by Javier ManjarresThe 2010 elections made the GOP the beneficiary of the biggest shift in congressional power in almost 70 years, with Republicans taking back the House of Representatives and substantially narrowing their deficit in the Senate. Now, the Party’s attention is turning towards vulnerable House and Senate seats in 2012. One such seat that will be targeted is the U.S. Senate seat of Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL).
With Senator-elect Marco Rubio handily defeating sitting Governor Charlie Crist and Congressman Kendrick Meek, we can expect to see Nelson reposition himself both rhetorically and substantively as a right of center Democrat to maintain his viability in a state where political currents are shifting against him. Florida is a state that is very difficult for established liberal Democrats to win statewide elections, and it will be problematic for Senator Nelson to credibly pivot to the political center, as he has sided with President Barack Obama on many of his unpopular far-left agenda items, from ObamaCare, to supporting a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, as well as his support of the Dream Act .
In a recent meeting with Senator-Elect Marco Rubio, Florida’s senior Senator informed Rubio that he should embrace earmarks, telling him that “some” earmarks are needed for the well-being of Floridians. Apparently, Nelson makes a convenient distinction between “necessary” and “not-so-necessary” earmarks. But does Nelson believe that all earmarks should be approved regardless of whether they are “necessary” or not? Apparently, he does. In late November, Senator Nelson came out in opposition of all earmarks in a naked attempt to buff up his fiscal bona fides with deficit hawks. But just weeks later, Nelson flipped again on the issue by joining his fellow Senators in trying to pass the now failed Omnibus budget plan which was laden with over 6000 earmarks. It’s clear that Nelson is blowing hot and cold on the issue out of pure political expediency, and it will be a vulnerability for him moving forward.
Senator Nelson’s earmarks in the Omnibus Spending bill included the following:
$2 million for Florida Keys water quality improvements;
- $1.65 million for Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 36/46;
- $1.5 million for St. John’s Heritage Parkway interchanges;
- $1.2 million for Jacksonville commuter rail alternative analysis;
- $1 million for Cooperative Grouper-Snapper Fisheries Data Collection
Senator Nelson understands that the 2010 election was in large part a reaction against reckless spending and earmarking, and his Party paid the political price. Nelson may find it difficult to successfully separate himself from his record, as he has approved millions in wasteful earmarks during his tenure as Senator, and you can bet that the Tea Party’s insistence on fiscal conservatism will dog him heavily throughout his re-election campaign.During the 2008-2010 fiscal cycle, Senator Bill Nelson submitted 49 earmark requests totaling $55,158,250. Nelson also partnered up with other Senators on 330 additional earmarks that totaled a cool $477,034,165. Check out Senator Nelson’s earmarks here.
Among the many earmarks Senator Nelson has sponsored and co-sponsored, here are just a few of the more dubious earmarks. Does Nelson think these are “essential” ones Floridians can’t live without?
|2009||Metrorail Orange Line Extension Project, FL
(Transportation-Housing and Urban Development)
|2009||Center for Civic Education for two programs – We the People and Cooperative Education Exchange – that are authorized in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as part of the Civic Education program
|2009||Everglades Nat’l Park
|2008||Civic Education Program (Center for Civic Education and National Council on Economic Education) and a comprehensive program between the Center for Civic Education, Indiana University and NCSL to improve public education of the congress and state legislatures.
(Energy and Water)
Senator Nelson’s reckless earmark spending along with his consistent support of the unpopular Obama agenda have several potential Republican opponents, including soon-to-be former Senator George LeMieux and Florida State Senate President Mike Haridopolos licking their chops at the prospect of challenging Nelson next year. Regardless of who the challenger ultimately is, a strong Republican candidate with a fiscally conservative message coupled with the growing anti-big government sentiment that fueled this year’s electoral victories by Republicans could very well be enough to defeat the last standing statewide-elected Democrat in Florida.