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.”
The LIBRE Initiative, a conservative Hispanic-outreach group, has announced it's going after Democratic Congressman Joe Garcia over his support for Obamacare.
The big question: Does this line of attack actually work? And will it work in 2014 when Garcia is likely to face Republican Carlos Curbelo?
The fact that Garcia is being targeted is a sign that District 26 is in play. It's a newly drawn swing district, so it can't be taken for granted by either party. Garcia is raising money like a demon and incumbents are tough to beat, but then Democrats tend to underperform in mid-term elections.
As for the policy and politics of Obamacare: Yes, the rollout has been a public-relations disaster. And some people will wind up paying more for insurance. Others, however, will wind up paying less. We still don't know the winner-loser breakdown because the law's not fully implemented yet and the broken sign-up website has made things worse.
Florida and national Democrats are also ready to blame rate increases and insurance problems on Republicans by pointing out the GOP-led Legislature exempted Obamacare insurance plans from rate review for two years and refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
Beyond that, the effectiveness of attacking the Affordable Care Act is a matter of hot political dispute.
Now that his former chief of staff and top adviser pleaded guilty Monday in an elections scandal, Joe Garcia won't be able to escape the political fallout from Republicans as he runs for reelection in his Miami-to-Key West seat.
Even on his birthday.
Last night, the National Republican Congressional Committee staked out a birthday fundraiser for the Democrat and tried to hand him a mock Monopoly-style "Get Out of Jail Free" card that said "this card may be used for this scandal or your next unethical endeavor."
Garcia didn't take the card. And he denies any wrongdoing.
Almost unrecognizable in a trim beard, Jeffrey Garcia, the former chief of staff to Congressman Joe Garcia, hugged his relatives, kissed his wife and stepped up to the lectern in a Miami courtroom Monday morning to apologize.
He had directed the Miami Democratic congressman’s political campaign last year to request some 1,800 absentee ballots without voters’ permission, breaking Florida elections laws that require voters or their immediate family to ask for the ballots themselves.
“I should not have done it,” Garcia, 41, told Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Nushin Sayfie. “I’m sorry, and I accept responsibility for my actions.”
Then he pleaded guilty.
A few moments later, three police officers placed him in handcuffs and escorted him to jail. As part of a plea deal with prosecutors, he will serve 90 days behind bars, followed by 18 months’ probation — including the first three months under house arrest, wearing a GPS monitor.
During his probation, Garcia, a professional political operative who is not related to the congressman, will be prohibited from volunteering or working for any campaigns.
His sentencing marks the culmination of an investigation by the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office, triggered by a Miami Herald report, into thousands of fraudulent absentee-ballot requests that rolled into the county elections department’s website last year, a sign of a worrying trend of campaigns using technology to take advantage of the convenient online system.
Congressman Joe Garcia’s former chief of staff will head to jail for orchestrating a fraudulent, online absentee-ballot request plot during last year’s elections.
Jeffrey Garcia, the Miami Democratic congressman’s longtime political strategist, will spend 90 days in jail as part of a plea deal reached with the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office, the Miami Herald has learned.
The deal, which is expected to be inked Monday, will require Garcia, 41, no relation to the congressman, to plead guilty to requesting absentee ballots on behalf of voters, which is a felony.
His attorney, Henry Bell, noted Garcia never “touched a ballot, manipulated a vote or otherwise interfered with anyone's vote.”
"He accepts responsibility for his conduct which involved requesting absentee ballots for voters when it was the voters themselves who are required to make the requests," Bell said in an statement. "Jeff is a good person who made a mistake. He is sorry and is doing the right thing in admitting this and accepting responsibility."
Prosecutors tied Jeffrey Garcia to hundreds of phony ballot requests submitted for last year’s elections on behalf of unsuspecting voters without their permission. Though none of those ballots were mailed, forged or cast, Joe Garcia’s campaign planned to target those infrequent voters with telephone calls, fliers and visits to try to persuade them to vote for the candidate.
Investigators reopened their probe into the ploy in February after the Herald reported that almost 500 of the August 2012 primary ballot requests in Garcia’s congressional district could be further traced through Internet Protocol addresses that originated in Miami. Florida elections law prohibits anyone other than voters or their immediate family members from submitting online ballot requests.
In June, the Herald found that Jeffrey Garcia might have secretly funded bogus tea party candidate Jose Rolando “Roly” Arrojo in 2010 as a way to siphon conservative votes from Republican David Rivera, who defeated Joe Garcia that year but then lost to him in 2012.
The FBI is now investigating Jeffrey Garcia and Arrojo. Rivera is also under criminal investigation for his possible ties to another ringer candidate, Democrat Justin Lamar Sternad, who ran against Garcia in 2012 and has pleaded guilty to federal campaign-finance crimes.
What's worse than firing your top political adviser and chief of staff amid a state elections-fraud investigation? Having to pay him $25,000 in invoices that appear once the FBI opens up a separate inquiry.
Welcome to Congressman Joe Garcia's world.
The Miami Democrat this morning reported he had a solid fundraising quarter, pulling in $411,000. But when his reports came online, this $25,000 expenditure stood out: Palm Media for "General Consulting." The company is controlled by Garcia's now-embattled former aide, Jeffrey Garcia (no relation).
The date he was paid: Sept. 13. Friday the 13th. It was also the start of Yom Kippur, so perhaps there's an atonement connection here.
The congressman's campaign adviser, Raul Martinez, Jr., said the unexpected bill was paid after it was sent by mail to the office.
"There were outstanding invoices and we had to honor them. This invoice was for services between January 2013 to May 2013. It was reviewed by our attorney and our campaign treasurer," Martinez said
Usually, a campaign has to pay its bills for the period when services are rendered. But what if it receives a bill afterward and if the guy once in charge of the books submits late bills after he's fired?
There's a chance Republican opponents might file a complaint just to find out. At the least, it would keep the story alive.
This isn't the first eye-catching bill from Palm Media. In July, the congressman's reports showed it was paid the same amount, $25,000, as a "campaign win bonus."
The National Republican Congressional Committee pointed out the expenditure with an almost-rhetorical headline: "Democrat Hush Money Over Voter Fraud Scandal in Florida?"
Expect that to be repeated. Perhaps without the question mark.
"Joe Garcia's conduct continues to disgrace and embarrass our community," Carlos Curbelo, a Republican challenger and Miami-Dade School board member said in an email after this blog was posted. "Why would he pay his former campaign manager, chief of staff, and roommate $50,000 since law enforcement authorities started investigating his campaign for potentially fraudulent activities?"
Under fire and under the microscope for his Cuba policies, an investigation nagging former staffers and his use of the word "Taliban" on the House floor, U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia is still pulling in impressive loads of cash for his reelection campaign.
The Democrat raised $411,000 in the third quarter, spent $171,400 and has more than $1 million in the bank, an adviser said. The third quarter haul was smaller than the second and first quarters ($440k and $550k, respectively).
Garcia's main Republican rival, Miami-Dade School Board Member Carlos Curbelo, reported $450,000 for the third quarter -- however the money included rollover funds from his exploratory committee the quarter before.The press release:
Today Congressman Joe Garcia’s re-election campaign announced having raised over $1.4 million for the 2014 election cycle with over $1 million cash on hand. The campaign raised $410,000 for the quarter, which spanned from July 1st to September 30th. Garcia is in a strong position to hold his seat next November with roughly a $1 million fundraising advantage over his closest Republican opponent in a district that is trending Democratic. Garcia has received over 1,700 contributions for the cycle.
“I am honored by the overwhelming support as I work on finding a commonsense solution to the totally unnecessary government shutdown that is hurting our community and country" said Garcia.
At one end of Garcia’s district, an ally persuaded fellow Key West city commissioners to unanimously pass a resolution inviting Cuban diplomats to the San Carlos Institute — a Duval Street landmark steeped in Cuban history, as well as tensions between exiles and the Castro regime.
The Key West resolution was met with outrage by some near the northern end of Garcia’s district, in Miami-Dade. His two Miami Cuban-American colleagues and another House member penned a letter that urged the U.S. State Department to block the diplomats’ Sunday visit from Washington.
Garcia didn’t sign.
In a significant break with Cuban exile leaders, Miami Congressman Joe Garcia is supporting the efforts of a Havana research institute that wants U.S. approval to test and market a diabetes treatment in this country.
Garcia’s endorsement marks the first time a Cuban-American in Congress has overtly backed a measure that, in the eyes of critics, undermines the embargo and could eventually give the Castro government access to U.S. markets without making democratic reforms.
The move splits the Cuban-American congressional delegation for the first time, could become a campaign issue in the Democrat’s reelection campaign and, more broadly, indicates a shift in Miami politics as the exile community’s power appears to wane amid new waves of immigrants.
Garcia said his decision was not political, but was intended to help people who suffer from diabetic foot ulcers.
“This is about something that can maybe save lives. This is about medicine,” Garcia said. “There are 70,000 amputations that happen yearly from diabetes. I’m not going to be the guy who decides that people will suffer because of the embargo.”
But the political significance is tough for experts to ignore.
“This is a ‘wow’ situation. Nothing like this has ever happened,” said Mauricio Font, a Latin America studies expert at the City University of New York. “In the past, this position would essentially be considered collaborating with the Castro regime.