August 17, 2017

Bush, Ros-Lehtinen to speak at summit on Iran

via @learyreports

Jeb Bush and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen will be among the speakers at summit on Iran next month.

The Florida Republicans will appear at the Sept. 19 event in New York hosted by United Against Nuclear Iran and timed for the opening of the U.N. General Assembly.

"The day-long event of interviews and discussions will examine the political and economic environment since the signing of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran -- with particular focus on Iran's role in the region, its relationship with North Korea, and the future of Iran policy in the Trump administration," UANI said in a release.

Other speakers include David Petraeus; HRH Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies; former Gov. Bill Richardson; John Bolton and Joe Lieberman.

Bush sits on the UANI advisory board.

"Comprised of former diplomats and lawmakers, UANI is spearheading a global education campaign focused on the risks of doing business with Iran, warning hundreds of international companies that may be contemplating Tehran as a new investment opportunity," the group said.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

August 15, 2017

Republicans again denounce Trump after he again accuses 'both sides' of violence in Charlottesville

@PatriciaMazzei

Check out Miami Republicans' tweets from Saturday and now, again, from Tuesday, in response to President Donald Trump's insistence that "both sides" -- and not just white supremacists and neo-Nazis -- were to blame for violence over the weekend Charlottesville. The three lawmakers are Hispanic.

Continue reading "Republicans again denounce Trump after he again accuses 'both sides' of violence in Charlottesville" »

August 11, 2017

Anti-Castro politicians talk tough on Cuba after suspected attack on U.S. diplomats

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@alextdaugherty 

As the Trump administration prepares to write new regulations regarding travel to Cuba, Havana and Washington are involved in a diplomatic tug of war that seems straight out of the 1960s.

American diplomats in Cuba left the country after experiencing severe hearing loss attributed to a sonic device, according to U.S. officials. In response, the U.S. government expelled two Cuban diplomats from Washington.

The Raúl Castro government vehemently denied any involvement, and there’s chatter the Russians could have been behind it.

“In terms of the timing ... if this was an intentional thing by the Cuban government, the timing couldn’t be worse or stranger,” said Collin Laverty, president of a company that arranges group trips to Cuba and is in favor of improved relations with Havana. “Relations were good when Obama was in office. This just seems completely out of context.”

Anti-Castro elements of the U.S. government, including Republicans from Miami, are capitalizing on the latest news as a sign that Havana cannot be trusted, even though it isn’t clear yet that the Cuban government tried to harm U.S. diplomats.

 

“The Cuban government has been harassing U.S. personnel working in Havana for decades,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said in a statement. “This has not stopped with President Obama’s appeasement.”

“It shouldn’t come as a surprise the Castro regime can’t guarantee the safety of our diplomats,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, said. “The escalation described in these reports is unacceptable and clearly indicates that the previous administration’s policy of unilateral concessions failed to advance U.S. interests.”

“The Castro regime has a long and documented history of acting in a manner adverse to U.S. national interests,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, said. “The expulsion of two Castro regime officials sends a clear message that this sort of behavior will not be tolerated.”

Rubio played a big role in the Trump administration’s decision earlier this summer to limit some types of travel to Cuba, and the president was eager to please conservative Cubans in Miami who helped him win the 2016 election.

But there are still a lot of unanswered questions regarding the incident, and the State Department declined to go into detail about what happened to the diplomats.

“We first heard about these incidents back in late 2016,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. “When we talk about medical issues, about Americans, we don’t get into it. We take those incidents very seriously, and there is an investigation currently under way.”

A White House official said the State Department and White House are “monitoring” the situation in Cuba.

On Wednesday, an unnamed U.S. official told The Associated Press that investigators were looking into the possibility that Russia or another third party could have carried out the attack without the Cuban government’s knowledge.

But Otto Reich, a former assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs under President George W. Bush, said it’s highly unlikely that the Cuban government would not be aware of a sonic device installed at the house of a diplomat.

Read more here.

August 03, 2017

Rubio still considering Trump-sponsored immigration plan introduced in February

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@alextdaugherty 

n 2013, Marco Rubio and three other Republican senators worked with Democrats to draft a bipartisan immigration bill.

Rubio’s 2013 bill, which proposed an expanded visa program for low-skilled workers, failed after the House decided not to vote on it.

On Wednesday, Rubio said he was still considering a different immigration proposal, backed by the White House, that cuts the number of green cards for low-skilled and non-English speaking immigrants. The 15-page plan was first introduced in the Senate in February, and the White House announced its support Wednesday.

Of the four Republican senators who drafted the 2013 bill, Rubio is the only one who hasn’t voiced disagreement.

“I’m glad to see the president is open to a step-by-step approach to improving our immigration laws, and I stand ready to work with my colleagues in Congress on common sense proposals to achieve real progress for Americans on this issue,” Rubio said in a statement. “I continue to support reform that prioritizes welcoming people to our country based on their skills, not just on whether they have a family member already living here.”
 
Rubio’s comments were in contrast to his three GOP colleagues who worked on the immigration bill.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Trump’s proposal “incentivizes more illegal immigration” by limiting the number of visas for low-skilled jobs in tourism and agriculture that would otherwise go unfilled.

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said: “We need to make sure we are responsive to the needs of our economy and I’m concerned that drastic cuts to the number of immigrants fails to meet that goal.”

The other GOP senator who worked on the 2013 bill, John McCain of Arizona, is receiving treatment for cancer. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but in February, McCain told reporters he was “not interested” in the bill.

Rubio, whose parents came to the United States from Cuba and worked in low-skill jobs for a period of time, declined to comment on the immigration policy beyond his statement.

His office said Rubio has always prioritized English-speaking immigrants, citing his work on the 2013 bill that would require green card holders to achieve English proficiency.

“On the day we announced the principles that would shape the immigration bill, we made it clear that English proficiency would now be required for permanent residency for the first time in American history,” Rubio said in 2013.

Rubio did not play a role in drafting the new proposal, his office said.

The White House said the plan, dubbed the Raise Act, will prioritize immigrants who speak English, have special skills and can support themselves financially. The Raise Act will prioritize high-wage immigrants because the White House argues that low-skilled legal immigrants currently drive down wages for all Americans.

Two of Rubio’s South Florida colleagues, Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, said they do not support the new legal immigration proposal.

“I’m against the RAISE Act because it dramatically cuts the number of folks who can enter our great nation by legal means,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. “There are many individuals living in other lands who dream of becoming patriotic, law-abiding Americans but will be prevented from realizing that dream because they do not yet speak English or they lack special skills.”

Read more here.

NRCC targets potential swing Miami voters in mobile ads about health care

@PatriciaMazzei

National Republicans are wading into the 2018 race to replace retiring GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, launching a mobile ad campaign targeting potential swing voters in Florida's 27th congressional district.

The new National Republican Congressional Committee ad, which will also go out in seven other states, is intended to grab users' attention. The narrator adopts a frightening tone in warning voters Democrats might want to pursue single-payer healthcare system. 

One of the Democrats who has filed for Ros-Lehtinen's Democratic-leaning seat, state Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach, has said in a fundraising email that he backs a single-payer system. When the latest candidate, Matt Haggman, declared his candidacy Tuesday, the NRCC quickly called on him to take a position on the issue, which the GOP wants to use to paint Democrats as radical.

"Now that Obamacare is in a death spiral, their latest and greatest idea is to impose a European style single-payer system on Americans," NRCC spokeswoman Maddie Anderson said in a statement. "This could mean trillions in higher taxes and full government control over all of our medical decisions. We’d like to hear from Florida Democrats themselves -- do David Richardson, José Javier Rodríguez, and Matt Haggman support single-payer for all?"

PolitiFact has ruled that a past "death spiral" claim about the Affordable Care Act was false. Ros-Lehtinen voted against the House GOP's Obamacare replacement, the American Health Care Act, which later failed in the Senate.

In addition to Haggman, Richardson and Rodríguez, four other Democrats are also running so far. Naming them in a statement suggests the NRCC considers them to be potential front-runners.

August 01, 2017

Seventh Democrat enters race to replace Republican Ros-Lehtinen

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@patriciamazzei @alextdaugherty 

Matt Haggman, the former program director of Miami’s Knight Foundation, will run for Congress as a Democrat to seek retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat.

“Our biggest challenges continue to go unmet,” he told the Miami Herald on Monday. “We’re not building for the future. Sea-level rise is being ignored. Many of the jobs today will be dramatically different in a very, very short time. We’re doing very little on that — and that has to change.”

Haggman has invited backers to a Tuesday event dubbed “Building a Better Miami,” where he will announce his candidacy. He signaled his impending run when he resigned earlier this month from Knight, where he had worked since 2011. He plans to be a full-time candidate and cast himself as a political newcomer with the sort of civic experience that might appeal to pragmatic progressive voters. 

Haggman, 46, said he’s been contemplating a run since President Donald Trump won the presidency last November — and before Ros-Lehtinen stunned the local political establishment by announcing her retirement in April. He has never been a candidate before, though Democrats have tried to recruit him in the past for local office.

Trump’s victory — and how Republican leaders in Congress have handled him — nudged him to run, Haggman said. 

“With the election of Donald Trump, who I stand firmly and strongly and adamantly against, many of our bedrock values are under threat: the values of welcoming immigrants with open arms, of a free press guaranteed by the Constitution,” he said.

Hillary Clinton beat Trump by nearly 20 percentage points in the district — the highest margin of victory in the country for Clinton in a district currently held by a Republican.

Haggman, a Boston native and Coconut Grove resident, is married to Danet Linares, vice chairman of Blanca Commercial Real Estate. Before joining Knight, Haggman was a Herald reporter, covering real estate and Miami-Dade County Hall; he had previously worked for the Daily Business Review. Though he holds a law degree from the University of Vermont, Haggman never practiced as an attorney.

Accustomed to awarding Knight’s grants, Haggman will now have to get used to asking political donors for campaign cash. He’s hired Washington firm SKDKnickerbocker as his political consultant and Anzalone Liszt Grove Research as his pollster.

Mostly unknown outside of the tight-knit technology, media and arts community supported by Knight, Haggman will face the challenge of raising his public profile in a Democratic primary field rife with candidates, most of them with past ballot experience.

Read more here.

July 30, 2017

Matt Haggman, who may run for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's seat, to make "special announcement" on Tuesday

Haggman

@alextdaugherty @patriciamazzei

Matt Haggman looks more like a congressional candidate with each passing day. 

When Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced that she would not run for reelection in 2018, Haggman told the Miami Herald in April a run for her seat is "something I've been actively thinking about for a while now."  

Two weeks ago, Haggman quit his post as the Knight Foundation's program director in Miami, telling a reporter to "stay tuned" about his future plans.

And now Haggman is hosting an event on Tuesday evening dubbed "Building a Better Miami" where he promises a "special announcement," according to an invitation obtained by the Miami Herald. 

Haggman, a Democrat and former Miami Herald reporter, declined to comment. 

If Haggman jumps in the race for Ros-Lehtinen's seat he will become the sixth Democrat aiming for the Miami-based seat that Democrats argue is likely to flip after Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement in April. 

State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez of Miami, state Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, attorney Mary Barzee Flores, University of Miami academic adviser Michael Hepburn and Mark Anthony Person are all running in the Democratic primary. Miami Commissioner Ken Russell formed an exploratory committee as he considers a run. 

Three Republicans are also in the race, former Miami-Dade mayoral candidate and school board member Raquel Regalado, County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro and Maria Peiro

Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by nearly 20 percentage points in Ros-Lehtinen's district, the highest margin of victory in the country for Clinton in a district currently held by a Republican. 

 

 

July 26, 2017

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen blasts Donald Trump's decision to ban transgender troops from the U.S. military

Ileana 2

@alextdaugherty 

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a longtime proponent of LGBT rights who has a transgender son, was quick to deride President Donald Trump's decision to ban transgender individuals from serving in the U.S. military.

"No American, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be prohibited from honor + privilege of serving our nation," Ros-Lehtinen tweeted.

Her remarks came less than an hour after Trump announced the decision via Twitter Wednesday morning. 

"After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military," Trump tweeted. "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail." 

Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis, who was conducting a review of transgender military service, was on vacation when Trump made the announcement Wednesday morning.

Ros-Lehtinen and Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo voted against a proposal earlier in July that would have banned U.S. military funding for medical costs associated with transgender individuals like hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgeries. The proposal, sponsored by Missouri Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler, failed after 24 moderate Republicans joined Democrats in opposition. 

 

 

Barzee Flores jumps into Miami race for Ros-Lehtinen's congressional seat

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@PatriciaMazzei

The teeming Democratic race to replace U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is about to get more crowded: Mary Barzee Flores, a well-regarded local attorney and former circuit court judge, plans to launch her candidacy Wednesday for Florida’s congressional district.

Barzee Flores would become the sixth Democrat vying for the Democratic-leaning seat. Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, said in April she wouldn’t seek reelection after 28 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. The district stretches down the southeast coast of Miami-Dade County, from North Bay Village to Cutler Bay; Hillary Clinton won it by 20 percentage points.

“I’ve always been interested in politics as a spectator sport, and as a spectator, it’s been national politics that have interested me,” Barzee Flores told the Miami Herald in an exclusive interview Tuesday, adding that she’s contemplated a candidacy for six to eight years. “And after this last election, I have come to believe that I have to do it — not just want to.”

She intends to run on a platform of keeping and improving the Affordable Care Act, fighting climate change, promoting public education, and advocating for military veterans. Her father served in World War II and her mother as a nurse in Korea.

Barzee Flores, 54, is a lifetime district resident who worked as an assistant federal public defender for 14 years before serving eight years as an elected judge on Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit. She’s been in private practice with the Miami law firm of Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff and Sitterson since 2011. 

Two years ago, Barzee Flores seemed destined for the federal bench, after then-President Barack Obama called her “highly qualified” and nominated her for a judgeship in February 2015. But Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who had allowed Barzee Flores’ name to be forwarded to Obama, ultimately blocked her nomination to the lifetime appointment, a move her backers from both sides of the political aisle viewed as partisan.

More here.

Photo courtesy Barzee Flores campaign

July 25, 2017

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ted Deutch hold hearing on Coral Springs native Bob Levinson

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@alextdaugherty 

South Florida Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, and Ted Deutch, D-Fort Lauderdale, held a hearing on Capitol Hill Tuesday with Doug Levinson, the son of Coral Springs native Bob Levinson, and other families whose loved ones were detained in Iran.

Levinson is a former FBI agent from Coral Springs who went missing from Kish Island, Iran, while working on an unauthorized mission for the CIA in 2007. 

Ros-Lehtinen and Deutch, the chairwoman and ranking member of the House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, held the hearing to raise awareness of individuals held as hostages in Iran. 

Deutch introduced a resolution calling on Tehran to do more to bring Bob Levinson home safely. 

"Iran's outrageous disregard for international law should give every country, every company-especially every American company, pause as to whether this is a country they should welcome back into the community of nations," Deutch said during the hearing. 

Earlier in July, Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson sent a letter to the White House urging President Donald Trump to “maintain pressure on Iran to see that [Bob] is returned as soon as possible.”

Last week, the Associated Press reported that the Levinson family met with senior State Department officials in Washington, and that many senior U.S. officials believe that Levinson is no longer alive.