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."

 

December 07, 2016

'America is stronger' because of Dreamers, Nelson says

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson has stepped into the growing debate over the fate of immigrant "Dreamers," using a floor speech to honor a Jacksonville-area veteran who faced legal trouble in 2011.

“Always he thought he was an American citizen,” Nelson said Tuesday of Elisha Dawkins, who was brought to the U.S. when he was six months old by his Bahamian mother.

A paperwork issue arose and Dawkins, who served in the Army and Navy Reserves, was sent to a detention center, facing possible deportation. Nelson stepped in.

Today, Dreamers face uncertainty with President-elect Donald Trump vowing to strip away the legal protections afforded under an Obama administration program. A bipartisan group of Senators is working on legislation to help and Nelson signaled his support.

(Sen. Marco Rubio, who once tried to come up with his own bill, is not part of the effort and won’t comment.)

“I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. The DREAMers are our neighbors, they're our friends,” Nelson said. “They are our high school valedictorians, and they are our veterans. They were brought to this country before they ever even knew of the significance of their trip, and they have benefited our communities greatly.

“And so it's clear that America is stronger for a person like Elisha Dawkins. And as this Congress comes to a close, I want to remind all of us and urge us to remember next year ,when there's an attempt to turn around that White House executive order, I want us to remember the faces of people like Elisha Dawkins, and I want us to come together and to acknowledge their many contributions to this great country.”

 

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

 

November 30, 2016

Who will Sen. Bill Nelson support for Florida Democratic Party chair?

Billnelson111616_8colTBT

@amysherman1

Sen. Bill Nelson, the key elected Democrat in Florida who will likely have influence in selecting the next Florida Democratic Party chair, hasn’t publicly revealed who he will support.

“The Senator is aware of some candidates who have expressed an interest and will be monitoring the upcoming local DEC elections which determine who is officially eligible to run,” said Pete Mitchell, Nelson’s former longtime chief of staff who is advising him on his 2018 campaign.

It appears that Nelson is waiting for some of the large Democratic counties to first elect their own leaders before he weighs in publicly on who should replace Allison Tant, who announced after the Nov. 8th election that she wouldn’t seek re-election in January.

Broward Democrats will elect their state committeeman and woman Saturday while the Miami-Dade party elects its leaders Tuesday.

Across Florida, committeemen and women vote for the state party chair according to a formula based on the number of registered Democrats in the county which means that Broward and Miami-Dade have the most influence.

Nelson is the lone statewide Democrat in elected office in Florida and the Republicans have placed a target on this back for 2018.

While Nelson easily beat U.S. Rep. Connie Mack in 2012, this time he could face a far more formidable opponent: Republican Gov. Rick Scott appears poised to run. A former hospital CEO, Scott can tap his personal wealth and friendship with President Elect Donald Trump.

Broward County Commissioner Steve Geller who has known Nelson for decades said he hasn’t heard from Nelson who he plans to support.

“When he weighs in I think for a lot of us that will be a very very important step,” Geller said. “He is the single individual that if he chooses to influence the race will have the most influence. Thus far I have not heard him choose to use it.”

In 2013, Nelson backed Tant.

Nelson will want a party chair who can help unify the party and raise millions of dollars. The key candidate who could generate big bucks for the party is Stephen Bittel, a prominent national fundraiser and Coconut Grove developer. Bittel told the Herald earlier this month he “might” want the position but he appears to be a serious candidate because he has been contacting Democratic activists. However, for Bittel to run would require some maneuvering because he isn’t a precinct committeeman, a prerequisite to run for the state chair position.

There is a long list of potential candidates to run for state chair. Sen. Dwight Bullard of Cutler Bay and Susannah Randolph, former district director for U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson have both said they will run for chair.

November 22, 2016

Fact-checking Bill Nelson's claim about Donald Trump and oil drilling

Billnelson111616_8colTBT

@amysherman1

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson spent the week after the 2016 election fighting against a bill that would have steered more royalties from oil drilling to some Gulf states.

Nelson’s state of Florida already bans offshore oil drilling near its coasts. But Nelson feared that by dangling more royalties, state leaders would be more open to drilling near Florida in the future.

In a speech on the Senate floor Nov. 16, Nelson said President-elect Donald Trump’s position on the issue is concerning to environmentalists.  

"Ever since I was a young congressman, I’ve been fighting to keep oil rigs off of Florida’s coast," he said, "and now it's especially important at this time as we have a new administration coming in that took a public position in the election declaring the president-elect's intent to open up additional areas off the coast to oil drilling."

The American Energy and Conservation Act of 2016, sponsored by Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., failed to get enough Senate votes to move forward on Nov. 17. But the future of oil drilling along coasts in Florida and the United States will remain a hot topic of conversation under Trump’s administration and potentially in Nelson’s re-election campaign in 2018.

Here we will look at Trump’s position on opening up additional coastal areas to drill for oil. We heard back from Nelson’s office but not from Trump’s transition team.

Keep reading here from PolitiFact Florida.

November 16, 2016

Sen. Nelson wants to try to block oil-drilling bill

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson is corralling opposition to a bill he says would incentivize oil drilling off the coast of Florida.

“I’m going to block it,” Nelson said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times.

“The senator from Louisiana is going to try to get his camel’s nose under the tent so that the camel will eventually, completely take over the tent on drilling off the coast of Florida.”

Nelson said legislation to be considered Thursday is a “head fake” because it excludes Florida. He said Sen. Bill Cassidy’s bill sets up a revenue sharing agreement between Gulf states and that Florida would regret not being involved over lost revenue.

Nelson, up for re-election in 2018, is confident he can get the 60 votes to block the bill. He plans a floor speech Wednesday afternoon.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times