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February 04, 2020 | In The News

Steube covers wide-ranging topics with South County Tiger Bay

U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, talked about everything from potential federal funding to widen River Road south to Winchester Road and water quality issues to reforming VA hospitals, gridlock on Capitol Hill and President Donald Trump, Friday afternoon at the January 2020 South County Tiger Bay Luncheon.

The freshman congressman represents Florida’s 17th district, which contains all or parts of nine counties, including south Sarasota County.

Steube opened the first meeting in 2020 of the nonpartisan club by talking about the addition of $100 million in the federal BUILD grant program — the acronym is short for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development — and hopes that Sarasota County would be successful in applying for grant funds that would help pay for the widening of River Road south to Winchester Boulevard.

“We’ve been letting Sarasota County know that the county can apply for a grant through this program federally to draw down federal dollars to make those improvements on River Road,” he said.

Steube, an Iraq War veteran who sits on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, as well as the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs and Health subcommittees, was most passionate when discussing the need to reform the VA.

Steube noted that he got two veteran-related bills signed by Trump, then discussed his efforts to broaden the VA MISSION Act to allow younger veterans to take advantage of TRICARE for Life, a comprehensive Medicare wraparound coverage that would let them use local doctors for procedures that they would otherwise have to travel to the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System in Pinellas County.

“So if you are a young professional and you don’t have time to drive to Bay Pines and wait eight hours for your appointment, then you should have true choice to go to wherever you want in your community to get the health care you deserve, and we’re going to take care of it,” said Steube, who is planning to introduce a bill to allow that.

During a question-and-answer session, Steube touched on water quality, red tide, Capitol Hill gridlock and Trump’s Twitter habits.

He praised Charlotte County’s efforts to subsidize septic-to-sewer hookups and noted that when the county had algae blooms tested, officials discovered chemical components found in Splenda, an artificial sweetener.

“It’s a specific chemical component which apparently our bodies don’t process,” Steube said. “What does that tell you? Guess what? It’s coming from septic tanks.”

Steube said he’s working on a bill that would increase federal grant and loan funds to pay for hooking up more homes with septic tanks to sewer systems.

Steube said his biggest frustration has been partisan gridlock.

“You absolutely can’t get anything done, unless the Democrats are willing to give you a win or work with you on a specific piece of legislation — which becomes very, very challenging because the speaker and their leadership doesn’t want to give Greg Steube a win to take home to his district,” Steube said.

“I have never seen the level of partisanship, in the eight years I served in the state Legislature as what goes on up there,” he later added, referring to Washington, D.C. “Everything and anything has to do with some political motive and for a guy who likes to get things done and work with people on the other side of the aisle like on these veteran issues; it can be very very frustrating.”

Retired Venice Gondolier publisher Bob Vedder asked Steube whether Republicans are pushing back against Trump for the way he expresses himself — specifically on Twitter.

“I happen to think he’s done a lot of good,” Vedder said. “It’s the tweeting out, calling people names — it doesn’t matter who it is or what it is — and it’s not presidential; it’s embarrassing.”

Steube noted that’s his twitter style. “I will say this — not you obviously — there is a large part of our country who likes the fact that he says what’s on his mind, that he’s not politically correct and he does what he says he’s going to do,” Steube said.

Sarasota County Commissioner Charles Hines then turned what should have been a question directed at Steube into a statement about Trump’s presidency.

“We’re talking about personality; he’s from New York, he’s not a politician,” Hines said. “You don’t impeach somebody because you don’t like his personality — look at the results and what he ran on, and he’s delivering, and he said, ‘I will change Washington, D.C.'”

Steube talked about the For Country Caucus, a group of lawmakers who are veterans that recently grew from 21 to 24 members.

“We check our party affiliation at the door and we just focus on veterans issues because we’re all vets,” Steube said. “I think that’s a microcosm of what our younger generation is looking for.”

Caucus members discuss bills that they could work on together and vote on issues they wish to pursue.

“Then the caucus as a whole will endorse legislation if more than half of the membership supports it,” Steube said. “That is the glimmer of hope that I have seen as it relates to working together and getting stuff done.”