March 20, 2017

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

Ileana

@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

AmbridgeCurbeloTrump

@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

March 10, 2017

Miami Republicans chastise EPA administrator for questioning cause of climate change

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@PatriciaMazzei

Two Miami Republican members of Congress this week chided Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, for saying Thursday he doesn't believe carbon dioxide is a primary cause of global warming, as science has long concluded.

"I would not agree that [carbon dioxide] is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see," Pruitt said on CNBC.

"Rising carbon emissions have been a contributing factor to climate change for decades," U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo said in a statement Thursday. "That is a scientific fact and the reality facing communities like my district. The EPA is tasked with the very responsibility of helping to lower the impact of carbon emissions, and for Mr. Pruitt to assert otherwise without scientific evidence is reckless and unacceptable."

Curbelo represents Florida's southernmost district, which includes the Keys. He's also the co-founder of a bipartisan climate change caucus in Congress.

On Friday, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who represents coastal parts of Miami-Dade County, also weighed in. Both Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen campaigned last year in their Democratic-leaning districts in part by promising to protect South Florida's environment.

"These comments by the EPA administrator casting doubt on the causes and impacts of climate change are disconcerting and troubling," she said. "I'm committed to helping ensure South Florida's environment remains pristine and we continue to combat sea level rise in order to protect our community."

Photo credit: Associated Press

March 02, 2017

Get tougher on anti-Semitism, Florida reps tell Trump

via @learyreports

Two Florida members of Congress joined a call Thursday for President Trump to take decisive action to address rising anti-Semitism in the U.S., including bolstering resources in the Justice Department and evaluating online aggression.

“As the Co-Chairs of the Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism in the U.S. House of Representatives, we thank you for beginning your address to Congress this week by standing against anti-Semitism and condemning the recent threats against Jewish institutions,” reads a letter from the Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism that includes Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami.

“We believe that your Administration should prepare and implement a comprehensive, inter-agency strategy for  detecting, investigating, prosecuting,  and  preventing  crimes motivated by anti-Jewish bias while deterring future attacks against Jewish sites.

As you know, since January 1, there have been an estimated 100 bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers (“JCCs”) and Jewish schools in five waves at 81 locations in 33 states. We have also seen significant desecration of Jewish cemetery sites in the St. Louis and Philadelphia regions and other incidents of vandalism and harassment of Jews. These threats are unacceptable in our country.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

February 22, 2017

Republican congresswoman whose son is transgender calls Trump change to bathroom rules 'lamentable'

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@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on Wednesday criticized the Trump administration's move to lift protections for transgender students, who under Obama-era rules had been allowed to use public-school bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice.

Ros-Lehtinen -- whose son, Rodrigo Lehtinen, is transgender -- noted that she and Democratic Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado in 2015 introduced legislation (the Student Non Discrimination Act) prohibiting schools from discriminating against students based on sexual orientation or gender identity. She has also signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief in a Supreme Court case seeking to protect access to public accommodations for transgender students.

"This lamentable decision can lead to hostile treatment of transgender students and studies have shown that bullying and harassment can be detrimental to the emotional and physical well-being of teenagers," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "Evidence has shown that acceptance of transgender students lowers their risk of suicide. Jared and I introduced our SNDA bill to prevent discrimination of transgender young people and we will re-introduce it because our country benefits when everyone is accepted and we live up to our nation’s promise of inclusiveness."

Last year, Ros-Lehtinen and her husband, former Miami U.S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen, took part along with their son in a bilingual public-service campaign in Miami to raise awareness for transgender rights.

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Another Miami Republican, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, also said late Wednesday he opposed President Trump’s transgender action.

“This is a disappointing choice for the Administration to make,” Curbelo said in a statement. “We should be working toward ensuring all American children feel safe and accepted in their schools, regardless of where they live, their race, creed, gender identity or sexual orientation.”

 

Photo credit: Carl Juste, Miami Herald staff

February 21, 2017

'You are not the enemy of the American people,' Ros-Lehtinen tells Miami media

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@PatriciaMazzei

No reporter asked Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on Tuesday morning about President Donald Trump's tweet last week blasting the news media as "the enemy of the American people."

But Ros-Lehtinen chose to kick off her first public appearance of the congressional recess by addressing the president's comments anyway.

"To the members of the press, I want to say thank you," Ros-Lehtinen said. "You are not the enemy of the American people."

The row of reporters lined in the wall in front of her at downtown Miami's Venture Hive, an entrepreneurship accelerator, remained silent. Ros-Lehtinen continued.

"You have a central role in our republic," said the congresswoman, who was born in Cuba. "We thank you for it -- even when you criticize public officials."

At the White House later, Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked if the president would consider revising his characterization of democracy's Fourth Estate.

"Certain outlets have gone out of their way to not be completely accurate and fair in their coverage," Spicer said. "He has a deep respect for the First Amendment, for the role of the press."

Photo credit: Jose I. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald