In his first high-profile vote in the U.S. House, Pinellas County's newly elected congressman David Jolly voted against the GOP's Ryan budget proposal on Thursday, becoming one of just 12 Republicans to do so.
"I simply kept my word," Jolly said. And, referring to the number of phone calls he got from media afterward, he quipped: "It's remarkable how newsworthy it is when a member of Congress keeps their promise."
The House's conservative Republican plan, designed to lead to a balanced budget in a decade, is considered more of a symbolic policy statement as opposed to legislation likely to pass. The Democratic-led Senate has no plans to take it up.
The plan calls for repealing "Obamacare," cutting taxes and making fundamental changes to Medicare, which would be transformed into a system in which seniors would use funds to purchase private health care options.
Jolly said during his recent campaign that it wouldn't be fair to change the rules on middle-aged people who have worked for years believing they would have Medicare in the future.
If the change were instituted for younger people, that would be fairer, he said.
This vote came a month after Jolly was elected to Congress in a hard-fought campaign, narrowly defeating Democrat Alex Sink, who is still considering running against him again in the fall.
Campaigning in Pinellas County's District 13, where one in four registered voters is over 65, both Jolly and Sink spent significant time discussing Medicare and Social Security. Jolly was hit with multiple campaign commercials suggesting he wanted to privatize Social Security and turn Medicare into a voucher program.
Jolly said that before Thursday's vote, he spoke about his position to House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.
"Obviously they wanted to build as many votes as they could, but we have a caucus that can have these conversations," Jolly said. "They certainly understood my position."
Campaign reports filed Thursday show Sink raised considerably more than Jolly in the race — nearly $3.2 million, compared to $1.2 million. But outside groups on both sides poured millions more into the race.
The new reports also showed that as of March 31, 20 days after the election, the Jolly campaign was $235,486 in debt. (It also listed $19,746 in cash on hand.)
Sarah Bascom, a Jolly campaign spokeswoman, said that's not uncommon in high-profile campaigns, and said fundraising efforts already were under way. "We are confident that we'll retire the debt," she said.
Meanwhile, Sink's campaign reported no debt, and $183,984 cash on hand.
Also Thursday, Jolly's office announced Preston Rudie, a reporter who covered the congressional campaign for WTSP-Ch. 10, will become the congressman's director of communications. Unlike most congressional spokespeople, Rudie will be based in Pinellas County rather than Washington, D.C.
Jolly was elected last month in a special election to fill out the term of his former boss, the late Republican U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young.