March 23, 2017

How Nelson and Rubio voted on internet privacy rules

via @learyreports

The Senate voted today to kill regulations that would prevent Internet providers from tracking and sharing personal data without consent, and Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio were on opposite sides.

Nelson voted against the measure; Rubio voted for it.

The Associated Press explains:

The regulations would have required a company like Verizon to get approval before telling an advertiser what websites customers visited, what apps they used, their health and financial information, or their physical location. Under the regulations, many more people likely would have chosen not to allow their data to be shared than if they had to take an extra step of asking a company to stop sharing or selling their information.

Industry groups and Republicans protested the regulations. They said broadband providers would have to operate under tougher privacy requirements than digital-advertising behemoths like Google and Facebook.

Nelson blasted the move. “We are talking about taking privacy rights away from individuals if we suddenly eliminate this rule,” the Democrat said in a statement after the vote. “This is a gold mine of data, the Holy Grail, so to speak.”

“It is no wonder that broadband providers want to be able to sell this information to the highest bidder without the consumer's knowledge or consent,” Nelson continued. “And they want to collect and use this information without providing transparency or being held accountable. Is this what you want to inflict upon your constituents in your state by changing this rule about their personal, sensitive privacy?”

Rubio: "The FCC’s last-minute regulation was poorly conceived and held internet service providers to a different standard than other companies handling the same information, all while doing nothing to protect consumers’ privacy. It was important to overturn this burdensome rule so that we encourage innovation and investment instead of adding another complex layer of bureaucracy to the internet.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

March 22, 2017

Rubio remains noncomittal on GOP healthcare bill

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio declined on Wednesday to take a position on the GOP's Obamacare replacement bill, saying it is a "work in progress."

"By the time I give you a statement now, that bill could change in the next 12 hours and then I'm on record of supporting something that changed," Rubio said on Jacksonville radio station WOKV.

He's right that the bill could change before the end of the day as Speaker Paul Ryan, President Trump and others are trying to rally enough votes. "They've got their own drama going on over there," Rubio said of the House.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

March 20, 2017

That time Rubio asked, 'Can this country afford to have a president under investigation by the FBI?'

via @learyreports

Days before the presidential election, Marco Rubio asked a crowd in Punta Gorda, "Can this country afford to have a president under investigation by the FBI?"

"No," the audience shouted.

That comment, captured by the liberal opposition research group American Bridge, was directed at Hillary Clinton. But it has a new meaning Monday as the FBI confirmed it has an ongoing investigation into Russian involvement in the election and possible ties to the Trump associates, which would include Roger Stone.

We have asked for Rubio's reaction to today's House Intelligence Committee hearing and will update if he responds.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

March 16, 2017

Marco Rubio critical of some cuts in Trump's budget



 Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio criticized President Donald Trump's proposal to cut State Department money but praised other parts of his budget proposal. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, bashed Trump's proposal.

Here is Rubio's statement:

“The president’s budget reflects what his administration’s priorities are. I am very encouraged that this budget supports ideas like the Educational Opportunities Act I first introduced in 2013 with the goal of expanding school choice through tax credit incentives for scholarships to low-income students. It's a promising sign that we'll be able to work with the administration on school choice policies I care deeply about because of the positive impact they can have in providing hardworking families with better school options for their kids. I also welcome the president's desire to begin reversing the damaging impact of sequestration on our military's readiness, and believe he'll find strong support in Congress for this key part of his budget blueprint.

“While this budget blueprint offers insights into the president’s thinking about what’s important to his administration and the American people, it is Congress that will actually set the nation’s policy priorities and fund them. I will continue to review all the details of this budget proposal for areas of common interest we can work on together.

“However, I do not support the proposed 28 percent cut to our international affairs budget and diplomatic efforts led by the State Department. These programs are integral to our national security, and cuts at these levels undermine America’s ability to keep our citizens safe. In order to advance our national security interests, economic opportunity for our people and respect for human dignity everywhere, America’s leadership on the global stage is indispensable. I will be working to ensure Congress’ funding priorities allow America to play this role.”

Here is Nelson's statement:

“This plan doesn’t make any sense. You're going to cut some of our most important agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, which is working to find cures for cancer and Alzheimer's, the Environmental Protection Agency, which keeps our air and water clean, and the Army Corps of Engineers, which is working to restore the Everglades. I agree that we must do whatever is necessary to keep our country safe, but cutting all of these important programs to pay for things, such as a wall, just doesn’t make any sense.”

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican, declared Trump's proposal "dead on arrival" and criticized it. 


March 14, 2017

'There's nobody nominated yet' at the State Department, Rubio laments


via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio is concerned about the Trump administration's failure to nominate hundreds of positions across the government.

“We still have about 500 positions vacant throughout the federal government, most of whom have not even been nominated yet, much less appointed,” Rubio said Tuesday morning on a Pensacola radio station.

“So hopefully that will start to speed up. Right now we're trying to having hearings, for example, in Foreign Relations and there’s just nobody at the State Department, there’s nobody nominated yet. You can’t confirm someone if they haven’t been nominated.”

Rubio said the White House is learning and gave a token knock on Democrats. But he pointed out that only two Cabinet positions are pending and one, Labor, had to be restarted after the nominee withdrew.

Trump has said that not all the lower positions need to be filled. But Rubio counters that at least 150 are “critical,” pointing to the State Department and U.S. attorneys.

“As it stands right now,” Rubio said, “the Senate has basically processed every nominee for the Cabinet that is available for processing.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

March 07, 2017

Jewish day school in Davie hit by another anonymous phone threat

Jewish Cemetery Damage
via @harrisalexc

A Davie Jewish Day School was evacuated for two hours Tuesday after a phone threat against the school, the latest in a nationwide series of anonymous telephoned threats to Jewish schools and community centers this year.

The David Posnack Jewish Day School was also evacuated for a bogus bomb threat on Feb. 27, part of a fifth wave of such threats across the country in two months. The U.S. Justice Department and the FBI announced a civil-rights investigation into the threats, but declined to discuss whether they were coordinated.

Davie police, who characterized it as a bomb threat, gave the all clear around noon.

The JCC Association of North America sent out a written statement confirming multiple community centers were threatened with “either emailed or phoned-in bomb threats overnight and this morning.”

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported community centers were threatened in Milwaukee, Maryland, Oregon, New York, Alabama, Toronto and Ontario. Seven Anti-Defamation Leagues offices also received threats, according to JTA.

On Tuesday, U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio sent a letter to the administration asking for “swift action” to deter the anonymous phone threats. It was co-signed by every senator and sent to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey.

“We are concerned that the number of incidents is accelerating and failure to address and deter these threats will place innocent people at risk and threaten the financial viability of JCCs, many of which are institutions in their communities. Your Departments can provide crucial assistance by helping JCCs, Jewish Day Schools and Synagogues improve their physical security, deterring threats from being made, and investigating and prosecuting those making these threats or who may seek to act on these threats on the future,” the senators wrote.


Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

Frequent protests boot Rubio from Jacksonville office

Rubio Arrives
via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio is losing another state office, this time in Jacksonville, with protests given as the reason.

"For the second time in another major region of the state, the unruly behavior of some anti-Trump protesters is making it more inconvenient for Floridians to come to our local office to seek assistance with federal issues," Rubio spokeswoman Christina Mandreucci said.

Last week, we reported on Rubio getting the boot from his landlord in Tampa. Rubio has until April 30 in Jacksonville and staff is looking for new space this week.

"In Jacksonville, these protestors weren't just impacting our two person office, they were impacting the children being served next door at a pediatric behavioral clinic, which is why we understand the decision not to renew our lease," Mandreucci said in a statement. "Our Tampa and Jacksonville offices are not political or campaign offices. They are small, two person offices that help Floridians in the region with issues such as Medicare, Social Security and veterans benefits. Just as we are doing in Tampa, our staff in Jacksonville will continue to provide services to Northeast Florida despite not having an office, until a new office space is secured. Those who disagree with President Trump and Senator Rubio certainly have a right to exercise their First Amendment rights, and most of them have done so in a productive and respectful way. But unfortunately, some of them have chosen to do so in a manner that potentially hinders their fellow Floridians’ ability to receive help from our office."

Given the hour of this posting late Monday, we are unable to immediately seek comment from the landlord.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Michael Ares, Palm Beach Post via Associated Press

March 06, 2017

Marco Rubio says he has 'no evidence' that Obama wiretapped Trump



U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said on Meet the Press he has "no evidence" that President Barack Obama wiretapped Donald Trump. Rubio, who flew with Trump on Air Force One Friday, said that he didn't discuss Trump's allegations.

"We never obviously discussed that, number one," Rubio said Sunday. "And I have no insight into what exactly he's referring to. And I'd imagine the president and the White House in the days to come will outline further what was behind that accusation. I've never heard that before. And I have no evidence or no one's ever presented anything to me that indicates anything like that."

Rubio also said that "now the White House will have to answer as to exactly what he was referring to."

Rubio generally defended Trump during the interview.

"Well first of all, I would say the president has gotten elected, and he, in many ways, is doing exactly what he told people he was going to do. A lot of this outrage that's out there is because Donald Trump is doing what Donald Trump said he was going to do if he was elected.

And it's one-- and you see that reflected in the public polling, where a large number of Americans are saying, "He's doing exactly what he said he was going to do." And that's what I think people are mostly focused on. Is the president's style different than mine? Absolutely. Is he an unorthodox political figure? Absolutely. But I've got to tell you, that's what people voted for. That's what they wanted in this election. He is doing what he said he was going to do. And I think voters and Republicans--"

Obama's intelligence chief and the FBI have disputed Trump's allegations.

Here is the Meet the Press transcript.

Photo of Rubio departing Air Force One in Orlando by the AP

March 03, 2017

Trump returns to Mar-A-Lago Friday



President Donald Trump returns to South Florida again today and will stay at his Mar-A-Lago estate in Palm Beach.

Trump will arrive in Orlando in the afternoon and tour Saint Andrew Catholic School and participate in a parent-teacher listening session. Gov. Rick Scott will join Trump at the school.

Trump arrives in West Palm Beach at 4 p.m. and speaks at the Republican National Committee spring retreat at the Four Seasons Resort. His speech is not open to the media. The White House has not released Trump's schedule for the remainder of the weekend.

Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will speak to the RNC Saturday, the Palm Beach Post reported.


March 02, 2017

Rubio says he wants more details from Sessions on Russia meetings

Trump Secretary of State Rubio (1)

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said Thursday he wants to speak directly to Attorney General Jeff Sessions to ask about Sessions' two meetings last year with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., a revelation made late Wednesday by the Washington Post.

Sessions did not disclose the encounters during his subsequent Senate confirmation hearings and says he didn't meet with the Russians -- who are suspected of meddling with the presidential election -- over the campaign.

"I need to learn more beyond the media reports," Rubio told NPR's "Morning Edition."

Asked if Sessions might have to recuse himself from the Justice Department's investigation into Russia's election involvement -- or perhaps even resign -- Rubio called that talk premature but acknowledged that Sessions "potentially" might have to take those extraordinary steps.

"Let's take this one step at a time," said Rubio, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "But this is certainly a relevant story."


Photo credit: Steve Helber, Associated Press