April 04, 2019

Republicans and Democrats do damage control after Trump rips Colombia president Duque

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@alextdaugherty

Florida lawmakers went into damage control mode after President Donald Trump attacked Colombian President Ivan Duque during an off-the-cuff comment about closing the U.S.-Mexico border on Friday.

Trump said Duque, the U.S.’s most important ally in the ongoing effort to oust Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, “has done nothing for us” in combating the flow of illicit drugs.

The comments, which were not shared with members of Congress in advance, prompted at least four lawmakers, Republican Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio along with Democratic Reps. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Debbie Wasserman Schultz to speak with Duque directly.

“I think that the president should extend an apology to the President of Colombia,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “Not only should we be supporting their efforts but there’s a lot more the U.S. can do to support Ivan Duque in his fight against drugs.”

Duque, who visited the White House last month and has held office for less than a year, was “quite upset” with Trump’s remarks, according to two sources with knowledge of his discussions with lawmakers.

“I’ll tell you something, Colombia, you have your new president of Colombia,” Trump said during a visit to tout repairs on Lake Okeechobee’s dike. “Really good guy, I’ve met him — we had him at the White House. He said how he’s going to stop drugs. More drugs are coming out of Colombia right now than before he was president, so he has done nothing for us.”

More here.

March 29, 2019

Floridians in Congress urge quick passage of Puerto Rico aid as Trump threatens cuts

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@alextdaugherty

Donald Trump wants to stop sending disaster aid to Puerto Rico. Senate Democrats are threatening to vote down a $13.5 billion disaster aid bill unless Puerto Rico gets more money.

But Democrats and Republicans from Florida want the bill — which includes $600 million for Puerto Rico’s bankrupt nutrition assistance program — to pass as is immediately.

“We’re talking about hungry kids here,” said Rep. Darren Soto, a Puerto Rican Democrat from Central Florida who represents the state’s largest Puerto Rican community. “I realize that in an ideal world we would have more, but I realize there’s going to be interplay between the House and the Senate. There’s going to have to be some compromise about this stuff.”

The latest Puerto Rico fight, over 18 months after Hurricane Maria made landfall and left tens of thousands without power for months, comes after the president told Republican senators during a private lunch that the U.S. territory was receiving too much disaster aid from the federal government.

Trump claimed Thursday that he’s “taken better care of Puerto Rico than any man ever.”

Senate Democrats are pushing for more money for Puerto Rico and, after Trump’s comments, have threatened to vote against a disaster relief bill that could make it to the floor next week. Ten Republicans voted against the bill during an earlier procedural vote and more of them could be spurred to vote against the proposal if they think that’s what Trump would prefer.

“I’d love to have some additional money in the bill, but we don’t have the support for it, the president won’t sign it,” said Sen. Marco Rubio. “So we can least get the [nutrition] money taken care of.”

More here.

February 28, 2019

Gaetz laughs off Florida Bar inquiry, says he didn’t talk about Cohen with Trump

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@alextdaugherty

Matt Gaetz isn’t backing down.

The two-term congressman from the Florida Panhandle laughed off a Florida Bar inquiry into his tweets, which claimed, the night before former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen testified in a congressional hearing, that Cohen had extramarital relations, statements that invited claims of witness intimidation.

And he also vigorously denied claims that he’s been in touch with anyone at the White House regarding Cohen’s testimony this week, after a reporter said Gaetz had a phone conversation with President Donald Trump while the president was in Vietnam negotiating with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. Recent conversations between Trump and Gaetz could mean that the president is coordinating with allies to discredit Cohen.

Gaetz, who said any reporting of phone conversations with the president this week was #FakeNews, paused when asked if he spoke with anyone at the White House this week.

“Not this week,” Gaetz said. “Wait I take that back, I had an unrelated conversation about trade with someone. Nothing about Cohen or any of that.”

Gaetz is one of Trump’s biggest defenders in Congress, frequently appearing on cable television and earning Trump’s respect and trust. He later apologized for his Cohen tweet and said Thursday that he reached out to Cohen via text message.

“I told him I was sorry and I shouldn’t have mentioned his family,” Gaetz said. “He appreciated that I acknowledged that mistake on my part. He asked me to publicly ask folks to leave his family alone and I thought that was a fair request.”

Read more here.

February 22, 2019

Puerto Rico’s governor praises Rick Scott’s work after backing Bill Nelson in 2018

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@alextdaugherty

Puerto Rico’s governor was no friend of Rick Scott’s during the 2018 campaign, even as Scott visited the territory eight times and pitched himself as Puerto Rico’s de facto senator in ads around the state as he sought votes from Puerto Ricans in Florida.

But Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said he’s impressed with Scott’s work on Puerto Rico during his first two months as a senator in Washington, even though Rosselló endorsed Democrat Bill Nelson after fighting with the White House over Hurricane Maria recovery efforts.

“Rick Scott has been a great friend of Puerto Rico,” Rosselló said in an interview in Washington on Friday. “There’s no doubt about it, he was a great friend prior when he was a governor and right now he’s used time on the floor, he’s submitted meaningful amendments and he has given a fight for some of these issues.”

Rosselló was referring to Scott’s first speech on the Senate floor, when he spoke in English and Spanish about his amendment to provide $600 million in nutritional assistance for Puerto Rico over the Office of Management and Budget’s objections.

“I rise today as a voice for the people of Puerto Rico. I intend to be their voice in the United States Senate,” Scott said in his maiden floor speech. “They are American as the people of Florida I was elected to represent. Their recovery is America’s recovery.”

Rosselló said he is in constant contact with Scott and his staff, and that his knowledge and dedication to Puerto Rico has continued after the 2018 election. Scott also has a close relationship with Jenniffer Gonzalez, Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative in Congress who is a pro-statehood Republican who endorsed Scott over Nelson last year.

Read more here.

February 12, 2019

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

 

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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 31, 2019

Rick Scott says Trump should use emergency powers to pay for a border wall

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@alextdaugherty

Florida Sen. Rick Scott is urging President Donald Trump to declare an emergency to pay for a border wall if Democrats won’t agree to it.

Less than one week after the longest shutdown in federal government history was temporarily halted, Scott said the president should bypass Congress and use Department of Defense dollars to pay for a border wall, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared Thursday that there will be “no wall money” in a bill to fund the government beyond February 15.

“If the Democrats refuse to work with him, then the president needs to use his emergency powers to fund border security and include a permanent solution for DACA and TPS,” Scott said in a statement.

Scott’s position is new. He did not explicitly endorse a move that could divert Department of Defense funds from ongoing disaster relief projects to build a wall during the previous shutdown. An emergency declaration by Trump would almost certainly be challenged in the courts, though it would allow the president to sign spending bills to keep the government open without reneging on a campaign promise to build the wall.

More here.

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 08, 2019

Rick Scott joins a Congress that can’t clean up after itself

Gov Rick Scott

@alextdaugherty

Rick Scott comes to Washington after eight years governing the nation’s third-largest state and a perfect three-for-three record in expensive campaigns. He even gets a special swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allowed him to finish his term as governor by appointing dozens of supporters to various boards and commissions.

But Scott isn’t the highest-profile incoming senator. That distinction belongs to Utah senator and former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who sealed the deal with an op-ed denouncing Donald Trump a day before taking office.

Instead, Scott comes to a city where the trash is overflowing on the National Mall because Trump decided to shut down the government to fight for wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. He’s the most junior senator in a body that regularly keeps the government running with hours or minutes to spare and his extra week in office as governor cost him three spots on the seniority list, a move that could affect committee assignments down the road.

“I don’t get why the government’s shut down, I didn’t do it,” Scott said during an interview inside a makeshift basement office. “I got my stuff done. Everyone wants to blame one person but it’s everyone’s responsibility; it’s House members... and the president. It’s all their responsibility to get this done.”

Scott expressed support for Trump’s border-wall push, arguing that a wall helps to fulfill every American’s desire to feel safe. He also hinted that the bomb-throwing tactics of past first-year senators like Ted Cruz, who led an effort to shut the government down in 2013 to try to repeal Obamacare, won’t be part of his game plan in Washington.

“If you look at my career I’ve gotten my stuff done by talking to other people and surrounding myself with smart people, by finding where there’s agreement and working on that, but also trying to be an incrementalist where I say, ‘What can you get done today?’”

Read more here.

November 14, 2018

Rick Scott won't certify the results of his own election, lawyer says

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks during an event in Hialeah, Fla. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Scott McIntyre 775192837

Gov. Rick Scott will not participate in the Elections Canvassing Commission on Tuesday, relieving him from the chance that he could certify — or not — the results of his U.S. Senate race.

Scott had been silent about his participation on the canvassing commission, a relatively obscure board that signs off on the results of each federal, state and multi-county election. The commission consists of Scott and two members of the Cabinet that he chooses.

On Wednesday, his lawyer told U.S. District Judge Mark Walker that Scott plans to recuse himself from the commission, just like he did in 2014, when Scott was running for re-election and also faced the chance of certifying the results of his own election.

Since the other members of the Cabinet were also on the ballot, he appointed then-state Senate President Don Gaetz, Sen. Rob Bradley and Sen. Kelli Stargel to fill in for them on the commission four years ago.

Lawyers for the League of Women Voters of Florida said they want a "neutral third party" to fill in for Scott. The only other member of the Cabinet who could replace him — CFO Jimmy Patronis — is a Scott appointee who also is also on the ballot this year.

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.