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Florida scientists pen letter to Wilbur Ross — calling him to defend Florida’s coastline

A group of Florida scientists have an urgent message for Wilbur Ross: Support science and defend Florida’s coastline, as it could save your own home.

Ross, Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Commerce, has owned a $22 million, 15,500-square-foot Palm Beach mansion on the Intracoastal Waterway since 2008.

“In your new role as the Secretary of Commerce, you have a unique ability to influence multiple sectors of our economy,” goes the letter, signed by 13 officials, including 11 professors from Florida universities.

“You will direct scientific research both within government, and at universities through NOAA. You can also work with businesses, engineers, and industries to develop solutions to address climate and energy challenges.”

The letter is signed by some of the same 25 scientists who penned a similar letter to Trump October, shortly before his upset victory in November, urging him to act on climate change. They did not receive a response. Nor did they hear anything back from the president-elect after following up with a letter signed by approximately 10 university professors, as well as a physical oceanographer from NOAA in late December.

Another letter penned to Gov. Scott in 2014 resulted in a meeting with five climate scientists meeting during that (election) year, where they attempted to persuade the governor that human-induced climate change is very real, and a threat to Florida’s economy.

As the scientists note in their letter, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is housed in the Department of Commerce. That agency’s mission is “to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.”

Ross’ confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee takes place Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 10 a.m.

The scientists’ letter points out that if action is not taken, seas could rise by as much as 2 feet by 2060, and up to 6 feet or more by 2100.

“You have an incredible opportunity to be a steward who will help restructure America’s energy problems, and turn our climate crisis into another American success story,” the scientists write in their letter. “We want to emphasize the magnitude of the problem — the future of Florida hangs in the balance. The stakes could not be higher. You are in a critical position to support sound science and solutions that can help America solve this problem. We implore you to recognize the urgency of climate change, and take your new position with great humility and the same dedication and tenacity you have shown throughout your career.”

Read the letter below:

Jan. 17, 2017

Mr. Wilbur Ross

Invesco Global Headquarters

Two Peachtree Pointe
1555 Peachtree Street, N.E., Suite 1800
Atlanta, Georgia 30309

Dear Mr. Wilbur Ross,

Congratulations on your nomination. You have a distinguished career and now you are presented with the opportunity to become the next Secretary of Commerce — a position with enormous influence on American society.

We are a group of Florida scientists, many of whom work daily with data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); one of the agencies you will be in charge of at the Commerce Department.

Like you, we share an affinity for Florida. As a Florida resident, you know how precious the coastline is, and the fragile beauty of our state.

You are known for your problem-solving skills, and your ability to salvage distressed businesses. We were struck by a statement you made in your CNBC interview where you said, “the solutions are always more fun than identifying problems. We’re basically optimists even though we’re dealing with situations that have a lot of pessimism.”

Like you, climate scientists are facing a distressing situation as we study the projected impacts of sea level rise. However, we remain optimistic that our challenges can be solved with American ingenuity, entrepreneurship, strategy and new technologies.

We encourage you to use your exceptional problem-solving skills to look closely at the intersection between our changing climate, our economy, agriculture, industry, jobs and human health.

The Commerce Department defines part of its mission as “work[ing] with businesses, universities, communities, and the Nation’s workers to promote job creation, economic growth, sustainable development, and improved standards of living for Americans.”

In your new role as the Secretary of Commerce, you have a unique ability to influence multiple sectors of our economy. You will direct scientific research both within government, and at universities through NOAA. You can also work with businesses, engineers, and industries to develop solutions to address climate and energy challenges.

We call on you to:

Protect our coastline.

Florida has over 1,100 miles of coastline, a portion of which you are intimately familiar with, and surely appreciate. Current forecasts predict up to 6 feet of sea level rise in the next century. Under a worst-case scenario, we could see 2 feet of sea level rise by 2060. And while that may seem like a distant threat, right now with king tides there can be “sunny day flooding” in coastal states.

In order to protect our coastlines, it is crucial to continue the monitoring and projection of future environmental changes in the atmosphere and the ocean. None of this research can happen without adequate funding. We must prioritize research funding in the direction of climate change studies, especially in the context of sea level rise. Vital observations and research into phenomena affecting climate change impacts, such as variations in the ocean circulation that can, and already are, increasing sea level rise along our coastline must be maintained.

Support robust science.

The same way that you evaluate companies before you purchase them, scientists are learning about our climate, our weather, our oceans and our coast, so that policymakers can make informed decisions. We echo The Union of Concerned Scientists’ call for a strong and open culture of science and believe in adhering to high standards of scientific integrity and independence. You know from experience the role of in-depth research in executing a successful strategy, and so you should appreciate the value that scientists bring to the table to understand the impacts that change in our natural world will have on human systems — our ports, our coastal properties and our weather patterns.

Embrace clean technology.

As the Secretary of Commerce, you can help put America at the forefront of scientific research, and position us as leaders in the international competition for clean technology development.

We know many of your investments have been in traditional industries like coal and steel, but we encourage you to learn as much as you can about new energy technologies. Embrace clean energy solutions not only to address our energy needs but to create good paying jobs in our communities.

The Department of Commerce encompasses much more than just NOAA, but we want to make a heartfelt plea to you to understand how incredibly important NOAA’s contribution to society is. NOAA states on its website that it “enriches life through science.” NOAA’s mission is “Science, Service and Stewardship.”

You have an incredible opportunity to be a steward who will help restructure America’s energy problems, and turn our climate crisis into another American success story.

We want to emphasize the magnitude of the problem — the future of Florida hangs in the balance. The stakes could not be higher.

You are in a critical position to support sound science and solutions that can help America solve this problem. We implore you to recognize the urgency of climate change, and take your new position with great humility and the same dedication and tenacity you have shown throughout your career.

Thank you, and good luck on your nomination hearing.

Sincerely,

Senthold Asseng, Professor

Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering

University of Florida

***

Keren Bolter, Research Affiliate

Center for Environmental Studies

Florida Atlantic University

***

Jeff Chanton, Professor

The John Widmer Winchester Professor of Oceanography

Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science

Florida State University

***

David B. Enfield (ret. 2015)

Dept. of Physical Oceanography

NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory

***

Pamela Hallock Muller, Ph.D., Professor

College of Marine Science

University of South Florida

***

David Hastings, Professor

Marine Science and Chemistry

Eckerd College

***

Barry Heimlich, Vice Chair

Climate Change Task Force

Broward County

***

Ben Kirtman, Professor

Department of Atmospheric Science

Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Sciences

University of Miami

***

John H. Parker, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and Environmental Science

Department of Earth and Environment

Florida International University

***

Randall W. Parkinson, Ph.D., P.G., Research Faculty Affiliate

Institute for Water and Environment

Florida International University

***

Brad E. Rosenheim, Ph.D., Associate Professor

College of Marine Science

University of South Florida

***

Philip Stoddard, Professor

Department of Biological Sciences

Florida International University

Mayor of South Miami

***

Harold R. Wanless, Professor and Chair

Department of Geological Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences

University of Miami

***

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter are strictly those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of their respective organization.

 

Debbie Wasserman Schultz says Betsy DeVos will take U.S. schools down a path of failure ‘Florida knows all too well’

In an interview last week with FloridaPolitics.com, Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, blasted Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s nominee for Education Secretary.

Weingarten compared DeVos’ zeal for school-choice vouchers on par with what former Gov. Jeb Bush was all about during his reign in Florida.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz agrees.

Hours before DeVos is scheduled to appear before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the South Florida congresswoman lashed out at DeVos, saying in a statement that “based on her long record of activism, she will take our nation’s schools back down a path of proven failure that Florida knows all too well.”

Critics like Weingarten have accused Trump of effectively campaigning on a pledge to dismantle public education as we know it, referencing his (little known) campaign vow to spend $20 million on school choice, which would come from “reprioritizing federal dollars.”

“President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Education Secretary has displayed one consistent value: an open hostility toward public schools and teachers,” Wasserman Schultz said Tuesday. “Betsy DeVos champions ‘reforms’ that basically defund, undercut and privatize public education, with a goal of turning it over to loosely-regulated, for-profit charter schools. She’s spent millions of dollars and decades pushing this cause, the same one that’s failed in Florida.

“Former Gov. Jeb Bush touted the same voucher-happy, test-crazed ‘reforms,’ and they have largely been abandoned,” the past DNC Chair adds. “The billionaire Republican fundraiser that Trump wants to lead our nation’s education system has been one of the biggest proponents of these ‘accountability’ reforms in her home state of Michigan, saddling public schools with burdensome mandates that private schools are mostly free to ignore.”

Bush has been effusive in his praise for DeVos, saying she was an “outstanding pick” by the president-elect.

 

Ft. Lauderdale airport shooter ordered held without bond, says he was inspired by ISIS

The man suspected of fatally shooting five people and wounding six others at a Florida airport was ordered held without bond until his trial at a hearing Tuesday that also revealed some new details about the investigation.

During the hearing, FBI Agent Michael Ferlazzo confirmed that the 9mm Walther handgun used in the Jan. 6 shooting rampage at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is the same weapon Anchorage, Alaska, police seized and later returned to 26-year-old Esteban Santiago last year.

Ferlazzo also testified that Santiago mentioned after the shooting that he was under government mind control. Later in the interview he claimed to have been inspired by Islamic State-related chatrooms and websites, although it is not clear if the FBI has been able to corroborate any terror-related claims.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Lurana Snow set a Jan. 30 arraignment hearing for Santiago to enter a formal plea. Snow ordered Santiago kept in custody as a risk of flight and a danger to the community, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Rick Del Toro said was clear from his actions at the airport.

“He has admitted to all of the facts with respect to the terrible and tragic events of Jan. 6,” Del Toro said. “These were vulnerable victims who he shot down methodically.”

Santiago could get the death penalty if convicted of federal airport violence and firearms charges that resulted in death. His public defender, Robert Berube, said Santiago would not contest the pretrial detention order.

“Mr. Santiago is prepared to remain in custody,” Berube said.

Investigators say Santiago legally checked a gun box containing his weapon and ammunition as luggage for his flight, then retrieved it at the Florida airport and went into a bathroom. After loading the gun, authorities say he came out firing randomly and then laid down on the floor after using all 15 bullets.

Much of the hearing focused on Ferlazzo’s testimony about what Santiago said after the shooting and what records from Alaska reveal about him.

Ferlazzo said Santiago, an Iraq war veteran who was a member of the Puerto Rico and Alaska National Guard, visited a gun range late last year before booking the one-way ticket from Alaska to Fort Lauderdale. It was previously reported that Santiago visited the FBI office in Anchorage last year complaining about hearing voices and supposed CIA mind control, which led to Anchorage police temporarily seizing his gun and Santiago’s brief stay in a mental hospital.

At the Alaska Psychiatric Institute, Ferlazzo said, records show Santiago was given anti-anxiety medications but no prescriptions for drugs that would treat serious mental conditions such as schizophrenia. He was released after a five-day stay with no restrictions that might prevent him from possessing a gun, and his weapon was returned by police.

“He was deemed to be stable,” the agent testified.

In the post-shooting interviews, Santiago at first repeated claims that he did it because of government mind control but later told investigators he had been visiting chatrooms and internet sites frequented by the Islamic State terror group or those inspired by it.

“It was a group of like-minded individuals who were all planning attacks,” Ferlazzo said.

The FBI is examining Santiago’s computers and other devices as well as those of family members, but so far agents have not confirmed any terrorism ties.

Other evidence collected so far includes video from 20 different airport camera angles that show the entire shooting episode, Ferlazzo testified. In addition, the roughly six-hour interview in which Santiago supposedly confessed was audio and video recorded.

1st DCA rejects challenge to evidence standard in workers’ comp case

An intermediate state appeals court refused Monday to let a workers’ compensation claimant introduce a second medical opinion, in a case testing an evidence code provision the Legislature adopted in 2013.

Baricko v. Barnett Transportation Inc. turned on the applicability of the Daubert evidentiary standard. The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments in September about whether it should embrace the standard, but has yet to rule.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal rejected an attack on Daubert filed on behalf of David Baricko, a truck driver seeking to introduce evidence that sitting for long periods caused his embolism.

Michael Winer of the Law Office of Michael J. Winer in Tampa argued that a judge of compensation claims had impermissibly applied Daubert in advance of its approval by the state high court.

The appellate panel did not explain its thinking, but Judge Kent Wetherell II said in a concurring opinion that the appeal was “frivolous.” The 1st DCA had ruled in 2014 that Daubert applies in workers’ compensation cases, he wrote.

In any event, he added, “it is well established that the (Supreme) Court does not have the authority to establish procedural rules for executive branch quasi-judicial proceedings such as those under chapter 440, Florida Statutes” — the workers’ compensation code.

Even if the justices decline to enforce the new evidentiary standard in trial courts, “that decision will have no impact whatsoever on the applicability of the Daubert test in workers’ compensation proceedings,” Wetherell wrote.

The 4th District Court of Appeal rejected a similar claim in November, Wetherell added.

“He just couldn’t be more wrong about his conclusion,” Winer said in a telephone interview. In suggesting the Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction to set evidentiary standards in workers’ compensation courts, Wetherell “ignores precedent,” Winer said.

He plans to seek a written ruling by the 1st DCA panel to clarify the court’s thinking.

The U.S. Supreme Court adopted the evidence standard at issue in 1993, in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc. The standard prevails in federal courts and in courts in other states.

Judges apply the test when weighing whether proposed expert testimony is generally accepted by the scientific community.

Donald Trump inauguration a special moment for Brian Ballard

This isn’t Brian Ballard’s first inauguration, but it will likely be one of his most memorable.

Ballard, the president of Ballard Partners, is one of several Floridians expected to attend President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration this week. And while his schedule is flush with lunches and galas, he’s most looking forward to the moment Trump takes the oath of office.

“The swearing-in, for me, is going to be the cool part. It’s almost hard to comprehend and put into words. It’s going to be a hugely impactful moment,” said Ballard. “Seeing him take the oath and the government becoming Trump government, which is hard to fathom even for me. It’s going to be so exciting and emotional.”

For Ballard, that moment will also mark the culmination of months of work behind the scenes to help send Trump to the White House.

A top fundraiser for Sen. John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012, Ballard served as finance chairman for Trump’s campaign in Florida. Days after Trump won the presidency, he was selected to serve as one of the finance vice chairs on the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

The two men’s relationship goes beyond politics. Ballard served as the The Trump Organization’s lobbyist in the Florida Legislature for several years.

But Ballard wasn’t all in with Trump from Day 1. He initially supported former Gov. Jeb Bush, signing on early and raising thousands upon thousands of dollars for the former governor and Right to Rise, the super PAC that backing Bush.

He later shifted his support to Sen. Marco Rubio, saying the Bush campaign’s decision to attack the Miami Republican didn’t sit well with him. Once he joined Team Trump, Ballard emerged as one of the New York Republican’s top advisors.

There have been rumblings Ballard might be nominated for an ambassadorship, but he has dismissed them. With a multi-million construction project underway at the corner of Park Avenue and South Monroe Street and a full roster of clients ahead of the 2017 Legislative Session, Ballard appears to have plenty of things to keep him busy in Florida’s capital city.

But that isn’t stopping him from enjoying the festivities and celebrating with friends.  Ballard and his family planned to travel to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. Once there, the schedule is filled to brim with events.

A black tie dinner was scheduled for Tuesday evening to kick off the official festivities. A lunch-hour reception is scheduled for Wednesday, followed by a dinner to honor Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

There’s a leadership luncheon Thursday, and the “Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration,” a public event at the Lincoln Memorial. That evening, you might be able to find the Ballard family at a candlelight dinner.

When Trump raises his right hand to take the oath of office Friday, Ballard will be there. And he and his family will be on hand later in the evening, this time decked out in tuxedos and ball gown for the inaugural ball at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

And that is only a piece of Ballard’s schedule.

“It’s incredibly filled with events,” said Ballard, who last attended an inauguration nearly 30 years ago for President George H.W. Bush’s inauguration. “Every night there’s parties before and after, there’s lunches every day. I’m getting a lot of invitations.”

One other event definitely on his calendar: The Florida Sunshine Ball hosted by Gov. Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott. The inaugural ball, according to the Miami Herald, is being sponsored by Let’s Get to Work, Scott’s political committee.

“This is unique because of the president-elect and our relationship,” said Ballard. “You think of people who get sworn in as president as (someone) who is bigger than life, not someone you know very, very well. Knowing someone and seeing him take the oath of office, I’ll never experience (that again).”

skydiving

Matt Gaetz wins appeal for northwest Florida skydiving business

Congressman Matt Gaetz, also an attorney, has won an appeal that should allow a Walton County couple to continue operating a skydiving business on their 290-acre farm near Paxton.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal issued its unanimous decision Tuesday for James and Melanie Nipper.

He “had a distinguished career as a U.S. Army Paratrooper and member of the elite Golden Knights parachute team from 1981-1997;” she “was an Army pilot,” the opinion said. They have since retired from the military.

County officials earlier had gotten a lower court order barring the Nippers from running “Skydive North Florida” at their farm, saying “it violated the County’s zoning code.”

The county had “determined that the use of the property as a commercial skydiving business violated (land) uses allowed in a Large Scale Agricultural District (in) which the Plaintiffs’ property is located,” according to the opinion.

But Judges Timothy D. Osterhaus, Brad Thomas and Stephanie W. Ray said the county “did not show a clear legal right” to ban the Nippers from running a skydiving operation.

The opinion cited the county’s land use policy, saying that language allowing outdoor recreational activities but not specifically banning skydiving “indicates that skydiving may be permissible.”

“No one denies that skydiving is an outdoor recreational activity,” the court said.

Gaetz, a Republican who was in the state House and now represents northwest Florida’s 1st Congressional District, had been with the Fort Walton Beach firm of Keefe, Anchors & Gordon.

In a brief interview, James Nipper said he appreciated the decision: “Justice was served.”

King Day parade turns violent when 8 shot in Miami

A national holiday celebrating nonviolence and Martin Luther King Jr. erupted into mayhem when eight people were shot at a park named after the slain civil rights leader.

Hundreds of people had gathered in the park after the annual MLK Day parade in the Liberty City neighborhood, and the shooting sent people running in all directions Monday afternoon. Police said they were not sure what started the shooting.

The wounded ranged in age from 11 to 30. Only one of those shot was in critical condition Monday.

Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez tweeted that it was a “shameful closing” to the parade.

“Certainly not what the followers of Dr. King Jr. want out of our community,” he wrote.

Miami-Dade Detective Daniel Ferrin said two suspects were questioned and two guns had been recovered.

The parade has been a tradition since the 1970s. People gather on the streets to barbecue, listen to music and celebrate King’s life.

The shots rang out around 3:40 p.m. as bikers and ATV riders roared past in celebration. Their motto: “Bikes up, Guns down,” The Miami Herald reported.

Police evacuated and closed the park after the shootings.

Terrell Dandy, who was in the park, said it was peaceful until he heard three gunshots. Then the crowd began to stampede out of the park.

“It was good until you had these idiots out there shooting,” Dandy told the newspaper. “It was just a bunch of commotion.”

Conciliatory meeting between Donald Trump, Martin Luther King Jr.’s son

The Latest on President-elect Donald Trump (all times EST):

2:10 p.m.

The son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. says he had a “very constructive” meeting with President-elect Donald Trump on the holiday marking King’s life.

Martin Luther King III played down Trump’s recent claim that Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon, was “all talk.” He told reporters at Trump Tower on Monday that in the heat of emotion, “a lot of things get said on both sides.”

King says the focus of his meeting with Trump was to improve voter participation and stress the need to bring America together. He says Trump assured him it’s his intent to reach out to all Americans, even those who did not support him.

Trump briefly appeared with King after their nearly hour-long meeting but ignored reporters’ questions.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative media commentator Monica Crowley will not be joining the Trump administration following accusations of plagiarism.

That’s according to a transition official.

Crowley had been slated to join Trump’s National Security Council as a director of strategic communications. Her decision comes after CNN reported that several passages in a 2012 book written by Crowley were plagiarized. Publisher HarperCollins then pulled the book.

Crowley’s withdrawal from her position was first reported by the Washington Times. The transition official confirmed the decision on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

10:00 a.m.

President-elect Donald Trump is continuing to lash out at critics in the intelligence community and Democrats in Congress who are vowing to skip his swearing-in ceremony.

The tough-talking Republican questioned whether the CIA director himself was “the leaker of fake news” in a Sunday night tweet.

The extraordinary criticism from the incoming president came hours after CIA chief John Brennan charged that Trump lacks a full understanding of the threat Moscow poses to the United States.

Trump shot back in a Twitter post Sunday, saying: “Oh really, couldn’t do much worse – just look at Syria (red line), Crimea, Ukraine and the build-up of Russian nukes. Not good! Was this the leaker of Fake News?”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Joe Biden: Donald Trump should retain sanctions on Russia

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, on a last foreign trip before leaving office, has met with Ukraine’s president and called on the impending Donald Trump administration to retain Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia.

Biden’s comments Monday at a briefing with President Petro Poroshenko came after Trump indicated in a Times of London interview that he could end sanctions imposed in the aftermath Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea in return for a nuclear arms reduction deal.

“The Crimea-related sanctions against Russia must remain in place until Russia returns full control to the people of Ukraine,” Biden said.

Other U.S. sanctions are connected to Russia’s involvement in the separatist war in eastern Ukraine. Biden said that Russia must fulfill its obligations under the 2015 Minsk agreement on ending that conflict.

Republish with permission of The Associated Press.

Mike Pence looks like he will be Donald Trump’s inside man in Congress

When Mike Pence landed in Congress after the 2000 election, he was a conservative agitator who often bucked President George W. Bush‘s agenda. Seventeen years later, he’s the vice president-elect and Donald Trump‘s inside man on Capitol Hill.

Pence, who spent a dozen years in Congress before becoming Indiana’s governor, is visiting frequently with lawmakers and promising close coordination after Trump’s inauguration Friday. In a sign of his attentiveness, Pence will have an office in the House as well as the traditional honorary office for the vice president in the Senate.

Pence’s role takes on greater importance, given Trump’s ascension to the White House without any experience in elective office.

Trump has few long-standing political alliances in Congress and a strained relationship with the Republican establishment, a hangover from the 2016 campaign. Trump’s agenda doesn’t always align with Republicans’ priorities, and his inflammatory remarks about immigrants, Muslims and women made many in the GOP cringe.

Pence has forged an enduring friendship with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., dating to their early years in Congress, along with other House Republicans crucial to advancing Trump’s agenda. In early meetings with lawmakers, Pence has passed out his personal cellphone number and promised an open line to the administration.

“He’s the trusted intermediary. He’s the person that people on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue know and trust,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.

If Trump is known for his brash form of disruptive politics, Pence represents the incoming administration in a more traditional manner, exemplified by his polite, Midwestern demeanor. He joined Trump in New York on Wednesday for the president-elect’s first news conference since the Nov. 8 election. Pence soon returned to Capitol Hill for meetings with several senators, including Democrats Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Tim Kaine of Virginia. The latter was Hillary Clinton‘s running mate and Pence’s adversary in October’s vice president debate.

“Opportunities to work together on issues like infrastructure and child care we think represent a significant chance to bring together leaders in both political parties,” Pence said after meeting with Kaine.

Pence’s early days in Washington were marked more by his role as a conservative purist than deal-maker.

He opposed the Bush administration on issues such as the president’s No Child Left Behind education law and an overhaul of Medicare that provided new prescription drug coverage in 2003. Pence was a leading conservative voice, often arguing that the Republican administration had strayed from conservative principles and had failed to curb federal spending.

After Republicans were swept from power in the 2006 elections, Pence unsuccessfully challenged Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, to become minority leader. Two years later, Boehner backed Pence’s entry into the leadership team, elevating the Indiana congressman to chairman of the House GOP conference, the party’s No. 3 post.

One of the ways Pence built lasting ties with fellow lawmakers was through Bible study.

Pence often joined Ryan, House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Georgia Rep. Tom Price, Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, for weekly Bible study sessions. House Republicans say those are the types of interactions that will help him in Trump’s administration.

“Mike Pence is a House man. He cares about us and he will make sure that we are in the loop,” said Rep. Jack Carter, R-Texas, who also attended Bible study with Pence.

By having an office in the House along with the ceremonial one in the Senate for his role as the chamber’s president, Pence will follow a path set by Vice President Dick Cheney, a former Wyoming congressman who maintained a House office during the Bush presidency.

Pence’s conservative record gives rank-and-file Democrats few reasons to be hopeful that he could be a bipartisan deal-maker on Trump’s behalf.

Planned Parenthood, for example, mobilized after Ryan said he planned to strip federal dollars from their organization as part of repeal of Obama’s health care law. The organization pointed to Pence’s anti-abortion record and history of seeking to block federal dollars from the health care provider as one of the reasons for the quick GOP push.

“Mike Pence’s fingerprints are all over that,” said Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s executive vice president.

But Pence has tried to build some bridges.

When Manchin, a centrist Democrat facing re-election next year, called incoming Trump White House adviser Katie Walsh in early January to request a meeting with Pence, the senator found himself face to face with Pence only a few hours later. They exchanged cellphone numbers and Manchin again sat down with Pence on Wednesday for a discussion that included the Supreme Court vacancy and federal judicial appointments.

“My job is going to be trying to find pathways forward – how do you find a way to fix things, repair things and make things happen? So you’ve got to build these relationships,” Manchin said.

Republish with permission of The Associated Press.

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