December 13, 2017

What Florida is saying about Doug Jones’ defeat of Roy Moore in Alabama

MooreHorse

via @learyreports 

Florida is reacting to Doug Jones’ victory over Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate race in Alabama. Here is what leaders are saying on Twitter:

December 08, 2017

Trump to Jewish Democrats: No Hanukkah party for you

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@alextdaugherty

It’s the holiday season in Washington, which means politicians, dignitaries and hangers-on try to elbow themselves into as many exclusive parties as possible.

And 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is the hottest ticket of them all.

But Jewish Democratic lawmakers won’t be greeting President Donald Trump with a Chag Sameach at the annual White House Hanukkah Party on Thursday evening.

They insist their feelings aren’t hurt, but an invite would have been nice.

Trump did not invite Jewish members of Congress who are Democrats to the annual White House Hanukkah party, according to six congressional offices.

“I think its an unforced error on the president’s part and a missed opportunity,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston. “Why would you make partisan decisions about invitations that are entirely not partisan? Hanukkah is something that’s important to all Jews; the tradition is to invite the Jewish members of Congress. My feelings certainly aren’t hurt by not being invited but the few opportunities that we do have to come together certainly should include a celebration like Hanukkah.”

While Democrats didn’t get an invite, the two Jewish Republicans in Congress did.

The offices of New York Rep. Lee Zeldin and Tennessee Rep. David Kustoff confirmed they received invitations and will attend.

Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Jewish Republican, was invited to White House Hanukkah parties held by President Barack Obama, according to past press accounts. Cantor and Zeldin were the only Jewish House Republicans who served in Congress during Obama’s administration.

The President’s staff referred questions on the guest list to the First Lady’s office.

“I am not aware of the political affiliation of any of the guests, but I do know that this year was meant to be more personal than political,” said Stephanie Grisham, a spokesman for First Lady Melania Trump.

About 600 invitations were distributed, according to the White House. Grisham said that while the West Wing may release guest lists for meetings and working lunches or dinners, it’s the policy of the social office not to release the guest list for social or holiday events.

Wasserman Schultz, who entered Congress in 2005, said she was always invited to White House Hanukkah parties hosted by President George W. Bush and Obama.

Read more here.

December 06, 2017

For some South Florida Democrats in Congress, Trump is right on Jerusalem

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@alextdaugherty

South Florida Democratic Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ted Deutch rarely agree with President Donald Trump, but the pair supported his decision on Wednesday to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital along with moving the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv.

“My longstanding view is that Jerusalem is and will remain the undivided capital of Israel, and it should remain a city accessible to people of all faiths,” Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, said in a statement. “We must work toward a day where the entire world recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and that can be achieved through final status negotiations. I remain as committed as ever to safeguarding Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, at peace with its neighbors, with Jerusalem as its undisputed capital.”

Deutch, D-Boca Raton, issued a joint statement supporting the move with Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The two are the highest ranking members on the House Foreign Affairs Middle East subcommittee.

“There is no debate that the Jewish people have a deep-rooted religious, cultural and historic tie to Jerusalem, and today’s decision reaffirms that connection,” Deutch and Ros-Lehtinen said.

Deutch and Wasserman Schultz represent districts with large Jewish populations and are seen as supporters of Israel in Congress.

South Florida Republicans uniformly praised Trump’s decision on Wednesday, including Sen. Marco Rubio and Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo.

“I commend President Trump for following U.S. law and recognizing Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish state of Israel,” Rubio said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is an important step in the right direction. Unequivocal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will be complete when the U.S. embassy is officially relocated there.”

But some of Trump’s top Cabinet officials reportedly opposed the decision, arguing that the move to recognize Jerusalem would needlessly inflame tensions between Israel and Palestinians and potentially put people in danger.

Read more here.

December 01, 2017

Florida, Texas lawmakers threaten government shutdown over hurricane relief funding

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@alextdaugherty

It’s been 82 days since Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys, and lawmakers from Florida and Texas huddled together on Friday to gain leverage for their hurricane-stricken states as they seek billions in relief.

If congressional leaders don’t do enough to allay the concerns of lawmakers from Florida and Texas, the two states’ delegations will vote en masse against a disaster funding plan that could be attached to a spending plan known as a continuing resolution that keeps the government running.

“Unless substantial changes are made, we are not going to support the CR,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, who co-authored a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi signed by members from Florida and Texas on Friday. “We will use the clout of both of our delegations. Without significant changes this supplemental cannot be allowed to go through.”

Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee, D-Texas, is opposed to the administration’s request and said the government could be shut down if Florida and Texas don’t get what they need.

“We do not have the adequate resources and this is going to be on the verge of a government shutdown if Texas and all the other victims of these hurricanes do not have a compromise where we can work together,” Jackson Lee said at a Homeland Security hearing on Thursday.

The letter opposing the White House’s disaster relief request was signed by 38 members from Texas and Florida as of Friday evening. The $44 billion disaster relief request, announced before Thanksgiving, upset Democrats and Republicans from Florida and Texas, who argue that much more needs to be done for disaster relief.

“Unless the disaster supplemental appropriations bill is significantly improved before it is brought to a vote on the House floor, we will be unable to support this legislation,” the letter reads.

While Republicans are stopping short of an explicit shutdown threat and express confidence that leadership will listen to them, the next disaster funding proposal could be tied to a proposal that funds the government for a period of time.

Congressional leaders must pass a bill that funds the government by Dec. 8 to avoid a shutdown. It is possible that congressional leaders could pass a short-term funding bill next week to keep the government open through the end of December or early January.

Read more here.

November 17, 2017

Florida lawmakers incensed that Trump disaster plan doesn't include citrus relief (Updated)

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@alextdaugherty

Last month, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam came to Washington with a simple message: include disaster relief funding for Florida citrus industry. The state's congressional delegation and Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio also made a similar pitch to the Trump administration. 

Fast forward to Friday, and Florida lawmakers are angry that the Trump administration did not include a $2.5 billion for the state's citrus industry in a $44 billion disaster relief request for Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. 

"Floridians have been kicked to the curb in this proposed disaster supplemental, which lacks relief for Florida’s citrus growers who suffered immensely from this storm," said Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland. "The Florida delegation specifically requested this relief because there isn’t a citrus grove that wasn’t affected, with some experiencing 100 percent losses – worse than anything the industry has experienced in over 20 years. I cannot—I will not—support a proposal that leaves behind over 60,000 Florida jobs. I urge my colleagues in the Florida delegation to oppose it as well. I believe we have a duty to fight to ensure our citrus growers get the relief they need." 

Ross, a senior deputy majority whip, plans to rally fellow members to vote against any disaster relief package that does not include the citrus money. He requested federal help from U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue days after Hurricane Irma made landfall in September. 

It is possible for GOP leadership to revamp the Trump administration's disaster relief proposal before Congress votes on the plan, which will likely occur when Congress returns from a Thanksgiving break. 

Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, also pushed for citrus relief funding. 

"Do we want to say that orange juice is produced and made in America? Without the inclusion of funds to address citrus crop losses; that is at risk," Rooney said. "The threat to the domestic industry is real: oranges imported to Florida, primarily from Brazil and Mexico, are already projected to surpass what is grown in Florida this season. This storm has jeopardized an iconic Florida crop and way of life. Washington must act and provide relief so that generations of family citrus growers can continue to produce, employ, and put Florida-grown orange juice on America’s breakfast tables." 

Nelson also criticized the $44 billion disaster funding request in more general terms, noting that Puerto Rico asked for $94 billion in disaster relief earlier this week while Texas asked for $61 billion after Hurricane Harvey. 

"This request by the administration doesn’t come close to providing what is needed," Nelson said in a statement. "People are hurting and they desperately need our help, yet this request has no money to provide housing for evacuees and barely any money for Florida’s citrus growers. That’s unacceptable. Congress needs to pass a more robust disaster bill that actually provides the funding needed to help people recover."

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, also opposed the package and said she will use her spot on the House committee that determines federal spending to push for changes. 

“This Trump administration request is an insult," Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. "It ignores evacuee housing, and demands matching funds that will hinder Puerto Rico’s ability to tap CDBG relief. It also falls way short of what of Florida’s citrus growers need. As an Appropriator, I will work across the aisle in Congress for a recovery package that actually takes seriously the tremendous need we have after this ravenous storm season.”

November 16, 2017

Brazile tells Miami crowd why she torched her own party in tell-all book

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via @glenngarvin

Debbie Wasserman Schultz spent too much money, took too little responsibility and made fundraising deals that were unethical even if they were legal during her troubled reign over the Democratic National Committee, Wasserman Schultz’s successor, Donna Brazile, said Wednesday.

Brazile, speaking to reporters before taking the stage at the Miami Book Fair International, said a deal Wasserman Schultz signed that gave Hillary Clinton’s campaign almost total control over DNC spending while Clinton was still locked in a battle with Bernie Sanders for the party’s presidential nomination was “a cancer” and “I think Debbie has to take ownership of that.”

And, she added, the DNC took two years to take countermeasures to Russian hacking of its computers, and “Debbie has got to take responsibility for that.”

Brazile’s charges echoed — but in more explicit terms, and more importantly, in the Weston congresswoman’s backyard — those she has already made against Wasserman Schultz in her new book, “Hacks,” which she was promoting at the Book Fair Wednesday night.

Wasserman Schultz’s five-year tenure at the DNC ended disastrously when she resigned after being booed off the stage at last year’s Democratic party convention following the disclosure of hacked emails that seemed to suggest that Wasserman Schultz and her staff had been throwing the party machinery behind Clinton during her campaign against Sanders in party primaries.

The extraordinary public takedown of one former DNC chairwoman by another — Brazile held the position before Wasserman Schultz was appointed and assumed it again after she was dumped — has badly damaged a party already in disarray over the startling loss of a presidential election that seemed a dead solid lock.

More here.

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, el Nuevo Herald

November 14, 2017

All South Floridians in the House voted against flood-insurance overhaul. Here’s why

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@alextdaugherty

The entire South Florida delegation in the House of Representatives voted Tuesday against a proposal to overhaul the National Flood Insurance Program, as Congress seeks a long-term solution for the program saddled with billions in debt after Hurricane Irma.

Miami Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo joined the majority of Democrats to vote against the proposal, which passed by a vote of 237-189, with 15 Democrats voted in favor.

“It doesn’t make the changes that I need to satisfy... a big percentage of my district,” said Ros-Lehtinen, who represents Miami Beach and coastal areas of central Miami-Dade County. “We have a lot of homes that are highly valued and it’s going to incur a lot of cost. It’s got to be fair for everybody. To have a home that you can’t find anybody to insure, that doesn’t do anyone any good.”

South Florida Democratic Reps. Frederica Wilson, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Alcee Hastings, Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch also voted against the bill.

The National Flood Insurance Program is set to run out of money by Dec. 8, and if Congress lets the program lapse, thousands of real estate transactions and construction projects in flood-prone areas could be affected. Florida has 35 percent of the nation’s 5 million policies covered by the federal program — three times as many as the second-ranked state, Texas, which has 593,000 policies.

The flood insurance funding bill was the product of an agreement between House Financial Services Committee chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. Hensarling has fought for years to privatize portions of the flood insurance program in an effort to make it fiscally solvent. Lawmakers from coastal areas, like Scalise, have cautioned that reforms could result in higher premiums and hurt investment.

Read more here.

November 06, 2017

Former DNC chairwoman blasts Wasserman Schultz’s leadership in new book

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@alextdaugherty 

Donna Brazile isn’t a fan of tropical pink-painted walls, apparently.

The former Democratic National Committee chairwoman has spent the past five days tearing into Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s DNC leadership and organizational skills ahead of the release of her new book, “Hacks,” on Tuesday, one year after Donald Trump’s victory.

Brazile blasted the Weston Democrat’s choice to paint the walls of her DNC office tropical pink and a host of perks associated with the leadership role, like a Chevrolet Tahoe fully staffed with a personal entourage — including an assistant known as a “body woman” — according to an advance copy of Brazile’s book obtained by the Washington Post.

According to Brazile, the DNC was dependent on Hillary Clinton’s campaign cash for survival and Wasserman Schultz was more than willing to let the Clinton campaign pay most of the DNC’s debt in exchange for a measure of control within the party organization, which is supposed to remain an impartial umbrella organization for all Democratic presidential candidates.

Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont who campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination, repeatedly charged that the DNC under Wasserman Schultz was “rigged” in favor of Clinton.

“Debbie was not a good manager,” Brazile said in a book excerpt published by Politico. “She hadn’t been very interested in controlling the party —she let Clinton’s headquarters in Brooklyn do as it desired so she didn’t have to inform the party officers how bad the situation was.”

Wasserman Schultz declined to address the specific criticisms levied by Brazile in an emailed statement.

“It was a tremendous honor to be asked by President Obama to serve as chair of the DNC,” Wasserman Schultz said. “I am proud of the work our team did to support Democrats up and down the ballot in the 2016 election and to re-elect the President in 2012. With Donald Trump in the White House, Democrats must stay focused on enacting a progressive agenda to protect our citizens, our values and our democracy and remain united towards our goal of electing Democratic congressional majorities in 2018.”

Read more here.

October 11, 2017

Wasserman Schultz clashes with Rick Scott over hurricane debris removal

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@alextdaugherty 

Debbie Wasserman Schultz argued Wednesday that Gov. Rick Scott is slowing Hurricane Irma debris cleanup by forcing certain municipalities to follow debris removal contracts negotiated before the storm.

The longtime congresswoman from Broward County and the governor engaged in a testy exchange over hurricane debris removal during a meeting between the governor and the entire Florida congressional delegation on Wednesday.

“Debris has become an emergency situation, a public health hazard, rot is setting in,” Wasserman Schulz said. “If we start getting another hurricane all this debris will become projectiles.”

Wasserman Schultz said that the debris removal companies are able to get more money from municipalities who didn’t pre-negotiate a contract because the demand for debris removal is so high around the state. Therefore, certain communities are prioritized for debris removal over others because they can pay more.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency reimburses municipalities for the bulk of hurricane debris removal, while the state picks up about 10 percent of the cost.
 
Scott countered that his biggest priority is making sure that debris removal companies aren’t price-gouging certain municipalities, and that allowing certain towns and cities to be reimbursed for a higher debris removal rate will ultimately hurt taxpayers.

“I’m going to stand to try to make sure that we watch out for taxpayer money,” Scott said. “They have contracts, comply with the contracts. I’m not going to allow people to take advantage of our state.”

Scott said the state is doing “everything we can” to expedite debris removal, citing the National Guard’s presence in the Florida Keys.

Wasserman Schultz continued to press Scott in a public forum with most of the state’s congressional delegation and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam looking on. She said that Scott did not return seven emails and several calls from her over the past week regarding debris cleanup.

“I have tried to reach you and I have gotten no response from you,” Wasserman Schultz said.

“If you contacted me, I don’t have any evidence that you contacted me,” Scott replied.

The meeting’s moderator, Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan, who was physically seated between Scott and Wasserman Schutlz, eventually stopped the exchange as Wasserman Schultz continued to criticize Scott.

“Let’s talk about that a little later,” Buchanan said.

Read more here.

October 03, 2017

Diaz-Balart, Wasserman Schultz ask White House to request more hurricane funding

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@alextdaugherty 

South Florida Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, are asking Office of Budget and Management Director Mick Mulvaney to request more money for hurricane relief.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration spends millions every day for hurricane recovery after Harvey, Irma and Maria, and a group of lawmakers from Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico are warning the government could run out of money soon. Mulvaney runs the Cabinet agency tasked with overseeing President Donald Trump's budget. 

“While federal agencies, including FEMA and HUD, continue to assess the damage and the costs of restoration, we are increasingly concerned [current] funds could be expended more quickly than expected,” Diaz-Balart and Wasserman Schultz wrote to Mulvaney. “We are concerned the agencies responsible for the recovery could run out of funds in the near term and be forced to await Congressional action to continue their vital work. This could greatly slow their efforts as well as have a significant long-term impact on the recovery.” 

Diaz-Balart and Wasserman Schultz led the letter, which was also signed by Miami-area Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Frederica Wilson along with 34 other members of Congress. 

"As representatives of those districts that have been severely affected by the recent natural disasters, we urge the Office of Management and Budget to send Congress a request for additional supplemental appropriations, that includes funding for, but is not limited to, FEMA, SBA (Small Business Administration), and CDBG-DR (Community Development Block Grant), as soon as possible to address the urgent needs of our constituents," the letter said. 

Congress passed a $15.25 billion hurricane relief package in September after Hurricane Harvey and the funds can be used for relief in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. FEMA has enough money to function through mid-October, according to multiple members of Congress, giving lawmakers about two weeks to pass an additional funding bill.