Marco Rubio – Page 7 – Florida Politics

Marco Rubio on Parkland massacre: ‘It can happen anywhere’

Sen. Marco Rubio discussed the latest mass shooting on Fox and Friends Thursday.

Former student Nicolas Cruz killed 17 people with an AR-15 Wednesday, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Rubio said that when an “individual decides in a premeditated and orchestrated way” to do something like this, “it can happen anywhere.”

“There was a running joke — it’s not a joke anymore — that he would come back” and do something like this, Rubio said.

Rubio noted that there had been “police complaints” about the shooter.

“It’s a guy that’s putting all these things on social media, a guy [with a history] of threatening people in school,” Rubio remarked.

“Parkland is one of the safest communities in America,” Rubio said. “This is an isolated incident — a catastrophic and tragic one.”

The weight of evidence suggests that such incidents are becoming increasingly less isolated.

The Guardian notes that there have already been eight mass shootings at schools in 2018 that have resulted in injury or death.

At one point on the program, Rubio said that these incidents need to be looked at “in their totality.”

Rubio is getting criticism from gun control advocates for the amount of National Rifle Association money he has garnered in campaign donations.

The New York Daily News tweeted that Rubio has “received $90,205 in campaign donations from gun rights groups during the 2015-2016 campaign cycle and received an ‘A+’ grade from the NRA. Rubio has received $3,303,355 over the course of his career as an elected official.”

That is the sixth most NRA money given to any Senator.

Rubio followed Florida Gov. Rick Scott on the same program.

Scott told Fox and Friends that “something has to change here,” wondering “how could anybody do something like this.”

“I want every parent to wake up every day and say my child is going to a safe school,” Scott added.

Scott, when asked about mass shootings in the past, has said they were “evil” and recommended “more prayer.”

Florida politicians react to budget deal ending government shutdown

The House has narrowly passed a sweeping bipartisan budget accord, ending an hours-long government shutdown and clearing a path for huge spending increases for both the Pentagon and domestic programs.

The 240-186 vote sends the $400 billion spending plan to President Donald Trump, who has promised to sign it.

Passage of the measure came over the opposition of Democratic leaders who demanded the promise of a vote to protect “DREAMer” immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

A band of tea party Republicans swung against the legislation as well, repelled by its spiraling spending levels.

Here is a compilation of reactions from Florida politicians to the budget deal.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (via Twitter):

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio:

“Florida and Puerto Rico have been in dire need of disaster relief funding, and I am proud that our work on the Senate Appropriations Committee has resulted in virtually all of our funding needs being met. Among them is relief for Florida’s citrus growers, school repairs and funding to accommodate an increase in enrolled students, the expedited completion of the Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation, vital beach renourishment, and repair of damaged Everglades infrastructure. For Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, this deal includes up to two years of funding for Medicaid and additional money for infrastructure, hospitals, schools, community health centers and grid work repair.

“However, it is upsetting that these important and necessary measures were not considered separately. Throughout my time in the Senate, my support for increasing the debt limit has been consistently conditioned on meaningful spending reforms that address our long-term debt. This budget deal does not do that.

“We must begin to seriously address the long-term drivers of our debt and get our fiscal house back in order. We cannot do that if we continue to govern through short-term continuing resolutions that inefficiently spend taxpayer dollars and fail to provide the certainty required for effective planning.

“While fiscal responsibility remains a top priority for me, I voted for this bill because we must make good on our promise to deliver long-overdue disaster relief to the people of Florida and Puerto Rico, and it is imperative that we fully fund and rebuild our military.”

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam:

“The passage of this spending bill is a critical first step to finally getting Florida’s farmers, ranchers and growers long-awaited and desperately needed relief. Without this emergency assistance, Florida agriculture cannot fully recover from the unprecedented damage caused by Hurricane Irma.

“I want to thank Governor Rick Scott and the members of Florida’s congressional delegation that supported this effort and fought for Florida agriculture over the last days, weeks and months.”

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis:

“This morning’s vote was difficult for me. I had to balance my serious concerns about adding to the deficit with the multitude of provisions in the bill that will have a tangible positive impact of the lives of my constituents. Chief among my reasons for supporting this bill was the need to properly fund our military. This concern was reinforced by President Trump and Secretary Mattis’s support of the bill.

“The fact that 80 service men and women died in 2017 due to accidents and training incidents- nearly four times as many lives that were killed in combat, and the belief that those deaths may have been preventable with appropriate funding for training and equipment weighed heavily in my decision-making.

“There is also a long list of other significant items contained in the bill, some of which I authored, that will benefit seniors, children and the most vulnerable among us.

“I’ve included a list of these provisions below. It was a difficult choice, but ultimately, I decided to vote my conscience, and do what I believe in my heart will provide the most good for the greatest number of my constituents.

“I will continue to work with my colleagues to make long-term, structural reforms to the process including passage of a balanced budget amendment and the meaningful reduction of our national debt.”

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor:

“Passage of the bipartisan budget deal is particularly important to Tampa Bay area families, veterans and service members.  Medical researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center and the University of South Florida can continue to find the cures of tomorrow and improve treatment of diseases due to the boost in funding for the National Institutes of Health.

“Our service members at MacDill Air Force Base, including Air Mobility, Central Command and Special Operations Command, can plan ahead and make strategic decisions for America’s national security that were previously put on hold due to damaging temporary funding bills from the Republican-led Congress.

“Communities across Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will receive the resources to recover from a devastating hurricane season.  Significant new funds for veterans, children’s health care, community health centers and opioid addiction also are contained in the package.

“While Republicans did not allow it, I voted on the floor early this morning to proceed to take up Rep. Roybal-Allard’s (D-CA) H.R. 3440, the Dream Act of 2017.  Republicans have continually refused to take up this legislation to reform our nation’s broken immigration system.  Pres. Trump’s September announcement to end DACA makes it necessary for Congress to act now.  It is vital that the focus shift now to provide a pathway to citizenship for our DREAMers and Republicans must stop blocking debate and a vote.

“I am very pleased that my bill sponsored with Rep. Gus Bilirakis to increase fines and penalties on Medicare fraudsters was included in the package and is set to become law.

“New monies also are directed to tackle the backlog of Social Security disability claims and I will press for a portion of the funds to be directed to the Tampa office to address the huge backlog of disability claims.”

U.S. Rep. Val Demings:

“Once again the GOP leadership has failed to propose a long-term budget that responsibly funds our military, healthcare, disaster relief, and other vital priorities.”

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch:

Tonight, I voted for a compromise budget deal because it will allow us to keep the government running, finally beyond just weeks. This bill helps the millions of Americans in Florida and Puerto Rico, Texas, California and the Virgin Islands whose lives were turned upside down by natural disasters. It provides a potential lifeline to families struggling with opioid addiction.

“This spending plan includes critical funding that will save lives, accelerate disaster recovery, honor our commitment to our veterans, ensure the continuation of vital medical research, keep community health centers open, and provide critical support to our troops.

“Unfortunately, Republicans continue to ignore the moral call to find a legislative solution to the President’s termination of DACA. It’s been five months since the President put DREAMers at risk. They were brought here as children and this is their country. They are American in their hearts and in their minds.

“America is as much their home as it is our home, and if Speaker Ryan brought the DREAM Act before Congress, I am confident it would pass. We would protect DREAMers and pursue much-needed comprehensive immigration reform.

“We’ve got just weeks to get this done. We must fight for DREAMers with everything we’ve got. With tonight’s vote behind us, the House agenda should focus on dignity, decency, and American values in this land of immigrants. The DREAM Act must now be the singular focus until we do the right thing for DREAMers. A promise from the Speaker is not enough. We need action.”

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart:

“This bipartisan legislation continues government operations and funds programs that are critical to Americans across the nation. It also invests in our military during a time where we must provide our troops with the proper resources to defend our country, help our allies, and stand up to our adversaries.

“I represent parts of Florida that are still rebuilding from Hurricane Irma, and the $89.3 billion supplemental will go a long way in helping these communities recover from storm damage. I am proud to have worked with my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to ensure my subcommittee provided adequate funding for disaster relief programs, particularly for the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief program that repairs our infrastructure and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief program that assists homeowners and local businesses.

“Florida’s crops, including its iconic citrus groves, were severely impacted, and I am grateful for the funds that will help our farmers get back on their feet.

“I congratulate Speaker Ryan and Chairman Frelinghuysen for their tireless leadership, and I look forward to continue working with our colleagues on other vital issues, including the remainder of FY18 funding and finding a permanent, legislative solution for DREAMers who were brought to the United States as young children at no fault of their own.”

State Sen. Denise Grimsley:

“Last week I wrote to our congressional delegation to reassure them that their efforts to bring disaster relief to Florida farmers were not in vain. Today, I want to thank them for their success. Were it not for leaders like Tom Rooney, Dennis Ross, Vern Buchanan, Mario Diaz-Balart, Neal Dunn, Carlos Curbelo, Marco Rubio and so many more, we would have scarcely seen results. The measure President Trump signed today is also a reminder that his and Secretary Perdue’s commitment to Florida following Irma has been fully confirmed.”

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast:

“The rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike has been ongoing for more than a decade, and significant funding setbacks have meant that it wasn’t expected to be finished for yet another decade from now. For the first time ever, we can say that this project is now fully funded at a level where it can be completed in four years instead of another 10.

“This is a major accomplishment for our community that clears the deck to now focus on other critical projects like the S.B. 10-authorized southern storage reservoir. A bipartisan group of Florida representatives fought hard for this money, and I was proud to help lead the way.”

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy:

“I’ll always put people over politics to get results for families in central Florida. Since Hurricanes Irma and Maria, I’ve helped residents of Florida and Puerto Rico get the resources they need to get back on their feet. I’m particularly proud my bipartisan initiative to support stateside schools and universities enrolling displaced students will become law.

“However, our work in Congress is far from done. Democrats and Republicans must now come together to pass an enduring solution for Dreamers so that these aspiring Americans can continue to live in the country they love and to which they have contributed so much.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz:

“Because Democrats stood united in support of vital investments in our people, this bill is a step in the right direction toward providing adequate resources for our nation’s vast domestic and defense needs. Because the Florida delegation stood united in support of essential disaster recovery funding for our constituents, this bill includes far more aid than the Administration’s initial request.

“But unfortunately, this bill also adds an additional $500 billion to the deficit, after Republicans increased the deficit by $1.5 trillion in their unconscionable tax reform bill that gave billions in tax breaks to the extremely wealthy and giant corporations. Adding insult to injury, it unnecessarily expands means testing for Medicare beneficiaries.

“Finally, because House Republican leaders cruelly stand united with President Trump, refusing to even allow a vote on bipartisan legislation to protect DREAMers—legislation supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans to ensure that courageous young people can continue to contribute to our nation—this bill is one that I regret that I cannot support.

“That we find ourselves voting on such a funding bill, amid a second Republican-controlled government shutdown and as nearly all of America sleeps, sadly reveals just how inadequate and incomplete this legislative response is to our nation’s true needs.”

U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster:

“I ran for office pledging to do my part to stop the spigot of spending and get our fiscal house in order. In the last seven years, we have made small steps forward to reduce spending and slow the growth of our massive national debt. We’re currently on the path to have a prosperous economy – thanks to regulatory rollbacks, a forecast of regulatory certainty, the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

“I support increased investments for the Department of Defense.  Ensuring a strong, well-equipped military is a fundamental responsibility of the Federal Government.  I have voted multiple times to increase the Department of Defense’s budget and provide funding for the pay-raises our troops have long deserved.

“I also support one-time funding to assist our agriculture industry as it continues to recover from last year’s devastating Hurricanes.  But the additional levels of spending included in this deal, adds an annual trillion-dollar deficit to our already unsustainable $20 trillion debt.

“The massive growth in debt jeopardizes our national security. Voting for this deal today would be voting to do the opposite of what I pledged to my constituents and the American people.

“For these reasons and more, I cannot support this bill.

“I pledge to continue to work hard on behalf of Florida’s hardworking taxpayers and families to advance common-sense reforms and principled policy and budgets that get our fiscal house in order.”

New poll shows improving job approval ratings for Marco Rubio, Donald Trump

Good news in a new survey for Sen. Marco Rubio and President Donald Trump, as both have shown jumps in popularity since last year.

That’s the contention of the latest poll from the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Laboratory.

Rubio, per the survey, saw 55 percent strongly or somewhat approve of him, compared to the 35 percent who somewhat or strongly disapprove of the Senator.

Rubio’s overall approval is up 13 points since October 2017; his disapproval is down one point. Fifty-nine percent of non-party affiliated voters approve of the Senator, as do 36 percent of surveyed Democrats.

Trump, meanwhile, is not at net approval. However, his numbers are trending up.

Forty-three percent surveyed strongly or somewhat approve of Trump’s job performance, while 53 percent disapprove somewhat or strongly. This is up from a 37/59 split in October.

“Most presidents would consider 43 percent approval and net negative 10 percentage points a troubling number, but Trump’s approval is up 6 percentage points from his approval level in October, and his net negatives have improved by 12 percentage points,” noted UNF polling director Michael Binder.

Splits reflect party lines. Eighty-one percent of Republicans approve of the President, and 16 percent disapprove. 10 percent of Democrats approve, while 87 percent disapprove.

Trump is still underwater with NPAs also: Forty percent approval, against 55 percent disapproval.

Across the board, the bulk of Trump disapproval is in the “strongly disapprove” camp, a trend which has not changed from previous surveys.

Methodology: The University of North Florida (UNF), Florida Statewide Poll was conducted by the Public Opinion Research Lab (PORL) at UNF Monday, January 29, through Sunday, February 4, by live callers via the telephone, and calls were made from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

The margin of error for likely voters in the November 2018 midterm election is +/- 4.7 percentage points.

‘Political gymnastics’: House panel kills Kathleen Peters’ ethics proposals

Rep. Kathleen Peters‘ attempt to amend an House ethics reform bill resulted in virtual fireworks Thursday, with a prominent lobbyist saying Peters was targeting him and a lawmaker bemoaning “political gymnastics” that temporarily gummed up the measure.

One of Peters’ amendments would have banned sitting lawmakers and their immediate family members from working for lobbying firms. The other would have barred lawmakers from working for a lobbying firm, including law firms with lobbying teams, while in office. Both eventually were voted down.

“This was geared at one person: He’s here with a target on his chest,” lobbyist Ron Book said, referring to himself. Peters is a political ally of former Sen. Jack Latvala; Book represented women that Latvala had allegedly harassed. And Book’s daughter Lauren is a sitting state senator.

The idea had been for the Public Integrity and Ethics Committee to add to the bill (HB 7007) bipartisan sexual harassment-prevention provisions offered by Republican Jennifer Sullivan and Democrat Kristin Jacobs. Those were accepted.

But Peters, a Treasure Island Republican, also tried to attach the amendments widely seen as a dig at Speaker Richard Corcoran. Corcoran’s brother Michael is a lobbyist.

Peters already has been been “ousted to political Siberia,” as the Tampa Bay Times put it, after she refused to support Corcoran’s efforts to overhaul VISIT Florida and Enterprise Florida last year.

She previously has tweeted that her measures were “not a shot at the speaker. This is good common sense reform.” But on Thursday, she told fellow lawmakers “what happened on the floor last year … was what sparked my desire to do this,” adding she wondered whether her proposals didn’t “go far enough.”

That was an oblique reference to the House’s passage of the “whiskey and Wheaties” bill, later vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott, that would have removed the legal requirement that hard liquor be sold in a separate retail store from other goods. Michael Corcoran represented Wal-Mart, which wanted the wall repeal.

Referring to the state’s ban on lawmakers accepting gifts from lobbyists, Peters said lobbyists “can’t buy us a cup of coffee” but they can “hire us for six figures.”

Others on the panel laid into Peters, calling her proposals both “too narrow” and “overbroad.” Book, in a fiery tirade, called Peters’ proposals “retaliatory conduct.”

That’s “because I willing to step forward and represent several women involved in the Latvala investigation. So let’s just call this what it is,” he told the panel.

Peters denied that, saying she had intended to file her language as a bill last year but ran out of bill allocations.

“I’m all for cleaning up government, but I feel like it’s overly broad,” Republican Jason Brodeur said, adding that Peter’s language could have prevented him from meeting and marrying his wife, Juvenile Justice Secretary Christina Daly, also a registered lobbyist. “My wife might not be my wife.”

Sullivan grew peeved: “It’s exasperating to me at this point that this bill has been workshopped, voted on last year, and none of these suggestions were made at any of those points … This is stealing the time and the thunder” of the bill.

Peters responded: “With due respect, I’m exasperated that we’re not willing to call a spade a spade,” mentioning that former Florida House Speaker and current U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was hired by a law firm only after his legislative election.

Peters, elected to the House in 2012, intends to leave the chamber to run for a seat on the Pinellas County Commission.

After the meeting, Jacobs said, “I think that in the clash of ideas that happens up here, we’re big girls and boys, and you deal with an issue and you move forward,”

“She felt very strongly … and she had the opportunity to express it clearly. The committee did not agree.”

Minutes earlier, Ormond Beach Republican Tom Leek, the committee’s vice chair, told Sullivan and Jacobs he was “sorry that you, the sponsors, and victims of sexual harassment everywhere had to endure the political gymnastics that took place today.”

Compilation of Florida politicians’ reactions to the State of the Union

Addressing a deeply divided nation, President Donald Trump called for a “new American moment” of unity Tuesday night and challenged lawmakers to make good on long-standing promises to fix a dangerously fractured immigration system, warning of evil outside forces seeking to undermine the nation’s way of life.

Trump’s State of the Union address blended self-congratulation and calls for optimism amid a growing economy with dark warnings about deadly gangs, the scourge of drugs and violent immigrants living in the United States illegally. He cast the debate over immigration — an issue that has long animated his most ardent supporters — as a battle between heroes and villains, praising the work of an immigration agent who arrested more than 100 gang members and saluting the families of two alleged gang victims.

Here is a compilation of Florida politicians reactions to the State of the Union:

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson:

“The American people are sick and tired of the partisan politics that’s going on in Washington. We need leaders who are willing to put aside party politics and work together for the good of the country. We need a president who will not only call for more bipartisanship, but shows he’s willing to work in a bipartisan way.”

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio:

“President Trump is right to reverse President Obama’s dangerous decision to release terrorists from U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay and seek closure of this important facility. Far too many terrorists released from GTMO have returned to the fight and directly threaten the safety of American troops and our citizens at home and abroad. The United States must continue to use all lawful tools, including detention of enemy combatants at GTMO, in our ongoing armed conflict against al-Qaida, the Taliban, and associated forces, including ISIS. Going forward, I urge the Administration to capture those former GTMO detainees who have been released and resumed hostilities against the United States, and bring them to justice.”

U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn:

“Tonight, President Trump laid out an ambitious plan for the country — one that focuses on making a better future for all Americans. A future that is safer, more prosperous, and offers more opportunities for everyone. We had a productive year. We cut taxes for Americans at every income level and we provided a much-needed boost to businesses of all sizes. We opened a pathway of repatriation of trillions of dollars trapped overseas, and established the lowest tax rate for small businesses since 1931. We grew our economy by slashing government regulations and red tape. We are getting the government off your back. We repealed the Obamacare penalty tax. The tax cuts are here now and hardworking Americans are already reaping the benefits. We are finally rebuilding our military and we voted to give our troops a much needed and much-deserved pay raise. And we are attacking the layers of bureaucracy to fix health care for our veterans. I will continue to work with President Trump on our agenda and I commend him for his commitment to our great nation. The best is yet to come.”

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford:

“President Reagan once asked the American public when evaluating presidential leadership, ‘Are you better off than you were?’  One year into the Trump Administration, we know the answer is a resounding yes.  Tonight, we heard from the President that the state of our union is strong thanks to the strength of our citizens, and it will grow even stronger when we unite to seize the opportunities before us to improve the lives of every American.”

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy:

Tonight, President Trump stated that we are one American family.  However, my sense is the vast majority of Americans do not feel that way; instead, while they are deeply patriotic, they believe our nation is being torn apart by excessive partisanship, severe dysfunction, and a lack of civility and mutual respect. If we truly aspire to be one American family — to unify as a nation — the President and Congress must put country above party and people before politics.”

U.S. Rep: Darren Soto:

 

“President Trump’s State of the Union address was yet another display of hollow pledges and divisive rhetoric. At a time when Congress is working on bipartisan efforts to craft a DREAMers — TPS — Border Security deal, Trump’s fear-inducing message paints a dangerously inaccurate picture of immigrant communities across the nation. Immigrants are good people, immensely contributing to our country. It is irresponsible, and simply wrong, for the President to categorize all immigrants as criminals and gang members. We cannot accept this false agenda!

“The President failed to address disaster relief in a meaningful way, as Florida Citrus growers are still reeling from Hurricane Irma. Also, the same night the President told Puerto Ricans “we are with you, we love you”, his administration discontinued food and water aid to over a million Americans in Puerto Rico who are still suffering. Not only did Trump fail to address the dire situation on the island during the State of the Union, he also failed in the recovery efforts and ultimately has failed Puerto Rico.

“We were pleased to hear about infrastructure, albeit brief and in scant detail, as well as proposals for lower prescription drugs. Yet, President’s Trump’s self-congratulatory claims on the GOP tax plan were worrisome. The fact is that under this new plan only high-income Americans will receive tax cuts. And while Wall Street is surging, main street faced an unimpressive 2.3% economic growth rate in 2017. The majority of middle-class American families will not receive tax relief. The “forgotten Americans” that the President often refers to, were forgotten in this speech, and that group is present in Central Florida.

“The state of our union is indeed strong, thanks to resilient Americans who continue fighting for opportunities for everyone. Let’s not allow the sowing of division and hate from the President to dishearten us. Americans will always rise above.”

U.S. Rep. Val Demings:

“I considered it my duty to represent my constituents at the speech this evening, but I have been shocked to see the unrelenting disfigurement of American values and institutions by this administration and its enablers in Congress.

“Donald Trump has attempted to attack the press, disrupt democratic elections, and politicize the justice system. Before his speech today, President Trump rejected his required constitutional duty by refusing to implement Russian sanctions as ordered by Congress, and it’s been reported that he’s exploring a fraudulent partisan investigation of Special Counsel Mueller. That is unacceptable.

“I believe in a fair and open democracy, so I’ll fight to investigate foreign hacks into our elections — including in Florida. I believe that truth and law shouldn’t be partisan, so I’ll fight to protect the independence of the Justice Department. I believe that no one is above the law, so I’ll fight to protect Mueller’s Special Investigation.

“America’s institutions and norms are not a byproduct of America’s greatness, they are the reason for it. What Donald Trump doesn’t understand is that America’s greatness has never been about the size of our skyscrapers or our bank accounts. America’s greatness is our drive to become better — more democratic, more just, with more opportunity for all.”

U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster:

Tonight, President Trump shared that the State of the Union is strong, thanks to regulatory rollbacks, a forecast of regulatory certainty, and the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. As promised, this administration has made it clear America is open for business — and the results are clear.  Jobs are coming back to America and wages are on the rise!

“President Trump also has kept his campaign promises to invest in our military readiness and rebuild our military.  From enacting the largest pay raise in 9 years and investing in the tools and equipment to be mission ready, we have taken a huge step forward in rebuilding our national defense. In just one year, with a President focused on delivering what our military needs to achieve its mission, American forces have dealt ISIS a string of crippling defeats.

“There is more work to be done and President Trump and House Republicans remain focused on the issues that matter the most to the American people.”

U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross:

“President Trump has accomplished much in his first year ever as an elected official. Our economy is booming and capital investment is high. The stock market has taken off. We’ve reformed the tax code so Americans can keep more of their own money. Our nation has taken the fight to ISIS and stood firm against our other enemies. Florida will benefit greatly from the work we’ve done just in this first year, and there’s more to come, particularly on infrastructure. I look forward to working with my colleagues on these crucial issues.”

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast:

Tonight, I was glad to hear the President outline a bipartisan agenda to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, including our waterways. Decades of failures to fix water infrastructure issues in Florida have created an untenable situation resulting in massive discharges of toxic water directly into the heart of our community. Working together, I’m hopeful we can turn the President’s proposals into legislation that addresses these issues in a robust and bipartisan way because our community can’t afford to wait any longer.”

U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney:

“Looking ahead, the President has outlined a list of issues which we need to address. Immigration reform that prioritizes skill-based migration, ends the “diversity” lottery and “chain” migration, while securing our borders, will be the first order of business. Rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure is another top priority. Just drive, fly or take a train to see how badly we need this. Finally, promoting fair and reciprocal trade agreements with partner nations around the world will lead to even greater growth and prosperity here at home. America continues to have great potential for success and we are already seeing results from a return to more limited government, lower taxes, and projecting strength in the world.”

U.S. Rep, Alcee Hastings:

“One evening of faux-bipartisanship does not erase the President’s failures over the past year. I do not believe for one second that the coming year will be any different. Tonight, President Trump further proved what we already know about him. He sees the Presidency as tool for self-aggrandizement. He sees himself as infallible, even as his policies jeopardize the well-being of the most vulnerable Americans.”

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel:

“Tonight’s speech was full of fake news. Mr. Trump took credit for President Obama’s strong economy, while bragging about throwing millions of Americans off health care and proposing a cruel, foolish immigration policy. Incredulously, he called for unity, even though he spends most of his days tweeting divisive, hateful things. Here are a few things the President didn’t talk about: his refusal to implement Congressionally-mandated sanctions on Russia, he ignored the tremendously powerful MeToo movement where women — and men — are demanding safe, equal workplaces, and his tireless, endless attempts to sabotage the health and economic security of women in this country and around the world.”

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis:

“I applaud President Trump’s bold and enthusiastic State of the Union address. He rightly focused on the undeniable economic revitalization that has been cultivated as a result of the pro-growth environment we have created by passing historic tax reform to help middle class Americans and small businesses and the regulatory relief measures that have been signed into law over the last year. Every day, we are seeing more businesses announce bonuses and expansion efforts that are putting real money in the pockets of every day Americans. Millions of workers will also see increases in their take home pay over the next few weeks as the new tax law is implemented. These positive results cannot be denied and efforts to diminish them are transparent and out of touch with the lives of hard working families.

“I was encouraged by the President’s specific plans to build upon this success by investing in the infrastructure of our nation, which is long overdue. This is something that I believe we can work together, across the aisle, to achieve. We will have to ensure the infrastructure investment is made in a fiscally responsible manner. As part of the way to fund the bill, I personally plan to propose redirecting funds currently spent on foreign aid to countries that hate America, and our values, back to this infrastructure project. I believe that money can be better spent here at home. As we work on infrastructure, one key is the existing regulations that currently stand in the way of necessary infrastructure improvements. For example, the Ridge Road Extension is a vital public safety project in Pasco County, and it has been waiting for federal permitting for almost 2 decades. I’ve been engaged on this issue for the past 4 years and have received assurances that the end is finally near. However, tonight the President committed to limiting federal permitting to one year.

“With respect to broader foreign policy; however, I agree that we must continue to work with our allies to ensure continued economic prosperity within an interdependent economy that leverages the strength of American innovation, American entrepreneurship and the American worker. We must also present a united front against radical Islamic terror. There is no other choice but to lead from a position of strength, and this requires continued investment in our world class military, which is what the House did with the bill we passed today. Proper funding, at the levels requested by our military leaders, is essential to our national security. If we are not safe, then nothing else matters. Achieving this paramount objective is multi-faceted and involves securing our borders, ending chain migration, and ensuring visas are granted on a merit basis.

“I was also proud to hear the President discuss the positive steps we have taken to help our nation’s Veterans. By empowering the VA Secretary to fire bad actors, streamlining the appeals process to ensure compensation claims are processed more quickly and fixing the problems within the CHOICE program to ensure Veterans have access to quality medical care close to their home, within a timely manner we are honoring our commitment to serve those who have proudly served us.

“Another important priority of mine that the President mentioned tonight was the work I have been doing in health care. The skyrocketing prices of Rx drugs have gotten out of control, which is why I have filed bipartisan legislation to create competition within the generic drug market in order to bring down the cost of drugs. I have also been working to streamline the FDA approval process while maintaining safety standards in order to develop treatments and cures for rare diseases and get them in the hands of sick patients.

“While we work on these issues we must continue to make progress in tackling the opioid crisis. As the President mentioned tonight, it is a public health crisis. I helped secure $27 million in grants for the state of Florida with more on the way, and I remain committed to additional reforms that are needed as we have continued to see the death tolls rise in Pasco and Pinellas counties just this past year. With input from local Sheriffs and substance abuse professionals, I have incorporated meaningful provisions into legislation currently being considered.

“All of these issues reflect an ambitious agenda for the year ahead and I look forward to working with my colleagues in a respectful manner to find common ground and do the right thing for our country.”

Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham:

“I have seen Trump’s failures firsthand while working across our state with entrepreneurs, students, families — real Floridians. While the rich and well-connected are benefiting from Trump, working Floridians are finding it harder and harder to get ahead.

“Donald Trump has set Florida children and families back by placing the education industry in charge of our public schools. The appointment of Betsy DeVos has only encouraged more high-stakes testing and the privatization of our public schools.

“Donald Trump has threatened Florida’s entire environment and economy by withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement and threatening to drill off our beaches.

“And Donald Trump has made it more difficult for working Floridians to get ahead by undermining the Affordable Care Act and caving to the insurance companies, special interests and lobbyists who are making health care more expensive

“Millions of Floridians have raised their voices to stop Trump’s most dangerous proposals — and we will continue to make our voices heard until the last day of his administration.

“As governor, I will stand up to Donald Trump when he betrays our values and hurts working Floridians. I will take on the president to defend our public schools, protect our environment, and strengthen health care.”

Gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine:

“The most encouraging thing about America is how the strength of the nation has been able to weather the harm this leader has tried to do — to working families looking for a break, to women looking for equity and respect, to children looking to protect the environment they will inherit, and to every person looking for someone to champion their right to affordable health care. As President Trump used tonight to continue boasting about himself, the rest of us are looking to restore the American Dream where people have the freedom and opportunity to succeed — regardless of their gender, their race, their sexual orientation or their politics. … The President keeps score by listing winners and losers. As Governor, I will make sure that no Floridian is left behind or left out, because in our world, everyone deserves a shot at being a winner. Everyone.”

Gubernatorial candidate Chris King:

“What we heard from President Trump was deeply dishonest and bigoted speech that ignored a simple truth: one-party rule isn’t working for regular middle-class families.

“Here’s the real state of our union: From Washington, D.C., to Tallahassee, Republican politicians would rather serve their special interest donors and party leaders than find real solutions to grow our economy.

“Floridians deserve better than to hear more empty speeches from politicians who are more loyal to their wealthy donors than to the people who elected them. It’s time for big ideas, new leadership and a governor of Florida who focuses tirelessly on creating quality jobs, raising wages, and lifting up Florida’s hardworking families.”

Florida Democratic Party:

“The only thing this President has done during his first year in office is increase taxes on Florida’s working families to pay for tax cuts for the very wealthy, while continuing his hateful rhetoric against women, immigrants, and people of color. Tonight’s SOTU indicates more of the same. While Democrats work to create opportunity, an economy, and a country that works for all Americans, Trump and Republicans have made it clear that they’ll continue to reward the wealthy at the expense of hard-working Americans.”

Congressional candidate Cris Dosev:

President Trump threw down the gauntlet in tonight’s State of the Union address, challenging Washington’s establishment to put aside their differences for the good of the nation.

The President reinforced the key, basic truth that it’s our people who make us great; and that the future of our country depends on a government that works for We the People.

I proudly join President Trump in urging governmental leaders to come together to support our middle class, our military, our national infrastructure and our world leadership role.

Tonight, as the President spoke of real hope and progress, he reminded all of us that the American dream is alive and well, and the inalienable right of each and every citizen of this great country.

I applaud the President’s inspiring outreach to all Americans, regardless of political leaning or background.  I join him in reiterating that America’s strength as a nation rests in our focus on faith, values and family; and in his call for unity going forward to build on those assets.

It’s time to set political grandstanding aside and put America’s first.  It’s time, as the President noted, to get the job done.

It’s time to restore our nation’s focus to where it belongs:  on We the People.  I hope, for the sake of all of our families’ futures, that Washington’s political establishment agrees.

Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio, Darren Soto, Florida congressional delegation demand more hurricane relief

Florida’s U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio took to the U.S. Senate floor Tuesday to demand more hurricane relief, with Nelson decrying the decision by the administration of President Donald Trump to end food and water aid to the people of Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, and Rubio renewing his call for Congress to pass a comprehensive disaster relief package.

“Mr. President, I am absolutely shocked that FEMA has announced that on Wednesday it will stop distributing food and water to the people of Puerto Rico,” Nelson said, addressing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky Tuesday. “Cutting this aid to the people of Puerto Rico, who almost a third of them still do not have electricity, it’s unconscionable, and it’s a travesty.”

Rubio, a Republican, followed Nelson, a Democrat, to the floor a few minutes later and joined his call for recognition that people still are suffering and that hurricane recovery will take a long time. He expressed disappointment that Congress still has not approved a disaster relief bill for the trio of devastating hurricanes — Harvey that hit Texas, Irma that hit the U.S. Virgin Islands and Florida, and Maria that hit Puerto Rico — and the fires of California, and said “these problems are only getting worse, not better, as time goes on.”

“At the end of the day, here’s the bottom line: Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory. It is the responsibility of the United States. These are United States citizens … And perhaps because it isn’t always in the headlines, a lot of people just don’t understand its status, its importance, and our obligations,” Rubio said. “Do not forget about disaster relief, we have to get it done.”

Also Tuesday, U.S. Reps. Darren Soto of Orlando and Jenniffer González-Colón of Puerto Rico led a bipartisan letter to FEMA Administrator Brock Long to continue distributing water and food supplies to Puerto Rico, following announcements that FEMA plans to “shut off” this aide to the island beginning tomorrow. The letter is co-authored by 30 Members of Congress, including Nelson and Rubio, and U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Mario Diaz-Balart, Alcee Hastings, Al Lawson, Stephanie Murphy, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Dennis Ross, and Frederica Wilson.

“Now is not the time to cut off this life-sustaining assistance. If Florida, or other states, were facing similar situations as the island, there would be an outrage by Members of Congress. We urge FEMA to reconsider; American lives are at stake!” Soto, the Orlando Democrat stated in a news release.

Also joining the chorus of protest was gubernatorial candidate Chris King, a Democrat from Winter Park.

“The Trump administration’s decision to end emergency operations is not just an immoral attack on the hundreds of thousands of American citizens living without access to food, water or power in Puerto Rico, it is an outrage to the people of Florida,” King declared in a news release issued by his campaign. “The fate of Puerto Rico and the fate of Florida are inextricably intertwined –– the fact that Republicans in Washington and too many in Tallahassee don’t get this basic idea is a dangerous consequence of one-party rule.”

Jeb Bush: Marco Rubio needs to lead on immigration

The perception that Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio were close was shattered during the 2015-16 race for President.

The two Miami-area GOP heavyweights clashed in debates and on the campaign trail as they vastly underperformed to expectations in losing the Republican nomination to Donald Trump.

The former Florida Governor took a verbal shot at the U.S. Senator on Friday, when he accused Rubio of abdicating a leadership role in the current debate on immigration.

“God forbid you actually took on something that was controversial and paid a political price,” Bush told USA Today. “That’s the attitude in D.C. right now. Certainly Sen. Rubio is no different in that regard.

“Marco is a talented guy and he understands this issue really well, and maybe behind the scenes he’s working hard. But at some point, his leadership would be really helpful.”

Rubio has said he believes an agreement in Congress to protect the approximately 780,000 undocumented immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program can and should happen.

However, skepticism is high after President Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer were unable to come to an agreement on DACA last weekend, forcing the government to shut down for a couple of days last week. That occurred despite the intervention of centrist senators from both parties to attempt to resolve the problem.

Florida Democrat Bill Nelson was part of that group, but Rubio was not. He said earlier this week that any such a deal on immigration shouldn’t be the product of a “gang” of senators as it was with the group he was a part of for comprehensive immigration reform the Senate passed in 2013.

The junior Florida Senator said if Democrats want to talk about a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, then a debate about chain migration has to be on the table. But he said that Democrats have to understand that such a deal won’t happen until they agree to authorize funding to construct a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border.

He added that that progress can happen quickly on the issue, “but it cannot be a product of a gang of four or five people meeting somewhere, putting a bill on the floor, and saying ‘take it or leave it.’ ”

“I was part of an effort like that in 2013, I see others are trying to do it now. It won’t work. This issue is too critical to too many people to be a product of a small group and a ‘take it or leave it’ proposition.”

In his interview with USA Today, Bush blamed both political parties when sizing up the ongoing battle over immigration. The White House on Thursday released a plan that provides a path to U.S. citizenship for up to 1.8 million undocumented DREAMers in exchange for $25 billion to help build a border wall and a nearly 25% reduction in legal immigration.

Members of both parties panned the deal for different reasons. With the clock ticking down to Feb. 8 for another deal to keep the government functioning, Bush said the immigration issue can’t continue to be punted by lawmakers who were sent to Washington to find solutions.

“The left and the right have figured out that this is a great political wedge issue,” Bush said. “It’s not a moral issue or an economic issue. It’s purely an issue of, ‘How do we poll this to make sure our team, our tribe, does better?’ “

The paper describes the former Florida Governor as having “railed” against President Trump’s alleged comments describing Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “shithole” countries.  And he bemoaned Trump’s behavior in office and says it could be his downfall.

“The character of the guy and the (turnover) and fighting, and just the constant chaos around his presidency that is self-inflicted has made it hard for him,” Bush said. “I want the president to succeed. I don’t think he will succeed if he continues on this path.”

Marco Rubio pushes Ricardo Rosselló to ask FEMA for help with displaced Puerto Ricans

The cold war between Sen. Marco Rubio and Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló continued Thursday, with an offer from Rubio to help with a sight subtext of questioning Rosselló’s competence.

A week after chiding Rosselló for spending too much time in Florida while the island territory continued to struggle with power restoration, Rubio offered “assistance” to Rosselló in dealing with a FEMA request.

In a letter to Rosselló designed to ensure that Puerto Ricans get the relief services they are entitled to as Americans, the senator observed that “federal resources require formal requests from a governor following a natural disaster.”

Formal requests that hadn’t been made, months after the storm.

“As you know, Florida has opened its schools, hospitals and housing facilities to the estimated 200,000 Puerto Ricans who have arrived in the state since Hurricane Maria made landfall in September. While our state and local governments are ready and willing to assist, their resources are limited after a devastating Atlantic hurricane season,” Rubio wrote.

“The federal government has the programs and resources necessary to supplement our local governments,” Rubio added, “but many of these programs require formal requests from the Puerto Rico government.”

Rubio urged Rosselló to ask for help via the FEMA Direct Lease program, which offers temporary housing … pending Rosselló “formally making this request.”

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson renew push for nuclear carrier to Mayport

In a letter Thursday, Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson petitioned President Donald Trump to authorize funding in the 2019 budget to bring a nuclear carrier to Mayport.

A nuclear carrier has long been on the wishlist of Northeast Florida stakeholders, even as the Navy itself put the brakes on adding a nuclear carrier in Mayport (citing “fiscal constraints”) to complement one at Norfolk, per the Florida Times-Union in September.

The debate is one of dispersing resources — spawning a Florida position — or concentrating them in Virginia.

“The security, availability, and redundancy of our aircraft carrier fleet is critical to our national security in light of the increased global security threats,” assert Rubio and Nelson.

“In 2009, the U.S. Navy officially announced its decision to homeport a CVN at Mayport, and the DOD’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense review supported the Navy’s decision. Then Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead testified, “a catastrophic event … has the potential to severely limit East Coast Carrier operations,” as justification for its inclusion in the DOD’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review and the U.S. Navy Fiscal Year 2011 budget,” the senators note, adding that despite this justification, no move has been made to fulfill the ask.

“Naval Station Mayport is an ideal location because it offers a strategic and operational value that enhances our national security posture. We strongly recommend you fund the necessary improvements at Naval Station Mayport to include construction of nuclear propulsion maintenance facilities and a parking structure in your FY19 Presidential Budget,” the senators continued.

This push is not new.

In 2017, Florida’s congressional delegation pushed for a Mayport carrier, but that push was for naught.

Northeast Florida has suffered another setback of late, being passed up for F-35s late last year.

With another round of Base Realignment and Closure Commission imminent, the Jacksonville area has to wonder if more bad news is coming.

Majority of Florida Delegation demands clarity on White House offshore drilling position

Both of Florida’s U.S. senators and 22 of its House members are in a dither over mixed signals on offshore oil drilling from Washington.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke assured Gov. Rick Scott that Florida was “off the table” earlier this month.

Soon, Zinke’s position was undercut by Ocean Energy Management Acting Director Walter Cruickshank’s telling the House Natural Resources Committee that areas off Florida’s coast are still under consideration.

With inchoate policy guidance from the Executive Branch, Florida legislators demanded answers Wednesday from the Donald Trump administration in a letter.

“In light of Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Acting Director Walter Cruickshank’s recent statement before the House Natural Resources Committee that the Planning Areas off Florida’s coasts are still under consideration for offshore drilling, we write to reiterate our strong opposition to any attempt to open up the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling,” the lawmakers wrote. “We object to any efforts to open the eastern Gulf of Mexico to drilling, and we urge you to remove this area from the five-year plan immediately.”

The letter notes that these areas have been off limits since 2006, and that since the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010, local and regional stakeholders and leaders have been adamant in opposition.

The letter also cites the “critical” nature of the Eastern Gulf Test and Training range for training missions for F-22 and F-35 pilots. And on the eastern side, facilities like Patrick Air Force Base, Kennedy Space Center, and the Jacksonville Naval Air Station would be impacted.

Some Florida politicians — notably, Scott — took Zinke at his word, even after the Cruickshank remarks became news.

“Secretary Zinke is a man of his word. He’s a Navy Seal. He promised me that Florida would be off the table, and I believe Florida is off the table,” Scott said.

“Secretary Zinke has made a commitment,” Scott added, “and he’ll live up to his commitments.”

However, Sen. Bill Nelson, who will likely face Scott in his re-election contest this year, called Zinke’s declaration and Scott’s trumpeting thereof a “political stunt.”

Joining Sens. Nelson and Marco Rubio signing the letter: Reps. Stephanie MurphyTed DeutchIleana Ros-LehtinenKathy CastorAlcee HastingsVern BuchananVal DemingsDebbie Wasserman SchultzFrederica WilsonDarren SotoBill PoseyAl LawsonGus BilirakisLois FrankelBrian MastCharlie CristJohn RutherfordRon DeSantisDennis RossFrancis RooneyNeal Dunn, and Matt Gaetz.

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