September 25, 2015

House Speaker John Boehner resigns

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, will resign at the end of October, shaking up the leadership of the Congress.

Boehner has been under constant criticism from conservatives, who have demanded a more confrontational approach to President Barack Obama. The latest flashpoint is the desire to stop federal financing of Planned Parenthood, which some conservatives insist be tied to any measure keeping the government open when appropriations expire Sept. 30.

Boehner had signed onto an alternative plan that would allow the government to stay open, and give conservatives a separate vote on Planned Parenthood funding, which ultimately would fail with an Obama veto.

When U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio announced at the Value Voters Summit this morning that Boehner would be resigning it drew cheers and a standing ovation from the crowd.

Here is Boehner's Truth-O-Meter record from PolitiFact.

Here is the reaction from the South Florida Congressional delegation and other political figures (this post will be updated):

Continue reading "House Speaker John Boehner resigns" »

September 18, 2015

Democrat running for Congress in Miami would have been yes on Iran deal


One of the issues where Democratic congressional candidate Annette Taddeo differs with Rep. Carlos Curbelo, the Miami Republican she's trying to unseat, is over the nuclear deal with Iran.

Taddeo supports the agreement -- though with some hesitation -- while Curbelo opposes it.

Here's the statement Taddeo's campaign provided the Miami Herald on Friday, after the newspaper asked for the Democrat's position:

America must always be an unwavering supporter of Israel and her right to defend herself. As an American Jew, and knowing the horrors of the Holocaust from within our family, this issue is terribly personal to me and my family. I do not trust Iran, and believe we should do everything in our power to prevent that regime from gaining nuclear weapons. My support for Israel and concern about Iran are precisely why I support the the Iran deal. The agreement enables the United States and our allies to verify Iran's compliance, and in the event of a violation, respond immediately and militarily if necessary. While it's not perfect, this deal is our best chance of blocking Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb, short of war.

Taddeo was born Roman Catholic in Colombia but converted to Judaism as an adult in the U.S. and later married a fellow Jew, Eric Goldstein. (As chair of the Miami-Dade County Democrats, she was known as Annette Taddeo Goldstein but she's never used her full name on the ballot. She said when she was Charlie Crist's running mate in the Florida governor's race last year that such a long name didn't fit on campaign signs.)

Curbelo, a moderate who represents a swing district from Westchester to Key West, issued a statement slamming the Iran deal last week:

When the details of the Iran Deal were released, I began the review process with an open mind. After thorough evaluation and consultation with countless foreign affairs and Middle East policy experts on the ramifications of the agreement, I came to the conclusion that this deal will in no way prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state.  In fact, rather than eliminate Iran's nuclear program, this deal manages to give it legitimacy.

The deal negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama fails to provide the United States with unencumbered access to Iran’s military sites and gives Iran the opportunity to stall and block inspector access to their facilities for 24 days. This elongated amount of time is absolutely unacceptable. It is irrational to give concessions to a country that has historically lied about their nuclear capabilities and spread terror throughout the region. For these reasons and more, I strongly oppose the Iran Deal. 

Even more troubling was to find that after further review, it became clear that secret agreements were made between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran. These inconspicuous agreements were not submitted to Congress for review, which was in director violation of the Iran Nuclear Review Act. The American people deserve the confidence of knowing that Iran will never possess the ability to use nuclear weapons. The only acceptable agreement would be one that completely eliminates the nuclear threat of Iran to provide for a safer United States and world.

September 15, 2015

Miami Republicans in Congress sign on to climate-change resolution


In a symbolic move ahead of Pope Francis' visit to Congress, a group of Republicans plans to file a resolution acknowledging climate change caused at least in part by human activities and pledging to address its detrimental consequences.

Among those U.S. House members signing on are Miami Republicans Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both of whom represent coastal South Florida districts. Curbelo's district includes the low-lying Florida Keys.

"South Florida is the frontline of climate change, where we have seen its negative impact in the form of rising sea-levels and the erosion of our coastal communities," Curbelo said in a statement. "In Miami-Dade County alone, more people live less than a mere four feet above sea level than any state in the union with the exception of Louisiana. In fact, 40 percent of Florida's population is at risk of rising sea levels, posing a clear and present danger.

"Our goal with this resolution is to shift the debate from whether climate change is real to what we can do to mitigate its effects."

The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., would commit the House to "working create and support economically viable, and broadly supported private and public solutions to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates, including mitigation efforts and efforts to balance human activities that have been found to have an impact."

Continue reading "Miami Republicans in Congress sign on to climate-change resolution" »

Democratic plaintiffs offer up congressional map -- after discussing with DCCC

The group of Democratic-leaning voters who have challenged the GOP-led redistricting efforts have offered up their version of a remedial congressional map and it includes most of the final map approved by the House with some changes -- to the Miami districts 26 and 27 now held by Republican Congressmen Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and the Palm Beach and Broward districts now held by Congressmen Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel. Story here. 

Drawn by Harvard University Professor Stephen Ansolabehere with data-analysis assistance from Boston University Assistant Professor Maxwell Palmer and lawyers from Perkins Coie in Washington, D.C., the submission from the group, known as the Romo plaintiff's, also includes this admission:

"In addition, Perkins Coie attorneys discussed aspects of the Romo Plaintiffs’ Proposed Remedial Plan with staff members of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and NCEC Services."  Download Romo Notice Of Filing

NCEC services is a Washginton, D.C. consulting firm that specializes in "electoral analysis, campaign strategy, political targeting, and GIS services."

September 14, 2015

Congresswoman asks Miami Dade College president to White House reception for Pope Francis


Miami Gardens Rep. Frederica Wilson one-upped some of her fellow members of Congress who invited friends, family, constituents and the local archbishop to Pope Francis' speech at the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 24.

Not only did Wilson, a Democrat, distribute the same tickets that everyone else got, but she also invited a guest to a Sept. 23 welcoming reception for Francis at the White House. She asked Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padrón.

"He is honored," MDC spokesman Juan Mendieta said in an email.

Wilson put it like this: "To be in the same room with the president and the pope -- that's over the top!"

Her ticket for inside the Capitol chambers during Francis' speech went to Bethune-Cookman University President Edison O. Jackson, and St. Thomas University President Msgr. Franklyn M. Casale will get to sit on the west lawn of the National Mall.

"They're not sure whether he's going to bless the crowd or whether he's going to just wave," Wilson said.

She made her picks to thank the universities that work with her 5000 Role Models of Excellence program for boys and young men.

September 11, 2015

Hot ticket in Washington: Pope Francis' address to Congress

Vatican Pope(2)


Pope Francis heads to the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 24. And suddenly members of Congress, with their notoriously low approval ratings, are quite popular with Francis fans eager to score a ticket.

Each member of the U.S. House and Senate is allowed a single guest to be inside the chambers for the pontiff's address. For some politicians, that makes for an easy choice: Florida Sens. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican, and Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, are all bringing their wives, their offices said.

But others have gone outside their families.

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, invited Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, who said he quickly accepted. Wenski plans to travel to the three cities Francis will visit: Washington D.C., New York and Philadelphia.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, invited a Collier County constituent: Ed Morton, a devout Catholic who serves on the Florida Board of Regents.

And Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston asked her friend, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.

"Gabby is excited to bear witness as the most popular person in the world delivers a charge to the United States Congress, a body with real power to improve the lives of families across our great country," Giffords spokesman Mark Prentice said. "For Catholics and non-Catholics, Spanish-speakers and non-Spanish speakers, this will be an unforgettable moment in our nation's history."

Several members' offices queried about their guests did not respond to the Miami Herald. A spokesman for Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, said the office wasn't sure yet.

How did members pick the lucky winners?

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, went with first-come, first-served.

"A young staffer in my D.C. office, Anthony Travieso, was the first person to request my ticket and because he is a proud graduate of Christopher Columbus High School in my district and is a devout Catholic, I gave that cherished and much sought after ticket to Anthony," she said in a statement.

But there were also requests to get a glimpse of Francis elsewhere: Ros-Lehtinen said each member of Congress was given 52 additional tickets -- 50 for admittance to the west lawn of the National Mall during Francis' speech, one to for the Capitol's lower west terrace and one to watch a telecast from the Cannon House Office Building.

"I feel like a scalper for a Taylor Swift concert," Ros-Lehtinen quipped. "These tickets are hot commodities."

Photo credit: Alessandra Tarantino, Associated Press

Former Dolphins player Randal 'Thrill' Hill to kick off congressional campaign with former University of Miami coach

Hill invite


Randal "Thrill" Hill, a former Miami Dolphins wide receiver and federal Homeland Security agent, plans to launch his congressional campaign this month with a fundraiser featuring former University of Miami football coach Jimmy Johnson.

Hill, who has filed to challenge Miami Gardens Rep. Frederica Wilson in the 2016 Democratic primary, will hold the fundraiser Sept. 24 at the Brickell offices of law firm Fowler White Burnett, according to an invitation Hill emailed supporters Friday that had previously been circulating on Twitter. The minimum requested contribution is $1,000 per person.

Wilson has easily won reelection since her first congressional run in 2010, though she's never faced a celebrity challenger.

Asked by a Miami Herald reporter last week about Hill's candidacy, Wilson answered: "I haven't really thought about it."

Florida lawmakers call for more Venezuela sanctions after Leopoldo López verdict

via @jimwyss

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA -- Florida lawmakers are calling for a fresh round of sanctions against Venezuela, after opposition leader Leopoldo López was sentenced to 13 years, nine months and 12 days in prison for his role in last year’s national protests.

Civil rights groups and legal experts said the case was marred by irregularities.

On Friday, Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican presidential hopeful, called on the Obama administration to fully implement the “Venezuela defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014,” which denies visas and freezes assets of human rights violators.

“Leopoldo López’s arrest, incarceration, show trial and prison sentence have all been a sham,” Rubio said in a statement. “The Venezuelan regime is robbing Leopoldo of his freedom, his wife of a husband, his kids of a father and the Venezuelan people of a leader committed to their democratic aspirations.”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, also a Florida Republican, called on the administration to slap sanctions on the judges, prosecutors and prison officials “involved in this politically motivated sentencing.”

“The malicious use of the judicial system as an instrument to punish and persecute dissent is only part of the problem with [President Nicolás] Maduro’s brutal regime that persists on ruling Venezuela with an iron fist,” she said. “I call on all responsible nations to condemn this miscarriage of justice and call for Leopoldo’s immediate, unconditional release.”

López, 44, was jailed in February of 2014 after leading a massive national strike that went on for weeks and left more than 40 people dead amid opposition and pro-regime clashes.

More here.

Kathy Castor asks feds to intervene in Florida's failure to cover poor and disabled kids

via @Marbinius

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor is asking federal health administrators to investigate Florida’s “outrageous and miserable history” of denying adequate healthcare to impoverished and disabled children, saying the state has deliberately ignored a judge’s ruling that Florida’s insurer for the needy is systematically violating federal law.

In a letter Thursday, Castor called upon Sylvia Burwell, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to “exercise [her] oversight and enforcement authority to ensure Florida children receive the care required under the law.”

By sending the missive, Castor, a Tampa Democrat, is wading into a dispute between state health administrators and doctors for impoverished children that simmered for a decade before reaching a boiling point last year. On the last day of December 2014, U.S. Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan declared Florida's healthcare system for needy and disabled children to be in violation of several federal laws. Jordan’s ruling was a milestone in a lawsuit by pediatricians and several families that had been filed 10 years earlier.

Florida’s spending for the healthcare of children in Medicaid, the state’s insurer for the needy, is so inadequate, Jordan wrote in a 153-page ruling, that most pediatricians and specialists have been driven from the program. As a consequence, the judge wrote, poor and disabled children often endure long waits for an appointment, or travel hours to a population center to see a doctor.

More here.

September 10, 2015

Marco Rubio calls off Minneapolis fundraiser for Iran deal vote

via @learyreports

Marco Rubio's Washington duties have forced him off the campaign trail. The Republican presidential candidate has canceled a Thursday fundraiser in Minneapolis as the Senate takes a procedural vote on the Iran deal.

Rubio spokesman Alex Conant told the Star Tribune that fundraiser would be rescheduled. The paper reported that  Gov. Chris Christie is also scheduled for a Minneapolis fundraising stop on Thursday.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times