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Florida politicians react to Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court

President Donald Trump is nominating influential conservative Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court as he seeks to shift the nation’s highest court further to the right.

Trump chose the 53-year-old federal appellate judge for the seat opened up by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kavanaugh would be less receptive to abortion and gay rights than Kennedy was.

Kavanaugh is Trump’s second high court pick after Justice Neil Gorsuch. Kavanaugh and Gorsuch served as law clerks to Kennedy at the same time early in their legal careers.

Kavanaugh is a longtime fixture of the Republican legal establishment. He has been a judge on the federal appeals court in Washington since 2006. He also was a key aide to Kenneth Starr during his investigation of President Bill Clinton and worked in the White House during George W. Bush’s presidency.

Here is a running compilation of reactions from Florida’s elected officials and politicians:

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson:

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio:

“Brett Kavanaugh is a qualified, mainstream jurist who possesses the right temperament and experience for the position, and I’m pleased to see his nomination to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

“My decision on whether to ultimately support Kavanaugh’s nomination will be based on his commitment to original intent, judicial restraint, and the understanding that the Supreme Court is a ‘trier of law’ appellate court and not a ‘trier of fact’ trial court.

“This is critically important because too many in the federal judicial system today believe it is appropriate for judges to craft new policies and rights instead of interpreting and defending the Constitution as written.

“Regrettably, Senate Democrats made up their minds to oppose this nomination long before tonight’s announcement. I would remind them that just over a year-and-a-half ago the American people elected the president and a Republican-controlled Senate.

“Nevertheless, I am hopeful for a fair and thorough confirmation process as the Senate carefully examines and deliberates Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.”

Gov. Rick Scott:

Gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis:

Gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam:

Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham:

“Donald Trump has nominated another Supreme Court justice who does not believe women have the right to make our own health care decisions. If Brett Kavanaugh is appointed to the court, Roe v. Wade is gravely at risk of being overturned.

“Florida: this is not a drill. If Roe v. Wade is overturned and Adam Putnam or Ron DeSantis are elected governor, women will lose our rights to make our own health care decisions.

‘They would outlaw abortion within a year and appoint judges who will decimate Florida’s constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy.

“As governor, I will veto any legislation that limits a woman’s right to choose and I will appoint state Supreme Court Justices who will uphold our right to make our own health care decisions.”

Gubernatorial candidate Chris King:

“In Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump has picked a nominee who threatens to roll back the clock on America — and with few allies in Washington, this fight now falls to the states.

“We’ve got to elect bold, progressive leaders who will stand up to the political establishment and fight for civil rights, workers’ rights and women’s health care — no matter what Donald Trump and his nominee have to say about it.”

Gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine:

“It’s more imperative than ever that reasonable Republicans join Democrats to complete a thorough vetting. Too much legal precedent is at stake — from preserving Roe V Wade to LGBT protections — we refuse to turn the clock back on the protections enshrined by a balanced court!”

Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum:

“With his pick of Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump has done everything in his power to push the Supreme Court into the world of ultra-conservatism.

“A woman’s right to make her own health care decisions is at risk. Voting rights are at risk. Collective bargaining is at risk.

‘Here in Florida, Rick Scott will try to stack our Supreme Court in his final hours in office. We must hold the line on the three impending Florida Supreme Court vacancies, and when I am Governor-Elect, my Administration will use every tool available to ensure Floridians have their voices heard in their justice system.”

Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw:

Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody:

Attorney General candidate Frank White:

Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz:

“I commend President Trump for his selection of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

“He is an excellent jurist, with a deep and abiding reverence for the Constitution. I have no doubt that, when confirmed, Justice Kavanaugh will serve America’s highest court with honor and integrity.

“I also commend President Trump for maintaining the same transparent selection process that he used when he appointed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Like Justice Gorsuch, Judge Kavanaugh was on President Trump’s list of potential candidates. Making this list available offered the American public great transparency, and an opportunity to learn about each potential candidate.

“With this nomination, President Trump has helped shape the future of jurisprudence in America for generations to come, by ensuring that the Supreme Court will faithfully uphold the Constitution as written. This is a good day for Judge Kavanaugh, for the rule of law, and for the United States of America.”

Republican Congressman Neal Dunn:

“In announcing Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination for the Supreme Court, President Trump has taken another tangible step to secure the Constitution and ensure that the people of the United States remain pre-eminent, not the government. This is a victory for everyone who cherishes our nation’s conservative values. I urge the Senate to act quickly and confirm Judge Kavanaugh.”

Republican Congressman Daniel Webster:

“On the campaign, President Trump promised his Supreme Court pick nominee would be a jurist who is dedicated to freedom, the rule of law, and to preserving our liberties as enshrined in the Constitution of the United States. He also promised a transparent selection process.

“With the nomination of Justice [NeilGorsuch and now Judge Kavanaugh, President Trump has kept his promises.”

Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch:

“With his nomination of Judge Kavanaugh, President Trump is attempting to advance a radical ideological shift of the Supreme Court that will threaten settled fundamental rights and challenge the right of every American to access affordable, high-quality health care. We know that the president has targeted the Affordable Care Act.

“He ordered his Justice Department to stop defending the Affordable Care Act. He ordered Republicans in Congress to do everything they could to weaken the law and drive up prices. And now he wants to use the third branch of government to finish the job.

“We know Judge Kavanaugh’s record. If you have a pre-existing condition and benefit from those protections, your coverage is now at risk. Americans with disabilities, nursing mothers, and others who are covered by the ACA’s basic protections are now at a greater risk of discrimination, skyrocketing costs, and loss of coverage. There is no longer a theoretical threat to Roe v. Wade.

“With this nominee, President Trump fulfilled his campaign promise of nominating justices who are hostile to women’s reproductive rights.

“If confirmed, the conservative wing of the court — composed of five men — will be poised to strip women of the freedom to make their own health choices and control their own futures. If Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed, the Supreme Court could so severely weaken women’s right to privacy that even access to basic contraception would be at stake.

“President Trump’s decision to nominate Judge Kavanaugh to serve on the Supreme Court means that important precedents that have moved America forward toward a more equal and just society could be shredded. The Senate now has the responsibility to protect Americans from an ideologically-driven nominee whose confirmation would create a Supreme Court bent on setting America decades back in time.”

Democratic Congressman Charlie Crist:

“A lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land is an awesome responsibility. Justices must be committed to upholding our Constitution, upholding the rights provided by it to ALL Americans, and upholding an independent judiciary where no one is above the law.

“I have serious concerns with Judge Kavanaugh’s views on presidential authority, whether the executive is accountable under the law, and the threat his record may pose to civil rights and the right to choose.

“The Senate must carefully, thoroughly, and methodically vet Judge Kavanaugh before his nomination is brought to a vote.”

Congressional candidate David Richardson:

Congressional candidate Alvin Brown:

“Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh will be a rubber-stamp for this Administration’s extreme, right-wing agenda.

“With Kavanaugh on the bench, our values and the fundamental rights of generations to come are on the line. From access to affordable health care and reproductive health, to labor unions, gun safety and civil rights, Brett Kavanaugh cannot be trusted.”

“He has a long, troubling record on issues that impact everyday Americans’ lives, and the Senate must reject Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh has no business anywhere near the highest court in the land.”

Americans for Prosperity — Florida:

“We commend President Trump for nominating Judge Kavanaugh and keeping his promise to select a jurist with a sterling record of judicial restraint and a commitment to the Constitution, both of which are vital to serving on the highest court.

“Sen. Nelson put politics above country when he stated before a nominee was even announced that he was likely to oppose the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh. But Judge Kavanaugh’s record deserves his consideration and support.

“Floridians deserve Senators with objectivity during this process — Senators who will assess the nominee based on his interpretation of the Constitution, instead of coming to a pre-determined conclusion based on D.C. politics. We urge Sen. Nelson to support Judge Kavanaugh and put Floridians over politics.”

Progress Florida:

“Whether you care about access to health care, reproductive rights, voting rights, protecting our environment, LGBT equality, or criminal justice reform, the fate of them all hang in the balance. Kavanaugh tried to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.

“He believes the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is unconstitutional and time and time again he has sided with large companies over the interests of consumers. And Kavanaugh’s writings clearly demonstrate that he would allow Donald Trump’s abuses of power to go unchecked.

“Recent Supreme Court decisions are a stark reminder of the damage already wrought by one Trump appointment to the high court. Worker’s rights, women’s access to health care and voting rights have all been diminished during the just-concluded Supreme Court term.

“We cannot let President Trump take over the court for the next 40 years with justices like Brett Kavanaugh, who would rewrite the Constitution and roll back a century of progress on civil and human rights.”

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia:

“It is a historic occurrence for a President to nominate a Supreme Court Justice. And now, President Trump gets a second opportunity to deliver for this nation’s highest court in less than two years.

“Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh is an immensely qualified candidate with a record of adhering to the rule of law and the original text of our finest document, the Constitution.

“A champion of our nation’s legal heritage, Kavanaugh will serve the court honorably while protecting individual liberty. We urge the swift confirmation of Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. This ‘Coach K’ is another winner.”

Material from The Associated Press was used in this post.

Survey from pro-life group says Florida voters want Bill Nelson to vote to confirm Trump SCOTUS pick

The national anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List group has some unsolicited advice for Sen. Bill Nelson and a poll to back it up.

Per a phone survey of 500 Florida voters, conducted by the Tarrance Group July 5th through 8th, the electorate wants Nelson to vote to confirm President Donald Trump‘s pick for the latest vacancy on the United States Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh.

The poll, with an MOE of 4.9 percent, revealed 56 percent of Florida voters want Nelson to vote to confirm, and that 54 percent want the Florida Legislature to decide abortion policy.

“Florida voters agree: Senator Bill Nelson must vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court,” said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser.

“Kavanaugh is an outstanding choice to replace Justice Kennedy and fulfills President Trump’s promise to nominate only originalist judges who respect the Constitution. The voters who elected President Trump trust him to make this nomination. They are eager to see Kavanaugh confirmed and the power to legislate on abortion restored to the American people, not activist courts,” Dannenfelser maintained.

“SBA List is mobilizing the pro-life grassroots nationwide and in key Senate battleground states like Florida to urge the Senate to swiftly confirm Judge Kavanaugh. Nelson and other vulnerable senators up for re-election this year have a choice: stand with the President and their constituents and confirm a Supreme Court justice who will respect and uphold the Constitution, or cave to pressure from the extreme abortion lobby,” Dannenfelser warned.

CNN contends that Trump did not discuss abortion rights with Kavanaugh. In 2006, when confirmed to the D.C. Circuit Court, the nominee vowed to follow Roe V. Wade “faithfully and fully,” reports NBC.

However, Sen. Chuck Schumer, leader of the Senate Democrats, urged a confirmation fight.

For his part, Sen. Nelson has not committed his vote either way in the upcoming confirmation debate.

However, a tweet Monday night suggests his concerns aren’t those of the anti-abortion lobby.

Florida political groups split on SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh

President Donald Trump announced his nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy Monday night: Brett Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh, 53, has been a judge on the federal appeals court in Washington since 2006. And depending on which side of the aisle is asked, his nomination is either a godsend or a nightmare.

For conservative group Americans for Prosperity-Florida, it’s the former. Minutes after Trump introduced Kavanaugh on live TV, the Koch brothers-backed group lauded the president and his nominee.

“We commend President Trump for nominating Judge Kavanaugh and keeping his promise to select a jurist with a sterling record of judicial restraint and a commitment to the Constitution, both of which are vital to serving on the highest court,” the group said in a statement.

AFP-FL also put Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on notice —it plans to spend seven-figures on ads and grassroots mobilization to drum up support for Trump’s second SCOTUS pick.

“Sen. Nelson put politics above country when he stated before a nominee was even announced that he was likely to oppose the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh. But Judge Kavanaugh’s record deserves his consideration and support. Floridians deserve Senators with objectivity during this process – Senators who will assess the nominee based on his interpretation of the Constitution, instead of coming to a pre-determined conclusion based on D.C. politics. We urge Sen. Nelson to support Judge Kavanaugh and put Floridians over politics.”

For Floridians for a Fair Shake, Kavanaugh’s nomination is seen as a “grave threat health care access.”

“Unable to repeal health care outright, the president and Congressional Republicans have resorted to sabotage, which is driving up costs, limiting access, and creating instability in the health care market,” said the progressive group’s communications director, Stephen Gaskill.

“Now, President Trump has the opportunity to deliver a death blow to the Affordable Care Act and reproductive rights. Brett Kavanaugh’s record proves him to be an extremist who will undercut the progress we’ve made in bringing affordable health care to everyone. His nomination must not lead to confirmation for this lifetime seat.”

The Florida Why Courts Matter Coalition was equally dour, with executive director Mark Ferrulo saying the nomination would “roll back a century of progress on civil and human rights.”

“Whether you care about access to health care, reproductive rights, voting rights, protecting our environment, LGBT equality, or criminal justice reform, the fate of them all hang in the balance,” he said.

“Kavanaugh tried to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. He believes the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is unconstitutional and time and time again he has sided with large companies over the interests of consumers. And Kavanaugh’s writings clearly demonstrate that he would allow Donald Trump’s abuses of power to go unchecked.

“Recent Supreme Court decisions are a stark reminder of the damage already wrought by one Trump appointment to the high court. Worker’s rights, women’s access to health care and voting rights have all been diminished during the just concluded Supreme Court term.”

Due to changes made during the confirmation process for Justice Neil Gorsuch, it will only take 51 votes to confirm Kavanaugh in the Senate.

Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate, and even with the extended absence of Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain, a GOP senator would have to break rank in order for Kavanaugh’s nomination to not result in him getting a seat on the Supreme Court.

Outside organization attacks Bill Nelson’s budget history in new TV ad

Floridians will soon see yet another television ad attacking their Democratic U.S. Senator, Bill Nelson, as he vies to keep his seat in November against challenger Rick Scott.

In the ad, Nelson, a longtime federal lawmaker, is criticized for failing to pass federal budgets, which has happened eight times during his tenure in Congress, according to the ad. It also attacks the Senator for not preventing six separate government shutdowns and for voting for “trillions in spending and billions in higher taxes.” 

“Most Americans know how important it is that Washington stay within its budget. After all, our families have one,” the voice-over says in the ad. “But Washington has its own way and seems to ignore their responsibility to pass a budget.”

The 30-second spot ends by prompting Floridians to call Nelson and “tell him it’s time for him to finally do his job and pass a responsible budget.”

The ad follows a barrage of negativity flowing from the Scott campaign, the latest instance depicting Nelson as “toeing the party line” over judicial nominations.

The latest affront, however, isn’t funded by the Republican governor, or any committee attached to his Senate campaign. It’s backed by America Next, a conservative organization that claims to be uninterested in winning elections, instead focused on “winning the war of ideas,” according to the organization’s mission statement.

Still, the Scott campaign likely doesn’t mind the outside intervention; the Governor’s depicted himself as a Washington outsider who’s ready to change things up. And just last month he unveiled a campaign promise to push a proposal that would stem paychecks to members of Congress when they fail to pass a budget, a platform point complemented by America Next’s latest ad.

Scott has also promised to fight for term limits, supermajority approval for tax and fee increases, and a presidential line-item veto.

Watch the ad here or below:

Ka-ching: Rick Scott touts ‘record breaking’ fundraising number

Rick Scott‘s campaign for U.S. Senate says it broke a record: It raised $10.7 million in the second quarter of 2018.

That more than triples the best effort of any quarter by his opponent, incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

The $10.7 million figure — “a historic amount that surpasses any other national Senate campaign” — also does not reflect any of Scott’s own personal money spent on the campaign.

The final tally included more than 11,000 contributors, 80 percent of whom live in Florida; 75 percent of all contributors gave less than $500.

Only 3.2 percent of the contributions came from political action committees (though one would expect those contributions to be higher than that $500 threshold, when the official Federal Elections Commission report drops later this month).

Scott, the state’s two-term governor, asserts in the release that the $10.7 million haul is “sending a message to Washington that the time of career politicians is over – and our momentum is not slowing down.”

Florida Finance Chairwoman Darlene Jordan had a similar take: “This historic more than $10.7 million fundraising quarter shows that the opportunity to elect Governor Rick Scott and send a career politician back home has Floridians more excited than ever before.”

National Finance Chairman Thomas O. Hicks was likewise on the same page, asserting that “Americans across the country have made it clear that they are ready to have a real leader in Washington, and every single dollar raised puts us one step closer to electing Governor Rick Scott to the U.S. Senate.”

Scott has been a well-traveled fundraiser, with events from coast to coast. What’s clear is that he has buy in from a large swath of the nation’s elite in addition to the grassroots support touted.

Thus far, asserts the release, Scott has not had to contribute to his own campaign — a change from his 2010 and 2014 races, where he spent $75 million to get elected and another $12.8 million in the re-election bid.

Nelson, according to the March FEC filing, had $10,524,453 on hand. It will be interesting to see how the fundraising quarter affected his numbers.

Dike repair money coming amid algae woes

As calls grow for state action to deal with toxic algae blooms in Southeast and Southwest Florida, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced funding is in place to speed repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee.

The Army Corps’ Jacksonville office said Thursday that $514.2 million is heading toward repairs of the dike, which is basically a 30-foot-high earthen structure that surrounds the lake. An overall $17.4 billion in funding for the Corps includes additional money for beach restoration and coastal flood control in Florida.

Gov. Rick Scott and other state and federal officials from Florida have been clamoring for increased funding for the dike project, which had been scheduled for completion in 2025. The state approved $50 million in each of the past two years to speed up the federal project, which, with the newly announced money, is now expected to be done in 2022.

The dike money has become a political issue as Scott challenges Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in November.

Through his campaign, Scott took the opportunity of the Army Corps’ announcement to criticize Nelson.

“In April 2017, I announced my goal of fixing the Herbert Hoover Dike by 2022,” Scott said in a statement from his campaign. “I’m glad to see that Bill Nelson finally supports my plan.”

Nelson, who in May 2017 was among Florida lawmakers pushing legislation to speed Everglades-restoration projects, spent Thursday in Fort Myers and Stuart talking about the algae issue and in a tweet called the Army Corps’ new dike timeline “huge news.”

The repairs are considered an essential step in allowing the lake to hold more water, which would reduce the need for discharges into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee river estuaries to the east and west. Residents on both coasts blame polluted water releases from the lake for what has become an annual summer outbreak of toxic algae blooms in the rivers.

Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney tweeted that fast-tracking the dike repairs is “great news for FL waterways.” U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, another Florida Republican, said the funding “clears the deck” for officials to focus on other efforts to improve South Florida waters, including a planned reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area that is also aimed at helping prevent harmful discharges into the waterways.

On Thursday, state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, a Fort Myers Republican, wrote a letter to Scott requesting a state of emergency in the Lee County area due to red tide and blue-green algae blooms in the Caloosahatchee River and along the Southwest Florida coast.

“We must warn our residents and unsuspecting tourists of the potential risks of swimming, fishing, consuming fish caught from the Caloosahatchee or the Gulf waters and of any other recreational water sports during this outbreak,” Fitzenhagen wrote.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor, on Friday urged Scott to issue an executive order hiring companies to remove algae on the lake’s surface.

The dike repair money is part of $3.348 billion in federal disaster recovery funds the Jacksonville office is getting to reduce flooding risks in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Florida is expected to see about $815 million of the federal money, with the bulk — more than $2.5 million — headed to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

Florida is also getting money for coastal flood risk management in various areas, including Miami-Dade County, $158 million; St. Johns County, $36.8 million; Palm Beach County, $25 million; St. Lucie County, $20.3 million; Flagler County, $17.5 million; and Manatee County, $14.3 million.

Also, federal beach-hardening projects in Brevard, Broward, Duval, Lee, Nassau and Sarasota counties will each get $2 million.

Rick Scott lambastes Bill Nelson for ‘toeing the party line’ on judicial nominations

Gov. Rick Scott‘s Senate campaign rarely goes more than a couple of days without a new ad, and the latest spots have excoriated incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson for voting with the Democratic Party on judicial nominations.

The timing of these spots: no accident, as President Donald Trump has vowed to identify his next Supreme Court nominee Monday.

Following on the “Rubber Stamp” ad rolled out earlier this week, “Toe the Line” hammers home the likelihood that Nelson won’t support that nomination, linking it to a career record of voting with former Sen. Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, heeding “party bosses” in the bargain.

The spot also notes that Nelson did not oppose any of the 700+ judges nominated by Democratic presidents.

Lauren Schenone, the Scott campaign’s press secretary, asserts that Nelson’s position on Trump’s second high court nomination shows that the three-term senator “cares more about Democratic Party bosses than the Floridians he serves.”

“He toed the party line with Hillary Clinton, President Obama and hundreds of judicial nominations under democratic presidents — and just last week, Nelson admitted that he expects to vote against the Supreme Court nominee, before even knowing their name,” Schenone lamented.

This spot, which will air on TV and digital formats, is another indication of divergent strategies between the Scott and Nelson campaigns.

Scott has been more active with ad buys than has Nelson, who is holding his resources until later in the campaign season.

Rick Scott charges Bill Nelson with being Democratic ‘rubber stamp’ on judicial votes

Gov. Rick Scott is in Kuwait, visiting American troops, but his campaign operation continues to slam Sen. Bill Nelson for being a party-line voter in the Senate.

A new ad, “Rubber Stamp,” levies the charges related to judicial votes, asserting that “President Obama nominated more than 300 judges … Nelson did not vote against a single one.”

The ad deems Nelson to be “a complete party line politician … a rubber stamp for party leaders [who] voted against Supreme Court Justice [Neil] Gorsuch.”

Nelson did oppose Gorsuch, in a move some Democrats saw as a hedge against a primary challenge. Now it’s a talking point for his general election challenger.

“Bill Nelson’s voting history shows that he puts partisan politics before Floridians, even when it comes to something as important as judicial nominations,” said Lauren Schenone, Press Secretary for Scott for Florida.

“Bill Nelson didn’t vote against a single one of Obama’s judicial nominees, but he obeyed party leaders in voting against Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch and decided to vote against a Florida judicial appointee he personally recommended once Chuck Schumer told him to. That’s because Bill Nelson isn’t in Washington to be a leader for Florida — he’s in Washington to be a rubber stamp for Democrats,” Schenone charges.

Judge keeps housing aid in place for Puerto Rican hurricane survivors facing eviction

With federal housing aid for Puerto Rican survivors of Hurricane Maria set to expire Saturday, more than 1,700 people face eviction from their temporary residences. Now, a federal judge has put those evictions on hold.

A lawsuit filed in Massachusetts by LatinoJustice PRLDEF, a national advocacy group, resulted in U.S. District Judge Leo T. Sorokin blocking the federal government from ending their aid to storm survivors.

Many who lost their home during Hurricane Maria qualified for Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA), which is operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The TSA pays for temporary housing, such as hotels.

But the aid was set to expire Saturday after FEMA declined to extend it. That decision was blocked by Judge Sorokin until Tuesday at midnight.

That decision prompted FEMA to extend the program through Thursday July 5 so as to comply with the court order.

The issue was highlighted Saturday by Sen. Bill Nelson and other lawmakers, who sought to push for Gov. Rick Scott to allocate funding to make up for the gap left by the federal government’s decision to rescind aid.

The Scott campaign responded to those barbs from Nelson by saying, “Bill Nelson needs to stop pointing fingers. He has been a fixture of the federal government for decades yet he only seems to turn up during an election year. Governor Scott will continue to consistently fight for Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican families in Florida.”

Many of the survivors displaced by the storm are located in Florida. Massachusetts also has a sizable share, which triggered the lawsuit there.

“The irreparable harm to the plaintiffs is obvious and overwhelming – tomorrow morning they will be evicted and homeless since by definition each plaintiff’s home was rendered uninhabitable by the hurricane in Puerto Rico,” read the Saturday night ruling by Sorokin.

A hearing on the issue has been scheduled for Monday.

In the event the FEMA decision stands, a list of resources is available here for those who need assistance.

Bill Nelson calls on Rick Scott to help Puerto Rican hurricane survivors avoid eviction

Bill Nelson condemned Gov. Rick Scott as more than a thousand Puerto Rican survivors of Hurricane Maria could end up homeless in the coming days.

Many survivors of the storm are living in the U.S., including here in Florida, after their homes were destroyed.

Those who lost their homes were able to qualify for Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA), a program operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The TSA program pays for temporary lodgings, such as hotels, and attempts to find permanent homes for those affected by the storm. The agency has spent $432 million on lodging, according to an article by Newsweek.

However, the program helping Puerto Ricans is set to expire Saturday after a previous 60-day extension was granted. Nelson and other Democrats signed on to a request to FEMA for a new 60-day extension. However, those efforts seem to have failed.

Nelson noted senators also asked FEMA to activate the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP). Similar efforts were made for victims of Hurricane Katrina back in 2005.

“All FEMA has to do is activate the existing law, just like they did for Katrina victims in New Orleans,” Nelson said at a news conference Saturday. But according to Nelson, that request was also rejected.

Nelson said he also introduced measures in the Senate to extend aid to the survivors, but they were blocked by Republicans.

However, in a statement to Florida Politics, the Rick Scott campaign rebutted Nelson’s efforts, calling him “all talk and no action.”

Scott added, “Trying to earn political points on a piece of legislation that never left the ground is typical of a career politician like Bill Nelson. Bill Nelson has had nearly half a century to learn how to solve problems at the federal level, but instead, the only thing he has mastered is how to file a bill without putting in the work to secure its passage.”

Nevertheless, as it stands, families impacted by the storm must either figure out how to pay for their temporary housing on their own, find another way to stay here in the U.S., or return to an island that has still not fully recovered from Hurricane Maria.

Part of the issue is that Puerto Rico was facing problems long before the storm. “Puerto Rico’s current condition was not solely caused by Maria,” noted state Rep. Robert Asencio, who also spoke at Saturday’s news conference.

Asencio and state Sen. Victor Torres recounted a recent visit to the island, where they witnessed several areas still recovering from the storm more than nine months later.

The duo said they spoke to Puerto Rican mayors who warned they are not able to accommodate the influx of survivors returning to the island. “They said, ‘We cannot take on the families who return. We don’t have the housing,'” recalled Torres.

Criticism then turned toward the Rick Scott administration for failing to make up for the assistance shortfall created by the TSA expiration.

“They have not taken this issue seriously,” said Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of the Scott administration.

“Governor Rick Scott has refused to take any action to support these evacuees and give them a long-term solution to housing.”

He called on Gov. Scott to allocate resources to help those Puerto Ricans who face the loss of shelter due to the expiration of TSA.

However, Scott put the blame squarely on the federal government. “We have continued to do all we can at the state level to find real solutions for Puerto Rican families.”

He also promised, “to continue to fight for Puerto Rican families both here in Florida and on the island.” His office issued a release directing those affected by TSA’s expiration to other resources available to them.

Nelson, who is being challenged by Scott in 2018 for his U.S. Senate seat, sees this as a winning political issue, however. He urged Puerto Rican voters to remember it come November.

“They know how they’ve been treated by President Trump. They remember the images of President Trump throwing paper towels into the crowd as his way of serving the people who were hurting at that time.”

He added, “At the end of the day, what we want to make sure is that our Puerto Rican friends understand that elections have consequences.”

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