August 25, 2016

Rubio raps FEMA over algae blooms

Senate 2016 Rubio_Ordo (1)-082516

@jamesmartinrose

Sen. Marco Rubio criticized the Obama administration for again declining to issue a federal disaster declaration in response to toxic algae in Florida's waterways.

"Even though the end to this disaster is not in sight, the President is telling our state we are on our own," the Miami Republican said Thursday in a statement.

Barack Obama did not appear to be involved in the decision. In a brief letter earlier Thursday, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate rejected Gov. Rick Scott's appeal of his agency's earlier denial of extra money to help fight the algae blooms from Lake Okeechobee discharges intended to protect its aging dike.

"After a thorough review of all information contained in your initial request and appeal, we reaffirm our original findings that supplemental federal assistance under the Stafford Act is not appropriate for this event," Fugate wrote to Scott. "Therefore, I must inform you that your appeal for an emergency declaration is denied."

The thick algae blooms look like guacamole and smell bad. The algae has fouled Treasure Coast waterways fed by Lake Okeechobee.

"The Administration has chosen yet again to turn a blind eye to the livelihoods of Floridians who are affected by this toxic algae," Rubio said.

For more on Rubio's response:

Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

 


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article86989367.html#storylink=cpy

 

August 02, 2016

Nelson chides Senate Leader McConnell for Zika inaction

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida poked at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday over the Zika virus, suggesting McConnell might take the disease outbreak more seriously if it was happening in his own state.

"Wait until a mosquito bites one of the people who is traveling to Kentucky and then he gets a transmitted case in Kentucky," Nelson, a Democrat, told a pool reporter in Washington. "Then we'll get action."

Nelson said he sent McConnell, a Republican, a letter Tuesday urging him to pass a Zika-funding bill through a procedural maneuver that wouldn't require the Senate to convene in emergency session. Lawmakers are in recess while Zika is spreading in and near Miami's Wynwood neighborhood.

McConnell didn't respond to his letter Tuesday, Nelson said. Florida members of Congress separately urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday to give the state more money to fight the virus.

"If they don't understand that this is now a crisis, with what has just happened in Miami, then they've got really -- they are putting their heads in the sand," Nelson said.

July 26, 2016

'A mistake' not to feature more DNC speakers from Florida, Bill Nelson says

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via @learyreports

PHILADELPHIA -- Sen. Bill Nelson said it was a "mistake" for Democratic convention organizers not to feature more Floridians.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum speaks Wednesday and Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, will speak Tuesday. But that's it, a thin showing from the biggest swing state in the country.

"They should have had maybe a mayor in South Florida. But you can't be perfect in everything," Nelson said at the Florida delegation breakfast.

Nelson also defended Debbie Wasserman Schultz. "Debbie's my friend and she has worked so hard to have this a successful convention and it is going to be."

UPDATE: We hear Nelson may regret the mistake comment as he's learned of more Florida participation. Rep. Lois Frankel and Val Demings will join Nancy Pelosi for a Democratic women address. And more Florida names will be released soon.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

July 12, 2016

Are Rubio and Nelson still working closely together on Zika?

via @learyreports

Partisan fighting over Zika continues on Capitol Hill and there’s little sign of a resolution before lawmakers take off on another recess.

On Tuesday, Sen. Bill Nelson called for consideration of a $1.1 billion funding bill that already passed the Senate. "We now have 13 more cases, bringing a total in our state to 276, which includes 43 pregnant women – and that’s just one of the 50 states in the union,” Nelson said on the Senate floor. “At what point does the majority and the majority leader decide to stop playing these games and simply do what is needed?”

Sen. Mitch McConnell objected to unanimous consent, shutting down Nelson.

Sen. Marco Rubio has also called for action and tomorrow will convene a Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing on Zika. But Democrats are trying to paint Rubio as part of the problem. On Tuesday, Senate candidate Patrick Murphy and Florida Democrats issued releases asserting that Rubio only began to care about the issue as prepared to announce he was running for re-election.

Rubio and Nelson had pushed for $1.9 billion in funding but don't appear to be working closely now. The Senate in May passed $1.1 billion in funding but the House added provisions Democrats say were designed to hurt Planned Parenthood. Nelson then joined Democrats in blocking the bill, which Rubio supported while calling it imperfect.

Rubio on the Senate floor last week: “I truly hope that in the hours and days leading up to our recess, we will find a rapid and quick way forward so we can address this and fix it and give our people the help they need in the short term and ultimately move towards the money we need to research for a vaccine so this issue can be prevented -- so this disease can be prevented from spreading in the future."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

June 29, 2016

Environmentalists question Nelson, Rubio move on Biscayne National Park

via @jenstaletovich

A marine preserve in Biscayne National Park — a key piece of a new management plan 15 years in the making and designed to protect Florida’s dwindling reef tract — may be derailed by a new bill proposed by Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio.

The bill, proposed Friday and fast-tracked through a committee hearing, would undo the preserve and require the National Park Service to consult with Florida wildlife managers, who opposed the preserve.

“This is a reasonable bill that will ensure the park consults with the state and uses the best available science moving forward,” Nelson said.

Rubio called the bill, dubbed the Access to Sportsfishing Act of 2016, a “model to address the proposed closure.”

But environmentalists say the rare move by Congress sets a dangerous precedent “that would block the National Park Service from doing its legal authority to protect America’s national park,” said Caroline McLaughlin, Biscayne program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association.

More here.

Nelson wants feds to act on 'bright neon-green' beach waters

 

@jamesmartinrose

 

Sen. Bill Nelson fired off a letter Wednesday asking federal officials to release more water from Lake Okeechobee into the Everglades and take other steps to stem the green algae washing up on Treasure Coast beaches.

Nelson acted a day after Martin County commissioners asked the state and federal governments to declare an environmental disaster while urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to close the locks between Florida's largest freshwater lake and the St. Lucie River.

"To strongly prevent this environmental and economic crisis from spreading, I strongly urge the Army Corps of Engineers to take immediate action," Nelson wrote to Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works.

Nelson added: "The water washing up on the beaches in Martin County, Florida, is bright neon-green. Officials there are concerned about potential health risks associated with the blue-green algae plume forming off their coast and have closed several South Florida beaches as a result, just days before the popular Fourth of July holiday."

The corps regularly releases water from the lake's western and eastern outlets into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers in order to keep its levels no higher than 15.5 feet above sea level, but heavy rainfall has kept the level at 15 feet.

Saying that business owners along the coast "could incur significant financial losses" if visitors avoid the algae-laden beaches and waterways, Nelson asked Darcy to raise the water level in the L-29 canal north of the Tamiani Trail between Miami and Tampa.

The rest of Nelson's letter is here.

 

 

Rubio, Nelson help push Puerto Rico rescue bill

via @learyreports

Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio this morning helped advance legislation to ease Puerto Rico’s debt crisis.

The bill (read the details here) would restructure territory’s finances and create an oversight board. The Senate could take a final vote later this week, just in time for a July 1 deadline on a $2 billion debt payment.

“This legislation that the House has crafted is certainly not the bill that I would have crafted, but it's the only bill that we have before us that could get by the Tea Party element in the House of Representatives,” Nelson said. “It's not ideal, particularly with regard to the labor provisions in the bill and the way the oversight board is organized. And you'll hear that bipartisan attacks against the bill in the Senate, well-meaning and well-felt, but this legislation is needed to get Puerto Rico out of this immediate crisis.”

Rubio was among opponents of Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

“While some form of debt restructuring may become necessary at some point, it should be a last resort with the onus first being on San Juan’s politicians to get their fiscal mess in order and adopt pro-growth policies,” Rubio wrote in opinion column that ran in Florida Today. “Only then will the conditions for long-term economic growth and prosperity in Puerto Rico exist.

“But Congress has a role to play too, given that our Constitution gives the House and Senate responsibility over all U.S. territories like Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rico Oversight Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) is an appropriate first step by Congress to deal with this calamity. The bill would create a fiscal oversight board to help fix the mess, ensure that bondholders’ rights are protected and make sure a taxpayer bailout does not happen. Iunderstand that federal oversight is a tough pill to swallow for some on the island – and it’s an option I don’t take lightly, given my belief that government usually works best when it is closest to the people, not dictated from Washington. But in Puerto Rico’s case, it has become a necessary condition to ensure that tough decisions are made now, so that an even bigger crisis can be avoided.

Carlos Beruff, Rubio’s GOP primary opponent, used it as another attack point.

“A bailout by any other name is still a bailout,” Beruff’s campaign said in a statement. “In true Washington fashion, they’ve tried to hide the bailout from the people of Florida in the latest version of the bill. But the Puerto Ricopackage supported by Marco Rubio and Barack Obama leaves the taxpayers of Florida on the hook for Puerto Rico’s fiscal insanity and no Washington spin can hide that fact. Carlos Beruff is committed to using his business experience to give Washington’s out of control spending a serious reality check. Marco Rubio, on the other hand, has done nothing to fix this country’s fiscal mess and now wants to leave the taxpayers on the hook for anotherbailout.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

June 28, 2016

PolitiFact: Sen. Bill Nelson's Half True claim about Zika bill, birth control and Puerto Rico

Emergency money to block the spread of the Zika virus won’t be coming any time real soon. A $1.1 billion funding measure failed to win enough support for an up or down vote in the Senate.

The major stumbling point wasn’t the money (though Democrats wanted additional funding). Rather, it was the strings that were attached to the measure as it relates to combatting the virus in Puerto Rico.

After the House passed the bill on a largely party line vote, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., berated it.

""The House Zika bill is a disaster," Nelson said June 24, 2016. "Not only does it take $500 million in health care funding away from Puerto Rico, it limits access to birth control services needed to help curb the spread of the virus and prevent terrible birth defects. This is not a serious solution."

We wondered about Nelson’s claim that the House Zika bill "limits access to birth control services needed to help curb the spread of the virus," in Puerto Rico.

Keep reading Jon Greenberg's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida.

June 23, 2016

Rubio votes against gun-control compromise, Nelson votes in favor

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio helped kill a compromise gun control measure today. Sen. Bill Nelson voted in favor of the amendment by Sen. Susan Collins, which would restrict people on the government no-fly list from buying guns.

Rubio, now a candidate for Senate, has drawn criticism from the left for opposing a number of gun measures that followed the Orlando tragedy. His office said he reviewed Collins' "no fly, no buy" plan but he was not expected to back it with the NRA coming out in opposition.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Rubio, Nelson split on House Zika funding bill

@PatriciaMazzei

Lost in the shuffle of Wednesday night's dramatic sit-in by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives was passage of legislation setting aside $1.1 billion to prevent the Zika virus.

That's less than the $1.9 billion President Barack Obama had requested, an amount that received bipartisan support in Florida, the state with the highest number of confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne illness.

The bill now heads to the Senate, and Florida's two senators had quite different reactions to the legislative package.

"The House Zika bill is a disaster," Democrat Bill Nelson said in a statement. "Not only does it take $500 million in health care funding away from Puerto Rico, it limits access to birth control services needed to help curb the spread of the virus and prevent terrible birth defects. This is not a serious solution."

Republican Marco Rubio said some money was better than nothing.

"At this point, I support getting something on Zika done," he said in a statement. "Congress has shamefully wasted too much time already, and with summer here, the price of inaction will be devastating. Although this does not fully fund the president's request, it is at least a significant improvement from what the House passed earlier this year."

All three Miami Republicans in the House voted for the legislation, which was sponsored by one of the local congressmen, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, as part of a broader budget bill.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo said the Zika funding is insufficient but a starting point.

"While this bipartisan compromise fell short, it is a step in the right direction," he said in a statement. "Importantly, it avoids a funding cliff at the end of the summer which was a major flaw in the original House-passed Zika bill I opposed. I will continue to call for as much funding as possible to ensure the residents of South Florida, and the nation, are no longer threatened by the Zika virus."