Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida seems to have stepped in it twice during the government shutdown farce. By voting for the government shutdown on Friday (Jan. 19), he angered NASA employees around the Kennedy Space Center who had been furloughed as a result. He also helped to disrupt FEMA efforts to help Florida recover from the aftereffects of Hurricane Irma. When Nelson voted to reopen the government without a deal of DACA, he angered immigration activists who are demanding amnesty for the 800,000 or so so-called Dreamers, illegal immigrants who were brought across the border by their parents as children.

Government shutdown affected one crucial Florida constituency

By voting for the shutdown, Nelson angered KSC workers and their dependents. He has already placed an expansion of activity at NASA’s launch facility at risk by opposing President Trump’s pick for NASA administrator, Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Oklahoma. Nelson also managed to disrupt the ongoing efforts of FEMA to help lift Florida out of the disaster wrought by Hurricane Irma. Nelson has tried to position himself as both the guardian of KSC and a facilitator for hurricane disaster relief.

Nelson’s vote for the government shutdown has run contrary to that narrative.

Illegal immigrant advocates outraged by Nelson’s reversal

More ominous, from Nelson’s perspective, is the outrage he has sparked by voting to reopen the government from the immigrant community in Florida. Advocates for dealing with the DACA recipients, or “Dreamers,” have been radicalized by the issue. A group of advocates physically blocked the entrance to Disney World as an act of civil disobedience, angering park customers.

The Miami New Times notes that the same activists are outraged at Nelson caving in to Republican demands to reopen the government without a DACA deal.

Nelson in trouble for re-election

Sen. Nelson was already in a lot of trouble in his quest for re-election in 2018. One recent poll had him behind in double digits to Gov. Rick Scott, who is thought to be contemplating a Senate run as he is term-limited as governor of Florida.

Nelson, in effect, has stepped in it twice on the same issue, a remarkable achievement for any politician, even someone as notoriously shifty as he is. Both the Republican National Senatorial Committee and Gov. Scott have pounced, issuing statements openly wondering what Nelson stands for if anything besides himself. Nelson has enjoyed the power of incumbency since he first went to Washington, decades ago. Now in his 70s, the aging senator is in danger of being regarded as a swamp dweller, as part of the dysfunction of government and therefore targeted for defeat in the next election.

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