March 17, 2017

Donald Trump returns to Mar-A-Lago and Rick Scott to join Pence in Jacksonville



President Donald Trump returns to Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, his "Winter White House," this weekend.

Trump visits Friday in Washington D.C. with German chancellor Angela Merkel and the two will hold a joint press conference. Trump will arrive in West Palm Beach Friday evening. No further details about Trump's schedule for his Florida visit have been released.

Trump has held working weekends at Mar-A-Lago multiple times this winter. Trump made a campaign promise to never take vacations, but he has managed to sometimes squeeze in some golf while in South Florida. His frequent visits to Palm Beach have created traffic headaches and expensive security tabs for local law enforcement.

Vice President Mike Pence will visit Jacksonville Saturday where he will be joined by Gov. Rick Scott. Pence and Scott will participate in a listening session with small businesses and discuss President Donald Trump's promise to repeal Obamacare and Pence will promote the GOP heath care plan, the American Health Care Act.

While Scott has vowed for years to fight for Obamacare repeal, he has made vague comments about the American Health Care Act. He initially called it a "great starting point" but wouldn't answer specific questions by AP reporter Gary Fineout about a Congressional Budget Office report that predicted millions will lose coverage.


March 16, 2017

Marco Rubio critical of some cuts in Trump's budget



 Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio criticized President Donald Trump's proposal to cut State Department money but praised other parts of his budget proposal. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, bashed Trump's proposal.

Here is Rubio's statement:

“The president’s budget reflects what his administration’s priorities are. I am very encouraged that this budget supports ideas like the Educational Opportunities Act I first introduced in 2013 with the goal of expanding school choice through tax credit incentives for scholarships to low-income students. It's a promising sign that we'll be able to work with the administration on school choice policies I care deeply about because of the positive impact they can have in providing hardworking families with better school options for their kids. I also welcome the president's desire to begin reversing the damaging impact of sequestration on our military's readiness, and believe he'll find strong support in Congress for this key part of his budget blueprint.

“While this budget blueprint offers insights into the president’s thinking about what’s important to his administration and the American people, it is Congress that will actually set the nation’s policy priorities and fund them. I will continue to review all the details of this budget proposal for areas of common interest we can work on together.

“However, I do not support the proposed 28 percent cut to our international affairs budget and diplomatic efforts led by the State Department. These programs are integral to our national security, and cuts at these levels undermine America’s ability to keep our citizens safe. In order to advance our national security interests, economic opportunity for our people and respect for human dignity everywhere, America’s leadership on the global stage is indispensable. I will be working to ensure Congress’ funding priorities allow America to play this role.”

Here is Nelson's statement:

“This plan doesn’t make any sense. You're going to cut some of our most important agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, which is working to find cures for cancer and Alzheimer's, the Environmental Protection Agency, which keeps our air and water clean, and the Army Corps of Engineers, which is working to restore the Everglades. I agree that we must do whatever is necessary to keep our country safe, but cutting all of these important programs to pay for things, such as a wall, just doesn’t make any sense.”

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican, declared Trump's proposal "dead on arrival" and criticized it. 


Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen disses Trump's budget



Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen says that President Donald Trump's budget proposal is not "viable" and "Dead on Arrival."

"No matter who the President is or whose party controls the White House, this budget is not considered a viable and realistic plan for spending," she said in a written statement in response to the Miami Herald. "As the saying goes: the president proposes and the Congress disposes. This means that it is the Members of Congress who pass appropriation bills, not the president. So this presidential budget may provide for interesting discussions but it is always considered Dead On Arrival in Congress. I'm especially concerned about cuts to programs for legal aid to the poor, Meals on Wheels services for the elderly, and less resources for the protection of our precious environment." 

Trump's $1.15 trillion budget proposal, released early Thursday morning, dramatically increases spending for the military and the border while slashing programs for the environment and the Federal Emergency Management Agency among other programs. The proposal is a blueprint and Trump is expected to release a more detailed one in May.

Ros-Lehtinen represents a left-leaning district in Miami-Dade and has frequently disagreed with Trump including her opposition to the GOP health care plan. Ros-Lehtinen did not vote for Trump -- instead she wrote in former Gov. Jeb Bush's name.

Trump's labor nominee Acosta faces confirmation hearing


via @patriciamazzei and @jayhweaver

Alex Acosta, the likely next U.S. labor secretary, groomed himself for greatness since his teen years at Gulliver Preparatory School, where he quoted passages from Latin texts, kept an extensive insect collection and graduated early to attend Harvard College.

He sped through a series of milestones: Harvard Law School graduate, member of the National Labor Relations Board, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. attorney in Miami and, most recently, dean of Florida International University’s law school.

Now, the 48-year-old Republican will be in the spotlight Wednesday as the Senate holds a hearing on the road to confirming him as President Donald Trump’s labor pick. Acosta, the only son of Cuban immigrants, would be the only Hispanic in Trump’s Cabinet.

Keep reading here.

Fact-checking Trump's immigration, health care claims in Nashville


@laurenfcarroll @miriamvalverde

President Donald Trump went to Nashville to commemorate the 250th birthday of the populist 19th century President Andrew Jackson on March 15.

He delivered a campaign-style rally speech, repeating misleading talking points about the Affordable Care Act and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but he was on point about decreases in illegal immigration.

Here’s a recap of what Trump said, fact-checked and with context.

Keep reading from PolitiFact.

American Bridge launches ads against Carlos Curbelo, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen about Trump and Russia



The liberal group American Bridge is targeting two Miami GOP members of Congress -- Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen -- related to President Donald Trump's ties to Russia.

The digital ads lead viewers to a website which encourages voters to contact members of Congress to ask them to demand a special prosecutor to investigate Trump. Similar digital ads nationwide target 27 Republicans who won districts that Hillary Clinton won in November. The ads will air in Florida and other states for a week and coincide with the March 20th House Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia's role in the United States' presidential election.

Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen have made some past written statements showing support for an investigation.

Ros-Lehtinen responded in a written statement about whether she supports an investigation:

"The Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russian activities, which includes Russian interference in our elections, began before the current administration took office and is ongoing. As a member of the Intelligence Committee, I'm committed to helping ensure a truly bipartisan and complete investigation is conducted. It is important that, when completed, our Intelligence Committee’s Russia report become public so that the American people can fully comprehend the desperate and dangerous attempts of Russia to influence our political institutions." 

It is clear that Putin’s regime has sought to undermine our nation’s interest and I have led the push for sanctions on human rights violators by leading the effort to ensure the Sergei Magnitsky Act became law. I’ve also called for sanctions against those who poisoned my friend, Vladimir Kara-Muza, and those who murdered Boris Nemtsov. I have also cosponsored legislation which calls for the full implementation of sanctions against those in Russia who are harmful to democracy, human rights, and our nation’s interests.”

Curbelo's office responded in a written statement:

“It’s sickening that extreme liberal operatives would resort to their tried and failed tactic of lying to the people of South Florida. The Congressman has been a vocal critic of Putin and his thugs the entirety of his time in Congress. Most recently, he has consistently supported the ongoing bipartisan congressional investigations in both the House and the Senate, and called for their scope to include any and all possible contacts between campaign and government officials and the Russian government or its intelligence services. Once the investigations are complete, Congressman Curbelo will demand that anyone and everyone in our government who may have violated the law is held fully accountable.”

Democrats have targeted Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen because they are Miami-Dade Republicans who represent left-leaning districts. But both are tough targets for Democrats in 2018 because they easily won re-election in November and have been willing to break with party ranks at times and criticize members of their own party. Earlier this week, Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen led the GOP criticism of the white nationalist tweet by U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa

Curbelo has been a GOP leader talking about climate change while Ros-Lehtinen has said she won't support the GOP health care plan -- although she wants Obamacare repealed.

This post has been updated to include statements from Ros-Lehtinen and Curbelo. 

March 14, 2017

Nelson to support Acosta for labor secretary


Sen. Bill Nelson plans to support President Donald Trump's nominee for labor secretary.

That's according to a Nelson spokesman, who we'd asked for comment. Alex Acosta is a Miami native and the dean of Florida International University's law school.

Acosta's confirmation hearing is next week.

Photo credit: Andrew Harrer, Bloomberg

Broward Commission delays action on resolution related to Trump sanctuary order



Fearing that President Donald Trump will cut off funding to Broward, the county commission considered a resolution Tuesday arguing that it is in compliance with federal law and isn't a so-called sanctuary county for undocumented immigrants.

The commission tabled the vote after immigrant and Democratic activists called for its defeat and commissioners couldn't agree on the wording or whether such a resolution is necessary.

The resolution proposed by Mayor Barbara Sharief, a Democrat, stated that the county has never labeled itself a "sanctuary." The resolution called for the county attorney to take legal action if the county is denied federal funds based on immigration policies. Some commissioners argued that the resolution is unnecessary since the county attorney already has the power to defend the county if necessary. The commission didn't set a future date to revisit the resolution.

Trump issued an executive order in January directing the Attorney General's office and the Department of Homeland Security to cut off grant funding from local jurisdictions that shield undocumented immigrants from U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement. Broward expects to get funds this year through the U.S. Department of Justice funneled through the state. The grant criteria states that the county must prove it complies with Section 1373 of federal law which essentially bans governments from restricting federal access to information about a person's immigration status. Broward officials argue that the county already complies with the law.

There is no definition in federal law of sanctuary cities or counties which has left some communities scrambling to avert any such label. The Center for Immigration Studies, a group that favors restricting immigration laws, named six counties in Florida including Broward that have policies “limiting cooperation with ICE specifically by placing conditions on honoring immigration detainers.” (Miami-Dade County was previously on that list until the county changed its policy in response to Trump.)

Broward County never declared itself a sanctuary county but landed on that list because the Broward Sheriff's Office issued a policy in 2014 stating that personnel would only honor ICE detainers when they are accompanied by a warrant. That policy was issued following federal court rulings.

Broward officials are lobbying against a Florida house bill which passed a committee March 13 seeks to crack down on jurisdictions that pass such sanctuary policies. 

“Broward County has never adopted any law, any regulation, any practice, any custom — at all — limiting our cooperation with ICE officials, the federal government or anything having to do with enforcing federal policy,” said Edward Labrador, the county's intergovernmental affairs director, in Tallahassee Monday. 

In February, the Broward County Commission passed a resolution honoring diversity without mentioning sanctuary cities or counties. Some local governments in South Florida have passed or proposed resolutions declaring their facilities "safe zones" for undocumented immigrants.


'There's nobody nominated yet' at the State Department, Rubio laments


via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio is concerned about the Trump administration's failure to nominate hundreds of positions across the government.

“We still have about 500 positions vacant throughout the federal government, most of whom have not even been nominated yet, much less appointed,” Rubio said Tuesday morning on a Pensacola radio station.

“So hopefully that will start to speed up. Right now we're trying to having hearings, for example, in Foreign Relations and there’s just nobody at the State Department, there’s nobody nominated yet. You can’t confirm someone if they haven’t been nominated.”

Rubio said the White House is learning and gave a token knock on Democrats. But he pointed out that only two Cabinet positions are pending and one, Labor, had to be restarted after the nominee withdrew.

Trump has said that not all the lower positions need to be filled. But Rubio counters that at least 150 are “critical,” pointing to the State Department and U.S. attorneys.

“As it stands right now,” Rubio said, “the Senate has basically processed every nominee for the Cabinet that is available for processing.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

White House invites people frustrated with Obamacare -- including a Miami man -- to share stories with Trump


Elias Seife made his first trip to the White House on Monday -- not as a mere tourist but as a guest of President Donald Trump's.

The Miami-area computer programmer was one of 11 people who met with the president to share their stories about frustrations with the Affordable Care Act.

Seife told the Miami Herald he got his invitation after going to his state representative, Republican Jose Felix Diaz of Miami, about his Obamacare concerns. To then expand on them to the president, Seife said Tuesday, was "a true privilege."

Seife, who has his own small business since 1993, said his individual insurance plan was canceled because it no longer met coverage criteria once Obamacare went into effect. Since then, he's had to change his family plan -- which also covers his wife and their 10-year-old daughter -- every year due to rising premiums and deductibles. Last year, he paid $1,400 a month for coverage; this year, he switched plans after the premium climbed to $1,900.

"I can't pay that," he told the Herald. "It's unsustainable."


Meeting in the Roosevelt Room along with Vice President Mike Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, each of the individuals invited by Trump talked about losing insurance coverage and facing higher costs to cover themselves and their employees.

Seife, sitting two seats from Trump, mentioned that his parents immigrated from communist Cuba.

"They know what socialism is all about," he said. "I know what socialism is...and this whole system was meant to have one single provider."

"It'll get better. If we're allowed to do what we want to do, it will get better. Much better," Trump said at the meeting. "Hopefully it will get very good."

Photo credit: Michael Reynolds, Getty Images via pool