October 30, 2015

U.S. Senate Democrats throw support to Patrick Murphy in Florida primary


There is little doubt who Democrats in the U.S. Senate are pulling for in Florida's smoldering Democratic Primary to replace U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

The day after outspoken Orlando Congressman Alan Grayson officially entered the race on July 29 against U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, it touched off a financial stampede with Democrats in the Senate. Starting July 30, 15 Senators used political action committees they control to pour $62,000 into Murphy's campaign over nine weeks, campaign finance records show. Seven of those members were making their first Senate campaign donations to Murphy, including Pennsylvania's Bob Casey, Ohio's Sherrod Brown and Missouri's Claire McCaskill, who is the keynote speaker at the Florida Democratic Party's annual meeting in Orlando on Saturday where both Grayson and Murphy are also speaking.

Murphy was already winning support from Democrats in the Senate in the spring when he filed. PACs controlled by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman John Tester and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York were among eight to give Murphy a combined $35,000 through May.

But as Grayson, a three-term congressman, ramped up his campaign and became more serious, Murphy's support exploded. Murphy now has almost $170,000 from 29 of the 46 Democrats in the Senate. That's nearly a two-thirds majority among Democratic senators, including Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, who gave Murphy $5,000 in June.

Donations to Grayson's campaign from senators: 0.

"I've never seen anything like that," said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political science professor and analyst who has studied Congress for decades.

Continue reading "U.S. Senate Democrats throw support to Patrick Murphy in Florida primary" »

Marco Rubio postpones campaign stop to vote against budget deal

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio made a return visit to Washington to vote against the budget deal, which passed the Senate early Friday morning amid a fierce stand by fellow presidential candidates Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

"Given the nation's debt crisis, Marco is hitting the campaign trail later than initially planned,” his campaign said in a news release this morning that outlined a revamped schedule in Iowa.

His schedule had him in Chicago on Thursday for fundraising and it's not yet clear when he decided to return to Washington.

The $80 billion budget plan, which lifts the debt limit, passed about 3 a.m.

Sen. Bill Nelson joined the majority in approving the deal, which already cleared the House and now heads to President Obama.

Rubio has gained widespread attention for his absenteeism. While he successfully defended himself during the debate Wednesday, Rubio also knows he can’t miss high profile votes, or ones that could be used against him (hence returning to vote on ending "sanctuary cities," despite it having no chance of passing.)

Rubio has adopted a different tone after projecting a sense of loathing toward the Senate.

"As far as votes, I don't like missing votes, I hate it," he told CNN on Thursday as he took a victory lap following the debate. "Here's what I would hate more, and that is to wake up on the first Wednesday of November in 2016 to the news that Hillary Clinton has been elected president of the United States." Later that day Harry Reid called on Rubio to resign.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

October 29, 2015

Politico: Harry Reid wants Marco Rubio to resign

From Politico:

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid tore into Sen. Marco Rubio on Thursday, calling on the Florida Republican and 2016 presidential contender to resign his Senate seat as he racks up no-shows on his voting record while campaigning for the White House.

“Why shouldn’t he [resign]? He hates the Senate,” Reid said in an interview with POLITICO on Thursday. “Why should the taxpayers of this country and people of Florida put up with having only one senator? Doesn’t seem fair to me.”

More here.

Here's Rubio's spokesman in response:

October 28, 2015

Miami congresswoman and transgender son preach acceptance in Telemundo interview


Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has opened up in recent years over her son Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, a transgender man, and the journey the Lehtinen family went through during his transition.

So hearing her and her son discuss the topic again on television this week wasn't surprising. What was more striking was that the interview was aired on Telemundo, the Miami-based Spanish-language network.

Ros-Lehtinen regularly appears on Spanish media, especially locally. But some of those outlets tend to be more conservative on social issues. To hear the congresswoman and her son both speak at length on the national network about how parents should welcome their transgender children seemed particularly poignant.

The title of the piece? "Love that breaks barriers."


Florida congressman to end long-shot bid for House speaker

via @learyreports

Congressman Dan Webster’s quixotic attempt to become speaker of the U.S. House comes to an end this afternoon when Republicans will vote to nominate Paul Ryan, setting up confirmation Thursday by the full chamber.

Webster never had a chance — there was a sliver after Kevin McCarthy withdrew a couple weeks ago and the Freedom Caucus endorsed the Florida Republican - but he did call attention to a top-down administration that left many members feeling marginalized. Ryan has shown sympathy to that view.

Now, Webster has to worry about keeping his job. Redistricting is looking bleak for him and on Tuesday, the Florida Supreme Court ruled he cannot intervene in the legal battle.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Miami members of Congress back immigration reform - and Paul Ryan, who won't bring it to vote under Obama


When Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said he'd likely run for U.S. House speaker, Miami's three moderate GOP members of Congress quickly threw their support behind him -- even though Ryan has said he won't take up one of the lawmakers' top issues: immigration reform.

Ryan said he would not bring immigration legislation to a vote under Democratic President Barack Obama, whom many Republicans say can't be trusted. They accuse Obama of playing politics with immigration to keep Hispanic voters casting ballots for Democrats.

No one expected an immigration vote during the remainder of Obama's term. But Ryan's assertion nevertheless offered Democrats a way to jab pro-reform Republicans for supporting his bid for speaker.

Nonsense, according to the Miami Republicans.

"I'm strong proponent of fixing our dysfunctional immigration system," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "I deeply wish the U.S. Congress could come together and address this issue but I know of Ryan's reluctance to make a deal with the Obama administration. Ryan has also said he believes in the pressing issue of immigration reform. However, instead of working with Congress, President Obama has taken steps that undermine this effort by taking unilateral executive actions that bypass the legislative branch and this develops deep mistrust." 

Continue reading "Miami members of Congress back immigration reform - and Paul Ryan, who won't bring it to vote under Obama" »

October 27, 2015

Florida U.S. Senate candidates split over Ex-Im Bank vote

via @learyreports

The U.S. House this evening voted to revive the Export-Import Bank, with moderate Republicans joining Democrats. Florida House members running for Senate revealed the divide.

Republican David Jolly voted with the majority while Ron DeSantis voted with more conservative members against the bank. Meanwhile, Rep. Alan Grayson was the only Democrat to vote against the bank. His Senate rival Patrick Murphy was part of the majority.

"Ron DeSantis just voted with Alan Grayson to kill Florida jobs," said Max Goodman, Jolly's political director.

Republicans voting yes:

Buchanan / Crenshaw / Curbelo / Diaz-Balart / Mica / Rooney / Ros-Lehtinen

Republicans voting no:

Bilirakis / Clawson / Miller / Nugent / Posey / Ross / Webster / Yoho

The issue now heads to the Senate.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson: Disclose campaign money 'across the board'

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson on Tuesday criticized the rise of “dark money” in campaigns and predicted the public will be so fed up after the 2016 election that they will force change in regulations.

The Florida Democrat got into a cordial exchange with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, during a Finance Committee hearing on IRS rules regarding so-called nonprofits. Hatch said Democrats have long benefited from union money, the source of which has remained secret.

“Disclosure ought to be across the board,” Nelson said. Hatch replied, “Yeah, but that isn’t going to happen. You know and I know it.”


--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Supreme Court rejects Rep. Dan Webster's request for 'seat at the table' in redistricting case


U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Orlando, won't be allowed to intervene in the congressional redistricting case that he fears could eliminate his district, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

In a short response to the request Webster filed last Thursday, the Court rejected Webster's argument that he deserves a "seat at the table." A new congressional map approved by Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis violates the Fair Districts amendments by "disfavoring" an incumbent, Webster argued. That incumbent: himself.

"Equity would require that all interests be heard on this issue, especially that of a sitting United States Congressman about to be radically impacted," the filing by Webster's lawyer James Wilkes says.

State legislators, however, disagreed.

Lawyers for the House and Senate wrote that they didn't think Webster should be allowed to be part of the case "at this late stage." But they had no problem with allowing the former Republican speaker of the Florida House to file a brief on his behalf.

The case is intended to redraw maps that the Supreme Court says violates the state constitution. The court is scheduled to hear oral arguments Nov. 10, after lawmakers finish a special session to redraw state Senate maps in Tallahassee.

October 25, 2015

Miami Republican congressman pens climate-change op-ed

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Miami Republican, writing in the Miami Herald's op-ed pages:

Now more than ever, it is crucial that we acknowledge the reality that is the Earth’s changing climate. Without question, this is one of the major challenges of our time and directly threatens the communities of South Florida. If left unaddressed, the consequences of a changing climate have the potential to adversely affect not only our families and neighbors, but the entire country.

To view climate change through partisan lenses only detracts from efforts to discover practical solutions. This debate should not devolve into a petty competition between Republicans and Democrats.

Instead, it should consist of a constructive dialogue focusing on the implementation of policies that encourage the growth and development of clean alternative energy sources that will complement traditional ones.

Rising sea levels and the erosion of our coastal communities have made it abundantly clear that South Florida is at the frontline of climate change. Florida’s obvious vulnerability to these effects should be enough to spur interest in the numerous benefits offered by increased investment in clean energy.

More here.