President Obama Archives - Page 4 of 33 - Florida Politics

Dennis Ross co-sponsors bill to prohibit ransom payments to Iran

Last month, the Wall Street Journal first reported that the Obama administration secretly organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January release of four Americans detained in Tehran.

The money represented the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran over a long-held dispute over a failed arms deal just before the Shah of Iran lost power in 1979.

After that news broke, White House spokesman Josh Earnest rejected suggestions the money transfer to Iran was ransom or a secret.

Two weeks later, however, the State Department confirmed the U.S. conditioned the release of that cash payment to Iran on the departure of American prisoners from Tehran.

The news outraged Republicans, with some calling for a congressional hearing to discuss the matter further.

Now comes legislation co-sponsored by Polk County Republican Dennis Ross that will prohibit further cash payments to the Iranian government.

“I co-sponsored H.R. 5931 because the president must be held accountable for putting American lives and our national security at risk,” Ross said in a statement on Tuesday. “The $400 million cash ransom the Obama Administration easily handed over to Iran is unsettling and calls into question the president’s actions as they pertain to the ‘no concessions’ policy.”

Congressional Republicans never signed on to the landmark nuclear deal that the U.S. made with the P5 +1 group of world powers last fall, and the report about the $400 million cash made public last month has only angered them further.

“The Obama Administration continues to mislead the American people about this horrible deal, while Iran repeatedly violates the deal with no repercussions,” Ross said. “Not only has Iran been permitted to improve its capability of producing enriched uranium, it also has been allowed to develop advanced uranium centrifuges, deny IAEA inspectors access to its facilities, acquire nuclear technology, and deploy an advanced Russian missile defense system to protect its uranium enrichment facility from airstrikes.”

Ross says that this bill, sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce of California, ensures a similar transfer of funds to Iran can’t happen again. “H.R. 5931 makes clear the Obama Administration violated longstanding U.S. policy by releasing prisoners and paying ransom for the return of Americans held hostage by Iran, prohibits cash payments to Iran, and demands transparency on future settlements to ensure they are not used to pay ransom.”

The bill has drawn 44 Republican co-sponsors, and will be brought up before the Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

The Senate introduced a similar bill under Florida Sen. Marco Rubio that would prohibit the federal government from paying ransom. It would also stop payments to Iran from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Judgment Fund until Iran returns money it received and pays American victims of Iranian terrorism what they are owed.

Ross is running for re-election to his seat in Florida’s 15th Congressional District, running against Democrat Jim Lange.

Mitch Perry Report for 8.22.16 — Who’s down with TPP?

Good morning, y’all. Welcome to the last full week of campaigning before your Aug. 30 primary election in the Sunshine State.

Before we get into the news of the day, how was your weekend? I went and saw a couple of good, if somewhat overrated movies (“Come Hell or High Water,” “Don’t Think Twice”), and finished reading an underrated novel (Jay McInerney’s “Bright, Precious Days”).

I also voted, as the majority of Floridians will do, before next week’s primary election. Not much more to say about that, other than I now have to contact the supervisor of elections to return to being a Non-Party Affiliated voter.

One of the issues Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton agree on is they don’t like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the regional trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim nations.

Although a lot of progressives don’t trust Clinton’s conversion on the agreement and fear she’ll turn around and push for it if she’s elected in the fall, the fact of the matter is, the agreement may already be approved before either her or Trump is inaugurated in January.

As the New York Times Jackie Calmes reports, President Obama will be making a big push for Congress to pass the agreement during the lame duck session of Congress, probably in December.

John Kerry, Ash Carter, Michael Mullen, and former GOP Maine Senator and Defense Secretary William Cohen will also be making the rounds to campaign for the TPP.

Will it be enough? Obama will also have surrogates like Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn pushing that the deal will be good for the Tampa Bay and Florida economy.

But with opposition to trade deals being a major tangible issue that both the far-right and far-left can agree on, can POTUS get that last legislative and diplomatic achievement added to his ledger as he closes out his presidency?

In other news …

A poll published yesterday has Debbie Wasserman Schultz leading Tim Canova in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District by 10 percentage points.

After our story last week about the fact that it looked Eric Lynn and Ben Diamond wouldn’t be engaging in a one-on-one debate before the Aug. 30 primary, we offered up the weekly radio show I host as a possible venue — and the candidates have accepted.

HD 60 candidate Jackie Toledo has been talking tough on immigration, despite the actions of her spouse a few years ago.

Kevin Beckner reacted Friday to Mike Deeson‘s report about the Hillsborough PTC pulling their money out of the clerk of the court’s office.

The candidates in the Senate District 19 race met up at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club forum on Friday.

Tim Schock hasn’t said much about Jim Norman‘s “issues” in their Hillsborough County Commission District 6 Republican race — until now.

Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin was all over the Tampa Bay area this weekend making the rounds for her new book on the U.S.- Saudi Arabia relationship. You can read our interview with her here.

Mitch Perry Report for 8.10.16 — Aleppo needs water

I’m sure that after you got yourself up this morning, you might have reached for a cup of coffee, juice or water.

It’s something that we don’t have to think too hard about, usually.

Now let’s go across the globe — to Aleppo, Syria.

The United Nations on Tuesday called for a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting in Aleppo to allow for immediate access to repair the electricity and water networks. They report that between 250,000-275,000 people have been trapped in east Aleppo for more than a month following the closure of a local road, the last road into that specific area.

“Since 6 August, Khanasser road, the main access route into west Aleppo has also been cut, bringing the total number of civilians living in de facto fear of besiegement to over two million,” their statement said yesterday.

Yes, I’m referring to the civil war in Syria, now deep into its fifth year, and a war that rages on without any immediate hope in the future. But as the fighting continues, there are literally two million people in Aleppo who can’t get access to fresh drinking water.

This should be unacceptable in 2016. There’s obviously a reason why this war rages on — President Obama has said President Bashar al-Assad must go as a precondition for any settlement talks. But that was before the Islamic State began conquering large swathes of land in Syria. Then there was Russia’s intervention a year ago, supposedly to go after the terrorists. However, it’s hard to tell if they’re there just to go after the groups who want to bring down Assad.

It’s a total mess, and has been for years. And there’s been little discussion of Syria on the campaign trail.

So the world doesn’t really pay too much attention to it. But today, two million people are in need of water in Aleppo.

In other news …

Eric Lynn has a poll out showing him leading Ben Diamond in the House District 68 race by 12 percentage points. But wait, Diamond has his own poll that shows him leading Lynn by 9 points.

The Kevin Beckner campaign accuses Pat Frank of failing women and minorities in the hiring and paying of salaries at the clerk’s office — but Frank fires back, and says Beckner has never hired a person of color in his office.

A Latina activist blasts the Florida Democratic Party for failing to hold to their promise and hire a bilingual communications official.

A sampling of conversations with Hillary Clinton supporters in St. Petersburg shows they feel confident she’ll be able to work with Republicans in Congress if elected in the fall.

The Hillsborough County PTC meets this morning, the first time since Chairman Victor Crist was cleared of an ethics complaint.

Mark Bircher says if David Jolly can’t “get there” in backing Donald Trump for president, Pinellas GOP should back him, and not Jolly, in the name of party unity.

Daniel Webster has another ad up in the CD 11 contest.

The Debbie Wasserman Schultz campaign doesn’t think much of Tim Canova’s complaint with the FEC that she was conspiring against him by using DNC resources.

Mark Bircher says if David Jolly can’t support Donald Trump, Pinellas GOP should back his candidacy in CD 13 primary

All the talk about the David JollyCharlie Crist battle in Florida’s 13th Congressional District contest this race ignores the fact that Jolly DOES have an opponent in the Republican primary later this month.

He’s retired Marine General Mark Bircher, and he said that in the name of party unity, the Pinellas County Republican establishment should rally around his candidacy later this month, unless his opponent sees the light and gets behind Donald Trump‘s candidacy for president.

“We cannot accept divided loyalties when so much is at stake,” Bircher said in a statement. “If Rep. Jolly refuses to endorse Mr. Trump, the Pinellas Republican party leadership should throw its full support to the 13th Congressional District House candidate who supports the nominee. If the party will not support party unity, then the voters must do so on the ballot.”

Bircher is running for the Republican nomination for Congress for the second time in two-and-a-half years. He finished third behind Jolly and state legislator Kathleen Peters in the special Republican primary election in January 2014, held just a few months after C.W. Bill Young died after more than 42 years in office.

“Mr. Trump was not my first choice during the primary, but he is my first choice now,” Bircher said regarding who he will vote for president in November. “Any candidate for federal office who directly or indirectly supports Mrs. Clinton in her quest to preserve the Obama legacy and and continue to ‘fundamentally transform’ America is unacceptable. We can rely upon Gov. Crist to promote the Clinton/Obama agenda in the general election; we do not need our Republican candidate to reinforce that effort in our own party primary. The Republic has withstood eight years of deliberately destructive policy; the outcome may be in doubt under four more years of the same.”

Bircher is running an uphill battle to topple Jolly, who originally announced last year he would not run for re-election to the congressional seat, and instead would attempt to become a U.S. Senator, succeeding Marco Rubio.

However, Rubio changed the political trajectories of several Republicans who were running for Senate when he re-entered the race in June. In Jolly’s case, he had just enough time to qualify to run for re-election to his congressional seat.

Jolly has not definitely said he will not vote for Trump. Instead, he has said that “he is not there yet” in recent months when asked if he could support The Donald in November.

Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee Chair Nick DiCeglie responded in an email.

“In order for local parties to endorse in the primary a two thirds vote is required. Our last meeting prior to the August 30th Primary took place last night (8/8) and there are no additional meetings prior to the Primary Election for such a vote to take place. The Republican Party of Pinellas County is looking forward to focusing our efforts to defeat Charlie Crist in November.”

He also notes that the Pinellas County Republicans held a straw poll on Sunday with over 220 members and activists casting ballots, and Jolly defeated Bircher, capturing 79 percent of the vote.

The Jolly campaign said the issue was between Bircher and the party, and declined to comment.

Joe Henderson: The Zika crisis should be above party politics

Mosquitoes don’t ask for a person’s political party affiliation before they bite. So now that the bug-borne Zika virus is a certified health emergency you might think this is one time red and blue can come together.

(Insert laugh track HERE.)

It’s no laughing matter though. If a pregnant woman contracts Zika, her child could be born with microcephaly — a brain disorder that can cause lifelong problems with speech, motor skills, seizures and intellectual development.

Against that backdrop, Sunday’s appearance by Gov. Rick Scott on “Meet The Press” reminded everyone why Washington is an unholy mess. This time pregnant woman in Florida are the pawns in yet another ugly showdown that ignores the common good.

The emergency funding both Scott and President Barack Obama requested to fight Zika is hung up because some of the money might be earmarked for Planned Parenthood to help women with Zika-related pregnancy cases.

Or it might not be.

Senate Democrats say Republicans have balked at approving the money over that issue, but Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is running for re-election, told POLITICO over the weekend that’s not so.

“The words ‘Planned Parenthood’ don’t appear anywhere in the law,” he said.

“…The Planned Parenthood angle is something they basically made up to have a political reason not to pass Zika so they can come back in August and campaign on it,” he said. “That’s what I mean by political volleyball. Both sides have played that game.”

While Washington sees this issue as great fodder for campaign attack ads, the $1.1 billion funding request (trimmed from $1.9 billion Obama asked for) is stalled. The number of Zika cases keep increasing, and the unborn are at risk because the D.C. dunderheads put ideology and party first.

Republicans generally loathe Planned Parenthood because the organization, which receives about $500 million annually in federal taxpayer funding, gives women access to abortions.

Rubio doubled down on that by telling POLITICO pregnant women infected with Zika should not be allowed to have an abortion.

“I understand a lot of people disagree with my view — but I believe that all human life is worthy of protection of our laws. And when you present it in the context of Zika or any prenatal condition, it’s a difficult question and a hard one,” he said.

Well, that’s an important issue and is worthy of debate, although the law of the land is clear abortion is legal. So Rubio’s opinion is just that — his opinion.

But what about Zika?

The mosquitoes keep coming and does Zika. As of Friday, there were 408 cases of the virus in Florida with more on likely on the way. So while Washington dithers, Scott noted in his appearance on “Meet The Press” that while the state has spent $26.2 million to combat the virus, this is an international health issue.

“We still need the federal government to show up,” Scott said.

(Insert second laugh track HERE.)

It’s an election year, and a public health crisis will always come in second.

Vern Buchanan tells President Obama to stop accepting Syrian refugees

Taking his cue from a warning by FBI Director James Comey of “a terrorist diaspora out of Syria like we’ve never seen before,” Sarasota area GOP Congressman Vern Buchanan is calling on the White House to put an immediate halt to accepting Syrian refugees into the U.S.

“Terrorists are leaving Syria disguised as refugees and carrying out attacks in the West,” Buchanan wrote in a letter addressed to President Obama on Thursday. “The prudent course of action is to halt all admissions of Syrians into the U.S. until the safety of Americans can be guaranteed.”

In response to the emerging migrant crisis in Europe and the Middle East last summer, Obama ordered his administration last September to dramatically “scale up” the number of Syrian refugees welcomed into the United States by the end of the fiscal year, setting a target of 10,000.

The U.S. admitted more than 2,300 Syrian refugees in June, sending the fiscal year total soaring past the 5,000 mark, the Washington Times reported in late June. According to data from the State Department Refugee Processing Center, a total of 7,751 Syrian refugees have been admitted into the U.S. since the beginning of last October, and nearly 5,000 in the last two months alone.

In his letter, Buchanan is seizing on Comey’s comments before Congress last week that the defeat of ISIS soldiers in Syria and Iraq will likely result in dispersing terrorists elsewhere, including America. “At some point there is going to be a terrorist diaspora out of Syria like we’ve never seen before.” Comey added, “Not all of the Islamic State killers are going to die on the battlefield.”

Homeland Security head Jeh Johnson testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee June 30 that Washington had “added security checks to the process where they are warranted” and overcome early hurdles, but Buchanan clearly was not placated by that statement.

Read his letter below:

August 4, 2016

The Honorable Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I urge you to immediately stop accepting Syrian refugees as a matter of national security. The chilling prediction by FBI Director James Comey of “a terrorist diaspora out of Syria like we’ve never seen before” warrants an immediate freeze on Syrian refugees.

Director Comey warned the nation last week that the defeat of ISIS soldiers in Syria and Iraq will likely result in their dispersal elsewhere, including America.

The FBI director’s warning that the collapse of the caliphate will mean increased attacks in Western Europe and the United States mirrors an alarming consensus among intelligence officials.

We are seeing a clear pattern in which a number of recent attacks have been carried out by ISIS terrorists with ties to Syria, including: the July 24 bombing of a music festival in Germany; the July 26 killing of a French priest; and the July 24 murder of a German woman with a machete. Syrian refugees played a part, either as attackers or accomplices, in all three attacks.

In the context of this clear threat, your goal of admitting 10,000 Syrians as a part of a so-called “surge operation” is extremely troubling, particularly given that White House press secretary Josh Earnest recently admitted that the screening process “typically takes 12 to 18 months … the reason for that process is that the safety and security of the U.S. homeland comes first.”

I urge you to work with world leaders to create a safe zone for refugees inside Syria or in a neighboring country. According to data from the Center for Immigration Studies, the U.S. could support the resettlement of 12 refugees in the Middle East for the cost of caring for one refugee in the U.S.

Terrorists are leaving Syria disguised as refugees and carrying out attacks in the West. The prudent course of action is to halt all admissions of Syrians into the U.S. until the safety of Americans can be guaranteed.


Vern Buchanan

Member of Congress


Kathy Castor says DNC message of optimism is in tune with where America is at

Nearly three-quarters of voters believe the nation has gone off on the wrong track, the highest mark of pessimism in three years. Some 73 percent say in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released two weeks ago that things gone off-course, with only 18 percent saying the country is headed in the right direction.

Yet at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last week, the message was that, in contrast to the dark vision expressed in Cleveland at the RNC a week earlier, things are pretty darn good in America.

“While this nation has been tested by war and recession and all manner of challenge,” President Barack Obama declared in his primetime speech last Wednesday night, “I stand before you again tonight, after almost two terms as your president, to tell you I am even more optimistic about the future of America. How could I not be, after all we’ve achieved together?”

Hillsborough County area Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor says her party’s message IS in synch with the mood of the country.

“We have a lot going for us,” Castor said after attending a press conference regarding the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons in Florida.”If you look at how far we’ve come since the Great Recession: unemployment is low, inflation is low, gas prices are low, the housing market has recovered. But that doesn’t mean that everything is going fabulously; yes, we have work to do,” she says.

The Tampa representative says the key is to focus on higher wages for workers in Florida. “The Democrats have a plan to do that, and (Donald) Trump has no plan at all. Everyone has the right to be optimistic in the United States of America. This is the greatest country on Earth. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have challenges that we’ve got to work on and right here in Florida, that means higher wages, support for public education and then fundamentally we’ve got to keep our neighbors safe here at home and abroad.”

Although the public is down on the immediate future, President Obama’s approval ratings are above 50 percent, a key figure to watch going into this fall’s general election.

Mitch Perry Report for 7.28.16 — Hillary’s turn

President Barack Obama certainly set the bar high for Hillary Clinton‘s acceptance speech tonight at the Democratic National Convention, but most fair-minded people will know that going in. Even his harshest critics acknowledge that Barack Obama is one of the finest orators our nation has ever had in the White House, and the grading curve should be different than everyone else.

But by this point, it should be obvious about what we’re going to hear tonight — a healthy dose of optimism about this country, and criticism of Donald Trump‘s much darker and, OK, dystopian vision.

I wrote about those themes emerging in Clinton’s speech in Tampa last Friday afternoon.

She also criticized his Cleveland RNC speech where he said that he alone could fix so many of the ills that the nation is undergoing.

“I never heard of an American leader, or at least someone who wants to be an American leader, claiming that’s all we need,” Clinton remarked. “That’s not a democracy my friends, as I call recall, we had a revolution to make sure we didn’t have someone who said I can fix it alone!”

I saw on Twitter last night how some conservatives and Republicans feel like their message is being hijacked by the Democrats. There’s a reason for that. Out of power, the opposition party has to point out that there are problems in this country, that only they could solve.

Bernie Sanders said the same thing in his own way.

Mrs. Clinton is the establishment, no doubt. By wanting to maintain another four years of Democratic rule after the past eight years, yes, she is portraying an America “that is already great,” another line we’ve repeatedly heard this week.

There were so many other interesting things that happened in the past 24 hours. The chants of “no more war!” being yelled at Leon Panetta was interesting.

Of all the speeches from last night, I thought Michael Bloomberg’s was the most interesting.

Robbie Mook wants a few good Floridians to house Hillary Clinton staffers for the campaign.

Although it was purely symbolic, a bid to offer an alternative to Tim Kaine in the vice-presidential roll call last night died by indifference of the Democratic National Committee.

This DNC has been all about humanizing Hillary Clinton. A former staffer of hers, USFSP political science professor Judithanne McLauchlan, says the image portrayed by conservative talk show hosts isn’t the woman she knows.

Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom, Martin O’Malley and Bill deBlasio all got their turns on the big stage at the DNC on Wednesday night.

Some of the state’s most prominent Democratic mayors took their turns before their fellow Democrats yesterday.

Bob Buckhorn fired up the crowd in Philadelphia.

Philip Levine touted the plan to bring a streetcar to Miami Beach in his speech in Philly.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum spoke before the entire DNC yesterday, but spent some time a the Marriott Hotel in the morning.

Senate Majority PAC airs ad highlighting President Obama’s endorsement of Patrick Murphy

After several weeks of GOP-flavored super PAC ads bashing Patrick Murphy dominating local cable stations in Florida, a super PAC that supports the Jupiter Democrat in his race for Senate has a new ad on the air.

The ad comes courtesy of the Senate Majority PAC, which Tuesday released a new ad that highlights President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s endorsement of Murphy, a two-term congressman from Florida’s Treasure Coast who is competing for the Senate nomination against Congressman Alan Grayson. The ad notes Murphy has fought to strengthen Social Security and Medicare, protect a woman’s right to choose, and against Tea Party obstructionism in Washington.

Critics note that, in fact, Murphy said on several occasions after being elected to Congress in 2012 that “we’re going to have to look at some structural changes to some programs like Social Security and Medicare.” He has refrained from such comments as a Democratic candidate for Senate.

Marco Rubio and his allies are not telling the truth about Patrick Murphy and we aren’t going to let their attacks go unanswered,” said Shripal Shah, spokesman for Senate Majority PAC.

Obama and Biden’s endorsement of Murphy earlier this year demonstrated how much the Democratic Party establishment backs Murphy, the 33-year-old representative who is centrist in his political leanings and more temperate in tone than the combative Grayson.

Nevertheless, though there hasn’t been any recent polling done, the two Democrats are considered to be evenly matched up some six weeks before state Democrats will choose their standard bearer for the November election.

Meanwhile, the Rubio campaign is weighing in. The GOP incumbent is the likely candidate who will face either Grayson or Murphy this November.

“It’s no surprise that Harry Reid’s Super PAC would ride to the rescue for their preferred candidate after he was caught lying about his resume and trying to delay needed aid to Floridians for his own publicity,” said Rubio campaign spokesman Michael Ahrens.

You can watch the ad here:


Eric Lynn goes up with first TV ad in HD 68 race in Pinellas County

Pinellas County House District 68 Democrat Eric Lynn will begin airing a local 30-second television ad that will run through the primary election on August 30.

The ad begins with Lynn taking a stroll with his wife, kids and dog, and then places him in front of the Vinoy Hotel. A photo with President Barack Obama also makes an appearance. Lynn began working for then Senator Obama in 2006, and then went to work in his Defense Dept. after Obama became president in January of 2009. Lynn stepped down from the DOD in 2015.

Lynn is in a fiercely contested primary contest vs. St. Petersburg attorney Ben Diamond. The winner will face Republican J.B. Bensmihen in November.

Lynn certainly has the funds to air an ad all the way through early voting and until Election Day. New fundraising totals show that he has raised over $75,000 in his campaign account, and maintains more than $300,000 in his political committee, the Pinellas County Voters Fund.

Diamond has raised more than $159,000.

Here’s the ad:

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