May 17, 2017

Looks like Curbelo was first Republican lawmaker to suggest Trump could be impeached

Congress Republicans
@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo appears to have been the first Republican member of Congress to publicly suggest it might rise to an impeachable offense — obstruction of justice — if President Donald Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s Russia ties.

Curbelo acknowledged the possibility of impeachment when speaking to Capitol Hill reporters Tuesday afternoon, and later repeated it Tuesday night on CNN.

“I was just being honest,” Curbelo said Wednesday in an interview with the Miami Herald, in which he called impeachment still “premature.” “Any effort to impede or interfere with a federal investigation is by definition obstruction of justice, and there’s precedent for the House to consider obstruction of justice an impeachable offense.”

The distinction of being the first Republican to raise impeachment didn’t come up until Michigan Rep. Justin Amash made similar comments Wednesday.

The Hill, a Washington publication, identified Amash as the first Republican to mention impeachment after the New York Times reported Tuesday about a Comey memo recounting Trump’s request. 

“I hope you can let this go,” Trump told Comey, according to Comey’s notes recounted to the Times.

Curbelo’s office had to point out to The Hill that the Miami congressman had actually beat Amash to it. That prompted an update to The Hill’s story — and a correction in a Mother Jones story that had cited The Hill.

 

Photo credit: Cliff Owen, Associated Press

Nelson asks Homeland Security to extend protected status for Haitians

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@PatriciaMazzei

Sen. Bill Nelson asked the Trump administration Wednesday to extend a temporary protected status, or TPS, for nearly 60,000 Haitians living in the U.S. following the 2010 earthquake.

"I understand that the Government of Haiti is working on a plan to further rebuild and develop the country so that its people can make their lives there," Nelson wrote in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. "To allow for successful implementation of its plan, the Government requests that you extend TPS for Haitian nationals for another 18 months."

Paul Altidor, the Haitian ambassador to the U.S., told the Florida Democrat that the country is still trying to recover from the earthquake and a 2016 hurricane, according to Nelson's office.

Last month, following reports that the White House might seek to end TPS, Nelson asked Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to extend the protection.

Here's the text of Nelson's latest letter:

Continue reading "Nelson asks Homeland Security to extend protected status for Haitians" »

As Trump World turns, Republican lawmakers are forced to react. And react. And react.

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@PatriciaMazzei

It’s become de rigueur for members of Congress: another day, another request from reporters to comment on the latest crisis overtaking the White House.

This week, the questions centered on the momentous revelations that President Donald Trump gave classified information to Russia in the Oval Office — and that fired FBI Director James Comey wrote a memo saying Trump asked him to drop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Democrats have been uniformly critical. But for many Republican lawmakers, navigating the halls of the U.S. Capitol has turned into an exercise in deploying deliberately cautious language — while also sounding increasingly frustrated with the Trump administration.

Take, for example, Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

Curbelo, one of the most threatened GOP congressmen, is a frequent Trump critic who had been facing stinging criticism in his Democratic-leaning district for voting for House Republicans’ healthcare legislation. He backs the formation of a select committee to investigate the allegations against Trump.

More here.

Photo credit: Aaron P. Bernstein, Getty Images

Poll boosts Lopez-Cantera as potential candidate for Congress

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@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera could be well-positioned to run for Congress if he wants to, according to a new poll obtained by the Miami Herald.

The robopoll found Lopez-Cantera leading a hypothetical three-way GOP primary field in the race to replace Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who represents Florida's Democratic-leaning 27th district. The survey was conducted by Front Porch Strategies on behalf of Public Concepts, a top Republican political consulting firm in West Palm Beach run by Randy Nielsen and Rich Johnston. Johnston advised Lopez-Cantera during his short-lived 2016 U.S. Senate campaign.

Lopez-Cantera would start the contest with 57 percent support, according to the poll, compared with 13 percent support for former Miami-Dade County School Board member Raquel Regalado and 3 percent for Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, the only big-name Republican who's declared a candidacy. The error margin was plus-or-minus 5.6 percentage points.

In a potential general election against Miami Democratic state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, Lopez-Cantera would lead by 41-34 percent, the poll found. The error margin was plus-or-minus 3.5 percentage points.

Lopez-Cantera has said he's considering a candidacy. The National Republican Campaign Committee reached out to him earlier this month to gauge his interest.

Robopolls usually skew Republican because they miss cellphone-only voters: young, minority and poor people who lean Democratic. But Front Porch had a large polling universe, surveying 301 likely Republican voters for its primary-election sample, and 805 likely voters for its general-election sample. It's the first poll made public since Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement last month. 

The poll also measured how favorably respondents viewed two other top Republicans, Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio -- and found more unfavorable than favorable opinions. For Scott, 41 percent of respondents viewed him unfavorably, compared to 30 percent who viewed him favorably. For Rubio, the figures were similar: 40 percent unfavorable, and 32 percent favorable.

For Lopez-Cantera, the numbers were 37 percent unfavorable and 55 percent favorable.

An earlier version of this post misstated Barreiro's percentage in the poll.

Photo credit: Al Diaz, MIami Herald staff

May 15, 2017

Two Republicans say no to running for Ros-Lehtinen's seat

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@PatriciaMazzei

A pair of Republican state legislators have decided against vying for U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's congressional seat when she retires next year.

State Sen. René García of Hialeah said Monday to be mentioned as a potential contender was "one of the greatest compliments I have ever received in my career in public service." Hialeah, however, is not part of Ros-Lehtinen's Democratic-leaning 27th district, which runs along the Miami-Dade County coast from Miami Beach to Kendall.

"While the district represents a great part of the community and county that I love, I cannot continue to serve the public knowing that I would be abandoning the city of Hialeah and the people of Northwest Miami-Dade County," García said in a statement. "Having been born and raised in Hialeah, it has been the privilege of my life to serve my hometown for almost 20 years. I do so today with the same appreciation and intensity that I felt when I was first elected."

State Sen. Anitere Flores of Miami, who was also mentioned as a possible candidate, is not running, either.

"I can assure you I'm not running and my focus is to finish out my Florida Senate term strong and serve the constituents of District 39," Flores said in a statement to the Miami Herald. "I think that is the best place where I can serve my community in the coming years."

Flores isn't term-limited until 2020, but García's Senate term will end next year. The two senators have been mentioned as likely future candidates for local office, either at Hialeah City Hall (for García) or Miami-Dade County Hall (for both).

The best-known Republican already in the congressional race: Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, a former state representative. Several Democrats, including state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez of Miami, have also declared their candidacies.

Photo credit: Scott Keeler, Tampa Bay Times

May 12, 2017

When political nemeses Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio teamed up

Crist1_8colvia @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Shortly after the 115th Congress convened, Sen. Marco Rubio invited the Florida House delegation to his office. “Of course I went,” said Rep. Charlie Crist. “I thought it was gracious.”

“I just listened and at the end, I thanked him. He appeared sort of stunned,” Crist recalled. “I said, ‘You may not know this, but your office in Orlando and I are working on getting a Vietnamese husband to America to be with his wife.”

I ran into Crist on the day the House was voting on the Obamacare repeal. He wandered into the lobby, where reporters hang out, looking a little lonely. “I’m just a freshman,” he said, in classic Crist way, when asked how he was adjusting.

“It’s different. Being governor was amazing. But to be in Washington and to have the honor of representing my home, what’s better than that? Any service is an honor.”

Crist, 60, once had White House dreams and was poised to breeze into the U.S. Senate in 2010 until the charismatic young Rubio, 45, upended his world.

But years later, here was Congressman Crist telling an uplifting story of collaborating, in a way, with his nemesis.

Continue reading "When political nemeses Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio teamed up" »

In Miami Herald op-ed, Curbelo says liberal healthcare critics 'sadly' imitate tea party

From a Miami Herald op-ed by Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo:

Sadly, the far left is today simply imitating the reprehensible conduct exhibited by many on the far right in 2010. Words like ‘unconscionable,’ ‘immoral,’ and ‘cruel,’ get tossed around generously in response to the House’s consideration and approval of the American Health Care Act. Americans are being told that they will die as a consequence of this legislation and that life in our country will be miserable should it become law.

One group recently claimed that the proposal would consider victims of rape and domestic violence as having a pre-existing condition, earning a full four Pinocchios from The Washington Post, the highest measurement in deceitful rhetoric. Opponents often ignore key provisions in the new AHCA, many introduced by Democrats, that prohibit discrimination against women, allow young people to stay on their parents’ plans longer, guarantee access to healthcare for those suffering from pre-existing conditions, and more.

To be sure, the legislation moved out of the House last week is far from perfect and needs to be improved. Many people have serious and legitimate concerns — myself included. However, the sheer complexity of healthcare in America means that no bill will ever please everyone. While some today applaud the ACA, many others are facing higher premiums, fewer options, and reduced access to care. In many counties, like Monroe, there is only one insurance provider left. In some counties in Iowa and other states there are none. That’s right, no insurance options at all for those in the individual market.

More here.

May 11, 2017

Quelling candidacy chatter, Carvalho vows to remain Miami-Dade schools chief

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@PatriciaMazzei @KyraGurney

Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho appeared to squash rumors Wednesday night that there's a chance he could run for Congress.

Speaking at an awards ceremony for the Education Fund, a local schools nonprofit, Carvalho vowed to remain schools chief this year, next year and for years to come, according to several attendees. The comment seemed to address his own acknowledgment last week that he was being courted to replace Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Carvalho, an independent who has never run for public office, could have mounted a formidable candidacy, given his broad popularity and name recognition. But he sounded reluctant to run even last week, when Florida Democrats were abuzz about his potential candidacy. And he has since spoken to school board members, including one, Lubby Navarro, who said Carvalho was clear he wasn't running.

Wednesday night, Carvalho's promise to stick to his job was met with resounding applause.

Photo credit: José A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown found guilty in charity scam

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From the Associated Press:

JACKSONVILLE -- Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown has been found guilty of taking money from a charity that was purported to be giving scholarships poor students.

The jury's verdict on Thursday came after prosecutors accused the 70-year-old Brown of using hundreds of thousands of dollars from the One Door for Education Foundation for lavish parties, trips and shopping excursions.

She was found guilty on 18 of the 22 counts against her, including lying on tax and financial disclosure forms.

Brown, a Democrat who represented the Florida district that included Jacksonville since 1993, had pleaded not guilty to all charges including fraud.

Brown's former chief of staff, Elias "Ronnie" Simmons, and One Door's president pleaded guilty after their federal indictments for misusing the charity's funds, and testified against Brown.

Simmons said Brown ordered him to take cash and checks from One Door's account that was put into the congresswoman's personal accounts.

Photo credit: Florida Times-Union via Associated Press

May 10, 2017

If Miami-Dade schools chief runs for Congress, who will replace him?

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@KyraGurney

Just days after Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho’s name surfaced as a potential candidate for Congress, speculation has already started over who might replace him as schools chief.

Several School Board members said they have received calls asking what would happen if Carvalho — who told the Miami Herald on Friday that he is being courted to run for retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat — resigns to run for office.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of folks in all of the communities and yes, they are concerned,” said board Chair Larry Feldman. “He’s been working for us for eight years in this position and has taken us from financial disasters, academic issues, credibility issues,” to a school district that serves as a model for the rest of the country, Feldman said. 

It’s unclear how seriously the superintendent is considering pursuing a political run. On Friday, Carvahlo walked the fence in an interview with the Miami Herald. He said he had a “moral responsibility at least to entertain” requests from the people who are hoping he’ll get into the race but added that his commitment to the school district “is as strong and unwavering as ever.”

But Carvalho has since privately assured School Board members, including Feldman, that he plans to remain head of Miami-Dade Schools, where his contract runs until 2020. 

School Board member Lubby Navarro, who has gotten calls from residents in her district and elected officials concerned about Carvalho’s possible departure, said Carvalho told her on Saturday that there was “zero chance” he would run.

If the superintendent does leave, Navarro said there are two qualified candidates who come to mind as possible replacements: Iraida Mendez-Cartaya, an associate superintendent at the Miami-Dade school district who lobbies in Tallahassee on the district’s behalf, and Pablo Ortiz, a former school district administrator who currently serves as a vice president at Florida International University.

Both responded that they were happy where they were. 

More here