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PolitiFact On Adam Putnam's Immigration Stance; Bill Nelson On Single-Payer Health Care

Migrants picking citrus
NPR photo
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow comes from a long line of citrus farmers, so it's no surprise he's in favor of a continued flow of migrant labor to help pick that fruit. But is he in favor of "amnesty"  for all people in the country illegally? 

That's the contention of pollster Tony Fabrizio. Now Fabrizio happens to work for House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O'Lakes. And Corcoran has been making waves about running against Putnam for governor, once Gov. Rick Scott's second term is up.

"He was for amnesty," Fabrizio told Politico July 10, while criticizing Putnam’s positions on a long list of issues.

Really? Here's PolitiFact Florida's take on that claim:

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel

Fabrizio pointed to stances Putnam took in favor of expanding visas for workers and in favor of changing immigration laws. Here are some examples:

Work visas: In 2003, three Arizona Republicans in the House and Senate introduced the Border Security and Immigration Improvement Act, which would have given migrants temporary work visas for three-year terms and then allow them to seek lawful permanent resident status. Those who were already here illegally would get a separate visa and have to wait six years to apply for legal status and pay a $1,500 fine.

Critics derided the legislation as amnesty, but sponsors said it wasn’t amnesty because illegal crossers would have to get in the back of the line. Putnam was one of 12 cosponsors of the house. The legislation never reached a vote.

AgJobs: Putnam co-sponsored AgJobs bills in 2007 and 2009that would have provided a "blue card" to undocumented farm workers already in the United States. After paying a fine, they could eventually apply for a green card to get permanent legal status if they continued to work in agriculture. The legislation was also intended to overhaul rules on farm worker visas. These measures died without reaching a vote.

In 2009, Putnam defended the legislation as an "effort to have a stable, legal workforce for agriculture, so this country won't be as dependent on others for food as it is for fuel."

Path to legal status: During his tenure in Congress and after he left, Putnam made statements in favor of legislation that included a path to legal status and eventual opportunity for citizenship.

In June 2013 while he was Florida’s agriculture commissioner, Putnam told reporters that he supported the "Gang of Eight" bill which he saw as a benefit to multiple industries including agriculture.utnam also supported some measures that wouldn’t benefit immigrants

Putnam’s campaign spokeswoman Amanda Bevis pointed to stances Putnam took that showed he was against sanctuary policies created by cities or states that won’t share immigration information with federal officials and votes in favor of securing the border.

Sanctuary cities: Putnam voted for measures that would ban federal funding for states and localities that have sanctuary policies in 2006 and 2007.

Border security: Putnam took several votes in favor of border security measures and funding enforcement. For example, he was one of multiple cosponsors of the Secure Fence Act of 2006 and voted for the legislation. The law signed by President George W. Bush authorized about 700 miles of fencing between the border of the United States and Mexico.

Law enforcement: Putnam supported measures to empower state and local law officials to help enforce federal immigration laws in 2006 and 2007.

Dreamers:In 2010, Putnam voted against a Senate amendment on a bill that included a DREAM Act provision, which would have allowed children brought illegally to the United States as minors to stay.

The claim is partially accurate, but lacks important context. We rate this claim Half True.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fl., might be in for a tough fight for re-election against Rick Scott. So national Republicans are trying to tie him to the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has run a Facebook ad that implies Nelson is in favor of a single-payer health care system, similar to what they have in Western Europe.

The Facebook ad ties Nelson to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

"Elizabeth Warren doesn't think Obamacare goes far enough," states the Facebook ad, which started July 5. Then it quotes Warren saying "the next step is single payer." The text on the screen continues: "Does Sen. Nelson agree? He has in the past ... Sen. Nelson votes with Warren 90 percent of the time. Tell Sen. Nelson no to government health care!"

So has Nelson come out in favor of single-payer health care? Here's PolitiFact Florida's take:

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel

Nelson has scarcely mentioned "single payer" at all in the years leading up to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, or even since that time.

At an October 2005 speech to the Tiger Bay Club of St. Petersburg, the Tampa Tribuneparaphrased Nelson’s answer to a question about health care. The Tribune wrote that Nelson said he opposed a universal, single-payer health care program, but that employers should not be the main source of health insurance for individuals. Large groups of consumers organized into purchasing units should replace employers as group insurance purchasers, he said.

The NRSC sent us a screengrab of CQ data showing a comparison of Warren’s voting record with Nelson’s record between January 2013 and June 27, 2017. The data shows that Nelson and Warren voted the same way on 1,126 votes out of 1,250, or 90 percent.

The fact that members of the same party agree with each other on issues that reach a vote isn’t a surprise in an increasingly partisan atmosphere.

However, the issues that reach a vote don’t tell the full story about a senator’s beliefs, University of Miami political science professor Gregory Koger said.

"The Senate votes on a carefully selected sort of issues, biased toward extremely conservative ideas (to mollify Ted Cruz types), consensus proposals, or middle-of-the-road Democratic proposals," Koger said. "Indeed, one of the reasons the Senate has been dysfunctional is that both parties fight hard to keep many issues from coming to a roll call vote."

Voting together on a carefully screened set of issues does not imply agreement on controversial proposals.

We rate this claim Mostly False.


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Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.