|United States Senator
January 3, 2001
Serving with Marco Rubio
|Preceded by||Connie Mack III|
|Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging|
January 3, 2013
|Preceded by||Herb Kohl|
|Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner and Fire Marshal of Florida|
January 3, 1995 – January 1, 2000
|Governor||Lawton Chiles (1995-1998)
Buddy MacKay (1998-1999)
Jeb Bush (1999-2000)
|Succeeded by||Tom Gallagher|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 11th district
January 3, 1983 – January 3, 1991
|Preceded by||Daniel A. Mica|
|Succeeded by||Jim Bacchus|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 9th district
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 1983
|Preceded by||Louis Frey|
|Succeeded by||Michael Bilirakis|
|Member of the
Florida House of Representatives
|Born||Clarence William Nelson
September 29, 1942
|Spouse(s)||Grace Cavert Nelson|
|Children||Bill Nelson, Jr.
Nan Ellen Nelson
|Alma mater||University of Florida
Yale University (B.A.)
University of Virginia School of Law (J.D.)
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1965-1968, 1970-1971 (Reserve)
1968-1970 (Active Duty)
Clarence William "Bill" Nelson (born September 29, 1942) is the senior United States Senator from Florida, in office since 2001. A member of the Democratic Party, Nelson served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1972 to 1979, in the United States House of Representatives from 1979 to 1991 and as Treasurer and Insurance Commissioner of Florida from 1995 to 2000. In January 1986, Nelson became the second sitting member of the United States Congress to fly in space. He flew as a Payload Specialist on the Space Shuttle Columbia. In 2000, Nelson ran for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by retiring Republican Senator Connie Mack. In the Senate, he is generally considered a social moderate and economic liberal. He was re-elected in 2006 with 60 percent of the vote and won re-election in 2012 to a third term.
Personal life 
Nelson was born in Miami, the only child of Nannie Merle (née Nelson) and Clarence William Nelson. His ancestry includes Scottish, Irish, English, and Danish. He spent his youth in Melbourne, Florida, where he attended Melbourne High School. He was baptized as a Baptist, and grew up attending Baptist and Episcopal churches. He served as President of Kiwanis-sponsored Key Club International in 1959-60. In 2005, he joined the First Presbyterian Church in Orlando.
Nelson attended the University of Florida, where he was a member of Florida Blue Key, before transferring to Yale University. He subsequently received a law degree from the University of Virginia. In 1965, he joined the U.S. Army Reserve; he served on active duty from 1968 to 1970, attaining the rank of captain, and he remained in the Army until 1971. Nelson was admitted to the Florida bar in 1968, and began practicing law in Melbourne in 1970. In 1971, he worked as legislative assistant to Governor Reubin Askew.
|Clarence William "Bill" Nelson|
|NASA Payload Specialist|
|Born||September 29, 1942
|Current occupation||U.S. Senator|
|Previous occupation||Representative, U.S. House|
|Time in space||6d 02h 03m|
In 1986, Nelson became the second sitting member of Congress (and the first member of the House) to travel into space. He went through NASA training with Senator Jake Garn of Utah. He was a Payload Specialist on Space Shuttle Columbia's STS-61-C mission from January 12 to 18, 1986. Columbia landed at Edwards AFB at 5:59 a.m. PST, on January 18. Mission elapsed time was 6 days, 2 hours, 3 minutes, 51 seconds. It was the last successful Space Shuttle flight before the Challenger accident, as the disaster occurred only 10 days after Columbia's return.
Political career 
Florida legislature 
U.S. House of Representatives 
Gubernatorial campaign 
In 1990, Nelson ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Florida. He lost to former U.S. Senator Lawton Chiles, who went on to win the general election. During the primary campaign, Nelson tried to make an issue out of Chiles' health and age, a strategy that backfired on him in a state with a large population of retirees and senior citizens.
Treasurer and Insurance Commissioner 
In 1994 Nelson announced his intention to seek the office of Treasurer and Insurance Commissioner of Florida. He won the election with 52% of the vote over State Rep. Tim Ireland's 48%. In 1998, he again defeated Ireland for his reelection to the office.
In 2000, Nelson resigned his post as Commissioner to run for the United States Senate.
U.S. Senate 
In 2000, Nelson ran as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by retiring Republican Senator Connie Mack. He won the election, defeating U.S. Representative Bill McCollum, who ran as the Republican candidate.
Political positions 
Central America Free Trade Agreement 
In 2005, Nelson was one of ten Democrats who voted in favor of the Dominican Republic – Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) on its 55-45 passage in the Senate.
Estate tax 
On several occasions, Nelson has voted to reduce or eliminate the estate tax, notably in June 2006, when he was one of four Democrats voting for a failed (57-41) cloture motion on a bill to eliminate the tax.
Withholding funding from the CIA 
In 2007, Nelson was the lone Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee to vote against an amendment to withhold funds for CIA use of harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects. His vote, combined with those of all Republican members of the committee, killed the measure.
Health care 
In March 2010, Nelson voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, which passed and were signed into law by President Obama. Nelson wrote on his campaign website that the health care reform passed wasn't perfect, but was necessary because "the system was broken and we had to do something." Nelson's political opponents claimed he cast the "deciding vote" in favor of Obamacare. Politifact's Florida affiliate has called this claim "mostly false."
A Mason-Dixon Florida poll indicated that the measure was opposed by a majority of those surveyed, and by nearly two-thirds of Florida voters aged 65 or older. The same poll showed Nelson's negative rating rising to 34%, from 16% at the time of his 2006 re-election. However, a Gallup poll indicated that 79% of Democrats approved of the legislation, with only 40% of all adults opposing the legislation.
Abortion rights and stem cell research 
Nelson voted against denying federal funding to Planned Parenthood and against another bill that would have cut funding for contraception and cancer screenings. He has received a 100% rating from NARAL. Nelson also co-sponsored the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007.
Space exploration 
Nelson is seen as a major supporter of the space program. In 2010 he proposed creating as many as “five business enterprise zones as magnets for commercial space ventures.” “The move is expected to attract thousands of jobs to Florida’s 'Space Coast' area around NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Base.”
In March 2010 Nelson complained that Obama had made a mistake in canceling NASA's Constellation program. On July 7, 2011, it was reported that Nelson said Congress “starved” the space program of funding for several years, but suggested that the situation was turning around and called on the Obama Administration to push for NASA funding.
Don't Ask Don't Tell 
On December 18, 2010, Nelson voted in favor of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010, which established a legal process for ending the policy that prevented gay and lesbian people from serving openly in the United States Armed Forces.
Gay marriage 
On April 4, 2013, Nelson’s announced he no longer opposes same sex marriage. He wrote, "The civil rights and responsibilities for one must pertain to all. Thus, to discriminate against one class and not another is wrong for me. Simply put, if The Lord made homosexuals as well as heterosexuals, why should I discriminate against their civil marriage? I shouldn't, and I won't."
Congressional term limits 
Nelson does not support Congressional term limits.
Government spending 
Bill Nelson voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, often referred to as economic stimulus, proposed by President Obama. In August 2011, Nelson voted for a bill to increase the debt ceiling by $400 billion. Nelson said that while the bill was not perfect, "this kind of gridlock doesn't do anything." Nelson voted against Paul Ryan's budget.
Nelson voted against a Republican plan to extend the Bush tax cuts to all taxpayers. Instead, Nelson supported extending the tax cuts for those with incomes below $250,000. Nelson voted for the Buffett Rule in April 2012. Speaking of his support for the Buffett Rule, Nelson said he voted to raise the minimum tax rate on incomes over $1 million per year to 30% in order to reduce the budget deficit and to make the tax code more fair. Nelson said, "In short, tax fairness for deficit reduction just makes common sense."
Foreign aid 
Bill Nelson voted against Senate Bill 3576, which called for a prohibition of US aid to the governments of Egypt and Libya “contingent upon the release to US authorities the aggressors who attacked our embassy and consulate in Egypt and Libya." The bill also would have limited aid to Pakistan until the release of Dr. Shakil Afridi, the doctor who helped the CIA trace Osama bin Laden and is currently imprisoned by the Pakistani government.
Gun Control 
Bill Nelson is an advocate for new gun control laws including an Assault Weapons Ban and imposing a ban on magazines over ten rounds .
Short sales and credit scores of consumers 
In May 2013 the Senator requested the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau investigate why consumeers who go through a real estate short sale have their credit score lowered to the same degree as those who go through Foreclosure. The Senator suggested a penalty if the problem is not rectified within ninety days.
2006 re-election campaign 
Following the 2004 election, in which Republican George W. Bush was re-elected and the Republican party increased its majority in both the House and the Senate, Nelson was seen as vulnerable. He was a Democrat in a state that Bush had won, though by a margin of only five percentage points.
Evangelical Christian activist James Dobson declared that such Democrats, including Nelson, would be "in the 'bull's-eye'" if they supported efforts to block Bush's judicial nominees; and Nelson's refusal to support efforts in Congress to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case was seen as "a great political issue" for a Republican opponent to use in mobilizing Christian conservatives against him.
Katherine Harris, the former Florida Secretary of State and two-term U.S. representative, defeated three other candidates in the September 5 Republican primary. Harris's role in the 2000 presidential election made her a polarizing figure. Many Florida Republicans were eager to reward her for her perceived party loyalty in the Bush-Gore election; many Florida Democrats were eager to vote against her for the same reason. In May, when the party found itself unable to recruit a candidate who could defeat Harris in the primary, many Republican activists admitted that the race was already lost.
Nelson focused on safe issues, portraying himself as a bipartisan centrist problem-solver. He obtained the endorsement of all 22 of Florida's daily newspapers. Harris failed to secure the endorsement of Jeb Bush, who publicly stated that she could not win; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which had supported her in her House campaigns, did not endorse her in this race.
As the election approached, polls showed Harris trailing Nelson by 26 to 35 points. Nelson transferred about $16.5 million in campaign funds to other Democratic candidates, and won the election with 60.4% of the vote to Harris's 38.2%.
2012 re-election campaign 
Biden has called Nelson crucial to President Obama's chances for winning Florida in 2012. In March 2011, Vice President Joe Biden was reported as having said that if Nelson lost in 2012, “it means President Obama and the Democratic presidential ticket won't win the key battleground state, either....'He's a truly, truly decent guy who has the absolute respect of his colleagues, and I've heard that from both sides of the aisle,' Biden said of his former Senate colleague.” Congressman Connie Mack IV, the son of Nelson's direct predecessor in the Senate, won the Republican nomination. Nelson eventually defeated Mack with 55.2% of the vote to Mack's 42.2%.
On February 17, 2009, David D. Kirkpatrick wrote that Nelson was one of three lawmakers who “were returning campaign contributions from donors listed as employees of the PMA Group, a Washington lobbying firm whose founder is under investigation for purportedly funneling money through bogus donors.”
During his 2006 Senate campaign, according to the Open Congress website, Nelson “was accused of taking $80,000 in illegal campaign contributions from Riscorp, Inc....The Riscorp scandal involved dozens of Florida state legislators and was among the largest scandals in recent Florida history.”
Council on American-Islamic Relations 
In November 2011, Ahmed Bedier, an activist linked to CAIR and the Muslim Brotherhood, donated money to Nelson and co-hosted a fundraiser for him. Nelson's representatives later claimed that he “did not know about Bedier's relationship with CAIR” and that Bedier had exaggerated his closeness to the senator. In November 2011 Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald wrote that the scandal over Bedier threatened the Jewish vote for Nelson, given that Bedier had called Israel a “terrorist state.” Caputo noted that while “Nelson has gone to great lengths to fashion himself as pro-Israel,” that wasn't enough for some conservative groups.
Syria visit 
In December 2006, Bill Nelson made a trip to Syria to visit President Bashar Assad in Damascus. At the time, the Bush Administration had a no contact policy with Syrian officials because “of its support of Hezbollah and Hamas, which the U.S. deems terrorist organizations.” The White House press secretary commented on the trip saying, "We don't think that members of Congress ought to be going there”. The State Department also disapproved of the trip, but provided logistical support to Nelson.
Committee assignments 
Senator Nelson serves on the following committees in the 113th Congress.
- Committee on Armed Services
- Committee on the Budget
- Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
- Committee on Finance
- Special Committee on Aging (Chairman)
Electoral history 
|Florida State House of Representatives election 1972|
|Florida 9th District U.S. House of Representatives election 1978|
|Republican||Edward J. Gurney||56,074||38.5|
|Florida 9th District U.S. House of Representatives election 1980|
|Democratic||Bill Nelson (Incumbent)||139,468||70.4|
|Florida 11th District U.S. House of Representatives election 1982|
|Democratic||Bill Nelson (Incumbent)||101,746||70.6|
|Florida 11th District U.S. House of Representatives election 1984|
|Democratic||Bill Nelson (Incumbent)||145,764||60.5|
|Florida 11th District U.S. House of Representatives election 1986|
|Democratic||Bill Nelson (Incumbent)||149,109||72.7|
|Florida 11th District U.S. House of Representatives election 1988|
|Democratic||Bill Nelson (Incumbent)||168,390||60.8|
|Florida Governor, Democratic primary election 1990|
|Florida State Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner and Fire Marshal election 1994|
|Florida State Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner and Fire Marshal election 1998|
|Democratic||Bill Nelson (Incumbent)||2,195,283||56.5||+4.8|
|Florida U.S. Senate election 2000|
|Florida U.S. Senate election 2006|
|Democratic||Bill Nelson (Incumbent)||2,890,548||60.3||+9.8|
|Florida U.S. Senate election 2012|
|Democratic||Bill Nelson (Incumbent)||4,523,451||55.23||-5.07|
|Republican||Connie Mack IV||3,458,267||42.23||+4.13|
- "Sen. Bill Nelson (D)". National Journal Almanac (National Journal Almanac). 2008-12-31. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
- "Senator Bill Nelson". Florida 4-H Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2009-12-15.
- "Bill Nelson". Florida 4-H Hall of Fame. Retrieved April 1, 2012.
- "Biography". U.S. Senator Bill Nelson - Florida (official U.S. Senate website). Retrieved 2009-12-16.
- Kiwanis Magazine, December, 2012, p. 14
- Stratton, Jim. "Nelson doesn't act like Christian, Harris says". Orlando Sentinel. 2006-10-06. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
- "Bill Nelson (D-Fla.)". WhoRunsGov.com. Retrieved 2009-12-15.
- "Florida's senior senator praises Martinez, stays quiet about possible candidates in 2010". U.S. Senator Bill Nelson - Florida (official U.S. Senate website). Retrieved 2009-12-16.
- "Bill Nelson". Washington Post:U.S. Congress Votes Database. Retrieved 2009-12-16.
- "Interest Group Ratings: Senator Bill Nelson, Sr. (FL)". Project Vote Smart. Retrieved 2009-12-16.
- Nichols, John. "Democrats for CAFTA". The Beat (blog at the Nation). 2005-07-05. Retrieved 2009-12-16.
- "Bill Nelson - Votes Against Party". Washington Post:U.S. Congress Votes Database. Retrieved 2009-12-16.
- Andrews, Edmund L. "G.O.P. Fails in Attempt to Repeal Estate Tax". New York Times. 2006-06-09. Retrieved 2009-12-16.
- Shane, Scott. "Senate Panel Questions C.I.A. Detentions". New York Times. 2007-06-01. Retrieved 2009-12-16.
- JENNA BUZZACCO-FOERSTER (20 August 2012). "Analysis: Comparing the votes of Bill Nelson and Connie Mack on key issues". Naples Daily News.
- Cotterell, Bill. "Poll: Health-care plan, Nelson under fire in Florida". Tallahassee.com 2010-03-28. Retrieved 2010-03-30.
- Saad, Lydia (March 23, 2010). "By Slim Margin, Americans Support Healthcare Bill's Passage". Gallup. Retrieved April 1, 2012.
- "Bill Nelson leads Connie Mack, others by at least 11 points". Public Policy Polling. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
- Kremer, Ken. "Obama Made Mistake Cancelling NASAs Constellation". Universe Today. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
- Parkinson, Tom. "U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson Says Congress 'Starved' NASA of Funding". WMFE. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
- "Motion to Concur in the House Amendment to the Senate Amendment to H.R. 2965". U.S. Senate. December 18, 2010. Retrieved April 1, 2012.
- "Senate Vote 281 - Repeals ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’". The New York Times. December 18, 2010. Retrieved April 1, 2012.
- "Florida Senator Bill Nelson no longer opposes gay marriage". CFN13. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
- "From Senator Bill Nelson, Florida". Oneletter.org. August 17, 2011. Retrieved April 1, 2012.
- "Nelson prefers campaign trail to convention". The St. Augustine Record. 6 September 2012.
- “Rubio, Nelson Do Not Vote To End Foreign Aid To Libya, Pakistan, Egypt”, September 22, 2012. http://government.brevardtimes.com/2012/09/rubio-nelson-vote-for-foreign-aid-to.html.
- "For Democrats in red states, 2006 daunting". Washington Times. 2004-11-29. Retrieved 2009-12-22.
- Kirkpatrick, David D. "Evangelical Leader Threatens to Use His Political Muscle Against Some Democrats". New York Times. 2005-01-01. Retrieved 2009-12-22.
- Allen, Mike, and Manuel Roig-Franzia. "Congress Steps In on Schiavo Case". Washington Post. 2005-03-20. Retrieved 2009-12-22.
- Gibson, William E."Senate Race Centers on Images". Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. 2006-10-20. Retrieved 2009-12-22.
- Kumar, Anita. "GOP can't elude Harris vs. Nelson".St. Petersburg Times. 2006-05-11. Retrieved 2009-12-22.
- Clark, Lesley. "Nelson goes 22-0". Naked Politics (Miami Herald blog). 2006-10-30. Retrieved 2009-12-22.
- Kormanik, Beth. "Harris, Nelson tout testimonials". Florida Times-Union. 2006-10-31. Retrieved 2009-12-22.
- Copeland, Libby. "Campaign Gone South". Washington Post. 1006-10-31. Retrieved 2009-12-22.
- Gibson, William E. "Nelson Rolls To Second Term". Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. 2006-11-08. Retrieved 2009-12-22.
- Miller, Lorraine C. "Statistics of the Congressional Election of November 7, 2006". U.S. House of Representatives website. 2007-09-21. Retrieved 2009-12-22.
- 2012-obama-wont-win-florida- "Biden: If Bill Nelson loses Senate race, Obama won't win Florida in 2012". The Hill. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
- "2012 U.S. Senate Election Results". washingtonpost.com. The Washington Post. Retrieved 24 December 2012.
- Kirkpatrick, David (2009-02-18). "3 Lawmakers Will Return Money Tied to Lobbyist". The New York Times. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
- "Bill Nelson". Open Congress. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
- "Top CAIR Fundraiser Aids Florida Incumbent". IPT. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
- Caputo, Marc. "Senator Bill Nelson in Islamic-donor whodunit". The Miami Herald. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
- FLAHERTY, ANNE PLUMMER. “Fla. Senator Defies Bush, Visits Syria.” The Washington Post, December 13, 2006, sec. Nation. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/13/AR2006121300976.html.
- Lawrence, D.G., "Democrats keep control of state legislature" Orlando Sentinel. 1972-11-08.
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Bill Nelson|
- United States Senator Bill Nelson official U.S. Senate site
- Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate official campaign site
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Biography, voting record, and interest group ratings at Project Vote Smart
- Profile at Ballotpedia
- Congressional profile at GovTrack
- Congressional profile at OpenCongress
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Financial information (federal office) at OpenSecrets.org
- Staff salaries, trips and personal finance (federal office) at LegiStorm.com
- Issue positions and quotes at On the Issues
- Voting record at The Washington Post
- Appearances on C-SPAN programs
- Collected news and commentary at The New York Times
- Collected news and commentary at The Washington Post
- Bill Nelson official NASA astronaut biography