June 27, 2017

House GOP-backed PAC pledges anti-Pelosi campaign in Curbelo's Miami district

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@PatriciaMazzei

Get ready, voters in Florida's 26th congressional district: A rash of anti-Nancy Pelosi advertising is coming in the 2018 election.

Congressional Leadership Fund, a political committee backed by the House Republican caucus, pledged Tuesday to devote serious cash next year to running against Pelosi, the House Democratic leader.

The group says it's polled 11 competitive congressional districts -- including FL-26 -- over the past 60 days and found Pelosi is disliked. Her leadership came under political fire last week after Democrat Jon Ossoff lost a special election in Georgia. A defiant Pelosi, a Democratic fundraising machine, made clear she's sticking around.

According to Congressional Leadership Fund, 45 percent of poll respondents in FL-26, which is represented by Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, view her unfavorably, compared to 37 percent who view her favorably.

"During the 2018 cycle, CLF will spend millions of dollars highlighting Nancy Pelosi's toxic agenda and reminding voters across the country that Democratic candidates are nothing more than rubber stamps for her out-of-touch, liberal policies," Congressional Leadership Fund Executive Director Corry Bliss wrote.

Curbelo, who has yet to draw a Democratic challenger, has been repeatedly jabbed recently by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for his support for the House healthcare bill. Another Miami Republican, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, also backed it.

"Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart already made their bed and now they have to lie in it," DCCC Spokesman Cole Leiter said in a statement Monday.

We talk more about Pelosi in our weekly McClatchy politics podcast, "Beyond the Bubble":

Photo credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta, Associated Press

June 26, 2017

Rubio reviews Senate healthcare bill while protesters ask him to oppose it

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@PatriciaMazzei

To study the Senate healthcare bill's effects on Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio last week invited the top three Republicans in the state Capitol -- Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron -- to weigh in on the legislation.

By Monday, three staffers sent by the three state GOP leaders were in Washington, going through the bill with Rubio aides. Scott himself will travel to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to offer his thoughts to Rubio directly.

The staffers are Allen Brown, health care adviser to Negron; Carol Gormley, health care adviser to Corcoran; and Justin Senior secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. 

The Republican senator has yet to say how he'll vote. But he's hardly expected to oppose the legislation, given his past support to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And the state staffers, expected to remain "embedded" in Rubio's office all week, probably won't give him a compelling reason to vote no, either: Scott, Corcoran and Negron chose not to expand Medicaid under the ACA and have been critical of the law. That's even though Florida, with its large uninsured population, was one of the states to see the most people covered under Obamacare.

Rubio outlined his criteria for the bill in a Facebook Live appearance last week. For example, he wants people with pre-existing conditions to be protected and Florida to be "treated fairly" on Medicaid (that is, not penalized for not expanding the program).

Pro-Obamacare activists demonstrated outside Rubio's Doral office Monday to urge him to oppose the Senate's "Better Care Reconciliation Act."

"Rubio, do your job!" some of them chanted.

After the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated Monday that 22 million Americans would lose health-insurance coverage by 2026 under the Senate plan, two Republican senators said they would vote against the bill as written: Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky. Three GOP no's would kill the bill.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Bill Nelson took to the Senate floor to oppose the legislation: "This bill is just as bad as the House bill," he said.

This post has been updated.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, el Nuevo Herald

Florida congressmen: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg should recuse herself for Trump 'bias'

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Seven Florida Republican House members are calling for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to recuse herself from the upcoming deliberation on the travel ban, asserting she has shown "bias" towards President Donald Trump.

“Your public criticism of Donald Trump during the campaign included statements such as ‘I can’t imagine what this place would be - I can’t imagine what the country would be - with Donald Trump as our president’ You referred to Donald Trump as ‘a faker.’ When asked about the possibility of Donald Trump winning the presidency, you responded, ‘I don’t want to think about that possibility, but if it should be, then everything is up for grabs.’ ”

Nearly 60 House members signed the letter, including Florida Reps. Ron DeSantis, Neal Dunn, Daniel Webster, Ted Yoho, John Rutherford, Bill Posey and Francis Rooney.

Read it here.

"As an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court," it reads, "you are required to recuse yourself in cases in which your ‘impartiality might reasonably be questioned’ and where you have a ‘a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party.’ ”

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear the travel ban case, while allowing some of the program to go forward, a partial victory for Trump.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Javier Manjarres, Shark Tank blogger, considers bid against Ted Deutch

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@amysherman1

Javier Manjarres, who publishes the conservative Shark Tank politics website, is considering a bid against U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton.

Manjarres would face an uphill battle running as a Republican in the left-leaning Congressional District 22 which includes parts of Fort Lauderdale and other areas of northern and western Broward and Boca Raton.

In 2016, Deutch easily beat his Republican opponent, Andrea Leigh McGee, who worked in real estate and was unknown in South Florida politics. Deutch beat McGee 59 to 41 percent. Deutch spent about $1.6 million while McGee spent $21,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

Manjarres, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, is far better known in Republican circles because he has had contacts for years with politicians, candidates and their consultants through his  Shark Tank website which covers state and national races. Manjarres said he can tap that network to raise far more money that Deutch's previous opponent. 

"What if I am able to raise $1 million and spend $1 million in the district?" Manjarres said. ""If I can get Republicans out in droves and independents, it's going to be very competitive."

But Deutch is well-known and popular among Democrats in the liberal district. A former state senator, he was first elected to Congress in 2010. He has been known as a consistent voice in favor of gay rights and abortion rights and a leader on Jewish issues, a key constituency in District 22. Deutch opposed the Iran nuclear deal in 2015.

In 2016, Manjarres was arrested after he was accused of threatening his sister's boyfriend, Jason Holowinski, in Boca Raton. Holowinski told police that he and his girlfriend were arguing and that Manjarres ambushed him and fired a bullet into his vehicle. But Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg, a Democrat, announced that no charges would be filed included attempted murder after Holowinski refused to cooperate.

Here is Manjarres' statement about his political plans on his blog:  

“After speaking with my trusted colleagues, friends and family about future career opportunities, I have decided to explore the possibility of running for the U.S. Congress in Florida’s 22nd congressional district.

It was clear that after the historic 2016 elections, Americans rejected the agenda and policies of the outgoing Obama Administration that they believe were threatening the American way of life.

Even with Republicans in control of congress, it is of the utmost importance that Republicans continue to win the public’s trust and reform all aspects of the federal government.

It is time for all  pouting members of the U.S. House of Representatives, who have been comporting themselves like petulant obstructionist children, put the American people first before political ideology or party, and remember that they are 1 of 435 individuals tasked to serve all Americans, regardless of the race, color, sexual persuasions, or political party affiliation.

I look forward to having a substantive and productive dialogue with not just the residents of south Florida, but with the American people at large.”

Deutch said in a written statement:

"I take every race seriously and I always welcome a spirited debate over the direction of our country. This week I am going to Washington to fight the disastrous Trumpcare bill. At home I am fighting for our veterans, working constantly with local officials to help our businesses create more jobs, and combating the effects of climate change that are already impacting our community. And every day, I am working to keep our country safe." 

 

June 22, 2017

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Debbie Wasserman Schultz take on the media — in softball

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@alextdaugherty 

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen had her shot to one-up the Fourth Estate on the softball field Wednesday night, as she suited up against Washington reporters decades her junior who spend their days needling members of Congress about Donald Trump’s latest tweet or trying to snag a quote for their story.

But just after Ros-Lehtinen took her place in right field in the first inning of the ninth annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game, NPR reporter Tamara Keith blooped a single that scooted underneath the glove of the longtime Miami Republican.

“Sorry!” Ros-Lehtinen yelled as she ran after the ball.

Sprinting after her was Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the ultra-competitive second baseman for congressional team, ready to field Ros-Lehtinen’s cutoff throw.

But their combined efforts couldn’t stop two runs from scoring, and the play turned out to be the decisive blow in a close 2-1 game won by the reporters.

“We come out here to practice two or three mornings a week and for an old lady like me it feels really good,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

Wednesday’s game was more than just an opportunity for reporters and politicians to take out their frustrations on one another, it was also a fundraiser for breast cancer awareness.

The annual game was started by Wasserman Schultz and former Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., in 2009 to build bipartisanship and raise funds for a charity dedicated to helping young women identify and treat breast cancer.

Wasserman Schultz was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and when she decided to go public in 2009, Emerson approached her about starting the game.

“The idea was the baseball game was played by men but we didn’t really have a sport the women played,” Wasserman Schultz said.

The first game in 2009 pitted members of Congress against their staffers, but “they were much younger so we didn’t do very well,” Waserman Schultz said. Ever since, members of Congress have played the press.

Wednesday’s game raised $292,097.59 for the Young Survival Coalition and the game has raised more than $1.1 million for charity since 2009.

“It’s so personal for me and all these women on the press team,” Wasserman Schultz said. “The softball field is a politics-free zone.”

But it’s not a competition-free zone.

Wasserman Schultz, a team captain along with Ros-Lehtinen, was involved in numerous collisions at second base and pumped her fist when Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida made an accurate throw to her to nail a runner.

“I’m a little competitive,” Wasserman Schultz said.

Read more here. 

June 21, 2017

Ros-Lehtinen files bill to aid young cancer patients, inspired in part by FIU alumna

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@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen chose Wednesday, the day of the Congressional Women's Softball Game that raises money for women with breast cancer, to file legislation geared at helping young cancer patients.

Ros-Lehtinen and Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado introduced the Deferment for Active Cancer Treatment Act that would allow cancer patients to defer public student loan payments without interest while undergoing treatment. 

"For these individuals, a cancer diagnosis goes beyond the exhaustive treatment, including medical expenditures," Ros-Lehtinen said on the House floor. "It often leads to unemployment or underemployment." 

Helping drive the bill, according to Ros-Lehtinen's office, was Kate Houghton, a Florida International University alumna and former Capitol Hill staffer who was diagnosed with cancer in her mid-20s. She now heads a group called Critical Mass, which provides resources for young adults with cancer.

Houghton is also involved with the annual softball game, a favorite of the retiring Ros-Lehtinen, who likes to use Twitter to trash-talk her opponents on the field: female congressional reporters, also known as the Bad News Babes.

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, el Nuevo Herald

After Georgia loss, Democrats highlight improved generic polls in GOP-held South Florida districts

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@PatriciaMazzei

Two Republican-held congressional districts in South Florida remain among the most attractive for Democrats to flip next year, according to an internal Democratic memo circulated after the party lost a closely watched and incredibly expensive special Georgia election Tuesday night.

Recent Democratic polls in Florida's 26th and 27th districts show Democrats doing better than they were when they surveyed voters in the same districts last October, wrote Ben Ray Luján, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Luján's memo tried to keep Democrats motivated after Jon Ossoff's loss to Republican Karen Handel in the Atlanta suburbs -- a race that cost both sides about $55 million, the most expensive in history. In the memo, Luján listed 30 competitive districts Democrats plan to target to try to win back the House in 2018. They would need to flip 24 GOP-controlled districts to do so.

"The House is in play," Luján wrote for the first time. 

Among them are FL-26 and FL-27, now held by Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. When Democrats polled Ros-Lehtinen's district in October, a generic Democratic candidate outperformed a generic Republican by 7 percentage points. The beloved Ros-Lehtinen, however, is sui generis: She defeated challenger Scott Fuhrman by nearly 10 points.

But Ros-Lehtinen is retiring, and Democrats' more recent polling shows a generic Democrat leading a generic Republican by 18 points.

Similarly, Democrats say they've gained ground in the district held by Curbelo, who is running for reelection. A generic Democrat polled evenly with a generic Republican in his district in October; now, Democrats say they're up by 7 points.

Still, a generic ballot is not the same as testing specific candidates. Curbelo is a sophomore much less entrenched than Ros-Lehtinen, but he appears pretty well-liked in his Westchester-to-Key West district. There's perhaps no bigger sign that he's a tough opponent than the fact that he's yet to draw a big-name Democratic challenger ahead of 2018.

If Democrats continue the strategy they tried in Georgia, they will likely keep trying to run in congressional districts against President Donald Trump. In his memo, Luján included a chart noting Trump's job performance is under water in both Ros-Lehtinen's and Curbelo's district. Some 61 percent of respondents have a negative view of Trump's work so far in Ros-Lehtinen's district, according to the DCCC. That number is 52 percent in Curbelo's district.

Luján, who was in South Florida last month, wrote the DCCC will try to recruit candidates across the country in July.

"Let’s look outside of the traditional mold to keep recruiting local leaders, veterans, business owners, women, job-creators, and health professionals," he wrote. "Let’s take the time to find people who fit their districts, have compelling stories, and work hard to earn support from voters."

Read Luján's memo below.

Continue reading "After Georgia loss, Democrats highlight improved generic polls in GOP-held South Florida districts" »

June 19, 2017

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduces bill for a National Smithsonian American Latino Museum

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@alextdaugherty

Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduced a bill on Friday that would establish a National Latino Museum on or near the National Mall in Washington D.C., a longtime goal for some members of Congress. The effort comes less than a year after the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened up near the Washington Monument after years of planning. 

Ros-Lehtinen along with other Latino members of Congress like Rep. José Serrano, D-N.Y., and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., are longtime proponents of a Latino American museum. Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn also co-sponsored the Senate version of Ros-Lehtinen's bill with Menendez.   

“Latinos have made incredible contributions to our nation in every field and endeavor," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "This bill is the first step in the right direction to make this museum a reality. Together, in a united  bi-partisan manner we will make this happen. As the first Hispanic woman to serve in the Florida House, Florida Senate, and Congress, I know that while we have made great strides, much more is left to be done and it us up to us to show young Latinos and Latinas that they can achieve great things with hard work and dedication.”

Ros-Lehtinen first introduced bipartisan legislation to jump start a museum project in 2003 with former Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif. A 1994 Smithsonian report found that the world's largest museum complex failed to properly recognize Hispanic contributions to art, culture and science. 

The non-profit seeking to create a new museum praised Ros-Lehtinen's longtime interest in establishing a national Latino museum. 

"Upon her retirement, the Friends of the American Latino Museum would like to thank Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for her years of service and vision," the Latino Museum said in a statement. "As the first Latina in Congress, she has earned a rightful place in the future National Smithsonian American Latino Museum she has long fought for." 

June 15, 2017

Ros-Lehtinen backs Trump Cuba policy but won't attend Miami announcement

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen backs President Donald Trump new Cuba policy, but she won't be around for Trump's big announcement Friday.

Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring next year, has been critical of Trump. But the White House invited her to attend Trump's policy event in Miami's Manuel Artime Theater. Ros-Lehtinen, however, said she has family plans that will keep her in Washington.

"I fully support President Trump's announcement on his new Cuba policy and I commend my legislative brothers, Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, for playing an instrumental role in crafting this initiative which curtails cooperation with the Castro regime's military monopoly GAESA," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement to the Miami Herald. "However, I will not be able to travel on Air Force One nor be at the event in Miami due to family commitments in Washington, DC."

Rubio and Diaz-Balart, and Rep. Carlos Curbelo, will join Trump, along with Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Vice President Mike Pence, who was in town Thursday for a conference at Florida International University, might also attend. 

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is out of town, but the county will have the representation of Chairman Esteban "Steve" Bovo and Commissioners Bruno Barreiro, Jose "Pepe" Diaz, Joe Martinez and Javier Souto

 
 

Inside Rubio and Diaz-Balart's Oval Office push to crack down on Cuba

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@PatriciaMazzei

Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart sat in the Oval Office last month, surrounded by two Cabinet secretaries, the national security adviser and an array of top White House staff, and asked President Donald Trump to put his power behind their plans for Cuba.

The Miami Republican lawmakers had been pressing Trump for months to unwind former President Barack Obama’s policies, bringing up Cuba at every opportunity: Diaz-Balart when he and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen met in private with their former House colleague, Vice President Mike Pence, in February; Rubio when he and his wife joined the president and first lady for an intimate dinner two days later, and again when the senator flew aboard Air Force One to Florida in March.

The administration had been waiting for deputies across Cabinet agencies to review existing Cuba regulations. By the May 3 Oval Office meeting, their recommendation was in: Keep Obama’s push to normalize U.S. relations with the regime of Cuban leader Raúl Castro.

That’s not what Trump wanted. As a candidate, he’d promised change to South Florida’s Cuban-American hardliners, including Bay of Pigs veterans who endorsed him, a gesture that stuck with Trump and that he repeatedly mentioned as president.

“The president said, ‘Look, I want to do this,’” Rubio said.

More here.

Photo credit: Rainier Ehrhardt, Associated Press