March 28, 2017

Miami Republicans call Trump order on climate change 'dangerous,' 'misguided'

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@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo on Tuesday once again criticized President Donald Trump, their party's leader, this time over his executive order undoing many of the Obama administration's climate change rules.

The reversal is "troubling" and "dangerous," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. Curbelo called Trump's action "misguided."

Both lawmakers represent coastal South Florida districts directly affected by rising sea levels and other effects of global warming. They have already been critical of Trump's executive order on immigration.

"The administration's decision to roll back emissions standards is troubling due to the impact it has on sea level rise and ocean acidification on our South Florida beaches," Ros-Lehtinen said. "Instead of taking this dangerous path, we should be working to promote clean energy and other methods that will help preserve our environment for future generations to come. My coastal South Florida district is negatively impacted by this order and it takes us backward during a time when we should be monitoring climate change and working assiduously to stop its damaging impact."

"While I am encouraged the Administration did not ask the EPA to reconsider its endangerment finding, which declares greenhouse gas pollution threatens human health and welfare, today's rollback of emission standards is misguided," Curbelo said in a statement of his own. "Climate change is occurring and it is not a coincidence global temperatures have risen at the same time tremendous amounts of carbon dioxide have been added to the atmosphere.  We see the effects of climate change firsthand in South Florida, resulting in rising sea-levels, bleached coral reefs, and salt water intrusion. Climate change is also a threat to our national security and local economies across the country. We cannot, and must not, ignore these challenges.

"I continue to believe economic growth and dealing with this threat are not mutually exclusive. We have a responsibility to our citizens and future generations to support market-based solutions, investments, and innovations that could alleviate the effects of climate change and make our nation more resilient. In South Florida we know well that the economy and the environment are one in the same. Weak environmental policies ultimately lead to the destruction of jobs and quality of life. I hope the Administration will work with me and my colleagues in the Climate Solutions Caucus to Act on this in a responsible, bipartisan way going forward, but today that is clearly not the case."

Democrats also decried Trump's action -- including Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman.

 That prompted the National Republican Congressional Committee to criticize Luján for caring "more about serving his far-left environmentalist financial backers than New Mexico families."

The same NRCC will be tasked next year with defending Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen from almost-certain challengers in their Democratic-leaning districts.

Photo credit: José A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

March 23, 2017

Miami Republicans will have to make up their minds on health care today

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@PatriciaMazzei

With a vote looming Thursday evening on House Republicans' healthcare bill, two of three Miami lawmakers whose districts have among the highest number of Affordable Care Act enrollees have yet to announce their support or opposition.

Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart have been undecided -- with Curbelo leaning "Yes" and Diaz-Balart leaning "No" -- since both voted for the American Health Care Act in different House committees.

Curbelo helped move the law out of the Ways and Means Committee before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that 14 million Americans would drop or lose their insurance coverage in 2018 under the law; Diaz-Balart helped break a tie to pass the legislation out of the Budget Committee, despite saying he had concerns with it.

The White House has been wooing Diaz-Balart and other ambivalent Republicans all week. Curbelo was among the group of moderates who met Wednesday night with House Speaker Paul Ryan. They reached no broad agreement.

The third Miami Republican, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, was the first Florida member of Congress to oppose the bill -- and she still does, she said Thursday.

"After studying the impact of this legislation on my constituents, I will vote no on this bill because it does not provide adequate solutions for the working poor, disabled, and elderly in South Florida," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "Too many of my constituents will be left paying more for coverage and many will be left without coverage at all. The cuts and changes to Medicaid will make it more difficult to effectively care for uninsured patients as well as individuals with high costs of coverage due to special needs or chronic diseases. Additionally, costs for seniors will increase significantly as insurance companies will charge older Americans exorbitantly high premiums and fees which many cannot afford."

Later, Ros-Lehtinen said in an interview on WIOD-AM (510) that any of the proposed cuts to "essential" healthcare benefits to appease the most conservative members of the GOP caucus would amount to a "humongous concession."

"Oh my gosh -- why have insurance?" she told host Fernand Amandi, who is also a Democratic pollster.

Amandi asked if the White House had tried to entice Ros-Lehtinen to change her mind. She said she'd gotten overtures from "people who never even knew I existed."

"I did get invited to bowl at the White House. Yaaaay!" she said. "But I turned that down."

Spokeswomen for Curbelo and Diaz-Balart said Thursday morning the lawmakers are in negotiation meetings over the bill all day.

A national Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday showed 56 percent of respondents oppose the AHCA, and only 17 percent support it.

This post has been updated.

Photo credit: Hector Gabino, el Nuevo Herald

March 21, 2017

Club for Growth kicks off ads urging Ros-Lehtinen to oppose 'Ryancare'

@PatriciaMazzei

The conservative Club for Growth wants Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to hold firm on her opposition to the House GOP healthcare plan.

The group has kicked off a TV and digital ad campaign asking Ros-Lehtinen to vote no. She has already said she will -- but not for the reasons endorsed by the Club for Growth. Ros-Lehtinen says the bill would hurt too many people in her district insured under the Affordable Care Act. The Club considers the legislation, backed by Speaker Paul Ryan, not conservative enough.

“The RyanCare bill fails to keep President Trump’s promises of interstate competition and health insurance deregulation,” Club for Growth President David McIntosh said in a statement. “Republicans promised a bill that would stop Obamacare’s taxes and mandates, and replace them with free-market reforms that will increase health insurance competition and drive down costs. RyanCare fails on those counts and that’s why the Club is letting millions of constituents know that their Representative should reject RyanCare.”

The $500,000 ad campaign will target Ros-Lehtinen and nine other Republican lawmakers: Leonard Lance of New Jersey, Tom MacArthur of New Jersey, John Katko of New York, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Rob Wittman of Virginia, Peter King of New York, Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Darrell Issa of California and Don Bacon of Nebraska.

 

March 20, 2017

Ros-Lehtinen, unlike other Republicans, questions FBI chief about Russian election meddling

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@PatriciaMazzei

As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen got to question FBI chief James Comey on Monday. But unlike some of her GOP colleagues, she steered clear of any talk about leaks to reporters about FBI investigations -- and focused rather on the investigations themselves, into Russian meddling into the U.S. presidential election.

It was during Ros-Lehtinen's questioning that Comey made the -- perhaps underappreciated -- admission that hackers will probably try to interfere with future elections, too.

"They'll be back in 2020. They may be back in 2018," he conceded, noting that cyber actors may consider their "sowing discord" in the 2016 campaign to have been a success.

"We will follow the facts wherever they lead, on a bipartisan level," Ros-Lehtinen said about the committee's investigation. "And there will be no sacred cows."

New batch of digital ads pressure Curbelo, Ros-Lehtinen to back GOP health plan

@PatriciaMazzei

Ahead of this week's expected House vote on the Republican healthcare plan, a political group linked to Speaker Paul Ryan is putting out a new batch of digital ads meant to nudge two South Florida members of Congress to vote in favor.

Starting Monday, American Action Network's web campaign will target 29 Republican lawmakers, including Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, both of Miami, whose Democratic-leaning districts have among the highest number of Obamacare enrollees in the country.

"Tell Congress it's time for better health care," the display ads say. There will also be video ads.

Ros-Lehtinen has said she won't vote for the American Health Care Act as written because it would leave too many people uninsured. Curbelo, who voted for it in committee, late last week expressed some concerns and said he would work with Ryan and other House leaders to improve the legislation. American Action Network had already backed Curbelo with TV ads to bolster his position.

A vote is planned for Thursday,

March 16, 2017

Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen disses Trump's budget

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@amysherman1

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.

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

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@amysherman1

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

Ros-Lehtinen opposes GOP health plan that 'leaves too many' uninsured

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@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen plans to vote against the House GOP plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, becoming the first Florida Republican to reject the legislation outright.

“After studying the impact of this proposed legislation on my district and speaking with many of my constituents, I have decided to vote no on the bill as currently written," she said in a statement to the Miami Herald. "The bill’s consequences for South Florida are clear: too many of my constituents will lose insurance and there will be less funds to help the poor and elderly with their healthcare."

Ros-Lehtinen's 27th district, which includes Southeast Miami-Dade County, had the largest number of Obamacare enrollees in the country -- about 96,300 -- as of January, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated Monday that some 14 million people would lose or drop coverage by 2018 under the proposed American Health Care Act, which has been endorsed by President Donald Trump.

With her opposition, Ros-Lehtinen is breaking with fellow Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who last week voted for the bill in the House Ways and Means Committee. Both lawmakers represent Democratic-leaning districts won by Hillary Clinton.

Florida Democrats have universally opposed the plan — “It is wrong to take away health insurance for 24 million people, as well as increase the cost to seniors,” Sen. Bill Nelson said — but the party accused Ros-Lehtinen of political pandering.

“After voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act dozens of times without a replacement plan — including as recently as January — it’s clear that Ileana Ros-Lehtinen makes her decisions in Washington D.C. based on political calculation and self-preservation, not what is best for the people of South Florida,” Javier Gamboa, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman, said in a statement.

Curbelo hasn't commented on the CBO report. On Monday, American Action Network, a Republican political group linked to House Speaker Paul Ryan started airing TV ads in Miami to give Curbelo cover for his support.

The third Miami Republican in the House, Mario Diaz-Balart, is still reviewing the legislation and CBO report and has some "concerns," his spokeswoman said.

Some Florida Republicans have questioned the House plan on conservative grounds, arguing it remains too interventionist in its approach to the insurance market. Others have said it's a good first step that still needs work.

Ros-Lehtinen is still not a fan of the existing law but said its replacement needs to be bipartisan and more humane.

"I voted to repeal Obamacare many times because it was not the right fix for our broken healthcare system and did not live up to its promise to the American people but this plan is not the replacement South Florida needs," Ros-Lehtinen said. "We should work together to write a bipartisan bill that works for our community and our nation without hurting the elderly and disadvantaged among us." 

Photo credit: Matias J. Ocner, for the Miami Herald

This post has been updated.

UPDATED Miami Republicans remain conspicuously silent on CBO analysis of GOP healthcare plan

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@PatriciaMazzei @learyreports

Miami's three Republican lawmakers in Congress have said nothing about the GOP's plan to replace the Affordable Care Act since the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded Monday that some 14 million people would drop or lose insurance coverage in 2018.

The legislation is the biggest policy proposal in the House right now. And the districts represented by Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have among the highest number of Obamacare enrollees in the country. Yet none of the legislators' offices responded Tuesday afternoon to requests for comment.

UPDATE: Ros-Lehtinen has now said she opposes the replacement plan. And a spokeswoman for Diaz-Balart said he is still reviewing the legislation and CBO report. "He has concerns about the legislation, and is looking into those," Katrina Valdes said in an email.

Only Curbelo has had to cast a vote on the proposal so far, last week on the House Ways and Means committee. He then defended his support for the law -- and on Monday, a group linked to House Speaker Paul Ryan started airing TV ads on Curbelo's behalf in Miami.

A slew of Florida lawmakers have issued statements or answered questions about the proposal. Democrats are universally opposed:

Continue reading "UPDATED Miami Republicans remain conspicuously silent on CBO analysis of GOP healthcare plan" »

March 13, 2017

Miami Republicans to Iowa's Steve King: 'Get a clue'

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@PatriciaMazzei

Two Hispanic Republican members of Congress from Miami have denounced an inflammatory comment from one of their colleagues who seemed to endorse white nationalism.

Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King shared a story Sunday on Twitter about Geert Wilders, a far-right Dutch politician known for his anti-Islam views.

King's remark was praised by David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard.

Sunday night, Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, the son of Cuban immigrants, responded to King on Twitter:

Monday morning, Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who was born in Cuba, shared a story about King calling on a "homogeneous" U.S. population.

King hasn't responded to either comment.

UPDATE: Jeb Bush has praised Curbelo:

Photo credit: Jose A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald