Kathy Castor Archives - Page 7 of 27 - Florida Politics

California Democrat wants to work with Kathy Castor on ending sanctions against Cuba

Despite the diplomatic breakthrough with Cuba announced by President Obama in December 2014, the idea of removing the more than 50-year-old economic embargo against the communist island doesn’t appear to be any closer to fading away. The Republican-led Congress would have to repeal both the 1996 Helms-Burton Act and the Trading With The Enemy Act for that to occur.

And while Democrats feel pretty good about their chances of recapturing control of the Senate this fall, the House remains much more elusive. Having said that, California Democratic Rep. John Garamendi says a Democratic House majority could easily vote both measures.

“I thought they would have been removed when I was about 30,” said the veteran lawmaker, who, for the record, turned 71 in January. “It really needs to go. We’re dealing with every country around the world and not to deal with Cuba in a comprehensive way — economically, tourist, commerce, banking, all of those things — it just doesn’t make any sense.”

Garamendi was one of a group of six lawmakers who joined Tampa Bay-area Democrat Kathy Castor in Cuba last winter. Castor has emerged in the past few years as the leader in Congress in trying to build momentum to overturn the sanctions. In 2013, she became the first Florida lawmaker to call for economic sanctions against Cuba to end, and has continued to work with the Obama administration on other items regarding travel and commerce since then.

Congressional Republicans such as Marco Rubio have denounced the Obama administration for resuming diplomatic relations with the Raul Castro-led government, and continue to say the regime has remained repressive when it comes to human rights, embarrassing the administration.

Garamendi preaches patience on the human rights front.

“Do I expect the Cuban government to change overnight and become an open society and democracy? No, but we deal very closely with many, many countries around the world such as China,” he said inside the lobby of the Marriott Hotel in downtown Philadelphia. China and human rights? The two don’t go together. It’s the more interaction that the U.S. has with commerce and tourism and all of the other trade — it’s more likely then that Cuba will have to change.”

Garamendi says the Castor-led trip was the first time he’d ever visited Cuba.

“I’d been wanting to do it for years, decades, and it was the first opportunity I really had,” he said. “It was a very important for me, personally, and I think it’s important to talk to other members of Congress — don’t expect the human rights issue to be resolved today or tomorrow.”

Garamendi is optimistic more interactions between members of Congress and Cuban officials can help them make a transition towards a more democratic society. Skeptics will remain, though, until there are more tangible measures made by the communist government.

Bernie Sanders jolts Florida Democratic delegates with surprise visit

Bernie Sanders made an impromptu appearance before the Florida Democratic delegation in Philadelphia Tuesday, less than eleven hours after he closed out the Democratic National Convention’s first night of the week.

Accompanied by a phalanx of reporters, cameramen and devout fans, Sanders swiftly moved up along the right side of the ballroom before Kathy Castor, who had spoken for about three minutes, gave the stage up to Vermont Senator, who again gave a (cliche alert) full-throated endorsement of Hillary Clinton at the conclusion of his remarks.

Sanders performed  poorly in the state’s presidential primary in March, losing to Clinton by more than thirty percentage points, which he immediately acknowledged in his brief remarks.

“Whether you supported me or supported Secretary Clinton, we all know what our task is, and that is to make sure that Donald Trump is not elected President of the United States,” he said.

Sanders said the problem with Trump wasn’t that he believes in certain things (like not believing in climate change) that orthodox Republican also don’t believe in. The problem, he said, was that Trump was “a demagogue, a bully and somebody who does not believe in the Constitution of the United States.”

“Our job in a difficult moment,” Sanders said, pausing almost after every word – “is to bring people together, not divide us up! “

He went on to say that it was the job of Democrats to support combating climate change, expanding Social Security, a Medicare for  all health care system, paid medical and  family leave and income inequality.

“Republicans don’t win elections, Democrats lose elections,” he said. “We lose elections when people give up on the political process and do not vote. We lost in 2014 when 63 percent of the American people did not vote,  and 80 percent of young people did not vote.”

While half of the delegation seemed in awe while watching Sanders speak, there were noticeably a number of Clinton supporters who sat and watched passively, with some with their backs turned as they consumed their breakfast. They finally stood and cheered only after Sanders again said it was the job Democrats to elect Clinton in November.

At his conclusion, Sanders thanked everyone in the room who supported either him or Clinton, saying that too few Americans getting involved in the political process.

“We have made a great start. Let’s go forward. Let’s elect Secretary Clinton. Let us transform this country. Thank you very much.”

And with that, he was off, and the way that the media and his supporters surrounded him as his security detail marched in front, he could have been Bruce Springsteen circa 1984.

“How cool is this!” shouted Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant. “Florida is epic!

After the buzz in the room began to subside, Scott Arceneux, executive director of the Florida Democratic Primary, called everyone to get back to their seats, or he joked, he wouldn’t allow them to eat breakfast on Wednesday.

More star power followed at the breakfast, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minnesota Senator Al Franken making appearance.


Hillary Clinton ridicules Donald Trump’s “dark and divisive division” in Tampa speech

(UPDATE: Hillary Clinton chose Tim Kaine to be her VP nominee. That occurred shortly after this post was originally written).

Hillary Clinton did not name her running mate at a rally in Tampa on Friday afternoon. Although that nonevent was probably the most newsworthy part of her campaign appearance late Friday afternoon at the Florida State Fairgrounds, it was also her first time in front of a partisan audience for her to weigh in on the past week of comments from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where she was bashed nonstop for four days, with several of the speakers participating in chants to “lock her up.”

“Did anyone of you watch that convention in Cleveland,” she asked after getting on taking the stage at 5:45 p.m. While the crowd of more than 3,000 lustily booed, she admitted that the bashing “was kind of perversely flattering.”

Referring to how Texas Senator Ted Cruz was jeered at the RNC for failing to endorse Donald Trump, Clinton said that “something has gone terribly wrong when one speaker says ‘vote your conscience and gets booed.'”

“I mean, I never thought I would say these words. Ted Cruz was right,” as the crowd erupted.

In what sounded like a preview of her acceptance speech next Thursday night in Philly, Clinton said the RNC was all about Trump’s “dark and divisive division,” with fear, anger and resentment being dosed out liberally, but with very few solutions offered.

She also blasted the GOP’s nominee for claiming that he can repair the country’s problems by himself. “I never heard of an American leader, or at least someone who wants to be an American leader, claiming that’s all we need. That’s not a democracy my friends, as I call recall, we had a revolution to make sure we didn’t have someone who said I can fix it alone!”

Clinton also mocked Trump’s comment in his 75-minute acceptance speech that “I am your voice.”

She claimed he didn’t speak for small businesses, for P.O.W’s, or people with disabilities, or immigrants or women or working families.

In some ways, Clinton sounded like Ronald Reagan in the 80’s bashing on Democrats who “blamed America first.” It is Clinton who is the sunny optimist, and Trump who “talks trash about America,” or describes the nation as “dystopian,” as Congresswoman Kathy Castor labeled it in her speech an hour before Clinton hit the stage.

Castor, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Senator Bill Nelson, incoming Florida House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn were the elected officials who warmed the crowd up before Clinton arrived from her earlier stop in Orlando, where she met privately with the families and friends of victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting more than a month after a gunman killed 49 people there.

Wasserman Schultz previewed what will be the theme of the 2016 DNC next week, “Stronger together.”

Clinton said the Democrats vision in Philadelphia will be about “building bridges, not walls between people.” Her biggest cheer came when she said that the county needed to stand for common sense gun control measures.

She also said that she could understand the thoughts of why some voters are supporting Trump, saying that “there’s a lot of angst about all the changes that are happening all over the world,” as she ticked off technology and globalization as two such factors. She said she respected those with such concerns.

The suspense remains regarding her potential VP choice.

Lakeland resident Bill Deveau said he’d love to see Elizabeth Warren on the ticket, but realizes that two older females, both hailing from the Northeast, probably won’t work.

Sean Hayes from Ybor City said he’s good with Tim Kaine, acknowledging that his experience and Spanish language speaking skills will work perfectly.

Clinton will appear at a rally Saturday morning at Florida International University at high noon. We should know by then who will compete against the Trump-Pence ticket in November.

Mitch Perry Report for 7.15.16 — No Tebowing in Cleveland

Bad news for folks who were psyched that Tim Tebow was announced on Thursday to be a featured speaker at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Like Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady before him, Tebow became the latest (former) pro quarterback who has disavowed any intentions that he would be speaking at Donald Trump‘s party next week.

“My goal has always been to be able to make a difference in the biggest way possible. And if one day that’s in the political realm, that’s what I’ll do,” Tebow said on his Instagram account last night. “But right now, I really believe that’s through my foundation and our amazing partners in fighting for kids who can’t fight for themselves.”

The Republic, and the Republicans, will certainly survive an RNC sans Tebow, but how does that even happen? All the other folks named yesterday: Pam Bondi, Rick Scott, Mary Fallin, Peter Thiel, etc., all will speak. It’s just sort of odd.

Although he’s delaying his announcement about his running mate today, all indications are Trump will select Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to be his running mate — unless he changes his mind overnight, that is.

The Tampa Bay Times’ Michael Auslen forwards the story we reported on last week — there aren’t any upcoming U.S. Senate primary debates coming up soon, and it appears as though Patrick Murphy is the reason why.

Catherine Welch from WMFE radio in Orlando, who was coordinating radio debates across Florida public radio stations, wrote to me yesterday that the Murphy camp confirmed that they received her invitation on May 30, “yet the campaign says it can not fit our Aug , 9 a.m. debate into the schedule.”

And the Times’ Rick Danielson reports on a story we meant to get to but didn’t (so props to him) — that organizers in Tampa of a referendum that would replace the city’s citizen review board with something stronger will not make the deadline of 21,000 signatures to get on this November’s ballot.

“I don’t think will make it this ballot,” the Rev. Russell Meyer told me on Monday before a Black Lives Matter protest began at Lykes Gaslight Park. “Something like what we’re talking about will be on the Tampa Charter Review Committee that city council is talking about.” He also mentioned electing a different city council to change how the board is composed but, with the exception of the District 7 race this fall, the board won’t turn over until 2019.

In other news…

A new Hillary Clinton campaign office opened in Ybor City last night, and there were lots of excited folks there — not too many of them under 40, though.

Christine Quinn is the South Tampa businesswoman who is taking on Kathy Castor in Florida’s 14th Congressional District this fall.

The Tampa City Council is close to approving a franchise agreement with developer Jeff Vinik’s Strategic Property Partners and Cascade Investments for an underground chiller for the Channelside development.

Any Libertarians out there? There’s a contested Senate battle next month, and we’ve got a poll on who’s leading in that race.

The Florida League of Women Voters is getting into advocacy and education regarding solar power.

Meet Christine Quinn, the woman who wants to take Kathy Castor’s job in Congress

When conservatives claim the Democratic Party is anti-small business, they have no one better to champion that claim than Christine Quinn, the Republican businesswoman running against Democrat incumbent Kathy Castor in Florida’s 14th Congressional District this November.

The Southern California native created My Family Seasonings in 2005, which began with a prime rib seasoning from her mother’s secret family recipe. She then quickly adding seafood, hamburger, poultry, wild game and most recently a meatloaf mix to her company’s list of products, and she’s flourished ever since.

As her business grew, so did the regulations she says made it harder to conduct business in the Golden State. When some of her business allies began looking at Texas or Arizona as possible locations that would provide a better business environment, Quinn immediately began considering Florida, since Lakeland-based Publix supermarkets had become her biggest client. Other measures, like the state’s elimination of the sales tax that manufacturers pay when purchasing equipment in Florida, made the Sunshine State even more attractive to her.

So Quinn pulled up stakes and moved to Lakeland in 2014, where she relocated her headquarters and manufacturing facility. She says at one point she was prodded by Lakeland Mayor Howard Wiggs to consider running for the Polk County Commission, which got her thinking more about running for elected office. While that was happening, she decided she loved Tampa and could handle the commute, so she moved there.

In January she said she started to think about a run for Congress, emboldened by the Florida Supreme Court’s redistricting efforts last summer that made Castor’s 14th Congressional District in Hillsborough County (sans Pinellas) less formidable for a Republican. Most political analysts still consider her odds long, however.

Before making the decision, Quinn, 56, traveled to Washington, where she attended some briefings with the Heritage Foundation and the Conservative Political Action Committee, and literally walked the halls of Congress to speak to lawmakers about her thoughts about running for a seat in the House of Representatives.

When asked about immigration, Quinn says she’s not equipped to give a short, succinct answer. But when asked if she supports the wall Donald Trump has proposed along the U.S. Southern border, she backs that idea with enthusiasm, adding her fear is that the undocumented could be bringing over diseases that could compromise our health system.

“We’re also bringing in some very dangerous threats to the American health and safety of the American population at large,” she said. “Tuberculosis was almost completely eradicated in the ’80s. Now our safe haven cities, like San Francisco, have the highest rate of tuberculosis in the nation. It’s a very treatable disease, we have medications that can treat it, but it’s a silent killer because it’s airborne.”

The Centers for Disease Control does say on its website there is a risk of infection from people traversing from Mexico to the U.S., but doesn’t say it comes directly from undocumented immigrants. As PolitiFact notes, approximately 300 million legal crossings take place from Mexico into the United States annually along the 1,969-mile border, and about 15 million Americans visit Mexico each year, according to CDC, which notes that, “the sheer number of people who live, work, and travel between the United States and Mexico has led to a sharing of culture and commerce, as well as the easy transportation of infectious diseases. The large movement of people across the United States and Mexico border has led to an increase in health issues, particularly infectious diseases such as tuberculosis.”

Regarding Trump, Quinn is a big fan.

“That man IS the American dream,” she says triumphantly. “He was able to go to college. He does have military experience from being in a military school. He started a business — good for him. ” (It should be noted Trump received draft deferments through much of the Vietnam War, but he has said he “always felt that I was in the military” because of his education at a military-themed boarding school).

When asked about the issues between law enforcement and the black community and specifically the Black Lives Matter movement, she quickly responds that “all lives matter,” and then cites a study showing whites are killed by police officers at a greater percentage than blacks (she later said that came from a Guardian study, though that acclaimed study doesn’t necessarily say that).

Quinn vows “never” to compromise on the 2nd Amendment, but does say it’s extremely important for anyone who purchases a gun to get proper training. She also says she hopes to go for a ride-along with the Hillsborough County Sheriffs Department, adding that they hadn’t returned her call for such a ride.

On the Affordable Care Act, Quinn says she lost her insurance “because I didn’t qualify for the ACA. That’s not fair.” (Quinn’s campaign manager sent an e-mail Thursday with more information. “Christine said it went up, for her $840 plus for her son was another $432 and the deductible was $2,500. So ACA priced her out of insurance from the rate hikes. She didn’t qualify for ACA benefits.”)

Quinn also doesn’t buy the notion that the U.S. never found weapons of mass destruction upon invading Iraq.

“We didn’t get in fast enough,” she says regarding the invasion and the search for WMD, which began in March 2003. “Could they have moved them? We’re they really not there? How do we know? Maybe they really were there. I have a hard time believing that they weren’t there. I think that they were there, I think that we don’t get the full reports. We don’t know. We simply don’t know. We can speculate. We can have arguments on TV with all the newscasters and everyone can have their opinion. We needed to protect the oil, and if anyone wants to say we didn’t, of course we did.”

The New York Times did report in the fall of 2014 that during the Iraq war, at least 17 American service members and seven Iraqi police officers were exposed to aging chemical weapons abandoned years earlier, a report conservatives seized upon. Critics noted, however, that the chemical weapons discovered predated 1991 and thus could not vindicate Bush’s rationale, which relied on an active, ongoing chemical weapons program at the time of the invasion.

Quinn defers on what our policy should be regarding Syria at the moment. She segues into talking about her admitted lack of knowledge regarding the Muslim faith after 9/11 prompted her to read the Koran to learn more about the religion. While discussing this, she pulls out a paperback copy of the holy text from a drawer in her office. “How do we learn if we don’t read?” she asks.

Quinn caught a break when perennial candidate Eddie Adams failed to qualify for the ballot last month, earning her the GOP nomination by default, avoiding the added costs of a contested primary. Nevertheless, she’s a prohibitive underdog against Castor, who is vying for a sixth term in the House of Representatives.

The candidate did tweet to this reporter Thursday that, “I’m the only candidate and first BusinessWOMAN to run against Castor in Hillsborough County — critical to Florida,” but whether that will be nearly enough won’t be decided until November.

Hillsborough County chair Les Miller endorses Ed Narain in SD 19 race

Democratic Rep. Ed Narain announced Monday that Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Lesley “Les” Miller has endorsed his bid for the District 19 seat in the Florida Senate.

“I’ve known Ed Narain since he was a student leader at the University of South Florida and now as state representative,” said Miller, who himself served 14 years as a lawmaker. “His leadership and ability to bring people together are rare features in elected officials today.

“Having been elected chair of the Legislative Black Caucus during his first term, he has the respect of Democrats — and Republicans — across the state. I am confident in his ability to represent all of Tampa Bay, to be an effective voice for our community, and to stand up for Democratic values,” Miller continued.

Narain said the endorsement is “humbling” and that he hopes to follow in Miller’s footsteps, as well as those of Sen. Arthenia Joyner, who is vacating the seat due to term limits.

The nod from Miller adds to an impressive list of Florida pols backing Narain in the four-way primary race, including endorsements from Joyner, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, as well as Florida House colleagues Janet Cruz, Mark Pafford and David Richardson.

The Tampa Democrat led the money race through June 24 with about $100,000 in his campaign account, followed by fellow Democratic Rep. Darryl Rouson with about $41,000 and former Democratic Rep. Betty Reed with about $16,000.

Augie Ribeiro, the fourth Democrat in the race, has about $800 in the bank, while lone Republican candidate John Houman, who bills himself as “Mr. Manners” in his filing paperwork, has just $665 on hand through three months in the race.

Vern Buchanan urges Senate to pass Zika bill, blames Democrats

U.S. Rep Vern Buchanan this week added his voice to the chorus urging immediate passage of a $1.1 billion bill to fight the spread of the dreaded Zika virus, and the Sarasota Republican blamed Senate Democrats for the log jam.

vern buchanan

Democrats this week pointed fingers at the Republicans, saying partisan politics was the reason the bill was voted down in the Senate last month.

In the balance is public safety; while congressional leaders squabble over partisan politics, the virus is gaining ground, particularly in Florida, where it first appeared in the continental United States in January.

The funding bill would help pay for research, education and control of mosquitoes, which spread the disease that this week infected a record number of Floridians in one day. The virus, which had its beginnings in South America, has spread through Central America and the Caribbean and now is poised to invade the United States.

Its symptoms are not all that severe, some fever and aches, but it can result in tragic birth defects, including microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with small heads and incomplete brain development.

Leading congressional Democrats, including Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, called on Senate Republican leaders Thursday to bring back the $1.1 billion bill that failed just two weeks ago.

Democrats voted down the measure last month because, they say, Republicans tacked on provisions that would have eliminated funding for Planned Parenthood and limited Medicaid to some U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, where Zika infects about 50 people a day.

Nelson wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell this week urging him to reintroduce the bill without all the “poison pills” tacked on by Senate Republicans.

Buchanan also urged the Senate to bring back the bill, but said it was Democrats who are to blame for the delayed response to the Zika threat.

The delay, he said, “jeopardizes public health.”

“It’s disgraceful that Zika funds have been stonewalled again by dysfunctional Washington politics,” Buchanan said in a statement. “The Senate Democrats have yet another opportunity to show they are serious about getting much-needed resources to our communities before more Americans are infected. Mosquitoes are out in full force during the summer so we need that funding now more than ever.”

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Senate Democrats “had no choice but to oppose the bill, in part because it taps money intended to prop up Obamacare in U.S. territories such as Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.”

The Florida Department of Health noted that on Wednesday, 11 cases of Zika were reported, the highest single-day tally since the virus washed ashore here in January. Zika has been confirmed in more than 260 people in Florida so far, not including more than 40 pregnant women. Last month, the first case of microcephaly in a newborn was reported in Florida.

In the United States, about 1,000 people have contracted the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So far, all of the cases have involved patients who contracted the virus outside the U.S.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous that we haven’t sufficiently funded the Zika fight yet,” Buchanan said. “With each day that the Senate delays due to partisan politics, more pregnant mothers are put at risk.”

Buchanan said he was the first Republican in the House to support President Barack Obama’s request for full funding — $1.9 billion — to fight the Zika virus. Federal funding would pay to expand education, prevention and mosquito control programs. It also would improve diagnostics and testing and pay for research into a vaccine.

Kathy Castor confident ACE Kids Act will pass with bipartisan support

Since its introduction in January 2015, the Advancing Care for Exceptional (ACE) Kids Act has garnered growing bipartisan support and seems to be heading for success as lawmakers convened a legislative hearing this week to discuss the plan that would ease the suffering of children with complex medical problems and the problems faced by their parents.

The Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Health convened the hearing Thursday. U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor is on the committee and credits a Tampa Hospital with the snowballing success of the proposal.

“After today’s hearing and with more than 200 co-sponsors, I am optimistic that (Rep. Joe) Barton and I are on a path to work with our colleagues in this great bipartisan effort to pass the ACE Kids Act, which will significantly benefit our most vulnerable patients with complex medical conditions.”

St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa was key in its support, Castor said.

“I want to thank St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital … and their patients and families, for contributing so much to today’s hearing,” Castor said. “More importantly, I want to thank St. Joseph’s for leading the nation in modeling how care can be coordinated through a medical home, using taxpayers’ resources efficiently and providing relief to struggling families — rather than a costly, fragmented system.”

The ACE Kids Act was first introduced a year-and-a-half ago by a handful of representatives, including Castor.

“This hearing marks a substantive step forward for the ACE Kids Act,” said Barton, a Republican from Texas. “Our aim is simple: to put medically complex children and their families first. The current burden placed on these families is overwhelming, to say the least.

“With the health home model found in this bill, our nation’s most qualified children’s hospitals providers will be empowered to do what they do best.”

The act’s sponsors say that by coordinating and improving access to medical care, the ACE Kids Act would help streamline services and reduce the hardships sick children and their families must go through.

In the House, this bill has 212 co-sponsors, and a companion bill in the Senate has 38 co-sponsors.

The bill is supported by the Children’s Hospital Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association and the National Down Syndrome Society.

Barton and Castor say they are confident the bill will reach President Obama’s desk before he leaves office.

Congressional Dems renew plea to get Zika funding passed

With 11 new cases of Zika reported in Florida Wednesday — the most yet in a single day — leading congressional Democrats renewed a plea to resurrect a bipartisan $1.1 billion spending bill to fight what they call a silent epidemic that is gaining a foothold in the United States.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson fired off a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Thursday urging him to bring back a $1.1 billion proposal that would help fight the spread of Zika. Nelson said this has to be done before July 15 when Congress begins its seven-week summer break. Summer, he said, is peak mosquito season.

“Just yesterday we had 11 new cases (of Zika) in Florida,” Nelson said in a conference call Thursday afternoon. “It’s been 136 days since the president requested just under $2 billion in emergency funding. It took just a few days for Ebola, 49 days to respond to swine flu in 2009.”

He said the House’s “so-called $1.1 billion deal … wasn’t a serious solution because it had all kinds of extraneous things in there, highly partisan provisions that were poison pills. This is how the Zika crisis is being treated, as part of partisan politics.”

Research is blunted without funding, he said. And measures to control mosquito populations are not being undertaken because there is no money.

“This is inexcusable, irresponsible partisan behavior,” said Nelson.

His letter to McConnell urges the Senate majority leader to bring back the $1.1 billion spending proposal without any riders, including the one tacked onto the bill that would have pulled Medicaid money from Puerto Rico, where Zika is infecting about 50 people a day.

“In the very place that needs Medicaid help,” he said, Republicans “were cutting that money out.”

Time is running short, Nelson said.

“We’re at the 11th hour and 59th minute,” he said. “We have to get something passed.”

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor also expressed urgency in getting federal money allocated to fight the insidious disease that leaves newborns with catastrophic birth defects including small heads and incomplete brain development; lifelong issues that could cost $10 million in treatment over the course of one child’s life.

Wednesday, she said, the state recorded 11 new cases of Zika infections, the most in a single day since the first one was reported in January. One of the new cases was in Hillsborough County, said the Tampa Democrat.

“We’ve got to have the funds to develop vaccines and diagnostics and make sure pregnant women have all the information necessary to make very difficult decisions in their lives,” Castor said. “We’ve got one week left if they are not able — Speaker (Paul) Ryan and Republican leaders — if we’re not able to get a bill to the president’s desk, that would be a colossal failure.”

Deputy Homeland Security Adviser Amy Pope said Thursday the president is hopeful he can get a bill to sign and he has spoken to McConnell and leading Democrats about hammering out a bipartisan approach before the summer break.

“We know the risk is growing every day and the longer we wait to pass legislation,” she said, “the greater the consequences.”

Wednesday, the Florida Health Department reported 11 new cases, including one in Hillsborough County, and some counties have been under a declaration of public health emergency.

Of the 220 cases in Florida, not including 43 pregnant women, 28 are still exhibiting symptoms, which can last between seven to 10 days.

Miami-Dade County leads the state with 72 cases, followed by Broward County with 37 cases and Orange County with 21.

In February, Gov. Rick Scott declared a public health emergency for the counties where the disease has cropped up. There were 26 counties named in the declaration including Hillsborough, Polk, Pasco and Pinellas counties, in which 22 cases of Zika have been reported since January.

In June, Scott used his emergency executive authority to allocate $26.2 million in state funds for Zika preparedness, prevention and response.

The rate at which Zika is spreading is “a silent epidemic,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden during the conference call Thursday. “Four out of five don’t have symptoms and those that do have mild symptoms. It has a devastating impact on pregnancy,” he said. “Hundreds and hundreds of women are dealing with this diagnosis throughout the country.”

He urged Congress to get the spending bill pushed through before next week.

“The mosquito and virus,” he said, “are not waiting.”

Gwen Graham celebrates July 4th by sponsoring bipartisan ‘Made-In-America Flag’ bill

U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham got into the Independence Day spirit Friday by co-sponsoring a bill to ensure the federal government only purchases flags made in America.

“There’s no better time than the Fourth of July to remind us how important the American Flag is to our nation,” the North Florida Democrat said. “This common-sense, bipartisan legislation would require the federal government only purchase American flags made in America. It’s the right thing to do to honor the founding fathers who declared our independence and all those who have fought to keep us free.”

HR 916 was introduced in the U.S. House earlier this year by Illinois Democratic U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos and has drawn cosponsorship from 105 representatives, including 22 Republicans and 83 Democrats.

Outside of Graham, Florida Republicans Daniel Webster, Ted Yoho, Bill Posey, as well as Democrats Corrine Brown, Kathy Castor, Lois Frankel, Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy, have signed on to Bustos’ bill as co-sponsors.

The bill would require the federal government to purchase only flags that contain 100 percent American-made materials and which are entirely manufactured in the U.S., while current law allows the government to buy flags composed of 50-percent American-made materials.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Census Data, $4 million worth of American Flags were imported into the U.S. in 2013, with $3.9 million of those flags coming from China.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons