October 08, 2015

As McCarthy drops speaker bid, South Florida lawmakers react


The shocking news that Kevin McCarthy dropped out of the race to be speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives is still sinking in on Capitol Hill. McCarthy, a Republican from California, dropped out after it was clear he wouldn’t get the necessary votes to succeed.

A bloc of the most-conservative members of the U.S. House -– the House Freedom Caucus -– on Wednesday said it would support Rep. Daniel Webster, a Republican who represents the Orlando area. And while Webster is not perceived to have much chance of winning wide enough support to grab the speakership, his caucus does have the ability to throw a serious wrench into the works.

The shocking news that McCarthy was pulling out follows the equally shocking news last month that John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, would resign.

Some initial reaction from South Florida lawmakers, which will be updated:

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican: “I’m sad to see a good man like Kevin pulling out of the speaker’s race because he is a principled legislator who has guided us on the House floor through difficult votes. Speaker Boehner should reconsider his decision to resign as speaker because we need his steady leadership through these stormy seas.”

Boehner, in a statement, said he will serve as speaker until the House votes to elect a new one. “I’m confident we will elect a new speaker in the coming weeks,” he said.

Kevin McCarthy drops bid for speaker

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy abruptly withdrew Thursday from the race to replace John Boehner as speaker of the House of Representatives.

McCarthy, R-Calif., an embattled favorite to win the House GOP caucus’ nomination for speaker, stunned colleagues with his announcement, slamming the process to elect a new speaker to a sudden halt.

Thursday’s closed-door meeting in which Republican lawmakers were to make their choice for speaker to present for a full House vote on Oct. 29 was postponed, sending shockwaves throughout Capitol Hill.

McCarthy was the heavy favorite, but told colleagues he didn’t see a unified caucus. He also cast himself as the face of a leadership that had an insider image that many Republicans found uncomfortable.

His withdrawal leaves the speaker’s race with no favorite to succeed Boehner, R-Ohio, who has said he will step down Oct. 30.

--McClatchy Washington Bureau

Quinnipiac poll: Florida voters back recreational marijuana, Dems lead in Senate race to replace Marco Rubio

A new poll shows that Florida voters back recreational marijuana and that Democrats are leading the U.S. Senate race however the poll omitted some candidates in that race.

The poll by Quinnipiac shows that Florida voters overall support legalizing personal marijuana use 51 – 45 percent with the highest support among young voters. And voters support legalizing medical marijuana 87 – 12 percent.

A question on the ballot last year to allow medical marijuana failed by about two points to achieve the 60 percent margin needed for a constitutional amendment. A similar question will likely appear on the ballot next year.

In the race to replace U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter leads Republican Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami 37 – 29 percent and tops U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, Ponte Vedra Beach, 37 – 30 percent. Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando gets 35 percent to Lopez-Cantera’s 32 percent and leads DeSantis 37 – 31 percent.

The poll did not include Republican candidates U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Tampa or Todd Wilcox and did not ask Democratic voters to choose between Murphy and Grayson.

It also didn’t include potential candidates including Republican CFO Jeff Atwater and Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott gets a negative 41 – 47 percent job approval rating, down from 45 – 44 percent in an Aug. 25 Quinnipiac University poll.

Voters approve 46 – 27 percent of the job Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is doing and give Rubio a 52 – 36 percent job approval rating.

The survey was done between Sept. 25 and Oct. 5 and included 1,173 Florida voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.  

October 06, 2015

Alan Grayson plans to file complaint about Kevin McCarthy and Benghazi panel

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, will file an ethics complaint against House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy after he suggested that the Benghazi select committee was launched in an effort to hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president.

Grayson told the Miami Herald Tuesday about his plans to file the complaint Wednesday with the Office of Congressional Ethics. His complaint also names U.S. Rep. Harold “Trey” Gowdy of South Carolina, the chair of the Benghazi panel.

McCarthy of California has been under fire by Democrats since he said on Fox News Sept 29:

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable.”

McCarthy could become the next house speaker when U.S. Rep. John Boehner of Ohio leaves at the end of October.

Grayson said in his complaint that said McCarthy and Gowdy “violated federal law and House rules by using official funds appropriated to the Select Committee on Benghazi to pay political or campaign-related expenses.”

The Select Committee on Benghazi was launched in May 2014 to investigate the 2012 terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in the Libyan city that left four Americans dead while Clinton was Secretary of State. It has cost about $4.5 million so .

Meanwhile, other government committees have already investigated Benghazi including the House Intelligence Committee which concluded in November that there was no intelligence failure before the attack. Clinton is expected to testify before the select committee later this month and this week launched a TV ad using McCarthy’s initial comments.

Last week Grayson held a conference call with reporters to blast his U.S. Senate primary opponent U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, for voting to launch the Benghazi investigation. He accused Murphy of contributing to a "political witch hunt that could dramatically affect the presidential election."

Murphy campaign spokesman Joshua Karp told the Herald last week that when Murphy voted for the committee he was confident it would vindicate Clinton and now wants it shut down.

October 05, 2015

If Jeb Bush were to dock Marco Rubio's pay for Senate absences

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Jeb Bush has said for months that members of Congress should get their pay dock for missing work. He hasn't mentioned him by name, but rival Marco Rubio has the highest absentee record in the U.S. Senate.

"Why is it that people miss votes in the United States Congress in such a rampant way?" Bush asked in a New Hampshire town hall last week. He first proposed the pay-docking idea in Tallahassee in July.

So how much would Rubio have lost so far this year under Bush's proposal?

Here's a back-of-the-envelope calculation:

According to GovTrack, Rubio missed 81 of 272 eligible Senate votes through Oct. 1, or nearly 30 percent. Multiply that by $130,500 -- Rubio's Senate salary -- and the Florida Republican would get docked $38,862.13. 

A Bush supporter running for Rubio's Senate seat, U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Indian Shores, poked Rubio on Monday over his vote record.

Rubio has dismissed criticism over his absences by saying he has been frustrated by the Senate's dysfunction and thinks he could better employ his political skills in the White House. He told CNBC on Monday, according to a CNN transcription, that "being a senator is more than just casting a vote," referring to his office's work for constituents.

"If there is a vote where my vote is going to make a difference or an issue of major national significance and importance, we'd do everything possible to be there. But I am going to miss votes -- I'm running for president," he conceded.

"When I miss a vote, it's not because I'm out playing golf. We're out campaigning for the future of America where I believe I can make more of a difference as president than I could as a senator."

Photo credit: Jessica Reilly/Telegraph Herald via AP

October 04, 2015

Miami congressman agrees to pay another fine over misreported campaign contributions


U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo will pay a second fine to the Federal Election Commission, this time over $52,875 in campaign contributions he failed to properly report last year.

The Miami Republican settled with the FEC and agreed to pay $1,050. He reached a similar agreement earlier this year, with a fine of $3,200, for omitting $26,700 in contributions.

Both problems stemmed from data corrupted in a software switch, Curbelo's campaign has maintained since October 2014. The staff has agreed to implement stricter financial controls since then.

"We are confident that our software provider has resolved all of the issues with the reporting program, and we've taken all the steps necessary to prevent this from happening again in the future," Nicole Rapanos, his 2014 campaign manager, said in a statement to the Miami Herald.

The issue over Curbelo's omitted and mislabeled contributions erupted in the home stretch of the tense campaign he waged against then-incumbent Rep. Joe Garcia.

September 30, 2015

Miami-Dade Republicans vote to avoid government shutdown

via @learyreports

The U.S. House on Wednesday afternoon voted 277-151 to pass a measure to keep the government funded through December.

Here's how Florida Republicans stood on the issue:


Buchanan / Crenshaw / Curbelo / Diaz-Balart / Jolly / Ros-Lehtinen


Bilirakis / Clawson / DeSantis / Mica / Miller / Nugent / Posey / Rooney / Ross / Webster / Yoho

"Though this does not fix the underlying problem of agreeing on a long-term funding solution, it does avoid an unnecessary and harmful government shutdown similar to that of 2013," said Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Miami. 

The House took a symbolic vote on defunding Planned Parenthood and all Florida Republicans went along with that. The Senate previously passed the stop-gap. Sen. Marco Rubio did not vote due to campaigning.

All Florida Democrats voted for the legislation, which extends funding to Dec. 11.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

September 28, 2015

Dan Webster's blueprint for being House speaker: Flatten the pyramid, fix the process

Dan WebsterU.S. Rep. Dan Webster's bid to become speaker of the U.S. House may hinge on many things, not the least of which is his district may become doomed by redistricting, but he has put into writing what he thinks should be done to end Washington's hyper-dysfunction.

In short: leaders enable their membership, empower them with responsibility for which they are held accountable and that flattens the power pyramid.

“My goal is for the House of Representatives to be based on principle, not on power. Every Member of Congress deserves a seat at the table to be involved in the process,'' Webster said in a statement on Friday. "I will continue fighting for this to become a reality in Washington, and will be running for Speaker of the House.”

Webster, R-Winter Garden, told the Herald/Times two weeks before House Speaker John Boehner announced he would retire at the end of October that "the key" to dismantling the dysfunction of both Congress and the Florida Legislature "is you have to understand that power and principle cannot co exist.'' 

We were talking to Webster about his experience in reforming the House system, in light of the manifesto proposed by incoming Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran to flatten the power structure and diminish what he considers the corrupting influence of special interests in the legislative process.

Webster spelled it out in this one-page white paper after the mid-term elections.

Continue reading "Dan Webster's blueprint for being House speaker: Flatten the pyramid, fix the process" »

September 25, 2015

House Speaker John Boehner resigns

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, will resign at the end of October, shaking up the leadership of the Congress.

Boehner has been under constant criticism from conservatives, who have demanded a more confrontational approach to President Barack Obama. The latest flashpoint is the desire to stop federal financing of Planned Parenthood, which some conservatives insist be tied to any measure keeping the government open when appropriations expire Sept. 30.

Boehner had signed onto an alternative plan that would allow the government to stay open, and give conservatives a separate vote on Planned Parenthood funding, which ultimately would fail with an Obama veto.

When U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio announced at the Value Voters Summit this morning that Boehner would be resigning it drew cheers and a standing ovation from the crowd.

Here is Boehner's Truth-O-Meter record from PolitiFact.

Here is the reaction from the South Florida Congressional delegation and other political figures (this post will be updated):

Continue reading "House Speaker John Boehner resigns" »

September 18, 2015

Democrat running for Congress in Miami would have been yes on Iran deal


One of the issues where Democratic congressional candidate Annette Taddeo differs with Rep. Carlos Curbelo, the Miami Republican she's trying to unseat, is over the nuclear deal with Iran.

Taddeo supports the agreement -- though with some hesitation -- while Curbelo opposes it.

Here's the statement Taddeo's campaign provided the Miami Herald on Friday, after the newspaper asked for the Democrat's position:

America must always be an unwavering supporter of Israel and her right to defend herself. As an American Jew, and knowing the horrors of the Holocaust from within our family, this issue is terribly personal to me and my family. I do not trust Iran, and believe we should do everything in our power to prevent that regime from gaining nuclear weapons. My support for Israel and concern about Iran are precisely why I support the the Iran deal. The agreement enables the United States and our allies to verify Iran's compliance, and in the event of a violation, respond immediately and militarily if necessary. While it's not perfect, this deal is our best chance of blocking Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb, short of war.

Taddeo was born Roman Catholic in Colombia but converted to Judaism as an adult in the U.S. and later married a fellow Jew, Eric Goldstein. (As chair of the Miami-Dade County Democrats, she was known as Annette Taddeo Goldstein but she's never used her full name on the ballot. She said when she was Charlie Crist's running mate in the Florida governor's race last year that such a long name didn't fit on campaign signs.)

Curbelo, a moderate who represents a swing district from Westchester to Key West, issued a statement slamming the Iran deal last week:

When the details of the Iran Deal were released, I began the review process with an open mind. After thorough evaluation and consultation with countless foreign affairs and Middle East policy experts on the ramifications of the agreement, I came to the conclusion that this deal will in no way prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state.  In fact, rather than eliminate Iran's nuclear program, this deal manages to give it legitimacy.

The deal negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama fails to provide the United States with unencumbered access to Iran’s military sites and gives Iran the opportunity to stall and block inspector access to their facilities for 24 days. This elongated amount of time is absolutely unacceptable. It is irrational to give concessions to a country that has historically lied about their nuclear capabilities and spread terror throughout the region. For these reasons and more, I strongly oppose the Iran Deal. 

Even more troubling was to find that after further review, it became clear that secret agreements were made between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran. These inconspicuous agreements were not submitted to Congress for review, which was in director violation of the Iran Nuclear Review Act. The American people deserve the confidence of knowing that Iran will never possess the ability to use nuclear weapons. The only acceptable agreement would be one that completely eliminates the nuclear threat of Iran to provide for a safer United States and world.