August 03, 2015

Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio split votes on Planned Parenthood

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio stuck around Washington today to cast a vote to defund Planned Parenthood, a measure that failed to get 60 votes to advance.

Rubio was scheduled to be in Manchester, N.H., for a candidate forum but did not want to miss the vote, which follows the release of covert videos about Planned Parenthood. Rubio will participate in the forum via video, as will Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.

Sen. Bill Nelson joined Democrats in opposing the effort to strip funding for Planned Parenthood.

Writing for today, Rubio blasted Planned Parenthood as a "morally bankrupt organization.

"Americans of conscience might disagree on the legality of abortion," Rubio wrote. "It is a contentious issue that elicits deep passions. But as a country, we should at least be able to find common ground on acknowledging and respecting the humanity and basic dignity of both the mother and the unborn child. It is clear from the videos that Planned Parenthood long ago stopped acknowledging either. At Planned Parenthood, women are treated as paying clients, not patients. Unborn children are treated as cells and tissues, not human beings. The organs and limbs of babies are treated as commodities, for sale to the highest bidder on an open market. And taxpayers are forced to fund this."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Miami congressman diagnosed with whooping cough

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U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Miami finally received a confirmed diagnosis Monday for the illness that has plagued him for nearly a month: He has pertussis, better known as whooping cough.

The lab results prompted Curbelo's doctor in the Capitol to notify the Washington D.C. health department, which told the Republican congressman it will report the case to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Whooping cough is a contagious respiratory infection tracked by public-health experts.

"Although the last few weeks have been very trying for me and for my family, thankfully I am now recovering," Curbelo said in a statement to the Miami Herald.

Curbelo had appeared under the weather at a couple of July public appearances, including a July 20 news conference condemning the opening of the Cuban embassy in Washington. He also sounded stuffy in a July 23 C-SPAN interview. He nevertheless kept a regular work schedule; whooping-cough patients can feel fine in between coughing fits.

Continue reading "Miami congressman diagnosed with whooping cough" »

August 02, 2015

Democrats fight over Hillary Clinton backer who endorsed Miami Republican congressman


Shortly after Democrat Annette Taddeo launched her campaign against Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, Curbelo boasted he had snagged the endorsements of a slew of local Democrats. The list included Hispanic media consultant Freddy Balsera, who also happens to be raising money for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

That didn't seem to sit well with Taddeo's campaign: Someone in her circle asked the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington to make Clinton's campaign aware of Balsera's endorsement -- in what Balsera considers an attempt to sideline him from the high-profile 2016 presidential race.

The behind-the-scenes fight spilled over into the public realm last week when Balsera's firm organized a series of meetings in Miami for Lorella Praeli, Clinton's Hispanic outreach director, who was in town to introduce herself to local reporters and Democratic activists. The feud was first reported Sunday by Politico.

Balsera doesn't have an official role with the Clinton campaign -- at least, not yet -- but he's a Clinton supporter and surrogate speaker who worked on President Barack Obama's two races and sat on his national finance committees.

"The Taddeo campaign heard that Balsera may be doing some work with the Clinton campaign and -- this was months ago -- and asked the DCCC to raise the issue with the Clinton campaign," DCCC spokesman Matt Thornton told the Miami Herald.

Continue reading "Democrats fight over Hillary Clinton backer who endorsed Miami Republican congressman" »

July 30, 2015

As oil-drilling bill advances, Sen. Bill Nelson vows to use all options to stop it


A bill to open new areas off Florida’s Gulf Coast to drilling and to accelerate the timetable for doing so passed out of a U.S. Senate committee Thursday, prompting a vow from one of the state’s senators to do whatever measures possible to block it.

The legislation passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, allowing for additional areas of oil and gas exploration off America’s shores. Part of the bill dealt with drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast – and prompted the rebuke from Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Orlando.

In a one-line letter to the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate, Nelson said, “If any measure to repeal the current moratorium on offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico comes before the full Senate for a vote, I will use all available procedural options to block it.”

Currently, there’s a no-drilling zone extending 125 miles off most of the state’s Gulf coastline – and as far out as 235 miles at some points, Nelson said. That no-drilling zone is in effect until 2022.

The Gulf measure originally came from Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, who earlier this year introduced his Offshore Energy and Jobs Act. It would allow for drilling 50 miles off Florida’s Gulf shores and begin opening up the area sooner than the law now calls for.

His Gulf-related bill was pulled into a broader drilling bill that also addressed areas off Alaska and in the Atlantic Ocean. It passed out of committee on a 12-10 vote.

There is no indication when it might be taken up by the full Senate.

The power of a solo senator to stop legislation is limited, but they do have some options – such as a filibuster – to hold up a bill and bring attention to it.

Continue reading "As oil-drilling bill advances, Sen. Bill Nelson vows to use all options to stop it" »

No U.S. Senate run for Rep. Jeff Miller

via @learyreports

Rep. Jeff Miller will not run for U.S. Senate, saying he will focus on fixing the "toxic culture" at the VA.

The North Florida Republican had been strongly considering entering the race for Marco Rubio's seat and said he would announce a decision after August.

But today he warned of a presidential veto of his Accountability Act.

"It became clear to me that this Administration is not committed to reforming the VA," Miller said in a statement. "My personal commitment to the veterans of this country is greater than my desire to seek higher office.

"I have made the determination that I can best serve veterans as Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and the member from the First District of Florida. I have decided to forgo my candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 2016 and instead continue my efforts to reform the toxic culture within the VA.

"Vicki and I have prayed about this for weeks, and we feel that we have come to the best decision.  We appreciate the outpouring of support from our family, friends, and supporters from all across the great State of Florida and throughout the Nation.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

July 24, 2015

Carlos Curbelo tries to rally support against change in U.S. citizenship oath


Up until now, new U.S. citizens have had to take an oath at their naturalization ceremonies pledging to bear arms or perform noncombatant military service when required by law. 

This week, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a modification to the "Oath of Allegiance" allowing new citizens to opt out of the two clauses (one for bearing arms and the other for noncombatant military service) based on religion or conscientious objection.

That modification did not sit well with U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who has emailed other members of Congress asking them to sign on to a letter opposing the new policy, which the Miami Republican called "misguided." Two other Republicans, Diane Black of Tennessee and David Valadao California, have already signed on. Curbelo's parents immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba.

"As Members of Congress, it is our belief that the current Oath of Allegiance respects those new citizens’ religious beliefs by including the option to perform 'noncombatant services in the Armed Services,'" says the letter, addressed to Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez.

"Allowing for individuals to be exempt from reciting these guidelines of the Oath based off moral objections is cause for grave concern and could set a bad precedent. Defending our country when needed should remain a duty for all citizens. Making it option would diminish the allegiance that all citizens should have for our nation."

Read the text of the letter below:

Continue reading "Carlos Curbelo tries to rally support against change in U.S. citizenship oath" »

July 23, 2015

Miami Beach woman's push to replace Confederate general statue with environmentalist gains traction

via @DriscollAmy

The push by a Miami Beach woman to replace Florida’s statue of a Confederate general with one of Marjory Stoneman Douglas won support last week from the Miami-Dade Commission for Women.

The commission voted unanimously on Wednesday to help Lynette Long ask Florida legislators to sponsor a bill to replace the statue of Edmund Kirby Smith, who surrendered the last military force of the Confederacy, with one of the champion of the Everglades. Smith’s bronze figure has stood in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection since 1922, where each state is allowed two representatives.

Florida’s other place of honor belongs to John Gorrie, the inventor of air conditioning.

Long has worked for years to see women’s contributions better represented in the nation’s symbols. Her push to replace the statue comes as the U.S. has announced it will feature a woman’s face on the $10 bill and after South Carolina took down the Confederate flag from the state Capitol in the wake of the race-related slaughter of nine people in Charleston.

Last month, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, called on Florida to replace Smith’s statue, calling it troubling “that one of Florida’s statues is an obscure Confederate war general."


Miami Republican votes with 4 others in GOP against crackdown on 'sanctuary' cities


Only five Republicans in the U.S. House voted Thursday against a law cracking down on so-called "sanctuary" cities that restrict cooperation with federal authorities over immigration enforcement.

One of them, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, is from Miami-Dade County, which is not a self-styled "sanctuary" but does limit local police assistance to the feds. The law passed by the House was drafted in reaction to the murder of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco by a man who had been deported five times to Mexico.

"Sanctuary cities are one of the many symptoms of our deeply flawed immigration system," Curbelo said in a statement. "However, had this bill been the law of the land prior to the death of Ms. Steinle, it would not have prevented this heinous crime. Sanctuary cities are dangerous because they inadvertently promote lawlessness, but H.R. 3009 will not stop this unfortunate practice.

"This bill does nothing to secure our border, reform our visa system, or account for unauthorized immigrants living in our country, and is unlikely to ever become law. Instead it wrongly punishes law enforcement officials in many states. It's time to stop playing politics with immigration and advance serious solutions that will prevent future victims, finally giving America an immigration system worthy of the world's greatest nation."

Another Miami Republican, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, told Politico after the vote that he favored the bill because he believes in "zero tolerance to serious criminals."

President Obama has said he would veto the bill, which would strip "sanctuary" cities from federal funds.

C-SPAN viewer takes on Carlos Curbelo over Donald Trump


U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo made an appearance Thursday on C-SPAN's Washington Journal, a program that takes live calls from viewers. One of the callers gave Curbelo a grilling over the Miami Republican's criticism of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.

William of Georgia was introduced as an independent, but he called himself a "constitutional conservative."

"I'm going to try to remain calm as best I can here," William began. "The congressman is the kind of Republican that drives us away from the Republican Party."

"Donald Trump has touched a nerve," he continued, defending Trump's take on illegal immigration and arguing that the real-estate mogul didn't refer to all Mexican immigrants as rapists.

"I will not vote for Jeb Bush if he's the nominee," William concluded, adding a touch of sarcasm. "You keep it up."

Responded Curbelo, a Bush supporter: "Anyone who is seriously considering Donald Trump for president really has to reevaluate what their vision is for the future of our country."

"Mr. Trump is a candidate who's not advancing any solutions," he added. "He's trying to inspire fear and anger in people, as we just heard from the caller."

Later, Curbelo answered another pro-Trump caller by saying Trump is "going to get exposed in the upcoming debates." A Democrat chided Curbelo and the entire GOP for failing to tamp down Trump's political pull four years ago when he questioned President Obama's country of birth.

"We do a disservice to our country by talking about Donald Trump all day," Curbelo lamented. "And we reward him, because this is what he wants."

Congressional Black Caucus keeping eye on Florida redistricting


African American members of Congress are making it clear that they will be watching Florida’s redistricting efforts to assure black communities do not lose their voice in Washington.

“The Congressional Black Caucus supports a redistricting plan that enables African American communities to have an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice to Congress,” said U.S. Rep. G. K. Butterfield, D-North Carolina, chairman of the caucus. “We encourage the Florida legislature to draft a redistricting plan that does not retrogress and maintains the current ability of African American Floridians to elect members of Congress.”

Florida has three members in that caucus, including U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, whose 5th Congressional District was among those the Florida Supreme Court ruled earlier this month had been to be redrawn because they were “tainted with unconstitutional intent” to favor Republicans and incumbents.

Brown’s district is expected to face some of the most severe redrawing based on the Supreme Court’s ruling. Her district currently stretches from Jacksonville to the Orlando area.

Brown has blasted the court’s decision as being “seriously flawed” and failing to recognize that the 5th District “maintains communities of interest.”

The Florida Legislature is set to begin a special session on Aug 10 to redraw Brown's district, as well as six other districts, including two in Miami, one in Boca Raton and another in West Palm Beach.