September 15, 2016

Rubio criticizes Murphy, Obama over Gitmo

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio on Thursday criticized a vote by Rep. Patrick Murphy against a GOP measure to prevent transfers of detainees held at Guantánamo Bay.

“Today, Patrick Murphy voted to fund the release of terrorists at Guantánamo Bay, despite even more evidence that they are rejoining militant groups,” Rubio campaign spokesman Michael Ahrens said. “Murphy continues to stand in lock step with the Obama administration’s liberal policies that pose a direct threat to our national security and the safety of all Americans.”

Murphy supports President Obama's attempt to close the prison.

Florida lawmakers voted party line with the exception of Democrat Gwen Graham, who joined Republicans.

Rubio also condemned the Obama administration amid a report that two former detainees had returned to fighting. Nine total have done so, according to the government.

“We know that the remaining detainees are considered ‘the worst of the worst,’ and with a confirmed recidivism rate of 30 percent, it’s baffling the Administration continues to set these terrorists free to threaten America and our allies, including our military men and women serving overseas,” Rubio said. “The President’s efforts to preserve his legacy at any cost is hindering U.S. national security precisely at a time when the threats to our country are growing, and terrorist groups like al Qaeda and ISIS are giving these former detainees more options for reengagement. This is why I will continue to urge President Obama to stop setting terrorists free from Guantánamo and immediately work to recapture those who have returned to terrorist activity.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

TSA says no U.S. marshals aboard new Cuba flights

via @HeraldMimi

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is calling for the suspension of the regularly scheduled flights between the United States and Cuba that began in recent weeks because he says, despite previous claims, federal air marshals still aren’t aboard the new flights to and from the island.

In response to a request from the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, the TSA issued a statement in August that said: “In the spirit of enhancing the security of international civil aviation, the United States and The Republic of Cuba entered into an aviation security agreement that sets forth the legal framework for the deployment of U.S. in-flight security officers — more commonly known as federal air marshals — on board certain flights to and from Cuba.”

But during a House hearing Wednesday, TSA Deputy Administrator Huban Gowadia said that the Cuban government has not yet signed the agreement, meaning the first scheduled flights between the United States and Cuba since 1961 began without the deployment of air marshals.

Gowadia clarified that air marshals only fly on select charters rather than the new flights, and said the United States and Cuba are continuing to work toward an agreement covering regularly scheduled flights.

More here.

Everglades restoration plan passes senate

Everglades aerial (2)

by @jenstaletovich

Everglades restoration took a step forward Thursday when the U.S. Senate passed a massive waterworks bill that includes a plan aimed at fixing the overlooked heart of the vast wetlands.

In 94-3 vote, senators approved the Water Resources Development Act, which includes about $2 billion for the Central Everglades Planning Project. The project, launched in 2011 to speed up restoration and focus efforts on central wetlands critical to moving fresh water south into Florida Bay, got a big assist in the spring when Sen. Jim Inhofe vowed to throw his weight behind it. The powerful chairman of the Environmental and Public Works Committee, remembered for being the only no vote opposing the original comprehensive restoration plan in 2000, said he changed his mind after Sen. Marco Rubio convinced the work was necessary.

The vote comes after a brutal winter for the region. Record rain forced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to repeatedly release dirty water from Lake Okeechobee into coastal estuaries, triggering a massive algae bloom along the Treasure Coast.

The WRDA still has to pass the House, no small hurdle, which has not yet scheduled a vote. However, including $220 million in emergency funding to address the water crisis in Flint is drawing support that may help push it through.

"It addresses a lot of big ticket items that have gotten a ton of attention this year," said Julie Hill-Gabriel, deputy director of policy for Audubon Florida.

Hill-Gabriel was hopeful the House schedules a vote this year on the plan. Two years ago, the plan stalled when the Corps, which oversees work, balked at approving it in time for that year's WRDA bill.



"We’re hopeful it will happen this year," Hill-Gabriel said. "Whether it’s next week or the lame duck session, we hope the House steps up and gets it done."



Connecticut U.S. senator uses Twitter to attack Rubio, defend Murphy

Chris murphy-ct_ap


One of the U.S. Senate's leading Democratic voices in favor of gun-control reform -- and an early supporter of Florida U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy -- unleashed a bit of a Tweet storm Thursday afternoon in response to a new bill introduced earlier in the day by Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Rubio's U.S. Senate office touted his "Terror Intelligence Improvement Act" as a bill that "would make it harder for suspected terrorists to purchase firearms and easier for law enforcement agencies to go after suspected terrorists, while safeguarding law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment and due process rights." (More here.)

But in one of a handful of tweets, Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy -- no relation to Patrick Murphy -- said: "This bill won't stop one terrorist from getting a gun. This is a rehash of the gun lobby's proposal."

Less than an hour after Chris Murphy's tweets, Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign released a lengthy statement from Chris Murphy with a message to the same effect.

Chris Murphy famously filibustered on the Senate floor for 15 hours in June in support of gun reform after the Orlando shooting.

Patrick Murphy and his campaign earlier Thursday were also quick to criticize Rubio for both the timing and content of his new bill.

Photo credit: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

*We have asked Rubio's campaign for comment and will update this post when they respond.

Murphy criticizes timing of Rubio's bill to thwart suspected terrorists from buying guns



Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy says Sen. Marco Rubio's introduction of a bill this morning to make it harder for suspected terrorists to buy guns is "an embarrassment" and smacks of political opportunism.

Rubio -- the Republican incumbent seeking re-election this fall against Murphy's challenge -- today offered what he's named the "Terror Intelligence Improvement Act" in reaction to the Orlando shooting at Pulse nightclub three months ago.

In a statement through his Senate office, Rubio said the bill is "another step toward fulfilling my promise" to Fred and Maria Wright, whose son, Jerry, was killed in the shooting.

"The Wrights made a simple request: that we improve our laws so it is more difficult for evil people to get ahold of guns," Rubio said. "I told them I would continue working toward consensus on common-sense measures that would help ensure criminals, terrorists and others seeking to take innocent lives are not able to acquire firearms."

He said his legislation "builds on some of the best ideas that have been proposed and improves them in ways that I hope will make a bipartisan solution more likely."

"This bill would achieve everyone’s goal of making it harder for suspected terrorists to buy guns, and do so without violating the due process and Second Amendment rights of innocent, law-abiding Americans," Rubio said.

Among its various provisions, Rubio's bill calls for requiring that the FBI director and the Joint Terrorism Task Force be immediately notified of requests to transfer a firearm to someone who was investigated for terrorism within the last 10 years. It also allows the U.S. Attorney General to delay a firearms' purchase for up to three days and file an emergency court petition if someone previously investigated for terrorism tries to buy a gun.

MORE: Read the bill.

But Murphy, in a campaign statement, was quick to criticize Rubio's introduction of the bill as a "transparent attempt to paper over his relentless opposition to legislation that prevents gun violence."

Continue reading "Murphy criticizes timing of Rubio's bill to thwart suspected terrorists from buying guns" »

Rubio defends Nelson after Scott Zika attack

via @learyreports

Gov. Rick Scott’s attack on Sen. Bill Nelson didn’t go over so well in Washington. First Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen rebuked Scott for partisanship then Sen. Marco Rubio defended Nelson, though without naming Scott.

“I would remind everyone that the Senate did act on this issue back in May in a bipartisan way,” Rubio said Wednesday afternoon in a floor speech about Zika. “And I would like to take this moment to point out that my colleague, Senator Bill Nelson from Florida, has been great to work with on this and multiple issues but on this one in particular and I thank him for his partnership and hard work in this regard.

"I enjoy our partnership on many issues involving the state of Florida including a water bill before the Senate. But on this issue of Zika in particular.”

Scott did not back down Wednesday, a day after saying Nelson turned his "back" on Florida by voting against a Zika funding bill that included provisions Democrats say attacks Planned Parenthood. Rubio voted for that bill but also supports a so-called clean funding bill.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Rubio missed nearly half of Foreign Relations hearings on Iran

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON – Sen. Marco Rubio has made opposition to the Iran nuclear deal a focus of his re-election campaign, using it to assert that Democratic opponent Patrick Murphy is weak on the issue.

But as Rubio presents himself as an expert on Iran and the Middle East in general, his attendance problems come back into view.

During the 114th Congress, Rubio missed nearly half of the Foreign Relations Committee hearings that dealt specifically with Iran, records show.

He also skipped a number of other hearings in which issues pertaining to Iran came up, though were not the sole focus.

It adds another layer to a weak spot Rubio’s rivals – Jeb Bush and other Republicans during the presidential primary and now, Democrats – have tried to exploit. In addition to missing many votes while he sought higher office, Rubio skipped out on dozens of committee hearings. Earlier this year, the Tampa Bay Times reported Rubio had missed 68 percent of all hearings since taking office.Now Rubio is running again and his record is available for scrutiny, especially since he has made Iran a focus. He has used it against Murphy and the Obama administration and to generally assert his experience.

Asked about the truancy, Rubio’s campaign said in a statement, “The difference between Marco and Murphy on Iran is clear. Marco opposes the dangerous Iran deal; Murphy supports it 100 percent. And despite more than $400 million in ransom payments to Iran, Murphy’s support for the deal has not wavered.”The campaign also noted that Murphy has a less than gold star attendance at his own committees, portending a likely response as the race heats up.

Polls show Rubio ahead.

Continue reading "Rubio missed nearly half of Foreign Relations hearings on Iran" »

Marco Rubio's misleading attack on Patrick Murphy about Zika


While the Senate bickers over Zika funding, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign says Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy has been playing partisan politics over the issue in the House.

The same day the Senate failed to approve emergency public health funding to deal with Zika for the third time in three months, Rubio spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas said Murphy has been an obstructionist.

"Patrick Murphy is the only candidate to have voted against every measure to fund Zika," she said on Sept. 7, 2016. (By "only," she meant the only general election Senate candidate, comparing Murphy to Rubio.)

That doesn’t sound like the position a Florida congressman facing a Zika outbreak would take in an election year, so we checked the record. We should note Rubio has supported high-level funding for Zika efforts, even co-sponsoring a bill with Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Perez-Cubas was speaking for Rubio, so we are putting Rubio on the Truth-O-Meter.

It turns out Murphy has opposed plenty of Republican-backed funding proposals, but "every" is putting it too strong. He still has voted for some measures.

Keep reading Joshua Gillin's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida and here is a fact-check about Rubio's Zika-related votes.

September 14, 2016

Rubio for President struggled to organize in Florida. Rubio for Senate is a different story.

VAA16 Voting News rk

The knock on Marco Rubio ahead of Florida's presidential primary in March was that the home-state Republican senator had ignored the grunt work of opening offices, hiring field staff and energizing volunteers to get his supporters out to the polls.

That's not the reason Rubio says he lost: He blames a string of earlier losses for fading collapsing against Donald Trump. But his Senate re-election campaign has apparently learned its lesson anyway.

Rubio partnered with the Republican Party of Florida to open 17 offices across the state, in a move that frustrated his former primary rival, Carlos Beruff, who slammed the party for playing favorites. They're not Rubio offices per se, but a recent visit to the Miami office showed more campaign signs for Rubio than for any other candidate. 

Rick Scott had one office fewer -- 16 -- when he ran successfully for governor in 2010.

The quick field push -- organized hastily because of Rubio's late entry into the race -- has been a matter of necessity. No Florida Republican is relying on any sort of Trump ground operation, as Democrats are doing. Rubio's Senate rival, Jupiter Rep. Patrick Murphy, counts on a network of "coordinated" offices opened with Hillary Clinton's campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the Florida Democratic Party. Democratic offices vastly outnumber Republican ones in Florida, and Democrats have out-organized Republicans in the state in the past two presidential elections.

Unable to ask Trump for similar support, the Rubio camp says it has more than recruited 500 "active" volunteers and hired 24 field staff who contacted about 400,000 voters either by phone or in person before the Aug. 30 primary. On the five days leading up to the primary, volunteers and staff made 150,000 calls.

The campaign is expected to roll out local endorsements for the general election in coming weeks -- all in a show-of-force play against Murphy, who has lagged behind Rubio in recent polls.

Down-ballot candidates hope Rubio's campaign organization will lift them up, too: Even if Trump were to lose to Clinton, they say -- and right now the presidential candidates are tied -- perhaps having Rubio near the top of the ticket might stave off a Democratic wave.

Photo credit: Roberto Koltun, el Nuevo Herald

Democrats launch fall ad campaign by alleging Marco Rubio 'weakened us'



National Democrats are kicking off their fall ad campaign with vigor on Wednesday, with the debut of an attack ad on Marco Rubio over Social Security and Medicare.

The 30-second spot from two liberal super PACs -- the Senate Majority PAC and AFSCME PEOPLE -- is part of a multi-million-dollar effort between the groups to support Rubio's challenger, Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.

AFSCME PEOPLE, the political arm of the national government workers union, is pouring $1.8 million into the ad campaign. For the Democrats' Senate Majority PAC, the ad represents the kick-off of $10 million in reserved ad time the group has planned before Election Day.

Murphy debuted his first general election TV ad last week -- a positive-sounding attack ad against Rubio's Senate attendance record -- but until now, by comparison, Rubio and Republican groups backing him have been more prominent on Florida airwaves attacking Murphy.

Using Rubio's own words against him, the joint Senate Majority PAC / AFSCME PEOPLE ad argues Rubio has "weakened us" because of his desire "to cut Social Security and Medicare."

The ad accuses Rubio of taking "almost $1 million from the insurance industry, which would profit from his privatization plans" for the two federal entitlement programs.

"Marco Rubio’s reckless plans for Social Security and Medicare might be great for his campaign contributors, but they’re wrong for Florida," Shripal Shah, spokesman for Senate Majority PAC, said in a statement.


Rubio's campaign defended the senator's position on entitlement programs and criticized Murphy's alliance with AFSCME.

"Marco's own mother relies on Social Security as her sole source of income. Marco would never do anything to hurt his mother or the millions of Florida seniors who depend on Social Security and Medicare, and he'll continue to fight to strengthen the programs for future generations," Rubio spokesman Michael Ahrens said in a statement.

Image credit: Senate Majority PAC/AFSCME PEOPLE / YouTube

*This post has been updated with comment from Rubio's campaign.