June 20, 2017

Marco Rubio hosts Ivanka Trump at the Capitol to talk family tax credits

DCxlKwGXoAENwAM

@alextdaugherty 

Sen. Marco Rubio hosted Ivanka Trump at the Capitol on Tuesday to talk about one of their shared priorities: a childhood tax credit. 

"There is a growing desire within the Republican conference, within the Senate and House, to address the fundamental factor that there are people in America who have decided they can't afford to have children because they can't take a month off of work and not be paid," Rubio said after the meeting. 

Trump has long championed a mandatory six-week paid leave for parents and a child tax credit for couples making less than $500,000 a year that would allow them to deduct child care expenses from their income taxes. Lower-income families who wouldn't benefit from a tax deduction could receive a rebate of up to $1,200 a year for child care expenses.

Her proposals, particularly the mandatory paid leave plan, are likely to face blowback from some conservative Republicans. Rubio stopped short of offering support for a mandatory paid leave plan on Tuesday. 

"We're in the early stages of trying to figure out the right approach," Rubio said.

Rubio and Trump didn't get into specifics about how they would expand the tax credit or offer paid leave during the meeting, Rubio said. 

"Today was in receive mode, listening to some of the different concepts and ideas that are already out there and figuring out how some of these can work together," Rubio said. "It was really more of an introductory, first step meeting but it was a good one." 

Also in the meeting were Republican Sens. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Joni Ernst of Iowa,  Mike Lee of Utah, Steve Daines of Montana and Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Rubio, Lee and Fischer have each sponsored legislation that would provide tax credits to businesses that provide paid leave to parents. 

"In order to do public policy right, it takes a little bit of time and a lot of input to make sure you have answers to every question," Rubio said. "We're all operating on 30 minute news cycles but tax policy of this sort and broader policies of this sort takes a little bit of time, but it's worth the work." 

Rubio also said that it would be his preference to include a child tax credit as part of a larger tax overhaul, but that he's prepared to move forward on a standalone bill if it can't be included. 

"That would be ideal, if there's going to be a broad tax reform, for the pro-family component to be a part of it," Rubio said. "But if it doesn't happen we're prepared to move independently of a broader reform." 

Rubio said that younger Senators in their 30s, 40s and 50s with young children are particularly sensitive to the challenges that come with raising children. 

"People used to tell me, 'How can you have four kids, it's really expensive?'" Rubio said. "And I would say all you've got to do is put more water in the soup, but now you're finding out that is not necessarily always the case." 

Photo via AP's Erica Werner on Twitter. 

June 18, 2017

Rubio says Trump will not fire prosecutors conducting Russia investigations

Colombia rubio(2)

@alextdaugherty 

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said on Sunday that he doesn't think President Donald Trump will fire deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein or special counsel Robert Mueller, the two men charged with leading investigations into Russia's interference in the 2016 election. 

Rubio was asked by CNN anchor Jake Tapper on the Sunday morning show "State of the Union" about Trump's recent tweets calling the investigation a "witch-hunt." 

"Some of your Senate colleagues, as you know, are concerned that President Trump is preparing to fire Mueller or Mueller and Rosenstein. How would you react if he did?" Tapper asked. 

"Well, first of all, that's not going to happen," Rubio said. "I don't believe it's going to happen. The best thing that could happen for the president and the country is a full and credible investigation. I really, truly believe that. If we want to put all this behind us, let's find out what happened, let's put it out there, and let's not undermine the credibility of the investigation." 

Rubio said he's confident that Trump's surprising decision to dismiss FBI Director James Comey has not impeded the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation, and that he is confident Mueller will conduct a thorough and fair investigation. 

Tapper also asked Rubio about the revamped Cuba policy which undos limits travel options for American citizens and bans U.S. business transactions with Cuban military apparatus, specifically highlighting the differences between Trump's desire for closer relations with China and Saudi Arabia while blasting the Cuban government as a violator of human rights. 

Rubio countered that Cuba's human rights record is particularly important to U.S. interests because it's a close neighbor. 

"I would say it's in our national security interests to have human rights and democracy in our region, because the absence of those two things leads to migratory pressure and instability," Rubio said. "Whether it's Haiti or Cuba or Mexico or Central America, so much of the migratory pressure on the United States is created by instability in the Western Hemisphere. And so there is a national security interest in our region in creating stability and democracy." 

Rubio spent Sunday morning on a host of shows, including NBC's Meet the Press, CBS' Face the Nation, Fox News, Telemundo and CBS' Miami affiliate. 

Full interview here: 

 

 

June 17, 2017

June 16, 2017

Trump defies congressional Republicans who want closer relations with Cuba

Trump Cuba

@alextdaugherty 

Congressional Republicans from outside South Florida opposed President Donald Trump’s revamped Cuba policy announcement on Friday, as lawmakers from states with agricultural and trade interests on the island fretted about the economic implications of a ban on U.S. business with the Cuban military apparatus.

“Any policy change that diminishes the ability of Americans to travel freely to Cuba is not in the best interests of the United States or the Cuban people,” said Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, a proponent of ending the Cuban embargo.

Flake introduced legislation earlier this year that would eliminate travel restrictions to Cuba for American citizens, and he garnered 54 other co-sponsors, including Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, for his bill. Flake implored Senate leadership to put his legislation on the floor for a vote.

“The bill has 55 total cosponsors and I am convinced it would pass the Senate with upwards of 70 votes,” Flake said in a statement.

But President Trump ignored the wishes of the majority of the Senate to fulfill a campaign pledge for conservative Cubans in South Florida: As part of the policy change, travel to Cuba for American citizens will face increased scrutiny.

“We will enforce the ban on tourism, we will enforce the embargo and we will take concrete steps to insure investments flow directly to the people,” Trump said in Miami on Friday.

As the president doled out heaps of praise for Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, the two South Florida Republicans who played an integral role in shaping the revamped Cuba policy, other congressional Republicans began to voice their displeasure.

“I have a bill that would allow Americans to travel freely to Cuba, one of my compatriots has a bill that would allow agricultural exports,” said Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., a proponent of ending the trade embargo. “These are all Republican measures these are all Republican bills. We tried the same approach for 50 years and it didn’t work.”

Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran, who represents a state with a large agricultural sector, said the newly announced changes will hurt U.S. businesses seeking to expand abroad.

“Cuba is a natural market for our nation’s farmers and ranchers, and when we don’t sell to Cuba, another country does,” Moran said.

Read more here. 

June 15, 2017

Inside Rubio and Diaz-Balart's Oval Office push to crack down on Cuba

IMG_rubio_trump-620x412_2_1_KE97VT49_L253676291
@PatriciaMazzei

Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart sat in the Oval Office last month, surrounded by two Cabinet secretaries, the national security adviser and an array of top White House staff, and asked President Donald Trump to put his power behind their plans for Cuba.

The Miami Republican lawmakers had been pressing Trump for months to unwind former President Barack Obama’s policies, bringing up Cuba at every opportunity: Diaz-Balart when he and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen met in private with their former House colleague, Vice President Mike Pence, in February; Rubio when he and his wife joined the president and first lady for an intimate dinner two days later, and again when the senator flew aboard Air Force One to Florida in March.

The administration had been waiting for deputies across Cabinet agencies to review existing Cuba regulations. By the May 3 Oval Office meeting, their recommendation was in: Keep Obama’s push to normalize U.S. relations with the regime of Cuban leader Raúl Castro.

That’s not what Trump wanted. As a candidate, he’d promised change to South Florida’s Cuban-American hardliners, including Bay of Pigs veterans who endorsed him, a gesture that stuck with Trump and that he repeatedly mentioned as president.

“The president said, ‘Look, I want to do this,’” Rubio said.

More here.

Photo credit: Rainier Ehrhardt, Associated Press

Rubio: 'Tomorrow is going to be a good day for the Cuban people'

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Sen. Marco Rubio confirmed Thursday morning he will join President Donald Trump in Miami on Friday to unveil “strategic and targeted” changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba.

“The goal of these polices is very simple: We want to power and we want to strengthen the Cuban people without strengthening the Cuban military, which controls a significant  percentage of their economy," Rubio said in a Facebook live chat from his Senate office.

“I’m very proud of what the president will be announcing tomorrow. It’s up to them to lay out the specifics, but suffice it to say that tomorrow is going to be a good day for the Cuban people, a better deal for the Cuban people, which is who new are trying to help by empowering them and doing so in a way that does not empower their oppressors.”

The change Rubio alludes to would seek to restrict business between private U.S. companies and Cuban companies controlled by the military, the Grupo de Administración Empresarial S.A., or GAESA.

Trump is also considering other changes, including possible limits on travel. He is scheduled to deliver remarks at Manuel Artime Theater in Miami at 1 p.m. He'll also be joined by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who like Rubio has criticized the ways in which President Barack Obama's opening relations with Cuba.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

June 13, 2017

Rubio corroborates details of Comey’s meeting with Trump during Sessions testimony

Editorialpic

@alextdaugherty 

A February meeting between President Donald Trump and ousted FBI Director James Comey has turned into an high-stakes he-said-he-said, and detractors of the president are itching for proof that President Trump tried to interfere in the investigation of ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

During a second highly publicized Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in a matter of days on Tuesday, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tried to pry specifics of that meeting from Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Rubio got Sessions to confirm details of that meeting on Tuesday, although the attorney general and Trump ally was not in the room and therefore could not corroborate whether Trump or Comey is telling the truth about the details of the conversation.

“I want to go back to February 14 and close the loop on the details,” Rubio said. “Do you remember lingering? Do you remember feeling that you needed to stay?”

“I do recall being one of the last ones to leave,” Sessions said. “I don’t recall how that occurred.”

Comey said during his testimony last week that during the one-on-one encounter in February, Trump urged him to stop the investigation into ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Comey recalled Trump saying in the meeting. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Flynn was fired by Trump after he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Detractors of the president argue the Feb. 14 meeting, if it happened the way Comey testified, amounts to an obstruction of justice in the FBI’s Russia investigation and would be grounds to begin impeachment proceedings.

Read more here. 

VA accountability bill sponsored by Rubio and Nelson passes House, heads to Trump's desk

6a00d83451b26169e201b7c9002e03970b

@alextdaugherty 

A bill sponsored by Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson that aims to make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire bad employees passed the House by an overwhelming majority on Tuesday, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign it soon. 

The bill, dubbed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, passed the House by a vote of 368-55. A group of liberal Democrats, including South Florida Reps. Alcee Hastings and Frederica Wilson, voted against the bill. 

The legislation would authorize VA secretary David Shulkin to fire or demote senior and non-senior employees and lowers the burden of proof needed to dismiss an employee. The bill also protects whistleblowers by not allowing Shulkin to fire employees who have filed a formal complaint regarding conduct at the VA.

In 2014, the VA was rocked with scandal after a some veterans died while waiting months for appointments at the Phoenix VA hospital and employees created secret lists to cover up the delays. 

The House passed a similar bill earlier this year that passed largely along party lines when the largest union of federal employees opposed the swift appeals process for employees accused of misbehavior.

The Senate revamp of the bill lengthened the appeals process to please Democrats and won the approval of the union, and it passed the upper chamber on a voice vote last week. 

Rex Tillerson doesn't get into Cuba policy review specifics during Senate hearing

Trump_63933

@alextdaugherty 

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not get into specifics when asked about President Donald Trump's Cuba announcement set for Friday in Miami as senators from both parties questioned Tillerson during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday.

"Can you give us some of the general contours you see shaping up relative to what that policy is going to be?" asked committee chairman Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican and Trump ally. 

"The general approach...is to allow as much of this continued commercial and engagement activity go to on as possible," Tillerson said. "We do see the sunny side as I describe it, we do see the benefits of that and to the Cuban people. But on the other hand, we think we have achieved very little in terms of changing the behavior of the regime in Cuba and the treatment of its people. Our concern is that they may be the biggest beneficiaries of all of this which promotes the continuance of that regime." 

Tillerson said that pressure on the Cuban government to implement democratic reforms "has been, in our view, largely removed now" after former President Barack Obama strengthened relations between the United States and Cuba in 2016. 

"I was down there not long ago and America has always felt that if it could do more business with folks it would pave the way for democracy," Corker said. "I do hope we end up with a policy that will cause the Cuban people themselves to reach their aspirations." 

New Mexico Democratic Sen. Tom Udall, a supporter of Obama's efforts, rattled off a host of business ventures now possible in Cuba after Obama's changes, including the introduction of Airbnb into the Cuban economy. 

"Do you agree we should continue these efforts or do you believe we should return to the failed policies of the Cold War?" Udall asked. 

"Well, what you have described is the sunny side of the relationship and it's all positive and it's great," Tillerson said. "There is the dark side though and that is Cuba has failed to improve it's own human rights record. What we have to achieve in approaching Cuba is if were going to sustain the sunny side of this relationship Cuba must begin to address the human rights challenges. Within the sunny side of the relationship there are troubling elements to us that bring the relationship into conflict with existing statute obligations. Are we inadvertently or directly providing financial support to the regime? Our view is, we are." 

Tillerson also said he supports efforts to improve internet access in Cuba, but hedged that the focus of the policy review is making sure the Cuban government does not financially benefit from increased U.S. involvement on the island. 

In late May, 55 senators from both parties signed on to a bill that would fully eliminate travel restrictions to the island. 

Cuban-American lawmakers Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart — who favor the elimination of what they see as concessions to the Cuban government — have been involved in the Cuba review in recent months. 

Friday's announcement will reportedly take place at the Manuel Artime Theater, a former church that is symbolic for Cuban exiles. 

Marco Rubio and Elizabeth Warren agree on one issue—federal flood insurance must change

Colombia rubio(2)

@alextdaugherty 

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren rarely see eye-to-eye on major policy issues but both agree the National Flood Insurance Program must be fixed. 

The program, run by FEMA, must be reauthorized by September 30 as part of the 2018 budget. Rubio and Warren, along with Sens. Bob Menendez, John Kennedy, Chris Van Hollen and Thad Cochran penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday outlining their plan to make federal flood insurance fiscally sound. 

"Powerful floods devastate communities across America every year," the op-ed reads. "After these catastrophic natural disasters, too many Americans find themselves facing a man-made calamity: a National Flood Insurance Program that overcharges and underdelivers for policyholders and for taxpayers. As members of the Senate Banking and Appropriations committees, which oversee flood insurance and provide federal disaster response, we plan to offer bipartisan landmark legislation to tackle systemic problems with flood insurance and to reframe our entire disaster paradigm." 

The proposal comes as the federal flood insurance program is billions of dollars in debt and still dealing with the financial impacts of major hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy, where homeowners said federal engineers were encouraged to lie about storm damage to limit federal insurance payouts.

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo also introduced legislation relating to flood insurance earlier this year. His bill would allow non-primary residences and businesses to be eligible for the same flood insurance rates as primary residences.

“This bill is critical to South Florida, especially for residents of the Florida Keys that are in desperate need of affordable housing options," Curbelo said in a statement. "The Flood Insurance Fairness Act would ensure all Americans have access to affordable flood insurance by guaranteeing that all non-primary residences and business properties receive the same rates provided to primary homes under the National Flood Insurance Program.” 

Read the rest of the op-ed here.