Rep. Carlos Curbelo speaks to fifth-graders in Homestead about climate change and sea-level rise.
Rep. Carlos Curbelo speaks to fifth-graders in Homestead about climate change and sea-level rise.
Photo by Denise Mendoza

Five Terrible Recent Decisions From Miami GOP Congressman Carlos Curbelo

Carlos Curbelo, the congressman who represents South Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys, is up for reelection this year. He's a Republican but is trying oh so desperately to convince voters he's a moderate with a conscience. He's not one of those mean, racist conservatives! He just hates taxes!

Curbelo's shtick is nauseating. The obvious reason for his faux liberalism is that November is expected to see a Democratic wave election, and his district voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. He sits on something called the Problem-Solvers Caucus, which tries to find "common-sense, bipartisan" (read: needlessly complicated and watered-down) solutions to issues such as health-care reform and climate change. He hops on Twitter once every week or so to scold his critics on "both sides" for poo-pooing his attempts at finding "reasonable" solutions to Americans' problems.

But this is all hogwash: According to FiveThirtyEight's vote-tracking database, Curbelo has voted in line with Donald Trump's platform 81 percent of the time since last January. Some of the decisions he's made these past 18 months have been nothing short of cruel and heinous. Because Carlos is trotting out his "moderate" shtick again this week, allow us to explain why you shouldn't believe him:

1. He voted for the failed Obamacare-repeal effort.

Before voting to rip health care away from millions of Americans — the sort of thing that would kill people, including your grandparents and children — two South Florida congressmen treated the decision with the relative seriousness of choosing their dates for senior prom.

As House Republicans rushed a vote on an amended Affordable Care Act repeal bill that the public has yet to read and the Congressional Budget Office has not yet reviewed, Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart remained two of the last congressional Republicans who had not yet revealed how they planned to vote. They each played coy with a vote that affects millions of lives — before each electing to vote for the measure around 2:20 p.m. today.

Both men represent districts that rely heavily on Obamacare subsidies: A study released earlier this year showed that Miami, as a whole, contains more Affordable Care Act patients than any other city in the nation. And for that reason, virtually all of Miami's congresspeople have remained ambivalent about repealing the plan since Trump administration spokesman Sean Spicer first bragged about how little paper the American Health Care Act (ACHA or "Trumpcare") used earlier this year.


2. He then wrote a nauseating op-ed scolding people for complaining about losing their health care.

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo is demonstrably full of shit. According to the Miami Herald's Patricia Mazzei, before Curbelo voted to repeal Obamacare last week, the U.S. congressman recorded two video statements — one to explain if he voted for the measure and one to explain if he voted against it. Though the clip detailing why he hypothetically didn't vote for the American Health Care Act (AHCA) hasn't been released to the public, the mere fact that he recorded two statements suggests Curbelo himself has deep reservations about a bill he voted for. Or, worse, he simply doesn't care at all and waited till the last minute for some lobbyist or campaign aide to tell him how to vote.

That fact makes the callous, condescending, and mean-spirited op-ed Curbelo wrote about his health-care vote in today's Herald even more unconscionable and straight-up rude. Curbelo is a Republican who sits in a district that swung left and voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Today he rolled out his new message to Democratic voters who might be upset with him for voting for Trumpcare: Stop asking questions, fuck off, and, in some cases, literally die.

Throughout his 716-word screed, Curbelo repeatedly chides his own constituents for raising basic concerns about a bill opposed by every major health-care and hospital association in America and which the Congressional Budget Office warns will kick an additional 24 million people off their insurance and cut a crippling $880 million from Medicaid funding for the nation's poorest and most defenseless residents.

In fact, Curbelo's op-ed doesn't even mention those facts at all. He just lists a bunch of complaints he has about the current state of health care, while intentionally ignoring the fact that the bill he voted for will make each and every one of those things even worse. There is simply no way in hell he does not know this, especially given the fact that he literally recorded a video likely explaining all of these same things. Instead, he chided the "far left" for calling his vote to rip health coverage from children "cruel."

Carlos Curbelo is the victim here, and everyone should stop making him feel bad.


3. He also voted for the GOP tax-cut package — and his family stands to gain money from that bill.

When Miami U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo enthusiastically backed the GOP's tax bill, he conve niently failed to mention the deal would directly benefit his wife's investment holdings. The Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act loosened fees on companies such as Captiol Gains LLC, which is registered to Curbelo's home address in suburban Kendall under the name of his wife, Cecila Curbelo. The LLC lists earnings "between $100,000 to $1 million per year," according to his financial disclosures.

Now the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress (CAP) has released data showing exactly how much Curbelo's family stands to gain from his own tax vote — and it could be anywhere from $12,000 to $106,500, by CAP's estimates.

According to CAP's calculations, Curbelo's vote saved his family anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 in non-real-estate assets and another $2,000 to $6,500 in real-estate holdings. Of the 21 congresspeople listed in the memo, Curbelo was tied with Indiana Rep. Susan Brooks for last in terms of projected savings — Indiana Rep. Rey Hollingsworth stands to make an astounding $676,004 to $4.6 million from his own vote. Bradenton/Sarasota Rep. Vern Buchanan came in second (with estimated savings of $317,752 to $2.1 million), while nearby Central Florida Rep. Tom Rooney came in eighth.


4. He nearly hosted an event with a company that makes money off ICE detainees before New Times called him out on it.

The Virgina-based company Libre by Nexus has an obvious financial incentive to make sure the United States continues deporting increasing numbers of immigrants: It offers steeply priced bail bonds to people trapped in immigration court. Over the past few years, Libre by Nexus has been accused of exploiting immigrants trapped in the nation's kangaroo-court deportation system, sending broke and defenseless immigrants into debt, and "preying" on undocumented people to make a quick buck.

Tomorrow at Florida International University, Miami-area Rep. Carlos Curbelo will host an immigration panel discussion sponsored by the company.

Curbelo — along with what a flyer for the event calls "leaders from the private, public, and academic sectors" — will speak at the panel from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Libre by Nexus has been promoting the event on its social media, and the company's CEO, Mike Donovan, will serve as one of the panelists and get to spout his opinions about the immigration sector.

According to BuzzFeed, Donovan, now a Universalist reverend, has a lengthy criminal history, including convictions for grand larceny, writing bad checks, forgery, and obtaining money under false pretenses. (Libre told BuzzFeed that the charges stemmed from one bad-check-writing arrest when Donovan was 19.)


5. Now he's pushing a bill that cuts back legal immigration and funds Trump's border wall.

Well, the text of the "immigration compromise" that Curbelo fought so hard to draft is finally here, and as many people already predicted, it sucks. First, the good: The bill, if passed, would ban the Department of Homeland Security from separating parents from their children at the border.

Unfortunately, that's basically the only "moderate" provision here. Though the bill technically provides a new path to citizenship for the nation's 1.8 million Dreamers, that path is really difficult and circuitous: The bill creates a new, "merit-based" green card system for both Dreamers and other kinds of legal immigrants. Dreamers can apply for green cards five years after obtaining legal nonimmigrant status, but those cards will be awarded according to a "point-based" system that judges immigrants by education level, English proficiency, military service, and employment level. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients who can't obtain green cards this way may renew their DACA status every six years but will not be given a path to citizenship.

The rest of the bill reads like a xenophobe's wet dream. To find a "compromise" with the racists and immigration hawks, Curbelo apparently agreed to some really draconian cuts to the American immigration system. The bill trims the legal "diversity immigrant visa" program (AKA the "green-card lottery" system that Donald Trump hates) and allocates those 55,000 visas to the merit-based pool. It also eliminates portions of the family-reunification process by which immigrants can petition to bring relatives to the United States legally. (This affects married children of U.S. citizens and siblings of U.S. citizens.) The bill also allows ICE to hold detainees for longer periods of time and makes it more difficult to apply for asylum: Under the new rules, border officials would have to investigate fully whether asylum claims were "true" before letting people into the country.

The bill also allocates a whopping $25 billion more for U.S. "border security" despite the fact that Curbelo and his companion on this bill, Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, often position themselves as budget hawks. More than $16 billion of that money is earmarked to build Donald Trump's insane border wall. (The bill stipulates that if the $25 billion is rescinded, the funding for DACA visas also vanishes.) And the measure lets the National Guard assist in matters of border security.

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