December 05, 2013

Of urinating with Mexicans, immigration reform and the battle for CD-26


Congressional District 26 just keeps on giving.

The swing district that stretches from central Miami-Dade to Key West has furnished two separate criminal convictions in unrelated schemes and a tough reelection campaign for Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia.

One of his opponents, Miami-Dade school board member Carlos Curbelo, issued a blistering press release today that questioned Garcia's fitness to lead Democrats' immigration-reform efforts in the U.S. House. Among the many criticisms, Curbelo highlighted a snippet of a quote from a Frontline documentary in 2008 in which Garcia commented on President George W. Bush's impressive Hispanic outreach.

"He'd probably peed by a pickup truck with a Mexican just like anyone else who's been from Texas," Garcia said.

Said Curbelo: "If Joe Garcia is willing to make comments like the one below, how is he well-suited to lead on immigration reform?"

Garcia responded by pointing out that the seven-second snippet highlighted by Curbelo had no context and made it sound as if he were saying something offensive about Mexicans.

"This guy is out there campaigning while I was on the House floor last night standing up for immigrants," Garcia said. "I'm taking a lead role in immigration reform and he's engaging in this silliness."

Garcia said the full context of his quote made clear he was praising the former Republican president's campaigning: "It was an unprecedented effort that yielded unprecedented results. It was the 'I love you' campaign, by George Bush. The ads were called Te Conosco. 'I know you.' And he did. He was from Texas. You know, he—he—he had, you know, he'd probably peed by a pickup truck with a Mexican just like anyone else who's been from Texas. But the reality is, that—that dynamic of knowing these folks—was very powerful."

Curbelo said he didn't know where the video clip came from, but recently happened across it on YouTube, where it was uploaded in 2012 with the headline "Joe Garcia Said What?"

Curbelo's attack on Garcia wasn't limited to the video clip; he referenced the recent conviction and incarceration of Garcia's former campaign and staff chief in an absentee ballot-request fraud case. The congressman was not implicated in the scheme (which yielded no phony votes) and said he knew nothing about it. A candidate Garcia bested in the August 2012 primary was convicted in a separate campaign-finance crime linked to the incumbent he beat in the general election, former Rep. David Rivera.

Curbelo's press release also questioned the sincerity of the Democrats' immigration-reform push overall, but he shied away from mentioning that the House bill pushed by Garcia, patterned after a bipartisan plan that passed the Senate, has been effectively killed by GOP House leaders.

Curbelo's press release, however, didn't condemn Garcia's bill and he reserved a measure of praise for Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., an immigration-reform leader who's in Miami to sign copies of his new autobiography.

"We respect his commitment to finding a bipartisan solution for immigration reform," Curbelo said. "Gutierrez's visit to Miami is an opportunity to discuss the prospects of a bill getting through the House next year and to highlight the many flaws of our existing immigration system."

Gallup: Obama hemorrhages Hispanic support, drops 23 points in a year


Gallup, the nation's premier polling outfit, has more grim news for President Obama: Hispanics are turning away from him in greater amounts than any other subgroup.

From December 2012 through November, Obama's Hispanic approval ratings fell 23 percentage points, from 75 percent to 52 percent.

Overall, Obama's approval rating remains near historic lows, 41 percent.

"Hispanics' approval ratings of Obama have shown the most variation of any group's ratings throughout his presidency," Gallup explains in an analysis. "That means their views of him are less firmly anchored than those of other groups, which may help explain why their opinions of the president soured more than any other group's in recent months. Despite the significant decline in their approval ratings over the past 12 months, a majority of Hispanics, 52%, still approve of the job Obama is doing."

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To pressure House GOP leaders, Rep. Joe Garcia joins fast for immigration reform


Republican leaders of the U.S. House have stalled taking up an immigration reform bill this year, and Democrats are making sure to keep the pressure on by holding a series of member-to-member fasts.

From a press release:

This morning, Rep. Joe Garcia (FL-26), joined a group of advocates fasting as part of the “Fast 4 Families: A Call for Immigration Reform and Citizenship” movement.

Rep. Juan Vargas (CA-51) passed his fast on to Rep. Garcia in a brief ceremony in Rep. Garcia’s office.  Rep. Vargas received the immigration reform fast from Rep. Joe Kennedy III (MA-4), yesterday.

“I am honored to participate in this symbolic event dedicated to the millions of people fighting for comprehensive immigration reform as they seek to keep their families together,” said Rep.  Joe Garcia.


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November 14, 2013

Poll shows immigration haunting Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart

More than 6 in 10 voters in Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s district say he needs to be more aggressive pushing immigration reform this year, according to a new poll showing that a higher number of them favor a comprehensive bill that he hasn’t yet backed.
The 605-voter survey, conducted by Public Policy Polling for the liberal-leaning Florida New Majority, is a sign of the troubles Diaz-Balart has faced while trying to get a bipartisan bill passed in the U.S. House, where GOP leaders have kept the issue from a vote.
For months, the Miami representative and others have met in secret and tried to hammer out a bill that a majority of the Republican House caucus would back.
But with no bill yet as the year ends, the meetings have started to haunt Diaz-Balart because advocates and voters in District 25 want to see more results.
“This is what happens when you’re legislating and not grandstanding,” said Diaz-Balart, who represents a majority Hispanic House seat that runs from Miami-Dade through Broward, Collier and Hendry counties.

November 12, 2013

The Democrats' role in hamstringing immigration reform in the US House


You can't blame both sides equally for the death of comprehensive immigration reform this year in Washington, DC. After all, Republicans in the Democrat-led Senate barely backed a bipartisan bill (and Sen. Marco Rubio was raked over the far-right coals for helping usher it). And in the GOP-led House, conservative Republicans have blocked a hearing on the Senate bill or the issue.

But still, Democrats bear some blame.

A must-read article from The Hill lays out what happened behind the scenes. It points out that the White House and Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer tried in May to stop a bipartisan House bill from moving because, in their view, it endangered the Senate bill.

Guess who was identified with gumming it up at the time? Rep. Xavier Becerra, who belongs to the same delegation as Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

We noted Becerra's purported sand-in-the-gears role at the time, and refused to comment. Afterward, he denied the reports but refused to elaborate. Update: Becerra's spokesman James Gleeson wanted the following statement added (note: It says I "accuse Becerra of gumming up the works." That's inaccurate. As you see, the post above says Becerra "was identified with gumming it up at the time."):

"For an unbiased reporter to accuse Congressman Becerra of ‘gumming up’ negotiations is an odd way to describe what he did in consulting with the very people on whose behalf he was negotiating and doing so before committing them to a position. As Marc Caputo himself acknowledges there's more nuance to the situation than some would admit to passing comprehensive immigration reform in the House."

Intriguingly, immigration-reform advocates didn't tweet out the above-mentioned blog post or mention it en masse at all. And today, it's the same story with what The Hill wrote.


But when Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (who would probably vote to pass the Senate bill if it came up for a vote) noted that time has expired this year in the House for the issue, he was excoriated by some on the left. One columnist in the hill called him the "Latino face of GOP's immigration reform blockade."

Perhaps today's Hill article might change a few minds about the issue, or at least show that there's more nuance than some advocates would admit. 

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November 07, 2013

Decoding Diaz-Balart and immigration reform's struggle in the House


It’s all but guaranteed: Immigration reform is dead for 2013.

The Republican-controlled House has refused to take up the bipartisan Democratic-controlled Senate bill that passed earlier this year. And now time has essentially run out.

“I don’t see the math. There are only 16 days, legislative days, for the floor,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a leading Republican immigration-reformer in the House.

“Unless someone has some magic potion," he said. "I don’t see how there’s time to go through the committee process and through the floor with what could ultimately be six or nine bills.”

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October 28, 2013

Marco Rubio now favors piecemeal rather than comprehensive approach to immigration reform


Sen. Marco Rubio, who helped write the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill, has shifted back to his original position that piecemeal legislation is the way forward.

“We’ve been lectured for the better part of a month now how we need to be realistic, that Barack Obama was not going to repeal Obamacare,” Rubio said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times. “Likewise, I think supporters of immigration reform need to be realistic. The House is just not going to jump on board whatever the Senate passes.”

That’s been evident for months. But in recent interviews Rubio has sounded more distant from the Senate legislation. On CNN on Friday, a casual viewer could have assumed he had nothing to do with it – the Florida Republican referring to what the “whatever the Democrats in the Senate are demanding.”

Rubio even opposes using the Senate bill as a negotiating point in a conference if the House can manage to pass a limited bill.

More here.

October 23, 2013

In East Room event, Obama jumps into immigration reform Thursday. Does this mean it's dead or alive?


Earlier this year, immigration reform leaders in the U.S. House like Republican Mario Diaz-Balart wanted the president to keep quiet about the issue as they grappled with it.

But they grappled. And they grappled. And they grappled.

And still there is no bill (but there is no shortage of finger-pointing). But there is a lot of fear among Republicans.

Many watched what happened to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio when he helped craft and pass a bipartisan immigration-reform bill in the Senate, only to have the tea party and right-wing media elite tear him up.

Now the president is ready to put his weight behind the issue and plans to hold a 10:35 a.m. East Room address calling on Congress to pass immigration reform.

Two initial takeaways about the politics of it all:

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October 02, 2013

Rep. Joe Garcia is latest Miami face in long-odds immigration-reform push


Rep. Joe Garcia became the third Miami congressman this year to play a major role in the nation’s immigration debate when he joined House Democrats on Wednesday to unveil a bipartisan plan that includes a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

But unlike Miami U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Garcia isn’t a Republican.

And the bill Garcia and fellow Democrats are pushing has so little chance of passing right now that, coupled with the all-Democrat cast that unveiled the proposal, the legislation is perceived on Capitol Hill to be more of a political play to pressure stalling House Republicans.

The Democrats' legislation combines a Senate bill, passed with Rubio’s help, as well as a Republican border-security measure that passed a House committee.

“We put them both together,” Garcia said. “We’re not introducing the perfect bill. We’re introducing a comprehensive reform bill that provides that space for compromise.”

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October 01, 2013

Joe Garcia, House Democrats to move forward with immigration plan


Miami's Joe Garcia looks like he might be taking a leading role in a House Democrats' plan that they'll discuss tomorrow in a DC press conference.

It's unclear what Garcia and unspecified "House Democratic leaders" and members plan to discuss at noon, but the caucus has already started pushing plans now that efforts of a bipartisan group have stalled in the House. Two leaders of that effort were Garcia's Miami colleague, Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart, and Illinois Democrat Luis Gutierrez.

If Garcia takes a leadership role, he'll be the third active Miami congressman to tackle the national issue behind Diaz-Balart and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who helped pass a bipartisan Senate plan that the House refused to consider.

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