March 21, 2017

Trump signs NASA bill in Oval Office, with Nelson at his side

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Some issues transcend partisan politics, so it was not surprising to see Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson next to President Donald Trump this morning for the signing of the NASA Authorization Act. (Republican Sen. Marco Rubio was there too, to the right of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and cut off in the photo.)

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Screen capture via @NASASpaceflight


Club for Growth kicks off ads urging Ros-Lehtinen to oppose 'Ryancare'


The conservative Club for Growth wants Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to hold firm on her opposition to the House GOP healthcare plan.

The group has kicked off a TV and digital ad campaign asking Ros-Lehtinen to vote no. She has already said she will -- but not for the reasons endorsed by the Club for Growth. Ros-Lehtinen says the bill would hurt too many people in her district insured under the Affordable Care Act. The Club considers the legislation, backed by Speaker Paul Ryan, not conservative enough.

“The RyanCare bill fails to keep President Trump’s promises of interstate competition and health insurance deregulation,” Club for Growth President David McIntosh said in a statement. “Republicans promised a bill that would stop Obamacare’s taxes and mandates, and replace them with free-market reforms that will increase health insurance competition and drive down costs. RyanCare fails on those counts and that’s why the Club is letting millions of constituents know that their Representative should reject RyanCare.”

The $500,000 ad campaign will target Ros-Lehtinen and nine other Republican lawmakers: Leonard Lance of New Jersey, Tom MacArthur of New Jersey, John Katko of New York, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Rob Wittman of Virginia, Peter King of New York, Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Darrell Issa of California and Don Bacon of Nebraska.


March 20, 2017

Labor union targets Curbelo on 'Trumpcare'


A liberal labor organization has begun a web campaign urging Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo to oppose the House GOP's healthcare legislation.

UNITE HERE is going after 15 Republicans in moderate districts with its "Don't Tax Our Health Care" campaign, which includes web ads, direct mail, neighborhood canvassing and protests outside lawmakers' offices, according to the organization.

“Trumpcare is a disaster for working people,”UNITE HERE President D. Taylor said in a statement. “It fulfills none of the promises that Trump and the Republicans ran on. Where’s the better coverage at lower costs? How does this rein in out-of-pocket and prescription drug costs? The truth is Trumpcare isn’t about fixing the ACA with ‘insurance for everybody’ that would be ‘much less expensive and much better,’ as President Trump promised. It’s about destroying it with a half a trillion-dollar tax cut for the rich on the backs of the poor, the sick, and the vast majority of Americans who get coverage through work.”

Curbelo is getting hit from all sides on the healthcare plan, which is scheduled for a House vote on Thursday. A political committee affiliated with Speaker Paul Ryan is imploring the congressman to back the legislation. Curbelo already voted for it once, on the Ways and Means Committee, but has since noted he has "concerns" after the Congressional Budget Office found millions of Americans would drop or lose insurance coverage.


Ros-Lehtinen, unlike other Republicans, questions FBI chief about Russian election meddling

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As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen got to question FBI chief James Comey on Monday. But unlike some of her GOP colleagues, she steered clear of any talk about leaks to reporters about FBI investigations -- and focused rather on the investigations themselves, into Russian meddling into the U.S. presidential election.

It was during Ros-Lehtinen's questioning that Comey made the -- perhaps underappreciated -- admission that hackers will probably try to interfere with future elections, too.

"They'll be back in 2020. They may be back in 2018," he conceded, noting that cyber actors may consider their "sowing discord" in the 2016 campaign to have been a success.

"We will follow the facts wherever they lead, on a bipartisan level," Ros-Lehtinen said about the committee's investigation. "And there will be no sacred cows."

That time Rubio asked, 'Can this country afford to have a president under investigation by the FBI?'

via @learyreports

Days before the presidential election, Marco Rubio asked a crowd in Punta Gorda, "Can this country afford to have a president under investigation by the FBI?"

"No," the audience shouted.

That comment, captured by the liberal opposition research group American Bridge, was directed at Hillary Clinton. But it has a new meaning Monday as the FBI confirmed it has an ongoing investigation into Russian involvement in the election and possible ties to the Trump associates, which would include Roger Stone.

We have asked for Rubio's reaction to today's House Intelligence Committee hearing and will update if he responds.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Still no decision from Bill Nelson on Gorsuch vote

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Bill Nelson remains undecided on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, a spokesman said this morning as the confirmation hearing begins.

Nelson faces pressure from the left and right over Gorsuch. The Florida Democrat met with Gorsuch for about an hour earlier this month Nelson discussed his concerns about the suppression of voting rights and the amount of undisclosed, unlimited money in campaigns.

Republicans have targeted Nelson and other Democrats who saw their states go to Donald Trump in the November election.

Nelson is up for re-election next year and his decision will likely play a role in the campaign.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio today sent an email to supporters that called Gorsuch "a highly qualified, mainstream jurist. Most importantly, he is committed to the principles of original intent and judicial restraint. This is critical, because too many in the federal judiciary today believe it is appropriate for judges to invent new policies and rights instead of interpreting and defending the Constitution as it is written."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

New batch of digital ads pressure Curbelo, Ros-Lehtinen to back GOP health plan


Ahead of this week's expected House vote on the Republican healthcare plan, a political group linked to Speaker Paul Ryan is putting out a new batch of digital ads meant to nudge two South Florida members of Congress to vote in favor.

Starting Monday, American Action Network's web campaign will target 29 Republican lawmakers, including Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, both of Miami, whose Democratic-leaning districts have among the highest number of Obamacare enrollees in the country.

"Tell Congress it's time for better health care," the display ads say. There will also be video ads.

Ros-Lehtinen has said she won't vote for the American Health Care Act as written because it would leave too many people uninsured. Curbelo, who voted for it in committee, late last week expressed some concerns and said he would work with Ryan and other House leaders to improve the legislation. American Action Network had already backed Curbelo with TV ads to bolster his position.

A vote is planned for Thursday,

March 14, 2017

Ros-Lehtinen opposes GOP health plan that 'leaves too many' uninsured


Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen plans to vote against the House GOP plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, becoming the first Florida Republican to reject the legislation outright.

“After studying the impact of this proposed legislation on my district and speaking with many of my constituents, I have decided to vote no on the bill as currently written," she said in a statement to the Miami Herald. "The bill’s consequences for South Florida are clear: too many of my constituents will lose insurance and there will be less funds to help the poor and elderly with their healthcare."

Ros-Lehtinen's 27th district, which includes Southeast Miami-Dade County, had the largest number of Obamacare enrollees in the country -- about 96,300 -- as of January, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated Monday that some 14 million people would lose or drop coverage by 2018 under the proposed American Health Care Act, which has been endorsed by President Donald Trump.

With her opposition, Ros-Lehtinen is breaking with fellow Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who last week voted for the bill in the House Ways and Means Committee. Both lawmakers represent Democratic-leaning districts won by Hillary Clinton.

Florida Democrats have universally opposed the plan — “It is wrong to take away health insurance for 24 million people, as well as increase the cost to seniors,” Sen. Bill Nelson said — but the party accused Ros-Lehtinen of political pandering.

“After voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act dozens of times without a replacement plan — including as recently as January — it’s clear that Ileana Ros-Lehtinen makes her decisions in Washington D.C. based on political calculation and self-preservation, not what is best for the people of South Florida,” Javier Gamboa, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman, said in a statement.

Curbelo hasn't commented on the CBO report. On Monday, American Action Network, a Republican political group linked to House Speaker Paul Ryan started airing TV ads in Miami to give Curbelo cover for his support.

The third Miami Republican in the House, Mario Diaz-Balart, is still reviewing the legislation and CBO report and has some "concerns," his spokeswoman said.

Some Florida Republicans have questioned the House plan on conservative grounds, arguing it remains too interventionist in its approach to the insurance market. Others have said it's a good first step that still needs work.

Ros-Lehtinen is still not a fan of the existing law but said its replacement needs to be bipartisan and more humane.

"I voted to repeal Obamacare many times because it was not the right fix for our broken healthcare system and did not live up to its promise to the American people but this plan is not the replacement South Florida needs," Ros-Lehtinen said. "We should work together to write a bipartisan bill that works for our community and our nation without hurting the elderly and disadvantaged among us." 

Photo credit: Matias J. Ocner, for the Miami Herald

This post has been updated.

UPDATED Miami Republicans remain conspicuously silent on CBO analysis of GOP healthcare plan

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@PatriciaMazzei @learyreports

Miami's three Republican lawmakers in Congress have said nothing about the GOP's plan to replace the Affordable Care Act since the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded Monday that some 14 million people would drop or lose insurance coverage in 2018.

The legislation is the biggest policy proposal in the House right now. And the districts represented by Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have among the highest number of Obamacare enrollees in the country. Yet none of the legislators' offices responded Tuesday afternoon to requests for comment.

UPDATE: Ros-Lehtinen has now said she opposes the replacement plan. And a spokeswoman for Diaz-Balart said he is still reviewing the legislation and CBO report. "He has concerns about the legislation, and is looking into those," Katrina Valdes said in an email.

Only Curbelo has had to cast a vote on the proposal so far, last week on the House Ways and Means committee. He then defended his support for the law -- and on Monday, a group linked to House Speaker Paul Ryan started airing TV ads on Curbelo's behalf in Miami.

A slew of Florida lawmakers have issued statements or answered questions about the proposal. Democrats are universally opposed:

Continue reading "UPDATED Miami Republicans remain conspicuously silent on CBO analysis of GOP healthcare plan" »

Curbelo gets TV cover to back GOP healthcare plan



National Republicans are coming to the aid of Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo to support the House GOP's healthcare plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.

American Action Network, a group affiliated with House Speaker Paul Ryan, on Tuesday kicked off a $1.5 million, two-week TV ad campaign in 15 congressional district, including Curbelo's. He represents Florida's swing 26th district, which spans Westchester to Key West and has one of the highest number of Obamacare enrollees in the country.

"Republicans are keeping their promise with a new plan for better health care," the ad says. "More choices and lowers costs. Putting doctors and patients in charge again. No more big government penalties or job-killing mandates. New tax credits to make insurance cheaper. And real protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

"Thank Congressman Carlos Curbelo for keeping his promise, and replacing the Affordable Care Act with the better health care you deserve."

Curbelo voted to advance the legislation last week on the Ways and Means Committee, and immediately got bashed by Democrats, who consider him a top target for the 2018 elections. The Congressional Budget Office estimated Monday that some 14 million people would lose or drop insurance coverage in the first year of the House replacement plan.

In earlier ads airing in solidly conservative districts, including for Florida Reps. Ron DeSantis, Bill Posey and Ted Yoho, American Action Network used different language, urging the congressmen to "vote with President Trump." There's no mention of Trump in the spot airing in Curbelo's far more moderate district, which voted handily for Hillary Clinton.