Marco Rubio – Page 5 – Florida Politics

David Jolly, pondering political run, admits progressives’ energy is ‘massive’

David Jolly says that if the physical boundaries in Florida’s 13th Congressional District in Pinellas County were the same as they were when he won the seat twice back in 2014, he’d already be running against Charlie Crist this November.

The reality is that it’s the same Democratic-leaning seat that he ended up losing to Crist in 2016 by a 52 percent-48 percent margin.

That fact, as well as what he predicts could be a Democratic tsunami at the polls this fall, has effectively quelled his entry into the contest, though he insists he hasn’t completely closed the door on running for political office later this year.

“I am still considering being on the ballot for Congress, and having conversations about some statewide possibilities that we might confront by filing deadline,” the Indian Shores Republican said this week.

A frequent political analyst on cable news, Jolly says that before he were to commit himself to a campaign, he needs to ask and answer the question that he says every Republican should be asking in 2018: Is this a year to be a Republican on the ballot?

“The energy on the left is massive,” he says, pointing specifically to the results in Virginia’s state legislature last November as an indicator of the pent-up momentum among Democrats nationally.

In that election, Democrats flipped 16 Republicans seats in the Virginia House of Delegates, nearly seizing control of that chamber (Republicans maintained control this week only after their candidate’s name was picked out of a bowl to break a tie with a Democrat). The last time Democrats had taken more than five seats in that body was in 1975, a year after Richard Nixon resigned from office because of the Watergate scandal.

Virginia’s house races shows that the amount of energy on the left “is remarkable,” Jolly says.

“People on the left cannot wait to get to November,” he adds. “I don’t think the right has that enthusiasm.”

Congressional District 13 was one of eight congressional districts that the Florida Supreme Court ruled in 2015 needed to be redrawn by the Legislature to comply with the Fair Districts constitutional amendment, passed in 2010, that prohibited lawmakers from intentionally drawing districts that favored incumbents or political parties.

That resulted in CD 13 moving from being a rare swing district with a slight GOP advantage to becoming a large Democratic-leaning seat.

That initially led Jolly to opt out of a run for re-election to instead run for what was an open U.S. Senate seat. That changed once incumbent Marco Rubio decided to run again for the seat, compelling Jolly to attempt to win the seat that he originally said after redistricting was one that no Republican could possibly win.

The Cook Political Report last month listed the CD-13 set as as being “likely Democratic” in 2018.

Major conservative PAC backs Carlos Curbelo, Brian Mast

Conservative political committee Maverick PAC is backing Florida Republican U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Brian Mast this election cycle, both could face hard-fought re-election battles in the fall.

Maverick PAC, or MavPAC for short, focuses on getting young professionals engaged in the political process. It got started in the 2004 cycle and became known for hosting inexpensive fundraisers aimed at giving younger people access to politicians and top political operators. During the 2016 cycle, Maverick PAC raised over $3.5 million for federal candidates.

The political committee said it’s “unique” in that its membership nominates and votes on which candidates will get the PAC’s support come election time.

Curbelo, Mast and another 44 candidates are on the MavPAC roster, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, whose current term runs through 2022. The PAC in the past named Curbelo, a former member, one of its “Future 40.”

Curbelo represents Florida’s 26th Congressional District, which was one of just 23 House seats nationwide — and one of two in Florida — to vote in favor of Hillary Clinton for president while also sending a Republican to Congress. Clinton won the district by 16 points, while Curbelo beat former Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia 53-41.

In 2018, four Democrats are vying to knock Curbelo out of his South Florida seat: Ricky Junquera, Steven Machat, Steve Smith and current primary race front-runner Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who had $162,000 cash on hand at the end of the third quarter compared to $1.3 million for Curbelo.

Mast represents Florida’s 18th Congressional District. He was first elected in 2016, beating out Democrat Randy Perkins 53-43 on Election Day. Democrat Patrick Murphy held the seat for the two terms prior, but gave it up to run for U.S. Senate against Rubio.

So far, two Democrats have filed to run against Mast in 2018: Lauren Baer and Pam Keith. Carla Spalding is also running as an independent. Baer leads the pack with $236,000 in her campaign account as of the end of the third quarter, while Keith has $64,000 on hand. Mast had $921,000 in the bank through the same date.

Baer and Keith got some encouraging news last month when a poll from left-leaning PPP found him winning by just one point, 45-44, against a generic Democrat. The survey also found him underwater on favorability, 40-45, and that his constituents were against the Republican tax plan he voted for 51-35.

Returning from Puerto Rico, Darren Soto organizing advisory task force

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto announced Wednesday he is forming a Central Florida task force to advise on matters involving the the tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans who have fled the island for Central Florida to escape the island’s plight following Hurricane Maria.

The regional Task Force on Puerto Rico Arrivals to Central Florida was announced to consist of elected officials from Seminole, Osceola and Polk counties. It will hold its first official meeting in Central Florida starting at 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon, to discuss effective ways to tackle the housing, educational, employment and healthcare challenges facing new Puerto Ricans in the area, according to a news release.

Soto, a Democrat from Orlando, went to Puerto Rico Wednesday with Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, meeting with Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, former Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla, and others to discuss the island’s status, much of it still without power or water, and federal responses and laws, including the new excise tax included in the federal tax reform bill approved last week. Together, the pair also plan to hold a separate 1 p.m. meeting Thursday with Puerto Rican community leaders in Central Florida.

Soto’s office described the task force as bipartisan, but like the vast majority of Puerto Rican relief efforts and events arranged in Central Florida in the past three months, it is largely uni-partisan, at least in its initial makeup. Immediately after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico on Sept. 20-21, Nelson and Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio appeared together and vowed to work together, and have made several joint statements since. Gov. Rick Scott organized a roundtable discussion in late October in Kissimmee that included Democrats and Republicans. But otherwise, bipartisan crossovers have been rare at numerous events involving Central Florida political leaders dealing with assistance for Puerto Rico and the evacuees coming to Florida.

Among the regional Task Force on Puerto Rico Arrivals to Central Florida members announced by Soto’s office are U.S. Reps. Val Demings of Orlando and Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park; state Sen. Victor Torres of Orlando; state Reps. Amy Mercado and John Cortes; Osceola County Commissioners Brandon Arrington and Viviana Janer; and Osceola County School Board Chairman Kelvin Soto, all Democrats.

Soto’s office said Republican office holders who have been very active in Puerto Rico and evacuee assistance efforts, such as state Reps. Rene Plasencia and Bob Cortes, and Orange County Commissioners Jennifer Thompson and Pete Clarke, were invited and that he hopes they will join the effort.

Recently when Plasencia was asked why Democrats were not active in relief and assistance efforts he, Cortes, and other Republicans were helping organize and run, he said the same thing, that Democrats had been invited, and he hoped they would join the effort.

Marco Rubio, Matt Gaetz split on Russia probe

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio wants Special Counsel Robert Mueller to continue his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, as other Florida lawmakers battle in the media spotlight about the need for the ongoing probe.

In giving a recap of his year Wednesday, Rubio, a Miami-Dade County Republican, said the best thing for everyone, including President Donald Trump, is for Mueller to be able to complete his work.

Rubio described as “troublesome” text messages between FBI agents that were critical of then-candidate Trump — an issue that conservative critics of the probe have seized upon. But Rubio said he’s convinced Mueller, based on personal interaction with the former FBI director, will only pursue “things that are true, and he will do it in a fair and balanced way.”

“If the end product does not reflect that, I’ll say I was wrong,” Rubio said. “But I think the best thing that can happen for the president, for the country and for everyone is that he be allowed to lead his investigation as thoroughly and as complete as possible and that we allow the facts from that investigation to lead where they may, to lead to the truth.”

Rubio’s approach contrasts with Congressman Matt Gaetz, a Panhandle Republican, who more than a month ago warned on the House floor that the country was at risk of a “coup d’etat” by Mueller’s investigation.

On Wednesday, Gaetz was on Fox News to declare the Russia investigation “riddled with conflicts of interest” and that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions should “step up” to end the probe or for Mueller to immediately show what he’s found.

“It’s time for Bob Mueller to put up or shut up,” Gaetz said. “If there’s evidence of collusion, let’s see it. If there’s not, let’s move on as a country and let’s institute reforms at the FBI so that an egomaniac (former) FBI director like James Comey cannot depart from the normal standard procedures that guarantee all Americans equal treatment under the law.”

Trump dismissed Comey in May and later suggested the move was tied to the investigation into Russian election interference.

Meanwhile, Congressman Ted Deutch, a Palm Beach County Democrat, expressed concern Wednesday on CNN about the “concerted efforts by my Republican colleagues and others to undermine the special counsel’s investigation.”

Deutch pointed to “coup d’etat” comments by Gaetz and others as undermining “the rule of law in this country.”

Meanwhile, Rubio, who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, dismissed reports that Trump has urged Senators to end their own investigation.

“I’ve never discussed the Senate investigation with him,” Rubio said.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Marco Rubio believes tax reform bill will be popular soon

Sen. Marco Rubio had to be sold on the tax reform package that was pushed through the Senate early Wednesday morning and is now waiting for President Donald Trump‘s signature.

His issue: an insufficient child tax credit.

With that issue resolved via boosting the tax credit to $1,400 per child, Rubio became a booster.

“More than 8.6 million families making less than $50,000 a year will see a larger tax cut due to the changes made to the child tax credit in the conference committee … It is my hope that by increasing access to the child tax credit I have helped lay the groundwork for an agenda that reconciles conservative goals with the realities faced by working class American families,” Rubio asserted in a statement Wednesday.

However, despite that modest change, the tax package is dogged by some nonnegotiable realities.

One of them: the fact that, by 2027, 83 percent of the benefit of the bill will go to the top 1 percent. And 53 percent of Americans will pay more in taxes.

Another reality: the unpopularity of the tax bill, Congress and the President.

Just 24 percent of Americans back the tax bill, per one recent poll. That’s more than the approval rating of Congress, per Gallup (13 percent). And less than President Trump — though with virtually all polls having Trump in the 35 percent range, he is at a historic trough in approval.

During a pen and pad briefing in Washington Wednesday, Rubio asserted that people are not responding to the bill itself; rather, to what they’ve “read” and “been told.”

The reality of the bill, Rubio asserted, will be a different matter for Americans — including working class people.

“By the early part of next year,” Rubio said, “people will know whether they have a tax cut or not.”

“The American people will have the right to change their minds,” Rubio said, adding that their “opinions will be based on [what their] paychecks are showing them.”

During the hourlong briefing, Rubio kept coming back to pocketbook issues, noting at one point that “$50,000 a year was a pretty good” salary, but “not anymore.”

The modest boost in the child tax credit, which Rubio said some called “welfare,” is one of those “incremental steps” that can be taken to improve policy over time.

Marco Rubio called for Jack Latvala resignation


Jack Latvala resigned from the Senate Wednesday afternoon. In a resignation letter to Senate President Joe Negron, Latvala wrote: “I have never intentionally dishonored my family, my constituents or the Florida Senate.

“My political adversaries have latched onto this effort to rid our country of sexual harassment to try to rid the Florida Senate of me,” Latvala said, before maligning “supposedly [sic] leaders in the Republican party calling for me to resign. All of this occurs today even though we still have anonymous accusers with no opportunity for me to have the privilege our U.S. Constitution affords to confront our accusers in cross-examination.”


As embattled Sen. Jack Latvala deals with an unspecified medical procedure, Florida Republicans are performing his political autopsy in the wake of the devastating Special Master’s report.

The latest major Republican to call for Latvala to leave the Florida Senate: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

In a pen-and-pad briefing in Washington Wednesday morning, Rubio said that, though he hadn’t read the report and its charges that range from offering to trade votes for sex to serial sexual harassment, if “what articles put out are true,” Latvala should resign for those “grotesque” actions.

Rubio is the latest high-profile Republican to call for Latvala’s resignation.

Gov. Rick Scott, in a brief statement, said that since “the special master report is complete and probable cause has been found, it is time for Senator Latvala to resign. Resigning is the best thing he can do now for his constituents, colleagues and the state.”

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam — a primary opponent of Latvala — weighed in almost immediately after the report dropped Tuesday evening.

“Now that the investigation is complete and its findings of probable cause and the referral of the most serious allegations to law enforcement, it is time for Senator Latvala to resign,” Putnam said.

Even as the state’s most prominent Republicans are condemning Latvala and calling for him to exit the stage, some are conspicuous in their silence.

Blaise Ingoglia, chair of the Republican Party of Florida, has not responded to media inquiries from this outlet on this matter.

Since September, the Florida GOP has banked $170,000 from Latvala’s political committee.

Florida Politics asked Ingoglia if the cash-strapped party plans to refund that money, but have yet to hear back.

NextGen America targets Marco Rubio with ‘Dreamers’ ad buy

Liberal activist group NextGen America is targeting a number of U.S. senators and representatives with a $100,000 digital ad buy; among them is Florida’s Marco Rubio.

The spot runs six seconds, juxtaposing an image of a sleeping child receiving presents with visuals of an ICE raid.

The message: “‘Tis the season for this” (the gift being given to the child), “not this” (the ICE raid).

The clip included in the press release is targeting Nevada Sen. Dean Heller and includes a call to action to contact Heller’s office and tell him “we need a clean DREAM Act now.”

“Every day we wait to pass a clean DREAM Act, young people are threatened with deportation, being torn away from their families, and being forced out of the only country they have ever called home,” said NextGen America President Tom Steyer. “All year, Congress has gone along with Donald Trump’s anti-immigration agenda, but now it’s time to do the right thing, to do the moral thing, and to do the American thing — it’s time to pass a clean DREAM Act now.”

Steyer, a California billionaire, has spent $20 million on heavy rotation ads attempting to push impeachment of President Donald Trump. So considering his ability to dump money into campaigns, Steyer’s $100,000 is a mere pittance.

Especially so when one considers how subdivided the spend is.

In addition to the two Senators being targeted, 16 congressional Republicans are also in the mix. None of them from Florida, however.

Rubio seems to be targeted because he suggested in press interviews, such as a September hit on Fox News Radio earlier this year, that he might be open to a clean DREAM Act.

“Well, I’m not in a position to rule anything out or rule anything in. We obviously need to see where the votes are, and we need to talk to the White House and get some guidance from them about whether that is a priority they want to see before something like this is passed. Because again, with a six month period in place, we don’t have a lot of time for delay here wasting time on something that doesn’t have a chance to pass or the President’s not going to sign.”

Bill to rename Kissimmee post office for Borinqueneers gets Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson push

A bill shepherded through the House of Representatives last week by U.S. Rep. Darren Soto to rename a Kissimmee post office for the Puerto Rican “Borinqueneers” U.S. Army regiment now is getting pushed in the U.S. Senate by Florida’s U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson.

The bill, House Resolution 4042, intends to rename the Kissimmee post office to honor the U.S. Army’s 65th Infantry Regiment, first established in Puerto Rico in 1898, and which was recognized for fighting with valor in World War II and the Korean War among others. The regiment was known as the “Borinqueneers,” named after the historic inhabitants of the island. In 2014 the Borinqueneers were honored with Congressional Gold Medals.

Soto, an Orlando Democrat with Puerto Rican heritage whose district includes Kissimmee, introduced the bill in October and it was approved by unanimous consent in the U.S. House of Representatives last Thursday. On Monday Rubio and Nelson wrote to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs urging swift and full support.

“That’s great,” said Dennis Freytes, a Central Florida Puerto Rican activist who is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and professor of military science at the University of Puerto Rico, and whose father, Celio Freytes-Menendez, was a Borinqueneer who fought in both World War II and Korea. “I think it is a great honor that the 65th U.S. Infantry receives of their glorious fight for our flag, for all of us, since 1898.”

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.

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