November 30, 2017

Democrats prod Miami Republican up for OAS ambassador over immigration bill

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@alextdaugherty

A 2015 bill that would have made it a felony for an undocumented immigrant who was previously deported, or facing a deportation order, to be in Florida, was a point of contention for Democrats during state Rep. Carlos Trujillo’s Senate confirmation hearing to be U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States on Thursday.

Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., challenged Trujillo’s bill during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing chaired by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Trujillo ally.

“In 2015 you authored what I would consider to be a draconian bill in the Florida legislature that would have made not complying with a deportation order a felony punishable up to 30 years in prison,” Menendez said. “Give me a sense of what you meant by that bill because when you deal with the ambassadors to these countries they’re going to know this and...some of these countries, Mexico, Guatemala and others in Central America are good partners with us at the OAS. So this is going to be a bit of a challenge and I want to hear what your intent was and how you’re going to deal with that.”

Trujillo told Menendez he would have done things differently.

“I would not have supported that bill on the floor the way it was drafted,” Trujillo said. “It was poorly drafted, it never captured my original intent. My original intent for that bill was to codify federal statue for legal reentry post-deportation, post all of due process being exhausted.”

Trujillo, a Republican and vocal supporter of President Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, was announced as the White House’s appointment for OAS ambassador in October, just two months after Trump named him one of four U.S. representatives to the United Nations General Assembly. That job made Trujillo one of U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s four deputies.

As OAS ambassador, the Cuban-American Trujillo would become a leading voice on U.S. policy toward Cuba and Venezuela, countries of key importance to South Florida immigrants and to Rubio, a Trujillo friend and go-to adviser to Trump on Latin America. Trujillo is bilingual and a married father of four.

Read more here.

November 29, 2017

Marco Rubio bucks Donald Trump, proposes higher corporate tax rate (updated)

Marco Rubio

@alextdaugherty

 

Sens. Marco Rubio and Mike Lee are adamant that any tax overhaul bill must benefit working families and corporations alike, and they're willing to support a smaller cut to corporate taxes in order to pay for an increased child tax credit.

President Donald Trump doesn’t like the idea.

Rubio, R-Fla., and Lee, R-Utah, announced Wednesday that they want to increase the federal corporate income tax rate to 22 percent from the 20 percent proposed in the Senate’s tax overhaul bill. The corporate tax increase would pay for a child tax credit that reduces some families’ tax bill for every child they have under the age of 17.

“We have a chance to do better by working families in this tax bill,” Rubio and Lee said in a statement. “Right now, 70 percent of the tax cuts we’re considering would go to businesses, and only 30 percent to individuals. This amendment would level the playing field for families, while still kick-starting national investment and growth. By increasing access to the Child Tax Credit, we can increase working family fairness and deliver overdue relief to America’s greatest investor class: our moms and dads.”

Rubio and Lee have repeatedly said that Republicans will pay at the ballot box if it is perceived that their tax plan doesn't do enough to help working families. The pair did get the child tax credit increased to $2,000, which is higher than the current ceiling of $1,000, but they are arguing that more must be done.

Rubio and Lee’s plan would also make the $2,000 tax credit fully refundable, meaning that if a low-income family’s tax credit exceeds their total amount owed in taxes, they would be eligible for a tax refund. The tax credit would also be tied to the rate of inflation, which means the tax credit will increase if inflation increases. 

“I’m not going to vote for an increase on the middle class,” Rubio said in October. “But we’re not going to get to that point. We’re not that crazy around here.”

President Donald Trump called the proposed 20 percent corporate tax rate a “perfect number” earlier this year, though at one point he wanted an even bigger cut to 15 percent. A White House official confirmed to the Miami Herald that Trump opposes Rubio’s plan.

“We do support the child tax credit. We also think it’s important to make businesses more competitive. We would not support raising the corporate rate as outlined in that amendment,” said White House spokesman Raj Shah.

Read more here.
 

November 28, 2017

Bill Nelson to Republicans on tax plan: try again

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via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson and Democrats are hopeful that Republican divisions over the tax package will result in failed vote later this week and insist they are ready to work on a do-over.

“If this attempt can be defeated, then the flowers of bipartisanship will start to spring up,” Nelson said during a news conference Tuesday in which more than a dozen Democrats denounced the current legislation.

“Why not test us?” said Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, suggesting a revamped bill could get plenty of Democratic support.

Nelson, in an interview, blasted the corporate tax cuts in the bill. “Why give a huge, multinational corporate tax cut, which in essence swells the defict $1.4 trillion and the same time gives little relief, if any, to the middle class?”

Some tax cuts aimed at the middle class expire after a number of years – “widow dressing,” in Nelson’s terms. He also cited a CBO report showing that over a decade, people making $75,000 or less would see a tax increaes.

Nelson said another unfairness is small businesses would pay a higher rate than the 20 percent for corporations.

“Nothing about it is fair,” Nelson said.

Asked about the child tax credit increase fellow Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is pushing, Nelson replied, “That’s just nibbling around the edges.” The current proposal calls for doubling the current credit to $2,000 but is not fully refundandable, which Rubio himself objects to.

Nelson did manage to get something in the bill, with an assist from Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who co-sponsored the amendment Citrus growers would get a deduction for new trees replacing those savaged by greening disease.

But it’s a blip — $30 million over a decade — in the overall package.

 

November 27, 2017

Bill Nelson for governor? Nah

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via @learyreports

In announcing he would not run for governor as a Democrat, John Morgan said Sen. Bill Nelson should.

But that's not going to happen.

"Nelson is running for reelection," a spokesman flatly told the Tampa Bay Times.

Florida's only statewide elected Democrat, Nelson, 75, is seeking a fourth Senate term in 2018. He faces a likely challenge from Gov. Rick Scott, who cannot run for reelection in 2018.

Morgan, however, suggested Nelson would be "happier" as governor and is the Democrats' best chance. "In the Senate he accomplishes nothing," he told Politico. "As governor, he could have a legacy."Currently, Nelson is the top Democrat on the Commerce Committee and second on Armed Services.

November 15, 2017

Rubio sees ‘progress’ on Senate tax bill

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via @learyreports @alextdaugherty

Senate Republicans unveiled changes to their tax overhaul plan on Tuesday, and one of the changes is a $2,000 child tax credit championed by Sen. Marco Rubio.

The $2,000 tax credit is the minimum amount that the Florida Republican said was necessary to help working families in a tax proposal and he previously indicated he would vote against any plan that did not meet the $2,000 minimum.

"We are making progress," Rubio said Wednesday on Twitter.

The initial Senate plan increased the child tax credit to $1,650 from the current $1,000 maximum, $50 more than the House proposal released two weeks ago. Democrats say the credit should be even higher and Rubio at one point talked up $2,500. 

Rubio held numerous meetings with Ivanka Trump and Utah Sen. Mike Lee to discuss a higher child tax credit. 

"I’m not going to vote for an increase on the middle class," Rubio said in October. "But we’re not going to get to that point. We’re not that crazy around here."

Democrats are not expected to vote in favor of the GOP tax bill, especially after Republicans included a provision to repeal Obamacare's individual mandate on Tuesday. Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, is frustrated that Democrats were not included in any preliminary discussions on a tax bill. 

November 13, 2017

Bill Nelson calls out Republicans by name for refusing to work with him on taxes

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@alextdaugherty

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson loves to talk about his bipartisan work in Washington and close relationship with Republican colleagues like Florida counterpart Marco Rubio

But Democrats weren't part of drafting the Senate's plan to rewrite the nation's tax code, and Nelson is personally appealing to his Republican colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee to find common ground. The bill is set for a committee markup on Monday afternoon, though Republicans can push the bill through with a simple majority. 

"We are completely rewriting our tax code," Nelson said, according to remarks prepared for delivery. "Yet, we haven’t had any hearings on the bill. Or any time to seriously debate the slew of policy changes that will affect people’s everyday lives." 

Then Nelson calls out several Republicans on the Finance Committee by name, referencing work he's done with them in the past. 

"Mr. Chairman (Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch), how many times have we come together to find common ground and get something good done for the American people? Just last year, we passed the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act out of committee with a bipartisan vote of 26 to 0. It started with you and the Ranking Member hashing out differences to find a workable middle. Why can’t we do that again?"

"Senator (Chuck) Grassley, we worked together on the ACE Kids Act, which would create a national network of children’s hospitals and other providers to better serve kids needing specialized care."

"Senator (John) Cornyn, we’ve worked together to increase accountability at the VA, to honor helicopter air ambulance crews that served in Vietnam, and to help citrus growers struggling to deal with a plant disease known as citrus greening."

"Senator (John) Thune, you and I have partnered on so many issues in the Commerce Committee it’s hard to keep count. If anyone wants a good example of how we should be conducting ourselves, just look to how Senator Thune and I work together in the Commerce Committee."

"You all get the picture. I could go all the way down the line citing examples of times when each of us crossed the partisan divide to do the people’s work. It doesn’t happen as much as I’d like. But it is possible," Nelson said. 

Nelson also offered nine amendments to the tax bill, including lower tax rates for people making less than $170,000 a year, reinstating personal exemptions and providing funding for citrus trees struck by disease in Florida. His amendments are likely to fail in the GOP-controlled committee. 

"All I’m asking is to give bipartisanship a chance," Nelson said.

The House is expected to vote on its tax overhaul, dubbed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, this week. If the Senate passes its version, the two chambers will deliberate in conference to come up with a final bill. 

November 09, 2017

Marco Rubio says Roy Moore should be disqualified from the Senate if allegations are true

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@alextdaugherty 

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said Roy Moore should disqualify himself from running for an Alabama Senate seat if an on-the-record account by a woman who said that Moore had sexual contact with her when she was 14 is true. 

The Washington Post reported that Moore had multiple relationships with underage women decades ago, including a relationship with a 14-year-old that began when the young girl's mother let Moore look after her outside a courthouse. 

"Today’s report in The Washington Post raises allegations against Mr. Moore that are deeply disturbing and, if true, disqualifying," Rubio said in a statement.

Moore, a fiery Republican former judge who has said that LGBT individuals are unfit to serve in Congress, is the Republican nominee for attorney general Jeff Sessions' former seat after winning a fierce GOP primary earlier this year. The election between Moore and Democrat Doug Jones is just over a month away, meaning Moore's name will still appear on the ballot even if the Alabama GOP revokes the party's endorsement. 

Rubio never endorsed Moore after he won the Republican nomination, in contrast to some of his Senate Republican colleagues. His campaign had no plans to speak or raise money on Moore's behalf.

Disavowing Moore could lessen the GOP's advantage in the Senate, which currently stands at 52 Republicans and 48 senators who caucus with Democrats. 

Many Republican senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, called on Moore to step aside if the allegations are true. 

Sen. John McCain did not include a qualification about proving truthfulness in his statement. 

"The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying," McCain said. "He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of." 

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said he could not comment on the sexual assault allegations against Moore because he hadn't read the story yet. 

October 24, 2017

Bill Nelson blasts FEMA response in Florida and Puerto Rico

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@alextdaugherty

Sen. Bill Nelson sharply criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday, arguing that the federal government isn't doing enough to get inspectors out to damaged properties and help people who are still displaced. 

in a 15-minute speech on the Senate floor, Nelson said it takes too long for people to reach FEMA by phone, and that the agency is caught up in bureaucracy. 

"People are suffering and people are hurting," Nelson said. "Red tape just should not stop anyone in this country from having a safe place to live."

Nelson also referenced a Miami Herald report detailing that 50,000 people waited in Tropical Park last week for special food stamps handed out to Hurricane Irma victims. 

"People are getting desperate," Nelson said."There were 50,000 people waiting at a center in South Florida and many were turned away after waiting in the heat for hours and hours. And then the next day, it was the same story in another city." 

Nelson's remarks come as the Senate is expected to pass a $36.5 billion hurricane relief package this week. The package was passed by the House two weeks ago and will likely not include $2.5 billion in specific funding for Florida's citrus industry and direct funds to help Puerto Rico, elements that Nelson and Sen. Marco Rubio argued must be included into a relief package now. 

The White House has said a third relief bill will likely come sometime in November. This week's relief package must be passed to keep the federal flood insurance program afloat and fund FEMA.

"I hope very much that in November...we’re going to pass a new thing, and it’s going to have this money in there to help them," Rubio said in a speech on Monday. "That would be fantastic. But we all know how this place works, and I just don’t know why we couldn’t do it now." 

Nelson also said it's taking too long for FEMA to get inspectors out to damaged properties in the Florida Keys and Southwest Florida. 

"You call FEMA, you're supposed to get a FEMA representative and you have to wait and wait and wait," Nelson said. "The last time we checked, the expected wait time to get a housing inspector is 45 days. That's too long for families to wait for an inspector." 

October 19, 2017

Rubio says Congress isn’t doing enough to help Puerto Rico

Marco Rubio 3

@alextdaugherty 

Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans are still without power and running water, and Marco Rubio says Congress needs to do more.

The U.S. Senate is expected to formulate its own disaster relief bill on Thursday or Friday after the House passed a $36.5 billion proposal last week.

But Rubio said simply passing the House proposal doesn’t do enough for Florida, Texas and especially Puerto Rico in their time of need. The House proposal gives large sums of money to federal agencies for hurricane relief but does not include specific provisions that immediately fund rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico.

“It’s not so much the dollar amount, it’s really how those funds would be accessed,” Rubio said. “For example, it requires...a damage assessment, they’re not going to be able to do this in a timely fashion while they’re trying to restore power and get water and food to people. They [Puerto Rico] are today, four weeks after the storm, where Florida was 48 hours after the storm. They’re still dealing with the acute, immediate challenges.”

Rubio said he’s been working with Texas Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, who have both criticized the pending disaster aid package because it lacks specific provisions, along with Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York, to make changes to the relief bill before the Senate votes on it.

“It’s easy to get impressed by some of the dollar figures that are in there which is substantial,” Rubio said. “The problem for Puerto Rico and Florida and Texas is the package is not structured in a way that actually helps us entirely. In the case of Florida it leaves out key industries that need to be addressed. In the case of Puerto Rico it fails to adequately address the liquidity issue, and that is the ability to access the funds quickly to continue basic governmental operations.”

Rubio warned that the Puerto Rican government could shut down in the next 30 to 45 days if Congress doesn’t allocate funds specifically to the U.S. territory. A shutdown would be “incredibly cataclysmic” to Puerto Rico’s relief effort, Rubio said.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló met with Rubio on Thursday morning to update the senator on relief efforts before a meeting with President Donald Trump later in the day. Rosselló, who has been quick to publicly praise the federal government’s response in the weeks after Hurricane Maria, did not criticize Congress or the federal government’s response during remarks on Capitol Hill.

Read more here.

Rubio meets with Puerto Rico Gov. Rosselló

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@alextdaugherty 

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló is in Washington on Thursday as the Senate mulls another hurricane relief package after the House passed a $36.5 billion measure last week. 

Rosselló will meet President Donald Trump at the White House later this morning but his first stop of the day was with Sen. Marco Rubio. Rosselló also met with Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Thursday morning. 

"Our call is for Congress to take strong action so that we can have the resources appropriate to work with the U.S. citizens in Texas, U.S. citizens in Florida, U.S. citizens in the U.S. Virgin Islands and U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico," Rosselló said. "In these emergencies things might have the appearance that they are stabilizing at one point but you always have future problems that can arise like public health emergencies. We need equal treatment."