When French President Emmanuel Macron stressed the importance of climate change during a joint address to Congress on Wednesday, three Republicans stood up and joined Democrats to applaud him.
The trio, Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, along with Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, also happen to be the three most bipartisan House Republicans, according to new rankings complied by Georgetown University.
Ros-Lehtinen, who has signed on to the DREAM Act, was ranked as the most bipartisan House Republican while Curbelo, who introduced a bill to ban bump stocks, ranked third out of 236 House Republicans. The rankings are based on the number of bills introduced in 2017 by an individual lawmaker that receive support from lawmakers of the opposing party and by signing onto bills introduced by a lawmaker from the other party.
"The Index rewards those who prioritize governance over posturing and aims to encourage members of Congress to seek areas of consensus as opposed to simply using legislation to delineate differences," Georgetown University's Lugar Center says on its website. The center uses metrics to award more weight to bills that attract substantial bipartisan support, and does not include ceremonial bills like naming post offices that typically receive support from both parties.
Curbelo is up for reelection in a Miami-to-Key West district that is the most Democratic-leaning in the country currently represented by a Republican running for reelection, and is campaigning in part on a record of working with Democrats on certain issues like climate change. He's distanced himself from President Donald Trump, who lost his district by 16 percentage points, on a number of issues, though he did accompany the president on a recent visit to Key West and helped write the GOP tax bill that became law late last year.
Ros-Lehtinen, a frequent critic of Trump, is retiring this year. Democrats are favored to flip her seat in November.
Both Curbelo's and Ros-Lehtinen's rankings from 2017 were up compared to rankings issued after the 114th Congress. Ros-Lehtinen ranked fifth among House Republicans while Curbelo ranked 7th. Former Florida Rep. Gwen Graham, now running for governor in a contested Democratic primary, also ranked among the top 10 most bipartisan lawmakers before leaving Congress.
In the Senate, Republican Marco Rubio ranks 10th among 100 senators while Democrat Bill Nelson ranks 36th.
Here's the bipartisan rankings for Miami-Dade's congressional delegation:
-Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehinen (R) 2nd out of 435 members
-Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R) 4th
-Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz (D) 160th
-Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R) 225th
-Rep. Frederica Wilson (D) 412th
Miami broadcast journalist Maria Elvira Salazar looks like she could force a competitive Republican primary in the race to replacing retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Former Miami-Dade commissioner Bruno Barreiro was largely running a one-man money race among Republicans since he entered the primary shortly after Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement, but Salazar bested his fundraising numbers in her first fundraising quarter since she officially jumped into the race in March.
Salazar raised $303,115 from January 1 to March 31 and she has $287,612 left to spend, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. Barreiro raised $264,778, his best haul since entering the race shortly after Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement last year. He maintains a cash on hand advantage over his new rival, with $420,978 left to spend.
The pair have separated themselves from the rest of the Republican pack, though newcomers Stephen Marks and Michael Ohevzion have six figures left to spend. Marks loaned himself $200,000 while Ohevzion loaned himself $100,000 and directly contributed $35,000 to his own campaign. Angie Chirino, the daughter of Miami singer and songwriter Willy Chirino, hasn't had her fundraising totals processed yet by the FEC.
Republicans are not favored to keep Ros-Lehtinen's seat in 2018, as the district voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by more than 19 percentage points. Multiple election prognosticators rate Ros-Lehtinen's district as "lean Democratic" and former University of Miami president Donna Shalala headlines a Democratic field that narrowed in the past week after two contenders dropped out after choosing to keep their current elected offices over making a run for Congress.
State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez's departure leaves Democrats without a Hispanic candidate in a majority Hispanic district. State Rep. David Richardson, former Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman, former circuit court judge Mary Barzee Flores and Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez are among the remaining Democrats seeking Ros-Lehtinen's seat.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuba libre in hand, was busy waxing nostalgic with former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart about their efforts to undermine Fidel Castro when the animated discussion was interrupted by Caitlyn Jenner.
The world’s most recognizable advocate for transgender causes wanted to hug the retiring Miami lawmaker with a history of bucking and pushing the Republican Party on LGBT issues.
“Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is a person of many firsts, and if you know anything about me I love firsts,” Jenner said at a recent gala honoring Ros-Lehtinen’s career. “The first Latina elected to Congress, the first woman elected to Congress from Florida, the first Republican in the House to support marriage equality, and she did it in a very big way.”
Jenner, also a Republican, and Ros-Lehtinen are at odds with the majority of Republican lawmakers. President Donald Trump has announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military via tweet and multiple state legislatures have considered legislation that would restrict access to restrooms, locker rooms, and other sex-segregated facilities on the basis of sex assigned at birth.
“Fighting for gay rights, transgender rights is such an important part of my DNA and what I do,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
Ros-Lehtinen introduced legislation in 2015 that would prohibit schools from discriminating against students based on sexual orientation or gender identity. She also signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief in a Supreme Court case seeking to protect access to public accommodations for transgender students. And Ros-Lehtinen’s son, Rodrigo, is the first openly transgender child of a sitting member of Congress.
“The most important job Ileana’s had... is being a mom,” Jenner said. “For the trans community we have many, many issues. The suicide rate for young trans youth is nine times higher than the general public, we have homelessness, we have young trans people being kicked out of their homes all across this country. Transgendered kids … may be bullied in school, they may be a little different, but when they go home, [if] they go to a safe place and a loving family, that is by far the most important thing we can do for our kids. So Ileana, I want to thank you for that.”
But Ros-Lehtinen, the only Republican in Congress with a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBT rights organization, won’t be in office next year.
Her retirement and a potential wave election for Democrats in 2018 could make pro-LGBT Republicans a rare breed in the next Congress. Four of the eight Senate Republicans endorsed by the Log Cabin Republicans, a pro-LGBT group, could be gone next year, and nine of the 11 House Republicans endorsed by the group are retiring or face tough reelection campaigns.
Ros-Lehtinen was honored by Jenner at the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute's annual gala. The institute recognized Ros-Lehtinen with its Leadership in Public Service Award and Leadership in International Relations Award, and it renamed the latter award after Ros-Lehtinen in her honor.
Read more here.
Rep. Ted Deutch, who represents Parkland in Congress, is asking the Treasury to investigate whether a Florida-based gun maker with Russian ties has violated sanctions.
"Kalashnikov USA is a firearms manufacturer and seller located in my congressional district," the Boca Raton Democrat wrote in a letter to a Treasury official. "Recent media reports have raised questions as to whether Kalashnikov USA, or its parent company RWC Group LLC, may have violated federal sanctions law through illicit business relations with the Russian-owned Kalashnikov Concern JSC ("Kalashnikov Russia").
"According to a statement released by Kalashnikov USA, it relocated to South Florida in 2015. Reports indicate that Kalashnikov USA may have been offered tax incentives as part of Florida Governor Rick Scott's push to lure weapons manufacturers to Florida. According to Kalashnikov USA's own 2015 application for $162,000 in tax incentives, which was approved by Governor Scott's administration, the company planned to assemble its weapons with parts and components imported from Kalashnikov Russia's factory located in Russia.
"As you know, Kalashnikov Russia was sanctioned in 2014 as part of the U.S. response to Vladimir Putin's illegal actions in Ukraine. Given reports of Russia's attempts to illegally fund the National Rifle Association, connections between a US weapons manufacturer and a sanctioned Russian company are even more alarming."
Democrats, including Sen. Bill Nelson, have been angling to make this an issue against Scott, whose administration acknowledges the incentives but says none was given because the contract was terminated.
A national group that promotes face-to-face interactions between lawmakers and constituents is working with the March for Our Lives organizers to host town hall events on preventing gun violence during the current congressional recess, and no South Florida Republicans are planning to attend.
Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, who represents Parkland, held a town hall earlier this week, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, will hold a town hall on Saturday in Pembroke Pines, while Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens, will host a town hall tonight in Miami Gardens.
The three Republicans from Miami-Dade County, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo, do not have any town hall events scheduled during the recess.
A March for Our Lives-affiliated event is being held in Curbelo's district tonight, though Curbelo's office said he was not invited to the event at John A. Ferguson High School. While pro-gun control student activists from Parkland have demanded town hall events during this congressional recess, Ros-Lehtinen, Diaz-Balart and Curbelo have not held any in-person town hall events since the beginning of 2017, according to the Town Hall Project. Curbelo and Diaz-Balart both hold office hours with staff at various locations throughout their districts.
Curbelo's seat is a target for Democrats in 2018 while Ros-Lehtinen is retiring and Diaz-Balart does not have a serious Democratic challenger.
Neither of Florida's two senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, have held an in-person town hall since the beginning of 2017, according to the Town Hall Project.
UPDATE (4/6/18): A student organizer with pro gun-control group Students Demand Action said Curbelo was invited to the town hall event in his district, but he declined citing a scheduling conflict.
William Breslin, who lives outside of Curbelo's district, said he called Curbelo's official office three times before receiving a response that Curbelo could not attend. Breslin then invited Curbelo's Democratic opponents after the congressman declined the invitation, he said.
Information on upcoming town halls:
Town hall with Frederica Wilson and state Rep. Shevrin Jones:
Thursday, April 5 6:30pm
Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Complex Auditorium
3000 NW 199th St.
Miami Gardens, FL 33056
Town hall with Debbie Wasserman Schultz:
Saturday, April 7 2pm
301 NW 103rd Avenue
Pembroke Pines, FL 33026
Town Hall for Our Lives West Miami-Dade
Thursday, April 5 7pm
John A. Ferguson High School
15900 SW 56th St.
Miami, FL 33185
The House and Senate are scheduled to vote on a massive $1.3 trillion spending package on Thursday and Friday, and the spending bill includes two bills that were a priority for the families of victims of the nation's deadliest high school shooting in Parkland.
The STOP School Violence Act and Fix NICS Act are both in the package. Both bills received widespread support from both parties though a few Republicans were opposed to the Fix NICS Act, which aims to improve the background check system for guns by penalizing federal agencies that fail to report records, and increases federal funding for reporting domestic violence records.
"Today, we’re moving a little closer to turning the voices of the students marching across the country into action. While we still have so much work to do, I am happy to see some movement on bipartisan legislation I’ve worked on with Senator Rubio to help address gun violence in our country, including the Fix NICS Act and the STOP School Violence Act, which funds programs to help keep our schools safe," Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said in a statement.
The spending bill also stipulates that the Centers for Disease Controls can conduct research on gun violence, a measure pushed by Orlando Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy after the Parkland shooting. A number of Republicans, including Miami Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, have backed the idea. Previously, the CDC was not allowed to spend money to research gun violence due to an amendment passed in 1996.
"We are very happy that by the end of this week there should be close to a billion dollars over the next ten years available so that states can set up these systems to identify potential shooters and stop them before they kill anybody," Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said in a statement.
On Saturday, young people around the world will participate in the March for Our Lives, urging lawmakers to find solutions that stop gun violence and mass shootings just over a month after the nation’s deadliest high school shooting in Broward County.
But South Florida’s Republican lawmakers in Congress either have no plans to attend, or won’t say what they’re doing on Saturday.
The March for Our Lives was organized by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students after a former classmate killed 17 people on Valentine’s Day. The students have also been coordinating with gun-control advocacy groups who generally do not support Republican officeholders. As of Wednesday, the organizers announced that 837 marches will take place around the world, including the main event in Washington, D.C.
Every Democratic officeholder from South Florida who responded to the Miami Herald has plans to participate, either in Washington or marches in South Florida.
Read more here.
The families of the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are among the most powerful lobbyists in Washington right now.
Lawmakers from both parties are willing to rearrange their schedules for an in-person meeting with a group of people who have already successfully shepherded a gun bill through the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature that was opposed by the National Rifle Association.
But the Florida Legislature is a part-time body, bound by time constraints to pass bills within a few weeks. Congress is under no such pressure, so many bills that have strong support from both parties can still languish for years.
“We don’t move as fast as Florida legislatures do,” Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said. “This Congress, with 500-something members, represents a vast and diverse country and as a result there are people in different parts of the country that have different views on these issues.”
The families of the Parkland victims have varying beliefs about access to firearms. Some, like Fred Guttenberg, want to ban all assault-style weapons. Others, like Ryan Petty, are concerned that a debate about banning assault weapons will shift the conversation into a partisan fight where nothing gets accomplished.
But the victims’ families are united behind three bills in Washington, and they’re pushing to get two of them passed before the March for Our Lives on Saturday. The families are discussing legislation through Slack, an instant messaging application that allows users to break different topics into channels of discussion.
“We’re probably one-upping the kids on that,” Petty said of the parents’ use of technology. “We put a proposal in one of the channels and then discuss it. I’ve been the liaison this past week, so as I was speaking with [Sen. Orrin] Hatch, Rubio, [Sen. Mitch] McConnell’s office, I posted the messages into our group.”
Petty said the parents come together and read the various bills and proposals in Slack, then one of them will write a statement either in favor or against the proposal before a final vote. The families don’t come out in favor or against something unless there’s a consensus.
But he acknowledges lobbying for legislation in Washington is “absolutely tougher” than trying to pass bills in Tallahassee.
Read more here.