March 10, 2017

Democrats target Curbelo for Obamacare replacement vote

Congress Health Overhaul
@PatriciaMazzei

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

March 09, 2017

Curbelo files new DREAM Act in Congress

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@PatriciaMazzei

Bolstered by the White House’s apparent interest in protecting at least one group of unauthorized immigrants, Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo on Thursday re-filed legislation that would allow people brought illegally as children to remain in the country.

The “Recognizing America's Children Act” would offer an eventual path to U.S. citizenship to immigrants who entered illegally before Jan. 1, 2012, and were 16 years old or younger.

The legislation is essentially a new version of the DREAM Act, which failed in the Senate in 2010. Curbelo first proposed the bill last June, as he was running for reelection to Florida’s swing 26th congressional district.

He said he’s bringing it back because President Donald Trump, in his executive order on immigration, left in place the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — known as DACA — which shields so-called DREAMers from deportation.

“This White House has sent a very strong message by preserving the executive order that protects these young people,” Curbelo said in an interview with the Miami Herald. “We know that they’ve been very aggressive when it comes to immigration policy, so it certainly stands out that they have left the DACA executive order untouched.”

More here.

Photo credit: José A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

February 22, 2017

Suspicious package flagged at Curbelo's Capitol Hill office, all OK

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@PatriciaMazzei

Someone hand-delivered an anonymous envelope to Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo's Capitol Hill office Wednesday, prompting a brief investigation that ultimately cleared the suspicious letter.

The envelope was addressed to "Comrade Curbelo," according to one of the congressman's staffers. Instead of a return address, it listed, "Kremlin."

Curbelo wasn't in the office -- he's spending the congressional recess in the district -- but some of his aides were.

The Capitol Police checked out the letter "out of an abundance of caution," spokeswoman Eva Malecki said. "We were able to clear it without any threat."

Malecki added that Capitol Police deal with similar situations "on almost a daily basis."

"Capitol Police puts their lives on the line everyday to keep our Washington, D.C. offices safe, and today their training and professionalism showed," Curbelo said in a statement. "I'm grateful for their swift response and that my staff is safe."

Photo credit: Roberto Koltun, el Nuevo Herald

February 21, 2017

Miami lawmakers on Trump deportations: ‘You’re going to catch a lot of good people’

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@PatriciaMazzei

Two Miami Republicans in Congress immediately questioned on Tuesday the Trump administration’s new policy exposing nearly all immigrants in the country illegally to deportation.

U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen were speaking at an event highlighting the contribution of immigrants to Miami’s fledgling tech industry when the Department of Homeland Security announced its rules expanding the categories of people prioritized for removal — a reversal from the Obama administration, which had focused on deporting criminals.

“I worry that when you cast a wide net, you’re going to catch some criminals — but you’re going to catch a lot of good people who don’t have papers but they have not committed violent crimes,” said Ros-Lehtinen, who was born in Cuba. “This is a community that has been immigrant-friendly.”

Curbelo agreed, saying there is “broad consensus” to deport “people who are here with the goal of doing us harm.”

“I’d like to encourage the administration to keep the focus on deporting dangerous criminals,” said Curbelo, the son of Cuban immigrants. “Also, I would encourage the administration to try to keep families together as much as possible.”

The congressman did thank President Trump for not pushing to undo the protections offered to people brought into the country illegally as children by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

More here.

Photo credit: Jose I. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

February 10, 2017

Those hot congressional town halls? Don't expect many in South Florida

@PatriciaMazzei

Over the past week, a string of town-hall meetings held across the country by Republican members of Congress have drawn hordes of constituents angry about repealing the Affordable Care Act and the GOP's embrace of President Donald Trump

But if South Floridians want a similar forum to vent to their Republican lawmakers, they're out of luck.

The only local member of Congress who plans to hold open meetings soon is U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat, who's got two scheduled -- in Wilton Manors and Pompano Beach -- Saturday. Democrats just haven't been getting the same sort of protests as Republicans at their public events.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has no town hall planned, a spokesman said, noting that the Senate is still in session. (Progressive activists say they will nevertheless stump outside his Doral office Tuesday to ask him for one.) Neither does Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. No in-person town halls are scheduled either for Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, though he hopes to let constituents call into a "tele-town hall" in late March, a spokeswoman said. 

A spokeswoman for Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart refused to admit the congressman isn't holding town halls.

"The Congressman is constantly traveling the district and meeting with constituents, but we do not publicize his schedule," Katrina Valdés said in an email.

When pressed if that means no public events without pre-screened attendees, she added: "He has countless meetings with constituents and constituent groups while traveling the district. Our office is in touch with those who he will be meeting with."

More than 200 pro-Obamacare protesters showed up last Saturday at a town hall for Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis in Palm Harbor, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

February 09, 2017

Congressmen Curbelo and Deutch expand bipartisan climate change caucus

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@amysherman1

A bipartisan climate change caucus launched by two South Florida members has added four new members including U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democrat from St. Petersburg.

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, announced Thursday that the caucus now has 24 members and is evenly split between both parties. Both Curbelo and Deutch represent coastal areas that are impacted by climate change.

The other new members are David Reichert, R-WA, Earl Blumenauer, D-OR and Don Bacon, R-NE.

Curbelo has been a leading Republican voice speaking in favor of finding solutions to combat climate change.

The mission of the caucus is to explore options that address the impacts and causes related to climate change.

“We have a lot of work to do on this issue, and coastal communities like mine in South Florida are counting on us to come together and have productive discussions about what we can do to mitigate the effects of climate change and make our nation more resilient,” Curbelo said in a statement. “The caucus has such a diverse group of members that each brings unique perspectives to the table. I’m confident that together we can work on bipartisan solutions that will unleash a new era of American innovation and protect our environment, infrastructure, homes, and livelihoods.”


Deutch said in a statement: “Across the country, Americans understand the urgency of climate change. Whether they see rising tides in Fort Lauderdale, intensifying tornadoes along the Central Plains, or worsening droughts affecting farm production, Americans are starting to feel the impacts of climate change to their homes, their livelihoods, and their wallets. They want action from their elected officials, and I’m proud that this Caucus offers a space to develop bipartisan solutions.”

 

February 02, 2017

DCCC targets Miami congressman Carlos Curbelo's district

CURBELO_ELECTION NIGHT_CPJ

@amysherman1

Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo easily beat his Democratic challenger Nov. 8th, but national Democrats are targeting his swing district in Miami-Dade in 2018.

Curbelo's district is one of 20 districts that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee identified as part of it's "March into 18" project which includes hiring full-time organizers and launching digital ads in each district.

"Organizers will focus on the importance of the midterms to provide a check on Republicans, like Representative Carlos Curbelo, and give them the tools to register voters and turn out Democrats in their communities in 2018," states the press release. 

The DCCC describes the project as an "earlier-than-ever" effort but Democrats will face an uphill battle against Curbelo.

On Nov. 8, Curbelo easily beat former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia 53-41 percent to hold on to his seat in District 26 which spans Westchester to Key West. Curbelo first ousted Garcia in 2014.

Curbelo succeeded by distancing himself from Trump in the immigrant-rich district and bashed Garcia, the former head of the Cuban American National Foundation, for his support of President Barack Obama's reset with Cuba. Curbelo also reminded voters that Garcia's campaign chief was sentenced to jail in an absentee ballot scheme in 2014 although Joe Garcia himself wasn't charged. Curbelo didn't vote for Trump and instead voted for a third-party candidate.

In 2016, the DCCC initially backed Annette Taddeo in the primary but when she lost it switched gears and backed Garcia.

So far, no Democrats have filed with the state Division of Elections to challenge Curbelo. The district is the only one in Florida targeted by the DCCC for this project.

Here's a look at Curbelo's Truth-O-Meter record from PolitiFact Florida.

 

 

January 13, 2017

Miami congressman joins bipartisan group extending Trump offer to work together on infrastructure, tax reform

@PatriciaMazzei

A bipartisan group of members of Congress extended an invitation to President-elect Donald Trump on Friday to work together on issues with broad appeal across political-party lines, such as rebuilding infrastructure and reforming the tax code.

Among the 23 representatives taking part in the self-titled "Problem Solvers" caucus: U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Miami Republican who didn't vote for Trump but said he's willing to work with him in areas where they share common ground. Curbelo was recently appointed to the Ways and Means Committee that writes tax law.

"Washington is running out of time to restore citizens' trust in our government," they wrote. "People are angry and they have a right to be. But we believe the next administration and Congress have a brief window to turn it around; to show the people that we are capable of coming together to fix the problems that are harming the health, wealth and well-being of so many families."

Read their letter here.

January 03, 2017

2 Miami Republicans favor gutting congressional ethics office

@PatriciaMazzei

UPDATE: In an emergency meeting Tuesday, House Republicans agreed to reverse their decision to curtail the powers of the Office of Congressional Ethics, after facing public backlash and skepticism from President-elect Donald Trump. Here's an updated statement from Curbelo:

"The House ethics process needs to be reformed in order to better investigate allegations of misconduct. I support referring this matter to the House Ethics committee where Republicans and Democrats can work together on bipartisan reforms that would ensure Members of Congress are‎ held accountable while given due process to address accusations."

A full, updated story has been posted here.

ORIGINAL POST: U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said Tuesday they backed the Republican conference's move to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics.

The OCE, created eight years ago after a series of congressional scandals, would be renamed the Office of Congressional Complaint Review and, instead of being independent, report to the GOP-controlled House Ethics Committee.

Republicans' decision, proposed by U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and made without notice in a private party meeting on Monday, a federal holiday, prompted immediate rebuke from Democrats, government watchdog groups and even some Republicans. But don't count Ros-Lehtinen and Curbelo among them.

"I voted for Rep. Goodlatte's amendment to improve and reorganize the renamed Office of Congressional Complaint Review (OCCR) because it includes much needed oversight and accountability from the House Ethics Committee," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement to the Miami Herald. "The reforms will allow for due process rights for all parties involved and will ensure a fair hearing as Members of Congress seek to better serve our constituents."

Curbelo spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez said in a statement to the Herald that Curbelo also backs the changes.

"Coming from a district that knows firsthand the impact corruption has on a community, Congressman Curbelo has always been committed to ensuring members of Congress are held accountable and allegations of misconduct are investigated seriously<" she said. "The Office of Congressional Ethics has not lived up to its stated mission and reforms are long overdue to strengthen its ability to take complaints from the public, complete independent investigations, and provide due process for those facing allegations of misconduct. The Congressman supports Speaker [Paul] Ryan's commitment to protect the Office's independence and he is dedicated to making sure that commitment is honored.

"The Congressman will be supporting H.Res. 5, the complete Rules Package for the 115th Congress on the House Floor later today."

Ryan opposed the ethics amendment, which the GOP conference agreed to with a 119-74 vote. Because the vote took place in a private party meeting, there is no public disclosure of how each member voted.

The third Miami Republican in Congress, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, told the Herald in a statement that while the ethics office needs an overhaul, he doesn't think the rules legislation is the way to change things.

"The Office of Congressional Ethics is in dire need of reform," Diaz-Balart said. "Members of Congress must be held accountable to the highest standard in a process that is fair and just. I strongly believe the way to do this is in a bipartisan, open discussion through legislation, not through the rules package."

President-elect Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday morning that dealing with the ethics office shouldn't be Congress' first priority, though he still called the office "unfair." He used the hashtag "#DTS," from his campaign mantra to "drain the swamp."

This post has been updated to include Diaz-Balart.

December 08, 2016

Curbelo makes National Geographic TV debut on climate change

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Miami got plenty of love Wednesday night as a Republican willing to take action in Congress to combat climate change.

Curbelo was prominently featured on a "Years of Living Dangerously" episode on the National Geographic channel that featured environmental activists' efforts to get congressional action.

"Why can't there be more Republicans like this guy?" asked actor Bradley Whitford, the episode's host. He's a liberal activist best known for his role as Josh Lyman in NBC's former TV series "The West Wing," and he's praised Curbelo on national TV in the past, to promote the NatGeo series.

The episode showed, among other things, a meeting of a small "climate change" caucus in Congress -- which means other South Florida representatives got some air time, too. U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, the Democrat who created the caucus with Curbelo, got a speaking role, and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican, also appeared on screen.

Here are two clips cut by Curbelo's office. Watch the full episode (number seven) here.