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Marco Rubio joins Tammy Baldwin in bill requiring Nazi art theft restitution

Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has joined with Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin on a bill that would force the return of, or restitution for, art and other belongings stolen by Nazis from Jews in the Holocaust.

The bill, entitled ‘‘Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act of 2017’’ would seek to use the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art of 1998 and the Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Assets and Related Issues of 2009 to prosecute claims and return stolen property or award restitution.

The United States was a signatory to both treaties.

The bill also would require the State Department to report on certain European countries’ compliance with the goals of the 2009 Terezin Declaration, and what actions those countries are taking to resolve the claims of U.S. citizens.

“Seventy years after World War II, when Nazis and their collaborators illegally confiscated Jews’ property in Central and Eastern Europe, this theft remains a largely unresolved issue and a source of lasting pain for many Holocaust survivors and their heirs,” Rubio stated in a news release. “This bipartisan legislation will help address this lasting injustice from a dark chapter in human history by facilitating the restitution of Jewish communal, private and heirless property. American leadership on this issue is vital, and I’m proud to join Senator Baldwin in introducing this bill.”

Co-sponsoring the bill are 14 senators, split between Democrats and Republicans, ranging from Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to Orrin Hatch of Utah.

The release states that groups supporting the JUST Act include the World Jewish Restitution Organization, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Federations of North America, B’nai B’rith International, HIAS refugee assistance organization, and the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry, agreed to June 30, 2009.

Marco Rubio wimps out on town halls. Are we surprised?

As we saw during the last campaign, Marco Rubio can be awfully good at not showing up. His latest no-show has nothing to do with his attendance in the U.S. Senate, though. Now, he doesn’t want to show up at town hall meetings because people might be rude.

“They’re not town halls anymore, and I wish they were because I enjoy that process very much, going back to my time as speaker of the house. I hosted over a hundred idea (meetings) around the state,” he said in an interview with CBS4 in Miami.

“But the problem now is – and it’s all in writing, I’m not making this up – what they want is for me to organize a public forum. They then organize three, four, five, six hundred liberal activists in the two counties or wherever I am in the state.”

No, he isn’t making it up.

He is, however, wimping out.

Are we surprised?

Yes, those forums do offer those pesky Florida liberals a rare opportunity to remind Republicans that a whole lot of people want their representatives to protect health care coverage.

This is not some political talking point, either. For these folks, it’s emotional and personal, so they do heckle, they shout, they boo and they are loud. That bothers Florida’s very junior U.S. senator – although it didn’t bother him in 2010 when he was swept in by the tea party wave that wrote the book on heckling, shouting, booing and doing that at high volume.

As a first-time senate candidate, it was OK to be supported by disruptors. Those rallies took place around the country, organized at the grassroots level through websites like the Tea Party Patriots. The plan was to put the “riot” in patriot.

It worked. Rubio was elected.

Facing angry constituents didn’t stop U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis from showing up recently at multiple Pasco County meetings, nor has it stopped many of Rubio’s house and senate colleagues from facing the 50 percent of the country that doesn’t agree with them.

But not Rubio. Change of heart, I guess, after an opposition group now called Indivisible, which supports Democrats, copied those tea party guerilla tactics. The group has a game plan called “A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda.” It’s available on the internet for all to see.

In his interview, Rubio said, “They then, according to the document, they get there early and take up all the front seats. They spread themselves out. They cheer when the questions are asked. They are instructed to boo no matter what answer I give.

“They’re instructed to interrupt me if I go too long and start chanting things. Then, at the end, they’re instructed not to give up their microphone when asked. It’s all in writing in this Indivisible document.”

That’s sort of true, but also sort of not.

Indivisible supporters are indeed told to get there early, sit in the front, spread out. They also are instructed to “be polite but persistent, and demand real answers.”

It adds, “MoCs (members of Congress) are very good at deflecting or dodging question they don’t want to answer. If the MoC dodges, ask a follow-up. If they aren’t giving you real answers, then call them out for it. Other group members around the room should amplify by either booing the congressman or applauding you.”

Rubio is awfully good at deflecting and dodging. He gets into trouble when strays from the talking point. In a friendly town hall, that’s OK. In a hostile setting, he might get exposed (further) as a lightweight or, as then-candidate Donald Trump liked to call him, “Little Marco.”

CBS4 host Jim DeFede started to ask, “So you don’t believe these are real …”

“They’re real people,” Rubio quickly said. “They’re real liberal activists and I respect their right to do it, but it’s not a productive exercise. It’s all designed to have news coverage at night saying, ‘Look at all these angry people screaming at their senator.’”

So instead the story becomes, look how their senator runs and hides.

Yeah, that plays well.

Marco Rubio says holding a town hall wouldn’t be productive

Sen. Marco Rubio said he has not held an open forum with constituents because the room would be packed by “liberal activists” and wouldn’t be productive.

Rubio told CBS4-Miami interviewer Jim DeFede on Sunday that liberal groups would organize hundreds of protestors, show up early and take all the seats. They would then ask all the questions, many of them about his opposition to the Affordable Care Act. He said they would boo no matter what answer he gave in hopes that would be shown on television.

The Republican senator said their goal would be to make it seem like he lacks support even though he won re-election in November.

He said he would hold a town hall if he thought the conversation would be productive, but he doesn’t.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Introducing FloridaPolitics.com’s latest newsletter: ‘The Delegation’

We admit it; we love a good newsletter.

So with 10 new members in the congressional delegation, a part-time #FloridaMan in the White House, and plenty of Sunshine State connections to the Beltway, we thought it was about time to launch our own newsletter diving into D.C.

Welcome to “The Delegation,” Florida Politics’ weekly roundup of the news from D.C. as it relates to the Sunshine State.

Here you’ll find stories about President Donald Trump, hot takes about Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, video of Congressman Neal Dunn bringing a musket to the Capitol and everything in between.

Send us your tips, your thoughts and suggestions. And please be patient while we work out the kinks. We know the ins and outs of Tallahassee, but we’re still learning the tricks of the trade in D.C.

Donald Trump, Month 2: Talks on health care and tax overhaul via Julie Pace of The Associated Press — White House chief of staff Reince Priebus expects a health care plan to emerge in ‘the first few days of March. Pressed on whether the plan would be coming from the White House, Priebus said, “We don’t work in a vacuum.”

Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs banker now serving as Trump’s top economic adviser, and newly sworn-in Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been leading talks with Republican lawmakers and business leaders on taxes. Neither man has prior government experience. …

One of the biggest questions on Capitol Hill is how involved Trump plans to be in legislative minutia. One GOP leadership aide whose office has been working with the White House described the president as a “big picture guy” … he expected Trump to defer to Capitol Hill on health care … Priebus expects Congress to pass both a tax package and legislation repealing and replacing Obama’s health care law by the end of the year. But the White House’s outward confidence belies major roadblocks on both matters.

In Trump’s future looms a familiar shutdown threat via Andrew Taylor of The Associated Press — Add a potential government shutdown to Trump‘s growing roster of headaches.

Beneath the capital’s radar looms a vexing problem — a catchall spending package that’s likely to top $1 trillion and could get embroiled in the politics of building Trump’s wall at the U.S.-Mexico border and a budget-busting Pentagon request.

While a shutdown deadline has a few weeks to go, the huge measure looms as an unpleasant reality check for Trump and Republicans controlling Congress. Despite the big power shift in Washington, the path to success … goes directly through Senate Democrats, whose votes are required to pass the measure. And any measure that satisfies Democrats and their new leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer, is sure to alienate tea party Republicans.

Bill Nelson’s postelection pep talk — Is Sen. Nelson up for a contested Democratic primary in his re-election bid next year?

“You want to do a contest on pull-ups or push-ups?” Nelson replied to a reporter who asked that question during an informal news conference in Tallahassee Monday.

News reports have mentioned a variety of primary challengers to the 74-year-old Democrat in a year when much of the party base is fired up with anti-Trump fervor.

Nelson visited Tallahassee to speak to STEM students at Florida A&M University and deliver a pep talk to the Senate Democratic caucus. “My message is going to be: It’s worth it to keep fighting for your values.”

He praised Stephen Bittel, the new chairman of the Florida Democratic Party for his fundraising ability — not easy, he said, in a state where Republicans dominate government and the lobbying corps. “Stephen, he’ll go around the lobbying corps,” Nelson said. “He’ll go to all his outside contacts.”

Days until the 2018 election: 621

Nelson “on strong ground” to oppose Gorsuch — Left-leaning group Progressive Change Campaign Committee is using the results of a poll they commissioned to test out arguments against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch to pressure Sen. Nelson into opposing his confirmation. The poll found nearly two-thirds of Floridians opposed Gorsuch when he told he “sided with big insurance companies, sided with employers who denied wages and retirement benefits to employees and generally protected big corporations from accountability.”

The group said the results show that Nelson “is on strong ground opposing Neil Gorsuch’s nomination” if he sticks to the talking points in the poll. PPP conducted the blended phone/online survey of 326 Floridians from Feb. 3-4. The error margin is plus-or-minus 5.4 percentage points.

Nelson takes action on property insurance ratings — Sen. Nelson has asked the Deputy Director of the Office of Federal Insurance to step in after financial stability rating company Demotech announced earlier this month that it was considering downgrading the stability of Florida companies from an A to a B. The move has the potential to cause thousands of Florida homeowners to default on their loans.

First reported by Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida, Nelson asked in the letter to Steve Seitz that he “take any and all necessary steps to help stabilize Florida’s property insurance market and avoid such a disaster.”

Demotech cited Florida’s assignment of benefits laws and a pair of rulings it said created Florida-specific standards when it made its ratings announcement.

Protesters hold mock town hall meeting in Tampa with cardboard Marco Rubio via Anastasia Dawson of the Tampa Bay Times — His face was posted on Popsicle sticks, printed on a life-size cutout and hidden in Where’s Waldo?-styled puzzles. His name was printed on T-shirts and written on posters. But Rubio was thousands of miles away from Wednesday night’s “constituent town hall” meeting held in his honor.

“Why won’t Rubio come to town, or at least address us?” said event organizer Melissa Gallagher …”It’s really disconcerting, especially since he ran a presidential campaign and promised Floridians to protect us and look out for our best interests.”

A spokesman for Rubio said the staff has met with “dozens of these liberal activists,” including a small group of protesters a week earlier. Staff has been “fully accessible and responsive” to all who come with concerns and questions, he assured.

A cardboard cutout of Marco Rubio stood in for the Florida Senator, as more than 500 constituents attended a mock town hall meeting in Tampa Wednesday. (Photo: @DDonovan21/Twitter)

Rubio riding high in Associated Industries of Florida poll — It’s no surprise that Rubio gets top marks in the Associated Industries pre-session survey. The pro-business group had the Miami Republican leading in the U.S. Senate race throughout 2016. The survey of 800 likely Republican primary voters found 69 percent said they approved of the job Rubio was doing, compared to 22 percent who disapproved. According to the polling memo, the second term senator “enjoys a high net approval, but his overall approval is soft with 44 percent somewhat approving of the job he is doing as Senator.”

ONE hires former Rubio staffer as senior director — Sally Canfield will become senior director of U.S. government relations for ONE, the advocacy organization co-founded by U2 lead singer Bono, which is fighting to end poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa.

Canfield previously served as Rubio’s deputy chief of staff and was formerly the senior director of international government affairs for pharmaceutical company AbbVie. She has held a variety of senior positions including deputy chief of staff for policy at the Department of Homeland Security, counselor to the secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, and senior policy adviser to the Speaker of the House.

In the 2000 campaign, Canfield served as domestic policy adviser to then-Gov. George W. Bush and in the 2008 campaign cycle, she served as policy director for Gov. Mitt Romney.

Op-ed: Florida’s new members of Congress leading the way in civility via Dr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer for Florida Politics — This past year has seen our country feeling more divided than ever before. The 2016 election took its toll, with candidates up and down the ballot partaking in name calling and disrespectful attacks.

Florida’s newest members of Congress may have the answer … 28 Republicans and 18 Democrats — the Freshman Class of the 115th Congress, signed a Commitment to Civility — both Republicans and Democrats — from red states and blue states, from the north and the south. Florida has much to be proud of, with 9 of their 11 freshmen members (Representatives CristDunnDemingsGaetz, Mast, Lawson, RooneySoto, and Rutherford) signing the letter signaling their commitment to civility.

Florida’s freshmen … Stating what we all believe to be true, the civility statement addresses the “ … coarsening of our culture fueled too often by the vitriol in our politics and public discourse. One result has been a loss of trust in our institutions and elected officials.” For acknowledging this reality, these congressmen deserve our commendation.

Progress Florida calls out 10 members of the congressional delegation — The left-leaning activist group named 10 members of the Florida delegation who have voted in lock-step with “President Trump’s anti-environmental agenda.” According to the group, Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz, Neal Dunn, Ted Yoho, Bill Posey, Gus Bilirakis, Dennis Ross, Vern Buchanan, Tom Rooney, and Francis Rooney have supported the White House’s position in each of the 22 environment-related roll call votes in the House. Rubio got the same score for the four votes that have come up in the Senate.

Progress Florida said the votes put each of the 10 lawmakers “squarely out of sync with public opinion in a state where a majority of residents say they are worried about global warming.”

Progress Florida Director Mark Ferrulo added: “The question is, what will it take for our elected representatives to stand up to President Trump and to vote independently, on behalf of all Floridians?”

Gaetz back in Florida Capitol — The CD 1 Republican was in Tallahassee Wednesday to discuss health care reform, including his support for a block grant funding method for Medicaid, the joint state-federal health care program for the poor.

After a structured media availability, the former state representative elected to Congress last year also held a more informal gaggle with members of the Capitol Press Corps. He explained without elaborating that such grants would offer more control over Medicaid to states, repeatedly knocking the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, with Congressman Matt Gaetz behind him, discusses Medicaid block grants at a Wednesday Capitol news conference.

Gaetz calls for Trump tax returns via CNN – Gaetz surprised a roomful of angry protesters Thursday night when he called for President Trump to release his tax returns. But the Florida Republican stopped short of saying Congress should subpoena those returns.

Gaetz has stood by Trump, campaigning with him over the past weekend and closing his raucous one-hour town hall at the Oops Bowling Alley here Thursday night by saying he wanted to “make America great again.” But he surprised the audience when he said, “Absolutely, Donald Trump should release his tax returns.”

Dunn files resolution to block the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water plan — Freshman U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn announced this week that he filed a resolution to prevent the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from implementing their water control plan for the Apalachicola Bay. “This crisis and the fight for our right to river water goes back many years, but the challenge is urgent for us today,” said Dunn, a Panhandle Republican.

Dunn’s resolution would block the Corps’ plan for the water basin that empties into the bay, which has been the subject of a yearslong dispute between Florida and Georgia, which has seen its water needs grow alongside population booms in Atlanta and other metros. “If implemented, this rule would have even more devastating effects on the ecosystem in Apalachicola and the economy in the (2nd Congressional District) than the current water control plan that led to the unprecedented collapse of our oyster fisheries in 2012,” he said.

Dunn brings musket to Capitol office — The CD 2 Republican posted a video last week showing off an antique musket that now hangs on the wall in his Capitol office. The 1777 British flintlock rifle was surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown, and Dunn said the firearm is “how I’m reminded to fight for your Second Amendment rights every day.”

Dunn said he “came to Congress to fight for you and to ensure that our Constitution remains the supreme law of the land. We must never forget how precious our Constitutional rights are, and the right to bear arms is one of our most fundamental and sacred rights.” Click on the image below to watch the video.

— “Neal Dunn shuns citizens calling for town hall” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat

Save the dateTed Yoho town hall — The Gainesville Republican is hosting a town hall discussion Saturday, March 4, at Countryside Baptist Church, 10926 NW 39th Ave. in Gainesville. Doors open at 9 a.m., the event begins at 10 a.m.

Rutherford: ‘I thought I was facing death’ via Florida Politics — This weekRutherford addressed a group of young Catholic professionals at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Jacksonville. Though the speech was about faith, Rutherford also discussed his ongoing recovery from a January medical episode (he collapsed in the cloakroom of the House of Representatives), and how the rosary proved to be the key to his survival.

“I thought I was having a massive heart attack … The panic was off the scale.” Feeling consciousness fading, Rutherford surmised that if he passed out, he might not come to. “I thought I was facing death … But I thought it wasn’t the ending, only the beginning … I was not afraid.” He started saying the rosary, and the pain and hyperventilation subsided.

Schedule confusion characterizes Al Lawson in Jacksonville via Florida Politics — Lawson’s itinerary … was pretty straightforward … the first-term Democrat from Tallahassee was to go to Eureka Garden on Tuesday afternoon, accompanied by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis.

However, the plan did not come together … Lawson called an audible and made his Eureka Garden visit Monday — Presidents Day … Curry was camping with his family … Dennis likewise was busy with personal business. With no local political backup, Lawson spoke in generalities about the improvements on the property, discussing potential collaboration with Marco Rubio on HUD reform. Even so, there was a tone-deaf quality to his remarks.

From “Whenever I get my paycheck, I think of you” to his assertion that Eureka apartments — which made national news for months because of their issues — are “better than apartment in D.C.,” Lawson’s presentation confused media on hand — especially those who have been immersed in the Eureka Garden story.

Posey applauds the return of professional boxing to Palm Bay — The Rockledge Republican praised the City of Palm Bay and Telemundo for working to bring another World Boxing Organization (WBO) sanctioned boxing night to Palm Bay.

“I applaud the efforts of Mayor Capote and the City of Palm Bay for working with Telemundo and All Star Boxing to bring another exciting night of boxing entertainment here to Florida’s Space Coast,” Posey said. “Events such as this help provide a boost to local businesses and raise our profile around the world as a premier travel destination.”

“Palm Bay is excited to have ‘Showdown at the Bay VI’ back here at the Tony Rosa Community Center,” Capote responded. “Attracting top-tier programs and events, such as Boxeo Telemundo Ford, is just a taste of what we plan to do in Palm Bay as the city grows. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner Telemundo with and the event organizers as we continue to bring this event back to Palm Bay.”

Facebook fun:

Murphy unites 150+ Congress members calling for response to Jewish centers threats via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Murphy and U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley, a New York Democrat who chairs the House Democratic Conference, sent the letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey expressing “deep concern regarding the recent spate of anonymous bomb threats made via telephone against Jewish Community Centers” and urged them to swiftly assess the situation and advise Congress about what is going on.

She also called for prosecutions and efforts to deter threats and to assist centers to enhance security.

“This is not an idle concern, given that there have been at least three casualty-causing attacks at JCCs or other Jewish institutions in the last two decades,” she added, referring to the shootings in Kansas, Seattle and California. “This is a national problem and, as such, it requires a national solution.”

Trump immigration policy spurs discussion from Demings, Soto via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — With angst rising in immigrant communities, two members of Congress from Orlando on Tuesday met with their minority constituents, who are alarmed by Trump’s immigration-enforcement plan. U.S. Reps. Darren Soto and Val Demings, both Orlando Democrats vocally opposed to Trump’s immigration policies, hosted roundtable discussions at their respective district headquarters.

Hours before the meetings, memos signed by Secretary Kelly revealed further details of the administration’s plan to ramp up deportations.

“My first impression is we have a community in crisis,” Soto said before about 30 people in Kissimmee Tuesday evening. Earlier in the day, four local Muslim leaders met with Demings at her MetroWest office to continue a previous discussion of Trump’s ban of immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries.

Happening Sunday: Demings’ town hall — The Rep. will answer questions and concerns about the Affordable Care Act. Event is 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Dr. Phillips high school, 6500 Turkey Lake Road in Orlando. More information at www.demings.house.gov.

Webster jeered for declining to answer questions at Inverness town hall via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — The town-hall meeting at the Inverness Government Center didn’t go all that smoothly. Many in attendance appeared upset that they didn’t get to ask questions of the Congressman, who now represents Florida’s 11th Congressional District. GOP House lawmakers were warned last week to maintain “enhanced security awareness” as they return to home districts following several raucous town hall meetings in which angry Democrats dominated the proceedings, upset over plans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

Tweet, tweet@realDonaldTrump: The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!

Webster returns $460,000 to taxpayers — The Republican congressman returned $460,000 appropriated run his congressional office in a Thursday ceremony in Brooksville. The CD 11 representative said he has returned more than 30 percent of the money set aside to run his office over the past six years, for a cumulative savings of just under $2.5 million.

“Washington operates on the principle that if money is appropriated, it should be spent. During my service in Congress, I have exposed this flawed principle,” Webster said. “If every area of the federal government began intentionally cutting waste, we could get a lot closer to balancing our budget and trimming the massive burden of debt that will be inherited by our children and grandchildren.”

In a cheap-and-proud-of-it-like-your-Dad moment, Dan Webster says he runs his Congressional office on less money that it’s budgeted for, now saving a total of nearly $2.5 million since he was first elected in 2011.

Crist divorcing wife Carole via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – “I think the world of Carole. She’s an amazing person. It just didn’t work out for us,” the former governor told the Tampa Bay Times. “I wish all the best for her.” Crist, 60, said the divorce should have no impact on his service.

Crist asks supporters to “fight for a cleaner Florida”Crist sent out an email this week urging supporters to “fight for a cleaner Florida.” The former governor and first term congressman extolled the virtues of Florida’s environment, but added that “recklessness and lack of oversight can have devastating impacts” on nature. “As someone who has always had a deep appreciation for the environment and a vocal advocate, the first few weeks of this new administration have been disheartening. Now, I am certain we will need everyone to join in and make our voices heard to protect Florida’s most important resource.”

Crist blasts the Trump administration’s rollback of protection for transgender students via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics  “This action sends a frightening message that the administration does not care about the safety of transgender children in our nation’s schools,” Crist said on Thursday.

Crist to host St. Pete student at presidential address — He has selected an eighth grade student from St. Petersburg to be his guest at next week’s address by President Trump before a joint session of Congress.

Oliver Hess, a student at Shorecrest Preparatory School, is assisting a Syrian family fleeing persecution as part of a school “passion project.” He recently wrote to Crist saying “families being denied a better life and a safe future is devastating to me.” Crist commended the “conscientiousness” of Hess, earning him the invitation. “I look forward to having him join me in Washington next week to bring greater attention to helping refugees in need.”

Castor’s district director retiring after decade in officeChloe Coney is retiring as U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor’s district director after a decade of service, Castor’s office announced recently. Before her work with Castor, Coney spent more than 40 years working in housing and urban development. “Chloe’s passion and expertise have served our neighbors, families and businesses well,” Castor said. “She is revered by Tampa’s community for her lifetime of service.”

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn also weighed in on Coney’s retirement, saying that more than almost anybody, Chloe spearheaded the effort to begin the revitalization of East Tampa.”

Marcia Mejia, Castor’s communication director, will take over for Coney, while Steven Angotti will take over communications for the 10-year congresswoman.

At town halls, doses of fury and a bottle of Tums via Trip Gabriel, Thomas Kaplan, Lizette Alvarez and Emmarie Huetteman of The New York Times — During the first weeklong recess of the new Congress, many Republicans have chosen not to hold events at all, wary of protests that might greet them. Others gamely faced the music, including Dennis Ross.

Ross, one of the most conservative members of Congress and an enthusiastic defender of Trump’s, was called a liar by participants in his town hall in Clermont … They held signs reading “Disagree,” “Nyet My President” and “No Pipeline.”

One protester tried to reason with the passionate crowd, urging people to let Ross speak and adding that if they were angry, the correct response was to vote. “But in the meantime, let him talk so we can hold him accountable,” she added.

“This is democracy in action,” Ross said at one point.

Buchanan spends congressional recess overseas — Instead of returning to Sarasota during the Presidents Day break, Buchanan is visiting Afghanistan and other countries, including Israel. While in Afghanistan he met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani discussing the country’s fight against the Taliban and the U.S. role in assisting this struggle. He reaffirmed the need to maintain “strong alliances with our allies in the fight against terrorism.” Buchanan also met with U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Hugo Llorens and Gen. John Nicholson, commander of the 8,500 American troops in the region. He also visited with several troops from Florida, calling it “an honor and privilege to meet some of the Florida soldiers keeping us safe overseas.”

Vern Buchanan (front row, second from right) with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (front row, third from left) and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Hugo Llorens (second row, second from left)

Buchanan: Restore USDA animal protection website immediately — The Sarasota Republican is calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fully restore a site designed to expose animal abuse. Citing “privacy concerns,” the department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service suddenly removed the online database earlier this month.

A partial restoration was found lacking by Buchanan, who joined more than 100 colleagues writing to President Trump urging a full restoration “immediately.” Buchanan, the co-chair of the Animal Protection Caucus in Congress, said “there’s no reason to hold back this vital information. Putting a few documents back online is not good enough.”

The database is used by animal welfare groups and journalists to watch puppy mills, zoos, circuses and research facilities.

F. Rooney gives history lesson to MSNBC host — Republican Rep. Francis Rooney gave MSNBC host Katy Tur a bit of a history lesson Monday when he brought up Barack Obama’s promise to give then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev more “flexibility” after the 2012 election cycle. Though Rooney misremembered the incident as Obama talking to Vladimir Putin, the content was correct and was a major story during Obama’s campaign against Republican Mitt Romney.

Tur, who said she didn’t know what Rooney was talking about during the broadcast, hit Twitter later in the evening to say “she didn’t touch politics in 2012,” and that she would “rather be honest about what I know and don’t know in the moment.” More from Mediate here.

Protesters heading to Rooney’s office Saturday while he speaks in D.C. via Alexandra Glorioso via the Naples Daily News — Rooney‘s decision not to hold an open, town-hall style constituent meeting … left some Southwest Florida residents feeling that he’s avoiding them.

Rooney … will hold a “tele-town hall” at 4 p.m. Tuesday. To participate, residents of his district must go to his website — francisrooney.house.gov/contact — and send an email requesting an invitation.

On Saturday, local members of the left-leaning national group OurRevolution have scheduled a protest near Rooney’s Naples office as he’s speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. The group will hold the protest at 10 a.m. at the Collier County Courthouse Complex on the same day as other national protests are held against efforts to repeal Obamacare.

P. Rooney celebrates cost cutting for F-35 project — Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney lauded a new deal between Lockheed Martin and the Department of Defense that will save taxpayers $728 million on the next 90 F-35 fighter jets purchased by the US. In addition to the savings, the manufacturer announced it would add 1,800 jobs at its Fort Worth, Texas, facility.

“It has always been my top priority to ensure that our men and women in uniform have the latest and greatest technology at their disposal to defeat our adversaries, which for us means the F-35 aircraft,” Rooney said. “I appreciate Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon for swiftly coming to an agreement that equips our military with the most advanced aircraft in the world, while also saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Rooney also worked to strike funding for an alternative engine for the fighter jet back in 2011, which saved taxpayers up to $3 billion.

Florida congressmen demo F-35 at West Palm Beach event — U.S. Reps. Rooney and Brian Mast took to the (virtual) skies in an F-35 fighter jet during a Wednesday demonstration at manufacturer Pratt & Whitney’s West Palm Beach engine center. The two congressman and area business leaders were invited to hear an update on the fighter jet project and demo a demonstration unit packed with virtual missions.

Mast and Rooney both spoke at the event and emphasized the importance the project plays in the Florida economy.

Pratt & Whitney, a division of United Technologies Corporation, said the fighter project “supported over 14,700 direct and indirect jobs and created an economic impact of $3.1 billion” last year in Florida.

Palm County Republican Brian Mast takes control of the F-35 Lightning II cockpit simulator during a visit to the Pratt & Whitney Engine Facility in Jupiter.

Happening today — Mast hosts veterans’ town hall meeting — The Palm City Republican congressman is hosting a town hall in Fort Pierce to “honor our nation’s heroes, ask questions and hear about services we offer for veterans.” The event, which is open to the public, will be Friday from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the Havert L. Fenn Center, 2000 Virginia Avenue in Fort Pierce. RSVP at masthouse.gov.

— “Mast has first town hall as GOP faces angry crowds” via Isadora Rangel of TC Palm

Frankel faces constituents from both sides of political aisle at West Delray town hall via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Question after question at the 75-minute session concerned what the president is doing: on his court-blocked ban on immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries, on his new order calling for more deportations of immigrants who aren’t in the country legally, and about potential conflicts between serving as president and the businesses he still owns.

The crowd at the Kings Point condominium community was largely friendly, unlike what many Republican members of Congress are encountering as they are being pushed by voters to explain their support for Trump and his policies.

At times Frankel had to dial down some of the anti-Trump comments from her constituents, one of whom suggested first lady Melania Trump be deported, and another of whom suggested the president’s attacks on the news media show he’s acting like a Nazi. Frankel immediately rejected the Nazi label. As to the first lady, Frankel said “Hands off the president’s family.”

Deutch tapped for two leadership posts — This week the South Florida Democrat took on two leadership roles in the House of Representatives. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tapped the Boca Raton Democrat for the role of Ranking Member on the House Committee on Ethics. Pelosi said Deutch “will be a pillar of ethics and accountability.” Also, he was elected by his colleagues to serve as Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa for the third consecutive term.

Deutch expressed pride in the “bipartisan work” of the subcommittee and the collaborative engagement with the chairman, Cong. Ros-Lehtinen. Besides Deutch and Ros-Lehtinen, Republicans Ron DeSantis and Brian Mast also serve on the subcommittee.

Diaz-Balart calls out human rights record of Venezuela’s Maduro — The District 25 Republican took the opportunity to shine a little light on the human rights abuses of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Following a visit to his Washington office by Lilian Tintori and Mitzy Ledezma, wives of political prisoners Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma, Diaz-Balart called for the release of all Venezuelan political prisoners on the third anniversary of Lopez’s jailing.

Diaz-Balart also listed all that is wrong politically and economically in Venezuela with deteriorating human rights, corrupted government institutions and a failing economy topping the list. The Congressman also praised President Trump for “placing tough sanctions on Maduro’s right-hand thug Tareck El Aissami.

Diaz-Balart renames foreign aid as “national security spending” — Is there a better way to describe the term “foreign aid?” During a Miami forum sponsored by the US Global Leadership Coalition, Diaz-Balart said “national security spending” is a more accurate definition of U.S. assistance to other nations.

Diaz-Balart, a member of the House Appropriations subcommittee overseeing foreign expenditures, predicted the federal budget “will survive” attempts to slash the $52 billion allotted for foreign assistance. Diaz-Balart and fellow panelists that included retired Air Force General Richard Hawley, discussed why overseas investments and projection of American values are good for the country’s security and prosperity. “The world is safer when the U.S. leads,” he said.

Wasserman Schultz denounces Trump administration immigration changes via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel – “There’s a long list of pretty terrible things that have happened in the Trump administration so far. This is definitely among the worst.”

She pledged to do everything she could to counter the new policies, including opposing the spending authority Trump would need to hire 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and 5,000 new Customs and Border Patrol Agents. “I’m going to fight. I’m going to stand up for the values of this community,” Wasserman Schultz promised.

She rejected the idea that the policy is OK because Trump won the presidency after promising during the campaign to get tough on illegal immigration. “It doesn’t matter whether we should have expected it,” she said. “You have to fight injustice wherever you can.”

Curbelo: Tax reform helps small businesses via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News — From his new seat on the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee … House Republicans featured Curbelo in their latest “Tax Reform Tuesday” web video.

“Greetings from South Florida. I’m Carlos Curbelo, and I represent this community in Congress,” the South Florida Republican says in the video which was also released in Spanish. “We House Republicans are starting our work on tax reform and tax reform is about people. We want to build a simpler, flatter, and more fair tax code, so that people like these behind me can dedicate more time to their families and can have more resources to get ahead instead of just getting by.”

“So that small business owners like the family who came from Cuba decades ago and struggled to build this wonderful restaurant can invest more in the community, provide better jobs, and pay their employees more.”

Suspicious package flagged at Curbelo’s Capitol Hill office, all OK via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — Someone hand-delivered an anonymous envelope … addressed to “Comrade Curbelo,” according to one of the congressman’s staffers. Instead of a return address, it listed, “Kremlin.”

Curbelo wasn’t in the office — he’s spending the congressional recess in the district — but some of his aides were. The Capitol Police checked out the letter “out of an abundance of caution … We were able to clear it without any threat.”

Capitol Police deals with similar situations “on almost a daily basis.”

Spotted: U.S. Reps. Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in a POLITICO report about The Partnership for a New American Economic, an advocacy group led by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

DCCC Twitter ad targets Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen for ACA votes — The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced Wednesday that it is targeting Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen in a series of targeted Twitter ads.

“Representatives Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen’s reckless vote to rip apart the Affordable Care Act without a replacement is causing widespread backlash at home,” said DCCC Spokesman Javier Gamboa. “These digital ads expose Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen for being shameless enough to take people’s health care away and then run scared when their constituents demand answers.”

The ads show a crowd assembled in front of a stage with an empty chair, asking “Where’s Curbelo?” and “Where’s Ros-Lehtinen?” The DCCC will also promote a Spanish version of the ad on the social media platform.

Ros-Lehtinen tells reporters they are not the enemy — The Miami Republican distanced herself from President Trump’s anti-media comments in her first public appearance of the congressional recess.

“To the members of the press, I want to say thank you,” she said to an audience including reporters. “You are not the enemy of the American people.” Ros-Lehtinen, Florida’s most senior representative in the House, added that the media has “a central role in our republic.” The statement is in seemingly in response to a tweet President Trump made last week calling major news outlets “the fake news media” and “the enemy of the American People.”

Ros-Lehtinen, whose son is transgender, calls Trump change to bathroom rules ‘lamentable’ via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — Ros-Lehtinen criticized the Trump administration’s move to lift protections for transgender students, who under Obama-era rules had been allowed to use public school bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice.

Ros-Lehtinen — whose son, Rodrigo Lehtinen, is transgender — noted that in 2015, she introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act, prohibiting schools from discriminating against students based on sexual orientation or gender identity. She has also signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief in a Supreme Court case seeking to protect access to public accommodations for transgender students.

“This lamentable decision can lead to hostile treatment of transgender students and studies have shown that bullying and harassment can be detrimental to the emotional and physical well-being of teenagers,” Ros-Lehtinen said …”Evidence has shown that acceptance of transgender students lowers their risk of suicide. SNDA prevent discrimination of transgender young people, and we will reintroduce it because our country benefits when everyone is accepted, and we live up to our nation’s promise of inclusiveness.”

Ex-David Jolly staffer hangs out shingle via Florida Politics — Preston Rudie, who served as Jolly’s communications director, is now a media consultant for state Sen. Latvala.

The Clearwater lawmaker is the most high-profile client for Rudie since he’s gone into the consulting business. He says that with the Catalyst Communications Group, he’ll be working with both private companies and elected officials. Rudie was an award-winning television reporter with more than 20 Emmy’s and 6 Edward R. Murrow awards to his name while working at WTSP 10 News from 2002-2014.

“Preston Rudie was the best Communications Director in Congress,” Jolly says. “Colleagues across the country would often share with me just how remarkable Preston was at his job. His clients at Catalyst, including candidates for regional or statewide office, will find great success working with Preston. Simply put, he’s one of the best in the business.”

Harris CEO Bill Brown meets with Trump via Wayne Price of FLORIDA TODAY – Harris was the only Florida-based company that took part in the White House Manufacturing Advisory Council meeting. Brown and the other business leaders first met with Vice President Mike Pence, cabinet members and top aides … Topics of discussion involved deregulation, tax and trade, training and the workforce of the future, and infrastructure.

Others invitees … included top executives from U.S. business stalwarts like The Dow Chemical Co., Ford Motor Co., Johnson & Johnson and the Whirlpool Corp. Also invited was SpaceX founder Elon Musk.

Hillsborough County drops long time lobbyists Alcalde & Fay via Patrick Manteiga of La Gaceta — Washington, D.C. lobbying firm Alcalde & Fay lost Hillsborough County as its client after close to 25 years of representing its interests in the Capitol.

The firm’s founder, Hector Alcalde, lived in Tampa for several years, having built strong relations. At one time, he represented most of the region’s local governments, including the City of Tampa. Hillsborough Community College and the Tampa Port Authority still retain the firm. Alcalde is also a partner in Potomac Partners, which represents the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority.

Squire Patton Boggs is the new federal lobbying firm for Hillsborough County. The two-year contract is for $216,000.

Marty Fiorentino assisting Trump administration via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union — Fiorentino is the owner of the most prominent Jacksonville-based lobbying firm in state politics, but he is away from Florida’s Capitol these days. Fiorentino is working in Washington as a consultant for new Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. Trump appointed Chao, and shortly after Senate confirmation, she asked Fiorentino to come to Washington for a meeting.

He agreed to help her transition. The two are friends who met nearly three decades ago when he was working at the Federal Railroad Administration, and she was Deputy Secretary of Transportation. Fiorentino expects to spend a couple of months helping Chao in her new role before returning to his lobbying work in Florida.

Pam Bondi still a rock star with Florida’s GOP voters, new AIF poll shows

Florida’s top lawmakers and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam are struggling with low name identification among likely Republican voters, but that isn’t the case for Attorney General Pam Bondi according to a new poll from statewide business advocate Associated Industries of Florida.

The AIF poll of likely Republican voters obtained by FloridaPolitics.com found that 54 percent approve of the job the second-term Attorney General is doing, while just 12 percent have an unfavorable view and 17 percent said they had no opinion.

Among Florida’s top elected Republicans, Bondi’s ratings only trailed Gov. Rick Scott, who had a net 67 percent approval rating, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who netted 57 percent approval.

Putnam, who is considered an early front-runner to take over for Scott, scored 38 percent approval from the same crowd, with 3 percent voicing disapproval and 20 percent saying they had no opinion.

Putnam did come out on top in the mock ballot test for the Republican primary for Florida governor with 22 percent support, though 71 percent said they were undecided. The next highest vote-getter was House Speaker Richard Corcoran with 4 percent support.

AIF also tested the waters for the cabinet positions opening up in 2018, though each scenario featured “undecided” winning over 80 percent of the vote.

In other words, “there’s no news here,” notes Ryan Tyson, Vice President of Political Operations for AIF.

The low level of support for Corcoran likely stems from the fact only 44 percent 0f those polled knew who he was. Of those, 16 percent said approved of the job he was doing, while 4 percent disapproved and 24 percent had no opinion.

Senate President Joe Negron and Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala had even lower name ID than the House Speaker, with just 41 percent and 25 percent recognizing their names, respectively.

Still, both enjoyed relative approval from the Republican base: Negron had a plus-11 approval rating and Latvala came in with plus-8.

AIF surveyed 800 likely Republican voters who had voted in at least one of the last three Republican Primaries, but not the presidential preference in 2016. The group said 81 percent of those polled were over 50 years old and 90 percent were white.

GOP leaders get high marks from their Republican base, new Associated Industries of Florida poll shows

Republicans are getting a good report card from Florida voters according to a new poll conducted by Associated Industries of Florida and obtained by FloridaPolitics.com.

AIF found that 71 percent of likely Republican voters think the state is headed in the right direction, and an astounding 81 percent approve of the job President Donald Trump is doing through his first month in the White House.

The Trump numbers are a far cry from the most recent Gallup national poll on his popularity, which showed him with a 40 percent approval rating on Feb. 17.

Naysayers measured in at 20 percent for the direction of the state and 14 percent for Trump’s job approval, leading to a net 51 percent approval and 67 percent approval, respectively.

Survey participants also had no qualms with Gov. Rick Scott, who garnered 81 percent support compared to 14 percent who said he his performance wasn’t up to snuff.

While Scott and Trump are enjoying glowing reviews from likely Republican voters, second-term U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio isn’t faring as well.

Though 69 percent of those polled said they thought he was doing a good job, the bulk of those supporters stated that they only “somewhat approved” of the Miami Republican, leaving him with a softer approval rating than Scott or Trump.

AIF surveyed 800 likely Republican voters who had voted in at least one of the last three Republican primaries, but not the presidential preference in 2016. The group said 81 percent of those polled were over 50 years old and 90 percent were white.

Schedule confusion characterizes Al Lawson in Jacksonville

U.S. Representative Al Lawson may have had good intentions when choosing to spend the first part of an off week in Jacksonville.

But intentions are one thing. And delivery is another.

Lawson’s itinerary, arrived at last week, was pretty straightforward.

Among other things: the first-term Democrat from Tallahassee was to go to Eureka Garden on Tuesday afternoon, accompanied by Mayor Lenny Curry and Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis.

However, the plan did not come together.

For one thing, Lawson called an audible and made his Eureka Garden visit on Monday — Presidents’ Day.

Mayor Curry was camping with his family.

Councilman Dennis likewise was busy with personal business.

The end result?

With no local political backup, Lawson arrived with representatives of the management company and police officers inside and outside the community center at the Westside Jacksonville apartment complex.

He spoke in generalities about the improvements on the property, discussing potential collaboration with Sen. Marco Rubio on HUD reform.

Even so, there was a tone deaf quality to his remarks. From “Whenever I get my pay check, I think of you” to  his assertion that Eureka apartments — which made national news for months because of their issues — are “better than [his] apartment in D.C.,” Lawson’s presentation confused media on hand — especially those who have been immersed in the Eureka Garden story.

On Monday, Lawson announced his plans to accompany Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry on a neighborhood walk — something Curry does regularly in neighborhoods left behind by Jacksonville’s progress.

However, those plans were for naught.

Lawson decided to cancel his participation on the walk Tuesday, hours before it was to kick off.

This visit to Jacksonville was pivotal for Lawson, replacing Corrine Brown — who was an effective legislator in terms of constituent service.

Brown was a Jacksonville Congresswoman, no matter how far her district stretched.

Locals, before this week, saw Lawson as a Tallahassee guy.

How do they feel now?

Rep. Lawson had an opportunity to prove to locals that he was as committed to the needs of Jacksonville, the biggest city in the district, as to the farmland out west and the state capital.

He needed those photo ops with the mayor and Councilman Dennis.

More importantly, however, he needed those insights from politicians who understand, better than most, the challenges of the local community.

Al Lawson talks HUD reform at Jacksonville’s Eureka Garden

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson visited Eureka Garden in Jacksonville on Presidents’ Day, and expressed optimism for the building’s current ownership, while suggesting that more comprehensive reform of HUD is needed.

Speaking to tenants in the 400-unit Section 8 complex’s community center, Rep. Lawson addressed the need for federal help allowing tenants to “make a different quality of life,” by making “funding available.”

The congressman will have an important ally across the aisle and in the Senate in this regard.

Lawson discussed a “sitdown” with an old friend: Sen. Marco Rubio, who has been an advocate of HUD reform for over a year, in reaction to the dilapidation at Eureka Garden and other properties once owned by Global Ministries Foundation.

Lawson asserted that Rubio, who said on many occasions that GMF had a “slumlord” approach to property ownership, committed to continue working on HUD reform.

“We want to make sure that they take care of residents,” Lawson said, and “make sure HUD has proper oversight” by “working jointly with HUD to make some changes.”

Among those changes: ensuring that federal dollars go into building maintenance, not into the pockets of ownership — something that was not the case in the past with GMF properties.

“It will take time,” Lawson added, “but we have made the commitment.”

Lawson also joins Rubio in believing that GMF should be held accountable for the conditions they allowed to happen at the Jacksonville apartment complex, though the mechanisms for that accountability are unclear.

Lawson also intends to engage the Donald Trump administration in his quest, vowing to get HUD Secretary Ben Carson to “come down and take a look.”

The Congressman’s approach to the residents of Eureka was jovial and joke-filled.

At one point, Lawson quipped that “every time I get a paycheck, I think about you.”

And at a couple of points, Lawson noted that apartments at Eureka were “better than [his] apartment in D.C.,” an endorsement of the ongoing rehab work that the new management company, Millennia Housing Management, is engaged in.

“I can give a good report,” Lawson said, noting that he will meet with senators to discuss HUD issues next week.

Though Millennia took over on Feb. 1, the company is already working through a priority list of repairs, focusing on major issues currently.

If all goes well with the Ohio company’s ownership bid, Millennia will hold the title on this and the rest of the GMF portfolio by the end of the year.

Though tenants groused at the slow pace of repairs, citing issues like missing screen doors, needed burglar bars on doors, and a lack of insulation in the walls, Lawson focused on positives, such as an improved playground and an eventual community garden.

“I feel like you all are going to take pride in the community,” Lawson said, advising those on hand to call police if they see “someone out on the corner selling drugs.”

Though Lawson’s appearance was appreciated by those on hand, he may have missed an opportunity for synergy from local politicians.

Lawson’s visit to Eureka Garden was originally expected to be on Tuesday, and was expected to involve Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Councilman Garrett Dennis – the local catalysts for reform in GMF properties.

Curry was spending Monday with his family.

Dennis noted that, while he couldn’t attend due to the “late notice of the visit,” he looked forward to getting together with Lawson at a future date and discussing “other issues plaguing our community and the City of Jacksonville.”

Lawson has a crowded schedule over the next few days.

He met with a group of preachers earlier on Monday.

On Tuesday, the first-term Tallahassee Democrat will discuss the Affordable Care Act with executives at Florida Blue, and will also discuss federal dredging dollars with the chair of JAXPORT.

Wednesday sees Lawson meeting with another phalanx of pastors.

 

Marco Rubio to attend meetings in Europe this week – not in Tampa

While federal workers get Presidents’ Day off, Congress takes off the entire week.

For some lawmakers, that means coming home to host townhall meetings, which for many GOP lawmakers have become contentious affairs.

Others are traveling overseas this week, such as Florida’s U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio.

The recently re-elected Senator is traveling to Europe to speak with officials regarding the U.S. relationship with the European Union, NATO operations and Russian aggression in Europe.

That’s according to Rubio’s Facebook page. The post says that, “Senator Rubio is traveling overseas this week to attend multiple bilateral meetings with heads of state and senior government officials in Germany and France, two countries with upcoming elections who are facing concerns about Russian interference. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Appropriations Committee, and Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator Rubio is conducting this official oversight trip to discuss the U.S./E.U. relationship, NATO operations, counter-ISIS activities, foreign assistance programs, and Russian aggression in Europe.”

What that means is that Rubio won’t be attending any townhall events, including one that was created by activists who had hoped he would attend this Wednesday night at the Tampa Letter Carriers Hall.

“Sadly, we have all grown accustom [sic] to our absent Senator,” writes Melissa Gallagher, who created the event on Facebook. She says that the townhall will go on without Rubio.

“The fact his team refuses to even consider him skyping in or connecting with us is beyond disappointing,” she writes.

“As part of the strategy of disruption outlined in their online activist manual, the organizers are deceiving people by falsely advertising this event, which is not connected to us in any way,” responds Rubio spokesman Matt Wolking.

“The protesters – some of whom failed to show up for meetings they scheduled with our staff – continue to fundraise off of it even though we informed them days ago Senator Rubio will not be there,” Wolking says. “We have been fully accessible and responsive to constituents, and our staff has already met with dozens of these liberal activists at our offices across Florida. As their manual reveals, their goal is to flood offices with calls and emails, disrupt our ability to respond, then complain to the press that they aren’t getting a response.”

Organizers had created a GoFundMe page to rent the hall for Wednesday, and as of Monday morning had raised $2,242, short of their $3,000 goal. The original fee was much lower, but Gallagher says that it was increased “after the venue received several calls from police in Tallahassee and Orlando.”

Marco Rubio files bills cracking down on Iran, Russia

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio announced Friday that he is sponsoring a pair of bills to crack down on Iran and Russia.

Rubio, along with Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse and Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue, filed a bill to crack down on Iran’s use of commercial aircraft in support of terrorism.

The Iran Terror-Free Skies Act would require the executive branch to regularly report to Congress on whether Iran has used civilian planes for military purposes, such as transporting weapons or military personnel, to terrorist groups within its borders or abroad.

“As the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism, Iran continues to systematically use its commercial airlines to supply the murderous Assad regime in Syria as well as to Hezbollah and other foreign terrorist organizations,” Rubio said. “If America turns a blind eye to the Iranian terror regime’s efforts to destabilize the Middle East and endanger the lives of innocents worldwide, we risk being complicit.”

The Miami Republican also joined up with Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton and Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson on a bill to bring Russia back into compliance with the INF missile treaty.

“Russia’s mounting violations of the INF Treaty, including testing and now brazenly deploying ground-launched cruise missiles with intermediate range, pose grave threats to the United States and our European allies,” Rubio said. “This legislation makes clear that Russia will face real consequences if it continues its dangerous and destabilizing behavior.”

The bill includes provisions to build up missile defense and place intermediate range missile systems within allied countries, among other things.

Texas Republican Rep. Ted Poe and Alabama Republican Rep. Mike Rodgers are sponsoring the bill’s House companion.

 

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