July 14, 2016

Marco Rubio to give video address at GOP convention


Marco Rubio won't physically be at next week's Republican National Convention in Cleveland. But he'll address the gathering via video, organizers announced Thursday.

It'll be a message, not a live speech via satellite.

Later in the day, the RNC plans to release a more complete list of its video program. The first two names revealed were Rubio and retired basketball coach Bobby Knight.

Rubio has said he's staying in Florida to campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate. His absence, though, was viewed by some Republicans as a less-than-full-throated endorsement of presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Rubio's primary rival, Carlos Beruff, will be in Cleveland. His campaign quickly accused Rubio agreeing to speak to delegates only after finding out Beruff would go -- and after a new poll showed Trump narrowly leading presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Florida.

"Looks like he’s going to phone it in just like he’s phoned it in as a Senator," Beruff spokesman Chris Hartline said in an email to the Miami Herald. "Figuring out where Marco stands on Trump is like nailing Jello to a wall, which is fitting, since Jello is approximately the consistency of Marco's backbone."

Several other former Trump rivals -- Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Scott Walker -- will speak at the convention in person. Conspicuously absent: Ohio Gov. John Kasich, whose state is hosting the event.

The most high-profile Florida politicians scheduled to appear on stage are Attorney General Pam Bondi -- in prime time -- and Gov. Rick Scott.

Florida Congressional Democrats push Paul Ryan for action on Zika funding

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Democratic members of the Florida Congressional delegation sent a letter urging House Speaker Paul Ryan to act on Zika.

Partisan gridlock remains over Zika funding while the House is poised to recess Friday. In the Senate, Marco Rubio has joined Bill Nelson and the Democrats in calling for $1.9 billion in federal funding.

From the Florida House Democrats' letter:

"Florida Democrats stood united in demanding Speaker Paul Ryan act on the Zika virus before the Congressional recess. This is a serious public health crisis, which House Republicans have shamefully responded to with endless delays and refusals to provide the funding our public health experts have said we need to properly tackle Zika.  The number of Floridians with Zika is growing by the day. It is unconscionable for House Republicans to send Members home for seven weeks without passing legislation that would meaningfully address this deadly disease. This crisis falls squarely at their feet, and the House of Representatives should not recess until we do the job we were elected to do and help keep the American people healthy and safe.”

The letter was signed by Florida Democrats in the House: Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch, Patrick Murphy, Frederica Wilson, Corrine Brown, Alan Grayson, Gwen Graham and Kathy Castor.

Quinnipiac poll: Rubio's lead has widened since entering Senate race


Marco Rubio’s lead over his Democratic rivals has grown into the double digits since hedecided to run for re-election to the U.S. Senate, according to a new poll that shows — for now — the Republican incumbent isn't being dragged down in Florida by presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump.

The Quinnipiac University survey shows Rubio widening his advantage in potential head-to-head match-ups against Democratic Reps. Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson. Rubio is ahead of Murphy by 13 points (50-37 percent) and of Grayson by 12 points (50-38 percent).

Last month, when Rubio still hadn’t made up his mind about running, he led Murphy by 7 points (47-40 percent) and Grayson by 8 points (48-40 percent).

Murphy, who has the high-profile backing of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and other national Democrats, had a particularly difficult end of June. He was hit with a serious of news reports indicating he had repeatedly inflated his résumé.

“Democrats made fun of Sen. Marco Rubio when he opted for a last-minute re-election bid in Florida, but he may be on the way to a last laugh, having quickly opened double digit leads over both Democratic challengers,” Peter A. Brown, the poll's director, said in a statement.

The poll didn’t measure Rubio’s popularity against his sole GOP primary rival, Carlos Beruff, who would lose to Murphy by 40-34 percent and be tied with Grayson at 38 percent.

Polls generally tighten in a general election, and Senate races may be affected by the presidential contest at the top of the ticket. The Florida primary is Aug. 30.

More here.

Carlos Lopez-Cantera, attack dog for Marco Rubio


Marco Rubio won't respond to Republican Senate primary rival Carlos Beruff's attacks. But Carlos Lopez-Cantera will.

The lieutenant governor, who dropped out of the Senate race to make way for his longtime friend Rubio to seek re-election, issued a statement Wednesday on behalf of Rubio's campaign after Beruff released a new TV ad accusing Rubio of not being fully behind presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

"His record is clear, just like his good friend Charlie Crist, Carlos Beruff continues to flip-flop to try to be everything to everyone," Lopez-Cantera said in a statement. "He's a Crist insider who values political opportunity over Florida's conservative principles."

Rubio's campaign has consistently noted Beruff's ties to Crist, the former governor Rubio defeated in the 2010 Senate race. Beruff maxed out as a Crist donor while Crist was a Republican. Beruff's camp likes to note Beruff never gave Crist money after he became an independent. Rubio's camp likes to note Beruff later nevertheless attended a fundraiser for independent Crist. (Crist is now a Democrat running for Congress in St. Petersburg.)

It's not the first time Lopez-Cantera has jabbed Beruff since leaving the race. Last month he called him a "man driven by ego."

Making matters a little awkward is that Beruff is allies with Gov. Rick Scott -- the man who recruited Lopez-Cantera as his 2014 running mate. Scott didn't endorse Lopez-Cantera while the LG was in the race and has continued to stay out of the contest now that Rubio is back in -- an unusual political situation for a sitting senator.


July 13, 2016

Patrick Murphy wanted to announce algae news at press conference

Murphy1via @learyreports

UPDATE: 9:07 p.m. Murphy's office responds.

"As soon as our office became aware of Martin County's desire to make the announcement on Wednesday, we fully supported them. It is deeply disappointing that Governor Rick Scott's office would take out of context this standard request to coordinate a media strategy with a federal agency."

It was the SBA, however, that raised the question of a delay, attributing it to Murphy. More on that below.


Rep. Patrick Murphy's office sought to delay news about relief for businesses affected by the toxic algae crisis so he could announce it at a news conference Thursday, records show.

"Is it possible for you to hold the announcement until Thursday and allow Congressman Murphy to announce it at a press conference?" Murphy's legislative assistant wrote in an email Monday to an official at the Small Business Administration.

She said that Murphy, a Democratic candidate for Senate, was holding an "algal bloom panel discussion this Thursday along with a press conference."

The SBA said it had "no problem" holding off but asked Gov. Rick Scott's administration, noting a prompt response was desired "as we have personnel and supplies en-route to Florida."

No way, Scott officials replied, noting the governor wanted the relief "made available immediately."

Continue reading "Patrick Murphy wanted to announce algae news at press conference" »

Rubio holds Zika hearing as opponents claim he was late to cause

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Sen. Marco Rubio said Wednesday the growing threat of Zika "as a full-blown public health crisis" demands swift action as partisan gridlock over funding remains on Capitol Hill.

"I strongly believe that inaction on Zika is inexcusable, and I am optimistic that after reviewing the facts and hearing from the experts here today, it will reinforce the fact that we must do something quickly," Rubio said during a hearing he convened as chairman of the Foreign Relations subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.

The Florida Republican has joined in Democratic calls for $1.9 billion in funding and supported a measure for $1.1 billion. He noted that he first raised questions about the threat in January, and in April, he bucked his party on the $1.9 billion sought by the Obama administration.

But despite his advocacy, Democrats have been attacking Rubio as a latecomer to the issue. So too has GOP Senate rival Carlos Beruff.

"Now that Marco Rubio needs Floridians’ votes, he’s all of a sudden interested in an issue that’s been on the horizon for over a year and has been impacting Floridians since January," the Beruff campaign said Wednesday. "The voters of Florida deserve a senator who’s there for them when they need him, not when it’s politically advantageous.”

Rubio said that after reading about Zika in January -- he was on the presidential campaign trail in Iowa -- he reached out to U.S. Customs and Border Protection "to express my concerns and ask what they were doing or could do about this, given Miami International Airport’s standing as the Gateway to the Americas, with more flights and passengers going to and coming from Brazil than any other U.S. airport."

He bucked his party in April to support the $1.9 billion in funding. "I don't want us to take our eye off of this because if this issue really takes off on us here in the United States, we don't want to say that we knew it was happening but we ignored it and did nothing about it," he said. Rubio has continued to press for funding, even voting for the House's $1.1 billion package while calling it imperfect.

"Here on the Senate floor and back home in my state, I have called for action from my colleagues and urged support for fully funding the President’s funding request to deal with this virus," he said Wednesday. "I’ve supported every single Zika proposal that has come before the Senate. Every single one. I’ve answered the call to act."

The current stalemate has to do with the House bill, which Democrats object to over provisions they say are designed to hurt Planned Parenthood. "This is why people hate Congress. This is why people hate Washington," Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said Wednesday.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., also bemoaned the partisanship over the issue but said she agreed with Rubio's call for urgency.

Rubio asked what would happen if Congress leaves for recess without providing more funding. "We will do the best we can, but this is no way to fight epidemics," replied Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Obamacare rears its head in Miami Democratic primary for Congress


Former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia touted his Obamacare support in the first mailer for his congressional campaign.

But his Democratic primary opponent, Annette Taddeo, begs to differ with Garcia's record.

In a statement Wednesday, her campaign accused Garcia of voting "with Republicans" to delay individual and employer mandates for the Affordable Care Act in 2013 and 2014. Her camp also said Garcia "voted to undermine Obamacare by allowing health care plans to remain on the market" even if they didn't satisfy the law's standards.

"Joe Garcia should tell the truth about his record of voting against Obamacare and leaving hundreds of thousands South Floridians without affordable health care," Taddeo said in the statement.

It's not the first time Garcia's votes on the law become a political issue. When he sought re-election in 2014, a super PAC backing him said Garcia "took the House to task" over the law. At the time, Garcia was running in a Republican-leaning midterm year -- in one of the country's most competitive swing districts. He also got hit from the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce for backing Obamacare.

"Joe has been a strong advocate for Obamacare and access to affordable healthcare," Garcia spokesman Javier Hernandez said. "Joe never once voted to repeal Obamacare. During the rollout of Obamacare he cast votes to help ease the transition to the new system."

Lawmakers want to block U.S. flights to Cuba

via @FrancoOrdonez

WASHINGTON -- A group of U.S. lawmakers want to block the Obama administration’s efforts to open up the United States airways to flights from Cuba. Citing concerns about Cuba’s security infrastructure, four members of Congress, including three Republicans and a Democrat, have officially called for a halt to the recently announced commercial flights between the United States and the communist nation until a closer review of security measures at Cuba’s efforts can be conducted.

"How can this administration guarantee the American people there won't be a security threat on one of those planes?” said Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C. a former chair of the Transportation Security subcommittee.

U.S. Department of Transportation announced last week that ten cities, including four in Florida, and eight airlines won tentative U.S. government approval to schedule commercial air service between the United States and Havana, Cuba. Last month, the department awarded approval to six airlines to nine other Cuban cities.

The addition of commercial flights to Cuba are seen as one of the biggest steps the White House has taken to loosen the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba since Dec. 17, 2014, when President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro announced that they would take steps to normalize relations.

The administration has also eliminated limits on remittances, restored direct mail and allowed American companies to sell to Cuba on credit.

More here.

Rubio steps up Senate fundraising during summer doldrums


Marco Rubio plans to spend the rest of his summer raising money for his U.S. Senate re-election race.

The Florida Republican has scheduled 10 fundraising receptions in six weeks, according to a schedule his campaign sent donors Wednesday. That includes a Miami event Aug. 25 -- and a Houston event Aug. 31, the day after the Florida primary. Rubio has one challenger, Sarasota developer Carlos Beruff.

The bulk of the fundraising, however, might be intended for the November general election, when Florida will be a key target for Democrats trying to pick up seats in the Senate.

Candidates detest summertime campaigning and fundraising, because voters and donors aren't paying much attention to politics when they're kids are out of school and the family is spending time off out of town or otherwise out of their typical routine.

"The challenge we now face is keeping people engaged during the summer," Rubio finance director Anna Rogers Duncan wrote in the email to donors. "We're in the unique position of raising and spending at the same time rather than building a war chest and then spending. It's always hard to raise money in July and August, but it is a critical time for us and we must press through."

Rubio's campaign announced last week that it raised $2.1 million in the first nine days the candidate was in the race. He had originally planned to leave the Senate after the end of his presidential campaign.

Here's Rubio's schedule:

Continue reading "Rubio steps up Senate fundraising during summer doldrums" »

July 12, 2016

Are Rubio and Nelson still working closely together on Zika?

via @learyreports

Partisan fighting over Zika continues on Capitol Hill and there’s little sign of a resolution before lawmakers take off on another recess.

On Tuesday, Sen. Bill Nelson called for consideration of a $1.1 billion funding bill that already passed the Senate. "We now have 13 more cases, bringing a total in our state to 276, which includes 43 pregnant women – and that’s just one of the 50 states in the union,” Nelson said on the Senate floor. “At what point does the majority and the majority leader decide to stop playing these games and simply do what is needed?”

Sen. Mitch McConnell objected to unanimous consent, shutting down Nelson.

Sen. Marco Rubio has also called for action and tomorrow will convene a Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing on Zika. But Democrats are trying to paint Rubio as part of the problem. On Tuesday, Senate candidate Patrick Murphy and Florida Democrats issued releases asserting that Rubio only began to care about the issue as prepared to announce he was running for re-election.

Rubio and Nelson had pushed for $1.9 billion in funding but don't appear to be working closely now. The Senate in May passed $1.1 billion in funding but the House added provisions Democrats say were designed to hurt Planned Parenthood. Nelson then joined Democrats in blocking the bill, which Rubio supported while calling it imperfect.

Rubio on the Senate floor last week: “I truly hope that in the hours and days leading up to our recess, we will find a rapid and quick way forward so we can address this and fix it and give our people the help they need in the short term and ultimately move towards the money we need to research for a vaccine so this issue can be prevented -- so this disease can be prevented from spreading in the future."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times