Issue Position: National Security
Back in 2002 when we voted on the authorization for this war, I voted for it, as did most of the senators. The information we were given at the time was that there were weapons of mass destruction, certainly, chemical and biological weapons. And, we were led to believe Saddam Hussein had a very active nuclear program. But now we know none of that was true. And knowing what I know now - that none of that was true - would I have voted the same way? Of course I wouldn't have. But I voted for the war authorization on the basis of that information. We've been in Iraq almost four-and one-half years now, and the central questions before us today are: how do we keep a bad situation from getting worse; and, how do we achieve success from chaos? The Levin-Reed amendment recognizes the situation on the ground, and provides a practical way of getting our troops out of the crossfire of a civil war by redeploying them to go after al Qaeda, and to provide protection for U.S. personnel and assets and training for the Iraqi army. In the long-term, what we'll need is a political solution, instead of a military solution. This will take an aggressive diplomatic effort, as was advocated by the Iraq Study Group last year. This is what I support. Additionally, I am cosponsoring Sen. [ Joe ] Biden's plan for a political settlement to the violence in Iraq that allows power-sharing among the country's three warring factions. There would be a federalist system of government with autonomous states, and the limited central authority or national government would allocate the country's oil revenues.
Most everyone agrees our immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed. What we have now is the equivalent of amnesty. That's why I voted to have a full debate and final decision on an immigration plan in the Senate. While the plan had flaws, it was a first step toward securing our borders and enforcing our immigration laws; and, seeing to it that everyone in America plays by all the rules, including paying taxes and following one set of employment mandates. Unfortunately, the Senate decided against passing any reforms at this time.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Bill Nelson traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan in January 2002 with Sens. John McCain and Joseph Lieberman during the first congressional visit to the war zone. Nelson returned to Afghanistan in March 2002 and met with American military leaders and soldiers fighting the war on terrorism. Many of them were sent from Florida, which is home to several military bases central to the war effort, including U.S. Central Command in Tampa.
During his visit Nelson met also with the leaders of Pakistan and India, as the United States increases its efforts to ease tensions between the two nations.
Nelson believes that a strong military should be a top priority. A member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, Nelson represents thousands of military families living in Florida. Top defense issues for Nelson include improving quality of life for members of the Armed Services and military retirees and their families. He has also pushed for continued research and development of a national missile defense system. Nelson included a provision in the 2002 defense authorization bill that makes it easier for overseas military personnel to vote.
In an effort to spur economic recovery in Haiti, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson has re-introduced the Haiti Economy Recovery Opportunity Act. This piece of legislation is intended to improve the economic and political situation in Haiti by promoting trade. The bill would use trade incentives to encourage the Haitian government to make much needed reforms while encouraging direct foreign investment. The Haiti Economy Recovery Opportunity Act could result in as many as 50,000 new jobs in Haiti.
With Senator Nelson's help, the Senate approved the bill in 2004, although the legislation failed to receive a vote in the House.
A resolution sponsored by Sen. Bill Nelson marking the one-year anniversary of the March 2003 crackdown on Varela Project signers and democracy activists in Cuba was approved by the U.S. Senate. It calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners, and it asks the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to demand outside inspectors be allowed to visit Cuba to assess and report on the extent of human rights abuses there.
Before his election to the Senate in November of 2000, Nelson served as Florida's treasurer and insurance commissioner in a job that pitted him against international insurance companies due to his aggressive efforts to recover what is owed to survivors of Nazi brutality. As a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Nelson has strengthened the U.S. oversight of programs compensating Holocaust survivors. He helped get a tax exemption on Holocaust restitution payments, and successfully sought extra time for victims to file claims against insurers.