April 27, 2017

Trump calls out Democrats about position on Puerto Rico Medicaid shortfall

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump has a new target: Sen. Bill Nelson and others trying to address a health care funding crisis in Puerto Rico.

“The Democrats want to shut government if we don't bail out Puerto Rico and give billions to their insurance companies for OCare failure. NO!” Trump tweeted this morning. Last night he said, “Democrats are trying to bail out insurance companies from disastrous #ObamaCare, and Puerto Rico with your tax dollars. Sad!”

It seems Trump is referring to an effort from Nelson and Sen. Robert Menendez to address a Medicaid shortfall for Puerto Rico. The Democrats this week are pressing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the issue, noting that $6.4 billion in funding under the Affordable Care Act is set to run out at the end of the year, despite expectations it would last through 2019. The gap leaves Puerto Rico “facing a Medicaid cliff that will have far-reaching consequences for both the island and the continental United States,” Nelson and Menendez wrote to McConnell.

The Democrats were members of the bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico, which issued a report in December that included a call for Medicaid funding. Sen. Marco Rubio was a member of the group and signed onto an April 7 letter urging Health Secretary Tom Price to address the Medicaid issue.

We've asked Rubio for comment in light of Trump's comments.

UPDATE: As of 1:45 p.m., Rubio has not responded.

Despite what Trump says, it’s not clear Democrats are threatening to hold up a spending bill over the issue.

Rubio and Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, are working the Territory Health Insurance Tax Relief Act of 2017, which would exempt health insurance providers in U.S. territories from paying a tax, “which has been passed on to consumers in the forms of higher premiums.”

“It is unfair to Puerto Ricans to have to pay this ObamaCare tax and endure higher premiums, only to be excluded from participating in the same health system that the rest of the United States does,” Rubio said in a news release. “As we work on the larger goal of repealing and replacing ObamaCare, this legislation would repeal the law’s costly and unfair tax on Puerto Rico and help begin the process of revitalizing the health care system on the island.”

April 24, 2017

Government shutdown would be 'catastrophic,' Rubio said

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio on Face the Nation said a government shutdown would have a “catastrophic impact” across the globe.

“The fight from the White House perspective is over funding for the border wall,” host John Dickerson said. “Is that an issue worth fighting over right now, if a government shutdown is a possible -- is a possibility?”


"Well, first, understand, we’re just trying to finish out the current cycle, the current budget year. And so I think that’s a fight worth having and a conversation and a debate worth having for 2018. And if we can do some of that now, that would be great. But we cannot shut down the government right now. We have a potential crisis brewing with North Korea. We have seen what’s going on, the ongoing crisis in Syria.

"We don’t know what the outcome of the French election is going to be, but that could potentially throw the European Union and the NATO alliance into some level of consternation. The last thing we can afford is to send a message to the world that the United States government, by the way, is only partially functioning. I mean, that would just have catastrophic impact, in my view, or certainly a very destabilizing, I should say, impact on global affairs. And so we should keep that in mind going into this week."

Rubio has not always been as resolute in opposing a government shutdown, as PolitiFact explains here.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

April 23, 2017

Rubio denies involvement in Colombian meeting at Mar-a-Lago

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio on Sunday denied a role in setting up a meeting at Mar-a-Lago between former Colombian presidents opposed to a peace deal.

Appearing on "Meet The Press," Rubio also expressed understanding for President Trump's shifting positions.

"I think when you're running for president, especially someone that's never held elected office, there's one set of things that you may view the world through-- a lens that you may view the world through. Then, you get elected and you get good people. And those good people bring you the facts. And they bring you, "Here's what's going on. Here are our options. Here's what happens if you do this. Here's what happens when you do that." And that reality begins to assert itself. And you have to react to that. You're now the president. You're no longer a candidate. You're not a pundit. You have to actually make decisions that have real impact and consequence. And I think that's what you're seeing here. I think you're seeing a president--


Do you think he's moving away from maybe the isolationist rhetoric and tendencies that he had as a candidate?


I think he's dealing with the reality of being president of the United States. I think he's dealing with the reality of our options oftentimes on foreign policy are not a choice between a good one and a bad one. It's a choice between two less-than-ideal options.

And you're trying to figure out which is the least harmful of the two. And I think that's something we should be encouraged by, not something that we should be critical of. This whole flip-flop thing is a political thing. It's something people use in campaigns.

But in every other aspect of our life, people change their minds or make different decisions when presented with a set of facts that, perhaps, are different from what they thought. Why should that not be the case, especially for something as important as the presidency?

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

April 21, 2017

Rubio: 'No doubt' Artiles should have resigned


U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said Friday he approves of fellow Republican state Sen. Frank Artiles' resignation from the Florida Legislature following a racist and sexist tirade against two lawmakers.

Rubio told Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4 that elected officials are -- and should be -- "held to a different standard." 

"You hold a public trust, you are a representative of those districts, and you are going to be held to a different standard, and people should know that coming in," Rubio said in an interview with "Facing South Florida" host Jim DeFede that will air Sunday. "No one forces anyone to run for office, and no one forces you to run in the state Senate."

Here are Rubio's comments in full:

Rubio: "I know Perry Thurston. I know Audrey Gibson, actually very well. She served with me in the House. We're good friends. And I'm sorry she found herself in that position, because I know that is not what she is in Tallahassee to do. She didn't seek this out. It's an unfortunate thing and an inappropriate thing, obviously, that [Artiles] said, and my understanding is that he resigned, and, in the end, what people don't realize is the legislative bodies, the Senate and the House, they are the judge of their own members' qualifications. They can remove members from their seats. And it sounds like that is where the Senate was headed. And so there is no doubt Sen. Artiles made the right choice in light of that. It had gotten in the way of, I think, the Senate being able to function in Tallahassee, and, ultimately, I think, gotten in the way of his ability to continue to serve effectively."

DeFede: "You went through a similar circumstance when you were the incoming Speaker with Ralph Arza, who was also caught using a racist term and ended up resigning. Where are we? Where do you think we are when incidents like this do come up from time to time?"

Rubio: "You know, I think it happens, and when it happens it has to be dealt with. For the most part, people need to recognize that when you are in public office, the words you use, your behavior, is held to a different standard. And in the case of a collegial body like the Senate, where you need to work with 39 other people in Tallahassee to get things done, how you comport yourself with your colleagues has a direct impact on your effectiveness. Obviously, the terminology that was used is inappropriate in any setting. I think people for the most part know that. And then when they make these horrible mistakes or decisions or say these incredible difficult or horrible things, I should say, they need to understand that they're not -- you're not going to be treated, nor should you be, like anybody in some other job. You hold a public trust, you are a representative of those districts, and you are going to be held to a different standard, and people should know that coming in. No one forces anyone to run for office, and no one forces you to run in the state Senate."

Secret meeting at Mar-a-Lago raises questions about Colombia peace and Trump

Colombia trump

via @FrancoOrdonez @anitakumar01

President Donald Trump quietly met a pair of former Colombian presidents last weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, thrusting his administration into an ugly power struggle in Latin America that threatens to undermine the country’s controversial peace agreement with rebel leaders.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is expected to push Trump to support the peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia at their first meeting at the White House next month. He wants the Trump administration and Congress to maintain the $450 million in foreign aid promised by former President Barack Obama to implement the plan to end Latin America’s longest armed conflict.

The meeting between Trump and the former presidents, Álvaro Uribe and Andrés Pastrana – Colombia news media have reported it was arranged by an influential U.S. critic of the plan, Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida – was not on the president’s schedule and was not disclosed to reporters who traveled with him to Palm Beach.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer initially declined to answer questions about the meeting, leading to a rash of speculation in Colombian media. Colombian newspapers, websites and radio stations debated the meeting’s significance — and whether it actually had happened. “I don’t have anything for you at this time,” Spicer said Wednesday when asked.

The White House later confirmed the meeting to McClatchy but downplayed its significance, saying it was a mere coincidence that both former leaders opposed to the peace pact were at the president’s club. Aides to Rubio declined to comment. 

“They were there with a member from the club and briefly said hello when the president walked past them,” spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “There wasn’t anything beyond a quick hello.”

More here.

Photo credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Associated Press

Rubio tours Florida to highlight opioid crisis

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio has spent the Congressional recess traveling Florida to talk with officials about a grim subject: opioids.

“In just the last week I’ve met and talked with local officials and members of law enforcement in West Palm Beach, Pensacola, and Jacksonville about how the opioid epidemic is ravaging Florida’s communities. It’s clear that we must do more to make sure people seeking help are able to get the treatment they need,” Rubio said in a news release Wednesday praising $27 million in federal funds to combat the problem in Florida.

Rubio has also recently helped introduce legislation to stop the flow of fentanyl.

His attention to the crisis comes as state leaders are grappling with a response. That raises a question: What does Rubio think about calls for Gov. Rick Scott to declare an emergency, something Scott has resisted.

“That’s a decision for state government leaders to make,” a Rubio spokesman tells the Tampa Bay Times.

Maryland became the latest state to do so in March, devoting $50 million in new funding. "We need to treat this crisis the exact same way we would treat any other state emergency," Gov. Larry Hogan said at the time. Other states include Virginia and Massachusetts.

Scott has refused to do so, even as he’s readily declared emergencies for Zika, Ebola and wildfires. "We're working through the Legislature, we're doing the workshops," he recently said, as Democrats again pressed him on the issue.

In 2015, the last year for which data is available, opioids were the direct cause of death of 2,538 Floridians and contributed to an additional 1,358 deaths.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

April 19, 2017

Longtime Rubio spokesman leaving for tech gig

via @learyreports

Alex Burgos, a key member of Marco Rubio’s core team, is leaving for a position with TechNet, a bipartisan network of “innovation economy” CEOs and senior executives.

Burgos will be vice president of federal policy, government relations and communications and begins next Tuesday, according to a release. His departure follows that of Alberto Martinez.

“As a seasoned veteran of Capitol Hill and federal campaigns at all levels, Alex brings a wealth of policy experience, deep relationships, and strategic vision to TechNet.  We are excited to welcome Alex to the TechNet team and believe his wide range of skills, experience, and insights will take our federal advocacy programs to new levels of success.”

TechNet’s network of 71 members includes Apple, Facebook, Oracle, Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Lyft, Uber and Airbnb.

Burgos concludes eight years with Rubio, serving as his chief spokesman and deputy chief of staff. He’s a Miami native and Florida Gator.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

April 17, 2017

Rubio records robocall for Republican in Georgia special election

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio has recorded a robocall to gin up support for Republican Judson Hill in Georgia’s much-watched special election Tuesday.

“He can provide the leadership we need to defeat radical terror and repeal and replace Obamacare,” Rubio says. “Judson is the only trusted conservative in the race.”

Hill is a contender in the 6th Congressional District, which had been held by Rep. Tom Price, now President Trump’s health secretary. There are numerous candidates, including Democrat Jon Ossoff, who has been flooded with millions of dollars in donations from across the country as the race is pitched as a test of Trump.

A June 20 runoff is likely.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution has more here.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

April 10, 2017

Rubio says Trump's Syria hit 'had a clear, strategic objective'

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio said Sunday he opposed strikes in Syria in 2013 -- after first advocating for action -- because the Obama administration "had no clear objective."

"If we had armed non-jihadist elements on the ground, they could have overthrown (Assad)," Rubio said on ABC This Week. "That’s what I thought was the better approach at the time. The second is that the [Obama] administration, what they were proposing had no clear objective. They wanted to blow up some things to send a message. I don’t think you use the U.S. military simply to send a message. This strike was limited but it had a clear, strategic objective, which was the destruction or the degrading of a key air base installation that is used in these chemical attacks."

At the same time, Rubio criticized mixed signals coming from the Trump administration.

"There seems to be a difference between what Ambassador Haley is saying, as she said last night that Assad really has no future, and what I heard this morning from Secretary Tillerson. But look, I don’t mean to pick a fight with anyone here. What I’m telling you is, I think that the strategy he seems to be outlining is based on assumptions that aren't going to work. There is no such thing as 'Assad yes, but ISIS no.' This focus that you can defeat ISIS as long as Assad is there is not true."

Rubio also declared, "Mexico's not going to pay for the wall."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

April 06, 2017

Senate uses 'nuclear' option as Bill Nelson joins filibuster


via @learyreports

The United States Senate just went nuclear.

With Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson this morning joining a filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, Republlicans just approved a rule change to allow confirmation with a simple majority.

Sen. Marco Rubio joined the GOP to invoke the "nuclear option."

"The filibuster has always forced the political extremes to come of the middle to build consensus,” Nelson told the Tampa Bay Times in February, adding that it was a “mistake” for former Democratic leader Harry Reid to lower the threshold on other nominees that were stymied by Republicans.

Democrats will point to the GOP's refusal to take up Merrick Garland, President Obama's choice to replace the late Antonin Scalia. And Republicans will blame Democrats for changing rules that have been considered sacrosanct.

Gorsuch is expected to be confirmed Friday.