April 13, 2015

April 02, 2015

Florida senators divided over early Iran deal news


Here's Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson on Thursday's announcement that the U.S., Iran and five other countries had agreed to an outline of a deal over Iran's nuclear program, according to a statement released by his office. He declares himself "cautiously optimistic":

I am cautiously optimistic this framework for an agreement just might work, especially if Western scientists are present at Iran's Fordo facility and there are intrusive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. And if at any point Iran were to breach an agreement, I'd support imposing additional and more severe economic sanctions.

And here's a (lengthier) statement from Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, an all-but-declared 2016 presidential candidate and vocal critic of the Obama administration's approach to the diplomatic talks. He calls early details "very troubling":

I look forward to hearing from administration officials what specific terms Iran has agreed to as part of what was supposed to be a comprehensive framework agreement, but the initial details appear to be very troubling. Through more than a decade of efforts to resolve international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, this regime has consistently lied about its ambitions and hidden the true nature of its efforts from the world. Among other issues, allowing Iran to retain thousands of centrifuges, keeping facilities such as Fordow open and not limiting Iran’s ballistic missile program indicate to me that this deal is a colossal mistake.

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March 13, 2015

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson pass Senate recognition of late Miami activist


The U.S. Senate unanimously adopted a resolution Thursday honoring the late Georgia Ayers, a longtime Miami community activist who died Feb. 17. The tribute was sponsored by Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio.

The resolution highlights "the lifelong commitment of Georgia Jones-Ayers to bettering the lives of the people of South Florida" and offers condolences to her family. Ayers founded a local food bank and a renown program that provided first-time criminal offenders with an alternative to jail time.

"Ms. Jones Ayers dedicated her life to helping at-risk youth in South Florida, a career that touched countless lives and has inspired many others to carry on her work," Rubio, a Republican, said in a statement Friday. "Georgia will be missed, but her memory and the impact of her work will live forever on."

When the two senators introduced the resolution Feb. 24, Nelson, a Democrat, also issued a statement praising Ayers' life work.

"With the passing of Georgia Jones Ayers, we have lost a fearless community activist," he said. "Thanks to her efforts, many troubled youth were given a second chance for a better life."

March 10, 2015

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson at odds over GOP senators' letter to Iran


U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was one of 47 Republican senators who signed an "open letter" to Iran on Monday warning that any nuclear-power deal reached with the Obama administration wouldn't last.

The U.S. government is still negotiating with Tehran over a potential agreement. he three top potential GOP presidential contenders in the Senate -- Rubio and Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky -- all signed the letter, which critics decried the one-page letter as improper, partisan interference by the Senate.

Among them was Rubio's Florida counterpart, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who said on the Senate floor Tuesday that the letter was an effort to "try to cut the legs off from underneath the president and his administration in trying to reach an agreement to avert a nuclear bomb."

Here's the video of Nelson's speech:


March 06, 2015

Sen. Bill Nelson: State shouldn't expect LIP money

Florida lawmakers shouldn’t expect federal money for the Low Income Pool program to fill a $2 billion hole in next year’s state budget, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Friday, issuing a call for the state to instead expand Medicaid.

“They said already, ‘We are not extending this anymore,’” Nelson said. “I have spoken to (Health and Human Services) Secretary Sylvia Burwell about this, and that is her position.”

Gov. Rick Scott accounted for the funding to continue in his budget, and Wednesday, he called on President Barack Obama to extend the LIP program, which is supposed to end this year.

Nelson made the comments in a meeting with reporters in Tallahassee on Friday, during which he also discussed the investigation into deaths at the Dozier School for Boys and a possible presidential run for that other Florida senator.

He met earlier in the afternoon with Commissioner Rick Swearingen of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to discuss the investigations at Dozier. Last week, the senator requested the U.S. Department of Justice get involved, writing that DOJ is, “uniquely positioned to provide an outside and independent review.”

On Friday, FDLE officials shared with Nelson their findings after reviewing work done by University of South Florida anthropologists that unearthed the remains of 51 people who died at the school in Marianna, Fla.

“They are maintaining that their conclusions are very similar to what Dr. Erin Kimmerle at USF has found,” he said. “What I suggested to them was that after they made the presentation to me, what they should do is give the same briefing to Dr. Kimmerle.”

Nelson said he would like to go over any discrepancies between the reports with FDLE officials and Kimmerle. The department, he said, has shown no resistance to continuing to work with him and other officials in this investigation.

Bill Nelson: 'My sense is that Marco is running for president'

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio may not have officially declared a run for the White House, but his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Bill Nelson, is convinced he’ll put his hat in the ring — at least for now.

Speaking Friday afternoon in Tallahassee, Nelson had this to say about a Rubio presidential run:

“My sense is that Marco is running for president But my sense also is that about a year from now, if he doesn’t catch fire, he has the option always of stepping back into the Senate race.”

Rubio has been putting himself out there as a likely candidate, Nelson said, including customary trips to Iowa, New Hampshire and the Conservative Political Action Conference.

“Marco is really out,” Nelson said. “He’s going as hard as he can, and he’s going all over the country.”

With Rubio and Jeb Bush being heralded as likely candidates, political horserace watchers nationally have turned their eyes to Florida.

“I kid with him all the time,” Nelson said. “I’ll say, ‘Well, you and Jeb, maybe I oughta get into the race. We could make this a trifecta.’”

For what it’s worth, Nelson said that’s not in the cards. His seat is up in 2018. What’s next? He wouldn’t say other than to point out he’s continuing to raise money.

February 11, 2015

Both Florida senators back Obama war authorization against ISIS


President Obama formally asked Congress Wednesday to authorize the use of military force against the Islamic State, a group also known as ISIS or ISIL. Though U.S. airstrikes have gone after the group since last summer, congressional approval would bolster the administration's legal war authority.

Both Florida senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, support Obama's request. 

"Any group barbaric enough to behead and burn innocent people and bring about the death of a humanitarian worker deserves to be crushed," Nelson said in a statement Wednesday morning, referring to the recently confirmed death of Kayla Mueller of Arizona.

Nelson is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who last year filed legislation that would have authorized airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. He noted Wednesday that Obama's request has some similarities to Nelson's proposal. Obama didn't rule out ground troops, though he said they would be used in "limited circumstances." His request would expire in three years.

Rubio said on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon that he would back even broader authorization, without limiting the president's time frame or tactics, which the senator said would be unwise given changing ground conditions. Rubio has burnished his foreign-policy credentials in the Senate, a likely campaign plank for him if he ends up running for president.

"There is a simple authorization Obama should ask for. One sentence: We authorize the president to defeat ISIL. Period," Rubio said. More than once, he noted authorization would also extend to the next president.

Rubio called it "good news" that Obama had asked Congress for approval, though he said it was belated. "I wish we had taken this group on earlier," he said.

April 25, 2014

500,000 reasons why Bill Nelson isn’t running for governor


There are many reasons that U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson isn’t running for governor of Florida: he just won a safe U.S. Senate seat, it actually won’t be an easy race against new Democrat Charlie Crist, it could harm the party more than it helps and he and his top people have told top Democrats over and over and over again that he’s not running.

The most recent case came with the Democratic Governors Association, the Washington fundraising group that, you guessed it, tries to get Democratic governors elected nationwide.

It’s betting big on Crist, giving him $500,000 last week. More is to come.

“We talked to Bill Nelson’s people. They told us he’s not running,” said a top figure who works with the DGA in Washington.

“We wouldn’t have given Crist this money if we thought Nelson was running.”

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April 22, 2014

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson: Miami Beach ground zero for sea-level rise


Miami Beach became ground zero for climate change Tuesday when U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson convened a rare field hearing to draw national attention to the dangers posed by rising seas.

“For those who deny sea level rise and climate change, here is the proof,” Nelson said halfway through the two-hour hearing at Miami Beach City Hall, and one of several times he pointedly called out colleagues in Congress who deny that climate change is occurring.

A half dozen witnesses, including a NASA scientist, a mayor and a county commissioner, forecast a dire future with a three-foot rise in seas by the beginning of the next century. At that rate, large swaths of Florida’s coast would be inundated, with billions of dollars in damage, even as climate change fuels more severe hurricanes. But the panel also offered hope, saying there’s still plenty of time to plan.

“It’s a slow, steady, persistent creep. But the fact that it’s slow means there’s time,” said Fred Bloetscher, an associate civil engineering professor at Florida Atlantic University who testified about potential fixes for South Florida.

More here.

April 17, 2014

In Miami, Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson renew call for U.S. sanctions against Venezuela


Florida’s two senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, joined forces Thursday in Miami to call for stepped up attention and potential U.S. sanctions against Venezuela for repressing political protests.

They also suggested that Venezuelans should become eligible for special U.S. immigration status.

To try to persuade their colleagues, Rubio said the Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans to hold a hearing soon on the ongoing unrest, with as-yet unnamed leaders of the Venezuelan opposition invited to testify. Rubio is a committee member.

“What we want to do is build a case,” Rubio said — not only for sanctions against members of President Nicolás Maduro’s administration, but also perhaps against private Venezuelan citizens tied to the government.

That possibility has drawn particular interest in South Florida, home to the largest community of Venezuelans outside their country, including some rumored Maduro allies. Miami and Orlando remain frequent destinations for Venezuelan tourists, among them government officials.

More here.