November 20, 2017

Rubio pens op-ed urging Trump administration to extend TPS for Haitins

From an op-ed by Sen. Marco Rubio published over the weekend in the Miami Herald:

Health epidemics and deadly natural disasters in recent years have devastated Haiti and hampered its government’s ability to properly function.

Yet our nation — especially my home state of Florida — has not only offered a helping hand to Haitians seeking refuge from these grave challenges, but also benefited significantly from their presence in and contributions to our country.

Since 2010, the United States has designated Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians, recognizing the island country’s perilous conditions brought on by a historic earthquake, a subsequent cholera epidemic, and most recently Hurricane Matthew.

Moreover, the Executive Branch has appropriately extended the TPS designation because of the extraordinarily difficult living conditions that persist in Haiti and the Haitian government’s temporary inability to absorb thousands of people back into the population.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), however, now has until November 23 to make a determination on whether to extend the TPS designation once again. 

If TPS is not extended, Haitians sent home will face dire conditions, including lack of housing, inadequate health services and low prospects for employment. Failure to renew the TPS designation will weaken Haiti’s economy and impede its ability to recover completely and improve its security.

More here.

November 17, 2017

Florida lawmakers incensed that Trump disaster plan doesn't include citrus relief (Updated)

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@alextdaugherty

Last month, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam came to Washington with a simple message: include disaster relief funding for Florida citrus industry. The state's congressional delegation and Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio also made a similar pitch to the Trump administration. 

Fast forward to Friday, and Florida lawmakers are angry that the Trump administration did not include a $2.5 billion for the state's citrus industry in a $44 billion disaster relief request for Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. 

"Floridians have been kicked to the curb in this proposed disaster supplemental, which lacks relief for Florida’s citrus growers who suffered immensely from this storm," said Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland. "The Florida delegation specifically requested this relief because there isn’t a citrus grove that wasn’t affected, with some experiencing 100 percent losses – worse than anything the industry has experienced in over 20 years. I cannot—I will not—support a proposal that leaves behind over 60,000 Florida jobs. I urge my colleagues in the Florida delegation to oppose it as well. I believe we have a duty to fight to ensure our citrus growers get the relief they need." 

Ross, a senior deputy majority whip, plans to rally fellow members to vote against any disaster relief package that does not include the citrus money. He requested federal help from U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue days after Hurricane Irma made landfall in September. 

It is possible for GOP leadership to revamp the Trump administration's disaster relief proposal before Congress votes on the plan, which will likely occur when Congress returns from a Thanksgiving break. 

Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, also pushed for citrus relief funding. 

"Do we want to say that orange juice is produced and made in America? Without the inclusion of funds to address citrus crop losses; that is at risk," Rooney said. "The threat to the domestic industry is real: oranges imported to Florida, primarily from Brazil and Mexico, are already projected to surpass what is grown in Florida this season. This storm has jeopardized an iconic Florida crop and way of life. Washington must act and provide relief so that generations of family citrus growers can continue to produce, employ, and put Florida-grown orange juice on America’s breakfast tables." 

Nelson also criticized the $44 billion disaster funding request in more general terms, noting that Puerto Rico asked for $94 billion in disaster relief earlier this week while Texas asked for $61 billion after Hurricane Harvey. 

"This request by the administration doesn’t come close to providing what is needed," Nelson said in a statement. "People are hurting and they desperately need our help, yet this request has no money to provide housing for evacuees and barely any money for Florida’s citrus growers. That’s unacceptable. Congress needs to pass a more robust disaster bill that actually provides the funding needed to help people recover."

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, also opposed the package and said she will use her spot on the House committee that determines federal spending to push for changes. 

“This Trump administration request is an insult," Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. "It ignores evacuee housing, and demands matching funds that will hinder Puerto Rico’s ability to tap CDBG relief. It also falls way short of what of Florida’s citrus growers need. As an Appropriator, I will work across the aisle in Congress for a recovery package that actually takes seriously the tremendous need we have after this ravenous storm season.”

November 15, 2017

Trump, who mocked Rubio's water moment, has one of his own

 

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON – Move over, Marco. It's Donald Trump's time to reach for water.

Moments ago during a live address about is Asia trip, the apparently parched president stopped for a drink of water, summoning Marco Rubio's infamous water lunge when he gave the GOP response to the State of the Union in 2012.

The Internet goes nuts.

Trump mocked Rubio during the presidential primary. 

Even Rubio weighed in.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times, with Patricia Mazzei

Rubio sees ‘progress’ on Senate tax bill

Marco Rubio 3

via @learyreports @alextdaugherty

Senate Republicans unveiled changes to their tax overhaul plan on Tuesday, and one of the changes is a $2,000 child tax credit championed by Sen. Marco Rubio.

The $2,000 tax credit is the minimum amount that the Florida Republican said was necessary to help working families in a tax proposal and he previously indicated he would vote against any plan that did not meet the $2,000 minimum.

"We are making progress," Rubio said Wednesday on Twitter.

The initial Senate plan increased the child tax credit to $1,650 from the current $1,000 maximum, $50 more than the House proposal released two weeks ago. Democrats say the credit should be even higher and Rubio at one point talked up $2,500. 

Rubio held numerous meetings with Ivanka Trump and Utah Sen. Mike Lee to discuss a higher child tax credit. 

"I’m not going to vote for an increase on the middle class," Rubio said in October. "But we’re not going to get to that point. We’re not that crazy around here."

Democrats are not expected to vote in favor of the GOP tax bill, especially after Republicans included a provision to repeal Obamacare's individual mandate on Tuesday. Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, is frustrated that Democrats were not included in any preliminary discussions on a tax bill. 

November 09, 2017

Marco Rubio says Roy Moore should be disqualified from the Senate if allegations are true

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@alextdaugherty 

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said Roy Moore should disqualify himself from running for an Alabama Senate seat if an on-the-record account by a woman who said that Moore had sexual contact with her when she was 14 is true. 

The Washington Post reported that Moore had multiple relationships with underage women decades ago, including a relationship with a 14-year-old that began when the young girl's mother let Moore look after her outside a courthouse. 

"Today’s report in The Washington Post raises allegations against Mr. Moore that are deeply disturbing and, if true, disqualifying," Rubio said in a statement.

Moore, a fiery Republican former judge who has said that LGBT individuals are unfit to serve in Congress, is the Republican nominee for attorney general Jeff Sessions' former seat after winning a fierce GOP primary earlier this year. The election between Moore and Democrat Doug Jones is just over a month away, meaning Moore's name will still appear on the ballot even if the Alabama GOP revokes the party's endorsement. 

Rubio never endorsed Moore after he won the Republican nomination, in contrast to some of his Senate Republican colleagues. His campaign had no plans to speak or raise money on Moore's behalf.

Disavowing Moore could lessen the GOP's advantage in the Senate, which currently stands at 52 Republicans and 48 senators who caucus with Democrats. 

Many Republican senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, called on Moore to step aside if the allegations are true. 

Sen. John McCain did not include a qualification about proving truthfulness in his statement. 

"The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying," McCain said. "He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of." 

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said he could not comment on the sexual assault allegations against Moore because he hadn't read the story yet. 

Bill Nelson: 'This is not the way to make complicated tax law'

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@alextdaugherty

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson is a member of the Senate Finance Committee tasked with drafting the chamber's tax overhaul after the House of Representatives released their version last week. 

He isn't happy with how things are going. 

When asked if there are any areas of potential compromise for Democrats and Republicans on a tax bill, Nelson chuckled.

"How can I answer that when I don't know that they're going to do?" Nelson said, adding that Finance Committee chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, "doesn't seem to be cooperating at all." 

"They're cutting out the members of the Finance Committee who happen to be Democrats," Nelson said. "They're accelerating saying that they're going to file it (the tax bill) today or tomorrow and that we're going to markup on Monday. That's no hearings, nothing. This is not the way to make complicated tax law." 

Nelson, who often touts the benefits of bipartisanship, is one of 12 Democrats on the Finance Committee. 

A leaked memo of the Senate tax plan released Thursday sets the child tax credit at $1,650, $50 higher than $1,600 House proposal but lower than the $2,000 proposal championed by Sen. Marco Rubio. Rubio has said that he will not vote for a tax plan if the current $1,000 child tax credit tax credit doesn't at least double. 

Nelson, Florida's only Democrat holding statewide office, is up for reelection in 2018 and is likely to face a challenge from Gov. Rick Scott.

November 08, 2017

Bill Nelson wants the Treasury Department to sanction Venezuela's entire constituent assembly

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@alextdaugherty

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson asked the Treasury Department on Tuesday to sanction all 545 members of Venezuela's newly elected constituent assembly and ban U.S. imports of Venezuelan crude oil until "constitutional order" is restored. 

The constituent assembly that was elected in July has the power to rewrite Venezuela's constitution and is widely seen as a vehicle for President Nicolás Maduro to assume more control over all facets of government. Opposition parties boycotted the ballot and staged protests throughout the country on election day. 

“In July you stated that ‘anyone elected to the constituent assembly should know that their role in undermining democratic processes and institutions in Venezuela could expose them to potential U.S. sanctions,’” Nelson wrote in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. “Only a handful of members of this illegal body, however, have been sanctioned; I strongly urge you to sanction all its members as soon as possible.”

Nelson and Sen. Marco Rubio have repeatedly urged the Trump administration to enact harsher sanctions on Venezuela. The socialist Venezuelan government won 17 of 23 governorships during regional elections in October that were widely decried as fraudulent by opposition parties. 

Nelson also reaffirmed his desire to impose oil sanctions on Venezuelan government, a move that the Trump administration contemplated over the summer but ultimately did not implement, though it remains on the table. 

"Additionally, I urge the Department to continue targeting Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), and consider banning the import of Venezuelan crude to the United States until constitutional order has been restored in Venezuela," Nelson said. "PDVSA should be a source of wealth for the Venezuelan people, but because of the corruption of the socialist government and years of mismanagement, it has become a source of cash for Maduro and his cronies to line their pockets. I encourage you to seek the support of our European allies in imposing both targeted and sectoral sanctions on the Venezuelan regime, too." 

Rubio: ‘Bureaucrats’ softened Trump Cuba policy

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@PatriciaMazzei

The night before the White House planned to announce new regulations restricting U.S. business and travel in Cuba, the biggest champions of President Donald Trump’s tighter policy — Miami’s Republican lawmakers in Congress — were in the dark.

Federal agencies writing the rules had gotten input from some of the legislators and their aides over the past five months, ever since Trump unveiled his new Cuba approach to much fanfare in East Little Havana. But Trump’s administration, wary of past leaks, kept close hold of the final product. News reporters knew a Wednesday morning announcement on the regulations was imminent before the members of Congress had even been briefed.

Once informed, the Miami politicians were dissatisfied.

Instead of offering unconditional applause, as they did when Trump signed his policy directive, Sen. Marco Rubio and Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen gave lukewarm statements lamenting that “bureaucrats” resisted giving muscular backing to the president.

“The regulatory changes announced today by Treasury and Commerce begin to implement President Trump’s June 2017 policy for enforcing U.S. sanctions laws against the Castro regime,” Rubio said in a statement. “Unfortunately, however, bureaucrats in the State Department who oppose the President’s Cuba policy refused to fully implement it when they omitted from the Cuba Restricted List several entities and sub-entities that are controlled by or act on behalf of the Cuban military, intelligence or security services.” 

Rubio weighed in nearly five hours after the regulations were published — a clear indication of displeasure from a senator known for his quick, detailed reactions to matters of Latin America policy he cares deeply about. He used his statement to criticize the State Department for failing to include two major tourism brands from the U.S. list of 180 Cuban entities banned from doing business with Americans.

More here.

Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff

Payday lenders, with major business before Trump, to hold conference at Trump Doral

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@alextdaugherty 

National charities and industry associations are ditching Trump properties like Mar-a-Lago for annual galas and conferences, but at least one association with business before the White House is set to visit Trump National Doral for its annual conference.

The Community Financial Services Association of America, an interest group that represents the payday loan industry, is hosting its four-day annual conference in April 2018 at Donald Trump’s 90-hole golf resort 12 miles west of downtown Miami.

Payday loans are a form of high-interest credit usually taken out by low-income people who aren’t able to borrow from traditional banks. Many consumers access the loans online, and critics say the loans can be predatory.

Last month, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal agency responsible for consumer protection in the financial sector, finalized a rule that requires payday lenders to determine up front whether people can afford to pay their loans, a decision that was criticized by the Community Financial Services Association of America.

“The CFPB’s misguided rule will only serve to cut off their access to vital credit when they need it the most,” association CEO Dennis Shaul in a statement in October. “The rule is not only misguided, it’s hideously complex for loans of a few hundred dollars.”

The CFPB, established by Congress in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, has long been a target of Republicans, who charge that the agency creates burdensome regulations for industry groups. The CFPB was first proposed by liberal Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, which further rankles Republicans.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is a co-sponsor of a bill proposed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz that would eliminate the CFPB.

Diane Standaert, executive vice president for the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit that advocates for stronger regulations on the payday loan industry, said that President Donald Trump and Congress could nullify the new CFPB rule and help the payday loan industry by passing a bill that overturns the rule before the rule goes into full effect about two years from now.

“Payday loans are debt traps by design with interest rates averaging 300 percent,” Standaert said. “These small loans cause big problems for low-income people all across the country.”

Read more here.

November 07, 2017

Rubio to Trump: Press China on Venezuela

@PatriciaMazzei

Ahead of President Donald Trump's Asia trip, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio asked Trump to challenge the Chinese government on human rights -- including on its support of the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

"Even though the regime of Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro has lost international legitimacy and engaged in a crackdown against pro-democracy activists that has claimed over 130 lives, China, along with Russia, continues to provide the regime with financial support," Rubio wrote Trump. "We therefore urge you to press the Chinese government to stop giving economic lifelines to the failing Maduro regime."

The Oct. 31 letter, which also raised several other issues in addition to Venezuela, was signed by Rubio and Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican. The two lawmakers co-chair the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, an independent U.S. government agency that monitors human rights and rule of law matters in China.

"You have sought to build a strong personal relationship with President Xi [Jinping] — in part, to increase cooperation to counter North Korean nuclear proliferation — but we encourage you also to develop a long-term strategy for challenging the Chinese government to abide by its international commitments, adhere to universal standards, and embrace the rule of law," they wrote. "Such a strategy is critical to advancing American geopolitical, security, economic, and human rights interests, and will further the Chinese people's desire for peace, freedom, and justice."

Trump is scheduled to arrive in Beijing on Wednesday.