Argentina’s Election A Chance For Improved U.S. Relations & Justice For Victims Of 1994 Jewish Center Terror Attack

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U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues, today issued the following statement regarding the results of Argentina’s presidential election on Sunday:

“I congratulate the Argentine people and president-elect Mauricio Macri for a successful election in Argentina. The country has clearly chosen a new direction.

“For the first time in many years, the United States has an opportunity to work with Argentina’s leaders in supporting democracy and human rights, and in championing freedom throughout the Western Hemisphere. With this election result, I also hope that a fair and impartial investigation can finally be conducted into the mysterious death of Alberto Nisman, the Argentine prosecutor who was investigating Iran’s involvement in the bombing of a Jewish community center that killed 85 people in 1994. Justice for Mr. Nisman and for the victims of the 1994 terrorist attack is long overdue.

“As Florida’s senator, I am proud to represent many Argentines who call Florida home. The United States should stand ready to help Argentina re-establish its natural and rightful place among the region’s political and economic leaders. It is my sincere hope that we can once again revive the strong and mutually beneficial relationship that we have enjoyed in the past.”

After Historic Venezuelan Elections, Political Prisoners Should Be Immediately Released

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U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues, issued the following statement today regarding Venezuela’s historic elections:

“The people of Venezuela have courageously stood up demanding a better future and rejected not just the Maduro regime and all the misery it has brought to Venezuela, but also the axis of repression and tyranny that it represents in the Western Hemisphere.

“Maduro and his followers should accept the will of the Venezuelan people, and accept accountability for mismanaging the economy, destroying the rule of law and violating the fundamental rights of countless Venezuelans. Acknowledging the will of the Venezuelan people by releasing all political prisoners, including Leopoldo Lopez, Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma and San Cristóbal Mayor Daniel Ceballos, would be a positive start and should happen immediately.

“These election results are even more remarkable considering the Obama Administration’s neglectful, and at times counterproductive, approach to the Western Hemisphere. This outcome in Venezuela comes at a time when the Obama Administration is propping up Maduro’s allies in Havana, and despite the fact that mounting serious human rights abuses and repression have been met largely with indifference from the White House and a failure to fully implement a sanctions law I helped pass last year to crack down on human rights violators.”

Rubio: A Path For Reforming The VA

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Tampa Bay Times

October 20, 2015

Print Edition

http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/columns/rubio-a-path-for-reforming-the-va/2250356

The Department of Veterans Affairs is the second-largest federal agency, with more than 350,000 employees and an annual budget of more than $159 billion. Yet today — more than a year after scores of veterans died while stuck on secret wait lists — mountains of backlogged disability claims, wide-scale construction overruns and a serious lack of accountability continue to plague the agency.

Instead of being given the benefits they have earned, veterans’ disability applications have been shredded, while whistleblowers who expose this corruption face retaliation. Time and time again, too many senior VA officials have proven incapable of serving those who have served our country.

In our own state of Florida, veterans are still waiting 30 days for a primary care appointment at the Jacksonville VA. Meanwhile, the James A. Haley VA has been stricken with serious pest issues, and every day veterans from across the state contact my office for assistance navigating VA’s broken bureaucracy. These conditions are alarming and our veterans deserve better.

This lack of transparency and accountability even extends to VA construction projects like the Denver VA. With a $1.6 billion dollar price tag, more than $1 billion over its initial budget of $604 million, the Denver VA hospital is known to be one of the most expensive medical facilities in the world. And at VA Palo Alto Health Care System, officials decided to spend more than $6.3 million on art, including $483,000 for a sculpture of a rock.

The incompetence at the VA is unacceptable. Negligence continues to go unpunished while our nation’s heroes are dying. We must stand together as a nation to ensure that our veterans receive the care they deserve. It’s why earlier this year, House VA Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and I introduced the VA Accountability Act of 2015, a commonsense reform bill to end the culture of unaccountability by giving the VA secretary additional authorities to remove or demote any VA employee based on performance or misconduct.

With this authority the VA secretary will be out of excuses for not holding accountable those who are responsible for the dysfunction and incompetence plaguing our VA system. It also strengthens whistleblower protections and extends the current probationary period for new employees to a minimum of 18 months.

While I believe that a majority of VA employees act in the best interest of our veterans and are passionate about the work they do, it is our duty to ensure that those who put their own interests before our veterans are fired, not protected.

Keep reading here.

Empower Florida’s Children & Families To Escape Poverty (English & Español)

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Ayudando a los niños pobres de la Florida

Por Marco Rubio

El Nuevo Herald

15 de septiembre del 2015

http://www.elnuevoherald.com/opinion-es/article35203380.html

Los niños de la Florida han comenzado el año escolar. Tristemente para muchos de ellos, el sonido de la primera campana de la escuela no puede sonar suficientemente rápido. Aproximadamente un millón de niños –uno de cada cuatro– están viviendo en la pobreza en nuestro estado. El comienzo del año escolar para ellos y sus familias no solo significa poder aprender a diario; también consiste en una rutina cotidiana en la que reciben alimentos y un alivio sin los cuales sus vidas serían impredecibles.

 

Cada historia tiene casos únicos: por ejemplo, algunos de estos niños provienen de familias atrapadas en un círculo vicioso de pobreza, mientras que otros estaban bien hasta que sus familias cayeron en tiempos difíciles. Algunos están en nuestras ciudades, otros residen en las zonas rurales y remotas casi olvidadas de la Florida, mientras que la mayoría vive en nuestros barrios.

 

En cada una de esas historias, veo la imagen de mi familia cuando llegó a este país en 1956. Durante muchos años, los alimentos típicos de mis padres consistían en arroz blanco con un huevo frito encima o macarrones con spam. A pesar del clima caliente de la Florida, no tenían aire acondicionado. Lavaban la ropa a mano y la colgaban afuera para secarla. Si necesitaban más dinero a fin de mes, trabajaban horas extras. Carecían de seguro de salud. Una vez mi madre se lesionó gravemente la mano, y ella misma se puso una venda y regresó al trabajo. Le quedó una cicatriz permanente.

 

Mis padres no sólo tenían que preocuparse de ellos mismos: también estaban cuidando a su niño pequeño, mi hermano, que nunca vio un dentista hasta que se enlistó en el Ejército. Los primeros años de mis padres en Estados Unidos fueron difíciles, pero porque decidieron que este sería su hogar, vivir en la pobreza para ellos fue solamente una condición temporal. Pero no muy lejos se les abrieron puertas a oportunidades –y también para mi hermano– oportunidades que les permitieron alcanzar una vida de clase media y poder vivir el sueño americano.

 

La historia de mi familia no es única. Ser capaz de superar las circunstancias que nos tocaron vivir cuando nacimos es lo que define la historia de Norteamérica. Me siento seguro que si tomamos las decisiones correctas todos los niños de la Florida –y los millones más que viven en la pobreza en el país– podrán alcanzar su potencial pleno. Vivimos en una nación excepcional a pesar de que haya tantas personas viviendo en la pobreza, pero tenemos un deber moral de ayudar a todos y hacer de Estados Unidos un país aún superior.

 

Debemos comenzar con ponerle fin a las políticas que se basan en que “una sola talla sirve para todos”, porque las políticas fracasadas de Washington no han sabido erradicar la pobreza en los últimos cinco decenios. En lugar de ello, cada estado en la nación debe empezar a recibir un Fondo Flex neutral. Esto significa que la ayuda federal que cada estado recibe a través de los diversos programas administrados por el gobierno federal sería diseñada para financiar programas locales que tengan como objetivo la erradicación de la pobreza. También debemos reformar el Crédito por Ingreso del Trabajo con una mejora salarial que complemente los ingresos mensuales de los trabajadores e incentive al trabajador en vez de promover una dependencia en la ayuda pública.

 

 

Siga leyendo la columna aquí.

 

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RUBIO: EMPOWER FLORIDA’S CHILDREN & FAMILIES TO ESCAPE POVERTY

Empower families to escape poverty

By Marco Rubio

Miami Herald

September 9, 2015

http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article34606359.html

Children across Florida have been returning to school. Sadly for many, the first school bell of the year could not ring soon enough. Across our state, approximately 1 million children — one out of every four — are living in poverty. For them and their families, the start of the school year is not just about education; it provides a sense of comfort, routine and even consistent meals in otherwise unpredictable lives.

Each of their stories is unique: Some were born into families trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty; others were fine until their families fell on hard times. Some are in inner cities; others live in the often-forgotten rural parts of Florida, while a growing number are living in our suburbs.

In their lives, I see my family’s earlier struggles to overcome poverty upon arriving in the United States in 1956. For many years, my mom and dad’s typical meals consisted of white rice with a fried egg on top, or macaroni with Spam. Despite Florida’s heat, they didn’t have air conditioning. They washed their clothes by hand and hung it outside to dry. If they needed more money to make ends meet, they worked more. They lacked health insurance, so when my mother seriously injured her hand, she put a bandage on it and went back to work, scarring her hand for life.

My parents didn’t just have themselves to worry about; they were also caring for a young child – my brother, who never saw a dentist until he joined the Army. Their early lives in America were hard, but because they chose to make this their home, their life in poverty was a temporary condition. Soon, doors of opportunity started to open for them — and for my brother — that would allow them to achieve a middle-class life and stake their claim to the American Dream.

My family’s story is not unique. Being able to rise high above the circumstances of one’s birth helps define America. It gives me confidence that, if we make the right policy decisions soon, all of Florida’s children — and the millions more across this country living in poverty — will be empowered to achieve their full potential. We are already an exceptional nation despite having so many people living in poverty, but it is our moral duty to lift everyone and make America even greater.

We must start by ending the one-size-fits-all, Washington-knows-best approach that has failed to eradicate poverty over the past five decades. Instead, states should start receiving a spending-neutral Flex Fund, which is a lump sum amount of federal aid they already receive through the various federally administered programs. States would use these Flex Funds to design and fund anti-poverty programs on a more localized level. We should also reform the Earned Income Tax Credit into a wage enhancement to supplement a worker’s income each month that incentivizes work over welfare.

 

Keep reading here.

Rubio Saves Taxpayers Over $2.5 Billion In Obamacare Bailout Funds, Calls For Taking Option Off The Table For Good

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 U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) issued the following statement regarding last night’s Obama Administration announcement confirming that his efforts against taxpayer-funded bailouts of health insurance companies under ObamaCare succeeded in saving taxpayers over $2.5 billion this past year:

“American taxpayers have prevailed for now over ObamaCare’s crony capitalist bailout program. Taxpayers should never have to bail out health insurance companies that lose money under ObamaCare, and now we need to take that option off the table for good by passing my legislation to repeal the risk corridor provision in ObamaCare once and for all.

“The risk corridor provision was passed within ObamCare under the broken promises of lower health insurance premiums and Americans being able to keep their health insurance plans. ObamaCare is a massively flawed law with a real impact that has destroyed health insurance in America, and it needs to be repealed and replaced.”

Rubio’s ObamaCare Taxpayer Bailout Prevention Act is endorsed by the following policy advocacy groups: American Conservative Union, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, Campaign for Liberty, Center for Freedom and Prosperity, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Club for Growth, Freedom Works, Heritage Action, HSA Coalition, National Taxpayers Union, Tea Party Express and the 2017 Project.

BACKGROUND: HOW RUBIO SAVED TAXPAYERS OVER $2.5 BILLION IN OBAMACARE BAILOUT FUNDS FOR HEALTH INSURANCE COMPANIES

·       Under ObamaCare, health insurance companies that lose money can seek taxpayer funds to cover their losses.

o   Palm Beach Post: “If an insurance company’s medical claims exceed anticipated costs, a federal ‘risk-corridor’ program reimburses a share of those costs. It’s a lesser-known piece of Obamacare intended to cushion risks for insurers between now and 2016 as companies adapt to sweeping healthcare changes.” (“Florida Blue chief: GOP attacks on insurance ‘bailout’ unfair,” Palm Beach Post, 8/14/2014)

 

·       Last night, the Obama Administration announced it will disburse just $362 million to health insurance companies to help cover losses under ObamaCare – well short of the $2.9 billion requested by health insurance companies that incurred a loss by participating in Obamacare

 

o   Politico Pro: “Insurers will be paid $362 million from Obamacare’s risk corridors program for 2014 – or just 12.6 percent of the $2.9 billion in payments they requested. HHS officials, who announced the figures Thursday evening, maintained that insurers will eventually receive the requested payments during the next two years of the temporary program.” (Risk corridor payments far below insurers’ requests,” Politico Pro, 10/1/2015)

 

·       Health insurance companies immediately criticized the shortfall in bailout funding.

 

o   Politico Pro: “Insurers are criticizing today’s announcement by the Obama administration that they’ll receive just $362 million out of $2.9 billion in requested risk corridors payments for 2014… The health law requires that insurers will eventually receive their requested payments. But it’s unclear where the funds will come from to fully pay for it. A budget deal reached last year requires the program to be budget neutral. The risk corridor program was designed to protect insurers entering the Obamacare exchanges.” (“Insurers criticize HHS decision to pay out a fraction of requested risk corridor payments”, Politico Pro, 10/1/2015)

·       The Obama Administration was unable to pay the remaining $2.5 billion because of a provision which U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) fought to include in the December 2014 omnibus spending bill passed by Congress, which forced the risk corridor program to be revenue neutral – in other words, not funded by taxpayers.

 

o   Rubio: “For over a year, I’ve fought to protect Americans from having to fund massive bailouts to protect the profits of the insurance companies that helped write Obamacare. While there is much in this massive spending measure that is simply bad for America, at least the provisions protecting against a taxpayer-funded bailout of insurance companies are a step in the right direction. While the Obama administration can still administer the risk-corridor program, for one year at least, they won’t be able to use taxpayer funds to bail out insurance companies. When Congress returns next year, I will fight to permanently repeal the risk corridor provisions to protect taxpayers after the current legislation expires.” (“Rubio Comments On Obamacare Bailout Provisions,” Press Release, 12/10/2014)

·       In October 2014, Rubio had directly urged House Speaker John Boehner to use the budget process to prevent a taxpayer-funded bailout of health insurance companies under ObamaCare.

 

o   Rubio: “As you know, the current CR will expire on December 11, 2014… Though Congress will determine the expiration date of the next CR later this year, it is likely the next CR will extend to a date in 2015 when risk corridor payments are reconciled… The President intends to ignore Congress’s explicit and exclusive authority by spending money on the risk corridor program without an appropriation from Congress. The American people expect us, as Members of Congress, to fulfill our Oath of Office and defend the Constitution. Therefore, we must act to protect Congress’ power of the purse and prohibit the Obama administration from dispersing unlawful risk corridor payments providing for an Obamacare taxpayer bailout.” (“Rubio, Colleagues To Boehner: We Must Protect Congressional Authority, Prohibit Obamacare Bailout,” Press Release, 10/8/2014)

·       Rubio was the first to identify the likelihood of a taxpayer-funded bailout of health insurance companies under ObamaCare in November 2013, when he introduced legislation to repeal it. (“Rubio Introduces Bill Preventing Taxpayer-Funded Bailouts Of Insurance Companies Under ObamaCare,” Press Release, 11/19/2014)

 

o   He later introduced additional legislation in April 2014 specifying that ObamaCare’s risk corridor program must remain budget neutral, thus preventing taxpayer dollars from being used to bail out health insurance companies. (“Rubio Introduces Legislation To Hold Administration Accountable, Protect Taxpayers From ObamaCare Bailout,” Press Release, 4/1/2014)

 

o   In February 2014, Rubio testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the danger of taxpayers having to bail out health insurance companies under ObamaCare.

 

§  Video & Transcript.

 

o   In the current Congress, Rubio’s first bill introduced would eliminate taxpayer-funded bailouts of ObamaCare for good. (“Rubio Introduces Bill Preventing Taxpayer-Funded Bailouts Of Insurance Companies Under ObamaCare,” Press Release, 1/8/2015)

Rubio: Looking To The Future As St. Augustine celebrates 450 years

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Nearly 450 years ago, Spanish settlers fulfilled their dreams of building a new world by founding the city of St. Augustine.

This city’s past can teach us a great deal about who we are today, both as Floridians and as Americans. But just as the theme of this celebration calls us to “find ourselves in our past,” we should also seize this opportunity to look ahead to the challenges and opportunities of the future.

St. Augustine’s 450 years have been filled with leaders who saw the potential the future offered. The Spanish settlers who first founded the city took on the unknown in the New World to found what would become America’s oldest city. In the 1880s, Henry Flagler looked forward and transformed St. Augustine into a destination unlike any other, leading to an economic boom that would elevate the city to a level its settlers wouldn’t have thought possible. And in the 1960s, as the nation faced changes that many thought would tear us apart, civil rights leaders chose St. Augustine as the rally point for their cause.

Now it is our generation’s turn to look ahead to the future. In this new century, we have the chance to expand the American Dream to reach more people than ever before. Like the Spanish settlers 450 years ago, like Henry Flagler in the 1880s and like the civil rights leaders in the 1960s, we are now facing an opportunity to take America forward and fulfill our potential to be greater than we’ve ever been.

Keep reading here.

General Bondi’s Action on Gretna Racing Slot Machine Ruling Cheered by Florida’s Thoroughbred Racehorse Owners and Trainers

In response to the news that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has requested a full-court rehearing of a recent ruling allowing slot machines at Gretna Racing LLC, Florida’s Thoroughbred racehorse owners and trainers agreed that, without such intervention, the result of allowing the earlier decision to stand would indeed be a “jaw-dropping gambling expansion.”

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Representing more than 6,000 horsemen statewide, Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) President Bill White reminded that, during the span of December 2011 to January 2012, Gretna Racing LLC leveraged “pari-mutuel barrel racing” to convince the Gadsden County Commission to hold a slot referendum on January 31, 2012.

Other pari-mutuel permit holders followed suit, basing their actions on various convolutions of horse-related events designed as work-arounds to Florida law, which requires two years worth of live horse racing as a prerequisite to licensing for card rooms or slot machines.

In 2013, it was adjudicated that “pari-mutuel barrel racing” was not even real barrel racing, but wrongly approved as a new gambling product by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering with no legislative authorization, regulatory hearings or public input.

The most recent developments in the Gretna Racing matter have led horsemen to question whether a slot license legally can, or should be granted to the North Florida pari-mutuel permitholder, or any similar permitholder that has used horse-related events in a manner that has precluded the creation of jobs, businesses and positive economic benefit that would normally come with accredited horse racing and breeding operations.

The FHBPA and its colleagues, the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, and the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association, have strongly objected to the use of questionable horse-related events like “flag dropping” and “pari-mutuel barrel racing” in lieu of horse racing–heretofore unheard-of events that have been allowed to serve as the pari-mutuel basis for licensing of 365-day cardrooms, simulcasting or efforts to secure slot machines.

“If accredited horse racing would have been required in these locations, their local communities could have created far more jobs, businesses and economic impact,” White explained.  “For this reason, we urge General Bondi to strive to preserve one of Florida’s foremost economic generators–its world-renowned Thoroughbred horse racing industry, as well as its rapidly growing American Quarter Horse Racing industry.”

“This is a good opportunity to remind our policymakers that the purpose of state-sanctioned gambling is to increase tax revenues and economic impact, not to create the optimal atmosphere for out-of-state casinos or otherwise untaxed profits,” White noted.