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Tom Feeney: Federal tax reform is a critical part of recovery for Florida

In the wake of the recent catastrophic storms, like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, it is essential we continue to look at all avenues to bolster Florida’s business and economic opportunities that create a robust private market that includes fair and adequate catastrophic insurance coverage.

While safety is a No. 1 priority for Floridians, we must continue to nurture a private marketplace that goes a long way in building a great future for our state by creating jobs for our bright young men and women.

Governor Rick Scott has worked hard to create nearly 1.5 million jobs in the last seven years and to make Florida a global destination for job creation.  At the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), we are a proud advocate for Florida’s business community, actively engaging with our state and nation’s leaders on measures aimed at fostering continued growth and development among the diverse industry sectors.  Chief among them, Florida’s manufacturing community.

As the state affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers, AIF has been working to propel this industry that has the highest indirect job creators of any employment sector forward.  In fact, manufacturers perform half of all research and development in the nation, driving more innovation than any other sector.  These economic dynamics lead to many of our members within the business community advocating that growing manufacturing output and jobs has the ability to get our country’s economy back on track.

A key element among the basic business principles that serve to bolster our economy and provide Florida businesses with the badly needed relief they need so we can be internationally competitive is getting President Donald Trump and our U.S. Senate and Congressional leaders to support tax reform.  We need a working tax system that benefits all Floridians, not only allowing hard-earned dollars to go back into the pockets of Floridians, but also making Florida a No. 1 destination for businesses to form and thrive.

But our nation’s corporate income tax is hindering this progress from happening.  Did you know the U.S.’ corporate income tax is the highest in the developed world?  That’s right, our rate is 15 percent higher than average developed countries.  Why?  Our tax code is outdated, making it hard for businesses to compete with countries that provide lower tax rates and incentivize businesses to move from America to offshore.  In fact, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Fortune 500 corporations are holding more than $2.6 trillion in profits offshore to avoid $767 billion in federal taxes.

By simply reducing the tax rate on businesses and workers across the country, we could overcome these incredible disadvantages and see a positive shift in the number of businesses wanting to relocate and grow their businesses here in the Sunshine State.  The reality is, Florida is a unique state.  We have 14 seaports and numerous attractions, allowing trade, transportation and tourism to be major driving forces for our state’s economy.  And, we recently witnessed just how heavily dependent Floridians are on a healthy and vibrant marketplace – both in goods and services – with the recent preparations for Hurricane Irma, including making certain Floridians are treated fairly as they purchase their own hurricane insurance protection.

As businesses and workers across the Southeast recover from Hurricane Irma, we are committed to making Florida’s future shine even brighter.  We believe there is no better time than now for Washington to take a hard look at supporting tax reform.

Tom Feeney is president and CEO of the Associated Industries of Florida.

Rick Scott could get political boost for leadership in Irma

Standing tall in a NAVY cap, Florida Gov. Rick Scott will be an enduring image from Hurricane Irma. Seemingly everywhere but the eye of the storm, he was there on social media urging millions to evacuate, calmly taking charge at emergency briefings, even delivering early word of devastation in the Keys after a much-publicized flyover.

Politically, that image of calm before the storm couldn’t come at a better time for Scott.

Nearing the end of his second term, the conservative Republican has some of his highest approval ratings as he contemplates challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in next year’s election. Even Democrats acknowledge Scott did a good job communicating about Irma. And at least for a time, that could boost Scott’s popularity after he repeatedly said a run against Florida’s senior U.S. senator is something he’d consider.

“The initial response has been positive. He’s been available to every media outlet short of Radio Free Europe. I think that’s very smart and it appears that he presents a competent image,” said Mitch Ceasar, a former state Democratic Party chairman. “I look for Scott to have a short-term bump; whether it lasts will depend on how well the recovery goes.”

Nelson also toured hard-hit communities and had Irma media availability. But the prominent Capitol Hill Democrat was overshadowed during the storm as all eyes fell on the state’s chief executive.

If Scott runs, as President Donald Trump encouraged when the two toured hurricane damage Thursday, it would give Nelson his greatest challenge since being elected in 2000. But it wouldn’t be easy for Scott. Nelson is the state’s most popular Democrat. A champion of the space program, he also fought to protect Florida beaches from offshore drilling and helped secure billions in federal dollars as Florida recovered from four devastating hurricanes in 2004.

When he first ran for governor, Scott was cast as a mega-millionaire former hospital chain CEO trying to buy that office; he barely won in a year other Republicans had huge victories. Then Scott squeaked by for re-election with less than 50 percent of the vote. Though he often comes across as robotic and scripted, his popularity has grown as Florida’s economy improves. And now he can point to his leadership during Irma should he challenge Nelson.

A similar scenario of a governor getting a boost by disaster was played out in 2004. Then-Republican Gov. Jeb Bush’s approval rating soared that year, jumping from 47 percent before the hurricane season began to 62 percent at the peak of storm season, according to Quinnipiac University polling.

The woman who was Bush’s communications director that hurricane season and when three more hurricanes hit Florida the following year sees similarities in the way the Scott has communicated with Floridians.

“He has been the voice of calm and I think people look for that in a crisis. He provided Floridians with comfort and assurances that help was on the way,” said Alia Faraj, now a public relations manager in Tallahassee for a major group.

Nonetheless, Scott’s office was criticized as the crisis unfolded for restricting media access to emergency management briefings – something never done before. And the flow of information on critical issues after Irma has been slowed as the governor’s office clamped tight control over messages coming out of state agencies. Reporters have publicly complained, and the Capitol Press Corps is planning a meeting next week on whether to take action to try to improve the information flow before another storm hits.

“Everybody has their own style, but I share the philosophy that any information you can get out to people that could be helpful to them, the sooner the better,” said former governor and current Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist.

Scott also was criticized by some – notably conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh – for causing too much panic before the storm, leading to gas and water shortages and causing some to evacuate hundreds of miles only to find themselves threatened when Irma shifted directions.

Still, Scott has received praise from many for his constant presence in the storm. His social media communications during Irma included video of state troopers escorting fuel trucks down highways when supplies ran scarce and YouTube videos of Scott touring battered areas by helicopter.

Hospital administrator Catherine Pezzoti of Miami said she didn’t have strong feelings about Scott before Irma. Now the 28-year-old independent voter thinks differently.

“He was on top of everything. He did extremely well,” said Pezzoti. “I am impressed.”

Former Florida Democratic Party Chairman Scott Maddox, now a Tallahassee city commissioner, also praised Scott.

“During times of crisis, all partisanship is forgotten,” said Maddox, a participant in daily conference calls with Scott and emergency officials. “I was impressed with Gov. Scott’s handling of this storm.”

Whether it plays in the next election is another question, he said.

“Any time you do your job well it helps you when you’re seeking the next job, but Bill Nelson is a Florida icon,” said Maddox.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Darryl Paulson: Amnesty Don

Amnesty Don. That’s what Steve Bannon and Breitbart News called President Donald Trump after news came out that the president and the Democratic leadership of Congress brokered a deal concerning the Dreamers.

According to reports, Trump struck a deal with Democratic leader of the Senate Chuck Schumer and Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi. The supposed deal was to grant work visas and a pathway to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants. Democrats agreed to bolster the number of immigration agents, but refused to support building a wall on the Mexican border.

After conservative critics ranging from Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, Congressman Steven King and others attacked Trump for striking an amnesty deal with Democrats, Trump denied that any deal had been reached.

Immigration policy has always been one of the most divisive issues in America. Much of the early controversy centered around the Irish and German immigrants, both associated with the Catholic Church. The attack on the Irish and German Catholics led to the formation of the “Know-Nothing Party in the 1850s.

The party derived its name when members were asked about their beliefs, they were told to respond, “I know nothing.” Founded after the collapse of the Whig Party, the Know-Nothing Party swept Massachusetts elections in 1854. In the 1856 presidential election, their candidate was former Whig president Millard Fillmore, who won 21.5 percent of the vote. The party collapsed after the 1856 elections.

Many critics of current anti-immigrants attempt to link their views to the Know-Nothing Party. In a 2006 editorial in The Weekly Standard, editor William Kristol attacked populous Republicans for “turning the GOP into an anti-immigrant, Know-Nothing Party.”

In addition to the attacks on the Irish and Germans, later attacks focused on Southern Europeans, Africans and Asians. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in the 1880s, which completely stopped the flow of Chinese immigrants.

The Simpson-Mazzoli Act of 1986 granted amnesty to illegal workers who resided continuously in the United States since Jan. 1, 1982, and paid a fine and back taxes. It was passed by the Democrat controlled House, the Republican Senate and signed into law by Republican Ronald Reagan.

A flood of illegal immigrants since Simpson-Mazzoli has led to more recent efforts to grant permanent status to the most recent wave of illegals. In 2010, Congress considered the DREAM Act which would have granted work permits to the children of illegal immigrants and create a pathway to citizenship. Although it passed the Democratic controlled House, the Senate was not able to get the 60 votes needed to stop a Republican filibuster.

Because of the failure of Congress to pass the Dream Act, President Obama signed an executive order in 2012 to protect the Dreamers. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), was praised by the Democrats, but attacked by Republicans who argued the president lacked the authority to unilaterally change immigration policy.

DACA became a focal point of the 2016 presidential campaign when candidate Donald Trump promised to end DACA on “Day One.” He also promised to build a wall on the Mexican border. Instead of “Day One,” it took Trump eight months to rescind DACA.

There are currently four major legislative proposals before Congress to reform immigration. The Dream Act, sponsored by Democrat Dick Simpson of Illinois and Republican Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, would codify DACA, impose educational, work and military requirements and create a path to citizenship after 13 years.

Florida Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo has introduced the Recognizing America’s Children Act. This bill codifies DACA, imposes work and educational requirements, and creates a path to citizenship after 10 years.

The American Hope Act sponsored by Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, has 112 Democratic co-sponsors. There are no work or military requirements and Dreamers may apply for citizenship after five years.

Finally, Republican House member Mike Coffman of Colorado has introduced the Bar Removal of Individuals [who] Dream and Grow our Economy (Bridge Act). Coffman is seeking to obtain 218 signatures and force DACA to the floor for a vote.

Will President Trump’s negotiations with the Democratic leadership force Republicans to act, or will it alienate them from their president by shutting out Republicans from the negotiations?

Will Republican leaders Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan schedule a floor vote on DACA, especially if most Democrats support the bill and most Republicans oppose the bill?

Will Democrats offer concessions to the president and Republicans in exchange for supporting DACA? Will Democrats agree to build a border wall? Will Democrats support E-Verify to enforce immigration law? Will Democrats agree to hire more immigration agents?

At this point, there are a lot more questions than there are answers.

___

Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Alan Grayson taking on Donald Trump

A bored and angry Alan Grayson can be a can be dangerous for someone, and he’s aiming now at President Donald Trump.

The former Democratic, hard-boiled congressman from Orlando, who continues to keep a campaign warm for a possible return-to-Congress effort, has started a leadership political action committee called Lock Him Up Now  to pursue and keep track of evidence of alleged crimes and misdemeanors of the 45th president of the United States, and to raise money for an anti-Trump effort.

With a webpage subtitle of “The Resistance, Help End the Trump Presidency,” the organization’s goal is to compile and even create legal cases for impeachment or forced resignation.

“Our side needs somebody concentrating on what it will actually take to get rid of him,” Grayson said. “I think he’s already crossed the [impeachment] threshold.”

Grayson of course is known for his harsh, often bombastic, knee-breaking, sometimes outrageous, progressive-oriented political rhetoric.

Yet he also was one of the more successful whistle-blower lawyers in the country. Grayson said he intends to use that experience and knowhow to try to draw out any potential whistle-blowers on Trump, and get them to provide information, leaked or otherwise, that could be compiled into cases. His organization’s website is set up partly for that.

He said he has confidence that an independent, whistle-blower-oriented investigation could have opportunities beyond what either the official U.S. Congressional inquiries or FBI Director Robert Mueller can pursue.

Grayson served three [non-consecutive] terms in Congress. He represented Florida’s 10th Congressional District but was defeated for re-election by Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Webster. Then he served two terms representing Florida’s 9th Congressional District, but stepped out last year for an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination to run for the U.S.

Since leaving office he’s kept a relatively low profile until now, but has kept open his congressional campaign fund. Because of that, last winter he filed to run against Webster again, this time in Florida’s 11th Congressional District. Yet he insisted then, and continues to insist now, that filing was just a paperwork matter to keep the option open and money flowing, and he hasn’t decided if he’ll run again, or where, or against whom.

Meantime, Lock Him Up Now is pursing both evidence and money, and seeking to become a rallying point for anti-Trump efforts

“We’ve struck a cord. A very large number of people think Trump needs to be impeached and forced out of office, or to resign,” he said.

Grayson’s critics, and there are numerous in both parties, may argue a collapsed U.S. Senate campaign and eight months out of office, Grayson’s fundraising opportunities might be limited. But he contends he’s raised $600,000 from 37,000 individual contributors for his still to-be-determined congressional run.

“I have a very broad base of support. People continue to contribute, notwithstanding my lack of success in the Senate race last year,” he said.

The Lock Him Up Now organization recently commissioned a national poll, which Grayson said he paid for himself. It asked 1,245 voters nationwide a series of questions about Trump, with what he said is a margin of error of 2.8 percent.

Yes, the questions were leading.

One asked: “Is Donald Trump a pathological liar?”

Grayson said 69 percent responded yes, 20 percent no, and 11 percent maybe.

“Is Donald Trump a jerk?”

Grayson said 77 percent responded yes, and 23 percent no.

And, he added, political party breakdowns didn’t change that, saying 88 percent of Democrats said they thought the president was a jerk, 80 percent of independents, and 61 percent of Republicans.

U.S. commemorates 9/11; thousands expected at ground zero

Holding photos and reading names of loved ones lost 16 years ago, 9/11 victims’ relatives marked the anniversary of the attacks at ground zero on Monday with a solemn and personal ceremony.

Every Sept. 11 since the date of the deadliest terror attack on American soil, Rob Fazio has come to the place where his father, Ronald Carl Fazio, and thousands of others died.

“I’ll come every year for the rest of my life,” the son said. “It’s where I get my strength.”

At least 1,000 family members, survivors, rescuers and officials were gathered as the ceremony at the World Trade Center began with a moment of silence and tolling bells. Then, relatives began reading out the names of the nearly 3,000 people killed when terrorist-piloted planes hit the trade center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, hurling America into a new consciousness of the threat of global terrorism.

Some said they couldn’t believe 16 years had passed since a tragedy that “still feels like yesterday,” as Corina La Touche put it while honoring her father, Jeffrey La Touche.

To others, it was an occasion to thank first responders and members of the military, to express concern for those affected by Hurricane Irma as it continued its destructive path as a tropical storm, or to plead for a return to the sense of unity they felt after the attacks.

“Our country came together that day. And it did not matter what color you were, or where you were from,” said a tearful Magaly Lemagne, who lost her brother, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Officer David Lemagne. She implored people to “stop for a moment and remember all the people who gave their lives that day.

“Maybe then we can put away our disagreements and become one country again.”

Debra Epps said losing her brother, Christopher, left her with a mission: “I view each day as a day to do something different, so that my brother’s life and all of the people who have lost their lives on this day will not be in vain.”

Her brother stood against hatred, she said, and she believes “this world will make a change for the better.”

Sixteen years later, the quiet rhythms of commemoration have become customs: a recitation of all the names of the dead, moments of silence and tolling bells, and two powerful light beams that shine through the night.

Yet each ceremony also takes on personal touches. Some name-readers gave updates on family graduations, marriages and births. Others remembered a loved one’s flair for surfing or drawing on coffee-shop napkins. A few never even got to know the relatives they lost on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I wish more than anything that I could have met you,” Ruth Daly said, her voice breaking, after she read names in remembrance of her slain grandmother, Ruth Lapin. “I’m very proud to be your namesake. I hope you’re watching down on me from heaven.”

President Donald Trump, a native New Yorker observing the anniversary for the first time as the nation’s leader, said the nation grieves for the people “who were murdered by terrorists” 16 years ago.

Speaking at an observance at the Pentagon, the Republican president issued a warning to extremists, saying “America cannot be intimidated.”

When America is united, “no force on earth can break us apart,” he said.

At the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, Vice President Mike Pence said the Flight 93 passengers who revolted against hijackers might well have saved his own life.

The Republican VP was a member of Congress on 9/11, and the Capitol was a possible target of the terrorist piloting Flight 93. Instead, it crashed near Shanksville after the passengers took action. Thirty-three passengers and seven crew members were killed.

The ceremony on the National Sept. 11 Memorial plaza strives to be apolitical: Politicians can attend, but since 2011, they haven’t been allowed to read names or deliver remarks.

Yet last year’s 15th-anniversary ceremony became entangled in the narrative of a fractious presidential campaign when Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton left abruptly, stumbled into a van and ultimately revealed she’d been diagnosed days earlier with pneumonia.

This year, the focus remained on the names read out beneath the waterfall pools and lines of trees.

“It does feel good to know you have other people who are feeling the same pain that you’re in,” Marvaline Monroe said as she headed into the ceremony to remember her brother, Keith Broomfield. She comes to the ceremony as often as she can.

“It’s very hard. We’ll never forget, but we just have to live with the memories that we have of him.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

‘Pray for us’: Hurricane Irma begins its assault on Florida

Announcing itself with roaring 130 mph winds, Hurricane Irma plowed into the mostly emptied-out Florida Keys early Sunday for the start of what could be a slow, ruinous march up the state’s west coast toward the heavily populated Tampa-St. Petersburg area.

With an estimated 127,000 huddling in shelters statewide, the storm lashed the low-lying string of islands with drenching rain and knocked out power to over 1 million customers across Florida.

About 30,000 people heeded orders to evacuate the Keys as the storm closed in, but an untold number refused to leave, in part because to many storm-hardened residents, staying behind in the face of danger is a point of pride.

“The most important thing is to pray for us,” Gov. Rick Scott said on NBC.

The Republican governor said he spoke to President Donald Trump, and “everything I’ve asked out of the federal government, he’s made sure he gave us.”

While the projected track showed Irma raking the state’s Gulf Coast, forecasters warned that the entire Florida peninsula – including the Miami metropolitan area of 6 million people – was in extreme danger from the monstrous storm, almost 400 miles wide.

Nearly 7 million people in the Southeast were warned to get out of the storm’s path, including 6.4 million in Florida alone.

Once the storm passes, “we’re going to need a lot of help,” the governor warned. But also described Florida as “a tough state. We’re going to come through this.”

Irma made landfall in the U.S. at Cudjoe Key in the lower Keys, forecasters said.

As of 8 a.m. EDT, the hurricane was centered about 20 miles (30 kilometers) southeast of Key West, moving northwest at 8 mph (13 kph).

As the hurricane’s eye approached the Keys early Sunday, 60-year-old Carol Walterson Stroud and her family were huddled in a third-floor apartment at a senior center in Key West.

“We are good so far,” she said in a text message just before 5:30 a.m. “It’s blowing hard.”

Key West Police urged anyone riding out the storm in that city to “resist the urge” to go outside during the eye, the deceptive calm interlude in the middle of a hurricane. “Dangerous winds will follow quickly,” police said in a Facebook post.

Irma was at one time the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic, with a peak wind speed of 185 mph (300 kph) last week.

It left more than 20 people dead across the Caribbean, and as it moved north over the Gulf of Mexico’s bathtub-warm water of nearly 90 degrees, regained strength.

Forecasters said Irma could hit the Tampa-St. Petersburg areas early Monday.

The Tampa Bay area has not taken a direct hit from a major hurricane since 1921, when its population was about 10,000, National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said. Now around 3 million people live there.

The governor activated all 7,000 members of the Florida National Guard, and 30,000 guardsmen from elsewhere were on standby.

In the Orlando area, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World all closed on Saturday. The Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando airports shut down.

Given its mammoth size and strength and its projected course, Irma could prove one of the most devastating hurricanes ever to hit Florida and inflict damage on a scale not seen here in 25 years.

Hurricane Andrew smashed into suburban Miami in 1992 with winds topping 165 mph (265 kph), damaging or blowing apart over 125,000 homes. The damage in Florida totaled $26 billion, and at least 40 people died.

Why John Rutherford was ‘not happy’ with disaster relief bill

On Saturday, U.S. Rep. John Rutherford expressed real concerns to FloridaPolitics.com about the $15.25B disaster relief bill the House passed.

His specific issue: raising the debt ceiling without spending cuts to ameliorate the impact.

Rutherford is cognizant of the need for FEMA money for relief from Harvey and now Irma; however, not unlike Sen. Marco Rubio, who lambasted the measure as one of the most “politically cynical” deals he’d ever seen. Rutherford had serious qualms about the mechanism of the deal, which included a deal cut with Congressional Democrats to raise the debt ceiling.

“Look, I was not happy with that at all. In fact,” Rutherford said, “I told some colleagues that I held my nose when I cast that vote, because I did not want to pass a clean debt ceiling bill, because I think we should put some mandatory cuts in there to help pay for some of this. But the President cut a different deal.”

“Look,” Rutherford added, “we can’t have FEMA running out of money in the middle of mitigation for Texas and Louisiana and shortly, Florida. I didn’t like it, but I had to vote for it.”

Some sources have reported that President Donald Trump disappointed GOP leadership by cutting a deal with the Democrats at the expense of conservative orthodoxy, such as that Rutherford espoused above.

Rutherford likewise was disappointed.

“I just thought he would give the Republican leadership the opportunity to respond to that first,” Rutherford said. “I can tell you there’s never been a debt ceiling raise without some mandatory spending cuts in there.”

Rutherford also has concerns about the long-term policy ramifications of such a move, seen by some conservatives as a sop to the center-left.

“This kind of drives home the point that I’ve been making about funding bringing people together, getting back to district-driven funding … funding creates a mutual need among Democrats and Republicans. This proves my point,” Rutherford said.

“I was at a budget meeting the other day,” Rutherford said. “I can tell you Republicans that I speak with are very concerned about raising the debt ceiling without mandatory cuts.”

That concern extends to Republicans currently out of office, such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Bush, though “thankful” for FEMA funding, harbors concerns about America’s debt load — and the President’s alignment with Republican orthodoxy on deficit spending.

Bush noted Friday that America is in a “fiscal crisis,” with $20 Trillion in debt, and $60 Trillion in “contingent debt.”

Trump is “going to have to rely on conservatives and Republicans to carry out the agenda,” Bush said, though how much buy-in Trump has with conservatives at this point is an open question.

 

Jeb Bush: Donald Trump has ‘done well’ ahead of Irma

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, appearing on MSNBC Friday afternoon, had some praise for President Donald Trump‘s handling of hurricane preparation.

Bush, who saw eight storms during one two-year period in his tenure, noted that Irma is “bigger and meaner” than anything he dealt with before.

On Friday, he expressed confidence in the Trump Administration’s handling of the twin-bill of Harvey and now Irma, lauding an “understanding in Washington,” noting that “support from FEMA will likely be there” for Florida after Irma.

“They’ve done well. The President has had the right balance,” Bush said, “going [to Texas] without creating distractions from recovery efforts. FEMA has done its job.”

Bush was less laudatory about the disaster relief/debt ceiling hike bill that Trump pushed through with the help of congressional Democratic leadership.

While Bush is “thankful for FEMA funding,” his gratitude does not extend to a real faith in Trump’s philosophical consistency.

“I’m not surprised about anything the President does or says,” Bush said.

Bush noted that America is in a “fiscal crisis,” with $20 Trillion in debt, and $60 Trillion in “contingent debt.”

Trump is “going to have to rely on conservatives and Republicans to carry out the agenda,” Bush said, though how much buy-in Trump has with conservatives at this point is an open question.

Bush’s unease over the bill mirrors that of Sen. Marco Rubio, who messaged heavily Thursday about the “politically cynical” bill that allowed for $15.25B in Harvey relief funds in exchange for another debt ceiling hike.

Pam Bondi to become part of Donald Trump drug panel

Attorney General Pam Bondi will formally become part of President Donald Trump‘s anti-drug abuse efforts next week, her office said Friday.

The appointment to the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which requires an executive order, won’t force Bondi to leave office.

“The president always intended for the attorney general to be on the commission,” Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray said in an email. “However, (New Jersey) Gov. (Chris) Christie chose to begin the commission with only himself and four others. The announcement is protocol before the executive order is signed next week.”

The commission, created March 29, is expected to submit a final report of its findings by Oct. 1, unless an extension is needed. Ray said an extension is anticipated. Others on the commission are Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., and Harvard Professor Bertha Madras.

Bondi was a member of Trump’s transition team and had been rumored earlier in the year to be headed toward a job in the Trump administration. In January, speculation centered on Bondi as a possible candidate to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, a position informally known as the drug czar.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Billionaire blasts Donald Trump ‘dreamer’ decision

A prominent Republican fund-raiser turned critic of President Donald Trump said Thursday it would be a huge economic mistake not to let young undocumented immigrants, called “Dreamers,” remain in the United States.

“There is something wrong in separating families,” Miguel “Mike” Fernandez said, after delivering a speech to students and faculty at Florida A&M University. “That is a universal wrong. We are doing that in DACA.”

DACA is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows children brought to the country by their undocumented-immigrant parents to remain in the U.S. Former President Barack Obama put the program in place by executive order.

But the Trump administration this week rescinded the order, with an effective date of six months, giving Congress time to enact its own version of a DACA plan.

The Cuban-born Fernandez, who is a billionaire Miami businessman, supported Jeb Bush in last year’s presidential primary, but broke with his party over Trump’s anti-immigration stances and spent some $3 million in a campaign against Trump.

“If the president talks about Mexicans, murderers, criminals, rapists and so on, these (the Dreamers) are the very best. These are the opposite,” Fernandez said. “These are the students who are working hard. They are going to be tomorrow’s taxpayers.”

Fernandez, 65, who has created a number of health-care companies and later sold them, said Florida has more than 32,000 immigrants protected under DACA, and he estimates they will pay $6.7 billion in taxes over their lifetimes.

“It’s an economic issue,” he said. “Throw them out?”

Fernandez’s own story as a Cuban exile who came to the U.S. as a 12-year-old with his family was the focus of his speech to the FAMU students. Despite his enormous economic success, Fernandez repeatedly emphasized that he did not believe he had any great talents.

“I’m as average as they come,” he said.

He also talked about the many setbacks in his life, including business failures, three failed marriages, two heart attacks and cancer.

“You have to adjust,” Fernandez said. “There is not a linear path to success. Actually, I guarantee you that failure is a necessary step towards your success. If you haven’t failed, you haven’t pushed yourself hard enough.”

Fernandez distributed 700 copies of his autobiography, “Humbled by the Journey,” and took time after the speech to sign dozens of copies and talk to individual students.

Fernandez’s candor was also on display. Earlier in the day, he sent an email to the Tampa Bay Times calling state House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, who supports the elimination of DACA, a “bully” and an “intellectual midget.”

“They are just facts,” Fernandez said when asked about the comments. “That’s my opinion of the guy.”

Fernandez, who said he has given about $30 million to Republican causes over the last 15 years, also expressed “disappointment” in Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, although he had given $100,000 to help Putnam’s Republican gubernatorial campaign.

“I think that we lack in this country people who speak and stand on their backbone,” Fernandez said.

“He’s a guy who was fairly normal in his position until he is faced with an opponent who is more to the right. He feels he has to move to the right,” Fernandez said. “I move to where I am, and that’s who I respect.”

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

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