April 26, 2016

Payday loan attacks coming for another Florida member of Congress

via @learyreports

A liberal group that has run ads against Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz for her support for payday lenders is looking for a new target.

Allied Progress says it will launch a new campaign against a Florida House member based on online voting. The “winner” will  be announced May 10.

Those up for consideration are Reps. Corrine Brown, Kathy Castor, Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Patrick Murphy, Bill Posey and Dennis Ross.

“Each has received at least $10,000 in campaign contributions from the payday industry,” according to the group, “signed a letter encouraging Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) director Richard Cordray to adopt the disastrous ‘Florida model’ of payday lending reform, and either sponsored or cosponsored H.R. 4018 which would gut the CFPB’s upcoming payday loan regulations by delaying those new rules in favor of states with Florida-style laws.”

Wasserman Schultz has faced a TV ad, billboards and negative press. Her Democratic opponent has seized the issue as well.

 

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

April 25, 2016

Miami members of Congress return from trip to Guantánamo

Unnamed

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami's three Cuban-American Republicans in Congress recently traveled to the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the office of U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced Monday.

Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House subcomittee on the Middle East and North Africa, took the trip along with Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart. Also traveling were Reps. Ted Yoho of Gainesville and George Holding of North Carolina, both Republicans.

Here's Ros-Lehtinen's statement on the trip:

The U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay is so much more than the detention center; It is a strategically important military base and our only permanent base in Latin America and the Caribbean. Yet, since President Obama announced his changes to our Cuba policy, the administration has been seeking to play down the importance of the Naval Station. Returning GTMO to the Castro regime would be the ultimate concession to the ruthless dictator and the final stroke in the President's misguided and dangerous Cuba policy, and Congress must not allow this to happen.

"From humanitarian operations and emergency response, to drug and weapon interdiction and so much more, GTMO allows us to maintain a permanent presence in the region in order to protect and promote our national security interests.

"The President's plan to close the detention center at GTMO is naive and dangerous. We've already heard testimony from his Special Envoys on Guantanamo Closure and Guantanamo Detention Closure that some of the individuals we have released not only went back to fighting against us, but have American blood on their hands. There can simply be no justification to release these dangerous prisoners when we know that many of them will go back and join the fight. Congress must prevent the President from closing the detention center and retuning the base to the Castro regime.

Here's Curbelo's statement:

This week I visited the US Naval Station Guantanamo Bay – a critical military and national security asset serving key roles in the war on terrorism, drug and migrant interdiction, and as a strategic forward base for the Atlantic Fleet. Every day approximately 7,000 US military personnel and contractors go to work at GTMO to keep our country safe and advance our national security interests in the Americas and throughout the world. I had the privilege of meeting with Captain Culpepper, the base commander, who briefed us on the base’s preparedness to assist with major migrant events in the Caribbean. This is important considering the significant increase in Cubans fleeing from the island over the last year. I also met with Rear Admiral Clarke who serves as Commander of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo. The JTF is working professionally and diligently to provide safe, humane, legal, and transparent care and custody of detainees. I was able to inspect the detention facilities, and I was impressed with efforts to treat the detainees with dignity and respect. Our young men and women in uniform do an extraordinary job of representing our country, sometimes under very difficult circumstances in this theater. The men and women of Naval Air Station Guantanamo, the Joint Task Force, and the Marines who protect the base perimeter deserve the admiration, appreciation, and support of the American people and this Congress. I thank my colleague from South Florida Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for leading our visit to GTMO, and I urge all of my colleagues to work to protect and strengthen this critical military asset.

This post has been updated.

Photo credit: Courtesy Rep. Carlos Curbelo's office

Bill Nelson weighs in on potential release of 9/11 report

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson on Monday wrote to President Obama and appeared to question speculation, largely coming from former Sen. Bob Graham, that the 9/11 report shows ties to Saudi Arabia.  

The letter follows high-profile media appearances by Graham, who has strongly suggested a Saudi relationship with the terrorists.

Nelson's letter:

I understand that your administration may soon decide whether to declassify part or all of the 28 pages of the Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001 report that have not yet been made available to the public.

As I’m sure you are aware, there is growing speculation that information contained in these 28 pages will show that Saudi Arabia provided support to those responsible for the 9/11 attacks. I have read the 28 pages, and I have also read intelligence reports that debunk them.

If you declassify these 28 pages, I strongly urge you to also declassify intelligence reports that debunk them in order to provide the American people with a complete picture of this issue. 

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Mojitos and Cuban food: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen plans Miami-themed fundraiser in D.C.

Unnamed@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is bringing a little touch of Miami to Washington D.C. for her next fundraiser.

Next month, her re-election campaign will hold a reception branded as "Moon Over Miami." Mojitos and Cuban food are promised.

The event will take place at the Republican's Southeast D.C. townhouse May 25. A $500 contribution is suggested from individual donors, and $1,000 from political action committees.

April 21, 2016

On Senate floor, Bill Nelson renews call for $1.9B to fight Zika

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson on Thursday filed legislation to fully fund President Obama's $1.9 billion request to fight Zika, saying the move was necessary amid "rumors" that appropriators have struck a deal for $1.1 billion.

"This is truly an emergency,” Nelson said on the Senate floor. “I’m calling on our colleagues to approve the president's $1.9 billion in emergency funding request now in the immediate future. Not later. The cost of this inaction would be far greater, and the consequences way too devastating."

Republicans have given a mixed reception to calls for $1.9 billion, with some supporting it and others suggesting Obama first use the funding he has already secured. Sen. Marco Rubio supports Obama's request.

 

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

April 18, 2016

Another Florida Senate candidate weighs in on Carnival's Cuba trip

@PatriciaMazzei

Last week, we polled Florida Senate candidates to find out where they stood on Carnival Corp.'s plan to sail to Cuba even if Cuban-born Americans couldn't go. We found rare, bipartisan agreement against the company's decision. 

But we didn't hear back from Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter until Monday, after Carnival reversed course and said it would accept bookings from Cuban-born Americans and postpone the May 1 cruise if Cuba doesn't change its decree.

Here's what his spokeswoman had to say:

Congressman Murphy would not support Carnival or any company discriminating against individuals based on their ethnicity or country of origin. He is glad that Carnival appears to be reversing their policy today.

The Cuban government needs to modernize its policy, or risk losing American tourism dollars.

Will there be any other issue in the campaign that will draw agreement among all the Republican and Democratic candidates?

April 16, 2016

Annette Taddeo brings in $220K for Miami congressional bid

@PatriciaMazzei

Annette Taddeo raised about $220,000 last quarter in her bid for Florida's southernmost congressional seat, putting her behind Democratic rival Joe Garcia in the first fundraising period pitting the two candidates against each other.

The two Miami Democrats are vying to challenge Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who outraised them both with what a $362,000 haul. Garcia collected $325,000 since declaring his candidacy in February. The quarter lasted from Jan. 1-March 31.

Taddeo has been running for a year and has more cash in the bank than Garcia: about $496,000, compared to Garcia's about $316,000. 

Carnival cruise to Cuba leads to rare, unintended bipartisan agreement against company's plans

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@PatriciaMazzei @Chabelih

Carnival Corp.’s scheduled sail to Cuba — even if Cuban-born Americans can’t buy tickets — has accomplished a rare and unintended political feat: bipartisan agreement against the cruise company’s plans.

Republican and Democratic members of Congress and candidates running for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives told the Miami Herald on Friday that Carnival shouldn’t transport passengers to the island while Cuba maintains its policy barring native Cubans from traveling by sea to their country of birth.

Asked about the mounting political pressure, a Carnival spokesman said Friday afternoon the company hopes Cuba will lift its decree before the ship’s departure.

“We continue to believe that Cuba will modify its regulation before we sail on May 1 based on our ongoing discussions with Cuban officials, so we will be able to cruise there on our inaugural cruise under the same regulations as aircraft do today,” Carnival spokesman Roger Frizzell said in a statement.

“We appreciate and understand the concerns being voiced, and we have confidence this issue will be resolved before we ever sail.”

Opposing the trip were three Senate candidates (Republicans Carlos Beruff of Sarasota and Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, and Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando), Miami’s three Republicans in Congress (Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen), and Curbelo’s two Democratic rivals (former Rep. Joe Garcia and Annette Taddeo).

More here.

Photo courtesy Carnival Corp.

April 15, 2016

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo says he raised $362K last quarter

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo collected about $362,000 for his re-election during the first three months of the year, his campaign told the Miami Herald on Friday.

That number puts Curbelo ahead of one of his Democratic rivals, former Rep. Joe Garcia, whose campaign announced earlier Friday a haul of about $325,000. The other Democrat in the running, Annette Taddeo, has yet to release her totals, though none of her prior quarters have reached Garcia's latest number.

Neither of the Democrats, who must confront each other in the Aug. 30 primary, is anywhere near Curbelo in terms of how much money they have in the bank. He has more than $1.7 million cash on hand remaining from the nearly $2.3 million he's amassed so far, his campaign said.

The campaign added that about a fifth of his contributions from Jan. 1 through March 31 came from the Florida Keys. The 26th congressional district extends from Westchester to Key West.

UPDATED Miami congressional candidates say Carnival shouldn't cooperate with Cuban 'discrimination'

@PatriciaMazzei

Democrat Annette Taddeo weighed in earlier this week on the controversy that has gripped Miami politics: whether Carnival Corp. should sail to Cuba as planned, given that the Castro regime won't allow Cuban-born passengers to disembark the ship.

No, said Taddeo, who is running in Florida's 26th congressional district.

Here's the statement her campaign released Wednesday:

While I am supportive of the steps President Obama has taken to open diplomatic relations with Cuba, I recognize that there will be many issues to address and we cannot ignore our American values as we work through these issues. The current Cuban policy prohibiting Cuban-born Americans from entering the country by sea has now created a policy of discrimination on cruise lines traveling to Cuba. We should not allow the Cuban Government to decide which Americans get on a U.S. cruise ship.

This is not the first time a cruise line has been forced to deal with a country's bias towards an entire ethnic group. When Tunisia refused to allow Jewish passengers to disembark in their country, Norwegian Cruise Lines cut ties and stopped travel to Tunisia. I am hopeful the Cuban government will see the error in this policy and move quickly to remedy the discrimination it creates towards Cuban Americans. In the meantime, I encourage Carnival to follow the example set by Norwegian and refuse to cooperate with a policy that singles out and discriminates against one group of Americans. I agree with President Obama's focus on people-to-people engagement and Cuban Americans are people, too.

On Thursday, Taddeo wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew urging him to push Cuba to "see the error in this policy."

Taddeo is Colombian-American, not Cuban-American, But she has spent years living among Miami's Cuban exiles, and her primary opponent, former Rep. Joe Garcia, is a chief proponent of Obama's U.S.-Cuba engagement policy. The Republican incumbent, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, generally opposes it. (Both Garcia and Curbelo are sons of exiles.)

Curbelo tweeted in support of the Miami Herald column by Fabiola Santiago exposing the Cuban policy. He's against Carnival sailing under the existing Cuban policy.

UPDATE: Garcia tells the Herald he, too, thinks Carnival should not sail under existing Cuban policy:

"Discrimination is discrimination, and we should never tolerate governments who discriminate under the guise of policy for anyone, not for sexual orientation, race, creed, or national origin," Garcia said in a statement. "I support engaging Cuba, but our policy is simple. We are America. We should not enable discrimination here at home or in any corner of the globe."

Read Taddeo's letter to Lew:

Letter