Charlie Crist Archives - SaintPetersBlog

At neighborhood meeting, Charlie Crist dismisses question about personnel shake-up

It was supposed to be a simple community meeting.

However, Charlie Crist wound up addressing a controversial personnel decision inside his office, which added a bit of drama to the proceedings.

Appearing at a community forum in St. Petersburg’s Midtown area Saturday morning, Crist’s visit was advertised as a discussion about the Affordable Care Act, economic development and jobs, education, and voting rights.

Ray Tampa, a community activist and former NAACP chapter president, challenged Crist to elaborate on the somewhat mysterious departure last month of district director Vito Sheeley.

Sheeley, who was Crist’s campaign outreach director in his race against Republican David Jolly last fall and was serving as his district director, stunningly announced last month said that he was leaving the office to begin working for Jolly as a senior adviser. That’s the same David Jolly who is no longer a congressman after Crist defeated him in November.

Tampa told Crist and the small crowd at Saturday’s event that he been solicited by Sheeley for campaign strategy in last year’s congressional race, and that ultimately Sheeley and other Crist advisers working for the African-American vote had decided to make copies of an email Tampa wrote in praise Crist, printed it out and distributed it to approximately 25 different churches in Midtown.

“And then shortly thereafter, you’re elected, and then Vito was terminated,” Tampa said. “That was not good. That was horrible, to say the least.”

Tampa said that he didn’t have anything against Gershom Faulkner, who has replaced Sheeley in Crist’s office, but added that “Vito’s termination had an effect on a lot of us in the community. And we don’t know if we’ve gotten a good response as to why that occurred, and it could affect you later on.”

“He wasn’t terminated,” Crist crisply replied. “Any other questions?”

Tampa left the event shortly after that exchange, saying later he was unsatisfied with Crist’s response. “That was horrible. For me to call for a question and it’s ignored, that’s not good.”

The public may never know what truly transpired between Crist and Sheeley, which resulted in the staffer jettisoning the office.

After Sheeley had announced last month that he would begin working with Jolly, he issued a statement saying: “Many have and will continue to question my reason for leaving Congressman Crist. That is an answer that will remain between Charlie Crist and me.”

Jolly’s hiring of Sheeley immediately set off speculation that the Pinellas Republican was already gearing up to challenge Crist in 2018, but Jolly said earlier this week that he won’t make any decision on another candidacy for the seat until next year.

Crist was joined at what was described by officials the “1st quarterly Pinellas County African-American Leaders Conference” at the St. Petersburg College Midtown Center, where he was joined by Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, former state representative and city council member Frank Peterman, and Carlos Senior, the Senior Pastor at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.

Although not an official town hall (which Crist said he intends to organize in the coming weeks), the format was similar in that there were a few people in the audience who wanted to speak with their representative about the Affordable Care Act.

In fact, the first two people (there were approximately 20 people in the room) challenged Crist to state his position on the ACA, saying that they couldn’t get a clear answer about where he stood on the GOP’s plan to repeal the landmark initiative from Barack Obama.

“I don’t want to replace it, I want to continue it … I’m not sure who you talked to in my office who told you I don’t have a position on it, but I stand strongly behind the Affordable Care Act,” Crist told Chelsea Baker, an audience member who said she had serious health issues.

Baker said she goes to bed every night “terrified” about the effort to repeal the law.

Crist elaborated that his GOP brethren in the House have undoubtedly learned through some of their own bruising town hall meetings this month that “they know that if they just take it away and that’s that, it’s over for them.”

“I think they’ve gotten that message and figured it out, and that’s why they haven’t done it yet,” he said about actually repealing the law.

Crist’s appearance came a day after news broke that he is divorcing his wife Carole after almost nine years of marriage, news that made Page Six of the NY Post Saturday.

 

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Is Bill Nelson’s re-election race really a “Lean Democrat” in 2018?

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is set for a tough reelection battle next year, but for some reason Sabato’s Crystal Ball decided look past that and peg him as the likely victor in 2018.

The blog post lists Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson’s seat as leaning toward the Democrats and even goes so far as to give Nelson “the benefit of the doubt” due to him winning statewide several times.

Sure, that’s true, but if you can’t see the Nelson’s weaknesses and the many paths Republicans could use to take him down, you might need to get your eyes checked.

He’s already under attack by a conservative group for his votes on the ACA, and the National Republican Senate Committee is also smelling blood, recently announcing digital ads showing he has voted in lock step with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren 92 percent of the time.

While the attacks are certainly fodder for the Republican base, the comparison has a slugger’s chance of sticking during an off-cycle election in a state carried by President Donald Trump.

Nelson’s response to the attacks is baffling as well. In a Monday article from POLITICO, he said the fundraising prowess of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was “the biggest factor” in how he plans to win a fourth term in the senate.

And that’s in spite of weaknesses he didn’t hesitate to point out with theSsenate Democrat’s social media game.

“I am chewing on Senator Schumer everyday about that,” he said. “We just may surprise everybody. After this election, he might be Majority Leader.”

Yes, the New York Democrat brought in $180 million for Senate Democratic campaigns last cycle, but his results were less than stellar

In Florida alone, the DSCC spent $10 million trying to prop up former Rep. Patrick Murphy in his race, but that barely got him within 8 points of a somewhat damaged Marco Rubio.

Imagine how much money he would have to pump in for a race against expected opponent Gov. Rick Scott who also has won statewide and has had no problem spending his own money on top of the mountains of cash he brings in to his political committee.

But sure, let’s give Nelson the benefit of the doubt. It’s not like Democrats didn’t just get the wakeup call of a lifetime or anything.

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Charlie Crist filing for divorce after less than 9 years

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is getting divorced less than nine years after becoming the first Florida governor in 42 years to get married while in office.

Crist spokesman Kevin Cate said the congressman filed papers Friday seeking to divorce his wife Carole, who he proposed to in 2008 after a 10-month romance. He was a Republican governor at the time.

Their St. Petersburg wedding was a grand event with an exclusive guest list of political elite and celebrities.

The couple stayed together through his switch from Republican to independent to Democrat and his unsuccessful 2010 U.S. Senate and 2014 gubernatorial campaigns.

The former Carole Rome was a New York businesswoman and socialite when the couple met. She is Crist’s second wife. He married his college sweetheart in 1980 and divorced less than a year later.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda

Surprise (or not): Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda joins the Republican Party

As long expected, Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda is pulling a reverse Charlie Crist.

The former state representative for Tallahassee, who quit the Democratic Party and became an independent shortly before being term limited out of office last year, now has officially become a Republican.

Rehwinkel Vasilinda, 56, officially announced the switch at the 2017 Leon GOP Lincoln Day Dinner held in Tallahassee Thursday night.

“We are excited to welcome (her) into the Republican Party,” Leon County GOP chairman Evan Power said. “Her switch really shows how the protest and identity politics from the left is driving people from the Democratic party.”

One person who predicted the move is state Rep. Chris Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, who last year tweeted: “One step closer to joining the Grand Ole Party, my friend :)”

She follows the reverse footsteps of former Gov. Crist, who left the Republicans to become an independent, then joined the Democrats.

Rehwinkel Vasilinda is the newest addition to join the GOP under the state party’s “Project Majority Red” initiative, “which seeks to increase the number of Republican registered voters throughout our state, in order to overtake the Democrats in voter registration,” Florida GOP Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in a statement.

“Michelle has honorably served her constituents for the past eight years and has a history of siding with Republicans on several issues,” he added. “I believe she has been a great public servant for the State of Florida and led efforts for a more robust economy, lower taxes and an increase in job creation.  We welcome Michelle to the Republican Party and we look forward to working with her.”

Rehwinkel Vasilinda, who represented the House District 9 seat now held by Democrat Loranne Ausley, told FloridaPolitics.com last year she had “always worn the mantle of ‘Democrat’ very lightly.” She once called President Donald Trump “fascinating,” but said she did not vote in the Presidential Preference Primary.

“I have never felt good in a partisan space, where people feel they have to knock down the other party,” she said. “I just try to do what’s right for my constituency.”

Yet she also has followed her own beat, on one hand supporting a bill to allow guns on college campuses, saying she had used a handgun to defend against an attacker when she was a college student, but on the other filing legislation to get rid of Florida’s death penalty.

“It’s not a surprise—she was never a vote you could count on,” former House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford said in an interview last year.

And current House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa, also in an interview last year, surmised that Rehwinkel Vasilinda “has higher political aspirations that require her to be more conservative.”

Rehwinkel Vasilinda is a New York native who got her undergraduate and law degrees in Florida. She’s now a professor of Legal Studies and Applied Ethics at Tallahassee Community College, and married to capital reporter and broadcasting veteran Mike Vasilinda.

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David Jolly says the state of GOP will determine his electoral future

Though he’s out of public office, David Jolly has never been more ubiquitous in appearing on television.

The former Pinellas County congressman was scheduled to make another appearance on MSNBC Wednesday night, this time on “All In with Chris Hayes” talking about the buzzsaw that his former GOP brethren are confronting when hosting townhall meetings across the country.

Jolly is a rare Republican, speaking out critical against many of the moves of the Donald Trump administration, bumping up his status on many cable news producers rolodexes. However, that opposition could come at a price.

Because of his comments regarding the pressures of fundraising that he says the GOP establishment imposed upon him and other freshmen legislators, the National Republican Congressional Committee opted not to aid him in his uphill battle to retain his seat against Democrat Charlie Crist last year. If he were to challenge him again next year, he surely will need those funds to compete in a seat that Democrats will fight hard to maintain. Yet Jolly says he can’t think that calculatingly.

“We would have won if the NRCC had come in,” Jolly told this reporter on WMNF’s MidPoint program Thursday. “If there had been a half million or a million dollars, the reality is of modern electoral science is we would have won … we would have closed that three precent gap.”

Jolly lost by 3.8 percentage points to Crist, a closer race than many polls had predicted, based on the redistricting of the CD 13 seat that added the much more liberal parts of downtown and South St. Petersburg to the district. However, Jolly says he won’t fall in line and stay silent when he sees some of the actions that the new Republican president is doing in office.

“I’m not going to sell my soul simply for electoral office,” he said. “I’m not interested in being part of a Congress that’s broken.”

And Jolly includes some Democrats of being timid in speaking out against Trump when the occasion calls for it.

“The reality is that a lot of Democrats are afraid to speak out against Donald Trump as well. And Charlie’s one of those.”

Jolly also took note that while there’s been criticism about some Republicans (such as Marco Rubio) avoiding hosting town hall meetings this week, so has Crist.

“The Congressman is meeting with constituents and hearing their concerns at community events across the district,” responds Crist spokesperson Erin Moffet. “We are looking at options for future public events to make sure the people’s voices continue to be heard, and I’ll be sure to let you know when they are scheduled.”

Regarding a potential congressional rematch against Crist next year, Jolly says he won’t make that decision until sometime early next year.

“If this is the state of the Republican Party next year, what we’re seeing today, then there’s probably not a place for me on the ballot, but I just keep doing what I believe is right,” he says.”There will be a point at which that aligns with where the party is and the community is, and then perhaps there might be an opportunity to seek election again. It simply is not my singular focus, though.”

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Charlie Crist joins blasts Trump administration’s rollback of protection for transgender students

Charlie Crist is blasting the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw Obama-era protections for transgender students in public schools that let them use bathrooms and facilities corresponding with their gender identity.

“This action sends a frightening message that the administration does not care about the safety of transgender children in our nation’s schools,” Crist said Thursday. “While repealing this guidance does not change the fact that Title IX protects transgender students, it subjects our public schools to more lawsuits and puts trans youth at risk. I stand with America’s trans students who, like all children, deserve a safe place to learn.”

Two GOP members of Florida’s congressional delegation have also criticized the decision.

“This is a disappointing choice for the Administration to make,” Congressional District 26 Representative Carlos Curbelo said in a statement. “We should be working toward ensuring all American children feel safe and accepted in their schools, regardless of where they live, their race, creed, gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called the decision by the Trump administration, “lamentable.”

Along with Rep. Jared Polis (D – CO), Ros-Lehtinen introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) in 2015 that would prohibit schools from discriminating against students based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. She’s also supportive of the Safe Schools Improvement Act which would require schools to create a code of conduct against discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, and other important factors.

Last May, the departments of Education and Justice issued joint guidance directing schools to let transgender students use facilities that correspond with their gender identity. The “Dear Colleague” letter, addressed to school districts and colleges that receive federal funding, was based on the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX, the federal law that bans sex discrimination in schools, to include gender identity.

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What Adam Smith will be writing about next…

I apologize in advance for being so juvenile …

Last week, I camped out at Kahwa Coffee on Second Avenue South. I had just dropped off Ella at school and I wanted to get back to work right away. So I returned to the bustling coffee shop that once served as my “office” when Michelle and I lived downtown.

Kahwa South is a great spot to work from because it’s so full of energy. And you never know who will walk through its doors in search of a cup of joe. It’s where elected officials from South Pinellas tend to gather or meet with reporters from the Tampa Bay Times, which is headquartered just two blocks away.

Anytime I am at Kahwa, I notice a slew of Times reporters coming and going. I seem to always bump into Michael Van Sickler, with whom I get along much better in person than I do online. The business reporters make frequent appearances. I remember Daniel Ruth making a daily appearance, but I haven’t seen him during my most recent visits.

And, of course, now and then political editor Adam Smith will be there, more often than not meeting with a key local politician.

As much as I’ve come to both detest and resent Adam, he and I are still cordial when we bump into each other. Or at least we had been. For example, when Adam was walking along Adams Street en route to the Capitol in Tallahassee, and I was working at a table outside of the Governors Inn, he said something like, “Schorsch is here” or something like that, which, after giving it a second thought, was typical Adam-condensation because I’m in Tallahassee — you know, the center of Florida politics — more than Adam.

Like George Costanza muttering about the jerk store calling, I kept thinking about how I should have said something snarky back at Adam. See, in person, I’ve always tried to be respectful of Adam, especially when I see him with his wife, Catherine. All of our kids go to the same school and, well, you know how that goes.

No matter what I’ve written about him or what Adam has said to others about me (like how he tells producers he won’t appear on the same radio or TV shows as me), we’ve been big enough to acknowledge each other when we see each other in public.

Not anymore.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife ran into Adam meeting with former U.S. Rep. David JollyDespite Michelle being a loyal supporter of Charlie Crist, the Democrat who unseated him, David was as charming and gentlemanly as he’s always been to Michelle. He gave Michelle a big hug and they exchanged promises to get us all together for a drink in the near future.

Meanwhile, Adam couldn’t even stand up from the table to say hello to someone who had invited him to her wedding. As is typical, he was condescending, asking about why Michelle was at the Vinoy Club and so far from “Pinellas Park,” a reference to our home in the Bayou Club in Seminole!!! Never mind that we are probably at the Vinoy more often than Smith. But like his comment to me in Tallahassee, he was attempting to make Michelle feel like an outsider. He said a couple of other things, which I can’t remember how Michelle described, but the bottom line is, he was pretty much a d*ck.

So when Adam walked into Kahwa Coffee last week, I steeled myself and did not exchange the usual pleasantries. No more bullish*t, I said to myself.

Smith saw that I was working there, turned on his heels and walked back outside without ordering.

That’s when the gods smiled. Adam decided to sit at a table right in front of where I had parked our Chevy Suburban, a beast of an SUV which has an engine as loud as a jetliner.

An engine, as it happens, that can be turned on by remote, just as the panic alarm can, of course, be set off by remote.

Yes, I had some fun with that remote.

Adam did not stay at Kahwa long.

Like I said, I apologize for being so juvenile.

If it weren’t the petty bulls*t I’ve described above that had pissed me off about Adam, it certainly would be the work product of Lazy Adam.

See, I can tell you right now what Adam Smith will be writing about in a few weeks. That’s because, lately, there’s a simple calculus involved with what Smith writes about.

I’ll write about something before anyone else will. The subject matter will percolate. And then Lazy Adam will add his two cents as if he’s the first to arrive at the issue.

To wit:

I opined that “Bob Buckhorn is on the clock” on January 3 and that if he wants to run for governor, the “opening is now” on January 22.

Along comes Lazy Adam six weeks later, writing that if Buckhorn wants to run for governor, “(t)he clock is ticking fast.” Smith even framed his story like I did mine, ticking off the status of Buckhorn’s possible opponents.

Here’s another example.

On January 6, I push out 750 words about how St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman could hand former Mayor Rick Baker a major victory by scheduling a referendum on the future of the Rowdies soccer club in May, just months before Baker has to decide if he will run against Kriseman in the fall. It’s local politics at its most granular. It’s what you’d expect from a website called “SaintPetersBlog.”

Guess what Lazy Adam wrote about six weeks later? That’s right, Kriseman, Baker, and the timing of the Rowdies referendum.

“Before the mayor’s race kicks into gear, however, city residents will head to the polls May 2 to decide whether to approve a long-term lease and big expansion of Al Lang Stadium. It would be privately funded through businessman Bill Edwards, who owns the Rowdies soccer team, which he wants to turn into a Major League Soccer franchise. And here’s where things could get awkward. Baker is president of the Edwards Group and one of Edwards’ top advisers. Edwards has the support of Kriseman and City Hall in the MLS quest, but can’t afford for relations to sour amid a brewing political rivalry between Baker and Kriseman.”

Listen, I get it that what I write is not earth-shattering. I’m not the only one to think that Bob Buckhorn needs to fish or cut bait. I’m not the only one to think it could get awkward down at City Hall because of the Rowdies referendum. But I was the first political columnist to put those ideas into print (or at least online).

Lazy Adam will tell you he doesn’t read my stuff and that I am crazy to think my work influences him.

He’s probably telling the truth about the first part, but let me give you a perfect example of how full of sh*t he is about the second part.

A week ago, Florida Politics’ Scott Powers wrote a story about how Winter Park developer Chris King is contemplating a run for Florida governor in 2018. This was based on information I shared with Scott, who will tell you that eight days ago he had never heard of King. But a source of mine told me about King while standing in my kitchen two weekends ago.

I know a scoop when I hear one. I Googled King, and there was nothing out there about him running for governor. If there was, I missed it. But he is the real deal, so much so that my source told me that other 2018 contenders were asking them about what King was up to.

So I tasked Powers with finding out more and writing about it, which he did and that’s why when you Google, the first news entry about King running in 2018 is our story.

Less than a week after we published this story, Lazy Adam blogged an entry about how “another serious contender emerges in 2018.”

Right, he “emerged” because of a story that veteran reporter Scott Powers wrote. That was the emerging.

At first, Smith’s blog entry did not include any attribution to Powers’ reporting. But after I went on a tweet storm (in which I even called out Smith’s editor, Amy Hollyfield), the Times had a “Hat tip to Scott Powers” added to the end of Smith’s blog post. Of course, that attribution does not show up in print, so readers of the newspaper think Lazy Adam is All-Knowing Adam whose political radar can detect even the slightest movement of a possible candidate.

Here I’ve written 1,500+ words about slights and sore feelings and mere coincidences, and I get that all of this is pretty juvenile (there’s that word again).

My issue with Adam truly is not personal. What’s remarkable is that despite all of his and the Times’ attempts to marginalize my work, I am in a better position now than I was seven years ago. So much so that you have to wonder why they did it in the first place.

No, my issue is that Adam Smith is the political editor of the state’s largest newspaper. He should be setting the agenda for the rest of the political reporters in the state.

Instead, in most cases, he’s a month and a half late.

Last week, I wrote a think piece about how decisions by Jeff Atwater and Francis Rooney impact Jack Latvala’s 2018 ambitions. Had I not written this screed, no doubt Lazy Adam would have written something along the same lines in March.

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Ex-David Jolly staffer Preston Rudie now consulting for Jack Latvala

Preston Rudie, who served as the communications director for former U.S. Representative David Jolly, is now doing media consulting work for another Pinellas County Republican, state Senator Jack Latvala.

The Clearwater lawmaker is the most high-profile client for Rudie since he’s gone into the consulting business. He says that with the Catalyst Communications Group, he’ll be working with both private companies and elected officials.

Rudie was an award-winning television reporter with more than 20 Emmy’s and 6 Edward R. Murrow awards to his name while working at WTSP 10 News from 2002-2014.

Shortly after Jolly defeated Democrat Alex Sink in the special election in Florida’s 13th Congressional District in 2014, Rudie left journalism to serve as Jolly’s communications director, working in both Pinellas County and Washington D.C.

That gig ended officially last month when Charlie Crist was sworn into office. Crist defeated Jolly last November.

“Preston Rudie was the best Communications Director in Congress,” says Jolly. “Colleagues across the country would often share with me just how remarkable Preston was at his job. His clients at Catalyst, including candidates for regional or statewide office, will find great success working with Preston.  Simply put, he’s one of the best in the business.”

Latvala is also singing his praises, telling SPB that, “Preston Rudie is the top communications professional in the Tampa Bay Area. I am proud to add him to our team.”

Rudie’s involvement with Latvala comes as the Pinellas state Senator is contemplating a run for the GOP nomination for Governor.

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In 1st House speech, Charlie Crist vows ‘Commitment to Civility’

Charlie Crist wants to see more of the Golden Rule in Congress, with a call for civil discourse on Capitol Hill.

In his first speech on the floor of the U.S. House, the St. Petersburg Democrat joined a bipartisan class of 46 freshman lawmakers who signed a “Commitment to Civility” pledge.

This pledge seeks to “restore collegiality, trust and civility to Congress, encourage productive dialogue, and work to build consensus and the public’s trust in America’s institutions.”

In the letter, the group promised to remain: “dedicated to showing proper respect to one another and all others, encouraging productive dialogue, and modeling civility in our public and private actions.”

“While we may vehemently disagree on matters of law and policy, we will strive at all times to maintain collegiality and the honor of our office,” they write.

Crist represents Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

“I am honored to represent Pinellas County in Congress, and I promise to fight for the needs of my home county. But I pledge to do so in keeping with the ‘Golden Rule,’ to do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” Crist said in his speech. “I am proud that our freshman class has put forward this ‘Commitment to Civility’ pledge. It states that despite our political differences, at the end of the day we must work together to move our country forward, putting people over politics and treating each other with respect — even when we disagree.”

Other first-year members of the Florida delegation signing the Commitment include Matt Gaetz of CD 1, Neal Dunn of CD 2, John Rutherford of CD 4, Al Lawson of CD 5, , Val Demings of CD 10, Brian Mast of CD 18 and Francis Rooney of CD 19.

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Charlie Crist signs on to letter calling on GOP to refrain from cutting family planning funding

St. Petersburg Representative Charlie Crist is adding his voice to a collection of House Democrats opposing a vote scheduled this week that would ban funding for Planned Parenthood and other family planning organizations under the Title X National Family Planning Program.

“Title X-funded health centers, like Planned Parenthood, provide birth control, mammograms, cancer screenings and family planning services for millions of women across the country,” Crist said in a statement. “These attempts to restrict a woman’s access to comprehensive reproductive care – disproportionately impacting low-income women – cannot stand. We must stand up for women’s rights and the women’s health organizations that provide this much needed care.”

The letter was signed by members of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. Other Florida Democratic House members signing on to the letter sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan include Kathy Castor, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch, Val Demings and Darren Soto.

The letter criticizes the GOP in the 115th Congress for several other measures, including passing the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017, which would, among other provisions,  effectively make the Hyde Amendment permanent. That’s the 1977 law that has banned any federal funding for abortions. That bill would also ban federal funding for health benefits plans that cover abortions and ban federal facilities and federal employees from providing abortions.

Throughout his political career, Crist has at times referred to himself as both “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” but has consistently touted a pro-choice agenda since becoming a Democrat in December of 2012.

Here’s the letter sent to Speaker Paul Ryan:

Dear Speaker Ryan:

We write to express our grave concern for efforts to undermine Title X family planning.  Despite promises to focus on jobs and the economy, Republicans have started the 115th Congress with a total assault on women’s choices, access to care, and economic security by:

  • Charging ahead to sabotage and dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA) while making no promises to preserve vital protections for women;
  • Providing little to no details on their plans to replace ACA, while making a point to announce that their ACA repeal package will block access to Planned Parenthood, a high-quality, long-trusted provider of reproductive health services;
  • Rushing to impose and dramatically expand the global gag rule, harming women around the world; and
  • Advancing the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act(H.R. 7) through the House, effectively banning private insurance companies from covering comprehensive reproductive health services.

Now, with their most recent effort to weaken the Title X national family planning program through the Congressional Review Act, Republicans have demonstrated that they will stop at nothing to limit women’s access to vital health care.  Sadly, this includes contraception and family planning services that all women need.

For more than 40 years, Title X has served as a cornerstone of safety-net care. As the only dedicated source of federal funding for family planning, Title X allows a diverse network of providers to deliver high-quality care to low-income, uninsured, or underinsured individuals and to those seeking confidential care. In 2014 alone, Title X-funded clinics helped prevent approximately 904,000 unintended pregnancies, 326,000 abortions, and 439,000 unplanned births.  In addition to direct clinical care, Title X also supports critical infrastructure needs for health centers, including new medical equipment and staff training that are not reimbursable under Medicaid and commercial insurance. This infrastructure is vital to ensuring safe, quality care at health centers which serve and provide basic health services to high-need populations.

Throughout both Democratic and Republican administrations, Title X has been interpreted to prohibit state actions that block providers or classes of providers from participating in a Title X project based on factors unrelated to a provider’s qualifications to perform the required services. The networks include providers ranging from state, county, and local health departments as well as hospitals, family planning councils, Planned Parenthood affiliates, federally qualified health centers and other private non-profit organizations.  In fact, in instances when states have passed laws to limit provider participation in Title X, federal courts have consistently held that those state laws are contrary to, and preempted by, federal law.

In response to a growing number of states targeting family planning providers for exclusion from key federal health programs, including Title X, the previous Administration proposed the regulation “Compliance with Title X Requirements by Project Recipients in Selecting Subrecipients.”  The regulation, which was finalized in December 2016, helps ensure patient access to family planning services and supplies through qualified providers by reiterating that “no recipient making subawards for the provision of services as part of its Title X project may prohibit an entity from participating for reasons other than its ability to provide Title X services.”  During the rulemaking process, the Department of Health and Human Services received more than 145,000 comments, the vast majority of which supported the rule.

Women across the United States, and the men who support them, have had enough.  It is unconscionable that this common sense clarification has become a political football for members of Congress who want to limit women’s access to comprehensive reproductive health care. We urge you to stand in support of women and oppose this assault on contraceptive access and care.

Sincerely,

 

 

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