September 02, 2015

Frederica Wilson calls Iran-deal decision 'difficult,' says country is 'war-weary'

@PatriciaMazzei    

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Miami Gardens Democrat, said Wednesday she's still undecided on whether to support President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran.

But Wilson, a big Obama cheerleader, sounded like she was leaning toward yes.

"I haven't made up my mind, but I can tell you that I represent a war-weary country, and I represent a war-weary district," she told reporters after a speech by Vice President Joe Biden at Miami Dade College's North Campus. "And whatever I decide to do it will be to end confrontations, to end war."

Wilson added that she's "listening to both sides" and called the decision "difficult."

"You're standing in the heart of my district. This is a needy district. People need to work. They don't need to go to war."

August 31, 2015

Patrick Murphy comes out in support of 'flawed' Iran deal

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, who is running for Sen. Marco Rubio’s seat announced his support for the Iran deal today.

This puts pressure on his Democratic rival, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando to announce his opinion on the deal. Grayson has raised concerns about the deal but hasn't announced how he will vote. This is a hot topic in Florida this week because U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, has arranged a meeting between Vice President Joe Biden and Jewish leaders in South Florida Thursday on the topic of the Iran deal. She remains undecided about the deal.

From a Murphy press release:

"I have promised Floridians that they can have faith in me to listen to them, to listen to my conscience, and to deeply study every bill. With the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran on my desk, I have taken my promise more seriously than ever. This has been the toughest decision of my time in Congress.

"I have listened to the strong cases made by advocates on both sides of this debate, which at times has become unfortunately rancorous. I have carefully studied the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, its appendices, and the classified reports from the negotiations, and have sought answers from both supporters and opponents.

Continue reading "Patrick Murphy comes out in support of 'flawed' Iran deal" »

August 26, 2015

Feds refer to 'corroborated 'allegations of sex with underage prostitutes by New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez

via @jayhweaver

This summer, the defense team for U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and a wealthy South Florida doctor accused the Justice Department of directing a “tainted” corruption case against the close friends.

They claimed the probe was initially based on “false” and politically motivated allegations of their having sex with underage prostitutes.

The Justice Department punched back this week, asserting those “specific allegations” were “corroborated” — or proven — in early stages of the investigation, even though the New Jersey Democrat and Dr. Salomon Melgen were not charged with that offense in the corruption case filed in Newark.

However, federal prosecutors in Miami, who initially reviewed the salacious sex-related allegations anonymously lodged against the pair, found the FBI’s evidence so lacking that they never presented an indictment to the grand jury here in 2013, according to law enforcement sources.

Nonetheless, the high-profile investigation regained steam when the Justice Department's public integrity section pursued influence-peddling charges against Menendez and Melgen in April.

The indictment accused the veteran lawmaker of helping Melgen with his multimillion-dollar Medicare billing dispute and other political favors in exchange for the Palm Beach County doctor’s array of gifts — including several unreported trips on a private plane to Melgen’s resort home in the Dominican Republic.

In response to a defense motion to dismiss the indictment, Justice Department prosecutors bristled over claims that they presented misleading corruption evidence to the grand jury in Newark — after the initial tip about allegations of the defendants’ having sex with underage prostitutes failed to pan out.

In their filing, prosecutors cited numerous witnesses’ grand jury testimonies and statements to the FBI, but those documents were sealed in the court record.

In their response, Justice Department prosecutors wrote that the defendants’ “corruption charges are not tainted by unproven allegations they solicited underage prostitutes.”

More here.

August 24, 2015

Will Debbie Wasserman Schultz support or oppose Iran deal?

With a new poll showing Florida voters are against the Iran deal, that adds to the pressure for a decision about the deal by U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston.

Wasserman Schultz, who is also the Democratic National Committee chair, hasn’t commented on her position yet.

“The Congresswoman is continuing her meetings with constituents, Administration officials and experts as she reviews the deal,” her spokesman Geoff Burgan said today. “Since those meetings are still ongoing, she has not made a decision.”

The Quinnipiac poll found that Florida respondents oppose the Iran agreement by 61-25 percent but support sending U.S. ground troops to fight the Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.

The Iran deal is a hot topic for voters in Wasserman Schultz's Broward to Miami Beach district -- an area that includes a high proportion of Jews.

About 15 percent of the people who live in Wasserman Schultz’s Broward to Miami Beach district are Jewish, according to University of Miami demographer Ira Sheskin. (The actual number of residents in her district who vote could be higher since data from the American National Election Study in 2008 suggest that Jews vote at a higher rate than other groups.)

Continue reading "Will Debbie Wasserman Schultz support or oppose Iran deal?" »

August 19, 2015

Venezuelan president publicizes video naming Marco Rubio, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as anti-government protest financiers

@PatriciaMazzei

On Tuesday night, Marco Rubio was flying back to Miami from a presidential campaign trip to Iowa. Meantime, his name was being invoked on state-run television -- in Venezuela.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro publicized a video in which an accused murderer claims last year's protests against the Venezuelan government were financed in part by Rubio and another Miami Republican, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Both politicians denounced the allegations as absurd.

Prisoner José Rafael Pérez Venta offers no details in the video about how much money was involved or how it was obtained, other than the say it came through a woman he identified as Betti Grossi, according to a Spanish-language report by the EFE news agency.

Pérez Venta also claims ties to Maduro's political opponents in Venezuela, and says further financing for protests came from a U.S. embassy worker and from the government of former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. Uribe, Rubio and Ros-Lehtinen are vocal Maduro critics.

The video is of a purported interrogation in which an off-screen interrogator whose voice has been distorted asks questions to Pérez Venta, who has been accused with dismembering a woman whose body parts were find on the side of a Caracas road. Venezuela is one of the world's most dangerous countries.

Continue reading "Venezuelan president publicizes video naming Marco Rubio, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen as anti-government protest financiers" »

What the prison population has to do with Florida's redistricting fight

via @JeremySWallace

Florida’s prison population is fast becoming a point of contention in the Legislature’s attempt to redraw the state’s congressional districts.

The last Census counted more than 160,000 people in Florida correctional facilities, and they cannot vote. But they can skew how districts are drawn, and ultimately who represents the state in the U.S. House of Representatives. That is exactly what U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, is convinced is happening in North Florida.

Brown said the proposed new Congressional District 5 stretching from Jacksonville to Tallahassee will see a reduction in the percentage of black residents who are of voting age — a key measure used to ensure black voters can elect who they want to represent them in Congress — from 50 percent to 45 percent under the map that passed the House on Tuesday and is expected to be before the Senate on Wednesday.

But Brown, who is suing the Legislature to block the redrawing of her district, said the reduction of the black voting age population in her district could be even greater because her new district would have 17,000 prisoners in it — giving it one of the highest prison populations in the state. Her current district has just 10,000.

“You know that this is a non-performing area because you have 18 prisons,” Brown told the Senate last week, contending her district will be harder for black candidates to win if redrawn as planned.

More here.

August 14, 2015

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo travels to Israel, with Iran nuclear deal looming large

via @corinneskennedy

Congress may be in recess, but the debate surrounding the Iran nuclear deal hasn’t paused. The controversial agreement took center stage on freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo’s trip to Israel -- his first international trip since he took office.

“We have been able to travel here at a critical time,” he said. Soon Congress will be, “voting on what I believe will the most significant vote of the 114th Congress...the Iran nuclear agreement.”

The Miami Republican, who opposes the deal, joined fellow GOP freshmen for the week-long trip led by Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. Lawmakers traveled around Israel, visited Israeli troops and met with Israeli politicians--including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has been extremely critical of the Iran nuclear deal, and Curbelo said his views are shared by many Israeli lawmakers.

“Across the political spectrum, from the far right to the far left, there is unanimity in opposition to the nuclear agreement with Iran,” he said in a call with reporters.

Continue reading "Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo travels to Israel, with Iran nuclear deal looming large" »

August 13, 2015

Citing Trayvon Martin and Jackie Robinson, Brown brings her opposition to the Florida Legislature

Corrine Brown House redistrictDropping the names of Trayvon Martin, Jackie Robinson and their history in Sanford Florida, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown said the proposed legislative map will violate the Voting Rights Act, and "disenfranchise the people I represent."  

"It's as if the people in my district are being penalized because I did not support Fair Districts,'' said Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat before the House Reapportionment Committee, referring to the 2010 anti-gerrymandering constitutional amendment that has forced legislators into special session to redraw the congressional map for a third time.

She claimed that the Florida Supreme Court opinion was "chilling" since it was "all about me." 

"It is not just what a district looks like,'' she said, adding that the racial hostility in Ferguson and Baltimore didn't happen after Martin was shot by George Zimmerman in Seminole "because people have representation."

She cited her involvement in the black communities along her district, from Eatonville -- the oldest black town in the nation -- to Seminole County which was also once home to baseball great Jackie Robinson

Continue reading "Citing Trayvon Martin and Jackie Robinson, Brown brings her opposition to the Florida Legislature" »

Alcee Hastings on Iran: 'I cannot support this deal'

via @learyreports

Another Florida Democrat, U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, has come out against the Iran nuclear deal.

“After careful review, I have decided that I cannot support this deal," Hastings said in an op/ed in the Palm Beach Post.

“The goal of the recently concluded negotiations was to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The negotiators worked diligently, but in the end, the JCPOA allows Iran to remain a nuclear threshold state while simultaneously reaping the benefits of relief from international sanctions.

“Under the JCPOA, Iran is limited to approximately 6,100 first-generation IR-1 centrifuges for a period of 10-15 years. However, after this time passes, Iran will again have the ability to pursue its nuclear program with more advanced centrifuges. Iran simply needs to be patient and it will once again have the ability to enrich uranium."

Last week, Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton said he opposed the deal as well.

One to watch: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston. The DNC chairwoman is undecided and facing enormous pressure on both sides.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

August 12, 2015

Congresswoman Brown files new lawsuit to block redistricting

@JeremySWallace

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, has filed a new federal lawsuit to stop a proposed redistricting plan that would dramatically change her Congressional District.

"Today, I filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking relief against the continued use of any congressional redistricting plan that dilutes the voting strength of African Americans,” Brown said.

The percentage of black resident of voting age population would decrease under a proposed new configuration of Brown's 5th Congressional District. Currently, Brown's district runs from Jacksonville through parts of Gainesville and into Orlando. The Legislature is proposing to redraw the district as prescribed by the state Supreme Court to instead stretch west from Jacksonville into Tallahassee.

"District 5 in Florida and minority access districts across the nation cannot, and will not be eliminated, particularly after the hard fought civil rights gains we have made during the last 50 years," Brown said. "As a people, African Americans have fought too hard to get to where we are now, and we certainly are not taking any steps backwards.”

Her suit comes as the Florida Legislature is into the third day of a 12-day special session to redraw the state's congressional districts after the Florida Supreme Court ruled that some of the current districts violated the state constitution's prohibition against drawing districts with the intent to favor of disfavor incumbents or political parties.