February 09, 2017

Sen. Bill Nelson faces pressure over Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch

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via @learyreports

WASHINGTON — Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is about to face intense pressure from a well-funded conservative coalition to vote for President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, a decision that will likely resonate into Nelson's 2018 re-election campaign.

Proponents are targeting Nelson and nine other senators from states Trump won in November who are also up for re-election — an effort that will include advertising and mailers, petitions and phone banks.

"Don't let Senate Democrats and the radical left block President Trump's great Supreme Court Justice nominee, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch," reads a postcard that will arrive this week in the mail of Florida activists. "Tell Senator Nelson to vote yes."

At the same time, Nelson will hear from a newly charged Democratic base that is demanding rejection of Trump's agenda, and the party remains bitter over GOP refusal last year to take up Obama's pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

"Whatever the pressure is," Nelson said in an interview, "I'm going to make up my own mind as to what I think is in the best interest of our country and Florida."

Keep reading Alex Leary's story here.

February 01, 2017

Senators Rubio and Nelson weigh in on Trump SCOTUS pick Neil Gorsuch

@amysherman1

Florida's U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson have weighed in on Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's pick for the U.S. Spreme Court.

Here is Nelson's statement:

“The confirmation of a Supreme Court justice is an awesome responsibility that I gladly accept. I will base my decision on a full examination of Judge Gorsuch’s judicial record and his responses to senators’ questions.”

Here is Rubio's statement:

“Judge Gorsuch is a highly qualified, mainstream jurist, which is why he was unanimously confirmed to the circuit court by the Senate in 2006. By all accounts he has the right temperament and experience for the job, and I’m pleased to see him nominated to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Most importantly, he is committed to the principles of original intent and judicial restraint. This is critical, because too many in the federal judiciary today believe it is appropriate for judges to invent new policies and rights instead of interpreting and defending the Constitution as it is written.

“Unfortunately, Senate Democrats already announced they would oppose any Supreme Court nominee no matter who it is. This obstruction is neither principled nor reasonable, considering we just had an election where the future of the Supreme Court was a central issue not only at the presidential level but in every Senate contest. On the issue of this Supreme Court nomination specifically, the American people gave the president and the Republican-controlled Senate a mandate to choose a successor to Antonin Scalia. Senate Democrats should accept the results of the election and allow the process to move forward with a vote. I look forward to a fair and thorough confirmation process, and I am confident Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed by the Senate once again, this time to serve on the Supreme Court.”

January 30, 2017

Sen. Bill Nelson writes Trump letter protesting immigration order

BillNelsonatdeskKristenClark

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, wrote a letter to President Donald Trump objecting to his executive order on immigration. Nelson, the only statewide Democratic office holder, is one of many Democratic lawmakers in South Florida to criticize Trump's order.

Here is the Nelson's letter:

I write to express my concern with your recent Executive Order, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” Regardless of the constitutionality or legality of this Executive Order, I am deeply concerned that it may do more harm than good in our fight to keep America safe.

Defeating the diabolical threat of terrorism is imperative to our national security. Our military and intelligence professionals are engaged around the world in the fight against terrorist groups like ISIS. Our success in this fight, both at home and abroad, depends on the cooperation and assistance of Muslims who reject radicalism and violence. Whether intended or not, this Executive Order risks alienating the very people we rely upon in the fight against terror.

Over the weekend, numerous people were detained at U.S. ports of entry, including an Iraqi interpreter who served alongside our troops. When we promise sanctuary to individuals who risk their lives assisting U.S. forces in the fight against terrorism, it is both unfair and counterproductive to turn them away at our shores.

 While we must do everything in our power to protect the United States, I am concerned this Executive Order will only undermine our counterterrorism efforts. I urge you to develop policy that keeps America safe, builds trust with our partners, and demonstrates compassion to those who need our help.

January 24, 2017

Democrats, including Nelson, try to push Trump on infrastructure

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats, including Bill Nelson, sought today to pressure President Trump to make good on one of his biggest campaign promises: a massive investment in infrastructure.

Nelson joined colleagues in announcing a plan for $1 trillion in transportation and other infrastructure projects over 10 years, and said it would create more than 15 million new jobs and provide funding to repair roads and bridges, expand bus and rail systems, modernize ports and rebuild public schools.

"Florida is growing at a rate of nearly 1,000 people per day," Nelson said. “You can imagine the toll that’s taking on our state’s infrastructure. This is our chance to make some much-needed repairs and create millions of new jobs in the process.”

Trump's plan could face resistance among some Republicans concerned about spending so much.

Nelson singled out areas in the proposal:

- $180 billion to improve and expand bus and rail systems, which could be used to restore Amtrak service along Florida’s Gulf Coast and extend Sunrail service in Orlando.

- $10 billion to modernize ports and waterways, which could be used to speed up repairs being made to the Herbert Hoover Dike and deepen the ports in Jacksonville and Ft. Lauderdale to accommodate the new mega ships coming through the expanded Panama Canal

- $210 billion to fix crumbling roads and bridges.

The plan, according to Nelson's office, includes $30 billion for airport improvements, $10 billion to construct new Veterans Affairs facilities and $75 billion to modernize public schools.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

January 12, 2017

Marco Rubio says Obamacare 'absolute failure'

@learyreports 

WASHINGTON - Senate Republicans early Thursday voted on a budget outline designed to repeal Obamacare and Florida’s Marco Rubio later celebrated the demise.

“ObamaCare has led to rising premiums, a collapse of the individual insurance market and fewer choices for patients,” Rubio said in a statement.

“The law is an absolute failure and its proponents insist it must be salvaged with a taxpayer-funded bailout of health insurance companies. We've now taken an important first step to repeal this law and replace ‎it with a patient-centered approach that expands access to providers and lowers costs of care. It is my hope and expectation that the transition to a replacement program can be done relatively seamlessly and minimize disruptions to patients.”

Sen. Bill Nelson joined Democrats in voting against the arcane budget measure, designed to be filibuster proof.

The bigger challenge, of course, is coming up with a replacement plan. President-elect Donald Trump said during his news conference yesterday he would soon present a proposal.

On Twitter this afternoon, Trump said: "Congrats to the Senate for taking the first step to #RepealObamacare- now it's onto the House!"

January 10, 2017

Sen. Bill Nelson endorses Stephen Bittel for Florida Democratic Party chair

BillNelsonatdeskKristenClark

@amysherman1

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has endorsed Stephen Bittel, a Coconut Grove developer and wealthy donor, for Florida Democratic Party chair.

Nelson's statement:

"I have known Stephen Bittel for over 30 years and believe he will be an extraordinary Chair of the Florida Democratic Party. Stephen has been a dedicated advocate for the principles of the Democratic Party for many years and is a leader who has the smarts and heart to unite the party in addition to implementing plans that will help rebuild the party from the ground up. While there are several qualified candidates in this race, I am convinced that Stephen is the right person to chair the Florida Democratic Party,  he has my full support and I ask that you join me in this effort.”

Nelson's endorsement isn't a surprise because he had previously praised Bittel saying in December he would "bring a lot to the Democratic Party" -- but stopped short of officially endorsing him until Tuesday afternoon.

Nelson is Florida's only Democratic statewide office holder and is running for re-election in 2018 and could face millionaire Republican Gov. Rick Scott as his opponent. Bittel has been a major funder of Democratic candidates up and down the ballot including Hillary Clinton and could help Nelson run against Scott.

Democratic elected officials and state committeemen and women throughout Florida will gather in Orlando Saturday to elect a new party chair.

The other candidates are former state Sen. Dwight Bullard of Miami-Dade County, Hillsborough turned Bradford County activist Alan Clendenin, Osceola Democratic chair Leah Carius and Duval County's Lisa King.

The chair race has been full of drama. Two candidates -- Bullard and Clendenin -- moved counties after they lost a state committeeman race, a prerequisite to run statewide.

Bullard moved to Gadsden County after he lost to Bittel in Miami-Dade and Clendenin moved to Bradford County. 

On Friday, the rules committee will discuss a complaint filed about Clendenin's residency as well as a complaint filed by a group of Miami-Dade Democrats about the procedures used for the county to elect Bittel to state committeeman.

 

December 23, 2016

Florida members of Congress tell feds: Pay our state for Trump's Mar-a-Lago security costs

Mar-a-Lago

via @learyreports

President-elect Donald Trump's travel to Florida is causing steep security costs and lawmakers want the federal government to pay.

Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio along with Reps. Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel and Patrick Murphy sent this letter:

Dear Attorney General Lynch and Secretary Johnson,

We are writing to make you aware of the attached request from the Mayor of Palm Beach County regarding reimbursement for ancillary costs associated with helping protect President-elect Trump, who has often visited his home in the area.

According to Mayor Burdick, the county spent approximately $250,000 to provide security support for the President-elect during his four-day visit over Thanksgiving alone.

Congress appropriated $7 million to the Department of Justice in the recently-passed government funding bill (P.L. 114-254) to reimburse State and local law enforcement agencies for overtime costs associated with protecting the President-elect before his inauguration.

We urge you to consider using those funds or any other resources that you deem appropriate to help the county offset these costs.

We appreciate your attention to this matter.

Photo credit: AP

December 16, 2016

Bill Nelson: Stephen Bittel 'would bring a lot to the Florida Democratic Party'

Nelson_bill 121616

@ByKristenMClark

Florida's top Democratic elected official says he's a fan of Stephen Bittel as a future leader in the Florida Democratic Party but his praise stops short of a formal endorsement.

Talking with reporters in Tallahassee on Friday, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson was delicate in how he answered questions about the future of the state Democratic Party -- the fate of which rests on the outcome of a special Miami-Dade party election on Tuesday.

"I'm trying to keep a low profile and let the party process work its will, because the minute that I stick my head out then people are going to say I'm trying to influence the election," Nelson told reporters. "I can tell you that Stephen Bittel is a personal friend and he would bring a lot to the Florida Democratic Party."

Bittel, a Coconut Grove developer, and former Cutler Bay state Sen. Dwight Bullard are competing for the position of Miami-Dade County Democratic Party committeeman. The special election on Dec. 20 comes after Bret Berlin stepped down earlier this month four days after being re-elected, making way for Bittel. The winner of the Bittel-Bullard contest will likely become the next state party chairman.

MORE: "With Florida Democratic Party in balance, lowly Miami-Dade race goes national"

Nelson praised outgoing state party chairwoman Allison Tant for having done "a remarkable job" leading the party and raising money while facing a Republican governor and Republican-controlled Legislature.

"It's very hard under those circumstances for the chair of the party to raise the money, and yet she has still done an exceptional job in the face of huge huge odds," Nelson said. "Going forward, I see that Stephen Bittel is someone that I know personally who could continue that excellent job."

"And beyond that, I better not get into it," Nelson said, declining any comment on Bullard.

Nelson also wouldn't touch on the political maneuvering that's made the way for Bittel to have a shot at Miami-Dade Democratic committeeman.

"I can only repeat to you what I know is happening," he said. "There is now a race for the state committeeman position in Miami-Dade County, and in order to be eligible for running for state party chair under state party rules, you have to be either a party chair, a vice chair or state committeeman or woman to run. That's my comment on that. I just don't know how that election is going."

December 13, 2016

Bill Nelson challenges Cory Booker to push-ups, leaves him 'huffing and puffing'

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson, 74 and gearing up for a 2018 re-election bid, is still the push-up king. Sen. Cory Booker explained today how the Florida Democrat left him "huffing and puffing."

Bonus: Nelson in action in 2015.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

December 08, 2016

Sen. Bill Nelson calls astronaut John Glenn "first-class gentleman"

 

@amysherman1

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, a former astronaut, spoke on the Senate floor today about the death of astronaut John Glenn today:

"John Glenn was one of the original seven astronauts of this country. All of them were characterized as having the ‘right stuff.’ And if you knew any of them, that was certainly true.

John Glenn was not only a pioneering astronaut, a great senator, he was a first-class gentleman and also he was a devoted husband and father. He leaves behind Annie, his beloved, who always stood with him as he ventured into the unknown cosmos. And it was unknown because John was the first to go into orbit as an American.

He paved the way for all the rest of us, and now at his passing, America is in the planning and the developing of the rockets that will take us, a human species, all the way to Mars. John Glenn was the pioneer. He was the one who paved the way."