GOP lawmaker: Not endorsing Trump 'one of the best decisions I made'

Retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said in a new interview with the Miami Herald that she has no regrets about refusing to endorse Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE for president during last year’s campaign.

Ros-Lehtinen, a centrist who is the first Hispanic woman to serve in Congress, said Trump is a “bully” and uninterested in the legislative process.

She was one of a handful of GOP lawmakers who declined to support Trump in 2016, citing his divisive rhetoric toward Mexicans and a Muslim Gold Star family.


And she says Trump’s performance since taking office has not led her to change her position.

“One of the best decisions I made was not endorsing Trump,” Ros-Lehtinen told the Herald in an interview published on Monday. “Every day, I’m feeling so much better about it. Oh my gosh, I wake up with a smile on my face.”

Ros-Lehtinen, a former chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, doesn’t think Trump has sufficient interest in policymaking.

“I could ask him maybe 10 questions on the Iranian nuclear deal, I don’t know that he would answer them,” Ros-Lehtinen said in the interview. “I’m not saying that I’m the smartest person and he’s a dummy, he’s just genuinely not interested in legislation. I get nervous when I see him doing a freewheeling press conference.”

She also criticized Trump’s frequent attacks on critics from his Twitter account.

“I just don’t react well to people who take to bullying on Twitter,” Ros-Lehtinen told the newspaper. “I can’t comprehend why you would be president and do that. … It’s just interesting to me that people who were with him during the campaign … are now seeing that he’s kind of a bully.”

Ros-Lehtinen insisted that her decision to retire after nearly three decades in the House isn’t due to concerns she might lose reelection in a district that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE carried by 20 points.

Despite Trump’s current dominance over the GOP, Ros-Lehtinen expressed optimism that the party will still be a place for centrists like herself, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and fellow Florida Republican Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloTrump, GOP go all-in on anti-China strategy Republicans can’t exploit the left’s climate extremism without a better idea Progressive Latino group launches first incumbent protection campaign MORE.

“I am not concerned that our Republican Party will not have room for folks like me, like Curbelo, like Jeb Bush, because I believe the Trump presidency is just going to be a blip,” Ros-Lehtinen told the Herald.

Ros-Lehtinen co-authored bipartisan legislation this year, known as the Dream Act, to grant a path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

The Trump administration announced in September that it would phase out the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which grants qualifying young immigrants work permits. Congress has until March to enact a permanent fix, or else current DACA recipients could face deportation.

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Ros-Lehtinen delivered a speech on the House floor last week calling for a vote on her bill, which only four other House Republicans have endorsed to date.

“Let’s bring the Dream Act for a vote so that these young professionals can make their American dream a reality. The clock is ticking,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

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