Posts Tagged ‘Congress’

Spotlight on Kalashnikov USA after spy arrest, reports Russia targeted NRA for U.S. influence

Friday, August 17th, 2018

By Dan Christensen
FloridaBulldog.org
A U.S. senator has asked the Treasury Department whether it has investigated the apparent relationships between U.S.-sanctioned Russian arms makers and Russian-linked U.S. arms manufacturers, including Pompano Beach’s Kalashnikov USA.
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Spotlight on Kalashnikov USA after spy arrest, reports Russia targeted NRA for U.S. influence

Friday, August 17th, 2018

By Dan Christensen
FloridaBulldog.org
A U.S. senator has asked the Treasury Department whether it has investigated the apparent relationships between U.S.-sanctioned Russian arms makers and Russian-linked U.S. arms manufacturers, including Pompano Beach’s Kalashnikov USA.
The post Spotlight on Kalashnikov USA after spy arrest, reports Russia targeted NRA for U.S. influence appeared first on Florida Bulldog.

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Amid dramatic growth of U.S. drone fleet, federal safety oversight lags

Friday, June 22nd, 2018

By Paul Feldman
FairWarning
As the nation’s fleet of small recreational and commercial drones keeps soaring — the government projects nearly 3 million will be in the skies by 2022 — safety concerns are rising even as federal enforcement stalls.
The post Amid dramatic growth of U.S. drone fleet, federal safety oversight lags appeared first on Florida Bulldog.

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Saudi Arabia cites FBI’s Meese Commission in asking judge to toss 9/11 victims’ lawsuit

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

By Dan Christensen
FloridaBulldog.org
Forced back into court by an act of Congress and faced with tens of billions of dollars in potential civil liability, oil-rich Saudi Arabia is asking a U.S. judge again to throw out a lawsuit brought against it by thousands of 9/11 victims.
The post Saudi Arabia cites FBI’s Meese Commission in asking judge to toss 9/11 victims’ lawsuit appeared first on Florida Bulldog.

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Fraud and billing mistakes cost Medicare – and taxpayers – tens of billions last year

Thursday, July 20th, 2017

By Fred Schulte /b>
Kaiser Health News
Federal health officials made more than $16 billion in improper payments to private Medicare Advantage health plans last year and need to crack down on billing errors by the insurers, a top congressional auditor testified Wednesday.
The post Fraud and billing mistakes cost Medicare – and taxpayers – tens of billions last year appeared first on Florida Bulldog.

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Val Demings, Darren Soto, Stephanie Murphy submit transportation list

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

Orlando’s three Democratic members of Congress, U.S. Reps. Val Demings, Darren Soto and Stephanie Murphy, have sent the White House a wish list of transportation projects that include I-4, Sunrail and the Orlando International Airport.
The trio sent the list Wednesday urging the administration of President Donald Trump to push the Central Florida package because of what they described as Orlando’s unique position.
“Central Florida – in particular the greater Orlando metropolitan area – is home to numerous high-profile destinations, venues and institutions, and therefore requires a world-class transportation infrastructure network to support the safe and efficient movement of residents and visitors,” the three lawmakers wrote.
The list they provided is essentially the consensus of local political, civic and transportation planning leaders in the Orlando area, though not all of the projects have universal backing. Among them:
– The Phase 2 expansion of the SunRail regional commuter train from DeBary to DeLand in Volusia County. This expansion is in the district of Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Port Orange, who is opposed to it.
– Phase 3 expansion of SunRail running east-and west between Meadow Woods and Orlando International Airport. This would connect the now entirely-north-south railroad to the airport’s Orlando Intermodal Transportation Facility, a multi-level train station now under construction.
– The I-4 “Ultimate Improvement Project,” now underway through most of Orlando and Seminole County, expanding that freeway out to its maximum capacity.
– Orlando Intermodal Transportation Facility at the airport.
– The planned second major terminal at Orlando International Airport, which would largely serve international flights. That facility is to be built next to the train station.
“The president has called on Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion infrastructure investment. We look forward working with the administration on this initiative, and we hope that these priority transportation infrastructure projects in our region will be

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Florida Dems in Congress blast GOP health care plan after budget report

Monday, March 13th, 2017

As expected, the scoring of the Republican health care plan in Congress affirmed many of Democrats’ biggest warnings, and, as expected, many of Florida’s delegation wasted no time Monday attacking the “American Health Care Act” as “wrong,” “inhumane,” “alarming,” and “ruthless and cruel.”
No word yet from any of Florida’s 17 Republican members of Congress on how they feel about the Congressional Budget Office legislative analysis of the bill Republicans introduced last week. Its aim is to replace “ObamaCare,” the Affordable Care Act President Barack Obama and Democrats pushed through in 2010.
Democrats loaded up Monday at several of the CBO findings of the bill being dubbed both “RyanCare” for House Speaker Paul Ryan and “TrumpCare,” for President Donald Trump. The CBO reported that 14 million people would drop from being insured in the first year, and that a total of 24 million now covered would be without health insurance in a decade. The CBO also projected rapidly increasing premiums for the first couple of years, that it would cut $880 million from Medicaid, and increase costs for seniors on Medicare. And it reported that cuts to Planned Parenthood would mainly affect low-income women.
Almost all 12 Florida Democrats decried all those findings, through press releases, social media posts and statements on their websites. Among the responses:
“It is wrong to take away health insurance for 24 million people, as well as increase the cost to seniors,” wrote U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
“This legislation is terrible for those in their golden years, our seniors. And most distressing is how this bill treats the poor and the disabled of our society,” wrote U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg, representing Florida’s 13th Congressional District. “The Gospel of Matthew teaches us that we will be judged by how we treat the ‘least of these.’ But this bill treats the least among

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NASA’s $19.5B plan headed for Donald Trump’s desk

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

President Donald Trump will get his first chance to signal his vision for space now that both houses of Congress have approved a $19.5 billion bill cosponsored by both Florida senators to continue NASA’s programs.
The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved the one-year spending plan late Tuesday, calling for continued support for commercial space companies launching from Kennedy Space Center, continued support for the International Space Station and the first steps in NASA’s planned Journey to Mars.
The U.S. Senate approved the Senate Bill 442 in February, creating the prospect that a NASA budget could be approved and signed for the first time since 2010. It would offer a slight increase over the $19 billion NASA operated under last year. The bill is largely lifted from the one the Senate passed late in the last session, too late to be considered by the House.
The bill is entitled “NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017” but it largely funds a continuation of NASA’s current policies and programs, with some new demands from Congress for clarifications of what NASA wants to do.
The spending plan is largely good news for Florida, authorizing and funding programs that are redefining Kennedy and adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as rocket-launching home to a growing private space industry. It also calls for reports from NASA to Congress on how the private sector is doing in taking over lower-Earth orbit space activity.
It recommits to NASA’s desire to build a Mars mission in coming decades and provides funding for development of the agency’s Space Launch System super rocket and Orion crew capsule, but also requires NASA to submit a detailed roadmap on exactly what it wants to do in deep space.
That report likely would clarify NASA’s next steps, whether it be the agency’s intended but sharply-criticized plan to visit and perhaps retrieve an

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Brian Mast calls for Donald Trump to create Everglades task force

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast wants President Donald Trump to add the Everglades to his infrastructure priority list.
Mast, a Republican from Palm City, took the floor of Congress Thursday to urge Trump to create an “Everglades Restoration Infrastructure Taskforce” and secure full funding to accelerate projects to completion.
“The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan is the most ambitious ecosystem restoration ever attempted, and represents the ultimate infrastructure package for Florida,” Mast said. “But many critical projects—designed to end harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges and algal blooms into my community—are far behind where they should be and becoming far more costly by the delay in full funding.
Mast pointed out that Trump “has touted his record of building world-class projects ahead of schedule and under budget,” and challenged him to do so with the Everglades restoration.
Mast’s Florida’s Congressional District 18 includes some of the hardest hit coastal areas by last summer’s Algae blooms.
“Mr. Speaker, my constituents have waited long enough to realize the massive benefits of Everglades restoration,” he concluded. “Now let’s seize this moment and put this president and this Congress to work to finish the job.”
The post Brian Mast calls for Donald Trump to create Everglades task force appeared first on Florida Politics.

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Stephanie Murphy declares support for Puerto Rico to become state

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy declared on the floor of Congress Thursday morning that she would like to see Puerto Rico become America’s 51st state.
The Democrat from Winter Park represents a district, Florida’s 7th Congressional District, with a large Puerto Rican population.
In her speech, the freshman congresswoman said the decision ultimately needs to be up to the resident of the island territory, but that she hopes they chose statehood. Residents there will get that chance in a referendum scheduled for this June.
Her remarks came on the 100th anniversary of when Puerto Rican residents were granted U.S. Citizenship. However, it is a limited citizenship.
Here is the text of Murphy’s remarks:
“A century ago today, a federal law granted U.S. citizenship to individuals born in Puerto Rico.
“Island residents have made countless contributions to this country in times of peace and war, serving with exceptional valor in our armed forces.
“The bonds between Puerto Rico and Florida are unbreakable. The state is home to over one million Puerto Ricans, with most living in central Florida.
“Puerto Rico is going through difficult times, and I am determined to help the island get back on its feet.
“The main reason Puerto Rico is struggling is because, as a territory, it is treated unequally under federal law.
“I support equal treatment for Puerto Rico because I oppose second-class citizenship.
“Ultimately, I believe Puerto Rico should discard its territory status and become a state or a sovereign nation.
“The choice lies with the people of Puerto Rico.
“My personal hope is that they will choose statehood, so they have full voting rights and full equality.
“Puerto Ricans have earned the right to become first-class citizens of the nation they have served with honor. “
The post Stephanie Murphy declares support for Puerto Rico to become state appeared first on Florida Politics.

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‘Penttbomb 2.0’ and the FBI’s brush-off of reports alleging 9/11 ties to Saudi Arabia

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

By Dan Christensen
FloridaBulldog.org
FBI officials who briefed the 9/11 Review Commission on the bureau’s sprawling 9/11 investigation code-named PENTTBOMB steered the discussion away from Saudi Arabia by repeatedly disavowing or downplaying reports by agents alleging terrorist ties to the kingdom.
The post ‘Penttbomb 2.0’ and the FBI’s brush-off of reports alleging 9/11 ties to Saudi Arabia appeared first on Florida Bulldog.

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Dr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer: Leading the way in civility – Florida’s new members of Congress

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

This past year has seen our country feeling more divided than ever before. The 2016 election took its toll, with candidates up and down the ballot partaking in name calling and disrespectful attacks. While political incivility is nothing new, this past year saw a new low for our nation’s discourse. With public trust in Congress at an all-time low (public opinion polls consistent show less than 10 percent of Americans having trust in the body), and the first six weeks of the Trump administration leaving many concerned, we must spend time considering what steps we can take to protect the core institutions of our democracy.
Florida’s newest members of Congress may have the answer. Last Tuesday night, 28 Republicans and 18 Democrats – the Freshman Class of the 115th Congress, signed a Commitment to Civility – both Republicans and Democrats – from red states and blue states, from the north and the south. Florida has much to be proud of, with 9 of their 11 Freshmen members (Representatives Crist [D-13], Dunn [R-2], Demings [D-10], Gaetz [R-1], Mast [R-18], Lawson [D-5], Rooney [R-16], Soto [D-9] and Rutherford [R-4]) signing the letter signaling their commitment to civility.
Standing on the floor of the House, Florida’s Freshmen demonstrated their intention to act on their pledge.  They spoke about what they learned from the people who elected them and why they know this commitment is a necessary step in order to work together to solve the major issues facing the country and to begin to build back trust in Congress.
Florida’s newest members of Congress are making a point to dedicate themselves to showing proper respect to one another and modeling civil behavior in all their actions. While disagreements over policy and legislation are to be expected, these congressmen commit to “…strive at all times to maintain

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Federal judges’ lifetime tenure for good reason; Tallahassee should take note

Saturday, February 11th, 2017

There is a profound reason why the Founders gave life tenure to federal judges, subject only to impeachment for bad behavior. As Alexander Hamilton explained it in The Federalist No. 78:
“In a monarchy, it is an excellent barrier to the despotism of the prince; in a Republic, it is a no less excellent barrier to the encroachments and oppressions of the representative body…”
Judges subject to the whims of a president or the Congress to keep their jobs would be worthless. So would the Constitution.
The founding wisdom has been confirmed time and again, most famously when the Supreme Court ruled that Richard Nixon was not above the law, and most recently Thursday, when the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that Donald Trump is not above it either.
Although the effect is only that Trump’s immigration decree remains on hold while the court fully considers his appeal of the District Judge’s order suspending it, the three-judge appellate panel made an enormously important point.
Trump’s lawyers had argued, as the court put it, that his “decisions about immigration policy, particularly when motivated by national security concerns, are unreviewable, even if those actions potentially contravene constitutional rights and protections.” The regime had also claimed, the court said, that “it violates separation of powers for the judiciary to entertain a constitutional challenge to executive actions such as this one.” (Emphasis supplied)
A president in office less than three weeks was asserting the powers of a dictator.
“There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy,” the court said.
I hope they’re paying attention in Tallahassee, where some legislators seem to think they too are above the constitution and are trying to take down the state courts that sometimes disagree.
The current attack is led by House Speaker Richard

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Charlie Crist, three others join Climate Solutions Caucus

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and three more members of Congress have joined the bipartisan, largely bi-coastal Climate Solutions Caucus, the group announced Thursday.
With the additions of Crist, a Florida Democrat; David Reichert, a Republican from Washington;  Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon; and Don Bacon, a Republican from Nebraska, the caucus formed and chaired by two other Florida congressmen now numbers 24 – 12 Democrats and 12 Republicans.
The caucus so far is largely drawn from East Coast and West Coast members of Congress, whose districts would be directly impacted by climate change. Bacon is just the fourth member not from a coastal state.
The caucus, formed last year, was established to “educate members  on economically-viable options to reduce climate risk and to explore bipartisan policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate,” according to a release issued Thursday by co-chairs Democrat Ted Deutch, and Carlos Curbelo, both of South Florida.
And that includes issues away from the coasts, according to Deutch.
“Across the country, Americans understand the urgency of climate change,” Deutch stated in the news release. “Whether they see rising tides in Fort Lauderdale, intensifying tornadoes along the Central Plains, or worsening droughts affecting farm production, Americans are starting to feel the impacts of climate change to their homes, their livelihoods, and their wallets. They want action from their elected officials, and I’m proud that this Caucus offers a space to develop bipartisan solutions.”
“We have a lot of work to do on this issue, and coastal communities like mine in South Florida are counting on us to come together and have productive discussions about what we can do to mitigate the effects of climate change and make our nation more resilient,” Curbelo stated. “The caucus has such a diverse group of members that each brings unique perspectives to the

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Val Demings wants her committee in Congress to oversee ‘The Wall’

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

As President Donald Trump moves forward on his plans to build a massive, potentially $25 billion wall along the Mexico border, U.S. Rep. Val Demings wants assurance that Congress will have some oversight of the project.
It’s possible that Trump could build the wall through executive order and by cobbling together funds in existing programs without ever going to Congress.
So on Wednesday Demings introduced an amendment to the oversight plan of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that could give that committee some control regardless of how the president wants to do the wall.
Demings, an Orlando Democrat, is a member of that committee. She is also a ranking member on that committee’s Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs.
Her amendment would give the committee control to examine costs associated with construction, maintenance, increased surveillance, environmental effects, and compensation for affected property owners as well as look at the effectiveness and source of funding for the wall.
The amendment would also have given the committee control to examine the contracting and subcontracting process, total cost estimates and expenditures for the project, and the sources of any funding used or reprogrammed for these purposes to ensure that they comply with all applicable laws and regulations.
“The truth of the matter is that no one can tell us exactly how much it will cost taxpayers because we haven’t seen reliable cost estimates, which is why it is imperative that it be included in our Oversight Plan,” Demings stated in a news release issued by her office.
Demings contended that both Republicans and Democrats in Congress are uncomfortable at least with the uncertainties. She’s not a fan of the wall or Trump’s early relationship with Mexico.
“The order and the president’s recent proclamations have sent our foreign relations with Mexico, one of our largest trading partners, into a tailspin,” she

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The room where it all happens is just a phone call away

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

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

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Jared Moskowitz files resolution condemning U.N. Security Council Israeli settlement vote

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

A South Florida Democrat has filed a resolution calling on the Florida House to stand with Congress in its condemnation of the United Nations.
Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat, filed a resolution (HR 281) last week objecting to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334.
“The passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 undermined the long-standing position of the United States to oppose and veto United Nation Security Council resolutions that seek to impose solutions to final-status issues or are one sided and anti Israel, reversing decades of bipartisan agreement,” reads the proposed House resolution. “The passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution undermines the prospect of Israelis and Palestinians resuming productive, direct, bilateral negotiations.”
In December, then-President Barack Obama’s administration abstained from a U.N. Security Council resolution that called Israeli settlements on land claimed by Palestinians a violation of international law. The U.S. had used its veto power to block similar measures in the past.
Days later, the GOP led U.S. House passed a resolution calling for the repeal of the resolution. The vote, according to the Washington Post, reflected the bipartisan nature of Congress’s support for Israel.
Moskowitz’s proposal will likely find bipartisan support in the Florida House as well. In 2016, a bill requiring the State Board of Administration to identify companies it does business with that are boycotting Israel overwhelmingly passed both the House (112-2) and the Senate (38-0). Moskowitz carried that bill in the Florida House.
“The United Nations has proven time and again that it lacks the ability to be an impartial mediator when it comes to issues of the state of Israel. The fact that one of the most holy sites of the Jewish people, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, is considered occupied territory under the terms of UNSCR 2334 is just the most egregious example of

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Dear Congress: On Jan. 21, the people roared – and they will vote

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

A letter to my Senators and Representative. Crib freely if you wish.
Dear Senator Burr:
It would seem that we are living in an alternative universe, one in which Nazis, Ku Kluxers and other traitors to our American way of life are euphemized as the “alternative right” and the propagandists for Donald Trump claim entitlement to “alternative facts.” Does that make him an “alternative president?” If only it were so.
But about this I am serious: There is no “alternative Congress.” We have only one, the one in which you serve. We are looking to that Congress, looking to you, for the mature, stable leadership that, sad to say, is plainly not forthcoming from the infantile and petulant personality in the White House.
My wife and I marched Saturday, along with as many as an estimated 5 million other people in the United States and abroad, to affirm the values that we fear are in great danger from that man and from those in the Congress — not including you, we hope — who would enable his alarming behavior.
It was unquestionably the largest single-day demonstration in our nation’s history. And it was unfailingly peaceful.
We do not delude ourselves that Mr. Trump was even slightly impressed. We did not expect him to be.
But we do expect you to take account of our great numbers and our great resolve. What you saw Saturday — unless, perhaps, you were watching Fox News — is only the beginning. We will not acquiesce tamely to the vindictive destruction of Planned Parenthood, thereby denying lifesaving medical care to multitudes of women. We will not abide the repeal of Roe v. Wade. We will not tolerate the repeal of the Affordable Care Act in the absence of new provisions that genuinely broaden its coverage and reduce its costs. We will no

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Daniel Webster: Congress will not pull rug out on health care coverage

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Whether or not congressional Republicans have a plan to replace Obamacare they are beginning to respond to voters concerns about lost coverage, and U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster has told his that “we do not intend to pull the rug out.”
In his newsletter to constituents of Florida’s 11th Congressional District, which includes much of Lake County and north Central Florida to the Gulf Coast, Webster pressed his assurances that the Affordable Care Act could be replaced.
He also made clear the laundry list of concerns that he and many other Republicans have been trying to raise for seven years, with a survey for his constituents, seeking responses.
“The House is working on a plan to provide Americans with the care they need, from the doctor they choose, at a price they can afford. We do not intend to pull the rug of coverage and care out from underneath anyone,” Webster insisted in a newsletter he sent out Tuesday night.
He asked voters to respond to him if they have experienced any of the following:
– An increase in premium costs.
– Lost health care coverage or reduction in plan benefits.
– Denied opportunity to get care from the doctor of choice.
– Increase in out of pocket expenses.
– Cut in work hours because an employer couldn’t afford to provide healthcare.
– The need to get a second or third job because work hours were cut.
– The need to adjust hiring practices because of the 30 hour “full time” standard.
He did not ask any constituents to respond about any potential positives in the ACA, such as if they were able to afford health care coverage for the first time, or if their Obamacare plan had provided them with valuable health care coverage they would not have had before the law was enacted.
The post Daniel Webster: Congress will not pull rug out on health

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Mike Pence looks like he will be Donald Trump’s inside man in Congress

Monday, January 16th, 2017

When Mike Pence landed in Congress after the 2000 election, he was a conservative agitator who often bucked President George W. Bush‘s agenda. Seventeen years later, he’s the vice president-elect and Donald Trump‘s inside man on Capitol Hill.
Pence, who spent a dozen years in Congress before becoming Indiana’s governor, is visiting frequently with lawmakers and promising close coordination after Trump’s inauguration Friday. In a sign of his attentiveness, Pence will have an office in the House as well as the traditional honorary office for the vice president in the Senate.
Pence’s role takes on greater importance, given Trump’s ascension to the White House without any experience in elective office.
Trump has few long-standing political alliances in Congress and a strained relationship with the Republican establishment, a hangover from the 2016 campaign. Trump’s agenda doesn’t always align with Republicans’ priorities, and his inflammatory remarks about immigrants, Muslims and women made many in the GOP cringe.
Pence has forged an enduring friendship with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., dating to their early years in Congress, along with other House Republicans crucial to advancing Trump’s agenda. In early meetings with lawmakers, Pence has passed out his personal cellphone number and promised an open line to the administration.
“He’s the trusted intermediary. He’s the person that people on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue know and trust,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.
If Trump is known for his brash form of disruptive politics, Pence represents the incoming administration in a more traditional manner, exemplified by his polite, Midwestern demeanor. He joined Trump in New York on Wednesday for the president-elect’s first news conference since the Nov. 8 election. Pence soon returned to Capitol Hill for meetings with several senators, including Democrats Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Tim Kaine of Virginia. The latter was Hillary Clinton‘s

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Darren Soto named Assistant Whip for Congressional Dems

Friday, January 13th, 2017

Darren Soto has been named Assistant Whip in the upcoming 115th Congressional session. He joins fellow Florida representative Val Demings in that role.
Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer said Soto was “already hard at work” representing his state in the legislature.
“He will bring an important perspective to the whip operation as a new Member,” he said. “He is a rising star in Florida, and I look forward to working with him to support job creation and ensure that the diverse voices and viewpoints of the people living in Central Florida get the full attention they deserve in the next Congress.”
Soto said he was up to the task.
“As Democratic Deputy Whip in the Florida State Senate, I learned firsthand how to work with my colleagues to get things done for the people of Florida and defend our Party’s values,” he said. “Now, I am honored by the opportunity to work with Whip Hoyer to use these skills in Washington for the greater good of our country.”
As Assistant Whip, Soto will assist Democratic leadership on the House floor and keep fellow Democrats informed about upcoming votes and legislation.
The post Darren Soto named Assistant Whip for Congressional Dems appeared first on Florida Politics.

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Daniel Webster gets seat on Science, Space Committee

Friday, January 13th, 2017

U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster of Clermont has been appointed to a seat on the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee, essentially replacing former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson as Central Florida’s second member of that committee.
Webster, whose Florida’s 11th Congressional District includes parts of Lake County plus most of west-central Florida, joins fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey of Brevard County on the committee that reviews the NASA budget and initiatives, including programs at Kennedy Space Center. Grayson, a Democrat from Windermere, often pushed minority positions on that committee, particularly pressing for NASA to be more involved in direct management of the human space programs.
“Congressman Webster is a great addition to the Science Committee. His degree in engineering and his many years of public service speak to his expertise that will be an asset to our team. I look forward to working with him, and I know he will make the 11th District of Florida proud,” committee Chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, stated in a news release issued by Webster’s office.
Webster also joins the Committee on Natural Resources Committee, and will continue to serve on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“Continuing to serve on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee provides me the opportunity to advance innovative solutions for increasing connectivity of our nation’s infrastructure and transportation systems, balance transportation budgets and eliminate government waste. I’m excited to join these additional committees and look forward to working with my colleagues on policies that will improve opportunities for Floridians, protect our vital natural resources and strengthen America’s position as a world leader in space, science and technology,” Webster stated in the news release.
The post Daniel Webster gets seat on Science, Space Committee appeared first on Florida Politics.

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More committee assignments for Val Demings, Darren Soto and Stephanie Murphy

Friday, January 13th, 2017

Additional congressional committee assignments are rolling out and Orlando’s new representatives are getting seats to oversee natural resources, small businesses and the oversight and government reform.
U.S. Rep. Val Demings, an Orlando Democrat, has been chosen to be on the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, a powerful panel that Congress has used to investigate and various federal agencies and officials, including last year’s email investigation of Hillary Clinton. It’s chaired by Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz.
Citing her own background in law enforcement, the retired Orlando police chief Demings declared in a press release, ““The integrity of our government is of the utmost importance. In a time when Oversight is needed more than ever in our federal government I promise to be a strong voice in the check and balance on our government, and a strong voice for the people of Central Florida.”
U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat representing Florida’s 9th Congressional District, has been selected as a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Utah Rob Bishop.
The committee represents one of Soto’s strongest interests while he served as a member of both the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate, where he was active in crafting and promoting legislation to protect the state’s water resources.
U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Winter Park Democrat, has been given a seat on the House Small Business Committee, chaired by Ohio Republican Steve Chabot.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy – employing more than 3.1 million people across our state. In fact, more than 40 percent of workers in Florida are employed by a small business,” said Murphy. “As someone who has worked in the private sector advising and counseling entrepreneurs and small businesses, I am eager to get to work on the Small Business Committee to reduce the regulatory burdens

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Darren Soto announces home-grown senior staff

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Freshman U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando announced his senior staff, heavy on local connections and including a key former staffer of his predecessor Alan Grayson.
Christine Biron, who was Soto’s campaign manager and before that his legislative assistant in both the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate, was announced Wednesday as his chief of staff in Washington. Biron and Soto have worked together since Soto’s first campaign.
Alex Barrio, who served as Florida’s house district secretary and as a legislative analyst for the Florida Senate Democratic Caucus before making an unsuccessful run for a house seat himself last summer, will serve as Soto’s district director.
Mike Nichola, who served as legislative director for former former U.S. Rep. Grayson, will be Soto’s legislative director.
Iza Montalvo, a former journalist who served as communications director for Soto’s congressional campaign and also served as Grayson’s press secretary, was announced as Soto’s press secretary.
All of them are longtime Floridians with deep ties to Central Florida.
Soto, a Democrat, represents Florida’s 9th Congressional District, which covers south Orange County, Osceola County and east Polk County.
The post Darren Soto announces home-grown senior staff appeared first on Florida Politics.

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Freshmen Congress members from Orlando get top choices for committee seats

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

Central Florida’s three freshmen in Congress all got top-choice A-list committee assignments Tuesday, with Val Demings of Orlando serving on the Homeland Security Committee, Darren Soto of Orlando on the Agriculture Committee, and Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park on the Armed Services Committee.
Congressional leaders announced their choices for freshmen and others to fill spots on the top committees Tuesday. More committee assignments are likely late this week and early next week. While “top choice” often is something like appropriations, which is rarely if ever available to freshmen, incoming members of Congress also have their top realistic choices.
For Demings, a former Orlando police chief who was part of much of the post 9-11 Homeland Security planning and implementation for Orlando, that was the Committee on Homeland Security, according to her office.
The same is true for Murphy, who spent several years as a strategy analyst in the U.S. Department of Defense.
And Soto’s top pick was agriculture according to his office, given that his district includes the huge cattle ranches of Osceola County and many of the huge citrus groves of Polk County.
Murphy’s appointment also gives her a close look at federal spending available for the military’s modeling and simulation centers in Orlando, as well as for the state’s large military presence.
“Florida is home to numerous military installations and hundreds of thousands of military personnel, veterans, and their families. I’ll use my previous experience at the Department of Defense and my position on the Armed Services Committee to support our men and women in uniform and strengthen our national security,” she stated in a news release. “From cybersecurity to terrorism, we must ensure our service members have the resources and training they need to adapt to rapidly-evolving threats, and I will work with both Democrats and Republicans to help keep our country safe.”
The

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Val Demings, Florida members, lead moment in Congress to remember Orlando’s fallen officers

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

With a bipartisan gathering of other Florida congressional members, Orlando’s former police chief Val Demings, now a congresswoman from Orlando, led the House of Representatives in a moment to remember and honor Orlando’s fallen officers Monday night.
“I rise today to honor the lives of Master Sgt. Debra Clayton of the Orlando Police Department and Deputy Norm Lewis of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office,” Demings declared in the house chamber. As the former Orlando police chief I had the honor of knowing both Sgt. Clayton and Deputy Lewis. Sgt. Clayton was violently murdered while responding to a call this morning. Deputy Lewis was killed responding to the scene during a search for the suspect.
“As we recognize law enforcement appreciation day, we mourn the deaths of these two public servants. Sgt. Clayton was a fine officer, wife, mother, 42 years young, and had just celebrated her first anniversary with her husband. Deputy Lewis was deeply admired by all of his colleagues. He loved helping people and it showed in his work. He was just 35,” Demings continued. “Mr. Speaker, I respectfully ask that all members join me in honoring and remembering these heroes during this difficult time.”
A moment of silence followed. In the well of the house, Demings was surrounded by her fellow Orlando Democratic U.S. Reps. Darren Soto and Stephanie Murphy; as well as U.S. Reps. John Rutherford, Ted Yoho, Matt Gaetz and Brian Mast, all Republicans; and U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Lois Frankel, Ted Deutch and Al Lawson, all Democrats.
 
The post Val Demings, Florida members, lead moment in Congress to remember Orlando’s fallen officers appeared first on Florida Politics.

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Stephanie Murphy joining Blue Dogs, New Democrats

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

U.S. Congresswoman-elect Stephanie Murphy announced Tuesday she intends to join the two moderate-Democrat organizations in Congress, the Blue Dog Coalition and the New Democrat Coalition.
Murphy said the coalitions – the New Democrats promote small business, the Blue Dogs, fiscal conservatism – “align with her goals of strengthening Central Florida’s growing entrepreneurial and small business sectors, keeping our nation secure, and ensuring fiscal discipline in Congress.”
Murphy, of Winter Park, was elected Nov. 8 in an upset victory over 12-term U.S. Rep. John Mica, also of Winter Park, in Florida’s 7th Congressional District. The district, which includes north-central and Orange County and all of the largely-suburban Seminole County, had been a Republican stronghold for decades until redistricting and an evolving electorate changed it to purple this year.
“When I take office on January 3, I want to hit the ground running to help strengthen our economy, keep our nation safe, and bring fiscal discipline back to Congress,” Murphy stated in a news release. “I campaigned on a new approach – on working with both Democrats and Republicans to get things done. Both the New Dems and the Blue Dogs have strong reputations for reaching across the aisle and putting good public policy over partisan politics. That’s exactly what I’ll do in Congress.”
The combined membership of the New Democrat Coalition and the Blue Dog Coalition represents more than one-third of the Democratic caucus.
Both coalitions have strong bipartisan reputations and a history of working with Republicans. Murphy said she will work with her New Dem colleagues to advocate legislation that strengthens our nation’s middle class and will work with her Blue Dog colleagues to help introduce No Budget, No Pay, which says Members of Congress must pass a budget and appropriations bills on time or they don’t get paid.
“There is a lot of uncertainty facing

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Congressional Puerto Rico task force releases final recommendations

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

A bipartisan Congressional task force heavily influenced by Florida’s U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio released its final report Tuesday on dealing with Puerto Rico’s economic collapse offering scores of recommendations for helping the U.S. territory, its economy and it’s people.
Authorized last summer by the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, or “PROMESA,” the task force has been working for six months to prepare a blueprint for the official federal agency created in that same law that will oversee the territory’s economic governance for the near future, the Puerto Rico Financial Oversight and Management Board.
Most of the recommendations could be passed by Congress and signed by the president, pushing reforms independent of the management board. Some are recommendations for the island’s commonwealth government to tackle. Others fall more in line with hopes for changes.
“The Task Force is of the view that Puerto Rico’s best days lie before it, not behind it.” the Congressional task force members including Nelson and Rubio wrote in a joint statement issued Tuesday. “The members of the Task Force have worked across party lines to identify steps that can be taken to help Puerto Rico’s economy stabilize and grow. The Task Force hopes that its work will serve as a platform for continued bipartisan efforts to support the American citizens in Puerto Rico.”
The island’s economy is spiraling downward, and the governor announced in June of 2015 that the Puerto Rico government could not pay its $70 billion in debts. Unemployment, poverty and crime rates are higher than any state’s. Puerto Ricans are fleeing by the ten thousand a month, mostly to Florida, and overwhelmingly to Central Florida. Island schools, first-responder agencies and other agencies have been cut to what many observers say are critically low levels. Health care reportedly has been particularly rocked

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Alan Grayson files to run again but says it’s just paperwork, for now

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

Democrat U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson is downplaying prospects that his filing to run again for Congress means he’s going to run again for Congress – but he’s not ruling it out.
The Democrat from Orlando – who leaves office Jan. 3 because he did not seek re-election in Florida’s 9th Congressional District – has filed paperwork to run in 2018. And this time he filed to run in Florida’s 11th Congressional District, centered in Lake County.
Yet Grayson insisted Tuesday that the paperwork is simply a legal requirement, because his campaign committee has continued to raise money since the Nov. 8 election. Federal law requires a candidate to actually be running for something if his campaign is raising money.
“The campaign raises money all the time. When the campaign raises a certain amount of money after an election, the campaign is legally required under the Federal Election Campaign Act to file a candidate’s statement of candidacy,” Grayson said in an interview with FloridaPolitics.com. “The statement of candidacy form requires some kind of designation of an actual district, and the reason for that is the FEC keeps its records in terms of congressional districts. Legally, I can run anywhere in Florida.”
Grayson said that is why he filed a statement of candidacy on Nov. 14.
Still, he said he’s leaving open the prospect of another congressional run, whether in CD 11, or elsewhere.
“That decision actually gets made not in November or December of 2016. That decision gets made in May of 2018,” Grayson said.
Rather than seek re-election this year, Grayson ran for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate. He lost in the August 30 primary to U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who then lost to Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in the general election.
His current Florida’s 9th Congressional District, soon will  be represented by another Democrat,

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Patrick Murphy’s farewell speech focuses on bipartisan unity

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy called on Congress to pursue bipartisan unity and eschew any “hateful and divisive” rhetoric as he gave a farewell speech to the House of Representatives Tuesday night.
Murphy, the Democrats’ failed candidate for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat in the Nov. 8 election, conceded “the outcome of this election was not what I hoped for for our state and our nation” but used most of his seven-minute address to suggest he’s always sought bipartisan cooperation and to urge for more.
The Palm Beach Gardens congressman whose four-year tenure ends Jan. 3 decried money in politics, corporate influences and gerrymandering and said “much of the system is broken.” But he also called for focus on a set of issues that included priorities for both the Democratic and Republican parties.
“The outcome of this election was not a mandate for many of the policies being discussed right now. Instead, we saw a still-divided nation making it more important than ever that we have solutions that work for all Americans, not just some Americans,” Murphy said in a speech Tuesday evening on the house floor.
“That is why I hope to see a new focus on tackling climate change, tax reform, investing in our infrastructure, rebuilding the middle class, improving educational opportunities, and protecting our country from the threats of cyber attacks and terrorism, all things I championed during my time in this chamber,” he continued. “Above all, I hope we do not move our country backwards. That requires leaders who do not use fear and lies to further divide this country.”
Murphy’s primary campaign against U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and general election campaign against Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who won, were sometimes heated and hostile, particularly when he sought to link Rubio through association with some of the more fiery and divisive rhetoric  of

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