January 29, 2018

Rubio supports legislation that overhauls sexual harassment rules

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@alextdaugherty

Senator Marco Rubio said Monday he supports various efforts to overhaul the process of reporting and investigating allegations of sexual misconduct in Congress, two days after the Florida Republican fired his top staffer for what he said was evidence of inappropriate behavior with subordinates.

The U.S. Senate is likely to receive legislation from the House of Representatives this week that would mandate sexual harassment training for everyone who works in Congress along with changing the reporting process for victims and investigations conducted on Capitol Hill.

While some of his Senate Republican colleagues have said legislation isn’t necessary to force change and merely changing Senate rules would suffice, Rubio said he would support any effort that swiftly addresses wrongdoing while protecting victims.

“Senator Rubio would support any measure that requires senators to deal with harassment the way he has – swiftly, decisively and protective of the victims’ wishes to not be publicly identified,” Rubio spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas said in a statement.

Perez-Cubas was referring to Rubio’s actions when informed of former chief of staff Clint Reed’s alleged misconduct.

According to a statement issued by Rubio’s office, the senator was made aware of allegations about Reed on Friday afternoon. After investigating the allegations with his general counsel, Rubio traveled from Florida to Washington on Saturday evening and fired Reed.

Rubio didn’t cosponsor a recent bill from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., that won the support of various Democrats and Republicans, though the statement from his office indicates he would vote in favor of legislation if it reaches the Senate floor. A bill sponsored by Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., is likely to pass the House of Representatives this week and the Senate can begin consideration of the proposal. Harper’s bill would update the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act and require the legislative branch to comply with workplace laws related to sexual harassment that are currently enforced in the private sector.

“The CAA Reform Act brings more transparency, accountability, and stronger protections for employees,” Harper said in a statement. “It institutes a respectful, more streamlined process for individuals to report claims and reach a resolution. Ultimately, these reforms will strengthen protections for individuals and needed accountability in the workplace.”

Read more here.

January 26, 2018

Out front or out of sight, Rubio takes Miami heat for immigration work

Marco Rubio 3

@newsbysmiley @alextdaugherty

Maybe Marco Rubio can’t win on immigration.

Five years ago, as a first-term U.S. senator, the Miami Republican helped carry a doomed immigration overhaul bill and suffered politically as a result. Now, in 2018, he’s kept a low profile amid a fever-pitch debate over immigration — and it’s beginning to rankle some of his former political allies in Miami.

Rubio is taking heat on the home front for not being out front as Congress works to pass new immigration legislation in time to avoid another government shutdown next month. Business groups and immigration activists such as billionaire Coral Gables healthcare magnate Mike Fernandez are calling the Cuban-American senator out for doing too little to support one of the largest immigrant communities in the country.

Fernandez, despite being a former GOP donor, supported Rubio’s Democratic opponent in 2016. And former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Friday blasted his one-time mentee for lacking the political courage to on a risky issue.

“God forbid you actually took on something that was controversial and paid a political price,” Bush told USA Today. “That’s the attitude in D.C. right now. Certainly Sen. Rubio is no different in that regard. Marco is a talented guy and he understands this issue really well, and maybe behind the scenes he’s working hard. But at some point, his leadership would be really helpful.”

Rubio’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Local leaders, including Miami Dade College President Eduardo Pardon, say they have been contacting Rubio’s office to talk about immigration. Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce CEO Julio Fuentes said Rubio’s office told him the senator “is not the right person to be that champion” on immigration after his efforts failed in 2013.

“Sen. Rubio is so important because of what he represents: His father came here to this country [from Cuba] in the pursuit of the American Dream. This is something that should be near and dear to his heart,” said Felice Gorordo, a board member of the bipartisan Immigration Partnership and Coalition (IMPAC) Fund that Fernandez established last year to help pay for the defense of undocumented immigrants. “And yet we see him absent in this debate.”

Rubio has remained in the background as other members of South Florida’s delegation, particularly Republican Miami Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario-Diaz Balart, have been vocal leaders for immigration legislation. In Diaz-Balart’s case, he said he chose to be criticized for staying silent about Trump’s reported “shithole” comments about nations where citizens have temporary protected status in the U.S. in order to preserve his ability to talk immigration.

Rubio’s low profile on the topic comes as a group of senators try to craft an immigration bill that could win some Democratic support in the Senate while remaining conservative enough to win support from the House of Representatives and President Donald Trump. And lately, Rubio has opened up a little about his strategy, telling the Miami Herald Thursday that legislation crafted by a small group of senators in secret has little chance of producing a bill that will pass a conservative, Republican-controlled Congress.

“I just don't think that you can produce an immigration bill that five, 10, 12 people behind closed doors drafts and then brings to the floor and basically says our job is to pass this bill and fight off everybody’s amendments,” Rubio said. “I don’t think that will work. In fact, I think that would implode in the current environment and with the current realities.”

Read more here.

January 24, 2018

Poll: Bill Nelson has highest net approval of any red state Senate Democrat running in 2018

NELSON_PUERTO RICO0138 JAI

@alextdaugherty 

Sen. Bill Nelson is facing criticism from his own party and Gov. Rick Scott, his likely 2018 opponent, after helping craft a plan to reopen the federal government on Monday. 

But Nelson does have one advantage over his nine fellow Democratic Senators running for reelection in states won by President Donald Trump in 2016: a 25 percentage point net approval rating that ranks as the best among senators facing tough reelection challenges, according to a new poll released by Morning Consult

Fifty-one percent of registered voters polled by Morning Consult approved of Nelson's job performance while 26 percent did not approve. Nelson's net approval rating fell by two percentage points from an earlier Morning Consult poll but his marginal drop was smaller than many other Democrats facing tough reelection bids. Additionally, 23 percent of registered voters either have no opinion of Nelson or don't know enough about him to form an opinion. 

Only three senators have a net disapproval rating, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican Trump critic who is retiring and Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, who is being retried for corruption after beating charges last year. Flake and Menendez are two of the most vocal senators on Cuba, with Flake favoring a thaw between Washington and Havana while Menendez advocates for a tough-on-Cuba approach. 

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has a 10 percentage point net approval rating, with 47 percent favoring his job performance and 37 percent disapproving. Rubio isn't up for reelection until 2022. 

January 22, 2018

Miami Republican says Senate-brokered promises for Dreamers 'aren't good enough'

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

@alextdaugherty

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen issued a rebuke to her own party and a significant amount of Democrats on Monday, voting against a short-term spending bill agreed to by Senate leaders because it didn't include a legislative remedy for Dreamers, a group of nearly 800,000 undocumented young immigrants who could face deportation in March in Congress fails to act. 

“I’ve heard these promises once and again that we will find a permanent legislative remedy for Dreamers but a promise ain’t good enough any longer so that is why I voted no on the CR (Continuing Resolution)," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement.

The congresswoman also mirrored the arguments of Democrats who voted against the bill, saying that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's promise to debate and vote on a solution for Dreamers, which will likely face opposition from conservative Republicans, isn't the same as concocting a deal. 

"We have been duped and strung around enough so Dreamers can’t rely on broken promises any longer," Ros-Lehtinen said. "I will vote to approve a budget once we fulfill our pledge to these young people who know no other home but the U.S.”

Her comments were similar to New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, one of 16 Senate Democrats to vote against the deal, which funds the government through Feb. 8. 

"Nothing in this legislation gives me any confidence that in three weeks Congress won’t end up exactly where we are today," Menendez said to CNN. 

Ros-Lehtinen's No vote differed from the majority of Senate Democrats, where moderates like Florida Sen. Bill Nelson praised McConnell's commitment to debate and vote as enough of a concession to reopen the government after it shut down on Friday night. 

"Now we have a path forward in which we can work a bipartisan solution that will take care of the Dreamers,” Nelson said. “I think the American people are going to be cheering that this occurred.”

While only 16 of 47 Senate Democrats voted against the bill, the majority of House Democrats did vote against the bill. Five other House Republicans also voted against the bill with Ros-Lehtinen because they typically disapprove of spending bills without spending cuts attached. 

Ros-Lehtinen is not running for reelection in 2018, though she represents the most Democratic-leaning district in the country currently held by a Republican. She is a frequent critic of President Donald Trump and has signed on to multiple legislative solutions for Dreamers before an Obama-era executive order rescinded by Trump expires. 

Bill Nelson votes to reopen the federal government without an immigration deal

BillNelsonCarlJusteApril172017

@alextdaugherty

Senator Bill Nelson was under pressure after voting to reopen the federal government on Monday, three days after he voted to shut it down.

Gov. Rick Scott, his likely 2018 opponent, said Nelson’s vote to shut down the government “didn’t make any sense.”

Some Democrats weren’t happy either, arguing that moderates like Nelson surrendered to Republicans and reopened the government without a deal to protect nearly 800,000 undocumented young immigrants known as Dreamers from deportation.

But Nelson was unfazed.

After negotiating a deal to reopen the federal government for three weeks, Nelson was unable to contain a wide smile while explaining that a deal he helped broker was the best possible compromise to get federal employees back to work while getting Republicans to commit to a vote on the status of Dreamers.

“Before this agreement they (Dreamers) had no assurance for protection and we were not getting any help from the White House, we weren't getting any help from the House and we really weren't getting any help from the Republican leadership in the Senate. But now we have a path forward in which we can work a bipartisan solution that will take care of the Dreamers,” Nelson said. “I think the American people are going to be cheering that this occurred.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not commit to a deal or compromise for Dreamers on Monday, something that many Democrats previously said was a condition for reopening the government after it shut down on Friday night, though he did commit to debate and vote on the issue.

“So long as the government remains open it would be my intention to take up legislation here in the Senate that would address DACA, border security and related issues as well as disaster relief, defense funding, healthcare and other important matters,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

Read more here.

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

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@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.