May 25, 2016

Zika funding inaction frustrates Florida members of Congress

via @learyreports

With Congress set to go on -- another -- vacation, Florida lawmakers are worried about Zika funding. 

Sen. Bill Nelson today sent Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a letter urging him to keep the chamber in session.

"Though the House passed a stand-alone bill to provide a mere $622 million and the Senate attached $1.1 billion in Zika funding as an amendment to a larger appropriations package, we are still weeks away, at best, from passing a final bill out of Congress," Nelson wrote. "Without the passage of a stand-alone Zika funding bill by the Senate, there is no clear path forward. I have tried repeatedly to pass a bill to fund the Administration’s request and send it to the House. Unfortunately, each attempt was blocked. For these reasons, I ask you to exercise your power as the Senate majority leader to take up consideration of a stand-alone funding bill (S. 2843) to address Zika, and to even delay the Memorial Day recess if Congress needs more time to pass the bill."

Sen. Marco Rubio was on the floor Tuesday making a similar call for action. "For all of us as Americans but especially for all of us as elected leaders, It is long past due to take this virus seriously. Because the virus is not just serious; this virus is deadly serious and so far, I must say that congress is failing this test.”

Rep. Vern Buchanan is asking House and Senate leaders to appoint conference members to work out differences on spending measures.

"The cost of delay is unacceptably high," Buchanan wrote in a letter to Republican and Democratic leaders. "We are seeing the effect of this disease in Florida, where mosquito season has already begun. Currently, Florida has more than a quarter of all U.S. Zika cases. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said this weekend that mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus are expected to enter the U.S. mainland and begin infecting Americans within the next 'month or so.' "

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

CBO report says ending automatic Cuban refugee payments would save money

@PatriciaMazzei

It seems obvious, but now a nonpartisan report confirms it: Ending automatic welfare payments to Cuban immigrants would save the federal government money.

That’s according to the Congressional Budget Office, which analyzed proposed legislation by U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Sen. Marco Rubio, two Cuban-American Republicans.

The CBO estimated the feds would save $2.45 billion over 10 years if recently arrived Cubans were no longer treated automatically as refugees deserving of food stamps and other aid. About $1.05 billion would be saved from 2017-21, and another $1.4 billion from 2022-27.

The savings give Curbelo and Rubio a new selling point for their bill, which they filed to curtail abuse by some Cuban immigrants who send the money back to the island. GOP leaders in Congress — particularly House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin — have said they’re not interested in taking up immigration legislation. With the CBO report in hand, Rubio and Curbelo might have better luck pitching their proposal as a way to save money.

More here.

May 24, 2016

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: 'Venezuela is on the verge of total collapse'

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen took to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday to blast Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his administration.

"To put it simply, Mr. Speaker: Venezuela is on the verge of total collapse," Ros-Lehtinen said. "And what an impact that will have throughout our hemisphere. It is not a matter of if. It is a matter of when."

 

Debbie Wasserman Schultz collects enough signatures to qualify by petition

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced this morning that she received enough signatures to qualify for the ballot by petition in her primary battle against Tim Canova

Qualifying by petition is a way for candidates to show they have local support -- and they get to skip the $10,440 filing fee.

“I’m running for reelection so I can continue to fight for hard-working South Florida families, be a strong voice to protect children and defend Social Security and Medicare for Seniors. I'm grateful for the trust voters in the district have placed in me to be their voice in Washington and will continue to work every day to earn their vote once again this year,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. “I am also humbled by the quick and overwhelming level of support we are receiving. We  collected enough petitions to qualify in less than one week from when we began and the petitions are still pouring in. In fact, in two weeks time, we have received more than 10,000 petitions from supporters who live in the district. I am truly grateful for their support.”

Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chair from Weston, and Canova, a Nova Southeastern University law profefssor from Hollywood, are running in left-leaning Congressional District 23 in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. 

Both candidates have big-name supporters: Wasserman Schultz has been endorsed by President Barack Obama while Canova has been endorsed by Bernie Sanders.

The state Division of Elections will start accepting qualifying papers June 6 and the qualifying period is June 20-24.

May 20, 2016

Rep. Curt Clawson to retire, adding to high turnover in Florida congressional delegation

via @learyreports

Rep. Curt Clawson's decision to retire adds to considerable turnover in the Florida delegation.

Reps. Ron DeSantis and David Jolly are running in the GOP U.S. Senate primary. Rep. Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson are running in the Democratic primary.

And Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham is retiring due to redistricting. She is likely to run for governor in 2018.

Rep. Rich Nugent is just retiring after a short tenure.

Fellow Republican Ander Crenshaw is also stepping down after eight terms. Rep. Jeff Miller is also leaving after a long career.

There's also the departure of Sen. Marco Rubio.

On the watch list: Rep. Carlos Curbelo, the Miami Republican facing a tough re-election. Corrine Brown, the Jacksonville Democrat is a dramatically re-drawn district. And Rep. Dan Webster, the Orlando-area Republican whose district was redrawn and is now running for Nugent's seat.

--ALEX LEARY, TAMPA BAY TIMES

May 18, 2016

Civil war in Democratic Party? Wasserman Schultz vs. Sanders

Just as she wants to focus all of her energy on the other party, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is in the middle of a nasty brawl with one of her own party’s presidential candidates

The South Florida lawmaker, who chairs the Democratic National Committee, is openly fighting with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a clash that came to a head after a violent melee at a state Democratic Party meeting in Nevada over the weekend where Sanders supporters threw chairs and threatened state party officials, using vulgar sexist language at times.

Wasserman Schultz criticized Sanders’ response as insufficiently critical of his supporters. He and his campaign manager, in turn, are escalating complaints that Wasserman Schultz has used the party machinery to help her friend Hillary Clinton. All this comes at the very moment Wasserman Schultz had hoped Democrats would start to unify and turn their attention to the Republicans and Donald Trump.

Read more here:

 


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article78491327.html#storylink=cpy

 

Carlos Curbelo blasts House Zika bill as 'half-hearted, short-sighted;' Ileana Ros-Lehtinen calls it 'inadequate'

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo on Wednesday slammed a GOP-led effort to set aside far fewer emergency funds to fight Zika than what President Obama and other Florida Republicans want.

The House on Wednesday signed off on a scaled-back, $622 million funding measure that Obama has pledged to veto. The president wants $1.9 billion instead; the Senate has approved a compromise, $1.1 million package.

Only four Republicans -- Curbelo among them -- voted against the bill, which passed almost entirely along party lines. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called the $622 million inadequate.

"As a Member of Congress representing the country's southernmost district -- closest to the region where this disease is currently wreaking havoc -- I am acutely aware of the impacts Zika will have if not contained and eradicated," Curbelo said in a statement. "I cannot vote for this half-hearted, short-sighted effort, and I remain in strong support of funding the Administration's $1.9 billion Zika response requests."

Democrats have criticized Curbelo, a freshman in a swing district, for not being more forceful in his support of Obama's funding request. The congressman had instead focused on passing legislation intended to make sure any Zika money -- be it $1.9 billion or some other amount -- was spent efficiently. 

The Zika question has caused a rare divide among Miami Republicans in Congress. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart told the Miami Herald he would support the House's $622 million to treat and prevent the mosquito-borne virus.

The third local Republican in the House, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, was conspicuously silent on the issue ahead of the vote, but like Curbelo voted against the House measure Wednesday. So did a third Florida Republican, Rep. Vern Buchanan of Sarasota. (The fourth 'No' GOP vote -- and the only one from outside Florida -- came from Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan.)

With Wednesday's vote and statement, Curbelo made abundantly clear that he wants the full funding -- as does Sen. Marco Rubio, who has received abundant White House praise for his position.

"The threat posed by the Zika virus does not cease at the end of the government’s fiscal year, and rescinding funds in this bill on September 30 would provide little confidence that Congress is truly committed to fighting the disease," Curbelo said.

Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart pushes back on White House over Zika funding

@PatriciaMazzei

Count Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart among the Florida Republican members of Congress skeptical of President Obama's request for $1.9 billion in emergency funding to combat Zika.

"I believe we need to provide and spend every dollar needed for Zika prevention, treatment, and response programs, and not one penny less," Diaz-Balart said in a statement to the Miami Herald.

The Senate on Tuesday passed a compromise measure setting aside $1.1 billion to fight the mosquito-borne virus, with both Florida senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, reluctantly voting in favor. The two men want the full $1.9 billion.

The House of Representatives, meanwhile, is considering a $622 million funding measure the White House has threatened to veto as inadequate. Obama's press secretary, Josh Earnest, specifically called out Florida Republicans in the House on Tuesday for failing to push for more money.

Diaz-Balart stressed that the $622 million proposed in the House is in addition to the $590 million already set aside this budget year for Zika efforts (from money that had been allocated to fighting Ebola).

"This will total almost $1.3 billion to combat Zika this fiscal year alone," he said in his statement. "Congress has a responsibility to make sure taxpayer dollars are spent effectively, unlike the fiasco that happened with the 'shovel-ready' projects. Once the Obama administration provides full details as to how they will spend these funds, we can then determine what if any additional resources are required."

Diaz-Balart's fellow Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo told the Herald last week he supports Obama's request, though he hasn't taken a lead in pushing for it. The third local GOP member of Congress, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, did not respond to requests for comment.

Rival polls show Joe Garcia leading Democratic primary for swing Miami congressional seat

IMG_joe_garcia_by_koltun_2_1_SI345UAN_L78561106

@PatriciaMazzei

The Democratic race for Florida’s most competitive congressional district looks like former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia’s to lose.

Garcia holds a 25-point lead over rival Annette Taddeo, according to a new internal poll by Garcia’s campaign. That’s 15 percentage points higher than it was in January, when Garcia’s team surveyed the match-up before he launched his candidacy for the 26th congressional district.

“This poll reflects the strong support this community has for Joe Garcia,” campaign spokesman Javier Hernandez said in a statement released with a two-page summary of the latest results. “The people of this district know that when they choose Joe Garcia, their voices will be heard in Washington.”

Garcia bests Taddeo by 53-28 percent, with 19 percent of likely Democratic primary voters undecided , according to the poll conducted by the campaign’s pollster, Pete Brodnitz of Expedition Strategies. The January poll by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, an outside firm, pegged Garcia’s lead at 34-24 percent, with 42 percent undecided.

The new lead jibes with an internal poll by Taddeo’s campaign shared in its entirety with the Miami Herald. That survey had Garcia ahead 48-27 percent — by 21 points — with 25 percent undecided.

But Taddeo’s poll also showed her doing far better than Garcia once voters learned about Taddeo’s personal background as the Colombian immigrant daughter of a Colombian mother and an American father, and about her positions on issues important to progressives.

More here.

Photo credit: Roberto Koltun, el Nuevo Herald

May 17, 2016

White House calls out Florida Republicans in Congress over Zika funding

@PatriciaMazzei

The White House on Tuesday pressured Florida's 17 Republicans in Congress to say publicly whether they support $1.9 billion in emergency funding to fight the Zika virus.

Press Secretary Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama would veto a House of Representatives bill that would provide far less money -- $622 million -- and referred again to support for the full $1.9 billion from Florida's Republican senator, Marco Rubio. Florida has more confirmed Zika cases than any other state in the country.

"The Republican senator from the state of Florida has indicated that the Congress should act expeditiously to pass the $1.9 billion funding proposal that our public-health experts say is needed," Earnest told reporters. "I think it'd be interesting to understand exactly what position the 17 other Republicans from Florida who represent the state in the Congress think of this."

Some of them have already come out in favor of Obama's request, including Rep. Vern Buchanan of Sarasota and Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Miami (Curbelo drew some Democratic criticism for not being very vocal about his position).

On Tuesday, Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee sent Republican Speaker Paul Ryan a letter -- signed by more than 120 House Democrats -- urging the GOP to accept Obama's request.

Rubio said on the Senate floor Tuesday he's "concerned" about the House's reluctance to approve the full $1.9 billion. The Senate later signed off on a bill to fund $1.2 billion toward fighting the mosquito-borne virus.

"I'm glad that there has finally [been] some movement and that something's happening, but I'm really concerned about the direction their own funding measure is going," he said. "Their funding measure isn't even $1.1 billion, it's $622 million and, quite frankly, that's just not going to cut it."