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May 2019 Martin County Meetings
BOARD OF ZONING ADJUSTMENT
May 23, 2019 at 7:00 pm
Location: Commission Chambers
COMMUNITY REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY
May 28, 2019 at 3:00 pm
Location: Commission Chambers
This meeting will be televised live on MCTV Channel 20 (Comcast), Channel 99 (U-verse), and online at www.martin.fl.us.
CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY LICENSING BOARD
May 22, 2019 at 4:00 pm
Location: Commission Chambers
PUBLIC ART SITE SELECTION COMMITTEE
May 28, 2019 at 4:00 pm
Location: Commission Chambers
This meeting will be televised live on MCTV Channel 20 (Comcast), Channel 99 (U-verse), and online at www.martin.fl.us.
RIO NEIGHBORHOOD ADVISORY COMMITTEE
May 23, 2019 at 6:00 pm
Location: Vince Bocchino Community Center, 2369 NE Dixie Highway, Jensen Beach
TOURIST DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL
May 29, 2019 at 3:00 pm
Location: Commission Chambers
All Board of County Commission Offices and Libraries will be closed on Monday, May 27 in observance of the Memorial Day holiday.
WE NEED TO INVEST IN AMERICAN WORKERS AGAIN
One of my most vivid childhood memories is accompanying my father, a casino bartender in Las Vegas, as he and his fellow Culinary Workers Union members walked the picket line on strike. Americans can hardly escape the image of a random politician shaking hands with men and women adorned in hardhats and safety glasses. Conveying solidarity is easy. But it is no substitute for really grappling with what my father knew on the picket line: that our economy often does a poor job of recognizing and rewarding the contribution that working Americans make to the economy.
I recently released a report that seeks to attack this problem. It finds that American business investment has been in decline for decades. Investment in research and innovation — in actual capital goods like equipment, and in workers — is in decline even as corporate profits and GDP rise. The report makes the case that this decline is driven by American businesses and policymakers prioritizing high returns in the short-term, rather than investment in long-term productive capabilities.
If this idea sounds unrelated to the well-being of working Americans, let me assure you it isn’t.
To be fair, some of my Democratic colleagues recognize there is a problem. But their default solution is to force companies to pay more without worrying about helping workers or their employers become more productive. This so-called solution stands in the way of the long-term prosperity of workers and the firms that employ them. We need to focus on actually creating the conditions for American companies and workers alike to become more productive, which will provide well-paying, decent jobs and lift wages in a sustainable way.
Some of that work is already underway because the Trump administration rightly rejected the notion that America’s best days were behind her. The president’s pursuit of tighter labor markets and rebalanced trade agreements was long overdue.
Now we must pursue policies that deliberately and strategically prioritize long-term investment in ourselves again—especially in the critical 21st century industries that can employ working Americans at decent wages, and drive a national prosperity in which we all can share. Those investments will not happen simply because Washington mandates them. Washington must create the conditions that allow for an America where dignified work, through which working people can build healthy families, thriving communities, and a strong country, is available to all. If we do not, the well-being of working Americans and their families, and our strength and prosperity as a nation, are at risk.
OUR NATION’S VETERANS ARE A PERFECT MATCH FOR STEM JOBS
The future of work in 21st-century America will be dominated by Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and computer science careers. To further enhance America’s position as an innovative, globally competitive leader, job creators should look to our nation’s veterans to fill these critical roles.
Our veterans are uniquely positioned to excel in STEM and computer science roles. Cadets across our service academies are educated in the STEM fields in order to be prepared to meet the demands of the military. While in service, the magnitude of unique training and skills — in cybersecurity, cryptology, avionics, weapons training, nuclear physics and medicine, to name a few — our active-duty military members receive can be well integrated into a variety of civilian STEM jobs.
Unfortunately, this first-hand training does not guarantee a job post-service. While you would think that returning home after serving our country would open up several doors to a successful new career, even in 2019, many veterans continue to struggle with transitioning into these next-generation civilian jobs.
By 2022, projections show that there will be more than nine million STEM jobs. During this same time period, more than 1.5 million members of the U.S. armed forces will retire from service and seek new careers. Despite the increasing opportunities available in the STEM fields, our veterans continue to face challenges to entering this critical workforce when they return home. Oftentimes, these barriers are as simple as issues with transferring military credits to college credits in order to qualify for certain jobs.
Enter the Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act (S. 153). Earlier this year, I was proud to join Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and Rep. Neal Dunn (R-Florida) in reintroducing this bipartisan legislation to eliminate obstacles preventing our nation’s well-qualified veterans from participating in the STEM workforce by directing the federal government to enhance outreach, education and research opportunities.
MARCO RUBIO: WE NEED TO INVEST IN AMERICA AGAIN
“Many widely cited economic statistics do not fully account for this fundamental shift in the direction of the economy. The report I am releasing this week does.”
We need to invest in America again
By U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
Throughout the Obama administration and into the 2016 presidential election campaign, so-called economic experts told America that a new normal existed. They argued that the high rates of growth and employment which marked American history were no longer possible. Instead, American workers had to lower their expectations and learn to be content with inevitable stagnation and decline.
Thankfully, President Trump rejected the false premise that the American economy’s best days were behind us. The American economy’s performance today, with the lowest unemployment rate since the 1960s and economic growth that consistently beats expectations, vindicates his argument and proves that America’s economic engine was running far below capacity before Trump’s election.
This has been a great accomplishment, but beneath the surface we face serious, long-term structural challenges. Trump rightly argued that U.S. economic policy for the last three decades has left working families behind, that our trade agreements were not balanced, and that too much wealth was narrowly flowing to the financial sector. These are fundamental arguments about the long-term direction of the American economy, not merely how efficiently it can operate in the short term.
Economic growth is now more driven by finance than innovation in the production of real assets. Many widely cited economic statistics do not fully account for this fundamental shift in the direction of the economy. The report I am releasing this week does. The report argues that since the 1970s, changes made by American businesses and policymakers began prioritizing high returns to investors in the short term, rather than investment in long-term capabilities.
There are great implications to this shift. American workers become line items on a ledger rather than essential contributors to value creation. Investment in domestic innovation and research is often cut or outsourced to competitor nations such as China, which then steals technology to develop and win the technologies of the future — robotics, artificial intelligence, advanced pharmaceuticals, and 5G.
RUBIO, VAN HOLLEN URGE BANKING COMMITTEE TO HOLD MARK UP ON DETER ACT
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) today sent a letter to Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH) calling for the prompt mark up of the DETER Act as soon as possible. The Senators’ bipartisan legislation would send a clear and powerful message to Russia and any other foreign actors seeking to disrupt our elections: If you attack American candidates, campaigns, or voting infrastructure, you will face swift and severe consequences.
Dear Chairman Crapo and Ranking Member Brown:
Thank you for holding a series of hearings last year on Russian sanctions, which included a discussion of legislation that we introduced to deter future foreign interference in U.S. elections. We also appreciate your willingness to work with us to amend our legislation to address specific concerns from the Administration and others. Since those hearings, we have heard repeated concerns from government officials and non-governmental experts that our democratic institutions are still at risk. We therefore respectfully request that the Committee conduct an executive session and mark up of S.1060, the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act, as soon as possible.
Last year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tasked the Senate Banking Committee and Foreign Relations Committee with “holding hearings on the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, and [recommending] to the Senate additional measures that could respond to or deter Russian malign behavior.” That mandate resulted in the Banking Committee holding two hearings and discussing the merits of the DETER Act. At those hearings, we learned that the U.S. Government has not done enough to deter Russian efforts to interfere in American elections. Testimony further supported the argument that if we are going to deter Russia from future meddling, the U.S. Government needs to outline clear and significant consequences that are subject to little interpretation.
The recent release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report highlights how the Russian government under Vladimir Putin engaged in a complex effort to interfere in the 2016 elections. Moreover, senior U.S. officials reported that the Kremlin tried to hack the 2018 midterm elections and will seek to undermine the 2020 presidential election.
We know you share our goals of preventing foreign adversaries from meddling in our elections. With less than two years until the next general election and less than a year from the start of the state primary elections, Congress still has time to enact meaningful legislation that will deter foreign interference in future elections. We look forward to working with you and the other members of the Banking Committee to advance legislation that will impose a real cost on any foreign attempts to undermine our democracy, and we urge you to hold an executive session and markup of the DETER Act at the earliest possible convenience.
RUBIO URGES DOJ TO INVESTIGATE WHETHER FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE KERRY VIOLATED THE LOGAN ACT OR FARA
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate whether former Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s actions since leaving office related to the Iran nuclear deal violate the Logan Act or the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
Rubio previously urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate the matter.
The full text of the letter is below.
Dear Attorney General Barr:
I write to make you aware of a September 18, 2018 letter I sent to your predecessor regarding potential violations of the Logan Act (18 U.S.C. § 953) and the Foreign Agents Registration Act (22 U.S.C. § 611 et seq.) by former Secretary of State John F. Kerry. As you know, former Secretary Kerry’s actions since leaving office have come under scrutiny as they related to the Iran nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The full letter to your predecessor is attached.
The American people deserve to know that U.S. laws are enforced regardless of any individual’s past position. The Department of Justice should therefore make a determination on whether or not former Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s recent actions related to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran potentially violate the Logan Act or the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
MARCO RUBIO: ‘THERE IS NO LOYALTY TO MADURO’ AMONG VENEZUELA’S ELITE
Marco Rubio: ‘There Is No Loyalty to Maduro’ Among Venezuela’s Elite Frances Martel May 8, 2019
Venezuelan socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro’s days are numbered because his inner circle has no personal loyalty towards him or his ideology, and, after last week’s military uprising, Maduro now knows it, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told Breitbart News in a conversation Monday.
Rubio, who has become one of the most prominent voices in Congress on the spread of communist ideology in 21st century Latin America and plays a key role advising the White House on Venezuela, added that Maduro’s decision to shut down three of the country’s private airports in the aftermath of the uprising led by legitimate Venezuelan President Juan Guaidó indicates he suspects at least some around him are plotting their betrayal.
Rubio claimed Maduro forced all those in his inner circle to take polygraph tests after they stood accused of negotiating their escape with the United States in exchange for helping end Maduro’s regime.
He lists among the most important players keeping the Maduro regime in power figures like Tareck El Aissami, considered Hezbollah’s representative in the country; cocaine kingpin Diosdado Cabello; and Delcy Rodríguez, who recently warned starved Venezuelans not to eat food sent by the United States because it allegedly contained “chemical weapons.” Maduro typically rotates those in power from job to job, so all three have been at one time Venezuela’s vice president. Rodríguez holds the position currently.
Unlike Maduro, most of his inner circle is not loyal to socialist/communist ideology, a key vulnerability for Maduro, according to Rubio.
“Maduro is most certainly ideological, I mean, he wants to transition Venezuela to a Cuban-style system of governance, one party. He spent a lot of time in Cuba; it’s the reason the Cubans wanted him to be [late dictator Hugo] Chávez’s successor: because he is committed to that model,” Rubio told Breitbart News. “But the majority of the people in his inner circle, the key people, the seven to eight people that really hold up the regime, are not ideological, to varying degrees, but not like him.”
“They are primarily motivated by keeping and continuing to make the millions of dollars that they make from corruption opportunities and providing for the safety and security of themselves and their families – staying out of jail and allowing their families to continue to enjoy their wealth at home and abroad,” he added.
“There is no loyalty to Maduro,” he argued. “There is basically loyalty to a system that is making them rich and has allowed their families to enjoy life and stay out of jail.”
RUBIO COMMENTS ON IRAN’S NUCLEAR MISBEHAVIOR
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) issued a statement after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced the regime’s intention to violate, once again, its 2015 nuclear deal with Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China:
“The Iranian regime blatantly cheated on the flawed nuclear deal by hiding its massive ‘Atomic Archive’ for covertly developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles from international inspectors, and it is now moving to violate the agreement’s modest and temporary limits on its nuclear program.
“Iran’s ongoing nuclear misbehavior underscores why the United States was absolutely right to withdraw from the flawed deal, and also why the European nations and other partners must do all they can to reinforce the U.S.-led international campaign to impose maximum pressure against the regime in Tehran. The people of Iran deserve better as they continue to suffer under the Iranian regime’s criminal corruption, massive economic mismanagement and systemic human rights abuses, in addition to its support for terrorists and the murderous Assad regime, ballistic missile aggression, and nuclear misbehavior.”
Rubio is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
RUBIO, MENENDEZ, SCOTT URGE ADMINISTRATION TO SUPPORT VICTIMS OF CUBAN REGIME’S EXPLOITATION
“Additional reporting exposed how the financial arrangement between the former Government of Brazil, PAHO, and the Cuban regime allowed the regime to withhold approximately 75 percent of the Cuban doctors’ wages.”
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Rick Scott (R-FL) in sending a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging the State Department take action to address the Cuban regime’s human trafficking campaign of Cuban doctors and medical personnel. The Senators asked Secretary Pompeo if Cuba violated international human rights law and U.S. laws related to trafficking individuals, among other important requests. Additionally, the Senators requested information on the steps the Trump Administration is taking to reestablish the Cuban Medical Professionals Parole program, which was halted under the Obama Administration.
Rubio is the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues.
Dear Mr. Secretary:
We write to urge the State Department to take greater action to address the Cuban regime’s deployment of doctors and medical personnel under conditions that represent forced labor. As of 2015, the Cuban regime had deployed more than 50,000 medical personnel for foreign medical missions in 67 countries—in essence, a global network of human trafficking that generated billions of dollars in revenue for the regime.
In recent weeks, reporting by The New York Times revealed how the Cuban regime manipulated and coerced participants of its foreign medical missions in Venezuela. While it has long been understood that the Cuban regime profits from these deployments, this new investigation exposes the way in which Cuban and Venezuelan officials compelled Cuban doctors to provide services and medicines only to supporters of Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro. Such repugnant politicization of medical treatment forced Cuban doctors to deny essential care to sick and aging Venezuelans if they were deemed insufficiently loyal to the Maduro regime.
In recent months, investigative reporting has also provided details on how Brazil’s Mais Medícos program subjected Cuban doctors to forced labor conditions and the respective roles of the Brazilian government, the Cuban regime, and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) in the program. Brazilian diplomatic cables obtained by a freedom of information request revealed that the former Brazilian government and the Cuban regime acknowledged that the financial transactions related to Mais Medícos needed to be structured in order to avoid potential violations of U.S. sanctions.
Additional reporting exposed how the financial arrangement between the former Government of Brazil, PAHO, and the Cuban regime allowed the regime to withhold approximately 75 percent of the Cuban doctors’ wages. Under this arrangement, Cuban doctors were the only medical professionals participating in the Mais Medícos program to have a substantial part of their salaries retained by their government. Further reports have indicated that Cuban doctors participating in the Mais Medícos program frequently had their passports taken by Cuban officials to prevent them from traveling to neighboring countries, and were prohibited from having their families accompany them while stationed in Brazil. While Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was right to terminate Cuba’s participation in the Mais Medícos program soon after his inauguration this year, the Cuban regime continues to pursue opportunities around the world to profit off of the medical services provided by its doctors.
As the Cuban regime perpetuates this forced labor profit-scheme, we ask that the State Department provide our offices with information on the following issues:
· Due to the growing body of information about how the Cuban regime’s deployment of doctors and medical professionals represents forced labor, what steps is the Administration taking to reestablish the Cuban Medical Professionals Parole program?
· In the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report in 2015, Cuba was inappropriately upgraded in the TIP report’s tier rating from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch List. In 2017 and 2018, Cuba was wrongly granted waivers from being downgraded back to Tier 3. Under U.S. law, Cuba is not eligible for further downgrade waivers. Given its state-sponsored forced labor regime it is our full expectation that the State Department will downgrade Cuba to a Tier 3 country for human trafficking in the 2019 TIP Report.
· Given that Cuban doctors participating in the Mais Medícos program were deprived of their full wages and their personal liberties were infringed upon, what is the Department of State’s assessment of the respective liabilities of the former Government of Brazil, the Pan American Health Organization, and the Government of Cuba, and whether their respective actions violated international human rights law and U.S. laws relating to trafficking in persons?
As we continue our scrutiny of the Cuban regime’s global activities, it is imperative that we receive a full assessment of how the State Department will support Cuban medical professionals working under such coercive conditions and what risks other governments and multilateral institutions will face for supporting Cuba’s foreign medical missions. To that end, as members of the U.S. Senate, we will continue to investigate sources of direct and indirect support for Cuba’s human trafficking campaigns.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this critical matter.
RUBIO WELCOMES RELEASE OF REUTERS JOURNALISTS IN BURMA
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today issued the following statement after the release of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo from prison in Burma. The journalists had been wrongfully detained since December 12, 2017, for their work investigating and reporting on atrocities committed against the Rohingya by Burmese security forces.
“On the heels of World Press Freedom Day, I am very happy to see Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo finally walk free out of a Burmese prison. Both journalists were unjustly jailed for their work reporting the truth about the atrocities against the Rohingya in Burma. Their cases serve as a reminder of the critical role a free press plays in bringing accountability and transparency to governments, and we must do all we can to protect and advance those principles.”
Highlights of Rubio’s Actions in Support of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo:
On January 29, 2019, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced a resolution calling for the release of imprisoned Reuters journalists and for the safe repatriation of Rohingya.
On September 11, 2018, Rubio and Merkley led a bipartisan letter urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to secure the release of Reuters journalists in Burma covering Rohingya atrocities.
On May 3, 2018, Rubio and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) led a bipartisan open letter to Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo expressing solidarity with them.
On January 12, 2018, Rubio called on the Burmese government to release journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo as part of his #ExpressionNOToppression campaign.
RUBIO URGES ADMINISTRATION TO HOLD CHINA ACCOUNTABLE FOR ABUSES AGAINST UYGHURS
Miami, FL — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) once again highlighted the importance of holding China accountable for its large-scale, systemic and egregious human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other religious and ethnic minorities in Xinjiang during remarks at a recent event hosted by the Ronald Reagan Institute to commemorate the 35th anniversary of President Reagan’s speech at Shanghai’s Fudan University. Rubio’s remarks were the latest in a long running effort to highlight China’s egregious human rights violations in Xinjiang.
Rubio is co-chair of the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Excerpts of Rubio’s remarks are below:
“And look no further than Xinjiang, where China has concentrated over one million Uyghurs and other religious and ethnic minorities in what they call “vocational schools” or “reeducation camps,” but what we would recognize as prison camps. Establishing Orwellian levels of high tech surveillance and monitoring, including the forced providing of people’s DNA.
“What Xi Jinping calls the “Chinese Dream,” has for millions of people, become a brutal and unending nightmare.
“We continue to do our part to make sure the world knows about what’s happening in Xinjiang — the crimes against humanity, the crimes being committed against the Uyghurs and other religious and ethnic minorities.
“That’s why in January, I re-introduced the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act with Senator Menendez, a bill that would require the Director of National Intelligence and the State Department to report about the regional security threat posed by this crackdown in Xinjiang, and to generate a list of Chinese companies that are involved in the construction and operation of these mass detention camps. It also requires a report on efforts how the FBI is helping to better inform and protect Uyghurs and others who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents from Chinese government harassment and intimidation here in the U.S. on our own soil.
“I recently led 24 Senators and 19 House Members in a letter urging the State Department and the Treasury Department to impose Global Magnitsky sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for human rights abuses. These sanctions are long overdue and it is time to take action on them. Co-led by Senator Menendez and Congressmen Jim McGovern and Chris Smith, our letter also urges the Commerce Department to update U.S. export controls to stop American companies from exporting equipment and technology that enables these crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.
“Advocating for human rights and the rule of law in China needs to be made integral to any discussion that the United States Government has with China, or with allies and partners about China.”
Highlights of Rubio’s Actions in Support of Uyghurs and Other Religious and Ethnic Minorities in Xinjiang:
On April 3, 2019, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and colleagues urged strong sanctions, export controls and financial disclosures to counter Chinese human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
On January 17, 2019, Rubio, Menendez and colleagues re-introduced legislation in response to China’s human rights abuses of Uyghurs.
On November 14, 2018, Rubio, Menendez and colleagues introduced legislation in response to China’s human rights abuses of Uyghurs.
On October 10, 2018, Rubio and U.S. Representative Chris Smith issued the Congressional-Executive Commission 2018 Annual Report addressing possible ‘crimes against humanity’.
On October 10, 2018, Rubio and Smith wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed on how China grows more repressive.
On September 12, 2018, Rubio and Chris Smith (R-NJ), urged Commerce Secretary to limit technology sales to Chinese entities targeting Uyghur Muslims.
On September 7, 2018, Rubio discussed crackdown on Uyghur Muslims in China on NPR.
On August 29, 2018, Rubio and colleagues urged the Trump administration to sanction human rights violators in China’s Xinjiang region.
On August 23, 2018, Rubio discussed China’s oppression of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight.
On August 10, 2018, Rubio wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed on China’s campaign against Uyghur Muslims and other minorities.
On July 26, 2018, Rubio chairs Congressional-Executive Commission on China hearing on Xinjiang’s human rights crisis.
On May 15, 2018, Rubio and Smith asked Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross about sale of surveillance technology to Chinese police.
On April 4, 2018, Rubio and Smith urged U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad to prioritize mass detention of Uyghurs, including family members of Radio Free Asia employees.
On January 8, 2018, Rubio and Smith raise alarm about deteriorating human rights situation in Xinjiang.
RUBIO APPLAUDS DOD DECISION TO DENY FUNDS TO AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES THAT HAVE AGREEMENTS WITH CHINESE-RUN CONFUCIUS INSTITUTES
Miami, FL — Today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), applauded the Department of Defense’s (DOD) decision to deny federal grants to American universities that have Chinese government-run Confucius Institutes operating on their campuses. Rubio is a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
“The Pentagon is absolutely right to deny federal funding to American universities that have agreements with Chinese state-run Confucius Institutes attempting to infiltrate college campuses, and every other federal agency should follow suit,” Rubio said. “The Communist Chinese government’s attempts to influence academic institutions and thwart critical analysis of China’s past and present policies is just one part of their aggressive campaign to stifle free speech and censor information both here at home and abroad. American universities that still have agreements with Confucius Institutes should follow the lead of Florida’s academic institutions that have already terminated these agreements.”
Rubio has previously warned of the Communist Chinese government’s attempt to infiltrate America’s classrooms, and urged Florida schools to terminate their agreements with Confucius Institutes last year. To date, University of South Florida, University of North Florida, and University of West Florida have all closed their Confucius Institutes.
RUBIO INTRODUCES BILL TO ELIMINATE INTEREST FOR FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS
Washington, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the Leveraging Opportunities for Americans Now (LOAN) Act, legislation that would reform the federal direct student loan system by eliminating interest and replacing it with a one-time, non-compounding financing fee that borrowers will pay over the life of the loan. The LOAN Act would also place borrowers in an income-based repayment (IBR) plan, ensuring working-class Americans are not further burdened with monthly repayments they are unable to afford. The LOAN Act is supported by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).
The LOAN Act builds off of Rubio’s efforts to empower students pursuing higher education and to help borrowers seeking dignified work. In March, Rubio reintroduced the bipartisan Student Right to Know Before You Go Act, legislation that would provide critical information that will help students, families, policymakers, and taxpayers to better understand the costs and outcomes associated with higher education, while protecting individual privacy. In February, Rubio reintroduced the bipartisan Protecting Job Opportunities for Borrowers (Protecting JOBs) Act (S.609), legislation that would help to ensure borrowers are not inhibited from working in their trained field solely because they fell behind on their federal student loan payments.
“For years, our nation’s outdated federal student loan system has saddled working-class Americans with mountains of debt and accruing interest that they are unable to repay,” Rubio said. “The LOAN Act will ensure borrowers are not trapped in a cycle of debt. Instead of accruing interest, borrowers will pay a one-time financing fee paid out over the life of the federal loan and will be automatically placed in an income-based repayment plan. It’s time that our federal student loan system ensures that those pursuing higher education are able to achieve the American dream without burdening them with debt they can never repay.”
“UNCF has been a long champion of reforming our financial aid system, and we have been vocal in advocating for reducing the burden on students to repay their loans. I am excited to support a bill that would not only eliminate interest rates on student loans, but create a process that increases equity in our financial aid system and takes unforeseen financial circumstances that would affect a borrower’s ability to repay their loan, regardless of income, into consideration. This is a strong and robust proposal, and low-income students would fair better under the repayment system this bill creates versus our current structure. It is my hope that this bill will spur further conversation and proposals around innovative ways to reform our federal financial aid system that benefits our low-income students.” — Dr. Michael L. Lomax, President and CEO of UNCF (United Negro College Fund, Inc.)
The LOAN Act:
Beginning with the 2021 school year, all federal direct student loans will have one-time financing fees instead of interest, which will be paid over the life of the loan and not accumulate with age.
This financing fee will not increase over time and it will finally give borrowers greater understanding of the actual costs of higher education.
Borrowers enrolled in school but haven’t graduated before this date have their choice to continue using the current loan system or the new, interest free loans created by the LOAN Act.
Borrowers will automatically be placed in an income-based repayment (IBR) plan, where they pay 10% of their earnings in excess of $10,000, except in times of unforeseen financial hardship.
Borrowers can still choose the standard 10-year repayment plan, but this will no longer be the default.
Borrowers that pay more towards their loan than necessary can have their financing fee reduced, ensuring there is still an incentive to pay off loans in advance.
The borrower’s income would be verified by the Treasury based on tax filings. Those earning less than $10,000 annually would not have to contribute toward their loan.
RUBIO URGES BRITAIN TO ABANDON REPORTED 5G PLANS WITH CHINA’S HUAWEI
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) urged the United Kingdom to abandon its reported plans to allow Huawei, a Chinese state-directed telecoms company, to participate in its 5G networks in remarks on the U.S.-China relationship at an event hosted by the Ronald Reagan Institute to mark the 35th anniversary of President Reagan’s speech at Shanghai’s Fudan University:
“But we should be alarmed that one of our closest allies in the world, the United Kingdom, may choose to go in a different direction in 5G. There were news reports last week that Britain is may be set to allow China to participate in its 5G networks and these reports by the way coincided with the British Chancellor’s trip to Beijing for the Second Annual Belt and Road Forum. It is my understanding, and frankly my earnest hope, that the decision may not yet truly be final, and that many British policymakers and intelligence officials internally share our fundamental concerns that this risk that’s posed cannot be mitigated and therefore should not be permitted. So, I want to publicly urge our British allies not to endanger our decades of Five Eyes cooperation by partnering on 5G with Huawei or any other Chinese directed telecom company because there is too much at stake here.”
RUBIO AND COLLEAGUES URGE ADMINISTRATION TO SUPPORT VICTIMS OF IRANIAN TERROR ATTACKS
Miami, FL — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), James Inhofe (R-OK), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and John Cornyn (R-TX) urging Attorney General William Barr and Solicitor General Noel Francisco in a letter to support the victims of Iranian terror attacks in the case of Clearstream Banking S.A. v. Peterson. This case presents the administration with an opportunity to assist the Marine families who lost loved ones in the Beirut barracks bombing in 1983. These victims deserve restitution from the regime in Tehran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.
Dear Attorney General Barr and Solicitor General Francisco,
We write to urge you to support the victims of Iranian terror attacks in the case of Clearstream Banking S.A. v. Peterson.
In October 1983, Iranian terrorists bombed the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. President Reagan had stationed U.S. Marines in Lebanon as part of a multinational peacekeeping force. An Iranian national drove a truck bomb into the compound, killing 220 Marines and dozens of other personnel. The attack was perpetrated by Hezbollah, a terror group founded, trained, and financially supported by the Iranian regime. Since the attack, the victims’ families have won a number of court judgments authorizing the seizure of Iranian funds as restitution for the attack. Currently, these families are seeking to enforce these judgments against Clearstream S.A., a financial institution that continues to launder money for the Iranian regime.
In October 2018, the Supreme Court invited the Solicitor General to file a brief expressing the U.S. government’s views on whether Iran should be able to protect its assets from these Marine families. Congress unanimously passed the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, 22 U.S.C. § 8772, and members of Congress filed two amicus briefs supporting the victims of the Beirut bombing in related litigation, see Bank Markazi v. Peterson, 136 S.Ct. 1310 (2016), making clear that Congress strongly supports the ability of the terror victims and their families to recover on their judgments against Iran. This case presents your Administration with an opportunity to assist these victims, including our constituents, in claiming restitution from the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.
We believe that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled correctly that U.S. courts can oblige banks to bring funds they hold for state sponsors of terror outside the United States to New York in compliance with judgments against those foreign governments. Therefore, we urge the Administration to oppose Iran’ s request for certiorari before the Supreme Court.
Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.
Mast, Dingell Introduce Forage Fish Conservation Act to Protect Marine Ecosystem and Fishing Economy
Bipartisan Bill Strengthens Key Protections For Fisheries and Promotes Responsible Management of Forage Fish
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representatives Brian Mast (FL-18) and Debbie Dingell (MI-12) today introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen key protections for fisheries and promote responsible management of forage fish. The Forage Fish Conservation Act legislation improves protections for forage fish, prey for other recreationally and commercially important species such as tuna, salmon, and cod. These populations have declined substantially due to human activity and threaten the viability of marine ecosystems, as well as opportunities for recreational fisherman. Currently, there are few management measures in place to address this decline.
“On the Treasure Coast we know firsthand how irresponsible management of our marine ecosystem can have devastating ripple effects on our environment, food supply, fishing industry and overall economy,” Rep. Mast said. “This is important and bipartisan sustainability legislation that will help protect our coastal health, environment and economy.”
“Declining fish stocks threaten both the larger marine ecosystem and the coastal economies that rely on them,” Rep. Dingell said. “This legislation addresses a key need by implementing robust, science-based management practices for forage fish to promote sustainable fisheries and safeguard our environmental heritage for the enjoyment of future generations.”
The Forage Fish Conservation Act builds upon the successes of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the primary federal law governing marine fisheries management. To ensure that enough forage fish remain in the water, the Act:
Provides a national, science-based definition for forage fish in federal waters;
Assesses the impact a new commercial forage fish fishery could have on existing fisheries, fishing communities, and the marine ecosystem prior to the fishery being authorized;
Account for predator needs in existing management plans for forage fish;
Specifies that managers consider forage fish when establishing research priorities;
Ensures scientific advice sought by fishery managers includes recommendations for forage fish;
Conserves and manages river herring and shad in the ocean; and
Preserve state management of forage fish fisheries that occur within their jurisdiction.
Numerous sporting, conservation and environmental groups expressed support for the legislation:
“The American Sportfishing Association is grateful to Rep. Dingell for her leadership on forage fish conservation,” Mike Leonard, vice president of Government Affairs for the American Sportfishing Association, said. “In addition to all the Michiganders who travel to the coasts to go fishing, the state is home to many businesses who make fishing equipment used in saltwater. This legislation, which establishes a framework for ensuring forage fish are not over-exploited, is critical for all those who depend on healthy marine resources.”
“We know that small fish have a big impact in our ocean food webs. That’s why a strategy to ensure smart, science-based management of forage fish species is so important to overall ocean health and sustainable fisheries,” Jessie Ritter, Director of Water Resources and Coastal Policy at the National Wildlife Federation, said. “NWF is grateful to Congresswoman Dingell and Congressman Mast for their leadership on this legislation, which will help ensure that forage fish populations not only survive, but thrive in their dynamic marine ecosystems.”
“Seabirds are in trouble. One of the main threats they face is the growing competition for a dwindling food supply, and that is the problem this legislation will help solve,” Karen Hyun, National Audubon Society’s Vice President of Coastal Conservation, said. “Conserving forage fish ensures seabirds have more food to eat, which is a huge step towards reversing the 70 percent decline we have seen in their populations. I applaud Congresswomen Dingell and Congressman Mast’s efforts to protect seabirds and the rest of our marine ecosystem, and Audubon will do everything we can to help make it law.”
“This legislation uses sound science to preserve our nation’s fishing economy,” Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership said. “Declining populations of forage fish hurt the entire marine ecosystem and sportfishing opportunities. This bill will help prevent overfishing and create sustainable fisheries. We appreciate Representative Dingell working with a broad coalition to advance conservation efforts across the country.”
The Forage Fish Conservation Act is also cosponsored by Representatives Matt Cartwright (PA-8), Fred Upton (MI-6), and Billy Long (MO-7).
Mast, Sherman Introduce Resolution Supporting Israel’s Humanitarian Aid Efforts in Syria
Mast Volunteered Alongside The Israel Defense Forces Prior To Serving In Congress
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18), who volunteered alongside the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) following his U.S. military service, and U.S. Congressman Brad Sherman (CA-30) today introduced a bipartisan resolution reaffirming support for collaboration among United States nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including faith-based organizations, and the IDF to deliver humanitarian assistance to Syrians, such as through “Operation Good Neighbor.”
Since its beginning eight years ago, the Syrian civil war has forced 14 million Syrians to flee the country. The IDF’s “Operation Good Neighbor” worked with United States NGOs to deliver food, fuel, medicine, ambulances and medical supplies from Israel into southern Syria.
“When I volunteered alongside the IDF in Israel, I witnessed firsthand how the men and women of the IDF play such an important role in not just protecting Israel but also providing stability in the Middle East,” Rep. Mast said. “The IDF’s Operation Good Neighbor has resulted in important humanitarian aid and relationships between the IDF and the Syrian people. We should continue to use this program as a model as we find new ways to bring long-term stability to the region.”
The resolution reaffirms support for collaborative efforts between United States NGOs, including faith based organizations, and the IDF “for having provided vital aid to internally displaced people and local residents in southern Syria while also countering generations of hostility, promoting dialogue between neighbors, and ultimately advancing long-term stability in the region.”
“Operation Good Neighbor was a rare bright spot amid the never-ending tragedy of the Syrian Civil War,” Rep. Sherman said. “It was yet another powerful example of the immense good the United States and Israel can do when we work together—not only for ourselves but for the region as a whole.”
A companion bill was also introduced in the Senate by Senators James Lankford (OK) and Bob Casey (PA).
AT THEIR OWN PERIL, COUNTRIES EMBRACE CHINA
Marco Rubio: At Their Own Peril, Countries Embrace China
China is playing a zero-sum game internationally and willing to win at all costs. That certainly won’t be Chinese President Xi Jinping’s message to world leaders at the second Belt and Road Initiative Forum in Beijing this week, but that is the reality.
For the last two decades, China fooled the world into believing it would embrace the rules-based international order and become a responsible stakeholder.
Instead, China has used its membership in the World Trade Organization as an instrument for its economic advancement aimed directly at the expense of other more developed member states. Moreover, it has tightened its one-party authoritarian rule, increased repression of domestic dissent, and escalated human rights abuses within its borders. And it is building up its military’s might—including new capabilities to menace Taiwan, Japan, and other neighbors to threaten U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific region, and to project power globally.
China now is trying to fool the world again by luring foreign governments to join its Belt and Road Initiative with extravagant promises of Chinese investment for their infrastructure projects.
Some countries have already learned hard lessons from Beijing’s debt-trap diplomacy. For example, Sri Lanka was forced to give a Chinese state-owned company majority control of its $1.3 billion Hambantota port for 99 years after it defaulted on a Chinese loan, and Pakistan is now seeking to drastically curb borrowing from China as it faces a mounting debt crisis.
Yet these and other cautionary tales aren’t deterring everyone. Last March, Italy became the first G7 nation to sign on to the Belt and Road Initiative. Alarmingly, the United Kingdom appears willing to allow some Chinese hardware into the development of their 5G network. More countries in Europe and other regions may soon follow.
This is stunningly naive.
“SENATOR, WE AGREE”
Secretary Pompeo: “Senator, I don’t think there is any doubt that that’s the case, that the Maduro regime presents a threat to the United States of America.”
Washington, D.C. — During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) discussed the continuing crisis in Venezuela with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Rubio asked about the threat that the Maduro regime poses to the U.S. national security interests. In response, Secretary Pompeo highlighted that the Maduro regime continues to receive assistance from Russia, Cuba, and Iran. Rubio also noted grave and growing threats that Israel faces from the Iranian regime and Foreign Terrorist Organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas.
Senator Rubio and Secretary Pompeo’s full exchange is below.
Rubio: “The President recently expressed dissatisfaction with the amount of cocaine that is being produced in Colombia, and I thought it was important to point, and I know he’s aware of this, that the migratory situation coming from Venezuela into Colombia is an extraordinary drain on that nation’s resources. We have ELN and other drug groups operating openly and with impunity on the Venezuelan side of the border, with the support of all the Venezuelan government officials. The migrants, by the way, are very vulnerable people, some of whom are now being actively recruited in efforts to get them to join some of these gangs on the border. The drug flights that come out of Venezuela carrying the cocaine headed north. By the way, many of those planes land right in the Northern Triangle countries where they are passed on to drug trafficking organizations that are fueled by the drug proceeds and, of course, are a key part in destabilizing Central of America, leading to our migratory crisis. On top of that, in Venezuela you have an active and growing Russian military presence, as we have seen in open source reporting. Yesterday, the open source reports about the resumption of direct flights from Iran by the airline that our nation has sanctioned for support to the IRGC. And adding to all of this fun and games, is the fact that we know that they have purchased a series of MANPADS of Russian-made systems, which in a place where you’ve got gangs acting with impunity in the streets, links to drug trafficking organizations, links to guerilla groups on the border, there is always the concern that these MANPADS could be stolen or transferred for profit. They’re involved in every sort of illegal trafficking imaginable. I guess that leads to the question, could not the argument be made, or is it our position, that the Maduro regime, based on all of this that I have just outlined, represents a direct threat to the national interest and the national security of the United States?”
Secretary Pompeo: “Senator, I don’t think there is any doubt that that’s the case, that the Maduro regime presents a threat to the United States of America. You mentioned Iran. Hezbollah has been in South America, this risk is very real. The drugs, something that has been around for a long time, that is not a new problem. And now the Russian footprint. Couple that with their connection to the Cubans, and the Cuban inner-circle that is around Maduro, and it is clearly the case that the former leadership of Venezuela, the Maduro regime, is a true threat to the United States of America.”
Rubio: “And I guess the broader point is that, of course we care about human rights and democracy in our region and especially in our hemisphere, and we are going to be supportive of it. But beyond that, there is a national security interest for the United States and what is happening there.”
Secretary Pompeo: “Senator, we agree.”
Rubio: “And one more point on these gangs. They call them the colectivos, you are aware of them as we have seen. The normal argument you hear out there is the military is sticking with Maduro and there is truth to that. But really what he is using now to control the country and repress are 50,000 members of over 500 gangs, literally street gangs, that he’s armed and actually openly calls upon to take the streets and repress people. It would be my view and I think that the White House and the State Department would share, that these military officials, high ranking military officials, who in the past in Venezuela have openly discussed how these groups are unconstitutional and operating outside the law, it would be incumbent upon them to step forward and confront these groups at a minimum. They may not do a coup d’état, they may not take out Maduro, but they must confront these armed groups in Venezuela who are basically running the streets.”
Secretary Pompeo: “Senator, we agree and to the extent we’ve had the capacity to talk to them directly, we have shared that they need to do that. It is a bit embarrassing to be a Venezuelan senior leader. You’ve got the Cubans protecting Maduro and you got the colectivos keeping down people inside of the country. We hope they will make decisions that are very, very different from that. We have also spoken about this publically, it’s a real threat. These little roving gangs are doing enormous harm inside of the country. Not only are there water shortages and food shortages, but there are now Venezuelan people being observed by these colectivos and their behavior isn’t consistent with what Maduro would wish. They’re under the thumb of these roving gangs.”
Rubio: “Yeah, just one side note on that. These gangs, they’ll be repressing people in the street and attacking them and spot somebody walking down the street and snatch their purse, and then go back to repressing. They’re criminals. One last question, I support the designation of the IRGC. I think that was the right decision. Has the Administration made clear through every channel, that if in fact now as a result of this, U.S. troops in Iraq are targeted, not just designated terrorists groups, but targeted, whether it is by Shia militias, the IRGC, or a combination thereof, no matter who targets us in Iraq from that Shia militias or the Iranians, that we will hold Iran directly responsible for any harm that comes to our personnel in the region, even if they do it through a third party surrogate?”
Secretary Pompeo: “Senator, we have made clear that Iran cannot escape responsibility for any harm that comes to United States interest anywhere in the world by doing it through a proxy force. They understand President Trump’s policy.”
Rubio: “Just to follow up on the Israel point. Israel, I do not think I can recall a time in recent memory where such a state that nine miles in its narrowest point has faced the array of threats it now faces. It looks north and sees Iranian and Hezbollah elements operating openly, just north of its border in Syria. It looks northwest into Lebanon and sees Hezbollah more capable with ammunitions that are now precision guided. It looks at what is happening in Gaza repeatedly, not just with Hamas, but with other sub-elements who are the ones behind these recent attacks that we’ve seen over there. It sees Iran continue to advance in its missile capabilities. And on top of all that, it’s my observation that sure, it would be great if we had this solution to this problem with the Palestinians and Israelis, but the problem from Israel’s point of view when you take all of that into context is any territory on its border throughout its history has been used to target and to attack Israel. And second, who would they negotiate with? It is not even clear who has the authority or the ability to deliver on a deal at this point. And in fact, some of the deals that are being discussed now are not nearly as generous as deals that have been rejected in the past. So I guess my first question would be, isn’t it fair that anything we do with regards to talking about Israel and talking about solutions to the Palestinian issue, take into its context all of these other threats that are currently weighing on it, recognizing that some argue that by dealing with that these other issues go away? But it is fair to take all of that into consideration.”
Secretary Pompeo: “It is not only fair, it is necessary. Israel has a right to defend itself. It has a right to create a situation on its borders that provides security for it and its people and I’m very confident that the United States will continue to support that.”
Rubio: “If tomorrow the issue with the Palestinians were resolved, and it would be great if it were, would it in anyway, in your view, lead Iran to be less hostile towards Israel?”
Secretary Pompeo: “Unimaginable.”
Rubio: “Would it lead Hezbollah or those elements to be less hostile to Israel?”
Secretary Pompeo: “No chance.”
Rubio: “And I believe it’s still the case, that some of these groups that Israel is being asked to cut a deal with have as their stated objective the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state?”
Secretary Pompeo: “That is true.”
Rubio: “I would imagine that is in that vein, that the Administration has requested $3.3 billion in security assistance to Israel and I just want, if I may, to ask you to further comment, because one of the interesting things about is, and I say this and I hope that I am wrong but I do not believe that I am, that a future Israel-Hezbollah war, even though neither side seems to want one, certainly at this point they may wind up in one anyway. In essence, as Israel is forced to defend itself by targeting certain elements, it can trigger a counter-response, from Syria for example, that Israel would have to respond to could rapidly escalate, the situation in Gaza could quickly escalate at any moment, particularly if attacks resume inside, for example, suicide attacks in Jerusalem, they will respond to these things very strongly. Any of these responses could rapidly trigger escalation that could lead to a war. So, the truth of the matter is that there is a hair-trigger threat that at any moment an open and very severe conflict can open up with anyone of these threats that they now face. I imagine that was the thinking behind the Administration’s commitment on this year’s budgeting for security assistance.”
Secretary Pompeo: “That is absolutely true. We believe that is money well spent for American security, in addition to Israel’s security. You describe the threats there are very real, almost every one of them is connected to Iran. The risk that Iran will decide to put missile systems inside of Lebanon, the Israelis will feel compelled because the threat is so enormous they won’t have the reaction time. The risks of escalation for these kinds of activities that Iran is engaged in is very, very real.”
Rubio: “One last question on the Houthis in Yemen. I have remained concerned that they would acquire from Iran, and I imagine that Iran would be the one that would supply them anti-ship missiles that would allow them to directly threaten not just Saudi shipping, but inadvertently U.S. shipping or perhaps directly as a result. I know there has been a lot of debate here about Yemen and the U.S.’s role in that, but I think lost in that debate has often been the threat that the Houthis in Yemen pose particularly as they have increasingly become it seems surrogates and agents on behalf of the Iranian regime.”
Secretary Pompeo: “The risk is not only the ships at sea, but missile systems inside of Yemen that are Iranian missile systems that land in big cities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. And if they’re extended just a little bit into the Emirates and Gulf states, Americans transit there all the time. You all transit there on trips. These risks to U.S. interests are very, very real. They are not just providing the equipment and hardware either, they are providing the training so that the Houthis can actually use and implement more effectively these weapon systems. UAVs as well, the technology rate that is being transferred from Iran to the Houthis presents a real risk. Certainly to southeast Saudi Arabia, but to the broader Gulf states in America as well.”
ECONOMIC GROWTH DEPENDS ON INVESTMENT IN THE REAL ECONOMY
For an editorial board that regularly invokes President Ronald Reagan, the Gipper’s axiom that “the person who agrees with you 80% of the time is a friend and an ally—not a 20% traitor” no longer seems to hold true. Case in point is your editorial “The Stock Buyback Panic” (March 11) criticizing my efforts to enact pro-growth, pro-worker reforms.
In my report outlining the threat that China’s efforts to dominate the high-value industries of the 21st century poses to the U.S. economy, I propose encouraging more domestic investment through the tax code. My proposal would expand and make permanent full expensing for business investment enacted by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and equalize the tax treatment between share buybacks and dividends. Curiously, you leave out any mention of full expensing in your criticism—despite having endorsed that very policy choice for the same reason that I do: Economic growth depends on investment in the real economy.
Policy makers need to reassess why the U.S. economy has continued to shift investment away from manufacturing, and consider its ultimate effect on American productivity and workers. Your suggestion that I want “politicians to have more leverage to direct how business deploy their capital” ignores that politicians already incentivize business behavior through the tax code, just for uses other than capital expenditure. I believe our policies should unambiguously support capital investment. If that goes against the preferences of business models that rely on unproductive paper arbitrage, then so be it.
TRUMP IS RIGHT. DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME SHOULD BE PERMANENT
Last weekend, Americans were forced to comply with an antiquated practice that continues to frustrate a growing majority of the public: the biannual practice of changing our clocks.
Daylight saving time was initiated more than 100 years ago in Germany to conserve energy during World War I. In 2005, Congress voted to extend the practice, originally observed for six months, in the United States for eight months, from March to November. This leaves 48 states changing their clocks twice a year for only 18 weeks of standard time.
It simply does not make sense. It’s time for Congress to finally do away with the hour shifting by making daylight saving time permanent. There is no need for Americans to change their clocks twice a year, and studies have shown that making daylight saving time permanent would benefit the economy and our country.
From 1942 until 1945, during World War II, the United States made daylight saving time year-round, and established earlier start dates in both 1974 and 1975. Recently, burgeoning disapproval of this temporal pendulum has garnered undeniable momentum.
In Florida, our state legislature — in a bipartisan effort led by now Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez (R) — overwhelmingly passed legislation in 2018 to make the change and provide more sunshine later in the day. The Sunshine State is not the only one in the Union to take action. In fact, more than 30 states are addressing the question of daylight saving time in some form. And just this week, the move to make daylight saving time permanent earned the seal of approval from President Trump.
States, however, cannot make the change on their own; doing so requires approval from Congress. That’s why we urge our colleagues in Congress to pass our bipartisan legislation, the Sunshine Protection Act. Our bill would end the practice of having to change our clocks. It would not alter time zones, nor would it impact those states and territories that do not observe daylight saving time. This is truly not a partisan issue, but instead, an everyday American issue.
Popular will and presidential endorsements aside, studies have found that time change is associated with an increase in strokes, heart attacks, seasonal depression, auto accidents and workplace injuries.
The potential benefits of a permanent daylight saving time are substantial. Studies in the American Journal of Public Health and the Journal of Safety Research show that the move would reduce car crashes by increasing visibility for commuting drivers. The Transportation Department has stated that a uniform policy would save lives and prevent traffic injuries.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION PROPOSALS TO REFORM HIGHER EDUCATION A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today issued the following statement regarding the Trump Administration’s proposals to reform the Higher Education Act:
“The proposals put forward by the Trump Administration are a step in the right direction in reforming our higher education system,” Rubio said. “Investing in a college education is one of the most important decisions that students and families can make. I also echo the administration’s recognition of the important contributions that Historically Black Colleges and Universities make to our country, including in my home state of Florida.”
Many of the “Higher Education Reform Principles” announced by the White House mirror reforms pushed by Rubio, including Rubio’s bipartisan Student Right to Know Before You Go Act.
“I welcome the administration’s support of policy proposals that provide critical information to help students and families make informed decisions on their educational future,” Rubio continued. “My bipartisan Student Right to Know Before You Go Act would give students more information about how much money they should expect to borrow as well as future earning potential for the schools and areas of study they are planning to pursue. It is encouraging that the administration recognizes this lack of information for prospective students and has included several of the key provisions from this legislation. I look forward to working my colleagues to provide our students with the information they need to make the best decision for their future.”
The “Higher Education Reform Principles” announced by the White House also includes reforms to “Reorient the Accreditation Process to Focus on Student Outcomes.” Last Congress, Rubio, along with Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), introduced a bill to create an outcome-focused alternative system of accreditation for high-quality American colleges, universities, and other higher education providers so their students can access federal financial aid.
“The administration is right to push for policies to reform the accreditation system, an effort I am focused on in Congress in order to provide more students with access to federal financial aid,” Rubio added. “To modernize our higher education system, we must update the current accreditation system, which stifles competition, fuels soaring tuition costs, and limits opportunities for nontraditional students, such as working parents.”
The administration’s reform principles also calls for simplification of the student loan repayment system, which Rubio has supported. Last Congress, Rubio, along with Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), introduced the bipartisan Dynamic Student Loan Repayment Act to ease the burden and confusion for borrowers when they are paying their loans back.
“Too often students are caught in the disorienting maze of repayment options and are unsure what option best fits their unique situation,” Rubio said. “By simplifying the repayment system and ensuring students are enrolled in Income Based Repayment, we can ensure that people with federal student loans have affordable payments and stronger borrowing protections.”
RUBIO INTRODUCES RESOLUTION MARKING THE 12TH ANNIVERSARY OF BOB LEVINSON’S DISAPPEARANCE
Washington, D.C. – Marking the 12th anniversary of Bob Levinson’s disappearance, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today introduced a Senate resolution urging the President to continue efforts to locate and return Levinson to the United States. The resolution also highlights that repeated pledges by the Government of Iran have not led to any meaningful progress in locating and returning Levinson, who is the longest held United States civilian in our Nation’s history. Representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Lois Frankel (D-FL), and Michael Waltz (R-FL) will introduce the companion resolution in the House.
The full text of the resolution is below.
Whereas United States citizen Robert Levinson is a retired agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a resident of Coral Springs, Florida, the husband of Christine Levinson, father of their seven children, and grandfather of their six grandchildren;
Whereas Robert Levinson traveled from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to Kish Island, Iran, on March 8, 2007;
Whereas after traveling to Kish Island and checking into the Hotel Maryam, Robert Levinson disappeared on March 9, 2007;
Whereas, in December 2007, Robert Levinson’s wife, Christine, traveled to Kish Island to retrace Mr. Levinson’s steps and met with officials of the Government of Iran who pledged to help in the investigation;
Whereas, for 12 years, the United States Government has continually pressed the Government of Iran to provide any information on the whereabouts of Robert Levinson and to help ensure his prompt and safe return to his family;
Whereas officials of the Government of Iran promised their continued assistance to the relatives of Robert Levinson during the visit of the family to the Islamic Republic of Iran in December 2007;
Whereas, in November 2010, the Levinson family received a video of Mr. Levinson in captivity, representing the first proof of life since his disappearance and providing some initial indications that he was being held somewhere in southwest Asia;
Whereas, in April 2011, the Levinson family received a series of pictures of Mr. Levinson, which provided further indications that he was being held somewhere in southwest Asia;
Whereas Secretary of State John Kerry stated on August 28, 2013, “The United States respectfully asks the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to work cooperatively with us in our efforts to help U.S. citizen Robert Levinson.”;
Whereas, on September 28, 2013, during the first direct phone conversation between the heads of governments of the United States and Iran since 1979, President Barack Obama raised the case of Robert Levinson to President of Iran Hassan Rouhani and urged the President of Iran to help locate Mr. Levinson and reunite him with his family;
Whereas, on August 29, 2014, Secretary of State Kerry again stated that the United States “respectfully request[s] the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran [to] work cooperatively with us to find Mr. Levinson and bring him home”;
Whereas, on January 16, 2016, the Government of Iran released five United States citizens detained in Iran;
Whereas, on January 17, 2016, President Obama stated that, “even as we rejoice in the safe return of others, we will never forget about Bob”, referring to Robert Levinson, and that “each and every day but especially today our hearts are with the Levinson family and we will never rest until their family is whole again”;
Whereas, on January 19, 2016, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stated that the United States Government had “secured a commitment from the Iranians to use the channel that has now been opened to secure the release of those individuals that we know were being held by Iran … to try and gather information about Mr. Levinson’s possible whereabouts”;
Whereas the Government of Iran’s most recent commitment to assist in and the diplomatic channel dedicated to locating and returning Robert Levinson have not yielded any meaningful results;
Whereas, on November 23, 2016, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) issued Opinion No. 50/2016, concerning Robert Levinson in which the UNWGAD found Iran responsible for the arbitrary detention of Mr. Levinson;
Whereas, on April 25, 2017, the Department of State issued a statement noting that “[o]n the sidelines of the April 25 meeting in Vienna of the Joint Commission overseeing implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the U.S. delegation raised with the Iranian delegation its serious concerns regarding the cases of U.S. citizens detained and missing in Iran, and called on Iran to immediately release these U.S. citizens so they can be reunited with their families”;
Whereas, on March 9, 2018, Department of State Spokesperson Heather Nauert stated, “Iran committed to cooperating with the United States to assist us in bringing Robert Levinson home and we call on Iran to fulfill this commitment.”;
Whereas, on November 26, 2013, Mr. Levinson became the longest held United States civilian in our Nation’s history;
Whereas March 9, 2019, marks 12 years since the disappearance of Robert Levinson from Kish Island, Iran; and
Whereas the Federal Bureau of Investigation continues to offer a $5,000,000 reward for information leading to Mr. Levinson’s safe return: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate—
(1) recognizes that Robert Levinson is the longest held United States civilian in our Nation’s history;
(2) notes that repeated pledges by officials of the Government of Iran to provide their Government’s assistance in the case of Robert Levinson have not led to any meaningful progress in locating or returning Robert Levinson;
(3) urges the Government of Iran to take meaningful steps towards fulfilling its repeated promises to assist in locating and returning Robert Levinson, including by immediately providing all available information from all entities of the Government of Iran regarding the disappearance of Robert Levinson to the United States Government;
(4) urges the President to make clear that the return of Robert Levinson is a priority to the United States and commit to redoubling United States Government efforts to secure the release of Robert Levinson;
(5) urges the President and the allies of the United States to continue to press the Government of Iran at every opportunity to locate and return Robert Levinson, notwithstanding ongoing and serious disagreements the United States Government has with the Government of Iran on a broad array of issues, including Iran’s ballistic missile program, sponsorship of international terrorism, destabilization of the Middle East, and human rights abuses;
(6) notes that in addition to these other serious issues, further delay in locating and returning Robert Levinson remains a significant obstacle to improving United States-Iran relations; and
(7) expresses sympathy to the family of Robert Levinson for their anguish and hope that their ordeal can be brought to an end in the near future.
RUBIO CHAIRS HEARING ON THREAT CYBER CRIME POSES TO AMERICA’S SMALL BUSINESSES
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, has convened a hearing titled “Cyber Crime: An Existential Threat to Small Business.” Earlier today, he introduced two bills to protect America’s small businesses from the threats that cyber crime pose to America’s small businesses.
The hearing is live streamed on the committee’s website here.
Chairman Rubio’s opening remarks as prepared can be found below:
Rubio: “Today’s hearing of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship will come to order. I want to thank you all for being here, and say welcome to our witnesses. This hearing will discuss one of the most challenging issues facing small businesses today: cybersecurity.
“It’s hard enough for small businesses to get up and running with changing markets, regulatory hurdles, and the cost of starting a business. But cyber attacks can bring a quick end to all of that hard work.
“Foreign hackers and other cyber criminals are increasingly targeting small businesses to steal IP, trade secrets, and valuable information; or to hold hostage small businesses’ operational and customer data in order to get a ransom payment.
“Small businesses bear the brunt of cyber crime, falling victim to approximately 43 percent of all attacks. While ransomware attacks on individuals have fallen, attacks targeting businesses rose 12 percent in the last year. And these attacks are not rare occurrences. Almost 55 percent of small businesses were victim to phishing attacks in 2017 – up 30 percent from 2015.
“The risk of cyber crime is greater to small businesses, which lack the dedicated IT staff and sophisticated equipment that larger companies have in order to stay safe. Cyber criminals know small businesses are unprepared for attacks, which is why small businesses are twice as likely to be targeted by a phishing attack.
“The consequences of cyber crime are also greater for small businesses, which operate on a smaller profit margin and are not always able to bounce back after a costly cyber attack. The Department of Justice’s Internet Crime Complaint Center recorded more than 300,000 cybersecurity complaints in 2017, which added up to more than $1.4 billion in loss.
“And we know that cyber attacks on small businesses are significantly underreported, because they don’t know who to call, or they don’t want their customers to know that they were compromised.
“Because the risks to small businesses are so high, this week I introduced The Small Business Cyber Training Act with Senator Shaheen to create a cyber strategy training program for the counselors at the small business development centers across the country.
“This bill will prepare SBDC counselors to provide important advice on cybersecurity to entrepreneurs when it matters most: at the beginning of the business life cycle. And perhaps most importantly, counselors can make small businesses more aware of the very real cyber threats that they face.
“In addition to internal controls and protections for their own operations, businesses that want to work with the federal government are required to meet an extra level of cybersecurity protection under NIST contracting requirements.
“It is important for the government to maintain a high level of security with its contractors, but the inability to meet certain cybersecurity criteria can begin to disqualify smaller companies, who cannot afford to build up the cyber capability necessary to service the government.
“In fact, many times small businesses cannot even understand what the government requires of its contractors. We hope that NIST, the SBA, and other government agencies will work together to educate and train small business contractors so that they are equipped to take on business with the government.
“Federal agencies face very real cyber threats, including the SBA. It may be a small government agency, but for many small businesses, the SBA is an important gateway to loans, disaster relief, and business training. That is why it is especially important that the IT systems at the SBA be secure enough to protect the sensitive data that small businesses and lenders entrust to the agency.
“The SBA Office of Inspector General has consistently ranked SBA’s IT as one of the most serious challenges facing the agency. Specifically, the IG has recommended that the SBA continue to improve IT controls to address operational risks, such as cyber attacks.
“The SBA is moving quickly to modernize its systems, but we know that criminals often move even faster. In recent years, we have seen what happens when government agencies let their guard down, as was the case with OPM in 2015 when personnel data of more than 4 million current and former Federal government employees was stolen.
“The risk of cyber attacks for small businesses also compromises data that could harm U.S. national security. Our adversaries are laying the groundwork for cyber espionage by embedding their technology into the systems we depend on to do business – be it small business or government business. Just last week reports emerged showing that the Chinese hacking group APT40 has infiltrated IT systems of at least 27 universities world-wide, like MIT, in an attempt to steal U.S. military information from less secure sources.
“These cyber criminals operate with the full backing of the Chinese Communist Party. And we must take proactive steps to deny the Chinese government and others access to our networks and to the personal information of small businesses.
“This is why I introduced the SBA Cyber Awareness Act this week with Ranking Member Cardin. This bill would require the SBA to develop a cyber strategy and to examine where the components in its IT system are manufactured. This bill would also require the SBA to report to this Committee about the cyber breaches and threats it faces so that we can give the SBA the tools that it needs to defend against future attacks.
“I look forward to talking with our witnesses about ways to protect small business information from cyber criminals, while helping them understand cyber guidelines and requirements that allow them to participate in the market.”
RUBIO RECEIVES “AMERICAN TRADE HERO” AWARD FOR WORK ON CHINA, TRADE
Washington, D.C. — This evening, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) delivered remarks and accepted the “American Trade Hero” award at the Coalition for a Prosperous America’s (CPA) Annual Trade Conference Banquet for his work on trade and the U.S.-China relationship. Through his roles on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Rubio has worked tirelessly to make the American people aware of the threats the Chinese Government and Communist Party, including state-directed telecom companies like Huawei and ZTE, pose to our national and economic security. Rubio has also long been a leader in advocating for human rights in China. Recently, Rubio released a report on Made in China 2025’s implications for small-and medium-sized American businesses and held a hearing on countering the Chinese threat.
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer received the “American Trade Hero” award as well. Rubio and Baldwin introduced the Fair Trade with China Enforcement Act (S. 2), which would safeguard American assets from Chinese influence and possession, and serve to blunt China’s tools of economic aggression.
Rubio’s full remarks as prepared are below and a Facebook live can be viewed here.
Thank you all for being here and representing America’s manufacturers. What makes us strong as a nation is not just what we can buy, but what we can make. What we can build. What we can produce. Our ability to create is what you, and all the working men and women that are the backbone of these industries, and you embody that here this evening.
You embody the strength of the American economy. And you represent a direct threat to the Chinese government’s ambition to reduce us to a nation of consumers instead of producers, a nation that can only purchase the products of the 21st century’s high-end industries, instead of making them.
So I thank each of you for what you do and for the critical part you play in creating dignified work, which is the bedrock of our family and community life, and the part you play in securing the future of our prosperity.
I would like to take a few moments to discuss the threat posed by the Chinese Government and Communist Party to America’s national and economic security, and how it is instructive of our broader challenge in creating dignified work for all Americans.
Trade normalization with China occurred with the optimistic promise of fair-market access, economic liberalization, and an improvement in Chinese political and human rights.
That didn’t happen. China took advantage by playing fast and loose with international trade rules and global norms, to the detriment of American productive capabilities.
After China’s accession to the World Trade Organization, we saw what is now called the “China Shock,” which was a devastation to American small- and medium-sized manufacturers in concentrated areas throughout the country.
And now we’re facing an unprecedented threat to American competitiveness from China’s whole-of-society efforts to capture the high-value manufacturing industries of the 21st century.
We have not encountered anything like this, and it is critical we understand the seriousness of the moment.
This challenge is ultimately one of national security, and more fundamentally about whether or not the future of the world will be defined by authoritarianism or by democracy.
If we get this wrong, we will have to explain to the next generation why they didn’t get to grow up in the America that we did, the America that led the world in innovation, that created the greatest prosperity in history, and that was a beacon of freedom and opportunity for millions around the world.
We’ll have to explain why we have become a second-tier power while the Communist Chinese government—a regime that has no respect for human rights, no respect for free speech or other basic freedoms, no respect for political and religious liberty—dominates everything that matters. A world whose most powerful nation is a one-party authoritarian state instead of a democracy is not a better world.
But more immediately, Chinese economic ambition presents a serious threat to American industry. Through its whole-of-society strategy, the Chinese government is attempting to steal and subsidize and ultimately compete its way to the top of the global production value chain. They want to supplant American industrial leadership by any means necessary, including illegal means.
China’s “Made in China 2025” plan outlines a coordinated effort to achieve dominance in critical technological sectors, some of which the U.S. currently leads globally, and all of which will profoundly shape and drive the 21st century economy.
And make no mistake: Whoever controls these technologies not only will control the upper end of the value chain, but also will be able to set the standards and terms of engagement for the rest of the world. And it’s clear the Chinese government wants to dictate the terms and conditions of the future of global trade and global technological engagement, and to do so for their own benefit.
This threat to American competitiveness and capacity is a threat to working Americans all across the country, who rely on innovation and investment in our real economy—who rely on our national capacity to make things—in order to find decent and well-paying jobs.
It’s a threat to the wages of American workers, and the well-being of American families, and the stability of American communities. It’s our job as lawmakers to ensure that U.S. economic policy aligns with our national interests. And nothing is more critical to our national interest than ensuring that the American people can find dignified work.
That’s the other question we’re going to have to answer for our children: Will they inherit an America where stable, well-paying work is available only to the few, or to the many? Will our country look like the land of shared opportunity that my parents found when they arrived here, or will we become a stagnant nation fighting over how to divide up what little opportunity is left?
I believe our best and brightest days are still ahead. But for that to happen, we must meet the challenge honestly and creatively.
We must choose to prioritize national development, economic dynamism, and small business competitiveness.
We must invest in our own innovative capacity, and ensure we’re fighting for high-wage industries, to the benefit of American businesses, workers, and their families.
And we must directly confront China’s unfair trade practices.
Ambassador Lighthizer is here this evening. I’m grateful that we have someone serving as U.S. Trade Representative that is standing up for American industry as we negotiate with the Chinese government.
Bringing balance to America’s relationship with China is the geopolitical challenge of this century. The fact that we are in a position today to face that challenge so directly is impressive.
The President has done what many thought the U.S. would be unable or unwilling to do: actually stand up to China and force them to the table. The pressure is starting to work. America’s new assertiveness has created powerful leverage that could be used to change the behavior of China’s government.
This is a massive accomplishment. And it is critical that we make the most of the moment we’ve created. American negotiators must not waste their leverage by prematurely agreeing to a bad deal.
We must not focus on a handful of individual trade matters at the expense of addressing structural imbalances. To take just one example: China’s theft of American IP costs the U.S. almost $600 billion every year. That more than the profits of the top 50 companies on last year’s Fortune 500 list.
An improved U.S. trade surplus in soybeans would not be enough. A quick deal to satisfy financial markets would not be enough. China wants to displace the United States in the 21st century – we must hold strong against the political pressures of the short-term.
There is some news emerging recently that Chinese officials are dropping the use of the term “Made in China 2025” in official statements and are considering ending required technology transfers from companies investing in China.
We cannot afford to accept more empty promises.
Until the Chinese Communist government fundamentally alters its goals and methods, the U.S. must stay focused on the critical issues of economic theft and competition.
If we accept a deal that does not bring fundamental structural changes to the U.S.-China economic relationship, we risk losing this century’s most important strategic, economic, and geopolitical competition.
This challenge is also why I introduced the Fair Trade with China Enforcement Act (S. 2). This legislation would take a number of steps to ensure that our trade with China is in our own long-term best interests – starting by imposing duties on Chinese capital goods in the sectors targeted by the “Made in China 2025” plan, to ensure that American buyers do not inadvertently finance the long-term displacement of their own country’s manufacturing.
It would also impose a tax on Chinese entities that earn investment and dividend income in the U.S., in order to discourage Chinese attempts to price out American exports.
Trade is not the only question in front of us. We need to confront China directly. But ultimately China will not determine the future of American manufacturing for us. We will determine our future for ourselves.
As I said earlier, we need to embrace a policy agenda of national development and economic dynamism that places working Americans and their families at the center.
In today’s global economy, high wages for American workers are not inevitable. We know this.
Free markets are an unparalleled force for the creation of prosperity and wealth, but they also produce in response to the policy terms they are given. They produce in response to what we prioritize. And we have too often failed to make the well-being of working Americans the terms for market success.
We like to talk about the status quo as if it’s neutral, as if it’s simply the result of a natural process. But, for example, prioritizing the growth of financial services instead of advanced manufacturing, like we’ve been doing for the last few decades, is a decision. It’s result of policy choices that we’ve made. And I think we can make better ones.
For example I think we should stop giving stock buybacks a tax preference. That’s the incentive that exists now – the policy choice that exists now.
If we’re going to give tax preference to certain behavior, I think it should be for practices that create more jobs with better wages and benefits for American workers. We can do that.
I also think we can find a common-sense, common-ground way to provide paid family leave to working parents. All of this is within our ability. We can put dignified work and healthy families at the center of our policy decisions.
We need to stand up to the Communist Chinese government, in the face of their economic aggression and ambition to capture the 21st century’s high-value industries at our expense. We need to ensure they back down and back off trying to win at our expense.
But our economic future is ultimately ours to choose. And I believe we can choose a future that prioritizes American innovation and production, our ability to make quality instead of just buy cheap.
And I believe if we get it right, we’ll be doing right by our fellow Americans who rely on industry for decent work, and who rely on policymakers to make them and their families our national priority.
That’s why I’m here, and that’s why this award is so meaningful to me. I’ll continue to fight for you. You continue to make the things that America needs. Thank you.
RUBIO, CASSIDY, AND KENNEDY REINTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO EXPEDITE SMALL-SCALE LNG EXPORTS
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), and John Kennedy (R-LA) today reintroduced the Small Scale LNG Access Act, legislation expediting the approval of natural gas exports equal to or less than 51.1 billion cubic feet per year. These small-scale exports would be deemed consistent with the public interest and granted without modification or delay.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) finalized a rule to expedite the approval of small-scale exports of natural gas. This rule will primarily service consumers in small-scale natural gas export markets in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. The legislation introduced by Rubio, Cassidy, and Kennedy would codify the DOE’s rule and ensure long-term stability for investment.
“Expediting approval of small-scale natural gas exports would strengthen an emerging sector of Florida’s economy and bolster our existing ties with Caribbean and Latin American nations,” Rubio said. “Importantly, the bill would also ensure that bad actors, including the criminal regimes in Venezuela and Cuba, do not benefit from expedited access to American energy exports while they continue to undermine democracy and commit human rights atrocities.”
“This bill unleashes American natural gas potential, creating well-paying jobs with good benefits for families in Louisiana,” said Dr. Cassidy, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy. “Increasing small-scale natural gas shipments creates American jobs, improves Caribbean energy security and lowers greenhouse gas emissions as nations transition to clean burning natural gas.”
“The bill is about one thing: Louisiana jobs. A market has developed to export small-scale LNG shipments from the U.S. to the Caribbean, Central America and South America. To help that market flourish, we need to remove some red tape,” said Senator Kennedy. “I want Louisiana to be able to tap into this emerging industry and create even more opportunities for Louisiana families.”
Rubio and Cassidy introduced this legislation last Congress and it passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 13-10.
The Caribbean small-scale LNG export market represents a relatively untapped outlet; the United States only exported approximately 7.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas to the region in 2018.
Increasing exports of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) will decrease Caribbean and Central American reliance on Venezuelan fuel oil, increase economic opportunities, and offer a cleaner-burning fuel source for those nations.
The United States is well positioned to meet the anticipated four to five percent annual growth in global natural gas demand. According to the Energy Information Administration, the U.S. has an estimated 2,462 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable natural gas, enough to last an estimated 90 years at 2016 consumption rates.
The current permitting process for LNG export facilities is expensive, and small-scale projects often are not cost effective under current conditions. Reducing the time and investment required for small-scale exports will benefit U.S. production, manufacturing, and construction jobs while also reducing trade deficits with the importing country. Increasing LNG exports, even on a small scale, will positively impact the economies of the United States as well as the economies of those receiving U.S. natural gas.
U.S. Representative Ted Yoho (R-FL) is leading companion legislation in the House.
RUBIO, VAN HOLLEN, COLLEAGUES INTRODUCE PROTECT OUR ELECTIONS ACT
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today joined Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Ben Cardin (D-MD) in introducing the Protect Our Elections Act, which would prohibit foreign adversaries from owning and controlling the companies supporting American elections. Our intelligence chiefs have made it clear that hostile foreign actors continue to work to disrupt our democratic process by any means possible. This common-sense legislation – with public disclosure and annual reporting – is essential in ensuring that our elections are free from foreign influence.
“The Protect our Elections Act is a common sense measure that seeks to protect our elections from foreign interference,” Rubio said. “Hostile foreign actors have attempted to disrupt our electoral process and attack our democracy in the past, and our intelligence community continues to warn of this ongoing threat. This bipartisan bill would take an important step in ensuring hostile foreign entities are not able to take an ownership stake in companies that are crucial in our electoral process.”
“Our free and fair elections are central to what makes America’s democracy an example to the world. We cannot allow Russia or any other foreign adversaries to own our election systems,” Van Hollen said , who has written to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to review the issue in Maryland and introduced bipartisan sanctions legislation to deter future attacks on American elections. “While Maryland’s systems were ultimately not compromised, it reinforced that this is a real issue we must address. The bipartisan Protect Our Elections Act would take simple but critical steps to ensure that the nuts and bolts of our elections are secure.”
“We cannot allow the Russians or any foreign adversary to interfere with our elections, the cornerstone of our democracy,” Collins said. “This commonsense bill would help strengthen the integrity of our election process and instill confidence among voters by requiring election infrastructure vendors to be owned and controlled by American citizens or our closest allies.”
“Elections are a cornerstone of the rule of law in America and foreign governments and adversaries will keep attacking our election systems and work to undermine Americans’ faith in their government and the sanctity of the results of free and fair elections,” Cardin said, author of a Senate Foreign Relations Committee report on Russian President Putin’s continuing assault on democratic institutions and the rule of law. He has introduced the bipartisan Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act to hold Russia accountable and strengthen America’s defenses. “All levels of government must implement immediate safeguards to preserve the security and integrity of America’s ballot box, whether it is a paper or electronic ballot.”
The Protection Our Elections Act contains two central provisions:
· Mandates disclosure of foreign ownership or control: The bill requires the companies that provide elections services to report to the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Election Assistance Commission, and appropriate state or local governmental entities any foreign national who owns or controls their firm. It also requires elections service providers to notify the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Election Assistance Commission, and appropriate state or local governmental entities of any material change in ownership or control. It mandates a $10,000 fine for any election service provider that fails to submit the required information.
· Prohibition on foreign ownership and control of elections systems: The bill requires state and local governments to conduct an annual evaluation of their election service providers to ensure that each election service provider is solely owned and controlled by U.S. persons. The legislation includes an exception for election service providers created or organized under the laws of our Five Eyes allies – Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
RUBIO COMMENTS ON THE STATE DEPARTMENT’S 2018 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT
Washington, D.C.– U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues, today issued a statement after the State Department published its 2018 Human Rights Report:
“The State Department’s release of its annual Human Rights Report today reminds us how so many people around the world face daily assaults on their rights and freedoms at the hands of their own governments. It once again highlights that there are no shortage of human rights abuses in places like Cuba, Venezuela, China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Iran, and Syria, as well as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Vietnam.
“The report also reminds us how blessed we, the American people, are to live in a nation founded on the self-evident truth that every human is created equal and endowed with inalienable rights that no government or person can take away. Protecting and promoting human rights and human dignity internationally advances the values of our Constitution and U.S. national security interests, and must be a top priority in America’s foreign policy.
“The United States must be prepared to lead our allies in the free world in standing up to authoritarian governments who abuse their citizens and calling out injustice where we see it. Because there is no amount of money that can buy back our credibility on human rights, we must not hesitate to speak clearly on these matters not only with our enemies and rivals, but also with our allies and partners.”
RUBIO INTRODUCES TWO BILLS TO PROTECT AMERICA’S SMALL BUSINESSES FROM CYBERSECURITY THREATS
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship introduced legislation to protect America’s small businesses from the threats that cyber crime pose to America’s small businesses.
“Amidst rapid technological advances, shifting global economic trends, and rising foreign adversaries, we must continue to protect our small businesses. This includes emerging and evolving cybersecurity threats,” Rubio said. “My two bills will give small businesses the tools they need to safeguard themselves against the growing cybersecurity risks of the 21st century.”
Rubio’s two bills to protect America’s small businesses from cybersecurity threats:
The SBA Cyber Awareness Act– Cosponsored by Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD), this bill would require the Small Business Administration (SBA) to develop a cyber strategy, examine its IT system components’ country of origin, and report on breaches and threats to the Small Business Committees. A one pager can be found here.
The Small Business Cyber Training Act– Cosponsored by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), this bill would create a training program for small business development centers (SBDCs) to prepare counselors in cyber planning assistance. Specifically, the bill would require SBDCs to employees certified in cyber strategy counseling for small businesses.
RUBIO INTRODUCES BORDER SECURITY AND DISASTER RESPONSE SUPPLEMENTAL
Washington, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Border Security and Disaster Relief Act of 2019, which would secure our southern border and provide much-needed disaster relief. The bill includes $3.6 billion to address the emergency at the border, and $14.949 billion to respond to the 2018 natural disasters, including Florida communities devastated by Hurricane Michael. The bill provides $2.4 billion for Air Force installations, including necessary resources to rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base. The bill also includes $610 million in nutrition assistance for Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria. A summary of the bill is available here.
“Addressing the crisis on our southern border and helping local communities still struggling to recover from recent disasters, including communities in Florida devastated by Hurricane Michael, should not be a partisan issue,” Rubio said. “Yet Congress continues to fail the American people by ignoring the border crisis and playing politics with disaster funding at the expense of local communities. Every day Congress fails to act, the crisis at our border worsens, and we put local communities increasingly at risk of running out of the necessary resources needed to address critical issues and fully recover from recent disasters. It is time to act.”
RUBIO, MENENDEZ INTRODUCE BILL TO PROHIBIT U.S. COURT FROM RECOGNIZING TRADEMARKS CONFISCATED BY THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT
Washington, D.C. – 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 joined Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) in introducing the No Stolen Trademarks Honored in America Act. The bipartisan, bicameral bill prohibits U.S. courts from recognizing, enforcing, or otherwise validating any assertion of rights by an individual of a trademark that was used in connection with a business or assets that were confiscated by the Cuban regime unless the original owner of the trademark has expressly consented. A companion bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) and John Rutherford (R-FL).
A trademark involving Bacardi, one of the world’s largest liquor producers, is illustrative of this circumstance. Havana Club’s assets were seized by the Cuban government in 1959, and in 1994 –although the trademark expired in 1974– descendants of the Havana Club founder sold the recipe and trademark to Bacardi, who has since produced the rum in Puerto Rico. Around the same time, Cuban firm Cuba Ron filed for and received a U.S. trademark on the name, and partnered with Pernod Ricard to sell competing “Havana Club” rum. The No Stolen Trademarks Honored in America Act would prohibit the Cuba Ron / Pernod Ricard partnership from using rights related to Havana Club due to the Cuban regime’s confiscation of the original company in 1959.
“For 60 years, the Communist Cuban regime through government-controlled companies has profited from stolen property that rightfully belongs to Americans,” Rubio said. “It has long been U.S. policy to support the rightful owners of stolen property, and this bipartisan bill ensures that U.S. courts will not recognize, enforce, or otherwise validate any trademark rights from businesses or assets stolen by the Cuban regime.”
“The confiscation of assets by the Cuban government is, and will always be a crime,” Menendez said. “This bipartisan legislation will protect U.S. trademarks by prohibiting courts from recognizing the rights of those subject to confiscation without consent, continuing the longstanding U.S. policy of supporting the rightful owners of stolen property.”
“I’ve been firmly committed to safeguarding the intellectual property rights of American companies to ensure that trademarks are protected against confiscation by any foreign government,” Rep. Wasserman Schultz said. “This bill does that, by prohibiting courts from validating an assertion of trademark rights in connection with a business or assets confiscated by the Cuban government, and by supporting the true and just owners of stolen property – a long-held U.S. policy that must be continued.”
“The Cuban government has been allowed to steal American intellectual property for far too long,” Rep. Rutherford said. “By upholding strong copyright protections in our courts, foreign regimes will no longer be permitted to profit off American ingenuity.”
The bill applies a trademark prohibition only if the individual asserting the rights knew or had reason to know at the time of acquiring the rights asserted that the trademark was the same or substantially similar to the mark or name used in connection with the business or assets that were confiscated.
Mast, Panetta Introduce Legislation to End Deadly USDA Experiments on Kittens
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Congressmen Brian Mast (FL-18) and Jimmy Panetta (CA-20) today introduced the bipartisan Kittens in Traumatic Testing Ends Now Act of 2019, or KITTEN Act. The bill directs the Secretary of Agriculture to end the use of cats in experiments that cause pain or stress.
Currently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) performs parasite-related experiments on cats and kittens. This taxpayer-funded testing results in thousands of kittens bred, fed parasite-infected raw meat and then killed.
“The fact that we need a piece of legislation to tell the federal government to stop killing kittens is ridiculous on its face, but what’s even worse is when you hear the details that the government is actually breeding hundreds of these cats just to intentionally feed them parasite-ridden raw meat and then kill them even though they’re perfectly healthy,” Rep. Mast said. “These tests are just awful, abusive and unnecessary, not to mention a serious misuse of millions of taxpayer dollars. This needs to stop now.”
“This common sense, bipartisan bill will require the USDA to adhere to the same animal welfare standards that the department is charged to uphold,” Rep. Panetta said. “While I strongly support scientific research, taxpayer money and federal resources should be spent on advancing scientific research in an ethical manner, not on inflicting pain on innocent kittens in outdated experiments. I hope this bill helps us get closer to ending this cruel practice.”
“Three thousand kittens killed and $22 million squandered for decades of cruel and unproductive USDA experiments is tragic whether you care about government waste, animal protection or both. Like a majority of Americans, our two-million-plus members want this nightmarish program ended and we applaud Congressman Mast for leading the charge to shut down the USDA’s taxpayer-funded kitten abuse,” Noelle Callahan, Public Policy Manager at taxpayer watchdog group White Coat Waste Project, said.
Residents and Visitors Welcome by Air and Sea U.S. Customs & Border Protection Facility Now Open
Martin County Board of County Commissioners is pleased to announce the opening of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Facility at Martin County Airport. Customs officially opened its doors to aircraft and marine vessels today, receiving it’s first customer by air at 11:55 a.m. this morning. “It’s truly exciting,” said Sam Carver, Martin County Airport Manager. “This allows Martin County boaters, pilots, residents and visitors to conveniently clear customs without having to travel to Fort Pierce or West Palm Beach,” Mr. Carver continued.
The 3,200 sq. foot facility is operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection with regular operating hours Thursday through Monday, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Customers may contact Customs at 772-210-0420 during regular operating hours and after hours at 772-210-0797. Procedures for pilots and boaters as well as user fees can be found at https://www.martin.fl.us/Customs.
Funding for the project was provided through an 80/20 grant partnership with the Florida Department of Transportation Aviation (Multimodal) Division and the Airport Enterprise Fund.
Visit www.martin.fl.us, Martin County’s online resource for services, information and news, and follow us on social media for daily updates. Follow us on Twitter @MartinCountygov and Facebook at www.facebook.com/MartinCountyBoardofCountyCommissioners.
RUBIO, MENENDEZ, COLLEAGUES URGE POTUS TO SEND CABINET OFFICIAL TO TAIPEI FOR TAIWAN RELATIONS ACT’S 40TH ANNIVERSARY
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) today led a bipartisan letter urging President Trump to send a Cabinet-level official to Taipei for the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act in April 2019. The letter also requests the President fully implement the Taiwan Travel Act (Public Law 115-135) and the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (Public Law 115-409) to reaffirm the America’s commitment to Taiwan, a fellow democracy and an important economic and security partner in the Indo-Pacific.
Also signing the letter were Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), Chris Coons (D-DE), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), John Cornyn (R-TX), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Edward Markey (D-MA), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Rick Scott (R-FL), and Mike Rounds (R-SD).
The full text of the letter is below.
Dear Mr. President:
In April 2019, the United States will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act (Public Law 96-8). This landmark legislation serves as the cornerstone of U.S. policy towards Taiwan and has helped to maintain peace, security, and stability in the Indo-Pacific against an increasingly aggressive Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Communist Party of China (CCP). To mark this momentous occasion, the Director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) has indicated his intention to hold a major event in April to celebrate the anniversary. This event provides an ideal opportunity, consistent with the requirements set forth in the Taiwan Travel Act (Public Law 115-135) that you signed into law on March 16, 2018, to send a Cabinet-level official to Taipei to underscore our nation’s enduring commitment to Taiwan’s democracy and its people. The provisions of the Taiwan Travel Act were further reaffirmed in the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (Public Law 115-409), which was signed into law on December 31, 2018.
Taiwan is a key economic and security partner, as well as a critical ally of the United States. In your November 2017 speech to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO summit, you spoke of your vision for “a peaceful, prosperous, and free Indo-Pacific.” As a vibrant democracy and free-market economy that respects the rule of law, Taiwan is an important part of achieving this vision and a shining example of everything we want for the region.
We welcomed your signing of the Taiwan Travel Act and the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act into law last year. This was an important development in our relationship with Taiwan that cemented the critical need for high-level visits between Washington, D.C., and Taipei. In specific, the law encourages high-level officials, including Cabinet-level national security officials, general officers, and other executive branch officials, to travel to Taiwan and meet with their counterparts. We believe that travel of this nature is important to ensure we are acting in accordance with our commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act, especially given Chinese efforts to change the cross-Strait status quo.
We therefore respectfully request you to fully implement the Taiwan Travel Act and the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, and send a Cabinet-level official to represent the United States at the AIT event in Taipei, Taiwan. We believe the presence of a senior delegation would send a strong signal of America’s unwavering commitment to and support for one of our strongest partners in the region. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
RUBIO, CORTEZ MASTO REINTRODUCE BILL TO COMBAT CHINA’S POLITICAL INFLUENCE OPERATIONS
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) today reintroduced the Countering the Chinese Government and Communist Party’s Political Influence Operations Act, bipartisan legislation that aims to combat China’s political influence operations in the United States and worldwide. The legislation requires the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to organize an interagency task force to compile an unclassified report on China’s disinformation, press manipulation, economic coercion and influence operations in the United States and certain allies and partners who are impacted by China’s influence operations. The bill also requires a strategy to counter China’s growing influence in the United States and to protect U.S. citizens, particularly the Chinese, Uyghur and Tibetan diaspora communities, from Chinese government threats.
“To effectively combat the Chinese Government and Communist Party’s political influence operations here in the United States and globally, we must better understand the full scope and breadth of their efforts,” Rubio said. “I am pleased to reintroduce this important and timely legislation which, if passed, will be instructive not only for policymakers, but for the American people, media, academia and other impacted sectors.”
“Our democratic processes are increasingly under attack from authoritarian governments,” Cortez Masto said. “We must fully understand those threats to effectively combat them. This bipartisan bill will raise awareness about the threat Chinese government interference poses to democratic societies around the world, while also preparing our government to develop policy solutions that protect our political processes and our national security.”
Joining Rubio and Cortez Masto as original cosponsors of the legislation are Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), Ed Markey (D-MA), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Tom Cotton (R-AR).
RUBIO RELEASES REPORT OUTLINING CHINA’S PLAN FOR GLOBAL DOMINANCE AND WHY AMERICA MUST RESPOND
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, today released a report titled “Made in China 2025 and the Future of American Industry.” The report outlines the challenges posed by China’s whole-of-state industrial planning for America’s prosperity and productivity, including the jobs and wages of American workers and small businesses. It also lays out policy recommendations to strengthen the American economy against its rivals by increasing high-value, high-labor production in the United States. The report is the first product of the Project for Strong Labor Markets and National Development from Rubio’s committee staff.
Rubio released the following video message outlining the report. A broadcast-quality version can be found here.
“Changes in the 21st-century economy have upended the working lives of millions of Americans. Americans understand that something has gone wrong, and the failure of Washington to respond is one of the underlying currents in our nation’s disunity. Something needs to change.
“The Senate Small Business Committee’s report on “Made in China 2025 and the Future of American Industry” is the beginning of that conversation. Our report highlights the challenges posed by China’s blatant industrial espionage and coercion – actions that threaten our economic framework and our national prosperity. The report will also offer policy recommendations to strengthen the American system against its rivals. Markets and trade are tools for good, and they are essential for overcoming the challenges we face, but they respond to policy incentives and restrictions.
“The role of government is to align our economic policies with the right national priorities. Right now, we have the wrong priorities. Our most important priority should be creating dignified work through investment and through innovation. That will require the hard work of forming a new consensus, but we can build an America that is better for the future generations to come, as Americans have always done.”
Excerpts from “Made in China 2025 and the Future of American Industry” are below. A full copy of the report can be found here.
· “In a world of state competition for valuable industries, a domestic policy of neutrality is itself a selection of priority. ‘Not choosing’ is a choice, however it is made. The relevant policy consideration, then, is not whether states should organize their economies, but how they should be organized. Total neutrality among interacting economic systems is impossible, but relative material decline is not.”
· “Manufacturing provides better and more stable employment for American workers than financial services. Physical capital development makes for more prosperous towns and communities than does digital capital. Knowing how to make a specialized product is a less replicable skill than marketing the product for sale. Research and development expenditures deliver greater benefits to the public than private cost alone justifies. Offshoring jobs to save on labor costs doesn’t often create equivalent jobs for the workers displaced by it. Worker skills are not easily transferable across industries. Geographic proximity to productive assets like factories increases the prosperity of supplying and local small businesses.”
· “A common defense of expanded trade with China has, and continues to be, a claim of value chain position: in theory, the production of cheap and mass-market consumer goods in China would produce an increase in the standard of living for American consumers and allow the U.S. to increase high-value exports to China. But what happens if China makes these high-value products instead? This is the future envisioned by the “Made in China 2025” plan (hereafter referred to in this report as “MIC2025”) first promoted by the Chinese government in 2015.”
· “Markets respond to the priorities set for them through policy choices. The critical question is which policy choices are in the interests of the American people. This Project believes MIC2025, and the opportunity for policy response it demands, are worth studying to better understand the answer.”
· “Just as U.S. policymakers have proved willing to use American leverage to enforce international trade law and norms, the U.S. Congress should consider actions to leverage the American economy to increase domestic productivity.”
· “Highly-leveraged investments in technological discovery offer unknown outcomes, but distributions to shareholders are quantifiable. The existence of non-productive alternatives to capital investment, as a result, makes the product of the firm’s American workers less valuable while at the same time increasing profits, making possible a world of higher asset prices, lower investment in the economy, and lower worker pay.”
· “Ensuring the productive use of capital for American domestic production entails an agenda of economic restructuring. Creating new ecosystems of innovators and promoting the dynamism of new businesses entails one of rejuvenation. Uniquely positioned among government agencies in this regard is the U.S. Small Business Administration, which operates a number of programs to service new and small businesses.”
· “Though MIC2025 is a foreign actor’s plan for the domination of critical commercial sectors at the expense of American industries, the U.S. should not miss the opportunity its prominence provides. Claiming, as the plan does, that ‘without strong manufacturing, there is no national prosperity,’ should be a wake-up call for American political economy as much as a cause for scrutiny.”
RUBIO: HELPING VENEZUELANS RESTORE DEMOCRACY AND CONSTITUTIONAL ORDER IS IN U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY INTEREST
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today joined a conversation with the International Republican Institute (IRI) on Venezuela, hosted by The Heritage Foundation. Rubio — who is Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues, and a member of IRI’s Board — discussed the ongoing political developments in Venezuela, the new government of interim President Juan Guaidó, and next steps for U.S. policy.
A partial transcript of Rubio’s remarks is below.
Rubio: “The Maduro regime is best understood not as a government but as a criminal enterprise. Akin to what you see in organized crime rings. In essence you have a Godfather, the head, in Maduro, and then you have all of these individual “Capos” that he allows concessions. And so when we have a crime family, one guy controls the loan sharking, one guy has the drugs, one guy has the prostitution, one guy does whatever it may be, the bank heist. It’s the same thing. This is what they have done, they have divvied up pieces of the economy, and he has bought the “loyalty”, of the people by allowing them access to corruption opportunities, through oil, currency manipulation. Taking and importing food at inflated prices from abroad. Making a kickback commission off the inflated price and then taking a piece of the food and commercial goods and reselling them in the private market for a profit on top of it
“There are six people that are holding him [Maduro] up right now. The Defense Minister, the head of the Army, Navy, Air Force, National Guard, and then the sort of the joint chiefs head, six people. So, you’re them. They know Maduro is incompetent. They know he can’t turn this country around. They know — but they fear the opposition. They think, ‘if these guys take over, they’re going to purge the military and they’re going to put put all six of us in jail’, so they’re stuck between that fear and the reality that they know where the rank and file, their subordinates are. And if they order the rank and file to fire on the people or do something, they won’t do it and some event, soon, at some point, is going to force them to try to decide whether or not to carry out an order that a) they don’t want to carry out, potentially because of the repercussions and b) that they know the rank and file won’t carry out.
“The Chinese want to get paid. They’re owed a bunch of money and want to get paid. That’s why they’ve got dialogue with both sides of the equation. Ultimately, they’re owed over $20 billion dollars and therefore the guy is going to pay them. Right now, they got a contract with Maduro, but if he’s out, as long as we get paid-that’s all they want. Right now they’re getting paid in oil, they’re not getting paid in cash. The second is the Russians. The Russians, in addition to being owed money, have a series of exploration leases, rights and concessions that the they’ve gained and they want to protect those. Every oil and energy company in the world’s future depends on access to exploration rights. That’s their primary focus. Secondary to it, it gives them sort of geopolitical presence in the Western Hemisphere, which they feel like there they have an outpost that gives them some voice of what’s happening in the region and allows Putin to project himself as a global power with global reach. The Cubans get over a billion dollars a year in cash, a country that has no cash, for what they do best, and that is repress people. Bottom line is the Cubans run their [Venezuela’s] entire intelligence and repression operation. One of the reasons why there was this “loyalty”, quote/unquote, from senior military officials is they’re all spied on by the Cubans. Every single one of them. You’ve seen a massive purge, hundreds of military officers in Venezuela who’ve been arrested all on the basis of collection that the Cubans have identified and turned them in.
“So when people ask me what does this have to do with the United States? Look, number one, I think we always should be on the side of democracy because democracy is morally superior to dictatorship and tyranny. The second, is it’s in our national interests. If you look, it’s in our own hemisphere and this is no longer an issue of Venezuela. It is a million and growing number of migrants now in Colombia are putting tremendous stress on the Colombian healthcare system and Colombian society. We’ve seen the same play out increasingly in Peru, somewhat in Brazil. A lot in Ecuador. So what happens is these migratory flows continue. It puts stress on governments, particularly in Colombia, that are already facing other significant challenges. In that border region alone, between Colombia and Venezuela, you have a million and some vulnerable people, some of whom become prime targets for narco-trafficking networks to prey on and so forth. The societal pressures, we’ve seen the emergence only some, xenophobic style blow-backs in Ecuador after a murder that occurred there. The pressure put on these countries threatens to create instability not just in Venezuela but in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil in a way that it suddenly becomes a regional crisis. Any time you have mass migrations and a regional crisis in your own hemisphere, it’s eventually going to impact you pretty dramatically. Not to mention it has a direct impact on our counter narcotic efforts in Colombia, which in over the last three years has seen record coca production. Much of that cocaine ultimately headed to U.S. streets. There’s a lot of reasons to understand or to explain why this has direct implication on our national interests as a country because a continental South American collapse of multiple key partners would ultimately impact us directly and immediately. And it already started to.
I think it’s a mistake to view this as a U.S. action with Venezuela, it’s not. It’s an international effort. This is not one of the coalitions the U.S. started and forced everybody to be a part of. On the international stage, the most active leaders in this endeavor has been the Lima Group. The Lima Group, made up of 14 countries, not including the United States, but including Canada and all of Venezuela’s neighbors, have been most active on this effort for a year and a half now, by far. The OAS has been revitalized as an institution that is actually playing a meaningful role in this. You see it growing, over half of the European countries have signed on as well. Every day, some new country, somewhere, signs on to this endeavor. So this is truly– and the U.S. isn’t really working in them– these countries are coming there willingly, and agreeing with that, and I think that’s important. Let’s first understand what is the Maduro strategy. Maduro’s strategy is to buy time, buy time with a fake negotiation or whatever, to a) get the opposition to divide, and b) get the rest of us to sort of move on and pay attention to some other crisis and forget about Venezuela and forget about what is happening. That’s his plan. That’s the model he is trying to follow. It won’t work this time. This process we are on is irreversible. None of these countries are going to come back around. There’s no way you get 50 countries to re-recognize you after what’s happened, so that’s just the fact. As far as the next steps, my number one and number two priority right now are getting food and medicine to people who are starving to death, to infants who are dying in hospitals, to people who are waiting for HIV/AIDS medication and anti-virals, that if they don’t get they will die, and that is being blocked. That is our number one priority, by every way possible to continue to call attention to the global community about how these criminals are standing in the way of that being delivered. The second is to continue to find ways to support the legitimate government of Juan Guaidó, to get the resources they need to begin to frame out what a recovery plan is going to look like for Venezuela’s future. Their electric grid alone could cost upwards of $50 billion to rebuild. It’s funny, the other day, he [Maduro] was having a press conference at his palace, or whatever they call it wherever he is at, maybe he was there, I think he was, and he was saying, “there is no crisis in Venezuela,” and the lights went out in the middle of his press conference. So, in the middle of the conference the lights went out. So that whole grid has to be rebuilt, there is a lot of work to be done. And ultimately, the future belongs to the Venezuelan people. It belongs to them, this their fight, this is their cause, we are supporting them. So I think it is a mistake to say, what is America going to do next? What America should continue to do is support the legitimate democratic aspirations of the people of Venezuela, we take our direction from them. What I know this Administration will do is continue to hunt down the money that these individuals have stolen from the people of Venezuela and preserve it, so that it will be there for the people of Venezuela and frankly there will come a point, I believe, when there will be secondary sanctions against businesses or countries who are helping Maduro try to evade these sanctions.
I don’t think mafia needs any translation, but the question was, isn’t it difficult to deal with this when you are not dealing with political leaders and talks of amnesty, you’re talking about dealing with organized crime figures, and the Maduro crime family. I don’t understand how in a country where people are starving, both Maduro and this guy Cabello, they look like refrigerators, I mean they’re huge. And people are dying. I know it comes off as funny, but it’s true, there has never been a larger disconnect between a starving population and these overweight future cardiac patients.”
RUBIO, YOHO APPLAUD U.S. COMMERCE DEPARTMENT DECISION TO WITHDRAW FROM TOMATO SUSPENSION AGREEMENT WITH MEXICO
Washington, D.C. ― Today, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. Representative Ted Yoho (R-FL) applauded the U.S. Department of Commerce’s announcement to withdraw from the flawed 2013 Suspension Agreement on Fresh Tomatoes from Mexico that has allowed unfair competition to increasingly put U.S. tomato growers out of business. Today’s decision will provide for a May 7th deadline for the resumption of the U.S. antidumping investigation on fresh tomatoes from Mexico, and allow for the effective enforcement of U.S. trade laws. Last week, Rubio and Yoho led their colleagues in urging Secretary Ross to terminate the agreement.
“I applaud Secretary Ross and his team at the Department of Commerce for sending a strong message that the U.S. will ensure vigilant enforcement of our existing trade laws and trade agreements,” said Rubio. “Fairly traded imports can and do enrich Americans’ lives, but we must be clear with our trade partners that unfair trade practices that threaten American livelihoods will not be tolerated. During the ninety day notice period, I urge the Department to carefully monitor Mexican tomato imports and to take action to terminate the agreement prior to May 7th should such action be warranted. I thank Representative Yoho for his leadership and support to ensure the U.S. tomato industry does not continue to suffer from unfair competition.”
“I applaud the Commerce Department’s swift action on behalf of our nation’s tomato producers,” said Yoho. “The decision to withdraw from the flawed 2013 Suspension Agreement on Fresh Tomatoes from Mexico is the right thing to do for our Florida producers. This announcement opens the door for both countries to negotiate a new agreement that is mutually beneficial to both countries. I want to thank Senator Rubio for his leadership and support on this issue and to all members of Congress who joined the collective effort to level the playing field for America’s tomato producers.”
According to the Department of Commerce, “upon completion of the withdrawal, the Department of Commerce will continue with its investigation and notify the International Trade Commission (ITC) of its final determination. If the Department continues to find sales made at less than fair value in its final determination, the ITC will then complete its own investigation and make a final determination with respect to injury. If both Commerce and the ITC issue affirmative final determinations, an antidumping duty order will be issued.”