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February 25, 2015

Immigration reform will happen, Obama says in Miami: 'There will be a President Rodriguez'

@PatriciaMazzei

Likening immigration reform to the great civil-rights movements in U.S. history, President Barack Obama vowed during a brief visit to Miami on Wednesday to veto any legislation undoing his executive order protecting from deportation up to 5 million people who are in the country illegally.

“In the short term, if Mr. [Mitch] McConnell, the leader of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, want to have a vote on whether what I’m doing is legal or not, they can have that vote,” Obama said, almost daring congressional leaders to challenge him. “I will veto that vote, because I’m absolutely confident that what we’re doing is the right thing to do.”

His veto threat was met with rousing applause from the friendly audience assembled at Florida International University, where Obama taped an hour-long town hall-style meeting hosted by Miami-based Telemundo and sister network MSNBC. The event, moderated by bilingual anchor José Díaz-Balart, was later nationally televised on both networks.

McConnell, of Kentucky, wants a stand-alone bill blocking Obama’s 2014 actions, which were supposed to take effect this week but have been stalled by a Texas federal judge. Boehner, of Ohio, is waiting for the Senate’s move, after House Republicans passed a budget for the Homeland Security Department that wouldn’t pay for the president’s plan.

More here.

Conservative Club for Growth hosts Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush -- but not Florida reporters -- in Palm Beach

@PatriciaMazzei

The Club for Growth, a conservative group, has invited a gaggle of potential Republican presidential candidates to speak at the organization's winter conference beginning Thursday at the Breakers hotel in West Palm Beach. Slated to appear are former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, as well as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Not invited: Florida reporters.

Asked by the Miami Herald for a media credential last week, Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller responded: "Media coverage is by invitation only."

We reporters often gripe about access to public events. But these are politicians flirting with running for the world's most powerful position, so trying to keep what they say to a few hand-picked news organizations is hardly transparent. The Club for Growth appears to be more keen on controlling coverage than on reaching the widest possible audience with their -- and the potential candidates' -- conservative message.

The approach stands in contrast to numerous other events attended by would-be candidates. For example, the Conservative Political Action Conference, taking place this week in Maryland with many of the same GOP hopefuls, had open media registration and allows news outlets to live stream, upload and archive video of speakers' remarks.

AFP takes Latvala and Detert to task on economic incentives

Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group backed by uber-rich brothers David and Charles Koch is lashing out against two powerful Senate Republicans who have introduced bills related to economic incentive programs.

One bill (S.B. 1046) by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Sarasota, would create an incentive fund “to respond to extraordinary opportunities and to compete effectively with other states” in attracting the entertainment industry to Florida.

The other bill (S.B. 1214), by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, makes changes to existing quick-action closing funds, which AFP says allow state dollars to subsidize private economic development without enough transparency or oversight.

But AFP isn’t really a fan of Detert or Latvala, despite its strong conservative reputation and the senators’ klout among fellow Republicans in the Legislature. In 2014, AFP gave them both “F” grades in its legislative scorecard.

As Obama visits Miami for immigration town hall, a look back at fact-checks about border security, deportations

President Barack Obama will defend his record on immigration at a town hall at Florida International University today.

The event starts at 3 p.m. and it will air at 7 p.m. on Telemundo and at 8 p.m. on MSNBC.

PolitiFact has fact-checked several claims related to Obama and immigration. Here are a few examples:

A few days before he announced his executive action in November, Obama was asked why he suddenly felt he could use executive action to address immigration issues. Obama said, "My position hasn’t changed." But it had.

Obama spoke several times in recent years about what actions he was able to undertake on immigration. At one point he said, "I am president, I am not king." Later he stated, "I’m not the emperor of the United States."

He may be neither of those things, but he did take sweeping action on immigration in the face of opposition from the Republican-controlled House. So we rated his claim that he hadn’t changed position False.

We also fact-checked Obama’s claim that “the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s.”

In 2013, about 420,000 illegal immigrants were apprehended at the border. The last time it was lower than that was 1972. However, in the 1970s, it was easier for people to make multiple attempts or excursions illegally across the border, undermining the quality of the historical comparison. We rated this claim Half True.

We also checked the claim by José Díaz-Balart, a host of today’s event in Miami and a Telemundo news anchor and MSNBC host.

"Every single day in this country, 1,000 people are deported and the vast majority of those people that are deported aren't criminals."

In 2013, an average of 1,200 people per day were formally removed from the country. But non-criminal removals only slightly outnumbered the removals of those with criminal charges. We rated his claim Half True.

Hear a claim we should fact-check today about immigration? #PolitiFactThis or truthometer@politifact.com

A Rick Scott tax hike? Yes, some Republicans say

Gov. Rick Scott doesn't talk about how his "record" budget for schools requires the state to collect more taxes from Floridians. But some of his fellow Republicans say it's true.

Scott's $77 billion budget proposal now before the Legislature includes $842 million more for schools, bringing per pupil spending to its highest level. But nearly half of Scott's increase would come from higher property taxes paid by homeowners and businesses due to growth in property values.

Is that a tax increase? Absolutely, a key Republican legislator says.

"It is a tax increase if you're a property taxpayer who gets a tax bill that will go up next year compared to this year. Property taxpayers will look at that and say 'That's a tax increase,'" said Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, a key architect of the education budget as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. "The state is contributing less and less ... and local school districts are contributing more and more."

Gaetz, a former school superintendent and school board member in Okaloosa County, added: "If the check he (the taxpayer) has to write goes up, then he thinks his taxes go up."

Continue reading "A Rick Scott tax hike? Yes, some Republicans say" »

FIU gets TV love before Obama visit

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida International University didn't organize Wednesday evening's immigration event with President Obama. But it's getting plenty of publicity out of it anyway.

Telemundo and MSNBC rented space (for nearly $39,000) at the Graham Center on FIU's main campus to host what the sister TV networks have billed as a town-hall style meeting with the president. The university considers it a private event.

Yet FIU appears to be reaping the benefits of lending its venue. José Díaz-Balart, the Telemundo MSNBC anchor moderating the bilingual discussion with Obama, hosted his morning show, The Rundown, from the event hall and repeatedly named the university. A promotional shot showed the university's campus. And President Mark Rosenberg gave a live interview in which he characterized his school as "the face of American in the next two decades."

"In a very real way, this FIU campus is a microcosm of American society," Díaz-Balart gushed.

On Telemundo's evening newscast Monday, Rosenberg, who is bilingual himself, said in Spanish that Obama's visit will be the first time a sitting president appears at FIU.

Díaz-Balart wrapped up his Rundown broadcast listing "5 Things" about FIU, including that it awards more degrees to Hispanics than any other university in the nation, that Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio teaches there, and that the law school is named after Díaz-Balart's late father, Rafael.

Quinnipiac poll: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker leads early in Iowa

via @LightmanDavid

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has opened up a big lead in Iowa, the nation’s first caucus state, a new Quinnipiac poll said Wednesday.

Walker polled 25 percent, twice as much as his closest rival, in the Republican presidential derby. He benefits from his conservative ties, and because he’s fairly well known since he comes from a nearby state.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is second at 13 percent, followed by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at 11 percent each. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is at 10 percent.

"Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is taking the Republican political world by storm," said Peter Brown, Quinnipiac Poll assistant director.

"He's gone from being unknown outside Wisconsin to the hot candidate, poised to become the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination. Front-runner status would make it easier for Gov. Walker to raise money and recruit top talent for his staff, but it also puts a target on his back.”

Walker’s recent missteps, such as his silence when sitting near former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani when Giuliani said President Barack Obama didn’t love America, haven’t hurt him much. "Perhaps most impressive about Walker's numbers is that 57 percent view him favorably to only 7 percent who view him unfavorably - a heck of a first impression,” Brown said.

But he had one note of caution: The caucus is about a year away, and the last two winners, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Huckabee, didn’t come close to winning the nomination.

--DAVID LIGHTMAN, McClatchy Washington Bureau

Obama's torturous routine: defending immigration record on Spanish-language TV

@PatriciaMazzei

For President Barack Obama, it has become a torturous routine — appearing on Spanish-language television to try to defend his record on reshaping the nation’s immigration laws.

On each occasion, he has been reminded that he broke his 2008 campaign promise to reform the system and that his administration is on track to deport more people than any other president in U.S. history.

Yet he will go at it again Wednesday in Miami, a majority Hispanic city in America’s largest swing state, this time in an attempt to reassure people in the country illegally that his latest executive action, which would shield up to five million people from deportation, stands on strong legal footing. A federal judge in Texas temporarily suspended the order last week, ruling that the president had overstepped his power. The Justice Department has appealed.

“My administration will fight this ruling with every tool at our disposal, and I have full confidence that these actions will ultimately be upheld,” Obama wrote in an op-ed published Tuesday by The Hill.

The president is expected to take questions Wednesday directly from undocumented immigrants at the taping of an event at Florida International University that will later air nationally on Miami-based Telemundo and sister network MSNBC. He will also likely address the Homeland Security Department budget, which is pending in Congress amid a political fight over funding Obama’s executive immigration actions. A Friday deadline looms.

More here.

February 24, 2015

White House invites GOP congressman to Miami immigration event, but denies him Air Force One seat

@PatriciaMazzei

The White House invited Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo to President Obama's immigration event Wednesday at Florida International University, which is in Curbelo's district. But the congressman apparently won't be able to make it.

Curbelo said that, after receiving the emailed invitation Monday night, he tried to rearrange his travel plans from Washington D.C., where Congress is in session, to attend. Able to find only early-morning flights that would require missing a full day of votes, Curbelo said he inquired about hitching a ride with Obama on Air Force One, which is scheduled to leave D.C. around noon. For example, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens -- a Democrat -- will be traveling with the president.

"They said, 'Sorry, there's no space on the plane for you,'" Curbelo said late Tuesday when asked by the Miami Herald whether he would be at the event hosted by Telemundo and MSNBC. The White House couldn't be reached for comment.

Characterizing it as a potential "political risk" to appear at an Obama event, Curbelo said he still would like to hear the president discuss immigration. Obama shares common ground -- at least policy-wise -- on the issue with Miami's three Cuban-American Republicans in Congress, who support comprehensive immigration reform but legislated by Congress and not carried out by executive orders.

Instead, it looks like Curbelo will be staying in the frigid Capitol.

"I guess everyone is trying to make it to Miami in winter," he said.

This post has been updated.

'I know he's his own man,' John McCain says of Jeb Bush

via @learyreports

The Tampa Bay Times caught up with Sen. John McCain at the Capitol today and asked about Jeb Bush surrounding himself with former advisers to his brother and his father, the former presidents.

"People are making a big deal out of that," McCain said. "These are the most knowledgeable and respected people, the overwhelming majority of them, on national security. They have been from administration to administration, some of them go all the way back to his father. There is a certain cadre of people who are well respected on national security and it’s not surprising many of them have attached themselves to Bush.”

Bush's campaign-not-a-campaign announced the advisers, including  former former George W. Bush deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, on the eve of a speech last Wednesday in which he declared, “I am my own man.” The juxtaposition of those messages drew stares from a variety of corners.

“I know he’s his own man,” said McCain.

Meantime, Sen. Marco Rubio is making the argument that a senator is in better position than a governor to lead the country on foreign policy. Asked about that, McCain paused. “Aagh, mmmm,” he said, clearly not convinced.

“I think experience really helps,” he added, “but I harken back to another former governor that won the Cold War."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times