July 05, 2017

Republican ad ties Bill Nelson to Elizabeth Warren

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via @learyreports

Republicans are re-opening a familiar playbook against Sen. Bill Nelson and attempting to tie him to the liberal wing of the Democratic party.

A Facebook ad released today by the NRSC contends Nelson has voted with Sen. Elizabeth Warren "90% of the time" and implies he stands with her on single-payer health care. He hasn't been vocal on that issue, however, and drew complaints in 2009 for being cautious in general to Obamacare.

On Monday, Nelson was in Tampa for a meeting with constituents worried about the GOP replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act.. "The ACA is not perfect, and there are a bunch of things we ought to fix," Nelson said.

The broader goal is to show Nelson as a liberal, a label he's been able to shake off in past elections. This is the second known digital ad this year from Republicans linking Nelson and Warren. The first came in February, also on low-cost Facebook.

Warren does support Nelson; earlier this year, her PAC donated $10,000 to his re-election effort.

The NRSC said the ad "will run statewide while Nelson is home for the July 4th recess and throughout the month."

Read more here.  

July 03, 2017

Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson urge Commerce Department to allow red snapper fishing in South Atlantic

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@alextdaugherty 

Florida anglers have a line to Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson. 

The state's Republican and Democratic senators may be divided on hot-button issues like health care but the pair can agree on one thing: the U.S. Department of Commerce should allow recreational red snapper fishing in the South Atlantic. 

Last week, Rubio and Nelson penned a letter to commerce secretary Wilbur Ross expressing disappointment over a decision not to allow recreational red snapper fishing off of Florida's east coast in 2017. 

"We cannot stress enough how important the red snapper fishery is to Florida's economy," the senators wrote. "This decision is disappointing for residents and small business owners from Jacksonville to Miami especially considering the enhanced opportunities being afforded to their peers along Florida's Gulf coast." 

The letter comes after the federal government announced an extended red snapper season off of Florida's Gulf Coast in mid-June. Recreational anglers now have 39 days to fish for red snapper this summer after the federal government initially announced a three day season at the beginning of June, raising the ire of fisherman accustomed to a longer season. 

"It is clear that excessively limiting recreational opportunities to fish for red snapper in federal waters--even as populations continue to rebound--threatens to further erode the public's trust in the federal institutions charged with science-based fisheries management decisions," the letter said. 

The federal government has jurisdiction over red snapper fishing in federal waters, which begin nine miles offshore on the Gulf Coast and three miles offshore on the Atlantic coast. Closer to shore, the state of Florida regulates recreational red snapper fishing. Recreational anglers can fish for red snapper in state waters on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through September 4.  

Read the letter here. 

 

 

June 28, 2017

Good news for Bill Nelson? Floridians elect senators from the president's party just 29 percent of the time

Bill Nelson

@alextdaugherty 

Floridians have voted for senators that align with the incumbent president's party just 29 percent of the time since 1966, potentially good news for Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson ahead of the 2018 election since Republican Donald Trump occupies the White House. 

The senate election data was crunched by the University of Minnesota's Smart Politics, and it shows that the 10 Democratic senators defending seats in states won by Trump might have an easier time beating the GOP in 2018. On average, voters in Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin elected a senator that aligned with the incumbent president's party just 38 percent of the time.

But Nelson has already bucked the trend twice. He won reelection in 2000 and 2012 when Democrats controlled the presidency. 

Nelson is likely to face a challenge from Gov. Rick Scott, a Trump ally. 

Nevada and Arizona, the two states occupied by potentially vulnerable Senate Republicans in 2018, voted for a senator from the president's party just 41 percent of the time since 1966.

Read more here. 

June 20, 2017

Nelson tries to avoid getting pinned down on Trump Cuba shift

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via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Sen. Bill Nelson was quiet as President Donald Trump unveiled his new policy on Cuba. So we were curious about his views, especially as future rival Rick Scott embraced the change.

What we got Monday evening was a statement that seemed to have it both ways.

"While I support the embargo and agree that American dollars shouldn't go to the Cuban government or military, I also support the people of Cuba,” the Democrat said. “I support families helping families. And I believe allowing more Americans to interact with the people of Cuba is in their best interest, while we continue to pressure the Castro regime for human rights and freedoms."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Tampa Bay Times file

June 13, 2017

VA accountability bill sponsored by Rubio and Nelson passes House, heads to Trump's desk

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@alextdaugherty 

A bill sponsored by Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson that aims to make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire bad employees passed the House by an overwhelming majority on Tuesday, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign it soon. 

The bill, dubbed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, passed the House by a vote of 368-55. A group of liberal Democrats, including South Florida Reps. Alcee Hastings and Frederica Wilson, voted against the bill. 

The legislation would authorize VA secretary David Shulkin to fire or demote senior and non-senior employees and lowers the burden of proof needed to dismiss an employee. The bill also protects whistleblowers by not allowing Shulkin to fire employees who have filed a formal complaint regarding conduct at the VA.

In 2014, the VA was rocked with scandal after a some veterans died while waiting months for appointments at the Phoenix VA hospital and employees created secret lists to cover up the delays. 

The House passed a similar bill earlier this year that passed largely along party lines when the largest union of federal employees opposed the swift appeals process for employees accused of misbehavior.

The Senate revamp of the bill lengthened the appeals process to please Democrats and won the approval of the union, and it passed the upper chamber on a voice vote last week. 

Tim Canova to announce 2018 political plans Thursday

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@amysherman1

Tim Canova, who lost a heated Democratic primary against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in August, will announce his political plans for 2018 Thursday.

Canova, a Nova Southeastern University law professor and Hollywood resident, confirmed to the Miami Herald in a text Tuesday that he will announce his plans at a progressive caucus event at the Broward AFL-CIO office in Plantation at 6:30 p.m Thursday:

Canova wrote on Facebook  that he will speak at the event where he will be “making a big announcement on our plans for 2018, which will be live streamed on this page. You won't want to miss out!”

In September, Canova filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission so he could start fundraising in case he decided to run against Wasserman Schultz who represents a Broward/Miami-Dade district. But through April he hasn’t fundraised.

While Canova has argued someone on the left should challenge Wasserman Schultz, he hasn’t made clear if that someone will be him or whether he will run for another office. Two possibilities: he could be joining an already crowded Democratic field for governor or running against U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida’s only statewide Democratic office holder who is likely to face Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Earlier this year, Canova delivered petitions to Nelson’s Coral Gables office to demand he take action to halt the Sabal Trail Pipeline.

Despite Canova’s loss to Wasserman Schultz by 14 percentage points in the August primary, his prolific fundraising showed he is a serious candidate. In his first race ever, Canova drew drew support from Bernie Sanders’ fans and raised $3.8 million.

Last year was the first time that Wasserman Schultz faced a challenge from the left in many years. She defended her seat when she was at her most vulnerable -- several weeks after she resigned as chair of the Democratic National Committee amid leaks of emails showing the party favored Hillary Clinton over Sanders.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, Canova expressed frustration with the Florida Democratic Party and said that it is allowing Wasserman Schultz to make welcoming remarks at the annual Leadership Blue gala. Canova directed some of his ire at party chairman Stephen Bittel, an ally of Wasserman Schultz.

“Why the party would want to promote the very personification of scandal, disgrace, and failure to open the gala says more about the incompetence and bad faith of Bittel and his leadership team than any lip service they've given in recent months and even recent days about remaining neutral and impartial in contested primaries.”

But Wasserman Schultz's spokesman David Damron said that Wasserman Schultz isn't speaking at the gala.

The Florida Democratic Party has not yet released a list of speakers -- other than headliner former Vice President Joe Biden -- and declined to comment.

Nelson will speak at the event, his spokesman Ryan Brown said.

This post has been updated to include information from spokespersons for Wasserman Schultz and Nelson.

Digital ad campaign from Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity targets Bill Nelson

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@PatriciaMazzei

Americans for Prosperity, the conservative political group financed by the industrialist Koch brothers, is launching a new, six-figure digital ad campaign targeting Florida Sen. Bill Nelson on tax reform.

AFP wants Nelson, who sits on the Senate Finance Committee, to follow its principles for comprehensive tax reform. It's an unlikely request, given that Nelson is a Democrat.

Nelson is also running for reelection next year, and is expected to face a serious challenge from Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

AFP has been pushing Republican lawmakers to oppose a border-adjustment tax, which the group says would act as a tax on consumers.

June 08, 2017

Sen. Bill Nelson says AG Sessions should testify before Senate Intelligence Committee (UPDATE: Rubio wants Sessions to testify)

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@alextdaugherty 

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson nabbed the hottest ticket in Washington on Thursday—a front row seat to former FBI Director James Comey's hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. 

As other senators who weren't on the committee went about a normal work day in Washington, Nelson leaned back in his chair to hear the detailed steps that Comey took to document his conversations with President Donald Trump because he didn't feel the president was trustworthy. 

"Let me give you my strongest impression, the testimony was riveting and I was riveted when he (Comey) answered that he took copious and detailed notes because he felt that the president would lie," Nelson said. "That was stunning."

Nelson told reporters after the hearing that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should testify before the committee to explain his role in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. 

"He was part of it," Nelson said. "The special counsel certainly has lots of information to work with." 

Sessions, a former senator from Alabama and Trump ally, recused himself from the Russia investigation after a flurry of criticism over his previously undisclosed contact with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Nelson, leaned back in his chair as his fellow Floridian, Sen. Marco Rubio, asked Comey questions during Thursday morning's open hearing. Rubio repeatedly questioned Comey about why he chose not to disclose publicly that Trump was not a target in the Russia investigation. 

UPDATE 3:23pm: Rubio said Sessions should testify before the Intelligence Committee to reporters after the hearing. "The attorney general...will hopefully answer some questions on a number of topics." 

June 05, 2017

Bill Nelson will fight Donald Trump over air traffic control privatization

Bill Nelson

@alextdaugherty

President Donald Trump threw his weight behind a proposal to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system on Monday, and a White House adviser called the multi-billion dollar effort “low-hanging fruit” that can get through Congress quickly.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson doesn’t see it that way.

Nelson, up for reelection in 2018, is the top Democrat on the Senate committee which oversees the Federal Aviation Administration. He fought for years against proposals to hand the nation’s air traffic control system over to a private non-profit, which he argues will hurt smaller airports and recreational flights.

“The safety of the flying public should not be for sale,” Nelson said Monday. “Handing air traffic control over to a private entity partly governed by the airlines is both a risk and liability we can’t afford to take.”

Nelson’s opposition has been successful for years, as Democrats and Republicans from rural states fretted about privatization’s effect on small airports and recreational aviation. A privatization bill proposed by House Transportation chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., didn’t even make it to the House floor last Congress.

But President Trump, with Shuster at his side, pitched air traffic control privatization as a win for consumers on Monday, putting pressure on congressional Republicans to get on board.

“For too many years, our country has tolerated unacceptable delays at the airport, long wait times on the tarmac and a slowing of commerce and travel that costs us billions and billions of dollars in lost hours and lost dollars themselves,” Trump said at a White House speech touting the plan.

Read more here. 

As Trump reviews Cuba policy, Rubio, Nelson want to address 'stolen property'

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson are pressing the Trump administration to seek compensation for Americans whose property was taken by the Cuban government.

The move comes as Trump is reviewing policy toward Cuba.

“The U.S. Foreign Claims Settlement Commission (FCSC) has certified more than 5,900 claims against the Cuban Government for stolen property,” the lawmakers wrote to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “These claims—now valued at approximately $8 billion—remain unresolved.

“While the Cuban Government has manufactured ridiculous counter-claims to avoid responsibility, we urge you to seek fair compensation on behalf of these Americans as soon as possible. To that end, we request that you work with Congress to develop a plan and timeline for resolution of these claims, as well as consider instructing the FCSC to conduct a third Cuban Claims Program to allow for potential new claimants.”

Rubio and Nelson also express “concern” with a January 2016 decision allowing Cubaexport to renew a trademark for Havana Club rum.

“Cubaexport registered the trademark for Havana Club in the United States only after the Cuban Government stole the trademark from the original owners. The decision was a troubling development, given longstanding U.S. policy and support for the rightful owners of stolen property, and we urge you to reconsider.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times