April 25, 2016

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

IMG_Cad14_Carnival_NEW_H_2_1_AQ7QKD61_L212884987

@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

In new bid for old seat, ex-Rep. Joe Garcia says he raked in $325K

@PatriciaMazzei

In his first six weeks as a candidate for his old congressional seat, former Rep. Joe Garcia of Miami said he raised $325,000 -- more than his Democratic opponent, Annette Taddeo, has collected in any three-month period since she began running a year ago.

Both are hoping for a shot to unseat freshman Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo in Florida's 26th congressional district, which spans Westchester to Key West.

"I announced my candidacy in February, because I couldn't sit by and watch Republicans like Carlos Curbelo dismantle access to healthcare and family planning for women, treat our immigrant community like second-class citizens and strike down environmental protections that keep our water clean and our natural treasures safe," Garcia said in a statement. "Today's numbers show the people of South Florida know I won't let them down."

Campaign-finance reports showing fundraising from Jan. 1 through March 31 are due by midnight to the Federal Election Commission. Garcia's campaign said he's got $315,000 cash on hand, after expenses.

Neither Curbelo nor Taddeo have announced their totals yet, though Curbelo, who has far more money in the bank, is expected to still lead the cash-on-hand race.

Taddeo's last report showed about $275,000 in fundraising, while Curbelo's showed about $450,000. Taddeo's strongest quarter was the one that ended last October; in that period, she collected more than $300,000, but that included a $75,000 loan to herself. That was Curbelo's slowest Curbelo; he brought in about $256,000.

April 14, 2016

Miami congressman shares concerns over whether Cuba is ready for more air travel

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo gave a thumbs up Thursday to his colleagues in Congress asking the Obama administration for additional scrutiny of air passengers traveling to the U.S. from Cuba.

Three Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives -- Michael McCaul of Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security; John Katko of New York and Scott Perry of California -- wrote Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson earlier this week asking for answers to a series of questions about safety screenings at Cuban airports, now that more people are making the trip from the island.

"We are concerned that the rapid speed at which preparations for regular commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba will come at the cost of failing to ensure that adequate safety and security protocols are in place," they wrote. "This could jeopardize the safety of U.S. travelers and our homeland and national security."

They noted Havana's airport "does not have adequate terminal or tarmac space" and said they're worried a crush of new passengers could lead to costly security mistakes.

Curbelo agreed.

"Senior U.S. intelligence officials have made it clear there are serious safety concerns with Cuban government workers, who are ill-trained and lacking proper equipment to adequately screen commercial air passengers," Curbelo said in a statement Thursday. "From the devastating terrorist attacks in Europe, we have learned that we must do everything we can to keep those intending to do us harm out of our country and bringing this issue to light is a bold first step."

Read the congressmen's letter: Letter

April 09, 2016

Miami’s once-mighty political guard left out of conversation on Cuba

US NEWS BAYOFPIGS 6 MCT

@PatriciaMazzei

President Barack Obama’s historic trip to Cuba last month marked the culmination of a foreign policy he laid out eight years as ago as a candidate, when he broke with his predecessors and pledged to sit down with unfriendly dictators, because punishing them with silence seemed “ridiculous.”

He did more than just meet with Raúl Castro. Obama, flexing his office’s extensive executive power over international affairs, dismantled almost every piece of the U.S.’s Cold War-era approach to Cuba.

Left out of the conversation: anyone who disagreed, including the eight Cuban Americans — Republican and Democrat — in Congress 57 years after the Cuban revolution. Half of them — one senator and three representatives — hail from Miami, the new city exiles made in Havana’s old image.

For eight years, they’ve had zero input on the issue on which some of them built their political careers. And now they face the prospect of four or eight more years of the same, with a new White House tenant come January. Castro has promised to retire in 2018.

Miami’s Cuban-American political guard risks losing any influence it has left at a time when Cuba could undergo its most sweeping changes.

“There’s no doubt about it,” said Pepe Hernández, president of the Cuban American National Foundation, which supports the Cuba policy Obama unveiled 15 months ago. “Like they say in dominó, they have been shuffled off the table, quite substantially, in the past few years — but especially since Dec. 17, 2014.

“But I don’t think, honestly, they care much.”

They don’t.

“I’m not hurt at all — it frees up my day,” Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said of not talking to Obama. “He’s of no consequence to us.”

But what about the next president?

More here.

Photo credit: Astrid Riecken, MCT