Bill Nelson Archives - Page 7 of 35 - Florida Politics

Stephen Bittel for Florida Democrats, what do you have to lose?

Over the weekend, Florida Democrats elected Miami rich guy Stephen Bittel to lead their party. The choice was controversial and left many members screaming that Bittel is the wrong man at the wrong time.

They have their reasons, I guess.

But, let me ask a simple question:  Whom would be the right person?

The political cosmos has been trying to send a message for years to Florida Democrats. They haven’t been listening.

They have lost five consecutive races for governor (or, put another way, they haven’t been in control of the governor’s mansion in this century). Republicans also control both chambers of the Legislature. Republicans pass whatever laws they want, many of which trample on Democratic ideals. All the Dems have been able to say is, “May I have another?”

This has happened despite the fact Democrats have long held the lead in the number of registered voters in Florida (that number, by the way, is shrinking).

It takes a special something to have turned such an advantage into what is essentially political irrelevance in Tallahassee. Democrats used to console themselves because they delivered the state’s electoral votes to Barack Obama during his presidential campaigns, but they couldn’t even keep that trend going last November against Donald Trump.

So, to borrow Trump’s own slogan and apply it to Bittel: What have you got to lose? At least the guy seems to have some energy a willingness to engage in the fight.

“Contentious elections are reflective that there are Democrats all over Florida that are passionate, committed to coming together, moving forward together to win elections. So contentious is good. It means you care,” Bittel said after beating four other candidates with more established track records.

He has a point there. Florida Democrats have “contentious” down to a science. What they haven’t shown is any evidence that they have a realistic game plan for returning some political balance to the state.

Bittel made his mark by donating and raising large amounts of money for Democratic candidates. While he told reporters Saturday at the Democratic gathering in Orlando that he is not a billionaire, as was reported, he obviously is a person of substantial wealth and energy.

Democrats? Listen up: You need energy. You need passion. You need a sense of purpose. And most of all you need to explain, in clear words, why you’re better for the state than Republicans.

Democrats deluded themselves into believing voters would never elect Rick Scott, but they didn’t understand the beautiful simplicity of his “Let’s Get To Work” message. They talked themselves again into believing that surely voters wouldn’t re-elect Scott.

Now, Scott likely is coming for Bill Nelson’s U.S. Senate seat in a couple of years, and in Adam Putnam Republicans appear to have a strong gubernatorial candidate ready to make his run. This kind of ballot box domination should send a message that doing things the same ol’ way is a losing strategy for Democrats.

So when Bittel talks about greatly expanding the staff at the state Democratic headquarters in Tallahassee and, as reported in FloridaPolitics.com, promising to “ …  grow this party to a size and strength that has never been seen before,” Democrats should be at least a little invigorated.

That is, assuming they still remember what that feels like.

Tale of 2 parties: Florida GOP high, Dems low ahead of 2018

The state Republican and Democratic parties met two miles from each other Saturday, their first meetings since Donald Trump carried Florida in November’s election, but the atmosphere and enthusiasm were worlds apart.

As both parties chose their leaders, it was easy to see which has more confidence heading into an election cycle when the governor’s office and all three Cabinet seats will be open. Republicans were aglow in victory after Trump stunned many political observers by winning the state Barack Obama carried in 2008 and 2012. At the same time, Democrats held a contentious election to choose a new chairman with little talk about this past election.

“How good does this feel? We defied the mainstream media, we defied conventional wisdom, defied the pollsters,” Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told GOP county chairs. “Right across town, Democrats are having their election and they’re not feeling near as good.”

As both parties prepare for 2018, Republicans are focused on how to build off the momentum Trump built with voters who traditionally haven’t been part of the political process while Democrats elected wealthy real estate developer and major party donor Stephen Bittel as chairman in hopes of ending two decades of futility at the polls.

“Donald Trump got a lot of people off of the couch and got them involved. It is our job at the Republican Party of Florida to harness all of that passion, all of that energy, and keep them in the game,” said state GOP Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, who was easily re-elected. “And when we do, and mark my words we will do it, we will cripple the Democrat Party for a generation.”

After the Democrats elected Bittel, a group of protesters stood outside the meeting room holding signs that read, “SHAME,” ”This is not the party of the people” and “People over $$.”

Still, Bittel tried to paint the best picture of the party’s future.

“We have had an under-resourced operation in Florida for a long time. That changes, starting today, and we will build a different kind of party, I’m a different kind leader and we will change things,” Bittel said. “I grew up in Florida in an era when we won everything. I’m looking forward to that era again.”

But Bittel, 60, grew up more than four decades ago, and there’s a new generation of Democrats who have rarely seen victory.

Florida hasn’t elected a Democrat as governor since 1994. They’ve lost 14 of the past 15 Cabinet races. And despite Democrats’ success in passing a ballot initiative that requires political districts to be drawn in a way that doesn’t favor parties or incumbents, Republicans maintain huge majorities in the Legislature and hold 16 of Florida’s 27 U.S. House seats.

Republicans appear better situated heading into a critical state election. Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the three GOP Cabinet members, including Putnam, are leaving office because of term limits. Also in 2018, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is seeking a fourth term, and it’s widely thought Scott will challenge him in what could be Nelson’s toughest re-election yet.

But despite under-performing again in 2016, Democrats think 2018 can be different. Democratic strategist and former state party political director Christian Ulvert pointed at several pluses. First, Nelson, the one consistently successful Florida Democrat since 2000, will be on the ballot.

“This year, we have a potential for Bill Nelson setting the tone, to really set the stage from the top down,” Ulvert said.

He also said the party has a rich field of popular city mayors who could be on the ballot for statewide races, including Fort Lauderdale’s Jack Seiler, Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn, Miami Beach’s Philip Levine, Orlando’s Buddy Dyer and Tallahassee’s Andrew Gillum.

Putnam, who is likely to run for governor, warned Republicans that despite their successes, the party cannot become complacent.

“We can’t get arrogant and cocky and lose our way,” Putnam said. “We can’t take anything for granted.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Nearly 90,000 people have signed Tim Canova’s petition to stop Sabal Trail Pipeline

A large protest is being planned this weekend at the Suwannee River State Park against the construction of the Sabal Trail Pipeline. Activists fear that the $3.2 billion, 515-mile natural gas pipeline that is intended to run through North Florida into Central Florida will create a huge environmental calamity and contaminate the state’s drink water supply.

Construction on the pipeline began in November and is scheduled to be completed and operating by this summer. But not if citizens concerned about the impact on the state’s water supply and endangered species are successful in getting the government to stop it.

That’s what happened last month in North Dakota, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blocked the continuing construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, where thousands of activists had descended in near freezing temperatures to stop the project from advancing.

Also helping to organize against the Sabal Trail pipeline is Tim Canova, the Nova Southeastern law professor who ran an insurgent campaign against Debbie Wasserman Schultz last summer before falling short in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District.

In his role as the head of the political action group Progress For All, Canova announced a petition drive last month to oppose the pipeline. More than 89,000 signatures have now signed on to petition at Change.org.

“It’s not a question of if this pipeline will leak, but when,” Canova wrote to members last week. “And when it does, it will undoubtedly pollute one of the world’s largest aquifers which provides 60 percent of drinking water to the nation’s third most populated state. “

Canova says that when he began querying members of Progress For All on what was the top issue that they cared about, opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership topped the list. But following right behind was opposition to fracking and the pipelines used to transmit natural gas through fracking.

The petition now has 89,390 signatures, which Canova says will soon be collected and shown to Florida Senator Bill Nelson.

Local bans against hydraulic fracking have been passed in 80 Florida cities and counties, and GOP state Senator Dana Young from Tampa and Democrat Gary Farmer from Fort Lauderdale are proposing legislation in the upcoming session to ban the practice throughout the state.

US veteran arrested in Ft. Lauderdale airport shooting; 5 dead, 8 wounded

An Army veteran who complained that the government was controlling his mind drew a gun from his checked luggage on arrival at the Fort Lauderdale airport and opened fire in the baggage claim area Friday, killing five people and wounding eight, authorities said.

He was taken into custody after throwing his empty weapon down and lying spread-eagle on the ground, one witness said.

“People started kind of screaming and trying to get out of any door they could or hide under the chairs,” the witness, Mark Lea, told MSNBC. “He just kind of continued coming in, just randomly shooting at people, no rhyme or reason to it.”

The gunman was identified as 26-year-old Esteban Santiago of Anchorage, Alaska, who served in Iraq with the National Guard but was demoted and discharged last year for unsatisfactory performance. His brother said he had been receiving psychological treatment recently.

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that Santiago had walked into the FBI office in Anchorage in November to say that the U.S. government was controlling his mind and making him watch Islamic State videos.

Agents questioned an agitated and disjointed-sounding Santiago and then called police, who took him for a mental health evaluation, according to the official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity. The official said Santiago did not appear intent on hurting anyone.

Authorities said the motive for the attack was under investigation. Shortly after the shooting, and before details of Santiago’s mental health became public, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida said that it remained to be seen whether it was terrorism or the work of “someone who is mentally deranged.”

One witness said the attacker gunned down his victims without a word and kept shooting until he ran out of ammunition for his handgun, sending panicked travelers running out of the terminal and spilling onto the tarmac, baggage in hand.

Others hid in bathroom stalls or crouched behind cars or anything else they could find as police and paramedics rushed in to help the wounded and establish whether there were any other gunmen.

Bruce Hugon, who had flown in from Indianapolis for a vacation, was at the baggage carousel when he heard four or five pops and saw everyone drop down on the ground. He said a woman next to him tried to get up and was shot in the head.

“The guy must have been standing over me at one point. I could smell the gunpowder,” he said. “I thought I was about to feel a piercing pain or nothing at all because I would have been dead.”

It is legal for airline passengers to travel with guns and ammunition as long as the firearms are put in a checked bag – not a carry-on – and are unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container. Guns must be declared to the airline at check-in.

Santiago arrived in Fort Lauderdale after taking off from Anchorage aboard a Delta flight Thursday night, checking only one piece of luggage – his gun, said Jesse Davis, police chief at the Anchorage airport.

At Fort Lauderdale, “after he claimed his bag, he went into the bathroom and loaded the gun and started shooting. We don’t know why,” said Chip LaMarca, a Broward County commissioner who was briefed by investigators.

The bloodshed is likely to raise questions of whether aviation safety officials need to change the rules.

The attack also exposed another weak point in airport security: While travelers have to take off their shoes, put their carry-on luggage through X-ray machines and pass through metal detectors to reach the gates, many other sections of airports, such as ticket counters and baggage claim areas, are more lightly secured and more vulnerable to attack.

In 2013, a gunman with a grudge against the Transportation Security Administration shot and killed one of the agency’s screeners and wounded three others during a rampage at Los Angeles International Airport. Last November, an airline worker was shot and killed near an employee parking lot at Oklahoma City’s airport, and in 2015 a machete-wielding man was shot to death after he attacked federal security officers at the New Orleans airport.

“While we have authorized doubling the number of TSA canine teams to try to prevent tragedies like this, the fact is that wherever there are crowds, such as at our airports, we remain vulnerable to these types of attacks,” Nelson said.

The Fort Lauderdale gunman said nothing as he “went up and down the carousels of the baggage claim, shooting through luggage to get at people that were hiding,” according to Lea. The killer went through about three magazines before running out of ammunition, Lea said.

“He threw the gun down and laid spread-eagle on the ground until the officer came up to him,” Lea said.

The gunman was arrested unharmed, with no shots fired by law enforcement officers, and was being questioned by the FBI, Sheriff Scott Israel said.

The condition of the wounded was not disclosed. At least one of the victims was seen lying in a pool of blood with what appeared to be a head wound.

The airport was shut down, with incoming flights diverted and outgoing flights held on the ground.

President Barack Obama was briefed by his Homeland Security adviser, the White House said. President-elect Donald Trump said that it is a “disgraceful situation that’s happening in our country and throughout the world” and that it was too soon to say whether it was a terrorist attack.

Santiago’s brother, Bryan, told the AP that his brother had been receiving psychological treatment in Alaska. He said Santiago’s girlfriend alerted the family to the situation in recent months. Bryan Santiago said that he didn’t know what his brother was being treated for and that they never talked about it.

He said Esteban Santiago was born in New Jersey and moved to Puerto Rico when he was 2. He was sent to Iraq in 2010 and spent a year there with the 130th Engineer Battalion, according to Puerto Rico National Guard spokesman Maj. Paul Dahlen. He later joined the Alaska National Guard.

The Pentagon said Santiago had gone AWOL several times during his stint with the Alaska National Guard and was demoted – from specialist to private first class – and given a general discharge, which is lower than an honorable discharge.

John Schilcher told Fox News said he came up to the baggage claim and heard the first gunshot as he picked up his bag off a carousel.

“The person next to me fell to the ground and then I started hearing other pops. And as this happened, other people started falling and you could hear it and smell it, and people on either side of me were going down and I just dropped to the ground,” said Schilcher, who was there with his wife and mother-in-law. “The firing just went on and on.”

“I was down on the floor. When we finally looked up there was a policeman standing over me,” he said. “That’s when I assumed it was safe.”

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report, reprinted with permission.

Kathy Castor proposal to maintain ACA’s consumer friendly protections shot down in House vote

On Wednesday, the second day of the 115th Congress, House Republicans began the work of repealing and ultimately replacing the Affordable Care Act, much to the consternation of Democrats like Tampa Representative Kathy Castor.

Castor advocated for an amendment to a bill that was being debated that would maintain the consumer friendly provisions of the ACA, such as the cost saving provisions for Medicare prescription drugs, as well as the provision that prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

“The Affordable Care Act, which Republicans say they want to repeal without a replacement in sight, provided very important consumer protections for all Americas, not just 20 million Americans who gained health insurance through the marketplace of healthcare.gov, ” Castor said on the House floor.

She said that the repeal of the ACA would impact the approximately 43 million people on Medicare, and the 155 million people who currently receive health care through their employer.

“If Republicans aren’t careful in their zeal to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they in essence will be asking  our parents and grandparents to pay more. A whole lot more,” she said.

Castor went on to say that the ACA had also been able to reduce the “donut hole” in Medicare coverage. That’s the coverage gap in one’s insurance plan that begins after after one has paid a certain amount for covered drugs.

“My amendment makes the point that Democrats are going to fight for our older neighbors to keep those savings intact, brought to you by the Affordable Care Act,” Castor said.

The Tampa Democrat was attempting to add the motion to a bill sponsored by California Republican Darrell Issa that would repeal in a single vote any rule finalized in the last 60 days of the Obama administration. But the House rejected a motion Castor to send the bill back to committee.

On Thursday, Florida Senator Bill Nelson filed his own amendment under a broader bill under debate that would prevent the Senate from considering any legislation that repeals ACA’s provisions aimed at closing the donut hole in Medicare coverage.

“Closing this gap in coverage, known as the donut hole, has helped seniors in Florida save nearly $1,000 a year,” Nelson said. “Why would you want to get rid of that? We should be looking for ways to lower – not increase – the cost of prescription drugs, especially for our seniors.”

Rick Kriseman formally announces he’s running for re-election

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman filed for re-election Thursday.

“I’m asking the citizens of St. Petersburg to continue the progress of the past three years,” the mayor said in a statement. “Working together, we’ve taken on the serious issues and made a positive impact in all corners of our city.”

The announcement comes nearly three years to the day that Kriseman was sworn into office. It had been mostly smooth sailing for the former city councilman and state representative until issues with the town’s sewage system occurred last summer.

That’s led to some of the toughest criticism of his time in office for how his office has handled the situation.

St. Pete was already on the rise when Kriseman defeated Bill Foster by 12 percentage points in November 2013 and has continued to see unprecedented growth over the following three years.

As the Tampa Bay Times wrote in an editorial over the weekend, “No question St. Petersburg is on a roll. Is that because of City Hall or in spite of it?”

The Times also noted the rising cost of the new Pier, the lack of creating jobs in Midtown’s poorer neighborhoods and the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field as issues that voters will need to consider this fall. In his statement issued out by campaign manager Tom Alte, the Kriseman administration is taking credit for moving forward on the issues of the Rays and the Pier.

“Under the leadership of Mayor Kriseman, St. Petersburg has resolved numerous high-profile issues, including resolving the stalemate with the Tampa Bay Rays, moving forward with a community-based plan to build a new pier, hiring a new police chief, and finding the funding needed for construction of a new police station,” it reads.

Since his election, Kriseman has signed legislation allowing for paid parental leave for employees, a higher minimum wage, and second chances for minors.

He’s also elevated the city’s profile through the pursuit of a Cuban consulate, picking up the void left by his friend across the bay, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, after he declined to get involved in that campaign.

“We’ve become the beacon of progress I spoke about on the steps of City Hall more than three years ago — but there is still work to do,” Kriseman said. “We must continue our efforts to combat gun violence and intervene in the lives of our troubled youth. We must do our part to make the sun shine bright on every student in every single public school.

“And we must upgrade our wastewater and stormwater systems as soon as possible if we’re serious about being a true 21st-century City.

“Our residents, business owners, and community groups are interested in action and progress, not politics. They want a mayor who faces challenges head-on and gets things done. I’ve been that mayor,” Kriseman said. “I know that we can solve any issue as long as we work together. I remain optimistic and excited about where the Sunshine City is heading.”

Throughout most of his tenure, the mayor’s poll numbers have been good, with his handling of the sewage system being his only real Achilles’ heel.

While the issues surrounding the Pier and the Rays have yet to be completely solved, they haven’t dented his popularity, which is unlike the case with Foster.

As of today, seemingly the only man in the way of another four years is former Mayor Rick Baker, who led St. Petersburg from 2001-2009. A St. Pete Polls survey conducted last month of 1,100 votes showed Baker with a surprisingly solid lead over Kriseman, 44 percent to 35 percent.

No other person in the poll mentioned — Jeff Brandes, Amy Foster, Steve Kornell or Karl Nurse — came close to defeating Kriseman (None of those lawmakers, it should be noted, have expressed any interest in running for mayor).

Baker has also been circumspect about another run for office. Since leaving City Hall in 2009, Baker declined opportunities to run for Florida’s 13th Congressional District on two separate occasions. Since 2012, he has served as president of The Edwards Group, the umbrella company that oversees all the enterprises of entrepreneur Bill Edwards.

Included in Kriseman’s re-election statement were endorsements from Sen. Bill Nelson and CD 13 Rep. Charlie Crist.

“Our residents, business owners, and community groups are interested in action and progress, not politics,” Kriseman said. “They want a mayor who faces challenges head-on and gets things done. I’ve been that mayor.”

“I know that we can solve any issue as long as we work together,” he added. “I remain optimistic and excited about where the Sunshine City is heading.”

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Mitch Perry Report for 1.5.17 – Poll says voters want Dems like Bill Nelson to fight Donald Trump when necessary

We’ve heard from several Florida Democrats (such as Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist) that, when appropriate, they look forward to working with President-elect Donald Trump once he takes office later this month.

The question for them and other Democrats concerned about their own poll numbers as well as what’s good for the country is where and when they decide to go along with Trump and, more likely, when do they oppose him.

On a conference call yesterday, the folks with the Center for American Progress provided the details about a new poll they conducted in 14 battleground states where Democrats like Bill Nelson will be running for re-election in ’18. The survey concluded that a majority of the public want Senate Democrats to serve as a check and balance on the new president and congressional Republicans even if it means blocking his initiatives “on many occasions.”

That could be a challenge for Nelson, who, on occasion, can be progressive, but also likes to maintain a centrist mien, especially when election time comes around.

Well, good luck to him on that one, because he’s being challenged right now by his supporters here in the Tampa Bay area. Yesterday, dozens came to call on him to, at the very least, call for a delay in the confirmation vote scheduled for next week for Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump’s choice for Attorney General.

One area where Nelson one might be surmise he’ll stick with his liberal colleagues is in acting as a bulwark to defend the Affordable Care Act.

“They want to repeal it and then try to hang it on us. Not gonna happen. It’s their responsibility, plain and simple,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said at a news conference.

Dems have been pushing the reality that if the Republicans have a legitimate vehicle to replace the ACA with, nobody really knows what it is. And no doubt, some in the GOP might be fearing the repercussions of taking away people’s care.

“Republicans must be careful in that the Dems own the failed ObamaCare disaster, with its poor coverage and massive premium increases……like the 116% hike in Arizona,” Trump tweeted yesterday, adding, “Also, deductibles are so high that it is practically useless. Don’t let the Schumer clowns out of this web…massive increases of ObamaCare will take place this year and Dems are to blame for the mess. It will fall of its own weight – be careful!”

Meanwhile, Schumer’s office said yesterday that the Democrats are targeting eight Trump Cabinet nominees for extra scrutiny, name checking Rex Tillerson, Betsy DeVos, Steven Mnuchin, Scott Pruitt, Mick Mulvaney, Tom Price, Andy Puzder and Wilbur Ross.

Schumer said he wants their full paperwork before hearings are scheduled, adding that only a few have turned it in while most haven’t. Schumer said he also wants their tax returns, particularly because some are billionaires and given the potential for conflicts of interest.

Those hearings begin next week.

In other news…

The race for the Florida Democratic Party gets crazier by the day. Yesterday we learned that 13 members of the Miami-County DEC filed a complaint with the FDP regarding the circumstances that have allowed Coconut Grove real estate developer and donor Stephen Bittel to be eligible for the party chair position. Earlier in the day, Tampa’s (or should we say Bradford’s) Alan Clendenin was shooting down a complaint filed against him regarding the circumstances that have allowed him to become eligible in the race.

The House of Representatives is poised to vote on condemning President Obama and the UN for that resolution last month castigating Israel for continuing to build settlements in the West Bank. The resolution was written by Polk County’s Dennis Ross.

And newly sworn-in Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren celebrated his victory on Tuesday night with friends and family in Tampa Heights.

Activists want Bill Nelson to delay confirmation hearing on AG nominee Jeff Sessions

Of the many Cabinet choices made by President-elect Donald Trump, some of the strongest opposition centers around the nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.

Wednesday morning in Tampa, a group of activists spoke with officials in Sen. Bill Nelson‘s district office, calling on him at the very least to call for a delay a vote on Sessions’ confirmation, scheduled for January 10. Outside, a couple of dozen more concerned citizens held signs and spoke to reporters about their opposition to the Alabama Republican.

“We think that over the course of his career, Sen. Sessions used the power of the courts to discriminate against civil rights leaders, allegedly using racially charged language to disparage minorities, expressed support for the KKK and then tried to dismiss it as a joke,” said Toni Van Pelt, the president of the Pinellas County-based Institute for Science and Human Values.

“He celebrated the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, opposed same-sex marriage, denied the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade, voted against greater access for health care for veterans, blocked the paycheck fairness act, and voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act,” Van Pelt added

“He should not be the Attorney General of the United States.”

Other groups represented at the rally included the Tampa Bay Coalition of Reason, the Clearwater Unitarian Universalist Church, AAUW, Suncoast Humanist Society, Atheists of Florida and Center for Inquiry-Tampa Bay, and numerous Bay area chapters of the National Organization for Women.

The reason for the call to delay next Tuesday’s confirmation hearing is that the groups allege that Sessions has failed to provide media interviews, speeches, op-eds and more from his time as U.S. attorney in Alabama, the state’s attorney general and his first term as senator, from 1997 through 2002. As reported by CNN, the progressive groups contend that Sessions listed just 20 media interviews, 16 speeches outside the Senate, two op-eds, an academic article and a training manual, as well as just 11 clips of interviews with print publications — including none before 2003.

Sandra Weeks, with the West Pinellas County chapter of NOW, rapped Sessions for failing to disclose his long history with Breitbart News, the conservative website that was formerly run by Steve Bannon, now serving as chief White House strategist in the incoming Trump administration.

Weeks cited the fact that Bannon once called Sessions “one of the intellectual, moral leaders of this populist, nationalist movement in this country,” which was just reported Tuesday by the Huffington Post.

A spokesman for Senator Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, told CNN on Sunday that Sessions has been forthcoming with information on his questionnaire.

“The notion that Sen. Sessions — somebody who committee members have known and served beside for 20 years — hasn’t made a good-faith effort to supply the committee with responsive material is preposterous,” said a spokeswoman for Grassley. “It’s been clear from the day Senator Sessions’ nomination was announced that the left-wing advocacy groups aren’t interested in a fair process and just want a fight. We trust the minority committee members will have the courage to give Senator Sessions the fair and respectful process he deserves.”

Nadine Smith, the head of Equality Florida, met with staffers in Senator Nelson’s office. She calls the Florida Senator “an absolute statesman,” but said that “these are the times that call for people with some fight in the belly.”

“We can’t start normalizing this sexist bigotry, this racism, and this is the place where you draw the line, and you fight back and you hope the senator will hear that message and understand that there’s an awful lot of us who have his back if he’s willing to fight as hard he’s needed to,” Smith said.

Nelson is up for re-election in 2018.

When asked if she’ll continue to support him if he were to vote to confirm Sessions later this month, Smith replied: “I think that anyone who normalizes this administration’s horrific cabinet selections (and) does not demand a level of vetting, will lose the confidence of voters in Florida.”

Last November, just 10 days after Trump was elected, FloridaPolitics asked Nelson his thoughts on the nomination of Sessions to be AG.

“I will certainly reserve judgment if he is the nominee until we go through the hearings and it comes to the full Senate for a vote,” Nelson said at a news conference at his downtown Tampa district office.

“I can tell you that Jeff Sessions and I have worked on a number of pieces of legislation together in a bipartisan way and I’ve always had a very good working relationship with him.”

Last year, Nelson and Sessions worked on a bill that would reduce the number of H-1B visas from 85,000 to 70,000 a year. The filing of that bill came following reports Disney and other companies are using the visas to cut costs at the expense of American workers.

On Tuesday, more than 1,200 faculty members from law schools around the nation wrote to Grassley and Judiciary ranking member Diane Feinstein, calling on them to reject the Sessions nomination.

A poll released by the liberal Center for American Progress on Wednesday showed that by a 61 percent to 25 percent margin, voters in the battleground states (like Florida) want Senate Democrats to be an independent check and balance on Donald Trump, even if this means opposing Trump’s policies on many occasions. Fifty-six percent of these voters want Senate Democrats to try to block Trump’s plans on many occasions. Across all 14 states in the survey, 59 percent of voters want their Democratic senator to be an independent check and balance on Donald Trump, compared with just 28 percent who want their senator to mainly support Donald Trump’s policies.

“Senator Nelson always appreciates hearing from his constituents and will certainly take their views into consideration if Sen. Sessions’ nomination comes before the full Senate for a vote,” said Nelson spokesman Ryan Brown.

 

Marco Rubio picks up appropriations, aging panels; Nelson’s committees unchanged

Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has picked up a seat on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee in the 115th Congress to go along with his appointments to the foreign relations and intelligence committees while Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson‘s remained unchanged from the previous Congress.

Rubio also received a seat on the Special Committee on Aging. He also will continue on the Committee on Small Business ands Entrepreneurship.

Nelson will remain on the Armed Services, Finance, Aging and Commerce committees. He will remain as the ranking member on the Commerce Committee.

“With so many threats to America’s national security around the world, I look forward to continuing my work on the foreign relations and intelligence committees,” Rubio stated in a news release. “In the days and weeks ahead, we must reestablish America’s moral standing in the world, and make it absolutely clear that the United States will remain a true friend of Israel and a beacon of hope and freedom to oppressed people everywhere. The challenges posed by countries like Cuba, Iran, Russia, China and North Korea will require decisive American leadership and resolve.”

Rick Scott’s political committee raises more than $2.9M in 2016

Gov. Rick Scott continued to grow his war chest in 2016, raising millions of dollars amid speculation he plans to mount a U.S. Senate bid in two years.

State records show Let’s Get to Work — the political committee that fueled Scott’s 2010 and 2014 gubernatorial races — raised more than $2.9 million in 2016. And that sum will likely rise, since the most recent campaign finance data does not include money raised in December.

The committee spent more than $2.5 million this year, including $227,666 for political consulting and $76,264 on surveys and research.

Scott can’t run for re-election in 2018 because of term limits, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be on the ballot. In November, Scott told reporters he was considering challenging U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018.

“It’s an option,” he said at the time, according to POLITICO Florida. “It’s an option I have. But right now, my whole focus is how do I do my best job as governor.”

He could face a tough race if he decides to challenge Nelson. The Orlando Democrat has served in the U.S. Senate since 2001. A recent poll from the Florida Chamber Political Institute showed 48 percent of Floridians approve of the job Nelson is doing in the U.S. Senate. The same survey showed 53 percent of Floridians approve of the job Scott is doing as governor.

But a recent Gravis Marketing poll conducted for the Orlando Political Observer indicated Nelson is the early favorite in 2018. The poll of 3,250 registered Florida voters showed the Orlando Democrat had a double-digit lead over Scott.

In a head-to-head match-up between Nelson and Scott, the poll showed Nelson would receive 51 percent compared to Scott’s 38 percent.

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