August 07, 2016

Rubio opposes abortion for women with Zika

From Politico:

Sen. Marco Rubio said Saturday that he doesn’t believe a pregnant woman infected with the Zika virus should have the right to an abortion — even if she had reason to believe the child would be born with severe microcephaly.

"I understand a lot of people disagree with my view – but I believe that all human life is worthy of protection of our laws. And when you present it in the context of Zika or any prenatal condition, it’s a difficult question and a hard one," Rubio told POLITICO.

"But if I’m going to err, I’m going to err on the side of life."

More here.

UPDATE: Here's U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, the Jupiter Democrat hoping to challenge Rubio in the Nov. 8 general election, weighing in with a statement:

Zika is most dangerous for women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, yet Marco Rubio still opposes a woman's right to make her own health decisions. Florida women need a fighter who will stand up for their right to choose and who is committed to getting our state the critical funding needed to fight this virus. It's clear that Marco Rubio will always put his ideology above women’s health care — and our families deserve better.

Miami's first political campaign ad about Zika?



Miami Democrat Scott Fuhrman has seized on Zika as a political campaign issue as he tries to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Fuhrman debuted a 15-second video -- and a separate, non-video web ad -- blaming Ros-Lehtinen for Congress' inaction on the mosquito-borne virus. Lawmakers went on recess for seven weeks without passing legislation funding anti-Zika measures.

"Pregnant women told to stay out of our neighborhoods?" the video asks. "Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen goes on recess?"

A first-time candidate, Fuhrman is running a long-shot campaign against the popular congresswoman. Zika gave him an opening to draw at least a little bit of media attention; he showed up at a news conference last week held by Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on the virus. Fuhrman's wife, who is pregnant, gave an interview to NBC News sharing her concerns about contracting the virus.

Late Friday, Ros-Lehtinen sent Republican leaders in Congress a letter asking them to convene an emergency session to approve a Zika bill. She also wrote President Barack Obama, urging him to use existing funds to combat Ebola for Zika instead. And she led an effort by the Florida congressional delegation to request more money from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Zika has become a hot campaign issue in Miami, with politicians ranging from the governor to city mayors touring Ground Zero in Wynwood -- and nabbing air time -- as they try to raise awareness about the virus. 


August 05, 2016

Biden says Wasserman Schultz didn't ask him for bat mitzvah video


Vice President Joe Biden campaigned Friday in South Miami with U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston -- and brought up, unprompted, the video he filmed to congratulate one of Wasserman Schultz's daughters on her bat mitzvah.

"Admittedly, I’m in love with her daughter," he told reporters outside the Whip 'N Dip Ice Cream Shoppe, as Wasserman Schultz chuckled. "I wanted to go to her bat mitzvah. Couldn’t go so I sent a film. I probably ruined everything."

"No, no, not at all," DWS said, laughing.

The video was reported by Politico after Wasserman Schultz stepped down from her role as Democratic National Committee chairwoman -- as a sign that some Democrats thought the congresswoman was more interested in her own political ambitions than the DNC's.

The Miami Herald asked Wasserman Schultz about the video at an editorial board interview Thursday, without going into specifics about whether she asked for it.

"There was a lot that came out anonymously after you stepped out of the DNC role," a Herald reporter asked. "That suggested that maybe your political ambitions had been put before the party, and that maybe that was a reason -- one of the reasons -- people really wanted you out at that point, and no one came to your defense. I was wondering if you could talk about that -- I mean, the vice president's video for your daughter's bat mitzvah --"

"Which was not true," Wasserman Schultz said.

Pressed by the Herald on Friday to clarify after Biden's comments about the video, Wasserman Schultz said she specifically meant she hadn't asked Biden for the video -- not that the video itself didn't exist.

Biden said Wasserman Schultz didn't request the film.

"She didn't. I give you my word," Biden said. "I was invited -- of course why wouldn’t I? I'm her close friend and I had planned on coming. The president gave me another assignment, so I asked -- which is the reason I asked about the video"

"This is family, guys," he added. "For me, this is family."

Joe Biden, Florida Democrats' validator-in-chief

DWS Biden

@PatriciaMazzei @ByKristenMClark

Vice President Joe Biden swung through Florida on Friday to do one of the things he does best: give a boost to Democrats in need of a a little validation from perhaps the most people-friendly Democrat in the country.

But he couldn’t pass up a chance to also tweak Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“I can’t figure out Mr. Trump,” said Biden, who made a forceful case against the New York celebrity developer at last week’s Democratic National Convention. “It’s true that when you’ve never run for public office before, going out there and, you know, getting on the biggest stage in the world, you’re bound to make mistakes. But … some of the things that he does and says sort of defy logic for me.”

The vice president was speaking to reporters outside the South Miami Whip ’N Dip, where he’d stopped for a scoop of white chocolate chip ice cream along with U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston. They were on their way to a Coconut Grove fundraiser to benefit her re-election campaign. (Wasserman Schultz ordered a Snickers scoop.)

Earlier Friday, Biden had collected checks — and enjoyed a helping of Southern food — with U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy in Tallahassee, as part of the Jupiter congressman’s U.S. Senate campaign.

More here.

Miami Republican lawmaker asks GOP leaders in Congress to set special Zika session


Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen formally asked GOP leaders in Congress on Friday to convene an emergency session to fund efforts to fight and prevent the Zika virus spreading in Miami.

"I have been demanding an effective response from our federal government for months to ensure that we contain and eliminate this public health crisis," she wrote House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. "Yet, the most critical role for Congress to play in the federal government’s response – appropriating an adequate and reliable stream of funding to support impacted states and local communities – has been caught up in protracted political battles."

Congress should pass stand-alone legislation funding President Barack Obama's request for $1.9 billion in Zika money, she added.

The congresswoman also wrote Obama on Friday, asking him to "reprogram" money from elsewhere in the federal budget toward Zika.

"The possibility of quickly reprogramming additional funds while Congress works to pass a robust Zika funding package was one idea generated from my meeting in Miami yesterday with Centers for Disease Control Director Tom Frieden, Florida Governor Rick Scott, Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart," she said. Rubio has publicly made a similar request.

Campaigning in South Miami on Friday, Vice President Joe Biden indicated the Obama administration could re-purpose some money that had been set aside to combat Ebola to fight Zika instead, but he reiterated that congressional action is needed.

"Now, look, we're able to take the money we have now leftover from the fund we put together to deal with Ebola, but we need new legislation," he said. "It's almost unconscionable."

Ros-Lehtinen is up for re-election and faces a Democratic challenger in first-time candidate Scott Fuhrman, who has pointedly jabbed at the congresswoman about Zika on Twitter and in press releases.

Protests planned for Rubio's religious conference appearance in Orlando

via @learyreports

Equality Florida and other groups plan to protest Marco Rubio’s appearance next week at a religious conference in Orlando, saying the Republican senator “continues to insult the lives of 49 people killed in the worst hate crime against LGBT people in American history.”

“Together we will make it absolutely clear that hatred and bigotry will no longer go unchallenged, especially here in Orlando,” reads an organizing website, which notes several conference participants, including Mat Staver and David Barton, hold strongly antigay positions.

Rubio is speaking at the Rediscovering God in America Renewal Project, which is being held Thursday and Friday at the Hyatt Regency Orlando. It comes two months after the Pulse nightclub shooting.

“This event is about encouraging people of faith to engage in the civic arena. We have been working with Florida Pastors for years and will continue to do so,” America Renewal Project said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.

“The event is currently closed to the press and specific speaking dates/times are not currently public.”

Critics question the privacy. “If Rubio is so adamant that this event isn’t anti-LGBT and is ‘respectful of the views and the dignity of those on both sides,’ why is the event so secretive?” asked Laura Epstein, a spokeswoman for People For the American Way.

Rubio on Thursday told the Times that it’s not antigay. “It is nothing of the sort. It is a celebration of faith,” he said in a statement that sought to balance his support for “traditional marriage” with opposing views.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Two Republicans are running for Wasserman Schultz's congressional seat. Only one backs Trump.


Florida's 23rd congressional district, currently represented by Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, leans so heavily Democratic that it's easy to forget there's a Republican primary under way.

But defense attorney Marty Feigenbaum and activist Joe Kaufman are both on the Aug. 30 GOP ballot. And one of their key differences may be this: Only one of them backs Republican nominee Donald Trump for president.

"I don't agree with him on everything he's said," Kaufman said. "I do support him."

He credited Trump -- and former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders -- for having "been able to expose" a political system Kaufman says benefits insiders.

Feigenbaum, on the other hand, said he's a centrist Republican with serious concerns about Trump.

"There's things that don't allow me to say I support him right now," he said. 

In particular, Feigenbaum cited Trump's criticism of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel of Indiana -- who's trying a case on the now-defunct Trump University and whom the nominee accused of being biased because Curiel's parents are Mexican -- and to Trump's imitating a disabled New York Times reporter. 

"Ever since I was a little kid, I don't tolerate somebody that leaves the impression that he makes fun of disabled people," he said. 

"I'm not a supporter of Hillary Clinton," Feigenbaum added.

Wasserman Schultz still unsure if she'll back medical pot amendment



U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston drew the ire of Florida progressives -- including major political donor John Morgan -- when she opposed a state constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana two years ago.

She says she still hasn't made up her mind about whether to support it this year.

"I'm still reviewing the provisions of it," the Democratic congresswoman told the Miami Herald editorial board in a broad interview Thursday.

Morgan, of Orlando, is bankrolling this year's version of the amendment -- expected to pass given the more liberal presidential electorate -- and has threatened to pour money into a political committee aiding Wasserman Schultz's Aug. 30 primary opponent, Tim Canova, who backs legalization for medicinal purposes.

If she opposes the effort again, Morgan told the Herald in an email Friday, "she will be the only elected Democrat in the coutnry to do so."

"It just shows how out of touch she is and bought and paid for by the pharmaceutical industry."

Ben Pollara, United for Care's campaign manager, noted Wasserman Schultz comprises a small number of Floridians undecided on the issue.

"In our most recent poll, Floridians supported passing Amendment 2 by a 77-20 margin," he said. "I was wondering who the 3 percent undecided were and now we know! It's incredible that a member of Congress is undecided on such a popular and widely discussed issue in her state."

Earlier this year, Wasserman Schultz quietly voted in favor of a medical pot provision in Congress.

The 2014 Florida amendment missed the 60-percent threshold to pass by 2.4 percentage points. It will be on the ballot again Nov. 8.

August 04, 2016

Wasserman Schultz says she'll debate Canova. Canova: 'I will believe it when I see it'


U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston told the Miami Herald editorial board and the Sun-Sentinel on Thursday that she does, in fact, intend to debate primary challenger Tim Canova, who has been clamoring for a debate for weeks.

In a statement, Canova said he was "happy" to hear the Democratic congresswoman's position.

"I will believe it when I see it," he said, adding he long ago proposed a series of six debates. "Wasserman Schultz has dodged debates for four months and she's been dodging her own constituents for even longer."

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

In Wynwood, politicians point fingers over Zika funding


@alextdaugherty @ESCochrane @PatriciaMazzei

The Zika virus arrived in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood last week. The politicians came Thursday.