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A 'very frustrated' Bill Nelson leaves crack open to run for governor

Bill Nelson campaigning last year in Orlando

Scott Keeler | Tampa Bay Times

Bill Nelson campaigning last year in Orlando

I caught up with Sen. Bill Nelson, talking to him about President Obama's call to close Guantanamo (he agrees), his letter to Gov. Rick Scott urging a special session on Medicaid (no response) and Marco Rubio's role in immigration ("I'm very proud of him").

Then came talk that Nelson is being courted for, and quietly considering, a challenge to Scott 2014. Nelson, re-elected last year, seems against it, but also expressed frustration with Washington.

Are you ready to emphatically state right now you are not going to run?

Oh, come on. I've already told you: I have no plans to run for governor. I have no intention of running for governor. Why can't you accept the King's English?

Well, you know nobody does until you say 'I am declaring right now I am not running for governor.'

Why do I have to declare? I never declared that I was. Why do I have to declare that I'm not?

So let me just ask in plain, we will not see you running for governor?

I've said what I said.

That leaves a little bit of wiggle room.

Well, that's because you guys need something to write about.

But you could right now say 'I'm not going to run' and that will clear it up.

I have no plans to run. I have no intention to run.

I know, but that's different from saying I'm not going to run.

Awww, come on. Come on. Look I'm enjoying being senator. But I must say I'm frustrated. I'm very frustrated. I mean the extremists around here. You can't get anything done. The filibuster is really being abused.

What do you think of Obama's call to close Guantanamo Bay detention camp?

"I'm for it. It's way too costly, it's not providing what we want. You need to split up some of those people and they can be brought to trial, other than the ones we want to send back (to their home countries). The most effective way of putting them in the clink forever is the American trial system. There is a proven record there that nobody can dispute.

Has Gov. Scott gotten back to you on your letter requesting he call a special session to address Medicaid?

No. This is where Gov. Scott ought to recognize that he and I are on the same page and he ought take me up on my suggestion that he call a special session. If he wants me to help him, I will. I don't know why, but it's unconscionable to deny health care to over 1 million people in Florida that otherwise would have it, paid for 100 percent by the federal government. This is like rejecting $2.4 billion that was on the table to build high speed rail in Florida, which we would have been a showcase for the entire country.

What has changed from 2007, the last time immigration reform was attempted, and now?

The political atmosphere has changed because it's the survival instinct that's kicking in for the Republican Party. But for the results of the 2012 election, they would haven't have changed anything. They now see the Hispanics voted in most states in record numbers for Democrats because Republicans had taken the Neanderthal position with regard to immigration reform. That was certainly true in Florida, even though Florida is a lot less affected by immigration because Cuban Americans are not affected and Puerto Ricans are American citizens. Even so, they recognized that the Republican position was one that was not fair to Hispanics. If they keep offending them and dissing them, it's going to be sayanara for the Republican Party.

What do you think of Sen. Marco Rubio's push on immigration?

I'm very proud of him. He is one of the keys in the Gang of 8. I have consistently told the Democrats like Chuck Schumer and others in the gang of 8 that they would find Marco reasonable. 

Are you concerned about Rubio getting eaten up by conservatives opposed to reform?

I never cease to be amazed at the extremism that comes out of the Republican Party. If they chew him up then it's adios to the GOP with Hispanics.


[Last modified: Friday, May 10, 2013 3:00pm]


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