U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young of Indian Shores was in his first term when he voted for the Clean Water Act in 1972. This week, Young was one of just 13 Republicans — and the only Republican from Florida — to vote against gutting the law he embraced nearly four decades ago. Florida is fortunate to have at least one member of Congress willing to take the long view and not blindly follow the party line.
The Clean Water Act originally passed with overwhelming support from both Republicans and Democrats. After President Richard Nixon vetoed it, Young voted with most of his fellow Republicans to override the veto. This week, clean water was a partisan issue as the Republican-led House voted to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from forcing states to set high water quality standards and protect wetlands. Republican U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor and Richard Nugent of Spring Hill did not share Young's perspective or independence and voted to protect the polluters.
Young, whose name is on the Tampa Bay Water reservoir in Hillsborough County, has a long history of protecting natural resources and drinking water. For decades, he ensured that Congress protected Florida's Gulf Coast from oil drilling. In the twilight of his distinguished service to Tampa Bay and Florida, Young again cast a vote this week for clean water without fanfare or notice. Sometimes, those quiet votes against the partisan tide say the most.