May 24, 2017

South Florida congressman wants Trump to pay for Mar-a-Lago travel

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- This bill won’t go anywhere, but give Rep. Alcee Hastings creative points with the TRUMPED Act, aka Taxpayers Require Urgent Mandatory Protection from Egregious Debt Act of 2017:

“Since President Donald John Trump’s election, my Congressional offices have received numerous calls and letters expressing concern over his use of Mar-a-lago as an almost weekly retreat. His constant use of his own property is padding his own pockets with taxpayer money, while significantly harming local businesses and straining primary law enforcement agencies to the brink. For instance, over just one holiday alone, the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office was forced to absorb $250,000 in unforeseen expenses.

“It is offensive that President Trump insists on a budget that unequivocally, and without mercy, attacks hardworking Americans, and then has the audacity to turn around and insist that our local police officers, first responders and small businesses suffer under his insistence that he be allowed to enjoy a lavish life style at taxpayer expense.

“That is why I introduced the TRUMPED Act. The bill is based on a simple premise: if President Trump wants to make continual use of his properties, then he may do so, but he can't have taxpayers foot the bill.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Regalado casts herself as Ros-Lehtinen's political heir

IMG_Whither_Regalado__2__2_1_759SRKUS_L272473723
@PatriciaMazzei

As she mulled a run for Congress, Raquel Regalado was nagged by a question she said was posed to her again and again that might not usually be asked of male candidate.

"The first question that I was asked was, 'How are you going to be a mother and a congresswoman?'" Regalado said Tuesday at a women-centered Miami Young Republicans event where she kicked off her candidacy. "I think it's sad that we're in a place where people still ask those questions."

With that, Regalado, a former Miami-Dade County School Board member, portrayed herself as the political heir to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the retiring GOP congresswoman Regalado is hoping to replace.

Regalado didn't explicitly draw the line between her nascent candidacy and Ros-Lehtinen's trailblazing political career. But it was clear that, as the most prominent Republican woman who's filed for the Democratic-leaning 27th district, Regalado plans to campaign as a politician cast in Ros-Lehtinen's centrist mold.

Ros-Lehtinen has been a frequent GOP critic of President Donald Trump. Regalado didn't endorse him last year, and preemptively dismissed the suggestion that Republican voters -- especially in blue Miami-Dade -- want candidates to echo the president. (Her biggest opponent so far, Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, appeared as a Trump surrogate at South Florida rallies.)

"This is not about a particular person," Regalado said, referring to Trump. "This is about having a party that represents its residents.... The party, to be successful, has to have different voices." 

Regalado's answer to how she'd juggle motherhood and Congress, by the way, was that her children were born into a political family and are used to the balance. Her father is Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado.

"They don't know any better," Raquel Regalado said, citing her school board experience as positive for her two children, since they benefited from her focus on policies to help kids on the autistic spectrum, as they are.

"I told them, 'Going to Congress would be the best thing that could happen to my family,'" she said.

 

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

May 23, 2017

On House floor, lawmakers urge 'decisive' U.S. steps on Venezuela

@PatriciaMazzei

Five members of Congress from both political parties took to the House floor Tuesday evening to deliver a series of related speeches denouncing the Venezuelan government of President Nicolás Maduro.

The lawmakers, two of them from Florida, urged further U.S. sanctions. Last week, the Trump administration penalized eight Venezuelan Supreme Court judges, citing their short-lived decision earlier this year to strip legislative power from the elected National Assembly.

"The situation in Venezuela is becoming more desperate by the day: the humanitarian situation is worsening, the Maduro regime continues its flagrant human rights abuses, and despite the latest round of sanctions issued by the Treasury Department, the United States needs to take more decisive steps in support of the Venezuelan people," said Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who led the effort.

Also speaking were Reps. Albio Sires, D-New Jersey; Joaquin Castro, D-Texas; Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, and Jeff Duncan, R-South Carolina.

Florida lawmakers unimpressed by Trump budget

via @learyreports

President Trump's budget proposal brought negative reviews from Florida Democrats and little reaction from Republicans, a telling sign of overall lack of enthusiasm.

"This plan cuts some of our most critical programs including Medicaid and food stamps," said Sen. Bill Nelson. "It also cuts funding to agencies such as NIH, which is working to find cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s, and the EPA, which protects our environment. Slashing these vital programs will hurt millions of hardworking families. We should be focused on helping people, not hurting those who need our help the most.”

Nelson said the budget would also eliminate Amtrak service in Florida. More than 950,000 Floridians used the service in the last fiscal year.

Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart: “As a member of the Appropriations and Budget Committees, I will thoughtfully review and consider the President’s request. The Constitution is clear in that funding decisions are ultimately in the hands of Congress, and it is critical we ensure hard earned taxpayer dollars are well spent.  I look forward to working with Chairman Frelinghuysen, Chairwoman Black, and the White House to put together a fiscally responsible budget.”

Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo: “Today’s budget proposed by the Administration does not reflect the appropriate allocation of funds to get our country back on sound fiscal footing. From cuts to agencies needed to protect our environment and combat the threats of climate change, to cuts to our safety nets for the most-needy Americans, to complete slashing of public broadcasting funds, this budget abandons progress already made on programs that enjoy bipartisan support. As the House looks to begin its own budget and appropriations process, my colleagues and I will work to ensure many of these programs remain adequately funded."

We've asked Sen. Marco Rubio for comment.

Rep. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee: "In my district, one in every four Floridians has been on food stamps at some point over the last 12 months. That is twice the national average. It is unconscionable for the President to propose cutting nutrition benefits at any level, because any reduction would mean less for those in North Florida who need it most. Every day, children who qualify for free breakfast and lunch attend school and are fed the only meals they will receive that day because their parents can’t afford to feed them. We put hard-working Floridians in the no-win position of having to choose between paying their light bill or affording healthy food. This is unacceptable."

Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg: "A budget is a reflection of our principles and this proposal illustrates a complete lack of values. It decimates vital programs – from environmental protections to public education to medical research. It cuts taxes for the very wealthy while leaving the poor, sick, and disabled out in the cold. It doubles down on cruel cuts to Medicaid – despite promising not to touch it. In Pinellas County where 40% of our children depend on Medicaid and CHIP for their care, what could be more heartless? This budget is fiscally irresponsible and morally repugnant.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Here's ad from Ryan-backed group 'thanking' Curbelo for healthcare vote

@PatriciaMazzei

The promised TV ad from a political nonprofit backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan to praise Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo and other vulnerable Republicans who voted for the American Health Care Act is here.

American Action Network pledged to politically back House lawmakers who supported the Obamacare replacement legislation, a priority for Ryan and President Donald Trump. Curbelo and 20 other Republicans who voted "yes" could face challenging reelection races in their swing districts next year. Curbelo has yet to draw an opponent.

The ad features a California woman who lost her doctor under the Affordable Care Act. It will be tailored to each of the representatives' districts. The only other Florida Republican also getting the help is Rep. Brian Mast of Hutchinson Island.

The bill still hasn't moved in the Senate.

 This post's headline has been changed to avoid confusion with Ryan's political arm, "Team Ryan."

May 19, 2017

Curbelo alluded to impeachment. His critics took to Facebook.

Curbelo3 refugee lnew cmg
@PatriciaMazzei

The comments came in fast and furious Friday after Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo published a Facebook post to explain his thoughts on the wild week of White House news.

"You spineless piece of crap," began a commenter named Dan Capote, who urged Curbelo to stand by President Donald Trump.

In a flurry of national TV interviews, Curbelo had suggested Trump might have obstructed justice -- an impeachable offense -- if, as reported first by the New York Times, he asked former FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating Russian ties to former National Security adviser Michael Flynn.

"It has been YOU obstructing justice," wrote a commenter named Stephanie Paige who apparently wanted Curbelo to be more critical of the president. "I want you to actively oppose the wrong you see- NOT vote to hide & obstruct the truth!"

Curbelo had set off the conversation by saying that, amid the controversy, the "main priority at this time is to seek out the truth and lay out the facts with transparency."

"My sincere hope is that no one in our government is guilty of any wrongdoing and that we can move beyond this difficult time in our country's politics," he wrote. "In the meantime, we should all make an effort to remain sober and measured as we take in all the news."

The comments were anything but.

A few hours later, Curbelo responded:

"Fascinating and entertaining to read the diversity of responses to this post. It's impossible for all of you to be right. However, it is quite possible that all of you are wrong," he wrote.

"A few points for all of you 1) My loyalty is to our community, our country, the Constitution, and the truth. Sorry if that's inconvenient or unacceptable to some. 2) I have 0 interest in a career in Congress. I just want to do the best that I can while I'm there. 3) Some of you should really consider taking a deep breath (count to 10; or maybe 100). So much anger and hate is unhealthy. Would you be proud to show your children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews your expressions? I wouldn't. 4) Have a good weekend. I hope that at some point we can all come together as one nation under God." 

Photo credit: C.M. Guerrero, el Nuevo Herald

May 17, 2017

South Florida lawmakers welcome special counsel on Russia

Trump_Russia_Probe_97048

@PatriciaMazzei

The Justice Department's appointment Wednesday of former FBI Director Robert Mueller to lead the investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 election was met with praise from Florida lawmakers.

Republicans in particular have spent the past two days fielding question after question about the White House's handling not only of former FBI Director James Comey's firing, but also of classified information President Donald Trump shared with the Russians.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida:

"Bob Mueller has the experience to conduct a thorough investigation. Now, the administration must provide him the resources and independent authority he needs to follow the facts wherever they lead."

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida:

"Mr. Mueller is widely respected for his independence and professionalism. I have confidence that he will conduct a fair and thorough investigation. For the sake of the country, all parties must fully cooperate with his efforts that are focused on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. This effort should in no way be allowed to impede the ability of the Senate Intelligence Committee to conduct and conclude its investigation into the same subject. It is my hope that these investigations will now move expeditiously."

Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami:

"This is a very positive development, it is evidence that this Administration is taking this Russia probe seriously, that this is going to be a probe that is independent," Curbelo told MSNBC. (Earlier, he had maintained to the Washington Post that a select committee appointed by Congress would be best.)

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami:

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami:

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston:

“I’m encouraged by the Justice Department’s decision to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Trump-Russia connection, and I have a deep respect for former FBI Director Mueller. Assuming he is given true independence, this appointment will remove some of the clouds that have hung over our system of justice during this deeply troubling situation. It’s certainly overdue.

However, the investigation must include Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, the Kremlin’s possible ties to the Trump campaign, and the President’s alleged interference in the Michael Flynn investigation. This is a positive step, but more still needs to be done to ensure that we provide the whole truth to the American people.”

Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens:

“="The appointment of Robert Mueller to investigate possible ties between President Trump’s campaign and the Russian government is a long-awaited step in the right direction. After a week of constant controversy, Americans’ faith in government may begin to be restored.

"I applaud Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for having the courage to name a special counselor, a decision that Mr. Trump has denounced as a “witch hunt.” My view is that if there is no connection between the president or his campaign and Russia, he should have nothing to worry about. But the news that the president’s team knew that General Michael Flynn was under investigation and hired him anyway, underscores the need for the Russia probe.

"Mr. Mueller is widely viewed as a man of the highest integrity who can be counted on to maintain that standard. I hope he will have all of the authority and resources necessary to conduct a thorough investigation, no matter where it may lead him, without any interference by the White House."

Photo credit: J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press file

Looks like Curbelo was first Republican lawmaker to suggest Trump could be impeached

Congress Republicans
@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo appears to have been the first Republican member of Congress to publicly suggest it might rise to an impeachable offense — obstruction of justice — if President Donald Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s Russia ties.

Curbelo acknowledged the possibility of impeachment when speaking to Capitol Hill reporters Tuesday afternoon, and later repeated it Tuesday night on CNN.

“I was just being honest,” Curbelo said Wednesday in an interview with the Miami Herald, in which he called impeachment still “premature.” “Any effort to impede or interfere with a federal investigation is by definition obstruction of justice, and there’s precedent for the House to consider obstruction of justice an impeachable offense.”

The distinction of being the first Republican to raise impeachment didn’t come up until Michigan Rep. Justin Amash made similar comments Wednesday.

The Hill, a Washington publication, identified Amash as the first Republican to mention impeachment after the New York Times reported Tuesday about a Comey memo recounting Trump’s request. 

“I hope you can let this go,” Trump told Comey, according to Comey’s notes recounted to the Times.

Curbelo’s office had to point out to The Hill that the Miami congressman had actually beat Amash to it. That prompted an update to The Hill’s story — and a correction in a Mother Jones story that had cited The Hill.

 

Photo credit: Cliff Owen, Associated Press

Nelson asks Homeland Security to extend protected status for Haitians

Nelson Venezuela (1)
@PatriciaMazzei

Sen. Bill Nelson asked the Trump administration Wednesday to extend a temporary protected status, or TPS, for nearly 60,000 Haitians living in the U.S. following the 2010 earthquake.

"I understand that the Government of Haiti is working on a plan to further rebuild and develop the country so that its people can make their lives there," Nelson wrote in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. "To allow for successful implementation of its plan, the Government requests that you extend TPS for Haitian nationals for another 18 months."

Paul Altidor, the Haitian ambassador to the U.S., told the Florida Democrat that the country is still trying to recover from the earthquake and a 2016 hurricane, according to Nelson's office.

Last month, following reports that the White House might seek to end TPS, Nelson asked Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to extend the protection.

Here's the text of Nelson's latest letter:

Continue reading "Nelson asks Homeland Security to extend protected status for Haitians" »

As Trump World turns, Republican lawmakers are forced to react. And react. And react.

681525436 (1)
@PatriciaMazzei

It’s become de rigueur for members of Congress: another day, another request from reporters to comment on the latest crisis overtaking the White House.

This week, the questions centered on the momentous revelations that President Donald Trump gave classified information to Russia in the Oval Office — and that fired FBI Director James Comey wrote a memo saying Trump asked him to drop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Democrats have been uniformly critical. But for many Republican lawmakers, navigating the halls of the U.S. Capitol has turned into an exercise in deploying deliberately cautious language — while also sounding increasingly frustrated with the Trump administration.

Take, for example, Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

Curbelo, one of the most threatened GOP congressmen, is a frequent Trump critic who had been facing stinging criticism in his Democratic-leaning district for voting for House Republicans’ healthcare legislation. He backs the formation of a select committee to investigate the allegations against Trump.

More here.

Photo credit: Aaron P. Bernstein, Getty Images