Barack Obama Archives - Page 6 of 95 - Florida Politics

Rick Scott has a friend in White House and foes back home

With a friend and a political ally in the White House, this was supposed to be a moment of triumph for Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

For years, Scott complained and criticized President Barack Obama and contended he wasn’t helping Florida. Now with Donald Trump in office, Scott has worked out a deal with federal officials to provide at least $1 billion for the state’s hospitals and he obtained a promise to move forward with repairs to a federally-operated dike that surrounds the state largest freshwater lake.

But that didn’t help him with the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Instead by the end of this year’s session, Scott’s legislative agenda was in tatters, ignored by GOP legislators he has feuded with for months and criticized during visits to the lawmakers’ hometowns.

And on Tuesday, he bashed the newly-passed $83 billion budget, giving his strongest sign that he may veto the spending plan and force the state House and Senate to reconvene in a special session. He criticized legislators for assembling most of the budget — which covers spending from July of this year to June 2018 — in secret and for refusing to set aside money for his top priorities including money for business incentives.

“I ran for governor to fight career politicians and it’s backroom deals like this that make families think politics is nothing more than a game,” Scott said in a statement. “Just like I do every year, I will make my decisions based on what’s best for our families because my job is to wake up every day and fight for Floridians.”

The Florida Legislature wrapped up its session late Monday, passing a series of budget-related bills that included a pay raise for state workers, a measure to cut funding to the state’s tourism marketing agency by two-thirds and a small boost in money for day-to-day school operations. They also passed a sweeping education bill that includes more than $400 million for teacher bonuses as well as money for charter schools that enroll students now attending failing public schools.

Scott contends the new budget could harm the state’s economy and suppress job creation.

The big question, however, is whether Scott will take the political risk of vetoing the budget since it was passed by overwhelming margins. A Florida governor hasn’t vetoed the entire budget in more than two decades.

Scott, a potential candidate for U.S. Senate next year against incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, could be embarrassed if legislators return to the Capitol and override him. It takes a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate, meaning Republicans would need Democrats to join with them.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has derided Scott’s requests for business incentives as “corporate welfare” and has ridiculed VISIT Florida for deals such as the secret one where the rapper Pitbull was paid $1 million to promote the state. The Land O’ Lakes Republican has defended his strong stance opposite Scott and criticized politicians he says have flipped positions. Scott backed strong anti-immigration moves in 2010 but then backed off later. The governor also flipped on whether to support Medicaid expansion.

“There’s a war going on for the soul of the party,” said Corcoran, who says he thinks the Legislature has enough votes to block Scott’s veto. “Are we going to be who we say we are?”

Senate Republicans say they tried to back Scott’s priorities and have urged him to sign the new budget. Sen. Bill Galvano, a top Republican from Bradenton, said Scott’s situation was a byproduct of negotiations in order to get a final budget.

“The reality is what it is,” Galvano said. “There’s got to be some give and take.”

Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon from Miami Gardens said Republicans should not assume that Democrats will join in an override, especially since there are measures, including the education bill, that were opposed by Democrats.

“You can’t predict that until we see what he vetoes,” Braynon said.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Andrew Gillum

Andrew Gillum calls for ‘strengthening’ Obamacare in Florida

A day after the end of the 2017 Legislative Session, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum on Monday called on state lawmakers to pass a bill “strengthening insurance protections for those with pre-existing conditions.”

Gillum, the sitting mayor of Tallahassee, appeared at the Florida Press Center with two local women who told of their family members’ troubles getting coverage and treatment: One has a son with a chromosomal disorder and the other’s sister lives with Crohn’s disease, an incurable digestive malady.

Gillum’s proposal, a priority if he’s elected in 2018, has three goals: Prohibit insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions; charge them the same premiums as those without such conditions; and “end the discriminatory practice of charging women higher premiums than men.”

The first two already are part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare,” which President Donald Trump and GOP members of Congress have so far unsuccessfully tried to repeal. The federal law is the signature act of former President Barack Obama

Gillum’s proposal, light on specifics, may be more pipe dream than policy—at least for now—with a GOP-controlled Legislature and an insurance industry averse to change.

He said he had had “some behind-the-scenes conversations” with members of the industry, though he declined to say who, and couldn’t provide a financial impact of his proposal.

A request for comment was sent to Audrey S. Brown, the president and CEO of the Florida Association of Health Plans, which represents managed-care companies.

Gillum also dodged a question about whether he supported an “individual mandate,” insurance parlance for a legal requirement to buy health insurance. That’s also part of the ACA.

“We believe, and I certainly believe, that health care is a right,” he said. “We also know that it has a tremendous impact on this state’s economy. We unfortunately have a governor that did not allow the full benefits of the ACA to be felt. We would work toward a strengthening of the ACA.”

GOP Gov. Rick Scott, a former for-profit hospital chain executive who’s term-limited next year, has declined to expand Medicaid under the ACA to provide health coverage to more poor and working-poor Floridians. That decision was supported the Republican-controlled House.

Denise Wilson, a banking trainer, told of her young son’s struggle with Potocki-Shaffer syndrome, which affects bones and tissues. He’s needed surgery just to maintain his ability to move, she said.

She told of having “to go through hoops” to get him treatment: “And when you have a child with special needs, your life is hoops.”

And Avril Wood, a “state worker,” said her younger sister’s need for Crohn’s treatment has caused her family constant worries over paying for insurance and medications.

Crohn’s “causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

“My sister is loving and kind,” Wood said, verging on tears. “This has ravaged our family … My parents are wondering if they’re going to run out of money in their retirement. Given the choice between bankruptcy and keeping my sister alive, they will choose bankruptcy. And that thought is cruel.”

The 37-year-old Gillum was first elected to public office in 2003, when he became Tallahassee’s youngest city council member ever at 23. He was elected mayor in 2014.

He still faces an Leon County Sheriff’s Office investigation into whether he broke state ethics law by using a city-owned email program to send campaign-related and other political messages.

Other declared Democratic candidates for governor include former Tallahassee-area congresswoman Gwen Graham and Winter Park businessman Chris King. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is likely to be the the first Republican to declare; his announcement is expected Wednesday in Bartow.

Anxiety over GOP health plan for those with severe illnesses

Unease and uncertainty are settling over Americans with serious illnesses as Republicans move closer to dismantling Democratic former President Barack Obama‘s health care system.

A New Orleans attorney with multiple sclerosis fears he’ll be forced to close his practice if he loses coverage, while a Philadelphia woman with asthma is looking at stockpiling inhalers.

The Republican health care bill pushed through the House on Thursday leaves those with pre-existing conditions fearful of higher premiums and losing coverage altogether if the Affordable Care Act is replaced.

The bill sets aside billions of dollars more to help people afford coverage, but experts say that money is unlikely to guarantee an affordable alternative for people now covered under a popular provision of the existing law that prevents insurers from rejecting them or charging higher rates based on their health.

What happens to those with pre-existing conditions under the Republican plan remains unknown.

Several people unsettled by the prospects expressed these concerns.

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FORMER UTAH CHEF

Jake Martinez said he’s worried about getting health insurance in the future because he has epilepsy, considered a pre-existing condition by insurers.

For the last several years, he, his wife and their three children have settled into a comfortable place using health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. But now the Murray, Utah, residents are worried about what may happen with this new health care bill.

“Today, it really kind of sunk in that not only are we not going to potentially have health care coverage but that it was done as a political win rather than a well-thought-out plan,” said Martinez, a 32-year-old former chef who’s studying social work. “That’s what stings about it.”

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KENTUCKY ATTORNEY

Shortly after being diagnosed with type I diabetes, Amanda Perkins learned about the perils of pre-existing conditions when she starting trying to buy health insurance.

Now she worries that protections under the Affordable Care Act that made sure certain essential health benefits, like insulin prescriptions, could be eliminated.

The new Republican plan would let some states allow insurers to charge higher premiums for people with pre-existing conditions, but only if those people had a lapse in insurance coverage. Supporters say those states would need to have programs in place to help people pay for expensive medical treatments, including high-risk pools.

But Perkins said Kentucky’s previous high-risk pool had a 12-month waiting period and was too expensive for her.

“I bought a house just a couple of months ago. Will it come down to me paying my mortgage payment or paying my health insurance so I don’t have a lapse in coverage?” said Perkins, an attorney for a small firm in Lexington, Kentucky.

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KANSAS GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Janella Williams has a rare neurological disorder that forces her to receive expensive IV drugs every seven weeks. Without it, she would not be able to walk.

Williams, who owns her own graphic design company in Lawrence, Kansas, pays $480 under an Obamacare plan. It keeps her out-of-pocket maximum at $3,500 a year and provides her coverage despite her pre-existing condition.

“I’m terrified of becoming disabled. If I’m being completely honest, I’ve thought of ending my life if it comes to that,” she said.

High-risk pools run by the state are not the answer, she says. The Republican plan would also bring back lifetime caps on coverage, which Williams says she would meet after only her first IV treatment. She and her husband both work full time, but wouldn’t be able to afford the roughly $600,000 a year her treatments cost once the cap is met.

“I have really lost my faith in humanity,” she said. “It’s terrible how little we care for the sick.”

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NORTH CAROLINA FINANCIAL ADVISER

John Thompson credits his survival in large part because he bought a family insurance policy through the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

Thompson, of Greensboro, North Carolina, was laid off in 2013, lost his employer-backed insurance and diagnosed with cancer during the year he was unemployed.

If the House proposal allowing insurers to make coverage for pre-existing conditions unaffordable takes hold, he fears his cancer history will make him uninsurable if he would lose his current job as a retirement financial adviser.

“Like many of us here, whether you have asthma or a heart condition or diabetes or like me, cancer, any type of pre-existing condition, you go back to the way it was before, you give insurance companies carte blanche to do their underwriting and to exclude you,” Thompson said.

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FLORIDA MOM

Shelby Jehlen, of New Port Richey, Florida, was diagnosed six years ago with leukemia and says she wouldn’t be able to afford insurance if she lost her roughly $400 a month subsidy.

Jehlen saves about $1,000 every three months to see her cancer doctor under her Obamacare plan, but still pays about $1,500 for the check-ups.

She was forced to quit work because of all the X-rays and other chemicals she was exposed to daily as a veterinary assistant and now cuts corners, sacrificing phones and school activities for her two teen daughters, to afford the monthly premiums. The stress has caused her to struggle with depression and anxiety.

“Absolutely, I’m scared. I’m worried I’m going to have to figure out what I’m going to do with all my side effects with my leukemia if they take this away from me,” she said.

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PHILADELPHIA BUSINESSWOMAN

Adrienne Standley has been preparing for the possibility of losing her insurance since President Donald Trump took office.

Three days after the inauguration, she set up an appointment for a birth control implant so she would be covered for four years, no matter what happens.

The 29-year-old operations director at a start-up apparel business in Philadelphia also has asthma and attention deficit disorder.

“I’m looking at stockpiling, making sure I have an inhaler,” she said. “I’m pretty scared to lose coverage.”

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NEW ORLEANS ATTORNEY

John S. Williams says he’ll be forced to close his practice and find a job with a group insurance plan if he’s longer covered under the government’s health care plan

The New Orleans attorney has multiple sclerosis, a neurological disease for which medication alone costs $70,000 a year. He buys insurance for himself on the individual marketplace, and the Affordable Care Act has made that possible, he said.

“We always hear about job growth and business creation — being able to have affordable health care drives that,” Williams said. “Because of the ACA, I am able to employ people and help the economy grow.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Experts: Long road ahead for Donald Trump offshore drilling order

President Donald Trump‘s executive order seeking to find new ocean expanses in the Atlantic and the Arctic for offshore drilling isn’t likely to reach its goals anytime soon, but instead will kick off a yearslong review and legal battle.

Trump signed the order Friday aimed at dismantling a key part of former President Barack Obama‘s environmental legacy.

“This executive order starts the process of opening offshore areas to job-creating energy exploration,” he said. “It reverses the previous administration’s Arctic leasing ban and directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to allow responsible development of offshore areas that will bring revenue to our treasury and jobs to our workers.”

Despite Trump’s assertion that the nation needs to wean itself of foreign oil, U.S. oil imports have declined in recent years as domestic production boomed amid improved drilling techniques opening up once unreachable areas.

And environmental law and policy experts questioned Trump’s authority to reverse Obama’s withdrawal of certain areas in the Arctic or Atlantic to drilling, a question likely to be decided in the courts.

“It’s not quite as simple as the president signs something and it undoes the past,” said Sean Hecht, a University of California, Los Angeles environmental law professor.

For instance, Obama used his authority under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to protect Arctic areas from oil drilling late last year, a move Trump’s order seeks to undo. At the time, Obama administration lawyers said they were confident that move would be upheld in court.

Legal experts say the law has never been used by a president to remove protections, just to create them.

Trump’s order also directed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to conduct a review of marine monuments and sanctuaries designated this past decade. Obama issued monument proclamations under the Antiquities Act, including the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument in the Atlantic, which protected that swath of sea from drilling.

Legal scholars said Trump would enter uncharted waters if he seeks to undo a national monument proclamation in an effort to remove environmental protections.

Under Trump’s order, Interior Secretary Zinke will start to review the government’s plan that dictates which federal locations are open to offshore drilling, known as the 5-year plan.

The administration can redo the 5-year-plan, but it’s a long process. Zinke said the leases scheduled under the existing plan would remain in effect during the review, which he estimated would take years before any new leases are possible.

Still, Pam Giblin, an Austin, Texas-based environmental attorney who represents energy companies said Trump’s order is welcome to her clients despite the limitations they see.

“Every one of these orders is primarily aspirational. But it is starting to change the lens through which government is talking about fossil fuels,” she said.

The new 5-year plan could indeed open new areas of oil and gas exploration in waters off Virginia, Georgia and North and South Carolina, where drilling has been blocked for decades. Many lawmakers in those states support offshore drilling, and Alaska’s governor and its Washington delegation all supported the order.

But the plan faces opposition from the fishing industry, tourism groups and even the U.S. military, which has said Atlantic offshore drilling could hurt military maneuvers and interfere with missile tests needed to help protect the East Coast.

More than 120 coastal communities from New Jersey to Florida have passed resolutions opposing any Atlantic drilling.

“Allowing offshore drilling is a forever decision that will forever change our way of life for the worse,” said Frank Knapp, president of Columbia, South Carolina-based Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast.

Environmental groups are preparing for the fight to come, saying that opening up vast areas to drilling harms whales, walruses and other wildlife and exacerbates global warming.

“We will go to court to enforce the law and ensure President Obama’s protections remain in place,” Trip Van Noppen, president of the environmental legal organization Earthjustice, said in a statement.

Re[published with permission of The Associated Press.

Americans offer hope, prayer in assessing Donald Trump’s 100 days

They are young and old: a high school student who can’t yet vote, a Vietnam vet who did so proudly. They hail from all corners of the United States and very different walks of life: a “downhome boy” from Kentucky, a third-generation Mexican-American from Texas, a stay-at-home mom in Pennsylvania, an Iranian immigrant in Los Angeles.

Some oppose Donald Trump and all that he stands for, while others voted enthusiastically for him. Now, they are critiquing him.

One hundred days into Trump’s presidency, The Associated Press returned to some of the everyday people interviewed these past months to ask them to write a letter to the president, evaluating the job he’s done so far and looking ahead to the months to come.

One supporter tells the president he “might have fallen a little short” — on Obamacare, in particular — but he signs off “with hope.” A refugee implores Trump to “make America more friendly,” but finds optimism in the president’s reaction to this month’s chemical attack in Syria: “I hope this is a turning point.” A Trump objector calls his biggest accomplishment “waking up the public to fight.” She offers this advice: “Make decisions with your heart. It will give you wisdom.”

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FROM RURAL AMERICA, A SUPPORTER SEES HOPE IN TRUMP’S PRESIDENCY

Alan Halsey, 31, is a self-described “downhome boy” from Campton, Kentucky, who along with his wife owns and operates The Swift Creek Courier, a weekly newspaper, and Halsey’s Country Store, “a small business that is a chunk of 1950 set down in 2017.” He says he works seven days a week to try to provide for his family, but is struggling and tired of government regulation and red tape.

He wrote:

” … I supported you quite strongly in the 2016 election, even to the point of hanging one of your signs on the front door of my business. I particularly related to your foreign policy of ‘America First,’ and your promise to bring business back to the United States. So far, I believe you’re heading in the right direction on that front, and I find a glimmer of hope in the future of the American economy.

“Overall, I think you might have fallen a little short on your first 100 days, but I don’t put a lot of weight into a time frame that small. Provided you serve two terms, 100 days is about 4 percent of that. I still feel that something needs to be done with the Affordable Care Act, although I’m not certain exactly what. … I know many ACA recipients that visit a doctor more than once a week, while those that purchase their own insurance wait until a visit to a doctor is imperative to their survival. There must be a middle to that scenario. …”

He signed his letter: “With Hope.”

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CANCER SURVIVOR WORRIES OVER TRUMP’S PROPOSED BUDGET CUTS, BUT PRAYS FOR HIM

Rebecca Esparza, 45, is a freelance writer in Corpus Christi, Texas, who didn’t vote for Trump. A cancer survivor, Esparza fears proposed budget cuts targeting the nation’s premier medical research institution, the National Institutes of Health, will hurt Americans who battle illness.

She wrote:

“. I cannot say I’m proud of your work so far. However, I have respect for the Office of the President, even if I disagree with your political aspirations. … I could write a dissertation on the many ways I disagree with your political ideals. I’m a third-generation Mexican-American, born and raised in South Texas. Your disdain for Mexico, its descendants and immigrants in general troubles me. Your plan to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, leaving millions of Americans with no other health insurance options, leaves me anguished.

“But what distresses me most is your plan to cut nearly $6 billion in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). On Thanksgiving Day in 2001, at age 30, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. … Cancer research saved my life. … The cuts you are proposing are disconcerting not only for cancer survivors, but for millions of Americans suffering from many types of chronic and rare diseases. …

“I’ll be praying for you, President Trump. … I pray you will carefully consider how your decisions have life or death consequences for hard-working Americans.”

Read more about Esparza.

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ONE-TIME OBAMA VOTER FEELS PRIDE IN TRUMP’S WORK

Laverne Jones Gore, 60, owns an executive leadership development company in Cleveland and voted for Trump after previously supporting Barack Obama. Gore calls herself a “middle-class American who happens to be black” and says she felt uncomfortable voicing her opinion during the Obama years, but Trump has “made me proud to be an American again.” Part of a military family — her deceased husband was a Marine and a son graduated from West Point — Gore’s one hesitation these past 100 days is over Trump’s airstrike in Syria.

She wrote:

” … Mr. President you have absolutely met my expectations. I actually believe you have shown a strength that I had not given to you, and I am surprised by your willingness to meet head on the challenges and resistance within your governing bodies. I don’t believe you have been afforded an opportunity to really show us what you have to offer in the form of leadership of our nation.

“I have no issue with you as it relates to ‘Russians.’ I personally believe most of it was contrived. I have no issue with you as it relates to immigration. I think the issues were in need of control. … I have some reservations about your use of Twitter, but I understand the difficulty you have getting your intended message out.

“Yes, you surprised me with the Syria strike and I am not certain how I feel about another war or thought of war. I am still contemplating your action and observing the responses to come from the world theatre as they absorb your full intent.”

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‘YOUR SIGNATURE CRUSHED MY FAMILY’

Marjan Vayghan, 32, an artist and writer in Los Angeles, parses no words in her evaluation of Trump. An Iranian immigrant who came to the U.S. with her family in the 1990s, Vayghan’s uncle was caught up in the chaos that erupted after Trump signed his first travel ban order in January. Ali Vayeghan was detained at the Los Angeles airport and put back on a plane back to Iran, even though he had an immigrant visa. He returned nearly a week later, after a federal judge blocked the order.

She wrote:

” … We appreciate the greatness of our country and our freedoms, because we’ve consciously fled other places with the hopes of making a better life here. We’ve undergone ‘extreme vetting’ and left behind our loved ones for a chance to be free and follow our dreams.

“On January 27th, everything changed as your signature made my uncle disappear … The following day I saw my father cry for the first time in my life. My mom got sick. I felt afraid and alone. My parents started plans with the expectation we were all about to be rounded up and sent to internment camps. Later that day, we realized our family wasn’t alone in LAX. Countless people showed up, chanting supportive messages and singing songs of love like “this land was made for you and me. …

“As your executive orders crush the immigrants and native-born people of this country together, I have hope that the pressure will forge us into a stronger union. … Seven days into this ‘un-presidented’ adventure, your signature crushed my family. The next day we were embraced by the country’s love and support.”

Read more about Vayghan.

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A BANKER IN COAL COUNTRY TELLS TRUMP TO ‘PROVE THEM WRONG’

James McDonald, 57, of Tazewell, Virginia, is a Trump supporter who believes the president has “brought integrity and honor back to the White House, our country and the way the world views our country.” An assistant vice president at a bank in a small mining community, McDonald’s priorities include reviving the economy and replacing the Affordable Care Act. He sums up his advice for Trump in three words: “Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.”

He wrote:

“The fact that you mean what you say and say what you mean is what we have needed in our president for the last eight years. This is one of the few elections that the way I voted was for what was in the best interest of my local community. The war on coal that was waged by the former administration devastated our area. …

” … Since the inauguration my only concern was the handling of the repeal and replace of the Affordable Health Care Act. I felt like you comprised too much, and came close to signing a bad bill. I commend you on your continued efforts to enact this change, however if it’s not a good bill please don’t compromise too much.

” … Of course, keeping America safe is your No. 1 priority, after that in my opinion it is putting people back to work. One quote from the Republican convention that was impressive was when Donald Trump Jr. said that ‘when people tell him it can’t be done, that guarantees that he gets it done.’ They say you can’t make America Great Again. Prove them wrong. …”

Read more about McDonald.

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A FINANCIAL PLANNER URGES TRUMP TO ‘READ. LISTEN. LEARN. PREPARE.’

Brooke Streech, 44, runs a nonprofit in Phoenix that provides financial planning and education for those who cannot afford an adviser. She voted for Hillary Clinton because she believes she was “more qualified, smarter and cared more about people.” The mother of two boys, 10 and 12, Streech urges Trump going forward to “Read. Listen. Learn. Prepare. Work hard to understand the complex issues you are required to face.”

She wrote:

“Your lack of experience and intelligence has certainly shown itself to be an issue so far in your presidency. It might be OK to go into office with your incredible ignorance if you were to surround yourself with smart and talented people. Unfortunately, you have done the opposite. Your administration appears to be run less efficiently and with more chaos than any other in history.

” … I would implore you to spend some time reflecting on how you get your information. Find advisers and spokespeople who are smart, good at what they do, and might disagree with you once in a while with the aim to create dialogue and make decisions with all of the information available..”

Read more about Streech.

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REFUGEE PRAYS GOD WILL GIVE THE PRESIDENT WISDOM

Suliman Bandas, 37, is a refugee from Sudan who could not vote in the election because he is a legal permanent resident and not a citizen. He teaches English as a Second Language to other immigrants in Lincoln, Nebraska. He advises Trump to “make America more friendly, beautiful and strong — by caring for others and defending the weak.”

He wrote:

“I grew up in southern Sudan, which was engaged in a long civil war with the north. In 1986, my uncle … took my father, a teacher, and other civilians in a helicopter to areas that needed aid. I watched from our backyard as that helicopter was shot down. … In 2005, I was accepted to come to the U.S., a place where I can be safe and call home. …

“In my job I help teach refugees, and every day they express to me their worries that this country may reject refugees in the months to come. I have heard you express concern about the Syrian people and I hope this is a turning point. Please, Mr. President, let America continue to treat refugees the same way God wanted them to be treated. That is what made America what it is — strong and different from any other country on the face of the planet. The Bible says: “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. …” (Leviticus 19:33-34) Dear Mr. President, may God guide you, give you wisdom and spirit of understanding in these very challenging moments.”

Read more about Bandas.

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A KANSAN FEELS ‘AMERICAN PRIDE AGAIN’ OVER A LEADER WHO ‘BELIEVES IN ALL OF US’

Rick Yearick, 50, is an ad salesman at the local paper in Liberal, Kansas. An avid Trump supporter, he praises the president for a number of things, including flexing his muscles with “decisive action against those who perform badly on the world stage.” He says the president’s biggest failure so far is not successfully uniting Republicans behind him.

He wrote:

“Keep fighting for a secure America with your travel ban for those who seek to do us harm, building a wall to secure a sound immigration policy, and by serving Americans and not trying to be President of the World. …

“I commend you on the selection of (Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch) for his commitment to the Constitution rather than a revisionist who interprets it to fit their political needs. I am sure that given a chance at more appointments, you will do the same.

“I feel American pride again knowing that our president believes in all of us. For the past several years, I could not relate to the direction we were headed as we were divided and at each other’s throats. Now, we are uniting behind the common man with the leadership of a president who honors us all. …”

Read more about Yearick.

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‘LUCKILY, I DON’T HAVE TO FIGHT YOU ALONE’

Kate Young, 43, is a stay-at-home mother in West Chester, Pennsylvania, who says she couldn’t sit idly by after Trump’s election. So she and her neighbors began holding rallies every week to fight to keep the Affordable Care Act, which helped her family after her husband lost his job.

She wrote:

” … When you won the election, I worried that you would put business profits ahead of the environment, and that you would involve the United States in a new, possibly nuclear, war. Today, much sooner than I feared, both dire predictions have come true. Congress rolled back environmental protections … You bombed Syria, and as I write this letter, the news reports that you dropped the ‘Mother of all Bombs’ on Afghanistan. Please don’t go nuclear!

“Every Friday, starting January 20th, I rally with my neighbors in front of Congressman Ryan Costello‘s office. We fight to protect the Affordable Care Act. Claire’s son needs the ACA to manage Type 1 diabetes. Lisa needed the ACA to cover prenatal care and delivery of a healthy baby after her husband left her, uninsured and 10 weeks pregnant. Dr. Jack’s infant patients need the ACA to cover life-saving treatment and eliminate the lifetime caps that they otherwise might exceed before ever being discharged from the NICU. …

“Luckily, I don’t have to fight you alone. Most Americans did not vote for you. We won’t stop holding you accountable for every infraction of American laws, values, or norms.”

Read more about Young.

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INSURANCE AGENT SAYS TRUMP’S LOVE OF COUNTRY ‘IS REFRESHINGLY OBVIOUS’

Carolee Upshur, 60, a life insurance agent in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, says she voted for Trump because he seemed like the only candidate who “had the backbone to withstand the attacks that would come as a result of any attempt to ‘drain the swamp.'” She encourages him to “please move forward with the building of the wall, and do not compromise with the Republican establishment.” As for any failure? “Obamacare. He was elected to get rid of Obamacare.”

She wrote:

” … I have been utterly amazed at your ability to accomplish anything in the environment as it exists in Washington. … You jumped in feet first and set out to do everything you promised during your campaign. …

“I applaud your move to curtail the illegal immigration and build the wall, and continue to be frustrated at the attempts of the progressives to use the judicial system to try and block your attempts to fulfill your duties as president. … I was absolutely thrilled to see the decisiveness with which you acted in Syria and Afghanistan, which sent a strong message to the world that there ‘is a new sheriff in town.’ It is wonderful to have a ‘man’s man’ leading this country from a position of love of country and peace through strength. …

“Please know that I continue to pray for you daily, that God will hold your family together and protect you all.”

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LA TEEN: FOCUS ON HELPING PEOPLE, NOT MAKING MONEY

Amellia Sones, 15, is a high school student in Los Angeles who was spurred to help organize a protest against Trump after his election. Sones says in her letter that even though she’s not yet old enough to vote, she has opinions about the job Trump has done. For one, she worries the younger generation is watching him “act inappropriately and out of line” and will conclude that it’s acceptable behavior.

She wrote:

“. One major thing I do not like is putting a ban on immigrants from entering the United States. I know you were trying to keep terrorists from entering our country, but I do not believe banning immigrants from certain countries is an effective way of doing this. And, after all, the United States is called the melting pot of many nations. …

“Your biggest failure (and there have already been so many) is NOT making an effort to bring our country together. To me, that’s a big part of a president’s job. … I only ask that you start watching the way you speak and try listening to what your people are asking of you. Stop arguing with celebrities over Twitter and start acting like an actual president.”

Read more about Sones.

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EX-DEMOCRAT CALLS TRUMP THE ‘LAST CHANCE TO TURN OUR COUNTRY AROUND’

Ed Harry, 70, of Plymouth, Pennsylvania, is a retired union official and ex-Democratic activist who became a Trump voter. A Vietnam veteran who recalls being spit on and called a baby-killer, Harry encourages Trump to “stay away from any wars.” His biggest failure, he says, is “not having his house in order; all the turmoil in the White House from the staff.”

He wrote:

“I laughed when I heard you were running for president. I didn’t think you had a chance. As the campaign went along, I found out that the Democrats, Republicans … China, India, Mexico, all were opposed to you. At that moment I knew I had my candidate. .

“Considering all the opposition you have had against you, I think you deserve a C+ rating. You’ve accomplished quite a lot: Neil Gorsuch appointment … get rid of a lot of Obama executive orders … “The WALL,” or at least some immigration enforcement I would like to see take place this year. Finally, most of all, do NOT let the neocons or both political parties corrupt your administration. I do, in fact, believe YOU are OUR last chance to turn OUR COUNTRY around!!!”

Read more about Harry.

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‘MAKE DECISIONS WITH YOUR HEART. IT WILL GIVE YOU WISDOM’

Susan McClain, 52, works in customer service for a tech company in Aurora, Colorado. She was a Clinton supporter, and says the greatest thing to come from Trump’s presidency so far is “waking up the public to fight … and stand up for American lives, values, and aspirations.” Still, she has some advice for the president as his term goes on: “Make decisions with your heart. It will give you wisdom.”

She wrote:

“Are you meeting my expectations so far? Sadly, yes. Your first 100 days as president was tragic for Americans and the globe. … Regardless, I would like to thank you. As you rampaged all over America’s values, we understood more deeply what we love and cherish. And, we woke up.

“In you, we see that wealth is not success.

“In you, we see that unchecked ego is dangerous.

“In you, we see the mighty power of words.

“In you, we see that winning must include all of us, not just the rich and powerful.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Christian Ulvert says he is ‘seriously considering’ run for SD 40 seat

Democratic political consultant Christian Ulvert says is seriously considering a run the Senate District 40 seat left vacant with the resignation of Frank Artiles.

“I’ve had a greater calling to serve in public office just because of the issues and the work that I do,” Ulvert told FloridaPolitics Thursday morning, just before he was scheduled to get on a plane to attend a family wedding out of state.

Ulvert says since Artiles announced he was stepping down last Friday, there’s been a chain of events of friends, colleagues and his husband asking him why doesn’t he step up and run for the seat.

It would be a new role for the man recently named one of the best political campaign professionals under 40.

The 35-year-old Miami-Dade native has been working most recently with Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who is still in the ‘testing the waters’ phase of a potential run for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018.

Ulvert served as political director for the Florida Democratic Party from 2013 until last fall, and is the founder and president of EDGE Communications, a political consulting firm.

Prior to his launch as a political and media consultant, Ulvert served the Florida House of Representatives Democratic Caucus as communications director and policy advisor to House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber during his two-year leadership term, and worked with Gelber during his campaign against Pam Bondi for Attorney General in 2010.

Ulvert said that if he is to run, he would center his campaign on three main issues – public education, health care and affordable housing. “Those are three things that I’ve faced personally and I can present a strong narrative to and talk to voters and really empathize and bring authenticity to the message because I’m living it,” he says. “I have lived it.”

If he pulls the trigger, Ulvert certainly won’t be the only Democrat to enter the race. House District 114’s Daisy Baez is also reportedly considering a run, and may rely on Florida Democratic Party staffer Dan Newman to launch candidacy, although Newman told FP that he will not be leaving the party.

Ulvert says he’ll contemplate his decision over the weekend, then meet with Democratic officials in Tallahassee next week (he says he’s already conferred with Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon).  “The most important thing is to have a Democrat represent the district,” he says.

Governor Rick Scott has yet to announce a special election to fill the Senate District 40 seat, a majority Hispanic district that covers part of inland Miami-Dade County. Scott could announce a primary for the election as soon as June with the general election taking place in August.

Or he could go another route. Local elections in Hialeah, Miami and Miami Beach, the three largest municipalities in Miami-Dade, are taking place this August and September. Though none of those cities are in SD 40, it could make some sense to hold the primary and general at the same time as those cities. However, with the Legislature meeting in January of next year, committee meetings would be starting in the fall, well in advance of a November election.

Although Artiles defeated Democrat Dwight Bullard by ten percentage points last fall, it’s also a district that voted plus-10 in favor of Barack Obama in 2012 and carries a slight edge for Democrats in voter registrations.

Artiles stepped down from his seat last Friday morning, less than 72 hours after the Miami Herald first reported that he invoked the N-word to two black colleagues of the Legislature in a private conversation earlier in the week. The resignation came after the Herald then began asking questions later in the week about why his political committee had hired a former Hooters “calendar girl” and a Playboy model with no political experience as consultants.

Donald Trump tax cut: Huge, vague and likely mild boost for economy

President Donald Trump‘s team boasted Wednesday that its tax-cut plan would lighten Americans’ financial burdens, ignite economic growth and vastly simplify tax filing.

Yet the proposal so far remains short of vital details, including how it would be paid for. And based on the few specifics spelled out so far, most experts suggest that it would add little to growth while swelling the budget deficit and potentially handing large windfalls to wealthier taxpayers.

Trump’s plan would replace the current seven income tax brackets with three, and the top bracket would drop from 39.6 percent to 35 percent. It would also slash the corporate rate from 35 percent all the way to 15 percent, a boon to most companies even though many don’t pay the full tax now. With tax credits and other loopholes, most corporations pay closer to 20 percent, according to calculations by JPMorgan.

Perhaps the most contentious plank would enable taxpayers with business income — including those wealthy enough to pay the top tax rate — to instead pay the new 15 percent corporate rate. That’s because Trump would apply the corporate rate to “pass through” businesses. Pass-throughs include partnerships such as law firms and hedge funds as well as most small businesses — from the local florist to the family-owned restaurant on Main Street.

What’s more, some privately held large companies — including Trump’s own real estate empire — are structured as pass-throughs and would benefit, too.

Here’s a closer look at Trump’s proposal and its likely impact:

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WHO BENEFITS?

It’s hard to say because the administration has released so few details. The three new income tax rates would be 10 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent. But Trump’s top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, weren’t ready Wednesday to say at what income levels these new rates would kick in.

Tax experts said far more details were needed to determine how average Americans would be affected.

“The impact on Joe Taxpayer is unknown,” said Marc Gerson, vice chair of the tax department of law firm Miller & Chevalier in Washington. “There’s not enough specificity. It’s hard for taxpayers to determine where they’ll come out.”

Cohn asserted that the plan would cut taxes “especially for low and middle income families.” It purports to do so in part by doubling the standard deduction, which is used by taxpayers who don’t itemize their tax deductions.

At the same time, the Trump plan would eliminate the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax, thereby benefiting some of the richest taxpayers. And that’s on top of shrinking the corporate tax rate that many affluent individuals could likely capitalize on.

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WHY CUT CORPORATE TAXES?

By making corporations more profitable, the Trump administration hopes to encourage more business spending on equipment — from computers to factories and machinery.

Doing so, in turn, could make the economy more efficient and accelerate growth and hiring. Economic growth has been stuck at about 2 percent a year since the recession ended in 2009. Mnuchin says the administration wants to accelerate it above 3 percent, a pace it hasn’t touched since 2005.

The corporate tax cuts are also intended to encourage more businesses to stay in the United States, which now has the highest corporate rate among advanced economies.

Many large corporations are enthusiastic about lower rates and say they support the elimination of loopholes, which both reduce revenue and make taxes more complicated.

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WHO’D BENEFIT FROM THE CORPORATE RATE CUT?

Aside from most large companies, many partnerships and small businesses would benefit because they’re structured as pass-throughs, which derives from the fact that they pass on their profits to their owners.

Those owners now pay individual income tax rates, which top out at 39.6 percent. With the pass-through rate dropped to 15 percent, those taxpayers could enjoy an enormous tax cut.

The Trump team stressed the benefits that might flow to small businesses. But the richest windfalls would flow to the wealthy — lawyers, hedge fund managers, consultants and other big earners. Nearly 75 percent of pass-through income flows to the 10 percent wealthiest taxpayers, according to the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“It would tremendously help high earners,” says Brian Thompson, a certified public accountant in Chicago.

In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback eliminated state taxes on pass-throughs, which turned out to be a boon for Bill Self, the coach of the University of Kansas’ men’s basketball team. He had previously set up his own company, according to state media reports. As a result, he paid little state income tax despite earning nearly $3 million a year.

Many people, particularly wealthy Americans, could set up companies and reclassify their paychecks as “business income” and have it taxed at 15 percent, experts say. In Kansas, the number of pass-through businesses jumped to more than double the level the state expected, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. That cost the state revenue without spurring more job creation.

Mnuchin said the Treasury would issue rules to prevent wealthy people from capitalizing on the lower rate. But many experts are skeptical.

“Good luck with that,” said Mark Mazur, director of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center and a former Treasury official under President Barack Obama. “The tax agencies tend to be at least a couple of steps behind the businesses.”

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HOW ELSE WOULD BIG BUSINESSES BENEFIT?

The administration is also proposing to tax only corporate income earned in the United States. This is known as a “territorial” system. It would replace the current worldwide system, under which corporations pay tax on income earned in the U.S. and overseas.

Yet companies can avoid the tax if they keep their foreign earnings overseas. Many businesses have kept hundreds of billions of dollars outside the United States.

Mnuchin said Trump’s plan would encourage corporations to return the money to the United States and invest it in plants and equipment. Some analysts counter that corporations might instead use the money to pay dividends to shareholders.

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WHAT ABOUT THE DEFICIT AND GROWTH?

The government’s budget deficit could explode under the plan, offsetting many of the benefits for the economy, economists say. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget’s rough estimate puts the loss of revenue at $5.5 trillion over 10 years.

Mnuchin argued that the tax cuts would spur faster growth, which, in turn, would produce more tax revenue. And the elimination of tax deductions and other loopholes would raise revenue as well, he contended.

But the Trump team offered few details on which deductions would be dropped — a move that would likely spark ferocious opposition from the beneficiaries of those deductions. And most economists don’t accept the notion that growth would accelerate enough to offset the lost revenue.

Alan Cole, an economist at the right-leaning Tax Foundation, calculates that the corporate tax cuts alone would reduce government revenue by $2 trillion over 10 years. That would require growth to accelerate nearly a full percentage point, to 2.8 percent a year, from its current level. Yet Cole forecasts that growth would increase only 0.4 percent annually.

Other economists say that if the cuts balloon the deficit, the resulting jump in government borrowing would swell interest rates and make it harder for businesses and households to borrow and spend.

Ethan Harris, chief global economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, says such a “crowding out” effect can cancel out any benefits to the economy.

___

SO WILL THE ECONOMY BENEFIT AT ALL?

Most economists forecast that a modest tax-cut package — smaller than Trump’s — is far more likely to become law. With the deficit rising by less, a smaller cut could raise growth to 2.5 percent a year, from its roughly 2 percent pace now, Harris said.

If Trump’s proposals became law, depending on the details, growth could accelerate more quickly, Harris added. But the Federal Reserve would likely counter such acceleration with more short-term rate hikes, to forestall rapid inflation. And that move, in turn, would likely slow the economy.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump’s 100-days promises: Fewer than half carried out

Sure enough, the big trans-Pacific trade deal is toast, climate change action is on the ropes and various regulations from the Obama era have been scrapped. It’s also a safe bet President Donald Trump hasn’t raced a bicycle since Jan. 20, keeping that vow.

Add a Supreme Court justice — no small feat — and call these promises kept.

But where’s that wall? Or the promised trade punishment against China — will the Chinese get off scot-free from “the greatest theft in the history of the world”? What about that “easy” replacement for Obamacare? How about the trillion-dollar infrastructure plan and huge tax cut that were supposed to be in motion by now?

Trump’s road to the White House, paved in big, sometimes impossible pledges, has detoured onto a byway of promises deferred or left behind, an AP analysis found.

Of 38 specific promises Trump made in his 100-day “contract” with voters — “This is my pledge to you” — he’s accomplished 10, mostly through executive orders that don’t require legislation, such as withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

He’s abandoned several and failed to deliver quickly on others, stymied at times by a divided Republican Party and resistant federal judges. Of 10 promises that require Congress to act, none has been achieved and most have not been introduced.

“I’ve done more than any other president in the first 100 days,” the president bragged in a recent interview with AP, even as he criticized the marker as an “artificial barrier.”

In truth, his 100-day plan remains mostly a to-do list that will spill over well beyond Saturday, his 100th day.

Some of Trump’s promises were obviously hyperbole to begin with. Don’t hold your breath waiting for alleged Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl to be dropped out of an airplane without a parachute, as Trump vowed he’d do at many of his campaign rallies. China’s leader got a fancy dinner, complete with “beautiful” chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago this month, not the promised “McDonald’s hamburger” and humble pie.

But many promises were meant to be taken seriously. Trump clearly owes his supporters a Mexico border wall, even if it doesn’t end up being a foot taller than the Great Wall of China.

One page of his 100-day manifesto is devoted to legislation he would fight to pass in 100 days. None of it has been achieved.

The other page lists 18 executive actions and intentions he promised to pursue — many on Day One. He has followed through on fewer than a dozen, largely through the use of executive orders, and the White House is boasting that he will set a post-World War II record when he signs more this week.

That’s a change in tune.

“We need people in Washington that don’t go around signing executive orders because they can’t get people into a room and get some kind of a deal that’s negotiated,” he declared in New Hampshire in March 2015. “We need people that know how to lead, and we don’t have that. We have amateurs.”

Efforts to provide affordable child care and paid maternity leave, to make college more affordable and to invest in urban areas have been all but forgotten. That’s despite the advantage of a Republican-controlled Congress, which the White House failed to pull together behind Trump’s first attempt to repeal and replace “Obamacare.”

An AP reporter who followed Trump throughout the presidential campaign collected scores of promises he made along the way, from the consequential to the fanciful. Here are some of them, and his progress so far:

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ENERGY and the ENVIRONMENT:

— Lift President Barack Obama‘s roadblocks on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

Done. Keystone XL is revived and construction of the Dakota Access is completed.

— Lift restrictions on mining coal and drilling for oil and natural gas.

Done. Trump has unraveled a number of Obama-era restrictions and initiated a review of the Clean Power Plan, which aimed to restrict greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants.

— Cancel payments to U.N. climate change programs and pull out of the Paris climate accord

Nope. Trump has yet to make a decision on Paris. His aides are torn.

___

ECONOMY and TRADE:

— Pass a tax overhaul. “Just think about what can be accomplished in the first 100 days of a Trump administration,” he told his supporters again and again in the final weeks of the campaign. “We are going to have the biggest tax cut since Ronald Reagan.” He promised a plan that would reduce rates dramatically both for corporations and the middle class.

Nowhere close. Trump has scrapped the tax plan he campaigned on, and his administration’s new package is in its early stages, not only missing the first 100 days but likely to miss a new August deadline set by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Some details may emerge this week.

—Designate China a currency manipulator, setting the stage for possible trade penalties because “we’re like the piggy bank that’s being robbed. We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country, and that’s what they’re doing.”

Abandoned. Trump says he doesn’t want to punish China when it is cooperating in a response to North Korean provocations. He also says China has stopped manipulating its currency for unfair trade advantage. But China was moving away from that behavior well before he took office. Also set aside: repeated vows to slap high tariffs on Chinese imports.

—Announce his intention to renegotiate or withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Backtracked, in essence. A draft of his administration’s plan for NAFTA proposes only a mild rewrite. But in his AP interview, he threatened anew to terminate the deal if his goals are not met in a renegotiation.

— Direct his commerce secretary and trade representative to identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly hurt American workers.

Done. Trump has initiated plenty of studies over the past 100 days.

— Slap a 35 percent tariff on goods from companies that ship production abroad. Force companies like Apple and Nabisco to make their products in the U.S.

Nope.

—Embark on a massive $1 trillion effort to rebuild the country’s infrastructure, including airports, roads and bridges.

Not yet.

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SECURITY, DEFENSE and IMMIGRATION:

— Immediately suspend the Syrian refugee program.

Trump tried, but the first version of his travel ban was blocked by the courts. A revised version dropped references to Syrian refugees entirely. That was blocked, too. And he has yet to mention another campaign pledge: to deport Syrian refugees already settled in the U.S.

— Inform his generals they have 30 days to submit a new plan for defeating the Islamic State group.

Trump did indeed order up a plan. It’s unclear what it is since it has yet to be made public.

— Suspend immigration from “terror-prone regions” where he says vetting is too difficult.

Trump’s effort to bar immigration temporarily from some Muslim-majority countries has been stymied by courts.

— Implement “extreme” immigration vetting techniques.

In progress. The Homeland Security Department is considering a number of measures, like asking for visitors’ phone contacts and social media passwords.

—Build an “impenetrable physical wall” along the length of the southern border, and make Mexico pay for it.

The government has been soliciting bids and test sections could be built as soon as this summer. Mexico is not paying for this work.

—End federal funding to “sanctuary cities” — places where local officials are considered by Washington to be insufficiently cooperative in arresting or detaining people in the country illegally.

The Justice Department has threatened to do so, but there are legal limits.

— Immediately deport the estimated 2 million “criminal aliens” living in the country, including gang members, in joint operations with local, state and federal law enforcement.

Deportations have not increased. Arrests of people in the U.S. illegally are up and illegal border crossings are significantly down.

—Cancel visas for foreign countries that won’t take back criminals deported by the U.S.

There’s been no discussion of this yet.

—”Immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties,” one of which allows young people brought into the country as children to stay and work.

Trump has made no effort to end the program, even though it would take a single phone call. In fact, he told AP these young people can “rest easy” and not fear deportation.

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GOVERNMENT and the SWAMP:

— Ask agency and department heads to identify job-killing regulations for elimination.

Done.

— Propose a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress.

Nope.

— “Drain the swamp.”

On his pledge to curb the power of special interests, Trump has so far used an executive order to prohibit political appointees from lobbying the government for five years after serving in his administration and to ban outgoing officials from representing foreign governments. But he’s discontinuing the Obama-era practice of releasing White House visitor logs, restoring a shroud over what special interests are getting in his gates. He’s also issued at least one waiver to his lobbying ban, allowing a White House budget adviser to go advocate for a business trade group

— Impose a hiring freeze on federal employees, excluding military and public safety staffers.

This was one of Trump’s first actions. But the freeze has since been lifted.

—Require that two regulations be eliminated for each new one imposed.

Trump signed an order requiring agencies to identify two existing regulations for every new one imposed — though there is nothing in the order that requires the two to be eliminated.

___

FOREIGN AFFAIRS:

— End the strategy of nation-building and regime change.

Trump’s foreign policy posture is still in its early stages, though he has already intervened in Syria and has escalated rhetoric against North Korea.

— Move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The administration says it is studying the issue.

— Negotiate the release of all U.S. prisoners held in Iran, even before taking office. Renegotiate or leave the Iran nuclear deal.

No prisoners have been released. The administration is studying the nuclear deal and Trump told AP “it’s possible” the U.S. will withdraw.

— Create a safe zone in Syria for refugees, paid for by the Gulf states.

Not yet.

___

HEALTH CARE, COURTS and GUNS:

—”My first day in office, I’m going to ask Congress to put a bill on my desk getting rid of this disastrous law and replacing it with reforms that expand choice, freedom, affordability. You’re going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost. It’s going to be so easy.”

The bill to replace “Obamacare” was pulled from Congress because it lacked enough support. He will try again with a revised plan.

— Begin selecting a new Supreme Court judge to fill the court’s vacancy.

Done. Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch and the Senate approved him.

— Eliminate gun-free zones in schools and on military bases.

Nope.

___

REALLY?

— “I promise I will never be in a bicycle race.”

So far, so good. Trump’s vow came after John Kerry, then secretary of state, broke his femur in May 2015 while riding a bicycle. He was not in a bicycle race.

—Bar his generals from being interviewed on television.

Never mind that. Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, as Trump’s national security adviser, recently appeared on a Sunday news show. Several senior military officers have done Pentagon news conferences in the past few months that are taped by the networks. Gen. John Nicholson, the top general in Afghanistan, appeared at a news conference Monday.

—No time for play.

Most weekends as president, Trump has broken his pledge to avoid the golf course, after years of criticizing his predecessor for playing the game. “Because I’m going to be working for you, I’m not going to have time to go play golf,” he told a Virginia rally in August. “Believe me.”

—Season’s greetings.

“If I become president, we’re gonna be saying Merry Christmas at every store. … You can leave ‘happy holidays’ at the corner.”

As president-elect over the holidays, he sent a “Merry Christmas” tweet. So did President Obama. And both sent Happy Hanukkah wishes.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago loses State Department promotion posting

The State Department has removed its promotional posting about President Donald Trump‘s Florida resort, after a storm of ethics criticism.

In an April 4 blog post that was republished by several U.S. embassies abroad, Mar-a-Lago was described as “Trump’s Florida estate,” where he has hosted foreign leaders. “By visiting this ‘winter White House,’ Trump is belatedly fulfilling the dream of Mar-a-Lago’s original owner and designer,” the post said.

Left unsaid: Mar-a-Lago is part of Trump’s business empire. After his election, the resort doubled its membership fee to $200,000. As president, Trump has visited the property seven times, and its restaurant fills up when he’s in town.

The State Department said late Monday that its intention was “to inform the public about where the president has been hosting world leaders” and that it regrets “any misperception.” That statement now appears in place of the original blog post.

The White House did not respond to questions about whether it had any involvement in the original posting or the decision to take it down.

The post originated on “Share America,” a State Department project. Its website describes its mission as “sharing compelling stories and images that spark discussion and debate on important topics like democracy, freedom of expression, innovation, entrepreneurship, education, and the role of civil society.”

Other topics on the Share America page include a new U.S. coin honoring Frederick Douglass, debate over the Confederate flag and news about first lady Melania Trump’s participation in the State Department’s International Women of Courage award ceremony.

The Mar-a-Lago post was nearly three weeks old but gained traction Monday when several people noticed the U.S. embassy to the United Kingdom was featuring it. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, asked on Twitter why taxpayers are “promoting the president’s private country club” and referred to the incident as “kleptocratic.”

Norman Eisen, who was President Barack Obama‘s chief ethics attorney, said the promotion is “exploitation.”

Eisen compared it to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway‘s promotion of Ivanka Trump‘s clothing business, for which she was “counseled” but not otherwise reprimanded by the White House.

“This idea of using government for private gain is metastasizing,” Eisen said. “It must be stopped.”

On Twitter, Richard Painter, who served in an ethics role for President George W. Bush, called the State Department post “Use of public office for private gain pure and simple.”

Eisen, Painter and other attorneys have sued Trump, alleging violation of the “emoluments clause” of the U.S. Constitution. That provision says the president may not accept foreign gifts or payments without the consent of Congress.

The Trump Organization argues that this prohibition wasn’t intended to cover fair-market exchanges.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Donald Trump names Floridian Heather MacDougall to OSHA Review Commission

Heather MacDougall

President Donald Trump has named employer relations expert Heather MacDougall of Melbourne to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Since January, MacDougall has been acting chair of the Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission. In 2014, then-President Barack Obama nominated her to the Commission in 2014, unanimously confirmed by the Senate.

MacDougall brings 20 years of experience in labor, employment, occupational safety and health law, most recently with Akerman LLP law firm based in West Palm Beach.  In addition, she served as Chief Counsel to OSHRC Chair W. Scott Railton in 2002-2003 under the George W. Bush administration. OSHRC is the independent federal agency as an administrative court deciding contested OSHA citations. MacDougall also served as associate general counsel of a Washington, D.C. trade association standing for human resources executives of Fortune 500 corporations.

Earlier in her career, MacDougall was Associate General Counsel to the HR Policy Association, a public policy organization that advocates for human resource officers of major employers, where she stood for the association as amicus curiae in U.S. Courts of Appeals and Supreme Court cases. As a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), MacDougall also gave expert guidance to employers on all aspects of the employer-employee relationship.

She received her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin and a J.D. from Marquette University Law School.

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