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Gus Bilirakis: Congress, staff should not be exempt in GOP health care bill

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Gus Bilirakis has already heard from plenty of constituents that he shouldn’t vote for repeal and replace of the Affordable Care Act.

But while the Tarpon Springs Republican congressman was fully supportive of the GOP health care bill that never resulted in a vote last month in Congress, he is decidedly against a provision in the new legislation being floated this week that would allow members of Congress and their staff to exempt themselves from the legislation.

“In this country, lawmakers are not above the law,” Bilirakis said in a statement. “I believe strongly that as elected representatives, we should have the same health care as our constituents. Period. This legislation is a common-sense fix, ensuring Congress lives by the same rules it creates.”

An amendment to the House GOP’s Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill would have allowed states to seek waivers for certain Obamacare regulations, but lawmakers and their staff would be exempt from the changes.

GOP staff and lawmakers said the exemption was originally added to comply with Senate rules but acknowledged that it was politically problematic.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) launched digital ads in 30 Republican-held districts, including those of Florida Representatives Brian Mast and Carlos Curbelo.

Bilirakis is an original co-sponsor of the bill, HR 2192, which would repeal the section of the American Health Care exempting Members of Congress and congressional staff from state waivers if AHCA becomes law. His office says that he is working with Republican leadership to make sure HR 2192 would be voted on simultaneously with AHCA.

Bilirakis held three town hall meetings earlier this year in his Pasco County district (which also includes parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas). All were heated at times, with Democrats blasting him for his opposition to the ACA.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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