Fighting for Florida

On this World Press Freedom Day, we pay tribute to those journalists who have lost their lives and are unjustly imprisioned while following their passion to expose the truth. In a country where we are free to express ourselves and our thoughts, we must remember that this fundamental human right isn’t guaranteed to all.

Freedom of the press is a prerequisite for any flourishing democracy. The free flow of information and access to uncensored material serves as a check against censorship by the government. By nurturing and protecting this fundamental right, free peoples achieve democratic improvements in their societies.

Unfortunately, all around the world there are governments that continue to violate press freedom. In these nations, journalists, bloggers, and non-violent critics have been imprisoned and even murdered while attempting to report the truth.

According to Freedom House, press freedom declined to its lowest point in the last 12 years in 2015.  Only 13 percent of the world’s population enjoys free press, while 46 percent live in "Not Free" press environments. Cuba, the country my parents left in 1956, remains the most repressive in the Americas, falling into the category of “Worst of the Worst.” North Korea ranks number one for most repressive press freedom conditions.

Americans are truly blessed to live in a country in which freedom of speech is not only our right, but our first amendment. This blessing also comes with responsibility. We have a duty to stand up for those around the world who continue to have their right to free speech and expression violated.

That is why my office launched the social media campaign #expressionNOToppression. Each week we highlight a political prisoner who is being persecuted for exercising their freedoms. We have highlighted political prisoners from China to Azerbaijan, and Cuba to Bahrain who have been detained, harassed, or even killed. Furthermore, I am the lead Republican sponsor of S. Res. 207, which recognizes World Press Freedom Day and reaffirms that freedom of expression and of the press is a top priority for the United States when promoting democracy and good governance overseas. I am proud to stand on the international stage to promote freedom of expression abroad and call on governments to free the innocent civilians whose only “crimes” were to expose harsh realities. 

Today our nation stands with those who fight against oppression to inform the public of the facts, and we continue to work toward our goal of creating a global media environment with less fear and more freedom.

Today marks the sixth anniversary of the devastating Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.  On April 20, 2010, an explosion from the Deepwater Horizon Macondo oil well caused the largest accidental oil spill in history. The resulting 87-day flow of oil from the sea floor became a human, economic, and environmental catastrophe for the Gulf of Mexico and its bordering states, including my home state of Florida. 

First and foremost, it is important that we never forget the eleven lives lost on this tragic day. I keep the families so permanently affected by this tragedy in my prayers.

In Florida, the spill occurred in the midst of the state’s busiest beach and fishing seasons. When 88,500 square miles of the Gulf were closed off to fishing, the 131,000 jobs that support the $12.8 billion a year fishing and tourism industry were negatively impacted, and small businesses that relied on the tourism and fishing dollars suffered greatly. Hotel reservations were cancelled, restaurants sat empty, and beaches remained desolate.  In addition to economic devastation, the Macondo spill was also one of the worst environmental disasters our nation has ever faced.  For 87 days, an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil flowed through the habitat of over 15,000 species.

Today, the Gulf Coast and surrounding states continue to recover after this devastating event.  Just this month, a federal judge approved a settlement of $20 billion between the Obama Administration and BP. I was proud to be an original cosponsor of the RESTORE Act, legislation that was ultimately enacted to ensure that the majority of this settlement money is provided to Gulf states to address the outstanding impacts of the spill on both the environment and the economy.  While I believe this conclusion is fitting, it is important that the entirety of the money is issued and spent appropriately so that our state and local partners will be ready to move forward with several projects to continue restoring the Gulf Coast.

During a time of tragedy, those in the region were hopeful and proved to be resilient. In the past six years, an immense amount of progress has been made through ongoing recovery efforts.  Businesses have resumed and tourism is once again flourishing.

As we reflect on the past six years, the tragedy of the Macondo oil spill will never be forgotten, and the eleven men who lost their lives will forever live on in our hearts. As a nation, we must continue to look to the future and I stand ready to assist in any way possible in the ongoing recovery efforts. 

Today marks the second anniversary of the tragic Boko Haram kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria. Of the 267 girls who were originally abducted, only 57 have managed to escape. Two years later, 219 remain held captive by this Islamic terrorist group.

Boko Haram has enslaved these children and forced them to convert and become “wives” of Boko Haram fighters. These girls have faced unspeakable horrors such as sexual assault and rape. Additionally, Boko Haram has trained these girls to be suicide bombers in Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon.

This Administration has been fearful of calling out the crimes of Boko Haram as not only terrorist attacks but religiously motivated attacks. The majority of the schoolgirls were Christian- the school was chosen because it was in a Christian town, yet the Administration failed to recognize the religious nature of the crime.

On this sad anniversary, the United States needs to increase its assistance to Nigeria in order to ensure that every one of these girls is returned to their families. Additionally, the U.S. needs to continue to support the multinational effort to defeat Boko Haram.” 

This evening, the Senate passed the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016.

In today’s global economy, American innovators are more vulnerable to trade secret theft than ever before. With hundreds of billions of dollars lost each year to the theft of corporate trade secrets, our nation’s security and economy are greatly threatened. Defend Trade Secrets Act creates a uniform national standard for trade secret misappropriation while empowering victims of trade secret theft to protect their intellectual property in federal court. In an age of globalization where innovation is crucial to driving economic growth, it is vital that American innovators have the ability to protect their information and property from theft. I’m proud to support this bipartisan legislation to provide innovators with the tools they need to protect their intellectual property and remain competitive on the international stage.

Happy Easter

Mar 26 2016

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"This Easter, my family and I join our fellow Christians in Florida and around the world in celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the salvation His sacrifice and unconditional love provides."
The number of Americans addicted to prescription drugs and heroin has been growing at an alarming rate, even in my home state of Florida. Loved ones are seeing their husbands, wives, sons, and daughters trapped in a vicious cycle of addiction and dependency, desperate to get the care they deserve.
 
These cries for help deserve to not only be heard, but answered, which is why earlier this year, I joined Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to co-sponsor the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), a bill to address the national epidemic of prescription opioid and heroin abuse. This bill will ensure those who have fallen through the cracks can have access to proper treatment services and improved treatment options. CARA will help fight back against addiction by increasing prevention efforts and helping law enforcement fight this epidemic.
 
Washington has a role in the fight against drug abuse, and while CARA is a step in the right direction, the federal government must also do its part to help stop the illegal trafficking of drugs across our porous border while assisting our allies around the world in combatting the drug cartels that seek to push drugs into the U.S. I’m proud to have been a co-sponsor of this bill and proud of its passage in the Senate today.

In 2014, I was honored to meet with several North Korean defectors during an official visit to South Korea. They spoke movingly about the brutality they experienced at the hands of the regime in Pyongyang. For me, that experience was a powerful reminder that every day millions around the world are denied their most basic human rights and robbed of their God-given freedoms.

On this occasion of the Korean New Year, I join with millions of Americans in celebrating this occasion, while also hoping and praying for the day when the people of North Korea are able to live, work and raise their children free from oppression and fear.  The current conditions endured by millions of North Koreans are reprehensible and unacceptable. It is difficult to comprehend that in the 21st century, modern day gulags still exist. No government has a right to violate its citizens’ basic human rights and deny their fundamental freedoms.  

I will continue to be a voice for the repressed North Korean people, raise awareness of the suffering that occurs there and work to end the cycle of inhumanity.  The United States and our partners must tighten restrictions on the regime and stop its ability to continue its brutality.

Until the people of North Korea are able to enjoy basic human rights, I will continue to stand in solidarity with this great cause of achieving the freedom and opportunity every human being deserves.

This message was transmitted to the North Korean people via Free North Korea Radio.

The issue of life is more than political or policy-related, it is a definitional issue about the kind of country we want to be.
America has always been a nation willing to accept those displaced by war or religious and political persecution, but gross and widespread incompetence from the Obama Administration, coupled with Islamic extremists and terrorists preying on and taking advantage of that spirit of compassion, has made this increasingly difficult. As the refugee crisis in the Middle East grew, I warned President Obama of the national security implications of his disastrous policies. In recent months, as attacks occurred in Paris and San Bernardino, our intelligence community and law enforcement officials have stated that we could not ensure that those affiliated with a terrorist organization do not use this crisis to their advantage and try to gain entry to the United States. Yesterday, I voted to force this administration to take refugee screening seriously and prevent our refugee programs from being exploited by ISIS or other terrorist groups. Senate Democrats are clearly more interested in the politics of this issue than its national security implications, and that's why they blocked this bill from being considered.
 
Even if just one person is a terrorist among the millions of refugees fleeing violence and persecution in the Middle East, allowing that one person in is a national security risk we cannot accept. We need to strengthen the screening process for refugees from Iraq and Syria by ensuring that intelligence, national security and law enforcement officials are all in agreement and working together to check the background of each refugee that comes to our shores.