Marco Rubio Archives - Page 7 of 217 - Florida Politics

The room where it happens just a phone call away

For voters who want to piss their politics into the wind, there’s Facebook. For voters who want to change the hearts, minds, and votes of elected officials, the telephone is the easiest, most effective way to go.

Every officeholder from Carrabelle to Congress employs human beings whose primary job is to lend a respectful ear to Floridians who want to be heard. Often, these staffers are civic-minded idealists who encourage their bosses to follow their better angels. They’re easy to talk to and very effective at delivering the vox populi to the corner office.

The dumbest politician knows that for every person who bothers to pick up the phone and speak his or her peace, there’s family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers with the same view, and they’re all likely to remember in November.

Marco Rubio is not Florida’s dumbest politician, and he might have voted his convictions, rather than those of his puppetmasters, if more Floridians had called his office with a polite, but firm, “Man up, Marco, and stick to your guns on Rex Tillerson.”

It’s been a long time since we’ve taught civics in our schools, so we can’t blame citizens whose political muscles have atrophied. Folks have been lulled into thinking that hitting a “like” button, forwarding an email, or being one of a thousand people to sign a letter forged in a cookie cutter factory in Consultantville, Ohio is a good use of time. They’ve been intimidated into believing they aren’t good enough, smart enough, or articulate enough to take their own messages, in their own words, to the room where it happens.

Being impossible to ignore is easier than you think, and calling is cheaper than it’s ever been. If there’s a Trump nominee you want confirmed, or kicked to the curb, take a cue from Ma Bell and reach out and touch your congressional delegation.

Richard Corcoran walks the walk, denies extra $13M for DEP water war

His job as Florida House Speaker requires Richard Corcoran to make some tough calls, but this one had to be easy for a man whose stated mission is to clean up the way Tallahassee operates.

While some politicians talk with a swagger (here’s looking at you, Marco Rubio) but don’t want the ball when the game is on the line, Corcoran has shown that his deeds match his words. He was at it again Monday when the Florida Department of Environmental Protection asked for an extra $13 million to fund its legal fight with the state of Georgia over water rights.

His blunt answer: Nope.

In addition to demanding more ethical behavior by House members, Corcoran guards the public’s purse like a hungry Rottweiler. He told the DEP that there will be no more money until it gives a full accounting of the approximately $98 million it already has spent.

That’s just common sense.

The bigger message was that this action came after Jon Steverson, who served as DEP head for the last couple of years, resigned his job to join the law firm of Foley Lardner.

Just what is Foley Lardner?

Why, one of four firms that is working on the lawsuit against Georgia that now is well into its second decade.

Corcoran has made it his mission to end that far-too-cozy relationship between the people’s representatives and those who would like to profit from that relationship.

“We won’t approve the money until an audit is done and we will pass legislation barring the revolving door from agency head to lobbyist/lawyer,” Corcoran said in a statement.

We can say this was an easy call because the conflict of interest is so obvious, but for years Tallahassee winked and nodded far too long as legislators slid seamlessly into lucrative lobbying. There is no calculating how many millions of dollars that likely cost the public

That is why Corcoran is so public about trying to stop stuff like this. Message sent. Was it received?

Saying no to DEP’s $13 million request is just the first step. We wait for the audit and what comes next. What we can hope comes out of this is more rigorous oversight in how taxpayer dollars are spent because, you know, take $13 million and $13 million there and soon we’re talking about real money.

I think Richard Corcoran already knows that.

Donald Trump was right about ‘Little Marco’ all along

Little Marco.

Donald Trump had it right all along.

By announcing he will vote to approve Rex Tillerson for secretary of state, the fittingly titled junior U.S. senator from Florida proved he is compromised and cut down to size.

As they say out West, he is all hat and no cattle.

Under what certainly was significant pressure from the Republican Party and President Trump’s operatives, Marco Rubio confirmed that all that bluster he directed at Tillerson about the human rights violations in Russia was just for show.

Tillerson, of course, had extensive business dealings with Russia and Vladimir Putin. In the hearing, Rubio pointedly asked Tillerson if Putin should be considered a war criminal. It was a tough question and made for a dandy sound bite, but the real bite would have been if Rubio had stood on principle instead of politics and voted not to confirm.

Instead, he caved.

He can dress it up however he wants, but the fact is that with a chance to make a big statement Rubio shrank when the spotlight was the brightest.

This isn’t about whether Tillerson will make a good secretary of state. Opinions are mixed on that one, and Democrats seemed to have their eyes on blocking other targets. But with his mugging for the cameras at the hearing, Rubio defined the rules by how this confirmation will be judged.

I believe – well, believed – that Rubio’s concern about rights violations is sincere. If he really holds those core values, though, then he should have voted his conscience. The next time prattles on about the dictatorship in Cuba and all that, just tune him out. He is not prepared to back up his convictions with action.

If he voted no, there have been retribution from both his party and President Trump. Welcome to Washington. Surely, Rubio had known that before he went on his one-person jag while grilling Tillerson.

Did he really think all along he was going to vote to confirm and was just trying to make a statement that, roughly put, was, “OK, Rex, you’re approved, but I’m going to be watching every move.”

Or did he trade his principles for some political hay he can use later?

We may never know.

Here is what we do know.

After a disastrous run for the presidency and a flip-flop on whether he wanted to stay in the Senate, Rubio had an opportunity to reboot his political career by backing up his words with action. He would have climbed to the higher ground.

Instead, he proved again why voters have little to no faith in what politicians say versus what they do.

He wilted.

He melted.

He lived down to the name Trump hung on him.

Rex Tillerson has Marco Rubio’s vote in Senate

The Latest on activities in Congress (All times EST):

10:35 a.m.

Sen. Marco Rubio says he’ll support President Donald Trump‘s nominee for secretary of state.

The Florida Republican ended nearly two weeks of “will he or won’t he” drama by announcing on his Facebook page that he’ll vote for Rex Tillerson to serve as the nation’s top diplomat.

Rubio says his backing is not without concerns. He worries that in years to come the U.S. “will not give the defense of democracy and human rights the priority they deserve.”

But he says it “would be against our national interests” for Tillerson’s confirmation to be unnecessarily delayed or embroiled in controversy.

Rubio and other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are scheduled to meet Monday afternoon to cast their ballots on Tillerson, the former Exxon Mobil CEO.

The senator clashed with Tillerson at his confirmation hearing earlier this month.

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7:15 a.m.

The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says he can’t support President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state.

Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland says in a statement that Rex Tillerson’s business orientation and confirmation hearing answers could compromise his ability to forcefully promote U.S. values and ideals.

Specifically, Cardin said he based his opposition on Tillerson’s unwillingness to call Russia and Syria’s atrocities “war crimes,” or to describe Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s extrajudicial killings as gross human rights violations.

Cardin also said the former Exxon Mobil CEO misled the committee about the company’s lobbying against sanctions, such as penalties against Russia for its annexation of Crimea.

The Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to vote on Tillerson’s nomination on Monday afternoon.

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3:30 a.m.

All eyes are on Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida as a Senate committee is poised to vote on President Donald Trump’s nominee to be secretary of state.

The nomination of Rex Tillerson got a boost on Sunday after two influential Republican senators — John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — offered tepid endorsements of the former Exxon Mobil chief. The focus shifts to the Foreign Relations Committee on Monday afternoon as the members, including Rubio, cast their votes on Tillerson.

Rubio, whom Trump defeated for the GOP presidential nomination last year, clashed with Tillerson at a committee hearing earlier this month. Rubio bridled at his refusal to label Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” or condemn human rights violations in Saudi Arabia and the Philippines in strong enough terms. He chided Tillerson over the need for “moral clarity.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, push their ‘parent penalty’ tax reform issue with leadership

Contending that parents are double-taxed for children, Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Utah’s Mike Lee are again pushing a plan to eliminate the so-called “parent penalty” in tax reform, with a letter to leaders of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

“Our tax code today treats parents unfairly. The payroll taxes that help pay for federal retirement benefits fall on American parents who simultaneously bear the financial cost of raising their children, the next generation of workers whose paychecks will be taxed to fund federal retirement benefits. This function of the tax code creates an implicit ‘parent tax penalty’ – in effect, a tax bias against parents,” Lee and Rubio, both Republicans, argue in a letter they sent Wednesday to the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Committee on Finance and the House Committee on Ways and Means.

The issue is one Rubio and Lee have pushed before, with a bill introduced in the last session of Congress. That measure sought to address what Rubio and Lee say is a double taxation parents pay, through the income tax and the payroll tax, while only get tax relief for children on the income tax side.

The bill would add an additional $2,500 tax credit per child. Critics, such as the moderately-liberal Brookings Institute, have argued that the notion of a “parent tax penalty” ignores the government benefits that the taxes support for children, including public education, that have no direct benefit to childless taxpayers.

Rubio and Lee suggest they see an opening and support for their proposal in the 115th Congress and in President Donald Trump.

“We have long advocated for reducing the burden of double taxation and freeing private-sector investment from tax penalties through full expensing, and we are glad to see House Republicans share these priorities,” they write.

“Of course, tax reform should not only reduce the burdens that businesses face, but also do the same for working families. Families are the building blocks of our country, the fundamental units of society, and vital to passing down our values from generation to generation. Strong families are also incubators of economic opportunity, financial security, and generate the social capital upon which our free enterprise economy and constitutional republic depend.

With this in mind, it is concerning that our tax code today treats parents unfairly. The payroll taxes that help pay for federal retirement benefits fall on American parents who simultaneously bear the financial cost of raising their children, the next generation of workers whose paychecks will be taxed to fund federal retirement benefits. This function of the tax code creates an implicit “parent tax penalty” – in effect, a tax bias against parents.

“President-elect Trump recognizes this problem, saying that “very little meaningful policy work has been done” to help parents afford the costs of raising children. In 2016, we proposed correcting this inequity with a larger child tax credit, applicable to both income and payroll taxes,” they write.

Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson team up on bill to counter BDS movement

Both of Florida’s U.S. Senators are teaming up on a bipartisan bill to push back on the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

The new legislation (s. 170) is an update of a bill proposed last year by West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and former Illinois Republican Mark Kirk. It would increase protections for state and local governments in the U.S. that opt to divest from, prohibit investment in, and restrict contracting with companies knowingly engaged in commerce-related or investment-related BDS activity targeting Israel.

The BDS movement has had most of its growth on college campuses in recent years, though there have been fewer such resolutions passed at major universities in recent years.

“This legislation supports efforts by state governments and local communities to use the power of the purse to counter the BDS movement’s economic warfare targeting Israel,” said Rubio. “This bipartisan bill is all the more timely after the United Nations Security Council’s passage of Resolution 2334, a deplorable one-sided measure that harms Israel and effectively encourages the BDS movement’s campaigns to commercially and financially target and discriminate against the Jewish state.”

Rubio is co-sponsoring the bill with Manchin. Other original cosponsors like Rubio’s partner in the U.S. Senate from Florida, Democrat Bill Nelson.

The bill also includes a mixture of Democrats and Republicans. Other Democrats signing up as cosponsors include New Jersey’s Robert Menendez, Oregon’s Ron Wyden and Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow.

Original GOP sponsors include Idaho’s Mike Crapo, Texas’ John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and Arkansas’s Tom Cotton.

A number of states have passed similar legislation, including Florida, which did so a year ago. That bill requires the State Board of Administration to identify all companies that are boycotting Israel or are engaged in a boycott of Israel in which the public fund owns direct or indirect holdings by a specified date; requiring the public fund to create and maintain the Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List that names all such companies; prohibiting a state agency or local governmental entity from contracting for goods and services that exceed a specified amount if the company has been placed on the Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List.

The federal bill would clarifiy that state and local governments have the legal authority to identify and divest public funds from, prohibit investment in, and restrict contracting with entities engaged in BDS conduct when the designations are based on “credible information available to the public.” The bill’s non-preemption safe harbor for asset managers will also give them an offensive capability against entities seeking to economically harm Israel.

Last year’s bill was opposed by the Council on American Islamic Relations, which claimed it would violate the constitutionally-guaranteed free speech rights of businesses and institutions that participate in the international boycott of Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank.

Dominic Calabro: Keeping cigars in the Cigar City

Politicians talk repeatedly about doing things to help create jobs. But, sometimes, doing nothing is the best option. We hope that newly-elected lawmakers understand that less government intrusion is often the key to keeping the American Dream alive.

A great example is the 2009 “Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.” This innocuously named effort actually increased federal regulation in ways that even many of its supporters now regret.

The act gave the Food and Drug Administration the right to regulate all tobacco products, not just cigarettes. But bureaucracies tend to expand whenever they can and the agency soon extended its reach to premium cigars — a move that even the most liberal members of Congress said they never intended.

The result is a possible loss of jobs, the death of family-owned businesses and an unnecessary impediment to the American Dream.

A great example is the J.C. Newman’s Cigar Co. It is a classic “only in America” success story. Founded in 1895 in Ohio by an immigrant from Hungary, it is the nation’s oldest manufacturer of premium cigars.

In the 1950s, the business moved to Tampa, also known as Cigar City. What autos are to Detroit and movies are to Hollywood, cigars are the signature item in Tampa. The business flourished in this natural new home.

Cigars made by the 121-year-old family-run business are not marketed toward youth, nor are they used by younger consumers.

But the FDA, empowered to expand its reach without limit, has recently ruled that all cigar manufacturers must pay exorbitant “user fees,” undergo costly scientific tests that could run into the millions of dollars, fulfill new loads of paperwork and are now essentially prohibited from introducing new sizes, brands and blends. Samples provided for charity auctions or soldiers overseas are no longer allowed. And in a cruelly concurrent move, the federal government recently ruled that Cuban cigars will not only be allowed for sale in the United States, but they won’t have to meet the new requirements for American-made cigars.

The overall result is not an increase in consumer safety, but a potential death knell for companies like J.C. Newman’s.

The company has more than 125 employees in the Tampa Bay area, hardworking families with mortgages to pay and children to feed. Strangling their livelihood with no increase in consumer safety is ludicrous.

Thankfully, led by Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate and Bill Posey and Kathy Castor in the U.S. House, there has been bipartisan support from Florida’s legislative delegation to eliminate the job-killing provisions for premium cigar manufacturers. The conservative House Freedom Caucus has also presented President-elect Donald Trump with more than 200 regulations that could be immediately eliminated to help working Americans, including the job-killing provisions on premium cigars.

We hope the new administration and the FDA find the proper balance and remove this requirement that benefits nobody. And we hope that this classic example of unnecessary regulations strangling businesses becomes a warning against well-meaning mandates that too often spiral out of control.

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Dominic Calabro is the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.

Central Florida House members call on Marco Rubio to protect illegal immigrants

In front of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio‘s office Tuesday morning, Sen. Victor Torres and Reps. Amy Mercado and Carlos Guillermo Smith called on Rubio to protect the state’s immigrant population – especially those not here legally.

Their message was that time is of the essence – now that the Donald Trump administration is just days away from taking control of the country, it’s important that Rubio own up to his promises to stand up to Trump when he can – especially when it comes to potential threats to undocumented immigrants.

Trump has said that he intends to crack down on illegal immigration and immediately deport 2 to 3 million illegal immigrants when he takes office.

All three of the House representatives speaking Tuesday were opposed to that.

“Many undocumented immigrants are otherwise law-abiding citizens,” Torres said. “They want to make a better life for themselves. They were born in another country, but they went to school and were raised in the U.S. – it’s the only society they’ve ever known.”

Torres said attempts to deport or demonize illegal immigrants “robs us of the radiant spirit and skill and desire to make America great.”

Mercado said in calling for mass deportations of illegal immigrants, Trump had threatened a cornerstone of the American dream.

“They should be able to come to America without the threat of persecution,” she said. “We shouldn’t be deporting millions, or driving them into silence out of fear. Florida is a cultural melting pot. There’s a large array of cultures and backgrounds. There are headlines every day about members of Trump’s cabinet and racism. This is not the time for silence.”

Smith said there were up to 8,000 undocumented immigrants in the Orlando area and up to 102,000 statewide – so the stakes were “very large” and he vowed to push back and act as an opposition to Trump’s “racist, bigoted and wrong agenda.”

A Rubio spokesperson said by email that Rubio welcomed more voices and opinions from those interested in tackling the issue of immigration.

“Senator Rubio understands we need to secure our borders, stop visa overstays, modernize our legal immigration system, and enforce our immigration laws fairly and humanely,” he wrote. “He welcomes input from people who are serious about solving our immigration challenges and is hopeful we’ll be able to make real progress on these goals in this new Congress.”

Donald Trump, government is not a business. Reject Rex Tillerson.

If it is to be believed, as Donald Trump evidently does, that government is just another business, then Rex Tillerson is a plausible nominee for secretary of state. Hasn’t he been running one of the most powerful and profitable businesses in this corner of the universe?

But government is not a business.

The duty of a business is to produce profits for its owners. Period. How it’s done rarely matters so long as there are profits. Whether a business treats its customers and employees with consideration or stiffs them, as Trump so often did to his, is “right” or “wrong” only in the light of the profit margin or loss. A CEO who doesn’t put profits first won’t last, and he or she is most unlikely to find a soft landing on a business school faculty.

The competitive situation of a business requires keeping certain secrets from the public. In a proper democracy, however, there are no secrets to be kept from the public, other than those that directly implicate national security. The personal assets of a wealthy Cabinet nominee are no such exception. And certainly those of a president are not. We deserve to know, we need to know, what conflicts of interest may exist. Florida Governor Reubin Askew maintained that full financial disclosure was the only way to earn the trust of the people, and the voters agreed with him overwhelmingly.

A business can fail. It can declare bankruptcy, freeing its owners to foist off the losses on other people and start over, as Trump has done four times. A local government can do that too, but a national government, one with the power and the duty to maintain the economy, cannot do that without catastrophic consequences. It cannot even suggest renegotiating its debts, as Trump casually speculated during the campaign, without risking the collapse of its currency and runaway inflation.

The fundamental duties of a government are so obviously different that they shouldn’t need explanation, but there seem to be more than a few folks who don’t grasp them.

One of the differences is that a government’s stockholders and its customers are one and the same, and its duty to them is to protect and serve them as efficiently as possible. There is no place for profit in that equation. Pay-as-you-go projects, like toll roads and park fees, should take in only enough revenue for operation, maintenance and improvement.

I’m speaking of a democracy, of course. The other kind of government, the kind run by Vladimir Putin, gauges its success by the extent of its power over its own people and others. Its loyalty is to the tyrant, not the citizens.

And that inescapably calls into question the loyalty of multinational corporations, like Tillerson’s Exxon Mobil, which occasionally find it necessary to do business with such despots. When a man who would be our secretary of state can’t acknowledge the simple fact that Putin’s conduct in Syria is that of a war criminal, he is tacitly confessing the moral cost of doing business with Putin. Tillerson’s professional accommodation to the realpolitik of the international energy market is an inherent conflict of interest with the duty of a secretary of state to put our country first and always.

We have Senator Marco Rubio to thank for making that point in his deft interrogation of Tillerson at the Foreign Relations Committee hearing. As someone who hasn’t exactly been one of his fans, I have to say that would have been anyone’s finest hour. It certainly was Rubio’s.

That brings us to the second profound difference between a democratic government and a business. Most people expect their government to embody, represent, assert and advance their national character and ideals. We don’t really expect that of a business. This is why the British still support and revere their monarchy long after it was reduced to a splendid but powerless symbol. This is why until now, Americans have believed that character is what defines the suitability of a candidate for president. When we think of George Washington, what comes to mind? His towering reputation for patriotism and personal integrity.

We revere our country. We don’t revere corporations, not even the ones we work for. We don’t sing, “My company, ‘tis of thee.” We sing of purple mountain majesties, not towering smokestacks. We pledge our allegiance to our flag, not to the Chamber of Commerce.

Americans have been accused, sometimes fairly, of preaching too much to people elsewhere about the superiority of our form of government. Most of the time, though, we do it for the best of reasons: our belief that democracy is the only suitable environment for personal liberty and economic opportunity and a sincere wish to see others enjoy what we do. We are proud of what we have. It speaks well of us that we want to share it. Our hearts fill with pride and admiration for those who gave their lives for our country and for those who still risk theirs.

That does not mean trying to be the “world’s policeman” in places where our influence is unwanted or likely to be ineffective. It does mean taking care, in consort with allies, to keep our part of the world safe from a hostile power’s quest for unhealthy dominance in trade and military affairs. World War II was in large part a consequence of the self-centered isolationism that led to the Senate rejecting the League of Nations and to our indifference as tyrants rose “over there.”

We expect — reasonably so — that those we elect or who are appointed to serve us will embody the ideals that make us proud to be Americans. That’s what so confounding about Trump’s impending presidency. What’s done is done, but as it considers the qualifications of his Cabinet nominees, the Senate can still redeem our national character. Rejecting Tillerson’s nomination would be a good start.

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Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the Tampa Bay Times. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

At annual meeting, Republicans contemplate their place at the top after election wins

With big wins in the November elections and now about to control the House, Senate and the presidency, the Republican Party of Florida didn’t feel the need to shake up party leadership much — re-electing Blaise Ingoglia by a sizable margin at the 2017 annual leadership conference Saturday morning.

The RPOF spent much of the rest of the morning at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando on top of the world and in good spirits. But they also focused on the future and action, now that they have so much power in government.

Sen. Marco Rubio spoke about the need to not waste the chance to take action.

“We’ll veto a lot of the regulations put in place,” he said. “The Senate has moved to start repealing Obamacare. Donald Trump will be presenting his plan for a replacement within the next few weeks.”

Rubio said in the first half of this year, he anticipated Obamacare to be repealed and replaced.

He also said Republicans could look forward to a new Supreme Court justice replacing the late Antonin Scalia, who would hopefully serve for 20 to 25 years, and tax reform and fiscal plans in line with what they said would help fix the economy.

“We can provide an opportunity for the American dream,” he said. “The party will be organized around limited government, free enterprise and a strong national defense. If we don’t do our jobs, there are no excuses. We control the House, the Senate and the White House. We can set the country on the right course.”

Palm Beach County official Michael Barnett won the Vice Chair seat, and he and others spoke of moving forward and expanding the party to include everyone.

Barnett, who previously served as the party’s Chairman of their Minority Engagement Committee, said it was important to show various minority communities that the Republican Party could serve their interests.

“We’ve made a good start with this election,” he said. “Eight percent of the black vote went to Donald Trump — double what Mitt Romney was able to get.

“We need to keep reaching out to the Haitian, Caribbean and other communities, and become a part of their community. We don’t all come from the same background, but we can share the same values.”

Though Ingogilia’s win was easy enough, not everyone was happy. Challenger Christian Ziegler was touted as the candidate who could devote full attention to RPOF chair, rather than wear more than one hat as Ingoglia does as a member of the Legislature. Ingoglia currently represents the Florida House in District 35.

Ziegler said he could act like a “CEO of a business” for the party, and always be available to people, no matter what.

Orange County Republican chair Lew Oliver voiced some displeasure with this to FloridaPolitics.com. Oliver thought the chair should be someone with no other interests or positions in politics.

“In politics, there are a lot of battles already,” Oliver said. “Members of Legislature are involved in a lot of struggles, factions and groups. You don’t want someone who may be motivated to have another set of battles.”

Ingoglia’s acceptance speech focused on the ability of the RPOF to create “a dynasty” that could keep the state in Republican control for the foreseeable future.

Lieutenant Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera noted it might be unwise for Republicans to get too complacent in their place at the top — the 2018 election cycle could be even more difficult.

“The Democrats suffered losses in this election,” he said. “They’re doing pretty bad. As low and as bad as they are, they may only have one place to go, though — unless we keep our place and not take this for granted. Because they’re not taking their losses for granted.”

“Because they’re not taking their losses for granted.”

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