WEST PALM BEACH — Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who flew on the Space Shuttle in 1986 and is a leading advocate for the space program, said today’s explosion of an unmanned SpaceX rocket at Cape Canaveral is a reminder that “space flight is risky business.”
Nelson spoke to reporters after addressing a Florida Community Health Centers lunch at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.
“Space flight is risky business. The fact is that we have triumphs and we have setbacks and this is a temporary setback. But I am very confident that these commercial companies like SpaceX, they’re going to be very successful,” Nelson said.
“This is all part of space flight. I mean you can’t be perfect in everything when you are pushing the edge of the envelope, and that’s what our space exploration program is.”
Nelson said he expects a close race between Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and his challenger, Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, in a contest that could determine which party controls the Senate.
“I think what’s going for Patrick Murphy is that Hillary, I believe, will win Florida by a fairly comfortable margin and I think that will help Congressman Murphy. But you can’t take anything for granted because Sen. Rubio is a very skilled campaigner,” Nelson said.
Nelson said he expects Rubio and Murphy to debate, but didn’t weigh in on Rubio’s call for six debates.
Nelson, a longtime Clinton supporter, blamed her persistently high unfavorable ratings on the prevalence of negative campaigning.
“Is it any wonder that both Trump and Clinton both have high negatives? With as much of the scurrilous, scandalous talk that has been going on, I mean, everything’s negative,” Nelson said.
Asked about the Zika virus, Nelson called on the U.S. House of Representatives to approve Zika funding without controversial amendments, such as stripping federal money from Planned Parenthood.
“They’re not being serious,” Nelson said of the House, which rejected a Zika bill that passed the Senate. “We’re going to go back in session on Tuesday. The first vote that we’re going to have is a replay of the same vote that we voted already twice and it’s going to be with all those unacceptable riders on it. I hope people are getting mad enough about this that they’re going to get it across to their members of the House of Representatives.”
Nelson has already said he plans to seek a fourth term in 2018. Republican Gov. Rick Scott is a potential challenger. Nelson punted when asked to critique Scott’s handling of Zika.
“I cannot tell you because he does not confer with me and therefore I cannot give you a good assessment of that,” Nelson said.