February 08, 2017

GOP says it will target Crist, Murphy in 2018

via @learyreports

Florida Reps. Charlie Crist and Stephanie Murphy are among GOP targets for the midterm elections.

The National Republican Congressional Committee on Wednesday named 36 seats it will focus on in 2018. Crist and Murphy are in their first term.

The DCCC recently named its targets, which include FL-18, held by Rep. Brian Mast; FL-25, Mario Diaz-Balart; FL-26, Carlos Curbelo; and FL-27, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

January 28, 2017

What do South Florida politicians think of Trump's refugee order?

@PatriciaMazzei

The short answer: It's hard to say, because most of them have been silent.

The Miami Herald asked the offices of local members of Congress to comment Saturday on President Donald Trump’s order from late Friday, which cut the number of refugee admissions into the U.S. in half, immediately barred all refugees from entering the the country for four months, indefinitely banned all Syrian refugees, and prohibited entry of visitors from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — all Muslim-majority countries — for 90 days.

“I’m establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America,” Trump said Friday when he signed the order. “We don’t want them here.”

Implementation of the policy caused widespread confusion at major international airports, prompting some protests after people were detained. The American Civil Liberties Union sued Trump.

“It’s working out very nicely,” Trump said Saturday about his policy. “You see it at the airports, you see it all over.”

More here.

This post has been updated.

January 25, 2017

Miami lawmakers offer early praise for North Carolina senator's immigration plan

@PatriciaMazzei

A pair of Miami Republicans in Congress who back comprehensive immigration reform have given props to the beginnings of legislation being cobbled together by Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo applauded Tillis' "broad proposal that will tighten border security and enforce immigration laws, while also providing certainty and relief for immigrants who have been contributing to our country's economy."

"There is a great deal of anxiety among our immigrant communities, especially in South Florida," Curbelo said in a statement Wednesday, adding that he's met with Tillis to join his effort.

The Wall Street Journal quoted Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart on Tuesday calling Tillis' bipartisan approach "the only thing that would have a shot to pass the House or Senate."

Diaz-Balart was deeply involved in the previous, unsuccessful effort to pass an immigration bill in 2014. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, an original member of the Gang of Eight that put that legislation forward, has since abandoned support for a comprehensive approach.

Earlier this month, Curbelo joined a bipartisan group of House members, including Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, in re-introducing what's known as the BRIDGE Act, a law that would protect so-called Dreamers brought into the country illegally as children from deportation and give them temporary work authorization.

President Donald Trump is expected to sign executive orders on immigration Wednesday, though the White House has said undoing the protections for Dreamers helped by former President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program isn't a priority.

January 17, 2017

Still avoiding Trump talk, John Lewis visits Miami high school

via @KyraGurney

Before U.S. Rep. John Lewis took the stage in a Miami school auditorium Tuesday, local Pastor Carl Johnson led the assembled students in a prayer. He thanked God for Lewis' civil rights work and also addressed a more recent struggle: Lewis' back-and-forth with President-elect Donald Trump.   

"Thank you for allowing him to speak his conviction to President-elect Donald Trump," Johnson prayed.

But when Lewis took the stage, he did not mention his feud with Trump, which was sparked when the civil-rights legend and Democratic congressman from Georgia said in a pre-taped "Meet the Press" interview Friday that he did not see Trump as a legitimate president. Trump responded Saturday, Tweeting that Lewis “should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk — no action or results. Sad!”

Lewis did, however, tell the students assembled at iTech @ Thomas A. Edison Educational Center, a magnet high school in Little Haiti, about the excitement he felt eight years ago when President Barack Obama was inaugurated. Lewis said he cried that day, bittersweet tears for the people who never lived to see an African-American president.

"I was crying for our mothers and our fathers, our grandmothers and our grandfathers," Lewis said as the students cheered. "I was crying for those little girls that were killed in the church in Birmingham. I was crying for Dr. King and many others...people that didn't live to see that day." 

Lewis shared stories from the civil-rights movement with the students, including the famous march in Selma, Alabama, during which he suffered a skill fracture. He also encouraged the students, who are part of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, a mentoring and scholarship program founded by U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, to stay away from gun violence and to stand up for what they believe is right.

"As young men, you have an obligation, a mission and a mandate, you have a legacy to uphold," he said.   

After the speech, Lewis took a few questions from reporters, but refused to address the feud with Trump. He did confirm that he had also skipped Bush's inauguration in 2001, despite saying on "Meet the Press" that Trump's would be the first inaugural he'd boycott.

"We didn't attend it like so many other members of Congress did," Lewis said.   

--KYRA GURNEY

January 16, 2017

Miami congresswoman to Trump: ‘Please do not tweet anymore’

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson plans to skip Friday’s inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump – but not because she’s boycotting it, exactly.

The Miami Gardens Democrat never intended to attend, because her goddaughter’s getting married Saturday. A handful of Democratic members of Congress have said they won’t go to the inauguration in protest of Trump.

“My constituents have been calling and emailing me, asking me not to go to the inauguration,” Wilson told reporters in Miami on Monday. “They’re disturbed.”

Wilson said after Trump became the Republican nominee, she steeled herself to work with him – despite their ideological disagreements – on criminal justice issues. But Trump’s appointments have made her question her resolve.

“I’m wondering, ‘How can I work with him?’” she said.

Wilson spoke at a breakfast for her signature mentoring program, 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project. Her invited guest for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day event was U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who said Friday Trump isn’t a “legitimate president” because of Russian interference in the election. Trump followed up by slamming Lewis, a leader of the civil-rights movement, on Twitter.

“To have a president who responds to everything someone says on Twitter is disgraceful,” Wilson said. “He’s not a good role model for our children.”

“Please do not tweet anymore,” Wilson implored Trump. “All it does is, it causes divisions in our country. People have the right to express their opinions. You don’t have to tweet a response to everything a public official says. That is so unpresidential.”

January 14, 2017

Miami GOP lawmakers won't ask Trump to reinstate special immigration status for Cubans

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@PatriciaMazzei @lesleyclark @ngameztorres

For all the bluster Miami’s Cuban-American Republicans in Congress delivered after President Barack Obama’s stunning decision Thursday to dispose of a decades-old U.S. policy favoring Cuban immigrants, the likelihood of President-elect Donald Trump reversing the decision seems almost nonexistent.

And Cuban-American lawmakers seem to know it: By Friday, some of them were reluctantly conceding that they don’t even intend to ask Trump to reinstate “wet foot/dry foot,” the policy that allowed any Cuban who arrived on U.S. soil to legally remain in the country.

“It was going to happen, sooner or later: some reform, some change,” U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen acknowledged to the Miami Herald.

She criticized Obama for making a sudden, “arbitrary” move with no lawmaker input. But she also predicted the policy would not have lasted another year.

“Congress would have done away with it — we would have reformed it. Something needed to be done,” she said. “Shame on us for not fixing it. But to do this within one week of his presidency ending?”

Trump, who last year said Cubans’ special treatment wasn’t “fair,” remained uncharacteristically silent Friday about Obama’s move, saying nothing on his preferred platform — Twitter — or through his transition team, which ignored repeated emailed requests for comment.

More here.

Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff

January 13, 2017

Where would Obamacare repeal be felt most? Miami

House Republicans Obamacare
via @lesleyclark

WASHINGTON -- Perhaps nowhere in America would so many people be as personally affected by the Republican-led repeal of Obamacare than Miami.

Three congressional districts – all represented by Republicans – have among the highest number of Affordable Care Act enrollees in the country, posing a bit of a wrinkle as those House members prepare to follow their Senate colleagues and vote Friday to begin the process of dismantling the 2010 federal law that has extended health insurance to as many as 20 million Americans.

There are 96,300 people enrolled in the Florida district represented by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, the highest number in the country, according to estimates by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Her district is followed closely by Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, whose southwest Miami-Dade and Monroe County district has 92,500 enrolled in the insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act.

Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, who opposes rescinding the law, has the third-greatest number at 94,100, followed by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, whose Hialeah to Naples district has 83,300 enrolled.

Ros-Lehtinen acknowledged the incongruity, noting that many in her district are worried about losing what she called the “positive aspects” of President Barack Obama’s signature law, including keeping children on their parents’ insurance through 26 and covering pre-existing conditions.

More here.

Photo credit: J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

Miami congressman joins bipartisan group extending Trump offer to work together on infrastructure, tax reform

@PatriciaMazzei

A bipartisan group of members of Congress extended an invitation to President-elect Donald Trump on Friday to work together on issues with broad appeal across political-party lines, such as rebuilding infrastructure and reforming the tax code.

Among the 23 representatives taking part in the self-titled "Problem Solvers" caucus: U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Miami Republican who didn't vote for Trump but said he's willing to work with him in areas where they share common ground. Curbelo was recently appointed to the Ways and Means Committee that writes tax law.

"Washington is running out of time to restore citizens' trust in our government," they wrote. "People are angry and they have a right to be. But we believe the next administration and Congress have a brief window to turn it around; to show the people that we are capable of coming together to fix the problems that are harming the health, wealth and well-being of so many families."

Read their letter here.

January 11, 2017

Jacksonville congressman collapses in U.S. Capitol

via @learyreports @PatriciaMazzei

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, R-Jacksonville, collapsed during voting Wednesday night and was removed from the Capitol on a stretcher, according to reports.

"He appeared to be receiving oxygen through a mask," according to The Hill. "GOP lawmakers emerged from the vote a short time later, saying Rutherford had been 'stabilized.' "

An email to Rutherford's office has not yet been returned. The Florida Times-Union reported Rutherford, a 64-year-old freshman and former Jacksonville sheriff sworn in eight days ago, was "conscious and alert" at the hospital, according to a spokesman.

Later Wednesday, Rutherford's chief of staff, Kelly Simpson, said in a statement the congressman had not suffered a heart attack, contrary to some media reports.

"Congressman Rutherford is conscious, alert and in good spirits," she said. "He did not suffer a heart attack, but he continues to be evaluated by doctors. A further update on the Congressman's condition will be provided once doctors have finished their evaluation.

"The Rutherford family appreciates the prayers, thoughts and support they have received this evening."

January 04, 2017

Flanked by Miami congressman, Obama brings healthcare fight to Capitol

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via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson was at President Obama's side Wednesday morning as he arrived on Capitol Hill to strategize with Democrats how to protect the Affordable Care Act.

More Floridians have enrolled in Obamacare than any other state and South Florida is a big driver of that.

But that hasn't stopped criticism of the cost and Donald Trump won the state in November, vowing to "repeal and replace" the law. Gov. Rick Scott has said he wants to play a role in the dismantling, serving as a bridge between Washington and the states.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence was also on the Hill Wednesday to talk with Republicans, who Democrats are counting on struggling to produce an alternative health care delivery system.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times