1. Opinion

Editorial: Bilirakis takes stand for constituents

Published Feb. 21, 2014

Give U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis credit. The Palm Harbor Republican stood with his constituents rather than the petty partisan power brokers in Congress and paid for it. It was well worth his leadership position. Washington needs more of that independence, not less.

The House keeps fiddling on federal flood insurance while Tampa Bay homeowners in Bilirakis' district and elsewhere can't pay the soaring premiums or sell their houses. Even more ridiculous is that this is a manufactured crisis that Congress created when it passed a 2012 flood insurance law without understanding what the impact would be back home.

The Senate has passed a bill that would stall most of the indefensible premium increases until a fairer solution to the flood insurance program's financial issues can be found. But the House Republican leadership has been blocking efforts by Democrats to bring the Senate bill up for a vote.

Bilirakis and a handful of other Republicans finally had enough and joined the Democrats on an unsuccessful procedural vote to force a vote on the House bill. For acting on behalf of his constituents and Tampa Bay homeowners, he has been removed from the House leadership team that works to build Republican support or opposition to legislation. Bilirakis responded with his usual grace, and the strong-armed tactic reveals more about the misguided priorities of Congress than any shortcoming on his part.

Just imagine if every member of the House stood up one day and voted for what was best for the people back home, like Bilirakis did, instead of appeasing political leaders, big donors and special interests. Congress' job approval rating might even rise to 20 percent.


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