December 21, 2010

More on Lincoln Diaz-Balart's vote to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Before being feted by the U.S. Cuba Democracy PAC Monday, outgoing U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart spoke to reporters about his last days in Congress -- including his vote last week to repeal the ban on gays serving in the military.

"It was the right thing to do," said Diaz-Balart, who voted for the repeal along with fellow Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. "It was inevitable and it was long in coming."

"One thing that was really important for me...[was] when I learned that that's the situation in Israel," he added. "The armed forces in Israel -- that's a tough armed forces."

Without going into specifics, Diaz-Balart said he would be employing his time now to "the practice of law, and helping the internal opposition in Cuba and our team in Washington."

December 20, 2010

Pro-embargo PAC toasts Lincoln Diaz-Balart

The annual luncheon of the pro-embargo U.S. Cuba Democracy PAC brought a parade of elected officials to the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables Monday, mostly to toast the departing Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, and to breathe a collective sigh of relief that a Democratic-controlled Congress did not lift trade and travel restrictions to the communist island.

Sen. Bob Menendez, a Cuban-American Democrat from New Jersey, got choked p when praising Diaz-Balart, whom he called "one of the most extraordinary people I have known in public life."

"When it comes to the topic of Cuba, first comes Cuba and then comes the party," Menendez said.

Continue reading "Pro-embargo PAC toasts Lincoln Diaz-Balart" »

December 15, 2010

Lincoln Diaz-Balart votes to repeal military's Don't Ask, Don't tell policy

A stand-alone bill to repeal the ban on gays serving in the military just cleared the House by a 250 to 175 vote margin and outgoing Republican Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart was one of just 15 GOP'ers voting to retire it. Debate now shifts to the Senate, where Dems hope to hold a vote before Congress convenes for the year.

"Now is the time for us to act,'' said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and "close the door on a fundamental unfairness in our nation.'' 

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen also voted for repeal; Mario Diaz-Balart voted against repeal.

Lincoln Diaz-Balart had said last May during debate on the matter that a repeal process should be followed.

"In keeping with that statement, and while I am opposed to the lack of transparency and fairness in the procedures followed today by the Congressional Majority, I have voted for the recommendations in the Comprehensive Review issued by the Department of Defense on November 30, 2010."

And he reiterated that he believes "that sexual preference should not even be a point of reference when judging individuals."

December 08, 2010

The Dream Act clears the House, just 8 GOP'ers vote in favor -- including 3 from Florida

The House voted 216 to 198 to pass the Dream Act -- with just 8 Republicans voting in favor: including Miami's three Cuban-American lawmakers, Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Now the bill faces an uphill climb in the Senate where activists today pressured Florida Republican George LeMieux to vote for the measure. He's said he won't without border security measures.

Continue reading "The Dream Act clears the House, just 8 GOP'ers vote in favor -- including 3 from Florida" »

November 16, 2010

Lincoln Diaz-Balart bids goodbye to the House: "For the rest of my days I will feel deeply honored"

After 18 years in Congress, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart delivered his good-bye speech on the House tonight. He said he leaves "with a sense of duty fulfilled, having given my all to the people of the 21st District of Florida, who have honored me by electing me and reelecting me to 9 terms in Congress.

"My most profound satisfaction comes from having given my all, each and every day, to my constituents," he said.

And he noted that he'll continue to push for democracy in Cuba: "As a private citizen, I will work to help the freedom fighters inside Cuba, who are resisting the brutality of the Castro tyranny with ultimate courage and patriotism; they are my heroes. "

To his colleagues, he said, "those who have helped me, and those who have opposed me, thank you. Thank you for the honor of having been able to serve with you."

November 15, 2010

Lincoln Diaz-Balart to Pelosi: Bring Dream Act up for a vote

Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who is leaving office at the end of the year, is calling on fellow lame duck, outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to schedule a vote on the DREAM Act in the House.

The legislation -- which Rep. Diaz-Balart has sponsored or cosponsored since 2002 -- would give immigrant children in college or the military a chance to stay in the U.S.

Diaz-Balart charges that Pelosi "has blocked the House of Representatives from considering even one bill related to immigration, although she has promised to do otherwise.

"Every day the Speaker waits to consider the American DREAM Act is yet another day these deserving students are being punished for decisions not made by them, but by their parents," Diaz-Balart said.

Even if the bill made it through the House, it's unlikely to clear the Senate where Republican opposition has stalled it several times.

October 09, 2010

UPDATE Raw video: Jeb Bush gets laughs as stand in for Rick Scott

Here's what you didn't get to see on Univisión or online after the first debate between Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Alex Sink Friday night:

After the debate, Sink took questions from the press and continued to slam Scott as she did during the hour-long televised exchange. Also on hand for her camp were two of her GOP supporters, state Sen. Alex Villalobos and Miami-Dade School Board member-elect Raquel Regalado, and HCA whistleblower John Schilling.

Reporters awaited Scott after Sink left the stage in the press room. Scott didn't show, sending several surrogates instead: former Gov. Jeb Bush, Miami Congressmen Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart, former GOP state chairman Al Cardenas and state Rep. Jennifer Carroll, Scott's running mate.

The most memorable moment in the question-and-answer session: when someone asked Bush why he was taking questions instead of Scott. "I don't know," Bush said.

Update: After some technical glitches, we have managed to upload video of the spin room below:

October 04, 2010

Ros-Lehtinen, Diaz-Balarts endorse Rick Scott

Miami's three Republican Cuban-American members of Congress threw their support behind Rick Scott on Monday, despite not seeing eye-to-eye with the GOP gubernatorial candidate on one of the signature issues of their congressional careers: immigration.

Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who had backed Attorney General Bill McCollum for governor in the brutal Republican primary, admitted that they disagree with Scott's support of bringing an Arizona-style immigration law to Florida, a centerpiece of his primary campaign.

Yet they still endorsed Scott because they like his emphasis on creating jobs and lowering taxes, they said -- and because they also disagree on immigration with Democrat Alex Sink, who opposes an Arizona-style law but would require business owners and state agencies to validate employees' legal status.

"Since we disagree with both candidates on immigration, on what do we have to focus on?" Lincoln Diaz-Balart asked, in Spanish after answering the question in English. "I think it's, ‘Who's prepared to create jobs from day one?' ''

Quipped Ros-Lehtinen: "I can't even get my own family to agree with me on most of my issues."

Kyra Jennings, press secretary for Sink's campaign, called the trio's endorsement of Scott "flip-flopping'' after criticizing Scott and opposing McCollum's immigration stance in the primary.

September 23, 2010

This time around, Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen back the Republican campaign blueprint; Debbie Wasserman Schultz dubs it "pablum"

Back in 1994, when congressional Republicans unveiled their Contract with America, the two Miami Republicans were among just 3 GOP holdouts who refused to sign the contract because it called for cutting off benefits to legal immigrants.

But this time around, the GOP blueprint -- Pledge To America -- is a lot more hazy -- there's no proposed legislation attached -- and Diaz-Balart said he supports it, even though he disagrees with a sentence that says local police should be involved in immigration enforcement.

"The essence I overwhelmingly agree with," Diaz-Balart said. "We need to change course because the country is drowning in unnecessary debt. It's really unfortunate what this Congress and this president have done in 2 years where they have taken the deficit from less than 4 percent of GDP to 10 percent. That's not only unsustainable, it's reckless. Irresponsible to the point of reckless."

Broward Democrat Wasserman Schultz, however, said the Republicans are only offering "more of the same failed ideas they've been pushing for years. The Republican pledge is a clear example that they worship at the feet of special interests...Their plan would take us back to the Bush years."

She and other Democrats attacked the plan as a sell out to monied interests that is lacking on details on how Republicans would cut the deficit: "All they do is give pablum to the American people," she said.

Continue reading "This time around, Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen back the Republican campaign blueprint; Debbie Wasserman Schultz dubs it "pablum"" »

September 21, 2010

Nancy Pelosi to raise money for Joe Garcia

The House Speaker will be in Miami Sunday raising money for Democratic congressional candidate Joe Garcia.

The brunch is at former Democratic congressional candidate Raul Martinez's house. Pelosi campaigned energetically in 2008 for Garcia and Martinez, who made runs for Reps. Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart's seats.

This time around, Democrats are hoping to pick up an open seat. Pelosi arrives in-state days after the Republican National Committee's "Fire Pelosi" bus tour rolled through Tampa.