Marco Rubio Archives - Florida Politics

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson team up on Disaster Assistance Simplification Act

Florida’s U.S. Senators, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, teamed up on a bill Thursday that could ensure that Florida and other hurricane-hit areas get their fair share from the federal government by cleaning up a process that Rubio describes as “unsynchronized and burdensome.”

The Disaster Assistance Simplification Act, also sponsored by Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, would stop the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development from penalizing natural disaster victims who ultimately decline Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loans..

Those who apply for but decline SBA disaster loans — as part of a consideration of recovery options — are penalized when applying for Community Development Block Grant disaster grants; each dollar awarded as a loan is zeroed-out of potential CDBG grants.

“The current disaster assistance process is unsynchronized and burdensome for victims of natural disasters. By penalizing victims who don’t take assistance, “Rubio said, “our laws discourage victims from applying for SBA disaster loans.”

Rubio added that “removing bureaucratic hurdles is imperative to ensuring that no victim is penalized for weighing their hurricane recovery option.”

“When people are struggling to recover in the wake of a massive storm, time is of the essence,” said Nelson. “This bill will make it easier for people to get the help they need, when they need it – without having to worry about government red tape.”

Other sponsors of the bill include two more Senators from storm-ravaged states: Ted Cruz from Texas and John Kennedy from Louisiana.

Advocates wonder why Marco Rubio is hesitant about legislation protecting Haitians

Last month, the Trump administration decided to sunset a humanitarian program in 18 months that allowed some 59,000 Haitians to live and work in the United States after a 2010 earthquake ravaged their country.

In response, several members of South Florida’s congressional delegation (from both sides of the aisle) sponsored legislation to address the issue.

Marco Rubio wasn’t one of them.

“Sen. Marco Rubio, we need to hear your voice, and we need to hear it right now,” said Marleine Bastien, executive director with Haitian Women of Miami, during a Friday conference call.

Congress set up the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in 1990 to protect foreign nationals from being returned to their countries amid instability and precarious conditions caused by natural disasters or armed conflict.

In November, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent a letter to acting DHS secretary Elaine Duke informing her that conditions in Central America and Haiti used to justify the protection no longer necessitate a reprieve for migrants. Based on the president’s directive, Haitians with TPS will be expected to leave the United States by July 2019 or face deportation.

Rubio wrote a Miami Herald op-ed and said again on CBS Miami last weekend that TPS needs to be extended for Haitians.

” … I continue to urge the administration to extend Haiti’s TPS designation for 18 more months,” Rubio wrote. “As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere and as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I continue to strongly support U.S. initiatives that promote good governance and security, combat poverty and health epidemics, and advance economic opportunities for the people of Haiti.”

South Florida U.S. Representatives Carlos Curbelo, Frederica Wilson, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Alcee Hastings introduced bipartisan legislation in late October to grant legal permanent resident status to over 300,000 qualified Nicaraguan, Honduran, Salvadoran and Haitian migrants.

Related legislation was filed the following month in the Senate by Maryland’s Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin and California’s Diane Feinstein allowing qualified TPS recipients to apply for legal permanent residency.

“The decision to terminate the TPS ignores the law, ignores the hard facts on the ground, ignores the wide bipartisan support that this issue has had left and right,” added Bastien. “This decision destroys families, split countries and harms our economy.”

Wendi Adelson is executive director of the Immigration Partnership and Coalition (IMPAC) Fund, a nonprofit political organization created to provide legal services to unauthorized immigrants facing removal from the U.S. The Fund was formed by Coral Gables billionaire Mike Fernandez.

Adelson says there are 21,900 Haitians working in Florida who are TPS holders, and along with TPS holders from El Salvador and Honduras, they contribute $1.2 billion to Florida’s GDP.

Yet both lawmakers have resisted signing onto any of the bills proposed to address the problem.

“I don’t know if we have the votes to do it,” Rubio told CBS Miami’s Jim DeFede last Sunday about a legislative solution.

Referring to the political and financial instability in both Haiti and El Salvador at the moment, Frank Mora, a professor in the Florida International University Department of Politics & International Relations, was baffled by the decision of the Trump administration.

“Much of this is driving the violence and the drivers of migrations from those counties, doing exactly what I think is counterproductive,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Rubio’s office directed Florida Politics to the senator’s op-ed and CBS Miami appearance but did not say why he has not signed onto any of the proposals in Congress on the situation.

AFP slams Marco Rubio-backed amendment to GOP tax bill

Conservative group Americans for Prosperity blasted an amendment to the Republican tax reform bill put forward by U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Mike Lee, saying it would “undermine” the plan’s supposed benefit to families.

The Rubio-Lee amendment sets the corporate tax rate at 22 percent, compared to the 20 percent rate in the current GOP tax bill.

The group said 20 percent is the line for a “pro-growth, competitive” rate.

“The Rubio-Lee Amendment breaks the promise of the unified framework at the 11th hour by raising the corporate tax rate to an unacceptable level. Worse, it does so in exchange for a tax credit that doesn’t directly achieve the economic growth that families need. American families would reap greater economic benefits from a level playing field, cutting of special-interest handouts, and low, flat rates for individuals and businesses alike,” said AFP President Tim Phillips.

“President Donald Trump, the House and two Senate committees have certified that lowering the corporate tax rate to 20 percent is crucial to achieve the goals of creating jobs, spurring growth and expanding opportunities for all Americans. We continue to strongly support the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and urge lawmakers to oppose any attempt to deviate from that plan with amendments that would increase the corporate tax rate above 20 percent,” he continued.

Rubio said the slightly higher rate, still a 13 percent cut from the current rate, would “allow us to do the pro-worker reform that we desperately need.”

The Rubio and Lee plan would extend child tax credits to lower income families, many of whom do not pay federal income tax and instead are primarily taxed via payroll taxes.

The current Republican tax plan would double the child tax credit from $1,000 per child to $2,000 per child, which would make little to no impact on lower-income families.

Carlos Trujillo’s OAS nomination to be heard by Senate

Miami state Rep. Carlos Trujillo’s recent nomination to the U.S. ambassador post for the Organization of American States will be heard by the U.S. Senate Thursday morning.

The position requires confirmation by the Senate. The morning hearing is presided by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

Trujillo is chair of the state House Appropriations Committee and has not said whether he will resign ahead of the 2018 Session.

News of the Republican budget chief’s appointment came just two months after he was tapped by President Donald Trump to serve the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Trujillo would be term-limited in the Florida House in 2018. Two Republican competitors, David Rivera and Ana Maria Rodriguez, have emerged to contend for his District 105 seat.

Trujillo’s post is one of three other nomination hearings in the Senate Thursday. The hearings will begin at 10 a.m.

Bill Nelson slams tax bill; Marco Rubio makes final pitch for child credit

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson took to the floor of the Senate Wednesday to slam the Republican tax reform bill and Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio followed him a few minutes later to make a last pitch for the childcare tax credit he’s been seeking to make the reform more “pro-worker.”

The Senate is debating the bill Wednesday afternoon.

“What we’ve done before and have now in front of us is not what the American people want, it’s what large corporations want – large multinational corporations who get their corporate tax rate cut from 35 percent to 20 percent. It’s what the well-to-do want. That’s what’s before us,” Nelson declared. “Now, let me explain. Anyone who says that this bill is all for the middle class is not giving the full story. What they are not telling you is that the tax cuts for the middle class expire in seven or eight years.”

In his turn on the floor, Rubio said there are a lot of good things in the bill but that it needs the child tax credit toward payroll taxes that he and Sen. Mike Lee proposed.

“I hope that in tax reform we would do what we should try to do in all of our policies, that is come up with ideas that are both pro-growth, and pro-worker. There are a lot of good ideas in this tax bill but we can make it better,” Rubio said.

Rubio and Lee’s proposal would reduce the corporate tax rate to 22 percent, rather than the 20 percent in the current bill. Rubio argued that 22 percent was just as good for growth, because it would put the United States in the same competitive position internationally as a 20 percent rate.

And the revenue savings from the difference, he argued, would “allow us to do the pro-worker reform that we desperately need.”

“Here’s what it allows us to do,” Rubio continued. “It allows us to change the child tax credit in the current bill to help working families even more.

“But the one thing I want to emphasize, is: Who does this help?” he challenged.

Rubio said he’s heard criticism of their proposal as a form of welfare, and he passionately responded to such claims.

“I find that offensive,” Rubio said. “I find it offensive not because I am offended by people who need the help and are in the safety net programs because they’ve come upon difficult times, but because the people we are trying to help are not on government assistance. They’re workers. You have to be working to get this credit. The credit applies to your tax liability.”

Nelson argued that any breaks for the middle- and working-class are going away.

“They’re not telling you all the other ways that CBO says that this bill will hurt ordinary Americans. So, for example, beginning in 2019, CBO says that anyone making under $30,000 a year will take a hit from this bill if it becomes law. Then in 2021, anyone making under $40,000 will start to feel the pinch. And then in 2027, anyone making under $75,000 is actually going to get a tax increase,” Nelson said.

Nelson also argued that the tax reform would hurt small businesses, cause health care premiums to go up 10 percent, force 13 million people to lose health insurance, and that it is not the jobs bill that Rubio and Republicans declared it to be.

Nelson also decried the partisan foundation of the bill, saying that’s not how tax reform worked the last time, in 1986, when he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Isn’t it time to revert to what we did back in 1986, where we came together in bipartisan consensus?” Nelson implored. “As long as there is a will, there is a way. And what I hope in the midst of this extreme toxic atmosphere of high partisanship that we might find a will to cut through that and say indeed there is way and it is a bipartisan way. We just need willing partners on both sides. I pray that that will occur between now and Christmas before we do something that we are going to regret.”

Jax preachers call Senate tax plan ‘economic genocide’

Steps away from Sen. Marco Rubio‘s Jacksonville office, a group of Jacksonville preachers thundered against the “immoral” tax bill in the U.S. Senate Tuesday.

The clergymen, brought together under the aegis of the “Faith in Public Life” group, called for Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson to vote against the tax bill based on “religious” values.

Nelson has objected for weeks to the plan, saying that it needs “tremendous revisions” because it privileges corporate interests over those of small businesses and working families.

Rubio also has said he wanted to see more done for working families.

“Unless America’s tax code and our broader public policy does not begin to account for the struggles of working Americans who put in eight to 10 hours a day, five days a week, I think our political process will continue to become more raucous and more divisive,” he said earlier this month. “And America will struggle to solve not just its economic problems, but many of its other problems as well.”

The case the preachers made against the tax plan: it could cause 873,000 Floridians to lose health care, could boost the deficit by $1.5 trillion and could cut social programs.

The rhetoric they used was trenchant.

Rev. Linda D. Girouex called the plan “economic genocide.”

Elder Lee Harris of the of the African-American Ministers Leadership Conference expressed similar sentiments, saying the plan “will destroy certain people,” including poor people and people of color.

Calling the plan “neo-slavery” and saying it amounted to “ethnic cleansing of people of color,” Harris likened it to “chattel slavery … Jim Crow … mass incarceration” in its impact, which would include cuts to Medicaid and food stamps, while removing the ability to deduct student loan interest payments.

“Plantations grow bigger, and only the plantation owners reap the benefits,” Harris said.

Pastor Avery Garner described the “unholy contract” as an “attack on American families,” before making a direct appeal to Sen. Rubio.

“I have seen that you have your own doubts about this legislation,” Garner said. “You can vote no.”

Jay Fant: I agree with Marco Rubio. Al Franken must go

Jacksonville Republican Rep. and Attorney General candidate Jay Fant said Monday that he agrees with Sen. Marco Rubio‘s declaration over the weekend that the sexual misconduct allegations against Sen. Al Franken are so egregious that the Minnesota Democrat should resign immediately.

“Senator Franken has already admitted to mistreating women in a way that would be offensive to come from any person, but is completely out-of-bounds for an elected official representing our public trust. He must go,” Fant said in a statement. “As the father of two daughters, I am sickened by public officials misusing the power of their office for harassment. Sexual harassment is wrong in any workplace, but is especially disgusting when it involves someone who represents the public trust.”

On Sunday, Rubio told CBS Miami’s Jim DeFede that the accusations of groping made against Franken are “horrifying,” “outrageous” and “offensive.” He added: “I do think on that alone he should consider resigning.”

The accusations against Franken began on Nov. 16, when Los Angeles radio personality Leeann Tweeden released a photograph that appeared to show Franken grabbing her breasts while she was asleep and wearing protective military gear. She also charged that the then-comedian forcibly kissed her while the two were rehearsing a skit.

Since her story went public, three additional women made similar accusations of sexual misconduct against Franken.

Franken said Monday that he was “tremendously sorry” and hoped to regain the trust of those he has let down, but also said that he would not resign over the controversy.

Fant is in a competitive four-person race to win the Republican nomination for Attorney General in 2018. He says if elected, he would create a position for a confidential investigator and an ethics officer.

“This person will have a background in working with sexual assault victims and will be able to meet with victims confidentially when the harassment involves a public official and refer information to law enforcement or the Ethics Commission, as appropriate,” he said. “We have a responsibility to protect the public, especially when it means protecting them from their very people who took an oath of office to serve their best interests at all times.”

Fant was equally as harsh regarding the plight of embattled Alabama Judge Roy Moore, who continues to campaign in a special election for the U.S. Senate next month, despite calls from Republicans from around the country to drop out following reports that he dated underage females nearly four decades ago.

“Sexual assault is a disgusting act that we shouldn’t take lightly,” Fant told Florida Politics earlier this month. “Under our Constitution, Roy Moore is entitled to due process. But if these allegations are true, Roy Moore belongs in prison, not the U.S. Senate.”

Fant is running against former Hillsborough County judge Ashley Moody and fellow state House Reps. Ross Spano and Frank White in next August’s primary.

Thanksgiving place setting

What Florida’s political elite should be thankful for

From the soup kitchens of Tallahassee to the conch houses of Key West, from the toniest mansions in Coral Gables to the double wides in Dixie County, people from all walks of life will sit down to celebrate the most American of holidays: Thanksgiving.

“Americans traditionally recognize the ‘first’ Thanksgiving as having taken place at Plymouth colony in the autumn of 1621,” according to, the website of George Washington’s Virginia estate. “The 1621 thanksgiving celebration, however, did not become an annual event.”

More than a century later, “Washington issued a proclamation on Oct. 3, 1789, designating Thursday, Nov. 26 as a national day of thanks,” it says. “In his proclamation, Washington declared that the necessity for such a day sprung from the Almighty’s care of Americans.”

But “the 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation … did not establish a permanent federal holiday,” the site adds. “It was not until the Civil War of the 1860s that President (Abraham) Lincoln initiated a regular observance of Thanksgiving in the United States.”

Thus we come to the tradition of eating and giving thanks, including by the state’s elected officials (and yes, by candidates and players in The Process).

Once God, country, family, and good fortune are given their due, here’s what some of the state’s most prominent leaders should be grateful for:

Marco Rubio – For the proverbial “second chance.” He’s finally becoming the influential U.S. Senator he was supposed to be.

Bill Nelson – For the wave of opinion coming that may enable the Democrat to hold off the inevitable challenge to his seat from self-funding, always-on-message Gov. Rick Scott.

Rick Scott For Nelson, who, despite 17 years in the U.S. Senate, is not well known enough to about half of Florida’s voters, according to a recent poll. No wonder Bill keeps inundating us with press releases of all the concerned letters he writes.

Adam Putnam – For the anonymous “POLITICO 6” who have torpedoed Jack Latvala’s gubernatorial campaign, giving the Bartow Republican an even wider lane to the Governor’s Mansion in 2018.

Jimmy Patronis For Matt Gaetz muscling him out of a state Senate race a few years back. Now he’s the appointed state Chief Financial Officer, with the full faith and credit of the Rick Scott political machine behind him to get elected to a full term in 2018.

Joe Negron For having just one session left as Senate President. It was a long, bruising road to the presidency, with an extended and nasty battle with Latvala. And since he won the gavel, relations with the House have bottomed out, while several Senators have faced debilitating scandals. Has it really been worth it?

Pam Bondi – For state Sen. Tom Lee’s proposed constitutional amendment banning greyhound racing. The term-limited Attorney General regularly brings shelter dogs to Cabinet meetings to get them adopted. Will she make this issue her own as one springboard to her post-2018 ambitions?

Richard Corcoran – For the seemingly hapless Senate, which allows him to ally with Scott when needed to advance his priorities. A post-Session declaration of his own candidacy for Governor is a virtual lock. 

Jack Latvala  For all the donors who gave to his campaign for Governor before the reports of claims of sexual harassment against him came out. No matter how the case against him plays out, he’ll have millions of dollars to make others miserable once he leaves the Legislature.

Buddy Dyer For no term limits as Orlando mayor. How about just chucking the election pretense? Mayor-for-Life, anyone?

Bob Buckhorn For … , well, the Tampa mayor says he’s too busy hunting a serial killer right now to be thankful. We bet he will be thankful once that evildoer is caught.

Brian Ballard For the gift that keeps on giving: His relationship with President Donald Trump. We’d wager he’s … hold on a second, he’s signing another client, we’ll get back to you.

Vivian Myrtetus – For one million hours of volunteer service in the state after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The CEO of Volunteer Florida has good reason to be proud, and we should be proud of our fellow Floridians who helped neighbors in need.

New ad urges Carlos Curbelo to pass DREAM Act

South Florida Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo is the target of a new TV and digital ad calling on him to pass the DREAM Act.

Curbelo, who is considered one of the most vulnerable House Republicans in the country for reelection in 2018, has introduced his own version of the Dream Act: Recognizing America’s Children (RAC).

RAC, if passed, would provide a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children — which is similar to the provisions of DACA.

The Miami-Dade County representative is one of 17 other Republican members of Congress targeted in the media campaign by the Emerson Collective, the Palo Alto-based organization that invests in both nonprofit and entrepreneurial efforts to bring about immigration and education reform. The group is headed by Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs.

Among those 17 Republicans is Sen. Marco Rubio.

“Senator Rubio and Representative Curbelo must not turn their backs on Dreamers,” said Marshall Fitz of the Emerson Collective. “With more than 32,000 DACA-recipients in Florida, we call on these members of Congress to do the right thing for these young immigrants who are American in all but their paperwork.

“We urge them to stand up and work with their colleagues to pass the Dream Act immediately. More than 100 DACA-recipients are losing their status each day that Congress delays – the human cost is too great to ignore.”

Curbelo and more than a dozen other moderate House Republicans held a news conference earlier this month calling for GOP leaders to take action on Dreamers before the holidays.

But the group does not endorse a specific proposal, and Curbelo has yet to sign on the DREAM Act, which is sponsored in the Senate by Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham.

Curbelo’s reluctance to support that bill has led to friction with Latino Democratic lawmakers over his attempt to join the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

“They think I have some magical wand or something. Me signing onto that bill is going to have little, if any, effect,” Curbelo told POLITICO last week. “A lot of them are taking the approach it has to be this or nothing. I also don’t want to be a part of that message because I don’t agree with that.”

President Donald Trump announced an end to DACA in September, but gave Congress until March to provide a legislative fix.

The issue now is wrapped up in year-end government funding talks, with Democrats and Republicans alike.

Pam Bondi, state attorneys general call for more legal accountability in opioid crisis

Pam Bondi has joined more than 40 state attorneys general Wednesday on a letter to congressional leaders urging them to repeal a 2016 law to restore the ability of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to hold drug manufacturers and distributors of opioids more accountable.

“The opioid crisis is affecting families across our country and we need every tool available to combat this epidemic and save lives,” Florida’s attorney general said in a press release. “To ensure the Drug Enforcement Administration is able to stop the oversupply of dangerous prescription opioids, Congress must repeal the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016.”

Public officials reacted with alacrity to the 2016 measure following a Washington Post/60 Minutes report in October saying a handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, which undermined efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills.

More than two million Americans are addicted to prescription or illicit opioid. Since 2000, more than 300,000 have died from overdoses involving opioids.

According to the National Association of Attorneys General policy letter that Bondi has signed onto, the 2016 law effectively strips the DEA’s ability to issue an immediate suspension against a drug manufacturer or distributor whose unlawful conduct poses an immediate danger to public health or safety.

Florida joined a bipartisan coalition of 41 state attorneys general who recently sent subpoenas and demanded additional information about potentially unlawful practices in the distribution, marketing, and sale of opioids.

A bill from Missouri Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill seeks to repeal the Ensuring Patient Access and Effect Drug Enforcement Act of 2016. She will lead a roundtable discussion on the issue during a meeting of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee later this month.

Co-sponsors of the 2016 bill were U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Palm Harbor GOP Rep. Gus Bilirakis. Bilirakis has been attacked by one of his Democratic 2018 opponents for his sponsorship of the bill. He responded in an op-ed found here.

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