Fighting for Florida

One of the key things our people need in order to achieve the American Dream is the ability to live in stable and secure homes and communities. The Second Amendment helps make this possible by protecting our citizens' right to bear arms.

I'm disappointed the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider Drake v. Jerejiam, an important case with significant implications for Americans' Second Amendment rights. By declining to hear the case, an earlier appellate court decision now essentially upholds a New Jersey law that requires individuals to demonstrate a "justifiable need" to carry a firearm outside one's home in order to obtain a concealed carry permit.

Just think about this for a moment. Part of owning a firearm for self-defense is to be prepared in case, God forbid, your life or your family's life is ever threatened, and the "justifiable need" to use it arises. That's why a justifiable need can't be a precondition to lawfully own a firearm and be able to carry conceal. It's not only unconstitutional in my opinion, it also endangers honest, law-abiding Americans who simply want to be safe.

This is a dangerous precedent and attack against the Second Amendment rights of New Jersey's residents that could have broader implications throughout the country. It's a reminder that we must remain vigilant in our defense of the Second Amendment, not just when it comes to legislation but especially with stopping activist judges from sitting on the bench.

On this case, the courts have failed to protect against a legislative overreach against the Second Amendment, but I'm hopeful that other states will not follow suit.

In a country where we are free to express ourselves and our thoughts — where good ideas are rewarded, troubling facts exposed, and differing opinions celebrated and reconciled — we must remember that this fundamental right is not ensured to all. World Press Freedom Day is not only a day to celebrate such liberties, it is a reminder that our efforts to raise awareness of international press freedom are far from over.

Freedom of the press is a fundamental part of any thriving democracy. Ensuring the free flow of information and access to uncensored information must be a key pillar of America’s global human rights agenda. People, societies, economies and entire nations benefit when constructive criticism is encouraged as a means to achieve progress. Yet despite technological advances of the 21st century that make communication and expression easier than ever, there are many who remain bound to repressive and overreaching governments that limit such rights.

As the son of Cuban exiles, I understand the harsh realities of a country that does not allow its citizens access to a free media, censoring what they read and, ultimately, what they think. These nations are left in the dark, a world of knowledge and opportunity lost at the hands of ignorance and fear. A government that denies a free press only chains its people to a false sense of security.

According to Freedom House, global press freedom fell to its lowest level in over a decade last year. Cuba remains the most oppressive in the Americas, while China continues to be the home of the world’s most sophisticated censorship apparatus, increasing its pressure against foreign media by threatening or denying visas for members of the foreign press corps.  

And as the Maduro regime continues to respond to peaceful demonstrations with violent oppression on the streets of Venezuela, it has become increasingly clear that America must stand always on the side of freedom and democracy, supporting the efforts of those who risk their lives to speak out and demand such rights.

Today is also a day to celebrate journalistic integrity as we recognize journalists for the essential role they play in promoting government accountability, defending democratic activity and strengthening civil society. We also commemorate the many journalists who have lost their lives carrying out their noble work.

Today, we call for a vibrant and active free press, as we work to leave behind a world for our children and grandchildren where all are free to read and write and speak as they please — a world that embraces a free press, and with it, free minds.

The Boston Marathon

Apr 21 2014

In the past year, millions of Americans have competed in endurance events of varying distances and disciplines. I have always admired those who compete in endurance events. Today, as 36,000 runners take off from the starting line at the Boston Marathon, all Americans unite to support them as they remind us of our strength, courage and resilience as a people.

The terrorist attack on last year’s Boston Marathon shocked our nation and the world. Three spectators lost their lives and 264 spectators and runners were injured. The hours and days following the attacks were filled with heroic actions by first responders who risked their lives to help victims of the blasts and law enforcement officials who led the search for those responsible and began the process of bringing the surviving terrorist to justice. One campus police officer at MIT, Sean Collier, was killed by the bombers as they tried to flee justice. The first responders’ bravery and courage in the face of immediate danger and uncertainty inspired us all.

The inspiration from Boston continues today. For the families of those who lost loved ones and for the survivors who have suffered life changing injuries, this past year has been filled with unimaginable pain and difficulty, and yet, in true American form, it has also been filled with stories of survivors overcoming adversity. The strength of the survivors and the victims’ families has reminded us of our resilience as nation and inspired us as a people to stand together.

Today, the city of Boston and endurance athletes from across America, including over 900 Floridians, are uniting to show that last year’s attack will not deter them. This year, the Boston Marathon’s organizers wisely increased the number of registrations, not only to meet the demand of people who wanted to race this year and prove that Americans will not be deterred. But a special exception was also made to this year’s number of runners to accommodate a large group of special runners: those who were prevented from finishing last year, first responders, elite and legacy runners, and families of victims. This Boston Marathon will be unlike any other in its rich history.

To all those running today, thank you for being an example of American resolve. As you cross the finish line today, know that you inspire us all to be Boston Strong.

Best of luck to all the runners. May God bless them and all those affected by last year’s tragedy.

Today, we mark the 53rd anniversary of the Brigade 2506’s efforts to liberate Cuba from the clutches of a communist dictatorship that had just taken hold at the time. The men that formed the Brigade represented a cross section of the Cuban population. They were rich and poor, of African and European descent and politically diverse, but all of them were united by their belief in democracy and freedom. Even after all these years, their proud legacy lives and stands as a symbol to all those who yearn and struggle to be free.

Sadly, Cuba continues to suffer at the hands of a dictatorship that has enslaved millions of innocent people and ravaged Cuba’s natural resources to help entrench them in power. There hasn’t been a free and fair election in Cuba in 54 years. The independent press there is non-existent. Cubans can’t freely access the Internet. And the systematic violation of human rights by the Castro regime has meant more political prisoners in their gulags. Furthermore, during that long stretch of time, the Cuban government has consistently stood against human rights, sponsored terrorism, actively undermined democratically elected governments and institutions, and just last year, was caught violating United Nations sanctions by transferring weapons to North Korea.

These are all the things the men of the Brigade 2506 set out to stop. These are the things they have dedicated their lives to, so that one day Cuba can be free again.

These are reminders of how much was at stake fifty-four years ago, when the brave men of the Brigade fought against overwhelming odds. Today, we pause to honor their sacrifice, and recommit ourselves to the universal right of every man, woman and child to be free – in Cuba and elsewhere around the world.

Happy Passover

Apr 14 2014

With the Festival of Passover upon us, I would like to express my best wishes to the Jewish community in Florida and around the world.

This eight-day celebration, rich in history and tradition, commemorates the emancipation of Israelites from centuries of slavery in ancient Egypt. Often referred to as the Festival of Freedom, Passover celebrates the values of every free society.

I share your love for freedom, and celebrate the Festival of Passover by educating our youth to value tradition and follow in the footsteps of their families.

In the midst of a crucial moment in Israel’s history, I will continue to defend the values of freedom and liberty for all. I pray for a peaceful and prosperous future for Israel and that our friends in the Jewish state may have a safe and meaningful celebration.

On behalf of my wife Jeanette and our entire family, we wish you a Happy Passover and Chag Sameach.

People’s qualifications, performance and honesty are the most important qualities by which they should be judged in the workplace. If you’re a woman and your work merits it, you should be paid as an equal to your male counterparts. By the same token, if someone does a better job and has more responsibilities, that person should naturally get paid more, female or male.

Offering this legislation as some kind of meaningful solution entirely misses the point about the challenges we face in the 21st century economy. The fundamental challenge we face as a society today is helping young people obtain high quality education and skills throughout their lives.

What Senate Democrats are proposing today will make it easier for trial lawyers to file more lawsuits and collect more legal fees in the name of pay equity, but it won’t actually help create more well-paying jobs and it won’t do anything to help anyone develop the skills they need to do these jobs and get paid more. The American people understand that hard work and sacrifice are the ways to achieve the American Dream, and that our higher education system has to be more flexible and better account for the kinds of challenges people face, whether that means paying for their education or making the time to provide for their family. The American people deserve real solutions to help them earn better paychecks.

Today we mark the 40th anniversary of a legendary American achievement: when Hank Aaron slammed a record-breaking 715th career home run over the wall in left-center field. I was too young to remember when it happened, but I was raised by a father and grandfather who treasured the sport of baseball, and I remember the stories they told about this moment and the way it filled them with pride for their country.

Of course, athletic records are never meant to stand forever, but Aaron’s milestone that April day in 1974 still holds a special place in the American memory. We will always remember the iconic image of him shaking an opposing player’s hand as he rounded the bases, while hometown and opposing fans alike went wild in celebration. But more importantly, we’ll remember the barriers he overcame as an athlete and as a man, and the example he set for all who strive to achieve great things in their craft. So today, whether you are a fan of America’s favorite pastime like I am or not, we can all join together in tipping our caps to a true American hero.

People in this country are hurting – and they expect solutions from their leaders that get Americans back to work and lift them from poverty, not measures that only cover the symptoms of joblessness. This proposal does nothing to address the problem at the source of long-term unemployment, which is why I could not support it. Instead of focusing on incentivizing work, creating jobs, or reducing job-killing regulations, this proposal relies on short-term budget gimmicks to postpone the debate another few months. We need transformative solutions that bring our economy into the 21st century. It’s why I have spent this year outlining a series of reforms that would bring millions of higher paying jobs into the American economy, along with the skills to do these jobs. These reforms included a wage enhancement to promote work, and a flex fund to provide states the flexibility to design reemployment programs that achieve results. I will continue fighting for these ideas because they are critical to people striving to achieve the American Dream.

As we reflect back on the trial of Kermit Gosnell, which began one year ago this week, let us redouble our commitment to ensuring that the horrors committed in that Philadelphia clinic are never possible in America again. Kermit Gosnell violated nearly every law limiting abortion on the books today, yet his crimes transcended legal debate and touched millions of Americans — of all political persuasions — on a personal and moral level. His evil indifference to the lives of both women and the unborn awoke our nation's conscience on the issue of the sanctity of life. It made us search for solutions that would guarantee that no unborn child developed enough to feel pain could ever be intentionally hurt again.

Last year, I called for a thorough investigation into the practices of late-term abortions in America. I also cosponsored the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks. When it comes to the moral clarity that Kermit Gosnell's atrocities created in the hearts of the American people, we cannot let the passage of time put a blindfold over our eyes. Let's take action now to end late-term abortions once and for all.

On this third anniversary of the start of the conflict in Syria, we remember the 140,000 Syrians who have lost their lives, and we pray for those still living through this ongoing nightmare. 

Three years ago this week, the Syrian people took to the streets to demand the ouster of Bashar al-Assad. Those men, women and children demonstrated peacefully against the Assad regime’s brutality. Their demands for accountability and the freedoms others enjoy were met with beatings and bullets. 

Since those early days, the Assad regime has turned to snipers, indiscriminate shelling, barrel bombs, and even chemical weapons in its efforts to destroy the will of the Syrian people and cling to power.

Years ago, when the moderate opposition was appealing for American support, I urged President Obama to weigh in on the side of those who favored freedom to the intolerance and repression of Assad’s rule. Many of us advocated for sanctions and tougher measures against Russian and Iranian entities that are bolstering the regime.

Yet President Obama failed to act. He was hesitant in his support for the moderate secular opposition. Unbelievably, President Obama and Secretary Kerry placed their hope for a solution to the conflict in negotiations that hinged on diplomatic dialogue with “partners” like Vladimir Putin, the Iranian regime and Bashar al-Assad. And, when the Administration did propose military action, they said it would be “unbelievably small” and did not offer a clear strategy for how it would result in Assad being replaced by a moderate, secular government. Further, this military action was not designed to help empower the opposition in our shared goal of seeing Assad go, but was intended to be a retaliatory slap on the wrist for Assad crossing Obama’s “red line.” 

Today, the Syrian people are paying the high costs of this delay, inaction, and lack of focus. 

Millions of Syrians have fled their homes and are now refugees, creating what some have called the greatest humanitarian catastrophe in modern times. An entire “lost generation” of Syrians is growing up without permanent homes, consistent education, or much hope for the future. 

Syria’s neighbors are under strain, with instability spreading as the conflict now enters its fourth year. Meanwhile, Syria’s allies - including Iran, Hezbollah and Russia - have been emboldened by their success in bolstering the Assad regime. Assad is more secure than he has been at any time throughout this sectarian conflict and Syria is now becoming the premier operational area for jihadists in the world, who are already threatening Europe and the United States.

We don’t have the luxury of looking away. We can’t continue to ignore the Syrian people in their time of need. The strategic consequences to U.S. security are too great. 

We need to renew our efforts to identify and work with moderate members of the opposition. I've called for this to be done overtly so we can be clear about who we are supporting and with what capabilities. Additionally, we need to ensure that the growing extremist threat that is spreading across the Levant does not lead to attacks against Europe or the U.S. homeland. We need to immediately impose tough sanctions on Russian and Iranian entities and individuals supporting Assad’s war machine. We need to ensure that our allies in the region have adequate support to deal with the pressures of the conflict next door. Senator Reid can do his part by allowing a vote on a Bill (S960) approved by the Foreign Relations Committee in July 2013, which gives the President additional tools to accomplish these goals.

The President should prepare and submit to Congress a strategy to deal with the humanitarian toll of the conflict, as Senator Tim Kaine and I, along with 17 of our colleagues, recently requested him to do.

It is not certain that these actions will bring an end to the pain and suffering in Syria anytime soon. Because of the administration's delay at every stage of this conflict, our challenge has only become greater. But we cannot give up, both because of our own security interests as well as our values.