March 13, 2015

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson pass Senate recognition of late Miami activist

@PatriciaMazzei

The U.S. Senate unanimously adopted a resolution Thursday honoring the late Georgia Ayers, a longtime Miami community activist who died Feb. 17. The tribute was sponsored by Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio.

The resolution highlights "the lifelong commitment of Georgia Jones-Ayers to bettering the lives of the people of South Florida" and offers condolences to her family. Ayers founded a local food bank and a renown program that provided first-time criminal offenders with an alternative to jail time.

"Ms. Jones Ayers dedicated her life to helping at-risk youth in South Florida, a career that touched countless lives and has inspired many others to carry on her work," Rubio, a Republican, said in a statement Friday. "Georgia will be missed, but her memory and the impact of her work will live forever on."

When the two senators introduced the resolution Feb. 24, Nelson, a Democrat, also issued a statement praising Ayers' life work.

"With the passing of Georgia Jones Ayers, we have lost a fearless community activist," he said. "Thanks to her efforts, many troubled youth were given a second chance for a better life."

March 10, 2015

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson at odds over GOP senators' letter to Iran

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was one of 47 Republican senators who signed an "open letter" to Iran on Monday warning that any nuclear-power deal reached with the Obama administration wouldn't last.

The U.S. government is still negotiating with Tehran over a potential agreement. he three top potential GOP presidential contenders in the Senate -- Rubio and Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky -- all signed the letter, which critics decried the one-page letter as improper, partisan interference by the Senate.

Among them was Rubio's Florida counterpart, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who said on the Senate floor Tuesday that the letter was an effort to "try to cut the legs off from underneath the president and his administration in trying to reach an agreement to avert a nuclear bomb."

Here's the video of Nelson's speech:

 

March 06, 2015

Sen. Bill Nelson: State shouldn't expect LIP money

Florida lawmakers shouldn’t expect federal money for the Low Income Pool program to fill a $2 billion hole in next year’s state budget, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Friday, issuing a call for the state to instead expand Medicaid.

“They said already, ‘We are not extending this anymore,’” Nelson said. “I have spoken to (Health and Human Services) Secretary Sylvia Burwell about this, and that is her position.”

Gov. Rick Scott accounted for the funding to continue in his budget, and Wednesday, he called on President Barack Obama to extend the LIP program, which is supposed to end this year.

Nelson made the comments in a meeting with reporters in Tallahassee on Friday, during which he also discussed the investigation into deaths at the Dozier School for Boys and a possible presidential run for that other Florida senator.

He met earlier in the afternoon with Commissioner Rick Swearingen of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to discuss the investigations at Dozier. Last week, the senator requested the U.S. Department of Justice get involved, writing that DOJ is, “uniquely positioned to provide an outside and independent review.”

On Friday, FDLE officials shared with Nelson their findings after reviewing work done by University of South Florida anthropologists that unearthed the remains of 51 people who died at the school in Marianna, Fla.

“They are maintaining that their conclusions are very similar to what Dr. Erin Kimmerle at USF has found,” he said. “What I suggested to them was that after they made the presentation to me, what they should do is give the same briefing to Dr. Kimmerle.”

Nelson said he would like to go over any discrepancies between the reports with FDLE officials and Kimmerle. The department, he said, has shown no resistance to continuing to work with him and other officials in this investigation.

Bill Nelson: 'My sense is that Marco is running for president'

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio may not have officially declared a run for the White House, but his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Bill Nelson, is convinced he’ll put his hat in the ring — at least for now.

Speaking Friday afternoon in Tallahassee, Nelson had this to say about a Rubio presidential run:

“My sense is that Marco is running for president But my sense also is that about a year from now, if he doesn’t catch fire, he has the option always of stepping back into the Senate race.”

Rubio has been putting himself out there as a likely candidate, Nelson said, including customary trips to Iowa, New Hampshire and the Conservative Political Action Conference.

“Marco is really out,” Nelson said. “He’s going as hard as he can, and he’s going all over the country.”

With Rubio and Jeb Bush being heralded as likely candidates, political horserace watchers nationally have turned their eyes to Florida.

“I kid with him all the time,” Nelson said. “I’ll say, ‘Well, you and Jeb, maybe I oughta get into the race. We could make this a trifecta.’”

For what it’s worth, Nelson said that’s not in the cards. His seat is up in 2018. What’s next? He wouldn’t say other than to point out he’s continuing to raise money.

February 11, 2015

Both Florida senators back Obama war authorization against ISIS

@PatriciaMazzei

President Obama formally asked Congress Wednesday to authorize the use of military force against the Islamic State, a group also known as ISIS or ISIL. Though U.S. airstrikes have gone after the group since last summer, congressional approval would bolster the administration's legal war authority.

Both Florida senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, support Obama's request. 

"Any group barbaric enough to behead and burn innocent people and bring about the death of a humanitarian worker deserves to be crushed," Nelson said in a statement Wednesday morning, referring to the recently confirmed death of Kayla Mueller of Arizona.

Nelson is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who last year filed legislation that would have authorized airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. He noted Wednesday that Obama's request has some similarities to Nelson's proposal. Obama didn't rule out ground troops, though he said they would be used in "limited circumstances." His request would expire in three years.

Rubio said on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon that he would back even broader authorization, without limiting the president's time frame or tactics, which the senator said would be unwise given changing ground conditions. Rubio has burnished his foreign-policy credentials in the Senate, a likely campaign plank for him if he ends up running for president.

"There is a simple authorization Obama should ask for. One sentence: We authorize the president to defeat ISIL. Period," Rubio said. More than once, he noted authorization would also extend to the next president.

Rubio called it "good news" that Obama had asked Congress for approval, though he said it was belated. "I wish we had taken this group on earlier," he said.

April 25, 2014

500,000 reasons why Bill Nelson isn’t running for governor

@MarcACaputo

There are many reasons that U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson isn’t running for governor of Florida: he just won a safe U.S. Senate seat, it actually won’t be an easy race against new Democrat Charlie Crist, it could harm the party more than it helps and he and his top people have told top Democrats over and over and over again that he’s not running.

The most recent case came with the Democratic Governors Association, the Washington fundraising group that, you guessed it, tries to get Democratic governors elected nationwide.

It’s betting big on Crist, giving him $500,000 last week. More is to come.

“We talked to Bill Nelson’s people. They told us he’s not running,” said a top figure who works with the DGA in Washington.

“We wouldn’t have given Crist this money if we thought Nelson was running.”

Continue reading "500,000 reasons why Bill Nelson isn’t running for governor" »

April 22, 2014

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson: Miami Beach ground zero for sea-level rise

@jenstaletovich

Miami Beach became ground zero for climate change Tuesday when U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson convened a rare field hearing to draw national attention to the dangers posed by rising seas.

“For those who deny sea level rise and climate change, here is the proof,” Nelson said halfway through the two-hour hearing at Miami Beach City Hall, and one of several times he pointedly called out colleagues in Congress who deny that climate change is occurring.

A half dozen witnesses, including a NASA scientist, a mayor and a county commissioner, forecast a dire future with a three-foot rise in seas by the beginning of the next century. At that rate, large swaths of Florida’s coast would be inundated, with billions of dollars in damage, even as climate change fuels more severe hurricanes. But the panel also offered hope, saying there’s still plenty of time to plan.

“It’s a slow, steady, persistent creep. But the fact that it’s slow means there’s time,” said Fred Bloetscher, an associate civil engineering professor at Florida Atlantic University who testified about potential fixes for South Florida.

More here.

April 17, 2014

In Miami, Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson renew call for U.S. sanctions against Venezuela

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida’s two senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, joined forces Thursday in Miami to call for stepped up attention and potential U.S. sanctions against Venezuela for repressing political protests.

They also suggested that Venezuelans should become eligible for special U.S. immigration status.

To try to persuade their colleagues, Rubio said the Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans to hold a hearing soon on the ongoing unrest, with as-yet unnamed leaders of the Venezuelan opposition invited to testify. Rubio is a committee member.

“What we want to do is build a case,” Rubio said — not only for sanctions against members of President Nicolás Maduro’s administration, but also perhaps against private Venezuelan citizens tied to the government.

That possibility has drawn particular interest in South Florida, home to the largest community of Venezuelans outside their country, including some rumored Maduro allies. Miami and Orlando remain frequent destinations for Venezuelan tourists, among them government officials.

More here.

February 21, 2014

UPDATE: For third time, Bill Nelson asks feds to investigate DEO

@mikevansickler

If one goes by the daily updates by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the problems plaguing CONNECT, Florida's $63 million unemployment benefits website, are mostly solved. The agency is reporting that it has fewer than 10,000 6,000 cases where claimaints have waited longer than a week, a drastic reduction from a caseload of more than 60,000 last month.

Of course, how much of that is due to repairs with CONNECT? Remember, the DEO hired 250 extra staffers to review these cases, at a cost of $165,000 a week, plus another $300,000 to lease space for the additional personnel. The DEO can't say because it can't rely on the accuracy of indicators from Deloitte about CONNECT's performance. 

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, who has twice already asked federal officials to intervene, remains unconvinced progress has been made. On Friday, he asked the U.S. Department of Labor's Inspector General to investigate for "possible waste, fraud or abuse stemming from the launch of a system that reportedly would result in unemployment insurance claims not being processed in a manner consistent with provisions in federal law requiring prompt payment to eligible individuals."

Here's the release: 

 

Continue reading "UPDATE: For third time, Bill Nelson asks feds to investigate DEO" »

February 05, 2014

Congressional Democrats blast Rick Scott for turning back on Medicaid expansion

@tbtia

Gov. Rick Scott made national headlines and disappointed his tea party base last year when he expressed support for using federal Medicaid expansion dollars to help uninsured Floridians get coverage. He supported the plan created by Senate Republicans to use the $51 billion in federal funding, but it was blocked by House Republicans at the end of the 2013 session.

At the time, Democrats criticized Scott for not doing more to back the Senate plan. Since then, it's gotten even worse with the governor refusing to say flat out whether he still supports Medicaid expansion and returning to old talking points criticizing the federal health care overhaul.

Recently, Scott's 2014-2015 budget proposal was silent on the Medicaid expansion issue although there are bills filed in the House and Senate to ressurrect last year's failed plan.

The governor's refusal to address Medicaid expansion has angered congressional Democrats who wrote a letter to express "extreme disappointment" that the subject was not discussed during his budget presentation last week.

"Governor, last year you said your conscience wouldn't allow you to stand in the way of an expansion," they wrote. "We hope your conscience now will compel you to at least ask legislators to find a way to get this done."

The letter is signed by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. representatives Kathy Castor, Patrick Murphy, Joe Garcia, Corrine Brown, Alan Grayson, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings, Frederica Wilson and Lois Frankel.

Click here to download the letter from congressional Democrats to Scott on Medicaid expansion.