Bill Nelson Archives - Page 7 of 45 - Florida Politics

Bill Nelson says U.S. should consider cutting off Venezuelan oil imports

Donald Trump is imposing sanctions directly on Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro after a vote Sunday that many see as a step toward rewriting his country’s constitution.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is completely behind the sanctions, saying it’s time for the U.S. to “consider cutting off imports of Venezuelan oil.”

The directive from the Treasury Department freezes any of Maduro’s assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prevents U.S. persons from dealing with him.

“Yesterday’s illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday. “By sanctioning Maduro, the United States makes clear our opposition to the policies of his regime and our support for the people of Venezuela who seek to return their country to a full and prosperous democracy.

“I talked to Treasury and we have frozen the assets of Venezuela’s dictator, Nicolas Maduro, and I expect other countries will follow,” Nelson said in a statement. “This is the first in what I hope are the strongest possible economic sanctions to stop Maduro from instituting a Cuban-style regime.”

Florida’s other senator, Republican Marco Rubio, has also been front and center in calling for the Trump administration to impose sanctions on the Maduro government. Last week, Rubio warned of a “very strong response” from Trump if Venezuela went through with what he termed a “fraudulent vote,” delivering a list of Venezuelan officials that he hoped that Trump would issue sanctions to before yesterday’s vote.

That prompted comments from top Venezuelan officials that Rubio and CIA Director Mike Pompeo of secretly conspiring against Caracas so that Washington could install new leaders amenable to U.S. interests. Speaking in Aspen earlier this month, Pompeo said he was “hopeful that there can be a transition in Venezuela and we the CIA is doing its best to understand the dynamic there”.

“The sanctions imposed today on Nicolas Maduro are warranted,” Rubio said on Monday. “However, I remain confident the president will keep his clear commitment to impose economic sanctions on the regime if they convene the illegitimate Constituent Assembly.”

The Constituent Assembly chosen Sunday will meet as soon as this week to discuss changing the charter rewritten under former socialist leader Hugo Chávez. The opposition says the rewrite is meant to replace a critical congress and delay general elections.

Over the past year, Venezuela has become engulfed in a political and economic crisis, which led to shortages in food and medicine as well as government violence against protesters.

For years, Rubio has called out the Maduro regime, while Nelson hasn’t been as public in his criticisms. That makes his comments Monday particularly noteworthy, especially when he said it may be time for the U.S. to stop buying Venezuelan oil.

Venezuela is the third-largest oil supplier to the U.S. — sending 10 percent of its imports last year — and the top supplier to refineries on the Gulf Coast. There are some concerns that cutting off the oil would only further devastate the Venezuelan economy.

Nelson is running for re-election for the Senate next year, probably against Gov. Rick Scott, who has been adroit in talking tough about the Maduro government.

Last week, Scott announced the details of his proposal to the Trustees of the Florida State Board of Administration (SBA) that would prohibit the State of Florida from doing business with any organization that supports the Maduro regime.

Fifteen days ago, in a nonbinding straw poll in Miami, Tampa, Orlando and a host of other Florida cities, more than 93,000 Venezuelan-Americans voted to let people know their opinions about the Maduro administration’s plan to elect the National Constituent Assembly yesterday.


Bill Nelson, Susan Collins collaborate on bipartisan health care plan

With the GOP campaign commitment to repeal and replace Obamacare having capsized in the rough waters of political reality, Senators from across the aisle are attempting a more bipartisan approach to getting to yes.

One of them: Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson, who announced Friday that he is working on a bipartisan health care plan with Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins — one of a few Republican holdouts against leadership this week.

Nelson and Collins are working with a “small bipartisan group of Senators,” per a statement from Nelson’s office, who are “equally dedicated to finding real solutions.”

“While the imminent disaster of 20 percent rate hikes and 16 million people losing coverage has been avoided by the defeat of the Republican’s health care bill, now is the time to come together and start working in a bipartisan way to stabilize the market and make health care more affordable,” Nelson asserted.

“Sen. Collins and I have discussed this issue many times and we are now working together. As former state insurance commissioners, we know how complicated this issue is and we are working with a small bipartisan group of senators equally dedicated to finding real solutions. This group of senators met for dinner the other night to start sharing our ideas and discussing a path forward. While we still have a long way to go, we are starting to work together to try to get this done in a bipartisan way,” Nelson added.

In Senate floor speech, Bill Nelson takes aim at Rick Scott and GOP’s ‘war on science’

Bill Nelson took to the floor of the U.S. Senate Monday to decry what he calls a “war on science.”

At the same time, the Florida Democrat all but called out Rick Scott as a climate change denier.

Nelson is looking at a likely challenge from Florida’s governor and his speech was undoubtedly an indication of the tactics he may use when that campaign cranks up.

Nelson took aim at a bill sponsored by Naples House Republican Bryon Donald that will allow anyone in the state to challenge and possibly change what kids are learning in public schools. The senator said he feared that could chill discussion on climate change in Florida schools.

“Sea-level rise in South Florida is a fact,” he began.

“But if there are some who object to that climate science, then, under this new law just signed by the governor, they are going to be able to object to that subject being taught in our public schools and a single hearing officer will determine — a single hearing officer – will determine — lord only knows who that officer is appointed by — that single person will determine under the new law if the objection is justified and they can force a local public school to remove the subject from its curriculum.”

“I don’t think we can sit back and allow our public schools to become political battlegrounds,” the Florida Democrat continued. “And we shouldn’t allow politicians to silence our teachers and scientists just because they don’t happen to like that part of the science.”

Nelson then segued to the much publicized story in 2015 that Scott had ordered members of the Florida Dept. of Environmental protection not to use the words global warming or climate change.

“Doesn’t that sound like muzzling?” he asked.

Nelson filed legislation just weeks into the Trump administration’s taking power in Washington that would protect federal scientists from attempts to interfere with scientific discourse and dissemination of research results.

He then segued into criticizing Senate Republicans who have been trash talking the Congressional Budget Office, who is expected to weigh in with a score later this week on the GOP Senate’s latest iteration of a health care reform bill.

“Mr. President, it’s kind of clear what’s going on,” he surmised. “This administration’s war on science is not a myth. It is not fake news. If you want to know an administration’s true priorities, you need to look no further than their budget. If you look at the president’s most recent budget request, you’ll see dramatic cuts to some of our most important scientific agencies.”


NRSC frames Bill Nelson as accountable for broken promises

While Congressional Republicans are struggling to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the GOP still believes campaigning against Obamacare is a win for its cause.

The National Republican Senatorial Campaign on Monday unveiled a new digital ad that will run on Facebook targeting Florida’s Bill Nelson and other Senate Democrats who will be on the ballot next year for their support of the ACA.

“As Democrats continue to grandstand without offering solutions, Bill Nelson’s broken promises are fresh on Floridians’ minds,” said NRSC Communications Director Katie Martin. “Bill Nelson should be held accountable for being dishonest with voters and being complacent in Obamacare’s death spiral.”

Anticipating the attack, Nelson sent a preemptory warning to his supporters on Sunday night.

“Mitch McConnell’s national group just started running brand-new ads against me here in Florida,” Nelson wrote. It’s clear these right-wing groups are more determined than ever to try to replace me with a rubber stamp for their extreme agenda. That’s because instead of having to deal with someone like me – who will continue to fight to keep oil rigs away from our coast, slow the effects of climate change and prevent the passage of this disastrous health-care bill – they’d rather have someone like Gov. Rick Scott, who will quietly go along with their plan.”

Scott is widely expected to challenge Nelson next year in his bid for a fourth term in the Senate.

The NRSC is going all out to target approximately 10 Democratic Senators up for reelection next year who are considered vulnerable, and Nelson is on that list.

Two weeks ago, the NRSC began running Facebook ads tying Nelson to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s push for a single-payer healthcare system, an interesting twist since Nelson has never professed support for such a system.


Florida Democrats pan latest U.S. Senate health care bill

Even as people were reviewing copies of the latest version of the U.S. Senate health care bill, Florida Democrats — starting but not ending with Sen. Bill Nelson — panned it.

“This latest Republican health care bill is just as bad as the previous versions. It makes huge cuts to Medicaid, allows insurance companies to hike rates for older Americans and will take coverage away from millions of people. We need to be working together to improve our nation’s health care system, not make it worse. If approved, this bill will hurt a lot of Floridians and for that reason alone,” Nelson said, “I will oppose it.”

Gubernatorial candidates also weighed in, beginning with Chris King.

“The latest version of the Senate’s health care bill is just the same devastating attack on Florida’s families as the last version. It’s still an attack on the most vulnerable among us, including seniors, low-income families, and folks with pre-existing conditions,” King asserted.

“It makes drastic cuts to Medicaid. It allows insurance companies to offer ‘bare bones’ health plans that cover less than the bare minimum required under the ACA. And it puts the Republican Party’s goals ahead of the American people’s livelihood. We must urge our Senators—especially Marco Rubio—to vote no on this bill.”

Reaction will continue to pour in all day; expect updates.

Bill Nelson campaign says it raised more than $2.1M in Q2

Sen. Bill Nelson brought in another $2 million during the second quarter of 2017.

The Orlando Democrat’s campaign announced Wednesday it will report raising more than $2.1 million between April 1 and June 30. The $2.13 million haul, according to the campaign, comes on top of raising nearly $2.1 million during the first three months of the year.

While Nelson’s fundraising remained steady, the campaign said the total number of donors has risen quarter-to-quarter.

According to the numbers released by the campaign, Nelson received more than 25,000 donations from nearly 21,000 individual donors in the past three months. That’s up from 4,500 donors who contributed to Nelson in the first three months of the year.

Gov. Rick Scott is expected to challenge Nelson in 2018. Scott has not publicly said he was running for office and has not begun raising money for a campaign. The Naples Republican did, however, announce he was taking charge of a federal super PAC, which is largely expected to help fuel his eventual U.S. Senate bid.

Nelson, according to his campaign, now has more than $5.1 million in the bank.

Gwen Graham now taking on Adam Putnam over drilling

Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham is now making offshore drilling an issue in the race, calling out Republican candidate Adam Putnam for not opposing President Donald Trump‘s efforts “to expand drilling off Florida’s beaches.”

“Representing the Gulf Coast in Congress, I saw the long-lasting negative effects the BP oil spill had on our state’s economy,” she said in a statement. Graham represented the state’s 2nd Congressional District in 2015–17. 

It cost us jobs and hurt real Floridians,” she said. “Can you imagine a spill closer to our coasts? Banning drilling off our beaches is vital to our military, economy, and environment.

“Drilling will only benefit oil companies and Wall Street. Every Floridian, regardless of party, has a responsibility to speak out against Trump’s dangerous proposal.”

Here’s the rest of her release:

A report in Tuesday’s Tampa Bay Times highlighted the military’s opposition to drilling off Florida’s coasts, citing a letter from Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson[, a Democrat].

Goldfein wrote that the Air Force needs the certainty of a drilling ban to guarantee it can carry out its testing and training missions in the Gulf of Mexico.

While in Congress, Graham was the only Florida Democrat to serve on the House Armed Services Committee. She represented Tyndal Air Force Base and heard firsthand from Air Force generals and airmen who opposed drilling off Florida’s beaches.

“I was proud to stand up for our military in Congress, and, as governor, I will continue to fight for the bases and service members in Florida,” Graham said. “Open waters are vital to the Air Force’s operations. Limiting their mission could put our airmen at risk, endanger national security and cost our state jobs.”

Graham supported Nelson’s efforts to fight drilling and co-sponsored bipartisan proposals with Reps. Patrick Murphy and David Jolly to ban exploration off Florida’s beaches.

In stark contrast, Adam Putnam has flipped flopped on the issue over the course of his long career in politics.

In 2006, he led congressional Republicans in an effort to expand drilling as close as 50 miles from Florida’s beaches. And as Trump and congressional Republicans have pushed for drilling off Florida’s beaches, the gubernatorial candidate has remained silent on the issue.

“Adam Putnam shouldn’t have to wait for a poll or measure political winds to stand up to Trump. After 20 years in politics, it’s time for Putnam to put Florida first and oppose any drilling off our beaches, once and for all,” Graham said.

Six Florida congressional Democrats now support single-payer health care system

As Senate Republicans return to Washington this week, looking to salvage their attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, support grows among Democrats for a single-payer health care system.

The co-sponsor count for Michigan Democrat John Conyers‘ “Medicare for All” bill now stands at 113, nearly twice as many as last year. One of those new Democratic co-sponsors is Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor.

Castor signed on to the legislation in April, joined by five other Florida Democrats this year: Alcee Hastings, Frederica Wilson, Al Lawson, Darren Soto and Ted Deutch. 

In a brief interview Monday after speaking with health care officials in Tampa on the opioid epidemic, Castor said that while she knows that such legislation won’t be passed anytime soon in a Republican-controlled Congress, she thinks now is the time to look for alternatives to bring down escalating costs of health care in America.

Under a single-payer system, all Americans would have health coverage, while the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates 22 million people would become uninsured under the Senate GOP health care plan.

Republicans believe support for the issue can hurt Democrats at the polls.

Although Florida Senator Bill Nelson doesn’t support such a plan, the fact that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren does was enough for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) to run a Facebook ad last week linking the two lawmakers.

Citing Warren’s recent comments on getting behind a single-payer plan, the ad’s narrator says such a system “would be absolutely devastating for Florida families and businesses.”

Castor noted that she has previously supported a government public-option plan.

The idea of a public option is to create a separate, government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers offering coverage through the Affordable Care Act exchanges. President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders included versions of the public option in their proposals in 2009 when they first began working on health care reform. But they dropped the idea relatively quickly.

Democrat Patrick Murphy embraced the idea during his unsuccessful Senate run last year, as has current gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham.

Support for a single-payer health care system has never been higher.

In the June Kaiser Health Tracking poll, 53 percent of respondents now favor such a system, with 43 percent opposing.

That’s the highest level of support in the 19 years since Kaiser began polling on the issue. However, Kaiser Health officials point out that “a prolonged national debate” on the issue could easily shift the public’s attitudes.

According to the Kaiser Health website“For example, when those who initially say they favor a single-payer or Medicare-for-all plan are asked how they would feel if they heard that such a plan would give the government too much control over health care, about four in ten (21 percent of the public overall) say they would change their mind and would now oppose the plan, pushing total opposition up to 62 percent.

“Similarly, when this group is told such a plan would require many Americans to pay more in taxes or that it would eliminate or replace the Affordable Care Act, total opposition increases to 60 percent and 53 percent, respectively.”


David Jolly to congressional Republicans: Ignore Trump’s tweets, isolate him

David Jolly offers some advice for his former GOP colleagues when called upon to comment on President Donald Trump‘s more egregious tweets: Just ignore him.

“No more trips to the White House. No more flights on Air Force One. No more accepting his gratuitous offers of signing ceremonies, White House cocktails, or meetings with his children. No more asking the White House for permission, for policy advice, or for the President’s priorities,” the former Pinellas County congressman writes in an op-ed on CNN’s website.

“Honor your oath as a fiduciary of Article I, who holds the public trust. Strike out with your own bold agenda that wins the hearts and minds of the American people. And leave this President behind. Leave him to his Twitter account and to placating his base with disgusting tweets.”

New polling suggests that it’s not just media elite and/or Democrats who have grown weary of some of Trump’s outlandish Twitter comments, such as his broadside against MSNBC “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski, who he said last week was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” when he saw her a few months ago.

According to a poll conducted by Morning Consult in partnership with POLITICO published Wednesday, 65 percent of those surveyed said it was “unacceptable” for Trump to attack Brzezinski as he did.

Even among Republicans, more people called it unacceptable (46 percent) than acceptable (28 percent) for the president to say such things. Both men and women agreed the tweets were unacceptable, though more men (22 percent) than women (12 percent) found the comments acceptable.

As a prolific commentator on CNN and MSNBC since Trump’s inauguration in January, Jolly has been mostly critical of the president’s policies and performance in office. While that makes him an outlier among Republicans currently in office, he’s hardly the only conservative on cable airwaves taking issue with Trump, joining Ana Navarro, Jennifer Rubin, George Will and others on the right to criticize the president.

“You see, when members of Congress condemn a tweet and then fall in line with the President’s awkward leadership of domestic and foreign policy — such as when they race to be his guest at a South Lawn ceremony celebrating passage of a flawed health care bill that even the President himself now disowns — all their condemnation, and congressional resolve itself, is exposed as meritless,” Jolly writes.

Trump’s tweet against Brzezinski was certainly one of the most flagrant comments since using Twitter as president, earning a flood criticism from Democrats and even some Republicans in the immediate aftermath last week.

“President is a poor role model for America’s children, all of us,” Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor tweeted last week. “His tweets, actions are far beneath the dignity required of the office.”

One Democrat deciding not to comment on the latest social media messages from the president: Florida Sen. Bill Nelson.

Speaking with reporters in Tampa earlier this week, Nelson was asked (by this reporter) if he was bothered by Trump’s tweets on Brzezinski, as well as another featuring a mock video showing him body-slamming WWE promoter Vince McMahonwhose face was covered by a CNN logo.

“The essence of your question is — you’d like me to jump all over the president, and I’ll tell you what my answer is — I can’t do anything about how he conducts himself, but I can do something about how I conduct myself,” Nelson responded. “And it is my responsibility to conduct myself as a gentleman, to respect others, to try to be bipartisan, to try to bring people together and build bipartisan consensus.”

“That is my responsibility and my obligation, and I tried to do that, and I will continue to try to do that,” he concluded.

Bill Nelson seeking to lock in low interest rates for student loans

With students paying varying interest rates on student loans and many overwhelmed with debt, Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said he is introducing legislation to lock in relatively low rates.

Nelson argued student loans as a major economic concern, both from the numbers of students struggling to pay, and for the prospect that low student loan rates encouraging eduction, which would fuel America’s economy in global competition.

“The long and short of it is that what we want is to make college affordable for students. And so we don’t want the necessity of an education being dependent on the vagaries of the Wall Street marketplace. We want some consistency there,” he said.

In Orlando Wednesday, the senator surrounded himself with students and graduates struggling with student loans, though one appeared to catch him by surprise by telling Orlando news media that he was doing fine, and thought the current programs were fair. The students were holding loans ranging in amount from $23,000 to $116,000.

Nelson wants loans for undergraduate students to have locked in interest of 4 percent; for graduate students, 5 percent; and for parents taking out loans for their children’s educations, 6 percent. Current rates are a 3.75 percent, but going up soon to 4.45 percent, he said, and many students have various loans from different times in the past that not unusually reach 6 and 7 percent.

He also would have the federal government waive administration fees on student loans, fees which can start at $400 on a $10,000 student loan.

All would be rolled into his plan, which will be in a bill he has not yet introduced.

“Student loan debt is the second-largest consumer debt in America. The largest consume debt is what you would expect, home mortgages. But most people are shocked to hear that student loan debt tot al at this point is looking at around $1.3 trillion,” Nelson said.

He dismissed concerns that in the hyper-partisan Congress few such bills go anywhere, and he sought to distance his idea from an earlier one from New Hampshire Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, which went nowhere.

“I get along with others and know how to build bipartisan consensus,” he said. “But it may be when we get this thing costed out by the Congressional Budget Office, maybe they put a big price tag on it. And that would be tougher to pass, no doubt about it. But the question is: equity and fairness and ability of students to continue, if they want to, to have an equal opportunity to an education. And what that is in the country’s interest is what I said, an educated workforce, so that we can compete in the global marketplace.”


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