June 15, 2018

Nelson offered this man up for a judicial position. Now he’ll vote against him.

Bill Nelson

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson said today he will vote against a judicial nominee he offered up to the White House along with Sen. Marco Rubio, a remarkable turn that raises questions about Nelson's own vetting process as he tried to put the focus on the state's Judicial Nominating Commission

"Because of the information brought up by the Senate Judiciary Committee, I will vote against the confirmation of Allen Winsor," the Florida Democrat said in a statement that provided no specifics.

His office would not elaborate on the record.

Nelson and his staff interviewed Winsor, who has opposed same-sex marriage, before his name was submitted to the White House, along with a list of other candidates. A spokesman, Ryan Brown, would not answer questions about that vetting.

Nelson's statement punts to the JNC.

"For years, Florida's two senators have relied on a bipartisan Judicial Nominating Commission to select our state's judicial nominees. This system, which was designed to take politics out of the process, only works if Florida's two senators agree to respect the commission's choices and jointly send the names they choose to the White House for consideration. This is exactly what we did in the case of Allen Winsor."

Winsor, picked to succeed U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle for a spot in the Northern District of Florida, was approved along partisan lines by the Judiciary Committee on Thursday and was sent to the full Senate for consideration. Democrats objected over his opposition to same-sex marriage.

Winsor was among the named Nelson and Rubio offered to the White House in December.

"We received the following unranked list of finalists on November 15, 2017: Martin Fitzpatrick, Jan Shackelford, Kent Wetherell, and Allen Winsor. We have separately interviewed the finalists. Subject to further review of their records and background, we are submitting them to you for the president's consideration," a letter read.

That means the White House picked Winsor.

As Gary Fineout of the Associated Press reported, Winsor is currently a Florida appeals court judge, but before he was appointed to that job by Gov. Rick Scott in 2016, he worked as solicitor general for Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Winsor was in that role when he defended Florida's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages that was eventually struck down. He was one of the lawyers who argued in a legal brief for the state that recognizing same-sex marriages from other states would "impose significant public harm" and that the state has a legitimate interest in defining marriage as between a man and woman.

Scott, who is challenging Nelson for Senate, issued a statement through the campaign.

"Bill Nelson is so partisan that a small group of out-of-state democrats can force him to vote against a Floridian that he interviewed, recommended and supported," spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said. "Despite claiming to be independent, Bill Nelson's own actions show that when democrats like party boss Chuck Schumer say 'jump,' Nelson's only question is 'how high?'"

Rubio in 2013 held up a judicial nominee — after submitting a JNC approved name to the Obama White House –amid objections from Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, now chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

June 14, 2018

Nelson up with first Spanish-language ad

Bill Nelson

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson has released his first Spanish-language ad, which will begin today on Facebook and Twitter and other digital platforms, the campaign said.

It follows Gov. Rick Scott's latest Spanish-language ad, one tied to the World Cup. And like Scott, Nelson shows off his bilingual skills in the spot. It highlights Nelson's voyage into space.

The campaign did not say how much money is behind the ad.

Politico today reported on Nelson's struggle with name ID among Hispanics, another worry for Democrats.

Watch Nelson's ad below: 

Here's Scott's ad:

June 11, 2018

Democratic super PAC reserves air time for Bill Nelson

Bill Nelson

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson will get a "seven figure" advertising boost from Senate Majority PAC, which today announced it has reserved $80 million in air time in Florida and eight other states.

"Our record fundraising this cycle has allowed us to both be on-air in several states now and increase our strategic investments," said J.B. Poersch, president of Senate Majority PAC. "We are implementing an aggressive media strategy to combat the Republicans' baseless, partisan attacks and promote our candidates that are fighting for higher wages and lower health care premiums."

The TV time is reserved from after Labor Day through Election Day in November. This reservations will total roughly $80 million and cover Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia.

The group did not provide specifics other than each state will get at least seven figures.The super PAC in May spent $2.2 million for a bio ad about Nelson and that was followed by a $600,000 digital campaign in partnership with Priorities USA Action.

But Nelson continues to be far outpaced in advertising by Gov. Rick Scott's campaign and the pro-Scott New Republican PAC, which Monday announced another $3.5 million in spending, in the form of a negative ad about the long-serving Democrat.

June 08, 2018

Rick Scott appears to support Curbelo's immigration plan, but how would he vote?

Gov Rick Scott

@alextdaugherty

Gov. Rick Scott appears to be on board with Rep. Carlos Curbelo's plan to bypass House Speaker Paul Ryan to force a slew of immigration votes, putting the Republican running for Bill Nelson's U.S. Senate seat in line with Democrats and a small group of moderate Republicans.

But while Scott offered support for Curbelo's idea to force action, it isn't clear what types of immigration policies he would champion in the U.S. Senate if elected.

"We need to secure our borders and help these kids. Congress needs to get DACA legislation done. Thanks Congressman Curbelo for fighting for this," Scott tweeted on Thursday night.

Scott's campaign confirmed that he supports the Miami Republican's effort to force votes in Congress but did not offer an endorsement for specific immigration-related bills.

Scott has said in the past that he doesn't support deporting 1.8 million immigrants who came to the United States illegally as young children, a position that most Republicans and President Donald Trump share.

Scott has also demanded that Congress pass legislation that protects the young immigrants from deportation while securing the border, a wide-ranging policy position that could include a bill promoted by Donald Trump that failed to garner 40 votes in the U.S. Senate earlier this year and a bipartisan proposal called the USA Act that provides a pathway to citizenship for the young immigrants while also providing funding for a "smart wall" at the U.S.-Mexico border.

It's not clear where Scott stands on four immigration-related bills that failed in the U.S. Senate earlier this year. Two bipartisan compromises received a simple majority but failed to clear the required 60-vote hurdle after a majority of Republicans voted against them, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. The bill promoted by the White House, which provided a path to citizenship in exchange for border security funding and cuts to legal immigration, received 39 votes in the Senate.

Nelson voted in favor of the two bipartisan compromise bills and voted against the Trump-sponsored bill.

Read more here.

June 07, 2018

Diaz-Balart votes against amendment that would ban federal funds for oil drilling exploration

 

Mario Diaz-Balart

@alextdaugherty

Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart voted against an amendment that would ban federal funds for oil and gas drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf before 2022, the only member from Florida in the House Appropriations Committee to do so. 

But Diaz-Balart said that his vote against Maine Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree's amendment was not a signal that he favors offshore oil drilling in Florida. 

"Current law states that any offshore drilling or leasing activity is banned in Florida," Diaz-Balart spokesperson Katrina Bishop said. "Congressman Diaz-Balart worked with his colleagues to ensure this bill passed and was signed into law in 2006. In addition, Interior Secretary (Ryan) Zinke has stated on multiple occasions that Florida will be exempt from any future offshore drilling. Any assertion that Diaz-Balart’s vote today would result in offshore drilling off Florida’s shores is incorrect." 

The amendment was part of an hours-long debate on various additions to the 2019 Interior and Environment funding bill, a $35.25 billion package. The amendment failed 20-26, on a mostly party-line vote, though Florida Republican Rep. John Rutherford voted in favor of the amendment along with Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The fourth member of the Appropriations Committee from Florida, Republican Rep. Tom Rooney, did not vote.

Pingree's amendment stated that "None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to prepare a five-year offshore oil and gas leasing program that would schedule any Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas lease sale before 2022."

Florida currently has a moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico until 2022. Sen. Bill Nelson has filed legislation to make the moratorium a permanent ban, and Zinke's announcement set off charges from the Florida Democrat that the Trump administration exempted Florida from a plan to expand offshore oil and natural gas drilling to benefit Gov. Rick Scott politically as he campaigns for Nelson's Senate seat. 

"It’s outrageous that ANY member of Congress from Florida would EVER vote to allow offshore drilling," tweeted Mary Barzee Flores, a Democrat who will run against Diaz-Balart in November. 

June 05, 2018

Nelson blasts decision to cancel August Senate recess as 'raw politics'

 

Scott and nelson

@alextdaugherty

With Gov. Rick Scott touring the state in his official and campaign capacities at all times, Sen. Bill Nelson needs every minute he can get in Florida between now and Election Day. 

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is determined not to let that happen. 

The Republican leader, who controls the schedule in the U.S. Senate, announced Tuesday that Congress' upper chamber will be in session for most of August, when senators typically travel home to campaign for reelection and raise funds. 

"Due to the historic obstruction by Senate Democrats of the president’s nominees, and the goal of passing appropriations bills prior to the end of the fiscal year, the August recess has been canceled," McConnell said in a statement.

Nelson, one of 10 Democrats seeking reelection in states that President Donald Trump won in 2016, said McConnell's rationale is laughable. 

"Mitch is using any excuse he can in order to hold those of us who want to be home campaigning, hold us here in Washington because we have to vote. That's what he's doing," Nelson said. "This is nothing but raw politics. He can do all of that stuff and of course I'll be here voting, which is why the people sent me here, but at the end of the day that's not going to do him any good." 

Nelson added that there's lots of important legislation that the Senate should consider during the month of August, but McConnell's decision isn't about getting more bills passed or nominees confirmed. 

Scott has spent millions on television ads while Nelson has decided not to spend money so far. Outside groups from both sides have started to spend on television and digital advertising ahead of what could be the most expensive U.S. Senate campaign in history.

Update: Scott expressed support for McConnell's decision on Twitter. The Florida legislature wrapped up its regular session in March and is not expected to meet in 2018 unless a special session is called by Scott or the legislature. 

 

May 21, 2018

Scott blitzes Florida with TV ads. Nelson holds off. That's how Scott won last time.

CIA Haspel

@alextdaugherty

Bill Nelson is an incumbent without the advantages of incumbency.

Florida's only statewide elected Democrat is in a career-defining U.S. Senate race against Gov. Rick Scott, a multimillionaire with unlimited campaign cash and nearly universal name recognition in the state, for better or worse. And so far, Scott is attempting to define Nelson through $8 million in television ads across the state, including Spanish-language ads in Miami.

The early TV blitz raises the question: When is Nelson going to respond?

"The question is not how much money you have or how much money you spend but what is effective," Nelson said in an interview in his Capitol Hill office, where he was waiting to vote on Gina Haspel's nomination as CIA director in Washington while Scott was criss-crossing Florida switching between his official office and campaign mode. . "And so, to be determined. But I'm choosing not to use my hard-earned dollars now."

Nelson declined to say when he will spend his money and what type of message he plans to communicate to voters. But timing a television pitch too late could be Nelson's undoing.

Rep. Charlie Crist, who lost a statewide race to Rick Scott in 2014 by 1 percentage point, said months of television ads by Scott without a response from his campaign was one of the big reasons why he came up short.

"Back in '14 we were unanswering on television for like three months just because of the resource issue," Crist said. "You can handle it for a while but sooner or later you've got to start to respond."

Television advertising is essential and expensive in a state with 20 million people and six of the country's top 100 television markets, including the country's third-largest Spanish-speaking television market in South Florida.

Scott went up on television almost immediately after officially announcing his Senate bid on April 9, meaning Nelson has been playing the television waiting game for over 6 weeks, trying to amass campaign cash through fundraisers while also fulfilling his role as a lawmaker in Washington Monday through Thursday.

Crist said he expects Nelson to be up on TV imminently, though Nelson won't divulge when he'll take the seven-figure plunge. Nelson noted that he had done 44 events during the first five weeks of his campaign, though many of them were fundraisers. He took issue with the suggestion that he isn't campaigning aggressively, but acknowledged the disparity on television.

"I would ask you to question your premise there about him being more aggressive," Nelson said, as he propped his feet on a desk. "If you want to define that in terms that he has TV up, that’s correct, but not in the way the campaign is being conducted."

Read more here.

Rubio introduces bill to expand tax credits in Puerto Rico

Rubio

@alextdaugherty

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio introduced a bill last week that would implement multiple tax changes in Puerto Rico after the measures were not included in a massive disaster relief bill passed late last year after Hurricane Maria. 

Rubio's bill, called the Puerto Rican Empowerment Act, would implement recommendations from a bipartisan congressional task force on Puerto Rico that finished its work in late 2016. The bill includes an expansion of the child tax credit to all children in Puerto Rico, which reduces some families’ tax bill for every child they have under the age of 17. Currently, the child tax credit doesn’t apply to Puerto Rican families unless they have three children or more.

“This bill would enact critical tax provisions for Puerto Rico excluded from the recent disaster relief package, like a payroll tax holiday and expanded child tax credit, which would help alleviate the tax burden for Puerto Ricans rebuilding their lives in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria,” Rubio said in a statement. 

Rubio, who introduced the legislation with Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, sparred with Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló after the GOP tax bill was passed late last year. Rosselló was unhappy that the bill did not include certain changes for Puerto Rican-based businesses, and sources on Capitol Hill complained that his administration focused solely on corporate tax changes at the expense of the task force's recommendations. 

Juan Hernández Mayoral, who led the Puerto Rican government's Washington office under former Gov. Alejandro García Padilla, said the Rosselló administration put the task force’s proposal “in a drawer” when Rosselló took office in January 2017 because eliminating tax loopholes under the U.S. territory’s current political status doesn’t align ideologically with Rosselló’s pro-statehood position.

“I mean, anyone who knows Politics 101 had to know that this would be the perfect timing for Paul Ryan to pass his tax reform he’s been working on for 10 years, it’s nothing new,” Mayoral said in February. “It’s an example of how ideology comes first before the Puerto Rican people. The current government did not advocate for it after it had worked its way through Congress for two years.”

The bill, if passed, cuts payroll taxes for Puerto Rican workers for three years, expands the federal child tax credit and establishes a data research center in Puerto Rico to improve the availability of economic statistics in the U.S. territory. The bill also includes corresponding spending cuts to pay for the proposed changes, which could make it a tricky proposition for some Democrats to support it. 

Republicans and Democrats in Florida have campaigned hard for the Puerto Rican vote since Hurricane Maria caused widespread damage in October. Rubio isn't up for reelection this year but Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Bill Nelson have made repeated visits to the island in recent weeks as their U.S. Senate campaigns ramp up. 

 

 

Bill Nelson gets $2.2 million in TV help from Washington

Bill Nelson

@alextdaugherty

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson's campaign isn't up on TV yet while Republican Gov. Rick Scott has spent the past month on air, but a Washington-based group that aims to elect Democrats to the U.S. Senate is coming to Nelson's aid. 

The Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, is spending $2.2 million on a statewide ad buy with an ad titled "Served" that highlight's Nelson's biography and Senate record. 

"Bill Nelson’s life has been about service to others and to his country, and he continues that tradition of service everyday as he fights and advocates for Floridians,” said Chris Hayden, spokesperson for SMP. “Nelson is not afraid to go toe-to-toe with powerful interests. From protecting Medicare and Social Security from privatization to standing up to insurance companies by stopping them from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, he never backs down from a fight. Bill Nelson delivers for Florida and there is no question he is the only candidate in this race that puts Florida first.”

The contest between Nelson and Scott could be one of the most expensive Senate races in U.S. history. The Senate Majority PAC is not allowed to coordinate with Nelson's campaign, and PAC's generally receive more expensive advertising rates than candidates do, but super PACs are able to raise unlimited amounts of money from donors while the candidates are bound by contribution limits. The Senate Majority PAC has raised $52.7 million so far this cycle, and the group recently received a $2 million donation from Seth MacFarlane, creator of the television show Family Guy. 

Watch the ad below: 

 

 

May 16, 2018

It's another seven-figure week on television for Rick Scott

Scott and nelson

@alextdaugherty

Florida's U.S. Senate race is coming to the airwaves in Miami. 

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is continuing his television advertising blitz by releasing a Spanish language ad in the South Florida market, part of a $3.2 million television ad buy spread between three ads across the state just this week. 

The Spanish language ad, titled "Cambiar" (change) focuses on Scott's effort to create jobs, and is the latest iteration in a television campaign that has cost over $8 million with Election Day about six months away. Scott's likely opponent, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, has not spent money on television advertising yet. 

The ad targeting South Florida voters comes two days after the Scott campaign released a television ad targeting Puerto Rican voters in Central Florida, a group of voters seen as crucial for both parties in what could be the most expensive U.S. Senate race in history. Scott has released six television and digital advertisements since he officially announced his candidacy last month.

Scott was in Israel earlier this week with a host of U.S. Senators as the Trump administration opened a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, and he may have free reign of the state throughout the month of August if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cancels a scheduled break and forces Nelson and other Democrats up for reelection to stay in Washington for votes. 

Watch the new ad below: