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



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'



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



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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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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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


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.

He’s not up for reelection in 2018, but here’s why Marco Rubio is campaigning hard



Marco Rubio is back on the campaign trail.

For the first time in a year, Rubio stood in front of a crowd at a plumbing equipment warehouse in northern Virginia, a well-heeled part of the country that overwhelmingly supported him over Donald Trump during last year’s Republican presidential primary.

But as Rubio emerged to stump for gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie with Christian rock music blaring, a protester grabbed the microphone from Gillespie and demanded an end to immigrant deportations. Rubio stood off to the edge, displaying no visible emotion as the crowd shouted and grabbed the protester’s sign as she was escorted off stage.

“That was perfect, the timing, because I haven’t given a campaign speech in about a year so I’m a little rusty, I needed some warmup time,” Rubio said.

Rubio then began a speech that avoided certain hot-button social issues, like keeping Confederate statues in place that have galvanized some Republicans in certain parts of the country since Trump’s election. Instead, he talked mostly about jobs, though he did wade into his signature issue, Latin America, as he referenced the violent MS-13 gang, a frequent Trump villain with roots in El Salvador.

“I don’t want to get in the middle of all these fights ... but I got to say it, I come from a community that itself has been impacted by ... gang violence,” Rubio said.

Staying out of intraparty fights while building goodwill across wide swaths of the Republican Party is Rubio’s clear strategy heading into the 2018 elections, as the one-time and maybe-again presidential contender copes with a president who has low approval ratings and a resurgent GOP populist wing that is willing to cause trouble within the ranks.

Trump-inspired figures like Breitbart editor and former White House adviser Steve Bannon are engaging in open warfare with establishment-minded figures like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and two sitting Republican senators targeted by Bannon have already decided not to seek reelection in 2018.

But as Bannon and his disciples attack Republicans for failing to fully embrace Trump’s populist-oriented message, Rubio has stayed largely out of the fray. Rubio doesn’t have any plans to endorse Alabama judge Roy Moore, a Republican running for an open U.S. Senate seat who once declared that a Muslim should never serve in Congress. And Rubio was also relatively mum on the decision by GOP Sen. Jeff Flake, a harsh Trump critic, to retire after campaigning for him in Arizona less than two weeks before his announcement.

“I have disagreements with the White House and I have been able to address some of them privately and a couple of them more publicly, whether it was the initial response in Puerto Rico or some of the foreign policy issues in different parts of the world,” Rubio said. “But my view is this: 95 percent of what is going to happen to me today, I cannot control. What I can control is how I react to what happens. And what I’ve chosen to do more than ever is focus like a laser on the things I can control and get done.”

North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and an ally of Bannon’s, praised Rubio’s work on Capitol Hill one year into his second term.

“He gets no criticisms from me,” Meadows said. “Actually, we’re working very closely on the child tax credit that he’s working with Ivanka [Trump]. I think he’s doing a great job on that. I think he has an idea that it needs to be higher than what it is.”

Read more here.

November 03, 2017

Curbelo is ready for a tax fight



Carlos Curbelo, Miami's lone representative on the House tax writing committee, is ready to debate a bill that would revamp the nation's tax code for the first time since the 1980s as special interest groups like the real estate industry voice opposition to the proposal.

"I'm not worried about them, I expected this," Curbelo, a Republican, said. "Every special interest group out there thinks the code is for them and the truth is the tax code, the tax system, is for the American people. What we're trying to do is simplify it, eliminate a lot of the special benefits to benefit more people across the board." 

A markup of the bill, dubbed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, is scheduled for Monday. 

"Most people are pretty pleased with the bill," Curbelo said, adding that there could be a Republican amendment during Monday's markup. "There are many opportunities to improve the bill, but most people are generally very satisfied with the bill."
Originally, Curbelo was in favor of a revenue-neutral tax plan that would not increase the federal deficit, though a revenue-neutral plan was not likely after House Speaker Paul Ryan and tax committee chairman Kevin Brady pulled a proposed border adjustment tax when idea faced opposition from trade groups and the White House.
"I always wanted to have revenue-neutral tax reform, in that sense I wish we could have done better, but politics is the art of the possible and this is where we are and we have to make the best of it," Curbelo said. 
Curbelo was also supportive of increasing the child tax credit to $1,600 from the current $1,000, though some Senate Republicans like Marco Rubio have suggested a $1,600 credit isn't enough to help working families. 
"That family credit is defacto permanent, you can take that to the bank," Curbelo said. "I know members on both sides will be supportive of continuing that." 
Democrats are expected to oppose the tax overhaul effort, though Republicans can pass the bill in the House and Senate with a simple majority due to budget rules that were enacted last week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can only afford two Republican defections in the Senate or else the tax plan will fail much like an effort to repeal Obamacare did earlier this year. 
Curbelo's 2018 opponent, Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, criticized his support for the tax plan in a statement. 
“We can all agree the tax code should be simpler but Curbelo’s tax plan is a giveaway to big corporations and the richest among us at the expense of Florida families," Mucarsel-Powell said.