April 28, 2017

Trump signs order on drilling, prompting backlash in Florida

Trumpeo

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - President Trump this morning signed an executive order that could open up more oil drilling, setting up a confrontation with Florida politicians.

The “America First Offshore Energy Strategy” calls for a review of drilling in the outer continental shelf. President Obama before leaving office put into place restrictions that closed off areas in the Arctic and Atlantic as well as the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.

"It’s a great day for America workers, unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying American energy jobs," Trump said. "Our country is blessed with incredible natural resources, including abundant offshore oil and natural gas reserves."

Sen. Bill Nelson Thursday filed a bill to block the move but with a Republican majority in both chambers that effort may falter. Still, any changes under Trump could take years to implement.

Florida opposition emerged immediately.

"Florida's coasts and oceans are home to stunning wildlife, beautiful beaches and support a robust tourism economy, all things that stand to lose from offshore drilling,” said Jennifer Rubiello, state director of Environment Florida. “The President’s action opens the door to expanded drilling into our public waters, including the Eastern Gulf of Mexico – a move that goes against the values a majority of Floridians share: that our oceans and beaches should be preserved, not sold off to the highest bidder.”

 

April 27, 2017

Senate confirms Miami's Alex Acosta as labor secretary

AP_acosta

via @elizabethrkoh

The Senate voted to confirm Alexander Acosta as labor secretary Thursday, elevating the Florida law school dean and former U.S. attorney for Florida’s southern district to fill one of the last of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet-level vacancies.

The 60-38 vote largely fell along party lines, though eight Democrats – including Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Jon Tester of Montana and Catherine Cortez-Masto of Nevada – voted in favor of his confirmation. One independent, Sen. Angus King of Vermont, also voted for Acosta’s confirmation.

Acosta, a Miami native, is the only Hispanic to join Trump’s Cabinet.

“Acosta’s leadership at the Labor Department will serve as a much-needed change from what we saw under the previous administration,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

That’s what bothers critics about Acosta, currently the dean at Florida International University’s law school. He drew the ire of labor unions during his confirmation process and faced controversy over a deal his office approved while he was Miami’s U.S. attorney.

Keep reading here.

Trump calls out Democrats about position on Puerto Rico Medicaid shortfall

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump has a new target: Sen. Bill Nelson and others trying to address a health care funding crisis in Puerto Rico.

“The Democrats want to shut government if we don't bail out Puerto Rico and give billions to their insurance companies for OCare failure. NO!” Trump tweeted this morning. Last night he said, “Democrats are trying to bail out insurance companies from disastrous #ObamaCare, and Puerto Rico with your tax dollars. Sad!”

It seems Trump is referring to an effort from Nelson and Sen. Robert Menendez to address a Medicaid shortfall for Puerto Rico. The Democrats this week are pressing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the issue, noting that $6.4 billion in funding under the Affordable Care Act is set to run out at the end of the year, despite expectations it would last through 2019. The gap leaves Puerto Rico “facing a Medicaid cliff that will have far-reaching consequences for both the island and the continental United States,” Nelson and Menendez wrote to McConnell.

The Democrats were members of the bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico, which issued a report in December that included a call for Medicaid funding. Sen. Marco Rubio was a member of the group and signed onto an April 7 letter urging Health Secretary Tom Price to address the Medicaid issue.

We've asked Rubio for comment in light of Trump's comments.

UPDATE: As of 1:45 p.m., Rubio has not responded.

Despite what Trump says, it’s not clear Democrats are threatening to hold up a spending bill over the issue.

Rubio and Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, are working the Territory Health Insurance Tax Relief Act of 2017, which would exempt health insurance providers in U.S. territories from paying a tax, “which has been passed on to consumers in the forms of higher premiums.”

“It is unfair to Puerto Ricans to have to pay this ObamaCare tax and endure higher premiums, only to be excluded from participating in the same health system that the rest of the United States does,” Rubio said in a news release. “As we work on the larger goal of repealing and replacing ObamaCare, this legislation would repeal the law’s costly and unfair tax on Puerto Rico and help begin the process of revitalizing the health care system on the island.”

April 26, 2017

Nelson says Trump will face 'flood of opposition' to oil drilling move

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via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Sen. Bill Nelson on Wednesday vowed bipartisan opposition to a coming move by President Donald Trump to open up oil drilling off the Florida coast.

"I hope he refrains from issuing this executive order, but if he does, this senator and a bipartisan delegation from Florida will fight," Nelson said on the Senate floor.

Trump's order is expected Friday and details are still unclear, though White House officials signaled it will target a late Obama-era restriction on offshore drilling and gas exploration in the Arctic Ocean and parts of the Atlantic.

Oil interests have long yearned for more access to the waters off Florida. Nelson invoked the BP oil spill and its damaging effect on tourism. Even if oil did not spread down the coast, as feared, people saw pictures and stayed away, Nelson said.

Trump can "expect a flood of opposition," Nelson warned.

Indeed, bipartisan voices have already spoken out.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

April 25, 2017

Group asks for investigation into government promotion of Mar-a-Lago

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - The interest group Common Cause wants an investigation into the promotion of Mar-a-Lago on State Department websites.

"The ethics complaint concerns an article the State Department’s ShareAmerica website published profiling the history of the Trump property and describing the Palm Beach club—which doubled its initiation fee to $200,000 after his election—in glowing terms," the group said. "The article was subsequently circulated by multiple U.S. embassies, including on the website of the U.S. Embassy in the United Kingdom and on the Facebook page of the U.S. Embassy in Albania. Federal ethics rules prohibit government employees from endorsing 'any product, service or enterprise.'

The complaint seeks the State Department and Office of Government Ethics to conduct an investigation and hold employees accountable.

“The State Department article promoting Mar-a-Lago constitutes a misuse and abuse of taxpayer dollars that clearly warrants an investigation. This Administration’s refusal to set clear boundaries between the business of the American people and the businesses of Donald Trump has metastasized into the federal agencies,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause.

The articles were removed Monday after receiving widespread media attention.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

That time candidate Trump set 100-day marker in Florida

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - The White House sent reporters an email Tuesday morning titled “President Trump’s 100 Days of Historic Accomplishments,” the latest in an effort to proclaim victory in a benchmark Trump a few days earlier called “ridiculous.”

Trump has also implied he didn’t establish a 100 day plan. “Somebody put out the concept of a hundred-day plan,” he told The Associated Press on Friday.

But there was candidate Trump in St. Augustine last October selling that very contract with voters. “It’s a set of promises for what I’ll do in my first 100 days,” he explained. “It includes getting rid of, immediately, Obamacare, which is a disaster.”

The crowd roared with approval.

Trump remains strong among those most loyal supporters, polls show. Overall, however, he faces the lowest approval rating of any president in decades and is finding working with Congress a challenge.

He can take comfort in this: It's only 100 days (as of this Saturday).

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

After furor, State Department stops promoting Mar-a-Lago

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From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON -- The State Department has removed its promotional posting about President Donald Trump's Florida resort, after a storm of ethics criticism.

In an April 4 blog post that was republished by several U.S. embassies abroad, Mar-a-Lago was described as "Trump's Florida estate," where he has hosted foreign leaders. "By visiting this 'winter White House,' Trump is belatedly fulfilling the dream of Mar-a-Lago's original owner and designer," the post said.

Left unsaid: Mar-a-Lago is part of Trump's business empire. After his election, the resort doubled its membership fee to $200,000. As president, Trump has visited the property seven times, and its restaurant fills up when he's in town.

The State Department said late Monday that its intention was "to inform the public about where the president has been hosting world leaders" and that it regrets "any misperception." That statement now appears in place of the original blog post.

The White House did not respond to questions about whether it had any involvement in the original posting or the decision to take it down. 

The post originated on "Share America," a State Department project. Its website describes its mission as "sharing compelling stories and images that spark discussion and debate on important topics like democracy, freedom of expression, innovation, entrepreneurship, education, and the role of civil society."

More here.

Photo credit: Alex Brandon, Associated Press

April 24, 2017

State Department blog post promotes Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate

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From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. State Department's recent promotion of President Donald Trump's Florida resort is drawing criticism from Democrats and ethics advocates.

In an April 4 blog post that has been republished by several U.S. embassies abroad, Mar-a-Lago is described as "Trump's Florida estate," where he has hosted foreign leaders. "By visiting this 'winter White House,' Trump is belatedly fulfilling the dream of Mar-a-Lago's original owner and designer," the post says.

Left unsaid: Mar-a-Lago is part of Trump's business empire. After his election, the resort doubled its membership fee to $200,000. As president, Trump has visited the property seven times, and its restaurant fills up when he's in town.

The State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Mar-a-Lago post originated on "Share America," a State Department project. Its website describes its mission as "sharing compelling stories and images that spark discussion and debate on important topics like democracy, freedom of expression, innovation, entrepreneurship, education, and the role of civil society."

More here.

Photo credit: Alex Brandon, Associated Press

Fact-checking a claim about Trump and oil drilling

AerialofdeepwaterAP

@amysherman1

On the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill, Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., attacked President Donald Trump for his stance on drilling and portrayed Congress as doing nothing in the aftermath of the 2010 explosion.

“Trump looking to open up E Coast & new areas for offshore oil drilling when Congress has passed no new safety standards since BP,” Markey tweeted April 20.

We wanted to know what Trump’s plans were and if Congress has done nothing since the explosion.

The April 20, 2010, explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig was the worst offshore drilling catastrophe in U.S. history. The explosion killed 11 workers, and 134 million gallons of oil were released into the Gulf of Mexico.

We emailed a spokesman for Trump and did not get a reply; however, a spokesman for the Bureau of Ocean Management sent information about the reorganization of federal agencies that oversee drilling during the Obama administration.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.


April 23, 2017

Rubio denies involvement in Colombian meeting at Mar-a-Lago

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio on Sunday denied a role in setting up a meeting at Mar-a-Lago between former Colombian presidents opposed to a peace deal.

Appearing on "Meet The Press," Rubio also expressed understanding for President Trump's shifting positions.

"I think when you're running for president, especially someone that's never held elected office, there's one set of things that you may view the world through-- a lens that you may view the world through. Then, you get elected and you get good people. And those good people bring you the facts. And they bring you, "Here's what's going on. Here are our options. Here's what happens if you do this. Here's what happens when you do that." And that reality begins to assert itself. And you have to react to that. You're now the president. You're no longer a candidate. You're not a pundit. You have to actually make decisions that have real impact and consequence. And I think that's what you're seeing here. I think you're seeing a president--

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think he's moving away from maybe the isolationist rhetoric and tendencies that he had as a candidate?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

I think he's dealing with the reality of being president of the United States. I think he's dealing with the reality of our options oftentimes on foreign policy are not a choice between a good one and a bad one. It's a choice between two less-than-ideal options.

And you're trying to figure out which is the least harmful of the two. And I think that's something we should be encouraged by, not something that we should be critical of. This whole flip-flop thing is a political thing. It's something people use in campaigns.

But in every other aspect of our life, people change their minds or make different decisions when presented with a set of facts that, perhaps, are different from what they thought. Why should that not be the case, especially for something as important as the presidency?

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times