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Bill Nelson again talking the ‘centrist’ talk regarding Supreme Court nominee

in 2017/Statewide by

Senator Bill Nelson does a good job of talking the moderate, bipartisan approach in the U.S. Senate. In the end, he nearly always votes with the liberals in his party.

To be sure, Sen. Marco Rubio votes primarily the same way as his Republican colleagues. The difference is Rubio makes no statements about being a centrist. He makes it clear he is a conservative and votes that way.

Nelson, who is up for re-election in 2018, has a high-profile vote coming his way. In the not-too-distant future, the Senate will conduct hearings involving Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

No credible person can argue that Gorsuch is not qualified to be on the Court. Nelson and some of his colleagues will want to know where the judge stands on certain issues.

He mentions voter suppression and “unlimited money in campaigns” as two issues most important to him. Bewilderment over the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in the Hobby Lobby case, in which Gorsuch participated, clouds Nelson’s opinion of the judge.

As usual, he is saying the right things.

“Whatever the pressure is,” he told the Tampa Bay Times, “I’m going to make up my own mind as to what I think is in the best interest of our country and Florida.”

No one who is aware of Nelson’s record expects him to do anything other than vote against Gorsuch. While Gorsuch supporters are open to pleasant surprises, Nelson telegraphed his intentions when asked whether he supported a filibuster against the nomination.

“You bet I do,” he said. “The filibuster has always forced the political extremes to come to the middle to build consensus.”

There is that “centrist” dialogue masking a liberal position again.

In this case, Nelson and the Democratic minority are picking the wrong fight if they try to filibuster this nominee. He does not need or want any advice from a conservative Floridian, but perhaps one of his home state newspapers might have more clout.

“Democrats are expected to vote against the nominee, likely with the dilatory move of a filibuster. They shouldn’t,” wrote the Miami Herald in a February 2 editorial titled “Don’t filibuster Supreme Court nominee.”

The paper goes on to recommend Gorsuch’s confirmation. It is safe to say the Herald does not fall into the category of a conservative organ.

A true centrist will take into account comments from people who know Gorsuch best. Jessica Greenstone, a former Gorsuch law clerk who is now a high-ranking official with the World Wildlife Fund, lays out the centrist case in a USA Today column.

Even if a Senator plans to vote “no” on a nominee, a true centrist will not participate in a filibuster in this case. The Herald editorial rightly points out that Republicans did not filibuster former President Barrack Obama’s nominees of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

While the Democrats’ outrage over the blockage of Obama nominee Judge Merrick Garland is easy to understand, it does not mean the vacancy should remain indefinitely. It was exactly one year ago that Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly.

Trump could have picked a highly polarizing figure to put on the Court, but he didn’t. As a constitutional originalist like Scalia, Gorsuch will face stiff opposition from true liberals.

A true centrist can support this nominee, but at the very least allow for an up-or-down vote.

What say you, Senator Nelson?

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at

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