Bill Nelson Archives - Page 5 of 37 - Florida Politics

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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Poll: Bill Nelson leads Rick Scott 48%-42% in hypothetical 2018 match-up

Sen. Bill Nelson continues to hold an edge over Gov. Rick Scott in a hypothetical 2018 match-up.

A new poll from the Florida Chamber of Commerce shows the Orlando Democrat leads Scott 48 percent to 42 percent. Nelson leads the Naples Republican 79 percent to 11 percent among Democrats, and 44 percent to 36 percent among independents.

Scott leads Nelson 75 percent to 18 percent among Republicans, according to a polling memo.

The survey of 600 likely voters was conducted by Cherry Communications by phone from March 6 through March 14. The findings were released on the eve of the annual Florida Chamber of Commerce Capitol Days.

The poll is the latest in a series that showed Nelson leading Scott, who is believed to be seriously considering a run for Senate in 2018. Scott can’t run for re-election because of term-limits.

According to a University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Laboratory survey, Nelson would take 44 percent to Scott’s 38 percent. Michael Binder, the survey’s director, said even though it’s early in the election cycle the “six-point lead is meaningful.” Meanwhile, a recent Mason-Dixon survey gave Nelson a 46-41 edge over Scott.

The Chamber survey found 50 percent of Floridians approve of the job Scott is doing as governor; while 47 percent of Floridians approve of the job Nelson is doing as U.S. senator.

Few warm greetings from Florida for Donald Trump’s budget

There seems to be something for almost everyone to dislike in the budget proposal President Donald Trump unveiled Thursday morning.

“The plan doesn’t make any sense,” stated Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

“I do not support the proposed 28 percent cut to our international affairs budget and diplomatic efforts led by the State Department,” stated Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

The president’s proposed budget, released early Thursday, drew a handful of responses from Florida’s 27 members of House of Representatives, mostly from Democrats, and most of them went much further than Nelson in their condemnations, citing proposed deep cuts ranging from the arts to the Coast Guard, cancer research to the TSA, or schools to seniors’ programs like Meals on Wheels, jobs training to Everglades.

“The Trump budget is an immoral affront to nearly all of our most important priorities,” declared Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

So far only Republican U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross in Florida’s congressional delegation has spoken out in strong support, though Rubio did point out something he liked in the budget: Trump’s incorporation of Rubio’s ideas to expand school choice with tax credits. But the senator cautioned to not take Trump’s budget too seriously, because, “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,” he concluded.

Ross, of Lakeland, said the budget was true to Trump’s promises and a snapshot of “a strong conservative vision for the size and role of our government.”

“In addition to a renewed focus on the military, this proposed budget keeps the President’s word to prioritize border security, veterans’ health care, and school choice, as well as reduce burdensome regulations that harm small businesses and economic growth,” Ross continued. “With our national debt quickly approaching $20 trillion, we cannot afford to waste any more taxpayer dollars on duplicative and ineffective government programs.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart took a similar tone to Rubio, saying the budget “attempts to focus on our nation’s real fiscal challenges” and presents an opportunity for conversations about national priorities and the national debt.

Then he concluded, “I look forward to Congress exercising its oversight role and ultimately making funding decisions.”

Not many areas of common interest were cited by Florida’s 12 Democrats, including Nelson.

“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,” Nelson stated. “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.”

In a Facebook post, Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando called Trump’s proposal an “irresponsible budget which decimates investments in America’s future to fund tax cuts for the rich. He proposed cuts to our Coast Guard (border security?), scientific research, commerce, state department, environment protection, agriculture and our nuclear program among countless others. We will fight to protect our future!”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg declared “Budgets are statements of our values as a people. The statement made today by the Trump Administration is that climate change isn’t real, our environment is not important, diplomacy is a waste of time, medical breakthroughs aren’t beneficial, the poor are on their own, and the arts, despite their small price tag, aren’t of significance.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa went into far more detail, arguing from the start that the budget fails to deliver on Trump’s campaign promises to help the middle class and create jobs.

She cited deep or complete cuts in after-school programs, college students’ PELL grants, transportation projects such as Tampa’s Riverwalk, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s efforts to improve marine biology health, and the EPA.

“It is clear that Trump’s budget is not balanced in a way that our community needs and expects.  It shifts even more economic burdens onto the shoulders of working families, guts important services and investments in our economy, attacks vital education programs and hurts Tampa Bay’s sensitive natural resources,” she concluded.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee said a budget should reflect society’s values, and that this budget does not reflect those of his district.

“President Trump’s budget calls for extreme cuts to vital funding for job training, clean energy, medical research, and public education,” Lawson stated. “It is a shortsighted plan that seeks to give tax breaks to the wealthiest while taking away lifelines for those who need it most.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando responded only by retweeting a post from Congressional Black Caucus chair U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat who noted that African Americans “have a lot to lose under this administration” and the budget proposal “is proof.”

Wasserman Schultz provided the strongest language in her condemnations.

“Aside from the horrific health care cuts that will push tens of millions of people into higher-cost plans, or no coverage at all, this budget proposal sacrifices too many safety, environmental, labor and health protections, all just to ultimately deliver grotesque tax breaks to the wealthy,” she stated in a release issued by her office. “It weakens or eliminates funding for, among many other things, transportation, clean energy, health research, public education and housing, legal services, national diplomacy, the arts and humanitarian aid. And while Trump’s budget purports to improve our national security, it reportedly starves crucial aspects of it by putting our coasts and airports in dire jeopardy. This budget proposal is a gut punch to America’s families, their needs, and their values.”

Florida Dems in Congress blast GOP health care plan after budget report

As expected, the scoring of the Republican health care plan in Congress affirmed many of Democrats’ biggest warnings.

And, as expected, many of Florida’s delegation wasted no time Monday attacking the “American Health Care Act” as “wrong,” “inhumane,” “alarming,” and “ruthless and cruel.”

No word yet from any of Florida’s 17 Republican members of Congress on how they feel about the Congressional Budget Office legislative analysis of the bill Republicans introduced last week. Its aim is to replace “Obamacare,” the Affordable Care Act President Barack Obama and Democrats pushed through in 2010.

Democrats loaded up Monday at several of the CBO findings of the bill being dubbed both “RyanCare” for House Speaker Paul Ryan and “TrumpCare,” for President Donald Trump. The CBO reported that 14 million people would drop from being insured in the first year, and that a total of 24 million now covered would be without health insurance in a decade. The CBO also projected rapidly increasing premiums for the first couple of years, that it would cut $880 million from Medicaid, and increase costs for seniors on Medicare. And it reported that cuts to Planned Parenthood would mainly affect low-income women.

Almost all 12 Florida Democrats decried all those findings, through news releases, social media posts and statements on their websites. Among the responses:

“It is wrong to take away health insurance for 24 million people, as well as increase the cost to seniors,” wrote U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

“This legislation is terrible for those in their golden years, our seniors. And most distressing is how this bill treats the poor and the disabled of our society,” wrote U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg, representing Florida’s 13th Congressional District. “The Gospel of Matthew teaches us that we will be judged by how we treat the ‘least of these.’ But this bill treats the least among us in the most inhumane way possible.”

“Biggest non-shocker of the week #Trumpcare knocks 24M people off insurance,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando, representing Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

“This report from the nonpartisan CBO confirms what we already knew to be true, millions of Americans will lose health insurance, hardworking families will be forced to pay higher premiums, and Medicaid recipients will suffer greatly,” declared U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando, representing Florida’s 10th Congressional District. “As Republicans recklessly work to push through this plan, the people who need it the most, working families, seniors, and children stand to lose the most. The GOP plan is not better than the Affordable Care Act and Republicans know it.”

“This bill does not make good on claims by @SpeakerRyan,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, representing Florida’s 22nd Congressional District. “It will block millions from coverage in exchange for cutting taxes for the wealthy.”

“Despite numerous promises by Trump that no one would lose health insurance, Republican scheme does just that!” tweeted U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa, in Florida’s 14th Congressional District. “Irresponsible @SpeakerRyan!”

“Yanking insurance coverage from 14 million people and leaving them uninsured next year would be ruthless and cruel,” wrote U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, representing Florida’s 23rd Congressional District.

“House Republican leaders are rushing this process with closed-door meetings and midnight committee sessions,” wrote U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, representing Florida’s 7th Congressional District. “We need to slow down, bring both parties together, and get health care reform right so there aren’t any unintended consequences that hurt families, seniors, and small businesses.”

Bill Nelson warns of Russia, China cyberthreats

After a classified intelligence briefing for a newly-formed U.S. Senate panel on cyberterrorism, Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson issued a strong warning Wednesday.

Nelson, the Ranking Democrat, acknowledging a “very serious” cyberattack by Russia on American elections and warning that American infrastructure is vulnerable.

The classified briefing before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Cyberterrorism Subcommittee, chaired by Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, took place Wednesday afternoon. Nelson issued the following statement:

“We have to accept the fact that right now, countries like Russia and China can inflict serious damage on our critical infrastructure through cyberspace, despite our best efforts to defend ourselves. In order to protect ourselves as we build up our capabilities, we have to deter these countries by making the consequences of an attack so severe that they wouldn’t even consider attacking us in the first place.

“We have already suffered some very serious cyberattacks such as Russia’s recent interference in our elections and China and North Korea’s hacking of U.S. corporations on a near daily basis. Developing methods and plans to threaten what these countries value the most — in order to deter future attacks — is one of our top priorities.”

Second poll pitting Bill Nelson and Rick Scott head-to-head gives Democrat the advantage, again

Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t announced he’s running for U.S. Senate in 2018, but a new survey shows he’s already trailing in the polls.

A poll from Mason-Dixon Polling & Research shows Sen. Bill Nelson holds a five-point lead over Scott, who is widely believed to be mulling a 2018 U.S. Senate bid. Statewide, the Orlando Democrat leads Scott 46 to 41 percent, with 13 percent of respondents saying they were undecided.

The poll was first reported by POLITICO Florida.

The poll found Nelson has a big lead in Southeast Florida, where 60 percent of voters said they backed Nelson, compared to 24 percent who picked Scott. He also leads in the Tampa Bay region, 47 to 40 percent.

Scott is favored in North Florida, 56 percent to Nelson’s 34 percent. And the Naples Republican has a big lead Southwest Florida, his home turf, where 52 percent of voters backed Scott, compared to 37 percent who picked Nelson.

The poll of 625 registered Florida voters was conducted from Feb. 24 through Feb. 28. It has a margin of error of 4 percent.

Pollsters noted the outcome of the race would “likely be shaped by the political fortunes of President Donald Trump.” While Republican carried the state by one percentage point, his “personal popularity has slipped into slightly negative territory.”

“He was elected on a change message and swing voters, who have shown they are less interested in the circus, bought into his agenda. How they still feel about that agenda and his success or failure implementing it is going to be a very important factor in 2018,” according to the polling memo. “Given the narrow margin that he carried the state by, he doesn’t have much room for error in Florida.”

Bill Nelson holds early lead over Rick Scott (44-38%) in U.S. Senate race

A poll released Monday from the University of North Florida shows Sen. Bill Nelson ahead of Gov. Rick Scott in a hypothetical match-up for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat.

Meanwhile, the favorability ratings of both Sen. Marco Rubio and President Donald Trump are both underwater.

Nelson is up by six points (44 percent to 38 percent) over Scott, with 12 percent undecided.

Nelson’s personal favorability is +14 (42 percent approval, against 28 percent disapproval). Scott’s is + 6, with 46 percent of those surveyed approve of Scott, and 40 percent disapproving.

UNF Polling Director Michael Binder describes the six-point spread as “meaningful,” as “Rick Scott’s alliance with Donald Trump will likely factor into this election’s outcome next year.”

Currently, Trump is underwater with Florida voters, with 44 percent approval compared to 51 percent disapproval. In fact, 44 percent of Florida registered voters surveyed strongly disapprove of the president.

Meanwhile, Rubio ebbs even below that -7 net rating, with an anemic 40 percent approval against 48 percent disapproval.

Florida voters are even more sour on the performance of the Congress: 65 percent disapproval, against 28 percent approval.

UNF polled 973 people — 27 percent on landlines — between the dates of Feb. 13 and Feb. 26. The asserted margin of error is 3 percent.

Hospitals hopeful on Medicaid following meeting with D.C. delegation

Florida’s congressional delegation is onboard with efforts by hospitals that provide charity care to persuade the Trump administration to treat the state more fairly under the Medicaid program, representatives said following meetings in Washington.

Members of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida met this week with senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, and with House members Carlos Curbelo, Stephanie Murphy, and Ted Yoho, and with aides to other members of the delegation.

“We had a very warm reception at Sen. Rubio’s office. He was very well aware that Florida gets short-changed in our funding for the uninsured, and was energized,” Lindy Kennedy, executive vice president of the alliance, said during a conference call Thursday.

Rubio warned that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was still organizing his management team, but promised the delegation “would do everything in their power” to press the hospitals’ case.

“Sen. Nelson was very gracious, spent a lot of time with us,” Kennedy said.

“He acknowledged the challenging, rock-and-a-hard place position that Florida’s hospitals now find themselves in, having aggressively worked with the federal government as well as our state Legislature to request passage of Medicaid expansion,” she said.

“He seemed to understand that we need to move forward with sort of the hand we’ve been dealt, was the way that he put it.”

Curbelo wants to write a letter from the delegation to Price. That’s not a sure thing, but “there is some interest in trying to pull that together,” Kennedy said.

But the state’s elected representatives understand the problem and want to help.

“That was a consistent theme with Congressman Yoho and Stephanie Murphy,” she said.

The representatives met with staff for Ron DeSantis, Mario Diaz-Balart, Francis Rooney, Tom Rooney, Dennis Ross, and Daniel Webster. Individual hospital representatives may have met with additional members of Congress.

“I understand they were very well received,” Kennedy said.

“We are working to follow up with Secretary Price’s new administration, and spending time with them, hopefully educating them about the disparity between Florida and some of the other nonexpansion states,” Kennedy said.

“We feel we’re uniquely positioned to maybe even lead the nation in setting policy” on supplemental funding for the uninsured, she said.

The alliance has complained that the Obama administration trimmed Florida’s reimbursement levels under the Low Income Pool program for uninsured patients from $2.2 billion to $608 million during the past three years.

It wants at least $1.6 billion during the new budget year, and more freedom in how they spend the money.

“I think that the unfairness shown to Florida in the past presents the Trump administration with an opportune platform to quickly demonstrate its new commitment to state flexibility in deployment of funding for health care to the uninsured and Medicaid patients,” Jonathan Ellen, CEO of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and chairman of the alliance board, said in a written statement.

The LIP program was launched 11 years ago under a waiver from the federal Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, allowing Florida to put Medicaid recipients into managed care. Following two extensions, the state’s authority for that program ends on June 30.

The feds have been shortchanging Florida on the program for years, alliance president Tony Carvalho said — the state gets $401 per uninsured patient, compared to $1,612 for California, $1,934 for Texas, and $4,007 for New York.

“The federal government has treated Florida very unfairly,” Carvalho said.

“Florida’s Low Income Pool was reduced over the last several years as a strategy to pressure Florida to expand Medicaid coverage under ACA,” he said.

“We certainly support ACA expansion. But we believe the strategy really hurt the safety net hospitals and hurt the safety net in general — the people who are uninsured in this state.”

Gov. Rick Scott’s health aides are negotiating with the Trump administration but, with the Legislature settling into its session next week, and the state budget deadline looming, “time is running short,” Carvalho said.

“Whatever they do settle on, the Legislature would have to appropriate the money,” he said.

With the state House, particularly, looking for budget cuts this year, “we are concerned that the Legislature may be looking at rate cuts in the Medicaid program,” he said.

“Every dollar that they cut in hospital rates, if that should happen, the state saves 38 cents and we give back to the federal government 62 cents. If we’re starting from a basis in which we believe Florida is already in a very inequitable position in terms of its share of federal dollars, those types of cuts just are penny wise and pound foolish.”

Particularly if Washington Republicans enact major reforms, such as turning Medicaid into a block grant program, he said.

“The clock is ticking,” Kennedy said.

“We do need the Legislature and our federal delegation to work together with CMS to address this issue before sine die of our regular session, so the waiver can be renewed June 30 with increased flexibility and an increased amount,” she said.

“Everyone we met with (in Washington) and explained the different time-table, they acknowledged their understanding. They were very receptive, and I’m optimistic we will be able to move quickly with their help.”

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