May 20, 2015

Roll Call: Broward Democrat wants raise for members of Congress

From Roll Call (published Monday):

Rep. Alcee L. Hastings made the politically tone-deaf case for raising salaries for members of Congress Monday, pointing to the high cost of living in the District of Columbia.

“Members deserve to be paid, staff deserves to be paid and the cost of living here is causing serious problems for people who are not wealthy to serve in this institution,” the Florida Democrat said at a Rules Committee meeting, referring to the average member’s $174,000 annual salary. “We aren’t being paid properly,” he later added.

The committee was considering the fiscal 2016 Legislative Branch appropriations bill, which sets the spending levels for Congress and legislative branch agencies. The bill includes a freeze on member pay, continuing one that has been in place since 2010 — and last year drew the ire of then-Rep. James P. Moran.

More here.

May 19, 2015

WFTV: Alan Grayson's annulment falls apart, he calls estranged wife 'gold digger'

From WFTV in Orlando:

Congressman Alan Grayson and his estranged wife, Lolita, were back in court Monday after a tentative agreement fell apart. The last time the two were in court, both sides thought they were hours away from an agreement. Grayson signed the agreement but his wife did not. Grayson, who graduated from Harvard University in three years, got a law degree and Ph.D., and made millions suing defense contractors, isn’t happy. Lolita Grayson is accused of not getting a divorce from her first husband before marrying Grayson in 1990. "I'll sum it up for you. Gold diggers gotta dig. That's all I gotta say," Grayson said on Monday. "We had an agreement. She's trying to renege."

More here.

May 15, 2015

Miami Republicans in Congress vote against blocking undocumented youth from serving in military

@PatriciaMazzei

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a national defense bill Friday that was stripped from language that would have pushed the Pentagon to allow young people brought into the country illegally as children to serve in the military if they have been protected by President Obama's executive immigration order.

Voting against the amendment that eliminated that language were all House Democrats -- and 20 Republicans, including Miami's three Cuban Americans, Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The trio -- especially Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart, who have been longer in Congress -- has repeatedly bucked its party on immigration.

"It's unfortunate," Diaz-Balart told the New York Times. "But it's part of the process."

They were the only Florida Republicans to vote no, though all three ultimately supported the version of the legislation. Two Florida Democrats voted yes on that final vote: Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, who's running for Senate in 2016. 

Obama has threatened to veto the bill if it passes the Senate.

May 13, 2015

Florida congressional delegation joins efforts against oil drilling

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - The Florida delegation is gearing up for another fight over drilling. A bipartisan group of House members today filed legislation to prevent seismic testing for oil drilling off the Atlantic coast.

“Seismic testing is the first step in an effort to begin offshore drilling along the coasts of Florida,” the group said in a release.

The legislation was introduced by Reps. Gwen GrahamPatrick MurphyBill PoseyAlcee Hastings, Lois Frankel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Sen. Bill Nelson has companion legislation.

“There are strong concerns that these seismic activities can be harmful to undersea mammals like dolphins, disrupting their ability to communicate and navigate. This legislation enacts a moratorium off Florida’s coast so we can study the effects of seismic testing on our sea life,” said Republican Posey.

The bill would reverse a July 2014 decision by the Obama Administration to open the Atlantic Ocean, from Virginia to Florida, for seismic testing for future drilling sites.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

May 12, 2015

Who Rick Scott is talking to in Washington, D.C.

As part of a Washington, D.C., whirlwind tour — his second in as many weeks — Gov. Rick Scott is making stops with more than a dozen members of Congress.

Last time he visited the nation's capitol, Scott was there to negotiate with federal regulators on the health care funding stalemate in Florida. So far, no similar meetings have been announced for this trip. Yesterday, he had interviews with Fox News and Politico and met with Rep. Gus Bilirakis.

On the agenda for today are 14 additional Republican members of Florida’s congressional delegation:
* Rep. Jeff Miller
* Rep. Tom Rooney
* Rep. Ron DeSantis
* Rep. Ted Yoho
* Rep. Curt Clawson
* Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
* Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart
* Rep. Carlos Curbelo
* Rep. David Jolly
* Rep. Dennis Ross
* Rep. Rich Nugent
* Rep. Bill Posey
* Rep. Vern Buchanan
* Rep. John Mica

Plus other House and Senate leaders:
* Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
* Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee

May 01, 2015

Two Democrats say they're 'supportive' of Miami Republican congressman but haven't endorsed him

@PatriciaMazzei

Two South Florida politicians whom Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo listed last week as part of a 22-member Democratic "coalition" that backs his re-election say they didn't exactly give the freshman congressman their endorsement.

Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter and Vice-Mayor Stephen Shelley separately told the Miami Herald that while they are supportive of the work Curbelo has done since his term began in January, they're not ready to pick a candidate in the 2016 Congressional District 26 race. Curbelo has already been challenged by Democrat Annette Taddeo.

"After the election, he's been down here three or four times trying to understand our community, and so I support the fact that he's following through on his promises," Porter said.

But, he added: "We're far away from an election. All of the candidates, if they're going to run for election, have got to prove their worth. It's a little too soon for anyone to say I would support or not support someone in the next election. He basically just got elected."

Porter was even listed as co-host to Taddeo's first fundraiser.

"We had a conversation, and he told me he was putting together a list of Democrats who were supportive of his efforts and of trying to do bipartisan work," Shelley said. "I told him I support the efforts he's done. But it wasn't election-oriented. It wasn't endorsement-oriented. It was just a general, 'I'm supportive of his efforts, of what he's done in office so far.'"

Curbelo boasted the endorsements in an April 20 news release. "The initial list of coalition members includes over 20 South Florida Democrats who have committed to supporting the freshman's reelection effort," the release says. He has since been listed as No. 3 on National Journal's "power rankings" of freshmean members of Congress.

Continue reading "Two Democrats say they're 'supportive' of Miami Republican congressman but haven't endorsed him" »

April 28, 2015

Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart tries to block new Cuba travel

@PatriciaMazzei

Republicans in Congress filed legislation Tuesday that would dramatically limit new travel to Cuba, an attempt to block part of President Obama's more open policy toward the island's communist regime.

The proposed measure would ban new flights and cruises to Cuba. It was tucked into a wide-ranging, must-pass budget bill drafted by U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami, who chairs the House subcommittee on transportation, housing and urban development appropriations.

Funding to facilitate travel to Cuba would be prohibited if airplanes or ships pass through any property confiscated by the Cuban government, which effectively rules out landing or docking at any airport or seaport. Importing restricted amounts of goods such as cigars would still be allowed.

In a statement, Diaz-Balart decried Obama's move in january to significantly ease travel restrictions. Permissible trips to Cuba, he said, now "include snorkeling, cigar factory tours, salsa dancing lessons, and other obvious tourist activities."

"Under these circumstances, Congress cannot remain idle," said Diaz-Balart, who is Cuban-American. "The expansion of regularly scheduled flights to Cuba is an obvious attempt to circumvent the tourism ban. Similarly, allowing cruises to dock in Cuba would violate both the spirit and the letter of U.S. law."

The massive, $55 billion budget bill was announced Tuesday with a news release that made no mention of the Cuba provision.

Another group of lawmakers has filed legislation to repeal all travel restrictions to the island.

April 27, 2015

Alan Grayson says he is No. 1 in the house for small donations

A day after a Florida man landed a gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol to demand campaign finance reform, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson talked up his own efforts to focus on small donations and his potential U.S. Senate bid.

Grayson, an Orlando Democrat, told a reporter for Democracy Now on April 16 that he will "probably" run in a primary against U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, for Marco Rubio’s Senate seat in 2016. As Democratic Party activists and leaders consider their best path to winning that seat, Grayson wants to remind them of his populist fundraising:

"I’m the only member of the House of Representatives who raised most of his campaign funds in the last election from small contributions of less than $200," he said.

We decided to check if Grayson holds a record in the House for contributions of less than $200.

(A spokesman for Grayson told PolitiFact Florida that he is likely a few weeks away from making his decision but reiterated that he has said he will "probably run.")

Turn to PolitiFact Florida and see what we found.

April 23, 2015

GOP won’t challenge Cuba’s removal from terrorism list

via @HeraldMimi

Republicans say they will not mount a challenge to President Barack Obama’s plan to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

South Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen met with congressional colleagues last week to map strategy to prevent the de-listing and she had planned to introduce a bill this week.

But she told Foreign Policy Wednesday that legally Congress can’t prevent the White House from taking Cuba off the list. “We can't undo it. We just got the word from the parliamentarian: It's a no-go.”

Ros-Lehtinen told Foreign Policy that 35 co-sponsors had signed on to draft legislation before the decision was made not to go forward with it.

Obama sent a report to Congress April 14 saying he planned to take Cuba off the list because it had provided no support for international terrorism during the past six months and the Cuban government had given assurances that it wouldn’t support acts of international terrorism in the future.

Cuba was placed on the list in 1982 because of its effort to promote armed revolution in Latin America. Cuban officials have always contended that Cuba never should have been put on the list.

By law, the president was required to inform Congress 45 days before his directive went into effect. Now, with no challenges, Cuba is expected to be removed from the list in late May.

More here.

April 22, 2015

Miami congressman denied Air Force One seat in February will travel with Obama to Everglades

@PatriciaMazzei

This time around, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo didn't even have to ask for an invitation.

The White House invited the Miami Republican to ride Wednesday with President Obama to the Florida Everglades. Curbelo said yes; the congressman, whose district includes the Everglades, will be arriving at Miami International Airport with Obama on Air Force One.

"I appreciate the President taking the time to showcase the Florida Everglades, one of the world's great natural treasures and an important part of the Congressional district I represent," Curbelo said in a text message to the Miami Herald. "Everglades restoration is a worthy bipartisan cause, and I support the Administration's efforts to preserve the Everglades for future generations."

Another South Florida congressman -- Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, who is running for U.S. Senate in 2016 -- is the only other representative on board.

The trip will be a make-up session of sorts: Curbelo was denied an Air Force One seat in February when Obama attended a town hall-style meeting on immigration at Florida International University, which is also in Curbelo's district. The freshman congressman was invited to the event but not to travel with the president -- even after he asked for a ride -- so he didn't attend.

The dis came after the White House had expressed its interest in bringing more Republicans on presidential trips to foster bipartisanship. As a moderate Republican in a swing district, Curbelo agrees with some of Obama's policies.

After Curbelo revealed that he had been kept off Air Force One for the February trip, the White House reached out to the congressman to mend fences.