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Profile of Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida

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Profile of Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida

Senator Bill Nelson

Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida:

Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida was first elected as senator in 2000 and reelected in 2006 and 2012. He served in the House of Representatives from 1979 to 1991.

Nelson, a politician for 30 years, is a fiscally moderate Democrat and member of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.

Bill Nelson, Leading Senate Supporter of NASA:

Bill Nelson is an avid supporter of the US space program. In 1986, he became the second member of Congress to travel into space when he served aboard the Columbia space shuttle for 7 days as payload specialist. In July 2001, Nelson angrily remarked, "You just can't continue to starve the American space agency of funds (without jeopardizing safety.) I am very frustrated with the White House budget proposal on NASA." The space shuttle suffered a fatal crash in February 2003.

Major Areas of Interest and Voting Record:

Senator Nelson has fought hard to secure quality health care for veterans and their families, and for a meaningful Medicare drug benefit for seniors that secures discounted drug prices. In January 2005, Nelson suggested expanding the Peace Corps into South America. Nelson has a strong pro-choice, pro-environment and pro-public health voting record. He also is a strong defender of privacy rights.

Senate Committees in 112th Congress, 2011-2012:

  • Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee
  • Commerce Subcommittee on Technology & Space, Chair
  • Budget Committee
  • Finance Committee
  • Select Committee on Intelligence
  • Special Committee on Aging

Prior Experience:

  • US Army Reserves, 1965-68, US Army 1968-70
  • Fire marshal 1970-72
  • Florida State House of Representatives, 1972-79
  • US House of Representatives, 1979-91
  • Practicing attorney (after failed run for Governor), 1991-95
  • Florida State Treasurer/Insurance Commissioner, 1995-2000

Personal Data:

    Birth - September 29, 1942 in Miami, Florida
  • Education - Melbourne High School in Florida, 1960. B.A. from Yale University, 1965; J.D. from University of Virginia Law School, 1968.
  • Family - Married for decades to the former Grace Calvert; two adult children, Nan Ellen Nelson, an aspiring professional singer, and Bill, Jr.
  • Faith - Christian, Presbyterian
One of Senator Nelson's pet peeves is unsolicited email and email spam, which he attempts to combat in his role on the Senate Commerce Committee.

The Bill Nelson Persona:

Senator Bill Nelson, a fifth-generation Floridian, has an affable, smooth style that stems from his comfortable upbringing. He and his family present a pleasing political image of stability and attractiveness. Senator Nelson became interested in environmental issues after viewing the beauty and fragility of planet Earth from the space shuttle in 1986.

Interesting Personal Note:

At Bill Nelson's 1990 retirement from the House of Representatives, the late Congressman Robert Matsui paid tribute, "Bill's devotion to his family and his work make me proud to be his friend...On the job, Bill has earned a reputation as a man who could be relied upon to get the job done. In searching for the definition of the word 'dedication,' one need not look any further than the name Bill Nelson."

Memorable Quotes:

"It started with Terri Schiavo. I think what you're seeing is a reaction--that people are saying I have enough of this intolerance and trying to cram their agenda down the people's throats. People are getting tired of that....I can't tell you how many Republicans have come up to me and said 'I am off the reservation because of the fiscal policies of this administration, spending so much money like a drunken sailor. All of these things are coming home to roost." -- October 5, 2005, speaking about why public opinion is turning against the GOP

"Sixty percent of our daily consumption of oil in this country is from a foreign source. Every alternative source is going to be very important to us. Within a decade, if America puts it mind to it, we could be independent of foreign oil."

"The little bit of oil that you might get out of the Gulf of Mexico...it's not worth it, what it would hurt us in our military preparedness and what it would hurt Florida's economy by messing up our pristine beaches."

"You measure success by getting Iraq to be stabilized politically and economically. And that's not going to happen with all of the terrorists and the insurgents that are now in there in the short run. It's going to take a while....We can question whether or not we went in under false pretenses. And I am certainly one that's questioning that. And we can rail about that there was no plan for the peace, which I have done that after a brilliant military campaign. But now that we're there, I don't know that we have any other choice .... what's at stake is not letting terrorism get a foothold in that part of the world that is all the more close to the United States' interests, as well as all the more close to our ally, Israel, which is very, very close. " -- January 27, 2005 in an interivew with CNN's Judy Woodruff

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