WASHINGTON — A week after midterm elections, another key Democratic voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee still hangs in the balance, with significant ramifications for defense policy.
On Tuesday, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who is the committee’s No. 2 Democrat, was urging the ongoing machine recount in Florida to proceed as he trailed his GOP opponent Florida Gov. Rick Scott by some 12,000 votes.
Democrats achieved more than a bare majority in the House; and in the Senate, their gains grew stronger as Kyrsten Sinema was declared the winner in Arizona on Monday, over House Armed Services Committee member Martha McSally, R-Ariz.
“Democrats won the House of Representatives decisively,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a Senate floor speech on Tuesday. “Democrats flipped several governors and state legislatures. And here in the Senate, Democratic candidates did extraordinarily well with a very difficult map.
“Overall, last Tuesday night was a very good night for Democrats. But more importantly, it’s a very good night for America and for beginning to restore some normalcy to our nation’s governance.”
On the Senate Armed Services Committee, two senior Democrats lost re-election fights: Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill and Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee. McCaskill is ranking member of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
The top Democrat on the SASC’s Cybersecurity Subcommittee, Nelson is one of several lawmakers who have opposed the Trump administration’s proposal to create a separate military service dedicated to space.
In the last defense policy bill, Nelson championed full funding for the B-21 Raider Long Range Strike Bomber, which was designed and engineered at Northrop Grumman facilities in Melbourne, Florida. He also authored an amendment to allow reusable commercial rockets to compete for Air Force launch contracts.
At a news conference Tuesday on Capitol Hill, Nelson and Schumer stood together, calling on Scott to recuse himself from the recount. Nelson accused Scott of “using his power as governor to try to undermine the voting process. He’s thrown around words like voter fraud with no proof.”
Schumer said the recount must proceed “without the heavy hand of” President Donald Trump, who was also accusing Florida election officials of fraud. If the recount is done properly, Nelson has an “excellent chance” of being re-elected, Schumer said.
"President Trump and Gov. Scott seem dead set against counting every vote. Why? Because they’re worried that if every vote is counted, Bill Nelson will be re-elected,” Schumer said.
The Washington Post reported that Scott planned to attend new senator orientation activities in Washington, D.C.
“I won the election,” Scott told “Fox & Friends” on Monday. “I’m going to focus on getting to Washington and getting my agenda implemented.”
Both Nelson and Scott have filed lawsuits over the election. Scott has accused officials in two Democratic strongholds in Florida — Broward County and Palm Beach County — as engaging in “rampant fraud,” while Nelson has filed a lawsuit seeking to bar elections officials from rejecting unconventionally marked ballots.
Trump, who campaigned for Scott, called for Nelson to admit he lost and implied two counties' election officials are trying to steal the election from the Republicans without offering any proof.
Trump tweeted Tuesday morning: “When will Bill Nelson concede in Florida? The characters running Broward and Palm Beach voting will not be able to ‘find’ enough votes, too much spotlight on them now!”