February 19, 2015

Climate change activists denied anti-Marco Rubio billboard in Miami

@PatriciaMazzei

An environmental activist group recently tried to put up a billboard in Miami criticizing potential Republican presidential contender Marco Rubio's position on climate change.

"NO CLIMATE DENIERS IN THE WHITE HOUSE," the proposed ad from Forecast the Facts Action read, steering viewers to RubioIsNotReady.org. 

But the ad never went up -– because the billboard company, Clear Channel Outdoor, considered it a political "attack," Forecast the Facts said.

"Clear Channel is applying a partisan filter to the ads that it allows Miami residents to see, and tilting the scale in favor of its own partisan agenda," Brant Olson, Forecast's campaign director, said in an email. "Clear Channel is playing dirty politics."

Untrue, countered Clear Channel, which says it offered Forecast the Facts a different location the environmentalists turned down.

Though Forecast the Facts had already signed a contract for the original billboard location, on Northwest 58th Street, Clear Channel had yet to ratify it when the group sent in the ad design. That's when Clear Channel rejected the location -- something the company says it sometimes does, even after a site has been made available to advertisers.

"All our contracts clearly state we reserve the right to final ad approval," spokesman Jason King said in an email. "And sometimes the original ad presented in discussions may only be a draft." 

The billboard was Forecast the Fact's first attempt to shame a potential presidential contender over climate change. Senator Rubio said last year human activity is not "causing these dramatic changes to our climate," a claim PolitiFact rated False. The Florida Republican later explained he doesn't deny climate change but remains skeptical about whether it is man-made, despite agreement among an overwhelming majority of scientists that humans have contributed directly by burning fossil fuels.

The substitute location Clear Channel proposed on Northwest 36th Street was a (cheaper) electronic LED billboard. Forecast the Facts said no because its Rubio ad would have had less exposure, on rotation with other ads -- and because it could have been pulled at a moment's notice, Olson said. He noted that Clear Channel and its chairman have contributed $4,000 to Rubio since 2011.

To suggest the billboard didn't go up because of those donations is off base, King said: "It would absolutely not play a role in a decision regarding a billboard." 

Meantime, Forecast the Facts is using the incident as a opportunity to rally its supporters, emailing them an image of what the billboard would have looked like and asking them to share it on social media. One email -- titled "Rejected!" -- was timed to coincide with Rubio's trip to Iowa last week to promote his new policy book, American Dreams. A Miami stop is scheduled for Friday night.

Here's what the billboard would have looked like:

Rubio billboard

Fact-checking Marco Rubio's claim about ISIS in Benghazi

Sen. Marco Rubio hasn’t declared himself a presidential candidate yet, but that didn’t stop him from visiting Iowa a little early.

Rubio, R-Fla., fashioned himself as a foreign policy wonk during a Feb. 13, 2015, radio appearance, discussing at length the extremist group Islamic State’s goals and strength across Africa and Asia. He then invoked the name of a city many Americans likely would remember.

"ISIS has now set up a very significant hub in Libya," Rubio said. "They are now the predominant Islamist group in Benghazi."

Two days after Rubio’s remarks, ISIS released a video showing black-clad extremists beheading 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt on a Libyan beach. Egypt responded to the executions by bombing the coastal city of Derna, considered an ISIS stronghold.

Rubio’s comments highlighted the state of disarray in Libya, but we wondered if he was right in saying Islamic State militants were the major force in Benghazi, the country’s second-largest city. First, we need a brief lesson in recent history. See Joshua Gillin's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida and see our full Truth-O-Meter file for Rubio.

February 18, 2015

UPDATED In Vegas, Rubio says Senate should fund Homeland Security

@PatriciaMazzei

Republicans in Congress want to strip funding for President Obama's contested executive immigration actions before passing a budget for the Department of Homeland Security. But U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said Wednesday that the Senate shouldn't shut down the department just to pass the anti-immigration provisions. The funding deadline is Feb. 27.

Rubio said the GOP-controlled Senate doesn't have the votes to override a certain Obama veto of any legislation tying Homeland Security funding to the immigration actions, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The Florida Republican was in Nevada promoting his new policy book, American Dreams.

"We have to fund Homeland Security," Rubio said in a news conference, according to CNN. "Look, I'm in favor of any measure that has a chance of succeeding that could stop the new order, but the truth of the matter is the president's not going to sign that and we don't have the votes to pass it in the Senate. We can't let Homeland Security shut down."

Like in a prior book-tour stop in Iowa, he faced immigration activists who challenged him on his position. Rubio shepherded a comprehensive immigration-overhaul bill that passed in the Senate in 2013 but has since said only a piecemeal approach would pass Congress. He has also opposed the president's unilateral actions, saying the system should be changed by lawmakers.

UPDATE: After the Las Vegas report about Rubio's remarks, Rubio spokesman Alex Conant clarified that Rubio does not support stripping Republican senators' legislation of the anti-immigration provisions.

Senator Rubio does not support shutting down DHS. But he does support stopping the new executive order on immigration and is willing to support any approach we could get passed to stop it. But the President had made clear he will veto any effort to stop his unconstitutional order. And Senate Democrats have made clear they will not even end there filibuster on the DHS funding bill. The result will be a DHS shutdown which would be harmful to our national security. The answer is not for Republicans to surrender and pass a clean funding bill. The answer is for the President and Senate Democrats to abandon the executive order and cooperate in passing a series of immigration bills beginning with real border security.

The headline of this post was updated in light of Conant's statement.

Marco Rubio tops list of missed Senate votes

@PatriciaMazzei

No U.S. senator has missed more votes than Florida Republican Marco Rubio, according to a new analysis.

The analysis, by Vocativ using data from GovTrack.us, found Rubio has missed 99 of 1,198 votes -- an absentee rate of about 8.3 percent. For some context, the second-place finisher was Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, who missed 96 votes -- about 8 percent. 

A similar analysis for House members did not include any members of the Florida delegation among the top 10 representatives who have missed votes.

Rubio, who has a wife and four children in West Miami, and whose mother has been ill, notably missed a vote last month to pass the Keystone XL pipeline because he was fundraising in California. He was the only GOP senator to miss that vote (though it ultimately didn't affect the bill's passage). His spokesman said at the time that it was not unusual for senators to miss votes. Unsaid: particularly when they're mulling a presidential run.

His office released this statement Wednesday:

Senator Rubio takes his responsibilities as both a senator and a father seriously. The vast majority of missed votes are when the latter duties take precedent, and he needs to be in Miami for family commitments. He is one of the only senators with young children who has not moved his family to D.C., and tries to spend as much time in Florida with them as possible. In addition to his parental responsibilities, in recent years he's also had to return to Florida and miss votes due to his mother's health and civic responsibilities like jury duty. Normally when he misses votes, his vote would not have been decisive, but in those instances he tries to submit statements for the record or write a blog post explaining how he would have voted.

February 17, 2015

Jeb Bush's immigration position wins GOP donors' praise

via @learyreports

Jeb Bush was held up by top Republican donors today as one of the party’s best voices to champion immigration reform in the coming presidential election.

Both Mike Fernandez, a major GOP donor in Florida, and Spencer Zwick, who national finance chairman of Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, singled out Bush during a conference call this afternoon.

“Certainly Gov. Bush has decided to lead on this issue,” Zwick said, adding any candidate needs to clearly say where they are on the issue and not try to say the “most outrageous thing so that they can make national news.”

“We have to have someone who is willing to take on this issue,” he said. “We have to nominate a candidate who is willing to let action be stronger than inaction. Because as Republicans, we’ve let inaction be our model for too long."

The call was arranged by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a Republican group that has tried to push for reform. At the outset Fernandez talked about his own immigrant story, arriving from Cuba in 1965.

“Had you met me back then you would have seen me cleaning animal cages at a hospital,” the billionaire healthcare CEO said. “I could have easily been confused with one of the 11 million undocumented residents we have in this country today.

He said the booming Hispanic population in the U.S. is a “game changer” and that it would be unwise for Republicans not to embrace the community. “We need to welcome these individuals. These individuals are risk takers. They did not come here for anything else other than improving their lives and we need them in order to improve our economy.”

GOP donors and leaders such as Grover Norquist, who was also on the call, have long called for immigration reform.

But those calls stand against a conservative base that has demanded a hardline position that forced Romney to talk about self deportation and figures such as Sen. Marco Rubio to move off calls for a comprehensive approach.

February 16, 2015

Stoking talk of presidential run, Marco Rubio in Iowa calls U.S. foreign policy a 'disaster'

via @learyreports

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- If Heaven Shaffer wasn't so exuberant, you'd think she was part of a script designed to sweeten the image of Sen. Marco Rubio, who came here Friday to sign books and stoke talk he's running for president.

Shaffer, 22, a Republican and a Walmart clerk, arrived over an hour early and was first in line, clutching Rubio's book, American Dreams. When the Florida Republican showed up just after noon, she lurched forward and told him he'd make a good president.

"Oh, thank you!" Rubio replied.

For an hour and a half under the watch of a gaggle of TV and newspaper reporters, Rubio signed books, soaked up encouragement, made small talk — "Today's Friday the 13th? So far, so good. . . . Visit Florida, I promise you it won't snow" — and coolly stood his ground when confronted by an immigration activist.

He left little doubt he intends to move forward with a run and will stake a claim in Iowa, which holds the first nominating contest on Feb. 1, 2016. The "if" in the following seems a formality: "If I run for president," Rubio told one man, "I'm sure I'll be back quite a bit."

More here.

February 13, 2015

Marco Rubio faces stiff odds in reversing Cuba policy

via @CAdamsMcClatchy

In December, just hours after the White House abruptly changed course in the nation’s relationship with Cuba, Sen. Marco Rubio laid down his marker.

“I intend to use every tool at our disposal in the majority to unravel as many of these changes as possible,” he said Dec. 17.

It’s now February – and despite congressional hearings and ongoing pressure on the administration, it’s not clear that Rubio and other opponents can undo what the president already did.

Rubio is perhaps the nation’s most prominent lawmaker on the Cuba issue. He’s a Cuban-American, a member of the Senate’s Republican majority and a potential presidential candidate. And he represents Florida, Cuba’s closest U.S. neighbor.

But according to Cuba experts, Rubio might have little ability to reverse Obama’s changes. And Rubio might have realized that.

More here.

February 12, 2015

Marco Rubio: Decision to shun Netanyahu speech to Congress 'shameful'

via @CAdamsMcClatchy @LightmanDavid

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said it’s “shameful” that some lawmakers are planning to boycott the congressional address by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose invitation from House Speaker John Boehner was seen by some in Congress as a political stunt.

In an interview Thursday with the McClatchy Washington Bureau, Rubio said that “absolutely” Netanyahu should address a joint session of Congress, as the prime minister is scheduled to do next month. According to The Hill, a Capitol Hill publication, more than a dozen representatives and senators have declared they will not attend the speech.

“I think it’s shameful that people have decided to boycott him,” Rubio said in an interview that also addressed his views on presidential authorization for military action against the Islamic State, as well as his own presidential ambitions.

The West Miami Republican continued: “I wish they would put themselves in his position. He has a country fighting for their right to exist. This is a country whose very existence is being threatened by Iran. . . . He needs to do everything he can to protect his country, and we – as Israel’s strongest and most important ally – should do everything we can to support him.”

More here.

February 11, 2015

Both Florida senators back Obama war authorization against ISIS

@PatriciaMazzei

President Obama formally asked Congress Wednesday to authorize the use of military force against the Islamic State, a group also known as ISIS or ISIL. Though U.S. airstrikes have gone after the group since last summer, congressional approval would bolster the administration's legal war authority.

Both Florida senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, support Obama's request. 

"Any group barbaric enough to behead and burn innocent people and bring about the death of a humanitarian worker deserves to be crushed," Nelson said in a statement Wednesday morning, referring to the recently confirmed death of Kayla Mueller of Arizona.

Nelson is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who last year filed legislation that would have authorized airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. He noted Wednesday that Obama's request has some similarities to Nelson's proposal. Obama didn't rule out ground troops, though he said they would be used in "limited circumstances." His request would expire in three years.

Rubio said on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon that he would back even broader authorization, without limiting the president's time frame or tactics, which the senator said would be unwise given changing ground conditions. Rubio has burnished his foreign-policy credentials in the Senate, a likely campaign plank for him if he ends up running for president.

"There is a simple authorization Obama should ask for. One sentence: We authorize the president to defeat ISIL. Period," Rubio said. More than once, he noted authorization would also extend to the next president.

Rubio called it "good news" that Obama had asked Congress for approval, though he said it was belated. "I wish we had taken this group on earlier," he said.

February 09, 2015

NYT: Marco Rubio hires top aide in New Hampshire

via @learyreports

From The New York Times:

Senator Marco Rubio has hired a coveted former aide to Mitt Romney to oversee his political activities in the Northeast and probably in a New Hampshire campaign, signaling that he is serious about a presidential bid.

Jim Merrill, who directed both of Mr. Romney’s New Hampshire primary bids, is joining Mr. Rubio’s political action committee as a senior adviser, a position that would put him at the helm of the Florida senator’s campaign in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

In landing Mr. Merrill, Mr. Rubio has not only brought on a strategist with deep experience organizing in New Hampshire, but also someone who was being pursued by other Republican presidential hopefuls. Mr. Merrill, who is based in Manchester, was sought out by a number of potential candidates, including Jeb Bush.

Full story here.

In an emailed statement to the Tampa Bay Times, top Rubio staffer Terry Sullivan said: "Marco has always been well received in New Hampshire, and should he run for president, he would be very competitive there. Jim certainly knows how to win in New Hampshire as well as the entire Northeast. He’ll be a great addition to the Reclaim America Team."