January 15, 2019

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

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@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.

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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. 

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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

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@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.

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September 28, 2018

Bill Nelson will vote no on Kavanaugh nomination

Bill Nelson

@alextdaugherty

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson will vote against Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination a day after Donald Trump’s pick for the nation’s highest court defended himself to the U.S. Senate on allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman 35 years ago.

Nelson, who is running for reelection against Gov. Rick Scott, made his opposition official on Friday morning after calling for an FBI investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh last week and expressing displeasure that the two had not met in person.

“I will vote no on Judge Kavanaugh,” Nelson tweeted.

Scott has called on Nelson to meet with Kavanaugh but has not explicitly called on Nelson to vote in favor of confirmation. Multiple allegations of sexual assault have surfaced against Kavanaugh over the last 10 days after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford publicly accused Kavauangh of attempting to rape her at high school party in 1982. Kavanaugh denies all the allegations against him.

In a lengthy and emotional confirmation hearing yesterday that was called after Ford’s allegations became public, Ford recalled chilling details of the alleged assault saying that she “will never forget the laughter” from Kavnauagh and his friend Mark Judge as the assault took place. Kavanaugh offered an emotional defense of his own, breaking into tears while going over his schedule in detail during the summer of 1982.

Nelson, who is not a member of the Judiciary Committee, was not a part of Thursday’s hearing and hasn’t met face-to-face with Kavanaugh since Trump nominated him for the lifetime position in July.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said Thursday night that he planned to review Kavanaugh and Ford’s testimony overnight before making a final decision.

Other Republicans who were thought to be on the fence like Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker have publicly said they plan to vote for Kavanaugh, though Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski are seen as the crucial swing votes as Republicans only have room for one dissenter if Democrats are united against Kavanaugh.

September 20, 2018

March For Our Lives founder leaves the group, regrets trying to ‘embarrass’ Rubio

School Shooting Florida

@alextdaugherty

Cameron Kasky became one of the most recognizable faces of the March For Our Lives Movement after he helped raise millions of dollars in a matter of days for a gun-control rally and confronted Sen. Marco Rubio on television after the nation’s deadliest high school shooting .

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School senior spent weeks organizing a massive march in Washington that morphed into a nationwide movement and summer bus tour, with an eye toward the upcoming November election.

Now, Kasky is leaving the group.

“I’m proud of everything my friends have done, everything they’re doing, and my focus on opening these conversations to people who disagree with me makes me even more invested in just how important the work they’re doing is,” Kasky said in an email.

Kasky first announced his decision to leave March For Our Lives in an interview with Fox News Radio’s Guy Benson on Wednesday, where he also expressed regret for the way he talked to Rubio during a town hall event broadcast on CNN. At the town hall, Kasky said, “Senator Rubio, it’s hard to look at you and not look down a barrel of an AR-15 and not look at Nikolas Cruz, but the point is you’re here and there some people who are not.” He then grilled the Republican senator over accepting political contributions from the National Rifle Association.

“I look back on that and I say, you know what, there were people who had just been buried and when you’re looking at somebody that you find might in some way have been complicit in this murderer obtaining the weapon it’s hard not to say something like that,” Kasky said to Fox. “But, I went into that wanting less conversation and more to embarrass Rubio and that was my biggest flaw.”

Kasky also said he regrets referring to Cruz by name during the town hall and that he met people during the March For Our Lives bus tour this summer in Texas who share different political beliefs than his, but that he came away wanting to understand more about their differences.

“This summer when March For Our Lives went on the summer tour that we embarked on I met that person in Texas who got that semi-automatic weapon because that’s how they like to protect their family,” Kasky told Fox. “I met the 50-some-odd percent of women who are pro-life, even though I thought it was preposterous that a woman could be pro-life and not pro-choice at the time. I learned that a lot of our issues politically come from a lack of understanding of other perspectives and also the fact that so often young conservatives and young liberals will go into debate, like I said earlier, trying to beat the other one as oppose to come to an agreement... I’m working on some efforts to encourage bipartisanship or at least discussion that is productive and help a lot of people avoid the mistakes that I made.”

Read more here.

September 18, 2018

Rubio says Kavanaugh accuser should be heard, respected

Marco Rubio

@alextdaugherty

If Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh turn out to be true, Marco Rubio says it would disqualify President Donald Trump's pick for the lifetime seat. 

But Rubio also wants to hear what Ford and Kavanaugh have to say in an official hearing, which could happen on Monday, before determining what should happen next. 

"The secondary matter is he’s categorically, strongly denied it," Rubio said of Kavanaugh. "So at this point if in fact any of it is proven true he’s also lying to the committee about it. But he has strongly denied and he has a right and should be given the opportunity to be heard." 

Rubio said the allegations are "very serious" and need to be "fully listened to." The Florida Republican is not a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee so he is not directly involved in Kavanaugh's confirmation process. If the nomination passes the committee chamber the full Senate can vote on it. 

"The allegations are very serious and substantial and need to be fully listened to as well and hopefully that will happen on Monday," Rubio said. "My only wish is that this information had been available earlier, which I believe it could have been, in a setting that would not have violated the confidentially that the accuser has asked for. But hopefully Monday, there will be sufficient information to begin judgment on the matter." 

Rubio's comments come after Sen. Bill Nelson, who also is not a member of the Judiciary Committee, said "there should be an investigation of the new allegations against him" and that he looks forward to meeting Kavanaugh in person. Nelson's opponent Rick Scott said there should be a "fair hearing" on the allegations. 

Ford came forward by name on Sunday after multiple outlets reported on the existence of a letter to California Rep. Anna Eshoo and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein that described a non-consensual encounter of a sexual nature between Kavanaugh and Ford when the two were in high school. Ford said that Kavanaugh groped her and tried to pull off her clothes and stopped when a friend of Kavnauagh's jumped on top of them.

Rubio wants Justice Department to investigate John Kerry's recent dealings with Iran

Marco Rubio 3

@alextdaugherty

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is calling for the Justice Department to investigate former Secretary of State John Kerry for meeting with high-level Iranian officials after leaving his position when President Donald Trump took office. 

Kerry, the architect of the Iran Nuclear Deal that most Republicans oppose, was President Obama's top diplomat during the latter half of his administration. The Boston Globe reported in May that Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif more than a year after leaving office to discuss ways to keep the deal intact. 

In recent days, current Secretary of State and Rubio ally Mike Pompeo blasted the meetings as “beyond inappropriate" and Trump took to Twitter to voice his displeasure. 

"John Kerry had illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime, which can only serve to undercut our great work to the detriment of the American people," Trump tweeted. "He told them to wait out the Trump Administration! Was he registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act? BAD!" 

Rubio's letter, which was first reported by Fox News, asks Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate whether Kerry violated the Logan Act, a law that prohibits unauthorized individuals from negotiating with foreign governments. 

"Last week former Secretary Kerry publicly admitted that he has met with Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif 'probably three or four times' including in the United States, since leaving office," Rubio's letter said. "The Department of Justice should therefore make a determination on whether or not former Secretary of State John F. Kerry's recent actions related to the [Iran Deal] potentially violate the Logan Act or the Foreign Agents Registration Act." 

Kerry, a former U.S. Senator, unsuccessfully ran for president in 2004 before serving as secretary of state.

Marco Rubio says he was ‘pissed’ when he saw #Saltbae filleting steak for Maduro

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@alextdaugherty

Marco Rubio was not happy while scrolling through Twitter on Monday night.

The Florida Republican came across video of celebrity chef Nusret Gökçe, known as Salt Bae, gyrating his hips while serving expensive steak to a cigar-wielding Nicolás Maduro at his restaurant in Turkey. Rubio initially tweeted his displeasure, referring to Maduro as “an overweight dictator” and Gökçe as a “weirdo.”

Then Rubio found out that Gökçe, who achieved viral fame for his intricate salting of meat, owns a restaurant in Miami. He tweeted out the address and phone number of Brickell’s Nusr-Et steakhouse, a move that drew some criticism online.

Gökçe “is not a guy who I disagree with on some domestic political issue,” Rubio told the Miami Herald on Tuesday. “This is someone who is celebrating a criminal. Nicolás Maduro is systematically starving the people of Venezuela. This guy’s here celebrating him as some sort of hero. I don’t know. I got pissed. Is that a good answer?”

Rubio said he made the decision to post the publicly available information because Gökçe has a massive following on social media, with more than 300,000 followers on Twitter and 15 million on Instagram, and voicing his displeasure draws more awareness to the ongoing situation in Venezuela, where a recent poll found that 30 percent of the country eats only one meal a day.

First he praised Castro. Now ‘Salt Bae’ chef lavishes Venezuela’s Maduro with steak dinner

“All I gave is the phone number,” Rubio said. “They should call the restaurant and complain about what the owner of the restaurant did. This is an expensive restaurant, probably overpriced according to some of the reviews that I read, but I don’t care what people’s politics are domestically. I’ve never gone after anybody in business because they have a view of politics different than mine on a domestic matter. This is not a domestic political disagreement.”

A host of other Miami politicians also criticized Gökçe, with Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo calling the video “repulsive,” Democratic congressional candidate Donna Shalala saying “the dictator will give himself this kind of feast without any shame” while his people starve, and Miami mayor Francis Suarez calling it “disgusting.” A protest outside Salt Bae’s Brickell restaurant is planned for Wednesday afternoon.

Read more here.