TAMPA — Florida Republican members of Congress split in their votes on the federal budget deal, with 10 of the 17 House members and Sen. Marco Rubio voting against it.
Six Florida Republicans joined all the House Democrats and Sen. Bill Nelson voting in favor, while Rep. C.W. Bill Young of Indian Shores, hospitalized and reported gravely ill Thursday, was one of only three House members who didn’t cast a vote.
Political experts see saw no common thread among the six yes-voting Republicans, who included Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor.
Some noted the list does include some Florida Republicans who represent potential swing districts or have been targeted by Democrats for possible challenges in 2014, but it also includes other Republicans not likely to face serious Democratic challenges next year.
“I don’t see any unifying theme for all the Republicans who voted yes,” said University of Central Florida political scientist Aubrey Jewett. “It looks like each member voted based on their conscience.”
But, he added, “For a couple of them, it’s probable the vote was taken with an eye toward re-election, worrying more about a Democratic challenge in the general election than a Republican challenge in the primary.”
Young, who recently announced he won’t run for re-election after 22 House terms, had publicly said he would favor a measure to end the shutdown without imposing any restrictions on the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, suggesting he might have voted in favor of the deal.
Bilirakis was the only Tampa-area Republicans to vote yes. Republicans Dennis Ross of Lakeland and Tom Rooney of Okeechobee voted no.
In a news release, Bilirakis said, “I voted to avoid a national default, end the government shutdown, and provide certainty to all hardworking Americans, especially our veterans, active military personnel and seniors. I remain committed to finding a long-term solution that will keep government spending under control, provide relief from ObamaCare’s mandates, and ensure both Congress and the Administration are subjected to the same provisions under the health care law.”
In a news release on the deal Tuesday, Rubio, who has consistently blamed the shutdown on Democrats and President Barack Obama, said, “I cannot support this deal because it postpones any significant action on pro-growth and spending reforms and does nothing to provide working class Americans even one shred of relief from Obamacare’s harmful effects.”
From the outset, Rubio has supported the GOP senators including Ted Cruz of Texas leading the effort to defund the Affordable Care Act even if it required shutting down the government.
After the vote, in another release, he added, “We haven’t given up the fight. ... We will prevail because Obamacare is going to be a disaster.”
In his news release on the vote, Nelson said, “Thank goodness, not just for the thousands and thousands of Americans who have been hurting because of the disruption in government services, but thank goodness for our nation’s economic well-being.”
Nelson added, “A couple of senators and a handful of House extremists have managed to embarrass America in front of the world,” and “showed a lack of compassion but they also showed a lack of understanding about what it means to be a public official and ... serve the interests of all, not just a few.”
Comments from other Tampa-area representatives:
Ross: “Our country is on an unsustainable spending path. This bill (the budget deal) does nothing to create a long-term plan that would address the drivers of our enormous debt. Until we put into place a systemic plan to lower our debt, we shouldn’t raise our debt ceiling.
Rooney: “I made a pledge to my constituents that I would not vote for any bill to increase the debt ceiling unless it included serious steps to address our debt crisis. The bill before the House today clearly fails to meet that standard. If we’re going to increase the debt ceiling, we have to include reforms to save Social Security and Medicare and to fix our broken tax code. ... This bill puts us on a collision course for another possible shutdown in January and default in February.”
Yes-voting Republican Daniel Webster of Orlando has been a top target of national Democrats and could be again in 2014. He and Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, who also voted yes, both represent potential swing districts, but neither has a big-name Democratic challenger yet.
Bilirakis and Young represent Pinellas County, which has been trending Democratic in recent years, but Bilirakis isn’t considered vulnerable to a challenge.
Young’s district, which voted for Obama over Mitt Romney and Democrat Alex Sink over Republican Gov. Rick Scott, will be one of the top targets of Democrats nationwide in 2014.
Bilirakis, Buchanan and Webster all drew immediate criticism Thursday from tea party-oriented forces for their votes.
“Gus Bilirakis supports Obamacare with continuing resolution vote” was the headline on a news release from Americans for Limited Government, a conservative advocacy group, which sent out identical releases on Webster and Buchanan.