Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (also known as Ileana Ros; is a Cuban-American born as Ileana Ros y Adato July 15, 1952) is the U.S. Representative for Florida's 18th congressional district, serving since 1989. She is a member of the Republican Party.
She is currently the most senior Republican woman in the U.S. House, and was the first Republican woman elected to the House of Representatives from Florida. She is chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, effective 2011.
Early life, education and career
Ros-Lehtinen was born in Havana, Cuba, one of two children born to Enrique Ros and his wife, Amanda Adato.
She received her Bachelor of Arts in education and her Master of Arts in educational leadership from Florida International University. She attended the University of Miami where she earned a Ph.D in higher education.
She was a member of the Florida House of Representatives from 1982 to 1986, and was then a one-term member of the Florida Senate before entering the House.
Prior to entering political life, Ros-Lehtinen was an educator and the owner/operator of a private school in Miami-Dade County. Upon her election to succeed the late Congressman Claude Pepper, she became the first Cuban American and the first Hispanic woman elected to the United States Congress.
Ros-Lehtinen is considered conservative on foreign, economic, and other social policy. Ros-Lehtinen is a supporter of President George W. Bush's surge policy in Iraq, a supporter of Israel and supports continued sanctions against Cuba. She also supported the de facto government in Honduras, headed by Roberto Micheletti, that emerged after the military coup against President Manuel Zelaya.
She has said of the decision to invade Iraq: "Whether or not there is a direct link to the World Trade Center does not mean that Iraq is not meritorious of shedding blood. The common link is that they hate America."
Among Ros-Lehtinen's other conservative views include votes against the estate tax, voted in favor of Bush's tax cuts, for fuel efficiency standards on autos, drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, support of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, votes in favor of making the Patriot Act permanent, support of the Military Commissions Act, votes against funding for stem cell research, and votes against SCHIP. She is a signer of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.
Ros-Lehtinen generally portrays a pro-military stance. However, during the 2011 Libyan uprising, she shifted her position in support of the Libyan opposition; on February 26, 2011, she released a press release which stated, "The United States Must Support These Brave Men and Women Who are Seeking to Throw Off the Shackles of Tyranny in Libya." On March 20, 2011, she said the following in a new press release: "I am concerned that the President has yet to clearly define for the American people what vital United States security interests he believes are currently at stake in Libya.".
The congresswoman has also been a forerunner in cutting U.S. aid to foreign lands, including the State Department, The Peace Corps, the Asia Foundation, the U.S.
Institute of Peace and the East-West Center. She also advocates cutting funding to Lebanese Armed Forces and the West Bank and Gaza.
Ros-Lehtinen sides with the Democrats on many issues of gay rights. Her district includes large LGBT populations in South Beach in Miami Beach and in the Florida Keys. She is currently one of two Republican members of the LGBT Equality Caucus, of which she is a founding member and a vice-chairperson. Although she is not a co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act, she supports anti-hate crime laws, anti-discrimination bills, believes gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the armed forces, is a sponsor of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, and voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment.
Ros-Lehtinen was one of fifteen Republican House members to vote in favor of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010. In September 2011, Ros-Lehtinen became the first Republican member of the U.S. Congress to co-sponsor the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.
She has also opposed Florida’s constitutional ban against same-sex marriage. Earlier in 2011, Ros-Lehtinen “signed on to a letter to IRS Commissioner Schulman requesting that the IRS provide clear guidance for LGBT taxpayers. The letter asks the IRS to ensure that tax law is being applied fairly to all individuals.”
Ros-Lehtinen recently pressured the State Department to accelerate its processing of passports, something that had hindered American citizens' travel during the crucial summer travel season.
Calling the delay "outrageous, incomprehensible, unconscionable" at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where she is chairwoman, Ros-Lehtinen brought the pressure of committee Republicans to bear on the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs and spur them to action.
On 23 November 2010, Ros-Lehtinen called on the Obama administration to "announce publicly, right now, that we will stay away from Durban III, deny it US taxpayer dollars, and oppose all measures that seek to facilitate it. And we should encourage other responsible nations to do the same."
Ros-Lehtinen joined Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) on a Congressional delegation to the United Nations in order to encourage international support for an end to the genocide in Darfur. In addition, when Ros-Lehtinen returned from a trip to Darfur in April 2007 where she visited Sudanese refugee camps, she strongly encouraged the United States and the international community to find a solution to this humanitarian crisis.
Ros-Lehtinen is opposing US support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and the Palestinian Authority. She is a strong supporter of Israel.
As of 2010, she is the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. After comments by State Department over Israeli settlements, she demanded that the Obama administration halt its "condemnations" of "an indispensable ally and friend of the United States."
In September 2011 she she introduced a bill to cut off US funding to any UN organization that recognises Palestinian statehood.
She married Florida State Representative Dexter Lehtinen, on June 9, 1984, while she was serving in the Florida Legislature. They have two children, Rodrigo Lehtinen (born Amanda Michelle) and Patricia Marie. She is also the step-mother to Katherine and Douglas Lehtinen.
Project Vote Smart lists Ros-Lehtinen as Episcopalian. Ros-Lehtinen's maternal grandparents were Sephardic Jews from Turkey who had been active in Cuba's Jewish community. Her mother later converted to Catholicism.
October 16th, 2011