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In wake of preventable veteran deaths, Rubio touts legislation to hold top VA officials accountable

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 by George Bennett

Sen. Marco Rubio joined House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Veterans Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Pensacola, today to tout legislation that would allow the Veterans Affairs secretary more authority to fire or demote senior VA employees based on performance.

The bill was introduced in February in response to reports of a persistent disability benefits backlog and preventable veteran deaths at VA medical centers across the country due to delays in basic diagnostic testing.

The issue has received renewed attention over the last week after the Tampa Tribune reported that VA officials wouldn’t reveal details on five veteran deaths in the region that includes Florida. Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Bill Nelson have pressed VA officials to provide more information.

Obamacare’s 4th anniversary: Wasserman Schultz praises ‘historic milestone,’ Rubio calls it ‘disaster’

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014 by George Bennett

Today marks the fourth anniversary of President Barack Obama‘s signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the federal health care law that continues to spark fierce political debate.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, who’s also the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, marked the occasion with a statement praising the law as “a major, historic milestone on the journey to build a more perfect Union.”

Said Wasserman Schultz: “The law has already benefited millions of Americans, and will continue to do so as enrollment increases, full benefits are realized, and the cost curve bends even further. There is no getting around these facts for the detractors and naysayers who are incapable of accepting Obamacare as the law of the land and instead continue to put politics before people.

Those “detractors and naysayers” include Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who also issued a statement marking Obamacare’s fourth anniversary.

Rubio, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, called the law a “disaster” and pledged to continue fighting to get it overturned.

“We cannot give up on our efforts, not just to completely repeal Obamacare, but to replace it with real market-based solutions that allow every single American to have the ability to buy affordable health insurance that meets their needs, and to buy it from any company in America that will sell it to them. We’re going to have a chance to achieve that soon. We cannot give up. ObamaCare is not something that’s set in stone. It can be repealed —and Americans increasingly want it to be repealed — and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”

A average of polling data on the health care law shows 38.9 percent of Americans support it and 53.6 percent are opposed.

Candidate returns $1,000 contribution from board member who made sarcastic Hitler gesture

Monday, March 17th, 2014 by George Bennett

This gesture by Wellington planning board member Marcia Radosevich led to her resignation from the board and prompted Democratic county commission candidate Melissa McKinlay to refund a $1,000 contribution Radosevich gave in November.

Palm Beach County’s most famous municipal planning board member, Marcia Radosevich, gave $1,000 to Democratic county commission candidate Melissa McKinlay in November and hosted a fundraiser for McKinlay last month.


But after Radosevich sparked controversy by giving a sarcastic Hitler salute to a village staffer during a public meeting (click here for the video), McKinlay returned the $1,000 check and scrubbed a Facebook post that highlighted the fundraiser at Radosevich’s house.

Subscribers to can read more about it in this week’s Politics column.


Also in the Politics column: Round 3 of Kimberly Mitchell mayoral speculation in West Palm Beach, why Roberto Clemente was invoked at a recent county commission meeting and what Chelsea Clinton and Marco Rubio have in common this week.

2016 watch: Marco Rubio, Ben Carson speak in Palm Beach County next week

Friday, March 14th, 2014 by George Bennett

Sen. Marco Rubio in Miami last month.

Republican Sen. and 2016 White House speculation magnet Marco Rubio will speak at a Palm Beach Republican Club meeting on Wednesday.

Rubio isn’t the only subject of 2016 Republican presidential chatter who’ll be speaking in Palm Beach County next week. Dr. Ben Carson — the retired neurosurgeon who’s been a conservative favorite since delivering a 2013 National Prayer Breakfast speech with President Barack Obama on stage — will be the keynoter next Thursday at a fundraising lunch to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the nonprofit Area Agency on Aging.

The Rubio event at the Colony Hotel costs $50 for Palm Beach Republican Club members and $55 for others. More information is available here.

Tickets for the Area Agency on Aging luncheon at the Kravis Center start at $250 . More information is available here.

Rubio takes a tumble in CPAC straw poll

Sunday, March 9th, 2014 by George Bennett

Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio made a ringing argument for a Reaganite foreign policy during last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, a showcase for potential 2016 presidential candidates.

But with CPAC attendees growing increasingly libertarian and many conservatives deriding his support for immigration reform as “amnesty,” Rubio took a hit in this year’s CPAC presidential straw poll.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul won the straw poll for the second year in a row, garnering a 31 percent plurality this year. Rubio finished second in 2013 with 23 percent but dropped to seventh place this year with only 6 percent.

Crist tells Colbert race was a factor in Republican dislike of his Obama hug

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 by George Bennett

Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert with Charlie Crist's new book.

Charlie Crist says his hug of President Barack Obama in 2009 incensed Republicans in part because Obama is black.

The Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat made the claim while appearing Tuesday night on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report to promote his new book.

Crist was a popular Republican governor when he hugged the recently inaugurated Democratic president at a February 2009 rally in Fort Myers to promote the $787 billion Democratic stimulus bill. The hug helped crystallize GOP discontent with the moderate Crist, who fell behind Marco Rubio in the quest for a Republican Senate nomination and left the party in April 2010. Crist became a Democrat in late 2012 and is now the party’s 2014 frontrunner for governor against Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Host Stephen Colbert asked Crist why the Obama hug “ended it” with him and the GOP.

That led to this exchange:

Crist: “Several reasons, I think. Number 1, he was there to talk about the Recovery Act, the stimulus, as people call it. And a lot Republicans took issue with that. So I think that was part of it. Sadly, I think another part of it was that he was a Democrat, but not just a Democrat, an African-American, and…”

Colbert: “Oh, you’re not going to play the race card.”

Crist: “I’m not going to play it, no.”

Colbert: “You just did. You just did. Would you like to pick it up again and put it in your pocket? Because you just played the race card.”

Crist: “Yeah, well, I’m just trying to tell the truth. I’ve seen a level of vitriol directed at this president that I have never seen directed at President Kennedy or maybe President Johnson or even President Carter.”

Not that kind of higher ed forum: Rubio dodges question about marijuana use

Monday, February 10th, 2014 by George Bennett

Rubio talks to reporters at Miami-Dade College today

MIAMI — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio won’t say whether he ever smoked marijuana

The question was put to Florida’s Republican Senator and potential 2016 presidential candidate during a National Journal-sponsored event at Miami-Dade College in which Rubio laid out ideas for making college more accessible and affordable.

After his speech, Rubio answered questions from the National Journal’s Ron Brownstein and Fusion Network’s Mariana Atencio while the three sat in overstuffed chairs in front of the audience of about 200.

Atencio asked Rubio if he’s ever smoked pot.

“You know why I never answer that question?” Rubio said. “If I tell you that I haven’t, you won’t believe me. And if I tell you that I did, then kids will look up to me and say ‘Well I can smoke marijuana because look how he did. He did alright so I guess I can do it, too.’ And the bottom line is, it is a substance that alters your mind. Now when I was 17 and 18, 16, I made dumb decisions as is. I didn’t need the help of marijuana or alcohol to further that.”

“I know I’m sounding like a 42-year-old dad,” said the father of four. He went on to warn that mistakes made as a teenager can stick with a person for the rest of his or her life before concluding: “The answer to your question is, at this point it’s irrelevant.”

In Florida, Hillary Clinton tops Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in 2016 presidential poll

Friday, January 31st, 2014 by George Bennett

Florida voters prefer Democrat Hillary Clinton over any hypothetical Republican presidential candidate — even Floridians Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio — in the 2016 presidential race, a new Quinnipiac University poll says.

Clinton is the clear favorite to win a Democratic primary in the Sunshine State, getting 64 percent to 9 percent for Vice President Joe Biden.

Bush, who was Florida’s governor from 1999 to 2007, is the top pick among Floria Republican voters. Bush is favored by 25 percent of GOP voters, with 16 percent supporting Sen. Rubio, 11 percent backing Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz getting 9 percent apiece.

The controversy over closing lanes to the George Washington Bridge has taken a toll on Christie in Florida. In November, Florida voters said by a 45-to-35 percent margin that Christie would make a good president. Those numbers are flipped in the new poll, conducted Jan. 22-27, with only 35 percent saying Christie would make a good president and 45 percent saying he wouldn’t.

In hypothetical 2016 general election match-ups, Bush would be the strongest Republican challenger to Clinton in Florida, losing to her by a 49-to-43 percent margin. Clinton leads Rubio by 10 points, Paul by 13 points, Ryan by 13 points, Christie by 16 points and Cruz by 20.

President Barack Obama‘s approval rating remains under water with Florida voters in the new poll. Only 42 percent approve of the job he’s doing, with 53 percent disapproving. That’s an improvement from November, when 40 percent approved and 57 percent disapproved.

The poll of 1,565 registered voters has a 2.5 percent margin of error. The Republican sample has a 4.1 percent margin of error and the Democratic sample has a 4.3 percent margin of error.

After presidential shout-out, Rubio distances himself from Obama’s tax credit proposal

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 by George Bennett

One of President Barack Obama‘s most notable bipartisan gestures in Tuesday’s State of the Union address was crediting Republican Sen. Marco Rubio with trying to use the tax code to help low-income workers.

But Rubio’s office today sought to put some distance between Obama and Rubio on the issue, sending out a link to a Rubio radio interview with Michael Medved.

Speaking of the Earned Income Tax Credit during his speech, Obama said, “I agree with Republicans like Senator Rubio that it doesn’t do enough for single workers who don’t have kids. So let’s work together to strengthen the credit, reward work, and help more Americans get ahead.”

Rubio told Medved the EITC is flawed and he supports something called “Wage Enhancement” instead.

“I think it’s important the issue he’s identifying, we just have a different idea about how to do it…His idea is to expand the existing Earned Income Tax Credit to reach those folks,” Rubio told Medved.

“The problem I have with that is that the Earned Income Tax Credit, as it’s currently structured, one, is not the best way to deliver that assistance. And secondly, it’s filled with fraud. We’ve seen instances now of multiple cases of fraudulent behavior, people accessing that tax credit through fraud. So the proposal we have, that we’ve proposed, called the Wage Enhancement, is a better way to deliver the same benefit and we hope that we’ll move in that direction. So, I think we’ve identified the same issue, but his prescription for it seems to be more of the same. And that’s problematic.”

Crist’s lead over Scott shrinks to within margin of error in Democratic firm’s new poll

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 by George Bennett

Trailing Democrat Charlie Crist by double digits in polls last year, Gov. Rick Scott has pulled within the margin of error in a new Public Policy Polling survey.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is gaining ground on Democrat Charlie Crist and has moved into a virtual tie in the 2014 governor’s race, a new poll by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling says.

Crist gets 43 percent and Scott gets 41 percent in the poll of 591 Florida voters conducted Jan. 16-21. The poll’s margin of error wasn’t immediately available, but previous PPP polls with similar sample sizes have had a margin of error of about 4 percent, which would mean Scott and Crist are effectively even. PPP’s last gubernatorial poll in October showed Crist with a 50-to-38 percent lead. Crist held a 52-to-40 percent lead in a March 2013 PPP poll.

Voters have negative opinions of both Scott and Crist. Asked about Scott’s job performance, 34 percent approve and 51 percent disapprove. Asked a slightly different question about Crist, 36 percent said they have a favorable view and 46 percent unfavorable.

Scott defeats the other Democrat seeking the governorship, former state Sen. Nan Rich, by a 40-to-34 percent margin.

The PPP survey suggests Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi could face a tight re-election contest. She leads Democrat George Sheldon by a 37-to-34 percent margin and has a 37-to-35 percent edge over Democratic state Rep. Perry Thurston.

Some other highlights of the new poll are after the jump…


Scott wants face-to-face with Obama on flood insurance

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott weighed into the congressional fight over federal flood insurance Wednesday, urging President Obama to delay the rising rates facing thousands of Floridians.

In a letter to the White House, Scott said the Obama administration has enacted similar slowdowns with the Affordable Care Act.

“Why is keeping Floridians in their homes less important?” Scott said, in a generally snarky letter in which he requested a sit-down with the president.

“We need you to take immediate action to undo the harmful effects of this law before it cripples Florida’s real-estate market and threatens our state’s economic momentum,” Scott added.  “I am making myself available to meet with you on this critical issue at your earliest convenience. Our state cannot wait.”

After 10-month wait, Scott looks poised to name lieutenant governor

Monday, January 13th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott plans a ‘major announcement tomorrow’ with all signs pointing to his naming a new lieutenant governor.

Scott said he will unveil his choice via Facebook. But he also has scheduled a Department of Children & Families budget event in Miami — home to Miami-Dade Property Appraiser Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a former state House member seen as a likely choice.

Scott’s office posted the comment “Be the first to know who the lieutenant governor will be” on his official Facebook page Monday evening. The Florida Republican Party quickly tweeted a link to the page.

Lopez-Cantera, 40, became property appraiser last year after serving eight years in the state House, the last two years as majority leader. Born in Spain, Lopez-Cantera initially rose in influence in the House under former Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami,  now a U.S. senator.

While touted by Miami-Dade Republican activists as a Scott running mate, Lopez-Cantera remained for months out of favor with Scott’s chief-of-staff, Adam Hollingsworth, who also was angling for the lieutenant governor’s job.

But Hollingsworth’s star has dimmed since he acknowledged last month having falsely claimed a college degree while working for a former employer.

Besides, having an Hispanic as his running mate  could help Scott with a powerful voting bloc that so far seems cool to the Republican governor. A Quinnipiac University poll in November showed Scott trailing Democrat Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor, by 7 percentage points among all voters — but down 15 percentage points to Crist among Hispanic voters.

Scott’s first lieutenant governor, Jennifer Carroll, was the first black to serve in that role. But she was forced out of the administration last March for having earlier worked as a consultant to a charity operating internet cafes criminally accused of skimming cash. The Legislature soon after outlawed internet cafes and many of the leading figures in the investigation have been convicted or pleaded guilty to running a wide-ranging criminal enterprise.

Since then, a host of possible replacements have been mentioned — some by the governor’s office, which acknowledged having prepared a short-list. Still, many of those cited by the governor’s office quickly took themselves out of the running.

Among them were Orange County schools Superintendent Barbara Jenkins, St. Johns County schools Superintendent Joseph Joyner and Seminole County Sheriff Donald Eslinger. Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, and Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman have been interviewed by the governor’s representatives, and Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, also loomed last fall as a possible lieutenant governor choice.

Scott, though, showed few signs of being hurried with his choice. Last week, Tallahassee Democratic activist Barbara DeVane filed a lawsuit in the Florida Supreme Court maintaining that Scott is breaking state law by not having a lieutenant governor.

For his part, Lopez-Cantera has been a Scott loyalist, even in a Florida House that at times has tussled with the governor and his priorities. After a rough start with lawmakers, Scott by his second year in office won praised from Lopez-Cantera in 2012 for his tax-cut plans and his leadership.

“It’s not too much, not too little. I think it’s just right. Like The Three Bears,” Lopez-Cantera told the Palm Beach Post. “His influence and presence is just right.”


Video: Marco Rubio speaks in London on U.S.-U.K. alliance, predicts ‘freedom will triumph’

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 by George Bennett

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio spoke in London this morning about the U.S. and the U.K.

“In the end, freedom will triumph in this world. I am sure of that, just as I am sure that it will be the United States and the United Kingdom leading the way,” Rubio said.

Jeb tops Rubio, Hillary tops everyone in early 2016 Florida poll; Obama disapproval at 57%

Friday, November 22nd, 2013 by George Bennett

Florida Republican voters favor former Gov. Jeb Bush over Sen. Marco Rubio in an early poll of potential 2016 presidential candidates released today by Quinnipiac University.

Hillary Clinton is the overwhelming presidential favorite among Florida Democrats and has an advantage in the state over any potential GOP candidate, the new poll says.

The poll also finds that disapproval for President Barack Obama has hit 57 percent in the state, with 40 percent of Florida voters approving. The president’s signature health care law gets similarly dismal reviews, with only 39 percent supporting it and 54 percent opposed. By a 51-to-44 percent margin, Floridians say Obama is not “honest and trustworthy.”

When asked about 2016, Bush gets 22 percent support among Republicans, Rubio 18 percent, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie 14 percent and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz 12 percent.

Clinton tops Vice President Joe Biden by a 70-to-9 percent margin in a Democratic ballot test.

Clinton also tops any hypothetical Republican challenger, though her 47-to-45 percent edge over Bush falls within the poll’s 2.4 percent margin of error. Clinton holds a 50-43 edge over Rubio, a 45-41 edge over Christie, tops Cruz 52-36, Rand Paul 51-41 and Paul Ryan 50-42.

In Ken Burns project, Rubio delivers Gettysburg Address 44% faster than Nelson

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 by George Bennett

Filmmaker Ken Burns captured the stylistic differences between Florida’s Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio when he asked them, along with other political figures, to deliver President Abraham Lincoln‘s Gettysburg Address in honor of the speech’s 150th anniversary.

Rubio breezes through it in 1:41 (or five score and one second in Lincolnspeak). Nelson takes 2:25. Footage of Lincoln’s original reading is not available.

Florida Sens. Nelson and Rubio explain their opposing votes on deal to end shutdown

Thursday, October 17th, 2013 by George Bennett

Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio were on different sides in the Senate’s 81-18 vote Wednesday to end the stalemate that created a 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government.

Democrat Nelson supported the deal and lamented that “a couple of senators and a handful of House extremists have managed to embarrass America in front of the world.”

Republican Rubio opposed the agreement “because it postpones any significant action on pro-growth and spending reforms and does nothing to provide working class Americans even one shred of relief from Obamacare’s harmful effects.”

Rubio joined two other potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul — in opposing the agreement, which was later approved by the House.

Read statements from Nelson and Rubio after the jump…


Palm Beach County’s House members all back deal to end government shutdown, raise debt ceiling

Thursday, October 17th, 2013 by George Bennett

Democratic Reps. Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel with Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor earlier this month in Boynton Beach.

The four Democrats who represent Palm Beach County in the U.S. House of Representatives all voted for the deal to end the government shutdown and increase the federal debt ceiling on Wednesday night.

After the Senate approved the deal earlier in the day on an 81-18 vote — with Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in favor and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio opposed — the House gave its OK with a 285-144 vote.

Reactions from Palm Beach County’s congressional delegation after the jump…


Rubio to Obama: ‘You’re not the chairman of the Democratic Party…Act like the president of the United States’

Friday, October 4th, 2013 by George Bennett

Since providing some relief for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz‘s filibuster last week, Sen. Marco Rubio hasn’t played a prominent role in the debate over the federal government shutdown. He broke his silence today with a floor speech on what he called the government “slowdown,” voicing familiar concerns about the state of the American Dream and American exceptionalism.

Before getting to the big-picture stuff, Rubio took aim at Democratic shutdown rhetoric from U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Miami (who likened Republicans to the Taliban) and White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer (who decried “negotiating with people with a bomb strapped to their chest”) without naming them.

Then, Rubio added: “I think it’s wrong too, by the way, that the President has used the megaphone of the presidency, not to bring Americans together, but he’s used the megaphone to deepen these divisions. You know, Mr. President, you’re not the chairman of the Democratic Party. You are the President of the United States. Act like the President of the United States. Rise above that stuff. Your job is to bring this nation together. I know people are going to say things about you, you don’t like. It comes with the territory. You’ve got to rise above that and I hope that he will.”

Rubio contributes an hour to Cruz semi-buster; displays improved hydration skills

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 by George Bennett

Rubio smoothly sips water during his Senate remarks this morning.

While most of America slept, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and a few allies held the Senate floor through the night in a semi-filibuster against the federal health care law. Cruz began at 2:41 p.m. Tuesday.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio appeared on the Senate floor at about 6 a.m. and gave Cruz a respite by speaking for about an hour on American exceptionalism and the American dream.

“My first question is, what did you do last night?” Rubio jokingly said to Cruz when he began.

Unlike his awkward lunge for a water bottle when he gave the Republican response to the State of the Union speech in February, Rubio effortlessly sipped from a glass of water during his remarks this morning.

“If there’s anything worth fighting for, I would think the American Dream is worth fighting for,” Rubio said near the end of his remarks.

“I thank the Sen from Florida for his inspired comments and his excellent question,” Cruz said when Rubio finished.

Palm Beach County’s Limbaugh, Coulter, Ruddy on conservative clout list; Rubio not in top 25

Monday, September 16th, 2013 by George Bennett

Palm Beacher Rush Limbaugh tops conservative’s list of “The 25 Most Influential People On The Right For 2013.”

Four U.S. Senators make the list — but not Florida Sen. and onetime tea party fave Marco Rubio. Rubio is one of 30 people making Townhall’s honorable mention list. Also getting honorable mention are Palm Beacher Ann Coulter and Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy of West Palm Beach.

Senators deemed more influential on the right than Rubio include emerging conservative stars Ted Cruz (#9) and Rand Paul (#14). Sen. John McCain is no favorite of conservatives, but Townhall ranks him #11, explaining that “because of his stature and his shamelessness about betraying the people he represents, McCain is the biggest Republican power player in the Senate.” Sen. Mitch McConnell is called “timid” and a “terrible communicator” but ranks #18 by virtue of his position as Senate Minority Leader.

Other notable Floridians who didn’t make Townhall’s top 25 or one of the 30 honorable mention slots include former Gov. Jeb Bush and former U.S. Rep. Allen West.

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