November 08, 2017

Ros-Lehtinen: Fellow Republicans don’t care about finding a permanent TPS solution



Over 200,000 Haitians and Salvadorans could be forced to leave the United States if the Trump administration ends Temporary Protected Status for the two countries, and Democrats along with Miami Republicans in Congress are pushing for a permanent solution.

But Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen isn’t convinced that most of her fellow Republicans care.

The outgoing Miami congresswoman said Tuesday that the majority of Congress “would not know what TPS is” if asked about it and that there isn’t an appetite from Republicans to give TPS recipients a path to permanent residency.

“I spoke yesterday about TPS, had hardly anyone ask me about it. I spoke again today about TPS, radio silence from my colleagues,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “There’s just no interest for immigration reform generally, and I don’t think there’s much appetite to help these two particular groups of people. It hurts to say it but it’s the political reality.”

Ros-Lehtinen and the entire Miami delegation in Congress — Democrats and Republicans — are united behind a bill by Rep. Carlos Curbelo that would allow Haitians, Salvadorans, Hondurans and Nicaraguans who receive TPS to obtain a path to permanent residency.

The Department of Homeland Security announced on Monday that TPS will expire in 2019 for Nicaraguans, while Hondurans will get a six-month extension until July 2018. The Trump administration has not yet announced a determination for Haitians and Salvadorans.

“While I’m disappointed in the administration’s announcement, these continued short-term extensions have created anxiety and uncertainty not only for these immigrants and their families, but also for their employers and neighbors whose prosperity also depends on them,” Curbelo said in a statement. “Congress has an opportunity to change that, and I’m grateful the Administration has called for a permanent solution from Congress.”

But finding a permanent solution will be a political challenge for House Speaker Paul Ryan and the Miami Republicans. Conservative Republicans have railed against any attempt to expand immigration, and the March 2018 deadline for Congress to find a legislative solution for young people known as Dreamers, who came to the country with their parents illegally as children, looms ahead of Nicaragua’s January 2019 TPS elimination or Honduras’ possible elimination in July 2018.

Read more here.

November 06, 2017

Trump administration to end TPS for Nicaraguans. No decision on Haitians, Salvadorans


@francoordonez @jacquiecharles @brendamedinar @alextdaugherty 

The Trump administration will end a temporary program that allows some Nicaraguans to live and work in the United States, while leaving the door open to canceling the same program for more than 200,000 Haitians and Salvadorans in the coming weeks.

The Department of Homeland Security announced Monday night that about 2,000 Nicaraguans who have Temporary Protected Status must leave or seek another form of legal residency, though those affected will be able to stay until January 5, 2019.

The status had been granted to some Nicaraguans who had fled their homeland after the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

“Based on all available information, the country conditions in Nicaragua now exceed Hurricane Mitch,” said a senior administration official.

The 1998 hurricane killed more than 2,000 people in Nicaragua and caused over $1 billion in damage.

But the bigger impact will come when the administration makes a final decision on Salvadorans and Haitians’ status. Haitians status is set to expire in January 2018, affecting about 50,000 people, most of them in Florida, while Sanvadorans’ status expires in March 2018, affecting nearly 200,000 people.

Homeland Security officials also announced that Honduras will get a six-month TPS extension, until July 2018, after the program was set to expire in January. Just under 60,000 Hondurans have received TPS.

Local advocate Francisco Portillo, president of the Honduran group Francisco Morazán, said immigration organizations will keep fighting to win legalization for Honduran TPS holders.

“We are sad by the news but feel fortunate that we got six months to keep lobbying in Washington,” Portillo said. “Let’s see if we can get Congress to legalize these people who have been in the country for decades, are homeowners and business owners and whose kids were born here.”

A bill proposed last week by Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo and co-sponsored by other members of South Florida’s congressional delegation would grant TPS recipients from Honduras, Haiti, El Salvador and Nicaragua a path to permanent residency. Only Congress can provide a permanent solution for individuals enrolled in TPS.

Read more here.

November 03, 2017

Rep. Matt Gaetz says Robert Mueller should recuse himself


via @learyreports

Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz on Friday filed a resolution calling for the resignation of Robert Mueller, whose investigation into Russian meddling in the election escalated dramatically this week.

It accuses Mueller of having a conflict of interest because he headed the FBI when the Obama administration approved a deal that allows a Russian company to mine uranium in the U.S.

President Donald Trump and conservatives have sought to draw ties to Hillary Clinton and have demanded investigations. Fact checkers, however, have largely discounted the assertions.

"Evidence has emerged that the FBI withheld information from Congress and from the American people about Russian corruption of American uranium companies," said Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach. "A confidential U.S. witness, working in the Russian nuclear industry, revealed that Russia had deeply compromised an American uranium trucking firm through bribery and financial kickbacks.

Read more here. 

Curbelo is ready for a tax fight



Carlos Curbelo, Miami's lone representative on the House tax writing committee, is ready to debate a bill that would revamp the nation's tax code for the first time since the 1980s as special interest groups like the real estate industry voice opposition to the proposal.

"I'm not worried about them, I expected this," Curbelo, a Republican, said. "Every special interest group out there thinks the code is for them and the truth is the tax code, the tax system, is for the American people. What we're trying to do is simplify it, eliminate a lot of the special benefits to benefit more people across the board." 

A markup of the bill, dubbed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, is scheduled for Monday. 

"Most people are pretty pleased with the bill," Curbelo said, adding that there could be a Republican amendment during Monday's markup. "There are many opportunities to improve the bill, but most people are generally very satisfied with the bill."
Originally, Curbelo was in favor of a revenue-neutral tax plan that would not increase the federal deficit, though a revenue-neutral plan was not likely after House Speaker Paul Ryan and tax committee chairman Kevin Brady pulled a proposed border adjustment tax when idea faced opposition from trade groups and the White House.
"I always wanted to have revenue-neutral tax reform, in that sense I wish we could have done better, but politics is the art of the possible and this is where we are and we have to make the best of it," Curbelo said. 
Curbelo was also supportive of increasing the child tax credit to $1,600 from the current $1,000, though some Senate Republicans like Marco Rubio have suggested a $1,600 credit isn't enough to help working families. 
"That family credit is defacto permanent, you can take that to the bank," Curbelo said. "I know members on both sides will be supportive of continuing that." 
Democrats are expected to oppose the tax overhaul effort, though Republicans can pass the bill in the House and Senate with a simple majority due to budget rules that were enacted last week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can only afford two Republican defections in the Senate or else the tax plan will fail much like an effort to repeal Obamacare did earlier this year. 
Curbelo's 2018 opponent, Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, criticized his support for the tax plan in a statement. 
“We can all agree the tax code should be simpler but Curbelo’s tax plan is a giveaway to big corporations and the richest among us at the expense of Florida families," Mucarsel-Powell said. 

November 02, 2017

Curbelo, Ros-Lehtinen can apply for Hispanic Caucus membership (Updated)

Curbelo (1)


Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen will receive a letter to officially apply for Congressional Hispanic Caucus membership, and then the body, currently made up of all Democrats, will vote on their application. 

Ros-Lehtinen has no intention of joining the caucus despite the invitation to apply, a spokesman for the congresswoman said.

The CHC executive council discussed Curbelo's potential candidacy during a closed-door meeting on Thursday, according to three members in the room. Curbelo has been trying to join the caucus since February, but the body has yet to make a decision. 

"The congressman’s intention has always been to join the Hispanic Caucus," said Curbelo spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez

At issue is Curbelo's immigration stance. Some members of the caucus are concerned that inviting Curbelo would be antithetical to the group's position on immigration since Curbelo has not co-sponsored a version of the Dream Act, which would give the children of undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.

The Dream Act has Republican co-sponsorship, including from Ros-Lehtinen, who urged a vote on the measure during a speech on Thursday. 

"Let's bring the Dream Act to a vote so that these young people can make their American dream a reality," Ros-Lehtinen said on the House floor. "The clock is ticking." 

But Curbelo has his own proposal, the Raising America's Children Act, that provides a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers but is more narrowly tailored than the Dream Act. Curbelo has pitched his solution as a conservative alternative to the Dream Act. 

"Even when I got into the caucus 14 years ago there was a vote by the other members and we'll take that vote," said Arizona Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva. "Once we're done that, he can possibly stop complaining that he hasn't been given an audience and start complaining about the result." 

Grijalva does not plan to vote for Curbelo even if he signs onto the Dream Act. 

"He's politicized it more than it should be," Grijalva said of Curbelo's desire to join the group. "He's the one running around whining about the fact that he's not being allowed in because he's a Republican. It has nothing to do with that. It's a political strategy to try to make himself in a competitive district look like he's a victim. He's not a victim." 

"We are absolutely, in writing, making it very clear that we recognize that Curbelo and Ileana informally have asked that they be part of the caucus, now they're going to be invited to formally say they want to be a member of the caucus," said CHC chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham. "Every member of our caucus gets a vote." 

Lujan Grisham said the letter will be sent to Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen tomorrow and that a vote could take place next week if the Miami lawmakers reply promptly. Lujan Grisham has not made up her mind on whether she will vote for Curbelo, though she said "it may persuade some members" to vote for him if he signs onto the Dream Act. 

As for Ros-Lehtinen's candidacy, Grijalva said "she's been pretty consistent on our issues" but that the letter to her was more of a "gesture on her part." Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring in 2018, was once part of the CHC but left along with other Republican members in 2003 over differences on Cuba policy. 

The caucus at one time included members from both parties, but several Florida Republicans walked out years ago and formed their own group, the Congressional Hispanic Conference. That group is chaired by Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who has said he’s not interested in joining the other caucus.

UPDATED 3:49pm

Ros-Lehtinen says she has no intention of joining the CHC. 

“I had informal conversations with Michelle and Lucille (Roybal-Allard) over this issue and I told them that I am saving money in my remaining time in Congress to pay for some Congressional costs I have outstanding and I don’t want to use those funds to pay dues to the Caucus," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "Carlos is an outstanding legislator who merits being made a part of the Caucus and I hope that he is accepted by the Caucus."

Lesley Clark contributed 

Curbelo's Hispanic Caucus invite stalls over Dreamers

via @lesleyclark

WASHINGTON -- Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo's bid to join the all-Democratic Congressional Hispanic Caucus is hitting a hurdle, stemming in part from the Miami Republican's decision not to co-sponsor an immigration bill with support from both sides of the aisle.

The caucus could discuss Curbelo's bid at its weekly meeting Thursday, a week after some members privately raised questions about his inclusion.

Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., had predicted last week that members would easily extend an invite to Curbelo. But Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. said Wednesday that members wanted more time to deliberate and seek further clarification about how it would work to have a Republican join the all-Democratic group.

“I don’t think the caucus should be anybody’s foil,” Grijalva said.

Curbelo is a top target for national Democrats eager to win his Democratic-leaning district in south Florida in 2018, but has insisted his bid to join the caucus is not politically motivated. He said he waited until after last year’s election to make the request. 

Curbelo had asked to join the group that takes up issues of concern to the Hispanic community in February, but has claimed that Democrats are deliberately stalling his induction.

Lujan Grisham said she’s been positive about Curbelo’s potential membership, but acknowledged that “in this climate” some caucus members have reservations.

“There is no effort to delay taking an action. There’s more of a thoughtful process to figure out what’s the best way forward,” she said.

More here.

Rubio expresses concern about House GOP tax plan

Marco Rubio 3


Marco Rubio has been touting the importance of expanding the nation's child tax credit to $2,000 as Congress discusses a potential overhaul of the nation's tax code for the first time since Ronald Reagan's presidency. 

But the initial tax overhaul blueprint released by House Republicans on Thursday only expands the credit to $1,600 from the current cap of $1,000. 

That doesn't sit well with Rubio. 

“Every other element of tax reform has a lobbying corps dedicated to pushing for it,” Rubio said last week. “There is no lobbying corps for the expanded child tax credit. We have to ensure that is not the reason that somehow at the end of this we look at this and say, ‘Yeah they increased the child tax credit, its $1,500.’”

On Thursday morning, Rubio said on Twitter that the "House Tax Reform plan is only starting point. But $600 Child Tax Credit increase doesn’t achieve our and POTUS' goal of helping working families." 

Rubio has been working closely with Ivanka Trump and Utah Sen. Mike Lee on an expanded child tax credit. Ideally, Rubio would like to expand the credit beyond $2,000, but said that $2,000 is the minimum amount that will help working-class families. 

"There's no way we can pass tax reform, there's no way we get 50 or 51 votes in the Senate and commensurate votes in the House to pass tax reform if, when you run the numbers, you show that a couple making $55,000 a year raising three kids are going to get a tax increase," Rubio said. "There's no way you’re going to get the votes for that." 

Rubio said last week that he will vote against any tax plan that does not sufficiently expand the child tax credit. 

November 01, 2017

Republicans float another possible contender for Ros-Lehtinen's seat

@alextdaugherty @PatriciaMazzei

National Republicans appear unhappy with their choices in the race to replace Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen next year. And so they've floated the name of a potential fourth candidate: Alex Burgos, a former top aide to Sen. Marco Rubio.

Burgos left his job as Rubio's deputy chief of staff and communications director in April to become vice president of federal policy, government relations and communications for TechNet, which represents the technology industry. Until then, he had been Rubio's longest-paid adviser and the bedrock of the Miami Republican's Capitol Hill office.

He did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Burgos still lives in Washington, where he and his wife are raising three young daughters -- all potentially complicating factors for a congressional bid. But he's a Miami native who still has family ties to Florida's 27th district. Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, is retiring next year, leaving her Democratic-leaning district open to Democrats hoping for to pick up a seat.

The opportunity has drawn seven Democrats to the race -- and three Republicans: Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, former Miami-Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado and former Doral Councilwoman Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera. Last week, Barreiro made it onto the National Republican Congressional Committee's list of 31 candidates nationwide who could become eligible for fundraising help from the party.

But at least some in the GOP continue to be restless about their options. The NRCC had tried to recruit Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera to run, but he said in August that he's not interested.

Frederica Wilson is back in Washington

Frederica Wilson 2


Frederica Wilson has returned to Capitol Hill after missing votes in Congress last week due to threats against her after she was attacked by President Donald Trump and White House chief of staff John Kelly.

Wilson was present for a Tuesday evening vote, her first since Oct. 12, and she does not have extra security in Washington, according to her office.

“Life is back to normal here in Washington, D.C.,” said Wilson spokeswoman Joyce Jones.

Wilson garnered national attention after Trump attacked her on Twitter for listening to a call between the president and the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed during an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger. The Miami Gardens Democrat said Trump was disrespectful to Johnson’s widow, Myeshia, by saying her husband had known what he was getting into by joining the Army, and by calling him “your guy” instead of using his name.

“The Fake News is going crazy with wacky Congresswoman Wilson(D), who was SECRETLY on a very personal call, and gave a total lie on content!” Trump tweeted.

Myeshia Johnson later backed up Wilson’s account of the call.

In the days after Trump’s attack, racist threats began to surface against Wilson.

“Need ten good men to help carry out a lynching,” a Facebook post by a Chicago area man read. “Must have own horse and saddle. Rope will be provided. This congresswomen [sic] is a disgusting pig. Someone should take their boot to her face.”

Police are investigating that threat.

Read more here.

October 31, 2017

South Florida lawmakers propose a path to legal status for Haitian TPS recipients



A bipartisan group of South Florida lawmakers introduced a bill on Tuesday that provides a path to permanent residency for thousands of foreign citizens who participate in a temporary program that allows them to work and live in the United States.

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo introduced the Extending Status Protection for Eligible Refugees with Established Residency Act, which provides a pathway to permanent legal status for certain Haitians, Nicaraguans, El Salvadoreans and Hondurans who arrived in the United States before Jan. 13, 2011.

South Florida Democratic Reps. Frederica Wilson and Alcee Hastings also signed on to the legislation, which applies to participants in the Temporary Protected Status program, along with Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

“While hoping and waiting they would be able to return to their native countries for years, Nicaraguan, Salvadoran, Honduran and Haitian migrants have become essential parts of the South Florida community by contributing to our local economy and our culture,” Curbelo said in a statement. “While I will continue to support extensions for Temporary Protected Status, this bipartisan legislation would give these migrants the peace of mind to continue giving back to their communities, contributing to our economy and supporting their families.”

Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras are the three countries with the most participants in the program, which is administered by the Department of Homeland Security. About 300,000 people from those three countries participate in TPS, and the bulk of Haiti’s 50,000 TPS recipients live in South Florida.

“I am proud to be part of this bipartisan effort to provide a permanent solution for families living in the United States with temporary protected status,” Wilson said in a statement. “It is in the meantime imperative that we not forget the economic, cultural and other contributions that people living and working in the United States thanks to this measure are making to both to our nation and their native countries.”

The Trump administration faces multiple looming deadlines for extending the Temporary Protected Status program in Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras. Haiti’s status is set to expire in January 2018 after then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly extended TPS for six months instead of the usual 18 in May.

Kelly also said Haitians “need to start thinking about returning.”

Extending TPS for Haitians is a source of bipartisan agreement among Florida lawmakers, including Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson. But the Trump administration terminated Sudan’s TPS status in September, an indication that they could decide to end other countries’ TPS status.

Currently, citizens from nine countries are eligible for TPS. The bill to provide a path to permanent residency does not apply to TPS recipients from Nepal, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria or Yemen.

Read more here.