December 02, 2016

Florida Democrats in Congress mainly back Pelosi

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via @learyreports

Florida Democrats this week helped protect Nancy Pelosi from a leadership challenge driven by the party's abysmal November.

Pelosi on Wednesday was easily elected minority leader over Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, who said the party has lost touch with the working class. But as the Washington Post notes, Pelosi’s margin of victory, 134 votes to 63, "signaled a large degree of discontent with her leadership after 14 years atop the caucus and, more broadly, with the Democratic policy agenda that many lawmakers say has grown stale."

We've asked Florida Democrats -- those who will be part of the 115th Congress -- who they supported.

Kathy Castor - Pelosi
Ted Deutch - Pelosi
Lois Frankel - Pelosi
Alcee Hastings - Tim Ryan
Frederica Wilson - Pelosi
Debbie Wasserman Schultz - Pelosi

Incoming members:

Charlie Crist - Pelosi
Darren Soto - Pelosi

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Associated Press

December 01, 2016

USDOT awards FIU $1.4M grant to study bridge restoration

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida International University won $1.4 million from the federal government earlier this week. The grant, from the U.S. Department of Transportation, is intended to pay for research on how to restore aging bridges and build new ones.

Miami members of Congress pushed for the money, according to U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Republican whose district includes FIU's main campus. The grant is part of USDOT's University Transportation Centers program, which was signed into law last December. Curbelo had introduced the program in a bill he filed in September 2015.

"FIU's work to address substandard bridges is critical to restoring our transportation infrastructure in South Florida and across the county," Curbelo said in a statement. "I'm grateful for the support of my colleagues Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and the Florida Delegation for championing this effort with me."

Atorod Azizinamini, chairman of the structure and bridge engineering program at FIU, said in a statement issued through Curbelo's office that supporting FIU "will benefit South Florida and the country as we improve our aging infrastructure."

November 30, 2016

House set to pass health bill with Miami ties

@PatriciaMazzei

The U.S. House plans to vote Wednesday on a wide-ranging health bill that includes several items of interest to South Florida.

The legislation, dubbed the "21st Century Cures Act," would exempt the University of Miami's Sylvester Cancer Center from Medicare reimbursement cuts imposed on hospitals last year -- a protection that should help Sylvester expand, according to the office of Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Also included in the bill is language Ros-Lehtinen and Boca Raton Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch drafted to direct federal health grants to train physicians and educators about early signs of eating disorders. In addition, the legislation supports federal drug courts modeled in part like the state ones pioneered in Miami.

The Cures Act had been passed by the House before, but the Senate objected to some provisions. The new version is a result of negotiations between both chambers.

Perhaps the best known part of the legislation in South Florida is lifting a restriction to allow the Food and Drug Administration to authorize, on an emergency basis, the use of technologies such as a genetically modified mosquito to combat the Zika virus.

In op-ed, Curbelo calls on Trump administration to be 'inclusive'

From a Miami Herald op-ed column penned by newly reelected Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo:

A long and uninspiring election season has come and gone. Americans from all regions of the country, with diverse backgrounds and beliefs, cast ballots for candidates who best represented their vision for the future. Since Election Day, we have seen a wide array of emotions, from celebration to protest. As the dust settles and we look towards the future, officials at all levels must put politics aside and serve the people who elected them to make government more efficient.

I have been given the honor of returning to the U.S. House of Representatives for another two years to represent our South Florida community in Congress. Throughout the campaign, the theme I reiterated to constituents was the need for civility, the need to put people and ideas above petty politics. Campaigns might focus on personalities and personal attacks, but governing requires thoughtfulness and consensus-building. Those who govern must lead serious discussions of ideas for making our community and the country better places to live and raise a family. This is the only way we can hope to restore Americans’ trust and confidence in government and its institutions.

[...]

But we won’t be able to accomplish anything noteworthy unless all parties have a seat at the table to share their views and contribute. I encourage the new administration to be inclusive. It didn’t take me long to learn that without bipartisan cooperation little gets done in Washington. The best laws are often products of compromise and negotiation.

More here.

November 16, 2016

Sen. Nelson wants to try to block oil-drilling bill

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson is corralling opposition to a bill he says would incentivize oil drilling off the coast of Florida.

“I’m going to block it,” Nelson said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times.

“The senator from Louisiana is going to try to get his camel’s nose under the tent so that the camel will eventually, completely take over the tent on drilling off the coast of Florida.”

Nelson said legislation to be considered Thursday is a “head fake” because it excludes Florida. He said Sen. Bill Cassidy’s bill sets up a revenue sharing agreement between Gulf states and that Florida would regret not being involved over lost revenue.

Nelson, up for re-election in 2018, is confident he can get the 60 votes to block the bill. He plans a floor speech Wednesday afternoon.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

November 09, 2016

Trump's election poses biggest threat yet to Obamacare

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via @dchangmiami

On the first day of the new administration, President-elect Donald Trump has vowed, he will ask Congress to immediately begin work on a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The current president’s signature domestic policy, credited with helping about 20 million Americans gain health insurance coverage, including an estimated 1.6 million people in Florida, already has survived two Supreme Court cases and dozens of repeal votes by Congress.

With a Republican-controlled Congress and Trump’s promise to “repeal and replace,” the ACA may face its greatest threat yet. And though Republicans still lack the 60 votes needed in the Senate for a full repeal, Congress can use the budget reconciliation process to send a bill rescinding parts of the ACA to the president, as happened last year.

No matter the method, though, healthcare experts and economists say the effect of a repeal would depend largely on any new reforms and legislation adopted to replace the ACA.

“That’s kind of the great unknown,” said Mark Rouck, a senior director with Fitch Ratings, a credit rating agency.

More here.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald

High court seems open to Miami's plea for millions from banks for discriminatory housing loans

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@jamesmartinrose

WASHINGTON Supreme Court justices appear receptive to Miami’s argument that it’s entitled to sue banks under federal discrimination law for the impact from racially discriminatory loans.

The case hinges on whether the 1968 Fair Housing Act, the last of the landmark civil rights laws, covers only the direct effects of discrimination or also covers indirect consequences, such as property tax losses and increased policing costs.

With a vacancy still unfilled from the death of Antonin Scalia last winter and with Justice Clarence Thomas maintaining his customary silence, the seven other justices grilled lawyers in a lively Election Day session Tuesday in which several also wondered whether the law’s protections might extend to anyone who suffers an indirect financial loss because of discriminatory mortgages.

During oral arguments, justices asked more questions of Neal Katyal, a former U.S. solicitor general who is representing the Bank of America and Wells Fargo in the case, than of Robert Peck, a Washington attorney for the city of Miami.

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. appeared most skeptical of Miami’s claims, while Justice Elena Kagan targeted the banks’ arguments.

For more.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article113297903.html#storylink=cpy

Big win over Garcia keeps Curbelo in Congress

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via @AndresViglucci @glenngarvin @Chabelih

Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo handily held onto his seat on Tuesday in one of the most closely watched congressional races in the country after turning back a challenge from the Democrat he unseated two years ago, Joe Garcia.

With most of the vote counted, Curbelo was ahead by 12 points in the battleground 26th Congressional District, which sprawls from Westchester to Key West, despite a redrawing that pushed its electoral make-up to the left after the Republican ousted Garcia in 2014. The new district’s demographics put the incumbent, who fashioned himself as one of a dwindling species — a moderate Republican — at something of a disadvantage.

But Curbelo carefully threaded the political needle, pointedly repudiating GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, while bolstering his credentials with conservative Cuban Americans in the ethnically and politically diverse district by criticizing Garcia, a former head of the Cuban American National Foundation, for his support of President Barack Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba.

Curbelo, who at one point compared Trump to the late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez, also said he would not vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton, but never publicly revealed his presidential vote despite persistent goading from Garcia.

More here.

Photo credit: Carl Juste, Miami Herald

October 31, 2016

Florida's congressional delegation will get a new look post election

10-31-FLAdelegationvia @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- In a career exceeding two decades, U.S. Rep. John Mica has earned considerable clout and can readily list his role in major projects across his Orlando-area district and beyond. This week, Ivanka Trump praised his effort in leasing a vacant federal building near the White House that is now the plush Trump International Hotel.

But the 12-term Republican is in danger of being retired by a political newcomer who embodies the diversity reshaping Orlando and other areas of Florida.

“A lot of being a good political leader comes from having empathy, and given my family’s working-class experience as well as my experience as a working mom, I understand the challenges that come with trying to work hard to provide opportunities for your family,” said Stephanie Murphy, a 38-year-old Democrat who has experience in national security and business and came to the United States as a refugee from Vietnam.

“It’s become very clear to me that people are hungering for a change,” she said.

Even if Murphy does not prevail, significant change is coming to Florida’s representation in Congress. Retirements, redistricting and competitive races will sweep away roughly a third of the 27-member delegation. The turnover — eight members are definitely gone in January — is considered the most in the country.

“Florida could lose a ton of experience,” said David Wasserman, an expert on House elections for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which rates the Mica-Murphy race a toss-up.

“On the one hand people should be happy because they want change,” said Darryl Paulson, professor emeritus of government at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg. “But when you have a system predicated on seniority, often people don’t realize the political implications. They may regret it. You can argue that Florida has not really had the clout it should, but even so, when you lose that many it’s going to be a tremendous hit.”

More here.

October 30, 2016

Rubio says he 'probably could not' support TPP

@PatriciaMazzei

Marco Rubio on Sunday came closer than he ever has to rejecting the Trans-Pacific Partnership he once supported, saying in a local TV interview that if a vote came up today, he would likely vote No.

"As it currently stands, I probably could not support it," Rubio, a Florida Republican, said on WFOR-TV's "Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede." He cited a number of "concerns," calling it a "massive deal" whose intent -- more free trade with Asia -- he nevertheless supports.

Rubio told the Tampa Bay Times in August that he still hadn't made a "final determination" on the proposed deal. He had praised the TPP in 2015 but started hedging on his position in January.

His Senate rival, Democrat Patrick Murphy, opposes the TPP.