May 29, 2015

UPDATED Jeb Bush calls lifting Cuba terror designation a 'mistake,' Marco Rubio says it's a 'giveaway'

@PatriciaMazzei

Jeb Bush, who last week basked in the hometown embrace of Miami Cuban-American hard-liners, stayed loyal to their cause Friday when he again denounced the Obama administration for removing Cuba from a list of terrorism sponsors.

"Neither continued repression at home nor Cuba's destabilizing activities abroad appear sufficient to stop President Obama from making further concessions to the Communist regime in Havana," Bush said in a statement. "Today's news is further evidence that President Obama seems more interested in capitulating to our adversaries than in confronting them. Iran's leaders are surely taking note."

He went further, referring to the action as a "mistake":

"The removal of Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism List and the unilateral concessions to Havana, before it changes its authoritarian ways and stops denying the Cuban people their basic human rights, is a mistake," Bush said. "I call on Congress to keep pressure on Cuba and hold the Administration accountable."

Bush had taken a similar stance when lifting the designation was first announced. Congress had 45 days to try to block it but didn't try to do so. The change is effective as of Friday.

Sen. Marco Rubio, the other 2016 Republican presidential hopeful from Miami, has called the decision "terrible."

UPDATE: Here's video of Rubio from Friday criticizing the decision as a "giveaway":

 

Miami's three Cuban-American Republicans in Congress -- Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen -- also slammed the change in statements Friday. Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen have endorsed Bush, and Curbelo also seems likely to do so once Bush formalizes his candidacy.

Continue reading "UPDATED Jeb Bush calls lifting Cuba terror designation a 'mistake,' Marco Rubio says it's a 'giveaway'" »

May 15, 2015

Miami Republicans in Congress vote against blocking undocumented youth from serving in military

@PatriciaMazzei

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a national defense bill Friday that was stripped from language that would have pushed the Pentagon to allow young people brought into the country illegally as children to serve in the military if they have been protected by President Obama's executive immigration order.

Voting against the amendment that eliminated that language were all House Democrats -- and 20 Republicans, including Miami's three Cuban Americans, Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The trio -- especially Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart, who have been longer in Congress -- has repeatedly bucked its party on immigration.

"It's unfortunate," Diaz-Balart told the New York Times. "But it's part of the process."

They were the only Florida Republicans to vote no, though all three ultimately supported the version of the legislation. Two Florida Democrats voted yes on that final vote: Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, who's running for Senate in 2016. 

Obama has threatened to veto the bill if it passes the Senate.

May 10, 2015

With video, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen congratulates transgender son for award

via @steverothaus

 

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on Friday sent video congratulations to her transgender son, Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, recipient of SAVE’s 2015 Champions of Equality award.

“Rigo, I’m so very proud of you, not just for this wonderful award, but also for living an authentic life that makes you happy,” Ros-Lehtinen said in the video. “With your courage and your advocacy, you continue to build public support and greater understanding about the LGBT community.”

Heng-Lehtinen, who grew up in Miami as Amanda, transitioned more than five years ago. The congresswoman couldn’t attend SAVE’s annual Champions of Equality reception — she’s in Europe on official business. Her husband, former U.S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen, accompanied Rodrigo to the reception

Dexter Lehtinen gave a tearful, emotional speech as he presented Rodrigo with the award.

More here.

April 14, 2015

Miami's Cuban-American members of Congress slam Obama over Cuba terror designation change

@PatriciaMazzei

The trio of Miami Cuban-American Republicans in Congress -- Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen -- were quick to denounce the White House's decision Tuesday to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Congress has 45 days to block the action, if it can find enough support -- a veto-proof majority -- to do so, which seems unlikely.

Here are statements from the three representatives:

Continue reading "Miami's Cuban-American members of Congress slam Obama over Cuba terror designation change" »

April 07, 2015

Jeb Bush PAC cuts checks for Miami members of Congress

@PatriciaMazzei

For the second time, Jeb Bush's political action committee has disclosed donations to Republican parties and members of Congress as he rakes in the cash for his all-but-declared 2016 GOP presidential bid.

Among this round's recipients from Right to Rise PAC: Miami's three Republican representatives, Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Curbelo is the only one of the trio who has yet to publicly endorse Bush's likely candidacy.

"I'm proud to support conservative leaders who are dedicated to expanding economic opportunity for all and restoring America's place in world," Bush said in a statement.

View the full list after the jump.

Continue reading "Jeb Bush PAC cuts checks for Miami members of Congress" »

March 19, 2015

Miami Republican members of Congress oppose Cuban embassy in Washington, citing spies

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami's three Cuban-American Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives say they don't want to see a Cuban embassy opened in Washington D.C. -- or a Cuban consulate anywhere else in the country -- because it would risk allowing Cuba to spy on the U.S.

There is already a Cuban interests section in D.C., and a Cuban mission to the United Nations.

"We are all too familiar with the Castro regime's efforts to utilize their diplomats as intelligence agents tasked with the goal of committing espionage against their host countries," the members of Congress and several colleagues wrote in a letter Thursday to the U.S. State Department. "We believe that allowing Cuba to open an embassy in Washington, D.C. or consulates will further open the door for their espionage activities." 

They also asked to be briefed in detail about the status of the negotiations between the U.S. and Cuba to normalize diplomatic relations.

Signing the letter were Miami Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo, as well as Rep. Albio Sires, a New Jersey Democrat and fellow Cuban American, and Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican whose father was born in Cuba. Cruz is considering a 2016 presidential candidacy.

March 12, 2015

Revoke Venezuelan diplomat's visa, Miami Republican members of Congress say

@PatriciaMazzei

The Venezuelan ambassador to the Organization of American States in Washington D.C. had a few choice words this week for members of the political opposition in the South American country.

"There comes a time when an opposition supporter's head can't be differentiated from a government supporter's head except for its contents," Amb. Roy Chaderton said. "The sound produced [by a bullet] in an opposition supporter head is like a click because the skull is empty."

The comment, made on Venezuelan television, prompted a harsh rebuke Wednesday from U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican. By Thursday, she had assembled a group of colleagues to sign a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking that Chaderton's U.S. visa be revoked.

"Any foreign diplomat who supports and facilitates the use of violence against peaceful protesters should not enjoy the privilege of access to the United States," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "Ambassador Chaderton's words are incompatible with American values and he must be held accountable for his vile and reprehensible conduct."

The move comes on the same week the Obama administration imposed sanctions on seven Venezuelan government officials and declared a state of emergency in U.S.-Venezuela relations. Congress passed legislation that the president signed in December penalizing Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's administration for political oppression. Two weeks ago, Maduro called Ros-Lehtinen and other U.S. members of Congress "terrorists" and banned them from Venezuela. 

Ros-Lehtinen's letter was signed by fellow Miami Republican Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart, and by Reps. Jeff Duncan, R-South Carolina, and Albio Sires, D-New Jersey.

February 28, 2015

Venezuela bans 'terrorists' Marco Rubio, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Miami Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have been banned from traveling to Venezuela.

President Nicolás Maduro announced Saturday that his government has created an "anti-terrorist list headed by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, ex-CIA chief George Tenet, ultra right-wing Congressman Bob Menendez, by Marco Rubio, by the she-wolf Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, by Mario Diaz-Balart."

"The won't be able to come to Venezuela for being terrorists!" Maduro told raucous supporters in a speech. "Out of here, terrorists!"

All will be unable to obtain travel visas to the country. Maduro also unveiled the visa program for U.S. citizens Saturday, along with restrictions on U.S. diplomats. Menendez is a Democratic senator from New Jersey.

Nicaragua, a Venezuelan ally, said in December that it would ban Rubio and Ros-Lehtinen, both Republicans, from the Central American country to protest U.S. sanctions on members of the Venezuelan government. Rubio took to the Senate floor Friday to push for full implementation of the law, signed by President Obama in December.

Diaz-Balart, who is also a Republican, and Ros-Lehtinen took to Twitter on Saturday to characterize Venezuela's decision as an honor.

February 26, 2015

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: 'Cuba poses a clear and present danger to the United States'

At a congressional hearing reviewing President Barack Obama's Cuba policy, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told members of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee that the Castro regime "undermines our national security at every turn."

"Let me be clear," Ros-Lehtinen said in prepared remarks. "Cuba poses a clear and present danger to the United States."

Read her complete remarks after the jump.

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February 25, 2015

Obama, immigration and the politics of snagging a seat on Air Force One

@PatriciaMazzei

After the November election, where Democrats lost badly to Republicans across the country, the Obama administration said it would make an effort to reach out to more members of the GOP in Congress. Part of that outreach was supposed to include bringing them along for rides on Air Force One.

Yet that's not what Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo found this week when he asked the White House if he could hitch a ride on the presidential airplane to Miami for a town hall-style immigration meeting to be held in his swing district. Invited only two days before the event, and unwilling to take an early-morning commercial flight that would make him miss House votes, Curbelo was denied a seat on the plane and didn't attend. (In the end, House votes didn't begin until the early afternoon.)

"In this case, we were unable to accommodate the congressman's request, but we typically try to do so when we can," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Miami. When asked if there was no space for Curbelo, as the congressman said he was told, Earnest said he wasn't "exactly sure."

"When the president travels outside of Washington, it's not uncommon at all for us to invite a member of Congress from the congressional district where the president is appearing," Earnest said. "And we do that, whether or not it's a Democrat or a Republican who's participating -- or who represents that district in Congress." 

Miami's two other Republicans in Congress didn't attend, either, though all support an immigration overhaul.

Continue reading "Obama, immigration and the politics of snagging a seat on Air Force One" »