May 05, 2016

For Miami Republicans in Congress, a struggle to accept Donald Trump as nominee

@PatriciaMazzei

In the only county Donald Trump lost in the Florida primary, three Republican members of Congress are having trouble accepting him as their party's presidential nominee.

Two of them have said they won't for him.

Miami Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen all endorsed Jeb Bush early in the campaign. As a group, they later backed Marco Rubio

What to do now that Trump is the last Republican standing?

Curbelo, a freshman in a swing district who last year posited that Trump might be a ringer for Democrat Hillary Clinton, said he won't support either political party's presidential pick. Clinton is still fending off challenger Bernie Sanders.

"My position has not changed," Curbelo told the Miami Herald in an email Wednesday. "I have no plans of supporting either of the presumptive nominees."

Ros-Lehtinen, the dean of the trio, has said much the same. Though her office did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday, the day after Ted Cruz dropped out of the race, she told Spanish-language news network NTN24 two weeks ago she was holding out hope for a contested GOP convention.

"I don't plan to vote for Donald Trump," she said. "I don't feel in my heart that I could support him. But I can't support Hillary Clinton."

 

More here.

Photo caption: Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart are pictured at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which they visited last month.

Photo credit: Courtesy Rep. Carlos Curbelo's office. 

May 03, 2016

Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld is in Cuba, and a Miami congresswoman is not happy about it

Cuba Chanel

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen knows a thing or two about how to troll on Twitter.

Her account, @RosLehtinen, has spent the past couple of weeks periodically posting about French fashion house Chanel, which plans to hold a runway show Tuesday night in Havana.

Ros-Lehtinen's particular target: designer Karl Lagerfeld, the German haute couture powerhouse heading Chanel's line, "inspired" by Cuba. The congresswoman used the opportunity to highlight repression against Cuba's Ladies in White dissidents.

A sample of her tweets:

Ros-Lehtinen is a vocal opponent of President Obama's reestablished diplomatic relations with the Castro regime. That puts her at odds with Miami Cuban-American superstar musicians Emilio and Gloria Estefan, who told New York Magazine they back the new policy and are happy to see Chanel on the island.

Photo credit: Ramon Espinosa, Associated Press

April 25, 2016

Miami members of Congress return from trip to Guantánamo

Unnamed

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami's three Cuban-American Republicans in Congress recently traveled to the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the office of U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced Monday.

Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House subcomittee on the Middle East and North Africa, took the trip along with Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart. Also traveling were Reps. Ted Yoho of Gainesville and George Holding of North Carolina, both Republicans.

Here's Ros-Lehtinen's statement on the trip:

The U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay is so much more than the detention center; It is a strategically important military base and our only permanent base in Latin America and the Caribbean. Yet, since President Obama announced his changes to our Cuba policy, the administration has been seeking to play down the importance of the Naval Station. Returning GTMO to the Castro regime would be the ultimate concession to the ruthless dictator and the final stroke in the President's misguided and dangerous Cuba policy, and Congress must not allow this to happen.

"From humanitarian operations and emergency response, to drug and weapon interdiction and so much more, GTMO allows us to maintain a permanent presence in the region in order to protect and promote our national security interests.

"The President's plan to close the detention center at GTMO is naive and dangerous. We've already heard testimony from his Special Envoys on Guantanamo Closure and Guantanamo Detention Closure that some of the individuals we have released not only went back to fighting against us, but have American blood on their hands. There can simply be no justification to release these dangerous prisoners when we know that many of them will go back and join the fight. Congress must prevent the President from closing the detention center and retuning the base to the Castro regime.

Here's Curbelo's statement:

This week I visited the US Naval Station Guantanamo Bay – a critical military and national security asset serving key roles in the war on terrorism, drug and migrant interdiction, and as a strategic forward base for the Atlantic Fleet. Every day approximately 7,000 US military personnel and contractors go to work at GTMO to keep our country safe and advance our national security interests in the Americas and throughout the world. I had the privilege of meeting with Captain Culpepper, the base commander, who briefed us on the base’s preparedness to assist with major migrant events in the Caribbean. This is important considering the significant increase in Cubans fleeing from the island over the last year. I also met with Rear Admiral Clarke who serves as Commander of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo. The JTF is working professionally and diligently to provide safe, humane, legal, and transparent care and custody of detainees. I was able to inspect the detention facilities, and I was impressed with efforts to treat the detainees with dignity and respect. Our young men and women in uniform do an extraordinary job of representing our country, sometimes under very difficult circumstances in this theater. The men and women of Naval Air Station Guantanamo, the Joint Task Force, and the Marines who protect the base perimeter deserve the admiration, appreciation, and support of the American people and this Congress. I thank my colleague from South Florida Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for leading our visit to GTMO, and I urge all of my colleagues to work to protect and strengthen this critical military asset.

This post has been updated.

Photo credit: Courtesy Rep. Carlos Curbelo's office

Mojitos and Cuban food: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen plans Miami-themed fundraiser in D.C.

Unnamed@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is bringing a little touch of Miami to Washington D.C. for her next fundraiser.

Next month, her re-election campaign will hold a reception branded as "Moon Over Miami." Mojitos and Cuban food are promised.

The event will take place at the Republican's Southeast D.C. townhouse May 25. A $500 contribution is suggested from individual donors, and $1,000 from political action committees.

March 18, 2016

South Florida Republicans break with GOP in deportation vote

@jamesmartinrose

Only five Republican lawmakers stood up to their party leader in voting against allowing House Speaker Paul Ryan to file an amicus brief opposing President Barack Obama's decision to withhold deportation for more than 5 million undocumented immigrants.

All three Cuban-American representatives from South Florida -- Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Marco Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo -- were among the five Republicans who voted against a resolution that the House passed Thursday almost entirely along party lines.

The Supreme Court next month will hear a case brought by Texas, joined by Florida and 24 other states, arguing that Obama's bid to shield about 5.2 million illegal aliens from deportation imposes unaffordable health-care, education, law-enforcement and other costs on them.

Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who replaced Ohioan John Boehner as speaker in October, acknowledged that House intervention in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court was unprecedented, but he insisted it was necessary to prevent executive overreach by Obama.

With no Democrats voting for the bill, Ryan and other Republicans said Obama's executive orders dating to 2012 amount to the president legislating immigration reform without going through Congress.

"I recognize that this is a very extraordinary step," Ryan said on the House floor. "I feel it is very necessary, though. In fact, I believe this is vital."

In a joint statement Friday, Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart said that although individual members of Congress have the right to file briefs supporting court cases, the House as a whole should not do so.

"All amicus briefs should carry the same weight, and beginning this pattern may signal to the Supreme Court that Congress is prioritizing certain cases over others," the two Miami Republicans said.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a first-term Republican from Kendall, went further. He accused Republicans of playing politics with the important issue of immigration.

"For two long, both parties have preferred to score petty political points using the immigration issue rather than passing meaningful reform to secure the border, reform our visa system and find a fair solution for the undocumented," Curbelo said.

"The surest and most constitutionally solvent way to end the president's executive overreach is to pass meaningful immigration reform, not by employing empty tactics that ignore the root cause of the problem," he said.

The two other Republicans who voted against the House resolution were Reps. Richard Hanna of New York and Robert Dold of Illinois. Rep. Alex Mooney, a West Virginia Republican and one of five other Cuban-Americans in Congress, voted for the measure, which passed by a 234-186 margin.

Among Florida's 24 other U.S. House members, 22 voted along party lines, with Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel and Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan failing to vote.

Nine other Florida Democrats voted against the measure, among them Reps. Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, who is chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Two lower courts have ruled in favor of the states, most recently the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals based in New Orleans.

With only eight justices on the Supreme Court since Justice Antonin Scalia's death last month, a 4-4 decision after the scheduled April 18 arguments would uphold the lower courts' rulings and overturn Obama's executive orders protecting millions of undocumented parents and their children from deportation.

Obama on Wednesday chose Merrick Garland, a former federal prosecutor and current judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, to replace Scalia on the high court, but Senate Republican leaders are refusing to take a vote or even hold hearings on the nomination, saying Obama has only 10 months left in office.

Immigration has become perhaps the most divisive issue in the presidential campaign, with Republican front-runner Donald Trump vowing to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat of Puerto Rican descent, ridiculed Republican lawmakers, many of whom he said have disingenuously tried to distance themselves from Trump's hardline stance on immigration.

"They keep saying, 'Well, Trump doesn't represent us, he doesn't (represent) our views, he doesn't represent our values,' and now they want to know where Trump gets all of his anti-immigrant, xenophobic views from," Gutierrez told reporters. "Try the House of Republicans."

In a speech Friday on the House floor, Gutierrez accused his Republican colleagues of "stoking anti-immigrant fears and mass-deportation fantasies."

"The vote is a political stunt disguised as a legal brief because the Republican majority sees a crass political opportunity to stand with the anti-immigration wing of their party," he said.  

The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and 60 individual business leaders, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, filed an amicus brief supporting Obama last week.

Before the vote Thursday, Democratic Rep. Linda Sanchez, head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said "the Latino community is being used for political purposes."

Sanchez added: "We are being demonized, we are being marginalized, and we see a frightening level of hateful rhetoric and vile hate speech aimed at our community, and nobody is standing up within the Republican Party to say that this is unacceptable."

America's Voice, a pro-immigration advocacy group, said the vote Thursday was the eighth "anti-immigration" vote taken by Republicans in the current session of Congress.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and 223 other Democrats filed an amicus brief backing Obama earlier this month, but there was no vote on the brief and it represents them as individuals.

In still another amicus brief, almost 120 cities and counties across the United States on March 8 expressed support for Obama, among them Pembroke Pines, Tampa and Sunrise.

 

March 07, 2016

Miami GOP congresswoman takes reelection campaign to South Beach

Ily@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's reelection campaign is getting the South Beach treatment.

The Miami Republican plans a fundraising dinner Sunday at Smith & Wollensky, the swanky steakhouse at South Pointe Park. She will be joined by her two fellow local members of Congress -- Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart -- and Reps. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and John Mica of Winter Park.

The suggested contribution? $1,000 a head.

February 22, 2016

Once Jeb Bush supporters, Miami members of Congress back Marco Rubio

Rubio Backers 06 EKM

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen got behind a horde of microphones Monday afternoon and waved a Florida absentee ballot, still in its envelope.

 

Inside, she explained, was the reason why she and other Republicans — in Florida and across the country — were lining up to endorse Marco Rubio less than 48 hours after the South Carolina primary.

“On this ballot, there are 13 names,” she said.

But most of them aren’t actual candidates anymore — including her first choice, Jeb Bush, who quit the race Saturday and left his supporters up for grabs three weeks before Florida’s March 15 primary.

Which means there is no time to waste for Bush backers to brush off the defeat and urge voters — especially the ones with ballots already in hand — to make a new choice.

And, increasingly for the mainstream GOP, that choice is Rubio.

“He’s ready, he’s effective, he’s brilliant,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said. “He illustrates the best of the American Dream, and he will unify and strengthen this country.”

More here.

Photo credit: Emily Michot, Miami Herald staff

February 21, 2016

Miami Republican members of Congress who had backed Jeb Bush prepare to endorse Marco Rubio

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami's current and former Cuban-American Republican members of Congress plan to endorse Marco Rubio on Monday, after having initially backed Jeb Bush.

A public, group announcement is in the works, a Rubio campaign source confirmed to the Miami Herald on Sunday, a day after Bush ended his candidacy in South Carolina.

Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, would all shift their support to the remaining Miami candidate in the GOP presidential race. It's a sign to other Bush backers to let go of any bad blood from the Bush-Rubio rivalry sooner rather than later.

Curbelo had hinted at the endorsement in a tweet Saturday night suggesting he would look for party unity in the wake of Bush's departure.

All four politicians had been careful not to bash Rubio during the campaign, saying they thought Bush was more experienced but Rubio too would make a good nominee. They would serve as prominent Rubio campaign surrogates leading up to the March 15 Florida primary, especially on Spanish-language media.

February 18, 2016

Poll of Miami congressional district shows narrow support for President Obama's Cuba policy

@PatriciaMazzei

In December, on the one-year anniversary of President Barack Obama's diplomatic opening toward Cuba, a Miami Democratic consultant commissioned a local poll to, among other things, gauge the policy's popularity.

The survey, of a newly redrawn Miami congressional district represented by Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, showed narrow support -- 47-43 percent -- for a hypothetical congressional candidate who favored normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations and lifting the trade embargo, according to results shared with the Miami Herald by consultant Christian Ulvert.

Democrats were far more likely to back the policy change (68 percent) than Republicans (30 percent) and voters without party affiliation (44 percent). That nearly a third of Republicans would be OK with ending the embargo is particularly noteworthy in South Florida, the heart of the hard-line Cuban exile community, where reactions were divided Thursday to the White House's announcement that Obama plans to travel to the island next month.

The poll was conducted by SEA Polling & Strategic Design between Dec.17-21. It surveyed 400 likely voters, with a slightly Republican-leaning sample, and has an error margin of 4.9 percent.

"The poll I commissioned in late December shows how voters in CD-27 continue to embrace the leadership President Obama has shown to bring meaningful and democratic change to the Cuban people through normalizing relations with the island," Ulvert said in a statement. "CD-27 voters appreciate that the failed policies over the last 50 years have not resulted in a free and democratic Cuba, so voters see great opportunity in President Obama being a voice for a new democracy in Cuba and through deep coordination with Cuban-American civic and elected leaders in South Florida, we can achieve that dream for Cuba."

The same poll showed that Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-American who stridently opposes any rapprochement with the Castro regime, remains highly popular in her district, even now that it's filled with more Democrats. Her favorability rating was 61-27 percent, with 6 percent of respondents holding a mixed view of the congresswoman and 6 percent saying they didn't know. So even if a majority of voters disagree with her on Cuba, it appears very unlikely that the longtime incumbent would draw any serious opposition.

 

February 17, 2016

Miami politicians react to Obama's planned visit to Cuba

@PatriciaMazzei

News of President Barack Obama's impending trip to Cuba -- in March, sources told the Miami Herald -- prompted quick backlash from Miami politicians, many of them of Cuban descent.

Here's reaction, which we will update as it comes in:

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who is running for president

 

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, who is running for president

 

Continue reading "Miami politicians react to Obama's planned visit to Cuba" »