April 25, 2017

Nelson to Tillerson: Open temporary Miami passport office

Nelson Venezuela
@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson wants the State Department to open a temporary Miami passport office, following the indefinite closure of the existing office Monday due to water damage.

In a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Nelson urged the feds to "make every effort to minimize the inconvenience, including issuing clear guidance to affected travelers and opening a temporary location in Miami for emergency passport services as soon as possible."

Here's the full letter:

Continue reading "Nelson to Tillerson: Open temporary Miami passport office" »

April 21, 2017

Nelson: United Airlines evasive in probe of passenger removal

via @learyreports

United Airlines has snubbed Sen. Bill Nelson.

The Florida Democrat, who joined a letter demanding answers to the worldwide controversy of violently removing a passenger from a flight, says United did not sufficiently respond.

“We’re disappointed that neither United Airlines nor the Chicago Department of Aviation has yet provided substantive answers to the straightforward questions we asked about the forcible removal of a passenger on April 9, 2017," reads a letter from Nelson and other senators. "Getting answers for the public about what happened and what can be done to prevent such an incident from happening again is a priority for the members of our committee. We find any further delay in getting necessary answers unacceptable.”

The statement was drafted by Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Nelson, who serve respectively as the chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation along with Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) who serve as the chairman and ranking member of the Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security Subcommittee.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Inside Nelson's first fundraising report: Big names but mostly Florida cash

via @learyreports

There are donations from Elizabeth Warren, Al Gore and Steven Spielberg, but Floridians powered Sen. Bill Nelson’s first fundraising quarter. Nearly 80 percent of his individual contributions came from within the state, a review shows.

Nelson raised more than $2 million for the first three months of the year, a showing that dispels any talk he would not seek a fourth term in 2018. Nelson, 74, has $3.6 million in the bank.

He raised about $1.3 million from individuals, of which 78 percent came from within Florida. The rest of Nelson’s haul came from PACs, including $10,000 from Sen. Warren’s committee.

“Is this why Nelson votes with Warren 92% of the time?” asked the NRSC, which will again seek to cast the Florida Democrat as too liberal for the state, a strategy that has floundered before. “Nearly identical voting records and now $10k from Warren makes it pretty clear that Nelson isn’t the moderate he pretends to be.”

Nelson also got $5,000 from the Moderate Democrats PAC.

Several members of Congress contributed to Nelson, either through their PACs or individually. Charlie Crist personally gave $1,000; Val Demings gave $500. Ted Deutch used his PAC to send Nelson $2,000. Former Rep. Gwen Graham did the same.

Spielberg kicked in $2,700 while his wife, Kate Capshaw, contributed $5,400. Jeffey Katzenberg of Dreamworks also maxed out with $5,400.

There are special interests galore, from Boeing to Wawa. U.S. Sugar, long a benefactor of Nelson. FEC records show five executives contributed a combined $10,500.

Nelson’s report also reveals the outline of his campaign team. On his payroll are familiar names: Pete Mitchell, Dan McLaughlin, who is listed as a “research consultant.”

Diamond Strategies, a St. Petersburg firm run by Christina Diamond, whose husband, Ben, serves in the Legislature, took in $26,000 for fundraising work. Kevin Cate’s shop took in nearly $19,000 for digital advertising.

Nelson spent $12,500 for polling from Ohio-based EMC Research.

— Alex Leary, Tampa Bay Times, with Eli Murray

April 17, 2017

Sen. Bill Nelson poised for battle with Gov. Rick Scott

Billnelsonbousquet

via @stevebousquet

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has been on the political stage longer than anyone in Florida, since 1972 — the year of Watergate and President Richard Nixon's re-election.

That's staying power. It's no wonder that at 74, he's not ready to retire.

Nelson, the only Democrat holding statewide office, has led a charmed political life, winning three Senate races against weak Republicans.

But that may be coming to an end. He wants a fourth term, and his likely opponent is Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

"The way I approach an election, I assume nothing," Nelson says. "I run scared as a jackrabbit."

He should.

Scott, who has won two close races for governor, looks more battle-tested than Nelson, has more money in the bank and is a perpetual campaigner.

On the road constantly, the governor held several roundtables in recent weeks and urged local leaders to save Enterprise Florida from that "job-killing" House speaker, Richard Corcoran.

So it surely was coincidental that, with no notice, Corcoran invited Nelson to address the House last Thursday while the senator was in Tallahassee.

Keep reading here.

April 11, 2017

Nelson asks United Airlines CEO for explanation after passenger's forcible removal

Nelson

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and other lawmakers sent a letter Tuesday to United Airlines Chief Executive Oscar Muñoz asking him to explain to the Senate what happened Tuesday when a passenger was forcibly removed from a flight from Chicago.

Video from the incident went viral. It took Muñoz several attempts to apologize for what happened. 

"The images and emerging account of this incident are very disturbing," the letter begins.

Nelson and three other senators -- Republicans John Thune of South Dakota and Roy Blunt of Missouri, and Democrat Maria Cantwell of Washington -- asked Muñoz a series of questions, including why the airline didn't figure out earlier that it needed to seat its four employees on the flight. Thune chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Nelson is the ranking member.

"It's unconscionable that United Airlines chose this alternative to drag a passenger off the airplane," Nelson said in a separate statement. "Why in the world did they not just raise the amount of money offered to get passengers to give up a seat?"

The senators have requested answers by April 20.

This post has been updated.

Photo credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta, Associated Press

Democrats buy ads against Scott on Obamacare replacement

via @learyreports

A fresh sign of the creeping showdown between Rick Scott and Sen. Bill Nelson: a Democratic group is paying for Google search ads attacking the governor's support for the “toxic GOP health care plan.”

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said the ads will show up when anyone in Florida searches for Scott’s position on the issue. A link directs viewers to a page attacking Scott and the failed Obamacare replacement.

The ad is somewhat misleading, implying it was Scott's plan.

Still, Scott talked up that he was helping craft the proposal, which he then waved on before calling it "way better" than the status quo.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Nelson calls for end on attacks to climate science

North miami sea rise
via @jenstaletovich

Three years after he held a field hearing in Miami Beach to draw attention to a region at ground zero for climate change, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson convened a second hearing in West Palm Beach on Monday with a new target: the Trump administration’s attack on climate science.

Held just across the Intracoastal Waterway from Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s vulnerable island retreat, the hearing highlighted worsening conditions — and the need to free science from politics.

“There are people trying to muzzle scientists. I’ve seen it in Washington. I’ve seen it here in the state of Florida,” said Nelson, a Democrat and the state’s former insurance commissioner.

Southeast Florida is often considered a model for planning for climate change as it grapples with sea rise that has increased five to eight inches over the last 40 years. Four counties, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach, formed a compact eight years ago, vowing to work together to make the region more resilient for what could be a nearly three-foot rise by 2060.

But progress has been slow, in part because South Florida has often been at odds with a Republican-led state and the administration of Gov. Rick Scott, who reportedly banned the term climate change.

Now comes the Trump administration. In recent weeks, Nelson said he has met with supervisors in federal agencies who say the administration has issued the same ban. Worse, he said, the administration has proposed scaling back agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Environmental Protection Agency, that provide critical research and enforce regulations that deal with climate-related problems.

More here.

Photo credit: Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Poll: Scott is America's 34th most-popular governor -- but he should still worry Nelson

via @adamsmithtimes

Morning Consult is out today with its latest 50-state survey on the approval ratings of every senator and governor. The January to March survey of 8,793 Florida voters offers good news and bad for Sen. Bill Nelson as Florida's top Democrat heads toward an expected challenge from Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Nelson's good news: 53 percent of FL voters approve of Nelson's performance and 26 percent disapprove, giving him a higher net favorability (net +27) than either Scott (+21) or Sen. Marco Rubio (+14).

The bad news: More than one in five voters don't know enough about their three-term senator to have an opinion on Nelson. It's safe to assume that Scott will have considerably more money to spend defining Nelson than the incumbent's last two challengers, Connie Mack IV and Katherine Harris.

"Both Senator Nelson and Governor Scott have relatively strong approval ratings," said Morning Consult’s Chief Research Officer Kyle Dropp. "However, if Scott enters the race he will immediately have a valuable leg-up in terms of name ID. More than a fifth (21%) of Florida voters aren't familiar with Nelson, compared to just 7% for Scott."

More bad news for Nelson: Scott's popularity is growing. Morning Consult's last survey in September found 49 percent approving of Florida's governor and 41 percent disapproving. 

That doesn't exactly make him a national star, however. He had the 34th-best net favorability rating in the country. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, came in on top with +58 net approval and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, also Republican, was dead last with a -46 net approval.

Among the U.S. senators, the independent gentleman representing the People's Republic of Vermont, Bernie Sanders, came out on top, with net approvals of +54, while Kentucky's Mitch McConnell was at the bottom with a -3 net approval.

From Morning Consult:

Politician            Approve         Disapprove          DK/NO                Net

Marco Rubio          52                     38                  10              +14

Bill Nelson              53                     26                  21              +27

Rick Scott               57                     36                  7               +21

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

April 06, 2017

Nelson says he's raised more than $2M for reelection this quarter

SENATE INFRASTRUCTURE (2)
via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson raised more than $2 million in the first quarter, his campaign said, and enters the 2018 re-election effort with $3.6 million in the bank.

A news release noted polling showing Democrat Nelson winning a hypothetical 2018 matchup with Gov. Rick Scott.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Andrew Harrer, Bloomberg

Senate uses 'nuclear' option as Bill Nelson joins filibuster

BillNelsonatdeskKristenClark

via @learyreports

The United States Senate just went nuclear.

With Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson this morning joining a filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, Republlicans just approved a rule change to allow confirmation with a simple majority.

Sen. Marco Rubio joined the GOP to invoke the "nuclear option."

"The filibuster has always forced the political extremes to come of the middle to build consensus,” Nelson told the Tampa Bay Times in February, adding that it was a “mistake” for former Democratic leader Harry Reid to lower the threshold on other nominees that were stymied by Republicans.

Democrats will point to the GOP's refusal to take up Merrick Garland, President Obama's choice to replace the late Antonin Scalia. And Republicans will blame Democrats for changing rules that have been considered sacrosanct.

Gorsuch is expected to be confirmed Friday.