January 19, 2018

Bill Nelson votes against short-term spending bill without immigration deal

BillNelsonCarlJusteApril172017

@alextdaugherty

Sen. Bill Nelson voted against a short-term spending bill to keep the government running on Friday as the Florida Democrat balked at a proposal that did not include a solution for nearly 800,000 undocumented young immigrants who could face deportation in March if Congress fails to act.

As of 10:40 pm the Senate vote was still open and not finalized.

Nelson remained undecided on his vote for over 24 hours after the House of Representatives passed a short-term spending bill on Thursday night. Nelson’s office said on Thursday he would wait to see what the House passed before making a decision, but then the Florida Democrat did not make his vote public until giving his thumbs down on the Senate floor just before 10:30 pm.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needed Democratic support to keep the government open because a spending bill requires 60 votes in the 100-member Senate, and Republicans control only 51 seats.

Nelson, the only statewide elected Democrat from Florida, faced pressure from immigration activists to join the more liberal wing of his party to vote against a short-term spending bill without a solution for Dreamers.

Nelson is one of 10 Democrats up for reelection in 2018 in states won by President Donald Trump in 2016. Some of the red state Democratic senators like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin backed the short-term spending bill while others like Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey did not.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio voted in favor of the bill along with most Senate Republicans. He blamed Senate Democrats for voting to shut down the government.

“At a time when we face so much chaos in our politics, the only thing worse than a short-term spending deal is a government shutdown. I too support border security, dealing with DACA, increasing defense spending and disaster relief for Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico,” Rubio said in a statement shortly before the vote. “We should keep the government open while we continue to work on these issues.”

Two Miami Republicans in the House of Representatives, Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, also voted against the spending bill after arguing that it is irresponsible to keep stalling on the Dreamer issue.

January 18, 2018

Where Miami lawmakers stand on a spending bill without an immigration compromise

Frederica Wilson 2

@alextdaugherty

The federal government will shut down at 11:59 p.m. Friday unless the House and Senate pass a short-term spending bill.

The two U.S. senators from Florida and the five U.S. representatives from Miami-Dade County are divided on the spending bill, which faces opposition from conservative House Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate.

Keep in mind that the calculus can change quickly if an immigration compromise to protect Dreamers — undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children — is imminent.

Here’s where the Miami-Dade delegation stands on the short-term spending bill as of Thursday afternoon:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R): Rubio said on Monday “you can’t shut the government down over DACA,” and is likely to support a short-term spending bill. He voted in favor of a short-term spending bill in December.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D): Nelson is undecided, and is waiting to see how the House votes before deciding his vote. The Florida Democrat is facing pressure from immigration activists to vote against a short-term spending bill. He voted in favor of a short-term spending bill in December.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R): Curbelo will vote no unless a DACA solution is imminent. He voted against the short-term spending bill in December due to DACA.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R): Ros-Lehtinen will vote no unless a DACA solution is imminent. She also voted against the December spending bill due to DACA.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R): Diaz-Balart will vote in favor of the bill. “Shutting down the government, which among other things puts the lives of our troops in danger, would be detrimental and must be avoided,” Diaz-Balart said.

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D): Wilson voted against the December spending bill along with the majority of House Democrats. She’s pledged not to support any immigration compromise that includes funding for a border wall. “I do not plan to vote for the continuing resolution unless it includes measures to protect Dreamers and TPS holders; critical funding for CHIP and community health centers; and additional disaster recovery funding for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Texas, Florida, and states impacted by wildfires.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D): Wasserman Schultz opposes the short-term spending bill due to concerns over DACA and funding for community health centers. “We remain mired in this unbreakable habit” of passing short-term spending bills, she said Thursday.
 

Why the fate of Dreamers is fueling talk of a government shutdown in Washington

102Daca06 NEW PPP

@alextdaugherty

The federal government will shut down on Friday at 11:59 p.m. if Congress fails to pass a short-term spending bill in the next 36 hours.

Because Republicans control the government, leaders like President Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell must put together a spending bill that gains enough support to pass the House and Senate.

But some Democrats and Miami Republicans say they will vote against any spending bill if a solution for 800,000 young immigrants known as Dreamers — undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children — isn’t imminent. Friday is not the final deadline for passing a Dreamer fix, because the Obama-era executive action called DACA, which allows Dreamers to live and work in the U.S. without the threat of deportation, expires in March. Congress has a few more weeks to come up with a deal, but lawmakers upset with the ongoing negotiations are using the Friday deadline as leverage to force action.

Sen. Marco Rubio is urging the House and Senate to pass a short-term spending bill to keep the government open even if leaders can’t agree on a DACA solution by Friday night.

“You can’t shut down the government over DACA,” Rubio said earlier this week. “The deadline is in March, not Friday of this week. One of the implications of doing so is that the government will not be able to process the permits that people are applying for, so it’s almost counterproductive.”

If Senate Democrats uniformly oppose a short-term spending plan because it lacks a Dreamer solution, the government will shut down, because a spending bill requires 60 votes in the 100-member Senate, and Republicans control only 51 seats.

But Republicans in Congress have traditionally relied on Democrats to join them on votes to keep the government open — to make up for the Republicans who are concerned about the federal deficit and object to short-term spending bills that don’t cut the federal budget.

Here are some of the biggest questions that must be resolved to pass a spending bill. Keep in mind congressional leaders will typically make last-second deals to secure the votes of members who are wavering.

Read more here.

January 12, 2018

Rubio and Nelson say Senate stalling on disaster relief

Citrus

via @learyreports

Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson today urged their respective leaders to speed up a vote on a massive disaster relief package that will help Florida.

Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer:

We write to highlight the importance of the disaster supplemental and urge you to consider this much needed appropriations measure on the floor as soon as possible. As you are well aware, last fall produced a number of devastating natural disasters, and our communities are still in need of federal assistance in order to continue their recovery efforts.  In particular, hurricanes and wildfires caused catastrophic destruction throughout the country, and we are deeply concerned that affected states, territories and local governments will not have the resources needed to address critical issues including agricultural aid, healthcare, and housing if Congress does not act immediately.

These disasters caused unprecedented destruction, and yet the federal government has still not provided an acceptable response.  Congress has a duty to fulfill, and a disaster supplemental appropriations bill would provide the federal aid our states and territories were promised months ago.  The House of Representatives passed a disaster supplemental, and while it did not fully encompass what is needed, it is past time for the Senate to act.  Unfortunately, Congress has delayed providing this aid for too long while our communities face the consequences of our inaction.

It is imperative that Americans nationwide know that the federal government is both ready and willing to direct resources needed to help them in the recovery process. As such, we strongly urge you to bring the disaster relief measure to the floor for consideration at the earliest opportunity to ensure that our communities are able to address and assist their respective needs.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Also, Gov. Rick Scott has called on Senate leaders to act.

"It is imperative that we as a state see relief from Congress in the aftermath of these storms. Now that the House passed a significant relief package prior to Christmas, the Senate must act immediately to lock in this critical funding for Florida and ensure the full recovery of families in our state and across the country," Scott wrote in a Jan. 3 letter.

January 10, 2018

Puerto Rico leaders create a 'shadow delegation' in Washington and demand statehood

Governor Ricardo Roselló0183 JAI

@alextdaugherty

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and a host of current and former officeholders are using newfound attention after the U.S. territory suffered a direct hit by Hurricane Maria to push for their biggest political priority: statehood. 

Rosselló and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González are using a 2017 plebiscite where a small portion of the electorate voted overwhelmingly for statehood as justification for Washington to listen. The pair appeared with a group of current and former political leaders in Puerto Rico who will act as four symbolic "shadow" U.S. Representatives and two shadow U.S. Senators. The group will meet with members of Congress and their staffs to demand statehood. 

"If we were an island of 3.5 million Irishmen, we would have been a state long ago," said Carlos Romero Barceló, a shadow U.S. Senator who served as governor of Puerto Rico from 1977 to 1985.

Baseball Hall of Famer Iván "Pudge" Rodríguez is also serving as a shadow U.S. Representative, but was absent on Wednesday due to a scheduling conflict.

The effort by Rosselló and the New Progressive Party leadership is mostly symbolic but it does have precedent. Tennessee sent a shadow congressional delegation to Washington to demand recognition as a state and succeeded in 1796. Alaska carried out a similar plan in the 1950s. 

Puerto Rico's ongoing debt crisis, significant hurricane damage and complicated tax status are all barriers to statehood, and statehood doesn't appear to be a top priority for either party in Congress, though both Republicans and Democrats have signaled support for statehood in the past. 

"It is our moral imperative to demand Congress recognize 3.4 million disenfranchised Americans," Rosselló said. "It is time to end Puerto Ricans' second-class citizenship, and statehood is the only guarantee for that to happen." 

Rosselló has said he will put political pressure on those "who turned their back" on Puerto Rico during the hurricane recovery process and discussions on the tax bill, and thousands of Puerto Ricans have settled in Florida since Hurricane Maria struck the island. 

January 09, 2018

Experts still confounded by source of attacks against U.S. embassy staffers in Havana

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@alextdaugherty 

State Department officials said Tuesday that experts are still investigating the source of the mysterious attacks against at least 24 U.S. embassy officials and their family members in Havana, including possibly ultrasound and viral, which Sen. Marco Rubio concluded must be the product of a rogue element within the Cuban government or another nation-state like Russia operating with Havana’s knowledge.

“Though these events were associated with an acoustic element, we were still looking at other possibilities,” said Todd Brown with the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. “I don’t know that I would rule it out entirely, the acoustic element could be used as a masking piece. I do know that other types of attacks are being considered in connection with this. There’s viral, there’s ultrasound, there’s a range of things the technical experts are looking at as could this be a possibility.”

Brown’s comments during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday came after the Associated Press reported that an unreleased FBI investigation into the Cuba attacks casts doubt on the possibility of a “sonic attack” against U.S. officials in Havana.

“If the FBI has determined that is not the case... that doesn’t mean that an acoustic element couldn’t be part of another style of attack here and I do know that other types of attacks are being considered in connection with this,” Brown said, adding that a viral attack would include someone intentionally planting a virus that affects cognitive function.

Rubio and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., repeatedly pressed Acting Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs Francisco Palmieri over the timing and scope of the State Department’s response in Havana, and Rubio argued that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson should have set up an Accountability Review Board within 60 days of the U.S. government learning about serious injuries suffered by U.S. government officials.

“By my calculation, if by early May we knew that at least one if not several... suffered serious injury, by early July in the 60-day period and certainly by early September if you run the whole 120-day period an Accountability Review Board should have been set up,” Rubio said.

Read more here.

January 05, 2018

Trump plan for oil drilling off coast ripped by Florida leaders — in both parties

Trump offshore drilling

@jenstaletovich

Florida waters long closed to offshore drilling would open up under a Trump administration plan to dramatically expand domestic oil and gas production.

The plan drew swift criticism from political leaders of both parties in Florida. Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who previously opposed protections put in place by the Obama administration, objected. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who have fought to extend a drilling ban in the eastern Gulf, also criticized a draft proposal released Thursday by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

“I have already asked to immediately meet with Secretary Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan and the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration,” Scott said in a statement.

According to the proposal, open to public comment for the next 60 days, the nation would more than quadruple the number of drilling leases available in U.S. waters. The plan covers parts of the eastern Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast not available since 1988, as well as the Atlantic coast and Florida Straits. In total, the plan would open the nation’s offshore oil and gas reserves in all but one area off Alaska over the next five years.

“This is clearly the difference between energy weakness and energy dominance,” Zinke said in a press call.

Zinke said Florida’s worries, still colored by thedisastrous oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig failure in 2010, would factor into the final plan, along with concerns about sensitive military operations in the Gulf.

“Certainly, Florida is going to have a say,” he said. “Interior should not be the role of adversary. We should be a partner.”

Read more here.

December 12, 2017

Puerto Rican officials lobby Congress against ‘devastating’ GOP tax measure

005 Maria Unemployment DS

@KyraGurney

Puerto Rico is still drowning from Hurricane Maria but it’s already facing its next crisis — a U.S. tax reform bill that island officials fear will devastate the economy.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and Lt. Gov. Luis Rivera Marín will make a final plea on Wednesday to Republican officials, asking them to exempt the U.S. territory from a 20 percent excise tax on goods that American companies import from their overseas subsidiaries.

The measure in the GOP tax bill is designed to stop American companies from avoiding taxes by shifting profits overseas. But it would also apply to Puerto Rico because the island is treated as both a foreign and domestic entity under the U.S. tax code.

It’s a hit that Puerto Rico’s elected officials say the island’s economy cannot take.

“If the U.S. Congress ignores our situation and gives us this mortal blow to our economy, the immediate and direct effect will be Puerto Ricans boarding airplanes,” Rivera Marín told the Miami Herald.

Puerto Rico already was struggling through a deep recession before hurricanes Irma and Maria hit in September. The island’s unemployment rate hovered around 10 percent and the country was $72 billion in debt. Since the storms, thousands of Puerto Ricans have lost their jobs as businesses remain without power and unable to reopen.

Rivera Marín warned that the tax could wipe out the island’s manufacturing sector and a third of the government’s tax revenue, sending thousands more families fleeing to Florida and New York.

Read more here. Photo by @dsantiagophoto

December 01, 2017

Rubio fails in push to increase child tax credit with higher corporate taxes

Marco Rubio 3

@alextdaugherty

Sen. Marco Rubio has been pushing an expanded child tax credit for weeks, but an effort to make the credit fully refundable by slightly raising a proposed cut on corporate taxes failed late Friday night on the Senate floor. 

Rubio and Utah Sen. Mike Lee's amendment to raise corporate taxes by .94 percent to 20.94 percent went down on a 29-71 vote on Friday after Democrats decided not to support an amendment that would have made the bill slightly more palatable to them. 

Rubio and Lee could have held up the tax bill by insisting on the amendment's passage in exchange for their support, but chose not to. Both senators are expected to vote in favor of the final bill. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker has said he will vote against the bill because it does not do enough to help the deficit, but every other Republican Senator has indicated that they will likely support the bill. Three Republican no votes combined with united Democratic opposition would stop the bill. 

"Today, the Senate missed an opportunity to help working families by strengthening the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit," said First Five Years Fund executive director Kris Perry. "Millions of American households rely on this credit each year, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers worked hard to extend it to more low-income families who would benefit most from receiving it." 

The Senate is expected to vote on their tax bill Saturday, just hours after the text of the bill was revealed. The House and Senate will then attempt to work out their differences in conference before sending a final bill to President Donald Trump's desk, if it passes Congress. 

November 30, 2017

Rubio isn't bound to increasing corporate taxes to raise the child tax credit

Marco Rubio 3

@alextdaugherty

Sen. Marco Rubio said Thursday that he's open to alternative ways to pay for an increased child tax credit, after his amendment with Sen. Mike Lee to raise corporate taxes to pay for the expanded credit was opposed by President Donald Trump and a slew of conservative interest groups. 

"I'm trying to pass it, and I'm open to how we pay for it," Rubio said. "Cutting corporate taxes by 13 instead of 15 (percent) is one way to do it, but if there's a better way we're open to it. But ultimately, we're trying to allow working families, welders, plumbers, firefighters, members of the armed forces, to keep a little bit more of the money that they earn by working." 

Other senators like Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins have also voiced support for an expanded child tax credit that is fully refundable for low-income families, though there are other ways to pay for it like reducing other tax deductions and raising the proposed corporate tax cut by one percent instead of two percent. 

Conservatives like Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said that the current 20 percent corporate tax rate in the House and Senate tax plans is non-negotiable. 

"We continue to strongly support the unified framework and the 20 percent corporate tax rate that the White House has said they would oppose raising," a letter by Koch-backed Freedom Partners to Senators on Thursday said. "The proposed Rubio-Lee amendment would deviate from that framework by increasing the corporate tax rate beyond 20 percent, undermining the full economic benefits that families would otherwise see. We believe this is the wrong approach." 

The Senate is expected to vote on a slew of amendments, including Rubio and Lee's, late into the evening on Thursday before they vote on a tax overhaul. The Senate and House, which passed its tax bill before Thanksgiving, would then conference together to hammer out a final proposal that would go to Trump's desk if it passes Congress.