What your member of Congress says about immigrant family separations

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, at a news conference today denouncing the government’s separation of minors from adults accused of trying to enter the U.S. illegally. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

The decision by President Donald Trump‘s administration to separate minors from adults accused of trying to enter the U.S. illegally has generated controversy.

Here’s a look at what Florida’s two U.S. senators and the four members of Palm Beach County’s U.S. House delegation are saying about it — as well as a statement from Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who’s running for Senate this year.


Sen. Bill Nelson (D): (From a June 7 letter Nelson and 39 other Senate Democrats sent to Trump) “Your decision to separate children from their parents at the border is cruel, unnecessary, ineffective, and goes against our values as Americans. There is no legitimate reason why these children need to be separated from their parents. … We ask that your Administration rescind this unethical, ineffective, and inhumane policy and instead prioritize approaches that align with our humanitarian American values.”


Sen. Marco Rubio (R): “The current situation at the border is the result of a choice between the only two options current law and federal court mandates allow: The Obama administration approach of releasing adults who illegally entered with children, which turned our border into a magnet for illegal immigration and traffickers looking to exploit vulnerable migrants; and the current approach of detaining parents, which divides families – something everyone says they want to avoid. Neither is an acceptable approach. Therefore, Congress must act to legally allow families to be held together pending their hearing, and to provide funding for the creation of family facilities and for expediting the process of adjudicating illegal entry and asylum. While this third option is not perfect, it is far better than incentivizing future illegal immigration or separating children from their parents.”


Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City:  “It is our duty as an American government to deal compassionately with any child from any nation just as it is the responsibility of foreign families seeking asylum in the U.S. to choose only legal means to enter our nation so they can avoid family disruption. I am confident this process will be improved.”


Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach: “Let’s be clear: the child-separation policy comes directly from President Donald John Trump’s Administration. No matter how he tries to cast blame on others, he started this immoral policy, and he can end it himself. I’ll never understand why Donald Trump looks at a tired, hungry, and frightened child and sees an enemy of the state. But in doubling down on this indefensible policy, the President continues to inflict immeasurable trauma on thousands of children and families. He has really outdone himself this time and unfortunately our entire country will suffer the consequences of this shameful episode for years to come.”


Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach: (From a news conference this morning) “We are outraged…There is a horrific crisis on our border, thousands of migrants seeking asylum from violence, looking to save their children — looking to save their children — coming to America. We’ve seen a lot of ruthless, dangerous actions by the Trump Administration, but this is as bad as it gets. I call it government-inflicted child abuse. The government is cruelly ripping children from the arms of their mothers and fathers who are fleeing violence and horrible conditions.”

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, in 2016.

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton:  “Hundreds of people have called my office to demand that the inhumane policy of forced separation of parents and children at our border come to an end. I share that outrage, and I agree–this policy must end…And I won’t stop speaking out until this Administration stops ripping kids away from their parents…A nation that is committed to moral integrity doesn’t place children—alone—in detainment centers that are described as jails. A nation that is committed to family values doesn’t go out of its way to rip children from the arms of their parents.”


Gov. Rick Scott (R), candidate for U.S. Senate: “What the country is witnessing right now is the byproduct of the many years of bi-partisan inaction and failure from our federal government. They have failed to secure our borders, which has resulted in this chaos. Let me be clear – I do not favor separating families. Washington is to blame for this by being all talk and no action, and the solution is to secure the border. Anyone seeking to enter our country illegally needs to be sent back, with the exception of those who are truly seeking asylum from an oppressive regime.”


Texas school shooting: Alcee Hastings blasts Republicans, other pols weigh in

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach.

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, quickly pointed to Republican opposition to gun control after this morning’s shooting at a high school near Houston, Texas.

Preliminary reports say at least eight people were killed in the shooting.

“Watching yet another school shooting unfold, knowing that Republicans in Congress have blocked every single effort to reform gun control, is heartbreaking and infuriating. We are averaging 1 school shooting per week with casualties. @SpeakerRyan when will enough be enough?” Hastings tweeted at 11:31 a.m.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, in an afternoon news conference, said the guns used in the mass shooting — a shotgun and a .38-caliber revolver — were owned legally by the suspect’s father. Abbott said it wasn’t clear whether the father knew his son had the guns.

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, also a gun control advocate, is waiting to form judgments.

“Heartbreaking news. I’m monitoring the situation, and my thoughts are with the victims, their families, and the students of Santa Fe High School,” Frankel told her Twitter followers at 11:30 .am.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, whose district includes Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, tweeted: “It’s been three months since the shooting at Stoneman Douglas. If you are watching this, it should move you to tears. More important, if you’re an elected official, it should move you to action to keep kids safe. And if it doesn’t, then just get the hell out of our way.”

Later, Deutch added: “Another piece of our heart was torn out of us this morning. To the grieving families and survivors, please know that all of us South Florida are here for you. Just like the families and communities of Columbine and Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook and Dunblane have been with us.”

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said on Twitter that he is “Praying for all those in Texas today. At some point, we as a society have to say enough is enough. We have to come together and do more to protect our kids in school.”

Said Florida Gov. Rick Scott: “My wife, Ann, and I are devastated to learn of the tragic school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas today. I just spoke to Texas Governor Greg Abbott and offered any assistance or support they may need in response to this horrific act of violence against innocent students, teachers and law enforcement. As we continue to mourn the loss we experienced in Florida on February 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, we unfortunately know the enormity of the grief they are experiencing and our hearts are broken over this senseless tragedy.”



These Democrats opposed the Iran nuclear deal, but now they’re for it

Democratic U.S. Reps. (from left) Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach and Alcee Hastings of Delray Beach opposed the Iran nuclear deal in 2015 but criticized President Donald Trump for pulling out of it Tuesday.

Three Democrats in Palm Beach County’s U.S. House delegation broke with former President Barack Obama and their party leadership in 2015 to oppose the Iran nuclear deal.

So with President Donald Trump announcing Wednesday that the U.S. is pulling out of the agreement, were Reps. Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel and Alcee Hastings happy?

Not at all.

All three issued statements denouncing Trump’s decision.

Click here to read their explanations as well as reactions from Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott.


Trump Iran deal announcement looms; how Nelson, Rubio, Palm Beach County reps voted in 2015

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (left) and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson disagreed on the Iran nuclear deal in 2015. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

President Donald Trump announced Monday on Twitter that he’ll reveal his decision on whether the U.S. should remain in the Iran nuclear deal this afternoon at 2 p.m.

The Iran deal was a landmark of former President Barack Obama‘s administration, but three Democrats in Palm Beach County’s U.S. House delegation — Reps. Alcee Hastings of Delray Beach, Ted Deutch of Boca Raton and Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach —  opposed it in 2015. Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who crossed the aisle to vote with Republicans on several issues, supported the Iran deal.

The House voted against the deal by a 269-to-162 margin in September 2015. No Republicans supported the agreement and 25 Democrats joined them in opposing the president.

A majority of the U.S. Senate, including Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, opposed the deal as well. But under Senate procedural rules, Republicans needed 60 votes for a resolution opposing the deal to go forward. They fell short as Florida Democratic  Sen. Bill Nelson and 41 other Democrats voted to block consideration of the resolution.

In a Forum Club of the Palm Beaches appearance two weeks before the Senate vote, Nelson called the Iran deal flawed but better than the alternative.
“Right now, if we walk away from the agreement, Iran can develop a nuclear weapon in two to three months,” Nelson said. “If we agree to this agreement, which has its flaws, at the very least they will not produce a nuclear weapon until after 10 years and probably after 15 years.”
Nelson also said that he was satisfied that if Iran tried to secretly develop a nuclear weapon “we would find it.”


Who will get a free ride to re-election at noon today?

U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, and Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, (Bruce R. Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

As Florida’s candidate qualifying period for U.S. Senate, U.S. House and judicial offices nears today’s noon deadline, several sitting judges — and perhaps a member of Congress or two — are hoping to win re-election without opposition.

As of Thursday night, no candidate had submitted paperwork and paid the $10,440 filing fee to challenge U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach. Republican Derek Schwartz opened a campaign for Frankel’s District 21 seat in February, but hadn’t met the criteria to get on the ballot as of Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, has so far drawn only a write-in opponent.

In Tampa, two Democrats and a Republican opened campaigns for the seat of U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, but as of this morning she’s the only candidate to have  qualified for the ballot.

Incumbent judges rarely face challenges in Palm Beach County and, as of late Thursday, the six circuit judges up for re-election were unopposed.

At least two of Palm Beach County’s congressional districts will be busy.

Freshman U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, has drawn two Republican primary challengers, Mark Freeman and Dave Cummings. Two Democrats — Lauren Baer and Pam Keith — have also filed for Mast’s Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18 seat.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, drew a Democratic primary challenge Thursday when Jay Fandl qualified for the ballot in Palm Beach-Broward District 22. Hillary Clinton won District 22 by 16 points in 2016, but that hasn’t deterred four Republicans — Nicolas Kimaz, Javier Manjarres, Paul Spain and Eddison Walters — from qualifying to run there.

While Florida’s qualifying period for federal candidates ends at noon today, candidates for state and local offices have a June 18-22 qualifying period.


How your member of Congress voted on latest budget deal…

Palm Beach County’s U.S. House delegation for the 115th Congress, clockwise from top left: Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City; Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach; Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton; Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, broke with most House Democrats early this morning and voted for a spending bill that keeps the government open through March 23 but doesn’t address DACA — the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that shields from deportation young non-citizens who were brought to the U.S. by their parents.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (left) and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

The Senate passed its version of the bill at 1:31 a.m. on a 71-28 vote with both Florida’s senators — Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson — in support.

The House passed the spending bill at 5:32 a.m. on a 240-to-186 vote. There were 167 Republicans and 73 Democrats in favor, with 67 Republicans and 119 Democrats opposed.

In Palm Beach County’s House delegation, Deutch joined U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, in support. Reps. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, and Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, were opposed.

Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast, a candidate for governor, voted for the spending bill. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, a Palm Beach County native who now represents a Central Florida district, also voted in favor of the bill.

Nunes memo: Trump, Florida politicians weigh in

President Donald Trump greets supporters as first lady Melania Trump looks on at Palm Beach International Airport in November. (Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post)

Shocker: Florida Republicans and Democrats disagree on the release of a GOP memo criticizing the FBI’s application for a 2016 warrant to spy on an adviser to President Donald Trump‘s campaign.

Some reactions so far:

• U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, a member of the House Intelligence Committee: “As part of this Committee’s responsibility to conduct oversight over the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), we must ensure that individuals in the IC are not using political work product as a means to obtain warrants to conduct surveillance on American citizens. We feel that the so-called dossier was just that – a political document – and the American people need to know that. The intent of this memo is to shed light on past abuses in order to effectively prevent future abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and similar laws governing the activities of the IC. It is not, in any way, intended to influence or undermine FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.”

• President and part-time Palm Beach resident Donald Trump (from a White House pool report): “I think it’s a disgrace what’s happening in this country.. When you look at that and see that…A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves and much worse than that…So I sent it over to Congress, and they will do what they’re going to do, whatever they do is fine…It was de-classified and let’s see what happens. A lot of people should be ashamed. Thank you very much.”

• Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson: “By releasing this memo, the President of the United States is undermining the credibility of our intelligence community and serving a huge victory to Vladimir Putin, the Russian government, and many other intelligence services.”

• U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach: “This is a deliberate and desperate effort by Donald Trump and the Republicans to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s interference with our election and possible obstruction of justice by White House officials. Not only has the FBI expressed grave concerns about the memo’s accuracy, but Justice Department officials believe its release endangers our national security. Republican efforts hands yet another win to Vladimir Putin. The Democrat’s memo must be released so that the public can get to the truth.”

• U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach: “As the Former Vice Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I am outraged that Republicans wrote a classified memo and then voted to make it public in order to undermine the Mueller investigation. The partisan memo is rife with misrepresentations and inaccuracies, and it was released for purely political reasons against the advice of the FBI and the Justice Department.  Even more shocking is the fact that House Republicans on the Committee blocked a counter-memo on the same subject from being released, preventing any refutation of their partisan smear-campaign. Their decision to politicize the intelligence and selectively release information to drive a political narrative is extraordinarily reckless, and does a grave disservice to the brave men and women in our Intelligence Community. For weeks, social media accounts linked to Russian networks have saturated the airwaves calling for a release of the memo. I am stunned that Republicans actually fell for it.”

• U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, in a joint statement with other Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee: “President Trump’s decision to allow the release of Chairman Nunes’ Republican talking points is part of a coordinated propaganda effort to discredit, disable and defeat the Russia investigation. House Republicans are now accomplices to a shocking campaign to obstruct the work of the Special Counsel, to undermine the credibility and legitimacy of the Justice Department and the FBI, and to bury the fact that a foreign adversary interfered with our last election.

Tonight: Deutch, Frankel tap symbolic guests for Trump’s State of the Union

Democratic U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach and Ted Deutch of Boca Raton. (Photos by George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, hopes to draw attention to America’s longest-held hostage while Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, will highlight workplace sexual harassment when President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address tonight.

With each House member getting one guest ticket for the speech, Deutch invited Christine Levinson, the wife of Bob Levinson, a Deutch constituent from Coral Springs who has been missing in Iran for nearly 11 years.

Frankel’s guest is Laura Germino, co-founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, active in fighting sexual harassment and advocating for higher wages for farm workers.

“Laura’s tireless efforts to provide workers with a safe, dignified workplace is an example that all industries – from farms, to hotels, to Hollywood – can follow,” said Frankel. “Our nation is in the middle of a cultural revolution, where workers are demanding respectful workplaces that are free of sexual harassment. I’m bringing Laura and her success story to Washington to echo that call.”

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, in engaging in a different kind of State of the Union symbolism. Hastings, a frequent Trump critic who skipped last year’s inauguration, is not attending tonight’s speech. He gave his guest ticket to Florida House delegation co-chair Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key.

Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, planned to give his ticket to his wife. She was unable to attend, however, and Mast’s office did not know Monday how the guest pass would be used.

Rep. Brian Mast among top Republicans for co-sponsoring Democratic bills

Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City.. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Freshman U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, crosses the aisle to co-sponsor Democratic legislation at a higher rate than all but three of his Republican colleagues in the House, according to figures from Quorum Analytics, a Washington firm that tracks federal legislation for trade associations, lobbyists and others.

Mast has been a co-sponsor on 123 bills in the 115th Congress, including 37 — or 30 percent — that were sponsored by Democrats, according to Quorum’s research.

Among House Republicans, only Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami (38 percent), Walter Jones of North Carolina (35 percent) and Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania (31 percent) were co-sponsors on a higher percentage of Democratic bills.

Democrats are more likely than Republicans to sign on as co-sponsors of bills sponsored by the other party because of their status as the minority party. More than two-thirds of the bills that Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., has co-sponsored have Republicans as the lead sponsor, and five other House Democrats are above 50 percent.

Palm Beach County Democratic U.S. Reps. (from left) Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings and Lois Frankel.

Within Palm Beach County’s House delegation, according to Quorum, Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, is the 69th most bipartisan Democrat out of 193 House Democrats,  with 32 percent of the bills she has co-sponsored having a Republican as lead sponsor. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, ranks 102nd in the Democratic caucus at 27 percent and Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, ranks 111th at 26 percent.

The Democratic legislation Mast has co-sponsored includes a few ceremonial and post office-naming bills, but also a bill sponsored by Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., to limit President Donald Trump‘s ability to waive sanctions against Russia, a measure to establish a Climate Solutions Commission, the Marine Oil Spill Prevention Act, the U.S.-Israel Common Defense Authorization Act, the U.S.-Israel Joint Missile Defense Act, a Frankel bill to ease the sale of foreign-flagged yachts in the U.S. and several defense and veteran-related bills. Mast is a decorated Army veteran who lost both his legs after a bomb blast in Afghanistan.

In an October analysis, Quorum Analytics said Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio were among the most bipartisan members of their parties with regard to co-sponsoring bills. For Nelson, 52 percent of the bills he co-sponsored had Republicans as lead sponsor. For Rubio, 35 percent of co-sponsored bills had Democratic sponsors.

Today: Nancy Pelosi in Boca Raton to slam ‘disastrous’ Trump tax cuts

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi campaigning in Boca Raton for then-candidate Lois Frankel in 2012. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will be at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton this morning as part of a nationwide tour to slam the $1.5 trillion tax cut approved by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump last month.

U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, and Darren Soto, D-Orlando, are also expected at the 9:45 a.m. event at the FAU Student Union Building.

Congressional Democrats — including Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and Palm Beach County U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel — opposed the tax bill, saying it disproportionately benefits wealthy taxpayers.

The Tax Policy Center, a Washington-based research group affiliated with the liberal Brookings Institution, says about 80 percent of taxpayers across all income groups will get a tax cut and the average income tax filer will see a tax reduction of $1,610 in 2018.

Those making between $48,600 and $86,100 — the middle 20 percent of all taxpayers — will see an average tax reduction of $930, according to the Tax Policy Center analysis, while the top 1 percent of earners, with incomes above $732,800, will see an average tax cut of $51,140. The top 1 percent of all earners made about 21 percent of all U.S. income and paid about 39 percent of all income taxes in 2014, according to IRS data.