Friday, November 24, 2017
Politics

Scott steps back from health care plan

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If you had any doubt about the uncertain and difficult path ahead for the GOP plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, just look at how Florida's governor has changed his tune about the topic.

Keep in mind, Rick Scott lives by talking points and disciplined, repetitive messaging, so deviations tend to mean far more with him than most.

The former health care CEO, whose political career started as a critic of health care reform efforts by President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama, had been telling reporters since last fall that he was closely advising Donald Trump and his administration about how to fix and improve the health care system.

On March 8, Florida's governor sounded enthusiastic talking to Fox News about the plan released by fellow Republicans in the U.S. House: "This is way better than Obamacare. … This is a great starting point, and I know we're going to keep working on it."

The next day, as criticism of the proposal increased from the right and the left, Scott sounded decidedly more tepid talking to a Jacksonville TV station: "This is a work in progress, there is a proposal on the table, now everyone is going to weigh in with their ideas, and hopefully it'll continue to get better."

Last week, Scott would barely discuss the proposal, let alone endorse it. He told the Associated Press he is "encouraged that there's a real good conversation going on up in D.C.," but declined to talk about the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analysis that the GOP plan would increase the ranks of the uninsured by 24 million over a decade or the possible impact the bill may have on Florida's Medicaid program, which relies on billions in federal money each year.

Scott is preparing for a U.S. Senate race against Democrat Bill Nelson in 2018, and wrapping his arms around Trumpcare apparently does not seem like the smartest political move for the governor at this point.

Gillum opposes pipeline

Tallahassee mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, aggressively courting the progressive wing of the party, laid down a marker in Tampa on Saturday on one particularly hot environmental issue — the Sabal Trail Transmission natural gas pipeline.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, Gillum highlighted his opposition to the pipeline that would serve customers of Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light Co. and has drawn particularly strong opposition among residents in north Florida.

He took a not-so-veiled swipe at all-but-announced Democratic primary rival Gwen Graham, also from Tallahassee, who as a congresswoman disappointed environmental activists by voting in support of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline.

"We've got to be consistent about what it is we think and what we believe. We can't change our position from day one to day two," Gillum told the enthusiastic crowd at the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association offices in Tampa.

"If a pipeline is threatening to human health and clean water conditions in the state of Florida, it's a threat everywhere in this country," Gillum said, without mentioning Graham.

"Gwen Graham has long been opposed to the Sabal Trail pipeline," said Eric Jotkoff, a Graham adviser. "And knowing that the Sunshine State's unique porous limestone geology could be devastated by even limited fracking, Gwen has led efforts to stop fracking and protect Florida's drinking water."

More than 150 people attended the event Saturday. Along with training sessions on money-raising, dealing with the media and effective activism, members overwhelmingly passed a resolution supporting Orlando-area State Attorney Aramis Ayala for her anti-death penalty stance for a cop-killer suspect. The resolution criticized Scott for removing her from the case.

Asked about that controversy, Gillum offered no criticism of either Ayala or Scott: "I support her right as the elected state attorney to make that decision."

Jeb talks Trump

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says President Trump is "on the right path" in trying to reduce government regulations but rapped his slow pace in filling key second- and third-tier posts in federal agencies.

"I know not enough appointments have been made to carry out his agenda," said Bush, speaking to the annual Lay of the Land Florida real estate conference Friday.

Bush, who lost to Trump in the GOP presidential primaries last year, also took a few digs at Trump for his language and financial entanglements. The self-acknowledged policy wonk also said reporters were less interested in his positions on issues than they were when Trump called him an a------ at a town hall in New Hampshire.

"Do we want a country where 'vulgar and outrageous' supplant solving problems?" Bush asked the audience rhetorically.

Susan Taylor Martin contributed to this week's Buzz.

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