Just about three months after complaining that he was refused his request to accompany the president on Air Force One to Florida, Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo got to ride on the president’s plane.
Curbelo, R-Fla., accompanied President Barack Obama from Washington to his home state Wednesday and went with the president to the Everglades for an Earth Day visit. At Everglades National Park, Obama issued a warning on the damage of climate change to the environment and chided his political opponents who refuse to address it.
Members of Congress with as little time in the House as Curbelo, who was elected last November, do not often get to ride aboard Air Force One.
“I appreciate the president taking the time to showcase the Florida Everglades, one of the world’s great natural treasures,” Curbelo said in a statement. “I share the president's concerns about sea-level rise, and its effects on our drinking supplies, our economy and our way of life. I am committed to finding common ground to mitigate the effects of climate change.”
Rebecca Wasserstein, a spokeswoman for Curbelo, deferred to the White House when NBC asked whether Curbelo was asked along on this trip to make up for rejecting him on the previous trip, but added that the the president's trip was to Curbelo’s district, which includes the Everglades.
The White House would only confirm Curbelo was aboard Air Force One for the trip. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., elected in 2012, also was aboard.
Curbelo had requested to fly to Florida with Obama in February, when the president was heading to Miami for a town hall on immigration hosted by MSNBC and Telemundo. The event was held at Florida International Univesity, which is in Curbelo’s district and some Democratic members joined the president on the trip.
After the rejection Curbelo said he had been looking forward to participating in what he thought was “a sincere effort to reach across the aisle and discuss strategies and efforts to achieve this goal.” He then dismissed the town hall as “no more than a choreographed, partisan event.”
Curbelo is a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship and has backed the sweeping immigration legislation passed by the Senate in 2013.
But he also opposes the president's decision to use executive action to shield millions of immigrants from deportation and provide them work permits after the Republican-controlled House refused to advance immigration reform bills. He rejected attempts to repeal the executive action programs through the Homeland Security spending bill.
By contrast, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declined an invitation from the White House to meet Obama on the tarmac upon the president’s arrival.
Curbelo also took a separate view on Obama’s policies on the Everglades. Scott accused Obama of cutting millions in his budget for repair of an aging dike around Florida’s largest freshwater lake.
In his statement, Curbelo thanked Obama “for including $240 million for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan” in his 2016 budget request to Congress.
Last week, the Republican chairman and top ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations subcommittee fully funded Obama’s request for financial support for the South Florida Ecosystem, Cubelo said.
He also praised Scott has for committing $5 billion to advance stalled projects for the Everglades.
“These funds will go towards restoration work, construction projects, flood and natural habitat protection and securing clean water supplies for much of south Florida,” Curbelo said. “This state and federal partnership demonstrates the effectiveness of collaboration to achieve progress on a shared, bipartisan priority.”
_ This report includes material from The Associated Press