Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland is the featured guest on the latest edition of Florida NewsMakers, the weekly political program from public affairs firm Sachs Media Group.
The Panama City Republican is the two-term incumbent embroiled in one of the most carefully watched races in the nation, Florida’s Second Congressional District, where he faces Democrat Gwen Graham.
Southerland discussed with host Trimmel Gomes his ideas on the role of the federal government, Medicare expansion and the combative race in CD 2.
“We see in Washington right now many circumstances where the left-hand does not know what the right hand is doing,” he said. “We see a massive expansion of the federal government, literally encroaching on the rights of the states and the rights of local communities.”
“I think there’s a role, obviously,” Southerland added, “but I think there’s a lane to swim in and the federal government needs to swim in its lane.”
A staunch fighter against federal overreach, Southerland introduced the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014. It is a measure seeking to preserve the federal-state partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act, which has regulated U.S. waters for over four decades.
“What our bill does is to trim down the EPA’s notice that they’re going to expand their jurisdiction,” he said. “It doesn’t allow that, it limits them.”
Southerland’s motive for introducing the bill is his belief that the EPA has encroached its reach in Florida to the point where it now regulates more than just navigable waterways. In his eyes, the EPA’s power reaches into adjacent waterways such as “ditches, culverts and even puddles,” a power grab that infringes on property rights.
Although he did not take a definite position over Florida’s controversial stance on federal funds for Medicaid expansion, Southerland told Gomes he is concerned about the source of the funding, which he claims is primarily through the Medicare program.
“The money is coming from a program that is already at the breaking point,” Southerland said. “If you look at Medicare and the money that is taken out to expand Medicaid, were talking about $750 billion at a time when 10,000 seniors a day are going into Medicare, going into Social Security.”
Southerland also cited a New England Journal of Medicine report saying that within six years there will be a shortage of 93,000 physicians nationwide.
Most of that shortage, he said, comes from cuts in Medicare reimbursement dollars.
Hospital and nursing home providers are closing, he pointed out, and the U.S. can’t expand Medicaid at the expense of Medicare, a program that is working.
“I just don’t think that’s the answer,” he said.
As for the contentious CD 2 race, Southerland called many of the attack ads “silly,” because they try to depict him as someone who travels in private planes and has lost a connection with families in North Florida. When he does travel to Washington D.C., which is weekly, he says he flies commercially, on Delta.
“I feel it’s important to live in the district and with the people you represent,” said Southerland, a funeral director by trade. “And if you don’t come home, you get out of touch with the people.”
He also added that drives a pickup truck at home, not a Bentley, as one ad tried to portray.
The latest edition of Florida NewsMakers is now available on YouTube.