When it comes to considering the federal government's role in American's lives, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson suggested Thursday that people just ask New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The Republican governor of the state most ravaged by superstorm Sandy has appeared alongside Democratic President Barack Obama and his FEMA director Craig Fugate this week, heaping praise on the president and his administration's response to the storm.
Speaking to a group of Hispanic and higher-education leaders, Nelson departed from his usual campaign speech that cites his centrist, bipartisan approach to Washington. Instead, he was forceful in defending the Obama initiatives most vilified by his Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, and presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
He credited Obama with reversing the economic collapse of late 2008 with his $789-billion stimulus package, with passing Wall Street reform through the Dodd-Frank Act and offering wider access to health care though the Affordable Care Act.
"Ask Gov. Christie right now what he thinks the role of the federal government ought to be," Nelson told the group at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico's Orlando campus on Econlockhatchee Trail. "It needs to be tailored to the times and the needs."
It was one of the few solo campaign appearances Nelson has made this year in Orlando -- where he maintains a home -- though he also spoke to more than 7,000 people at the University of Central Florida Monday as a warm-up speaker for former President Bill Clinton.
Nelson, who is leading Mack in most polls, also is sponsoring a '60s music concert today at 5 p.m. at the Embassy Suites Hotel in downtown Orlando.
Mack will be in Orlando today as well, with a meet-and-greet scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the Republican campaign office at 234 S. Semoran Blvd.
Nelson accused Republicans of thwarting jobs, research and infrastructure proposals in the name of reducing the size of government. He referred dismissively to comments by Romney and other Republicans that FEMA's disaster-response function should be turned over to the states.
He also strongly pushed immigration reform and his co-sponsorship of the DREAM Act, which would create pathways to citizenship for young illegal immigrants who grew up in America.
"What is the right thing to do? If a child comes here through no fault of their own and thinking they're American and they want to continue achieving the American dream and they want to go into the U.S. military or go to college, they ought to be allowed," he said.
Nelson offered the Affordable Care Act as a benefit to Hispanic families struggling to make ends meet.
"You all know. You've seen the families who are desperate, when they don't have health insurance," he said of the program Romney and Mack have vowed to repeal.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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