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Gus Bilirakis Auditions for House Committee Chairmanship

May 25, 2016 - 6:00am
Gus Bilirakis
Gus Bilirakis

Even while he is enjoying a taste of the national spotlight, Gus Bilirakis has one of the easier assignments of any Florida congressional representative this year. 

Bilirakis has been in Congress for almost a decade now and he’s in the mix for a major promotion. With fellow Florida Republican Jeff Miller bowing out of Congress, Bilirakis could be in line to serve as the next  House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman. Currently Bilirakis is the vice chairman of the committee. 

Paul Ryan turned to Bilirakis this past weekend to offer the GOP’s weekly radio address on veterans’ issues. 

"As vice chair of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I have seen the devastating shortfalls within the VA firsthand,” Bilirakis said. “The legislation we advanced this week will help bring about crucial reform efforts to help our nation’s heroes. We owe it to our veterans, and we must not cease until they receive the support and care they have earned and deserve.”

“Our troops risk their lives every day to protect this country—that risk shouldn’t still exist when they come home,” Ryan said. “The VA is in desperate need of reform, and I’m proud of the work Gus is doing to make sure our veterans are treated with the care and respect they so selflessly fought for."

In the radio address, Bilirakis hammered the Obama administration, accusing it of not doing enough to reform the VA. The Florida congressman also showcased reforms passed by the GOP controlled Congress including more staffers handling medical claims, more use of electronic medical records and cutting down on bonuses for senior staffers.

While 2016 is shaping up to be one of the wildest congressional election cycles for Florida in recent memory, Bilirakis looks poised to enjoy a quiet year. Representing a safe Republican district, at this early stage, Bilirakis has little to fear in the general election from his two Democratic opponents: activist Damian Stone and attorney Robert Tager. Even if Donald Trump weighs down Republican candidates (and that is no sure thing by any means), Bilirakis should keep his seat. 

This affords Bilirakis the luxury of paying more attention to his effort to replace Miller as Veterans Affairs Committee chairman. He’s not a lock by any means and there will be complaints about someone from Florida remaining in charge of the committee even with its large population of veterans, especially elderly ones. But Ryan clearly is thinking of giving Bilirakis the gavel and this past weekend’s address was something of an audition, especially as Trump makes veterans’ issues one of the core parts of his campaign.



t is unfortunate that you are already counting me out of the race. Unlike my opponent, I bring fresh ideas to the problems facing the Veterans and the Veterans Administration. I also bring fresh ideas and a willingness to fight to help everyone, including the middle class and the working poor. I will fight to strengthen Social Security and to improve our health care system and have common sense solutions that include tax cuts that benefit EVERYONE, restoring Democracy through restoring voting rights, and creating jobs. The problems of the VA are not new, and Bilirakis has done nothing during his 10 years in congress and his involvement on the Veteran's Committee to solve the problems. His radio address, referenced in your article, shows how misguided and uncaring he is. His comment about not throwing money at the VA's problems, shows how little he cares, understands, and why the backlogs are getting worse. Aside from the fact that bonuses should never be available to Government employees or administrators, I can guarantee the legislation that eliminates "bonuses" will not solve the VA's problems. What will solve the backlogs and delays in treatment, is more capacity which costs some money. Are our injured, paralyzed, blinded, PTSD'd, amputated, emotionally injured, and healthy Veterans, Soldiers, and Service Members worth spending money on? I think they are. Republicans have no problem spending money on tax cuts that benefit the wealthiest people and corporations, creating loopholes for the rich to avoid paying their fair share, and giving huge payouts to the military private contractors like Halliburton. Now it is time for them to spend money on increasing capacity to shorten wait times for our service members. Most veteran's like the treatment they get at the VA, once they get in, and we must stop the effort to privatize it, and stop the attempt to turn the VA into a voucher program. Bilirakis has has his time to strengthen our economy, work to create jobs, give relief to the middle class and working poor, provide solutions to our district such as gridlock, horrible water drainage, and urban blight, to name a few. He has failed. He has worked to undermine health care for everyone and has protected big health insurance companies and MRI companies to the detriment of the rest of us. He has done nothing to strengthen Social Security or to reduce the outsourcing of our jobs. He has done virtually nothing. "I support our troops" is more then a slogan, it is a Moral Obligation we all owe to those who Serve. Bilirakis has had his chance to represent, 10 years, and he has failed. Now it is time for new ideas and a new Advocate for Congressional District 12, Florida, our Veterans, and our Country. I will make every effort to join in a "Meet the Candidates" forum, or even to debate the much more experienced Bilarakis on any issue. Everyone is invited to contact me through my website or facebook. Robert Tager

The very fact that Billiards has been in Congress for "almost a decade" and has served as "Vice Chair" of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, he has personally observed the dismantling of the VA, down to what it now is today! The VA administration only views what is in print and they refuse to alter the course, no matter what common sense would normally dictate. If Bilirakis is Ryan's choice, so be it, as Ryan's future as the lead dog is questionable.

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