November 14, 2013

Poll shows immigration haunting Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart

More than 6 in 10 voters in Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s district say he needs to be more aggressive pushing immigration reform this year, according to a new poll showing that a higher number of them favor a comprehensive bill that he hasn’t yet backed.
The 605-voter survey, conducted by Public Policy Polling for the liberal-leaning Florida New Majority, is a sign of the troubles Diaz-Balart has faced while trying to get a bipartisan bill passed in the U.S. House, where GOP leaders have kept the issue from a vote.
For months, the Miami representative and others have met in secret and tried to hammer out a bill that a majority of the Republican House caucus would back.
But with no bill yet as the year ends, the meetings have started to haunt Diaz-Balart because advocates and voters in District 25 want to see more results.
“This is what happens when you’re legislating and not grandstanding,” said Diaz-Balart, who represents a majority Hispanic House seat that runs from Miami-Dade through Broward, Collier and Hendry counties.

November 12, 2013

The Democrats' role in hamstringing immigration reform in the US House


You can't blame both sides equally for the death of comprehensive immigration reform this year in Washington, DC. After all, Republicans in the Democrat-led Senate barely backed a bipartisan bill (and Sen. Marco Rubio was raked over the far-right coals for helping usher it). And in the GOP-led House, conservative Republicans have blocked a hearing on the Senate bill or the issue.

But still, Democrats bear some blame.

A must-read article from The Hill lays out what happened behind the scenes. It points out that the White House and Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer tried in May to stop a bipartisan House bill from moving because, in their view, it endangered the Senate bill.

Guess who was identified with gumming it up at the time? Rep. Xavier Becerra, who belongs to the same delegation as Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

We noted Becerra's purported sand-in-the-gears role at the time, and refused to comment. Afterward, he denied the reports but refused to elaborate. Update: Becerra's spokesman James Gleeson wanted the following statement added (note: It says I "accuse Becerra of gumming up the works." That's inaccurate. As you see, the post above says Becerra "was identified with gumming it up at the time."):

"For an unbiased reporter to accuse Congressman Becerra of ‘gumming up’ negotiations is an odd way to describe what he did in consulting with the very people on whose behalf he was negotiating and doing so before committing them to a position. As Marc Caputo himself acknowledges there's more nuance to the situation than some would admit to passing comprehensive immigration reform in the House."

Intriguingly, immigration-reform advocates didn't tweet out the above-mentioned blog post or mention it en masse at all. And today, it's the same story with what The Hill wrote.


But when Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (who would probably vote to pass the Senate bill if it came up for a vote) noted that time has expired this year in the House for the issue, he was excoriated by some on the left. One columnist in the hill called him the "Latino face of GOP's immigration reform blockade."

Perhaps today's Hill article might change a few minds about the issue, or at least show that there's more nuance than some advocates would admit. 

Continue reading "The Democrats' role in hamstringing immigration reform in the US House" »

November 07, 2013

Decoding Diaz-Balart and immigration reform's struggle in the House


It’s all but guaranteed: Immigration reform is dead for 2013.

The Republican-controlled House has refused to take up the bipartisan Democratic-controlled Senate bill that passed earlier this year. And now time has essentially run out.

“I don’t see the math. There are only 16 days, legislative days, for the floor,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a leading Republican immigration-reformer in the House.

“Unless someone has some magic potion," he said. "I don’t see how there’s time to go through the committee process and through the floor with what could ultimately be six or nine bills.”

Continue reading "Decoding Diaz-Balart and immigration reform's struggle in the House" »

November 04, 2013

Mario Diaz Balart joins the #FreeElCritico fight


U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is lending his voice to the online campaign to free jailed Cuban rapper, Ángel Yunier Remón, the subject of a Twitter campaign that bears the hashtag #FreeElCritico.

Earlier this year, Diaz-Balart and other exile leaders criticized U.S. rapper Jay Z and his wife, Beyonce, for visiting Cuba, being tools of the Castro regime and not meeting with dissidents.

Here's the press release and more:

Continue reading "Mario Diaz Balart joins the #FreeElCritico fight" »

October 23, 2013

In East Room event, Obama jumps into immigration reform Thursday. Does this mean it's dead or alive?


Earlier this year, immigration reform leaders in the U.S. House like Republican Mario Diaz-Balart wanted the president to keep quiet about the issue as they grappled with it.

But they grappled. And they grappled. And they grappled.

And still there is no bill (but there is no shortage of finger-pointing). But there is a lot of fear among Republicans.

Many watched what happened to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio when he helped craft and pass a bipartisan immigration-reform bill in the Senate, only to have the tea party and right-wing media elite tear him up.

Now the president is ready to put his weight behind the issue and plans to hold a 10:35 a.m. East Room address calling on Congress to pass immigration reform.

Two initial takeaways about the politics of it all:

Continue reading "In East Room event, Obama jumps into immigration reform Thursday. Does this mean it's dead or alive? " »

October 02, 2013

Mario Diaz-Balart on his House CR no-vote, and Obama's wavering "red lines"


Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart was always in favor of defunding, delaying and degrading Obamacare.

But on Monday night, he joined 11 other Republicans to oppose the budget plan targeting Obamacare for a simple reason: It wasn’t going to work, and the government was about to go into partial shutdown.

“I’ve voted against Obamacare 42 times,” Diaz-Balart said.

“When they brought the idea of defunding Obamacare, House Republicans were told we could get Democratic votes. So I voted for it. But it didn’t happen,” he said. “Then we tried again. And it didn’t work. The third time, it was like: Look, this isn’t working. Let’s try something else.”

Continue reading "Mario Diaz-Balart on his House CR no-vote, and Obama's wavering "red lines"" »

October 01, 2013

Joe Garcia, House Democrats to move forward with immigration plan


Miami's Joe Garcia looks like he might be taking a leading role in a House Democrats' plan that they'll discuss tomorrow in a DC press conference.

It's unclear what Garcia and unspecified "House Democratic leaders" and members plan to discuss at noon, but the caucus has already started pushing plans now that efforts of a bipartisan group have stalled in the House. Two leaders of that effort were Garcia's Miami colleague, Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart, and Illinois Democrat Luis Gutierrez.

If Garcia takes a leadership role, he'll be the third active Miami congressman to tackle the national issue behind Diaz-Balart and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who helped pass a bipartisan Senate plan that the House refused to consider.

Continue reading "Joe Garcia, House Democrats to move forward with immigration plan " »

September 08, 2013

Want straight answers on Syria? That's classified


The Obama Administration, in media-marketing parlance, is trying to “sell” a war.

But the American public and its caveat-emptor Congress aren’t buying.

The administration’s so-called product — a bombing campaign in Syria — has a series of non-disclosure clauses bound up with an implicit government promise: “trust us.”

Continue reading "Want straight answers on Syria? That's classified" »

July 26, 2013

Reps. Ros-Lehtinen, Diaz-Balart join chorus of critics over Steve King's DREAMer-drug-mule comments


Miami’s three Cuban-American members of Congress have a message for fellow U.S. Rep. Steve King, who said more DREAMer immigrants are drug mules than valedictorians: Be quiet.

King’s statements, which drew swift rebukes from Republican congressional leaders earlier in the week, have become the latest flash-point in the immigration debate in the conservative House, which is divided over whether and how to reform the system.

“These comments are outrageous and reflect only this particular member’s views,” Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican House member like King, said in a statement. “Such statements are factually untrue, hurtful and seem designed to divide rather than to bring our nation together.”

Continue reading "Reps. Ros-Lehtinen, Diaz-Balart join chorus of critics over Steve King's DREAMer-drug-mule comments " »

June 05, 2013

House immigration talks breaking down over public-healthcare for one-time illegal immigrants


Should current undocumented immigrants get some public-healthcare benefits if their status is legalized?

U.S. House Republicans say no. Democrats say yes.

The answer to that question is dividing the House immigration-reform working group and causing it to break down. The last meeting is today.

The catch: years ago, when the group began meeting, the bipartisan group agreed that the newly legalized would not be a "public charge." That is, that they wouldn't get social-services.

But then California Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra appeared brought up an aspect of the issue, which Republicans and some other Democrats thought was already agreed to and closed. Becerra, a rising star in his party, belongs to the same California delegation as Democratic leader and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"I hope we can still reach an agreement," said Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a member of the immigration-working group. He declined to name names or divulge the contents of the agreement, but he blamed "Democratic leadership" for pressuring at least one member to withhold support.

"It's difficult," he said. "We've had agreements from long ago that all of a sudden wasn't agreed to by the Democratic leadership."

Frank Sharry, an activist with the America's Voices immigration-reform group, said it's tough to figure out what the dispute is. The talks have been in secret. So it's unclear who advocated for what and what the specific source of the disagreement is.

"As I understand it, they talked past each other," Sharry said. "Democrats assumed emergency Medicaid would remain, and Republicans assumed these people would get nothing."

Advocates are frustrated that such a big bipartisan agreement could die over such a relatively small thing. The issue only involves those who would qualify for a pathway to citizenship, which would be smaller than the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently estimated to be in the country.

ABC made it sound as if the deal was dead: "congressmen will meet for the last time today without reaching an agreement on a House bill."

If this fails, it's a big blow to the immigration-reform effort, but it's not a killer. Republicans control the House and they can pass pretty much what they want. Of course, the Democratic-controlled Senate might not agree to the House bill and the House doesn't like the Senate bill.

Immigration reform was put a little more in doubt Tuesday when Sen. Marco Rubio, another leading Republican from Miami, raised doubts about the bill he had helped craft. He said there needs to be more border security in the Senate plan, and he's drumming up support for amendments in the Senate.

"If those amendments don’t pass," Rubio told radio-show host Hugh Hewitt, "then I think we’ve got a bill that isn’t going to become law, and I think we’re wasting our time. So the answer is no."