March 24, 2017

Here's where divided Florida Republicans stand ahead of healthcare vote

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Hours before a dramatic vote on the GOP Obamacare replacement plan, Florida Republicans are a window into the divided party.

Here is where thing stand.

Matt Gaetz: Yes

Neal Dunn: Yes

Ted Yoho: No

John Rutherford: Will not say

DeSantis: No

Bill Posey: No

Daniel Webster: No

Gus Bilirakis: Yes

Dennis Ross: Yes

Vern Buchanan: Yes

Tom Rooney: Yes

Brian Mast: Yes

Francis Rooney: Yes

Mario Diaz-Balart: Yes

Carlos Curbelo: Will not say

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: No

--with Patricia Mazzei

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Will Nelson join Democratic filibuster of Gorsuch?

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via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Democrats are lining up to oppose Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, but Florida Sen. Bill Nelson isn't saying where he stands.

"Still undecided on both," Nelson's spokesman tells The Tampa Bay Times on whether how he will vote or whether he supports growing Democratic calls for a filibuster.

A filibuster, which New York Sen. Charles Schumer called for yesterday, would force Republicans to upend Senate rules to allow for a simple majority.

Nelson oppossed a filibuster for Sameul Alito in 2006, though voted against him. Yet Nelson previously told us he supports 60-vote threshold for a Supreme Court nominee.

"You bet I do. The filibuster has always forced the political extremes to come of the middle to build consensus," Nelson said in February, adding it was a "mistake" for former Democratic leader Harry Reid to lower the threshold on other nominees that were stymied by Republicans.

The NRSC says Nelson should tell voters where he stands.

"Floridians made it clear when they hit the polls in November that they trusted President Trump to appoint the next Supreme Court Justice. Bill Nelson needs to tell his constituents whether he will side with them and vote to confirm President Trump’s nominee, or join Chuck Schumer and Washington liberals and filibuster Judge Gorsuch."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Associated Press

Diaz-Balart, previously a 'lean no,' says he'll vote yes on health care

2 Mario Diaz Balart
via @lesleyclark

WASHINGTON -- Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said Friday he will vote for the American Health Care Act, after saying for a week that he was leaning against it.

The congressman said the bill isn't perfect.

"There are still some issues," he said. But he credited the centrist House GOP "Tuesday Group" with making some modifications, such as adding $15 billion for certain healthcare services. That was "a really big improvement," according to Diaz-Balart.

"I've been focused on trying to get changes," he said. "We had some success. Did I get everything I wanted? No, by any stretch of the imagination."

Diaz-Balart was among the lawmakers who met with President Donald Trump at the White House on Thursday.

"It's pretty clear that this president is very serious about fulfilling what he said he was going to do," Diaz-Balart said, and the AHCA's failure would put a "big damper" on tax reform.

"If this fails, it's a big hit," he said. "It makes it very difficult to do the tax reform that a lot of us think that we need to do."

One of the issues Diaz-Balart previously raised with White House officials during the healthcare debate was the administration's inaction on Cuba policy.

Though Diaz-Balart insisted his vote isn't about politics, he said sinking health care would be "a big blow to the agenda -- and that means everything."

"In the legislative process, every day there is a tough issue, and the reality is that once this is done, we go on to the next issue," he said. "The repeal and replace is dead if it dies today... This is the one shot to deal with health care."

--with Patricia Mazzei

Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff

March 23, 2017

How Nelson and Rubio voted on internet privacy rules

via @learyreports

The Senate voted today to kill regulations that would prevent Internet providers from tracking and sharing personal data without consent, and Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio were on opposite sides.

Nelson voted against the measure; Rubio voted for it.

The Associated Press explains:

The regulations would have required a company like Verizon to get approval before telling an advertiser what websites customers visited, what apps they used, their health and financial information, or their physical location. Under the regulations, many more people likely would have chosen not to allow their data to be shared than if they had to take an extra step of asking a company to stop sharing or selling their information.

Industry groups and Republicans protested the regulations. They said broadband providers would have to operate under tougher privacy requirements than digital-advertising behemoths like Google and Facebook.

Nelson blasted the move. “We are talking about taking privacy rights away from individuals if we suddenly eliminate this rule,” the Democrat said in a statement after the vote. “This is a gold mine of data, the Holy Grail, so to speak.”

“It is no wonder that broadband providers want to be able to sell this information to the highest bidder without the consumer's knowledge or consent,” Nelson continued. “And they want to collect and use this information without providing transparency or being held accountable. Is this what you want to inflict upon your constituents in your state by changing this rule about their personal, sensitive privacy?”

Rubio: "The FCC’s last-minute regulation was poorly conceived and held internet service providers to a different standard than other companies handling the same information, all while doing nothing to protect consumers’ privacy. It was important to overturn this burdensome rule so that we encourage innovation and investment instead of adding another complex layer of bureaucracy to the internet.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Miami Republicans will have to make up their minds on health care today

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@PatriciaMazzei

With a vote looming Thursday evening on House Republicans' healthcare bill, two of three Miami lawmakers whose districts have among the highest number of Affordable Care Act enrollees have yet to announce their support or opposition.

Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart have been undecided -- with Curbelo leaning "Yes" and Diaz-Balart leaning "No" -- since both voted for the American Health Care Act in different House committees.

Curbelo helped move the law out of the Ways and Means Committee before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that 14 million Americans would drop or lose their insurance coverage in 2018 under the law; Diaz-Balart helped break a tie to pass the legislation out of the Budget Committee, despite saying he had concerns with it.

The White House has been wooing Diaz-Balart and other ambivalent Republicans all week. Curbelo was among the group of moderates who met Wednesday night with House Speaker Paul Ryan. They reached no broad agreement.

The third Miami Republican, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, was the first Florida member of Congress to oppose the bill -- and she still does, she said Thursday.

"After studying the impact of this legislation on my constituents, I will vote no on this bill because it does not provide adequate solutions for the working poor, disabled, and elderly in South Florida," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "Too many of my constituents will be left paying more for coverage and many will be left without coverage at all. The cuts and changes to Medicaid will make it more difficult to effectively care for uninsured patients as well as individuals with high costs of coverage due to special needs or chronic diseases. Additionally, costs for seniors will increase significantly as insurance companies will charge older Americans exorbitantly high premiums and fees which many cannot afford."

Later, Ros-Lehtinen said in an interview on WIOD-AM (510) that any of the proposed cuts to "essential" healthcare benefits to appease the most conservative members of the GOP caucus would amount to a "humongous concession."

"Oh my gosh -- why have insurance?" she told host Fernand Amandi, who is also a Democratic pollster.

Amandi asked if the White House had tried to entice Ros-Lehtinen to change her mind. She said she'd gotten overtures from "people who never even knew I existed."

"I did get invited to bowl at the White House. Yaaaay!" she said. "But I turned that down."

Spokeswomen for Curbelo and Diaz-Balart said Thursday morning the lawmakers are in negotiation meetings over the bill all day.

A national Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday showed 56 percent of respondents oppose the AHCA, and only 17 percent support it.

This post has been updated.

Photo credit: Hector Gabino, el Nuevo Herald

Scramble for healthcare votes suddenly puts Cuba policy in play

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@PatriciaMazzei @ngameztorres

The showdown in Congress over House Republicans’ healthcare bill might have nothing to do with Raúl Castro — if it weren’t for Miami.

Thursday’s planned vote on the American Health Care Act is so razor tight that House GOP leaders and the White House are leaning hard on every single shaky Republican for their support. One of them: Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami, whose foremost want is to overturn the Obama administration’s Cuba opening — and who has recently taken it upon himself to outline a possible Cuba policy for the Trump administration.

Perhaps Diaz-Balart and the White House would engage in a little old-fashioned horse trading — a “Yes” vote on healthcare for swift action on Cuba?

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Diaz-Balart wanted assurances from White House officials that President Donald Trump would keep his campaign promise to take a harder Cuba line. There was no explicit discussion about trading a healthcare vote for a Cuba promise, The Times said after initially reporting otherwise.

“I wish that they would’ve given me a commitment on something, but that is just made up,” Diaz-Balart told McClatchy, the Miami Herald’s parent company, on Wednesday.

He added that he’s still undecided on the healthcare bill, mostly based on concerns about insurance coverage and premium costs for older Americans.

“I am very concerned that particularly that population is not being dealt with yet in a way that is giving me a lot of comfort,” he said.

Politically, he noted, it’s better not to be a hard “Yes” or “No”: “Once I do that, then I’m out of the loop.”

More here.

Photo credit: Roberto Koltun, el Nuevo Herald

March 22, 2017

White House angles for Diaz-Balart's vote on health care

FAZ22 ForunSeguridad News rk
@PatriciaMazzei

In a story Wednesday about the White House leaning on House Republicans to back the GOP healthcare bill, The New York Times reported that Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart used the hot political moment to reiterate that President Donald Trump promised to undo the Obama administration's Cuba policy.

For other House members, the health bill has been an opportunity to deal. As part of the discussions, Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, Republican of Florida, made it clear to White House officials that he wanted assurances that the president would hold to his pledge to consider reversing President Barack Obama’s opening with Cuba, the White House official said. Mr. Diaz-Balart backed the measure in the Budget Committee last week, although the official said there had been no explicit discussion of trading his vote for a promise on Cuba.

(An earlier version of the story incorrectly said Trump had pledged to Diaz-Balart he'd reverse the Obama policy in return for his vote.)

Diaz-Balart has made no secret that he's brought up Cuba every time he's had a chance to speak to top White House personnel. He was particularly friendly during the transition with Vice President Mike Pence. But a source told the Miami Herald on Wednesday that the Trump administration has yet to make any assurances or commitments on Cuba.

Diaz-Balart's spokeswoman, Katrina Valdés, said in an email Wednesday to the Herald and the Tampa Bay Times that, on health care, the congressman "is still reviewing the recent changes to the bill and continues to negotiate with House Leadership about multiple aspects of the bill, including how the legislation handles older, low income constituents."

A vote is planned for Thursday.


--with Alex Leary

Photo credit: Roberto Koltun, el Nuevo Herald

Rubio remains noncomittal on GOP healthcare bill

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio declined on Wednesday to take a position on the GOP's Obamacare replacement bill, saying it is a "work in progress."

"By the time I give you a statement now, that bill could change in the next 12 hours and then I'm on record of supporting something that changed," Rubio said on Jacksonville radio station WOKV.

He's right that the bill could change before the end of the day as Speaker Paul Ryan, President Trump and others are trying to rally enough votes. "They've got their own drama going on over there," Rubio said of the House.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Conservatives press Nelson on Gorsuch vote for Supreme Court

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via @learyreports

A conservative group is dropping new mailers in Florida today to keep up pressure on Sen. Bill Nelson to support Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court.

This is the second direct mail piece from Concerned Veterans for America, and it makes a patriotic appeal, asking if Nelson will "protect the freedoms you fought to defend."

"Each piece of mail directs citizens to call a CVA switchboard where they are informed about Neil Gorsuch’s record and then patched through to Senator Nelson’s office," the group said. It is also targeting Democratic senators in Indiana, North Dakota, West Virginia, Missouri, Colorado, Maine and Montana.

Nelson, facing re-election next year, has not said how he'll vote on Gorsuch.

UPDATE: The Republican National Commitee is also using a Facebook ad.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

March 21, 2017

Latino group pushes Curbelo, Diaz-Balart to vote against GOP health plan

@PatriciaMazzei

A liberal Latino group has become the latest organization to release ads to pressure Miami Republicans to oppose the House plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.

NCLR Action Fund -- as in the National Council of La Raza -- issued a "call to action" Tuesday asking lawmakers in key districts to vote against the American Health Care Act on Thursday. Among the targeted legislators: Miami Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart.

"The Affordable Care Act has provided over 4 million Latinos health insurance and millions more have gained greater access to quality health care," NCLRAF's political director, Rafael Collazo, said in a statement. "Latino voters want their federal officials to protect those gains. Voting for the AHCA would be an immense setback for Latinos."

The organization plans radio and digital ads in seven districts with significant Latino populations. The other five districts are represented by Will Hurd of Texas, Mike Coffman of Colorado, Jeff Denham of California, David Valadao of California and Darrell Issa of California.