July 18, 2017

'Obamacare is broken,' Rubio says, backing simple repeal

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Sen. Marco Rubio said Tuesday he’ll support a simple repeal of Obamacare, if such a vote comes to pass now that the Senate bill has imploded.

“I believe Obamacare is broken. I believe it’s bad for our country,” the Florida Republican said in his daily Facebook Live talk from his office.

But it’s doubtful a simple repeal without a replacement could gain enough support to pass.

"If it is a bill that simply repeals, I believe that will add to more uncertainty” and higher premiums, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, told reporters this morning. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said on MSNBC: "I do not think that it is going to be constructive to repeal a law that at this point is so interwoven within our health care system and then hope that over the next two years we will come up with some kind of replacement. I think that would create great anxiety ..."

In December 2015, Rubio joined most other Republicans in voting for a repeal that met President Obama’s veto.

Said Rubio at the time: “Once again, President Obama’s extreme liberal views and actions remind us of why it’s so important for this country to replace him with a conservative president who will actually sign a bill into law that repeals and replaces ObamaCare.”

Rubio this morning again criticized newspaper editorials about the now stalled Senate bill. “The idea that somehow Obamacare is working well for people is just absolutely wrong,” Rubio said, ignoring those the law has helped.

Instead, Rubio said young, healthy people cannot afford the “astronomical” premiums or high co-payments even with subsidies. He made a case for offering more plans that insure only against catastrophic events.

“They don’t have an organization to protest and they certainly don’t have the assistance of some of these commentators. They are the forgotten people in this debate,” Rubio said.

“Or what about people on employer-sponsored health insurance?” Rubio asked, saying premiums for those people are rising because providers are offsetting losses in the Obamacare market.

“Or what about the fact that Medicaid as it is currently structured is unsustainable in the long-term and is contributing to our debt?” Rubio said. “No one discusses that, either. We have an obligation to safety net, to provide health coverage to those the way that Medicaid was designed, for truly disadvantaged, but if we keep doing the way we are doing now, that program goes bankrupt along with Medicare and Social Security.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

July 14, 2017

Gov. Scott says the Senate health care rewrite continues to punish Florida

Rick Scott 2015 APWhat exactly does Gov. Rick Scott want in return for repeal of Obamacare?

That's an answer that's been rather difficult to discern judging by the governor's public pronouncements. On Friday, the governor's office released an op-ed that gave us a hint that the governor's not happy about the Medicaid reimbursement rates in the Senate's rewrite of the Better Care Reconciliation Act. He says, the bill is "rewarding inefficient states" like New York and punishing what he considers more efficient states like Florida.

Here's what the governor said he doesn't like about the rewrite:

  • The Medicaid reimbursement rates "lock in past federal spending" that gives Florida only $15 billion in Medicaid funds while New York gets $33 billion. Scott argues that both the proposed House and Senate bills "would make this inequity permanent."
  • He wants to see a cut in federal "income taxes for Floridians by 30 percent" if those provisions remain -- to put the state on par with states like New York that took advantage of the federal offer under Obamacare to expand Medicaid.

The revamped Senate plan released this week continues to cut $772 billion in Medicaid spending over the next decade, with hundreds of billions in additional cuts in the 10 years after that. The cuts include a four-year phase-out of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion with a new restriction on the program's growth rate that begins in 2020.

Sen. Marco Rubio, who said Thursday he will vote to bring up a vote on the new Senate plan, wants to see changes to those cuts, however. He said he will introduce an amendment that ensures Florida, which chose not to expand Medicaid, isn't locked into a baseline "that puts us at a disadvantageous position." 

Here is what the governor's letter appears to support:

  • "incremental changes to get rid of the taxes and mandates and roll back the federal welfare state"
  • immediate repeal of Obamacare.

Scott spokesperson McKinley Lewis added these priorities of the governor's: 

  • Every state receives the same amount per capita for every Medicaid recipient.
  • Every American, regardless of pre-existing condition, has the right to purchase insurance coverage that fits their needs.
  • Every state gets the flexibility to set benefits and reimbursement rates under their Medicaid program that best fit the needs of their citizens.

There are so many more questions left unanswered about where the governor stands. 

Does he support the Senate rewrite that removed two significant tax cuts for the wealthy to add $45 billion to combat opioid addiction and billions to offset  higher insurance costs for low-income people and to stabilize the individual markets?

Does he support the additional $182 billion that goes to states to help drive down the cost of premiums? How much more does he think Florida should be getting in Medicaid money? How much less should states like New York get? 

Does the governor agree with Rubio that the new draft includes some positive improvements for Florida -- like steering more Medicaid DSH money to hospitals that serve the uninsured in Florida?

Does the governor like the piece that includes catastrophic coverage in the scaled down insurance coverage options? 

When the governor talks about efficiency, it is efficient if people can't afford insurance and have to rely on emergency rooms for primary care? If Obamacare is repealed, how quickly will Florida have a plan in place to make sure the uninsured get the preventive care they need to keep them out of hospital ERs? What would that plan look like?

These questions were posed to the governor's office Friday. Instead of answering, Lewis asked that we print this statement which makes clear one thing -- the governor may know what he wants Congress to do, but he's not ready to be pinned down by a statement that tells the public what it is.

"We are carefully reviewing the bill,'' Lewis said. "While it’s better than Obamacare, the governor wants to continue to find ways to make it better for Florida." 

Here's the text of the governor's op-ed:

Continue reading "Gov. Scott says the Senate health care rewrite continues to punish Florida " »

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is not happy to be featured in new Jose Mallea flier in HD 116 race

Rubio pitch for Mallea@MaryEllenKlas

Has U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio really taken sides in the bitter Republican primary contest for House District 116?

In a flier circulating this week, Rubio is featured in photographs with Jose Mallea, the small-business owner. Mallea is running against insurance attorney Daniel Perez in the race to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, who is running for the state Senate.

Also featured in the pictures are Lieutenant Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.  

"Sen. Rubio did not see the mailer before it was sent, and he was never asked to approve the use of his name and picture,'' said Olivia Perez-Cubas, Rubio spokesperson.

Mallea responded in a statement. "I have high admiration and respect for Marco and his family. They have been dear friends for over 20 years,'' he said. "My campaign advertisement highlights my record of service to the Republican Party and I am proud to have served as Marco’s campaign manager during his 2010 U.S. Senate campaign."

Two weeks ago, Perez, 30, cut a Spanish language television ad attacking Mallea for endorsing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush over Rubio for president in 2016.

“Mallea says he is a friend of Marco Rubio,” the ad says. “But when he had the opportunity to elect one of our own to the White House, Jose Mallea chose to spend millions of dollars in false attack ads against Marco Rubio.”

Mallea told the Miami Herald editorial board he "has immense respect for Sen. Rubio" but that he worked in the George W. Bush campaign and believed Jeb Bush "would make a fantastic president." 

Perez and  Mallea have accused each other of dishonesty and invoked their Cuban roots in the bitter primary battle.
Mallea, 40, has used Trump’s recent policy change on Cuba to leverage himself as tougher on the communist country than his opponent, publishing engagement photos from Perez’s recent trip to Havana with his fiancee, a trip Perez defended as being primarily about visiting his fiancee’s elderly uncle. Mallea has called it a betrayal to the exile community.

In a lawsuit filed in Leon County Circuit Court, Mallea has asked the court to rule Perez ineligible to run, citing a Miami Herald article that found Perez does not currently live at the address he listed when running for office.

The Kendall home where Perez receives his mail, is registered to vote and claims homestead exemption on is undergoing major renovation, and it will be for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, the 29-year-old said he is living with his father elsewhere in the district, although he has not disclosed that address to the Miami Herald.

A special primary will be held July 25, followed by a Sept. 26 general election. The Republican victor will face off against newcomer Gabriela Mayaudon, a former Venezuelan legislator.

Rubio for Mallea

July 13, 2017

Rubio will vote yes on motion to proceed with Obamacare repeal bill

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Sen. Marco Rubio will vote yes on a motion to proceed with the second draft of the Senate's Obamacare repeal bill. 

The bill, released on Thursday, was satisfactory to Rubio after he tweeted three provisions as conditions for his support on Wednesday night.

The provisions included more Medicaid payments to hospitals that serve a large number of low-income people, an option to choose catastrophic coverage plans with low monthly payments but high deductibles and flexible Medicaid caps for public health emergencies like Zika.

Rubio said that despite his support on the motion to proceed with the bill, he will introduce an amendment that ensures Florida, which chose not to expand Medicaid, isn't locked into a baseline "that puts us at a disadvantageous position." 

"It depends what the final bill looks like, if Florida's not treated fairly it'll be a problem," Rubio said. "But ultimately, I campaigned to repeal and replace Obamacare and that's what I want to but I want to do it in a way that's positive for the country and fair for Florida." 

Even though Rubio is in favor of proceeding with the bill, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican and conservative Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul both said Thursday they are not in favor of proceeding with the bill. A number of other Republican senators said they are undecided. 

"We have at least 51 insurance markets in the country, we don't have one, so everybody's approaching it from the perspective of their own state," Rubio said.  

The bill can still be changed if the motion to proceed passes with additional amendments. 

July 11, 2017

Marco Rubio says special counsel will determine if Donald Trump Jr. violated the law



Sen. Marco Rubio said Tuesday that special counsel Robert Mueller will determine whether Donald Trump Jr. violated the law when he met with a "Russian government attorney" who supposedly had dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Trump Jr. tweeted an email chain from June 2016 on Tuesday morning that showed his meet up with a Russian lawyer organized by music publicist Rob Goldstone. In the email chain Trump eagerly accepted a meeting for information provided by the Russians.  

"The Crown prosecutor of Russia ... offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father," said a June 3, 2016, email to Trump Jr. from Goldstone. "This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." 

“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. said in response, giving no indication that he was disturbed by Russian government's effort to aid his father. 

When asked if Trump Jr.'s cooperation with a foreign official who supposedly had dirt on Clinton amounts to criminal activity or collusion, Rubio deferred to Mueller. 

"That’s something Mr. Mueller will have to determine," Rubio said. "Our job is to issue a report on how the Russians interfered in our elections and the tactics they used." 

Mueller was appointed in May by the Justice Department as a special counsel tasked with overseeing a federal investigation into Russia's influence in the 2016 election. 

Rubio, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee tasked with its own Russia investigation, would like Trump Jr. to testify.

"We’d love to talk to him," Rubio said. "His willingness to talk I think is great." 

Rubio declined to elaborate on Trump Jr.'s conduct, saying he needed more time to review the emails. 

"When I learn more about it, absolutely," Rubio said.

July 06, 2017

Health care protest at Marco Rubio's Doral office set for this afternoon

Colombia rubio(2)


Sen. Marco Rubio is facing heat throughout Florida over a Senate proposal to repeal Obamacare. 

A slew of liberal groups are organizing protests at Rubio offices across the state, including his South Florida office in Doral. The protest begins at 2pm Thursday.

"Republicans are trying to pass their terrible health care bill, which is estimated to cost twenty-two MILLION Americans their health insurance," the protest's Facebook page reads. "Let's show Office of US Senator Marco Rubio that the constituents of Florida know health care is a fundamental human RIGHT, not a privilege." 

The groups involved in today's protest includes the Bernie Sanders-linked Our Revolution, #AllofUs, Democracy Spring, Democratic Socialists of America, The People's Consortium, Progressive Democrats of America, ResistHere.org, Ultraviolet, and Working Families Party. Protests are also planned for Palm Beach Gardens, Tallahassee and Jacksonville. 

"We’re frustrated with the health care bill," said Kira Willig, a leader with the Our Revolution affiliated People's Progressive Caucus of Miami-Dade. "It’s not a health care bill it’s a tax bill." 

Willig said she's expecting arrests at this afternoon's protest.

Rubio is noncommittal over the current proposal in the Senate that's been panned by both moderates and conservatives, although he is committed to repealing Obamacare. 

“I ran for election and reelection as an opponent of Obamacare,” Rubio said last week. “I don’t think I’ve ever misled people about my views on it. I’m in favor of repealing it, we’re just debating how to do it.”

Rubio won't be at any of his offices this afternoon. He's scheduled to meet Vice President Mike Pence at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral along with Sen. Bill Nelson

July 03, 2017

Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson urge Commerce Department to allow red snapper fishing in South Atlantic



Florida anglers have a line to Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson. 

The state's Republican and Democratic senators may be divided on hot-button issues like health care but the pair can agree on one thing: the U.S. Department of Commerce should allow recreational red snapper fishing in the South Atlantic. 

Last week, Rubio and Nelson penned a letter to commerce secretary Wilbur Ross expressing disappointment over a decision not to allow recreational red snapper fishing off of Florida's east coast in 2017. 

"We cannot stress enough how important the red snapper fishery is to Florida's economy," the senators wrote. "This decision is disappointing for residents and small business owners from Jacksonville to Miami especially considering the enhanced opportunities being afforded to their peers along Florida's Gulf coast." 

The letter comes after the federal government announced an extended red snapper season off of Florida's Gulf Coast in mid-June. Recreational anglers now have 39 days to fish for red snapper this summer after the federal government initially announced a three day season at the beginning of June, raising the ire of fisherman accustomed to a longer season. 

"It is clear that excessively limiting recreational opportunities to fish for red snapper in federal waters--even as populations continue to rebound--threatens to further erode the public's trust in the federal institutions charged with science-based fisheries management decisions," the letter said. 

The federal government has jurisdiction over red snapper fishing in federal waters, which begin nine miles offshore on the Gulf Coast and three miles offshore on the Atlantic coast. Closer to shore, the state of Florida regulates recreational red snapper fishing. Recreational anglers can fish for red snapper in state waters on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through September 4.  

Read the letter here. 



June 29, 2017

Carlos Curbelo rips Trump's tweets that called an MSNBC host "crazy" (UPDATE w/ Ros-Lehtinen response)



Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo sharply criticized President Donald Trump on Thursday after Trump unloaded on a pair of MSNBC hosts on Twitter.

"Let's all remember the lessons from the Congressional shooting just a couple weeks ago," Curbelo said in a tweet. "We must treat one another with decency & respect." 

His comments came after the president mocked Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough (a former Florida Republican congressman) and Mika Brzezinski calling the pair "crazy" and "low I.Q." Curbelo did not support Trump during the 2016 election. 

"I heard poorly rated speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore)" Trump tweeted. "Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!"

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told reporters Thursday he had not seen Trump's tweet yet because he was in a classified briefing. 

Brzezinski fired back at Trump, also on Twitter, referencing a line of attack used by Rubio in the GOP primary, mocking Trump's supposedly small hands. The MSNBC anchor posted a picture of a Cheerios cereal box with the slogan "made for little hands" on the back.

Curbelo also cautioned that Trump's rhetoric leads to dangerous acts because "Personal attacks & character assassination yield a culture of social & political violence in which people can become radicalized & dangerous." 


UPDATE: Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a moderate who is retiring in 2018 and doesn't support Trump, said Trump's tweets make it harder for the White House to pursue its legislative agenda, rankling moderate Republican Senators like Maine Sen. Susan Collins

"There are so many important issues confronting our nation that merit the full attention of our President so it is a shame that on the very week that we are debating health care, he alienates Senators, like Susan Collins, whose votes he needs for passage," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "Pettiness and meanness are uncalled for from the most powerful leader of the free world." 

Republican candidate for Florida House accuses primary rival of 'betraying' Rubio


Daniel Perez, a Miami Republican running for the state House, used his first TV ad to attack rival Jose Mallea as insufficiently loyal to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Mallea ran Rubio's long-shot 2010 Senate campaign. But the ad appears to refer to 2016, when Mallea worked backed Jeb Bush instead of Rubio for president. Mallea was an aide to then-Gov. Bush years before he managed Rubio's Senate campaign. Bush's super PAC, Right to Rise, which hired Mallea in 2015, poured money into attacking Rubio.

"Candidate Jose Mallea betrayed us," the Spanish-language TV ad says. "He says he's a friend of Marco Rubio's, but when we had the opportunity to elect one of our own to the White House, Jose Mallea directed millions of dollars in false attacks against Rubio."

Mallea's friendship with Rubio dates back to before 1998, when Rubio first ran for the West Miami City Commission. A photo of the two young men appears in Rubio's first book, "An American Son."

"I am proud of my 21-year friendship with Marco Rubio," Mallea said Thursday. "I have worked with Marco Rubio for years, and I was proud to stand with him in his very first campaign. Being his campaign manager in 2010 was the honor of a lifetime."

It's unclear where their friendship now stands.

In addition to invoking Miami's 2016 presidential campaign ghosts, Perez's ad accuses Mallea of accepting "thousands of dollars from special interests to launch his campaign for a district he doesn't live in."

Mallea said he moved into a rental apartment in Doral, which is in District 116, two weeks ago.

The special primary election is July 25.

This post has been updated.

June 27, 2017

Rubio and Scott crisscross the Capitol as Obamacare repeal bill stalls in Senate

Marco Rubio 2


Minutes after he delayed a vote on a bill to repeal Obamacare when a number of Republican senators said they could not support it as written, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell retreated to his office.

Rick Scott and Marco Rubio were waiting for him.

The pair met with McConnell for half an hour, and after the meeting Rubio said the vote delay was “helpful to us.” 

“I’m going to view this entirely through the lens of what this means for Florida,” Rubio said. “The one unique advantage that we have being from Florida is that we have done what this law is going to... encourage other states to do.”

Rubio and Scott never publicly opposed the bill, which stalled after a number of senators told McConnell said they could not vote for the legislation in its current shape. But their tepid response, with Rubio summoning health care staffers from Tallahassee to review the bill and Scott declining to say he would vote for it if he could, is evidence of the work Senate leaders need to do to get a bill passed.

“Look, legislation of this complexity almost always takes longer than anybody else would hope,” McConnell said. “But we are going to press on. We think the status quo is unsustainable for all the obvious reasons we have discussed over and over and over again. And we are optimistic we are going to get to a result that’s better than the status quo.”

Scott, an ally of President Donald Trump and former health care executive, packed his day in the capital with meetings and television appearances, with the goal of stressing to Republican senators that the bill to repeal Obamacare must not penalize states like Florida that chose not to expand Medicaid.

“We're not treated the same way as a state like New York,” Scott said, arguing that New York gets $23 billion in federal dollars for health insurance while Florida gets $14 billion, despite Florida having more people to cover than New York.

“Our federal tax rates aren’t lower, so why should we get paid less?”

But Florida gets paid less because it declined to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. The state left as much as $66 billion in federal dollars on the table over 10 years after it decided not to expand Medicaid. Scott countered that expanding Medicaid would cost Florida $1.9 billion a year, but the actual cost to the state would have been closer to $500 million and wouldn’t kick in for a few years.

Read more here.