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Politics

Shinseki Mess Makes Winners -- and One Big Loser -- in the Florida Delegation

May 29, 2014 - 6:00pm
The Florida congressional delegation might have more than its share of backbenchers and small fish but political leaders from the state played a big role in the scandals surrounding VA which brought Eric Shinseki down on Friday.

Jeff Miller emerged as one of the biggest winners in the whole Shinseki fiasco. The Panhandle congressman chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee and was on center stage in recent weeks promoting his bill to give the VA secretary more room to fire incompetent employees and urging the White House to reform the VA department. Miller ensured the effort to oust Shinseki and improve the VA was not a partisan outing. With Miller looking to be promoted to chair the House Intelligence Committee, he helped his cause with his deft handling here.

Joe Garcia and Patrick Murphy also scored some points. Garcia was one of the first members of his party to call for new leadership at VA. Republicans would love to take Garcia down in November but he deftly managed to avoid giving them an issue on this front. Murphy has generally played the middle even better than Garcia has. He did it again here by calling for Shinsekis resignation even before some Republicans did.

Other Florida politicians also emerged with credit here. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson have both teamed up to back Millers bill in the Senate. Rubio urged Shinseki to resign while Nelsons mantra that heads should roll at VA offered a pretty definitive take on what should happen. While hes usually one of the more quiet members of the Florida delegation, Rich Nugent was one of the first congressmen to demand Shinseki resign.

But there was also a big loser in the Florida delegation in Corrine Brown. The longtime Democrat congresswoman was one of Shinsekis biggest cheerleaders on Capitol Hill, constantly defending him and praising his record. Even with reports about problems with VA hospitals in Gainesville and South Florida, Brown kept insisting there were no major issues in Florida. Brown will likely avoid any major political fallout in her heavily Democratic district but she did herself no favors by her pathetic performance on the House Veterans Affairs Committee and by always having Shinsekis back.

Besides Brown, the other big losers are the Republicans looking to knock off Garcia and Murphy. Garcia has made more than a few recent blunders, including a video of the congressman picking his ear with his finger and then eating the earwax going viral and claiming communism works in an online discussion. But Garcia handled this well, giving no additional ammo to Carlos Curbelo, David Rivera and his other Republican opponents. Likewise, the pack of Republicans chasing Murphy made no headway as the Democrat probably extended his lead by showing once again he has no problem breaking with his party when he needs to. Despite initial high hopes, this is a race a lot of conservatives and Republicans are starting to feel more pessimistic about.

Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.

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