U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., was the one South Florida Republican in the state congressional delegation to back Donald Trump’s presidential bid in 2016 and he shows no signs of backing down even as he draws fire from a Democratic rival.
First elected in 2002, Diaz-Balart represents Hendry County and parts of Collier County and Miami-Dade County. He currently chairs the Congressional Hispanic Conference and co-chairs the Congressional Everglades Caucus, the Congressional Colombia Caucus, the Congressional Friends of Spain Caucus, the Congressional Taiwan Caucus and the Florida Ports Caucus. Earlier this year, Diaz-Balart took over as one of the leaders of the Republican Main Street Caucus.
Unlike other South Florida Republicans in Congress—namely Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo—Diaz-Balart hasn’t shied away from Trump. Unlike Ros-Lehtinen and Curbelo, Diaz-Balart cheerfully backed Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
As Trump only carried the district by 2 percent over Hillary Clinton, there are some risks for Diaz-Balart in associating with the White House. But, so far, that hasn’t been a problem for Diaz-Balart and he doubled down on his support of Trump on Friday.
Diaz-Balart cheered the latest national unemployment numbers on Friday which showed the lowest unemployment rate in 18 years and said that Trump’s tax cut package was largely responsible for the good news.
“Today’s report is an indicator of the success of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” Diaz-Balart said. “Individuals continue to enter the job market, walking away from dependence and poverty and finding themselves self-sufficient and independent. Thanks to tax reform and its effect on our economy, the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in over 18 years. With this quarter’s GDP forecasted to expand at above 4 percent, the American people are confident in our bustling economy and the pro-growth policies I am proud to champion with my House Republican colleagues. It is clear that Democratic proposals to raise taxes would hurt the American people and reverse these gains.”
Diaz-Balart will face former Judge Mary Barzee Flores in November. Last month, Flores jumped out of the crowded race for the seat that Ros-Lehtinen is leaving to challenge Diaz-Balart. In recent days, her team ramped up the attacks on Diaz-Balart, looking to tie him to Trump.
At the end of May, Sam Miller, Flores’ campaign manager, came out swinging at Diaz-Balart, insisting the Republican “does not reflect the viewpoints of everyone in the district and has demonstrated himself to be a ‘yes-man’ for this administration — time and time again — even though President Trump barely won this area” and hitting him on a host of other issues.
“We've also been hearing from voters that they don’t think Diaz-Balart has done enough to protect immigrant communities, DREAMERS, or promote the needs of hard-working families,” Miller insisted. “One thing we've heard the most anger about though is his many attempts to take away people’s health-care. The district can do better than Mario.”
Diaz-Balart has also backed the Trump administration on other matters. Earlier in the year Diaz-Balart cheered Trump ordering the Justice Department to crack down on bump stocks.
“The executive action to ban bump stocks is a welcome announcement,” Diaz-Balart said in February. “Back in October, I joined my congressional colleagues in calling for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to re-evaluate bump stocks and similar mechanisms, which were approved by the bureau during the Obama administration. This is an important step and we must look at other measures to stop violent acts like those in Las Vegas, or more recently in South Florida.”
Diaz-Balart could also play a major role in guiding the Trump administration’s infrastructure bill on Capitol Hill if it gets revived. The South Florida Republican chairs the House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee which gives him a seat at the table as the White House and Congress look at infrastructure.