Sunshine State News Blogs
Gov. Rick Scott called for $7.4 million for three new state homes for veterans. One of the homes will be in St. Lucie County while the Cabinet needs to decides on the location for the other two.
“Florida is the most military friendly state in the nation and as a Navy veteran, it is incredibly important that we do all we can to help our veterans and their families,” Scott said. “My father was a member of the 82nd Airborne and we will never forget the selfless sacrifice all of our veterans have made to ensure we have the opportunity to live the American Dream. I am proud that we are going to continue to support our heroes by adding new nursing homes and we will keep working each day to ensure all of our veterans have a great quality of life in Florida.”
Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, the first Democrat to win a mayoral race in that city since Ed Austin in 1991, is in serious trouble according to a poll of likely voters released on Monday.
The poll finds, for the first round in March, Brown ahead with 38 percent followed by Curry with 31 percent. City Councilman Bill Bishop stands in distant third with 9 percent.
But--with the runoff of the top two candidates in May if nobody gathers 50 percent--Curry takes the lead in a head-to-head matchup. In that scenario, Curry takes 45 percent and Brown 42 percent.
The poll of 1,247 likely Jacksonville voters was taken between Jan. 23 through Jan.25 and had a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percent.
Longtime Alachua County educator Hershel Lyons was named as K-12 public schools chancellor by Education Commissioner Pam Stewart on Monday.
“Hershel has dedicated his life to educating our students and I am confident he will do an outstanding job as chancellor,” Gov. Rick Scott said on Monday. “Providing Florida students with a world-class education is vital to our goal of making Florida the No. 1 state for job creation, and I’m certain that Hershel will help us on that mission. I look forward to continuing to work with Commissioner Stewart and Hershel as we work to provide historic investments in our K-12 education system and make Florida the best state in the nation to raise a family and get a great education.”
“Florida’s K-12 students and teachers rank among the best in the nation for achievement,” Stewart said before turning to Scott’s record. “Under Gov. Scott's leadership, we have implemented student-centered policies and made significant investments in education, which has enabled Florida students to thrive. We must build on this success, and the K-12 public schools chancellor is integral to continued student achievement. With nearly three decades of in-school experience and a track record of applying innovative approaches to improve outcomes, Hershel is ideal to lead Florida’s public schools.”
"I have been honored to work with Florida students throughout my career because I believe that, with the right guidance, every child has boundless potential,” Lyons said. “I am humbled by Commissioner Stewart's appointment, and I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Florida in this new role."
School Choice Week starts in Monday with more than 1,400 events across Florida, part of almost 11,100 events across the nation.
Jacksonville leads the Sunshine State with 227 events followed by Miami with 174 and Orlando with 90.
“When it comes to providing parents with a diverse array of K-12 education options for their children, Florida is a national leader,” said Andrew Campanella, president of National School Choice Week. “Parents in Florida have more educational choices for their children than in many other states.”
The Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists (FAPL) announced in a press statement Sunday the results of its election of officers for 2015-2016.
Officers elected are as follows:
- Chairman, David R. Mica, CAE, DPL, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Institute;
- Vice chairman, Mike Hightower, senior policy adviser with the Holland & Knight law firm;
- Secretary-treasurer, Lori Killinger, Esq., DPL, shareholder with Lewis, Longman & Walker, one of Florida’s pre-eminent law firms where she chairs the Legislative, Lobbying and Governmental Affairs Practice Group.
Appointed to the executive committee by Chairman Mica, with the board's concurrence, were Jose Gonzalez, DPL, state affairs director with Anheuser-Busch; and Michael Carlson, Esq., DPL, executive director of the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida.
Continuing their service as directors are Mike Brawer, M.S.Ed, DPL, executive director, Association of Florida Colleges; Eric Eikenberg, DPL, executive director, Everglades Foundation; Candice Ericks, DPL, partner, Adams Street Advocates; former state Rep. Susan Goldstein, DPL, founder, Susan Goldstein Consulting; Jennifer Green, CAE, DPL, president and founder, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee; Fred Leonhardt, Esq., DPL, shareholder, Gray Robinson, PA; Andrea B. Reilly, Esq., DPL, Smith, Bryan & Myers; John Wayne Smith, DPL, partner, Peebles-Smith Consulting; and Doug Wheeler, DPL, president, Florida Ports Council.
FAPL represents government affairs professionals regulated and registered with the state of Florida.
According to the association, its mission focuses on education and ethical conduct. Each member must complete an initial course in lobbying regulation and ethics and then participate in periodic continuing education.
The association's code of ethics sets out explicit standards of conduct in dealing with public officials, clients, and with one another that are based on "principles of honesty, candor, integrity, and respect for the process."
Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., announced that the state unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent in December as the state added 11,500 jobs. When Scott took office at the start of 2011, the state unemployment rate stood at 11.1 percent.
“Today we are excited to announce that Florida businesses added 11,500 private-sector jobs in December, for a total of 728,500 private-sector jobs created in only four years, and we look forward to seeing even more businesses grow and create jobs for families across the state,” Scott said on Friday. “As we prepare to release our 2015-2016 'Keep Florida Working’ budget recommendations, we will stay laser-focused on our goal of making Florida the global destination for business and job creation.”
This marks the lowest state unemployment rate since April 2008.
From his perch as chairman of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., is calling to give the secretary of Veterans Affairs more power to discipline incompetent senior executive service (SES) employees. Miller introduced a bill giving the VA secretary more flexibility in disciplining underperfoming SES employees, including reducing pensions, reducing time on forced paid administrative leave, reforming appraisals for bonus and adding more transparency.
Miller left no room for doubt that his bill was the result of reports of last year on how the VA dealt with altered waiting lists at medical facilities across the country.
“More than nine months after the VA scandal, Americans are asking ‘where is the accountability?’ Unfortunately, VA doesn’t have a good answer to this question,” Miller said. "That’s why our focus remains on giving the VA secretary more tools to ensure corrupt and incompetent executives face serious consequences for mismanagement and malfeasance that harms veterans. Right now, the task at hand for VA leaders is replacing the department’s culture of complacency with a climate of accountability, and we are going to give them everything they need to do get the job done.”
U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., the chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, doubled down on his support of the FairTax proposal on Thursday.
“Across Northeast Florida and the nation, citizens are spending billions of dollars and hours navigating a complex tax code – time and money that could be better spent growing our economy and creating jobs,” Crenhaw said on Thursday. “Putting a FairTax in place solves that issue and deserves immediate consideration by Congress.
“The easy-to-understand FairTax would wipe out thousands of pages of regulations and loopholes and leave in place a transparent national sales tax on goods and services administered primarily by the state,” Crenshaw added. “Federal income taxes and the FICA payroll tax would be eliminated, and the IRS would no longer be needed. The poor are protected and everyone is treated equally: no exemptions, no exclusions, no advantages. Americans would be allowed to keep their entire paycheck and spend hard-earned dollars on ways that best suit them. On the business side, labor costs are lowered by eliminating payroll taxes, allowing companies to hire more workers.
“Americans know best how to spend their money and deserve to keep more of their paycheck in their wallets and bank accounts,” Crenshaw concluded. “They don’t need to be finding more dollars to send to Washington to fund big and costly government programs.”
Crenshaw is one of more than 60 co-sponsors to the FairTax proposal authored by U.S. Rob Woodall, R-Ga.
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., one of the senior members sitting on the U.S. House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, wrote President Barack Obama on Thursday, vowing to work with the White House on free trade agreements. Buchanan supports the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership
"In your State of the Union address you expressed a willingness to work with Congress on expanding international trade opportunities that will help grow the U.S. economy and create American jobs. Offer accepted,” Buchanan wrote.
“As a senior member of the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, I understand that increasing access to foreign markets is critical to restoring America’s rightful standing as the world’s global leader,” Buchanan continued. “In your words ‘China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region.' We cannot allow this to happen.
“A pending free-trade deal between the U.S. and 11 other countries, including Japan, offers us a prime opportunity to turbo-charge our economy by eliminating tariffs and expanding American exports. The countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) account for 40 percent of global economic output and nearly a third of all world trade,” Buchanan added. “However, the best way to ensure an open and transparent process where American jobs and companies are protected is by passing Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation. Also known as ‘fast-track’ authority, TPA allows expedited consideration of trade agreements – provided that certain congressionally-dictated safeguards are met. TPA offers the ability to obtain an up-or-down vote on a trade agreement, which is critical to ensure that the U.S. maintains leverage in complex multination negotiations.”
But Buchanan pointed out to Obama that most of the opposition to TPA is coming from the left.
“Special interests and members of your own party have expressed opposition to TPA,” Buchanan wrote. “I would encourage you to personally reach out to these factions so we can build support for this critical legislation. A recent poll by the Business Round-table revealed the vast majority – more than 80 percent of Americans – support the U.S. negotiating trade agreements to expand market access for goods and services around the globe. I believe that increasing global demand for American products will lead to greater growth here at home.
“Bipartisan trade agreements could serve as an excellent example of what Washington can accomplish when both parties come together to help create jobs and increase America’s competitiveness in the global marketplace,” Buchanan concluded. “Let’s get to work.”
No, sorry ... cool your jets, Charlie isn't standing trial.
But the former Republican governor-turned-independent-turned-Democratic governor-candidate showed up at the Pinellas County Justice Center this morning for jury duty.
According to a brief item in the Tampa Bay Times today, Charlie Crist, resident of St. Petersburg, was hanging out in a jury assembly room with dozens of other prospective jurors, waiting to see if he would be selected for a case.
No major cases were on the docket Wednesday, the Times story said.
Court documents filed this week said Lolita Grayson had been complaining of chest pain and went to the emergency room where they broke the news she'd have to go through emergency surgery to remove her leaking breast implants.
The court date was originally scheduled for Thursday but has now been moved to March. Grayson's surgery was scheduled for Monday.
Rep. Grayson claims their marriage was never valid because Lolita Grayson was married to another man at the time, but she says she was divorced.
Government watchdog group Integrity Florida today called on federal authorities to investigate potential violations of the civil rights conspiracy statute by state government officials in Florida.
In a prepared statement, the organization pointed to a recent Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald report that former Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Commissioner Gerald Bailey alleged Gov. Rick Scott and his top advisers conspired to falsely name Colleen Reilly, then acting clerk of court in Orange County, as the target of a criminal inquiry.
Integrity Florida requested a federal investigation in a letter sent Wednesday to Michelle Klimt, special agent in charge for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Jacksonville and Pamela March, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida.
"The allegations made by former Commissioner Bailey are troubling," said Dan Krassner, executive director of Integrity Florida in the statement. "While the public should not rush to judgment, this is a serious matter that merits a federal investigation."
"A political agenda should never interfere with the authority and responsibility of FDLE to protect and serve the public trust," said Krassner. "Floridians deserve answers about whether Gov. Scott and his top aides attempted to abuse the authority of FDLE. Integrity Florida is encouraged by the bipartisan concerns raised by top state officials about the questionable removal of Commissioner Bailey. In addition to the need for a federal investigation, alleged violations of state laws should also be reviewed by the appropriate oversight agencies and legislative committees."
But Tim Cerio, Scott's general counsel, responded categorically, “These allegations are false.”
Communications director for the Republican Party of Florida, Susan Hepworth, and Andrew Abdel-Malik, RPOF digital director, both resigned from their respective posts effective immediately, according to Matt Dixon of the Naples Daily News.
The two resignations follow another high-profile party staffer leaving his post: RPOF Executive Director Justin Johnson resigned a few hours after Ingoglia was elected.
The American Federation for Children, which calls itself the nation’s voice for educational choice, released the following statement from executive counsel Kevin P. Chavous in response to President Obama's State of the Union address:
"President Obama’s remarks on education were a great disappointment to those of us working to help kids struggling in failing schools across America. The president has long expressed interest in helping children attend Pre-K and today he wants to help more kids go to college -- all of which is laudable. But the obvious question is: What about the millions of kids in between?
“There is only one immediate answer to helping parents with children in failing schools -- an issue supported by increasing numbers of Democrats and Republicans alike -- and that is educational choice.
“As a former elected official who saw the benefits of school choice in D.C., I find it heartbreaking that the president remains stubbornly in-line with those who oppose any meaningful reforms to an antiquated education system. By ignoring the needs of children between K-12 who are stuck in schools that do not meet their needs, the president runs the risk of being on the wrong side of the most important civil rights issue of this generation.”
The problem is, however, that the $500 tax credit won't go very far.
White House administration officials have said the tax credit will benefit families earning up to $210,000, a number four times as much as the typical middle class income of $52,000.
The tax credit wouldn't amount to much -- as reported by the Washington Examiner, child care can cost up to $279 per week, meaning Obama's tax-credit wouldn't even cover two weeks' worth of day care.
The credit wouldn't amount to much for an Obama dining experience, either -- the $500 tax credit also couldn't cover dinner for two at Honolulu's Vintage Cave restaurant, where the Obamas dined on New Year's Day. Per person, the tab runs $295 -- and that's before drinks are calculated into the bill.
Gov. Rick Scott will be present at the meeting, which is set to include a legislative and economic development outlook as well as an update on the Team Florida Partnership, a statewide campaign to promote Florida businesses. During the 2013-2014 fiscal year, the partnership raised $1.4 million to support the campaign’s efforts, "helping to reach site consultants and business decision-makers worldwide."
Gray Swoope, who will be departing from EFI next month, will give a question and answer session at the meeting.
The Florida Channel will broadcast the meeting live.
Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz , R-Fort Walton Beach, the chairman of the House Finance and Tax Committee, looks ready to give the green light to Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal to cut the communication service tax (CST) by $500 million. Gaetz even called for more tax cuts than the ones Scott proposed on cellphones and TV services.
"Last year, we had a goal to provide $500 million in tax relief to all Floridians,”Gaetz said. “We met that goal and this year Gov. Scott is once again leading the way on tax relief. His proposed tax cuts are bold and look to bring even more relief to the residents of Florida. As chairman of the Finance and Tax Committee, the governor’s plan is our starting point. In my committee, no tax is safe. It is the goal of the House of Representatives to find even more ways to decrease the tax burden on Florida's families."
From his perch on the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, which handles taxation issues, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., came out swinging against President Barack Obama’s plan to raise taxes $320 billion over the next 10 years.
“The president needs to understand that we live in an aspirational society, one where you don’t need to punish one group to allow another to prosper,” Buchanan said on Tuesday. “Americans are not looking for a handout. They are simply asking government to cut the red tape, keep taxes low and stop enacting burdensome regulations that stifle job growth.
“Right now we have a tax code that punishes everyone, from families trying to make ends meet to employers trying to compete in the global marketplace,” Buchanan added. “We need to create a simpler, fairer, pro-growth tax code that fuels the economy and helps put Americans back to work. Serious times call for serious solutions. Unfortunately, the president’s proposal is reckless and misguided.”
New Jersey might be Gov. Chris Christie’s, R-N.J., backyard but former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., plans to hit the Garden State.
The Bergen County Record is reporting that Bush is mining major Republican donors in New Jersey. Bush has already announced an exploratory presidential effort while Christie also has his eyes on running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
On Tuesday Gov. Rick Scott called for cutting Florida’s communication service tax (CST) by $470 million. Scott insisted a family spending $100 a month on cellphones and cable will save $43 a year.
“With our cellphone and TV tax cut, every Florida family is saving real money -- around $40 a year for spending as little as $100 a month between cellphone, cable and satellite bills,” Scott said on Tuesday. “Our economy is improving and while it’s tempting for government to always think they can spend your money better than you – it’s your money!”
In recent years, CST tax cuts have been proposed in the Legislature with Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, leading efforts in the Florida Senate.
Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., placed second behind former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., in the 2012 Republican primaries and there are signs in recent days that he, like his former rival, has his eyes on another bid in 2016.
Despite winning 11 contests in 2012, including the Iowa caucus, Santorum often encountered fundraising woes during his presidential campaign. On Tuesday, Santorum looked to ensure that would not sink him in 2016 by announcing his finance team for his Patriot Voices PAC.
Santorum is turning to Nadine Maenza for help, who worked for him, Romney’s 2008 presidential bid, the late U.S. Sen. John Heinz, R-Pa., the Pennsylvania GOP and the Republican National Committee (RNC). Maenza is not the only former Romney hand joining the Santorum team. Former U.S. Assistant Labor Secretary Rob Bickhart will be Patriot Voices finance director after serving in the same post at the RNC and as deputy finance director for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). Bickhart helped out Romney in 2008 and 2012. Roy Jones, the former chief development officer for conservative evangelical Liberty University, also joined the PAC.
"I am excited to announce the addition of Roy Jones and Rob Bickhart to our growing national team to complement the successful fundraising efforts of Patriot Voices Executive Director Nadine Maenza," Santorum said on Tuesday. "Nadine, Rob, and Roy will play a crucial role in ensuring we have the resources necessary to be a leader in the coming national debate, particularly as we tackle challenges confronting blue-collar families across this country. Their years of experience in raising hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of clients will be an intangible asset to our organization in the weeks and months to come."
At the end of last week, U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., starting his first full term in Congress, announced he will serve on three Appropriations subcommittees: Military Construction and Veterans Affairs;Transportation, Housing and Urban Development; and Commerce, Justice and Science.
“I'm excited that these assignments reflect many of my priorities in Congress and will allow me to continue the work I started in the 113th Congress while serving on Veterans Affairs and Transportation and Infrastructure,” Jolly said on Friday. “Namely, working tirelessly on health care and benefits for our nation's veterans, including housing and homelessness initiatives. Additionally I will have the opportunity to continue working on issues related to transportation, flood insurance, beach renourishment, and critical environmental and marine science priorities. Finally, with the added Military Construction responsibilities, I look forward to work related to our reserve facilities here in Pinellas as well as installations like MacDill Air Force Base and other critical spots around the globe
“On Appropriations we will scrutinize virtually every federal program, identify and eliminate duplicative federal services and areas of waste, fraud, and abuse,” Jolly added. “The committee is also the body that identifies areas of critical national investment, from national security to early childhood education, to the environment, to transportation and infrastructure.”
State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, the newly elected chairman of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), named David Johnson and Pablo Diaz in charge of his transition team on Tuesday.
"I am grateful that David and Pablo have agreed to guide the party through this transition. I have known them both for years and count them as friends and colleagues,” Ingoglia said. “They are both well-respected veterans of the RPOF and I know they will provide me with sound counsel and advice as we make a smooth transition and prepare the party for victory.”
Johnson served as executive director of the RPOF during the 2002 elections and has been active in Florida politics for years. Diaz has also been active in Florida GOP politics, including leading Attorney General Pam Bondi’s re-election efforts last year.
Alan Gross was released last month as part of a larger deal by President Barack Obama to normalize relations with Cuba. At the time of his release, Gross was serving a 15-year sentence for allegedly attempting to undermine the Havana government for the United States.
"While in Cuba, Alan wrote the president letters and since returning has expressed his support for the actions the president’s taken with respect to Cuba,” read a press release from the White House.
Gross and his wife will be part of 22 guests invited to sit in the first lady's box, which is reserved for Americans who the White House believes best illustrate their policies at work.
Florida House Majority Leader Dana Young, R-Tampa, was named on Monday by GOPAC to its 2015 Legislative Leaders Advisory Board.
“The members of our 2015 Legislative Leaders Advisory Board will have an important role in educating and electing a new generation of Republican leaders,” said GOPAC Chairman David Avella on Monday. “Their involvement will strengthen our mission to build a healthy roster of prepared and tested state leaders who are ready to lead in their legislatures and/or run for higher office."
Young was the only member of the Florida Legislature named by GOPAC on Monday.
Florida CFO Jeff Atwater will hit the streets of the nations‘s oldest city to help former Rep. Travis Hutson over former Rep. Doc Renuart in the special election to replace John Thrasher in the Florida Senate. Atwater announced on Friday that he will campaign with Hutson in St. Augustine to urge that voters back the former state representative in the Jan. 27 primary.
“I am proud to walk door-to-door with Travis this Saturday and encourage the voters of Northeast Florida to support him on Election Day,” said Atwater. “Travis is a genuine conservative who wants to reduce waste, decrease government spending, and create and bring more jobs to our great state. Travis understands the vital need for fiscal responsibility and, as a lifelong resident of Northeast Florida, he knows what is best for Senate District 6. Travis is the Republican candidate for this job.”
“I am thrilled that CFO Atwater will be joining us Saturday to walk door-to-door in support of our campaign for Senate District 6,” Hutson said. “We share many of the same values and beliefs, and are both conservatives who are determined to do what is best for the First Coast and all Floridians. I am truly humbled to have the support of CFO Atwater.”
Earlier this week former U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., passed on leadership of his Guardian Fund PAC to U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga. On Friday, Loudermilk outlined his agenda for the PAC in the 2016 election cycle.
“Under the exceptional leadership of Allen West, the Guardian Fund led a grassroots conservative movement that led the way in taking the Senate back from liberal control and expanding our conservative majority in the House,” Lourdermilk emailed supporters on Friday. “Colonel West always leads by example, valuing decisive action over cheap talk. And I'm honored that he's asked me to follow him as chairman of the Guardian Fund. It's my intention to carry the torch forward as he would -- with direct action against the liberals who are trying to destroy America by sending strong constitutional conservatives to serve in Washington.
“Allen West played a major role in helping me get to Congress,” Loudermilk continued. “I am an Air Force veteran who served in intelligence during the Cold War, and when I made the decision to run for Congress, it was because I wanted to preserve liberty for my children and grandchildren. The Guardian Fund shares that desire and stood by me through victory in November. Now it's my turn to lead and I'm ready to go to the ends of the earth to fight for veterans, constitutional conservatives, and minority candidates, all of which we need more of in Washington.”
Calling President Barack Obama “dangerous,” Loudermilk tore into the president’s record on terrorism and immigration.
“Barack Obama, with his failed leftist ideology, is putting America at risk,” Loudermilk insisted. “Just like Allen West, I swore an oath to defend this country and its Constitution that I intend to uphold. The fight is on.”
On Friday, Republican National Committee Chair Sharon Day tipped her hat to Dougher, saying she should be re-elected as RPOF chairwoman.
With both former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., and former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., looking at running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, Brett Doster, one of the leading Republican strategists in the Sunshine State, is putting his chips behind the former Florida governor.
Phil Ammann over at Florida Politics caught up with Doster for his opinion on who would be a better candidate in Florida. Doster, despite having been a key part of Romney’s Florida team in 2012, left no room for doubt: he thinks Bush has a far better shot in 2016.
“Mitt Romney was a great leader for our party in 2012,” Doster noted in an email to Florida Politics, “but Jeb is my man, and Florida is Jeb Bush country.”
While U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, will be giving the official Republican response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., will offer the Spanish translation.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced Curbelo was selected for the Spanish translation on Thursday.
“Carlos Curbelo is a fresh voice with a positive vision for a future of opportunity and prosperity,’ Boehner said. “He is exactly what Washington needs, and the person Americans should hear from in this time of challenge and opportunity for our country.”
“It is a true privilege to deliver the Spanish-language Republican address,” Curbelo said. “As part of America’s New Congress, I am excited to work with my colleagues to advance good solutions that will empower American families to achieve a better quality of life. We must work together toward policies that will lead to a healthy economy that offers greater opportunity for all Americans – especially those who feel left behind. And we should insist on a strong foreign policy that recognizes the need for American leadership in an increasingly dangerous world.”