Marco Rubio Archives - Page 6 of 217 - Florida Politics

Alexander Acosta announced as Donald Trump’s choice for Labor Secretary

Donald Trump‘s latest choice for Labor Secretary has Florida roots.

Alexander Acosta, the Dean of Florida International University College of Law and former attorney for the Southern District of Florida, was announced as the President’s second pick for the position of Labor Secretary on Thursday.

The first choice, Andrew Puzder, was not going to survive a confirmation vote, especially in light of shocking video of Puzder’s ex-wife describing domestic abuse on the Oprah Winfrey show years ago.

Though the former Mrs. Puzder later retracted these allegations, the damage was done. Puzder withdrew from consideration, and Acosta emerged quickly.

Acosta, a Harvard-educated attorney who once served as clerk for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, has been confirmed by the Senate multiple times, and has served on the National Labor Relations Board. As opposed to many of Trump’s wild card cabinet selections, there should be scant surprise or drama with this nomination.

Acosta, who previously was the first Hispanic assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division,  would be the first Hispanic member of the Trump Cabinet if confirmed.

Acosta has support from Florida’s Republican Senator, Marco Rubio, who dined with Trump the evening before.

“I know Alex Acosta well, and he is a phenomenal choice to lead the Department of Labor. Whether it was his distinguished service as U.S. attorney in Florida’s Southern District or as dean of Florida International University’s school of law, Alex has succeeded in all endeavors he has taken on, and managing the Department of Labor will be no different. I look forward to his confirmation hearing, where I’m confident he will impress my colleagues and secure the support necessary to be the next secretary of labor,” Rubio asserted in a statement.

When asked if Acosta was a topic of the Trump/Rubio dinner conversation, Sen. Rubio had this to say.

“We are not going to discuss private conversations. However, I believe Alex Acosta was a fantastic choice, and the White House is aware of my opinion of Mr. Acosta.”

For his part, Trump noted during the presser that he and Rubio discussed Cuba.

****

Trump, in need of a positive news cycle after a chaotic beginning to his administration, delayed his press conference early in the afternoon.

He personally announced it to be a noon event. It was pushed back to 12:30, but even that timeframe proved daunting, as the event kicked off closer to 1:00 p.m.

Trump described Acosta as a “great student” at Harvard Law School, who has had a “tremendous career” since.

“He’s been through Senate confirmation three times. Did very, very well,” Trump asserted.

And that was all Trump had to say about Acosta.

Marco Rubio to chair commission on China

Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio announced Wednesday that he has been appointed chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

The commission was created in 2000 to monitor human rights and legal issues in China and submit an annual report to the president and Congress.

Rubio previously served as chair of the 23-member body, which includes nine senators, nine representatives and five senior administration officials appointed by the president.

“I am honored to continue leading the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, and I remain committed to exposing the brutality of the Chinese government and the heroic efforts of brave Chinese dissidents,” Rubio said in a news release.

Rubio said the CECC’s political prisoner database contains more than 1,400 active cases of political and religious prisoners and that “the commission will shine a bright light on these abuses and press the Chinese government to change its behavior.”

Also Wednesday, the second-term Florida senator joined Sens. Bob Menendez, Lisa Murkowski and Amy Klobuchar in reintroducing a bill to create a national registry for firefighters diagnosed with cancer

“Firefighters put their lives on the line each and every time they are called on to protect civilians from dangerous fires, making them susceptible to multiple health complications, including cancer,” the Miami Republican said. “I am proud to support a bill that aims to prevent and protect firefighters from deadly diseases.”

The registry, which failed to pass through the last Congress, would create a database of information submitted by health care providers on cancer incidence rates among firefighters and make that de-identified information available to researchers developing safeguards and safety protocols for firefighters.

In addition to the four senators announcing their support for the bill Wednesday, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act is co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Steve Daines and John McCain, as well as Democrats Ed Markey, Richard Blumenthal, Cory Booker, Al Franken, Charles Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and Jon Tester.

Personnel note: Public strategy firm Mercury hires Brian Swensen as senior VP

Global public strategy firm Mercury is adding noted Republican political adviser Brian Swensen to its Florida public affairs team as a senior vice president.

Swensen comes to the firm following his role as deputy campaign manager for the successful re-election of Sen. Marco Rubio, the latest in a series of key political victories in Florida and Louisiana. He his tenure with Mercury began Jan. 19, 2017.

In his new role, Swensen will bring extensive experience in the political arena to provide solutions and winning strategies for the firm’s clients. He will be based in Mercury’s Miami office.

Mercury Florida, now in its fourth year of operation, is led by partner Ashley Walker.

“We are thrilled to welcome Brian, who is one of the leading political operatives in the Southeast region,” Walker said in a statement Tuesday. “Mercury continues to assemble the state’s most talented team of public affairs professionals, and the addition of Brian underscores our commitment to building Mercury into the strongest bipartisan consultancy in the nation.”

“I am excited to work with the incredibly talented team of strategists at Mercury to help address some of the most pressing policy issues facing many organizations and corporations today,” Swensen said. “The Mercury Florida team brings together the state’s top political advisers across party lines.  Nowhere else can you find such deep, diverse skills and experience, and a winning track record to boot.”

“As someone who prides himself on having a great work ethic and outside the box thinking,” he added, “I look forward to unleashing my unique skill set to shape strategy, solve problems, and create wins for our clients.”

Before joining Mercury, Swensen served as deputy campaign manager for Rubio’s re-election campaign, during which he built a political operation that benefited numerous campaigns up and down the ballot, while training and empowering the next generation of political leaders.

Previously, Swensen managed the successful campaign of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, which helped set the tone for Florida Republicans in the 2016 cycle.

Additionally, Swensen was a part of the Bill Cassidy for U.S. Senate campaign, where he led the political and grassroots operation. He served as political director for the Republican Party of Florida, and was victory director for Gov. Rick Scott’s winning campaign in 2010.

Swensen got his start in the political process at The Leadership Institute, a conservative nonprofit based in Virginia, after graduating from Florida International University in Miami.

Mercury provides a suite of services including federal government relations, international affairs, digital influence, public opinion research, media strategy and a bipartisan grassroots mobilization network in all 50 states. With a global presence, Mercury has U.S. offices in Washington, DC, New York, California, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Tennessee, as well as international offices in London and Mexico City.

Mercury is a part of the Omnicom Public Relations Group.

Marco Rubio re-sharpens condemnation of Putin and any U.S.-Russia deals

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio continued his sharp attacks on Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday calling any potential grand deals “immoral” and “fantasy” while positioning himself to be in staunch opposition to any agreements President Donald Trump may want with Russia.

On Thursday, speaking at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing entitled, “The United States, The Russian Federation and the Challenges Ahead,” Florida’s Republican senator condemned prospects of a grand deal between the Trump administration and Putin involving ISIS, sanctions over Russian hacking, and Ukraine, calling it “a really stupid deal” that would have no chance of forwarding American interests.

Rubio has long been a leading critic of Putin and has made no secret of his strong disagreement with Trump on any warmth Trump may have toward the Russian president, or any prospects for deals. For every tweet Trump has issued defending Putin, Rubio has called out human rights abuses by the Russian leader.

Last fall Rubio was one of the first and most ardent Republicans to disavow any damaging information being leaked about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton because Rubio was convinced by intelligence reports that the information came from Putin. And last month Rubio severely grilled Trump’s secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson over his views on Russia, demanding to know if Tillerson would call Putin a war criminal.

Still, Tillerson, who has long, direct business dealings with the Russian government, refused to do so, and Rubio voted to confirm his nomination anyway.

On Thursday Rubio resumed his position as one of the Senate’s most outspoken critic of Putin and any relationship he might have with Trump or Tillerson.

Rubio’s comments came in reference to a “grand bargain” that could ask Putin to fight ISIS in exchange for the lifting of U.S. sanctions against Russia for its cyberattacks against the U.S. and annexation and occupation of Ukrainian territory.

“I think this whole notion of a grand bargain, where they are going to help us kill terrorists and fight ISIS in exchange for lifting sanctions, is a fantasy,” Rubio said in response to comment from two witnesses, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe Gen. Philip Breedlove, USAF (Ret), and Julianne Smith, senior fellow at the Center for New American Strategy.

He was not alone in his sharp condemnations of Russia and Putin. Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, a South Carolina Republican, and ranking member Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland also did so.

“For starters, I think it’s borderline immoral because it basically views the Ukraine situation as a bargaining chip to be used as part of a broader deal. In essence, an asset that we can give away in exchange for something broader, which I don’t think the Ukrainians are going to go for it to begin with and I don’t think there’s support for it in Ukraine,” Rubio continued. “But this talk about fighting against ISIS – that’s what Putin says he’s doing now. Obviously why would we have to cut a deal to get him to do what he claims to already be doing?

“First of all, you can’t pressure him because you die and if you try to there is no media. So we are going to try to cut a deal with a guy who thinks he’s winning, has no internal pressure, and wants us to give up everything in exchange for him doing what he claims to be doing anyway,” Rubio added. “So maybe I am a little harsh, but I think that’s a really stupid deal.

“What do you think?”

“Agreed,” Smith replied. “The grand bargain mythology is really getting, for lack of better word, laughable.”

“Senator, I agree,” said Breedlove.

 

Activists march at Marco Rubio’s Tampa office, calling to reject Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary

Last month, Marco Rubio had harsh words for Rex Tillerson when he came before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as Donald Trump‘s pick for Secretary of State. But the Florida senator ultimately went ahead and supported the former ExxonMobil CEO anyway.

Now protesters are hoping Rubio won’t cave on Betsy DeVos.

With the Tillerson turnaround fresh on their minds, more than two dozen activists gathered in front of Rubio’s Tampa district office Monday, urging him to reject DeVos as the next Secretary of Education when her name comes up for a vote Tuesday.

But they are not expecting him to do so.

“Betsy DeVos is totally uneducated, and she’s totally biased,” said Sue Jenkins, a former Wisconsin schoolteacher who spends winters in Port Richey and summers back in the Midwest. She blasted DeVos for her dedication toward vouchers and privatizing education.

“We privatize the schools; we pay them money. Somebody’s going to make a profit.”

Many of those at the protest want Rubio to recuse himself from the vote because he received campaign contributions from DeVos. Then again, so have a lot of other Republicans in Washington.

DeVos admitted as much in her one confirmation hearing, saying “it’s possible” that she and her husband (Dick DeVos Jr.) have given $200 million to candidates over the years. That includes $2.7 million to GOP candidates in the 2016 election cycle alone, including $5,400 to Rubio.

“She’s clearly not qualified,” argued Pam from Madeira Beach. “The only clarity we got from the confirmation hearing is that she’s against public education.”

Last week Rubio tweeted that “many Democratic colleagues tell me they have heavy pressure from left-wing radicals to opposed everything before they know what it is,” irking some of the protesters.

“I don’t think I’m a left-wing radical nut,” said Tampa resident Jennifer Hollowell. “I’m a 53-year-old stay-at-home mom. I’m just passionate about the issues, and obviously Rubio’s not listening to me, but I am a constituent.”

“He’s been calling a lot of people who have been contacting him ‘extremist liberals’ which is pretty misleading,” added a Brandon woman named Courtney (no last name was given).

Senate Democrats Monday began what is expected to be a 24-hour marathon speech supposed to climax at noon Tuesday, right before the Senate is scheduled to vote on DeVos’ confirmation.

With two GOP Senators (Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine) announcing their opposition, it could result in a 50-50 tie. If that should happen, Vice President Mike Pence will likely be called to cast the tiebreaking vote for Trump’s selection.

Early Monday evening, Rubio spokeswoman Christina Mandreucci confirmed that Rubio will be voting for DeVos on Tuesday.

“People contribute to Senator Rubio’s campaign because they support his agenda,” Mandreucci said. “Ms. DeVos is a strong supporter of empowering parents and providing educational opportunity for all, policies Senator Rubio has supported for over a decade. Her nomination is opposed by Democrats who take millions of dollars from the big unions obsessed with denying school choice to low-income children. Senator Rubio looks forward to voting to confirm her.”

Environment Florida wants Bill Nelson to reject Scott Pruitt as EPA head

Scott Pruitt is one step closer to being the next leader of the Environmental Protection Agency.

On Thursday, Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 11-0 to confirm Pruitt, who serves as Oklahoma Attorney General.

Democrats on the committee boycotted the vote.

Pruitt, a climate change skeptic, was one of 14 attorneys general suing the EPA over regulations to limit carbon emissions put in place by the Obama administration.

The entire Senate will vote on his confirmation next week and the advocacy group Environment Florida is calling on the Sunshine State’s two senators to reject his nomination.

“This country needs an Environmental Protection Agency Administrator whose top priority is protecting our air and water and our families’ health,” says Turner Lott, Environment Florida’s campaign organizer. “We need somebody willing to enforce and defend our bedrock environmental laws and a leader guided by science when creating and implementing policy.”

The organization is one of several environmental groups criticizing Trump’s choice at EPA.

While Environment Florida is calling on both senators to oppose Pruitt, Marco Rubio already declared his support.

“The next EPA administrator should be someone who understands the important balance between protecting our air, water and environment without needlessly hurting workers with excessive regulations,” Rubio said in a Jan. 10 statement. “Attorney General Pruitt ‎is the right choice to bring a much-needed dose of common sense to a department where overzealous, out-of-touch regulators have been allowed to operate seemingly unchecked. I look forward to working with him on the many important environmental issues facing Florida.”

Florida’s senior Senator, Bill Nelson, is getting lobbied from both sides to either support or oppose Pruitt. The Florida Democrat pleased liberals Wednesday by announcing his opposition to Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary.

“I will be joining my Republican colleagues Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski in voting ‘no’ against Betsy DeVos,” Nelson declared in a statement.

“Floridians and all Americans deserve an EPA administrator who will fight to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the planet we love. Scott Pruitt fails on all these accounts,” Lott said. “The Senate must stand with science. The Senate must stand up for our families’ health, clean water and clean air.

“We urge Senators Nelson and Rubio to reject President Trump’s nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA.”

 

Marco Rubio says Senate Democrats should confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court

Marco Rubio has come out solidly in support of President Trump’s selection of Neil Gorsuch to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Judge Gorsuch is a highly qualified, mainstream jurist, which is why he was unanimously confirmed to the circuit court by the Senate in 2006,” Rubio said in a statement shortly after the announcement was made in the East Room of the White House in prime time on Tuesday.

“By all accounts he has the right temperament and experience for the job, and I’m pleased to see him nominated to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Rubio. “Most importantly, he is committed to the principles of original intent and judicial restraint. This is critical, because too many in the federal judiciary today believe it is appropriate for judges to invent new policies and rights instead of interpreting and defending the Constitution as it is written.”

Original intent, or “originalism,” was the focus of the late Antonin Scalia, the longtime Supreme Court justice who Gorsuch would be replacing on the high court. Original intent theory hold that the interpretation of a written constitution is (or should be) consistent with what was meant by the Founding Fathers.

The question now remains is how much of a fight will Senate Democrats pose to the Gorsuch pick. Many are still hopping mad that GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell never put Merrick Garland up for a vote in 2016. Garland was Barack Obama’s choice to replace Scalia when he died nearly a year ago

“Unfortunately, Senate Democrats already announced they would oppose any Supreme Court nominee no matter who it is,” said Rubio, who says “this objection  is neither principled nor reasonable, considering we just had an election where the future of the Supreme Court was a central issue not only at the presidential level but in every Senate contest.

“On the issue of this Supreme Court nomination specifically, the American people gave the president and the Republican-controlled Senate a mandate to choose a successor to Antonin Scalia,” Rubio continued. “Senate Democrats should accept the results of the election and allow the process to move forward with a vote. I look forward to a fair and thorough confirmation process, and I am confident Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed by the Senate once again, this time to serve on the Supreme Court.”

Several Senate Democrats have already announced their opposition to Gorsuch, but not Rubio’s Florida colleague, Bill Nelson. Nelson said he’ll base his decision on a full examination of Gorsuch’s judicial record and his responses to senators questions.

 

 

Marco Rubio says he’s ‘uneasy’ about potential impact of Trump’s executive order on refugees

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is weighing in on President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order temporarily banning refugees from mostly Muslim nations from entering the U.S., saying in a joint statement with South Carolina Republican Tim Scott that while generally supporting additional vetting, they are “uneasy about the potential impact of these measures on our military and our diplomatic personnel abroad, as well as those who put their lives on the line to work with us.”

The President’s executive action signed on Friday blocks refugees from Syria entering the country immediately, and blocks entry into the U.S. for 90 days for citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Rubio posted the statement with Scott on his Facebook page Sunday night.

Earlier during the weekend, Rubio had said that, “while I am supportive of strengthening our screening processes and securing our borders, a blanket travel ban goes too far,” according to the Washington Post.

Here is his joint statement with Scott in full:

After reviewing the recent Executive Orders, it is clear to us that some of what is being said and reported about the scope and implications of these measures is misleading. However, it is also clear that the manner in which these measures were crafted and implemented have greatly contributed to the confusion, anxiety and uncertainty of the last few days.

We generally support additional vetting for many of those entering our country from nations where the United States has identified there are serious concerns regarding terrorist activities and planning. But given the broad scope and nature of these policy changes, we have some unanswered questions and concerns.

We are seeking clarity on the changes to the Visa Waiver program, which is critical to the economies of our respective states.

And we are uneasy about the potential impact of these measures on our military and our diplomatic personnel abroad, as well as those who put their lives on the line to work with us.

We are both committed to doing what we must to keep America safe. We are equally committed to the defense of religious liberty and our tradition of providing refuge to those fleeing persecution. Like so many Americans, we are both guided by our belief that when we stand before our Creator to face judgment, He will say that “to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”

That is why we intend to do all we can to both keep America safe, and keep America special.

Rick Scott cannot condone Cuba’s ‘oppressive behavior.’ What about China’s?

Gov. Rick Scott threatened Florida ports with sanctions if they do business with Cuba. He underscored it with a pair of tweets, the first in Spanish: “No podemos tolerar una dictadura brutal en Cuba.”

Translation: We cannot tolerate a brutal dictatorship in Cuba.

In another tweet, channeling his inner Donald Trump, Gov. Scott noted, “We cannot condone Raul Castro’s oppressive behavior. Serious security/human rights concerns.”

He has vowed to withhold state money from ports ink trade agreements with that island nation.

Well, OK. Let’s think this through. If Cuba is off limits, I guess China should be too.

According to a 2016 report by Human Rights Watch: “China remains an authoritarian state, one that systematically curtails a wide range of fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression, association, assembly and religion … the trend for human rights under President Xi Jinping continued in a decidedly negative direction.”

Well, shucks. That sounds suspiciously like, to use the governor’s words, “serious security/human rights concerns.”

A report from Enterprise Florida shows our state did more than $28 billion (with a B) in merchandise trade with that totalitarian nation from 2013-15. The Miami Herald reported that China ranks behind only Brazil and Colombia as trading partners with South Florida.

But, if we’re going to make a stand …

We also sent about $2 billion in exports to Saudi Arabia from 2013-15. Of that nation, Human Rights Watch notes: “Detainees, including children, commonly face systematic violations of due process and fair trial rights, including arbitrary arrest. Judges routinely sentence defendants to floggings of hundreds of lashes.”

That sounds, oh … what’s the word I’m looking for?

Brutal.

Thanks, governor.

I think we know what’s going on here. Republicans from Washington to Tallahassee have used Cuba as a political piñata for decades. They stepped it up after President Obama made several moves toward normalizing relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has been particularly outspoken on that subject, but after his poodle-like yapping against the business relationship between incoming secretary of state Rex Tillerson has with Russia didn’t result in a vote against his confirmation, we can tune that out.

By the way, Florida has a lot of trade with Russia too.

It is assumed Scott has his eye on Bill Nelson’s Senate seat in 2018, and the game plan for any serious GOP candidate involves cutting into Democrats’ traditional support in south Florida by pandering to those who hate the Castro family.

Scott’s actions look to me like a ready-made campaign ad for future ambitions. Meanwhile, Cuba will just keep doing business with the rest of the world. Nothing changes.

 

Bill Nelson sounds off on what he calls Donald Trump’s “rocky” first week in office

Although U.S. Senator Bill Nelson’s press conference on Wednesday in Tampa was ostensibly to discuss President Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to spend up to one trillion dollars improving the nation’s infrastructurehe spent considerable time discussing – and criticizing- some of the moves that the newly-inaugurated president has made in his first week in office.

Nelson has voted against Jeff Sessions for Attorney General and Mike Pompeo for CIA Director, and he says he’ll oppose Rex Tillerson when the former ExxonMobil CEO’s name comes up for a confirmation vote for Secretary of State. When asked why at a press conference in Tampa, Nelson said just two words.

“Vladimir Putin.”

When asked to elaborate, Nelson simply said he didn’t feel comfortable with Tillerson’s past relationships with the Russian leader.

In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month, Florida’s other U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio, was remarkably aggressive in questioning Tillerson, asking him at one point if he thought Putin was a war criminal. But Rubio ultimately voted for Tillerson in committee earlier this week.

Regarding Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s choice as Treasury Secretary, Nelson said he has not made up his mind, even after speaking with him personally.

“There are a number of things that trouble me about him,” he said about the former partner of Goldman Sachs and hedge fund manager. “He’s got some tax issues. But the main thing is it’s kind of an attitude that – ‘I know better than you’ – and for a Treasury Secretary who has the tremendous responsibility to keep our economy on an even keel, that concerns me.”

Mnuchin initially failed to disclose $100 million in assets last week, which he called an “unintentional” oversight.

Meanwhile, Democrats have accused a potential conflict of interest for Tom Price, Trump’s selection at HHS, saying he held more than $100,000 in stock in companies that could have benefited from legislation he promoted.

In 2009, former Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle withdrew  his nomination by Barack Obama to become Health and Human Services secretary, amidst a scandal involving unpaid taxes. When asked if there had been a lowering of standards in vetting cabinet selections, Nelson said they had not been lowered in terms of how he votes.

Meanwhile, Trump repeated his false claim on Wednesday hat at least three million illegal immigrants cast ballots for Hillary Clinton, calling for an investigation into voter fraud, even though his own legal team has previously argued that no such fraud occurred.

Nelson said it “well documented” how little voter fraud there actually is in the U.S., and told the reporter who asked that it was “illustrative of our times that you have to ask that question.”

He grew quite passionate, however, in claiming that there’s been voter suppression in Florida and around the nation, and spent several minutes discussing specific examples in and outside of Florida.

Nelson also was dismissive of Trump’s call on Wednesday to begin plans to construct a border security fence on the Mexican border, saying that a “multiplicity of things” can be done to  protect our borders.

“This, unfortunately has gotten into a political issue,” he said, “and one particular demographic group is being singled out and I think unfairly,” referring to Mexicans.

When asked to describe Trump’s first week in office, Nelson described it simply as “rocky.”

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons