Bill Nelson – Page 2 – Florida Politics

Bill Nelson, Debbie Wasserman Schultz denied entry to Homestead facility housing migrant kids

Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz say they were denied access Tuesday to a Homestead facility housing around 1,000 migrant children, despite earlier assurances they would be allowed entry.

“Heading to Homestead, Florida tomorrow to check on the roughly 1,000 migrant children reportedly being held there,” Nelson wrote yesterday on Twitter. He also criticized President Donald Trump‘s policy of separating some migrant children from their families, calling the practice “inhumane.”

That visit was stifled when U.S. Health and Human Services barred Nelson and Wasserman Schultz from entering the facility. The pair says they were intent on checking on the welfare of the children. But HHS requires a two-week notice before visitation, according to Nelson’s account of his conversation with officials.

“They are obviously hiding something, and we are going to get to the bottom of this,” Nelson added.

Nelson later stated that HHS confirmed 94 of the children held in Hialeah were separated from their families.

The attempted visit comes amid outcry over the administration’s new policy, which has resulted in nearly two thousand children being taken into separate custody from April 19 to May 31.

Trump has falsely blamed Democrats for the issue. He ratcheted up the rhetoric with a statement earlier today, arguing Democrats want to allow illegal immigrants “to pour into and infest” the country, “no matter how bad they are.”

Though Congress can pass a law reforming the country’s immigration policy, several of Trump’s own administration members have admitted to initiating the policy as a way to deter people from entering the country illegally. And the president has full authority to make a change.

The Trump administration’s actions have resulted in harsh criticism from both Democrats and Republicans. “These are kids who were taken from their moms and dads,” said Nelson in Homestead earlier today. “They are scared. And this administration should be ashamed of itself.”

Wasserman Schultz echoed those sentiments, arguing the pair should not have been denied entry to the Homestead facility. “The American people deserve to see the cruel way the Trump Administration is treating children.”

Wasserman Schultz says she also knows of two more detention centers in Miami-Dade County housing migrant children. They are reportedly located in Miami Gardens and Cutler Bay.

And earlier today, CD 27 candidate Matt Haggman released a new campaign ad, arguing for the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

But criticism is coming from the right as well, including from Republican Florida legislators.

Today, state Sen. Rene Garcia added his name to that list, saying, “I support securing our borders but I cannot support the actions of this admin. on separating children from their parents. It is heartless and inhumane the way children are being separated. This debate is no longer about a wall but who we are as a people. We’re much better than this!”

And Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who Haggman is running to replace, bashed Trump’s use of the word “infest” when referring to illegal immigration. “The real infestation is only one of your baseless rhetoric,” she said of Trump.

Whether the widespread outcry will push the president to reverse course before new legislation remains to be seen. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah is attempting to get federal legislators to sign a letter urging Trump to do just that.

AARP polls Florida on Donald Trump approval, U.S. Senate race

President Donald Trump‘s job approval rating is split 48-49 percent among Florida registered voters, “higher than how he performed nationally,” according to a new POLITICO/AARP poll released Tuesday.

That rating was 43 percent approving and 52 percent disapproving, said Tyler Sinclair, managing director of client services at Morning Consult, which conducted both polls. Sinclair and others discussed the poll results in a conference call.

And older Floridians, specifically voters age 50 and over, “are more likely to give Trump higher marks” — 51 percent approve the way he handles the presidency and 44 percent disapprove.

The poll “surveyed 1,199 Florida voters on May 29-30 and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus three percentage points,” a news release explained. “For voters 50 and older, the poll surveyed 676 Florida voters and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus four percentage points.”

In the U.S. Senate matchup between term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Scott and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson, they’re “virtually neck and neck,” with Scott polling at 40 percent and Nelson at 39 percent. Importantly, 21 percent said they “haven’t made up their mind yet.”

Older Floridians are more likely to vote for Scott, by 44 percent-35 percent, according to the poll.

In other topics, 76 percent overall said health care was their No. 1 issue in deciding on a candidate, with Social Security at 73 percent. National security was most important to 70 percent of interviewees, and the economy polled at 69 percent.

Unsurprisingly, older Florida voters said Social Security was their “top policy issue,” at 82 percent, with health care coming in at 78 percent.

The poll comes soon after AARP released its 7th Annual Legislative Voting Record for Florida, showing how lawmakers voted in the 2018 Session “on issues of interest to older Floridians.”

The voting record provides information about legislative votes based on broad topics, such as regulated utilities, the state budget, health care and supportive services, prescription drugs, consumer protections and livable communities.

The complete version of the 2018 voting record can be viewed and downloaded here

AARP is the “nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with nearly 38 million members, dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age,” the group’s website says.

Leslie Dougher files another election complaint against Bill Nelson campaign

Former Republican Party of Florida Chair Leslie Dougher has reinvented herself as a gadfly for Sen. Bill Nelson’s re-election campaign in recent months, including protesting at his events.

Dougher, Gov. Rick Scott‘s choice for RPOF chair years back, has also not been averse to filing elections complaints against Scott’s opponent.

January saw a Senate Ethics Complaint filed against Nelson, for allegedly campaigning in a government building.

And June sees a Federal Elections Commission complaint about political signs near a Nelson May 29th fundraiser that lacked disclaimers.

The complaint asserts that it is a “logical presumption” that the campaign “paid for or authorized” the signs.

Dougher’s last complaint was deemed a “political stunt” by Team Nelson. We are reaching out now for what likely will be a similar comment.

New Rick Scott ad urges voters to ‘think again’ about Bill Nelson’s independence

Gov. Rick Scott, the presumptive Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, urges Florida voters to “think again” when it comes to an ad claiming Sen. Bill Nelson is an “independent” voter in the Senate.

“Nelson votes with Democrats over 90 percent of the time,” the digital ad released Tuesday by Scott for Florida asserts.

“He voted with Obama to cut billions from Medicare,” the ad continues.

The ad also noted Nelson’s vote against last year’s Republican tax reform package, and the Senator’s recent about-face on backing judicial nominee Allen Winsor.

“Bill Nelson isn’t fighting for Florida,” concludes the narrator. “He’s only fighting for Democrats.”

This digital spot is the latest ad in an unrelenting barrage of Scott ads against Nelson.

Bill Nelson slams Rick Scott for failure to condemn border family separation policy

Even as Republicans (such as former Gov. Jeb Bush) decry President Donald Trump‘s policy of separating migrant children from families at the Mexican border, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is framing Gov. Rick Scott‘s response as lacking.

Scott has stated his opposition on the policy, with the most forceful declaration on Monday, as the Governor and U.S. Senate candidate blamed the issue on “bipartisan inaction and failure from our federal government” and not the president implementing the policy.

“They have failed to secure our borders, which has resulted in this chaos,” Scott said. “Let me be clear — I do not favor separating families. Washington is to blame for this by being all talk and no action, and the solution is to secure the border. Anyone seeking to enter our country illegally needs to be sent back, with the exception of those who are truly seeking asylum from an oppressive regime.”

This wasn’t enough for Nelson.

“As thousands of kids sit and sleep in warehouses, separated from their parents, Rick Scott — once again — refuses to stand up to the Trump Administration’s cruel and inhumane policy of separating families,” Nelson’s spox Carlie Waibel asserted.

“Bill Nelson is fighting in Congress to stop the separation of families — co-sponsoring the Keep Families Together Act — and holding the Trump Administration accountable, while Rick Scott plays politics with these children’s lives. It’s time for Rick Scott to stand up to his friend Donald Trump and support legislation to keep families together,” Waibel added.

In media encounters both Monday and last week, Scott has not mentioned Trump’s name.

Scott’s positioning is apace with that of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, but seemingly ambivalent compared to the forceful policy condemnations of many Senate Republicans.

Rick Scott accepts trio of fall debates

Gov. Rick Scott is accepting invitations to participate in three fall debates leading up to the November election, in which he will try to oust incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

Among the network hosts: CNN, Telemundo 51 in Miami, and Jacksonville’s WJXT Channel 4 (co-hosted by the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute).

Dates and times of the debates are not yet available, though the Scott campaign said they’d take place in the fall — presumably well after the Aug. 28 primary. Neither candidate faces formidable opposition from within their parties. 

The news follows Scott’s campaign announcement that a fourth-consecutive ad attacking Nelson will air across Florida televisions this week. And a healthy bit of criticism of the sitting Senator accompanied news of the debates.

A Scott campaign spokeswoman said the campaign is “curious” to see how Nelson will defend his tenure.

“Bill Nelson continues to be all talk, no action on the issues, but Floridians won’t settle for smoke and mirrors in a debate setting,” said campaign press secretary Lauren Schenone.

A spokeswoman for Nelson’s campaign said they “look forward to debating Rick Scott many times if he will agree to show up and talk about the issues important to Floridians.” Nelson’s camp expects the incumbent to outshine Scott, who they claim “has spent eight years putting himself and his political career ahead of what’s best for Florida.”

Both camps are reviewing other invitations and expect to make similar announcements in the coming months.

Rick Scott rebuts charges that he’d favor removal of pre-existing conditions coverage

In a statement released by his U.S. Senate campaign, Republican Gov. Rick Scott insisted that he continues to support the requirement that health insurers not discriminate against people with pre-existing medical conditions.

The statement puts Scott at odds with the apparent strategy of President Donald Trump, whose Attorney General Jeff Sessions indicated in recent court filings that the U.S. Department of Justice will not defend the pre-existing conditions coverage guaranteed under federal law through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

It also puts Scott at odds with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who added Florida to a list of states suing in that particular federal court case to get the Affordable Care Act, including the pre-existing conditions provisions, overturned.

Last week Scott also stated he supported non-discriminatory coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, but he declined to discuss the lawsuit.

Democrats have been seeking to tie Scott to Trump. The latest attempt being opposition to the pre-existing conditions law, one of the most popular provisions of ObamaCare. But on Monday Scott delivered a statement refuting that he would support efforts to eliminate the provision, charging that Democrats were doing so falsely.

“My position has not changed – I do not agree with efforts to remove pre-existing conditions,” Scott stated in a news release issued Monday by his campaign. “I’ve continued to say that it is important to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions and that every American, including those with pre-existing conditions, should have the ability to buy any kind of insurance they want. Obamacare is a disaster and costs way too much, but keeping pre-existing provisions should be a part of any healthcare reform. I disagree with efforts to dismantle protections for those with pre-existing conditions.”

Earlier this month, Sessions’ Department of Justice signaled that it would not defend the law’s pre-existing conditions provisions, though U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials have said they consider pre-existing conditions to continue to be official federal policy.

Florida is among the 20 states that brought that lawsuit against Health and Human Services, and Florida continues to be a party seeking to terminate Obamacare through that suit.

Scott’s opponent in Florida’s U.S. Senate race, incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, and all 11 Florida Democrats in Congress sent a letter to Scott last week urging him to withdraw Florida from the lawsuit, and to support pre-existing conditions.

“Having failed multiple times to rip health coverage away through Congress, the Trump Administration is now attempting to use the court system to take the guarantee of health coverage away from 7.8 million Floridians with pre-existing conditions. This is wrong,” The Democrats’ letter states.

Nelson is meeting Monday morning with constituents with pre-existing conditions to talk about the potential policy change.

Scott’s campaign noted that Florida was brought into the federal lawsuit by Bondi who independently has such authority to do so, and was not brought by Scott.

Scott’s campaign also maintains that his position on pre-existing conditions has not changed, that he has consistently supported keeping them in any health care reform. What Scott seeks, the campaign outlined, is: removing Obamacare’s “excessive mandates and taxes;” allowing insurance to be sold across state lines; preserving the provisions requiring pre-existing conditions and that young adults may on their parents’ plans; and allowing families to buy the healthcare they want.

“It looks like Bill Nelson and his Democratic party loyalists new favorite talking point is an attempt to call out Gov. Rick Scott for not taking a position on preexisting conditions, while ignoring clear and documented evidence to the contrary,” Scott’s campaign stated in a news release.

David Bergstein, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, argued that Scott’s long support for repeal of the Affordable Care Act and his support for last year’s Republican health care plan, which would have cut coverage for pre-existing conditions, bely his stated support for the provision.

“Rick Scott cannot escape his record just because it’s deeply unpopular with Florida voters,” Bergstein said in a written statement. “He spent years opposing protections for pre-existing conditions, and then in 2017 he bragged that he actually helped craft the GOP’s health care bill that would slash coverage for pre-existing conditions while giving himself a tax break.”

Jeff Greene: Father’s Day is a reminder of ‘inhumane’ immigration policies

Jeff Greene, a billionaire developer from Palm Beach and the newest Democratic option for Governor, is using the upcoming Father’s Day holiday to call for an end to the Donald Trump administration’s practice of separating migrant children from their parents at the border.

In a statement Saturday, Greene said the policies are “inhumane.” He framed that conclusion as one arrived at while reflecting on paternity.

Greene, who is married with three children, called his family “the greatest gifts I have ever received.” That acknowledgment, he said, brings him to realize a “stark contrast between my family’s own joy and the indescribable heartache being felt by those families on our country’s southern border.”

Recently published national stories focused largely on how frequently children are separated from adults near the border under the zero-tolerance, hardline immigration policy of detaining immigrants ahead of scheduled court dates. Some news outlets reported that close to 2,000 children were separated from adults over a six-week period, those figures are based on data from the Department of Homeland Security.

“No matter where you are from, the language you speak, religion you practice, or the color of your skin, families are families and people are people — yet they are not being treated as such,” Greene said. “Under the guise of being tough, the Trump administration has proven to be despicable, heartless, and inhumane.”  

Greene said “respect” is the “backbone of our United States,” and the immigration practices at the border are “spineless.”

In being critical of Trump-backed decisions, the newly minted candidate is distancing himself from the President, whose Mar-a-Lago getaway is just doors away from Greene’s Palm Beach residence.

Greene also is staking claim to a viewpoint on immigration that is primed to be polarizing for candidates who make it to November. On the Republican side of the gubernatorial race, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam released an ad this week in which a popular Republican sheriff extols his faith in Putnam’s ability to crackdown on immigration. But Putnam’s primary opponent, Congressman Ron DeSantis, has nicknamed the Commissioner “Amnesty Adam.”  

Meanwhile, other Democrats in the Governor’s race undoubtedly would align with Greene’s comments. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum even tweeted an almost identical sentiment on Saturday.

But to Greene, the issue should transcend party lines: “Democrats or Republicans, we are all Americans — and we cannot stand for this. I will not be silent, and neither should you. As Governor, I will do everything in my power to end reprehensible policies such as these,” he said.

And in Florida, as Greene suggests, the stories of immigrant children have resonated with politicians across the aisle. Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who’s competing against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson for the U.S. Senate seat on the ballot, told Florida Politics’ A.G. Gancarski on Friday that “Your heart goes out to these families that are struggling with these issues. It shows you how messed up our immigration policy is, that these things are happening.”

Rick Scott says tent cities housing immigrant children are a ‘disturbing’ byproduct of ‘messed-up immigration system’

In Jacksonville Friday to locally promote his endorsements from 55 Florida Sheriffs, rolled out days before in media release form, U.S. Senate candidate Gov. Rick Scott was compelled to address other issues as well related to the ongoing quest by his “partner in the White House,” Donald J. Trump, to “Make America Great Again.”

Among this week’s news items: the President’s decision to warehouse immigrant children in a Walmart, even as he mulls building a Joe Arpaio-style tent city for overflow, just in time for the heart of Texas summer; and the President’s decision to salute a North Korean soldier, a move made all the more ironic by his deeming the American free press “Our Country’s biggest enemy.”

Since Trump’s ascension, Scott (whose New Republican Super PAC was originally set up to support Trump before being repurposed to support the Governor’s Senate run) has been peppered (often by this reporter) with questions about the President’s latest moves.

Friday was no different.

When asked about migrant kids behind housed in tent cities, and whether he supported the policy, Scott noted the practice was “disturbing,” but emblematic of larger issues.

“I want to make sure everybody who comes to this country is treated with respect, and treated well,” Scott said.

“Your heart goes out to these families that are struggling with these issues. It shows you how messed up our immigration policy is, that these things are happening,” Scott added.

“Congress has got to do their job. Got to come up with an immigration policy that works. We have to secure our borders. We have to [create] a visa program that works, we have to take care of the DACA kids. We have to come up with something that actually works,” Scott said.

Critics of the warehousing of migrant children say the policy is alien to Democratic traditions. In that context, and in light of the Pyongyang pivot from the White House, we asked Scott if America was moving away from its traditional role.

“I clearly believe in democracy. I fought, as Governor, against what the Castro brothers have done. The problems they’re creating in Nicaragua and Venezuela. We’ve got to fight for democracy all around the world … for human rights all around the world. So I’m going to continue to fight for democracy, for liberty, for peace, human rights worldwide,” Scott said.

Florida Democratic Party spokesman Nate Evans, predictably, was not sold: “Scott’s comments today further highlight his and his close ally Donald Trump’s horrible and inhumane records on immigration. From calling DACA illegal, to advocating for mass deportations, Scott has built his political career advocating for extreme immigration policies. No matter what he says, Scott’s actions speak for themselves.”

Val Demings leads call to end transfers of customs agents from Orlando, Port Canaveral

A trio of Orlando-area Democratic members of Congress, joined by Florida’s two U.S. Senators, is calling on the United States Customs and Border Protection agency to suspend proposed transfers of safety officers out of Port Canaveral and Orlando International Airport.

Democratic U.S. Reps. Val Demings, Darren Soto and Stephanie Murphy, along with Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio are opposing to a Customs and Border Patrol initiative to rotate customs inspections officers from airports and other ports to serve temporary shifts along the United States-Mexico border. The transferred officers are not replaced on the lines in their home ports, leaving the staffing there short-handed for periods of time.

The group sent a letter Wednesday to newly confirmed U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, arguing that the airport and seaport customs inspectors were critical to public safety. They cited numerous incidents when inspectors have averted potential terrorist actions and seized countless amounts of illegal drugs and other contraband.

“The treats at our nation’s ports of entry are real, and, if carried out, could have permanent devastating effects on our nation and cities like Orlando,” they wrote. “Therefore we encourage your agency to prioritize and fulfill the scientifically based CFP officer working model for our nation’s ports of entry.”

Demings, Soto and Murphy first decried the program in January after Orlando International Airport officials called for help with overburdened customs stations at the airport’s international gates. In February Demings and Murphy co-sponsored a bill that would increase customs staffing levels at airports, including Orlando. House Resolution 4940, the Border and Port Security Act got three committee referrals, including the House Homeland Security Committee, but has not yet been heard anywhere.

In May, Rubio called for an additional 500 customs officers to help address staffing shortages at many of Florida’s airports and seaports.

“Orlando International Airport is one of the nation’s best ports of entry, and Orlando is the number one visitor destination in the U.S. As we continue to grow, it’s vital that we maintain safety staffing to meet increased passenger volume,” Demings stated in a news release issued Thursday by her office. “I urge Customs and Border Protection to once again reverse this ill-considered move and ensure that Central Florida continues to have the level of staffing necessary to ensure speedy travel and necessary security for all passengers.”

Airport officials have contended that, even without the rotations of agents and inspectors to the southwest border, the Orlando airport already was suffering from under-staffing by Customs and Border Patrol. They reported that from 2009 to 2016, the number of international passengers arriving at Orlando International Airport grew by 89 percent, from 1.49 million to 2.83 million.

However, over the same period, Customs and Border Protection Officer staffing levels have remained flat, the GOAA officials in a letter sent to area lawmakers, urging their help.

The lawmakers’ letter noted that Port Canaveral also is being squeezed.

In 2017, the seaport, which mostly handles cruise traffic, welcomed 4.5 million passengers, a 7 percent jump from the previous year, while customs inspectors staffing decreased, “resulting in significant bottlenecks.”

“Representatives Demings, Soto, and I have consistently told CBP that transferring officers from Orlando International Airport to the Southwest border is a mistake,” Murphy said in the release. “These officers are needed at the airport to keep the public safe and the economy moving. As Orlando’s representatives in Congress, we will continue to do everything possible to ensure Orlando International is fully staffed given that the airport is the busiest in the state and about to enter peak travel season.”

Murphy first got involved early on, after GOAA officials declared the program would “seriously diminish security” at the airport.

“We’ve seen overwhelming support for the CBP officers at OIA from our community, including repeated pleas from the Central Florida congressional delegation to at-minimum halt transfers,” Soto stated in the release. Each and every member of the CBP team is valued and desperately needed for the increasing demands of our area’s busy ports of entry. Their work is critical for passenger safety and smooth-running operations. We look forward to working with Commissioner McAleenan and continue supporting our CBP officers.”

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