Health care: Marco Rubio wants Florida input; Bill Nelson slams GOP bill

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, left, and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio will decide whether to support a Republican health care bill “on the basis of how it impacts Florida,” his office said this afternoon.

Rubio’s office characterized the just-unveiled legislation as a work in progress as four other Senate Republicans  — Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — issued a joint statement saying they are “not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor.”

Overturning former President Barack Obama‘s signature health care law was a top campaign pledge of President Donald Trump and much of the GOP. The House has passed a version that Trump initially celebrated but later reportedly called “mean.”

Republicans hold a 52-seat majority in the Senate, so more than two GOP defections will doom the bill if Democrats are united against it.

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who’s up for re-election next year, blasted the GOP legislation and the way it was drafted.

“Now we know why they tried to keep this secret,” Nelson said in a statement released by his office. “This bill is just as bad as the House bill, taking coverage away from millions of people and making huge cuts to Medicaid. If that weren’t enough, it also allows insurance companies to hike rates for older Americans. Fixing our nation’s health care system shouldn’t be a partisan issue. We should be working together, not plotting behind closed doors to make it worse.”

Rubio has already spoken with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, and invited their staffs to Washington “to help us formulate changes and amendments to this proposal,” said a statement released by Rubio’s office. Rubio also wants to hear from health care providers, insurers and patient advocates, his office said.

Here’s the full statement from Rubio’s office:

“Senator Rubio will decide how to vote on health care on the basis of how it impacts Florida. He has already spoken to Governor Scott, Senate President Negron and Speaker Corcoran about the first draft of this proposal. He has instructed his staff to share with state leaders the first draft and has asked them to run numbers and provide input on how this initial proposal would impact Florida’s Medicaid program and individual insurance marketplace. He has invited them to send staff to Washington next week to help us formulate changes and amendments to this proposal. He will continue to reach out for input and suggested changes from Florida providers, insurers and patient advocate groups.”

Alcee Hastings takes shots at Trump, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton’s campaign

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, holds the microphone for an audience member at a town hall meeting west of Boynton Beach.

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, told a town hall audience that President Donald Trump should pursue “hot diplomacy” and consult with Congress before taking any military action in North Korea.


Hastings also zinged Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and criticized the Hillary Clinton campaign while speaking to about 70 people at the Mandel Jewish Community Center west of Boynton Beach, which is in the district of Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach.


Attendees at Hastings’ town hall included 100-year-old Sylvia Rosenblatt, holding a picture of her late husband afterward.

Hastings urged Trump to consult the entire Congress — not just leaders — before taking any military action to counter North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons.


“I hope that we aren’t senseless enough to take on war. We fought on that peninsula before and lost people unnecessarily….I’m hopeful that if there is going to be any war that Congress will be consulted and that we will authorize,” Hastings said.


“I’ve had a great deal of experience internationally…I think I know more about the  world than Donald Trump does,” Hastings added.


He said Trump should spend more time in Washington and less time at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach and noted that he has joined Frankel and Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, in calling on the federal government to reimburse local taxpayers for the estimated $3.7 million in costs for helping the Secret Service with protecting the president.


Trump acknowledged “fissures” in the Democratic Party and noted that Sanders, a registered independent, and new Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez are coming to Miami tonight as part of a “Come Together and Fight Back” tour.


“I still feel that if Bernie wants to do something about the Democratic Party then he ought to join the damn Democratic Party and stop fiddling around in my organization if you can’t make that necessary step,” Hastings said.


Hastings, an early Hillary Clinton supporter for her 2008 and 2016 presidential bids, said the Clinton campaign spent too much on TV ads and not enough on turning out voters last year. He said he brought up his concerns with the Clinton campaign but not the candidate herself.


“I regret…not having spoken with Hillary Clinton myself. But I felt that at her level she didn’t need to hear my complaints. So I dealt with (campaign chairman) John Podesta and (campaign manager) Robby Mook and some other kid – I can’t even remember his name, he was that insignificant, but he was their so-called black outreach person. So I dealt with them and tried to get them to understand that they were not spending the necessary resources on turnout,” Hastings said.


Hastings, 80, was far from being the oldest person in the senior-dominated crowd.


Sylvia Rosenblatt, 100, of Lake Worth attended the meeting.


“You gotta keep your brain going,” she said afterward. She called Hastings “fabulous.”







Rick Scott, Newt Gingrich weigh in on Ted Cruz’s non-endorsement of Donald Trump

Florida Gov. Rick Scott talks to reporters after a Florida delegation breakfast near Cleveland.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott talks to reporters after a Florida delegation breakfast.


INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Florida Gov. Rick Scott called for Republican unity and Newt Gingrich said Ted Cruz was “silly” after Cruz declined to endorse GOP nominee Donald Trump in a prime time speech at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night.



Scott, asked about Cruz at a breakfast for Florida delegates near Cleveland, refrained from directly criticizing the Texas senator.


“This is a time to be unified,” Scott told reporters. “There’s only two people on the ballot: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and there’s a clear choice. Donald Trump is a businessperson, he’s going to focus on building jobs. Hillary Clinton is a career politician, never created a job. We need somebody who’s going to destroy ISIS. She had her chance and she didn’t. So the party needs to unify everybody needs to support Donald Trumpne. We need to have a big win in November.”


The infamous 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago was more tumultuous than this week's GOP gathering, Newt Gingrich says.
The infamous 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago was more tumultuous than this week’s GOP gathering, Newt Gingrich says.

Gingrich accused the media of overblowing Cruz’s snub and GOP divisions.


“The 1964 Goldwater convention was dramatically more divisive. The 1968 Democratic Party convention in Chicago was a disaster. The 1972 Democratic convention in Miami beach was an absurdity. These things happen. This is a very mild convention,” Gingrich told reporters.


Gingrich was asked if he would be happy with Cruz’s remarks if Gingrich were the nominee.


“Of course not,” Gingrich replied. “It was silly for him to do it. He got the result that he earned. Whether or not he’ll learn anything from it, I don’t know. But it also proved – would have proved, if you guys were willing to listen —  that this is the party that has now decided that Donald Trump is its leader and this is a party that wants to win the presidency. There was no massive division last night. It was overwhelmingly pro-Trump.”


Gingrich was asked if he thought Cruz was paving the way for a 2020 run for president.


“If it was, it was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen,” Gingrich said. “You don’t go into team sport and decide you’re going to break up your own team to prove you ought to be the head coach.”

Ted Cruz snub of Donald Trump ripped as ‘shameful,’ ‘disgraceful’ by Florida delegates

Mike Pence takes the stage in Cleveland. His coming-out speech as Donald Trump's running mate was overshadowed by Ted Cruz's non-endorsement of Trump.
Mike Pence takes the stage in Cleveland. His coming-out speech as Donald Trump’s running mate was overshadowed by Ted Cruz’s non-endorsement of Trump.

CLEVELAND — Florida Republican National Convention delegates blasted Ted Cruz after Cruz didn’t endorse Donald Trump in a prime time speech tonight.

The crowd at Quicken Loans Arena began shouting at Cruz and booing as he neared the end of his remarks and it became clear he wasn’t going to endorse Trump. The Cruz snub overshadowed a coming-out speech by Trump running mate Mike Pence and highlighted ongoing GOP divisions at a time when political parties traditionally unify behind their nominee.

“I was amazed that he came to speak here and didn’t endorse the candidate who invited him. I thought it was very bad form, and you saw the reaction from the delegates. He didn’t do himself any favors,” said former U.S. Sen. George Lemieux.

“Shameful. He should have come out and endorsed Donald Trump tonight,” said Palm Beach County Republican Chairman Michael Barnett. “Ted Cruz squandered a great opportunity. I’m feeling kind of disgusted right now. It ruined a really good moment — an opportunity for the Ted Cruz people and the Donald Trump people to come together. I was hoping for unity. Ted Cruz made another self-serving move. He’s focused on 2020. he doesn’t care about 2016 or winning this election.”

Trump’s Florida campaign co-chairman, Joe Gruters, said Cruz damaged himself and helped Hillary Clinton.

“Everybody that’s watching out there is probably greatly disappointed…It’s going to cost him later on. Anybody who decides to not join the team and support Donald Trump 100 percent is helping Hillary Clinton and that goes for all the other past candidates as well,” Gruters said.

“I think Cruz has killed his political career,” said St. Lucie County GOP Chairman Bill Paterson. “I don’t believe he’ll ever be able to run for the White House and he’s disgraced himself and he is no longer welcome in St. Lucie County as long as I’m the chairman of the party.”

“Disappointed. Disappointed,” said Palm Beach County Republican Vice Chairwoman Tami Donnally.

St. Lucie County Republican State Committeewoman Mary Ann Russell said she thought right up until the end  of Cruz’s remarks that he would endorse Trump.

“I was furious. Furious,” said Russell. “I know he’s upset, I  know he lost, I know his feelings were hurt but it’s time to put your big-boy panties on and he should have endorsed Trump. He knows he’s got a bunch of people here who are still fighting this ‘Never Trump’ movement and all he’s doing is giving Hillary ammunition and I thought it was disgraceful.”

Medical marijuana fan, Clinton fundraiser Morgan ‘would love to physically hit Ted Cruz in the face’

John Morgan at a 2014 event supporting medical marijuana. (Gainesville Sun photo)
John Morgan at a 2014 event supporting medical marijuana. (Gainesville Sun photo)

Deep-pocketed and salty-tongued Orlando attorney John Morgan, the main force behind the effort to legalize medical marijuana in Florida, predicts a pro-pot constitutional amendment will succeed this year after falling short in 2014.

Click here to read reporter Jeff Ostrowski’s coverage of Morgan’s F-bomb-laced remarks to Tuesday’s Marijuana Business Conference in Kissimmee.

Morgan, who hosted a 2015 fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, also weighed in on a variety of political figures, including GOP moneyman Mel Sembler, Attorney General Pam Bondi and former presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

“I would love to physically hit Ted Cruz in the face,” Morgan said. “I look at that guy, and I go, ‘That’s the guy in high school that we used to just beat the p— out of.’ Nasty, nasty snitch. You know he was the guy telling on us.”

Click here for an Ostrowski blog post that details Morgan’s remarks on Cruz and his other musings.





Donald Trump becomes presumptive GOP nominee as Ted Cruz drops his presidential bid

Ted Cruz concedes in Indiana.
Ted Cruz concedes in Indiana.

Part-time Palm Beach resident Donald Trump virtually clinched the Republican presidential nomination tonight with a big primary victory in Indiana that led his principal rival, Ted Cruz, to drop out of the race.

Trump — whose three decades of battles with the old-money establishment in Palm Beach offered a rough preview of his clashes with the GOP establishment — praised Cruz tonight a few hours after linking Cruz’s father to Lee Harvey Oswald and being called a “pathological liar” by the Texas senator.

“Ted Cruz, I don’t know if he likes me or if he doesn’t like me, but he is one hell of a competitor…He has got an amazing future,” Trump said in his victory speech.

“We’re going after Hillary Clinton,” Trump said of the Democratic front runner, who lost Indiana’s Democratic primary to Bernie Sanders.

Trump boasted that he weathered millions of dollars’ worth of negative ads from rivals.

“The people are so smart. They don’t buy it. They get it,” Trump said.

Cruz — who declared a “turning point” four weeks ago when he won Wisconsin’s primary — needed a victory in Indiana today to have any hope of preventing Trump from clinching the nomination before the GOP convention in July. But with Trump’s big victory in the Hoosier State, Cruz conceded he does not see a viable path to the nomination.

“I’m sorry to say it appears that path has been foreclosed,” Cruz told supporters tonight. “Together we left it all on the field in Indiana. We gave it everything we’ve got. But the voters chose another path. And so with a heavy heart, but with boundless optimism for the long-term future of our nation, we are suspending out campaign.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, winner of only his home state, remains in the GOP race. But Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus signaled that he’d like the nomination fight to end and the party to rally around Trump.

Although Trump does not yet have the 1,237 delegates needed for the nomination, Priebus told Twitter followers that Trump “will be presumptive @GOP nominee, we all need to unite and focus on defeating @HillaryClinton #NeverClinton.”

Cruz — who earlier today called Trump a “pathological liar” — did not congratulate Trump or pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee.


Kasich’s chief strategist, John Weaver, said the Ohioan will continue to fight Trump.


“Our party is facing a clear choice between positive solutions that can win in November and a darker path that will solve nothing and lead to Hillary Clinton in the White House, a Democrat Senate and a liberal Supreme Court,” Weaver said in a statement released by the Kasich campaign. “As long as it remains possible, Governor Kasich will fight for the higher path. Ted Cruz ran a strong campaign, stood for conservative principles and exposed a lot about Donald Trump. Governor Kasich will continue to campaign and offer the voters a clear choice for our country.”

Stung by Donald Trump criticism, Republican National Committee meets in Hollywood

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia (left) and Florida RNC Committeeman Peter Feaman at the Republican National Committee's quarterly meeting in Hollywood.
Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia (left) and Florida RNC Committeeman Peter Feaman at the Republican National Committee’s quarterly meeting in Hollywood.

HOLLYWOOD — Against the backdrop of continuing accusations by Donald Trump that the Republican National Committee runs a “rigged” system for awarding the GOP presidential nomination, RNC members here will discuss a rule change that could benefit Trump.


Solomon Yue, an RNC committeeman from Oregon, wants Republican convention rules changed to make it harder for a "fresh face" to be nominated.
Solomon Yue, an RNC committeeman from Oregon, wants Republican convention rules changed to make it harder for a “fresh face” to be nominated.

Solomon Yue, an RNC committeeman from Oregon, wants the RNC’s Rules Committee to endorse a change in convention rules that he says would make it more difficult for party elites to bring in a “fresh face” at the convention in Cleveland this summer.


Yue would have the convention governed by Roberts Rules of Order rather than by the rules of the U.S. House of Representatives. The House of Representatives rules, which have been used at past conventions, give more latitude to the convention’s presiding officer — expected to be House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. — to open nominations to consider other candidates if Trump fails to secure the necessary 1,237 delegates on the first ballot. Under Roberts Rules, a majority of convention delegates would have to agree to open the process to consider other candidates.


Yue said his proposal would make it more difficult for anyone other than Trump or Ted Cruz to be considered for the nomination. But Yue said he’s neutral in the race and is only trying to bring transparency to the process, not help a particular candidate.


“We need to go extra miles to show transparency and to show we did not put a finger on the scale,” Yue said


RNC Chairman Reince Priebus wants the Rules Committee, which meets Thursday, to leave the matter alone and let a separate convention rules committee decide on it in July. The convention rules committee will recommend changes for approval by convention delegates.


Florida RNC Committeeman and Rules Committee member Peter Feaman said he hasn’t studied Yue’s proposal to take a position on it, but agrees with Priebus that the RNC should not weigh in on it this week.


“There’s been a false narrative that the RNC has been trying to manipulate this whole process,” Feaman said today. “And so I don’t think we at this meeting should do anything to feed that false narrative. And by having a discussion of the rules it can feed the false narrative that we’re somehow trying to change the rules at the last minute or manipulate the rules at the last minute. And we’re not. It’s all going to be done by the convention rules committee, made up 100 percent of delegates…At this point the RNC should just back away.”

Sounding out Palm Beach County’s Republican delegates on a contested convention

Donald Trump, shown here at a March 13 Boca Raton rally. (Daniel Owen / The Palm Beach Post)
Donald Trump, shown here at a March 13 Boca Raton rally. (Daniel Owen / The Palm Beach Post)

Four Palm Beach County residents will be among the 99 delegates Florida sends to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer.

If nobody has the nomination sewn up before the convention and delegates settle it on the convention floor, the Floridians are bound by state party rules to vote on the first three ballots for Donald Trump, who won the state’s March 15 primary in convincing fashion.

But what if the nomination isn’t settled after three ballots? Here’s what Palm Beach County’s GOP delegates are saying:


Peter Feaman — Palm Beach County’s Republican state committeeman, Republican Party of Florida’s Republican national committeeman:

“Personally, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. At that point everybody should be allowed to vote their conscience,” Feaman said last week. “If the rule wanted you to be bound for more than that, the rule would have said that.”


Gay Gaines  — longtime GOP activist and fundraiser; elected Saturday to represent congressional District 22:

“I will wait until I see – I don’t want to speculate on anything like that,” Gaines said in an interview. She said she voted for Ohio Gov. John Kasich in Florida’s primary and “I think he’s one of the most qualified people possible to be president.” But, Gaines also noted, “Our state elected Trump in the primary.”


Tami Donnally — member of the Palm Beach County Republican Party board of directors and former state House candidate; elected Saturday to represent congressional District 21:

“If it goes to four ballots, you know what, it presents a dilemma. As a person who always wants to do what the right thing is, there’s no right or wrong in this situation…I do think the way that I’ll lean is I have an obligation to the people that voted in the state and I have an obligation to stay all the way with Trump…I am representing a constituency of people and  it’s my responsibility to carry forward what they voted for.”


Cindy Tindell — Palm Beach County’s Republican state committeewoman; elected Saturday to represent congressional District 22

“I don’t think it’s going to come to that,” Tindell said last week of the possibility of a fourth ballot. “If I am selected as a delegate I’ll follow the rules and support the wishes of the Republicans of the state of Florida, absolutely.”



Wisconsin emerging as YUGE test for Donald Trump’s opponents

Ted Cruz speaking to the Milwaukee County GOP dinner on Friday night.
Ted Cruz speaking to the Milwaukee County GOP dinner on Friday night.

MILWAUKEE — Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary is emerging as a critical test for Republicans who hope to block Donald Trump‘s march to the GOP presidential nomination.


“The entire country, its eyes are on the great state of Wisconsin,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told a Milwaukee County GOP dinner on Friday night. “This state, the men and women here, you have a platform, you have a megaphone where you are speaking not just for this state but for the entire country.”


Sarah Palin in Milwaukee, where a GOP crowd gave her a tepid response when she spoke on behalf of Donald Trump.
Sarah Palin in Milwaukee, where a GOP crowd gave her a tepid response when she spoke on behalf of Donald Trump.

The Friday night crowd gave Cruz a rousing reception — and only a tepid response to Sarah Palin, who spoke on behalf of Trump.


Cruz leads Trump in some recent Wisconsin polling and is hoping a victory here will be a momentum-shifter in the GOP race. Part-time Palm Beach resident Trump is meeting the challenge head-on. Beginning today, Trump has scheduled at least six rallies in Wisconsin before Tuesday’s voting. Trump has events today in Racine, Wausau and Eau Claire.


Check, and @gbennettpost on Twitter today through Tuesday for coverage from Wisconsin.


Even by Trumpian standards, the past week has been a controversial one. He has defended his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, after Jupiter Police charged Lewandowski on Tuesday with misdemeanor battery for grabbing a female reporter after a March 8 event. Trump has also drawn fire — from pro-choicers and pro-lifers alike — for suggesting that women who get abortions face “some form of punishment.” He walked back those comments, but created new controversy and another walk-back Friday when he told CBS that abortion laws should be left in place. And Trump has created international controversy by suggesting that Japan and South Korea arm themselves with nuclear weapons  rather than rely on U.S. protection against North Korea.


Patrick Murphy says Cruz proposal to patrol Muslim communities is ‘asinine’

Patrick Murphy shared his thoughts Thursday on Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s plan to patrol Muslim communities, calling it “asinine” and saying the American people are “above that.”

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)

Cruz made the proposal in a statement released in the wake of the terror attacks enacted by ISIS in Brussels, Belgium, on Tuesday. Cruz said the United States must “empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”

Murphy, who is running as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Republican Marco Rubio, was asked at a news conference Thursday what he thought of Donald Trump’s support for Cruz’s remarks.

“What Mr. Trump said is appalling and disgraceful for any American to say, because we’re above that,” Murphy said. “I would raise the question to Mr. Trump, ‘What are you going to do to the Muslim police officer? To the Muslim FBI agent?’ It’s an asinine proposal, playing and pandering to the lowest common denominator, that should be unacceptable by anybody, any American, especially any of the Republicans voting in this primary process.”


Read more coverage from Murphy’s news conference.

Palm Beach Post staff writer Eliot Kleinberg contributed to this report.