Debbie Wasserman Schultz Archives - Page 2 of 33 - Florida Politics

‘This practice needs to stop now,’ Rick Scott says of taking away children

“This practice needs to stop now,” declared Gov. Rick Scott in strong opposition to President Donald Trump‘s immigration policy leading to the separation of children from families,

In a letter Tuesday to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Scott claimed no direct knowledge of what is going on at the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, citing only “unconfirmed reports” that it may be housing children forcibly taken from their parents under Trump’s new zero-tolerance policy against undocumented immigrants.

But the Republican governor also made it clear he breaks with Trump and much of the Republican Party regarding the continuation of the policy, which has led immigration officials to split up families and send the children, even toddlers and babies, to live in big detention centers alone, while their parents are held and prosecuted somewhere else for illegally entering the country and prepared for deportation.

“I have been very clear that I absolutely do not agree with the practice of separating children from their families,” Scott wrote. “This practice needs to stop now.”

However, he did not make it clear whom exactly he is blaming. He concluded the letter by writing, “It is extremely frustrating that, after decades of inaction by the federal government, many innocent children are now paying the price for the failures of Washington. Congress must address our immigration system immediately.”

Scott asked the federal department to immediately notify federal, state, and local officials of undocumented children, separated from parents, who are coming to or placed in Florida. Scott also inquired about providing health care, education, and social services.

He also offered Florida’s help to reunite children with their parents.

Scott did not call for closure of the Homestead facility, nor did he make any references to events earlier Tuesday when Florida’s U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson — Scott’s Democratic opponent in this year’s U.S. Senate election — and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz were denied entry into the facility to see how the children being housed there are doing.

Nelson’s re-election campaign spokesman Ryan Brown was unimpressed with Scott’s letter, saying if he wanted the policy to change, he communicated with the wrong federal official.

“President Trump could end this policy with the stroke of a pen,” Ryan said in a written statement. “If Gov. Scott really cared about these kids, he would have written this letter to Trump asking him to end this policy instead of asking HHS to confirm what we all already know.”

Reportedly, the Homestead center now has space for up to 1,000 children. What is unclear is how many individuals are actually being held there, and how many were actually separated from their parents. Scott noted in his letter that the facility had been used in the past to house minors who had crossed the border unaccompanied by parents. A wave of such migration infamously occurred in 2015, and many of the unaccompanied children who were detained then were sent to Homestead.

Nelson reported Tuesday afternoon that federal officials confirmed to him that 94 of the children currently held in Homestead were separated from their families.

In his letter, Scott expressed no direct knowledge of those children.

“In February of this year, the federal government notified Congress, including Florida’s congressional delegation, and state and local officials that they were planning to reopen the shelter in Homestead,” he wrote. “Recently, we received unconfirmed reports that this facility is now potentially holding children who have been forcibly removed from their families as a result of President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance policy toward illegal entry into the United States.

“Reunifying the children who have been separated from their families is very important, and the State of Florida stands ready to assist in this process,” Scott continued. “Please inform me on any measures the state can facilitate to help the reunification process.”

Bill Nelson, Debbie Wasserman Schultz denied entry to Homestead facility housing migrant kids

Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz say they were denied access Tuesday to a Homestead facility housing around 1,000 migrant children, despite earlier assurances they would be allowed entry.

“Heading to Homestead, Florida tomorrow to check on the roughly 1,000 migrant children reportedly being held there,” Nelson wrote yesterday on Twitter. He also criticized President Donald Trump‘s policy of separating some migrant children from their families, calling the practice “inhumane.”

That visit was stifled when U.S. Health and Human Services barred Nelson and Wasserman Schultz from entering the facility. The pair says they were intent on checking on the welfare of the children. But HHS requires a two-week notice before visitation, according to Nelson’s account of his conversation with officials.

“They are obviously hiding something, and we are going to get to the bottom of this,” Nelson added.

Nelson later stated that HHS confirmed 94 of the children held in Hialeah were separated from their families.

The attempted visit comes amid outcry over the administration’s new policy, which has resulted in nearly two thousand children being taken into separate custody from April 19 to May 31.

Trump has falsely blamed Democrats for the issue. He ratcheted up the rhetoric with a statement earlier today, arguing Democrats want to allow illegal immigrants “to pour into and infest” the country, “no matter how bad they are.”

Though Congress can pass a law reforming the country’s immigration policy, several of Trump’s own administration members have admitted to initiating the policy as a way to deter people from entering the country illegally. And the president has full authority to make a change.

The Trump administration’s actions have resulted in harsh criticism from both Democrats and Republicans. “These are kids who were taken from their moms and dads,” said Nelson in Homestead earlier today. “They are scared. And this administration should be ashamed of itself.”

Wasserman Schultz echoed those sentiments, arguing the pair should not have been denied entry to the Homestead facility. “The American people deserve to see the cruel way the Trump Administration is treating children.”

Wasserman Schultz says she also knows of two more detention centers in Miami-Dade County housing migrant children. They are reportedly located in Miami Gardens and Cutler Bay.

And earlier today, CD 27 candidate Matt Haggman released a new campaign ad, arguing for the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

But criticism is coming from the right as well, including from Republican Florida legislators.

Today, state Sen. Rene Garcia added his name to that list, saying, “I support securing our borders but I cannot support the actions of this admin. on separating children from their parents. It is heartless and inhumane the way children are being separated. This debate is no longer about a wall but who we are as a people. We’re much better than this!”

And Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who Haggman is running to replace, bashed Trump’s use of the word “infest” when referring to illegal immigration. “The real infestation is only one of your baseless rhetoric,” she said of Trump.

Whether the widespread outcry will push the president to reverse course before new legislation remains to be seen. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah is attempting to get federal legislators to sign a letter urging Trump to do just that.

Tim Canova: Broward Supervisor of Elections must go

Tim Canova, a candidate for Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, is now calling on Gov. Rick Scott to suspend and remove Brenda Snipes as Broward County Supervisor of Elections.

Canova’s call follows a court ruling that Snipes’ office illegally destroyed paper ballots from Canova’s 2016 primary challenge to current CD 23 Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The Florida Division of Elections agreed to send monitors to Broward for the 2018 election cycle, but Canova says that remedy doesn’t go far enough.

“Brenda Snipes has shown herself unfit to supervise another election and Gov. Scott needs to suspend and replace her,” he said. “Appointing yet another monitor is not a solution.”

After the 2016 Democratic primary, Canova decided to challenge the results of the election, where he lost to Wasserman Schultz 57 to 43 percent. During his lawsuit, Canova tried to get his hands on paper ballots, but those ballots were lost after Snipes signed an order to destroy them.

That happened just 12 months after the election. Legally, ballots in federal elections must be preserved for 22 months. In addition, a judge would have been required to approve the ballots’ destruction as they were relevant to an ongoing lawsuit.

Snipes has called her signing off that order a “mistake.”

But Canova isn’t buying Snipes’ explanation. “Snipes has failed to perform the basic duties of an elections supervisor to preserve original ballots in accordance with state and federal laws,” he said in a statement calling for her removal.

In addition, Canova said he now supports the elimination of using digital scans for elections, arguing they are too unreliable.

Canova says future elections should use paper ballots to be counted by hand in public, “just as we did in this country for two centuries, before the hanging chads in the 2000 presidential election unfairly discredited all paper ballots and ushered in this failed experiment with electronic voting machines.”

Canova is once again mounting a challenge to Wasserman Schultz’s seat, but this time he’s doing it without any party affiliation. He recently resigned from the Democratic Party in protest of its support of Wasserman Schultz.

That leaves Wasserman Schultz uncontested in the Democratic primary. Three Republicans are competing for the GOP nod. The general election for CD 23 will take place Nov. 6.

Democrats reserve nearly $2M for Miami TV ads

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has reserved more than $1.9 million for TV ads to support House candidates in the 2018 midterms. The ads will run during the fall as the campaigns seek to finish strong in the run-up to election day.

That move follows an even bigger buy from the National Republican Congressional Committee, which will spend $3.2 million in the Miami market.

South Florida will be the site of a handful of competitive Congressional races. One of the highest profile will be the open race for Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

Longtime Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has decided not to run for re-election. That’s prompted a number of entrants into the race, with nine Republicans, five Democrats and one independent registered to run.

Democrats also have their eyes on seats held by Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart. In Broward, Democratic Reps. Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch and Debbie Wasserman Schultz will try to fend off Republican challengers.

The nearly $2 million ad buy is part of a $12.6 million countrywide campaign by the DCCC.

Other major areas where ads are set to run are Minneapolis-St. Paul, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. More than $66 million was spent on TV ads by the DCCC in the 2016 cycle, meaning there may be plenty more money to come.

The DCCC will be aided by the House Majority PAC, which also supports Democrats. That group has already reserved $1.1 million in TV ads for the Miami market.

Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz blast Oliver North comments

New NRA President Oliver North‘s comments in an interview last week calling gun protests “civil terrorism” drew harsh condemnation Tuesday from the three Democrats who represent Parkland and the communities around it.

“These expletives are too far even for the NRA,” declared U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, whose district includes the scene of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Feb. 14 mass shooting and the families affected by it.

He was joined Tuesday by U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose districts come within a couple miles of the scene of the mass murder.

They were referring to an interview the newly-elected president of the National Rifle Association gave last week published by the Washington Times in which he said accused the gun-control community sparked by the Parkland shooting of what he called “civil terrorism.”

Citing what he called “cyberwar” being waged against the NRA, and reports of acts of vandalism, North compared the NRA’s plight to Jim Crow days, saying, “even there you didn’t have this kind of thing.”

“They call them activists. That’s what they’re calling themselves. They’re not activists — this is civil terrorism. This is the kind of thing that’s never been seen against a civil rights organization in America,” the Washington Times quoted North as saying.

“Oliver North’s comparing gun reform activists to civil terrorists is as outrageous as it is shameful,” Hastings stated in a news release issued by his office. “I’ve got news for Mr. North: the Stoneman Douglas High School students and others like them are not afraid to take you on, and they surely won’t back down from the NRA’s mob-like intimidation efforts. Our student leaders are heroes, and they are the ones who will transform the gun-control movement. The NRA has truly lost its way if it goes to such lengths to protect gun sale profits.”

Deutch called the student survivors “heroes” and said they are leading a movement “that has the NRA terrified.”

“The NRA’s intimidation tactics and shameful language will not stop these students or the national gun violence prevention movement from achieving sensible gun laws in our country,” Deutch stated in the release.

Survivors and families of the 17 murdered at the high school responded earlier with similar condemnations.

“The Marjory Stonemen Douglas students who have bravely taken on the NRA since the Parkland tragedy are inspiring role models, not frightening criminals, as the new NRA President Oliver North has tried to characterize them,” Wasserman Schultz. “An actual criminal himself, North’s dangerous rhetoric, aimed at teenagers he disagrees with, shows just how low the NRA will go to put gun sales and profits over human life and common-sense firearm laws.”

Darren Soto endorsed by 10 other members of Fla. congressional district

Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto has received endorsements from all ten of the other Democratic members of Congress from Florida, his re-election campaign announced Friday.

The announced endorsements would come as no surprise and seemingly fill no particularly-urgent campaign purpose, since Soto’s only opponent thus far in Florida’s 9th Congressional District is a Republican, St. Cloud businessman Wayne Liebnitzky. However, the announcement may send a discouraging signal toward any potential Democratic primary challengers, notably former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, who’s been mulling a comeback run, possibly against Soto for his old CD 9 seat.

Six of those who endorsed Soto in Friday’s announcement, U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Alcee Hastings, Lois Frankel, Ted Deutch, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Frederica Wilson, all served with Grayson in the 114th Congress, and before. U.S. Reps. Al Lawson, Stephanie Murphy, Val Demings, and Charlie Crist all were first elected with Soto in 2016 to the 115th Congress.

Said Frankel, from West Palm Beach, “Darren Soto is one of the finest new leaders of his generation. He is all that women hope for in a male ally. He supports equal rights for women across the board. He fights for a woman’s right to choose 100 percent of the time. He demands health care for women and families. And he practices what he preaches – he hires women equally, promotes women equally, and pays women equally. And he has the stats to prove it.”

“Darren is not afraid to stand for what’s right. Before Parkland, his community was torn apart by gun violence. And he stood up, he took on the NRA. He will not forget the victims of gun violence when the media moves on. Soto will work day and night until our children our protected from guns,” Frankel added. “Darren succeeds the old fashioned way — through hard work. Darren is a new-generation leader who isn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves and do the work you need to do to succeed. He’s pragmatic, he’s in public service to get stuff done for Florida. He served in the trenches in Tallahassee like I did. He’s seen every dirty trick the Republicans pull, and he has fought them all — without the name-calling and childishness that often consumes Washington.”

Bethune statue bill heads to governor

Florida is poised to make history with the Legislature’s Tuesday passage of a proposal to place a statue of civil-rights leader and educator Mary McLeod Bethune in the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol.

The statue of Bethune would replace a likeness of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, who has represented Florida for decades in the Capitol.

The proposal was sponsored by Daytona Beach Democrat Patrick Henry (HB 139) in the House and Fort Lauderdale Democrat Perry Thurston (SB 472) in the Senate.

The House on Tuesday OK’d the Senate’s version, which passed unanimously last month, sending it to Gov. Rick Scott. His office later Tuesday said the governor would sign the measure into law.

The final House vote was 111-1, with Jacksonville Republican (and attorney general candidate) Jay Fant the lone holdout. Fant has previously said that the state should not be in the “statue removal business.”

Henry said that Florida was making history by selecting Bethune, the first female African-American to get her own likeness in Statuary Hall in its 154-year history.

Born in July of 1875 in Mayesville, South Carolina, McLeod Bethune was a child of former slaves. Believing that education provided the key to racial advancement, Bethune founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute in 1904, which later became Bethune-Cookman College.

She served as the president of the Florida chapter of the National Association of Colored Women for many years. In 1924, Bethune became the organization’s national leader, beating out fellow reformer Ida B. Wells for the top position.

She also became involved in government service, and advised several presidents. In 1935, Bethune became a special advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt on minority affairs. That same year, she also started up her own civil rights organization, the National Council of Negro Women.

“If we truly want to honor her legacy, we must not stop here,” Henry told fellow lawmakers. “We must continue efforts, such as providing a quality education for our young people, creating access to good paying jobs, and a quality education for our young people.”

Each state is represented by two statues, with Florida long represented by likenesses of Smith and John Gorrie, widely considered the father of air conditioning.

Smith is famous largely as the last Confederate officer to surrender a significant force at the end of the Civil War, nearly two months after Gen. Robert E. Lee gave in to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in Virginia and formally ended the war on April 9, 1865.

It’s been several years since lawmakers first took up the challenge of removing Smith from Statuary Hall, starring in 2015.

During the 2016 Session, Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz sponsored legislation to have the Smith statue removed and replaced by a memorial for Marjory Stoneman Douglas, credited with helping create the Everglades National Park. That bill did not move.

Similar efforts were unsuccessful during the 2017 Session, but after violence took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer regarding a Confederate monument, momentum was revived to replace Smith’s statute, with Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz demanding the Legislature remove the statue. The Legislature was not in Session at the time.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Parkland shooting will be different this year in guns, politics

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has seen a lot of gun massacres come and go, and, as former chair of the Democratic National Committee, a lot of gun bills come and vanish, but she told the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida Tuesday morning she’s convinced that what follows the Parkland massacre last Wednesday will be different.

“We have a generation of young voters who came of age amid an appalling number of mass shootings. And for the last decade they have been told that nothing can be done to stop this senseless slaughter,” she said.

“What I saw in Parkland after this shooting has felt different,” she said. “Listening to the powerful words of the student survivors it’s hard not to think that these kids may be ready to lead where politicians have failed to take action.”

Wasserman Schultz represents Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, just south of Parkland in Broward County, and the ties between her family’s Cypress Bay High School and Marjory Stoneman Douglas, where 17 students and teachers were slain last week, are close. The schools and communities are similar and rivals, and now united, she said. On Friday she attended the funeral of one of the victims, Meadow Pollack, who was 18.

The rise of students, starting in Parkland and appearing in efforts descending on Tallahassee Tuesday and planned elsewhere in coming weeks, she said, will make the difference, if not in passing bills to tighten background checks and ban new sales of semi-automatic weapons, then in the elections that follow.

Recalling the funeral and the reactions of the family and friends brought Wasserman Schultz close to Tuesday, but the message she got was one of resolve and that they were “incredibly poised and so articulate.”

“What I saw in the faces of the students and parents last week there is an army that can literally march for these demands and they are in Tallahassee right now doing just that. And I think this is going to be a key litmus test for every race we have this fall,” she said. “It certainly is going to be huge policy difference separating [Democratic U.S. Sen.] Bill Nelson and [Republican Gov.] Rick Scott in a potential U.S. Senate race.

Wasserman Schultz, a former member of the Florida House and the Florida Senate now in her seventh term in Congress, rose to chair the Democratic National Committee. But her exit from that leadership post last year was nasty, after reports emerged alleging her heavy-handed steering of the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries. But she remains a powerful figure among congressional progressive Democrats.

When asked why the Democrats did not address their biggest gun position during the period when they had control of the White House and both chambers of commerce, and Wasserman Schultz was a quickly rising power in the Democratic party, she insisted the 60 votes needed to approve most bills in the U.S. Senate made it impossible during that time.

“Enough is enough. We cannot let another day go by without demanding the common sense gun legislation come to the floor of every chamber of every body in this country. Let them vote,” she said earlier. “Whatever way it comes out. But elected officials have to be held to account by the overwhelming majority, even of NRA members, who believe that we need to take steps to make this country safer, and to rid this country of the scourge of the weapons of war that no civilians as meant to have.”

She told the Tiger Bay club she believes that other progressive causes including the Affordable Care Act preservation, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals [DACA] program, and the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault all will play key roles for Democrats in the upcoming elections. But she spoke of Democrats’ desire for gun legislation to be more of a game changer following Parkland, and the impact that shooting is having on Generation Z, if not now, then eventually.

“They know that offers of just thoughts and prayers or more promises of more mental health funding mean absolutely nothing is going to change,” she said.

Nancy Pelosi to join Debbie Wasserman Schultz for FAU town hall

Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, returns to Florida later this week when she joins fellow Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and others for a town hall on the recently enacted GOP tax reform plan.

The event is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 25 at the Student Union-House Chambers on the Florida Atlantic University campus in Boca Raton.

President Donald Trump signed the $1.5 trillion rewrite of the tax code last month. It’s considered the biggest legislative victory for Trump and congressional Republicans since he took over the White House just over a year ago, and the lobbying for public opinion approval is well underway.

Recent polls suggest that more Americans are supporting the plan than when it was being debated and voted on late last year.

A Survey Monkey poll conducted for the New York Times last week shows that 46 percent of Americans now strongly or somewhat approve of the law. That’s up from 37 percent when the bill was nearing passage in December.

With unemployment continuing to drop and a strong stock market, the uptick in the economy could be a much needed boost for Republicans this November, as Trump himself continues to see his approval rating in the upper 30s.

Part of the Democratic message will be that the tax plan disproportionately benefits the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. As the statement issued for the event reads, “The town hall is the latest event on a nationwide tour to shine a light on Republican tax breaks for millionaires, billionaires and wealthy corporations at the expense of working families.”

The Tax Policy Center says that while the bill would reduce taxes on average for all income groups in both 2018 and 2019, in general higher-income households will receive larger tax cuts as a percent of after-tax income.

It goes on to say that, on average, taxes would change little for lower and middle-income groups and decrease for higher-income groups by 2027.

This will be Pelosi’s first visit to the Sunshine State since last May, when she appeared with Wasserman-Schultz and Boca Raton Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch in Wilton Manors to highlight their support for the Equality Act. It would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to guarantee federal protections for LGBT individuals in education, employment, housing and other areas.

Vern Buchanan: Florida ‘not out of the woods yet’ for offshore drilling

Although the Donald Trump administration removed Florida from its controversial proposal to permit drilling in most U.S. continental shelf waters, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan said Monday that “Florida is not out of the woods yet” when it comes to protecting the state from another catastrophic oil spill — and wants legislation extending a drilling ban.

“Although I’m pleased the Trump Administration has backed off plans to expand drilling off Florida’s coasts for now, we need to pass my bill extending the drilling moratorium until 2027,” the Longboat Key Republican said. “Without legislation extending and codifying the ban in law, any future administration could change that policy. We need to put it in law.”

The current moratorium on drilling off Florida’s Gulf coast will expire in June 2022. Along with Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Buchanan is the co-author of the Marine Oil Spill Prevention Act, which would extend the ban to 2027. Florida Democrat Bill Nelson has filed similar legislation in the Senate.

“Florida’s beaches are vital to our economy and way of life,” Buchanan said. “Our coastal communities depend on a clean and healthy ocean and we cannot risk another catastrophic event like Deepwater Horizon.”

As co-chair of the Florida congressional delegation, Buchanan and South Florida Democrat Alcee Hastings crafted a letter from a bipartisan group of 21 members of the state’s congressional delegation last week calling on the Interior to oppose any rollback of safety regulations adopted after the Deepwater Horizon blast in 2010.

An Interior Department bureau recently said some of the regulations adopted in response to the tragedy created “potentially unduly burdensome requirements” on oil and gas operators. The proposal to roll back safety rules was published in the Federal Register at the end of 2017.

The Trump administration’s initial decision to open up the eastern Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic coast and Florida Straits to drilling received almost universally negative reaction from Florida lawmakers, including Gov. Rick Scott. That led Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to exclude Florida from any proposed offshore drilling plans because “its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.”

Lawmakers from other states that would be affected by the proposal now are making their own cases to the Interior about why they should be exempted as well.

Only representatives from the oil and gas industry have expressed disappointment with the Interior’s subsequent decision to remove Florida from the administration’s offshore oil and gas drilling plan.

“This announcement is premature,” American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard said last week. “Americans support increased domestic energy production, and the administration and policymakers should follow the established process before making any decisions or conclusions that would undermine our nation’s energy security.”

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