Saturday, April 20, 2013

Rep. Steve Southerland In For The Fight Of His Life


Phony smiles aside, FL-02 will be one of the big battlegrounds for control of Congress

It's not easy getting politicians to answer questions. They want to talk about what they want to talk about, not answer questions other people want to throw at them. Asking DCCC-backed candidates about Chained CPI-- the scheme Obama and Boehner are trying to perpetrate to reduce Social Security payments to the elderly and disabled veterans-- is a thankless task. As soon as you bring up the topic, it's like an automated Steve Israel chip kicks in and nothing but generalities comes through. This is in great contrast with non-DCCC candidates, who are eager to talk about why they oppose Chained CPI and why they insist on protecting benefits for seniors (and the singular most important progressive achievement of the 20th Century).

It's just as hard getting answers from Republicans. They have their talking points and if you ask them about something outside of that... well, they just generally do not go there. I was a little surprised the other day when freshman teabagger/gravedigger Steve Southerland (R-FL) agreed to answer 5 questions from the Sunshine State News. Southerland is a major target for the DCCC and they found a perfect cookie cutter candidate to oppose him next year, former Governor/Senator Bob Graham's daughter. Her first big fundraising event is being hosted by Republican super-lobbyist Brian Ballard, a family friend. Everyone is non-Tea Party politics in the state is a family friend. Southerland is scared. Listen to him answering divisive hot button questions, politicians usually dance around:
Q: Where do you stand on the gun debate and what you think of how it's unfolding?

SOUTHERLAND: Well, I think the debate is healthy. I believe in an open process and regular order. It's good to see the Senate having their debates. I would imagine if they can get a bill out of the Senate, then obviously we're going to have our chance to debate through the committee process as well as on the floor.

But as far as personally, I've been a strong advocate of our Second Amendment rights. That has never changed. I think some of the discussions that are being had right now are healthy because we've got to talk about how people who really have no business having guns-- because of whether it's their mental state or because they have been guilty of committing crimes, that they should not-- while at the same time making sure that we protect hard-working, honest Americans with the ability to enjoy their Second Amendment.

So I think this is a normal thing and I'm glad it's being debated. Rather than having just the media talk about it, it's nice to actually be debating it here in the halls of Congress.

Q: Where are you on the background check and assault weapons ban?

SOUTHERLAND: Well, I am not in favor of any bans. I do believe that it is a good conversation to have regarding background checks. I am not in favor of background checks regarding individuals to individuals. I've seen some of the laws that have been put into place in some states, that I think run contrary to our Second Amendment. I think they go over the line. I am not a fan of bans.

I'm also very wary of some of the things that people are talking about that would have gone nowhere in preventing some of the tragedies that we have seen that have really broken the hearts of all Americans.

We've got to find the problem. What is the problem? One of the things that I've not heard one person talk about is that these young men who commit these heinous acts-- where are their fathers? What happened to fathers being the role models and training their children to be conscious contributors to society? Where are the dads? And that certainly hasn't received any attention at all in this debate.

Q: As you know, the Legislature is looking at plans for implementing the Affordable Care Act. What do you think the state should do? Should Florida expand Medicaid with federal money?

SOUTHERLAND: First of all, this is a mammoth piece of legislation that is law. And I believe in the rule of law, and I believe that as long as something is on the books, it has to be honored until it is repealed or changed.

In its current state, it is a mammoth task to get the (insurance) exchanges up. And that's where I see the most challenges. I know that (U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services) Kathleen Sebelius mentioned just two or three weeks ago-- two things. No. 1, insurance rates are in fact going up on the American people after years and years and years of promising they would not. And No. 2, that they are not ready to implement this by 2014. It is going to be virtually impossible for them to have those in place.

I think that those who are pushing and trying to implement-- first of all, they owe an explanation to the American people why it's not doing what they said it would do. And I think that's a fair request by the American people. And secondly, I think that perhaps pushing back a date of implementation, because it just can't, I don't see-- and that's probably a question better suited for members in the state-- but just from my observation, I see states all over the country that just are not prepared to have the exchanges ready for this.

I'm not a fan of the expansion because they took money out of Medicare to expand Medicaid. But it is law, and no matter how much I dislike it, if there is a law that mandates the states must do something, then I may fight to disagree, I may fight to repeal or change. Now if the state has an option and they have a choice, again, that's a states' rights thing. I can weigh in as a personal citizen of Florida. When you take from a program so important as Medicare to expand Medicaid, I think it's fundamentally flawed.
For a district with a PVI of R+6, where Romney beat Obama 52-47%, Southerland had a rough time in 2012, only beating conservative Democrat Al Lawson 175,842 (53%) to 157,599 (47%) after outspending him $1,722,317 to $720,886. It isn't likely that Southland will have a million dollars more than Graham in 2014-- nor that outside money will favor Southerland next year the way it did last year.

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