March 03, 2015

Marco Rubio to unveil tax-reform plan written with Utah senator

via @CAdamsMcClatchy

Sen. Marco Rubio is teaming up with another conservative senator to release a tax overhaul bill that would reduce the number of tax brackets for individuals and drop corporate tax rates, all in an attempt to boost economic growth.

While details of the proposal by Rubio, R-Fla., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, won’t be released until Wednesday morning, information on the proposal has trickled out over recent days.

Rubio and Lee outlined the general principles in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece last September, writing that “the current tax code taxes too much, taxes unfairly and conspires with our outmoded welfare system to trap poor families in poverty, rather than facilitate their climb into the middle class. Our reforms seek to simplify the structure and lower rates.”

The proposal has a slim chance of becoming law, experts say, as Democrats would be likely to block tax-law changes in the Republican-controlled Senate.

More here.

February 25, 2015

Obama, immigration and the politics of snagging a seat on Air Force One

@PatriciaMazzei

After the November election, where Democrats lost badly to Republicans across the country, the Obama administration said it would make an effort to reach out to more members of the GOP in Congress. Part of that outreach was supposed to include bringing them along for rides on Air Force One.

Yet that's not what Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo found this week when he asked the White House if he could hitch a ride on the presidential airplane to Miami for a town hall-style immigration meeting to be held in his swing district. Invited only two days before the event, and unwilling to take an early-morning commercial flight that would make him miss House votes, Curbelo was denied a seat on the plane and didn't attend. (In the end, House votes didn't begin until the early afternoon.)

"In this case, we were unable to accommodate the congressman's request, but we typically try to do so when we can," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Miami. When asked if there was no space for Curbelo, as the congressman said he was told, Earnest said he wasn't "exactly sure."

"When the president travels outside of Washington, it's not uncommon at all for us to invite a member of Congress from the congressional district where the president is appearing," Earnest said. "And we do that, whether or not it's a Democrat or a Republican who's participating -- or who represents that district in Congress." 

Miami's two other Republicans in Congress didn't attend, either, though all support an immigration overhaul.

Continue reading "Obama, immigration and the politics of snagging a seat on Air Force One" »

February 24, 2015

Florida lawmakers weigh in on VA secretary’s false special forces claim

@CAdamsMcClatchy

The Florida lawmakers who lead the U.S. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee weighed in Tuesday on the nation’s top veterans’ official for his statement inflating his military service.

The Republican who chairs the committee, Jeff Miller of the Pensacola area, said he was “disappointed” in the claim by Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald that he served in the special forces.

The top Democrat on the committee, Corrine Brown, whose district runs from Orlando to Jacksonville, said, “I am confident that his statement was not intended to mislead.”

The two top veterans committee officials were responding to a statement by McDonald, who took over the scandal-ridden VA last year, that he had served in the special forces, among the most elite and prestigious military units.

McDonald’s comment to a man in Los Angeles was captured by CBS News for a story on the VA’s efforts to eradicate veteran homelessness. “Special forces? What years? I was in special forces!” McDonald said. The comment was originally flagged by The Huffington Post.

McDonald, a former chief executive of Procter & Gamble, is an Army veteran and a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He was not, however, a member of special forces units, which he has since acknowledged.

He has apologized for his comment and was scheduled to speak with reporters Tuesday afternoon.

Miller, the Republican veterans committee chair, said in a statement: “I’m disappointed in Secretary McDonald’s comments. After a rough couple of weeks that also included inflated claims of accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs, I hope Secretary McDonald will redouble his efforts to ensure his statements – and those of all VA officials – are completely accurate.”

Brown, the Democrat, said: “The secretary gave an appropriate apology following his misstatement, which demonstrates his commitment to accountability. I am confident that his statement was not intended to mislead… Clearly, Secretary McDonald’s military service and dedication to our nation should not be ignored.”

February 12, 2015

Alcee Hastings' Pants on Fire claim about shooting bears

Crazy ol’ Texas, a Democratic congressman from Florida said and reaffirmed last week, initially noting the Republican-led Lone Star state left it to the federal government to set up its online marketplace for residents to shop for health insurance in keeping with the Obamacare law.

How crazy? There’s a Texas law, said Rep. Alcee Hastings, who represents a South Florida district, restricting the number of dildos a person may buy; Mostly False, PolitiFact Florida found.

In an interview with CNN, Hastings also let loose that there's a Texas law "that you can't shoot bears out of the second floor of a window." We spotted  the bear comment in CNN’s Feb. 5, 2015, news story; it came from the network’s telephone interview of Hastings.

Whoa (or whatever it is Floridians holler when they’re riding their gators). Turn to PolitiFact Texas for the rest of this fact-check.

February 11, 2015

Both Florida senators back Obama war authorization against ISIS

@PatriciaMazzei

President Obama formally asked Congress Wednesday to authorize the use of military force against the Islamic State, a group also known as ISIS or ISIL. Though U.S. airstrikes have gone after the group since last summer, congressional approval would bolster the administration's legal war authority.

Both Florida senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, support Obama's request. 

"Any group barbaric enough to behead and burn innocent people and bring about the death of a humanitarian worker deserves to be crushed," Nelson said in a statement Wednesday morning, referring to the recently confirmed death of Kayla Mueller of Arizona.

Nelson is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who last year filed legislation that would have authorized airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. He noted Wednesday that Obama's request has some similarities to Nelson's proposal. Obama didn't rule out ground troops, though he said they would be used in "limited circumstances." His request would expire in three years.

Rubio said on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon that he would back even broader authorization, without limiting the president's time frame or tactics, which the senator said would be unwise given changing ground conditions. Rubio has burnished his foreign-policy credentials in the Senate, a likely campaign plank for him if he ends up running for president.

"There is a simple authorization Obama should ask for. One sentence: We authorize the president to defeat ISIL. Period," Rubio said. More than once, he noted authorization would also extend to the next president.

Rubio called it "good news" that Obama had asked Congress for approval, though he said it was belated. "I wish we had taken this group on earlier," he said.

Republicans, Democrats already jostling over FL-26

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami's perennial swing congressional district is in the sights of both political parties, 21 months before U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo -- who was elected for the first time three months ago -- faces reelection.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has included Florida's 26th district, which extends from Westchester to Key West, on its list of "One-Term Wonders" (so is Tampa-area Republican Rep. David Jolly). The party has created a website listing 15 GOP freshmen, including Curbelo, Democrats intend to target next year, when a presidential electorate tends to bring more liberal-leaning voters to the polls. Curbelo hasn't drawn an opponent yet.

But that has mattered little to the National Republican Congressional Committee, which last month jumped at the chance to poke Annette Taddeo, the former Florida lieutenant governor candidate who was spotted meeting with DCCC recruiters in Washington D.C. "Back to the Future IV," the party called it.

Taddeo told the Miami Herald on Wednesday that she's still in "very serious conversations" with the DCCC.

"Haven't made a decision yet," she said. "I can tell you I'm not running for [Miami-Dade County] mayor."

Taddeo said she will be back in D.C. next week for a Democratic National Committee event.

February 10, 2015

Alcee Hastings' dildo claim doesn't hold up

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., messed with Texas when he bashed the state during a congressional hearing on Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare.

At a Feb. 2 House Rules Committee hearing, lawmakers were discussing Texas’ decision not to participate in state health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. At one point, Hastings said, "I don't know about in your state, which I think is a crazy state to begin with, and I mean that just as I said it."

U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, a Texas Republican, decried Hastings’ comment as "defamatory."

"I wouldn’t live there for all the tea in China, and that’s how I feel," Hastings said. Hastings refused to apologize, vowing that Burgess would have to "wait until hell freezes over" to get an apology. (The spat later drew national attention when The Daily Show with Jon Stewart parodied the "Southern Slam.")

Then, on Feb. 5, CNN posted an article quoting Hastings, and the fur flew again.

"One of their cities has a law that says that women can only have six dildos, and the certain size of things. And if that ain't crazy, I don't know what is," Hastings said.

Turn to PolitiFact Florida to find out how we rated this claim and see Alcee Hastings' Truth-O-Meter record.

February 06, 2015

Texas and dildos and bears, oh my! Alcee Hastings insists Texas is 'crazy,' also bashes Florida

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, enjoying more national press coverage than he has in years, has doubled down on his comment from earlier this week calling Texas "crazy."

In a CNN interview, Hastings elaborated on his remark.

"One of their cities has a law that says that women can only have six dildos, and the certain size of things, and if that ain't crazy, I don't know what is," the Miramar Democrat said. It's unclear what "things" Hastings was referring to.

He also cited a supposed Texas law that says people "can't shoot bears out of the second floor of a window," according to CNN's post.

"I love Texans, but I do not like their policy makers who are in the majority," he said. "The simple fact of the matter is, evidently, I touched a nerve deep in the heart of Texas. And I would ask them to tie a yellow rose around it and do like Frozen and 'Let it go.'"

Hastings has ignored the Texas congressional delegation's request for an apology. He seems to be cherishing the spotlight -- even if it meant CNN noted the former federal judge was impeached and removed from office.

The congressman also revealed that, as it turns out, he doesn't really like his home state of Florida, either. Hastings has represented Florida's 20th District since 1992.

"Consider the fact that I'm a native Floridian, and that I dislike it," he told CNN. "Listen, I wouldn't live in a lot of places. Texas happens to be one of them. I have cautioned about living in Florida, and I'm not so they're I'm going to stay there."

February 05, 2015

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen vs. 'Photoshopping'

@PatriciaMazzei

Air-brushing away wrinkles, cellulite, a few pounds here and there? U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is not a fan.

The Miami Republican and eight other members of Congress have asked the Federal Trade Commission to hold a public meeting to discuss the potentially negative effects of "photoshopping" -- using software to enhance images -- in advertising.

In particular, the group wants a discussion into "how materially altering the appearance of the human body in ads solely to manipulate and persuade consumers may influence the health of people who view those ads." The lawmakers have concerns about ads creating unrealistic expectations, especially for children and teenagers, of what people "can and should look like."

They also point to a possible increase in healthcare costs due to beauty-enhancing medical procedures, and say the advertising industry has been unwilling to create a set of standards for when image-enhancement is acceptable.

 

Among the lawmakers who signed Ros-Lehtinen's request were Reps. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton and Alcee Hastings of Miramar, both Democrats.

Alcee Hastings calls Texas 'crazy.' Jon Stewart weighs in.

@PatriciaMazzei

"We're run by children," comedian Jon Stewart concluded Wednesday night when he gave The Daily Show treatment to a now-infamous exchange starring U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Miramar Democrat.

In case you weren't glued to C-SPAN's Monday night coverage of the House Rules Committee, the fireworks started when Texas Republican Rep. Michael Burgess said President Obama's administration "hid the ball" on the Affordable Care Act. The debate was over states like Texas and Florida choosing not to create their own insurance exchanges under Obamacare.

"Had the administration worked with the governors! Had the governors worked with the administration, we might not be in this position," Hastings responded. "I don't know about in your state, which I think is a crazy state to begin with -– and I mean that just as I said it."

("You're from Florida and you're calling Texas crazy?" Stewart said.)

Hastings was interrupted by the committee chairwoman's gavel. Burgess was insulted.

"The gentleman made a very defamatory statement about my state, and I will not stand here and listen to it," he said.

"Well, fine. Then you don't have to listen," Hastings fired back. "You can leave if you choose. I told you what I think about Texas. I wouldn't live there for all the tea in China. And that's how I feel."

He continued. But then Burgess got the floor back.

Burgess: "I'm used to attacks, invective being tossed my way. That's part and parcel of the territory. But there is no reason at all to impugn the people, the governor, of a state of this country, and I will await the gentleman's apology."

Hastings: "You will wait until hell freezes over for me to say anything in an apology. I would apologize to you if I was directing my comments to you..."

By Tuesday, all 25 members of Texas' congressional delegation had demanded an apology, and issued this statement, according to the Houston Chronicle: "Don't mess with Texas."

The relevant portion in the video below starts at about 4:35.