Family separation policy roils Capitol Hill
Sometimes an issue can take hold and dominate to the point of blocking the sun on others. While the Department of Justice Inspector General’s report was still sinking in and FBI Director Christopher Wray, joined by Inspector General Michael Horowitz, testifying on Capitol Hill, separating children of illegal immigrants at the border grabbed the attention of the media, if not much of the nation.
The “zero tolerance” policy of President Donald Trump and his administration has the potential to become a powerful election-year issue if it continues on the current path. That helps explain the Democratic lawmakers heading for the border to denounce the policy and hold photo ops at the detention facilities, one is a former Walmart.
Among those heading south is Rep. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, who is traveling to Texas. She describes the policy as “racist.”
“It’s not just racist, it’s economically ridiculous because our country’s been built by immigrants and we need fresh immigrants coming in for our workforce,” she said. “We’re not going to be quiet about this until he changes policy.”
Not surprisingly, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is blasting Gov. Rick Scott for not condemning the practice.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen claimed they are doing their job enforcing the laws passed by Congress while other administrations looked the other way. In a series of tweets, Nielsen said those showing up on the border to claim asylum, merely need to request it upon arrival and not try to enter illegally.
“You are not breaking the law by seeking asylum at a port of entry,” she said. Nielsen added that families will not be separated if they ask for asylum.
A high-profile figure from one of those administrations criticized the current approach.
“I live in a border state,” former First Lady Laura Bush wrote in a Washington Post op-ed. “I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It’s immoral. And it breaks my heart.”
A Quinnipiac University poll found 55 percent of Republican voters support Trump’s policy, but overall 62 percent disapprove with 27 percent approving. Jeb Bush came out strongly against the policy.
Republicans have an opportunity to play a little politics with this as well. Reportedly, discussion on two House DACA bills will take place this week.
One, created just last week by House leadership, calls for legal status for 1.8 million “DREAMers,” an end to the “visa lottery,” full funding for the border wall, plus officially ending the family separation border policy. The other legislation, the so-called Goodlatte bill, is far more conservative and holds little chance of passing the House.
Republicans could force Democrats to vote “no” on a bill that would not only reunite the families but also solve the immediate problem of the DREAMers. Despite this, Trump stunned Capitol Hill late last week by initially saying he would veto the measure, but the White House later walked that back.
Leadership said they would not bring up the bill for a vote unless they had assurance Trump would sign it if passed. On Monday, they received that assurance.
Senate Democrats have a bill dealing solely with the issue, but no one expects Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring that to the floor until the House acts or does not act, if at all. One offered by Texas Republican Ted Cruz would have a better chance.
While the House leadership decides what to do, they wouldn’t bring this up while Democrats are at the border, would they?
Nelson backtracks on support for judicial nominee
Florida’s former Solicitor General is going through the confirmation process after his appointment as a judge for the Northern District of Florida by Trump. On Thursday, Allen Winsor had the support of the state’s two Senators.
By Friday, that support was cut in half, when Nelson said he would vote against Winsor when his nomination reached the Senate floor. The Senate Judiciary Committee forwarded the nomination to the full Senate by a narrow, partisan vote.
Winsor was under fire from liberal groups for his role in defending Florida’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage as Solicitor General in the office of Attorney General Pam Bondi. The law was eventually overturned.
Nelson issued a statement on Friday that said: “Because of the information brought up by the Senate Judiciary Committee, I will vote against the confirmation of Allen Winsor.”
It did not take long for the Scott campaign to respond.
“Despite claiming to be independent, Bill Nelson’s own actions show that when Democrats like party boss Chuck Schumer say ‘jump,’ Nelson’s only question is ‘how high?’”
Newest Scott ad bashes ‘negative’ Nelson
The beginning of a new week means another ad from Scott attacking Nelson. On this occasion, it not only accuses Nelson of being a politician who’s been around too long, but also for being negative.
The ad does not attack Nelson directly at first; instead, it points out how long he has held elective office. It then accuses Nelson of attacking Scott.
“When Bill Nelson was first elected, Richard Nixon was President,” the ad says. “Yep. Nixon. A professional politician for 46 years, Nelson has learned some tricks. “Cheap tricks, like attack your opponent regardless of the facts.”
Instead, this is the Scott campaign’s fourth consecutive attack ad criticizing Nelson. The two-term Florida governor has already spent $17 million on negative ads this cycle. The most recent polling shows Scott with a slight lead over the three-term incumbent.
To view the ad, click the image below:
Rubio welcomes new Navy ship to Mayport
A new ship is about to join the U.S. Navy’s Atlantic fleet and its first home port will be at Mayport Naval Station. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio welcomed the USS St. Louis, a littoral combat ship (LCS) to North Florida.
“A very special welcome to the USS St Louis (LCS 19) and her crew on being assigned to Mayport for the vessel’s initial home port,” Rubio said in a statement. “Florida has a very long and proud history of support for our Navy’s ships and sailors, and we look forward to continuing that relationship.”
Construction on the St. Louis, the seventh Navy ship to bear that name, began in 2015. The 388-foot long vessel is tasked with combating and dominating coastal threats.
The first St. Louis was launched in 1828. The latest version will call Mayport home beginning in Nov. 2018.
Gaetz, Schumer back Trump’s tariffs directed toward China
The trade war between China and the U.S. is escalating following Trump’s announcement that $50 billion in tariffs are about to be directed toward Chinese goods beginning in July. China has already indicated they will respond in kind.
Trump has the full support of Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach who backs the president’s approach. Gaetz describes China as a bad actor with a huge trade surplus over the U.S.
“I commend President Trump for taking action against China’s ruthless and unfair trade practices by enacting a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion of Chinese goods,” Gaetz said in a statement. “For too many years, China has pursued trade practices and business policies that make it impossible for foreign companies to compete on a level playing field with Chinese companies.”
Gaetz has been looking at this issue for months and has sought to bring China’s activities to the attention of his constituents. Last year, he joined with his GOP colleague, Rep. Neal Dunn of Panama City, to hold a field hearing titled “Wanton Loot — How China is Stealing Ideas from American Entrepreneurs,” which featured a panel of experts on Chinese trade and industrial policy.
“President Trump is leveling the playing field for the first time in well over a generation, and his actions will help American businesses thrive in today’s fast-paced global environment,” Gaetz said. “As a member of the Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, I applaud the bold steps President Trump is taking to address this troubling issue.
In addition to Gaetz and other Republicans, Trump has the backing of Senate Minority Leader Schumer of New York. Schumer said the tariffs directed toward China are “right on target.”
Following China’s reaction to the latest tariffs, Trump said in a statement that if China retaliates, more tariffs would be coming from the U.S. The Chinese enjoy a $375 billion trade surplus with the U.S.
AFL-CIO backs Brown over Lawson
In a rare move, the Florida AFL-CIO chose against an incumbent Democrat in a primary. In the Fifth Congressional District, big labor has chosen challenger Alvin Brown, the former Jacksonville Mayor, over incumbent Rep. Al Lawson.
Though Lawson’s team thought something else was at work, union leadership said it’s all about Brown’s record.
“Our members and their families in Jacksonville saw Mayor Brown’s commitment to the fundamental economic issues we care about,” said Mike Williams, President of the Florida AFL-CIO.
“Union members in Tallahassee have been inspired by his record in Jacksonville, and his dedication to working families is now well known across our movement in Florida. We are proud to give him our endorsement for Congress, and we look forward to working hard to send him to represent us in Washington,” Williams said.
Lawson’s campaign manager, Phillip Singleton, has different thoughts on the issues and logistics concerning this decision. He claims the union is “playing politics” with this endorsement.
“We find it very interesting that there has never been a situation where unions have endorsed a candidate over a sitting Democratic member of Congress,” Singleton said. “However, for over a month Congressman Lawson knew that the leadership in AFL-CIO was playing politics with this endorsement because of a vote in the Florida Legislature over a decade ago.”
“Now AFL-CIO has set a precedent where they endorsed a person with a track record of firing union workers, trying to balance budget deficits with union member pensions, and no true record of supporting union positions,” Singleton added.
Brown expressed his gratitude for the union backing.
“Working families are the backbone of our economy, and I am honored to have the support of the AFL-CIO in this race,” Brown said. In Congress, I will always put workers, students and families first, and promote policies that help us build a fair economy that works for all, not just those at the top,” Brown said.
This endorsement proves this primary is a different race. Recently, Jacksonville’s Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Lawson over the city’s former mayor.
Bondi chooses sides in Congressional primaries
Bondi is weighing in on two important Congressional races with endorsements in two GOP primaries. In Congressional District 6 she announced her support for former state Rep. Fred Costello, while in District 7, she is backing businessman Scott Sturgill.
“Fred is an outstanding example of a servant leader who answered the call to serve his community as a citizen legislator,” Bondi said in a release. “He lives what he believes and has earned the respect of all who know him.”
Costello is running against Michael Waltz and John Ward. District 6 is currently represented by Ron DeSantis, who is running for governor.
In the District 7 race, Bondi cited Miller’s prior service in the legislature.
“I am endorsing Mike Miller because I have served with him and know he will be an effective leader in Washington who will uphold the rule of law and keep fighting the battle against opioids,” Bondi stated in a news release issued by Miller’s campaign. “I am confident in Mike and know he will help President Trump strengthen our borders, protect the tax cuts and fully eliminate Obamacare.”
The winner of the Republican primary will face first-term Democrat Stephanie Murphy.
CD 7 candidate Sturgill proposes ‘amnesty’ plan for undocumented immigrants
In addition to recently receiving the backing from former Trump adviser Roger Stone, Sturgill is offering a policy proposal on the hot topic of immigration. It will likely play better in Florida’s 7th Congressional than within normal Republican circles.
Sturgill proposes giving undocumented immigrants three months to “get their ducks in a row” to become legal residents. In an interview with Central Florida’s Spectrum 13, Sturgill presented his view that most illegal immigrants are in the country not to cause trouble.
“I think 99 percent of the immigrants who are here are just trying to make things better for their family,” he said. “Did they come here illegally? Yes. But should we hold that against them? No, again, I think we need to look at the whole issue in broad,” he said.
That approach defines “amnesty” in the view of conservatives, many of whom oppose giving them legal status, let alone possible citizenship. Sturgill is in line with Democrats and those Republicans who call for paying a fine and going through “an 18 to 24-month process.”
He is agreeable to deporting undocumented immigrants who commit crimes.
In addition to Miller, Sturgill also faces Vennia Francois in the GOP primary on August 28.
Grayson suspected of dirty trick
Did former and hopeful Congressman Alan Grayson play a dirty trick? Two prominent Democrats think so.
In a letter to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), former Orange County Mayor Linda Chapin and former Colorado Democratic Rep. Pat Schroeder are asking the national party to investigate whether Grayson paid protesters to show up at a recent rally for Grayson’s primary opponent, Democratic Rep. Darren Soto.
Among the signs at the rally included one that called Soto an “NRA sellout” and “willing to cut Social Security.” To show they were willing to be equal opportunity offenders, another sign took a shot at Frankel, who was boosting Soto at the rally, calling her “senile.”
Chapin and Schroeder said they were “astonished and horrified” to see protesters with such offensive signs at the rally.
“The worst was directed at Rep. Frankel: ‘Lois Frankel, Still Senile’,” Chapin and Schroeder wrote. “When asked why they were there, one of the sign holders replied that they had been paid by Alan Grayson. We ask that you investigate this story … rebuke Mr. Grayson, and endorse Congressman Soto in the Democratic primary for Florida’s Ninth District.”
Frankel could not be reached for comment.
Grayson denied any involvement and called the allegations “irresponsible.”
Protesters wielding anti-Soto signs were also seen at Soto’s kickoff event in Kissimmee in early May. One person in a particular held a sign that said “NRA sellout” in what is assumed to be for his past gun stances as a state representative.
“If I were paying people like that, there would be campaign [filings],” he said, referring to federal documents filed by campaigns required to list any expenditures. “It’s irresponsible to make allegations like that without any evidence.”
Mast: Army Corps ‘leaving our community to die’
The polluted water is still coming out of Lake Okeechobee and Republican Rep. Brian Mast of Palm City is again blasting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Mast describes the discharges as helping to “destroy our community.”
In an op-ed published Sunday in the Palm Beach Post, Mast hearkened back to 2016, when widespread algal blooms led to the closing of some local businesses. He said the Corps is discharging nearly four billion gallons of tainted water per day into smaller rivers and streams.
“The bottom line is that we cannot afford to continue being used as the septic tank for Lake Okeechobee,” he wrote. “The Army Corps should immediately stop discharges until they can prove the water is safe.”
He used an eye-catching description of the current policy as “leaving our community to die.”
“If the Army Corps thinks this is hyperbole, then I’m extending an open invitation to their leadership to stand by their policy: come for a swim in our increasingly toxic water,” Mast said.
On this date in the headlines
June 19, 1983 — Sally Ride became the first woman in space as the Space Shuttle Columbia took her and four male crew members into space. During her first hour in space, Ride simply said: “it sure is fun.” She did not change her mind later in the day.
President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan joined those traveling to Cape Canaveral to witness the historic event. This historic words from mission control at launch time said “Liftoff, liftoff of STS-7 and America’s first woman astronaut!”
June 19, 2010 — In the latest aftershock from President Barack Obama’s move to bar the deportation of some young illegal immigrants, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio apparently has abandoned his plan to offer a conservative alternative to the DREAM Act. Rubio a Cuban-American who represents Florida, said Obama’s announcement Friday probably had killed his own legislative effort, at least until after the election.
In an effort to reach out to Latinos, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has sought cover from Rubio, a charismatic young conservative. Romney had hinted that he would back a Rubio proposal to help young, undocumented immigrants — assuming the Senator could come up with one that gained wide Republican support — while declining to discuss the issue in detail.
Congressional women seek to defeat media in charity softball game
Last week, the Republicans and Democrats squared off in the annual Congressional Baseball Game for charity. Things worked out poorly for the Republicans, who were blitzed 21-5.
On Wednesday, the women get their turn in the Congressional Women’s Softball Game. Unlike the men’s game, a bipartisan team of legislators take on the media.
The beneficiary of the game’s proceeds is the Young Survival Coalition, an organization dedicated to helping young women deal with breast cancer. The game has helped raise more than $900,000 since it began in 2009.
The delegation is well represented. Among the 5 co-captains are Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami and Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston. Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa is also on the squad.
The media team, known as the Bad News Babes, defeated the Congressional women, 2-1 in last year’s game. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Watkins Recreational Center at 420 Twelfth St., SE.