Nelson announces opposition to Trump’s EPA pick

Sen. Bill Nelson calls on the House to pass a Zika funding bill without "unacceptable riders."

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has announced his opposition to President Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt.

Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general, shut down his office’s environmental protection unit. Critics fear he will curtail the EPA’s enforcement authority.

Nelson said he won’t vote to confirm Pruitt because of his ties to the oil and gas industry, which has supported Pruitt’s campaigns.

“Ever since I was a young congressman, I have been fighting to keep oil rigs off the coast of Florida,” Nelson said. “And an EPA administrator with such close ties to the oil industry is deeply concerning for the people of Florida.”

While Trump wants Pruitt to lead the EPA, one Florida congressman, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, has introduced legislation to terminate the agency.

Several members of Palm Beach County’s congressional delegation have blasted that idea.


Trump transition team still mum on Carson, Ross

The transition team of President-elect Donald Trump would not confirm reports that two men who live at least part-time in Palm Beach County, Dr. Ben Carson and Wilbur Ross, have been offered cabinet positions.

News reports have indicated that Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, has been offered the position of secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. After meeting with Carson on Tuesday, Trump himself tweeted: “I am seriously considering Dr. Ben Carson as the head of HUD. I’ve gotten to know him well – he’s a greatly talented person who loves people!”

Other reports have indicated Ross, a billionaire businessman who has a home not far from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago mansion on Palm Beach, is the president-elect’s choice for secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

During a conference call with reporters on Friday, Trump transition spokesman Jason Miller said the president-elect has no official news on the selection of either Carson or Ross.

“There has not yet been an announcement with regard to those men,” Miller said. “I would say that, until the president-elect makes an announcement, I would hold off on that.”

Trump is spending the Thanksgiving holiday weekend at Mar-a-Lago.

Carson endorsed Trump after ending his own bid for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. He has given conflicting signals about his willingness to serve in Trump’s cabinet.

As Trump’s transition team began to announce cabinet nominees, Carson said he would not serve in the cabinet and would seek to help Trump as an outside-of-Washington, D.C. voice of reason.

After meeting with Trump on Tuesday, however, the retired neurosurgeon hinted during an interview on Fox News that he is interested in a role that would allow him to help inner cities.

“You know, our inner cities are in terrible shape, and they definitely need some real attention,” Carson said. “You know, there have been so many promises made over the last several decades, and nothing has been done, so it certainly is something that has been a long-term interest of mine, and I’ll be thinking and praying about it seriously over the holiday.”

Ross has become known as the “king of bankruptcy” because of his success in buying distressed companies at low costs, restructuring them and selling for large profits. Critics contend those restructurings have harmed some workers and encouraged non-compliance with safety regulations in the name of profits.

If nominated, both Carson, 65, and Ross, who turns 79 on Tuesday, would require confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

Miller said Trump will not meet with any other potential members of his administration until Monday, when he will meet with eight potential nominees: Sandeep Mathrani, chief executive of a real estate investment firm; Paul Atkins, former commissioner of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; Kathleen White, former chairwoman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality; U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa.; Dave Steward, chairman and co-founder of a technology firm; E. Scott Pruitt, attorney general for the state of Oklahoma; David Clarke, sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, and John Allison, founder of an asset management firm.

Image (1) DonaldTrump.jpg for post 27261


Trump team defends selection of Sessions as attorney general

The transition of team of President-elect Donald Trump defended his selection of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama for the position of attorney general.

In 1986, the Senate denied Sessions confirmation for a federal judgeship after several of his colleagues accused him of making racist comments.

But in a conference call with reporters Friday morning, transition spokesmen praised Sessions as “someone who is respected across party lines in the U.S. Senate.”

The transition team also noted that Sessions voted in favor of the confirmation of the nation’s first black attorney general, Eric Holder, and that he favored a congressional gold medal for civil rights icon Rosa Parks.

Those plaudits are unlikely to ease the fears of some who see in Trump and his staffing selections a nod to racism, xenophobia and Islamaphobia.

Trump’s selection for national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, has made several controversial comments broadly seen as Islamaphobic, including this tweet: “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL Please forward this to others: the truth fears no consequences.”

The president-elect will meet with more people under consideration for administration jobs today and through the weekend, transition spokesmen said.

Two prominent Floridians, Gov. Rick Scott and Dr. Ben Carson of West Palm Beach, the retired neurosurgeon who endorsed Trump after his unsuccessful run for the GOP nomination, have said they will not serve in Trump’s cabinet.

In addition to the selection of Sessions and Flynn, Trump’s transition team announced that he has chosen U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Kansas Republican who was a sharp critic of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

Sessions and Pompeo will need Senate confirmation; Flynn will not.

FILE - In this Oct. 7, 2016 file photo, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. listens at left as then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a national security meeting with advisers at Trump Tower in New York. As one of President-elect Donald Trump’s closest and most consistent allies, Sessions is a likely pick for a top post in his administration. But the last time Sessions faced Senate confirmation it didn’t go well. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci, File)
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. listens at left as then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a national security meeting with advisers at Trump Tower in New York. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci, File)


Scott after meeting with Trump: “Excited we’re going to see big change”

Gov. Rick Scott's visit with President-elect Donald Trump in New York included a selfie he posted on Twitter.
Gov. Rick Scott’s visit with President-elect Donald Trump in New York included a selfie he posted on Twitter.

Gov. Rick Scott told CNN Thursday night that he’s “very excited we’re going to see big change,” once President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

Scott appeared on OutFront with Erin Burnett following his afternoon meeting at New York’s Trump Tower, where he sat down for 45 minutes with Trump and Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus, who is taking over as White House chief-of-staff.

“I’m excited,” Scott said. “Now I have somebody who’s going to help me with jobs. If I have a problem with EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), transportation, I can call somebody. And get a solution.”

Scott, who this week addressed the Republican Governors Association meeting in Orlando and renewed his call for repeal of the Affordable Care Act, downplayed Trump’s apparent willingness to keep portions of President Obama’s signature legislation.

“The pre-existing condition, everybody understands that, allowing people to stay on their parents’ policies, that makes some sense,” Scott said. “But the real cost is the exchanges, the mandates, the taxes. Those are the real things that’s got to be changed.”

Scott also repeated he has no interest in serving in the Trump administration.

“I want to finish this job,” Scott said.

Florida’s always-talked-about candidate, Atwater, won’t run again

CFO Jeff Atwater says he won't be on the ballot in 2018.
CFO Jeff Atwater says he won’t be on the ballot in 2018.

Long talked of for some kind of higher office, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater says he won’t be on any ballot next election cycle.

Atwater recently confided to members of the Florida Council of 100 that he wouldn’t be seeking another elected office as his term-limited time as CFO winds down. He’s set to step down in 2018, after two terms in the Cabinet post.

Instead, Atwater, a former North Palm Beach legislator and Senate president, said he’s looking forward to serving the state outside the confines of a political office.

Atwater’s move comes as angling to succeed Gov. Rick Scott is already developing. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is viewed as a certain candidate and front-runner, while former state House Speaker Will Weatherford said he’s also making up his mind.

Supporters of Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, who spearheaded the medical marijuana ballot effort in Florida, are also trying to get him to run, likely as a Democrat.

Meanwhile, Scott is seen as a challenger to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat, who is up for re-election in 2018.

Atwater, 58, last year stayed out of what was a short-lived scramble of Republicans seeking the U.S. Senate seat initially abandoned by Sen. Marco Rubio during his presidential run. Rubio was re-elected last Tuesday.

Atwater also made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency of Florida Atlantic University in 2014.


With Zika virus in Miami-Dade, Scott assures Florida a “safe state”

Gov. Scott and Cabinet try to tamp down Zika virus fears.
Gov. Scott and Cabinet try to tamp down Zika virus fears.

Rick Scott joined other officials Tuesday in working to tamp down rising concern about the spread of the Zika virus, with the Republican governor assuring that Florida remains a “safe state.”

Scott made the declaration at the start of a state Cabinet meeting at the Capitol. He was quickly backed up by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, whose office, along with state and federal health officials, is central in the fight against the mosquito-borne illness.

“We’re going to beat this,” Putnam said. “We’re going to move forward and Florida is very much going to remain the state that is known for its exceptional outdoor activities and opportunities.

He added, “This will be just one of the more interesting chapters written about Florida.”

Attorney General Pam Bondi also joined in the Cabinet’s pep talk – televised statewide on public broadcasting stations. She urged Floridians to put on mosquito repellant every morning.

“Make it a part of your routine,” Bondi said.

With the first locally-transmitted cases of the Zika virus in the continental U.S. traced to a one-square-mile stretch of Miami-Dade County, Scott said the state is seeking to confine the outbreak to that area.

He also said the state has tested more than 20,000 mosquitoes – and has yet come across any that are carrying the Zika virus.

“We’re doing everything we can to make everyone comfortable,” Scott said.