October 10, 2017

Ros-Lehtinen dishes to Cosmo about climate change, Trump and mansplaining in Congress


Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen sat down for an early exit interview with "Cosmopolitan" magazine, sharing lessons from her extensive congressional career before she retires in 2018.

It's worth reading the entire piece, which highlights the areas in which Ros-Lehtinen has notably differed with the GOP: climate change ("People who argue that it isn't changing, that the sea levels are the same, are just delusional"), same-sex marriage ("If more members of our party listened to their hearts and acted on that, I think that we would be better off") and President Donald Trump ("I'm not the president of his fan club").

Of particular note is Ros-Lehtinen's nod to her trailblazing on Capitol Hill: She was the first Hispanic woman -- and first Cuban American -- elected to the House, and that made her all-too-familiar with "mansplaining," she told Cosmo:

When I first got to Congress many years ago, there weren't that many female members of Congress. And now there's so many more of us, and I think the male members have understood the changing nature of society. They’re more cognizant that maybe what they're thinking and their points of view are not the Magna Carta.

There came a time in my public service career where I really had the gumption to express my point of view and I felt like, OK, don't tell me about this issue of human rights. I really do know a lot about it and we can share opinions, but there's certain facts that you need to know. That only comes once you master a subject, and you feel like, OK, I trust my instincts and I trust my knowledge, and boy, I'm not gonna let anybody mansplain to me. I'm gonna dig right in and I'm gonna get my point of view across. Having that sense of self is really a confidence builder. Hoo-boy, you just feel it in your bones. More and more I think men are seeing, Oh boy, this person knows what she's talking about. And they're a little more cautious than they used to be.

October 05, 2017

Multiple Democrats raise over six figures in race to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Updated)

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A slew of Democrats are aiming to replace outgoing Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in 2018, and the first fundraising totals since seven Democrats have officially joined the race are beginning to trickle in. 

State Rep. David Richardson, state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez and former federal judge nominee Mary Barzee Flores have all raised over $280,000 in the latest fundraising quarter, according to numbers provided to the Miami Herald from their campaigns. The latest fundraising quarter, which ended on September 30, is the first quarter since the trio officially announced their bids. 

Richardson leads the trio in total money during the last three months, as he will report over $500,000 in deposits after officially entering the race in July. But Richardson also loaned himself $250,000, putting him just behind Rodríguez and Barzee Flores in money raised from donors. His campaign reports that he received contributions from over 2,400 individuals and 92 percent of his donors contributed $200 or less.  

"I’m honored to have received such tremendous support from a broad spectrum of Democrats,” Richardson said in a statement. “In just 82 days our supporters came out when we needed them most in order to help us demonstrate strength in our critical first fundraising quarter.”

Rodríguez raised over $280,000, according to his campaign, with 1,500 total donors and an average contribution of $170. He was also recently endorsed by the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a potential additional source of funds. He announced his plans to run in May but officially kicked off his campaign a month later. 


“Our first fundraising quarter saw immense support from a diverse coalition of local residents who are sick and tired of the political games played in Washington, D.C.," Rodríguez said in a statement. "With their continued support, we will stand up to Donald Trump and his relentless efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and fight for real reforms that put everyday Americans ahead of the insiders and special interests."

Barzee Flores, who announced her candidacy in July, will report having raised $303,095 in the fundraising quarter. According to her campaign, she had over 500 individual donors with two-thirds of the contributions from Miami-Dade County.  

“This outpouring of support shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows Mary," said campaign manager Sam Miller in a statement. "She’s lived, worked and served in this community her whole life and has a deep well of respect and support as a result. Donors know that Mary will fight for the values of Miami in Congress and have reached in deep to make sure she has the resources to get there.”

Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez raised $55,515 in the latest quarter. She declared her candidacy before Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement and reported over $184,000 raised in the second quarter of 2017 before Richardson, Rodríguez and Barzee Flores jumped in. 

"In our first quarter of fundraising, we raised $184,411.42. The goal for the third quarter was $50,000," Rosen Gonzalez said in an email. "We set that amount because we knew that a lot of our supporters were going to be focused on municipal races. This quarter was also a challenge in light of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. We’re still dealing with the clean-up from Irma all across South Florida.  Nevertheless, we still managed to exceed our fundraising goal." 

Miami commissioner Ken Russell, who hasn't officially joined the race but formed an exploratory committee that allowed him to fundraise, declined to share his latest fundraising numbers after raising $133,000 during the previous quarter. 

"I’m still very seriously considering this in my heart," Russell said. "The fundraising is going well enough that I’ve been able to go to Washington and conduct polling." 

University of Miami academic adviser Michael Hepburn and Mark Anthony Person have also declared candidacies in the Democratic primary. 

UPDATE 10/6/17: Matt Haggman's campaign released his fundraising numbers and the former Knight Foundation Director and Miami Herald reporter who joined the race in August raised $512,000 with $469,000 cash on hand. The total puts him at the top of the early money list among Democrats. His campaign said the total is "the most individual contributions any FL-27 candidate has raised in a single quarter in at least 20 years." 

"This is how change happens – by people across the community coming together and stepping up,” Haggman said in a statement. "I will be a congressman willing to take on President Trump and willing to fight to create opportunities for everyone, which is what I have done in our community throughout my career." 

The latest fundraising totals must be formally filed with the Federal Election Commission by October 15. 

October 03, 2017

House passes bill limiting loans to Nicaragua sponsored by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen


The House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday that limits U.S. loans to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's government until the longtime president implements democratic reforms in the Central American country. 

"Our bill is aimed at leveraging America’s influence and conditioning our vote at any of the international financial institutions for Nicaragua until the leadership in that country takes significant steps to restore democratic order," said Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on the House floor. "These conditions are similar to what this Congress has already passed for the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador." 

Ros-Lehtinen is the sponsor of the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act along with New Jersey Democratic Rep. Albio Sires. Their bill passed the House by a voice vote, meaning there was not significant opposition to the proposal. The bill passed out of the House Foreign Relations Committee in July. 

Ros-Lehtinen and Sires introduced and passed similar legislation last year, but the Senate did not act on it. 

Texas Democratic Rep. Vicente González was the only member who opposed Ros-Lehtinen's bill during floor debate. 

"Enacting this bill could have serious consequences in the region," González said. "My district was ground zero for the last immigration surge and I would like to prevent this from happening again. How can we in good conscious support a measure that would publish the poorest country in Central America?" 

Ros-Lehtinen and Sires argued that their bill would only target loans that enrich Ortega and the Nicaraguan government. U.S loans that promote humanitarian assistance will still be allowed. 

Ros-Lehtinen also said her bill would punish Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who relies on Ortega as an ally.

"If Venezuela’s Maduro is using Nicaragua in order to evade U.S. sanctions, we need to take a closer look at these ties, and hold people accountable," Ros-Lehtinen said. "And that is what this bill does Mr. Speaker – it holds the Nicaraguan government accountable just like we have done with other countries in Central America, so that it can truly help the people." 


U.S. to expel two-thirds of Cuban diplomats amid sonic attack probe


via @francoordonez

The Trump administration will kick nearly two-thirds of Cuba’s embassy personnel out of the United States after months of mysterious attacks targeting American diplomats drove the White House to pull its own staff from Havana, according to multiple sources familiar with the plan.

According to three of the U.S. sources briefed on the plan, the State Department will announce the expulsion of Cuban diplomatic personnel as soon as Tuesday. A fourth described the expulsion as “reciprocity” for the American withdrawal from Havana.

A series of mysterious “sonic” attacks began months ago and has affected as many as 25 U.S. personnel. According to one source, U.S. intelligence operatives were the first known American personnel affected. The most recent incidents were reported within the last few weeks.

The United States still does not know the nature of the device or weapon being employed against its staff.

The State Department has not accused Cuba of being behind the incidents. But it has repeatedly warned that Havana is responsible for the safety of foreign diplomats on its soil under the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations.
“Cuba is not upholding its commitments of the Vienna convention, of protecting diplomats,” said a U.S. source, familiar with the State Department plans.

The State Department’s plan follows days of pressure from some U.S. lawmakers to expel Cuban diplomatic personnel after the White House pulled Americans out of Havana and issued a travel warning.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who has emerged as a key advisor to President Donald Trump on all Latin America issues, tweeted last week that the United States “should expel a Cuban diplomat for every U.S. diplomat evacuated due to acoustic attacks.”

“I spoke on Friday to the State Department and I told them that I am strongly advocating that the U.S. kick those 'diplomats,' who are nothing more than spies, out of the U.S.,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican. “State told me that it was reviewing this action, so I’m pleased as punch to hear that it may happen soon.”

Read more here.

September 28, 2017

Lawmakers urge Trump to let U.S. companies assist in Cuba's hurricane recovery (updated)

Cuba Hurricane Irma


A group of lawmakers who want more trade with Cuba are urging President Donald Trump to suspend an Obama-era restriction on what types of relief and reconstruction supplies can be sent to the island from the United States after Hurricane Irma made landfall on Cuba's north coast as a Category Five storm. 

On Thursday, 65 lawmakers, including 60 Democrats and five Republicans, signed a letter to Trump asking him to let U.S. businesses send construction supplies to Cuba without approval from the Treasury and Commerce Departments. 

"Historical grievances should be put aside during a humanitarian crisis like this, the people of Cuba need urgent support to rebuild," the letter said. "Fortunately, there is a simple change you can make that would provide necessary support to the Cuban people while at the same time helping U.S. businesses: remove restrictions on the ability of U.S. companies to export needed relief and reconstruction supplies to the Cuban government and its people." 

The plan only applies to private U.S. companies that want to provide construction materials and other forms of relief to the Cuban government and citizens. It does not ask the U.S. government to provide taxpayer funds for Cuba's recovery from Irma. 

Current regulations allow pre-approved sales of construction materials to private entities in Cuba serving privately-owned buildings. Public structures in Cuba, including schools and hospitals, are not eligible for U.S. materials to rebuild after a storm. 

"At the end of the day America is a very big economy, we’re capable of selling building supply products to Cuba and working on aid packages in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico at the same time," said James Williams, head of Engage Cuba, a group that lobbies for closer Cuba ties. "It would be different if we were saying pull money out of one pocket and put it into another." 

The Cuban government hasn't reached out to U.S. officials asking for relief after Hurricane Irma. Southcom Commander Adm. Kurt Tidd said in a briefing last week at that Cuban officials did not ask U.S. military personnel in Guantanamo Bay for help after the storm. 

“The Cubans do not ask for assistance there typically," Kenneth Merten, deputy assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs at the State Department, said last week. "I’m hard pressed to remember if the Cubans have ever asked us for assistance after a hurricane or some kind of natural disaster." 

The letter was led by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., one of the more liberal members of Congress. But conservatives who want to end the embargo like Reps. Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Ted Poe of Texas also signed the letter. 

"At this difficult time for the Cuban people, denying them the ability to purchase high-quality, American-made construction, medical and other crucial supplies is cruel and counterproductive," the letter said. "This change would not be controversial." 

Hurricane Irma killed at least 10 people in Cuba and caused billions in damage along the island's north coast.

Update 7:41pm Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the longest-serving Cuban-American in Congress, sharply criticized the letter in a statement to the Miami Herald.

"In the aftermath of previous hurricanes that have ripped through Cuba, the Castro regime has responded to the suffering of the people in a feckless and callous manner, as demonstrated by its refusal to accept assistance that comes from the U.S.," Ros-Lehtinen said. "Because they are blinded by ideology, some Members foolishly believe that US regulations are responsible for the destruction of Cuba's infrastructure and are hampering the island's recovery. The regime cares little about the citizens before, during and after hurricanes but it does care deeply about spreading its lies about our warm and generous nation."

Update 11:20pm Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican who helped draft Trump's tougher Cuba policy earlier this year, is also against the proposal. 

"When the United States generously offered humanitarian aid in the wake of hurricanes Ike and Gustav, the Castro regime flatly rejected that offer," Diaz-Balart said in a statement. "Instead, it cynically attempted to leverage the devastation to demand financing that would bolster its coffers. I wholeheartedly support humanitarian and pro-democracy assistance to the Cuban people.   But as the regime has demonstrated for more than half a century, business deals with the regime only benefit the regime."

September 27, 2017

José Javier Rodríguez endorsed by Congressional Hispanic Caucus

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@alextdaugherty @patriciamazzei

State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, one of seven Democrats seeking to replace retiring Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, was recently endorsed by the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a potential source of campaign cash in a crowded primary field. 

Rodriguez is one of three Democrats nationwide to get CHC's endorsement for the 2018 election cycle. CHC's political arm, chaired by California Rep. Tony Cardenas, has also endorsed a Senate candidate in Nevada and a House candidate in Texas.

During the 2016 cycle, the group raised just over $6 million and between January and March of this year the group raised more than $2 million.

"José Javier has proven he can win tough races," Cardenas said in a fundraising email that will go out to Rodriguez supporters tomorrow. "We need him in Congress to expand access to health care and stand up to Donald Trump in support of a fairer and more inclusive America." 

Six others are vying for the party’s nomination to the rare open seat: former state Judge Mary Barzee Flores, state Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach, former Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, University of Miami academic adviser Michael Hepburn and Mark Anthony Person. Miami Commissioner Ken Russell is also mulling a run.

September 14, 2017

Miami Republican demands straight answer from Trump on Dreamers

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen


Donald Trump was striking a deal over dinner with Democrats on Wednesday night to save Dreamers from deportation. By Thursday morning, his aides were playing catch up and insisting nothing changed in his position on immigration or border security.

Now, as confusion reigns over Trump’s true intentions for dealing with 800,000 people affected by a now-canceled Obama-era order that allowed them to live and work in the United States, one senior Republican lawmaker wants the White House to come clean.

“It is unfortunate that the President continues to play coy with young people who benefit our American society instead of being serious and straightforward about an important policy that will impact the lives of nearly 800,000 DREAMers,” said Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in a statement provided to Miami Herald.

Ros-Lehtinen, the most senior Republican from Florida and a co-sponsor of a bill called the Dream Act that gives these young people a path to citizenship, was unable to be in Washington for congressional business this week, as her district continues to recover from Hurricane Irma.

“We hear reports that he is working on a deal that would help DREAMers, but he flatly denies such a deal,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “Instead of changing with the prevailing wind, the President must be clear about his intentions. If he is interested in protecting DREAMers, he must cut out the rhetoric of trying to please all sides and, instead, put forth clear guidance on what legislative language he is willing to accept or reject on protecting Dreamers.”
As Trump looks increasingly willing to buck his far-right base to score some legislative victories — first on the nation’s borrowing limit and now on border security and the immigration policy known as DACA — three Miami-based Republicans find themselves in a new and potentially influential role as center-right lawmakers able to form a coalition with Democrats. Including Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo have something to gain from Trump’s dealmaking with Democrats.
Read more here.

September 12, 2017

Florida presses for federal dollars after Irma, but budget hawks resist

Middle Key Boat Block


Many members of Florida’s congressional delegation couldn’t be in Washington for votes on Tuesday, as the state began a massive cleanup after Hurricane Irma. But that hasn’t stopped them from pressing colleagues who were spared Irma’s wrath to join in their quest for federal help.

Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the only member from Florida in office when Hurricane Andrew made landfall 25 years ago, is urging Washington to treat her state as it did Texas just a week ago.

Carlos Curbelo and I are determined to go back to D.C. and work with our colleagues to find the funds needed for the hurricane relief efforts,” Ros-Lehtinen said at a press conference. “We found it for Hurricane Harvey, we're going to band together and find it for the residents who are survivors of Hurricane Irma.”

But efforts to spend billions on hurricane relief will likely meet resistance from conservative Republicans who bristle at any new spending that doesn’t include corresponding cuts elsewhere. For them, Florida’s storm damage is a secondary concern to the long-term consequences of increasing the federal deficit.

“The unsustainable national debt remains the greatest existential threat to our nation that is routinely ignored in Washington,” said Texas Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling in a statement. “Emergency funding should not come to the House without an opportunity to propose offsets, a number of which can easily be found in President Trump’s budget.”

Last week, Hensarling, along with 106 Republicans in the House and Senate, voted against a $15.25 billion Hurricane Harvey relief bill that was coupled with an increase in the nation’s debt ceiling and a measure to keep the government funded for a short period, signaling that a faction of conservatives will likely vote against billions in Irma relief if they deem the money isn’t directly related to storm recovery.

“The extremists in the Republican conference who somehow think we should be offsetting the cost of an emergency don’t understand the concept of an emergency,” Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said. “ It was the largest storm to hit the state in modern times. We are going to need significant relief and recovery.”

But despite the opposition, Miami-Dade’s congressional delegation, including Ros-Lehtinen, Curbelo, Wasserman Schultz, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Rep. Frederica Wilson, and Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson are united in getting attention, and funding, for Florida.

“I spoke to Speaker Ryan last night and we were talking about how we have to get FEMA funded,” Wasserman Schultz said. “There’s no question that we’re going to need an emergency supplemental. He’s already put people on notice.”

Wasserman Schultz said it’s impossible to even ballpark how much money Florida will need from the federal government. The cleanup is just beginning, and the immediate priorities are restoring power and getting fuel into the state. Those efforts don’t require additional funding from Congress.

Nelson and Rubio have teamed up for a variety of press conferences and events before and after the storm, notably a flyover of the Florida Keys with Coast Guard personnel on Monday to view the damage and recovery efforts.

Read more here.

September 11, 2017

Miami politicians take to the skies to view Irma damage


A gaggle of Miami politicians are getting an up-close-and-personal view of Hurricane Irma's destruction in Key West. 

Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson along with Rep. Carlos Curbelo, state Sen. Anitere Flores and Miami-Dade County commissioner José Pepe Díaz were all aboard a U.S. Coast Guard cargo plane bound for Key West with personnel dispatched to help with recover operations. 

The flight followed a Miami press conference with Curbelo, Flores Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Gov. Rick Scott

"We're working with FEMA, I can tell you the White House has been outstanding," Scott said. "I talked to President Trump three times yesterday, I talked to administrator Brock Long of FEMA multiple times yesterday. The White House and everybody at the federal level is showing up and my belief is they are going to show up and do everything they can." 

"Carlos Curbelo and I are determined to go back to D.C. and work with our colleagues to find the funds needed for the hurricane relief efforts," Ros-Lehtinen said. "We found it for Hurricane Harvey, we're going to band together and find it for the residents who are survivors of Hurricane Irma." 

"The Florida Keys is going to need a lot of help and we're blessed to have a wonderful governor and a very effective adminstrator at FEMA who is well aware of what the sitaution on the ground is starting to look like," Curbelo said. "We keep getting this question of how much this is going to cost and we don't have an exact estimate. But I can guarantee you this, it's going to cost billions upon billions upon billions of dollars to help the Florida Keys, Florida's Southwest Coast and obviously some of our residents here in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties to recover."  

Curbelo said he talked to Long, who relayed to him that FEMA has enough money to get through September. 

"What I would tell all my colleagues is...we cannot fund an agency like FEMA month to month," Curbelo said, adding that he plans to speak with Speaker Paul Ryan about a "robust" funding plan for FEMA.


Ileana Ros-Lehtinen asks Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi to visit Florida

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Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is asking congressional leaders to visit Florida after Hurricane Irma made landfall and tracked along the state's Gulf Coast, as the state will likely need billions in federal relief to recover from the storm. 

Ros-Lehtinen will send a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and the leaders of the congressional committee that controls federal spending, urging them to join their Florida colleagues to assess the damage. 

"As Members of the Florida Congressional delegation, we strongly encourage you to visit our state and join us in assessing the extent of the damage," Ros-Lehtinen said in the letter. "While Floridians are coming together to begin the recovery process, we will need assistance from the federal government in the coming weeks and months to help rebuild our communities in the aftermath of this devastating storm. Florida is home to over 20 million residents, all of whom must know that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will have the resources necessary to assist and respond effectively."

Before the storm hit, Congress passed $15 billion in hurricane relief funding as part of a package to raise the nation's debt ceiling. Ros-Lehtinen and others from Florida urged Congress to vote in favor of the bill, which passed by a large margin. Just over 100 Republicans in the House and Senate voted against the package because they did not approve of a deal struck between President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders to tie much-needed hurricane funding to the nation's debt ceiling. 

Two members of Congress from Florida, Reps. Matt Gaetz and Ted Yoho, voted against the package. 

"We commend last week’s passage of supplemental emergency funding to assist FEMA with its recovery efforts to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey," the letter said. "However, the destruction caused by Irma throughout Florida means that Congress must again act swiftly to ensure the availability of additional funding needed for recovery efforts. We hope you will join us in Florida to bear witness to our resolve, and return to Washington with a renewed commitment to act quickly to provide the assistance that our families desperately require." 

A spokesman for Ros-Lehtinen said collecting signatures for the letter may take longer than usual due to the storm.