This month, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., has been showcasing studies which show him as one of the most effective and bipartisan members of Congress.
This week, Bilirakis pointed to the Lugar Center Bipartisan Index rankings which ranked him 45th out of the 435 members of the U.S. House when it comes to bipartisanship, putting him in the top 12 percent.
Bilirakis weighed in on the index and his time in Congress, insisting he had taken a page from his father former U.S. Rep. Michael Bilirakis, R-Fla., who was first elected to Congress in 1982 and retired after the 2006 elections when his son took over.
“I consider myself a workhorse, not a show horse—always seeking to work in a bipartisan manner to find areas of common ground on matters that will make a positive difference in the lives of the people I serve, regardless of political affiliation,” Bilirakis said. “I know my constituents expect me to get things done, which is why I stay focused and just work hard each and every day on their behalf. It is one of the most important lessons my father taught me, and it is how I will continue to approach my job — because it works.”
Earlier this month, Bilirakis pointed to a report from the Center for Effective Lawmaking when it released it “Legislative Effectiveness Scores for the 115th Congress (2017-2018) based upon its independent analysis of legislative performance.” Bilirakis was ranked as the most effective legislator from the Sunshine State “and the 39th overall most effective Republican lawmaker in the U.S. House of Representatives.”
Looking back at his twelve years in Congress, Bilirakis pointed to some legislative achievements including:
- The Lower Drug Costs through Competition Act which created an expedited process within the FDA for generic Rx drugs for which there is no competition on the market;
- The Community CARE Act which reauthorized and provided funding for community health centers, through which 25 million Americans obtain primary care, dental and mental health services;
- The CHIP Buy-In Program which allows families who earn too much to qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) the opportunity to purchase the same plan directly from the state at discounted rates;
- The Civil and Criminal Penalties Update Act, which increases civil and criminal penalties for Medicare and Medicaid fraud, something which hadn’t been done in more than 20 years;
- Increased Security Measures at Visa Security Posts, which provided $5 million to increase the number of visa security posts in the most dangerous parts of the world;
- The SHUT Act which prevents fraud in the child tax credit program by requiring proof of legal identification prior to distribution of funds; removal of the cap on therapy in Medicare which eliminated the $2,000 annual cap on the amount of therapy (physical, speech or occupational) that a senior could use;
- Extension of the SPACE A program, which allows veterans who are 100 percent disabled to use a travel benefit currently extended to active duty and retired military members and their families to travel on military aircraft when there is extra space onboard;
- The Mandatory Medicare Lock-In Act, which improves medication management and prevents abuse by requiring high risk seniors on Medicare to select one pharmacy or pharmacy chain at which to receive all medication;
- The Access to Quality Sober Living Act which protects those seeking treatment for substance abuse issues by establishing standards for the operation of sober living homes;
- The SAFE TECH Act, which improves the safety of international air travel by standardizing safety procedures and operations among international partners;
- The Congenital Heart Futures Reauthorization Act which offers hope to millions suffering with congenital heart disease by ensuring the continuation of vital NIH research on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of the disease;
- The SIT-REP Act which ensures Veterans are not penalized when there is a delay in processing their GI education benefits.
Bilirakis is over the target when he described himself as more a workhorse than a show horse and his most high profile assignment in the House was when he vice chaired the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee. He also was on the GOP whip team at one point. Nonetheless, he has been an effective campaigner at home. While he may have faced his closest challenge in more than a decade in November, Bilirakis still easily handled Democrat Chris Hunter, beating him 58 percent to 40 percent. A good win but admittedly a step back from 2016 when Bilirakis claimed 69 percent of the vote or 2014 when he faced no opposition in the general election. Still, Bilirakis should be safe in his safe Republican district come 2020.
Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.