June 05, 2016

Rubio blocks confirmation of judge he nominated

via @jayhweaver

After his failed run for the Republican presidential nomination, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio returned to Washington with a pledge to “finish strong” and complete his work in Congress.

But the Florida lawmaker, who is leaving Congress in early January, has conspicuously left undone one legislative item: clearing the way for the Senate confirmation hearing of Miami lawyer Mary Barzee Flores. She is a former state judge who was nominated by President Barack Obama to a vacancy on South Florida’s federal bench more than a year ago.

This past week, his office made it abundantly clear for the first time that Rubio — who along with Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson had recommended her for the judgeship — is blocking her nomination for reasons critics say boil down to “extreme political partisanship.”

Rubio’s office told the Miami Herald that he recently issued so-called blue slips triggering confirmation hearings for three Obama-nominated federal judges in Central and North Florida with Republican backgrounds. But the senator refuses to do the same for Barzee Flores, calling her the “wrong person” for the South Florida federal judgeship, without providing specific reasons about her legal credentials.

“Senator Rubio recently returned the blue slip for three judges to fill other vacancies throughout Florida, but he will not return the blue slip on Ms. Barzee Flores,” Rubio’s office said in a statement, which was released to other news media after the Herald requested an update on Barzee Flores’ confirmation hearing.

More here.

June 03, 2016

In Miami, Obama praises Wasserman Schultz

@PatriciaMazzei

President Barack Obama gave a shout-out in Miami on Friday to U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, who faces a contested primary election.

Wasserman Schultz is chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, which hosted Obama for a fundraiser at the Coconut Grove home of attorney Robert Rubenstein. Her opponent, Tim Canova, has been endorsed by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Obama described Wasserman Schultz as "somebody who I don't know how she does it, because she's everywhere all the time, non-stop, and she's a mom and a wife and has been just incredibly supportive of my agenda."

"She's taken tough votes when they're the right thing to do, and she's somebody who I have counted on consistently," Obama said. "She's had my back. I want to make sure we have her back."

The about 90 donors gathered at the dinner gave her a standing ovation.

Obama also gave shout-outs to several other attendees, including former Gov. Charlie Crist, who is now running for Congress in St. Petersbur ("a great friend," Obama said). And he praised a candidate who wasn't there: U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter. Earlier Friday, Obama attended a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser for Murphy on Miami Beach.

"I think he's going to be outstanding in the United States Senate," Obama said.

Photo credit: Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

Rubio, Curbelo press GOP on Zika funding: 'Mosquitoes bite Republicans'

@PatriciaMazzei

Consider this a warning from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio to members of Congress running for re-election this fall: You might have to cut your campaign short for an emergency vote on Zika-prevention funding if lawmakers don't act now.

"Members of Congress, in the middle of their campaigns, are going to have to stop what they're doing and fly back to Washington," Rubio predicted. "The public is going to be very upset."

The Florida Republican laid out the worst-case political scenario Friday in his Doral office, where he gave another news conference about the mosquito-borne virus threat.

Congress is on recess. It took a break before passing legislation setting aside money to combat the disease. Rubio and U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Miami Republican who joined him Friday, back President Barack Obama's request for $1.9 billion. Rubio declared himself "borderline extremely angry" that no vote had been finalized.

"Mosquitoes bite Republicans, and I know they bite Democrats and independents and vegetarians," he said.

Continue reading "Rubio, Curbelo press GOP on Zika funding: 'Mosquitoes bite Republicans'" »

Debbie Wasserman Schultz backs away from opposition to payday lending rules

via @learyreports

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Friday became the second Florida Democrat to back away from opposition to new payday lender rules pushed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

In a statement, Wasserman Schultz said, "it is clear to me that the CFPB strikes the right balance and I look forward to working with my constituents and consumer groups as the CFPB works towards a final rule.”

Her support of a bill to delay the new regulations was a source of controversy, drawing TV ads from a liberal group that called her "Debt Trap Debbie." It also put her opposite President Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton and other advocates of a crackdown on the lenders.

The proposed rules were published Thursday. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a candidate for U.S. Senate, also retreated from the House bill, which held up Florida regulations as a model.

“As a strong supporter and partner of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Congress, I stand with the CFPB in its efforts to protect Americans from predatory lending," Wassserman Schultz said. "From the outset of this process, I have said that I trust the CFPB to do what’s right for consumers, and these proposed rules are an important step towards that critical goal."

Continue reading "Debbie Wasserman Schultz backs away from opposition to payday lending rules" »

June 02, 2016

Forum shows GOP Senate race to replace Marco Rubio could use a little pizzazz

@PatriciaMazzei

The Republican race to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate has an excitement problem. As in, it doesn’t have much.

At least, that was one of the conclusions that could be drawn from a forum Thursday night in Boca Raton, billed as the first event showcasing all five GOP candidates.

In the end, one of them didn’t show up — and the four who did struggled to energize the room. Some 200 Republicans sat down for dinner at the Boca Raton Marriott. At times, they seemed far more interested in their food than the speakers.

Things got livelier two hours into the event, after the candidates concluded their lengthy stump speeches and fielded two questions each. Funding sanctuary cities? No. Reforming the Veterans Administration? Yes.

Still, if there’s one thing the forum underscored, it’s that none of the Republican candidates have been able to stand out in the crowded field — something public-opinion polls have showed for months. The contenders have time to change that before the Aug. 30 primary election. But the lack of pizzazz explains in part why GOP leaders in Congress have made a last-ditch attempt to recruit Rubio to run for re-election.

However, the former presidential candidate has said he won’t. He’s been fundraising for one of the candidates, his friend and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

In fact, Lopez-Cantera made the only reference to Rubio on Thursday night: “Here’s the Marco Rubio moment,” he said, before taking a sip of water.

More here.

Democrat plans to challenge Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

@PatriciaMazzei

In the year of Donald Trump, no Republican may be safe — not even the dean of Miami-Dade County’s congressional delegation. U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on Friday will draw a Democratic challenger, the first serious candidate to launch a campaign against her in eight years.

Scott Fuhrman, a political newcomer and third-generation fruit-juice bottler, has national Democrats’ backing to try to unseat Ros-Lehtinen, a beloved, socially liberal Republican who has been in Congress since 1989.

“I don’t have all the answers, but I think it’s time to try something new,” Fuhrman said Thursday in an interview with the Miami Herald.

Fuhrman, 34, of South Miami, speaks openly about numerous past brushes with the law. He has been registered without political-party affiliation in the past and plans to kick off his “unorthodox” candidacy with a web video Friday. He acknowledged his campaign will be “an uphill battle.”

Ros-Lehtinen, 63, isn’t considered a vulnerable political target, even after Congressional District 27, which stretches from North Bay Village to Cutler Bay, was redrawn to lean slightly Democratic. The nonpartisanCook Political Report, which analyzes congressional races, lists the seat as “solid” Republican, and the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report rates it “safe” Republican — even though the district voters favored President Barack Obama over Republican Mitt Romney by 7 percentage points in 2012.

Yet Democrats hope Trump might change the equation, if enough voters who oppose him also punish the rest of the Republicans on the ticket. South Florida already boasts one of the most competitive congressional races in the country: Freshman Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo is trying to fend off two Democrats in a Westchester-to-Key West district that leans even more Democratic than Ros-Lehtinen’s. Neither Curbelo nor Ros-Lehtinen, both in Hispanic-majority districts, plans to vote for Trump.

More here.

May 31, 2016

Battle of the bagel between Tim Canova and Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Under attack by her Democratic opponent and facing criticism for her national role as Democratic National Committee chair, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz fired back Tuesday at Tim Canova and portrayed him as an outsider.

“I have consistently, actively, vocally supported and advanced the causes that help make people's lives better and my opponent has done absolutely nothing,” she said. “He has never been involved in this community and so it’s very nice to say you share the same opinions on an issue. There is a difference between putting your body in front of an oncoming train and making sure that you are standing up actively engaged on these issues and saying, yeah, I’m going to hold up my hand and say yeah, me too.”

Her comments at a press conference followed her bagel fundraiser hosted by former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank at a real estate investment office on Las Olas Boulevard, where donors were asked to donate up to $5,400.

That prompted Canova to ask in a fundraising email “$5,400 for a bagel?” At the same time as her fundraiser, he offered up free bagels at a deli in Cooper City.

“Access to the ears of our representatives shouldn’t be so costly,” Canova said, after introducing himself to voters.

It was just another morning in the increasingly fierce battle between the Democrats running in Congressional District 23, which spans Weston to northern Miami-Dade County. This is the first time that Wasserman Schultz has faced a primary challenger since her first bid for office in 1992 for the state Legislature. She won the left-leaning congressional seat in 2004 and has easily fended off longshot Republican challengers since that time. Canova, a first-time candidate and Hollywood resident, is a Nova Southeastern University law professor.

Keep reading here.

May 28, 2016

Marco Rubio holds fundraising call for Carlos Lopez-Cantera

@PatriciaMazzei

A nugget from our story Friday about the Republican Party wooing Marco Rubio to remain in the U.S. Senate is the latest and perhaps most salient sign that Rubio has no intention of seeking re-election: Rubio held a fundraising call for Carlos Lopez-Cantera, the friend he's hoping will replace him.

So why does the hullabaloo around Rubio continue?

Perhaps, as we note in the story: In a crowded GOP primary field where no candidate has broken out, Lopez-Cantera might benefit from building up Rubio in the eyes of party leaders ahead of a Rubio endorsement in his favor.

More here.

May 27, 2016

Congressional Black Caucus endorses Debbie Wasserman Schultz

The political arm of the Congressional Black Caucus has endorsed U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz who is running against first-time candidate Tim Canova for a Broward/Miami-Dade seat.

From a press release:

"Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been a consistent and reliable leader and voice on issues of importance to African Americans and all Americans. As a Member of Congress, she has supported the Congressional Black Caucus’ agenda on issues such as voting rights, HBCU funding, fair sentencing guidelines, affordable housing, creating opportunities for minority-owned businesses, and lifting the people out of poverty and into the middle class to name a few. As leader of the Democratic National Committee, she has “walked the walk” with an unprecedented number of senior level African American appointments and policies that have provided historical opportunities for African American policy makers, operatives, activists and businesses. Under her leadership, both the 2012 and 2016 Democratic National Conventions have set diversity goals that meet and exceed levels of past minority participation. Her commitment to diversity is unwavering and the advances under her leadership are unquestioned."

It's not a surprise that Wasserman Schultz's colleagues in the House endorsed her -- she is the Democratic National Committee chair and has served in Congress since first winning her seat in 2004. But the endorsement gives her some good publicity during a week when there were news reports about whether some Democrats -- most notably Bernie Sanders who is backing Canova -- are hoping she is replaced as DNC chair.

But it seems unlikely Democrats would want to give that type of ammunition to Republicans this close to an election. Also in her favor: President Barack Obama won Florida both times while Wasserman Schultz was the chair, and he has endorsed her in her Congressional race. Plus Vice President Joe Biden is coming to Coconut Grove to fundraise for her in June. 

Canova announced earlier today that he was endorsed by the Democracy for America PAC, the group started by Howard Dean.

About 13 percent of the district's voting age population is black in Congressional District 23 which spans from Weston to northern Miami-Dade. South Florida members who are in the Congressional Black Caucus include Frederica Wilson and Alcee Hastings.

May 26, 2016

Democrats debut anti-Trump ad in swing Miami congressional district

@PatriciaMazzei

National Democrats have targeted 15 competitive congressional districts across the country -- including one based in Miami -- to launch a digital ad campaign against House Republicans and Donald Trump.

The video, backed by a five-figure online ad buy, will run for two weeks. It features Trump sound bites on issues such as immigration and abortion, along with clips from House GOP leaders.

By tying Trump to Congress in districts where the presumptive presidential nominee is already unpopular, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee hopes to boost the chances of its candidates, including in Florida's 26th district, where the party has backed Annette Taddeo. She faces a tough primary against former Rep. Joe Garcia to take on Rep. Carlos Curbelo, the Republican incumbent.

Titled "Building Blocks," the highly produced video will be promoted on Facebook, aimed at female Republican and independent voters Democrats hope to win over come November. It's the biggest digital ad campaign the DCCC has launched so far this election cycle.