March 01, 2018

Florida Republican with Nicaragua ties works to defeat Ros-Lehtinen’s crackdown bill

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

@alextdaugherty @francoordonez 

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is a longtime proponent of a hardline approach to left-leaning regimes in Cuba and Central America who commands respect from both parties in Washington on Latin American policy.

But a rookie Republican lawmaker and fellow Floridian recently turned on Ros-Lehtinen on one of her signature issues, and she isn’t happy.

Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Naples, was one of 25 members of Congress who signed onto Ros-Lehtinen’s bill that that would limit U.S. loans to the government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega until the longtime president carries out democratic reforms in the Central American country. The list of co-sponsors also includes every Republican and Democrat from Miami-Dade County.

But after Ros-Lehtinen’s bill passed the House by a voice vote in October, Rooney apparently had a change of heart.

According to Ros-Lehtinen and a U.S. official familiar with lobbying work who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, Rooney began scouring the halls of the U.S. Senate with Nicaraguan businessmen to lobby against Ros-Lehtinen’s Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act after it passed the House of Representatives — with his support.

“Why Rooney chose to lobby against a bill that he himself cosponsored and to do so without even giving me the courtesy of a notice, is practically unheard of in this institution,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “And then to take the extra step of being actively involved in lobbying against it, going to the Senate and lobbying senators against a bill he cosponsored? I don’t know what Rooney’s about, but it was not appreciated. It’s just uncool.”

Rooney did not respond to emails, phone calls and a request to speak in person about his work on the bill. A lobbyist hired by the American Chamber of Commerce in Nicaragua, which opposes Ros-Lehtinen’s bill, declined to say whether Rooney was working with them.

“We represent AMCHAM in Nicaragua and we do not comment on client matters,” said Carmen Group chief of staff Alison Cricks.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Nicaragua has spent at least $160,000 to lobby against Ros-Lehtinen’s bill in recent months, according to lobbying records.

Read more here.

February 20, 2018

Where South Floridians in Congress stand on gun legislation

Pjimage

@alextdaugherty

The pressure is building in Washington.

Students are meeting with President Donald Trump, organizing protests outside the White House and planning a mass demonstration in March with the aim of getting Congress to do something to prevent another mass school shooting. after the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week.

In response, Trump has indicated he’s considering support of a narrowly tailored bill that would ensure federal and state authorities accurately report relevant criminal-history records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and penalize federal agencies that fail to upload relevant records. The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, also has the blessing of the National Rifle Association and Republicans from South Florida, though Murphy tweeted that “no one should pretend this bill alone is an adequate response to this epidemic.”

Trump also directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday to craft regulations to ban “bump stocks” and other devices that turn semi-automatic firearms into automatic weapons.

But where does South Florida’s congressional delegation stand on various federal bills that could limit access to guns and firearm accessories if passed into law?

Below is a list of relevant recent congressional legislation related to guns, and where South Florida’s two U.S. senators and eight U.S. representatives stand on such proposals, including campaign contributions from the NRA.

BILLS, RATINGS, CONTRIBUTIONS

▪ Assault weapons ban: Congress passed a ban on certain semi-automatic “assault style” firearms like the AR-15 used in the Parkland shooting in 1994, though the ban expired in 2004 and wasn’t renewed. A bill to reinstate the ban in 2013 after the Sandy Hook school shooting failed in the U.S. Senate.

▪ Raising the age to legally own semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15 from 18 to 21. The 19-year old Parkland shooter suspect legally purchased an AR-15 rifle after he turned 18 old. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein plans to introduce legislation that would raise the age requirements.

▪ Bump stock ban: Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo introduced a bill after the Las Vegas shooting in October that would ban “bump stocks,” or legal modifications to semiautomatic weapons that allow them to fire like automatic weapons. So far, there haven’t been any votes on Curbelo’s bill.

▪ Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act: This bill would allow concealed carry permits obtained in one state to be valid in another state, essentially transforming concealed carry permits into transferable documents like driver’s licenses. The bill passed the House and awaits consideration in the U.S. Senate.

▪ Purchasing guns while on the terror watch list: Feinstein introduced legislation after the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016 that would prevent U.S. citizens under investigation for suspected terrorist activity from purchasing a gun, while Cornyn countered with legislation that would have installed a review period for people on the terror watch list wishing to purchase guns. Both measures failed in the U.S. Senate; the House didn’t vote on them.

Read more here.

Curbelo, Ros-Lehtinen cosponsor bill to allow federal gun violence research

Curbelo

@alextdaugherty

Rep. Stephanie Murphy's bill to repeal a ban on federal government gun violence research is now getting support from Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen after the deadliest high school shooting in the nation's history in Parkland, Florida. 

Murphy, D-Winter Park, already has 122 Democrats signed on to the bill that ends the prohibition on the Department of Health and Human Services using federal funds to advocate or promote gun control. The issue has received attention from Republicans in recent days as a potential area for compromise in Congress, though some Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio have stopped short of fully endorsing the idea. 

Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen are generally more moderate on guns than many of their Republican counterparts. They were part of just over a dozen House Republicans who voted against a bill that would allow concealed carry permits to be valid across state lines last year.

February 09, 2018

How South Florida lawmakers voted on a budget deal without a DACA fix

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@alextdaugherty

The federal government briefly shut down while you were sleeping, as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul held up a massive $300 billion budget bill that keeps the government running until March 23rd because it increased the federal deficit. House Democratic leaders also opposed the bill because Speaker Paul Ryan hasn't committed to an open debate on a solution for 690,000 DACA recipients who could be eligible for deportation as soon as March. 

The bill eventually passed the U.S. Senate at 1:30am by a 71-28 margin and the U.S. House at 5:30am by a 240-186 margin. President Donald Trump signed the bill into law on Friday morning, reopening the federal government after it shut down at midnight. The massive budget bill included billions in disaster funding for Florida and Puerto Rico along with an increase in defense spending and budget caps. 

Here's how South Florida's members of Congress voted: 

Sen. Marco Rubio (R): Yes

Rubio praised the deal as a bipartisan compromise that gave Florida much-needed disaster relief. “While no one wants to have a hurricane and no one wants to have a natural disaster, I think this is a response that we should be happy about,” Rubio said on Wednesday. He did voice concerns over the deficit despite voting yes. 

"Throughout my time in the Senate, my support for increasing the debt limit has been consistently conditioned on meaningful spending reforms that address our long-term debt," Rubio said in a statement after the vote. "This budget deal does not do that. We must begin to seriously address the long-term drivers of our debt and get our fiscal house back in order. We cannot do that if we continue to govern through short term continuing resolutions that inefficiently spend taxpayer dollars and fail to provide the certainty required for effective planning."

Sen. Bill Nelson (D): Yes

Nelson spoke alongside Rubio on the Senate floor to praise the deal after it was announced. "Senator Rubio and I have been talking about all the things we have done together in trying to get this disaster aid package to finally come to the point at which we can say we are so thankful that we see a path forward,” Nelson said.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R): Yes

Curbelo had voted against multiple spending bills because a DACA solution wasn't imminent. But hours before the vote on Thursday Curbelo switched his stance after Ryan said he would "bring a solution to the floor." 

In a statement released Thursday, Curbelo said Ryan "delivered his strongest commitment yet that legislation will be considered on the floor of the House" and that was enough to change his vote. 

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R): No 

Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring in 2018, was the only Republican in Congress to join Democrats and vote against the budget bill because it didn't include a DACA solution. 

“I will vote NO, as I have pledged to do so in the past," Ros-Lehtinen said in an email on Thursday. 

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R): Yes

Diaz-Balart, an ally of leadership, has consistently voted in favor of short-term spending bills in recent months. 

"This bipartisan legislation continues government operations and funds programs that are critical to Americans across the nation. It also invests in our military during a time where we must provide our troops with the proper resources to defend our country, help our allies, and stand up to our adversaries," Diaz-Balart said in a statement. "I represent parts of Florida that are still rebuilding from Hurricane Irma, and the $89.3 billion supplemental will go a long way in helping these communities recover from storm damage."

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D): No

Wilson, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus that opposed the deal and one of the more liberal members of Congress, voted no. 

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D): No 

Wasserman Schultz was a firm no hours before the vote as some Democrats wavered on whether or not to follow leader Nancy Pelosi and vote no or vote to keep the government open without a DACA solution. 

Rep. Ted Deutch (D): Yes

In a statement, Deutch said he voted for the budget bill to keep the government open "finally beyond just weeks." The bill keeps the government running until March 23rd. 

"Tonight, I voted for a compromise budget deal because it will allow us to keep the government running, finally beyond just weeks," Deutch said. "This bill helps the millions of Americans in Florida and Puerto Rico, Texas, California and the Virgin Islands whose lives were turned upside down by natural disasters. It provides a potential lifeline to families struggling with opioid addiction."

He also added that Congress must focus on passing the DREAM Act to help DACA recipients. President Donald Trump has indicated he does not support the DREAM Act. 

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D): No

Hastings is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus that opposed the deal and is one of the more liberal members of Congress. 

February 08, 2018

Curbelo to vote for spending bill without DACA fix

Curbelo (1)

@alextdaugherty

Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo will vote in favor of a massive $300 billion spending bill even though a solution for 689,000 DACA recipients isn't included in the package. 

In a statement released Thursday, Curbelo said Speaker Paul Ryan "delivered his strongest commitment yet that legislation will be considered on the floor of the House." 

"One of my chief legislative priorities this Congress and the last, has been to forge a compromise on immigration that delivers a fair, permanent solution for young immigrants brought to our country as children, while securing the border so future illegal entry is discouraged and diminished," Curbelo said. "The main obstacles to that goal have been Congressional Leaders' refusal to allow each Chamber to consider legislation on the Floor and the objections of extremists in both parties."

Curbelo said Ryan's comments on Thursday morning were enough to sway his vote.

"To anyone who doubts my intention to solve this problem and bring up a DACA and immigration reform bill, do not," Ryan said during a press conference. "We will bring a solution to the floor, one the President will sign." 

Curbelo had voted against previous short-term spending bills, including one earlier this week, because a DACA solution wasn't imminent. 

Retiring Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said she will still vote against the bill due to concerns on immigration. 

“I will vote NO, as I have pledged to do so in the past,” Ros-Lehtinen said in an email. 

Ros-Lehtinen is the only Republican likely to vote against the spending bill over concerns on immigration. 

The bill, which funds the federal government past 11:59pm Thursday, faces an uncertain future in the House of Representatives as some conservative Republicans will vote against it due to its effects on the deficit. Ryan will likely need Democratic votes to pass the spending bill, but its unclear whether Democratic leadership will persuade members to vote against it because of the lack of an immigration compromise. 

February 06, 2018

Ros-Lehtinen, Curbelo vote against short-term spending bill with no immigration fix

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

@alextdaugherty

The threat of a government shutdown is unlikely in Washington this week, but two Miami Republicans in the House of Representatives continued to break ranks with their party and voted against a short-term spending bill that passed Tuesday because a solution for 690,000 DACA recipients isn't imminent. 

Miami Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo were two of eight Republicans who voted against a spending bill that passed 245-182. Most of the other Republican No votes were from conservatives who typically vote against spending bills that don't include spending cuts. 

"I again voted no on the Continuing Resolution because we have yet to debate and vote on a bill that would provide legal status to our DREAMers," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "We have less than a month until the administration’s arbitrary deadline for DACA beneficiaries begins to phase out. However, these young immigrants face real challenges every day that Congress does not take action. They are missing out on job and school opportunities and in not being able to provide for their families. They live with fear of having to go back to a country that they don’t know. I remain committed in keeping my pledge to vote no on any funding bill until Congressional leadership brings a DREAMers fix to the floor." 

Curbelo voted in favor of a short-term spending bill to reopen the government last month after Senate Democrats decided to support a spending bill in exchange for a debate on discussion on an immigration bill, though he voted against previous spending bills in the last few months because of immigration. Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring in 2018, was the only House Republican to vote against the bill to reopen the government in January because it didn't provide a bill for DACA recipients. 

Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart voted in favor of the bill while South Florida Democratic Reps. Frederica Wilson, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings and Lois Frankel all voted against it.

Update: Curbelo released a statement on his vote. 

"One of my chief legislative priorities this Congress and the last, has been to forge a compromise on immigration that delivers a fair, permanent solution for young immigrants brought to our country as children, while securing the border so future illegal entry is discouraged and diminished," Curbelo said. "The biggest obstacles to that goal have been Congressional Leadership’s refusal to recognize we are running out of time and the objections of extremists in both parties. While I appreciate the Senate is almost certainly moving on immigration next week – and I want to give our institutions an opportunity to debate this issue with the government open – I am not comfortable extending the funding deadline past March 5th. Doing so would relieve the pressure, and we must keep the pressure on."

January 31, 2018

Curbelo unhurt after GOP train collides with dump truck

IMG_Economic_Impact_of_I_2_1_8BAO5GJG_L296697696 (4)

@alextdaugherty

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo is unhurt after a train with dozens of GOP lawmakers on it collided with a dump truck on Wednesday morning, killing at least one person in the truck and severely injuring another. 

Curbelo was en route to the yearly Republican retreat at a resort in West Virginia when it collided with a truck just west of Charlottesville, Virginia. No lawmakers were seriously hurt in the collision according to multiple reports and several lawmakers with medical training stepped up to help the victims. 

"Thanks to all who have called and texted," Curbelo tweeted. "We’re blessed to be ok, and hoping the best for those who were on this truck." He also spoke to MSNBC about the accident. 

Miami Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen were not on the train, according to their offices. Sen. Marco Rubio's office said he was not on the train.  

January 25, 2018

How a citizenship question on the 2020 Census could diminish Miami’s political clout

008 Downtown Miami Skyline

@alextdaugherty

The Department of Justice wants the U.S. Census Bureau to ask people about their citizenship status on the 2020 census, and the additional questioning could lead to an undercount in immigrant-heavy Miami.

Undercounting the number of people living in Florida’s most populous county could affect how billions of federal dollars are distributed and diminish the state’s clout in the nation’s capital. The Census Bureau will choose whether or not to include the citizenship status question by March 31, when it finalizes the 2020 questionnaire.

“The purpose of the census is simple: collecting appropriate data on the people that reside in our communities so that we can distribute federal resources for the needs of the population,” Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. “Any question, including one regarding citizenship, that could in any way discourage an accurate count, must be omitted. The census is not a means to do an immigration head count. It is a means to help all of our constituents with their needs regardless of their immigration status.”

The Justice Department argued that including the citizenship status question would help it enforce the Voting Rights Act, according to a letter from the DOJ to the Census Bureau obtained by ProPublica.

The census, conducted every 10 years, is used to determine how many people are living in a given area, and the federal government attempts to count everyone regardless of their citizenship status, including undocumented immigrants. If more people are counted in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, home to approximately 450,000 undocumented immigrants, there’s a better chance that more federal dollars for infrastructure projects or programs will come South Florida’s way.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said he hasn’t decided whether it’s a good idea for the census to ask about citizenship status.

“I want to understand both arguments on it more clearly before I reach a firm opinion on it,” Rubio said.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, said he’s concerned some people could be dissuaded from answering the census if the citizenship question is asked.

“Unless I am provided with compelling statistics and facts as to why it is necessary, I would oppose its inclusion,” Diaz-Balart said in a statement.

And there’s also the looming reallocation of congressional seats due to population changes that occurs every 10 years after the census, called redistricting.

Read more here.

January 22, 2018

Miami Republican says Senate-brokered promises for Dreamers 'aren't good enough'

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

@alextdaugherty

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen issued a rebuke to her own party and a significant amount of Democrats on Monday, voting against a short-term spending bill agreed to by Senate leaders because it didn't include a legislative remedy for Dreamers, a group of nearly 800,000 undocumented young immigrants who could face deportation in March in Congress fails to act. 

“I’ve heard these promises once and again that we will find a permanent legislative remedy for Dreamers but a promise ain’t good enough any longer so that is why I voted no on the CR (Continuing Resolution)," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement.

The congresswoman also mirrored the arguments of Democrats who voted against the bill, saying that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's promise to debate and vote on a solution for Dreamers, which will likely face opposition from conservative Republicans, isn't the same as concocting a deal. 

"We have been duped and strung around enough so Dreamers can’t rely on broken promises any longer," Ros-Lehtinen said. "I will vote to approve a budget once we fulfill our pledge to these young people who know no other home but the U.S.”

Her comments were similar to New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, one of 16 Senate Democrats to vote against the deal, which funds the government through Feb. 8. 

"Nothing in this legislation gives me any confidence that in three weeks Congress won’t end up exactly where we are today," Menendez said to CNN. 

Ros-Lehtinen's No vote differed from the majority of Senate Democrats, where moderates like Florida Sen. Bill Nelson praised McConnell's commitment to debate and vote as enough of a concession to reopen the government after it shut down on Friday night. 

"Now we have a path forward in which we can work a bipartisan solution that will take care of the Dreamers,” Nelson said. “I think the American people are going to be cheering that this occurred.”

While only 16 of 47 Senate Democrats voted against the bill, the majority of House Democrats did vote against the bill. Five other House Republicans also voted against the bill with Ros-Lehtinen because they typically disapprove of spending bills without spending cuts attached. 

Ros-Lehtinen is not running for reelection in 2018, though she represents the most Democratic-leaning district in the country currently held by a Republican. She is a frequent critic of President Donald Trump and has signed on to multiple legislative solutions for Dreamers before an Obama-era executive order rescinded by Trump expires. 

Curbelo says Senate deal to reopen government has enough assurances for Dreamers

Curbelo (1)

@alextdaugherty

Carlos Curbelo was in a lonely position last week. 

The Miami Republican was the only House Republican running for reelection in 2018 to vote against a short-term spending bill to keep the government open over concerns that it did not contain a solution for nearly 800,000 undocumented young immigrants known as Dreamers who could face deportation in March in Congress doesn't act. 

But Curbelo is now on board after Senate moderates from both parties agreed to reopen the government, at least until Feb. 8, if Republicans hold a debate and vote on a Dreamer solution. 

"So long as the government remains open it would be my intention to take up legislation here in the Senate that would address DACA, border security and related issues as well as disaster relief, defense funding, healthcare and other important matters," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor.

"Today’s statement by the Majority Leader (Mitch McConnell) was significant because Leadership has made a very public commitment the process will move forward in the coming weeks," Curbelo spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez said. "That said, if Feb. 8 comes around and that commitment has not been upheld, the Congressman is prepared to reconsider his support." 

The federal government shut down on Friday night after Senate Democrats didn't go along with the spending proposal passed by the House. 

Curbelo also voted against short-term spending bills late last year because a solution for Dreamers was not imminent. 

"If I get maybe a time-certain commitment from leadership that there will be a vote, maybe I would think about saying 'Okay, that's good enough,'" Curbelo said in December. 

Monday's deal met that time-certain commitment criteria, according to Curbelo's office. 

The Republican National Committee stressed that lawmakers who switched their vote did not get a deal today for Dreamers despite McConnell's intention to take up legislation. 

"Thankfully, Democrats came to their senses and realized that a temper tantrum would never lead to a real bipartisan fix for DACA,"  RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.

"It's worth noting that the only votes that changed from No to Yes were Democrat votes," McDaniel's statement said, which was issued three minutes before Curbelo's (Republican) vote switch was finalized. 

Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was the only Republican who voted against the spending bill passed by the House today amid concerns over Dreamers, breaking with Curbelo on the issue.