May 04, 2016

Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush make cameos in Hillary Clinton video against Donald Trump


Likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign wasted no time to take on presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, posting a video online Wednesday using the words for Trump's former rivals against him.

That includes Miamians Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, who -- especially in Bush's case -- did plenty of Trump-bashing while they were on the campaign trail. Trump's final opponents, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, dropped out Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

Bush gets the kicker at the end of the spot.

Marco Rubio travels to Middle East


U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is visiting the Middle East, his office said Wednesday, highlighting meetings the Florida Republican has held over the past three days in Qatar and Iraq.

Rubio is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He's staying in the region for the rest of the week.

"During my meetings with officials in Qatar, I thanked them for remaining a key U.S. partner in the region. I was also able to visit with U.S. military servicemembers, including Floridians," Rubio said in a statement.

"Iraq remains in a precarious political situation that threatens to further destabilize the country and the broader region, and disrupt efforts to destroy ISIS," he added. "I stressed to Iraqi officials my grave concerns about ‎the ongoing sectarian rivalries and political turmoil that are taking the focus off of ISIS and threaten not only Iraq's stability but that of the entire world."

Rubio's agenda included sit-downs with the U.S. ambassadors to Qatar and Iraq, as well as with diplomatic officials from both countries and U.S. military personnel.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott heads to Congress to ask for Zika funding


Florida Gov. Rick Scott plans to drop by Capitol Hill next week to push for emergency funds to combat the Zika virus.

Without asking for a specific amount of money, Scott will request that lawmakers treat the Zika threat like they would a hurricane: something to be prepared for in case of devastation. His trip is planned for May 11-12.

"Florida has now had more than 100 documented cases of the Zika virus, Scott said in a statement. "We are now headed into summer, when heat and rainfall cause our mosquito population to grow. Simultaneously, the Olympic games in Brazil will heavily increase travel to a country where the Zika virus is spreading rapidly.

"We don't yet know for certain what will happen with this virus, but we owe our citizens a vigorous and thorough preparation effort at the federal level to best protect their health."

The first U.S. Zika death was confirmed last week, in Puerto Rico.

Scott met last week in Miami with Dr. Celeste Philip, the Florida health department's interim surgeon general. He has been vocal about asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more Zika testing kits, and he's declared a public health emergency over the virus. His office initially planned a D.C. trip for last Friday, a day before the governor attended the White House Correspondents Dinner, but it didn't work out.

President Obama has asked Congress for $1.9 billion to fight the virus. Florida has more Zika cases than any other state; most of them are in Miami-Dade County. Scott's office won't say explicitly if he backs Obama's dollar figure.

Some Republicans question whether the Obama administration really needs that much money so urgently. Congress already approved $589 million for Zika efforts. A deal for $1.1 billion more is in the works in the Senate, though Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, has rejected that amount.

Florida's two senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, have backed Obama's request. Rubio spoke about the money on the Senate floor last week, calling for action "as quickly as possible." Nelson was in Miami on Tuesday, meeting with local officials "to get a firsthand report of what they’re seeing." 

This post has been updated

April 29, 2016

Marco Rubio warming up to Donald Trump

via @learyreports

Note: We've revised the "let's not divide the party" section of this blog to provide more context and to correct an implication that Rubio was directly making that point.

Marco Rubio appears to be warming up to Donald Trump, saying Friday his “performance has improved significantly." Rubio has also continued to withold an endorsement of Ted Cruz, even though he previously praised him as the conservative in the race.

Last Sunday on Univision, Rubio said it appeared Trump will lock down the nomination.

"If he keeps winning delegates like he did the other night in New York, I think he's going to reach that number," Rubio said on Al Punto Florida. "But let's see. There are still other states to go."

Rubio, who continues to hold onto more than 100 delegates, has said he disagreed with Trump about the delegate system being "rigged." But Rubio did echo the argument that if Trump is close to 1,237 delegates, he should get the nod.

“I do think it's valid to argue to delegates: 'Look, let’s not divide the party. You have someone here who has all these votes, very close to get 1,237, let’s not ignore the will of the people or they’re going to be angry.' And delegates may decide that on that reason they decide to vote for Donald Trump. But if they don’t, it’s not illegitimate in any way,” he told Miami radio host Jimmy Cefalo on April 20. "That's why we elect delegates. That's the meaning of being a delegate, is choosing a nominee that can win."

“I’ve always said I’m going to support the Republican nominee, and that’s especially true now that it’s apparent that Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic candidate,” Rubio said. "My differences with Donald Trump are well documented ... ."

On the Saturday before Florida's March 15 primary Rubio was less certain about supporting Trump. "I don't know," he told the Miami Herald, his voice breaking. "Getting harder every day."

Marco Rubio to speak at Hialeah business charter school's inaugural commencement


Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is scheduled to give the commencement address next month at the inaugural graduation ceremony for a Hialeah charter school run by the Latin Builders Association.

The Latin Builders Association Construction and Business Management Academy Charter High School -- also known as LBA Academy -- touts itself as the first business charter high school in the U.S.

Rubio is a former director of the LBA. He previously praised the school during a national summit two years ago as an example of the opportunities charter schools and other "school choice" programs can provide. The school, which opened in 2012, educates its students in the construction trades and teaches them how to become future business leaders.

The former GOP presidential candidate will deliver his remarks at 9:30 a.m. May 23 at the academy's graduation ceremony, to be held on FIU's Modesto Maidique Campus in Miami.

Other elected officials and Miami-Dade County Public School officials also are expected in attendance.

April 28, 2016

The back story on Marco Rubio's deal to extend Venezuela sanctions and name a new U.S. ambassador to Mexico



It happened with little fanfare Thursday: The U.S. Senate agreed to three more years of sanctions against key officials of the Venezuelan government, a law pushed by South Florida legislators to punish President Nicolás Maduro’s government.

The extension passed in the Senate by unanimous consent. The back story of how it happened, however, is far more interesting than the easy vote suggests.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio took to the Senate floor Wednesday to ask his colleagues to extend the 2014 sanctions, co-sponsored with New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez and set to expire at the end of this year. The law lets the U.S. freeze assets and deny visas for Venezuelan officials deemed responsible for violence and political arrests that roiled the South American country in 2014. It prompted Maduro and his government to brand Menendez, Rubio and other South Florida lawmakers “terrorists” and ban them from Venezuela.

“Because the Maduro regime continues to violate human rights and expand its political oppression, the U.S. must continue doing our part to address this growing crisis in Venezuela,” Rubio said in a statement late Thursday. “The Maduro regime’s abuses of power and violations of human rights are hurting innocent people in our hemisphere and threaten the national security interests of the United States, and we have a responsibility to stand with the Venezuelan people by extending these sanctions.”

The extended sanctions became part of a four-part deal that resulted in the confirmation of a new U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

Here’s what took place, according to a Senate aide who briefed the Miami Herald:

More here.

Photo credit: Roberto Koltun, el Nuevo Herald

Three Floridians among Obama nominees to federal district bench


President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated U.S. magistrate judges in Jacksonville and Ocala and a prominent Tampa lawyer for federal district court seats, adding their names to a backlog of dozens of judicial picks the Republican-controlled Senate has failed to confirm.

Obama named Magistrate Judge Patricia D. Barksdale of Jacksonville and Tampa white-collar defense attorney William F. Jung to the Middle District of Florida, and he chose Magistrate Judge Philip R. Lammens for the Northern District of Florida.

"There is a judicial emergency in the Middle District of Florida right now," Sen. Bill Nelson said. "Sen. Rubio and I have conferred on these three nominees, and even in this highly partisan environment, I'm hopeful that we can get them approved quickly."

Aides to Rubio confirmed that the two senators had worked together in recommending the Florida nominees to Obama.

Rubio, however, declined to say whether he would push for his Senate Republican colleagues to confirm them. Republicans are refusing to hold hearings or to vote on Obama's nomination last month of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

With 85 federal district seats unfilled nationwide, Florida has three of 28 vacancies deemed "emergency" by the U.S. Judicial Conference, the policy-making body for federal courts overseen by the Supreme Court.

The emergency designation is based on a combination of the length of vacancy and how many cases are pending before a court.

Both seats that Obama moved to fill Thursday for the Middle District of Florida are among the 28 emergency vacancies, with one seat empty since June 30, 2015, and the second seat unfilled since August 1 of last year.

The Middle District of Florida had 9,401 cases in 2015, which is considered a heavy load. It stretches from south of Naples on the Gulf Coast to the Georgia border and includes Jacksonville, Tampa and Orlando.

Obama also nominated five other district judges to seats in Nevada, Colorado, North Carolina and the District of Columbia.

"Throughout their careers, these nominees have displayed unwavering commitment to justice and integrity," Obama said of his eight choices for judicial promotion. "Their records are distinguished and impressive, and I am confident that they will serve the American people well from the United States District Court bench."

The Senate on April 11 unanimously confirmed Waverly Crenshaw Jr., an African-American lawyer from Nashville, Tenn., to a federal district judgeship.

The Senate confirmed just 17 of Obama's judicial nominees last year, the fewest since 1960.

Before becoming a U.S. magistrate judge in 2012, Lammens was a federal prosecutor in Jacksonville, the city's No. 2 attorney and a civil trial lawyer in the torts division of the U.S. Justice Department. He earned his law and undergraduate degrees from the University of Florida.

A U.S. magistrate judge since 2013, Barksdale also previously worked as a federal prosecutor in Jacksonville. She, too, has undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Florida.

Jung is a founding partner of the Jung & Sisco law firm in Ocala, specializing in white-collar criminal defense. He was a federal prosecutor in Miami in the late 1980s and clerked before that for then-Supreme Court Justice William H. Rehnquist. Jung received his law degree from the University of Illinois and his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University





April 27, 2016

Marco Rubio pushes to extend Venezuela sanctions


Florida Sen. Marco Rubio asked his Senate colleagues Wednesday to extend sanctions leveled against Venezuelan government officials that are set to expire.

"There will be an effort here, I hope, in the next day or so, to extend those sanctions for another three years," Rubio said on the Senate floor. 

"Sanctions -- we have imposed sanctions on human rights violators, not sanctions on the people of Venezuela, not sanctions on the government, on human rights violators. Many of whom steal money from the Venezuelan people and invest it in the United States," he said. He then cited a Miami Herald story about a Venezuelan behind a Miami condo development.

"In my hometown, in my home state. You travel to Florida, you come down there, you let me know, any of my colleagues, and I will show you where these people live and I will show you the money they have stole[n] from the Venezuelan people and are living the highlife on weekends in Miami. You see them everywhere. And that's why we impose sanctions on them."

He gave a lengthy speech on Venezuela's political and economic crisis, which he again referred to as a "coup d'état."

Politico reported Wednesday that the sanctions against Venezuelans could get extended as part of a deal that would allow for the confirmation of Roberta Jacobson as U.S. ambassador to Mexico. Rubio had been one of the key Republicans blocking her confirmation, in large part because of Jacobson's involvement in normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba.



April 26, 2016

Marco Rubio's image in Florida took a hit after presidential race

via @learyreports

Marco Rubio’s image in Florida took a hit during his run for president and more so than any other senator who entered the race, according to a new Morning Consult survey.

Rubio's favorability dropped 6 points to 45% and his unfavorability increased 7 points to 41%, according to a news release. That’s drawn from a broad series of online questions asked across the country between Jan. 8 and April 17. (The last survey was released in November)

The results come after Rubio’s poor showing in the March 15 Florida primary in which he lost to Donald Trump in every one of the state’s 67 counties except Miami-Dade.

Bill Nelson remained in “pretty much the same spot -- favorability is 52%, unfavorability is 24%, don't know/no opinion is 24%.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

April 24, 2016

Marco Rubio says he plans to sit out rest of GOP primary


Marco Rubio intends to watch what remains of the Republican presidential primary from the sidelines.

In an interview aired Sunday, Rubio told Univision's new Al Punto Florida show that he has no imminent endorsement or campaigning plans.

"For now, I don't plan on getting involved in the contest that's still going," he said. "I ran my own race, it didn't end in victory, and I'm going let voters decide what's going to happen. But I will support the Republican nominee."

In his final days as a candidate, Rubio had wavered on backing front-runner Donald Trump, but the Florida senator has no longer sounded reluctant in recent interviews. He told Al Punto Florida co-host Ambrosio Hernández -- who made Rubio the brand-new show's maiden guest -- that Trump had a "pretty overwhelming" victory in last week's New York primary.

"If he keeps winning delegates like he did the other night in New York, I think he's going to reach that number," Rubio said of the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. "But let's see. There are still other states to go."

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