March 09, 2017

Is Sen. Bill Nelson a filibuster flip flopper?



A conservative group misfired in its attack on U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., for being inconsistent on the use of the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.

America Rising Squared, the policy arm of the conservative America Rising PAC, said in an online post that Nelson, up for re-election in 2018, committed a "filibuster flip-flop" on President Donald Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch.

"In 2006, Nelson opposed the use of a filibuster for the nomination of Justice (Samuel) Alito, but now has adopted a different stance," said America Rising Squared, a group advocating for senators to support Gorsuch.

We decided to look at whether Nelson flip-flopped on using the filibuster for a Supreme Court nominee on our Flip-O-Meter, which examines whether a politician has been consistent on an issue.

Experts told us America Rising mischaracterized Nelson’s record.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

Bill Nelson remains undecided on Neil Gorsuch

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson met with Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch for an hour on Tuesday but remains undecided on whether he can support him.

“The two discussed several topics and Nelson expressed his concerns about the suppression of voting rights and the amount of undisclosed, unlimited money in campaigns,” spokesman Ryan Brown said in an email.

“Afterward, Nelson said he will continue to review his record before making a decision.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Andrew Harrer, Bloomberg

March 08, 2017

Mason-Dixon poll: Nelson leads Scott in potential 2018 Florida Senate race


Sen. Bill Nelson leads Gov. Rick Scott in a potential 2018 U.S. Senate match-up, according to a new public-opinion poll that suggests next year's election will be defined by the presidency of Donald Trump.

Nelson is ahead of Scott by 46-41 percent in the survey released Wednesday by Jacksonville-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Research. That 5-percentage-point lead is similar to the 6-point advantage Nelson had over Scott in another poll released Monday by the University of North Florida. Scott has yet to declare his candidacy.

While favorable views of both candidates are almost identical -- 42 percent for Nelson and 41 for Scott, according to the poll -- more respondents viewed Scott unfavorably: 38 percent, compared to 25 percent for Nelson. President Trump is even more disliked: 43 percent hold a favorable opinion of him, compared to 48 percent who hold a negative one.

"This contrast in perception will be part of the dynamic of the race, as Scott stirs more passion and polarization (much like Trump), while Nelson is generally liked but perceived as a bland policy wonk," pollster Brad Coker wrote in a memo outlining the results. "The outcome of the race will likely be shaped by the political fortunes of President Donald Trump. The central question is how will the country feel about Trump in 2018?"

Florida appears just as divided in the poll as it did last November, when Trump won the state by about 1 percentage point. Asked about their preferred senate candidates, 47 percent said they'd back a Democrat who'd oppose Trump's agenda -- and 45 percent said they'd back a Republican who supports it. 

Historically in Florida, Republicans do better at getting their voters to the polls in midterm elections.

The poll of 625 registered voters was conducted by phone from Feb. 24-28. It has an error margin of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points.

Photo credit: Andrew Harrer, Bloomberg

March 07, 2017

Jewish day school in Davie hit by another anonymous phone threat

Jewish Cemetery Damage
via @harrisalexc

A Davie Jewish Day School was evacuated for two hours Tuesday after a phone threat against the school, the latest in a nationwide series of anonymous telephoned threats to Jewish schools and community centers this year.

The David Posnack Jewish Day School was also evacuated for a bogus bomb threat on Feb. 27, part of a fifth wave of such threats across the country in two months. The U.S. Justice Department and the FBI announced a civil-rights investigation into the threats, but declined to discuss whether they were coordinated.

Davie police, who characterized it as a bomb threat, gave the all clear around noon.

The JCC Association of North America sent out a written statement confirming multiple community centers were threatened with “either emailed or phoned-in bomb threats overnight and this morning.”

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported community centers were threatened in Milwaukee, Maryland, Oregon, New York, Alabama, Toronto and Ontario. Seven Anti-Defamation Leagues offices also received threats, according to JTA.

On Tuesday, U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio sent a letter to the administration asking for “swift action” to deter the anonymous phone threats. It was co-signed by every senator and sent to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey.

“We are concerned that the number of incidents is accelerating and failure to address and deter these threats will place innocent people at risk and threaten the financial viability of JCCs, many of which are institutions in their communities. Your Departments can provide crucial assistance by helping JCCs, Jewish Day Schools and Synagogues improve their physical security, deterring threats from being made, and investigating and prosecuting those making these threats or who may seek to act on these threats on the future,” the senators wrote.


Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

Nelson to meet with SCOTUS nominee Gorsuch

Supreme Court Gorsuch Education
via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson will meet Tuesday afternoon with President Trump's Supreme Court nominee.

It is the first meeting between Nelson and Neil Gorsuch, a conservative judge from Colorado who will need the support of eight Democrats to break a filibuster, unless Republicans decide to change the rules to install Gorsuch with a simple majority.

Nelson is facing pressure from the left and right over Gorsuch -- pressure heightened because Trump won Florida and Nelson is up for re-election next year.

"Whatever the pressure is," Nelson recently told the Tampa Bay Times, "I'm going to make up my own mind as to what I think is in the best interest of our country and Florida."

Nelson in 2006 opposed a filibuster of Samuel Alito's Supreme Court nomination, calling for an up-or-down vote (he was ultimately against Alito) but today stands with Democrats in insisting on a 60-vote threshold.

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

GOP interest groups say Nelson is having it both ways and that he should support an up-or-down vote. Already post cards have hit Florida mailboxes urging calls for Nelson to back the nominee.

Nelson will likely ask Gorsuch for his feelings on voting rights and the outsized role money plays in politics, especially since the 2010 Citizens United case was decided by the Supreme Court.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

March 06, 2017

Bill Nelson leads Rick Scott in U.S. Senate race in Florida, poll finds

via @learyreports

Bill Nelson leads Rick Scott in a hypothetical U.S. Senate matchup, a new University of North Florida poll shows.

Democratic Sen. Nelson takes 44 percent of the vote vs. Republican Gov. Scott’s 38 percent, with 12 percent undecided. Scott has not officially entered the race but has made clear he intends to.

“Even though it’s very early in the 2018 election season, Nelson’s six-point lead is meaningful,” said Michael Binder, UNF Public Opinion Research Laboratory faculty director. “This race is going to get national attention and Rick Scott’s alliance with Donald Trump will likely factor into this election’s outcome next year.”

The poll was conducted Feb. 13-Feb 26 via phone, with 973 completed surveys. The margin of error is +/- 3.14 percentage points. It found 51 percent of voters disapprove of Trump while 44 percent approve the job he is doing.

“Trump’s soft job-approval numbers could have huge implications during the midterm races, just ask all the Democrats that lost in 2010 when Obama’s numbers were the lowest they had been to that point, and Republicans that ran in 2006, when Bush’s popularity was plummeting,” Binder said.

Keep reading here.

March 02, 2017

Nelson: Sessions should recuse himself from Russia investigation


U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Thursday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should step aside from the Justice Department's investigation into Russian meddling of the U.S. election, but unlike other Democrats stopped short of calling for Sessions' resignation.

"Sen. Sessions should recuse himself," the Florida senator said in a statement. "And there should be an independent commission and special prosecutor appointed to get to the bottom of this."

Leading Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, want Sessions to resign for failing to disclose during his confirmation hearing that he met twice last year's presidential election with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

Several Republicans have said Sessions should recuse himself. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has not yet gone that far, saying he needs more information.

Sessions said he'd consider bowing out of the Russia investigation if appropriate, without going into specifics.

Photo credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta, Associated Press

February 22, 2017

GOP web ad compares Bill Nelson to Elizabeth Warren

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - In what may be the first campaign ad against Sen. Bill Nelson, Republicans today debuted a Facebook spot that asserts the Florida Democrat is not much different than liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

The NRSC said the ad will target people who “lean conservative” and independents statewide; it would not reveal how much money is behind the ad. Nelson is up for re-election in 2018.

The selection of Warren illustrates her rise on the national stage and she may have supplanted Nancy Pelosi as the bête noire of the right. The NRSC says it used Congressional Quarterly to compare voting records and has launched ads against a number of other Democrats from GOP-leaning states.

The liberal tag is a common attack line for Nelson’s opponents and so far he’s been able to wave it off.

"I'm a political moderate," he told the Tampa Bay Times ahead of his 2012 election. "In the mainstream of American politics and the mainstream of Florida politics."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

February 21, 2017

With poll, progressive group presses Nelson to oppose Gorsuch


To push U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson to oppose Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court, a liberal group commissioned a poll testing what sort of messages might be popular for the Florida Democrat to adopt against the judge.

The left-leaning Progressive Change Campaign Committee tried several arguments against Gorsuch in the poll, conducted in seven key states by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling. The one that worked best: characterizing Gorsuch as favoring Wall Street over Main Street. That's the criticism Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren leveled against Gorsuch. 

In Florida, 64 percent of poll respondents opposed or strongly opposed Gorsuch when the pollster said the judge "sided with big insurance companies, sided with employers who denied wages and retirement benefits to employees, and generally protected big corporations from accountability." Twenty-three percent said they would support Gorsuch given that description, and 13 percent said it had no impact on their opinion. The message particularly resonated with Democrats, though less so with independents and Republicans.

Nelson, a blue senator in a purple state, is under pressure given that he faces reelection next year.

 "This poll shows that Senator Bill Nelson is on strong ground opposing Neil Gorsuch's nomination if he makes clear that Gorsuch consistently sides with big corporations against employees and families," Adam Green, co-founder of the PCCC, said in a statement. "This is Senator Elizabeth Warren's core argument, and it plays well with Floridians across the political spectrum.

PPP conducted the blended phone/online poll of 326 Floridians from Feb. 3-4. The error margin is plus-or-minus 5.4 percentage points.

February 09, 2017

Sen. Bill Nelson faces pressure over Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch


via @learyreports

WASHINGTON — Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is about to face intense pressure from a well-funded conservative coalition to vote for President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, a decision that will likely resonate into Nelson's 2018 re-election campaign.

Proponents are targeting Nelson and nine other senators from states Trump won in November who are also up for re-election — an effort that will include advertising and mailers, petitions and phone banks.

"Don't let Senate Democrats and the radical left block President Trump's great Supreme Court Justice nominee, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch," reads a postcard that will arrive this week in the mail of Florida activists. "Tell Senator Nelson to vote yes."

At the same time, Nelson will hear from a newly charged Democratic base that is demanding rejection of Trump's agenda, and the party remains bitter over GOP refusal last year to take up Obama's pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

"Whatever the pressure is," Nelson said in an interview, "I'm going to make up my own mind as to what I think is in the best interest of our country and Florida."

Keep reading Alex Leary's story here.