May 25, 2016

Zika funding inaction frustrates Florida members of Congress

via @learyreports

With Congress set to go on -- another -- vacation, Florida lawmakers are worried about Zika funding. 

Sen. Bill Nelson today sent Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a letter urging him to keep the chamber in session.

"Though the House passed a stand-alone bill to provide a mere $622 million and the Senate attached $1.1 billion in Zika funding as an amendment to a larger appropriations package, we are still weeks away, at best, from passing a final bill out of Congress," Nelson wrote. "Without the passage of a stand-alone Zika funding bill by the Senate, there is no clear path forward. I have tried repeatedly to pass a bill to fund the Administration’s request and send it to the House. Unfortunately, each attempt was blocked. For these reasons, I ask you to exercise your power as the Senate majority leader to take up consideration of a stand-alone funding bill (S. 2843) to address Zika, and to even delay the Memorial Day recess if Congress needs more time to pass the bill."

Sen. Marco Rubio was on the floor Tuesday making a similar call for action. "For all of us as Americans but especially for all of us as elected leaders, It is long past due to take this virus seriously. Because the virus is not just serious; this virus is deadly serious and so far, I must say that congress is failing this test.”

Rep. Vern Buchanan is asking House and Senate leaders to appoint conference members to work out differences on spending measures.

"The cost of delay is unacceptably high," Buchanan wrote in a letter to Republican and Democratic leaders. "We are seeing the effect of this disease in Florida, where mosquito season has already begun. Currently, Florida has more than a quarter of all U.S. Zika cases. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said this weekend that mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus are expected to enter the U.S. mainland and begin infecting Americans within the next 'month or so.' "

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Mystery donor cut $13.5 million to 'dark money' group that backed Marco Rubio

via @learyreports

A single, unnamed donor gave $13.5 million to a "dark money" nonprofit supporting Marco Rubio's presidential campaign -- and his or her identify may forever be a secret.

The donation was revealed in a tax document obtained by the Center for Responsive Politics, which unpacked how the money went to consultants with close ties to the Florida Republican, despite the group's supposed independence.

Immediate speculation focused on Norman Braman, who poured millions into a super PAC supporting Rubio.

Read the report here.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

CBO report says ending automatic Cuban refugee payments would save money

@PatriciaMazzei

It seems obvious, but now a nonpartisan report confirms it: Ending automatic welfare payments to Cuban immigrants would save the federal government money.

That’s according to the Congressional Budget Office, which analyzed proposed legislation by U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Sen. Marco Rubio, two Cuban-American Republicans.

The CBO estimated the feds would save $2.45 billion over 10 years if recently arrived Cubans were no longer treated automatically as refugees deserving of food stamps and other aid. About $1.05 billion would be saved from 2017-21, and another $1.4 billion from 2022-27.

The savings give Curbelo and Rubio a new selling point for their bill, which they filed to curtail abuse by some Cuban immigrants who send the money back to the island. GOP leaders in Congress — particularly House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin — have said they’re not interested in taking up immigration legislation. With the CBO report in hand, Rubio and Curbelo might have better luck pitching their proposal as a way to save money.

More here.

May 23, 2016

Marco Rubio's life advice to high schoolers

@PatriciaMazzei

The man who lost his presidential bid stood before the graduating high schoolers on Monday morning and invoked hard-learned life lessons.

"You are going to fail. That's going to happen," Marco Rubio said. "Failure in many ways is a benefit, because it teaches you in ways success never can."

The U.S. senator from Florida wasn't talking specifically about his Republican primary campaign. But it was difficult not to think about it as Rubio gave the keynote address for the Latin Builders Association Academy, a public charter school created in part by his friend, fundraiser and former LBA president, Bernie Navarro.

"I'm incredibly excited to see what you guys are going to be doing in four or six or seven years," Rubio told the students. "Maybe even running for president -- 'cause I lost to a developer, so you can too!"

When the room burst into applause, Rubio joked: "Are you clapping 'cause I lost, or -- ?" More laughter. He made no other mention of Donald Trump.

It was Rubio's second appearance of the day before a teenage audience. He started Monday at Miami Edison Senior High School, speaking to mostly juniors and seniors as part of Haitian Heritage Month. They asked him about global warming, the minimum wage and college affordability. But what Rubio really wanted to do was share advice.

Continue reading "Marco Rubio's life advice to high schoolers" »

Marco Rubio: 'Donald needs to continue to be Donald'

@PatriciaMazzei

Marco Rubio sees a tight presidential race in Florida come November, especially if Donald Trump's uncouth campaign continues to resonate among voters.

"She's incredibly unpopular," Rubio said of the likely Democratic nominee. "Hillary Clinton is highly disliked, her negatives are very high, people don't trust her -- rightfully so. I just think Donald needs to continue to be Donald. Obviously I have disagreed with him on issues, but it's worked for him."

Perhaps learning from his own loss in the Republican primary, Rubio offered this bit of advice for Trump: "Obviously build a strong campaign apparatus on the ground in Florida," he said. "Florida was always going to be competitive. It's going to be a close race -- it always is in, in Florida, for presidency, but as of now, he seems to be doing well."

Speaking to reporters at Florida International University, Rubio reiterated that he intends to go to the GOP nominating convention July in Cleveland.

"I had planned to, and as of now our plans are to go," he said. "The only reason I wouldn't is if there's some place else I need to be in order to be helpful to candidates who are running for re-election or election.... It wouldn't be because of Donald or anything if I didn't go. It would be because maybe there's something else I should be doing to further the cause outside of Cleveland. But my sense is I'll probably go for a couple of days."

May 17, 2016

Marco Rubio helps raise campaign cash for Carlos Lopez-Cantera

FullSizeRender (1)@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera spent Tuesday in Washington, relying on a little help from his friends to raise money for his U.S. Senate campaign.

The man Lopez-Cantera is hoping to succeed, Sen. Marco Rubio, was the "special guest" at the lunchtime fundraiser, held at the headquarters of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Also co-hosting: Miami's three Republicans in Congress, Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

About 60 people showed up, the Miami Herald has learned. Lopez-Cantera trails most of his rivals in fundraising and the amount of cash on hand in his campaign account.

Rubio has made clear Lopez-Cantera is his candidate in the crowded GOP primary to replace him. But he's yet to hold a public event or given a formal endorsement to his old friend from the Florida Legislature.

Rubio recently told the Herald he'll have more to say "at some point in the near future" about campaigning for Lopez-Cantera.

White House calls out Florida Republicans in Congress over Zika funding

@PatriciaMazzei

The White House on Tuesday pressured Florida's 17 Republicans in Congress to say publicly whether they support $1.9 billion in emergency funding to fight the Zika virus.

Press Secretary Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama would veto a House of Representatives bill that would provide far less money -- $622 million -- and referred again to support for the full $1.9 billion from Florida's Republican senator, Marco Rubio. Florida has more confirmed Zika cases than any other state in the country.

"The Republican senator from the state of Florida has indicated that the Congress should act expeditiously to pass the $1.9 billion funding proposal that our public-health experts say is needed," Earnest told reporters. "I think it'd be interesting to understand exactly what position the 17 other Republicans from Florida who represent the state in the Congress think of this."

Some of them have already come out in favor of Obama's request, including Rep. Vern Buchanan of Sarasota and Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Miami (Curbelo drew some Democratic criticism for not being very vocal about his position).

On Tuesday, Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee sent Republican Speaker Paul Ryan a letter -- signed by more than 120 House Democrats -- urging the GOP to accept Obama's request.

Rubio said on the Senate floor Tuesday he's "concerned" about the House's reluctance to approve the full $1.9 billion. The Senate later signed off on a bill to fund $1.2 billion toward fighting the mosquito-borne virus.

"I'm glad that there has finally [been] some movement and that something's happening, but I'm really concerned about the direction their own funding measure is going," he said. "Their funding measure isn't even $1.1 billion, it's $622 million and, quite frankly, that's just not going to cut it."

 

Eyeing private life, Marco Rubio says he won't be a lobbyist -- or work on Wall Street

@PatriciaMazzei

The only rumor Marco Rubio wishes were true about his professional life after the U.S. Senate is that he'll go work for his beloved Miami Dolphins.

"No, unfortunately, no," Rubio told a Miami radio station Tuesday morning. "That one, I can confirm it. It was the one time I hoped an unnamed source was right."

The Dolphins "haven't called yet -- at least not for a job, anyway," Rubio said lightheartedly in a conversation with WIOD AM host Jimmy Cefalo, himself a former player. "There's always hope!"

The Florida Republican reiterated he's still weighing his options for work after his term ends in January.

"I can tell you what I'm not going to be: I''m not going to be a lobbyist -- I'm not going to do that, I'm not interested in that," Rubio said. "I'm not moving to New York and working on Wall Street."

But expect to still see him around.

"I think being a private citizen is a good thing," he said, "and the good news about it is, you can stay engaged politically without being in office, as people have proven over the last few years. So I intend to stay involved politically and engaged on issues."

And never say never to another political run.

"If there's a good opportunity, and it makes sense, and I feel the passion to run for that office," Rubio said. "What I don't want to do is just run for something because it's available and I want to get back in. It has to be something I feel passionate about.

"I don't know what the world is going to look like after November."

Marco Rubio is writing his own tweets again

@PatriciaMazzei

Marco Rubio embraced Twitter as a social-media platform before he ran for president, obviously writing his own posts about anything that crossed his mind.

That changed when the Republican U.S. senator from Florida jumped in the 2016 race. His account was taken over by aides who crafted careful tweets, aware of the media glare on a presidential candidate.

No more.

Rubio began writing his own tweets again recently, taking the platform by storm Monday. He began the day with a complaint about airlines -- a classic Twitter gripe -- and ended it with a rant about anonymous sources in political reporting. (And yes, a "source" confirmed to the Miami Herald that Rubio is manning his own account.)

The senator told host Jimmy Cefalo on Miami's WIOD AM radio station Tuesday morning his tweets weren't intended as a rant.

"I would have said it all in a tweet, but they only let you put 140 characters," he said. "Then I started having fun with it a little bit."

 

His tweetstorm:

May 13, 2016

White House praises Marco Rubio on Zika

@PatriciaMazzei

From White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest's briefing with reporters Friday:

QUESTION: ... yesterday. And on Zika -- I know you mentioned that the funding is not that -- on the current legislation that's making its way through right now.
 
Does the president expect to pass these pieces of legislation if they reach his desk? And are you championing about the effort by the Florida Senators Rubio and Nelson to give -- fully fund at $1.9 billion?
 
EARNEST: Yeah. Well, we certainly welcome the bipartisan support that our Zika proposal has received, including from Senator Rubio.
 
I think this reflects the degree to which, for all of our policy differences with Senator Rubio, when it comes to looking out for the public health and well being of the American people, there shouldn't be a partisan difference.
 
And I think Senator Rubio and Senator Nelson both understand the consequences for mothers and babies in Florida, of not doing everything possible to fight Zika.

Continue reading "White House praises Marco Rubio on Zika" »