March 21, 2018

Rubio launches anti-Maduro Facebook page for Venezuelans

Marco Rubio 3

@alextdaugherty

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio launched a new Facebook page on Wednesday to communicate directly with Venezuelans and Venezuelan dissidents living abroad, his office announced. 

"The Facebook page will serve as a platform for Rubio’s office to share information about U.S. efforts against the Maduro regime and Rubio’s ongoing efforts to support the Venezuelan people’s cause of freedom and democracy," his office said in a press release. 

The outreach effort is the latest example of Rubio's status as a face for opposition to Nicolás Maduro's government. Rubio delivered a speech on independent Venezuelan TV last year, brought Venezuelan human rights Lilian Tintori to the White House and is pushing for additional sanctions on Caracas, including a ban on oil imports, until it implements democratic reforms. 

South Florida Republicans have made Venezuela a key foreign policy issue in recent years, arguing that Cuba props up the Venezuelan government with aid as its people starve.   

"For a lot of people in Venezuela, Facebook is the way they get news from outside, especially with the increased ownership of media and control of media by the Maduro regime," Rubio said in a statement. "So the purpose of this Facebook page is to be able to communicate directly to the people of Venezuela so that they know what’s going on in the world, what’s going on in their own country and what our efforts are here – they are not to target or hurt them."

March 20, 2018

Parkland families push for progress in Washington before the March for Our Lives

931455402

@alextdaugherty

The families of the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are among the most powerful lobbyists in Washington right now.

Lawmakers from both parties are willing to rearrange their schedules for an in-person meeting with a group of people who have already successfully shepherded a gun bill through the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature that was opposed by the National Rifle Association.

But the Florida Legislature is a part-time body, bound by time constraints to pass bills within a few weeks. Congress is under no such pressure, so many bills that have strong support from both parties can still languish for years.

“We don’t move as fast as Florida legislatures do,” Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said. “This Congress, with 500-something members, represents a vast and diverse country and as a result there are people in different parts of the country that have different views on these issues.”

The families of the Parkland victims have varying beliefs about access to firearms. Some, like Fred Guttenberg, want to ban all assault-style weapons. Others, like Ryan Petty, are concerned that a debate about banning assault weapons will shift the conversation into a partisan fight where nothing gets accomplished.

But the victims’ families are united behind three bills in Washington, and they’re pushing to get two of them passed before the March for Our Lives on Saturday. The families are discussing legislation through Slack, an instant messaging application that allows users to break different topics into channels of discussion.

“We’re probably one-upping the kids on that,” Petty said of the parents’ use of technology. “We put a proposal in one of the channels and then discuss it. I’ve been the liaison this past week, so as I was speaking with [Sen. Orrin] Hatch, Rubio, [Sen. Mitch] McConnell’s office, I posted the messages into our group.”

Petty said the parents come together and read the various bills and proposals in Slack, then one of them will write a statement either in favor or against the proposal before a final vote. The families don’t come out in favor or against something unless there’s a consensus.

But he acknowledges lobbying for legislation in Washington is “absolutely tougher” than trying to pass bills in Tallahassee. 

Read more here.

March 13, 2018

A conservative Parkland student helps set the agenda in Washington

US-NEWS-SCHOOLSAFETY-BILL-4-ABA

@alextdaugherty

Kyle Kashuv was in a bind.

The 16-year-old Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student, who opposes gun control, had just finished a press conference with Sen. Marco Rubio and the family of a Parkland shooting victim on Capitol Hill, and his next engagement was coming up.

One problem: He needed someone to adjust his tie, which was left in a knot so he could slip the loop around his head.

“Can you help me with this?” Kashuv asked a reporter and a Senate aide as he fiddled with his phone. “We’ve got to call an Uber to the White House.”

Kashuv, the high school junior who vaulted to national prominence as a conservative counterweight to the vocal Parkland students who favor tighter gun-control legislation, is back in Washington for second week of high-profile meetings, and he’s setting the agenda in the nation’s capital.

Senators from both parties are rearranging their schedules to speak with him, television channels are clamoring to get him on air and he even brokered a Skype conversationbetween Rubio and YouTube video blogger Jake Paul. He has already met with President Donald Trump once, and plans to be at the White House before and during the March for Our Lives on March 24th.

“In the media [Trump] is portrayed as ignorant and unknowing and cold, but in real life he’s very smart and very quick and he’s very caring,” Kashuv said. “When I met with the president, first it shocked me that I met with the president but... he was just so nice. I think it’s amazing that in the busiest day of his entire administration with the steel tariffs and North Korea, he found the time, took everyone out of his office, and we sat there and talked for a while and that’s something that very rarely occurs.”

Kashuv and his 19-year-old right-hand man, Michael Gruen, who coordinated Kashuv’s meetings on Capitol Hill and the White House with help from former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci and former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, aren’t in Washington solely for the photo-ops. They want Rubio and others in Congress to pass a bill that provides funds for school safety and coordination between school districts and law enforcement.

Read more here.

March 08, 2018

Rubio questions Colombia ambassador nominee over Benghazi role

Marco Rubio 3

@alextdaugherty @francoordonez 

Sen. Marco Rubio questioned Joseph Macmanus, a career foreign service officer who could become the U.S. ambassador to Colombia, over his ties to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's initial response to the 2012 attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya. 

Macmanus was working as Clinton's executive assistant in September 2012, and was part of Clinton's inner circle as the details of the attack began to unfold. The attack killed ambassador John Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Multiple Republican senators, including Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, have said they plan to delay or sink Macmanus' nomination over his ties to Clinton and the Benghazi attack

"When did you know the attacks were terrorism and not related to anti-American protests and when did you first inform the Secretary of State of that fact?" Rubio asked Macmanus. 

"I used the term terrorist attack because that's what I judged it to be," Macmanus replied. "It was not a legal determination it was not based on an amass of evidence or analysis, it was the term that I used to describe what I saw taking place." 

Macmanus also said he never purposely misled the American people about the nature of the attack. 

Rubio also questioned Macmanus about trying to stop Colombian cocaine production, and Venezuela's role in drug trafficking. 

"The border between Colombia and Venezuela is rife for mischief and illegality," Macmanus said. 

And Rubio also asked Macmanus about the ongoing refugee crisis and the Venezuela-Colombia border. 

"As you see more and more people coming across the border...do you anticipate at some point, if not already, that the U.S. will need to step up and provide Colombia assistance along with the international community to deal with pressures being created by these large number of refugees flowing into Colombia from Venezuela?" Rubio asked. 

"I think Colombia understands deeply the depth of this particular problem and crisis," Macmanus said.  

Parkland dad who grilled Rubio on national TV pleads with senators for assault-gun ban

Congress Gun Violence

@alextdaugherty

Fred Guttenberg couldn’t sit down.

His 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was murdered by a former student on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and he stood before a dozen Democratic U.S. senators on Wednesday, voice trembling, as he laid out his demands.

After finishing his prepared remarks, which included a plea to pass an assault-weapons ban and a threat to vote out lawmakers who refuse to change gun laws, Guttenberg’s fist shook. He raised a picture of NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, a screen shot from a recent video where Loesch turned over an hourglass and declared that “time is running out” for those who stand in the way of the influential gun lobby.

“If this was put out by a terrorist organization, we would be raising the terror threat level in this country,” Guttenberg said.

His emotional testimony was part of a hearing organized by Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill Wednesday. The Republican-controlled Senate didn’t announce any hearings with parents and survivors of some of the nation’s worst mass shootings, so Democrats staged their own.

The witnesses included people affected by gun violence from Parkland, Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech, three of the worst school shootings in U.S. history. Most of the hearing was dominated by the personal stories of fathers, mothers and siblings whose lives were upended by gun violence.

David Hogg, a Parkland student who has become one of the most prominent national voices opposing gun violence in recent weeks, joined the hearing via Skype. He laid out a five-point legislative plan he says will decrease the chances of a future mass school shooting: allowing the federal government to research gun violence, digitizing records of gun sales, establishing universal background checks on all gun purchases, banning high-capacity magazines and banning assault-style weapons.

“Now is the time we need to take action, because how many more children need to be slaughtered?” Hogg said.

Read more here.

March 06, 2018

Nelson votes in favor of banking bill trashed by liberal Democrats

Bill Nelson

@alextdaugherty

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson voted against the majority of his party on Tuesday, joining Republicans to pass a bill that eases regulations on banks. 

The Senate bill sponsored by Idaho Republican Mike Crapo lessens oversight requirements on banks that hold between $50-250 billion in assets. Every Republican present, including Marco Rubio, voted in favor of the bill while 16 Democrats and independents who caucus with Democrats voted with Nelson and the Republicans to pass it with 67 votes.

A host of Democrats with 2020 presidential ambitions, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have said the bill could have dangerous financial implications for the nation's markets. 

Proponents of the bill say it reduces the regulatory burden on financial institutions while maintaining oversight of the nation's biggest banks. 

Nelson, a moderate Democrat, is up for reelection this year but doesn't face a serious primary challenge from the left. Gov. Rick Scott is expected to announce if he'll challenge Nelson after the current legislative session wraps up in Tallahassee. 

March 05, 2018

Rubio, Nelson bill seeks crackdown on people who fail gun background checks

Bill Nelson

via @learyreports

People who fail a background check trying to buy a gun could face increased risk of prosecution under a bill introduced Monday by Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson and other lawmakers.

The NICS Denial Notification Act, which had previously been introduced in the House, requires federal authorities to alert state law enforcement within 24 hours when individuals "lie and try" to purchase firearms, according to a release from Rubio's office.

State officials could then decide to prosecute or "keep an eye on these denied individuals for signs of future criminal activity." The Justice Department would have to publish an annual report about prosecutions.

Only 13 states that use NCIS get notified when someone fails a background check, according to Rubio's office.

"In the 37 states and the District of Columbia that rely on the FBI to run some or all of their background checks, state authorities generally are not aware when prohibited persons fail background checks run by the FBI. Individuals who are willing to 'lie and try' to buy a gun may be dangerous and willing to obtain guns through other means," read the release.

"As a result, these states and D.C. lack critical law enforcement intelligence that they could use to try to keep their communities safe."

The legislation is sponsored by Sens. Rubio and Nelson along with Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Chris Coons, D-Del.,  John Cornyn, R-Texas, Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

March 04, 2018

Rubio’s record on guns: two bills, no cosponsors — and a higher NRA rating

IMG_Rubio

@alextdaugherty

Marco Rubio has a message for critics after the Parkland school shooting who say he’s bought and sold by the National Rifle Association: The gun lobby buys into my agenda, not the other way around.

But Rubio’s legislative agenda on guns is light.

Since coming to Washington in 2011, the Florida Republican has introduced 463 bills, of which only two, both introduced twice, directly involve guns. Rubio’s Second Amendment Enforcement Act was first introduced on March 26, 2015, 18 days before he announced a presidential bid.

When Rubio introduced his bill, which would overturn most of Washington D.C.’s strict gun laws, his NRA grade was B+, a lower rating than all but two of his fellow Republican presidential contenders at the time. Rubio’s less than perfect rating stemmed from his time in the Florida legislature where he wavered on an NRA-approved bill that allowed people with concealed-carry permits to keep their weapons in their vehicles while at work.

A few weeks later, Rubio’s NRA grade went up to an A, and it has stayed there ever since. Since entering the Senate, he has consistently voted in favor of policies and co-sponsored legislation the NRA supports, arguing that restrictions on guns hinder the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.

Rubio’s office said he decided to introduce the bill in 2015, and not when he entered the Senate in 2011, because a young woman who began working for him in 2014 wanted to bring two legally acquired handguns to D.C. to protect herself after a shooting near her building. The process to legally own a gun under D.C. law was so “unreasonable and complicated” that she had to take time off work to complete it, Rubio spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas said.

“Based on this real-life story he witnessed firsthand, he introduced the bill so that D.C. law would be in line with federal law,” Perez-Cubas said in an email. “He also sent a letter to his colleagues asking for support on the measure.”

But it doesn’t appear that Rubio did much to push his legislation.

Rubio didn’t gain any cosponsors for his 2015 bill, and he hasn’t gotten any cosponsors after reintroducing the legislation in 2017. A nearly identical bill to Rubio’s measure had already been written and introduced by John McCain in 2010. McCain’s bill garnered 18 cosponsors, including three Democrats. Neither Rubio nor McCain’s bill received a hearing or markup in committee, or a vote on the Senate floor.

Read more here.

March 01, 2018

U.S. Senate to hold first hearing on FBI’s missed signals before Parkland shooting

Bill Nelson

@alextdaugherty

The U.S. Senate will hold its first hearing to determine how federal agencies like the FBI missed signs that accused killer Nikolas Cruz was capable of carrying out the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Ia., announced Thursday that his committee, which has oversight over the FBI, will hold a hearing on March 14 over the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“The great tragedy of the Parkland shooting is that it was preventable,” Grassley said at a hearing on Thursday. “The FBI and local law enforcement failed to act on credible tips that should have neutralized the killer and gotten him help.”

Despite warnings and the FBI’s awareness of a September 2017 tip labeling Cruz as a potential “school shooter,” FBI officials said its call center intake specialist and a supervisor decided not to take further investigative action after getting a call in January, according to Grassley’s office. As a result, the FBI did not open a counterterrorism inquiry or contact local law enforcement officials.

The hearing has not been officially scheduled on the committee’s website yet, and guests haven’t been announced, though agency heads like FBI Director Chris Wray typically appear at the televised question-and-answer sessions with senators from both parties.

“It has been clear from these briefings that the systems designed to prevent troubled individuals like the Parkland shooter from engaging in violent acts failed miserably,” Grassley said. “Government must be held accountable for its mistakes. It is also clear that private companies can do more to prevent future mass shootings by identifying threatening content and warning law enforcement officials.”

Read more here.

February 27, 2018

Rubio bill would let young adults in D.C. purchase the AR-15

Marco Rubio 3

@alextdaugherty

Last week, Marco Rubio stared into the eyes of a father who lost his daughter during the nation’s deadliest high school shooting and made an announcement: Young adults should not be able to purchase guns.

“I absolutely believe that in this country, if you are 18 years of age you should not be able to buy a rifle. I will support a law that takes that right away,” Rubio said during an intense town hall event with Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students, parents and alumni.

But one of Rubio’s own bills, which he has introduced twice, would overturn an assault weapons ban and legalize gun sales for young adults in the nation’s capital, allowing 18- to 21-year-olds in Washington, D.C. to purchase weapons like the AR-15 used in the Parkland shooting if federal law doesn’t change.

The Florida Republican introduced the Second Amendment Enforcement Act in 2015 and again in 2017 that would drastically change the District of Columbia’s gun laws. After introducing the bill for the first time in 2015 while seeking the Republican presidential nomination, Rubio’s National Rifle Association’s grade went from a B+ to an A.

A man who was once called a “big disappointment” by Florida NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer — after wavering on a bill that allowed people with concealed-carry permits to keep their weapons in their vehicles while at work — was now back in the good graces of the nation’s gun lobby.

“Rubio has a perfect voting record in the Senate,” NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said in 2015. “His rating reflects five years’ worth of votes in defense of the Second Amendment.”

Spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas said Tuesday that Rubio’s D.C. gun bill won’t be changed in light of his new policy position.

Read more here.