December 26, 2015

Miami congressman suffers Christmas hoverboard accident


Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo's got his arm in a sling for Christmas. The culprit: His nephew's hoverboard (and not, as previously reported, his daughter's).

December 24, 2015

AP: Gyrocopter protester to challenge DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz

WASHINGTON — A Florida man who landed a gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol as a political protest says he will run for the congressional seat held by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Douglas Hughes, a Democrat from Ruskin, Florida, said earlier this month that he intended to run for Congress but only indicated he would challenge a South Florida Democrat. In a court filing Wednesday, he says he will run in Florida's 23rd District, which Wasserman Schultz represents.

Hughes was arrested April 15 after flying through restricted airspace over and around the Capitol. He agreed to plead guilty to a felony and will be sentenced next year. His lawyers argue that the conviction does not make him ineligible to run for Congress.

December 21, 2015

Trying to fend off potential rivals, Annette Taddeo picks up No. 2 Democrat in House


Democratic Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who holds his party's No. 2 post in the U.S. House of Representatives, backed Miami congressional candidate Annette Taddeo on Sunday.

In a statement provided to the Miami Herald by Taddeo's campaign, Hoyer called her "among our best candidates" in 2016.

"Her tenacity, compassion, and unwavering commitment to South Florida's future will make her an effective member of Congress," said Hoyer, of Maryland.

He "enthusiastically" encouraged others to back Taddeo too, and her campaign said Hoyer would headline a New Year fundraiser for her Jan. 2.

The endorsement is part of Taddeo's ongoing effort to fend off potential rivals Joe Garcia and Andrew Korge, who are considering jumping into the primary race for the 26th congressional district, which is currently held by Republican Carlos Curbelo.

Last week, Taddeo revealed the endorsement of Rep. Linda Sanchez of California, the chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Before that came the support from local Reps. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach and Alcee Hastings of Delray Beach.

December 18, 2015

How South Florida members of Congress voted on budget deal


The U.S. House and Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending and tax-cut package Friday, called the "omnibus" bill. All of South Florida's House members, Republican and Democratic, voted for it. So did Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio missed the vote -- he's campaigning for president in Iowa. He nevertheless issued a statement against it.

The Florida Republican House members voting no: Curt Clawson, Ron DeSantis, Jeff Miller, Bill Posey, Dan Webster and Ted Yoho.

Here's a compilation about what some of the lawmakers had to say:

Continue reading "How South Florida members of Congress voted on budget deal" »

December 17, 2015

2 South Florida members of Congress endorse Annette Taddeo


Two South Florida Democrats in Congress this week endorsed Annette Taddeo, who is challenging Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo in the 26th district.

Reps. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach and Alcee Hastings of Delray Beach backed Taddeo ahead of the 2016 election. Their support isn't geared at winning over any donors, but rather at signaling political donors and other potential candidates -- namely former Rep. Joe Garcia and Andrew Korge, the son of Hillary Clinton fundraiser Chris Korge -- that Taddeo has the Democratic establishment behind her.

"In Congress, Annette will bring those voices to the forefront of the fight for a stronger economy, more access and opportunities for small businesses and women-owned enterprises, and a resilient middle class — so everyone in the South Florida community can have a seat at the table," Hastings said in a statement distributed by Taddeo's campaign.

"Annette Taddeo has been a long time champion for seniors, women, and working people," Frankel said in the statement. "She is ready to take her advocacy to Congress and I look forward to working beside her. She has my enthusiastic support."

December 15, 2015

Miami Republican files legislation to end automatic benefits for Cuban immigrants



Citing flagrant abuse of government funds, a Miami congressman published legislation Tuesday to stop automatically granting Cubans in the U.S. welfare benefits that take most immigrants of other nationalities years to obtain.

Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, himself a Cuban American, filed a bill to amend existing federal law that treats all Cuban arrivals as refugees or political asylees — meaning they are entitled to food stamps, Medicaid, disability insurance and other assistance.

Under his proposal, Cubans would be treated like immigrants from most other countries, who are required to file a refugee or asylum claim — and wait years for it to be approved — before qualifying for special benefits. Only Haitian immigrants, already treated like Cubans under the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980, would continue to be exempted, would continue to be exempted upon legal arrival in the U.S.

“Cubans coming to the United States will have the same opportunity as immigrants from other nations like Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Central America — from any country — to work and earn an honest living while contributing to our great nation,” Curbelo said in a web video released Tuesday to explain his proposal. “Like asylum seekers from all over the world, those Cubans seeking public assistance benefits will have to demonstrate that they left Cuba fleeing political persecution and are unable to return under the current totalitarian regime.”

His proposal would only affect Cubans who immigrate to the U.S. after his law is passed.

Curbelo’s three-page bill doesn’t touch the Cuban Adjustment Act, the 1966 law that gives Cubans the privilege of applying for permanent residency after 366 days in the U.S. They would still qualify for all eligible federal benefits as residents and later citizens.

But Curbelo acknowledged his legislation, HR 4247, dubbed the “Cuban Immigrant Work Opportunity Act of 2015,” is a “first step” toward rewriting U.S.-Cuba immigration policy, which would eventually involve tackling the CAA.

More here.

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

Ag commissioner, congressman seek federal disaster aid for South Florida farmers


via @jenstaletovich

Federal disaster aid is being sought for South Florida farmers who said Monday that many fields remain under water more than a week after heavy rain triggered widespread flooding.

At a press conference called by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo said he has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to declare flooded farmlands a disaster so farmers can apply for relief, including loans. Farmers say they’ve lost millions in crops, although the final tally is still being calculated.

A half-dozen farmers who attended the meeting also complained that water managers did too little in advance after forecasts called for heavy rain.

“We’ve been through worse and never had water standing for this long,” said farmer Mike Causely, who lost 300 acres of beans and sweet corn. He said low interest loans would not likely help: “You know what a loan is in our industry? Another rope to hang yourself with.”

On Dec. 3, the region was hit with heavy rain that lasted three days, becoming the wettest three-day period since 2000. Water managers tracking forecasts had started lowering water levels in canals, clearing vegetation and manning pumps round the clock to deal with the deluge. But when a second round of heavy rain hit two days later, the system backed up, flooding streets from Homestead to Kendall and leaving hundreds of acres of farmland in the middle of a winter growing season underwater.

More here.

Photo: Courtesy South Florida Water Management District

December 10, 2015

Son of prominent Hillary Clinton donor mulling Miami congressional run


The son of a major South Florida Democratic political donor may try to unseat a Miami Republican congressman, now that the district has been redrawn to be more favorable to Democratic candidates.

Andrew Korge, son of Hillary Clinton fundraiser Chris Korge, has called several financial backers to see if they'd support his rookie candidacy for Congress against U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo -- who is already challenged by Democrat Annette Taddeo.

In a statement to the Miami Herald, the younger Korge acknowledged Thursday he's thinking of jumping in the race.

"Numerous community leaders, Democratic donors, and citizens have encouraged me to consider several options including running in 2016 for the seat currently held by Carlos Curbelo," the statement read in part. "After knocking on more than a thousand doors over the past few months, it is also very clear that people are hungry for leaders who will work to strengthen the middle class, provide a living wage, protect our environment from big oil's destructive ways, and have a 21st century view of foreign policy. Though Congressman Curbelo has attempted to paint himself as a moderate, he has failed to lead on all of these important issues and continues to support policy ideas that have failed for decades.

"With all of that said, I have not made a decision yet. I first need to determine what is best for my family and for the citizens I seek to represent. Once I do this, I will make a final decision."

Florida's protracted redistricting saga had prompted Korge to fundraise for a Florida Senate campaign without having a specific seat to seek. He filed his candidacy for 2020, to replace Miami Democratic Sen. Gwen Margolis -- betting that Margolis might retire in 2016, and Korge would have a leg up in the race. State Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach is also a candidate for the seat.

But Margolis hasn't announced her retirement, and Korge has said he doesn't want to take on the longtime incumbent. He'd have to move -- possibly to Broward or Palm Beach county -- to run for another Democratic-leaning district, assuming he doesn't want to mount a primary campaign against any other sitting Democrat.

Korge and his father met recently with former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, Curbelo's predecessor whose name has lingered as a potential 2016 candidate. Garcia has apparently yet to decide on a run, and the meeting ended without the clarity Korge sought. Garcia did not respond Thursday to a request for comment. He and Taddeo, both former chairpersons of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, remain friendly.

Continue reading "Son of prominent Hillary Clinton donor mulling Miami congressional run" »

December 09, 2015

Democrats go after Miami GOP congressman on guns


Democrats will start airing a radio ad Thursday in Miami against Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo, who along with the rest of the GOP caucus blocked debate last week on legislation to ban gun sales to people on the federal no-fly list.

"Congressman Carlos Curbelo voted to keep allowing suspected terrorists to buy assault rifles," the ad says. "Call him at 305-222-0160 and demand he keep us safe."

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee purchased the ad to run only through the end of the week. Democrats have pushed for gun legislation in the wake of the deadly Paris terrorist attacks and the Planned Parenthood clinic shooting in Colorado -- which were followed a few days later by a shooting in San Bernardino, California.

House Republicans voted unanimously against a procedural motion -- tacked on to other, unrelated legislation -- that would have allowed debate on the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act, characterizing the proposal as a knee-jerk reaction.

In a statement, Curbelo spokeswoman Nicole Rapanos accused the DCCC of "lying," noting the group's part -- it sent fliers -- in boosting a ringer tea-party candidate illegally propped up by the campaign of Curbelo's predecessor, Democrat Joe Garcia, in a 2010 race.

"In Congress, Carlos has been a major advocate for strengthening our national security and opposes allowing terror suspects to purchase firearms," she said.

The freshman faces a 2016 challenge from Democrat Annette Taddeo.

This post has been updated.

December 04, 2015

Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio split on transportation bill

via @learyreports

The U.S. Senate on Thursday night passed a five-year, $305 billion transportation bill that was heralded by both parties as a breakthrough.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson voted for it. Sen. Marco Rubio opposed the bill.


"Because of this bill, we’re going to provide states and communities with over $300 billion over five years to repair the roads and bridges of this country and greatly improve rail and port projects," Nelson said on the Senate floor. And, as a result, we are going to create jobs. In my state of Florida, this translates to $12 billion that can be used for improvements on Interstates 95, Interstate 75 and the projects such as SunRail, Tri-Rail and the streetcars in Fort Lauderdale.”


“Modernizing our nation’s infrastructure is necessary in order to have a 21st century economy. But having a 21st century infrastructure doesn’t mean simply spending money, it means empowering states with greater autonomy to prioritize the infrastructure needs of their communities, as Senator Mike Lee has proposed (Transportation Empowerment Act). I do not support the FAST Act because it spends too much, preserves Washington’s power in picking winners and losers in transportation funding, and even revives the crony capitalist Export-Import Bank.

“The Export-Import Bank’s revival in this bill is especially offensive to taxpayers who want to end corporate welfare handouts and let the free market finance overseas investments by American companies. The time and effort that both parties in Washington have put into reviving the Export-Import Bank is just another example of how out of touch our federal government has become. Our work to end the Export-Import Bank will continue, and we will succeed.” 

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times