March 08, 2018

‘Angry’ Shalala says Trump motivated her run for Congress



Donna Shalala says she’s running for Congress because she’s angry.

At Trump. At his administration. At Congress.

On Wednesday, the former University of Miami president officially rolled out her campaign to succeed the retiring Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, releasing a video on her campaign website. She filed her statement of candidacy earlier this week, immediately becoming the favorite, though vulnerable, candidate to take a seat that many expect will flip to Democrats after decades of Republican control.


“Everything we fought for in our lives is under attack under the slogan, ‘Make America Great Again,’” Shalala said in the video. “Running for Congress was never in my plans. But now I realize everything we fought for is at risk.”


Shalala, 77, says the ruling party in America has frustrated her by undercutting education, the working class, the environment, civil rights for women, immigrants and the LGBTQ community. In an interview with the Miami Herald, she also said she’s disturbed by the lack of federal legislation following last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“Frankly, what’s going on in Washington really made me angry,” said Shalala, who was Health and Human Services secretary under Bill Clinton in 1996, when Congress passed a law banning the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from studying gun violence. “Elected officials ought to make decisions based on evidence. If you stop us from collecting the evidence, you’re doing real damage to making public policy.”

Read more here.

March 06, 2018

How Miami Republicans plan to help DACA recipients

Mario Diaz-Balart

Monday was supposed to be the deadline for Congress to get its act together and find a way for 690,000 young immigrants to avoid potential deportation.

But lawmakers have at least a few more months to pass a law as the court system continues to determine the legality of President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

For Miami Republicans, caught between a national party that is agitating for stricter immigration laws and a diverse constituency back home, the delay on DACA gives them more time to find a compromise but also keeps thousands of their constituents in limbo.

“It’s good news for people in the DACA program because they can continue renewing their permits,” Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo said. “I have mixed feelings on what it means for us here because we know this institution [Congress] sometimes only works as deadlines approach and now there isn’t a deadline. Now, on the other hand, it gives us more time, especially here in the House, to work towards that consensus position that has eluded both the House and Senate.”

Curbelo and Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said Republican leaders need to come up with a solution, though the sole immigration bill currently being considered by House leadership is a conservative plan that Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen don’t support. The U.S. Senate tried and failed to pass a slew of immigration bills last month.

“I’m incredibly disappointed that the leadership in the House and Senate have failed to find a legislative solution to protect our DREAMers,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. “While a court decision has halted the Trump administration’s plan to begin deporting DACA recipients, circumstances can and do change thus Congress should not rest on this one decision. We should take action now.”

Read more here.

March 05, 2018

Rubio, Nelson bill seeks crackdown on people who fail gun background checks

Bill Nelson

via @learyreports

People who fail a background check trying to buy a gun could face increased risk of prosecution under a bill introduced Monday by Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson and other lawmakers.

The NICS Denial Notification Act, which had previously been introduced in the House, requires federal authorities to alert state law enforcement within 24 hours when individuals "lie and try" to purchase firearms, according to a release from Rubio's office.

State officials could then decide to prosecute or "keep an eye on these denied individuals for signs of future criminal activity." The Justice Department would have to publish an annual report about prosecutions.

Only 13 states that use NCIS get notified when someone fails a background check, according to Rubio's office.

"In the 37 states and the District of Columbia that rely on the FBI to run some or all of their background checks, state authorities generally are not aware when prohibited persons fail background checks run by the FBI. Individuals who are willing to 'lie and try' to buy a gun may be dangerous and willing to obtain guns through other means," read the release.

"As a result, these states and D.C. lack critical law enforcement intelligence that they could use to try to keep their communities safe."

The legislation is sponsored by Sens. Rubio and Nelson along with Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Chris Coons, D-Del.,  John Cornyn, R-Texas, Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

March 04, 2018

Rubio’s record on guns: two bills, no cosponsors — and a higher NRA rating



Marco Rubio has a message for critics after the Parkland school shooting who say he’s bought and sold by the National Rifle Association: The gun lobby buys into my agenda, not the other way around.

But Rubio’s legislative agenda on guns is light.

Since coming to Washington in 2011, the Florida Republican has introduced 463 bills, of which only two, both introduced twice, directly involve guns. Rubio’s Second Amendment Enforcement Act was first introduced on March 26, 2015, 18 days before he announced a presidential bid.

When Rubio introduced his bill, which would overturn most of Washington D.C.’s strict gun laws, his NRA grade was B+, a lower rating than all but two of his fellow Republican presidential contenders at the time. Rubio’s less than perfect rating stemmed from his time in the Florida legislature where he wavered on an NRA-approved bill that allowed people with concealed-carry permits to keep their weapons in their vehicles while at work.

A few weeks later, Rubio’s NRA grade went up to an A, and it has stayed there ever since. Since entering the Senate, he has consistently voted in favor of policies and co-sponsored legislation the NRA supports, arguing that restrictions on guns hinder the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.

Rubio’s office said he decided to introduce the bill in 2015, and not when he entered the Senate in 2011, because a young woman who began working for him in 2014 wanted to bring two legally acquired handguns to D.C. to protect herself after a shooting near her building. The process to legally own a gun under D.C. law was so “unreasonable and complicated” that she had to take time off work to complete it, Rubio spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas said.

“Based on this real-life story he witnessed firsthand, he introduced the bill so that D.C. law would be in line with federal law,” Perez-Cubas said in an email. “He also sent a letter to his colleagues asking for support on the measure.”

But it doesn’t appear that Rubio did much to push his legislation.

Rubio didn’t gain any cosponsors for his 2015 bill, and he hasn’t gotten any cosponsors after reintroducing the legislation in 2017. A nearly identical bill to Rubio’s measure had already been written and introduced by John McCain in 2010. McCain’s bill garnered 18 cosponsors, including three Democrats. Neither Rubio nor McCain’s bill received a hearing or markup in committee, or a vote on the Senate floor.

Read more here.

March 01, 2018

Journalist Maria Elvira Salazar joins GOP race for Ros-Lehtinen's seat


@alextdaugherty @newsbysmiley

Miami broadcast journalist Maria Elvira Salazar is jumping into the Republican race for retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's seat. 

“We all want a better country for our children, so we need to rise above the political rhetoric and divisions that are tearing our communities apart, and have the courage to respect and listen to others, even if we don’t agree," Salazar said in a statement. "That is democracy at its best." 

Ros-Lehtinen encouraged Salazar and other Republican candidates to join the race for months to drum up enthusiasm in the Republican primary.

“The district is totally winnable for the right candidate,” Ros-Lehtinen said late last year. “She could be the right candidate.”

Miami-Dade commissioner Bruno Barreiro is the only announced GOP candidate who has so far raised enough money for a viable campaign operation, though two newcomers, Ariadna Balaguer and Angie Chirino, have entered the GOP race since the last filing deadline.

Democrats are favored to flip Ros-Lehtinen's seat after Hillary Clinton trounced Donald Trump in the district that encompasses most of coastal Miami-Dade County in 2016. Six Democratic candidates have raised over $100,000, while Barreiro is the only Republican to have done so. 

Salazar was a news anchor for Miami-based MEGATV, and she previously hosted her political news show called "Maria Elvira Live." A bio provided by her campaign said Salazar was "the first and ONLY
U.S. Spanish-language television journalist to obtain a one-on-one interview with Fidel Castro during his
50 years in power."

Florida Republican with Nicaragua ties works to defeat Ros-Lehtinen’s crackdown bill

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

@alextdaugherty @francoordonez 

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is a longtime proponent of a hardline approach to left-leaning regimes in Cuba and Central America who commands respect from both parties in Washington on Latin American policy.

But a rookie Republican lawmaker and fellow Floridian recently turned on Ros-Lehtinen on one of her signature issues, and she isn’t happy.

Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Naples, was one of 25 members of Congress who signed onto Ros-Lehtinen’s bill that that would limit U.S. loans to the government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega until the longtime president carries out democratic reforms in the Central American country. The list of co-sponsors also includes every Republican and Democrat from Miami-Dade County.

But after Ros-Lehtinen’s bill passed the House by a voice vote in October, Rooney apparently had a change of heart.

According to Ros-Lehtinen and a U.S. official familiar with lobbying work who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, Rooney began scouring the halls of the U.S. Senate with Nicaraguan businessmen to lobby against Ros-Lehtinen’s Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act after it passed the House of Representatives — with his support.

“Why Rooney chose to lobby against a bill that he himself cosponsored and to do so without even giving me the courtesy of a notice, is practically unheard of in this institution,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “And then to take the extra step of being actively involved in lobbying against it, going to the Senate and lobbying senators against a bill he cosponsored? I don’t know what Rooney’s about, but it was not appreciated. It’s just uncool.”

Rooney did not respond to emails, phone calls and a request to speak in person about his work on the bill. A lobbyist hired by the American Chamber of Commerce in Nicaragua, which opposes Ros-Lehtinen’s bill, declined to say whether Rooney was working with them.

“We represent AMCHAM in Nicaragua and we do not comment on client matters,” said Carmen Group chief of staff Alison Cricks.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Nicaragua has spent at least $160,000 to lobby against Ros-Lehtinen’s bill in recent months, according to lobbying records.

Read more here.

February 28, 2018

Environmental group downgrades Carlos Curbelo’s climate change record

0445 IMPAC Immigration Summ


Carlos Curbelo’s climate-change record took a step down in 2017 in the eyes of one influential environmental group, as the Miami Republican gears up for a reelection bid in a Miami-to-Key West district that is still recovering from Hurricane Irma and dealing with the effects of sea level rise.

The League of Conservation Voters released its 2017 scorecard on Tuesday, and Curbelo, who had the best score among House Republicans currently in Congress on the 2016 scorecard, now ranks tied for 13th among House Republicans. Curbelo had a 53 percent rating for his votes during 2016, and now has a 23 percent rating for his votes last year.

“I don’t know and I don’t care,” Curbelo said when asked about his rating. “I don’t follow NRA ratings, chamber ratings, League of Conservation Voters ratings. I just try to do the right thing on every vote and I usually end up finding out about my scores later come campaign season.”

Part of Curbelo’s drop can be attributed to Hurricane Irma, as he missed a series of votes while dealing with the hurricane in September. The eight missed votes due to the hurricane count against him on the LCV’s scorecard.

But even if he received a 100 percent score on his missed votes Curbelo would still have a 49 percent rating, which is lower than his 2016 mark. The downgrade comes after a year in which Curbelo expressed pro-environment positions, like opposing President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, while also voting for bills like the Republican tax plan that included a measure allowing oil exploration in a portion of Alaska’s North Slope.

Curbelo’s office said he would have voted for the LCV-favored position on six of the nine votes he missed in 2017, meaning his rating would have been 40 percent instead of 23 percent.

The LCV said it would like to see more legislative work from Curbelo’s Climate Solutions Caucus, a group founded by Curbelo and Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, that is comprised of lawmakers from both parties who are concerned about the impacts of climate change.

“Environmental votes weren’t always as partisan as they’ve become today,” LCV press secretary Alyssa Roberts said. “We would love to see higher scores from Republicans, and appreciate the Climate Solutions Caucus as a step to build bipartisan support, but the urgency of the climate crisis requires action, not just talk.”

Curbelo said the LCV is a partisan organization whose primary concern is getting Democrats to Washington, and that scorecards like theirs are “all subjective... designed to yield a certain score.”

Read more here.

Brian Mast signs on to bill that allows federal gun violence research

Brian mast


Treasure Coast Republican Rep. Brian Mast made waves when he argued that the AR-15 should be banned in a New York Times op-ed last week, and now he's signing on to a bill that would repeal a ban on federal gun violence research. 

Winter Park Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy's office said Wednesday that Mast will sign on to her bill that repeals the Dickey amendment, a statute that repeals federal funding for gun violence research. Mast joins Miami Republicans Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Republicans who signed on to the bill after the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history in Parkland, Florida.    

"I'm proud of the bipartisan support my bill to repeal the Dickey Amendment has received from members of our Florida congressional delegation," Murphy said in a statement. "Florida has been deeply affected by gun violence for years, and, at minimum, this issue deserves objective facts and honest debate about how to keep our families safe." 

Mast, who lost both of his legs while serving as a bomb technician in Afghanistan, has signed on to a host of gun control bills since the Parkland shooting and called on an immediate, temporary ban on weapons like the AR-15 until Congress takes long-term action. The House of Representatives didn't vote on any gun bills this week, and the U.S. Senate is unlikely to do so. 

"I am committed to working with anyone—Republicans and Democrats—who is willing to do the hard, bipartisan problem solving needed to come up with a definition that can keep communities safe, while also not casting law-abiding recreational gun owners as criminals," Mast said in a statement. "While that discussion happens, I am asking the President to implement an immediate pause on the sale of AR-15 weapons so not one more person dies as a result of being shot with an AR-15 while Congress determines the best way to define assault weapons. I am also calling on Congressional leadership to vote immediately on already written bipartisan legislation to increase school safety, address the role of mental illness and prevent gun violence." 

Mast, who is in his first term, faces a competitive reelection bid in a Treasure Coast district that has switched hands between Democrats and Republicans in recent years. 

Update 12:30pm

The White House says Mast and Murphy, along with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, will attend a meeting between lawmakers and President Donald Trump today to discuss school safety and the Parkland shooting. 

February 26, 2018

GOP Congress returns after Parkland, under pressure to move on guns



When Congress left town after the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a gun control movement led by Broward County students hadn’t yet captured the nation’s attention.

But lawmakers are now back in Washington after a 10-day break, and they’re under pressure to do something from media-savvy students who have so far forced the Florida legislature to offer a $500 million school safety package and driven President Donald Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio to change their stance on some gun policies.

But moving forward in a Republican-controlled Congress will be a tall order, and voting on any piece of legislation in the House of Representatives this week will be tougher since Republican leadership canceled votes on Wednesday and Thursday to honor the late Rev. Billy Graham, who will lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda for two days.

Plus, House leaders argue that they’ve already passed legislation related to mental health funding, tweaking the reporting process by federal and state authorities to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and bump stocks.

“The House has acted and leaders believe it’s the Senate’s turn to act,” a senior Republican House aide said.

The measure that tweaks the background check system, which has wide support from Democrats and Republicans, and directs the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to review bump stocks was attached to a bill that also allows concealed carry permits obtained in one state to be valid in another state, essentially transforming concealed carry permits into transferable documents like driver’s licenses. Democrats generally oppose expanding concealed carry permits across state lines, so they mostly opposed the bill even though it contained something they liked.

The legislative maneuvering on any bill related to guns decreases the chances of something becoming law, and there isn’t any gun bill up for a vote in the House this week, according to Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s calendar.

A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there aren’t any plans now to fast-track gun-related bills in the upper chamber.

Read more here.

February 20, 2018

Where South Floridians in Congress stand on gun legislation



The pressure is building in Washington.

Students are meeting with President Donald Trump, organizing protests outside the White House and planning a mass demonstration in March with the aim of getting Congress to do something to prevent another mass school shooting. after the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week.

In response, Trump has indicated he’s considering support of a narrowly tailored bill that would ensure federal and state authorities accurately report relevant criminal-history records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and penalize federal agencies that fail to upload relevant records. The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, also has the blessing of the National Rifle Association and Republicans from South Florida, though Murphy tweeted that “no one should pretend this bill alone is an adequate response to this epidemic.”

Trump also directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday to craft regulations to ban “bump stocks” and other devices that turn semi-automatic firearms into automatic weapons.

But where does South Florida’s congressional delegation stand on various federal bills that could limit access to guns and firearm accessories if passed into law?

Below is a list of relevant recent congressional legislation related to guns, and where South Florida’s two U.S. senators and eight U.S. representatives stand on such proposals, including campaign contributions from the NRA.


▪ Assault weapons ban: Congress passed a ban on certain semi-automatic “assault style” firearms like the AR-15 used in the Parkland shooting in 1994, though the ban expired in 2004 and wasn’t renewed. A bill to reinstate the ban in 2013 after the Sandy Hook school shooting failed in the U.S. Senate.

▪ Raising the age to legally own semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15 from 18 to 21. The 19-year old Parkland shooter suspect legally purchased an AR-15 rifle after he turned 18 old. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein plans to introduce legislation that would raise the age requirements.

▪ Bump stock ban: Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo introduced a bill after the Las Vegas shooting in October that would ban “bump stocks,” or legal modifications to semiautomatic weapons that allow them to fire like automatic weapons. So far, there haven’t been any votes on Curbelo’s bill.

▪ Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act: This bill would allow concealed carry permits obtained in one state to be valid in another state, essentially transforming concealed carry permits into transferable documents like driver’s licenses. The bill passed the House and awaits consideration in the U.S. Senate.

▪ Purchasing guns while on the terror watch list: Feinstein introduced legislation after the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016 that would prevent U.S. citizens under investigation for suspected terrorist activity from purchasing a gun, while Cornyn countered with legislation that would have installed a review period for people on the terror watch list wishing to purchase guns. Both measures failed in the U.S. Senate; the House didn’t vote on them.

Read more here.