March 18, 2015

White House tries to make nice with Miami congressman who was denied Air Force One seat

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo met last week with a White House aide who tried to smooth things over after Curbelo was snubbed from flying on Air Force One with President Obama last month.

Curbelo had asked to fly with Obama to a town hall-style event on immigration held Feb. 25 at Florida International University, which is in Curbelo's Westchester-to-Key West district. He was told there was no room on the plane, though White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest later said he didn't know why Curbelo had been turned down.

The snub didn't sit well with Curbelo, a moderate Republican in his first term who could potentially find common ground with the president on immigration, transportation and free trade (though Curbelo disagrees with Obama on U.S.-Cuba policy, for example). White House office liaison Don Sisson reached out to Curbelo two days after the incident to set up a meeting.

Curbelo said Wednesday he appreciated the outreach.

"While my disagreements with this White House are vast and sharp, I owe it to the people of South Florida to seek ways in which we can work together to improve the quality of life for my community and strengthen the nation," he said in a statement to the Miami Herald. "Government dysfunction and gridlock is not working for the American people."

March 17, 2015

Maybe ex-Florida congressman's crisis management firm could help Illinois rep who resigned

via @learyreports

The sudden but not entirely surprising resignation today of Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock was a reminder of the scandal that fell Florida Rep. Trey Radel.

Their situations are different -- Schock faces allegations of misusing taxpayer money; Radel bought cocaine from an undercover officer -- but both men exhibited an unusual level of narcissism, even by the standards of modern politics.

Radel, 38, was constantly on Twitter, showing off his love for hip hop and the best bars in Washington.

Schock, 33, preferred showing off his body on Instagram. The Associated Press used metadata from Schock's Instagram account to "track his reliance on donor flights and his attendance at concerts and festivals where a Super PAC supporting his campaign spent more than $24,000 for tickets. "

Radel, who resigned in January 2014, is rebuilding. He recently opened a media consulting firm.

One of his offerings could serve Schock now: “Intimate, exclusively tailored crisis management.”

March 12, 2015

How one Florida congressman reacted to state's distaste for using 'climate change'

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat, took to Twitter on Thursday to jab Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott over his administration's aversion to using the terms "climate change" and "global warming" in writing. (The state says it's not true.)

Miami Republican congressman questions need for Iran letter

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo told a Spanish-language television station this week that he opposes the Obama administration's nuclear talks with Iran.

But he also said, when pressed in the interview, that the letter from 47 GOP senators (and Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal) to the government of Iran may have taken things a bit too far. The letter warned Iran that any potential deal might not pass long-term muster with the U.S. Senate.

"I understand that the letter maybe wasn't necessary," Curbelo said, repeating the sentiment in acknowledgment of critics who have lashed out at the senators for intervening in sensitive diplomatic negotiations.

Inviting Israeli Prime  Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress about the Iran talks, however -- an invitation that was extended without first reaching out to the White House, as is tradition -- was a good idea, Curbelo added.

"I applaud that Congress invited Mr. Netanyahu," said Curbelo, who attended the speech.

The discussion arose from a question from América TeVe's Juan Manuel Cao about Curbelo's relationship with Sen. Bob Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat reportedly under federal corruption investigation and a fellow Cuban American. Curbelo said he knows Menendez, though they're not friends, and praised the senator's hard line foreign-policy positions, which coincide with his own.

Curbelo echoed other Cuban-American Republicans who have suggested news about the Menendez investigation is an Obama administration attempt to weaken a Democrat critical of the president on U.S. policy toward Cuba and Iran.

"I'm not surprised that this information has leaked before any indictment," Curbelo said, adding that the timing "raises suspicions."

 

Revoke Venezuelan diplomat's visa, Miami Republican members of Congress say

@PatriciaMazzei

The Venezuelan ambassador to the Organization of American States in Washington D.C. had a few choice words this week for members of the political opposition in the South American country.

"There comes a time when an opposition supporter's head can't be differentiated from a government supporter's head except for its contents," Amb. Roy Chaderton said. "The sound produced [by a bullet] in an opposition supporter head is like a click because the skull is empty."

The comment, made on Venezuelan television, prompted a harsh rebuke Wednesday from U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican. By Thursday, she had assembled a group of colleagues to sign a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking that Chaderton's U.S. visa be revoked.

"Any foreign diplomat who supports and facilitates the use of violence against peaceful protesters should not enjoy the privilege of access to the United States," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "Ambassador Chaderton's words are incompatible with American values and he must be held accountable for his vile and reprehensible conduct."

The move comes on the same week the Obama administration imposed sanctions on seven Venezuelan government officials and declared a state of emergency in U.S.-Venezuela relations. Congress passed legislation that the president signed in December penalizing Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's administration for political oppression. Two weeks ago, Maduro called Ros-Lehtinen and other U.S. members of Congress "terrorists" and banned them from Venezuela. 

Ros-Lehtinen's letter was signed by fellow Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart, and by Reps. Jeff Duncan, R-South Carolina, and Albio Sires, D-New Jersey.

March 11, 2015

Marco Rubio, John Kerry spar over Iran

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio had a pointed exchange Wednesday with Secretary of State John Kerry in a Senate hearing that was supposed to be about U.S. military action against ISIS but instead turned into a discussion about ongoing nuclear talks with Iran, which have become a political lightning rod in the early 2016 presidential campaign.

Rubio, like other likely Republican candidates, has taken a hard line on the negotiations. He was one of 47 GOP senators to sign an "open letter" to Iran warning that any potential deal struck by the Obama administration might not be supported by the GOP-controlled Congress. The letter caused a political firestorm and diplomatic uproar. Senate historians have found little precedent for such a move. 

But Rubio used his support of the letter as a fundraising opportunity.

That was after Wednesday's hearing, in which Rubio's first question to Kerry was this: 

"I believe that much of our strategy with regards to ISIS is being driven by a desire not to upset Iran so that they don't walk away from the negotiating table on the deal that you're working on," he said. "Tell me why I'm wrong."

"Because the facts completely contradict that," said Kerry, before adding that he couldn't elaborate because details about the talks should remain secret.

The back-and-forth continued for about five minutes, with Rubio later saying Sunni countries in the Middle East that are U.S. allies, such as Saudi Arabia, are worried about the potential Iran deal.

"Is it not right that they feel that we've kept them in the dark about our negotiations with Iran and that in essence the way we've proceeded with our negotiations with Iran have impacted our trust level with these critical allies in this coalition?" the Florida Republican said. "Is that not accurate?"

"Senator, that actually is flat wrong also," Kerry responded. "Flat wrong." 

In the video below, posted on YouTube by Rubio's office, the exchange begins around the 1:20 mark.

 

March 10, 2015

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson at odds over GOP senators' letter to Iran

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was one of 47 Republican senators who signed an "open letter" to Iran on Monday warning that any nuclear-power deal reached with the Obama administration wouldn't last.

The U.S. government is still negotiating with Tehran over a potential agreement. he three top potential GOP presidential contenders in the Senate -- Rubio and Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky -- all signed the letter, which critics decried the one-page letter as improper, partisan interference by the Senate.

Among them was Rubio's Florida counterpart, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who said on the Senate floor Tuesday that the letter was an effort to "try to cut the legs off from underneath the president and his administration in trying to reach an agreement to avert a nuclear bomb."

Here's the video of Nelson's speech:

 

March 09, 2015

In trial, Florida congressman to argue estranged wife committed bigamy

From the Associated Press:

An outspoken liberal congressman from Florida will argue in court Monday that his 24-year marriage should be annulled because his estranged wife committed bigamy, the opening salvo in an acrimonious divorce case a judge likened to an episode of the TV series "House of Cards."

Rep. Alan Grayson says his wife, Lolita, was still married to Robert Carson when she and the multimillionaire congressman married in 1990 in Virginia. Grayson, a Democrat and highly successful trial lawyer, said the marriage to Carson wasn't dissolved until 1994 in Broward County, Florida.

But Lolita Grayson says she divorced Carson in Guam in 1981, and she disputes that she was divorced in Broward County. She also said she isn't the "Lolita B. Carson" cited in a dissolution of marriage final judgment that Alan Grayson, 56, says is proof that she was still married to Carson when they wed. Neither side has found Carson.

More here.

March 06, 2015

CNN: Bob Menendez faces federal corruption charges

From CNN:

The Justice Department is preparing to bring criminal corruption charges against New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat, alleging he used his Senate office to push the business interests of a Democratic donor and friend in exchange for gifts.

[...]

The government's case centers on Menendez's relationship with Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist who the senator has called a friend and political supporter. Melgen and his family have been generous donors to the senator and various committees the senator is associated with.

More here.

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.