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.

September 01, 2010

Obama administration considering Cuba prisoner exchange?

The five Cuban American members of Congress are raising alarm over reports that the Obama administration is considering releasing a convicted Cuban spy in exchange for the release of an American imprisoned in Cuba.

Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart, Albio Sires and Sen. Bob Menendez today sent a letter Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder expressing concern over the reported release of Gerardo Hernandez, a convicted Cuban spy found guilty of conspiring to commit murder in the 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shoot-down -- in exchange for the release of Alan Gross.

Ros-Lehtinen said the five hope to convince the administration "that any concessions to the Cuban regime, specifically a 'prisoner swap’ to release a convicted Cuban spy and murderer of American citizens, could have grave consequences for U.S. interests and for the safety of Americans abroad.

"The U.S. must be careful not to telegraph to rogue regimes that they may be able to successfully extort our government by abducting innocent Americans," she said.

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July 28, 2010

Haiti gets aid, but Congressional Black Caucus votes against war funding

The Congressional Black Caucus held a briefing Tuesday to register impatience with the pace of rebuilding efforts in Haiti -- and then mostly voted in opposition to a war spending bill that includes nearly $3 billion in aid for the earthquake rattled country.

The "no" votes included Broward's Alcee Hastings and Jacksonville's Corrine Brown. Kendrick Meek, who was campaigning in South Florida for the Senate, missed the vote. The "yes" votes included Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart.

CBC chairwoman Barbara Lee said the caucus largely opposed the bill because it was stripped of spending on domestic spending measures, including $10 billion to avoid teacher layoffs.

July 20, 2010

Mario Diaz-Balart names a new chief

Mario Diaz-Balart, who switched to his brother Lincoln's congressional seat, is naming Cesar Gonzalez, Lincoln Diaz-Balart's legislative director, as chief of staff.

"He brings knowledge of the legislative process, experience in the political arena, and years of public service to the residents of South Florida," Diaz-Balart said of Gonzalez. "Cesar has proven to be loyal, dedicated and committed to ensuring that the needs of our constituents are well represented in Washington and that our community continues to thrive. I cannot think of a greater fit to lead my office than him."

Gonzalez was Lincoln Diaz-Balart's top legislative and legal counsel, managing the policy team and overseeing the legislative agenda, with a concentration on judiciary, telecommunications, healthcare and
immigration. The Miami native also held positions as an AARP attorney and an assistant to the mayor of Miami.

Mario Diaz-Balart's current chief of staff, Nilda Pedrosa, is stepping down to pursue opportunities in Florida, Diaz-Balart's office said. A former Mel Martinez staffer, she was appointed chief of staff in January 2009.

May 28, 2010

House passes "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal as Crist changes mind

The bill to lift the ban on gays serving in the military cleared the House last night with 234 to 194 vote. Just 5 Republicans voted in favor -- including Miami's Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Kendrick Meek had hoped to use the issue in his U.S. Senate bid to define himself against the newly independent Gov. Charlie Crist, but the governor said Thursday he'd be inclined to back the Senate -- which is expected to clear the bill soon.

Meek voted for repeal Thursday, along with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart voted against lifting the ban.

May 22, 2010

Award by Lincoln Diaz-Balart's group baffles fellow lawmakers

From Roll Call via Huffington Post: "House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence is receiving a leadership achievement award for his contributions to the Hispanic community, but nobody - including Pence - can seem to figure out why.

"The Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute is bestowing its 2010 public service award to Pence in a Thursday night ceremony because of 'his extraordinary sensitivity toward and friendship with the U.S. Hispanic community,' according to a statement by Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), who is board chairman for the nonprofit.

"But GOP and Democratic lawmakers who have played a hand in advancing priorities to the Hispanic community, including comprehensive immigration reform, said they were puzzled by the honor. Even Pence was unsure of why he was being given the award.

“ 'I’ll know better tonight after they say why they gave it to me,' ” the Indiana Republican said. He laughed when asked if he was waiting to see what he was being recognized for, adding that he hoped he was being honored because he has 'heart for the Hispanic American community, their principles and their values."

Here's an excerpt of his remarks that night, via Capitol Hill Cubans.

April 29, 2010

Trail of Dreams hits the U.S. Capitol

Miami Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart met with Felipe Matos, Gaby Pacheco, Carlos Roa and Juan Rodriguez, young activists who arrived in Washington this week after a 1,500-mile trek from Miami to ask President Obama and Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act. 

Trail of Dreams 3"Gaby, Felipe, Carlos and Juan represent thousands of young adults who were raised in our communities and call America home," Mario Diaz-Balart said. "They simply wish to pursue the American dream and have
the opportunity to study, work hard and give back to this country."

 "These young DREAMERS are helping to raise awareness on this critical legislative initiative so that innocent students aren’t subject to punishment for a decision that was not their own," said Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a co-author of the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented students to stay in the U.S. and attend college or enroll in the military.

April 26, 2010

Kendrick Meek on AZ immigration law: "Neither fair nor practical"

Wading into the immigration debate, Senate candidate Kendrick Meek comes out against Arizona's new law: "We need common sense immigration reform. The kind of measure signed into law in Arizona last week is neither fair nor practical. It encourages police to question people who have done nothing wrong, and it does a disservice to people in this country who are employed, paying their taxes and are good citizens of their communities. That is not fair. As a former Trooper in the Florida Highway Patrol, I know laws like these will
also hamper law enforcement efforts and make it harder to find people who will speak out as witnesses to crimes. This law is impractical and will not make anyone safer. While new immigration laws should be tough, they should be enforceable and not driven by a philosophical agenda."

No word from his Republican Senate rivals Charlie Crist or Marco Rubio on what they think. But Miami Republican Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart took issue, saying the new law "alters American tradition and long-standing policy making  immigration law enforcement a federal matter. And it strikes fear in the hearts of many American citizens and legal residents."

April 09, 2010

Joe Garcia: In the running?

So says Roll Call. Quoting unnamed sources, the newspaper says that Garcia is going to make another run for Congress. His Facebook page status update Tuesday: "Thinking about how I can best serve in 2010."

Roll Call says he's to make his announcement sometime next week. Democratic leaders in Congress and the White House had been said to be reaching out to Garcia, who lost to Mario-Diaz Balart by 6 points in 2008 and now works for the Obama administration in the Department of Energy. "The courtship is off the charts,'' Democratic strategist Jeff Garcia said about the overtures in February.

This time around, Mario is running for his brother, Lincoln's seat and Democrats believe they've got an even better shot with an open seat and improved voter registration numbers. Republicans in the running include Rep. David Rivera, who this week said he's raised $700,000 for the bid. The GOP was quick to attack the as-yet-to-be-announced Garcia, sending around an e-mail of the Roll Call article with the subject line: "Tax Raiser and Dem rubber stamp running in FL-25."

“A Joe Garcia candidacy would instantly make this seat an excellent pickup opportunity,” DCCC spokesman Shripal Shah told Roll Call.

April 01, 2010

Gloves come off, briefly, in first forum for candidates looking to replace Kendrick Meek

The rowdiest part of Wednesday's South Florida AFL-CIO forum for candidates vying to replace U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek came during the last closing statements of the night, when Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson made jabs at physician and activist Rudy Moise and at North Miami Councilman Scott Galvin.

"Dr. Moise, I was surprised to find that you've only voted four times," said Gibson, a Democrat. "Why are you going to Congress if you've only voted four times?"

Then she criticized Moise for not living in the 17th Congressional District -- which is fine as long as the candidate moves to the area after being elected (we have been duly corrected by a reader: members need not live in their districts). "In the 21st district where you actually live we need another Democrat," Gibson said, referring to the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

She was cheered -- and booed. Moise took her on in his closing statement, resulting in loud applause and chants from his supporters. "I voted for every single election since I was registered to vote," he said. "So I don't know who did the research, but she's totally wrong."


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