Monday, December 18, 2017
Politics

Romano: Ignoring the death panels, and listening to legitimate concerns

Sometimes, we get lost in the drama. Sidetracked by fools, or distracted by invective.

And so the new narrative is not about health insurance and not about Medicaid, but instead how the angry middle class is forcing Republican politicians into hiding.

A congressman in California had to be rescued from a town hall meeting by a wall of cops. A congressman in New York canceled a similar event.

And a former sheriff now in the U.S. House of Representatives was recently asked to give a tutorial to his GOP colleagues on how to fortify offices and beef up security in crowded settings.

Even here, a week ago, a constituent gathering in Pasco turned into national news when the microphones went live and the conversation went brain-dead.

Yet if you were willing to tiptoe through the noise and the nonsense, there was a message to be heard. And, fortunately, the man in the front of the room was listening.

"People are concerned, and rightfully so,'' said U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, who arranged for town hall meetings in Pinellas and Pasco on back-to-back weekends. "Their fears are genuine.''

Bilirakis was not there to win over a crowd. Not with Obamacare on the agenda.

Republicans may have the numbers on their side in Washington, but they do not have anything close to a mandate when it comes to the possibility of taking insurance away from tens of millions.

And that puts politicians such as Bilirakis in a bind.

Republicans got the implicit approval to repeal the Affordable Care Act from voters in November, but it's a lot harder to do when you're staring into the face of worried patients and parents in February.

That's why a lot of politicians have taken safer routes. They're conversing with voters on Facebook, or on teleconferences where speakers can be screened. Some have dropped the pretense altogether and aren't even bothering to check in with the folks back home.

Bilirakis said he couldn't, and wouldn't, go that route. He had seven town hall meetings in 2016 and wasn't going to avoid health care just because it had become an uncomfortable topic in 2017.

Before the town hall began, cops suggested to the congressman's staff that he enter and exit the building through a back door. Bilirakis declined. Instead he showed up early, and stayed late.

"More than likely, there will be a repeal. After all, we campaigned on a repeal,'' Bilirakis said. "But I feel like it's my duty and my obligation to listen to what my constituents have to say about it.''

Listening is one thing; agreeing is another.

Like the rest of the GOP, Bilirakis has been conditioned to paint Obamacare as a disaster. And yet he acknowledges the law's supporters have valid arguments on a lot of issues.

For instance, pre-existing conditions should be covered. And there should be no lifetime caps. And children up to the age of 26 should be eligible on a parent's health coverage.

Where the law goes from there is less clear. Are tax credits the answer? Will states still get enough Medicaid funding for poverty-level residents? Will we return to emergency room treatment instead of preventive care?

Bilirakis said he is confident congressional leadership will have a strategy in place soon. Until then? He will continue to listen. Another town hall meeting is planned for eastern Pasco County in the coming weeks.

Comments
Trump says he isn’t considering firing Mueller

Trump says he isn’t considering firing Mueller

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Sunday that he is not considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller even as his administration was again forced to grapple with the growing Russia inquiry that has shadowed the White House for much of his ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

WASHINGTON — Closing in on the first major legislative achievement of his term, President Donald Trump on Saturday defended the Republican tax cut as a good deal for the middle class while boldly suggesting it could lead to explosive economic growth....
Published: 12/16/17
Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Sometime soon, members of the Florida House will be asked to consider a solution for bullying in public schools. It’s a dubious idea based on the premise that students should flee their tormenters, and use voucher funds to attend a private school of ...
Published: 12/16/17
CDC gets list of forbidden words: ‘fetus,’ ‘transgender,’ ‘evidence-based’

CDC gets list of forbidden words: ‘fetus,’ ‘transgender,’ ‘evidence-based’

Trump administration officials are forbidding officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases - including "fetus" and "transgender" - in any official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.Polic...
Published: 12/16/17
Female congressional candidate leaves race after sexual harassment allegations resurface

Female congressional candidate leaves race after sexual harassment allegations resurface

A Democratic candidate hoping to flip a hotly contested congressional seat in Kansas has dropped out of the race after allegations that she sexually harassed a male subordinate resurfaced amid her campaign.Andrea Ramsey, 57, who was running to unseat...
Published: 12/16/17
Highlights of GOP compromise bill to overhaul tax code

Highlights of GOP compromise bill to overhaul tax code

WASHINGTON — Republicans in Congress have blended separate tax bills passed by the House and Senate into compromise legislation that seeks to achieve a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s tax code. GOP leaders are looking toward passage of the final pa...
Published: 12/15/17
Updated: 12/16/17
With Rubio, Corker back on board, GOP speeds ahead with tax plan

With Rubio, Corker back on board, GOP speeds ahead with tax plan

WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers on Friday secured enough votes to pass the most sweeping tax overhaul in decades, putting them on the cusp of their first significant legislative victory this year as party leaders geared up to pass a $1.5 trillion t...
Published: 12/15/17
Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

TAMPA — Nearly 600,000 more people will live in Hillsborough County by 2040, and if elected officials and county planners don’t take bold steps now, the population boom will turn the county into the soulless sprawl of Anywhere, U.S.A.That’s the messa...
Published: 12/15/17
Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

WASHINGTON — America’s top diplomat stepped back Friday from his offer of unconditional talks with North Korea, telling world powers that the nuclear-armed nation must earn the right to negotiate with the United States. Secretary of State Rex Tillers...
Published: 12/15/17
Judge signals release of ex-Trump chair Paul Manafort to Florida home under curfew and GPS monitoring

Judge signals release of ex-Trump chair Paul Manafort to Florida home under curfew and GPS monitoring

A federal judge Friday said a bail package has been put together that would release former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort from home confinement in his condominium in Virginia and allow him to reside at his house in Palm Beach Gardens, but unde...
Published: 12/15/17