Sunshine State News Blogs

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the heavy favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, is more worried about former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., than former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., on the Republican side.

The New York Daily News has a story on Thursday indicating that a top Clinton adviser thinks Bush has a better chance against the Democrat than Romney.

“One has to assume Bush will win Florida,” the adviser told the New York Daily News. “People will argue that Bush has matured. With Romney, there’s less of an argument that he matured than that he flipped in ’12 and that he’s flopping back in ’16."

"We will cream him,” someone close to Clinton told the Daily News about her chances against Romney.

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Conservative group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) unveiled its agenda on Thursday for the upcoming Florida legislative session. AFP’s agenda calls for ending the corporate income tax and pulling the plug on “special interest, business-specific tax subsidies and exemptions”; reforming Medicaid, public pensions and Citizens Property Insurance; more school choice; less government regulation and more government transparency.

“Politicians who hoped they heard the last from AFP activists for at least a year will have their hopes dashed today," said Chris Hudson, AFP’s Florida director on Thursday. "With the announcement of our aggressive state and federal legislative agenda we are back in their neighborhoods, talking to their constituents, and holding them accountable for how their votes increase or decrease economic freedom and limited government. We will be as busy as ever standing up for the taxpayers, workers, parents, and job creators against the special interests that want to spend more of their money and restrict their options to achieve a better quality of life."

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U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Fla., offered a last-minute challenge to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, last week. After failing to dislodge Boehner, Webster offered his reflections on his attempt on Thursday.

“I ran not because of any personal slight against Speaker Boehner, but because I think our Congress is woefully broken,” Webster insisted. “I believe that in order for the Republican Party to be successful, we must implement a legislative process based upon principle, not on power. Members of Congress should act in a way that creates the best policy, not in a way that promotes only those with the most power. I believe that policy should be created based upon the merits of the idea, not on the position or seniority of the member who sponsored it. Power demands the right to be heard, principle earns the right to be heard.

“Though many members of Congress privately supported me in my run against Speaker Boehner, I knew it would be a difficult battle,” Webster added. “And though I was not successful, I was humbled by the confidence placed in me by other members of Congress who voted for me despite the threat of significant consequences.”

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Four members of the Florida congressional delegation -- Republican U.S. Reps. Jeff Miller, Tom Rooney and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democrat U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy -- were named to the U.S. House Intelligence Committee this week.

“I’m proud and deeply honored to have been selected by Speaker Boehner to serve on the House Intelligence Committee,” Ros-Lehtinen said on Wednesday. “Our nation should have nothing but the best intelligence gathering capabilities and processes to determine actionable threats. I will work tirelessly on the committee so that we help ensure that we do our utmost to keep our country safe.”

Keep an eye on Sunshine State News on Friday for more on this story.

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U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., retained his chairmanship of the Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday. U.S. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., also placed Crenshaw back on the Defense and State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittees.

“Families and businesses across America make tough financial decisions each day and expect Congress to do the same,” Crenshaw said on Wednesday. “In the 114th Congress, House members will debate and vote on a wide range of issues that will determine the way forward for our nation for generations to come.

“As I work with Chairman Rogers and subcommittee colleagues in the months ahead, my focus will be on achieving clearly-defined and thoroughly-analyzed policy that builds fiscal responsibility, protects national security, and utilizes foreign aid in an effective and streamlined manner,” Crenshaw added.

Crenshaw said he would continue to fight to keep the IRS in check and would ensure that the First Coast retains an important role in national defense.

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Gray Swoope is stepping down as Florida secretary of commerce and president and CEO of Enterprise Florida.

“Gray has created the jobs legacy and brand that EFI has today,” Gov. Rick Scott said on Wednesday afternoon.

Scott praised Swoope on Wednesday as he announced the departure.

“Four years ago, Florida wasn’t even at the table for major economic deals, but Gray turned all that around,” Scott said. “Now we are a leader for job creation projects -- and most importantly, Florida is often the winner! Florida has created over 715,000 jobs over the last four years and our unemployment rate has dropped from 11.1 percent to 5.8 percent. Gray has carved a lasting imprint on Florida’s economic history that has put us on the path to surpass Texas and take up the mantle as the No. 1 state for job creation.”

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Former U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., is handing off the chairmanship of his Allen West Guardian Fund PAC -- now with his name off of it -- over to U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga. West left Florida to move to Texas to take over as CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis.

"Congressman Loudermilk is the type of leader who can be entrusted with the future of our nation and inspire other servicemen and women to exercise their voices and talents on Capitol Hill," West said on Wednesday.

"The foundation laid by my friend Colonel West at the Guardian Fund is solid,” Loudermilk said. “With great victories like Tom Cotton, Joni Ernst, Mia Love and Steve Russell, to name a few, both the House and the Senate are more conservative. I welcome the opportunity to help continue the mission of finding and supporting principled conservative veterans and minorities. Strong leaders are essential to achieving the America we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren -- an America that is free, safe and full of opportunity."

Loudermilk, a former Georgia legislator who was elected to Congress for the first time last year, had the PAC’s backing in 2014.

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U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., is staying as the ranking Democrat on the U.S. House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa. South Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen remains the chairwoman of the subcommittee.

"The recent terrorist attacks in Paris serve as a stark reminder that what happens in the Middle East is of enormous consequence to the security of the United States and our allies around the world,” Deutch said on Wednesday. “As ranking member I will continue to vigorously promote our interests in the region, from defeating ISIL's terrorist campaign to kill innocents around the world and alleviating the devastating human rights crisis in Syria to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and protecting the security of our ally Israel. I am grateful to earn the support of my colleagues and look forward to working across the aisle with my friend and subcommittee chairman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, to address the many challenges that await us in the 114th Congress."

Deutch will also serve on the House Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats.

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Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., came out against Congress raising the federal gas tax on Tuesday.

“Raising taxes is never a good solution to any problem, and raising the federal gas tax is no exception,” Scott said on Tuesday. “Increasing the federal gas tax will be a direct burden to every consumer and slow economic growth. Although the price of gas has come down recently, raising taxes now will still be a major cost to Florida families.”

Scott pointed toward his record in Tallahassee as proof that government can be run without raising taxes.

“Here in Florida, we have been able to historically fund our world-class infrastructure system at record levels while balancing our budget, lowering our debt and cutting taxes 40 times,” Scott said. “We are also working to cut taxes by $1 billion over the next two years. I strongly urge Congress not to raise the federal gas tax or any tax and instead come up with innovative solutions to fund priorities as we have done in Florida.”

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U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., unveiled the “Retired Pay Restoration Act” on Tuesday. The bill would ensure veterans can claim both retirement pay and disability compensation.

“The Retired Pay Restoration Act ensures that all veterans who receive retirement payments as a result of their military service can also receive disability payments from the Veterans Administration,” Bilirakis said. “Currently, some military retirees have their disability pay deducted from their retirement pay; these are two completely different benefits. They should not count against one another. It isn’t right to deny veterans the financial compensation they have earned and deserve.”

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The chairman of the U.S. Veterans Affairs Committee, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., unveiled a bill this week to ensure the VA secretary can take back bonuses from underpeforming employees. Miller noted VA medical center employees received bonuses despite problems at the hospitals, including altered wait lists.

“Ideally, VA employees and executives who collected bonuses under false pretenses should be subject to prosecution when warranted, but at a minimum their bonuses should be paid back in full,” Miller said on Tuesday. “I urge my colleagues to support this bill so the VA secretary will have another tool to instill some much-needed accountability throughout the department.”

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A new book by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who has raised his profile in recent weeks as he considers making a presidential bid in 2016, was released nationally on Tuesday as he offered his take on policy.

Rubio’s “American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone," published by Sentinel Press, came out across the nation on Tuesday though there have been copies in bookstores across Florida earlier in the month. Back in 2011, Rubio penned “American Son,” an autobiography released after his upset win over then-Gov. Charlie Crist in the 2010 U.S. Senate race.

On Tuesday, Rubio sent out an email promoting the book and outlining the basics of his vision for America.

“As the son of immigrants, I was raised to believe that every citizen had an equal opportunity to get an education, work hard, and save money to help the next generation,” Rubio wrote. “But today I see the American dream blocked for too many of us, because of well-intentioned but badly designed liberal policies.

“This is my call to action,” Rubio continued. “We must restrain our power-hungry, debt-ridden federal government. We must help businesses create more stable, middle-class jobs. We must help our families stay healthy and secure. We must promote the values and can-do spirit that made our country exceptional. I wrote ‘American Dreams’ to help point the way toward restoring the land of opportunity.”

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U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., came out swinging on Monday against President Barack Obama’s executive order granting amnesty to illegal immigrants.

“Over the past few weeks, I have been working with my colleagues to craft a forceful response to President Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty decree,” DeSantis noted on Monday. “Good news: we will be debating and voting on the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill this week, as well as an amendment which will deny all funds for Obama to carry out his executive action. When a president exceeds his authority and usurps the constitutional power of Congress, the proper response is for Congress to use the power of the purse to check the executive branch.

“I think it is also important to force every member of Congress to go on record about the negative consequences of Obama’s edict,” DeSantis continued. “To this end, I have been working with my colleagues to offer amendments that target specific aspects of Obama’s executive amnesty.”

DeSantis proposed three amendments to push back against Obama on immigration:

1. Amendment to protect American workers. Issuing work permits to illegal immigrants, a key aspect of Obama’s executive action, will harm U.S. workers because illegal immigrants are exempt from Obamacare’s employer mandate, which means businesses can hire them at a substantial discount (roughly $3,000 per employee) relative to an American. This is not acceptable.

2. Amendment to protect legal immigrants. When Obama issued his mini-amnesty decree in 2012 for those who claim to have illegally entered the United States as minors, the DHS devoted a lot of resources to administer the program, so much so that the wait times for legal immigrants skyrocketed. These wait times kept families apart, especially for those Americans seeking to bring a foreign spouse to the U.S. This is not acceptable. No legal immigrant who is abiding by the law should be disadvantaged due to Obama’s executive decree benefiting illegal immigrants.

3. Amendment to protect the public safety. Memoranda issued in conjunction with Obama’s executive amnesty announcement by DHS set out enforcement priorities regarding removal of individuals illegally in the country. Incredibly, DHS policy is to treat some convicted sex offenders and child molesters as a “second-tier priority” for removal. If someone is in the country illegally and gets convicted of a sex offense, especially an offense against children, how can DHS do anything other than immediately send him back to his home country? This recklessly puts the public safety at risk.

“This is an important constitutional moment,” DeSantis concluded. “The people's house needs to support and defend the Constitution by standing up for the rule of law and the separation of powers.”

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From his perch on the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla, introduced a bill on Monday to study how alternative therapies can be added into the current VA structure. Bilirakis has dubbed his bill the “Creating Options for Veterans Expedited Recovery (COVER) Act.”

“It is vital that veterans receive the care they need, but it is important to recognize that one size does not fit all when discussing treatments for veterans and the invisible wounds endured from their service to our great nation,” Bilirakis said on Monday. “While many veterans may thrive under evidence-based treatment plans, some may not be as responsive to this traditional medical care. As such, we need to provide them with choices and easy access to alternative forms of therapies that work best for them.

“We must find the most effective ways to treat veterans,” Bilirakis added. “The COVER Act will ascertain the viability of alternative treatments, providing a pathway forward that will eventually allow veterans to have a range of options for mental health treatments, such as outdoor sports therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, accelerated resolution therapy, and service dog therapy.”

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Florida TaxWatch showcased GrowFL in a report released on Tuesday. The report maintains the state program should be grown to lure more jobs to the Sunshine State, finding that 25,000 new jobs can be created over the next decade with salaries averaging around $77,000.

"Florida has successfully invested in promoting the state's innovation economy by targeting entrepreneurial second-stage companies with great growth potential through GrowFL," said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch. "Expanding the GrowFL program is a great way to grow the state economy by investing in second-stage companies, which are now responsible for more than 30 percent of all Florida jobs."

The report can be read here
.

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U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., announced on Monday that he will not seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

Ryan told NBC News on Monday that he is focused on his congressional duties, including his new post as chairman of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee.

Ryan’s decision could help two other Republicans with their eyes on 2016. Back in 2012, Ryan was former Gov. Mitt Romeny’s, R-Mass., vice presidential candidate. After Romney lost, Ryan continued to praise him, encouraging him to run again. Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., will also be helped by Ryan staying out of the fray as he would be the only major candidate from Wisconsin.

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Gov. Rick Scott announced on Monday that his proposed budget will include record high per-pupil spending for K-12 students. Scott announced his plan to raise K-12 spending from $18.9 billion last year to $19.75 billion, including $11.04 billion from the state government.

“Our historic funding proposal of $7,176 per student will provide our schools the resources for our students to have the very best opportunity to succeed because we know the workers and leaders of tomorrow are in our classrooms today,” Scott said on Monday. We are also continuing our historic investments in total funding, which this year will stand at $19.75 billion, the highest in state history. These record investments will continue to equip our students for the jobs of tomorrow, and help us on our path to be the No. 1 destination for jobs.” 

Before Scott’s proposal, record high spending per pupil was $7,126 during the 2007-2008 fiscal year.

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Conservative group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) had the Tarrance Group take a poll which was released on Monday showing Florida voters favor increased school choice options.

The poll shows 73 percent favor allowing parents the option to move children to other public schools while 22 percent oppose the notion. The poll finds a majority of those surveyed -- 58 percent -- support school vouchers while 36 percent oppose them. Almost two thirds -- 65 percent -- of those surveyed support charter schools while 28 percent oppose them.

The poll of 603 likely Florida voters was taken between Dec. 16-18 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percent.

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U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., is looking to ensure illegal aliens are not able to receive federal tax refunds using the child tax credit. Bilirakis brought out the “Stop Handouts to Unauthorized Taxpayers (SHUT) Act” on Friday. The new bill would ensure everyone claiming refunds under the child tax credit has to prove their eligibility to work in the U.S. by providing a Social Security number or other proof of legal residence.

“Effective immigration reform requires enforcing the borders and removing the incentives for illegal immigration,” Bilirakis said on Friday. “It is also vital we stop wasteful and fraudulent spending, to get our nation’s fiscal course back on track. The SHUT Act achieves both of those goals.

“The SHUT Act is a positive step to end this waste of taxpayer money, and ensure the refundable child tax credit is there for the people it is meant to help: low-income families,” Bilirakis added.

Bilirakis pointed to a report from the Treasury Department's Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) that illegal immigrants garnered $4.2 billion in child tax credits in 2010 as a reason his bill is needed.

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U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., continued to express his opposition over the past weekend to keeping U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in charge of Congress. On Saturday night, Yoho sent out an email to supporters, promising to work with the speaker but also expressing his pride in opposing him earlier in the week.

“On Tuesday, the House of Representatives elected John Boehner to be the speaker of the House for the 114th Congress. While I did not support his candidacy and desired a different outcome, I am still hopeful,” Yoho wrote. “I am hopeful because the 24 Republicans who stood with me against the status quo and Speaker Boehner made history. Our efforts to change leadership for the better have been the most successful attempt to do so in over 100 years. Our group of conservatives came just four votes shy of dramatically changing the direction of our country for the better. Never before has a sitting speaker of the House faced such opposition.

“More than that, however, this marked the beginning of a new Congress,” Yoho added. “This was a chance for members who supported Rep. John Boehner and those who voted against him to be a part of the solution. This was a chance for Speaker Boehner to prove to the members of the House -- and, more importantly, the American people -- that Republican leadership will act in the best interests of all Americans. It was a chance to show that legislation will be brought to floor based on merit, not because it is politically popular.”

Yoho took aim at Boehner for removing two Florida Republicans -- U.S. Reps. Rich Nugent and Dan Webster -- from the Rules Committee for opposing his leadership.

“Unfortunately, the actions of the speaker this week to remove Rep. Nugent and Rep. Webster from the Rules Committee, as well as taking Rep. Webster off key legislation, do not reflect a promise of good things to come,” Yoho wrote. “In fact, several media outlets report that more retribution is to come for those who voted for someone other than Speaker Boehner. Regardless, I am proud of the efforts of my friends and colleagues who stood up for the American people. In the face of retribution and pressure from other members, as well as leadership, they stood on principle and for that they should be commended."

Yoho insisted conservatives like him will continue to keep up the fight in Washington.

“Our group of 25 will continue to represent the people and will not stop in our pursuit of the core values, founding principles, and defense of our Constitution,” Yoho noted. “Washington didn't build this country - We the People did. The time is now to take it back and rebuild America.”

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The Nebraska Supreme Court, said to have been the only Keystone XL Pipeline holdup, has ruled in favor of the pipeline's route, just as Congress is set to vote on it.

The president had said he would wait for the Nebraska high court ruling -- now it's in.

Terry O’Sullivan, general president of LIUNA – the Laborers International Union of North America – made the following statement today on the Nebraska Supreme Court clearing the way for Keystone:

"The president should immediately resume the National Interest Determination that he needlessly suspended last year," said O'Sullivan, "and Democrats in Congress must stop all the excuses and end the shameful politics used to block Keystone. They should join in a bipartisan manner to approve the project and create jobs."

O'Sullivan continued, "Americans concerned about energy independence and working men and women eager to build our nation’s energy future are encouraged by this progress. It’s time to move forward to unlock energy and good construction careers."

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Former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., is planning to bring in $100 million -- including $25 million from the Sunshine State -- in the first quarter of 2015, according to a new article from Bloomberg. Bush’s camp is denying those figures are what they are targeting for the start of the new year.

Still, as the article notes, Bush’s brother outraised his competition back in 1999, chasing a number of strong primary opponents out of the race. If the former Florida governor brings in $100 million right off the bat, other Republicans would surely be taking note.

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a potential candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, unveiled a bill looking to ensure President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law won’t be used to bail out insurance companies.

Rubio’s bill would repeal risk coordinators included in Obama’s health-care law and ensure Congress would be included if the federal government wants to cover insurance companies’ losses due to the law.

“One of the biggest threats to the American dream is the rising cost of living, which Obamacare is making worse through rising health care costs and loss of coverage,” said Rubio on Thursday. “Taxpayers should not have to fund massive bailouts to protect the profits of the insurance companies that helped write Obamacare, which is why I’ve been fighting for over a year to protect taxpayers from yet another bailout that puts them on the hook for Washington’s mistakes.

“Under December’s omnibus spending bill, taxpayers are protected from bailing out insurance companies until Sept. 30, but now Congress has the opportunity to take the possibility of a bailout off the table for good,” Rubio continued. “By passing this bill, Congress will ensure that no bailout will occur, in 2016 or ever.”

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Having been sworn in for a second term earlier this week, Florida CFO Jeff Atwater tipped his cards on Wednesday, offering highlights for what his agenda would be in the upcoming legislative session.

In an email sent out on Wednesday, Atwater wrote “I intend to make Florida's insurance environment more consumer friendly” in the upcoming session. Atwater also planned to back legislation to ensure “our financial literacy programs reach a broader audience than ever before.” 

Atwater also offered a look back on his first term.

“Throughout my career as a public servant, I have made it a priority to fight financial fraud, abuse and waste in government; reduce government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses; and provide transparency and accountability in spending,” Atwater noted. “I am proud to say we have done all of these things during the last four years, but our goals for the next four years are even higher.”

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., continued his fight for student loan reform on Wednesday. Rubio announced he was backing a bill from U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and U.S. Sen. Richard Burr which would streamline federal student loan repayment. The bill also has the support of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, R-Va. Rubio and Warner teamed up last year in pushing a bill reforming student loan repayments based on income, but the King-Burr proposal would also include set repayment rates as well.

“Helping more people achieve the American dream requires equipping them with the education and training necessary to do the jobs of the 21st century,” Rubio said. “The Repay Act would help modernize the income-based repayment system for student loans, which Sen. Warner and I have also been working on for the past year.

“We need reforms like this to ensure that the burden of student loans is more manageable to discourage overborrowing,” Rubio added. “I believe this bill’s requirement for the GAO to study the best way to enroll, verify income and facilitate income-based repayment programs will ultimately help build momentum for other initiatives I will continue working on as the Senate considers higher education reform later this year.”

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Florida House Speaker Pro Tempore Matt Hudson, R-Naples, announced on Wednesday that he will run for the Florida Senate seat currently held by Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, who faces term limits in 2016.

“Today I officially filed paperwork to become a candidate for the Florida Senate,” said Hudson. “In the Senate, I promise to stand up for the same conservative principals as I have in the Florida House.”

“I am humbled by the outpouring of support from so many across our community who have encouraged me to embark on this campaign and I look forward to having an opportunity to serve Southwest Florida in the Senate,” Hudson added.

Hudson does not have a clear shot at the Republican nomination. Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, filed to run for the seat back in November.

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One of the leading Republicans on international affairs took to the floor of the U.S. House on Wednesday to attack President Barack Obama’s call to normalize relations with Cuba. U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., currently the chairwoman of the House Middle Eastern and North Africa Subcommittee, ripped into Obama’s policy in the following speech:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to strongly oppose the December 17th announcement by President Obama on policy changes toward the Cuban communist regime.

The Cuban regime, from day one, was planning on using Alan Gross as a pawn to receive concessions from the Obama administration and their strategy worked.

In April 2013, when asked about a possible swap for Mr. Gross, Secretary Kerry testified before Congress that “we have refused to do that because there is no equivalency. Alan Gross is wrongly imprisoned. And we are not going to trade as if it is a spy for a spy”

That turned out to be not true.

President Obama unilaterally pardoned three convicted Cuban spies.

These spies were responsible for the deaths of three American citizens and one U.S. resident: Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre, Mario de la Peña, and Pablo Morales, whose Brothers to the Rescue planes were unjustly shot down over international airspace on direct orders of the Castro brothers.

And to make matters worse, we learn of the fact that the U.S. government used resources to facilitate artificial insemination of one of the wives of the Cuban spies. Good grief. So the White House ignores the fact that these innocent U.S. pilots were not able to have their own families but rewards one of the persons responsible for their deaths.

Not only did the dictatorship achieve the return of five convicted Cuban spies, it was able to also attain major concessions from our president in order to support their struggling economy.

Cuba’s largest supporters, Russia and Venezuela, are struggling due to their own fiscal crisis at home so the Castro brothers needed a bailout from a new source and sadly they found one with President Obama.

By increasing tourism travel on the island – the Obama administration will be injecting millions of dollars straight into the pockets of the Castro brothers. The Cuban police state runs the hotels.

Let’s examine ... the president’s announcement very closely:

First – the President claims that his new policy changes will empower the Cuban people.

Well, the pro-democracy advocates on the island have stated that the changes will help their oppressor, not the people of Cuba.

Second -- this issue not only impacts the people of Cuba, it also poses a greater threat for U.S. national security interests.

Cuba is a designated State Sponsor of Terrorism and is an avowed enemy of the United States.

With these new concessions by the administration, the Castro brothers will use some of their new economic stream to invest more funds into their espionage activities – activities that are aimed against our nation.

With the ability to garner more intelligence against the U.S., the Castro brothers are likely to hit the black market and sell this intelligence to the highest bidder.

This is not a theory – it is a fact.

One example of this fact is the case of Ana Belen Montes.

She was a convicted Cuban spy who worked for our Defense Intelligence Agency collecting information for Castro so that it can be sold to our enemies.

Third – the human rights situation on the island has not changed one bit.

The president says that he got Raul Castro to agree to the release of 53 political prisoners. Prisoners that should have never been in jail in the first place, yet the White House will not release the names of the 53 political prisoners.

Why not? What do they have to hide?

Plus – what good is it for Castro to release these 53 when he doesn’t stop capturing and detaining other prisoners? Which he will.

What has been happening in Cuba lately in these past few weeks? Well, according to reports:

o More than 80 Cubans have been detained,

o The Cuban Coast Guard sank a boat on international waters that was carrying over 30 people, causing the deaths of some of them on board; and

o Hezbollah celebrated President Obama’s announcement after a meeting with the Cuban Ambassador to Lebanon.

Mr. Speaker – I believe that this misguided policy of the president will have serious implications for the United States and sends a signal to our enemies that we will cave, and we will surrender at every turn.

We in the Congress must do everything we can to prevent these disastrous policies to go into effect. This is a bad deal for U.S. national security and for the Cuban opposition and it is a sweetheart deal for the repressive Cuban regime.”

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the time.

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From his perch on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio ripped into “Islamic extremists” for the terrorist attack in Paris at the Charlie Hebdo magazine office.

“I was saddened to learn of the terrorist attack that claimed 12 lives at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris earlier today,” Rubio said on Wednesday. “These journalists and satirists were apparently killed by Islamic extremists for exercising the fundamental human right of free speech and expression. These terrorists don’t hate cartoons, they hate freedom. They’re willing to target anyone and destroy anything in the name of intimidating free people and spreading their cruel and hateful dogmas. It is important for the United States – and free nations everywhere – to oppose these forces with strength and vigilance. Today, the United States must stand unequivocally with the people of France in their time of need and mourning. We must assist them to bring the perpetrators and sponsors of this act to justice.”

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Even as former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., draws closer to running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, he is drawing heavy fire from the right.

Bush announced last month that he was exploring a presidential bid. On Tuesday, Bush launched the Right to Rise leadership PAC to prepare for entering the fray. But the former Florida governor was attacked on the right on Wednesday as Constitutional Rights PAC, a libertarian-leaning group, launched petitions and an “End Jeb 2016” website.

“Our next president needs to put the Constitution first,” Larry Ward, the chairman and founder of Constitutional Rights PAC, wrote supporters on Wednesday. “After eight years of Obama, the only remedy to get our country back on track is to return to limited government.

“Jeb Bush is not the conservative choice for 2016 -- in fact, he’s very far from it. Jeb is a dyed-in-the-wool establishment Republican and an advocate of big government,” Ward added. “He supports amnesty, increased taxation and wants D.C. bureaucrats in every public school classroom in the country. He is anything but a ‘conservative’ candidate -- we’ve got to end Jeb in 2016.”

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U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson, R-Fla., voted on Tuesday for U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to be speaker of the House.

Clawson explained his vote after U.S. House Speaker John Boehner kept the gavel.

“Today marked the time for a more conservative, more streamlined and less deal-making way of doing business on Capitol Hill,” Clawson said. “In business we call this a ‘new set of eyes.’ In politics they call us the ‘outsiders.’ That is why I supported my fellow outsider, Sen. Rand Paul, as an alternative choice to be the speaker of the House. Like much of the new blood elected to Congress in recent years, Rand Paul and I share the view that Washington is too big and that protecting our Constitution is paramount. How ironic that viewpoint is now considered ‘outsider,’ by some.”

Clawson laid out his case against Boehner and the Republican leadership.

“My disappointment came to a critical mass in last December’s ‘Cromnibus’ legislation, which included increased donations for the political parties, allowing the interests of K Street to rise over the concerns of Main Street,” Clawson said. “Additionally, I was disappointed that the legislation supported funding to untested Muslim rebels in Syria to carry out the mission of defeating ISIS, while nothing in the legislation was done to end the president’s unconstitutional executive amnesty. To me, this was unacceptable and mirrored the lack of vision in the administration's foreign policy.

“On the major issues facing our nation, since I took office last June, I have been disappointed time and again by the deals cut that do not reflect the values of Southwest Florida,” Clawson insisted. “I made the frustrations of my district known loud and clear today.”

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