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Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 27th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Preceded by District created
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 18th district
In office
August 29, 1989 – January 3, 2013
Preceded by Claude Pepper
Succeeded by Patrick Murphy
Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs
In office
January 3, 2011 – January 3, 2013
Preceded by Howard Berman
Succeeded by Ed Royce
Member of the Florida Senate
from the 34th district
In office
Preceded by Joe Gersten
Succeeded by Lincoln Díaz-Balart
Member of the Florida House of Representatives
from the 110th district
In office
Preceded by Roberta F. Fox
Succeeded by Lincoln Díaz-Balart
Personal details
Born Ileana Ros y Adato
(1952-07-15) July 15, 1952 (age 62)
Havana, Cuba
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Dexter Lehtinen (m. June 9, 1984–present; 2 children; 2 stepchildren)
Residence Miami, Florida, U.S.
Alma mater Miami Dade College, Florida International University, University of Miami
Occupation Schoolteacher
Religion Episcopalian

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (born Ileana Ros y Adato; July 15, 1952) is the U.S. Representative for Florida's 27th congressional district, and served as Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee from 2011-2013. In 1989, Ros-Lehtinen became the first Cuban American and Latina elected to Congress. She was also the first Republican woman elected to the House from Florida, and is currently the most senior Republican woman in the U.S. House.[1] Ros-Lehtinen gave the first Republican response to the State of the Union address in Spanish in 2011, and gave the third in 2014.[2] 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.[3] In July 2012, Ros-Lehtinen became the first Republican in the House to support same-sex marriage.[4]

Early life, education, and early career[edit]

Ileana Ros y Adato was born in Havana, Cuba, one of two children born to Enrique Ros, now a Cuban American businessman and anti-Fidel Castro activist, and his wife, Amanda Adato. The family emigrated to the United States when Ileana was seven years old. 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.[5]

Ros-Lehtinen was raised Catholic and is now an Episcopalian.[5][6] Ros-Lehtinen's maternal grandparents were Sephardic Jews, originally from the Ottoman Empire, who had been active in Cuba's Jewish community.[7] Her maternal grandfather left the city of Kırklareli for Cuba in 1913, fleeing the devastation and economic collapse caused by the First Balkan War.[8] Her mother later converted to Catholicism to marry her father.[7][9]

Ros-Lehtinen was an educator and the owner/operator of a private school in Miami-Dade County.[10] She was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1982, where she met State Representative Dexter Lehtinen (D-Miami). They married on June 9, 1984, after Dexter switched parties. They both served in the State House until 1986. That year, they were both elected to the Florida Senate, where he was elected to District 40 and she was elected in District 34.[11][12] In 1988, Dexter Lehtinen resigned his seat to become U.S. Attorney of South Florida. In 1989, Ros-Lehtinen resigned her seat to become a U.S. Representative.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has two children, Rodrigo (born Amanda), a transgender LGBT rights activist, and Patricia Marie. She is also step-mother to Katherine and Douglas Lehtinen.

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]


After incumbent Democrat U.S. Congressman Claude Pepper died on May 30, 1989, there was a special election scheduled for August 29, 1989. State Senator Ros-Lehtinen defeated Democrat Gerald Richman 53%-47%.[13] She was the first Cuban American elected to the United States Congress and the first Republican woman elected from Florida. Ros-Lehtinen was unaware that she was also the first Latina elected to Congress until after she was elected.[1] In 1990, she won re-election to a full term with 60% of the vote.[14] In total, she has been elected to ten full terms, never winning with less than 58%.[15]

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.[16][17]

Following the 2008 elections, then President-elect Barack Obama rang Ros-Lehtinen to congratulate her on her re-election. She hung up on him, believing that it was a prank call from a radio station. She did the same to Obama's chief of staff Rahm Emanuel when he rang to confirm the original call was genuine, and only accepted the call after Congressman Howard Berman managed to speak to her.[18][19]

Ros-Lehtinen played a key role in keeping the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2010 from being passed into law.[20] Although the bill had unanimously passed the Senate with bipartisan support, she persuaded enough Republicans in the House to vote against the bill so that it did not receive the required two-thirds majority. She reportedly invoked concerns about the legislation's cost and that funds could be used to promote abortion.[21]

Ros-Lehtinen served as Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee from 2011-2013. During the 2011 Libyan civil war, she expressed support of the Libyan opposition; on February 26, 2011, she released a press release which stated, "stronger penalties must be imposed in order to hold the regime accountable for its heinous crimes, and to prevent further violence against the Libyan people". But on March 20, 2011, the day after the NATO strikes to enforce the no-fly-zone began, she expressed a different view in a 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."[22] 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.[23]

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 introduced a bill to cut off US funding to any UN organization that recognises Palestinian statehood.[24]

Ros-Lehtinen has been an opponent of funding for the Peace Corps. In 2011, she led a hearing about the perils that volunteers faced and the lack of concern for victims of sexual abuse while serving.[25] Ros-Lehtinen 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.[26]

On May 7, 2014, Ros-Lehtinen introduced the Venezuelan Human Rights and Democracy Protection Act (H.R. 4587; 113th Congress) in the House. The bill would impose sanctions against Venezuela and authorize appropriations to support civil society in that country.[27] The sanctions would be directed at any government official who was involved in the mistreatment of protestors.[28] Ros-Lehtinen said that the bill was to "condemn the ongoing human rights abuses being committed in Venezuela, and to answer the cries of the people of Venezuela."[28] Ros-Lehtinen also said that she was "pleased that the House of Representatives has acted to punish the thugs of the Maduro regime for brutally repressing and violating the human rights of those seeking to exercise their basic freedoms of speech and assembly in Venezuela."[29]

Committee assignments[edit]

Caucus membership[edit]

Notable staff members[edit]

Notable campaign contributors[edit]

A major individual campaign contributor to Ros-Lehtinen is Irving Moskowitz, a funder of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.[30] The lobby group J Street has called on Ros-Lehtinen to return campaign contributions from Moskowitz, saying he "actively undermines the two-state solution and the foreign policy of the United States by funding illegal settlements in the occupied territories".[31][32] American Council on World Jewry president Jack Rosen has "great concern"[33] about this demand.

Political positions[edit]

Foreign policy[edit]

Ros-Lehtinen was an original author of the Vision Care for Kids Act. She is also an original cosponsor of the Vision Preservation Act.

Ros-Lehtinen is considered conservative on foreign and economic policy. Ros-Lehtinen a supported President George W. Bush's surge policy in Iraq, a supports 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." [34]

On November 23, 2010, she 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."[35]

Ros-Lehtinen opposes US support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East[24] and the Palestinian Authority. She describes herself as a "strong supporter of Israel" and regards the U.S. relationship with Israel as "critical to the national security interests of both nations".[36]


Dexter Lehtinen, Celia Cruz, Alonso R. del Portillo, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, and Pedro Knight in May 1992.

Ros-Lehtinen plays a prominent role in the Cuban-American lobby, which puts pressure on the Cuban government to bring about political change in Cuba. She is a member of the Congressional Cuba Democracy Caucus. Ros-Lehtinen also advances strongly held views on Cuba, and has lobbied against ending the United States embargo against that country. In 2004 she formed the Cuba Democracy Group aimed at curtailing U.S. agriculture exports and preventing U.S. banks from doing business with the Cuban government.[37]

Ros-Lehtinen has defended former fugitive Velentin Hernández, convicted of murdering Luciano Nieves, a fellow Cuban exile who supported negotiations with the Cuban government,[38] In the 1980s, Ros-Lehtinen lobbied for the release and pardon of Cuban exile Orlando Bosch, who had been convicted of terrorist acts and has also been accused of involvement in the 1976 bombing of Cubana Flight 455, which killed 73 people, helping organize an "Orlando Bosch day" to gain support for his release.[39][40][41] Ros-Lehtinen played a prominent role in the unsuccessful attempt by relatives of Elian Gonzalez to gain custody of six-year-old from the Castro regime, describing Cuba as "that system of godless communism".[42] She also attempted to block Jimmy Carter's visit to the island in 2002.[43][44]

Ros-Lehtinen has stirred controversy by calling for the assassination of Cuban Leader Fidel Castro. She appeared in a British documentary, which was entitled 638 Ways to Kill Castro, saying: "I welcome the opportunity of having anyone assassinate Fidel Castro and any leader who is oppressing the people." After a 28-second clip began circulating on the Internet, she claimed the filmmakers spliced clips together to get the sound bite. Twenty-four hours after the controversy erupted, director Dollan Cannell sent unedited tapes of his interview with Ros-Lehtinen to reporters.[45] The uncut version contradicted her response, showing she had twice welcomed an attempt on Castro's life. Although she attempted to distance herself from her denial, filmmaker Cannell requested an apology.[46]

LGBT rights[edit]

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has been a notable Republican voice in favor of LGBT rights. In a Winter 2013 interview with the Human Rights Campaign, she stated that her support for same-sex marriage was based on "coming from Cuba, losing my homeland to communism, seeing the state control everything – I’m a person that believes in individual liberties and not having the government control everything.” When asked about her support for her son Rodrigo, a transgender LGBT rights advocate, Ros-Lehtinen commented that:

It’s important for families to support their children and to support their children’s choices. It’s important to listen to your children, accept your children and have your children know that you love them unconditionally. It’s not “I love you, but…”—there’s no “but.” “It’s just “I love you.” … To do otherwise is—you’re hurting yourself, you’re going to shun your child or grandchild. You’re going to say, “No, I have my views and my views are the perfect views and no one can have a different point of view. I’m right and everything else is wrong.” And that’s a lonely way to live. It just means you’ll be out of that person’s life, and who wants to be cut out of their child’s life?[1]

Although Ros-Lehtinen voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996,[47] she began to support LGBT issues over the following decade. Her district includes large LGBT populations in South Beach in Miami Beach and in the Florida Keys. She was one of three Republican members of the LGBT Equality Caucus, of which she is a founding member and a vice-chairperson. While 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.[48] 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, and was the first Republican cosponsor of the bill.[1][49][50] In September 2011, Ros-Lehtinen became the first Republican member of the U.S. Congress to co-sponsor the Respect for Marriage Act, and signed on to a letter to IRS Commissioner Schulman requesting that the IRS provide clear guidance for LGBT taxpayers.[3][51] The letter asks the IRS to ensure that tax law is being applied fairly to all individuals. In July 2012, she became the first Republican in the House to fully support same-sex marriage.[52] In 2013, Ros-Lehtinen was a signatory to an amicus curiae brief submitted to the Supreme Court in support of same-sex marriage during the Hollingsworth v. Perry case.[53]

Economic policy[edit]

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 signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.[54]

Ros-Lehtinen voted against the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 in its initial September 29, 2008 vote, which failed,[55] but voted in favor of the revised bill in its October 3, 2008 vote, which passed.[56]


  1. ^ a b c d "I Vote My Conscience". Human Rights Campaign. Winter 2013. pp. 17–19. Retrieved January 29, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Ros-Lehtinen to deliver Spanish SOTU response". The Hill. January 28, 2014. Retrieved January 28, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Reilly, Ryan J. (September 23, 2011). "Ros-Lehtinen First GOPer To Sponsor Bill Repealing DOMA". Talking Points Memo. Retrieved September 23, 2011. 
  4. ^ "A First: GOP Congresswoman Supports Marriage Equality". Advocate=date=July 13, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "Project Vote Smart - Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen". Vote-smart.org. 1952-07-15. Retrieved 2010-08-23. 
  6. ^ Gay-rights advocate U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to head House Foreign Affairs Committee
  7. ^ a b Nir, Ori (2005-10-14). "Miami Pol Closes In on Key Foreign Policy Post – The Jewish Daily Forward". Forward.com. Retrieved 2010-08-23. 
  8. ^ Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen Meets Turkish Relatives in Istanbul Jan 31, 2012
  9. ^ Hilary Leila Kreiger (2010-12-23). "Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: Ready to play hardball". Jerusalem Post. 
  10. ^ "Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)". The Washington Post. April 15, 2007. Retrieved May 5, 2010. 
  11. ^ "86-88 Senate Handbook" (PDF). Retrieved February 29, 2012. 
  12. ^ "Senator called A Brainy Tough Guy". The Miami Herald. June 11, 1988, p. 1A
  13. ^ "FL District 18 - Special Election Race". Our Campaigns. August 29, 1989. Retrieved February 29, 2012. 
  14. ^ "FL District 18 Race". Our Campaigns. November 6, 1990. Retrieved February 29, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Candidate: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen". Our Campaigns. Retrieved February 29, 2012. 
  16. ^ [1]
  17. ^ [2]
  18. ^ Press Release from the Office of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, ABC News
  19. ^ Congresswoman hangs up on Obama, BBC, December 4, 2008
  20. ^ Ros-Lehtinen and other Republicans oppose child marriage prevention bill
  21. ^ "Who killed the bill to prevent forced child marriages". The Cable Foreign Policy Magazine (The Washington Post). 2010-12-22. Retrieved 2010-12-23. 
  22. ^ "Gingrich Not Alone In No-fly Zone Contradiction". ABC News. March 24, 2011. Retrieved March 28, 2011. 
  23. ^ Rogin, Josh (March 23, 2011). "The Cable: Ros-Lehtinen targets several State Department budget items". Foreign Policy. Retrieved February 29, 2012. 
  24. ^ a b "Palestinian Statehood: A Bad Bill for Everyone". The Economist. September 1, 2011. Retrieved September 8, 2011. 
  25. ^ Graves, Lucia (July 11, 2011). "Peace Corps Volunteers Speak Out About Rape, Violence". Huffington Post. Retrieved May 24, 2012. 
  26. ^ "Ros-Lehtinen To Support Legislation To Ease Passport Delays". Committee on Foreign Affairs. Committee on Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  27. ^ "H.R. 4587 - CBO". Congressional Budget Office. Retrieved 28 May 2014. 
  28. ^ a b Marcos, Cristina (28 May 2014). "House passes Venezuela sanctions bill". The Hill. Retrieved 28 May 2014. 
  29. ^ Adams, Chris (28 May 2014). "House passes bill pushing sanctions against Venezuelan regime". The Bellingham Herald. Retrieved 29 May 2014. 
  30. ^ Greybeards Urge U.S. not to Veto U.N. Anti-Settlement Resolution (IPS, January 19, 2011)
  31. ^ Krieger, Hilary Leila (January 19, 2011). "J Street tells Ros-Lehtinen to give up Moskowitz donations". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved February 29, 2012. 
  32. ^ The political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen: Return Irving Moskowitz's Money (J Street)
  33. ^ "Unpacking J Street-Ros Lehtinen-Moskowitz". Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 19, 2011
  34. ^ Kaplan, Jonathan (June 17, 2004). "House GOP disputes the 9-11 finding". The Hill. Archived from the original on June 19, 2004. Retrieved November 16, 2012. 
  35. ^ U.N. Pours Salt in America's Wounds, FOX News 24-11-2010
  36. ^ "Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on Foreign Affairs". U.S. House of Representatives. 
  37. ^ "Election galvanizes Cuba embargo backers" www.cubacentral.com
  38. ^ "Our Man's in Miami. Patriot or Terrorist?" The Washington Post. April 17, 2005.
  39. ^ "The ghost of terror past". Salon.com
  40. ^ Who is a terrorist? South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Wayne S. Smith. May 31, 2002
  41. ^ Congressman Diaz-Balart Says U.S. Should Consider Assassination of Fidel Castro. Wayne Smith. CIP senior fellow. March 31, 2004
  42. ^ Who Should Decide the Destiny of Elian Gonzalez. CNN transcripts.
  43. ^ Ann Louise Bardach. Cuba confidential. p351. "Ignoring the growls of the Reich team and attempts by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart to block the visit, the Bush administration reluctantly granted approval"
  44. ^ "Will Jimmy Carter Become First President to Visit Castro in Cuba?" CNN transcripts.
  45. ^ "Rep. Ros-Lehtinen Admits 'Kill Castro' remark" Newsmax
  46. ^ Tape contradicts Ros-Lehtinen. Miami Herald.
  47. ^ "Defense of Marriage Act: Final Vote Results For Roll Call 316". July 12, 1996. Retrieved March 27, 2013. 
  48. ^ "LGBT Equality Caucus". Lgbt.tammybaldwin.house.gov. Retrieved 2010-08-23. 
  49. ^ Chris Geidner, House Passes DADT Repeal Bill, Metro Weekly (December 15, 2010).
  50. ^ House Vote 638 - Repeals 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell', New York Times (December 15, 2010).
  51. ^ "Ros-Lehtinen Joins Congressional Letter to the IRS Asking for Clear Guidelines for LGBT Taxpayers". Talking Points Memo. September 26, 2011. Retrieved September 2, 2011. 
  52. ^ http://www.advocate.com/politics/marriage-equality/2012/07/13/gop-congresswoman-first-house-her-party-support-marriage
  53. ^ http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/02/28/the-pro-freedom-republicans-are-coming-131-sign-gay-marriage-brief.html
  54. ^ "Current Taxpayer Protection Pledge Signers". Americans for Tax Reform. Retrieved February 29, 2012. 
  55. ^ "Bailout Roll Call" (PDF). 2008-09-29. Retrieved September 29, 2008. 
  56. ^ "Final vote results for roll call 681". 2008-10-03.  Retrieved October 3, 2008

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
District created
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 27th congressional district

Preceded by
Claude Pepper
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 18th congressional district

Succeeded by
Patrick Murphy
Political offices
Preceded by
Howard Berman
Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee
Succeeded by
Ed Royce
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Dana Rohrabacher
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Jose Serrano
D-New York

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2028 news items

Sunshine State News
Thu, 21 Aug 2014 01:06:19 -0700

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has been one of the leading figures in South Florida politics for three decades now and she continues to shape the region's politics by throwing her support to Republican allies. Ros-Lehtinen burst onto the scene in 1982 when she ...

Breitbart News

Breitbart News
Mon, 11 Aug 2014 09:16:29 -0700

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) predicted that Congress is "going to be passing an immigration bill" in the future, "thanks to your brother, Mario Diaz-Balart." "Mario and Paul Ryan and good leaders are working every day toward that, and we hope that it ...
Sunshine State News (blog)
Wed, 20 Aug 2014 07:03:16 -0700

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the former chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, came out swinging at the Obama administration on Tuesday for giving three Cubans with close ties to the Castro regime -- Mariela Castro, the daughter ...
Sunshine State News (blog)
Wed, 13 Aug 2014 05:23:49 -0700

International law and human rights professor William Schabas, a critic of Israeli leaders, has been named to lead a U.N. committee looking at the current conflict in Gaza. In recent years, Schabas has called for the International Criminal Court to ...
Miami New Times (blog)
Thu, 31 Jul 2014 05:00:00 -0700

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Washington Times

Washington Times
Wed, 30 Jul 2014 16:35:11 -0700

Every nation has the right and the obligation to defend itself and its citizens against unwarranted and unprovoked attacks. If the United States were being hit with rockets from our neighbors, we would expect the president to respond appropriately to ...
Sunshine State News (blog)
Fri, 08 Aug 2014 08:26:14 -0700

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., is one of the leading Republicans in Congress when it comes to international affairs, from her time leading the House Foreign Affairs Committee and now chairing the House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee.

Fox News Latino

Sunshine State News (blog)
Mon, 04 Aug 2014 06:30:00 -0700

Media reports emerged this weekend noting that the Obama administration authorized sending young people from Latin America to Cuba to push for more democracy under the cover of doing work for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on ...

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