March 13, 2019

Marco Rubio’s inaccurate tweets on Venezuela embolden liberal critics

Marco Rubio 3

@alextdaugherty

Over the past six weeks, Marco Rubio has used his Twitter account to post minute-by-minute updates and lengthy threads on Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis, making him a must-follow for anyone keeping up to date with the latest news.

Unlike many of his colleagues, Rubio writes his own posts. 

Though Rubio continues to earn widespread praise from Venezuelans, Republicans and most Democrats for keeping Venezuela’s plight in the news, his Twitter account amplified three inaccurate reports in recent days, giving fodder to those on the left who want to negotiate with Nicolás Maduro instead of getting rid of him.

The first instance: widespread reports shared by Rubio, White House officials and other prominent lawmakers that Maduro’s security forces set fire to humanitarian aid at the Venezuela-Colombia border on Feb. 23. Video evidence analyzed by The New York Times showed that a Molotov cocktail thrown by an anti-Maduro protester was the likely culprit.

The second instance was a tweet by Rubio highlighting widespread blackouts in Venezuela over the weekend. He tweeted: “Today another transformer explosion at the German Dam in Bolivar State caused another massive blackout. The result? Critically ill patients have died, the Caracas metro remains out of service & few if any flights have arrived at or departed from Caracas in over 20 hours.”

There is no German Dam in Venezuela. German Dam is a reporter who was writing about the ongoing blackouts. Rubio deleted the tweet after it was online for 24 hours and later said the message was a mistake. “I meant to type ‘Today another transformer explosion in Bolivar State caused another massive blackout according to German Dam,’ ” he tweeted.

The third instance was Rubio’s retweeting of a report from Venezuela-based news outlet VPItv, which he translated into English on Sunday. “Report that at least 80 neonatal patients have died at University Hospital in Maracaibo, Zulia, since the blackout began on Thursday in Venezuela. Unimaginable tragedy. Heartbreaking.” Wall Street Journal correspondent Juan Forero said the report was inaccurate. “Actually, sources at the hospital said no neonatal deaths recorded as of this afternoon,” Forero tweeted in response.

The Miami Herald reported Tuesday that 21 people died in hospitals without backup generators during the ongoing blackout, though the number was shared by Venezuelan opposition deputy José Manuel Olivares and could not be independently confirmed.

Rubio said Tuesday he has no plans to change his social media presence.

“Independent journalists in Venezuela are doing a great job under tremendous circumstances,” Rubio said. “A very prominent one [Luis Carlos Diaz] was just arrested today by the special police. To the extent we can give them voice by tweeting out their reports, I’m going to do that as often as I can to be supportive of their work.”

Read more here.

February 26, 2019

A bloody omen is the latest messaging from Miami Republicans on Venezuela

RHP03 RubioHaley News rk

@alextdaugherty

After 24 hours of minute-by-minute updates on the failed push to deliver humanitarian aid in Venezuela, Marco Rubio tweeted his first omen at 2 a.m Sunday.

On the left was a picture of a sword-wielding Manuel Noriega, the leftist Panamanian dictator. On the right was Noriega’s jail photo in Miami. Fourteen hours later, Rubio posted a picture of a grinning Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi next to an image of his bloody face minutes before his death. He followed it up with a photo of communist Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu being led to his death after a military tribunal.

The posts, which included no further explanation, caused a stir. Many Venezuelans praised Rubio. Critics said the graphic photos don’t help Rubio’s cause of ending the humanitarian crisis and questioned the use of Gaddafi in particular, given Libya’s ongoing civil war and migration crisis. Social-media users reported the bloody Gaddafi image to Twitter, which resulted in its being flagged for containing sensitive material.

Rubio told the Miami Herald that the posts are “a reminder that things don’t turn out so well for dictators. Their own people get rid of them.”

Rubio said the posts were not a call for military force in Venezuela, and repeated that it’s President Donald Trump’s decision to use military force and that Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro is the only person being violent right now. Two of the three dictators in Rubio’s tweets, Gaddafi and Ceausescu, died at the hands of their own people. Noriega was ousted in a U.S. invasion and brought to the U.S. on drug and money laundering charges, and he spent the rest of his life in prison before his death in 2017.

“The Maduro regime has a lot of the attributes of the dictatorships that look strong and then suddenly collapse,” Rubio said. 

Read more here.

February 14, 2019

How Parkland parents and lawmakers built relationships to help prevent school violence

Parkland shooting anniversary

@alextdaugherty

Days after the Parkland shootings just over a year ago, Fred Guttenberg and Marco Rubio met for the first time on national television.

The Republican senator, who introduced pro-gun legislation while gearing up for a 2016 presidential run, was booed by thousands in the CNN townhall audience as the father of Jaime Guttenberg, one of 17 people killed in the nation’s deadliest high school shooting, grilled him.

“Your comments this week, and those of our president, have been pathetically weak,” Guttenberg said, his voice trembling. “Look at me and tell me guns were the factor in the hunting of our kids in this school this week. And, look at me and tell me you accept it, and you will work with us to do something about guns.”

Rubio said he was supportive of laws that prevent 18- to 21-year-olds from purchasing rifles, though he wasn’t in favor of a ban on assault-style weapons. Further jeers followed when he said the National Rifle Association donates to his campaigns because they buy into his view of the Second Amendment, not the other way around.

But a year after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings, the Republican officials who were vilified on stage have closer relationships with the families of the victims than two officials who received applause during the television town hall: suspended Broward Sheriff Scott Israel and Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie. Those relationships developed away from the cameras, press conferences and viral social media posts, and are largely policy-focused, even as Rubio’s views on guns have remained unchanged despite some of the statements he made on stage that night.

“I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to meet some of them without the town hall,” Rubio said. “I’m glad I went.”

Since the shooting, Rubio said he has met at least two dozen times with five or six of the families and stayed in constant contact with them. But their conversations are very different than the exchange at that early townhall in Broward’s BB&T Center.

“Our meetings are largely about the issues that affect them,” Rubio said. “From time to time the conversation might be about another topic, but in terms of politics, when they come to DC they’re not coming to hang out, they’re coming here to get work done.”

Some of the parents are now so well connected with federal agencies they don’t need lawmakers or their staffs to set up meetings, Rubio said.

Their shared work involves issues where Rubio and the families are in agreement, like increasing funding for school safety and passing nationwide red-flag laws that make it easier for law enforcement to identify potentially dangerous individuals. Other times families come to Washington to support causes, like banning assault rifles, where they actively oppose Rubio.

More here.

February 12, 2019

DeSantis, Scott and Rubio ask Trump for $200 million for Everglades projects

 

Tamiami bridge construction

Ever since he started his term as Florida’s most powerful leader, Gov. Ron DeSantis has held true to his stance on the environment, particularly his commitment to the Everglades.

The self-titled “Teddy Roosevelt-style Republican” sent a letter to President Donald Trump Monday, asking for $200 million to fast-track construction for Everglades restoration.

The letter, co-signed by U.S. Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, asks that the president include the money in his annual budget request to fulfill “long overdue federal commitments to restore the Everglades.”

“Florida’s recent struggles with harmful algal blooms have raised the stakes for accelerated progress on Everglades restoration,” the letter said. “Enhanced federal funding to complement years of historic state funding levels would fast-track design and construction [...] to divert and clean Lake Okeechobee releases and increase water deliveries to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay/”

DeSantis, who has made the environment a top priority, made a $625 million commitment to the environment in his annual budget proposal, representing a quarter of a $2.5 billion promise he made to spend on water quality over the next four years — a $1 billion increase from past spending.

About half the spending — a record $360 million — would go to Everglades projects, speeding up a 17,000-acre Everglades reservoir in farm fields south of Lake Okeechobee and remove almost 200,000 pounds of discharged phosphorus per year — a major source of nutrient pollution.

The request for federal money would specifically go toward the Central Everglades Planning Project and the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir. They would also advance construction of water storage and treatment facilities planned for the Caloosahatchee River West Basin Storage Reservoir and Indian River Lagoon-South projects, in order to reduce the frequency and intensity of algal blooms.

The state budget proposal makes a commitment to the cause, providing $25 million to treat the blooms and red tide plaguing the state’s water supply.

"Are we spending money now in a way we can look back and say 'it's a good thing they really tackled that?'" he said at a press conference announcing his budget. "With the water, people want us to tackle that and I'm serious and get it done."

January 17, 2019

Marco Rubio and Rick Scott follow Trump and McConnell’s lead on shutdown negotiations

Gov Rick Scott

@alextdaugherty

Amid the longest-ever federal shutdown, Rick Scott called a solo press conference on Thursday to address “Washington dysfunction,” an unusual move in the U.S. Senate, where rank-and-file lawmakers typically pair up or gather in groups in front of the cameras.

The former governor, who campaigned on a slogan to “Make Washington Work,” is unable to force action as the most junior Republican in the Senate. As governor he passed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act against the wishes of the National Rifle Association and liberal Democrats weeks after the Parkland school shooting. In Washington, Scott is following Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s lead.

Florida’s Republican leaders in Washington don’t have the power to end a government shutdown on their own, but Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio aren’t publicly offering any ideas to resolve the current impasse between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over border-wall funding.

Thousands of federal employees aren’t getting paid while negotiations between the president and House and Senate leaders are largely at a standstill.

During his 10-minute press conference, Scott’s only substantive contribution to alleviate part of the shutdown’s effects was signing onto a relatively uncontroversial bill backed by Democrats and Republicans that would make sure Florida’s 5,000 Coast Guard members get paid during the shutdown, a proposal also backed by Rubio. Scott’s other ideas, such as suspending congressional pay and demanding that lawmakers stay in Washington over Martin Luther King Day, do nothing to resolve differences.

“It’s frustrating to me to watch how our government’s shut down,” Scott said. “The Coast Guard’s not getting paid. Other people are not getting paid and we’re not going down the path to secure our border.”

More here.

January 15, 2019

Hallandale official faces backlash for saying Muslim lawmaker may ‘blow up’ Congress

Images

@blaskey_s @alextdaugherty

A rookie commissioner from a South Florida beach city is facing calls for her resignation after she called newly elected Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib a “danger” and said the first Palestinian-American woman in Congress may decide to become a “martyr and blow up Capitol Hill.”

From Washington to South Florida, the post has been called “indefensible” and “racist.”

“That’s terrible,” Tlaib said when informed of the Facebook post by the Miami Herald. She said the comments were part of a national campaign to penalize supporters of Palestinian rights.

Five days after Tlaib made national headlines for a vow to help fellow Democrats “impeach the mother------,” a reference to President Donald Trump, Hallandale Beach commissioner Anabelle Lima-Taub signed an online petition to remove Tlaib from office. She then shared it on Facebook along with racially charged comments first reported by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

“Proudly signed,” the first-term South Florida commissioner wrote when she shared a “We the People” petition on Facebook. “A Hamas-loving anti-Semite has NO place in government! She is a danger and [I] would not put it past her to become a martyr and blow up Capitol Hill.”

Lima-Taub told the Miami Herald her support for removing Tlaib from office had little to do with the possible offense Tlaib caused Trump and his supporters. She also ignored critics who called for an immediate apology for the offensive post, and instead justified her actions by pointing to Tlaib’s stance on Israel.

“My issue with Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib is her affiliation with the BDS movement, Hamas, Hezbollah and CAIR,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Lima-Taub told the Miami Herald. (BDS refers to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.) CAIR-Florida called for Lima-Taub’s immediate resignation after learning of the post.

“To say someone might be a terrorist because they are Muslim is wrong,” said Hallandale Beach Commissioner Mike Butler. He said members of all faiths are welcome in the South Florida City.

Read more here

January 03, 2019

Marco Rubio wants air conditioning in Miami’s public housing

Marco_rubio

@joeflech

As the 116th Congress opens this week, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has filed a bill that aims to encourage the federal government to require air conditioning in public housing, which could impact South Florida as average temperatures continue to rise each year.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) does not mandate air conditioning in federally subsidized housing, a fact highlighted in August by the Miami Herald after the city of Miami gave Miami-Dade’s public housing department $15,000 to purchase and install 51 through-the-wall units for residents in Liberty Square, the country’s oldest public housing complex. Though the county has required all new and redeveloped units to have air conditioning since 2001, older units are not a part of this requirement.

Miami-Dade’s director of public housing, Michael Liu, told the Herald last year that the government doesn’t provide enough funding for the county’s overall cost to maintain its public housing stock, including the price of providing air conditioning. 

Libsquare1

Rubio, R-FL, is proposing the “Safe Temperature Act,” a measure that would give HUD Secretary Ben Carson the ability to use federal dollars to install air conditioning in public housing and privately-owned units funded with federal assistance. The law would allow Carson to ensure temperatures in public housing stays between 71 degrees and 81 degrees Fahrenheit.

But the bill does not mandate air conditioning, nor does it provide additional funding to pay for it. Without teeth in the law, Rubio would have to push HUD to implement the rule in places like Miami, and the senator could advocate to steer more dollars to HUD through his position on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Because air conditioning has never been a requirement under federal law, there is no accounting for how many units don't have cooling systems. Miami-Dade has begun redevelopment or rebuilt more than 2,500 units over the past five years, increasing the number of units with air conditioning.

The Safe Temperature Act is one of two bills Rubio has filed that could impact Liberty City. The senior senator from Florida also plans to reintroduce the Liberty City Rising Act, a public safety package that would beef up security measures for public housing. Rubio first introduced the bill last year after visiting Liberty Square following a series of shootings that rocked the community, spurred a high school student protest against gun violence and attracted much media attention. The law would require dead-bolt locks on entry doors, covers on security camera boxes and covered security camera wires and smoke detectors in common areas.

In a statement this week, Rubio recalled speaking to the Liberty City community last year as he pledged to get the two laws passed.

“I will work to pass the Liberty City Rising Act and the Safe Temperature Act as a means to ensure that communities, like Liberty Square, are held to higher safety standards so that these families can raise their children in safe and sanitary living conditions.”

Experts have warned that one of the consequences of climate change is a public health crisis stemming from a lack of reprieve for people who live in increasingly hot places. The U.S. government has warned that soaring temperatures associated with climate change will exacerbate underlying health issues — and poor, urban communities are among the most at risk. Disadvantaged communities are more likely to have a harder time escaping the heat.

Rubio's bill does not mention climate change. The senator has acknowledged that climate change has been measured by scientists and is at least in part caused by human activity, but he has said he wouldn't "destroy the economy" over it and favors mitigation, water management and hardening infrastructure over changes to energy policy.

December 11, 2018

Ros-Lehtinen's Nicaragua sanctions bill passes Congress

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

@alextdaugherty

The House of Representatives formally approved a bill by Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen that would limit U.S. loans to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s government until the longtime president carries out democratic reforms. 

Ros-Lehtinen's Nicaraguan Investment and Conditionality Act, which passed the U.S. Senate earlier this month with additional penalties on Nicaragua sponsored by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, now heads to President Donald Trump's desk for his signature. The bill passed the House by a voice vote on Tuesday.

"With the final passage of the amended NICA Act, Congress took a leap forward in creating further accountability against the heinous abuses committed by Ortega and his puppets," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "In a desperate effort to cling to power, Ortega and his thugs have continued to clamp down on free speech and peaceful demonstrations. The United States has answered the call of the Nicaraguan people and will continue to do so in support of much needed electoral and human rights reforms.”

The bill also includes more sanctions for individuals who can be connected to violent acts against anti-Ortega protestors.

Though the NICA Act passed the House of Representatives earlier this year by a voice vote, Florida Republican Rep. Francis Rooney and Nicaraguan businessman reportedly lobbied against its passage in the Senate. Ros-Lehtinen was also worried that the bill's passage could get hung up on procedural grounds at the end of this Congress. Any bill that doesn't pass by the end of the year would need to start over in the next Congress, and Ros-Lehtinen is retiring. 

"We are one step closer to expanding sanctions and other pressures against the oppressive Ortega regime and sending a clear message that the United States will not tolerate the ongoing human rights violations,"Rubio said in a statement. "I thank Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who spearheaded these efforts, for her tireless work in support of democracy in the Western Hemisphere."

November 12, 2018

Trump, Scott and Rubio continue to push claims of Florida voter fraud without evidence

Donald trump 2

@alextdaugherty

President Donald Trump and Florida’s two highest-ranking Republicans are continuing to push unfounded claims of voter fraud as the state recounts votes to decide closely watched races for governor, U.S. Senate and agriculture commissioner.

The president said valid ballots in Florida should be thrown out because “an honest vote count is no longer possible.”

Governor Rick Scott said his Democratic U.S. Senate opponent, Bill Nelson, is “clearly trying commit voter fraud to win this election.”

And Republican Senator Marco Rubio said “Democrat lawyers... are here to change the results of the election and Broward is where they plan to do it.”

There is no evidence of voter fraud in Broward County, according to election monitors from the state’s Division of Elections who have been stationed there since at least Election Day. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has not received a request in writing to investigate voter fraud from Scott. And the Florida Department of State said Monday their staff has “not seen any evidence of criminal activity in Broward County at this time. ”

The president suggested Monday that Florida should certify the election based on Election Night vote tallies — even though the state is in the midst of a legally mandated recount. He had previously tweeted that Democrats were trying to “steal two big elections in Florida,” suggesting that Broward County withheld votes during the 2016 presidential election because they were “getting ready to do a ‘number’” on Trump’s margin of victory in Florida and that Democrats “’found’ many votes” in Broward County to help Nelson and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum.

“The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged,” Trump tweeted, while providing no evidence. “An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”

Read more here.

October 04, 2018

Rubio bill that penalizes corrupt drug-treatment centers passes Congress

Rubio

@alextdaugherty

Marco Rubio isn’t a big fan of the U.S. Senate’s often slow-moving ways, but he managed to get a bill passed in less than six months that allows the federal government to crack down on non-reputable drug recovery homes.

In the midst of partisan fighting over Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, Congress passed a sweeping bipartisan opioid package on Wednesday, a massive bill introduced at the beginning of 2017 that eventually included Rubio’s legislation, after he worked with Democratic Palm Beach County state attorney Dave Aronberg, to fight against a drug recovery system that allows unscrupulous treatment homes to collect thousands in private insurance payments from addicts and their families.

“The way this place works, to get from an idea in June to a law in October is not common. I don’t think I’ll be saying this much,” Rubio said. “We were brainstorming what we could do at the federal level and came up with a federal law that goes after the middlemen who make all this money. They’re basically trapping people and they put them back into rehab.”

The opioid package includes dozens of smaller bills like Rubio’s aimed at different parts of the opioid crisis, including preventing opioids from being sent through the U.S. Postal Service from foreign countries and various other aspects of prevention, treatment and recovery. The package passed the House with nearly 400 votes in favor and passed the U.S. Senate on Wednesday in a 98-1 vote. The few no votes came from conservatives who vehemently oppose expanding the size of the federal government.

President Donald Trump is expected to sign the legislation into law.

Many of the bills included in the package were sponsored by lawmakers facing tough reelection fights in the coming months, including Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Longboat Key Republican who sent a press release titled “U.S. Senate Passes Buchanan Opioid Bill” because it included a proposal by Buchanan that creates a national database of medical providers who safely provide pain medication to patients. Rubio isn’t facing reelection until 2022.

Read more here.