April 06, 2013

Miami lawmakers question Beyoncé, Jay-Z trip to Cuba

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both Cuban-American Republicans from Miami, sent a letter late Friday to the Treasury Department asking for details about R&B stars Beyoncé and Jay-Z's trip this week to Cuba.

In the letter to the office of foreign assets control, the members of Congress say they want to find out which type of license the couple received to travel to the island, what the purpose of their trip is and who approved it.

"As you know, U.S. law expressly prohibits the licensing of financial transactions for 'tourist activities' in Cuba," the letter says. It also notes that so-called "people-to-people" licenses require that travelers have "a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities" in Cuba.

"Despite the clear prohibition against tourism in Cuba, numerous press reports described the couple's trip as tourism, and the Castro regime touted it as such in its propaganda," the letter says. "We represent a community of many who have been deeply and personally harmed by the Castro regime's atrocities, including former political prisoners and the families of murdered innocents."

March 01, 2013

Walking the talk: Miami Reps Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen among most-bipartisan

@MarcACaputo via NBC Latino

According to new ratings from National Journal, Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.), and Raul Labrador (Idaho), as well as Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas were near the ideological center of Congress, after an analysis of votes taken in 2012. Republican David Rivera of Florida also ranked near the middle but lost re-election last fall because of ethics, not ideology.

The most moderate Latino Member last year was Ros-Lehtinen, who has been in Congress for more than two decades and had a conservative rating of 49.3 percent last year (100 percent would be the most conservative Member of Congress). She added to her centrist credentials this week when she signed a legal brief, along with 75 other Republicans, that advocated for gay and lesbian couples’ right to marry.

Her Florida colleagues, Diaz-Balart (52 percent conservative) and Rivera (53.7 percent), also ranked as two of the more moderate House Members, along with Herrera Beutler (56.2 percent) and Labrador (58.2 percent), both of whom were first elected in 2010. Labrador has received some national attention for his efforts to push his party to a more moderate position on immigration (even though he still opposes a path to citizenship), but he consistently gets excellent marks with conservative, anti-tax groups.

January 28, 2013

Mario Diaz-Balart likes Gang of 8/Rubio immigration plan

From U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican and key House member on immigration:

“Although we have not seen the legislation text, the principles released today are compatible with the discussions in the House. The prospect of true immigration reform can only happen with bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress, and today’s news is a step in that direction. I commend the dedicated efforts of the group. We look forward to working with the Senate and President Obama to find a real, permanent solution.”

Note: If Diaz-Balart, a longtime friend of Sen. Marco Rubio's didn't support the plan of his fellow Republican, it would be big news. Diaz-Balart was on CNN talking about the issue.

"If this was an easy lift it would have been done a long time ago," Diaz-Balart said. "We've been hammering out our differences, we've been hammering out what needs to be fixed."

January 14, 2013

Rubio, Obama, Diaz-Balart, Ros-Lehtinen, Jeb -- oh my! Everyone's talking immigration now

The fiscal cliff debate is on hold. Now comes the demographic cliff debate: Immigration.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush hosted a Friday powwow about immigration reform. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and President Obama’s administration leaked details of their plans over the weekend that would give varying degrees of amnesty to those illegally in the country.

And on Monday in Doral, Miami U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen held a forum to gather ideas and, in Diaz-Balart’s words, give them “ammunition” to call on their colleagues to reform immigration.

With the exception of Obama, all are from Florida and are Republicans. Their party’s hard-line immigration stances helped drive Hispanics, the state and nation’s fastest-growing demographic group, to the Democratic Party this last election. Republicans don’t want a repeat in two years.

“Both parties have used immigration as a political wedge issue,” Diaz-Balart said. “The Democrats never wanted to get it done. They wanted to have it as a political issue. It worked very well for them.”

But, Diaz-Balart said, his party isn’t without fault.

“Republicans didn’t want to get it done — leadership — they wanted it as a wedge issue. It has worked poorly for them,” he said.

Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen say this is the year that Congress needs to pass immigration reform. A major fault-line: Whether to give illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship or a pathway to residency.

Still, this is the time, Diaz-Balart said because it’s not an election year. So there’s less chance for hyper-partisan politics, Diaz-Balart said. It’s also a new Congress. And Republicans, who blocked major congressional immigration legislation in 2010 and 2006, might be more willing to vote for immigration-reform plans as the lessons of 2012’s elections are still fresh.

More here

January 04, 2013

South Florida lawmakers bring back congressional 'Everglades Caucus'

For all the partisan bickering that cripples Congress these days, there is one thing that Florida lawmakers have generally been able to agree on: the need to restore the Everglades.

With a new congressional class coming in, two South Florida representatives — Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart and Miramar Democrat Alcee Hastings — announced they are reintroducing the “Everglades Caucus” in the U.S. House. The goal is educate members and staffers about the Everglades and, of course, foster support for the projects and money still needed to complete the $12.4 billion restoration effort.

In a joint announcement, Diaz-Balart and Hastings said they would co-chair the caucus.

“The Everglades is one of the true ecological wonders of the world, and we must do everything we can to keep it thriving and healthy,” Diaz-Balart said. “We will work together with other members of Congress to support restoration efforts of this unique ecosystem.”

Hastings called the Everglades “a national treasure that provides Floridians with clean drinking water, and is home to many endangered and unique species. It makes up a large portion of my Congressional district, and therefore I am acutely aware of the vital need for its restoration.”

--CURTIS MORGAN

September 22, 2012

Paul Ryan to Little Havana: 'We will be tough on Castro'

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan got the Cuban exile seal of approval Saturday at a campaign rally in Little Havana where he pledged to hold a hard line against the Castro regime.

The Republican vice presidential candidate did not mention that he once opposed the U.S. trade embargo against the island, but he pointed to his change of heart — prompted by Miami’s current and former Cuban-American Republicans in Congress, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart.

“They’ve given me a great education — lots of us in Congress — about how we need to clamp down on the Castro regime,” Ryan told supporters at the Versailles restaurant. “We will be tough on Castro, tough on [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chávez.”

Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman, has voted against the embargo at least three times. The Midwest tends to see trade opportunities in agriculture with Cuba.

 

Ryan began supporting the embargo in 2007 as he started to ascend the House Republican leadership ranks. And on Saturday he began criticizing President Barack Obama’s policies toward the island. The Obama administration has made it easier for families and certain groups to travel and send money to Cuba.

 

Ryan said he and GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney would take a different approach.

“We will not keep practicing this policy of appeasement,” Ryan said. “We will be tough on this brutal dictator.”

More here.

June 04, 2012

Mario Diaz-Balart: Axelrod doesn't speak on behalf of Hispanics

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, has weighed in on a statement made this weekend by President Barack Obama's top political strategist, David Axelrod. In the interview with Univision TV's Jorge Ramos, Axelrod said of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney that it would be "insulting" to Hispanics if the former Massachussetts governor picked Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., as a running mate if the pick was intended merely to win more Latino support.

"It is profoundly offensive that Mr. Axelrod believes he can speak on behalf of the Hispanic community," Diaz-Balart said Monday, in a statement issued by his campaign.

"His statement is not just patronizing and insulting it reflects the election-time rhetoric of the Obama Campaign when it comes to the Hispanic community," Diaz-Balart said. "The true insult is how President Obama, time and time again, has broken his promise to the Hispanic community while at the same time his economic policies disproportionally hurt Hispanics. I commend Senator Rubio for the work he has done on behalf of his constituents, our country and the Hispanic community."

Here's what Axelrod said: "I think it would be an insult to the Hispanic community to choose Senator Rubio if the thinks that that is somehow — if Governor Romney thinks that's sort of a get-out-of-jail-free card for all of the things and the positions that he's taken," Axelrod said.

May 30, 2012

Yup, "VoteForEddie.com" qualifies for FL ballot to challenge Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart

Picture 4Unknown independent Eddie Gonzalez probably knew he'd get little money, no attention and have almost no shot against popular Republican incumbent Rep. Mario Diaz Balart.

So Gonzalez did the logical thing. He legally changed his name to “VoteForEddie.com.”

Apparently, "Don'tVoteforMarioDiazBalart.com" was already taken. Gonzalez.....er... VoteForEddie.com  petitioned a Miami-Dade judge to have his new name on the ballot and, viola, it happened and the Associated Press noticed. See AP story here.

The stunt aside, there's some precedent for people running on the ballot under different names. Just ask Cornelius McGillicuddy and John Ellis Bush.

Still, he's the first candidate in Florida to be named for a website. He has a Twitter handle as well, @VoteForEddie.com. Below is his campaign video in which he promises  to steer gas tax money into an effort to end our "economically crippling oil addiction."

Paging Solyndra. Oh, and the road-builder lobby as well.

The disclaimer is priceless: "I am VoteForEddie.com and I approved this message."

Verily.

 

 

May 29, 2012

Florida's congressional Democrats hold their own Medicare meeting, no Republicans allowed

Democratic Reps. Alcee L. Hastings, Corrine Brown, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch, and Frederica Wilson are scheduled to meet this week to talk about Medicare -- but they're not inviting the Republicans in the Florida delegation. 

Hastings, the Democratic chairman of the delegation, says he'll host the meeting Thursday morning "to highlight the importance of Medicare to Florida, and the impact of Medicare changes on Florida's beneficiaries."

We've reached out to Democrats and Republicans in the Florida congressional delegation, but no word yet on why GOP Reps. Sandy Adams, Gus Bilarakis, Vern Buchanan, Ander Crenshaw, Mario Diaz-Balart, Connie Mack, John Mica, Jeff Miller, Rich Nugent, Bill Posey, David Rivera, Tom Rooney, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Dennis Ross, Steve Southerland, Cliff Stearns, Daniel Webster, Alan West or Bill Young weren't invited.

May 22, 2012

GOP bashes Obama on Cuba visas, but David Rivera's a no-show on the call

Two Florida members of Congress have been the subject of intense investigations for their fundraising: Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, and Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota.

Buchanan never stopped raising money for the National Republican Congressional Committee -- House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, appeared at a fundraiser with him in Sarasota and NRCC Chairman Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, declared his support for him.

And while top GOP leadership initially stayed arms length from Rivera, he appears to be back in their embrace. Rivera won't face criminal charges following an 18-month investigation of his personal and campaign finances by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement

This morning, the Republican National Committee was set to feature him, along with Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, in a press call bashing the Obama administration's decision to issue a visa to Cuban first daughter Mariela Castro and others to attend events in this country. Castro is set to chair a panel on sexual diversity at the Latin American Studies Association conference in San Francisco. She's a noted gay rights activist who heads a sex education center in Cuba.

Rivera didn't end up on the call -- RNC spokesman Sean Spicer said they had difficulty coordinating schedules this morning.

Here's what the Democratic National Committee had to say on that: "The fact that the RNC found David Rivera to be a credible source on anything is laughable considering his status as an embattled member of congress, under investigation by Florida officials for living off his campaign contributions for nearly a decade. No wonder he 'couldn't make it' on the conference call."

So only Diaz-Balart spoke, beginning the press call by saying he was expressing "deep outrage" with the decision. He called the visits "pro-regime, public relations tours."