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Bill Nelson (Florida)

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Bill Nelson
Bill Nelson.jpg
U.S. Senate, Florida
In office
January 3, 2000-Present
Term ends
January 3, 2019
Years in position 15
PredecessorConnie Mack III (R)
Base salary$174,000/year
Elections and appointments
Last electionNovember 6, 2012
First elected2000
Next generalNovember 2018
Campaign $$41,372,539
Term limitsN/A
Prior offices
Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner, Fire Marshall in Florida Cabinet
U.S. House of Representatives
Florida House of Representatives
High schoolMelbourne High School
Bachelor'sUniversity of Florida, Yale University
J.D.University of Virginia
Military service
Service/branchU.S. Army
Years of service1965-1971
Date of birthSeptember 29, 1942
Place of birthMiami, Florida
Net worth$3,757,502.50
Office website
Campaign website
Clarence William "Bill" Nelson (b. September 29, 1942, in Miami, FL) is a Democratic member of the U.S. Senate from the state of Florida. Nelson was first elected to the Senate in 2000.

He was re-elected on November 6, 2012.[1]

Nelson previously was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1978 to 1991 and a member of the Florida House of Representatives from 1972 to 1978.[2] Between 1994 and 2000 Nelson served as treasurer, insurance commissioner and fire marshall in the Florida Cabinet.[2]

Based on analysis of multiple outside rankings, Nelson is an average Democratic member of Congress, meaning he will vote with the Democratic Party on the majority of bills.


Nelson was born in Miami and spent his youth in Melbourne, FL, where he attended Melbourne High School.

Nelson attended the University of Florida before transferring to Yale University. He subsequently received a law degree from the University of Virginia.[3]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.[3]

In 1986, Nelson became the second sitting member of U.S. 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 12-18, 1986.


Below is an abbreviated outline of Nelson's academic, professional and political career:[4]

Committee assignments

U.S. Senate


Nelson serves on the following committees:[5]


Nelson serves on the following Senate committees[6]


Key votes

113th Congress


The second session of the 113th Congress enacted into law 114 out of the 3,036 introduced bills (3.8 percent). Comparatively, the 112th Congress had 4.2 percent of introduced bills enacted into law in the second session.[8] The Senate confirmed 13,949 out of 18,323 executive nominations received (76.1 percent). For more information pertaining to Nelson's voting record in the 113th Congress, please see the below sections.[9]

National security

John Brennan CIA nomination

Yea3.png Nelson voted for the confirmation of John Brennan as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The nomination was confirmed by the Senate on March 7, 2013, with a vote of 63 - 34. Most Democrats supported the nomination, while Republicans were somewhat divided with roughly one-third supporting the nomination.[10]


Source: This graphic was generated by Find The Best.

Farm bill

Yea3.png On February 4, 2014, the Democratic controlled Senate approved the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, H.R. 2642, also known as the Farm Bill.[11] It passed the Senate with a vote of 68-32. The nearly 1,000-page bill reformed and continued various programs of the Department of Agriculture through 2018. The $1 trillion bill expanded crop insurance for farmers by $7 billion over the next decade and created new subsidies for rice and peanut growers that will kick in if or when prices drop; however, cuts to the food stamp program cut an average of $90 per month for 1.7 million people in 15 states.[12] Nelson joined with 46 other Democratic senators in favor of the bill.

2014 Budget

Yea3.png On January 16, 2014, the Democratic-controlled Senate approved H.R. 3547, a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund the government through September 30, 2014.[13][14] The Senate voted 72-26 for the 1,582 page bill, with 17 Republicans and 55 Democrats voting in favor of the bill.[14] The omnibus package included 12 annual spending bills to fund federal operations.[15] It included a 1 percent increase in the paychecks of federal workers and military personnel, a $1 billion increase in Head Start funding for early childhood education, reduced funding to the Internal Revenue Service and the Environmental Protection Agency and left the Affordable Care Act without any drastic cuts. Nelson voted with the Democratic Party in favor of the bill.[13][14]

Government shutdown

See also: United States budget debate, 2013

Yea3.png During the shutdown in October 2013, the Senate rejected, down party lines, every House-originated bill that stripped the budget of funding for the Affordable Care Act. A deal was reached late on October 16, 2013, just hours before the debt ceiling deadline. The bill to reopen the government, H.R. 2775, lifted the $16.7 trillion debt limit and funded the government through January 15, 2014. Federal employees also received retroactive pay for the shutdown period. The only concession made by Senate Democrats was to require income verification for Obamacare subsidies.[16] The final vote on H.R. 2775 was 81-18, with all 18 votes against the bill from Republican members. Nelson voted with the Democratic Party for the bill.[17]

No Budget, No Pay Act of 2013

Yea3.png Nelson voted for H.R.325 -- No Budget, No Pay Act of 2013. The bill passed the Senate on January 31, 2013, with a vote of 64 - 34. The purpose of the bill was to temporarily suspend the debt ceiling and withhold the pay of members of Congress until a budget could be passed. The vote largely followed party lines with Democrats overwhelmingly supporting it and many Republicans in opposition to the bill.[10]


Mexico-U.S. border

Nay3.png Nelson voted against Senate Amendment 1197 -- Requires the Completion of the Fence Along the United States-Mexico Border. The amendment was rejected by the Senate on June 18, 2013, with a vote of 39 - 54. The purpose of the amendment was to require the completion of 350 miles of fence described in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 before registered provisional immigrant status may be granted. It would also require 700 miles of fence be completed before the status of registered provisional immigrants may be changed to permanent resident status. The vote followed party lines.[10]

Social issues

Violence Against Women (2013)

Yea3.png Nelson voted for S.47 -- Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. The bill was passed by the Senate on February 12, 2013, with a vote of 78 - 22. The purpose of the bill was to combat violence against women, from domestic violence to international trafficking in persons. All 22 dissenting votes were cast by Republicans.[10]

Previous congressional sessions

Fiscal Cliff

Yea3.png Nelson voted for the fiscal cliff compromise bill, which made permanent most of the Bush tax cuts originally passed in 2001 and 2003 while also raising tax rates on the highest income levels. The bill was passed in the Senate by an 89 - 8 vote on January 1, 2013.[18]


On The Issues Vote Match

Bill Nelson's Vote Match results from On The Issues.
See also: On The Issues Vote Match

On The Issues conducts a VoteMatch analysis of elected officials based on 20 issue areas. Rather than relying on incumbents to complete the quiz themselves, the VoteMatch analysis is conducted using voting records, statements to the media, debate transcripts or citations from books authored by or about the candidate. Based on the results of the quiz, Nelson is a Moderate Liberal Populist. Nelson received a score of 50 percent on social issues and 38 percent on economic issues.[19]

On The Issues organization logo.

The table below contains the results of analysis compiled by staff at On The Issues.

On The Issues Vote Quiz[20]
Economic Issues Social Issues
Issue Stance Issue Stance
Legally require hiring women & minorities Favors Abortion is a woman's unrestricted right Opposes
Expand ObamaCare Opposes Comfortable with same-sex marriage Favors
Vouchers for school choice Strongly Opposes Keep God in the public sphere Strongly Opposes
Absolute right to gun ownership Strongly Opposes Human needs over animal rights Strongly Opposes
Higher taxes on the wealthy Strongly Opposes Stricter punishment reduces crime Opposes
Support & expand free trade Opposes Pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens Opposes
Stricter limits on political campaign funds Neutral Maintain US sovereignty from UN Strongly Opposes
Prioritize green energy Opposes Expand the military Opposes
Stimulus better than market-led recovery Opposes Stay out of Iran Opposes
Privatize Social Security Strongly Opposes Never legalize marijuana Unknown
Note: Information last updated: April 19, 2015.[19] If you notice the rating has changed, email us.

National security

American response in Syria

See also: United States involvement in Syria

Nelson released a statement on September 1, 2013, following President Barack Obama's decision to seek Congress' approval to take military action in Syria.[21]

"The president wants to put to rest any doubt the American people may have," Nelson said. "I support the president's decision. But as far as I'm concerned, we should strike in Syria today. The use of chemical weapons was inhumane, and those responsible should be forced to suffer the consequences."[21]

Social issues

Gay Marriage

Bill Nelson previously expressed the opinion that a marriage was between a man and a woman, but supported civil rights efforts for same-sex couples.[22] On April 4, 2013, Nelson reversed his prior opinion on same-sex marriage, speaking out in favor.[23] He became the 51st Senator to speak out in support of same-sex marriage.[23]

In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, Nelson cited his faith as a reason for changing his standing on the issue, saying, "It is generally accepted in American law and U.S. society today... that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. I believe that. The civil rights and responsibilities for one must pertain to all. Thus, to discriminate against one class and not another is wrong for me. If we are endowed by our Creator with rights, then why shouldn't those be attainable by Gays and Lesbians? 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. So I will add my name to the petition of senators asking the Supreme Court to declare the law that prohibits gay marriage unconstitutional."[24]



See also: Florida gubernatorial election, 2014

Nelson was a potential, although unlikely, candidate for Governor of Florida in 2014.[25] Reports that Nelson was considering a gubernatorial bid emerged following the entry of ex-Gov. Charlie Crist into the Democratic primary race. In mid-November 2013, Nelson said, cryptically, that while he had no current plans to seek the governor's office, that could change in the event Crist, "gets into trouble."[26] Crist was previously elected Florida governor on the Republican ticket, and later became an Independent. In early 2013, he switched his party affiliation to Democrat, a move widely accepted as a strategic attempt to unseat unpopular GOP incumbent Rick Scott in the 2014 election. Nelson ultimately did not file for the race.[27]


See also: United States Senate elections in Florida, 2012

Nelson ran in the 2012 election for the U.S. Senate, representing Florida. Nelson sought re-election on the Democratic ticket.[28] The signature filing deadline for candidates wishing to run was May 7, 2012. The primary elections were held on August 14, 2012. Bill Fisher Jr., Adam Hasner, George LeMieux, Connie Mack, Mike McCalister, Ron McNeil, Craig Miller, and Marielena Stuart were seeking the Republican nomination. Nelson defeated Glenn Burkett in the Democratic primary on August 14, 2012.[29] He was re-elected on November 6, 2012.[30]

The University of Virginia's Center for Politics published an article called Sabato's Crystal Ball on March 22, 2012, detailing the 8 races in the Senate in 2012 that would decide the political fate of which party would end up with control in 2013.[31] The Senate seat in Florida was the toss up state ranked second in likelihood of ending up Democratic, behind New Mexico's Senate seat.[31] Incumbent Nelson's mediocre approval rating was the reasoning behind the "toss-up" classification of the Senate seat, but Nelson was expected to gain Democratic support in time for the election.[31] Nelson was expected to face significant opposition from Connie Mack in the general election on November 6, 2012.[31]

U.S. Senate, Florida General Election, 2012
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngBill Nelson Incumbent 55.2% 4,523,451
     Republican Connie Mack 42.2% 3,458,267
     Independent Bill Gaylor 1.5% 126,079
     Independent Chris Borgia 1% 82,089
     N/A Write-ins 0% 60
Total Votes 8,189,946
Source: Florida Election Watch "U.S. Senator"


Former Governor Charlie Crist confirmed his support for Nelson’s re-election bid against Republican Representative Connie Mack IV on August 1, 2012.[32] Not only did Crist announce that he planned to donate to Nelson, but he said he'd also appear at an August 1 fundraiser for the incumbent, headlined by former President Bill Clinton.[32]

Full history

Campaign donors

Fundraising events

The below chart from Find The Best tracks the fundraising events Nelson attends.

Source: This graphic was generated by Find The Best.

Comprehensive donor history

Comprehensive donor information for Nelson is available dating back to 2000. Based on available campaign finance records, Nelson raised a total of $41,372,539 during that time period. This information was last updated on April 3, 2013.[35]

Bill Nelson (Florida)'s Campaign Contribution History
Year Office Result Contributions
2012 U.S. Senate (Florida) Won $16,803,512
2006 U.S. Senate (Florida) Won $18,031,681
2000 U.S. Senate (Florida) Won $6,537,346
Grand Total Raised $41,372,539

Source: This graphic was generated by Find The Best.


Nelson won re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2012. During that election cycle, Nelson's campaign committee raised a total of $16,803,512 and spent $17,125,413.[36] This is more than the average $10.2 million spent by Senate winners in 2012.[37]

Cost per vote

Nelson spent $3.79 per vote received in 2012.


Nelson won re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2006. During that re-election cycle, Nelson's campaign committee raised a total of $18,031,681 and spent $16,718,881.[38]

Personal Gain Index

Congressional Personal Gain Index graphic.png
See also: Personal Gain Index (U.S. Congress)

The Personal Gain Index (U.S. Congress) is a two-part measurement that illustrates the extent to which members of the U.S. Congress have prospered during their tenure as public servants.
It consists of two different metrics:

PGI: Change in net worth

See also: Changes in Net Worth of U.S. Senators and Representatives (Personal Gain Index) and Net worth of United States Senators and Representatives
Net Worth Metric graphic.png

Based on congressional financial disclosure forms and calculations made available by, Nelson's net worth as of 2012 was estimated between $1,465,005 and $6,050,000. That averages to $3,757,502.50, which is lower than the average net worth of Democratic senators in 2012 of $13,566,333. Nelson ranked as the 36th most wealthy senator in 2012.[39] Between 2004 and 2012, Nelson's calculated net worth[40] decreased by an average of 4 percent per year. Between 2004 and 2014, the average annual percentage increase for a member of Congress was 15.4 percent.[41]

Bill Nelson Yearly Net Worth
YearAverage Net Worth
Growth from 2004 to 2012:-30%
Average annual growth:-4%[42]
Comparatively, the American citizen experienced a median yearly decline in net worth of -0.94%.[43]
The data used to calculate changes in net worth may include changes resulting from assets gained through marriage, inheritance, changes in family estates and/or trusts, changes in family business ownership and many other variables unrelated to a member's behavior in Congress.

PGI: Donation Concentration Metric

See also: The Donation Concentration Metric (U.S. Congress Personal Gain Index)

Filings required by the Federal Election Commission report on the industries that give to each candidate. Using campaign filings and information calculated by, Ballotpedia calculated the percentage of donations by industry received by each incumbent over the course of his or her career (or 1989 and later, if elected prior to 1988). In the 113th Congress, Nelson is the Chair of the United States Senate Committee on Aging. Nelson received the most donations from individuals and PACs employed by the Lawyers/Law Firms industry.

From 1999-2014, 31.29 percent of Nelson's career contributions came from the top five industries as listed below.[44]

Donation Concentration Metric graphic.png
Bill Nelson (Florida) Campaign Contributions
Total Raised $41,738,023
Total Spent $40,857,574
Chair of the United States Senate Committee on Aging
Top five industries that contributed to campaign committee
Lawyers/Law Firms$6,727,199
Real Estate$1,839,361
Health Professionals$1,171,963
Securities & Investment$1,164,631
% total in top industry16.12%
% total in top two industries21.29%
% total in top five industries31.29%


Ideology and leadership

See also: GovTrack's Political Spectrum & Legislative Leadership ranking

Based on an analysis of bill sponsorship by GovTrack, Nelson was a "centrist Democrat," as of July 21, 2014.[45] Nelson was rated as a "rank-and-file Democrat," in June 2013.

Like-minded colleagues

The website OpenCongress tracks the voting records of each member to determine with whom he or she votes most and least often. The results include a member from each party.[46]

Nelson most often votes with:

Nelson least often votes with:

Source: This graphic was generated by Find The Best.

Lifetime voting record

See also: Lifetime voting records of United States Senators and Representatives

According to the website GovTrack,, Nelson missed 74 of 4,315 roll call votes January 2001 to July 2014. This amount to 1.7 percent, which is better than the median of 2.0% among the currently senators currently as of July 2014.[47]

Congressional staff salaries

See also: Staff salaries of United States Senators and Representatives

The website Legistorm compiles staff salary information for members of Congress. Nelson paid his congressional staff a total of $3,454,635 in 2011. He ranked 3rd on the list of the highest paid Democratic senatorial staff salaries and ranked 98th overall of the lowest paid senatorial staff salaries in 2011. Overall, Florida ranked 2nd in average salary for senatorial staff. The average U.S. Senate congressional staff was paid $2,529,141.70 in fiscal year 2011.[48]

National Journal vote ratings

See also: National Journal vote ratings

Each year National Journal publishes an analysis of how liberally or conservatively each member of Congress voted in the previous year.


Nelson ranked 23rd in the liberal rankings among U.S. senators in 2013.[49]


Nelson ranked 28th in the liberal rankings in 2012.[50]


Nelson ranked 46th in the liberal rankings in 2011.[51]

Voting with party

The website OpenCongress tracks how often members of Congress vote with the majority of the chamber caucus.


Nelson voted with the Democratic Party 96.8 percent of the time, which ranked 15th among the 53 Senate Democratic members as of July 2014.[52]


Bill Nelson voted with the Democratic Party 95.9 percent of the time, which ranked 18th among the 52 Senate Democratic members as of June 2013.[53]

Recent news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term Bill + Nelson + Florida + Senate

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

Bill Nelson News Feed

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See also

External links


  1. ABC News, "2012 General Election Results"
  2. 2.0 2.1 Project Vote Smart, "Biography," accessed June 20, 2013
  3. 3.0 3.1 Bill Nelson: (D-FL), "Path to Power," accessed October 13, 2011
  4. Biographical Director of the United States Congress, "NELSON, Clarence William (Bill), (1942 - )," accessed February 12, 2015
  5. United States Senate, "Committee Assignments of the 114th Congress," accessed February 17, 2015
  6. Congressional Quarterly, "Senate Committee List," accessed January 22, 2013
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Bill Nelson: U.S. Senator from Florida, "Committee Assignments," accessed October 13, 2011
  8. Congressional Record, "Resume of Congressional Activity, First Session of the 112th Congress," accessed September 5, 2013
  9. Congressional Record, "Resume of Congressional Activity, Second Session of the 113th Congress," accessed March 4, 2014
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Project Vote Smart, "Richard Nelson Key Votes," accessed October 16, 2013
  11., "H.R. 2642 (Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013)," accessed February 12, 2014
  12. NY Times, "Senate Passes Long-Stalled Farm Bill, With Clear Winners and Losers," accessed February 12, 2014
  13. 13.0 13.1 Politico, "Senate approves $1.1 trillion spending bill," accessed January 20, 2014
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 U.S. Senate, "January 16 Vote," accessed January 20, 2014
  15. Roll Call, "House Passes $1.1 Trillion Omnibus," accessed January 20, 2014
  16. The Washington Post, "Reid, McConnell propose bipartisan Senate bill to end shutdown, extend borrowing," accessed October 16, 2013
  17., "H.R. 2775 As Amended," accessed October 31, 2013
  18. U.S. Senate, "Roll Call Vote on the Fiscal Cliff," accessed January 4, 2013
  19. 19.0 19.1 On The Issues, "Bill Nelson Vote Match," accessed April 19, 2015
  20. The questions in the quiz are broken down into two sections -- social and economic. In social questions, liberals and libertarians agree in choosing the less-government answers, while conservatives and populists agree in choosing the more restrictive answers. For the economic questions, conservatives and libertarians agree in choosing the less-government answers, while liberals and populists agree in choosing the more restrictive answers.
  21. 21.0 21.1 First Coast News, "Florida Senators react to Syria debate," accessed September 2, 2013
  22., "Gay Marriage Rights: The 10 Democratic Senators Who Still Say No" August 2014
  23. 23.0 23.1 Metro Weekly, "Bill Nelson becomes 51st senator to support same-sex marriage" accessed April 5, 2013
  24. Tampa Bay Times, " Bill Nelson reverses opposition to gay marriage" accessed April 5, 2013
  25. The Miami Herald, "Marc Caputo: Bill Nelson for governor could endanger Charlie Crist, U.S. Senate seat and Democrats," November 17, 2013
  26. Politico, "Bill Nelson: Charlie Crist 'trouble' could spur run for governor," November 19, 2013
  27. Florida Division of Elections, "Candidate Listing for 2014 General Election," accessed June 20, 2014
  28. Washington Post Blog "The Fix" "Florida Sen. Bill Nelson in same spot as Obama," accessed January 5, 2012
  29. AP Results, "Election Results" accessed August 14, 2012
  30. ABC News, "2012 General Election Results," accessed November 6, 2012
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 31.3 Center for Politics, "Tilting the Toss Ups – the Eight Races That Will Decide the Senate" accessed April 9, 2012
  32. 32.0 32.1 Tampa Bay Online, "Charlie Crist backing Bill Nelson in Senate race" accessed August 3, 2012
  33. U.S. Congress House Clerk, "Statistics of the Congressional Election of November 7, 2006," accessed March 28, 2013
  34. U.S. Congress House Clerk, "Statistics of the Congressional Election of November 7, 2000," accessed March 28, 2013
  35. Open Secrets, "Bill Nelson" accessed April 3, 2013
  36. Open Secrets, "Bill Nelson 2012 Election Cycle," accessed February 19, 2013
  37. Open Secrets, "Election 2012: The Big Picture Shows Record Cost of Winning a Seat in Congress," accessed June 19, 2013
  38. Open Secrets, "Bill Nelson 2006 Election Cycle," accessed November 7, 2011
  39. OpenSecrets, "Nelson, (D-FL), 2012," accessed February 18, 2014
  40. This figure represents the average annual percentage growth from either 2004 (if the member entered office in 2004 or earlier) or their first year in office (as noted in the chart below) to 2012, divided by the number of years calculated.
  41. This number was found by dividing each member's total net worth growth percentage by the number of years included in the calculation.
  42. This figure represents the total percentage growth divided by the number of years for which there are net worth figures for each member.
  43. This figure was calculated using median asset data from the Census Bureau. Please see the Congressional Net Worth data for Ballotpedia spreadsheet for more information on this calculation.
  44., "Sen. Bill Nelson," accessed September 18, 2014
  45. GovTrack, "Bill Nelson," accessed July 21, 2014
  46. OpenCongress, "Rep. Bill Nelson," accessed July 21, 2014
  47. GovTrack, "Bill Nelson," accessed July 21, 2014
  48. LegiStorm, "Bill Nelson"
  49. National Journal, "2013 Senate Vote Ratings," accessed July 21, 2014
  50. National Journal, "2012 Congressional Vote Ratings," February 28, 2013
  51. National Journal, "Searchable Vote Ratings Tables: Senate," accessed February 23, 2012
  52. OpenCongress, "Voting With Party," accessed July 2014
  53. OpenCongress, "Voting With Party," accessed July 2014
Political offices
Preceded by
Connie Mack III
U.S. Senate - Florida
Succeeded by