Despite being in only his second term in Congress, a Florida Republican continues to garner national attention on Capitol Hill.
This week, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., continued his efforts to join the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. In recent weeks, Curbelo has take to the national stage on issues ranging from immigration to tax reform.
After submitting a request to join at the start of the year, on Monday, Curbelo submitted another request to U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-NM, to join the caucus. If he is allowed in the caucus, Curbelo would be the only Republican member. Republican members of the caucus ditched in the late 1990s due to policy differences, including how to deal with the Castro regime in Cuba. In 2003, Republican members formed the Congressional Hispanic Conference.
Curbelo sent Lujan Grisham a letter on Monday, requesting to join the caucus.
“I believe I can positively contribute and work with the current Membership to help find solutions to many of the issues on the Caucus’s agenda,” Curbelo wrote. “As the son of Cuban immigrants, husband to the daughter of an immigrant family, and father to two little girls who are aware and proud of their Hispanic roots, I share the Caucus’s commitment to advancing the interests of America’s Hispanic community. Together, I believe we can help shape legislation on a variety of issues like compassionate immigration reform, economic growth and opportunity, and better education.”
Stressing he and the Democrats in the caucus had common ground, Curbelo showcased his “Recognizing America's Children (RAC) Act” which would much of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program giving younger illegal immigrants, often called DREAMers--those who entered the country before 2012 and who were 16 or younger when they entered--a path to citizenship. Curbelo brought out his proposal back in March.
“This legislation was modeled after, and uses the same structure, of the 2010 DREAM Act (included in HR 5281) that was endorsed by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, with eleven current-caucus members voting for it, which passed the then-Democratic-controlled House of Representatives but failed in the Senate,” Curbelo wrote. “The RAC Act however, provides a pathway to citizenship within 10 years, whereas the 2010 DREAM Act provided a 12 year pathway. The 2010 DREAM Act capped eligibility to those 30 years of age and younger, whereas the RAC Act has no age cap. The RAC Act provides a third employment pathway for earned legal status, whereas the 2010 DREAM provided just two pathways, and the RAC Act, according to the Migration Policy Institute, covers almost four times the number of immigrant youths as the 2010 legislation, building on the caucus's hard work and achievements.
“I respect that we will sometimes have a difference of opinions on legislative strategies and goals – that is inevitable when working in the world’s greatest deliberative institution,” Curbelo wrote in conclusion. “But I believe a broader discussion, reasonable debate and diversity of thought, will ultimately help the caucus — and the entire Congress — achieve better, longer-lasting legislation that can actually become law in this divisive political climate. I appreciate your leadership on the caucus and your kind attention to this request. Please let me know if you or the members of the caucus require any additional information from me as you make your decision. I am very hopeful that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus will send a strong message to the country that it welcomes all Hispanics and that it rejects the petty politics of exclusion and discrimination. Thank you. I look forward to a fair consideration of my application.”
But even as Curbelo highlighted where he and the Democrats in the caucus have common ground, Lujan Grisham and other members of the caucus have pushed back, noting he has not signed on the DREAM Act.
“Curbelo is clearly [the] leading [Republican] in this space, and we’d like him to lead in a more productive direction,” Lujan Grisham told Politico in a story published earlier this week. “I would like for him to do that, and he knows that. We would all like for him to do that.”
Other members of the caucus have accused Curbelo of preventing Republicans from signing on to the DREAM Act and said the South Florida congressman was trying to look good in his swing district.
For his part, Curbelo fired back on the Democrats.
“They think I have some magical wand or something. Me signing onto that bill is going to have little, if any, effect,” Curbelo told Politico. “A lot of them are taking the approach it has to be this or nothing. I also don’t want to be a part of that message because I don’t agree with that.”
If he does join the caucus, Curbelo could be the lone Republican in it. Earlier in the month, despite an invitation to apply, retiring U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., shot down speculation that she could join the caucus.
In the meantime, this week, Curbelo is going to be honored for his work on battling climate change including joining U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., to launch the Climate Solutions Caucus.
This week, the Harvard Kennedy School of Government's Institute of Politics will present Curbelo with a John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award. Jack Schlossberg, JFK’s grandson, will present the award to Curbelo on Thursday. May Boeve from 350.org, a group working against climate change, is also being honored with the award.
“I’m grateful to the John F. Kennedy Library and Jack Schlossberg for this generous recognition,” Curbelo said on Monday. “Public officials have a responsibility to our constituents and future generations to present a united front to combat anti-climate policies and to have a productive, fact-based dialogue about market-oriented solutions, investments, and innovations that could mitigate the effects of climate change and make our nation more resilient. I am fortunate for the opportunity to do the work of bringing colleagues in Congress together to confront this great challenge and secure the future.”
“With his vision for a New Frontier, President Kennedy challenged young Americans to take on great challenges, solve complex problems and work for a better future," Schlossberg said on Monday. “May Boeve and Congressman Carlos Curbelo have each answered President Kennedy’s call to action in our time, taking on the greatest challenge facing the world today – climate change. They remind us that everyone, private citizens and elected officials alike, can make a difference.”
Curbelo also garnered national attention in recent days for ripping into former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, the Republican candidate in a special U.S. Senate election next month. Moore has been accused of sexually assaulting minors.
“Not my state; not my chamber but this man is despicable and should step down,” Curbelo posted on Twitter. “To call him ‘unfit’ is generous.”
While he is a favorite of House Republican leadership, including claiming a seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee earlier this year, and has been a leading advocate for tax reform, Curbelo has shown no hesitation in breaking with President Donald Trump on a host of matters. Curbelo did not back Trump in last year’s presidential election.
First elected to Congress in 2014 when he defeated U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., Curbelo won a rematch last year. With the congressman’s South Florida base regarded as a swing district, four Democrats are already running against Curbelo. Former congressional aide Ricky Junquera, attorney Steven Machat, community activist Debbie Mucarsel-Powell who ran for the state Senate last year and Army veteran and businessman Steve Smith are currently running for the Democratic nomination.