The looming federal government shutdown has taken center stage in recent days in one of the most competitive congressional races in Florida.
U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., is one of the top Democratic targets in 2014. National Democrats have high hopes for Gwen Graham, daughter of Bob Graham who served as governor and U.S. senator from Florida, to topple Southerland. Over the weekend, Graham and a Democrat super-PAC went after Southerlands role in the looming shutdown.
Southerland, like most Republicans in the House, supported the resolution to continue funding the government but delay President Barack Obamas federal health-care law for a year. This legislation has no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The House is again acting in accordance with the will of the American people, Southerland said on Saturday after the continuing resolution passed.
Southerland insisted the bills the Republican House passed would ensure that members of the military are paid and that veterans' services would continue. Noting the Obama administration is delaying implementing the health care law for businesses, Southerland said the law should also be deferred for individuals.
My constituents rightly expect that vital government services will be funded for our veterans, our seniors and the truly vulnerable, but the majority also wants to see this costly health care law delayed or dismantled, Southerland said. Considering the president delayed Obamacare for a year for businesses, its only fair to expect that same relief for all Americans. Just as importantly, I hope that the Senate will put politics aside and join us in ensuring that our military heroes receive their paychecks in full if a shutdown occurs.
Gwen Graham fired back at Southerland in a blog item on Context Florida, insisting the Republican congressman helped create the impending crisis.
The dysfunction in Washington is so disturbing to us in North Florida because it is so out of touch with our values, Graham insisted. From Panama City to Tallahassee, we are problem solvers: when we encounter challenges in our businesses, our communities and in our homes, we roll up our sleeves and get to work finding solutions. Unfortunately, Congressman Steve Southerland has shown us yet again why he is part of the problem in Congress: voting for a divisive plan that even Republicans say is jeopardizing a government shutdown a move that would hurt North Florida middle class families and deliver a self-inflicted wound that our economy simply cannot afford."
Despite having worked for former Vermont Gov. Howard Deans and current U.S. Secretary of State John Kerrys presidential bids in 2004, Gwen Graham is attempting to portray herself as free from Washington politics, even refusing to say if she would support U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for speaker. While Graham is trying to avoid the national Democratic leadership, the House Majority PAC, a Democratic super-PAC, continues to hammer Southerland, ranked as one of their top 10 targets in 2014.
Representative Steve Southerland's vote to shut down the government is crazy, shameful and reckless, said Andy Stone, a spokesman for the House Majority PAC, on Saturday. Instead of serving the people of North and Northwest Florida, Southerland opted to pledge allegiance to the tea party, throw caution to the wind and hurtle the United States toward a devastating shutdown.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org