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Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis loses leadership post for voting to stop flood insurance rate hikes

Rep. Gus Bilirakis, right, with Sen. Marco Rubio at the Pinellas County Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner in 2012.
Rep. Gus Bilirakis, right, with Sen. Marco Rubio at the Pinellas County Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner in 2012.
Published Feb. 21, 2014

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis is as reliable a Republican vote as any member of his party. But by joining Democrats on a symbolic vote concerning flood insurance, he is paying a price.

The Palm Harbor lawmaker has been removed from the House leadership team in charge of gathering support or opposition to bills.

"I enjoyed being on the whip team because it gave me, and therefore, my constituents, a seat at the table, but I am not upset about taking a stance on this Biggert-Waters nightmare," Bilirakis said Thursday, referring to a 2012 law that has resulted in soaring flood insurance rates.

The Senate passed a bill that would significantly reverse the law but House Republican leaders blocked it, saying it goes too far. So Democrats have tried a series of procedural votes to force a vote on it.

It has failed each time on party lines, but a handful of Republicans crossed over.

"I knew there would be consequences for my vote against leadership," Bilirakis said. "I understand (Republican) Whip (Kevin) McCarthy did what he had to do, and I have no hard feelings at all, but I had to do what I had to do."

Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., was decidedly happy to be booted from the team.

"I feel great about it," he told the Times-Picayune. "It's nothing personal, but I told folks back home that I was going to do everything I could to stop unreasonable flood insurance premium hikes."

Cassidy is running against U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat who is also aggressively pursuing legislative fixes to the flood insurance rate hikes.

The House plans to take up its own flood insurance legislation next week.

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