Act became law. I’ve also called for sanctions against those who poisoned my friend, Vladimir Kara-Muza, and those who murdered Boris Nemtsov. I have also cosponsored legislation which calls for the full implementation of sanctions against those in Russia who are harmful to democracy, human rights, and our nation’s interests.”

Curbelo's office responded in a written statement:

“It’s sickening that extreme liberal operatives would resort to their tried and failed tactic of lying to the people of South Florida. The Congressman has been a vocal critic of Putin and his thugs the entirety of his time in Congress. Most recently, he has consistently supported the ongoing bipartisan congressional investigations in both the House and the Senate, and called for their scope to include any and all possible contacts between campaign and government officials and the Russian government or its intelligence services. Once the investigations are complete, Congressman Curbelo will demand that anyone and everyone in our government who may have violated the law is held fully accountable.”

Democrats have targeted Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen because they are Miami-Dade Republicans who represent left-leaning districts. But both are tough targets for Democrats in 2018 because they easily won re-election in November and have been willing to break with party ranks at times and criticize members of their own party. Earlier this week, Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen led the GOP criticism of the white nationalist tweet by U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa

Curbelo has been a GOP leader talking about climate change while Ros-Lehtinen has said she won't support the GOP health care plan -- although she wants Obamacare repealed.

This post has been updated to include statements from Ros-Lehtinen and Curbelo. 

March 14, 2017

UPDATED Miami Republicans remain conspicuously silent on CBO analysis of GOP healthcare plan

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@PatriciaMazzei @learyreports

Miami's three Republican lawmakers in Congress have said nothing about the GOP's plan to replace the Affordable Care Act since the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded Monday that some 14 million people would drop or lose insurance coverage in 2018.

The legislation is the biggest policy proposal in the House right now. And the districts represented by Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have among the highest number of Obamacare enrollees in the country. Yet none of the legislators' offices responded Tuesday afternoon to requests for comment.

UPDATE: Ros-Lehtinen has now said she opposes the replacement plan. And a spokeswoman for Diaz-Balart said he is still reviewing the legislation and CBO report. "He has concerns about the legislation, and is looking into those," Katrina Valdes said in an email.

Only Curbelo has had to cast a vote on the proposal so far, last week on the House Ways and Means committee. He then defended his support for the law -- and on Monday, a group linked to House Speaker Paul Ryan started airing TV ads on Curbelo's behalf in Miami.

A slew of Florida lawmakers have issued statements or answered questions about the proposal. Democrats are universally opposed:

Continue reading "UPDATED Miami Republicans remain conspicuously silent on CBO analysis of GOP healthcare plan" »

Curbelo gets TV cover to back GOP healthcare plan



National Republicans are coming to the aid of Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo to support the House GOP's healthcare plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.

American Action Network, a group affiliated with House Speaker Paul Ryan, on Tuesday kicked off a $1.5 million, two-week TV ad campaign in 15 congressional district, including Curbelo's. He represents Florida's swing 26th district, which spans Westchester to Key West and has one of the highest number of Obamacare enrollees in the country.

"Republicans are keeping their promise with a new plan for better health care," the ad says. "More choices and lowers costs. Putting doctors and patients in charge again. No more big government penalties or job-killing mandates. New tax credits to make insurance cheaper. And real protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

"Thank Congressman Carlos Curbelo for keeping his promise, and replacing the Affordable Care Act with the better health care you deserve."

Curbelo voted to advance the legislation last week on the Ways and Means Committee, and immediately got bashed by Democrats, who consider him a top target for the 2018 elections. The Congressional Budget Office estimated Monday that some 14 million people would lose or drop insurance coverage in the first year of the House replacement plan.

In earlier ads airing in solidly conservative districts, including for Florida Reps. Ron DeSantis, Bill Posey and Ted Yoho, American Action Network used different language, urging the congressmen to "vote with President Trump." There's no mention of Trump in the spot airing in Curbelo's far more moderate district, which voted handily for Hillary Clinton.

March 13, 2017

Miami Republicans to Iowa's Steve King: 'Get a clue'

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Two Hispanic Republican members of Congress from Miami have denounced an inflammatory comment from one of their colleagues who seemed to endorse white nationalism.

Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King shared a story Sunday on Twitter about Geert Wilders, a far-right Dutch politician known for his anti-Islam views.

King's remark was praised by David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard.

Sunday night, Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, the son of Cuban immigrants, responded to King on Twitter:

Monday morning, Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who was born in Cuba, shared a story about King calling on a "homogeneous" U.S. population.

King hasn't responded to either comment.

UPDATE: Jeb Bush has praised Curbelo:

Photo credit: Jose A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

March 10, 2017

Miami Republicans chastise EPA administrator for questioning cause of climate change


Two Miami Republican members of Congress this week chided Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, for saying Thursday he doesn't believe carbon dioxide is a primary cause of global warming, as science has long concluded.

"I would not agree that [carbon dioxide] is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see," Pruitt said on CNBC.

"Rising carbon emissions have been a contributing factor to climate change for decades," U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo said in a statement Thursday. "That is a scientific fact and the reality facing communities like my district. The EPA is tasked with the very responsibility of helping to lower the impact of carbon emissions, and for Mr. Pruitt to assert otherwise without scientific evidence is reckless and unacceptable."

Curbelo represents Florida's southernmost district, which includes the Keys. He's also the co-founder of a bipartisan climate change caucus in Congress.

On Friday, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who represents coastal parts of Miami-Dade County, also weighed in. Both Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen campaigned last year in their Democratic-leaning districts in part by promising to protect South Florida's environment.

"These comments by the EPA administrator casting doubt on the causes and impacts of climate change are disconcerting and troubling," she said. "I'm committed to helping ensure South Florida's environment remains pristine and we continue to combat sea level rise in order to protect our community."

Photo credit: Associated Press

Democrats target Curbelo for Obamacare replacement vote

Congress Health Overhaul

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, whose congressional district has one of the highest number of people in the country covered by the Affordable Care Act, voted this week to replace the popular healthcare law with the House GOP's proposed alternative.

"I think this could be very successful," Curbelo told the Miami Herald, referring to the American Health Care Act, which has cleared two House committees and won the endorsement of President Donald Trump. "Whereas the ACA threatens people and punishes them if they don't acquire a health insurance product approved by the government, this proposal says, 'We're going to empower each and every one of you as consumers so that you have the resources to purchase the plan that best fits your needs.'"

But Curbelo's vote, at 4:15 a.m. Thursday on the House Ways and Means Committee, gave Democrats a renewed line of attack against the sophomore congressman, who was comfortably reelected in November even though Hillary Clinton trounced Trump in his district.

"Carlos Curbelo is now on the record in favor of jacking up health insurance premiums and ripping away coverage form millions so that Republicans can cut taxes for health insurance CEOs," Javier Gamboa, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman, said in a statement. "This is a boardroom bailout that makes health care more expensive and less accessible for Americans and now Carlos Curbelo owns this debacle until Election Day."

The Florida Democratic Party and another liberal group in the state, For Our Future, also pounced on Curbelo. They criticized him for voting for legislation before having an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office of how much it might cost or how many people might be insured.

"That was not ideal, but that's something that we can address in the coming weeks," Curbelo said. "We just voted to advance this proposal through the legislative process. The CBO score will be in by Monday, and if there are any adjustments that need to be made, we have plenty of time."

An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy think tank, found that older Floridians with lower incomes who live in rural areas will fare worse under the AHCA than they did under Obamacare. Curbelo's district includes the rural Florida Keys -- which he countered have only one insurance provider under the existing marketplaces created by the ACA.

In the committee, Curbelo correctly noted that the Obamacare small-business tax credit has attracted very few eligible businesses.

As of January, Curbelo's district had about 92,500 people enrolled in the marketplaces -- one of the highest number in the country. 

Democrats don't have an obvious candidate to run against Curbelo in 2018, a midterm election year in which Florida Republicans tend to get more of their voters to the polls. And he ran on his opposition to portions of Obamacare, which he voted repeatedly to limit and replace during his first term in office. House Speaker Paul Ryan, a leading author of the House alternative, even campaigned for Curbelo in Southwest Miami-Dade County.

--with Amy Sherman

Photo credit: J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press