January 30, 2015

The Hill: Debbie Wasserman Schultz cast House vote on Mario Diaz-Balart's behalf

@PatriciaMazzei

Voting for another member of Congress is technically a no-no.

But that's what Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat and the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, did this week for Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican, according to The Hill.

Diaz-Balart was wrapping up an interview with a reporter when Wasserman Schultz walked by.

“Deb, are you going in?” he asked before handing her his voting card. “Can you…” he said, trailing off as he handed her the card.

Wasserman Schultz, whose day job at the DNC means she's usually acting as the party's attack dog against Republicans, tilted her head quizzically and half-shrugged.

"Yeah, the opposite, the opposite," Diaz-Balart said with a laugh, asking her to vote as him in the opposite way as she was voting during a roll-call vote. 

Wasserman Schultz headed onto the House floor.

“He handed off his voting card to me, yes,” she told The Hill upon her return a minute later.

Members of Congress are collegial -- even across party lines -- and that's been especially true among Wasserman Schultz (in spite of her partisan role) and Cuban-American Republicans. When Democrats lined up to challenge Diaz-Balart, his brother Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in 2008, Wasserman Schultz took heat for sitting the races out, in deference to her colleagues.

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican, told The Hill he would "take care of that matter."

January 29, 2015

Carlos Curbelo backs immigration reform but could support House immigration lawsuit against Obama

@PatriciaMazzei

House Speaker John Boehner's move toward suing President Obama over his executive immigration action could put Miami Republican members of Congress in a tough spot. They generally support the policies pushed by the president but oppose how he went about them. So would they back a House lawsuit?

Maybe, freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo told The Daily Beast on Wednesday.

Freshman Republican Carlos Curbelo of Florida, one of a handful of supporters of comprehensive immigration reform in the Republican caucus, told The Daily Beast that while he would have to see the lawsuit, that "if it's very specific in seeking to hold the Obama Administration for violating the Constitution, I could support it." In his opinion, it needed to be "a question of the Constitution not of the policy goals advanced through the actions." But, while Curbelo noted the lawsuit was not "unimportant," he was more concerned about "an ultimate solution…a series of bills that will address all of our immigration challenges."

However, Curbelo had strongly favored a lawsuit during his campaign last year. When a Spanish-language radio host asked in August if Obama should be impeached over his immigration action, Curbelo suggested suing instead.

"What they should do is sue him, as they have done in other cases, with Obamacare," Curbelo told a WAQI-AM (710) Radio Mambí host known as Lourdes D'Kendall. "If the president exceeds himself, exceeds his authority, they should take him to the Supreme Court. And I'm very sure -- I trust -- that the court won't let us down and will rule in favor of the Constitution. We cannot let this country be ruled by decree. 

"That would even be my position if it were a Republican president pushing a policy I agreed with," Curbelo continued. "We need to honor the Constitution and this country's institutions."

Listen to audio of that campaign interview here, in Spanish, after the two-minute mark.

Carlos Curbelo creates leadership PAC to benefit pro-immigration reform Republicans

@PatriciaMazzei

As a Republican representing Democrat-rich South Florida, Carlos Curbelo has no trouble supporting comprehensive immigration reform in Congress.

But that's a far more difficult position for some of his colleagues who fear conservative primary challengers to take.

So Curbelo has opened a new political action committee to raise money for those Republicans who might need some financial support for taking a moderate immigration tack. The committee, registered Jan. 14 with the Federal Election Commission, has been christened "What a Country!" (Yes, the initials come out to WAC PAC.)

"What a Country recognizes that the United States is the land of opportunity, where anyone who comes here and works hard and plays by the rules can get ahead," Curbelo told the Miami Herald. "It will support candidates who understand the importance of overhauling our nation's immigration laws to secure our borders, promote legal immigration and reward those who contribute to our economy."

He declined to name names, but Curbelo said potential beneficiaries could be Republicans who, like him, "voted against punishing people who were brought to this country as children and who are de facto Americans."

He was referring to a House vote earlier this month to end President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which granted legal status to immigrants who had been brought into the country illegally as children.

Curbelo was one of 26 Republicans to vote against the legislative amendment, along with Miami Republicans Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen gets assignments in new intelligence committee role

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was so visible in Miami as chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that it's easy to forget she no longer chairs the panel, as a result of House GOP term limits.

But the Miami Republican still has prime committee assignments. She remains the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa. And on Wednesday, she received new subcommittee assignments in the powerful House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Ros-Lehtinen was appointed to subcommittees on the Department of Defense Intelligence and Overhead Architecture, and the NSA and Cybersecurity.

January 27, 2015

Freshman Miami congressman assigned to aviation, maritime transportation subcommittees

@PatriciaMazzei

Members of the new 114th Congress already know which committees they'll be serving on. But still up in the air, at least for some panels, was who would sit on which subcommittee they'll sit to consider legislation.

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, Miami's only freshman congressman, said Tuesday that he's been assigned to three Transportation & Infrastructure subcommittees of particular importance to South Florida: Aviation; Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management; and Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, where he was appointed vice-chairman.

"Our airports and seaports drive South Florida's economy and are of major significance to the country," Curbelo said in a statement. "These important subcommittee assignments will afford me the opportunity to work in a bipartisan manner to increase our area's economic potential by expanding our transportation and infrastructure capacity. This will mean more opportunities and a higher quality of life for Florida families."

In the Education and the Workforce committee, Curbelo has been assigned to two subcommittees: Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education; and Higher Education and Workforce Training.

January 21, 2015

Miami-Dade commission asks Congress to revise Cuban Adjustment Act

@PatriciaMazzei

The most unusual of votes about U.S.-Cuba policy took place Wednesday -- not in Washington or Havana, but in Miami.

After a wrought discussion, the Miami-Dade County Commission unanimously agreed to ask Congress to revise the Cuban Adjustment Act, a 1966 federal law that allows Cubans, unlike any other foreigners, to apply for U.S. residency one year and one day after arriving.

As a local government, the commission has no foreign-policy authority. But as a legislative body in the home of the country's largest Cuban community, the vote represents a symbolic acknowledgment -- even from longtime hardliners -- that at least portions of U.S.-Cuba policy needs a fresh look.

"This is a good thing that has been misused in some cases, but it doesn't mean we have to throw it away," Commissioner Javier Souto, a Cuban-born Republican, said of the CAA. "We shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater."

Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, the Republican son of Cuban immigrants who became U.S. residents thanks to the law, had proposed asking Congress to repeal it altogether -- a bold request that drew attention among Cuban exiles already on edge about President Obama's move to normalize relations with the island's communist regime.

Continue reading "Miami-Dade commission asks Congress to revise Cuban Adjustment Act" »

January 20, 2015

In Spanish, GOP rebuttal to State of the Union mentions Cuba -- but not in English

@PatriciaMazzei

Newly elected Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo was given the (generally thankless) task Tuesday of delivering the Republican Party's Spanish-language rebuttal to President Obama's State of the Union address. Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst responded in English.

The two freshmen's remarks were mostly the same. They differed, as expected, on matters of biography: Ernst spoke about having a single pair of shoes growing up in Iowa winters, Curbelo said he grew up "in Miami, one of the country's most diverse cities."

But they also diverged on a more substantive matter: Curbelo mentioned Cuba, criticizing "unearned concessions" by the Obama administration to "cruel dictatorships" in Cuba and Iran. Ernst made a separate mention of Iran -- and didn't utter Cuba once.

Curbelo is Cuban-American, so it was not surprising that he would go after Obama on the subject. Obama himself devoted a paragraph of his speech to establishing closer ties with the island, and asked Congress explicitly to lift the trade embargo against Cuba.

What's perhaps more noteworthy is that Ernst said nothing on the subject, highlighting the rift within the GOP about whether rapprochement with Raúl Castro's communist regime is a good idea. Several Republicans -- Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio -- made a statement against Obama's actions by inviting Cuban dissidents and their families to the U.S. Capitol for the president's speech. But other Republicans, including from agricultural states in the heartland, have been much more open to normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations if it will benefit American business interests.

Ernst stayed out of it.

Another difference between the two speeches: Curbelo, an immigration-reform proponent, mentioned "modernizing legal immigration." Ernst didn't bring up immigration at all.

Curbelo also offered "condolences" to France in the wake of the terrorist attack there this month.

The differences are particularly noteworthy because the House GOP said when it announced its rebuttal speakers that Curbelo would offer a translation of Ernst's remarks. Curbelo said Tuesday afternoon that there would be differences, and Republicans changed their tune after Mother Jones reported earlier Tuesday that Ernst's positions -- particularly in support of English as the country's official language -- seemed in conflict with a Spanish-language rebuttal.

January 15, 2015

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo will deliver Spanish-language GOP response to State of the Union

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo has been tapped by the Republican Party to deliver the Spanish-language response to President Obama's State of the Union address later this month.

The speech will be a translated version of the remarks new Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa will make in English, House Republicans said in a news release.

"Carlos Curbelo is a fresh voice with a positive vision for a future of opportunity and prosperity," Speaker John Boehner said in a statement. "He is exactly what Washington needs, and the person Americans should hear from in this time of challenge and opportunity for our country."

Curbelo, who defeated Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia in November, called the gig "a true privilege."

"As part of America's New Congress, I am excited to work with my colleagues to advance good solutions that will empower American families to achieve a better quality of life," Curbelo's statement said. "We must work together towards policies that will lead to a healthy economy that offers greater opportunity for all Americans –- especially those who feel left behind. And we should insist on a strong foreign policy that recognizes the need for American leadership in an increasingly dangerous world."

January 14, 2015

Are Democrats recruiting Annette Taddeo to run for Congress again?

National Democrats may once again encourage Annette Taddeo to run for Congress in South Florida.

According to The Hill, Taddeo was spotted in Washington this week meeting with the Democratic Congressional Committee, which is looking for candidates to challenge Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo in 2016.

Taddeo was in D.C. Tuesday and Wednesday meeting with Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Luján (N.M.), DCCC Recruitment Chairman Denny Heck (Wash.), Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), a House Democratic official told The Hill. 

While Taddeo was in town, she also met with several other Florida Democratic lawmakers, including Reps. Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel and Kathy Castor, as she weighs a congressional bid. 

Taddeo is a former lieutenant governor candidate -- she ran last year with Charlie Crist -- who lost to Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in 2008. She also ran unsuccessfully for Miami-Dade County Commission in 2010.

National Republicans pounced on the nugget of news, sending reporters an email titled, "Back to the Future IV Starring Annette Taddeo."

"Annette Taddeo's track record of running for a multitude of different offices demonstrates that she is motivated solely by her blind political ambition," National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Chris Pack said in a statement.

Taddeo told the Miami Herald last year that she would make up her mind early in 2015 about whether to run for office again -- and whether to run for Congress or some other position, such as county mayor.

December 04, 2014

David Rivera still hasn't reported how he paid for campaign robocalls

@PatriciaMazzei

Another financial reporting deadline has come and gone for this year's political candidates -- which means another deadline has come and gone in which David Rivera has yet to report how much he paid for automated telephone calls to voters.

The robocalls, featuring Rivera himself speaking in Spanish, were the only politicking Rivera did this summer after placing his short-lived campaign on hold. The Miami Republican briefly ran for his old congressional seat.

At the time, Rivera hadn't reported raising any money. That hasn't changed since. His Dec. 1 report continues to list $0 contributions.