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July 13, 2016

Rubio holds Zika hearing as opponents claim he was late to cause

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Sen. Marco Rubio said Wednesday the growing threat of Zika "as a full-blown public health crisis" demands swift action as partisan gridlock over funding remains on Capitol Hill.

"I strongly believe that inaction on Zika is inexcusable, and I am optimistic that after reviewing the facts and hearing from the experts here today, it will reinforce the fact that we must do something quickly," Rubio said during a hearing he convened as chairman of the Foreign Relations subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.

The Florida Republican has joined in Democratic calls for $1.9 billion in funding and supported a measure for $1.1 billion. He noted that he first raised questions about the threat in January, and in April, he bucked his party on the $1.9 billion sought by the Obama administration.

But despite his advocacy, Democrats have been attacking Rubio as a latecomer to the issue. So too has GOP Senate rival Carlos Beruff.

"Now that Marco Rubio needs Floridians’ votes, he’s all of a sudden interested in an issue that’s been on the horizon for over a year and has been impacting Floridians since January," the Beruff campaign said Wednesday. "The voters of Florida deserve a senator who’s there for them when they need him, not when it’s politically advantageous.”

Rubio said that after reading about Zika in January -- he was on the presidential campaign trail in Iowa -- he reached out to U.S. Customs and Border Protection "to express my concerns and ask what they were doing or could do about this, given Miami International Airport’s standing as the Gateway to the Americas, with more flights and passengers going to and coming from Brazil than any other U.S. airport."

He bucked his party in April to support the $1.9 billion in funding. "I don't want us to take our eye off of this because if this issue really takes off on us here in the United States, we don't want to say that we knew it was happening but we ignored it and did nothing about it," he said. Rubio has continued to press for funding, even voting for the House's $1.1 billion package while calling it imperfect.

"Here on the Senate floor and back home in my state, I have called for action from my colleagues and urged support for fully funding the President’s funding request to deal with this virus," he said Wednesday. "I’ve supported every single Zika proposal that has come before the Senate. Every single one. I’ve answered the call to act."

The current stalemate has to do with the House bill, which Democrats object to over provisions they say are designed to hurt Planned Parenthood. "This is why people hate Congress. This is why people hate Washington," Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said Wednesday.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., also bemoaned the partisanship over the issue but said she agreed with Rubio's call for urgency.

Rubio asked what would happen if Congress leaves for recess without providing more funding. "We will do the best we can, but this is no way to fight epidemics," replied Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Florida AFL-CIO drops mail piece attacking Donald Trump

The Florida AFL-CIO, which backs Hillary Clinton, has dropped a mailer which compares Clinton's record on labor and jobs with Donald Trump. The mailer follows her comments Tuesday in opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Clinton made a Full Flop on TPP. As PolitiFact explained, while she said for years details needed to be hammered out and they had to meet certain standards, here comments were more positive from 2010-13. She more recently opposed it as a presidential candidate. The mailer notes that both Clinton and Trump oppose TPP but is generally critical of Trump saying he would "put union-busting corporate CEOs in charge of trade negotiations."

Here is the mailer: 



Florida as danger zone: Report says 13 Florida cities will top heat index list of 'danger days'

via @JenStaletovich

As climate change warms the planet, you can bet Florida will feel the heat.

The sunshine state, according to a study released Wednesday by Climate Central, tops the nation in the number of metro areas expected to see a dangerous combination of heat and humidity, driving heat index temperatures to 104 degrees.

By 2050, all 13 cities on the list, including Miami, Tampa, Naples and Vero Beach, will see 100-plus days a year of the miserable mix that can cause a host of health problems and even death — meaning more weather that feels like South Florida’s last few sticky, searing weeks.

Miami also comes in first for the number of days expected to top 90 degrees, with nearly twice as many as the next in line, sizzling McAllen, Texas. Story here. 

Obamacare rears its head in Miami Democratic primary for Congress


Former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia touted his Obamacare support in the first mailer for his congressional campaign.

But his Democratic primary opponent, Annette Taddeo, begs to differ with Garcia's record.

In a statement Wednesday, her campaign accused Garcia of voting "with Republicans" to delay individual and employer mandates for the Affordable Care Act in 2013 and 2014. Her camp also said Garcia "voted to undermine Obamacare by allowing health care plans to remain on the market" even if they didn't satisfy the law's standards.

"Joe Garcia should tell the truth about his record of voting against Obamacare and leaving hundreds of thousands South Floridians without affordable health care," Taddeo said in the statement.

It's not the first time Garcia's votes on the law become a political issue. When he sought re-election in 2014, a super PAC backing him said Garcia "took the House to task" over the law. At the time, Garcia was running in a Republican-leaning midterm year -- in one of the country's most competitive swing districts. He also got hit from the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce for backing Obamacare.

"Joe has been a strong advocate for Obamacare and access to affordable healthcare," Garcia spokesman Javier Hernandez said. "Joe never once voted to repeal Obamacare. During the rollout of Obamacare he cast votes to help ease the transition to the new system."

Lawmakers want to block U.S. flights to Cuba

via @FrancoOrdonez

WASHINGTON -- A group of U.S. lawmakers want to block the Obama administration’s efforts to open up the United States airways to flights from Cuba. Citing concerns about Cuba’s security infrastructure, four members of Congress, including three Republicans and a Democrat, have officially called for a halt to the recently announced commercial flights between the United States and the communist nation until a closer review of security measures at Cuba’s efforts can be conducted.

"How can this administration guarantee the American people there won't be a security threat on one of those planes?” said Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C. a former chair of the Transportation Security subcommittee.

U.S. Department of Transportation announced last week that ten cities, including four in Florida, and eight airlines won tentative U.S. government approval to schedule commercial air service between the United States and Havana, Cuba. Last month, the department awarded approval to six airlines to nine other Cuban cities.

The addition of commercial flights to Cuba are seen as one of the biggest steps the White House has taken to loosen the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba since Dec. 17, 2014, when President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro announced that they would take steps to normalize relations.

The administration has also eliminated limits on remittances, restored direct mail and allowed American companies to sell to Cuba on credit.

More here.

Tim Canova attacks Debbie Wasserman Schultz on radio

Tim Canova has released three radio ads attacking his primary rival U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston.

The ad "I believe"  calls Wasserman Schultz, first elected in 2004, an "insider."

"Sadly, today, she takes hundreds of thousands of dollars from industries like Big Sugar, Wall Street banks, predatory lenders and private prisons. I believe you either represent the corporate lobbyists or you represent the people. You cannot do both." 

Here's some background from PolitiFact Florida about her bank donations and position on payday lenders.

The ad "Values" makes some similar claims. 

The last ad, "What happened to America?" is similar to a TV ad he released over the weekend.

Two of the ads attack Wasserman Schultz for taking donations from Big Sugar -- a hot topic in Florida right now as a result of the toxic algae bloom. Wasserman Schultz's campaign and leadership PAC have taken $201,450 in donations between 2004-2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. She is one of many Florida politicians to take money from an industry that gave about $57.8 million to state and local campaigns since 1994, a Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times analysis found.

Canova, a Nova Southeastern University law professor, is challenging Wasserman Schultz in a Broward/Miami-Dade congressional district in the Aug. 30 primary. This is the first primary reelection challenge she has faced in Congress.



Carlos Beruff to attend Republican National Convention in support of Trump


While some other Republicans, notably Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, keep their distance from Donald Trump and the Republican National Convention, U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff is making plans to be in Cleveland next week.

It's hardly a surprise, given Beruff has drawn comparisons to Trump and just released a new ad slamming Rubio for not being supportive of Trump.

Beruff's communications director Chris Hartline said this morning that Beruff does not have an official speaking roll at the convention, and he's not a delegate, but will make the rounds for a couple days.

Clinton to open field offices in Tallahassee, Tampa


Days after opening its South Florida headquarters in Miami, Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign will inaugurate new field offices in Tallahassee and Tampa.

Both openings will take place Thursday.

The Tallahassee will be attended by Mayor Andrew Gillum and Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant. The Tampa event will be attended by state Rep. Janet Cruz and state Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner.

Clinton's Florida camp is based in Tampa, but the separate field office will serve as a base for volunteers.

Broward lawyer Alan Koslow to remain in rehab

Alan Koslow, a lobbyist/lawyer charged with money laundering, will remain in rehab, U.S. District Court Judge William P. Dimitrouleas ruled Wednesday.

Koslow tested positive for cocaine three times in June, according to the probation department. He entered in-patient rehab for cocaine and mental health issues over the weekend, said Michael Orenstein, his lawyer. Orenstein declined to comment on any mental health diagnosis but said that Koslow has been evaluated by a psychiatrist and psychologist.

Koslow will next appear in court in August.

Koslow resigned his job with Becker & Poliakoff after the charges were announced in May against him and his co-defendant Susan Mohr. Koslow is a former city attorney for Hollywood and then once in private practice he represented developers before the city commission.

Beginning in November 2012, Koslow met with two undercover agents from the FBI. During the course of several meetings that followed, the undercover agents explained to Koslow, and later to Mohr, their need to launder cash that was being generated from an illegal gambling business and from the unlawful sale of narcotics and counterfeit Viagra.

Koslow and Mohr agreed to accept the cash and then provide checks to the agents, for the amount of the cash minus a five percent fee, drawn on the business bank account of “Mohr2GoGifts,” a business owned by Mohr and located in Fort Lauderdale. The sting ended in 2013, which has led to speculation that the feds waited to charge Koslow until this year because they wanted him to help nab others but Orenstein declined to answer questions about that.

Both face up to five years in prison if convicted.

Orenstein said that as far as he knows, Koslow and Mohr were not in a romantic relationship. Koslow knew Mohr through a business she owned selling women's accessories, he said.

The Florida Bar opened a discipline file following the charges against Koslow. Although he remains listed as a member in good standing of the bar, if he is convicted of a felony there is a presumption of disbarment.

The Sun Sentinel previously reported that Koslow had entered rehab. 



Carlos Beruff releases TV ad attacking Marco Rubio on immigration, Trump


Republican U.S. Senate challenger Carlos Beruff on Wednesday released a new ad attacking Sen. Marco Rubio for not supporting Donald Trump.

"Why does Marco Rubio refuse to support Donald Trump?" the ad asks. "Is it just sour grapes because Florida chose Trump instead of Rubio? Or is it because Trump opposed amnesty for illegal immigrants, while Rubio supports amnesty? Hmm."

PolitiFact looked into Beruff's claim that Rubio "supported Obama’s amnesty plan for illegal immigrants" and rated them Mostly False.

The ad is yet another from Beruff, the major Republican opposition to Rubio's re-election bid.

It's not clear how much money Beruff is pumping into the ad buy, which will be on the "vast majority" of markets in the state, according to the campaign. However, by May, he already had spent more than $3 million of his own money financing TV advertising.

Here's the latest ad:

Rubio's campaign responded shortly after the ad's launch with one of its common critiques, linking Beruff to former Gov. Charlie Crist, who left the Republican Party and is now running for Congress as a Democrat.

"Carlos Beruff’s love of Charlie Crist is far deeper and more real than his newly professed love of Donald Trump," Rubio spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas said in a statement. "Switching his allegiance is just like the political insider that Beruff has long been."

Beruff was a major donor to Crist -- until he left the GOP. Once he became an independent in 2010, Beruff's donations stopped.