November 09, 2016

Trump's election poses biggest threat yet to Obamacare

via @dchangmiami

On the first day of the new administration, President-elect Donald Trump has vowed, he will ask Congress to immediately begin work on a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The current president’s signature domestic policy, credited with helping about 20 million Americans gain health insurance coverage, including an estimated 1.6 million people in Florida, already has survived two Supreme Court cases and dozens of repeal votes by Congress.

With a Republican-controlled Congress and Trump’s promise to “repeal and replace,” the ACA may face its greatest threat yet. And though Republicans still lack the 60 votes needed in the Senate for a full repeal, Congress can use the budget reconciliation process to send a bill rescinding parts of the ACA to the president, as happened last year.

No matter the method, though, healthcare experts and economists say the effect of a repeal would depend largely on any new reforms and legislation adopted to replace the ACA.

“That’s kind of the great unknown,” said Mark Rouck, a senior director with Fitch Ratings, a credit rating agency.

More here.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald

High court seems open to Miami's plea for millions from banks for discriminatory housing loans



WASHINGTON Supreme Court justices appear receptive to Miami’s argument that it’s entitled to sue banks under federal discrimination law for the impact from racially discriminatory loans.

The case hinges on whether the 1968 Fair Housing Act, the last of the landmark civil rights laws, covers only the direct effects of discrimination or also covers indirect consequences, such as property tax losses and increased policing costs.

With a vacancy still unfilled from the death of Antonin Scalia last winter and with Justice Clarence Thomas maintaining his customary silence, the seven other justices grilled lawyers in a lively Election Day session Tuesday in which several also wondered whether the law’s protections might extend to anyone who suffers an indirect financial loss because of discriminatory mortgages.

During oral arguments, justices asked more questions of Neal Katyal, a former U.S. solicitor general who is representing the Bank of America and Wells Fargo in the case, than of Robert Peck, a Washington attorney for the city of Miami.

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. appeared most skeptical of Miami’s claims, while Justice Elena Kagan targeted the banks’ arguments.

For more.

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Big win over Garcia keeps Curbelo in Congress

via @AndresViglucci @glenngarvin @Chabelih

Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo handily held onto his seat on Tuesday in one of the most closely watched congressional races in the country after turning back a challenge from the Democrat he unseated two years ago, Joe Garcia.

With most of the vote counted, Curbelo was ahead by 12 points in the battleground 26th Congressional District, which sprawls from Westchester to Key West, despite a redrawing that pushed its electoral make-up to the left after the Republican ousted Garcia in 2014. The new district’s demographics put the incumbent, who fashioned himself as one of a dwindling species — a moderate Republican — at something of a disadvantage.

But Curbelo carefully threaded the political needle, pointedly repudiating GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, while bolstering his credentials with conservative Cuban Americans in the ethnically and politically diverse district by criticizing Garcia, a former head of the Cuban American National Foundation, for his support of President Barack Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba.

Curbelo, who at one point compared Trump to the late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez, also said he would not vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton, but never publicly revealed his presidential vote despite persistent goading from Garcia.

More here.

Photo credit: Carl Juste, Miami Herald

October 31, 2016

Florida's congressional delegation will get a new look post election

10-31-FLAdelegationvia @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- In a career exceeding two decades, U.S. Rep. John Mica has earned considerable clout and can readily list his role in major projects across his Orlando-area district and beyond. This week, Ivanka Trump praised his effort in leasing a vacant federal building near the White House that is now the plush Trump International Hotel.

But the 12-term Republican is in danger of being retired by a political newcomer who embodies the diversity reshaping Orlando and other areas of Florida.

“A lot of being a good political leader comes from having empathy, and given my family’s working-class experience as well as my experience as a working mom, I understand the challenges that come with trying to work hard to provide opportunities for your family,” said Stephanie Murphy, a 38-year-old Democrat who has experience in national security and business and came to the United States as a refugee from Vietnam.

“It’s become very clear to me that people are hungering for a change,” she said.

Even if Murphy does not prevail, significant change is coming to Florida’s representation in Congress. Retirements, redistricting and competitive races will sweep away roughly a third of the 27-member delegation. The turnover — eight members are definitely gone in January — is considered the most in the country.

“Florida could lose a ton of experience,” said David Wasserman, an expert on House elections for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which rates the Mica-Murphy race a toss-up.

“On the one hand people should be happy because they want change,” said Darryl Paulson, professor emeritus of government at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg. “But when you have a system predicated on seniority, often people don’t realize the political implications. They may regret it. You can argue that Florida has not really had the clout it should, but even so, when you lose that many it’s going to be a tremendous hit.”

More here.

October 30, 2016

Rubio says he 'probably could not' support TPP


Marco Rubio on Sunday came closer than he ever has to rejecting the Trans-Pacific Partnership he once supported, saying in a local TV interview that if a vote came up today, he would likely vote No.

"As it currently stands, I probably could not support it," Rubio, a Florida Republican, said on WFOR-TV's "Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede." He cited a number of "concerns," calling it a "massive deal" whose intent -- more free trade with Asia -- he nevertheless supports.

Rubio told the Tampa Bay Times in August that he still hadn't made a "final determination" on the proposed deal. He had praised the TPP in 2015 but started hedging on his position in January.

His Senate rival, Democrat Patrick Murphy, opposes the TPP.

October 28, 2016

Ros-Lehtinen, Wilson head to Haiti to check out Hurricane Matthew relief


Two Miami-area members of Congress will travel to Haiti this weekend to check out Hurricane Matthew relief efforts, their offices announced Friday.

Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami and Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens will fly commercial Saturday and remain in Haiti through Sunday. During their trip, they're scheduled to receive briefings from the U.S. Embassy and the United Nations mission in Haiti. They will also make their way to hard-hit Jeremie and meet with the Haitian prime minister.

"Haiti has suffered through an earthquake and hurricanes in recent years and the U.S. will remain committed to help in the humanitarian response but it is crucial that our assistance is getting to those most affected who are in desperate need of food, water, shelter, and sanitation services," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "I look forward to meeting with U.S. and UN officials, as well as relief workers, to examine the distribution of essential humanitarian services."

Wilson also issued a statement.

"I represent members of one of the nation’s largest Haitian-American communities," the statement read in part. "Many of my constituents still have deep ties to Haiti and are desperate for accurate accounts of the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew from sources they can trust. More important, witnessing and assessing the damage firsthand is the best way to determine the different types and levels of support Haiti will need to rebuild."

Biden endorses Garcia for Congress


Following in the footsteps of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden on Friday endorsed Joe Garcia, giving the Miami Democrat more high-profile support in his contested race for Congress.

"As a former Congressman, Joe fought to pass comprehensive immigration reform, make college more affordable, and protect access to health care for all," Biden said in a statement provided by Garcia's campaign. "Hardworking Floridians and their families can count on Joe to continue fighting for them in Congress and to keep moving Florida and our country forward."

Obama backed Garcia on Monday. He's trying to unseat Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a freshman representing Florida's 26th district. Neither Obama nor Biden have scheduled any campaign appearances with Garcia.

"There are few people who advocate for working and middle class families more passionately than Vice President Joe Biden, so I’m honored to have his support," Garcia said in a statement.

October 27, 2016

John Mica, the Florida Republican who made Trump's new Washington hotel possible

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - In a ballroom room splashed with neon and sparkling chandeliers, Donald Trump and his family Wednesday celebrated the opening of Trump International Hotel and paid homage to the man who made it possible: Florida Rep. John Mica.

The Orlando-area Republican led the effort to put the Old Post Office building up for lease and Trump won the bid, his daughter Ivanka playing a key role in negotiations. She mentioned Mica during the event yesterday, recalling how as chairman of the House Transportation and Public Assets Subcommittee, he held a news conference several years ago in the then-vacant building.

"It was without heat and in the freezing cold, he admonished the crowd about government excess and noted that the Old Post Office was losing the U.S. government between $6 and $8 million dollars a year,” Ivanka Trump said.

“At a committee hearing following our soft opening last month, Congressman Mica said that Trump International Hotel, Washington, D.C, is now creating hundreds of jobs and is a stellar example of turning under-utilized federal property around with the help of the private sector."

Trump is paying the government $3 million a year over the course of the 60-year lease.

Democrats tried to use the Trump connection against Mica, who is fighting for political survival against political newcomer Stephanie Murphy

“As Ivanka Trump highlighted today, John Mica pulled out all the stops to help Donald Trump with his luxury DC hotel project,” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a statement. “Mica has not only helped Trump line his own pockets, he’s stood by Trump every step of the way, even after he was caught bragging about sexual assault.”

Mica, in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday, said the deal shows he can get things done and save taxpayer money.

“They won it fair and square in open competition against Marriott, against Hilton and all the national chains," Mica said. "It will produce revenue for taxpayers for decades to come. It employs I think 600-800 people."

In July 2014, Mica's office produced this video:


--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS


West Wing's Josh Lyman calls Curbelo one of 'real heroes' on climate change


Actor Bradley Whitford, best known for his portrayal of Josh Lyman on NBC's "The West Wing," was probably not on Carlos Curbelo's list of political campaign surrogates.

Yet there was Whitford, who's known to be a Democratic activist, being interviewed on NBC's "Today Show" Thursday morning -- and mentioning the Miami Republican congressman by name.

Whitford was plugging his work for National Geographic's "Years of Living Dangerously" series. An upcoming episode titled "Gathering Storm" features Whitford exploring the Citizens' Climate Lobby's efforts to get Congress to act on the threat of climate change.

"My particular thing was dealing with Republicans who have been resistant to acknowledge the science on climate change," Whitford told "Today." "And there's some real heroes in Congress: Carlos Curbelo from the 26th district in Florida has shown that he really wants to work on this."

Curbelo and his Republican allies have been campaigning on his climate-change stance -- a key issue in his Westchester-to-Key West district. His Democratic challenger is former Rep. Joe Garcia.



October 25, 2016

DCCC compares Curbelo to Trump in new TV ad


The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee keeps trying to link Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo to Donald Trump, even if Curbelo isn't backing him for president.

In a new TV ad, the DCCC compares Curbelo to Trump on offshore oil drilling, immigration and Social Security. Curbelo is being challenged by Democrat Joe Garcia.

"Curbelo supports drilling offshore -- just like Trump," the ad says. "Curbelo's been sending campaign cash to help anti-immigrant politicians.... Carlos Curbelo calls Social Security a 'Ponzi scheme.' You know who else says that? Donald Trump."

The ad is a mash-up of past DCCC Curbelo ads, including one PolitiFact Florida found misleading on the oil-drilling claim. Curbelo asked TV stations to yank the ad as a result.

As for funding other politicians, Curbelo created a committee he said would support other Republicans who back immigration reform. Some of the committee's beneficiaries, however, have sounded less than eager to adopt reforms, though Curbelo insists they're privately open to at least talking about it.

Curbelo and Trump have both called Social Security a Ponzi scheme.