January 03, 2018

Bill Nelson tries to overrule offshore oil regulation changes by the Trump administration



Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is turning to legislative tactics developed by former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich in an effort to halt changes proposed by the Trump administration that would loosen regulations on offshore oil drilling. 

Nelson said he plans to invoke a procedural rule known as the Congressional Review Act to stop a ruling by the Interior Department that would end a current requirement for a third party to certify that an offshore oil rig's blowout preventer is working properly. The Congressional Review Act was initiated by Gingrich in the 1990s as a check on President Bill Clinton, but it went mostly unused until last year when Republicans in Congress used the rule to overturn a number of Obama-era regulations. 

"Almost five million barrels of oil spilled as a result of a defective device called a blowout preventer," Nelson said on the Senate floor Wednesday. "The BP spill devastated my state's economy and eleven people lost their lives. That's why I plan to subject this misguided rule to the Congressional Review Act." 

Since Democrats don't control Congress, it's unlikely that Nelson's use of the Congressional Review Act will succeed. Barack Obama simply vetoed rules that were overturned by Republicans via the Congressional Review Act when he was president, so Donald Trump could do the same if Nelson's effort is successful in Congress. 

The Interior Department is currently accepting public comments on its change to the Obama-era drilling regulations until January 29

"I hope the public understands that and starts registering some complaints, and I hope that during that time every Floridian remembers what happened to us when the beaches of Pensacola Beach were blackened with tar and oil, and we lost a whole season of our guests, our tourists who come to this extraordinary state," Nelson said.  

In 2006, Nelson and then-Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., passed a moratorium on drilling off Florida’s Gulf coast through the year 2022. Nelson filed legislation last year to extend that ban an additional five years, to 2027.

January 12, 2017

Mel Martinez joins other past HUD chiefs in backing Ben Carson


Former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez joined three other past Housing and Urban Development secretaries Thursday in backing President-elect Donald Trump's nominee, Ben Carson, for the post.

In a statement released by Trump's transition team, Martinez, Henry Cisneros, Alphonso Jackson and Steven Preston reminded the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs that they all came to HUD with varying degrees of experience -- or lack thereof -- in the field. Carson, whose confirmation hearing is later Thursday, is a retired neurosurgeon.

"We all succeeded thanks to the help of the cadre of dedicated civil servants -- a team of respected, career leaders who have stood alongside each one of us, helping us guide the agency to succeed in its mission," the men wrote. "The singular, common piece of advice every HUD secretary is given is to listen."

Martinez served as HUD secretary from 2001-03 under President George W. Bush.

Here's the four ex-secretaries' full letter:

Continue reading "Mel Martinez joins other past HUD chiefs in backing Ben Carson" »

February 29, 2016

Former Florida Sen. Mel Martinez endorses Marco Rubio


Marco Rubio keeps rolling out mainstream Republican Party endorsements -- including on Monday the one from former Florida Sen. Mel Martinez.

Martinez was the first Cuban American elected to the U.S. Senate, in 2004. He held his seat until 2009; Rubio was elected the following year to fill the post. Like many other recent Rubio Florida backers, Martinez had initially supported former Gov. Jeb Bush for president. He'd hinted that Rubio would be his likely backup.

"Just like Marco's family, this country changed my life and my family's history forever, and the best way to repay the debt I owe America in this election is to help Marco Rubio become our next president," Martinez said in a statement provided by Rubio's campaign. "Our country deserves to have Marco Rubio as our next president, because he will unite us and move us toward the common purpose of making the American Dream a reality for more Americans than ever before."

More from Martinez:

"Marco understands better than anyone in this race what a special place America is and why, and he has all the right ideas and leadership abilities to make sure it remains that way. The stakes have never been higher in a Republican primary, and we need to stand with Marco as the only leader capable of uniting our party and our country. 

"Marco is ready to lead this country as our president, and I will do everything I can to make that happen."

July 15, 2013

Movers & Shakers

Ferre appointed to Metropolitan Planning Organization in Miami-Dade

 Former Miami Mayor Maurice  Ferre, a Democrat who supported Rick Scott in the 2010 gubernatorial race after losing his own bid for the U.S. Senate, has been appointed by the governor to the Metropolitan Planning Organization of Miami-Dade County.

Ferré, 78, succeeds Maritza Gutierrez.

Miami attorney named Bondi's associate deputy for legal policy

Nilda R. Pedrosa has been appointed by Attorney General Pam Bondi to serve as associate deputy attorney general for legal policy, based in Miami. Pedrosa’s previous positions include chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart; a senior policy advisor to former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez; and assistant dean at Florida International University College of Law. Attorney Pedrosa is a Miami native and graduate of FIU and New England Law.

New appointments to Children’s Trust board in Miami-Dade 

Scott made three appointments to the Children's Trust governing board in Miami-Dade County.

Marissa Leichter, 36, of Surfside, the senior program attorney with the Guardian Ad Litem Program, succeeds Benjamin F. Gilbert Jr.

Trudy Novicki, 62, of Miami, the executive director of Krisiti House, Inc., succeeds Pamela Lillard.

Kadie Black, 30, of Miami, the external affairs director for Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe, Inc., succeeds Jose Gregoire.

Continue reading "Movers & Shakers" »

December 13, 2012

Mel Martinez on higher taxes: “Republicans are going to have to swallow the pill."

Florida’s former senator and a one-time head of the national Republican Party, Mel Martinez, said Thursday that members of his own party need to get ready to go along with higher taxes.

“Republicans are going to have to swallow the pill they don’t want to swallow,” Martinez said on a conference call with reporters about the effects of the so-called “fiscal cliff” debt talks in Washington.

But, Martinez said, Democrats also need to “confront the most-ardent of their supporters” as well. They need to help tackle the “elephant in the room:” entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

If there’s no debt deal between Republicans and Democrats in Washington, Martinez warned, tax increases will rise on everyone, federal programs will be cut, recession could ensue and, according to a defense-industry study, Florida could lose 80,000 jobs.

Continue reading "Mel Martinez on higher taxes: “Republicans are going to have to swallow the pill."" »

January 25, 2012

Romney's Hispanic leadership team: Newt, pull down your ad. Gingrich: I will

In the wake of Sen. Marco Rubio's denunciation of Newt Gingrich's ad calling Mitt Romney 'anti-immigrant,' the Romney campaign's Hispanic leadership team -- headlined by former Sen. Mel Martinez -- is demanding that Gingrich pull down the radio spot.

But Gingrich already plans to do it.

"We respect Senator Rubio tremendously and will remove the ad from the rotation. We will replace it with a positive message that will continue to focus on drawing contrast between our clear vision on the issues important to the hispanic community and our oponnents lack thereof," Gingrich's Florida campaign chairman, Jose Mallea, said.

Here's the letter from Romney's team:

Continue reading "Romney's Hispanic leadership team: Newt, pull down your ad. Gingrich: I will" »

October 21, 2011

Mel Martinez weighs in on Marco Rubio-WaPo dispute

Former Republican Sen. Mel Martinez, himself a Cuban exile, has come to Sen. Marco Rubio's defense in his dispute with a Washington Post article that says Rubio embellished facts about his parents' move from Cuba to the U.S.

Martinez came to the U.S. from Cuba in 1962 at age 15 as part of operation Pedro Pan, which helped about 14,000 Cuban children flee Castro's regime. Martinez served in the U.S. Senate from 2005 to 2009:

"The recent Washington Post story regarding Senator Rubio’s parents and their immigration from Cuba shows a gross lack of understanding about the Cuban exile experience," he said. "The fact is that they would not have left Cuba permanently if not for extreme fear of persecution and in search of freedom, like so many of us did."

"I lived this experience myself in Cuba – through the revolution and the communist takeover. To diminish the courage of Senator Rubio’s parents and to assert their reason for fleeing Cuba was unrelated to the oppression of a tyrannical and cruel communist dictatorship is wrong." 

Meanwhile, the Washingotn Post's ombudsman gave readers a forum to ask questions of the piece's author, Manuel Roig-Franzia, and its editor, Kevin Merida. 

December 01, 2010

Mel Martinez surfaces in Wikileaks

The former Florida senator apparently had a role in a U.S. bid to stop Spain's torture probe of six senior Bush officials.

Read it here.

The Guardian says a "major worry" for the Bush administration was a torture case brought by a Spanish "non-governmental organisation against six senior Bush administration officials, including the former
attorney general Alberto Gonzales."

Martinez, it says, "visited the Spanish foreign ministry to warn the investigation would have
consequences. " Martinez and the charge underscored that the prosecutions would ... have an
enormous impact on the bilateral relationship," the officials reported.

September 10, 2010

Mel Martinez: One of the new "It girls?"

The New York Times writes about how some prominent lobbying and trade industry groups are looking to bring aboard Republicans in the event the party takes control of Congress in the fall.

Among those highlighted, Martinez, the former Florida senator who quit during his first term last year and is one of at least a dozen recent hires at JPMorgan Chase, where he serves as a senior executive.

"We’re seeing a premium for Republicans," Ivan H. Adler, a headhunter for the McCormick Group in Washington who specializes in placing lobbyists, told the Times. "They’re the new ‘It’ girl."

July 20, 2010

Mario Diaz-Balart names a new chief

Mario Diaz-Balart, who switched to his brother Lincoln's congressional seat, is naming Cesar Gonzalez, Lincoln Diaz-Balart's legislative director, as chief of staff.

"He brings knowledge of the legislative process, experience in the political arena, and years of public service to the residents of South Florida," Diaz-Balart said of Gonzalez. "Cesar has proven to be loyal, dedicated and committed to ensuring that the needs of our constituents are well represented in Washington and that our community continues to thrive. I cannot think of a greater fit to lead my office than him."

Gonzalez was Lincoln Diaz-Balart's top legislative and legal counsel, managing the policy team and overseeing the legislative agenda, with a concentration on judiciary, telecommunications, healthcare and
immigration. The Miami native also held positions as an AARP attorney and an assistant to the mayor of Miami.

Mario Diaz-Balart's current chief of staff, Nilda Pedrosa, is stepping down to pursue opportunities in Florida, Diaz-Balart's office said. A former Mel Martinez staffer, she was appointed chief of staff in January 2009.