March 30, 2017

Sen. Bill Nelson to hold first major Miami fundraiser



U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who is expected to face a major reelection battle in 2018, will hold his first major Miami fundraiser Friday.

Ira and Cynthia Leesfield, major donors to Hillary Clinton and other Democrats, are hosting the event at their Miami home Friday evening. About 100 people are expected to attend the fundraiser where the minimum donation is $1,000.

"There were some reservations that it would be hard to raise money after the presidential election but the fact of the matter is that's not so," Ira Leesfield said. "People are very motivated out of fear or whatever you name it."

Nelson will attend a smaller fundraiser later in the evening at the home of Roger Thomson and Jim Tyrell in Miami Beach. That fundraiser is expected to draw members of the LGBT community and beach residents.

Nelson is likely to face Republican Gov. Rick Scott who is considering a bid. Nationally, Republicans are targeting Nelson as a Democrat in a swing state where President Donald Trump won. Nelson is Florida's only Democratic statewide office holder.

Nelson has easily won elections multiple times, but the millionaire Scott would be a far more formidable opponent. In 2012, Nelson was reelected to his third term when he beat Connie Mack IV, a Fort Myers Congressman.

Early polls have shown Nelson leading Scott.


March 29, 2017

Nelson defends backing Gorsuch filibuster

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson defended his decision to join a filibuster against Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch despite opposing one a decade ago for Samuel Alito.

“Each nominee is different, and how Sen. Nelson votes for one nominee has no bearing on how he’ll vote for another,” spokesman Ryan Brown said in response to a Tampa Bay Times question.

“Plus, the motion to invoke cloture on Alito’s nomination wasn’t as controversial as the upcoming cloture vote on Gorsuch. Nearly three-quarters of the Senate – including nearly half of the Democratic caucus – voted for cloture on Alito in 2006. Trying to compare the two would be like trying to compare apples and oranges.”

Does he regret at all supporting Gorsuch in the past?

“The Senate confirmed Judge Gorsuch’s nomination in 2006 by unanimous consent,” Brown said. “Under Senate rules, a request for unanimous consent is approved unless one senator objects. Nelson did not object to Gorsuch being an appeals court judge, which is significantly different than supporting his nomination to the Supreme Court.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Associated Press

March 27, 2017

Nelson makes up his mind: He'll vote 'no' on Gorsuch

Senate Supreme Court

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson announced Monday that he will vote against Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. 

"Deciding whether to confirm a president's nominee for the highest court in the land is a responsibility I take very seriously," Nelson said in a statement. "Over the past few weeks, I have met with Judge Gorsuch, listened to the Judiciary Committee's hearings and reviewed his record with an open mind. I have real concerns with his thinking on protecting the right to vote and allowing unlimited money in political campaigns. In addition, the judge has consistently sided with corporations over employees, as in the case of a freezing truck driver who, contrary to common sense, Judge Gorsuch would have allowed to be fired for abandoning his disabled rig during extreme weather conditions.

Nelson also made clear he would join Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, who last week urged his colleagues to filibuster Gorsuch's nomination.

"I will vote no on the motion to invoke cloture and, if that succeeds, I will vote no on his confirmation," Nelson said.

Nelson faces reelection in 2018 and is a top target of national Republicans, who have been pressuring him to back Gorsuch. In 2006, they noted, Nelson voted against Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito but did not join the filibuster against him.

"In the past, Nelson thought nominees deserved an up or down vote," the National Republican Senatorial Committee said in a statement. "Remember, in 2006, Nelson voted for cloture to end the filibuster on Judge Alito’s nomination. The same year, Nelson joined his Senate colleagues to confirm Judge Gorsuch to the Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in a unanimous vote. Clearly Nelson has been in Washington way too long and is forgetting he represents Florida, not Washington liberals."

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Shortly after revealing his decision, Nelson emailed supporters asking them to pitch into his campaign.


Photo credit: Susan Walsh, Associated Press

March 24, 2017

Will Nelson join Democratic filibuster of Gorsuch?

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Democrats are lining up to oppose Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, but Florida Sen. Bill Nelson isn't saying where he stands.

"Still undecided on both," Nelson's spokesman tells The Tampa Bay Times on whether how he will vote or whether he supports growing Democratic calls for a filibuster.

A filibuster, which New York Sen. Charles Schumer called for yesterday, would force Republicans to upend Senate rules to allow for a simple majority.

Nelson oppossed a filibuster for Sameul Alito in 2006, though voted against him. Yet Nelson previously told us he supports 60-vote threshold for a Supreme Court nominee.

"You bet I do. The filibuster has always forced the political extremes to come of the middle to build consensus," Nelson said in February, adding it was a "mistake" for former Democratic leader Harry Reid to lower the threshold on other nominees that were stymied by Republicans.

The NRSC says Nelson should tell voters where he stands.

"Floridians made it clear when they hit the polls in November that they trusted President Trump to appoint the next Supreme Court Justice. Bill Nelson needs to tell his constituents whether he will side with them and vote to confirm President Trump’s nominee, or join Chuck Schumer and Washington liberals and filibuster Judge Gorsuch."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Associated Press

March 23, 2017

How Nelson and Rubio voted on internet privacy rules

via @learyreports

The Senate voted today to kill regulations that would prevent Internet providers from tracking and sharing personal data without consent, and Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio were on opposite sides.

Nelson voted against the measure; Rubio voted for it.

The Associated Press explains:

The regulations would have required a company like Verizon to get approval before telling an advertiser what websites customers visited, what apps they used, their health and financial information, or their physical location. Under the regulations, many more people likely would have chosen not to allow their data to be shared than if they had to take an extra step of asking a company to stop sharing or selling their information.

Industry groups and Republicans protested the regulations. They said broadband providers would have to operate under tougher privacy requirements than digital-advertising behemoths like Google and Facebook.

Nelson blasted the move. “We are talking about taking privacy rights away from individuals if we suddenly eliminate this rule,” the Democrat said in a statement after the vote. “This is a gold mine of data, the Holy Grail, so to speak.”

“It is no wonder that broadband providers want to be able to sell this information to the highest bidder without the consumer's knowledge or consent,” Nelson continued. “And they want to collect and use this information without providing transparency or being held accountable. Is this what you want to inflict upon your constituents in your state by changing this rule about their personal, sensitive privacy?”

Rubio: "The FCC’s last-minute regulation was poorly conceived and held internet service providers to a different standard than other companies handling the same information, all while doing nothing to protect consumers’ privacy. It was important to overturn this burdensome rule so that we encourage innovation and investment instead of adding another complex layer of bureaucracy to the internet.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

March 22, 2017

Conservatives press Nelson on Gorsuch vote for Supreme Court

via @learyreports

A conservative group is dropping new mailers in Florida today to keep up pressure on Sen. Bill Nelson to support Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court.

This is the second direct mail piece from Concerned Veterans for America, and it makes a patriotic appeal, asking if Nelson will "protect the freedoms you fought to defend."

"Each piece of mail directs citizens to call a CVA switchboard where they are informed about Neil Gorsuch’s record and then patched through to Senator Nelson’s office," the group said. It is also targeting Democratic senators in Indiana, North Dakota, West Virginia, Missouri, Colorado, Maine and Montana.

Nelson, facing re-election next year, has not said how he'll vote on Gorsuch.

UPDATE: The Republican National Commitee is also using a Facebook ad.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

March 21, 2017

Trump signs NASA bill in Oval Office, with Nelson at his side

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Some issues transcend partisan politics, so it was not surprising to see Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson next to President Donald Trump this morning for the signing of the NASA Authorization Act. (Republican Sen. Marco Rubio was there too, to the right of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and cut off in the photo.)

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Screen capture via @NASASpaceflight


March 20, 2017

Still no decision from Bill Nelson on Gorsuch vote

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Bill Nelson remains undecided on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, a spokesman said this morning as the confirmation hearing begins.

Nelson faces pressure from the left and right over Gorsuch. The Florida Democrat met with Gorsuch for about an hour earlier this month Nelson discussed his concerns about the suppression of voting rights and the amount of undisclosed, unlimited money in campaigns.

Republicans have targeted Nelson and other Democrats who saw their states go to Donald Trump in the November election.

Nelson is up for re-election next year and his decision will likely play a role in the campaign.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio today sent an email to supporters that called Gorsuch "a highly qualified, mainstream jurist. Most importantly, he is committed to the principles of original intent and judicial restraint. This is critical, because too many in the federal judiciary today believe it is appropriate for judges to invent new policies and rights instead of interpreting and defending the Constitution as it is written."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

March 16, 2017

Marco Rubio critical of some cuts in Trump's budget



 Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio criticized President Donald Trump's proposal to cut State Department money but praised other parts of his budget proposal. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, bashed Trump's proposal.

Here is Rubio's statement:

“The president’s budget reflects what his administration’s priorities are. I am very encouraged that this budget supports ideas like the Educational Opportunities Act I first introduced in 2013 with the goal of expanding school choice through tax credit incentives for scholarships to low-income students. It's a promising sign that we'll be able to work with the administration on school choice policies I care deeply about because of the positive impact they can have in providing hardworking families with better school options for their kids. I also welcome the president's desire to begin reversing the damaging impact of sequestration on our military's readiness, and believe he'll find strong support in Congress for this key part of his budget blueprint.

“While this budget blueprint offers insights into the president’s thinking about what’s important to his administration and the American people, it is Congress that will actually set the nation’s policy priorities and fund them. I will continue to review all the details of this budget proposal for areas of common interest we can work on together.

“However, I do not support the proposed 28 percent cut to our international affairs budget and diplomatic efforts led by the State Department. These programs are integral to our national security, and cuts at these levels undermine America’s ability to keep our citizens safe. In order to advance our national security interests, economic opportunity for our people and respect for human dignity everywhere, America’s leadership on the global stage is indispensable. I will be working to ensure Congress’ funding priorities allow America to play this role.”

Here is Nelson's statement:

“This plan doesn’t make any sense. You're going to cut some of our most important agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, which is working to find cures for cancer and Alzheimer's, the Environmental Protection Agency, which keeps our air and water clean, and the Army Corps of Engineers, which is working to restore the Everglades. I agree that we must do whatever is necessary to keep our country safe, but cutting all of these important programs to pay for things, such as a wall, just doesn’t make any sense.”

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican, declared Trump's proposal "dead on arrival" and criticized it. 


March 14, 2017

Nelson to support Acosta for labor secretary


Sen. Bill Nelson plans to support President Donald Trump's nominee for labor secretary.

That's according to a Nelson spokesman, who we'd asked for comment. Alex Acosta is a Miami native and the dean of Florida International University's law school.

Acosta's confirmation hearing is next week.

Photo credit: Andrew Harrer, Bloomberg