Even as he runs for another term in Congress, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., can be pardoned if he keeps an eye on Capitol Hill.
Bilirakis could be in line for a major promotion in Congress. Currently the vice chairman of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, Bilirakis is hoping to take a step up as U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the current chairman, retires.
Certainly, veterans’ issues were on Bilirakis’ mind last week as the committee passed more than 10 bills including proposals on transitioning veterans into the workforce, reforming headstone and grave honors for Medal of Honor recipients, expanding treatment for veterans with mental health issues and other matters.
“These bills will help in how we care for the needs of our country’s heroes – whether it is timely quality health care, transition assistance, or greater protections to the benefits they so rightfully deserve,” Bilirakis said on Wednesday as he showcased his support for the bills. “These are our nation’s true heroes and we have a solemn responsibility to fight on their behalf as they have done so for us. I’m proud that we were able to come together in a bipartisan manner to approve these thoughtful bills, and I look forward to our continued work on behalf of our veterans.”
In the meantime, Bilirakis faces attorney Robert Tager, the Democratic nominee, in November. Tager has an uphill task--the Democrats didn’t even field a candidate against Bilirakis last time out in this reliably Republican district--but he is a live underdog who has show no hesitation in going on the attack, hitting the incumbent on Social Security, veterans issues and other matters.
Bilirakis turned his attention to the general election last week, running his first TV spot reminding voters of his record. In the new ad, pushing his “Gus is for us” theme, Bilirakis showcases his work on veterans issues and insurance matters.He ignores Tager in the new ad.
While Tager has no problems taking the fight to Bilirakis, and does have long ties to the area, the congressman can be excused if he’s more concerned about aiming for committee chairmanship than November since the odds are clearly in his favor for another term.