Friday, December 7, 2012

Bill Young at Tiger Bay: My mandate was bigger than Obama's

Posted By on Fri, Dec 7, 2012 at 6:02 PM

Bill Young at Tiger Bay on Friday
  • Bill Young at Tiger Bay on Friday
How long has Pinellas Congressman Bill Young been serving in Washington?

According to the less than hagiographic introduction he received at the Suncoast Tiger Bay meeting on Friday afternoon at the St. Pete-Clearwater Marriott, the soon-to-be-82-year-old Representative has been around longer than "Hamburger Helper, the Partridge Family, Egg McMuffins and the Heimlich Maneuver."

He took the age jokes with good humor — but not so much his host's reference to the fact that Young did not debate his most recent vanquished Democratic opponent, attorney Jessica Ehrlich. So when Tiger Bay member Jerri Evans asked why he'd failed to debate either Ehrlich or his 2010 opponent, Charlie Justice, Young was more than ready to respond.

"Why would I debate when the opposition candidate — that's all that candidate talked about, was personal attacks on me?" he said. Ehrlich targeted Young for his support of House Budget Chairman (and later GOP VP nominee) Paul Ryan's budget, which initially called for changing Medicare into a voucher program, later redefined as "Premium Support."

Looking out at Tampa Bay Times editor Paul Tash, sitting dead center in the room, Young added that the paper's fact-checking site PolitiFact had called the charge that Republicans had voted to end Medicare "the lie of the year" at the end of 2011.

Young defeated Ehrlich 58-42 percent in last month's Congressional election in Pinellas County. Although it was another double-digit victory for the Representative, who has now been elected 22 times, it was actually his second closest margin of victory since 1970, and only the second time his opponent has climbed over 40 percent.

Regarding the ongoing negotiations in Washington D.C. to stave off the so-called "fiscal cliff," Young is resolute against raising the highest tax rates — a point that President Obama is insistent upon winning. The Bush tax cuts are set to expire at the end of this month, and the president wants to maintain all of them except for those awarded to the top-earning 2 percent — for whom he wants the rates to go from 35 percent to 39.6, where they were during the 1990s under Bill Clinton.

Young said he's opposed to raising taxes when the money "isn’t going to be used to solve the budget deficit." But what he left unsaid is that extending the Bush tax cuts for everybody will add another $800 billion to the deficit. Like his GOP House colleagues, he supports raising revenues by eliminating certain tax deductions.

"In this country there are selfish people with political connections, who have been given special benefits in their tax bills. They get benefits that the company just right next to them do not get because they had some influence. Our tax code is full of that. And that kind of stuff ought to be stopped."

He said he had signed the anti-tax pledge by Grover Norquist, and certainly didn't seem like he wanted to buck the notorious anti-tax D.C. activist, insisting that raising revenue was not the same thing as raising the tax rates.

Young said that President Obama has claimed he has a mandate after his re-election. But, he added, by winning Congressional District 13 by 16 points over Jessica Ehrlich, he has his own mandate. "In my district I got more votes than he did." Calculating his margin of victory vs. Obama's defeat of Romney in Pinellas, he said, "I think my mandate is 8 percent bigger than his," earning applause.

[Obama's "mandate" comments were as follows: "I've got a mandate to help middle-class families and families that are working hard to try to get into the middle class. That's my mandate."]

A longtime member of the House Appropriations Committee who has counted defense contractors among his biggest campaign contributors, Young stunned many during the campaign when he declared that the Afghanistan war is no longer working, and that the U.S. should pull its troops out immediately. Young told the audience on Friday that he came to that conclusion after speaking with returning veterans at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesa, Maryland, and hearing their criticisms of what they're being called upon to do there.

"That's a little strange for me," he admitted about his anti-war stance. "I've always said let the military make the decisions." But he has learned that the situation in Afghanistan is "totally different" than it was when the U.S. initially went in there more than 11 years ago.

"The rules of engagement are not acceptable," he declared. "They put our men and women in danger. And I just don't think we should expose our troops to those kinds of conditions. So I say yes. I want them out of there yesterday," eliciting a warm round of applause.

Young is alarmed about what the Affordable Care Act will do to the country, now that it's the law of the land. But he ended up schooling Tea Party activist Dr. David McKalip, who challenged the Congressman about "Republican courage."

Beginning his question by declaring that he believes "Obamacare is more dangerous to my patients than cancer," McKalip asked Young if he had the courage to defund the president's major health care initiative.

"Doctor, I think we have more than the courage," Young began. "We don't have the votes." In fact the Republican-led House of Representatives in July voted to repeal the entire law, the 33rd time it had voted to repeal or defund some piece of the reform package.

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