Bill Nelson Archives - Page 3 of 35 - Florida Politics

Citing rising poll numbers, Florida congressional Dems urge Rick Scott to expand Medicaid

When Congressional Republicans last month attempted to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, they heard from several GOP governors, who warned them not to go ahead with a plan to cut more than $800 billion from Medicaid, saying it would have a deleterious effect on voters.

Now, with new polling indicating that Medicaid has never been more popular, Florida Congressional Democrats are finding the inspiration to ask Gov. Rick Scott to again consider expanding Medicaid.

“A number of states that had not previously expanded Medicaid are now considering expansion and we strongly urge you and the Florida Legislature to do so too,” begins the letter penned by Sen. Bill Nelson, and Congress members Charlie Crist, Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Lois Frankel, Fredericka Wilson, Al Lawson, Stephanie Murphy and Darren Soto.

The letter comes on the same that a new poll conducted by the University of Miami shows that two-thirds of Floridians, or 67 percent, say they favor Medicaid expansion.

Infamously, Scott said in 2013 that he initially supported expanding Medicaid in Florida, but then quickly reversed course and every year since has steadfastly maintained his opposition, despite the business community rallying behind such a move.

In 2015, the Florida Senate approved a hybrid version of Medicaid expansion; the House overwhelmingly rejected the proposal.

State officials said that plan would have covered as many as 650,000 residents.

Here’s the text of the letter sent to Scott:

Dear Governor Scott:

A number of states that had not previously expanded Medicaid are now considering expansion and we strongly urge you and the Florida Legislature to do so too. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia already have expanded Medicaid to provide affordable health care to working families and students. Floridians should not be placed at a disadvantage compared to other states. Indeed, a survey published today by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation found that 67 percent of Floridians support moving forward with expansion to bring $66 billion in federal funding between the years of 2013-2022 to our state. Medicaid expansion will boost jobs and enable Florida to move to a more efficient health care delivery model. In fact, it is estimated that the state would have seen $8.9 billion in increased economic activity and more than 71,000 new jobs in 2016 alone. It not too late to chart a better course for the State of Florida.

Now that Speaker Ryan has declared, “[the Affordable Care Act] is the law of the land,” we should all be doing our part to expand coverage to the uninsured, improve the quality of health plans, and lower costs for everyone. Expanding eligibility to all Floridians with annual income below 138 percent of the federal poverty level–less than $30,000 per year for a family of three–is the fiscally-responsible thing to do not only for a huge number of Floridians, but also for consumers who use Healthcare.gov, for businesses who provide coverage to their employees, and for hospitals who are charged with providing care without regard to a patient’s coverage status. Insurance premiums for Americans who have private insurance are generally lower in states that have expanded Medicaid. Private insurance costs are higher in states that did not expand Medicaid because of costs of sick and uninsured are transferred to the private insurance pool according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Coverage is key, rather than costly and inefficient emergency room care and delayed treatment.

With years of Medicaid expansion already underway in other parts of the country, we have seen that other hard working Americans have benefited from improvements in health care quality and affordability through expansion. Medicaid expansion in Florida would provide over 800,000 of our fellow Floridians with access to primary care. Preventive services like screening for HIV, cancer, and heart disease will save lives, help keep our state’s residents healthier, and improve management of their chronic conditions. Providing access to Medicaid will also improve risk pools in the private market, a shift that has saved consumers in expansion states seven percent on their monthly premiums. Floridians deserve these benefits just like any other American.

Medicaid expansion also will reduce the unpaid medical bills owed to hospitals that put pressure on the state budget and our safety net hospitals funded with taxpayer dollars. Refusing to cover working Floridians through Medicaid expansion does not reduce our state’s health care costs, it just passes them on through rising premiums and tax hikes. With a third of our state’s resources already devoted to health care, the influx of $50 billion in federal funding would safeguard services from the draconian cuts currently under consideration by the state legislature. Medicaid expansion would help the state avoid the rising costs brought by Zika, the opioid crisis and mental health needs.

Throughout your time as the chief executive of our state, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has shown a willingness to work with you to find a path forward that will expand coverage to hard-working, able-bodied adults in our state. States with conservative governors around the nation have arrived at solutions that expanded Medicaid while upholding their conservative principles. If you miss this opportunity, you will chart a fiscally-irresponsible path that will cost our state billions, cost our state jobs and sacrifice the health and well-being of all Floridians.

Thankfully, Republicans in Congress abandoned their recent proposal to rip coverage away from millions of Americans including children, the disabled, and our neighbors with Alzheimer’s in skilled nursing. Like most Floridians, we realized that this was not an honest attempt at improving health care in America. Rather than continuing political games over the Affordable Care Act, we ask that you move to develop a plan for Medicaid expansion in our state to benefit the health, financial security, and well-being of all Floridians.

Sincerely,

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Bill Nelson raises over $2 million in first quarter

Florida’s sole statewide elected Democrat is off to a strong start in his bid for re-election, according to first-quarter fundraising numbers released today by his campaign.

 U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, up for re-election in 2018, will be reporting more than $2 million raised from more than 4,500 individual donors during the first three months of the year.

The $2 million-plus haul is on top of the nearly $1.8 million Nelson had in the bank before January 1, giving the state’s senior senator more than $3.6 million cash on hand.

The numbers released today come on the heels of several recent polls showing Nelson with a solid lead over his likely GOP challenger.

A poll released last month by the Florida Chamber of Commerce showed Nelson leading Florida Gov. Rick Scott in a hypothetical 2018 matchup by 6 points, 48 — 42.

Another poll released late February by the University of North Florida showed Nelson leading Scott by the same 6-point margin, 44 — 38.

Candidates’ first-quarter fundraising reports are due April 15.

Bill Nelson seeks to extend prescription drug subsidies to Puerto Rico seniors

Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is seeking to extend Medicare low-income prescription drug subsidies to resident of Puerto Rico, with a bill he filed today.

Nelson’s office estimated that the bill could help an estimated 400,000 low-income seniors in Puerto Rico afford the cost of prescription drugs.

While low-income seniors living in the continental U.S. may be eligible for the Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy program, seniors living in a U.S. territory, such as Puerto Rico, are not.

A separate program was established in 2003 to allow for low-income seniors’ subsidies for prescription drugs but the program requires the government of Puerto Rico to match about half the subsidy and the economically-strapped government is unable to anymore, Nelson’s office said in a press release.

“This is inherently unfair,” Nelson said in the release. “This bill will help seniors living in Puerto better afford the cost of their prescription drugs by simply putting them on the same footing as seniors living in the states.”

Last month Puerto Rico warned the U.S. of a looming health care crisis if it is unable to solve its current fiscal crisis.

Nelson’s measure, which has yet to be assigned a bill number,  will head to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.

Florida Poll: Bill Nelson 52%, Rick Scott 37% in hypothetical 2018 U.S. Senate race

Sen. Bill Nelson holds a significant lead over Gov. Rick Scott in a hypothetical 2018 matchup, according to a new poll.

The survey — conducted March 28 through March 29 by Gravis Marketing for The Orlando Political Observer — found Nelson leads Scott, 52 percent to 37 percent. According to the poll, 12 percent of respondents said they were unsure who they would pick.

The poll of 1,453 registered voters, which was conducted using automated phone calls and web responses of cellphone users, has a margin of error of 2.6 percent.

That 15-point margin represents the largest spread Nelson has enjoyed in early polling. A recent Public Opinion Strategies poll conducted on behalf of the Florida Hospital Association showed a much closer race between the two men come 2018, with Nelson at 46 percent to Scott’s 44 percent.

Meanwhile, a poll from the Florida Chamber of Commerce released in March showed Nelson had a 6-point lead over Scott, 48 percent to 42 percent.

That margin was similar to one predicted in a UNF Public Opinion Research Laboratory survey released earlier in the month that found Nelson would take 44 percent to Scott’s 38 percent. A Mason-Dixon survey showed Nelson with a 5-point edge over Scott, 46 percent to 41 percent.

Scott, who was elected in 2010, can’t run for governor in 2018 because of term-limits. He’s been boosting his national profile in recent months, and is widely believed to be considering a U.S. Senate run.

Emails continue to hound Andrew Gillum; fundraising invitation among newest trove

A slowly simmering email kerfuffle is turning into a close-to-uncomfortably hot scandal for Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who announced his candidacy for Florida governor in 2018 last month.

Another email has been unearthed revealing he used state equipment as a means for campaigning, which is an ethics violation in the state of Florida.

The email in question invited a host of people to a Florida Democratic fundraiser, according to The Tallahassee Democrat.

“Last month, the city of Tallahassee turned over 60 emails sent through software purchased by NGP Van, a company that provides technology to Democratic campaigns and causes,” the newspaper reported. “Several of the emails had political messages, including one inviting people to a 2016 campaign appearance by then-Vice President Joe Biden in Tallahassee.”

Now another 50 emails have been turned over to the newspaper after a records request, the newspaper reported.

“One, however, was an invitation to the FDP fundraiser at the home of then-Party Chair Allison Tant,” according to the Democrat. “U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson was the special guest; the event was chaired by Gillum, then vice-chair of the state party. Tickets were available at various sponsorship levels, from $50 up to $1,000.”

The Democrat reported $6,850 had been spent by the mayor’s office on the NGP Van software and included $4,965 from the city’s general fund and $1,875 in leftover campaign money that the mayor rolled into his office account.
He was forced to publicly capitulate, apologizing on the same day he filed to run for Florida governor. Gillum has stated previously the emails were his fault.

A criminal investigation was started after a man in Jefferson County sent a complaint to Leon County State Attorney Jack Campbell, who notified the sheriff.

“The investigation is progressing and we are continuing to obtain records,” Lt. Grady Jordan, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, said Thursday, according to the Democrat.

The Tallahassee mayor has stated he is fully willing to cooperate with the investigation.

The latest emails brought forth fresh rebukes from conservatives, the Democrat reported.

“This is another egregious breach of the public trust,” Leon County Republican Party Chair Evan Power said. “When Mayor Gillum apologized for his other inappropriate emails he continued to hide these records from his constituents.”

The Republican Governor’s Association added their voice to the mix:  “Gillum has clearly demonstrated he cannot be trusted to tell the truth or follow the law.”

Andy Janecek, Leon County DEC chair, added: “Republicans continue to do and say anything to distract from the disastrous failures of the Trump presidency. The city has been reimbursed and it’s time for Evan Power to get a new hobby. Professional trolling won’t help put anyone back to work or make sure every Floridian has access to health care.”

Bill Nelson to vote no on Neil Gorsuch

Bill Nelson ended any suspense there may have been regarding his views of President Donald Trump‘s first Supreme Court nominee.

Florida’s Democratic senator intends to vote no on the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch.

Nelson also announced Monday he also would support a Democratic filibuster, by voting against likely Republican efforts to invoke cloture to prevent a filibuster. If a Republican-led closure procedure wins, Nelson said he will vote no on Gorsuch’s confirmation.

Nelson cited Gorsuch’s own testimony and record, making no references to Democrats’ beef that Republicans refused all last year to hold hearings on the nomination of then-President Barack Obama‘s last Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland‎. Gorsuch now is up for that same seat.

“Deciding whether to confirm a president’s nominee for the highest court in the land is a responsibility I take very seriously,” Nelson stated in a news release issued Monday afternoon by his office. “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 added.

 

Bill Nelson, bipartisan Florida Congress members urge drilling ban in Gulf

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has pulled together a bipartisan group of Florida congressmen to sign a letter urging the administration of President Donald Trump to not permit off-shore oil near Florida’s Gulf Coast.

In a letter sent Friday to U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Nelson and 16 members of Florida’s congressional delegation urged the administration to maintain the current moratorium on offshore oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico for at least the next five years.

Joining Nelson were Republican U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan, Brian Mast, Francis Rooney, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Daniel Webster; and Democratic U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Val Demings, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Al Lawson, Stephanie Murphy, Darren Soto, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson.

Earlier this month, the administration announced it intended to keep the moratorium in place until at least 2022, but recent reports suggest that the administration may be considering a new plan, Nelson’s office reported in a news release Friday morning.

“It’s our understanding that your department may be considering a new Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022,” the lawmakers wrote. “If you do choose to draft a new plan, we strongly urge you to keep the eastern Gulf off limits.

“Drilling in this area threatens Florida’s multi-billion-dollar, tourism-driven economy and is incompatible with the military training and weapons testing that occurs there,” the letter continues.

In 2006, Congress passed the Gulf of Mexico Energy and Security Act, which created a moratorium on drilling in most of the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

The letter notes the Deepwater Horizon explosion seven years ago that killed 11 men, damaged the marine life ecosystem, and soiled an entire tourism season for Gulf states.

“This tragedy was a painful reminder that Florida’s beaches and economy are at risk even when oil rigs are hundreds of miles away from its shores,” the later states.

American Bridge slams Mario Diaz-Balart for ‘selling out’ to support GOP health care plan

(Update – The House of Representatives has announced that there will be no vote tonight on the GOP health care plan).

In the hours left before Congress’ scheduled vote on the American Health Care Act, President Donald Trump and GOP House leadership were doing whatever it took to get the 216 votes necessary for passage of the bill.

In the case of Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart, could change in U.S. policy toward Cuba implemented under the Obama administration be the catalyst to lock in his support?

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Diaz-Balart sought assurances from White House officials that the president would maintain his campaign pledge to reverse Obama’s recognition of diplomatic ties with the Raul Castro-led Cuban government.

Diaz-Balart supported the health care plan in the Budget Committee last week, which narrowly passed on a 19-17 vote. A White House official said there was no explicit discussion of trading his vote for a promise on Cuba.

The bill has already been changed to get additional GOP support.

The Times reported in that same story that New York Republican Claudia Tenney said she was likely to support the bill after House leaders added a section that would shift Medicaid costs from New York’s counties to the state government.

The horse trading brings back memories of when the shoe was on the other foot eight years ago, when Barack Obama and congressional Democrats were doing everything in their power to get enough buy-in from Senate Democrats to back the Affordable Care Act in late 2009.

First, there was the $300 million increase for Medicaid in Louisiana designed to win the vote of Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in what was derisively referred to as the “Louisiana Purchase.”

Next came the infamous “Cornhusker kickback” to get Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson’s vote. That involved giving Nebraska a permanent exemption from the state share of Medicaid expansion. That meant federal taxpayers would have had to kick in an additional $45 million in the first decade (a provision ultimately removed from the bill).

There was also “Gator-aide,” the label given to the request from Florida Sen. Bill Nelson for the Senate version of the ACA. That included a formula for protecting certain Medicare Advantage enrollees from facing what could be billions in cuts. The formula would only apply to five states, most notably Florida, where 800,000 of the state’s 1 million Medicare Advantage enrollees would be exempted from cuts.

Referring to the Times story, Shripal Shah, vice president of the Democratic super PAC American Bridge 21st Century, took a swipe at Diaz-Balart.

Shah said: “No matter what his justification, here are the facts: Congressman DiazBalart is selling out millions of Americans in order to cut billions in taxes for a few millionaires, and this bill might not have even be alive today had it not been for his vote in committee. The White House may have been able to buy his vote, but the public is going to hold him accountable.”

Katrina Valdes, the Communications Director for Congressman Diaz-Balart, sent out this statement that he made last week.

“My committee vote does not mean I will support final passage of this legislation as it presently reads. I have clearly stated that I have some serious concerns with the bill in its current form. This isn’t the end of the road, but rather, one step of a long process that will include conference with the Senate.”

“Congressman Diaz-Balart remains in negotiations with House leadership and his colleagues about multiple aspects of the bill,” says Valdes.

Veterans group’s mailers target Bill Nelson in Neil Gorsuch vote

Florida voters can expect to receive mailers from a veterans group with Republican ties urging them to urge Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson to vote to confirm Neil Gorsuch as a Supreme Court justice.

The group Veterans Concerned for America, run by a former GOP state finance chairman, is making a second round of mailings to Florida voters targeting Nelson. Similar efforts are underway in other states with Democratic senators.

The mailers ask: “Will Senator Bill Nelson  protect the freedoms you fought to defend?” and then urges voters to call his office.

“This week Judge Neil Gorsuch has continued to demonstrate the kind of integrity, independence, and neutrality before the law that he will bring to the Supreme Court bench if he is confirmed,” CVA) Florida Coalitions Director Diego Echeverri stated in a news release. “Gorsuch’s dedication to protecting the Constitution has garnered the respect of political leaders on both sides of the aisle and Floridians of all walks of life who are stepping out every day in his support.

“Since Gorsuch was announced as our next Supreme Court nominee, CVA has been mobilizing our grassroots army in this fight – and we will continue doing so until the moment that the Senate has confirmed Gorsuch to the bench,” Echeverri continued. “We urge Senator Nelson to avoid political theatre this week and to help drive a quick, clean, and thorough hearing process.”

 

Donald Trump signs NASA bill, ponders sending Congress to space

President Donald Trump signed legislation Tuesday adding human exploration of Mars to NASA’s mission. Could sending Congress into space be next?

Flanked at an Oval Office bill-signing ceremony by astronauts and lawmakers, Trump observed that being an astronaut is a “pretty tough job.” He said he wasn’t sure he’d want it and, among lawmakers he put the question to, Sen. Ted Cruz said he wouldn’t want to be a space traveler, either.

But Cruz, R-Texas, offered up a tantalizing suggestion. “You could send Congress to space,” he said to laughter, including from the president.

Trump, who faces a crucial House vote later this week on legislation long promised by Republicans to overhaul the Obama-era Affordable Care Act health law, readily agreed. The health care bill is facing resistance from some conservative members of the party.

“What a great idea that could be,” Trump said, before turning back to the space exploration measure sponsored by Cruz and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

The new law authorizes $19.5 billion in spending for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for the budget year that began Oct. 1. Cruz said the authorization bill is the first for the space agency in seven years, and he called it a “terrific” achievement.

Trump last week sent Congress a budget proposal that seeks $19.1 billion in spending authorization for the agency next year.

“For almost six decades, NASA’s work has inspired millions and millions of Americans to imagine distant worlds and a better future right here on earth,” Trump said. “I’m delighted to sign this bill. It’s been a long time since a bill like this has been signed, reaffirming our commitment to the core mission of NASA: human space exploration, space science and technology.”

The measure amends current law to add human exploration of the red planet as a goal for the agency. It supports use of the International Space Station through at least 2024, along with private sector companies partnering with NASA to deliver cargo and experiments, among other steps.

After signing the bill, Trump invited several lawmakers to comment, starting with Cruz. When Trump invited Vice President Mike Pence to speak, he suggested that Nelson be allowed to say a few words. Nelson traveled into space when he was in the House.

“He’s a Democrat. I wasn’t going to let him speak,” Trump quipped, to laughter. Nelson ultimately got a chance to briefly praise his bill.

Pence also announced that Trump plans to re-launch the National Space Council, with Pence as chairman, to coordinate U.S. space policy. The council was authorized by law in 1988, near the end of the Reagan administration, but ceased to operate soon after Bill Clinton took office in January 1993.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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