Bill Nelson Archives - Florida Politics

Puerto Rico groups pushing for ‘Marshall Plan’ to help the island

Four months after Hurricane Maria laid waste to Puerto Rico, a coalition of groups and artists met in Orlando Monday morning to remind the public that still more than a half-million homes and businesses there still are without electricity, and to declare the island needs a “Marshall Plan” of federal help.

“Today Puerto Rico is facing the longest blackout in the history of the United States,” Marcos Vilar, campaign director for Power4PuertoRico said in a small rally across the street from the Orlando office of Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. “About 500,000 families and businesses still do not have power or electricity. It is unconscionable that we haven’t done more.”

His group led a coalition Monday joined by the Hispanic Federation, Iniciativa Accion Puertoriquena, Women of the Storm and other groups, including the progressive political Democratic group Organize Florida, calling on Congress to adopt more robust relief, with fewer strings, for Puerto Rico to recover from Hurricane Maria.

The groups will be rallying outside Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio‘s office in Miami later this week.

Vilar said the disaster bailout package approved late last month by the U.S. House of Representatives for $91 billion in relief for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida, Texas, and California provides the money only for matching grants, and the islands cannot afford to match them right now.

And it’s not enough, considering Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said earlier this month Puerto Rico alone has $94 billion in reconstruction needs.

Betsy Franceschini, Florida director for the Hispanic Federation called for Congress to consider a “Marshall Plan”-like package to assist the islanders, and to aid the Puerto Ricans who evacuated to Florida and elsewhere in the past four months. She said the island has suffered through two major disasters, the economic collapse of 2016, followed by the hurricanes of September 2017.

National Republicans attacking Bill Nelson over government shutdown

Washington’s blame game began just a few hours after the federal government officially shut down.

The National Republican Senate Committee (NRSC) is targeting Sen. Bill Nelson with an online Facebook ad condemning Democrats for the failure to come together on a Continuing Resolution to keep the government running.

The ad focuses on how the shutdown  threatens hundreds of thousands of Florida children from receiving health insurance and stops funding for the military.

“Bill Nelson’s vote for the Schumer Shutdown will have serious, real-world consequences for Florida children and seniors, as well as our national security,” said NRSC Communications Director Katie Martin. “When it really mattered, Nelson sided with Washington Democrats instead of Florida, and voters won’t forget in November.”

Click on the image below to watch the ad:

‘Not a candidate’: Rick Scott coy on Louisiana fundraising question

Gov. Rick Scott made a trip this week to Louisiana, where business development meetings populated his official schedule.

However, the most prominent Democrat in the Pelican State — Gov. John Bel Edwards — thought that there was more to the trip than just pitching Florida relocation to local companies.

“Gov. Scott should call this what it is – a fundraising stop on his yet-to-be announced U.S. Senate campaign. Louisianans would appreciate the honesty and hope that he’ll take his political contributions and leave,” Edwards offered Tuesday.

Louisiana’s Advocate newspaper tried and failed to get Scott to discuss what most believe is a protracted pre-candidacy.

Friday in Ponte Vedra, we covered some of the same territory. Specifically, we wanted to know if Scott had fundraised while in Louisiana on an official jobs “mission.”

Scott spent much of the answer covering familiar ground, talking about job creation (“the four years before I got elected, the state lost 832,000 jobs”).

“My trip to New Orleans was to try to get more companies there. As you know, I have not made a decision as to whether I’m going to run for the Senate or not. I’m not a candidate. I’ve said all along I’ve got to focus on my job as Governor.”

“A lot of politicians are thinking about their next job,” Scott added. “I’m right in the middle of my Legislative Session, and I’m going to focus on that.”

The question remained: was there fundraising or not? We restated it.

“I’m not a candidate,” Scott said.

We reminded Scott of Let’s Get to Work, his political committee, which has robustly fundraised over the years ($57 million since inception). And asked if there may have been Louisiana fundraising for that.

“I’m not a candidate,” Scott repeated. “We weren’t — I didn’t — A.G., I’m not a candidate.”

Florida Democrats blast Rick Scott op-ed supporting Dreamers

With Congress potentially just hours away from a government shutdown in part because of a dispute over whether to include a plan to deal with those affected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, a group of Florida Democrats slammed Gov. Rick Scott Friday for what they called his hypocrisy regarding DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers.

In an op-ed published this week in USA Today, Scott called on Congress to secure the immigration status of those young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. through their parent’s choice. Scott also said policy decisions should be coupled with enhancements for border security.

“Personally, I just don’t see how doing the right thing for these kids, and doing the right thing for our country by securing our borders, are partisan issues,” Scott wrote. “These are just plain common-sense actions for Congress to take.”

Approximately 780,000 Dreamers were given protection from deportation under DACA in 2014, but President Donald Trump announced last year he was dismantling it this March. Democrats want to address the issue this week within a continuing resolution, while Republicans say there is no urgency to do so just yet, and it should not be a barrier to keeping the government up and running.

“In Florida, we pride ourselves on being the gateway to the world,”  Scott added. “Many Dreamers live in our state because they are in search of what we all care about: a good job, a good education and the ability to live in a safe community. It’s time for Washington to secure our borders and to do the right thing for these kids by removing the uncertainty hanging over their future goals and dreams. It’s really not too much for us to ask Congress to get these things done.”

With Scott likely to take on Democrat Bill Nelson in a U.S. Senate race this year, Florida Democrats seized upon Scott’s take on the issue, saying his more sympathetic stance towards Dreamers is an election year conversion, noting his support for a controversial immigration law in Arizona when he first ran in 2010.

That law, SB 1070, required police to determine the immigration status of someone arrested or detained when there is “reasonable suspicion” they are in the U.S. illegally. Arizona ended that policy in 2016.

“Rick Scott can write all of the op-eds he wants, but Dreamers will remember who was on their side over the past 16 years of fighting for the DREAM Act,” said House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in a conference call. “They’ll remember who campaigned on a platform of deporting them and who marched with them. They’ll remember who the real allies of Florida immigrants have been.”

Boca Raton Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch called SB 1070 one of the “most racist, anti-Latino pieces of legislation in recent history.”

“He even paid for TV ads applauding it, and tried very, very hard to bring it to Florida,” Deutch added. “We talk about candidates borrowing from the Trump-playbook of scapegoating immigrants, but it’s possible if you look at the history that our President borrowed from Scott’s playbook.”

Deutsch also referred to Scott’s attempts to purge the voter rolls in 2012, citing a Miami Herald story that found 58 percent of those who would be purged from the rolls where Hispanic. “This Governor cannot hide from his record,” he said. “DREAMers don’t need lip service, they need Republicans who will join with Democrats and step up to pass a clean DREAM Act.”

“When the DREAM Act came before Congress in 2010, Rick Scott made it very clear that he was against it, saying that he ‘does not believe in amnesty,”‘ said Broward County Democratic state Sen. Gary Farmer. “Three years later later Rick Scott opposed Dreamers once again, as he vetoed bipartisan legislation that allowed DACA recipients to receive temporary driver’s licenses. In 2014 Rick Scott refused to oppose a lawsuit led by Donald Trump’s favorite State Attorney General Pam Bondi, which opposed DACA and DAPA, seeking to block as many as 5 million undocumented youth and their parents, including thousands here in Florida, from receiving permits which would protect them from unjust deportation.”

Last fall, Scott said that President Barack Obama was wrong to address the Dreamers issue by Executive Order, and said it should have been done in consultation with Congress.

“I do not favor  punishing children for the actions of their parents,” he said in a statement, adding that “these kids must be allowed to pursue the American Dream, and Congress must act on this immediately.”

“Governor Scott has been clear in his support for DREAMers, including supporting and signing a bill in 2014 that provided in-state tuition for DREAMers in Florida,” spokesperson Kerri Wyland said late Friday. 


Doanld Trump administration official admits Florida offshore drilling still ‘on the table’

Florida is not yet “off the table” in a federal plan to expand offshore oil drilling, according to an official of the Donald Trump administration.

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) acting director Walter Cruickshank revealed to a congressional committee Friday that Florida could still be included in offshore drilling activities, paving the way for future offshore drilling in Florida.

In attendance at the House Natural Resources Committee meeting was Florida Democratic Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando.

“We have no formal decision yet on what’s in, or out, of the five-year program,” Cruickshank told lawmakers. “We are following the process conducting a full analysis of all areas included in the draft proposed program.”

He added that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s commitment to withdraw Florida from offshore drilling was not a “formal action” and the state “remains subject to the government’s official analysis.”

“So, there’s been no decision to exempt Florida?” California Democrat Jared Huffman asked.

“The secretary’s statement stands for itself,” Cruickshank responded.

The admission stunned many Florida lawmakers, particularly Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who was apprehensive after Zinke made the declaration that the state was exempt from offshore drilling after a brief 20-minute meeting with Gov. Rick Scott.

Nelson blasted the move as nothing more than a “political stunt” and not announcing official policy.

Soon after Cruickshank’s admission that there was no formal action to take Florida off the table, Soto asked the administration official for clarification.

The statement “stands on its own,” Cruickshank responded.

 “By ‘stand on its own,’” Soto pressed, “… it’s not an official action, is that what you mean?”

“It is not a formal action, no,” the official admitted.

 “So there has been no formal action to remove Florida from the five-year drilling plan, as of right now?” Soto questioned.

“We will be including it in the analysis,” Cruickshank responded.

Immediately after Zinke made the announcement last week, Nelson shot off a letter to the secretary demanding specific details on what changes will be made to the agency’s five-year drilling plan.

Zinke has not yet responded.

That day, Nelson filed legislation to permanently ban drilling off Florida’s coast, taking to the Senate floor with a warning to his Florida colleagues that the secretary’s promise to take the state off the table is “just empty words” until taking formal steps to publish a new draft plan.

On Wednesday, Nelson he will place the “hold” on three Interior Department nominees slated to work under Zinke, vowing to keep that hold in place until the Secretary rescinds the current draft five-year drilling plan and replaces it with a new draft that fully protects Florida’s coasts.

Cruickshank’s revelation – despite Zinke’s pronouncement – shows that Florida may still face new offshore drilling, which comes just days after Interior held its first public meeting on the plan.

What’s more, Nelson’s office said maps used by Interior officials as part of the meeting also suggested waters off Florida were still open to drilling.

In a statement, Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo called the incident further proof that Scott and his “close ally” Trump will “say and do anything to further Scott’ political ambitions, while Floridians pay the price.”

“Scott’s long record of backing drilling off our shores and beaches is well documented, and it’s clear his most recent words were nothing more than a dishonest and self-serving political stunt,” Rizzo added. “Once again, Floridians are seeing they can’t trust Scott to look out for anyone but himself.”

Bill Nelson blocks three Interior nominees over offshore drilling plan

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Wednesday made moves to block three Department of the Interior Nominees until Secretary Ryan Zinke publishes a new offshore drilling plan that officially takes Florida “off the table.”

Zinke announced last week that the department would not explore offshore drilling in Florida, so far the only coastal state that has been given such a reprieve.

“As a result of discussion with Governor [Rick] Scott and his leadership, I am removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms,” Zinke said in a Jan. 9 statement.

The agency head went on to praise Scott for his leadership in Everglades restoration and during the 2017 hurricane season.

The move raised eyebrows, especially Nelson’s, as Scott is widely thought to be planning a run for Nelson’s Senate seat in the fall.

After the announcement, Nelson wrote a letter to Zinke requesting specific details on any changes made to the agency’s five-year drilling plan. Nelson has also said Floridians should view Zinke’s promise as “just empty words” until he follows through with a new plan officially excluding the Sunshine State.

The current plan, published a day before Florida was taken “off the table,” had its first public hearing Tuesday and the department’s maps still showed Florida waters as open for drilling.

In response, Nelson placed a hold on Susan Combs, nominee to Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management, and Budget; Ryan Nelson, nominated to be Solicitor; and Steven Gardner, nominated to be Director of the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, & Enforcement.

Nominees on hold are blocked from being approved without a vote.

Matt Gaetz focused on policy, not Donald Trump’s immigration remarks

Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz on Wednesday dismissed a recent controversial remark by President Donald Trump and said his conservative colleagues in the House should stand strong on policies such as ending the visa lottery and building a wall on the southern border.

“President Trump is right that America deserves an ‘America First’ immigration policy. The 2016 election was not about DACA. If it were, then Hillary Clinton would have won. Border security is the top immigration priority of the American people — it should be for Congress, too,” Gaetz said.

“Instead of offering ideas to secure our nation, congressional Democrats have seized on closed-door comments allegedly made by President Trump about Haiti and other nations.”

The Panhandle congressman is referring to a report published last week by several news outlets, including The Washington Post, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, that the president questioned why the United States should accept immigrants from “s—hole countries” like Haiti, El Salvador and countries in Africa.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and several other Florida elected officials have condemned Trump’s remark.

Gaetz didn’t condemn the remark, nor did he say he agreed with Trump’s word choice, instead taking the tack that what the president said is irrelevant to congressional Republicans’ policy goals on immigration.

“I’ve been to Haiti, and I’ve stood in 90-degree heat in open-air AIDS clinics there. It is true that the people of Haiti deserve better than what generations of corrupt governments have offered them. Meeting with Haiti’s President offered little hope for progress. The education, infrastructure, environmental, and health conditions are horrible,” Gaetz continued.

“Congressional conservatives should continue to support immigration policies to end the visa lottery, stop chain migration, build a wall, implement e-verify nationwide, and remove dangerous criminals from America. Anything else would be a betrayal to our voters.”

Senate committee advances moratorium on oil drilling in part of eastern Gulf

A Senate committee approved a resolution calling Congress to keep in place a moratorium against oil drilling in the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico.

The military uses the area in question for air and sea training.

Tuesday’s vote by the Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation comes a week after the Donald Trump administration announced that they would exclude Florida from an earlier proposed expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling in the eastern Gulf and the state’s Atlantic coast.

Sponsored by Gulf Breeze Republican Doug Broxson, the resolution asks Congress to maintain the moratorium, which is in place from east of the Military Mission Line, which runs south of Hurlburt Field in Okaloosa County to Key West. The moratorium is set to expire in 2022.

In 2006, current Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and former Sen. Mel Martinez successfully brokered a deal to ban drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast through the year 2022. Last year, Nelson filed legislation to extend the ban an additional five years, to 2027.

Noticing several members from environmental groups were supporting the bill, Palm Coast Republican Travis Hutson questioned whether the legislation intended to protect the country, and not against oil and gas industries.

Adamant his legislation was not aimed at hurting those industries, Broxson said one of the counties in his district, Santa Rosa, produced 90 percent of all energy that’s “ever been produced in the state of Florida.”

“If you look at my record, I am very conscious of our debate that we have and how we keep this country strong, and we have to have energy. I am a very pro-energy purpose,” Broxson said, adding that he’s also pro-jobs and pro-military.

“Protecting and enhancements of our military efforts is paramount,” said Fort Lauderdale Democrat Gary Farmer. “If it has the added effect of doing some environmental protection, so be it.”

Destin Republican Mel Ponder filed a companion resolution (HR 319) in the House.

Bill Nelson has $8M cash-on-hand for re-election campaign

Bill Nelson‘s campaign says the senator will report raising just over $2.4 million in the final three months of 2017. That brings him to more than $8 million cash-on-hand heading into this election year.

Nelson has represented Florida in the Senate since 2000. It’s widely expected that he’ll be challenged in his reelection bid this fall by Gov. Rick Scott, who has yet to declare his candidacy, but is expected to announce this spring ahead of the early May deadline.

Nelson received more than 30,600 contributions from more than 21,500 individual donors during last year’s final fundraising quarter.

The Florida Senator spent the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday participating in events in St. Petersburg, part of the Tampa Bay area media market, the biggest in Florida.

After defeating Republican Bill McCollum for an open seat in 2000, Nelson has been blessed with less than formidable opponents in his reelection bids in 2006 (Katherine Harris) and 2012 (Connie Mack IV).

But that won’t be the case if Scott is the GOP nominee. The former health care executive has shown that he is willing to spend big on his campaigns.

Scott raised more than $70 million in his victory for governor over Democrat Alex Sink in 2010, and another $12 million against Charlie Crist in 2014, both narrow victories.

At event honoring MLK, Bill Nelson calls Donald Trump comments ‘deplorable’

 U.S. Senator Bill Nelson believes President Donald Trump’s comments about “sh*thole” countries were “deplorable” and only serve to divide Americans.

“The president’s comments are awful. They’re deplorable,” Nelson told two reporters Monday in St. Petersburg. “What a president ought to be is a uniter, not a divider. And that’s what’s so troubling about so many of the comments that he’s made. Not only this recent one, but so many that preceded it.”

Nelson addressed the latest controversy surrounding Trump moments before he participated in an MLK National Day of Service with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County.

Two Republican U.S. Senators are disputing whether Trump actually uttered the epithet in question. Georgia’s David Perdue said on ABC’s This Week that the quote attributed to Trump is a “gross misrepresentation” of what the president really said.

“Remember it was bipartisan,” Nelson retorted, referring to the fact that Illinois Democrat U.S. Senator Dick Durban and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham have both said that Trump used the word in question, “so if I had to guess who all was telling the truth, I’d take the bipartisan statement of Graham and Durbin.”

On Monday, Nelson marched in the MLK Dream Big Parade in St. Petersburg, an event which he described as “infectious” and “joyous.”

While talking about Dr. King and the national holiday that honors the civil rights icon, Nelson noted the significance of Alabama recently electing Democrat Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate, specifically how he had successfully prosecuted two KKK members who were involved in the bombing of four black girls in Alabama in 1963.

“I think there are good things that are happening,” he said. “But at the same time, this meanness and partisanship and this rigidity that you don’t go around and try to bring people together, instead try to put them apart, that you don’t respect other people. That does concern me, and I can tell you I didn’t see that on the faces of the people in the parade today. What I saw was happiness and enjoyment.”

On immigration and DACA, Nelson says that he is unsure if there’s a deal to be made.

A  bipartisan proposal sponsored by Graham and Durbin and supported by Nelson had focused on four main components: a permanent solution for DACA recipients, border security and reforms to the diversity-visa lottery program and what the president calls “chain-migration,” or when immigrants sponsor relatives to join them in the U.S.

Trump seems to have turned against the proposal.

“DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don’t really want it, they just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our Military,” Trump wrote in a tweet. In another tweet he wrote,” I, as President, want people coming into our Country who are going to help us become strong and great again, people coming in through a system based on MERIT. No more Lotteries!”

Regarding the Trump administration’s reversal on opening up Florida’s Gulf and Atlantic coasts for offshore drilling, Nelson says it’s no time for Floridians to “let their guard down.”

“The oil boys are relentless and they’ll be back,” he cautioned.

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