February 22, 2017

Republican congresswoman whose son is transgender calls Trump change to bathroom rules 'lamentable'

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@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on Wednesday criticized the Trump administration's move to lift protections for transgender students, who under Obama-era rules had been allowed to use public-school bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice.

Ros-Lehtinen -- whose son, Rodrigo Lehtinen, is transgender -- noted that she and Democratic Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado in 2015 introduced legislation (the Student Non Discrimination Act) prohibiting schools from discriminating against students based on sexual orientation or gender identity. She has also signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief in a Supreme Court case seeking to protect access to public accommodations for transgender students.

"This lamentable decision can lead to hostile treatment of transgender students and studies have shown that bullying and harassment can be detrimental to the emotional and physical well-being of teenagers," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "Evidence has shown that acceptance of transgender students lowers their risk of suicide. Jared and I introduced our SNDA bill to prevent discrimination of transgender young people and we will re-introduce it because our country benefits when everyone is accepted and we live up to our nation’s promise of inclusiveness."

Last year, Ros-Lehtinen and her husband, former Miami U.S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen, took part along with their son in a bilingual public-service campaign in Miami to raise awareness for transgender rights.

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Another Miami Republican, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, also said late Wednesday he opposed President Trump’s transgender action.

“This is a disappointing choice for the Administration to make,” Curbelo said in a statement. “We should be working toward ensuring all American children feel safe and accepted in their schools, regardless of where they live, their race, creed, gender identity or sexual orientation.”

 

Photo credit: Carl Juste, Miami Herald staff

February 21, 2017

'You are not the enemy of the American people,' Ros-Lehtinen tells Miami media

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@PatriciaMazzei

No reporter asked Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on Tuesday morning about President Donald Trump's tweet last week blasting the news media as "the enemy of the American people."

But Ros-Lehtinen chose to kick off her first public appearance of the congressional recess by addressing the president's comments anyway.

"To the members of the press, I want to say thank you," Ros-Lehtinen said. "You are not the enemy of the American people."

The row of reporters lined in the wall in front of her at downtown Miami's Venture Hive, an entrepreneurship accelerator, remained silent. Ros-Lehtinen continued.

"You have a central role in our republic," said the congresswoman, who was born in Cuba. "We thank you for it -- even when you criticize public officials."

At the White House later, Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked if the president would consider revising his characterization of democracy's Fourth Estate.

"Certain outlets have gone out of their way to not be completely accurate and fair in their coverage," Spicer said. "He has a deep respect for the First Amendment, for the role of the press."

Photo credit: Jose I. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

Miami lawmakers on Trump deportations: ‘You’re going to catch a lot of good people’

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@PatriciaMazzei

Two Miami Republicans in Congress immediately questioned on Tuesday the Trump administration’s new policy exposing nearly all immigrants in the country illegally to deportation.

U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen were speaking at an event highlighting the contribution of immigrants to Miami’s fledgling tech industry when the Department of Homeland Security announced its rules expanding the categories of people prioritized for removal — a reversal from the Obama administration, which had focused on deporting criminals.

“I worry that when you cast a wide net, you’re going to catch some criminals — but you’re going to catch a lot of good people who don’t have papers but they have not committed violent crimes,” said Ros-Lehtinen, who was born in Cuba. “This is a community that has been immigrant-friendly.”

Curbelo agreed, saying there is “broad consensus” to deport “people who are here with the goal of doing us harm.”

“I’d like to encourage the administration to keep the focus on deporting dangerous criminals,” said Curbelo, the son of Cuban immigrants. “Also, I would encourage the administration to try to keep families together as much as possible.”

The congressman did thank President Trump for not pushing to undo the protections offered to people brought into the country illegally as children by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

More here.

Photo credit: Jose I. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

February 17, 2017

Ros-Lehtinen backs potential House Intelligence investigation into Russia and Flynn

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said Friday she backs a congressional investigation into Russia and its ties to ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Ros-Lehtinen, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said such an investigation should include "former and current officials of our government."

"Our House Intelligence Committee, of which I am a member, has undertaken a Russia investigation and a bipartisan investigative team has been formed to examine documents," she said in a statement. "As the spokesperson for our Committee said yesterday, we aren't excluding anyone or any entity from our examination and we expect to be interviewing former and current officials of our government. I hope that a report issued following the investigation will be made available to the public."

February 10, 2017

Those hot congressional town halls? Don't expect many in South Florida

@PatriciaMazzei

Over the past week, a string of town-hall meetings held across the country by Republican members of Congress have drawn hordes of constituents angry about repealing the Affordable Care Act and the GOP's embrace of President Donald Trump

But if South Floridians want a similar forum to vent to their Republican lawmakers, they're out of luck.

The only local member of Congress who plans to hold open meetings soon is U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat, who's got two scheduled -- in Wilton Manors and Pompano Beach -- Saturday. Democrats just haven't been getting the same sort of protests as Republicans at their public events.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has no town hall planned, a spokesman said, noting that the Senate is still in session. (Progressive activists say they will nevertheless stump outside his Doral office Tuesday to ask him for one.) Neither does Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. No in-person town halls are scheduled either for Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, though he hopes to let constituents call into a "tele-town hall" in late March, a spokeswoman said. 

A spokeswoman for Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart refused to admit the congressman isn't holding town halls.

"The Congressman is constantly traveling the district and meeting with constituents, but we do not publicize his schedule," Katrina Valdés said in an email.

When pressed if that means no public events without pre-screened attendees, she added: "He has countless meetings with constituents and constituent groups while traveling the district. Our office is in touch with those who he will be meeting with."

More than 200 pro-Obamacare protesters showed up last Saturday at a town hall for Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis in Palm Harbor, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

January 05, 2017

Ros-Lehtinen forwards Cuba letter from ex-diplomats to Trump

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen intends to be the emissary between President-elect Donald Trump and a group of former U.S. diplomats who want the incoming White House to reverse President Barack Obama's Cuba policy.

Ros-Lehtinen told the Miami Herald on Thursday that she forwarded to Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence a letter from the Center for a Free Cuba. The letter, reported by the Herald on Wednesday, urges Trump to review all of Obama's Cuba actions, and undo some of them immediately.

"In the last year, you have mentioned that your administration would reverse some of the damage inflicted by the current misguided Cuba policy and these outstanding American diplomats can assist to hep achieve a better deal for our own national security interests and to help the people of Cuba achieve freedom, justice, and democracy," Ros-Lehtinen wrote in a cover letter to Trump.

In a statement to the Herald, Ros-Lehtinen praised the letter for laying out "some concrete actions that can be done int he first 100 days of the incoming administration."

Read Ros-Lehtinen's letter to Trump.

January 03, 2017

2 Miami Republicans favor gutting congressional ethics office

@PatriciaMazzei

UPDATE: In an emergency meeting Tuesday, House Republicans agreed to reverse their decision to curtail the powers of the Office of Congressional Ethics, after facing public backlash and skepticism from President-elect Donald Trump. Here's an updated statement from Curbelo:

"The House ethics process needs to be reformed in order to better investigate allegations of misconduct. I support referring this matter to the House Ethics committee where Republicans and Democrats can work together on bipartisan reforms that would ensure Members of Congress are‎ held accountable while given due process to address accusations."

A full, updated story has been posted here.

ORIGINAL POST: U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said Tuesday they backed the Republican conference's move to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics.

The OCE, created eight years ago after a series of congressional scandals, would be renamed the Office of Congressional Complaint Review and, instead of being independent, report to the GOP-controlled House Ethics Committee.

Republicans' decision, proposed by U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and made without notice in a private party meeting on Monday, a federal holiday, prompted immediate rebuke from Democrats, government watchdog groups and even some Republicans. But don't count Ros-Lehtinen and Curbelo among them.

"I voted for Rep. Goodlatte's amendment to improve and reorganize the renamed Office of Congressional Complaint Review (OCCR) because it includes much needed oversight and accountability from the House Ethics Committee," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement to the Miami Herald. "The reforms will allow for due process rights for all parties involved and will ensure a fair hearing as Members of Congress seek to better serve our constituents."

Curbelo spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez said in a statement to the Herald that Curbelo also backs the changes.

"Coming from a district that knows firsthand the impact corruption has on a community, Congressman Curbelo has always been committed to ensuring members of Congress are held accountable and allegations of misconduct are investigated seriously<" she said. "The Office of Congressional Ethics has not lived up to its stated mission and reforms are long overdue to strengthen its ability to take complaints from the public, complete independent investigations, and provide due process for those facing allegations of misconduct. The Congressman supports Speaker [Paul] Ryan's commitment to protect the Office's independence and he is dedicated to making sure that commitment is honored.

"The Congressman will be supporting H.Res. 5, the complete Rules Package for the 115th Congress on the House Floor later today."

Ryan opposed the ethics amendment, which the GOP conference agreed to with a 119-74 vote. Because the vote took place in a private party meeting, there is no public disclosure of how each member voted.

The third Miami Republican in Congress, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, told the Herald in a statement that while the ethics office needs an overhaul, he doesn't think the rules legislation is the way to change things.

"The Office of Congressional Ethics is in dire need of reform," Diaz-Balart said. "Members of Congress must be held accountable to the highest standard in a process that is fair and just. I strongly believe the way to do this is in a bipartisan, open discussion through legislation, not through the rules package."

President-elect Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday morning that dealing with the ethics office shouldn't be Congress' first priority, though he still called the office "unfair." He used the hashtag "#DTS," from his campaign mantra to "drain the swamp."

This post has been updated to include Diaz-Balart.

November 30, 2016

Analysis shows Miami voters crossed party lines to support Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen -- and Clinton

An new analysis of how Florida's congressional districts voted in November by Democratic data guru Matt Isbell shows that voters crossed party lines heavily in two Miami-Dade districts to re-elect Republican incumbents, despite overwhelmingly support for Democrat Hillary Clinton. Florida Congressional Districts Trump v Clinton

Isbell's data shows that if voters who supported Clinton had stuck with Democrats in the congressional vote, there would be 14 Repubicans in Florida's congressional delegation and 13 Democrats, instead of 16-11 split that was elected.

The principle takeaway: the partisan battleground lies in Miami but the battle grounds are already clear for 2018: newly-elected Democratic Congressman Charlie Crist better be wary, his district barely embraced Clinton; and Republican U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart's Miami district also only narrowly gave Trump the edge. 

The crossover votes came in Miami District 26, where Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo fended off a challenge from his former rival, Democrat Joe Garcia 53 to 41 percent, with independent Jose Peixoto getting 6 percent of the vote. In Miami District 27, where Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen kept her decades long hold on an otherwise Democratic district by defeating Democrat Mark Fuhrman 55 to 45 percent. 

Here's the breakdown via Matt Isbell of @mcimaps: 

Continue reading "Analysis shows Miami voters crossed party lines to support Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen -- and Clinton" »

House set to pass health bill with Miami ties

@PatriciaMazzei

The U.S. House plans to vote Wednesday on a wide-ranging health bill that includes several items of interest to South Florida.

The legislation, dubbed the "21st Century Cures Act," would exempt the University of Miami's Sylvester Cancer Center from Medicare reimbursement cuts imposed on hospitals last year -- a protection that should help Sylvester expand, according to the office of Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Also included in the bill is language Ros-Lehtinen and Boca Raton Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch drafted to direct federal health grants to train physicians and educators about early signs of eating disorders. In addition, the legislation supports federal drug courts modeled in part like the state ones pioneered in Miami.

The Cures Act had been passed by the House before, but the Senate objected to some provisions. The new version is a result of negotiations between both chambers.

Perhaps the best known part of the legislation in South Florida is lifting a restriction to allow the Food and Drug Administration to authorize, on an emergency basis, the use of technologies such as a genetically modified mosquito to combat the Zika virus.

October 23, 2016

Former Colombian president to campaign with Rubio

@PatriciaMazzei

Marco Rubio plans an only-in-Miami campaign stop Sunday morning: An event at a Doral Colombian restaurant with former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

The conservative Uribe is beloved by ex-pat Colombians who joined Rubio at the same restaurant, Mondongo, earlier this month after the South American country voted down a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The deal was put forth by sitting Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who despite the loss at the polls was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In two Spanish-language radio interviews last week, Rubio argued South Floridians should keep a loud voice on Latin American policy in the Senate. His opponent, Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, doesn't campaign on U.S. policy toward Latin America, he argued.

"If I'm not in the Senate, who's going to be the leader on these topics?" Rubio said Thursday on Radio Caracol, which caters to Colombians. (He praised New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez as his Democratic counterpart on those issues.)

Rubio will be joined by Miami's three Republican members of Congress seeking reelection: Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.