June 18, 2018

Miami Republicans condemn Trump policy of separating families at the border

IMG_Economic_Impact_of_I_2_1_8BAO5GJG_L296697696 (4)

@alextdaugherty

Republicans from Miami-Dade on Monday condenmed the Trump administration's decision to separate families crossing the southern border, with adults being sent to detention centers while their children are housed in cages and cry for their parents.

"It is totally unacceptable, for any reason, to purposely separate minor children from their parents," said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, who, along with Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo is leading negotiations on a compromise all-Republican immigration bill in Congress. "Any and every other option should be implemented in order to not separate minors from their parents, which I believe is unconscionable. We cannot allow for this to continue happening, and it must stop. I continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that the provision included in this week's immigration bill puts an end to this cruel practice.”

Curbelo called the separation policy "a tragedy" on Twitter over the weekend, and referenced former President Barack Obama's policy of detaining families and unaccompanied minors.

"While some tolerated it when it happened under the previous administration, I found it unacceptable then & I find it unacceptable now," Curbelo tweeted. "We’re crafting legislation to remedy this sad situation."

The White House announced the policy in April as a way to deter immigrants from entering the country illegally, and administration officials have defended it in the face of widespread criticisms from across the political spectrum.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio advocated for changing laws to allow families to stay together while being held in detention instead of separating them. Current law does not require separating families who cross the border illegally, and the compromise immigration bill includes a provision that would end the practice.

"Currently govt must either release parents & continue incentive for illegal entry with children or separate families by detaining parents," Rubio tweeted. "Neither is good. Lets change the law to allow families to be held together at family facilities & shorten detention with expedited hearings." 

Read more here.

June 14, 2018

Once ‘wrong’ on issue, Rubio now wants to protect students who can’t pay back student loans

 

Marco Rubio 3

@learyreports

Saying he was wrong to once support legislation that hurt workers who defaulted on student loans, Sen. Marco Rubio today introduced a bill with Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren to prevent states from suspending professional licenses from borrowers who are delinquent.

"Difficulty repaying a student loan debt should not threaten a graduate's job. It makes no sense to revoke a professional license from someone who is trying to pay their student loans," Rubio said in a news release with his liberal colleague. "Our bill would fix this 'catch-22' and ensure that borrowers are able to continue working to pay off their loans."

The Protecting Job Opportunities for Borrowers (Protecting JOBs) Act "would prevent states from suspending, revoking or denying state professional licenses solely because borrowers are behind on their federal student loan payments," according to the release. "The bill achieves this goal by using the same statutory structure that requires certain members of the Armed Forces receive in-state tuition as a condition of the states' colleges and universities receiving certain federal funds under the Higher Education Act."

Said Warren: "State governments punishing people struggling with student loans by taking away drivers' and professional licenses is wrong. These policies don't make sense, because they make it even harder for people to put food on the table and get out of debt. I'm glad to work with Senator Rubio to make sure borrowers can work to pay off crushing debt and build a future."

Rubio carried heavy student loan debt into his Senate career and used proceeds of a book deal to pay that off.

June 13, 2018

Rubio hasn't made a decision on limiting gun magazine size

Marco Rubio 3

@alextdaugherty @learyreports

In the week after the nation's deadliest high school shooting in Parkland, Sen. Marco Rubio said he was open to limiting the size of magazines, the spring-loaded devices that feed bullet cartridges into guns.

Four months later, Rubio hasn't decided whether he will back or offer any legislation to limit magazine size, or if he's decided that current law is sufficient. 

"I'm trying not to just find an idea but an idea that can pass," Rubio said Wednesday. "We've talked to a lot of different people involved in the industry on both sides of the debate and we're not prepared to offer any law right now because there's a lot of debate and dispute about what the right number would be and whether it would even make a difference but it's something we'll continue to explore." 

Any potential bill to limit magazine size would need 60 votes in the U.S. Senate to pass.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat who has led gun control efforts in Congress since the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in his state, said he's "disappointed" that Rubio hasn't taken more public positions against the majority of his party on guns over the past four months, though he credited him for introducing a bill that makes it easier for law enforcement to keep guns out of the hands of people who are suspected of being threats to themselves or others. 

"I certainly got a sign from Marco that he was in a little different space than he was prior to the shooting," Murphy said on Tuesday. "I'm disappointed that hasn't (happened). He did introduce red flag legislation."

Rubio's red flag bill, which he co-introduced with Florida Sen. Bill Nelson in March, has four additional cosponsors. 

"That's the one I do believe can pass and we're looking for an opportunity to do it," Rubio said. 

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not included gun-related legislation among his priorities in the U.S. Senate before the 2018 elections. 

"I think his (GOP) leadership has made it clear they don't want to do anything on guns but I'm hopeful that if the moment changes, he might be willing to take a look at some commonsense measures," Murphy said. "When I think of the handful of Republicans we can ultimately work with if we have a bill on the floor, Rubio is on that list."

Similar legislation to Rubio's red flag bill became law in Florida after the Parkland shooting, but the effort in Washington would enact red flag protections in all 50 states.  

"Any Republican is swimming violently upstream if they are trying to move anti-gun violence legislation with this leadership," Murphy said. "I think we've got to live to fight another day and preserve some potential relationships. Hopefully we can work with Rubio."

June 12, 2018

Rubio's criticism of Kim Jong Un mirrors past criticism of Donald Trump

Marco Rubio 3

@alextdaugherty

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said he was skeptical that any deal between President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un would eliminate the country's nuclear weapons program, though he hopes such a deal can be negotiated.  

"Should be skeptical of any deal with (Kim Jong UN)," Rubio tweeted Tuesday. "Limits to future strategic weapons instead of eliminating current program not an acceptable outcome. Hope I’m wrong but still believe they will never give up nukes & ICBM’s unless believe failure to do so triggers regime ending reaction." 

Then Rubio took at shot at Kim, who took power in North Korea after his father and grandfather previously ruled the country, arguing that the 34-year-old autocrat "would not be elected assistant dog catcher in any democracy."  

"One more thing about KJU," Rubio tweeted. While I know POTUS is trying to butter him up to get a good deal, KJU is NOT a talented guy. He inherited the family business from his dad & grandfather. He is a total weirdo who would not be elected assistant dog catcher in any democracy." 

Rubio's comments on the North Korean dictator mirror his attacks on Trump during the 2016 presidential primary, when the Florida Republican said Trump's career in real estate was due to his father's wealth. 

"Here’s the guy that inherited $200 million," Rubio said during a debate. "If he hadn’t inherited $200 million, you know where Donald Trump would be right now? Selling watches in Manhattan." 

And Rubio's tweet criticizing Kim Jong Un drew a head-scratching response from Missouri Republican Rep. Billy Long. 

"If he one day runs for President of the Korean Peninsula perhaps you can give him some pointers on running a successful Presidential campaign?" Long said in response to Rubio, mocking Rubio's presidential loss to Trump and offering a scenario where a third-generation dictator would somehow run for elected office in a unified Korea. 

 

June 05, 2018

Heritage Foundation staffer joins Marco Rubio's office

Rubio

@alextdaugherty

Sen. Marco Rubio has hired a second high-level staffer with Heritage Action, a conservative political organization that once battled with the Florida Republican on issues like immigration and disaster relief. 

Dan Holler, a founding staffer for Heritage Action, will join Rubio's office as deputy chief of staff, focusing on communications and outreach. Holler's move was first reported by Roll Call. 

Holler will reunite with Mike Needham, his former boss at Heritage, who was recently hired as Rubio's chief of staff.

“Dan’s one of the most talented people in Washington and we are excited to have him join Senator Rubio’s office,” Needham said in an emailed statement to Roll Call. “His collaborative style, substantive expertise and strategic leadership will be critical to the work Senator Rubio is doing.”

Rubio has a 77 percent rating from Heritage Action, and most of his differences with the organization in recent months are on votes that deal with federal spending. 

May 21, 2018

Rubio introduces bill to expand tax credits in Puerto Rico

Rubio

@alextdaugherty

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio introduced a bill last week that would implement multiple tax changes in Puerto Rico after the measures were not included in a massive disaster relief bill passed late last year after Hurricane Maria. 

Rubio's bill, called the Puerto Rican Empowerment Act, would implement recommendations from a bipartisan congressional task force on Puerto Rico that finished its work in late 2016. The bill includes an expansion of the child tax credit to all children in Puerto Rico, which reduces some families’ tax bill for every child they have under the age of 17. Currently, the child tax credit doesn’t apply to Puerto Rican families unless they have three children or more.

“This bill would enact critical tax provisions for Puerto Rico excluded from the recent disaster relief package, like a payroll tax holiday and expanded child tax credit, which would help alleviate the tax burden for Puerto Ricans rebuilding their lives in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria,” Rubio said in a statement. 

Rubio, who introduced the legislation with Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, sparred with Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló after the GOP tax bill was passed late last year. Rosselló was unhappy that the bill did not include certain changes for Puerto Rican-based businesses, and sources on Capitol Hill complained that his administration focused solely on corporate tax changes at the expense of the task force's recommendations. 

Juan Hernández Mayoral, who led the Puerto Rican government's Washington office under former Gov. Alejandro García Padilla, said the Rosselló administration put the task force’s proposal “in a drawer” when Rosselló took office in January 2017 because eliminating tax loopholes under the U.S. territory’s current political status doesn’t align ideologically with Rosselló’s pro-statehood position.

“I mean, anyone who knows Politics 101 had to know that this would be the perfect timing for Paul Ryan to pass his tax reform he’s been working on for 10 years, it’s nothing new,” Mayoral said in February. “It’s an example of how ideology comes first before the Puerto Rican people. The current government did not advocate for it after it had worked its way through Congress for two years.”

The bill, if passed, cuts payroll taxes for Puerto Rican workers for three years, expands the federal child tax credit and establishes a data research center in Puerto Rico to improve the availability of economic statistics in the U.S. territory. The bill also includes corresponding spending cuts to pay for the proposed changes, which could make it a tricky proposition for some Democrats to support it. 

Republicans and Democrats in Florida have campaigned hard for the Puerto Rican vote since Hurricane Maria caused widespread damage in October. Rubio isn't up for reelection this year but Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Bill Nelson have made repeated visits to the island in recent weeks as their U.S. Senate campaigns ramp up. 

 

 

May 02, 2018

Why Nancy Pelosi likes Marco Rubio's talk on taxes

Marco Rubio 3

@alextdaugherty

Minutes after the GOP tax bill passed the U.S. Senate last year, Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said "this GOP tax bill was never about helping the middle class."

Months after the GOP tax bill became law, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who voted for the tax bill, made an argument that sounded much like Nelson's.

"There is still a lot of thinking on the right that if big corporations are happy, they're going to take the money they're saving and reinvest it in American workers," Rubio said in a recent interviewwith The Economist. "In fact they bought back shares, a few gave out bonuses; there's no evidence whatsoever that the money's been massively poured back into the American worker."

Rubio's comments were quickly lauded by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the highest-ranking Democrats in Washington.
 
"We couldn’t have said it any better ourselves," Schumer's office said in a statement. Pelosi wielded a paper copy of Rubio's remarks while visiting Florida on Wednesday.
 
More here.

April 25, 2018

Bill Nelson will vote for Mike Pompeo as secretary of state

Pompeo_Senate_59399

@alextdaugherty

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson will vote to confirm Mike Pompeo as President Donald Trump's second secretary of state, his office confirmed Wednesday. Nelson's stance is a change from January 2017, when he voted against Pompeo's confirmation as CIA Director.  

Pompeo, a former congressman and currently director of the CIA, is expected to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate after about a half dozen Senate Democrats said they would vote for him. Some Democrats have expressed concerns over Pompeo leading the State Department due to his past support for torture practices and military intervention in Iraq. 

Nelson said Pompeo's secret meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un "put him in a better light" in terms of his confirmation but stopped short of saying how he would vote last week.

"I support the trip, I think it's a lot better talking than shooting especially when the crazy child dictator has nuclear weapons, I think it's better to be talking," Nelson said. "On Pompeo, I will defer on that. I voted against him. I thought he was going to be too political as CIA Director and I'm going to evaluate that as secretary of state." 

Pompeo will take over the State Department if confirmed after Rex Tillerson was fired via tweet. Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is an enthusiastic supporter of Pompeo, who endorsed Rubio during his presidential bid. 

“CIA Director Mike Pompeo has the full confidence of the president, an outstanding record of service to our country, and is more than qualified to serve as Secretary of State," Rubio said in a statement. "As Director Pompeo’s nomination now moves to the Senate Floor, I strongly urge my colleagues to put country over party and confirm him without further delay."

April 24, 2018

How one Republican held up the U.S. Senate over Cuba travel policy

Cuba Trump

@alextdaugherty

The U.S. Senate ground to a halt last week, and Cuba was the culprit.

After months in limbo, Donald Trump's pick to lead NASA finally appeared to have enough support for confirmation, and a vote was scheduled. Sen. Marco Rubio, who opposed Rep. Jim Bridenstine's nomination because he wanted a non-politician to run the nation's space program, switched his stance, giving Republicans enough votes to move forward with Bridenstine on a party-line vote.

But Jeff Flake had other ideas.

The Arizona Republican seized the GOP's one-vote advantage over the minority and initially cast a "no" vote on Bridenstine. Vice President Mike Pence was in Florida, unable to hustle to Capitol Hill to break a 49-49 tie. Republican leaders were forced to negotiate with Flake on the Senate floor to get him to change his vote.

Flake's reason for dithering? The longtime critic of U.S. trade and travel restrictions with Cuba wanted to talk to Mike Pompeo, Trump's nominee for secretary of state, about travel restrictions to Cuba, according to Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas.

"I want to talk to Pompeo on a number of issues, that's all I'll say," Flake said with a smile when asked if he sought to talk to the secretary of state nominee about Cuba travel restrictions in exchange for a "yes" vote on Bridenstine.

Flake, a frequent Trump critic, doesn't have much of an incentive to listen to party leaders who could help his reelection chances:. He's retiring after the 2018 elections.

That means he can continue to push Senate leaders on issues like Cuba, where the fault lines aren't drawn up neatly along party lines.

"My goal has always been the same, of closer ties, more travel, more commerce because I think that moves Cuba closer to democracy, so I'll use any leverage I can to try to bring that about," Flake said. "I'll try to keep the progress and the policies we've made particularly with Cuban entrepreneurs achieving some kind of independence from the government down there that we don't turn them back."

Read more here.

April 20, 2018

Parkland parents say public officials need to be fired soon for failing their children

Guttenberg

@alextdaugherty

Fred Guttenberg, the Parkland parent who confronted Marco Rubio on national television about the senator’s opposition to an assault weapons ban, had a very different conversation with the Florida Republican on Capitol Hill this week.

“Senator, see you tomorrow?” Guttenberg asked.

“I’m around all day, flying out Thursday night,” Rubio replied.

The pair disagree on gun-control policy, but Guttenberg and the Parkland families are united with Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson behind an effort to make the authorities who failed their children accountable.

History suggests they may be successful.

The families of the 17 victims in the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School persuaded the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott to sign a gun bill over the objections of the National Rifle Association. They successfully got the slow-moving U.S. Senate to fast-track limited school safety legislation into a must-pass spending bill last month.

And the voices that no lawmaker can ignore are pushing for agencies like the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Broward School Board and FBI to be held responsible, and soon.

“We all think we know, but we need to know with certainty, we need to find out why they made the mistakes and we need to fire people for their mistakes,” Guttenberg said. “Do any of the mistakes cross over to a criminal activity? I don’t know the law, but I do know at a minimum people need to be fired and they need to be fired soon.”

Three Parkland parents are serving on a state commission established by Scott and granted subpoena powers. The commission is set to meet next week. One parent recently met with FBI Director Christopher Wray to discuss how the agency can learn from its mistakes. And the parents are confident something will happen, even if it takes a lot longer than they would want.

Read more here.