As the polls show, and as many of you are aware, there is a growing disdain for our politicians in Washington. The 2013 Congress was dubbed the “Do Nothing” Congress. Their partisanship and obstructionism is stifling our country and the well-being of our citizens. Our congressman is no exception.
Congressman Steve Southerland voted with his extreme “Tea Party” colleagues to shut down the government last October, which cost the American taxpayers $24 billion. That money would have gone a long way toward feeding the poor. Then he voted with the same colleagues to keep the government shut down and not pay the bills he and the rest of Congress appropriated to begin with, all because he opposed Obamacare. He has not put forth an alternative to Obamacare, and when he signed up for it he took advantage of a federal subsidy provided by the taxpayers in order to lower his premiums, even though he says his $174,000 congressional salary is “not so much.”
Southerland voted for the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 because the Republican leadership convinced most House Republicans to do so, to avoid another embarrassing shutdown. He is now against what he voted for, and is twisting it around to get votes from Tyndall Air Force Base. Within days after his vote he said, “With two years remaining before these COLA changes are due to take effect, I am hopeful the House will address the concerns of our retirees between now and then.” We did not send Southerland to Washington to be “hopeful” of what the House will do between “now and then,” we sent him there to be a leader and do what is right for us now. If he is so concerned about the COLA cuts, he should never have voted for the budget to begin with.
In a News Herald article, Southerland stated, “I voted against sequestration in 2011 because I knew it was wrong for North and Northwest Florida’s military.” Actually, he voted against a compromise bill that would lead to sequestration if Congress could not pass a budget. Sequestration was supposed to be so terrible it would force both parties to come together and pass a budget in the future. The compromise, as bad as it was, temporally funded the government and prevented a government shutdown. If all congressmen had voted against the compromise bill, like Southerland did, it would have led to another shutdown.
Southerland attached an amendment to the Farm Bill cutting food stamps by $39 billion, which caused the much-needed bill our farmers depend on to fail for the first time ever. Ironically, Southerland stated in his Christmas address, ”Dear Friend, as we gather with our loved ones and reflect upon our personal blessings this Christmas holiday season, let us be mindful of those who are less fortunate.” Yet he is determined to make harsh slashes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Is taking food away from 47 million poor people being mindful of those who are less fortunate?
Southerland has fought against widely successful commercial fishing programs since taking office in 2010, but a member of his staff told a commercial fisherman last December at a fishing meeting in Tampa that Southerland changed his mind and is now willing to work with commercial fishermen. Is this because he is running against a formidable opponent for his house seat this November? It may be too late for him to garner support from commercial fishermen since, through a grassroots effort, commercial fishermen from Key West to Brownsville Texas, who are not even in Southerland’s district, have donated much more to his opponent, Mrs. Gwen Graham, than he has received from his dark-money billionaire contributors.
As one of those fishermen, I am not fooled by Southerland’s deceptiveness, and I hope this letter sheds some light on his hypocrisy. Instead of a congressman who does photo ops and makes statements for personal political ambitions, we need a leader in Congress who will truly reach across the aisle and work with both parties and independents, not just for the benefit of our district, but for the sake of our country. That person is Mrs. Gwen Graham.