PolitiFact Florida: Gov. Rick Scott attack mischaracterizes vote Sen. Bill Nelson took in 2015

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is challenging Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott is challenging Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando.
Published May 7 2018
Updated May 7 2018

As Floridaís U.S. Senate race heats up, Republican Gov. Rick Scott slammed Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelsonís record on Iran.

"While Bill Nelson voted against requiring Iran to recognize Israel and release American hostages, the following year, Governor Scott signed legislation that helped prevent state investments in Iran," Scott said in a press release April 30.

For this fact-check, we wanted to hone in on Nelsonís specific votes. We found that Scottís claim mischaracterizes the vote Nelson took and leaves out that Nelson has actually advocated for the release of hostages in Iran.

In 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a joint resolution known as the Hire More Heroes Act of 2015. This measure aimed to encourage small businesses to hire veterans.

The bill itself had nothing to do with Israel, Iran or American hostages. But Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., offered up several amendments related to the Iran nuclear agreement.

Often times, a member of Congress will attach an unrelated, controversial amendment in hopes of prompting debate on the amendmentís issue, experts said.

And thatís what happened when McConnell proposed amendment 2656.

Experts told us the amendment would have jeopardized the Iran deal by blocking the president from fulfilling the commitments the United States had agreed to unless Iran met other demands outside of the dealís terms.

Specifically, the amendment would have prohibited the president from waiving sanctions unless Iran released Jason Rezaian, Robert Levinson, Saeed Abedini, and Amir Hekmati, and formally recognized Israel as an independent state.

Nelson, along with nearly every other Democrat, voted no on a cloture motion on McConnellís amendment. The amendment ended up failing after the original amendment was tabled.

Nelsonís vote was technically a vote on procedure. But Gregory Koger, a University of Miami political scientist, said the vote was essentially intended as a proxy for a vote on the amendment.

More important than that, however, is the fact Scottís claim mischaracterizes the substance of the vote. Scott said Nelson voted against releasing American hostages and Iran recognizing Israel as a sovereign state, but multiple experts said the amendment was really just an attempt to kill the Iran deal.

"The vote was on whether to attach new conditions to the Iran nuclear agreement, thereby preventing the agreement from going forward," Koger said.

Matthew Bunn, a professor of practice at the Harvard Kennedy School, said that had the amendment succeeded as intended in blocking the deal, the American hostages would almost certainly have remained in custody.

He also noted that Nelson has been among the most dogged senators in pursuing the release of the fourth hostage, Levinson. Nelson met with Levinsonís family and has repeatedly called on Washington to urge Iran to release him.

In 2017, Nelson led lawmakers, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who sent a letter to White House officials asking them to "maintain pressure on Iran to see that (Levinson) is returned as soon as possible."

This year, Nelson cosponsored the Iran Human Rights and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act (S.2365) to impose sanctions against those involved in taking Americans hostage and violating the human rights of the Iranian people.

We rate this claim False.

Read more rulings at PolitiFact.com/florida.

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