Gus Bilirakis

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Gus Bilirakis
Gus Bilirakis, official 110th Congress photo 2.jpg
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida
Assumed office
January 3, 2007
Preceded byMichael Bilirakis
Constituency9th district (2007–2013)
12th district (2013–present)
Member of the Florida House of Representatives
from the 48th district
In office
November 3, 1998 – November 7, 2006
Preceded bySandy Safley
Succeeded byPeter Nehr
Personal details
Born
Gus Michael Bilirakis

(1963-02-08) February 8, 1963 (age 59)
Gainesville, Florida, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse
Eva Lialios
(m. 1991)
Children4
Parent
EducationUniversity of Florida (BA)
Stetson University (JD)

Gus Michael Bilirakis (/ˌbɪlɪˈrækɪs/ BILL-i-RACK-iss; born February 8, 1963) is an American lawyer and politician serving as the U.S. representative for Florida's 12th congressional district since 2013. A member of the Republican Party, he first entered Congress in 2007, where he succeeded his father Michael Bilirakis, representing Florida's 9th congressional district until redistricting. His district includes much of the northern portion of the Tampa Bay area. Bilirakis previously served as the Florida state representative for the 48th district from 1998 to 2006.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Bilirakis was born in Gainesville, Florida, and grew up in Tarpon Springs, Florida, the son of Evelyn (née Miaoulis) and Michael Bilirakis.[2] He lives in Palm Harbor and is the grandson of Greek immigrants. His grandfather owned a local bakery where Bilirakis worked from a young age.

Bilirakis graduated from Tarpon Springs High School and St. Petersburg Junior College. He then attended the University of Florida, where he graduated in 1986 with a bachelor's degree in political science. He received his J.D. degree from the Stetson University College of Law in 1989. He was an intern for U.S. President Ronald Reagan.[3]

Career[edit]

Bilirakis operates a Tampa Bay area law practice, the Bilirakis Law Group, specializing in probate and estate planning, which he took over from his father, Michael Bilirakis. His father served in Congress from 1983 to 2007, and Gus helped run his campaigns.

Florida legislature[edit]

Tenure[edit]

Bilirakis was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1998 when he won the District 48 seat held for 10 years by Representative Sandy Safley, R-Clearwater, who decided not to run again. This district covers most of north Pinellas County, part of Pasco County, and part of Hillsborough County.

Committees[edit]

During his tenure in Tallahassee (1998–2006), he chaired several panels including Crime Prevention, Public Safety Appropriations, and the Economic Development, Trade, & Banking Committee.[citation needed]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Elections[edit]

In 2006, Michael Bilirakis announced his retirement after 24 years in Congress, and Gus Bilirakis entered the race to succeed his father in what was then the 9th District. He defeated Hillsborough County Commissioner Phyllis Busansky in the general election with 55% of the vote to become the district's second representative. He has been reelected three more times without substantive opposition.

Committee assignments[4][edit]

Gus Bilirakis meets with Diabetes advocate and former Miss America Nicole Johnson

Caucus membership[edit]

Bilirakis and Representative Ted Deutch formed the Congressional Hellenic-Israeli Alliance in February 2013.[5]

Tenure[edit]

Bilirakis is a member of the Republican Party's Whip Team and is Chair of the Veterans’ Affairs Task Force for the Republican Policy Committee. Additionally, Bilirakis serves as a co-chair of the Congressional Military Veterans Caucus and the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues.

He is a signer of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge[7] and a pledge sponsored by Americans for Prosperity promising to vote against any climate change legislation that would raise taxes.[8]

On September 29, 2008, Bilirakis voted against the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.[9]

In 2022, Bilirakis voted against naming a federal building in Florida after Joseph W. Hatchett, the first Black State Supreme Court judge in Florida and south of the Mason-Dixon line.[10]

Palm Harbor University High School students with Gus Bilirakis after winning the 2020 Congressional App Challenge.

Political positions[edit]

Healthcare[edit]

Bilirakis supports repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.[11]

On February 11, 2017, Bilirakis hosted a townhall in Pasco County, Florida, where he was faced with several protesters angry over the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act, when a member of the local party (an unauthorized speaker for the county REC), Bill Akins repeated the now debunked claim that the ACA contains "what is effectively known as death panels". Biliarkis nodded in agreement and later told CNN, "The board exists, OK? And I've voted to repeal the board." Biliarkis seemed to equate the "death panel" with the Independent Advisory Board, a 15-member committee that issues recommendations for reducing healthcare costs, subject to congressional oversight and approval.[12][13]

In early October 2018, Bilirakis released a campaign advertisement touting his work fighting opioids in Pasco County, Florida. In the advertisement, he took credit for a law he did not have a hand in crafting. The 30-second ad flashed text about a "Bilirakis INTERDICT ACT" as Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said Bilirakis is "giving us the tools to do our job and get traffickers off the street". The INTERDICT Act provides funding and equipment to U.S. Customs and Border Protection for detecting imported fentanyl. But Bilirakis was neither a sponsor nor one of 18 co-sponsors, making it unclear how it is the "Bilirakis INTERDICT Act".[14][15]

Tax policy[edit]

Bilirakis voted in favor of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.[16]

Gun policy[edit]

From 2015 to 2016, Bilirakis accepted $2,000 in direct campaign contributions from the NRA's Political Victory Fund;[17] As of 2017, he has an "A" rating from the NRA, indicating a voting record that is generally pro-gun rights.[18]

As a U.S. Representative, Bilirakis has voted on several pieces of legislation pertaining to firearms. He supported H. R. 38, which would enable concealed carry reciprocity among all states if and when it is signed into law.[19]

In March 2017, Bilirakis voted for the Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act, which, if signed into law, would prohibit, in any case arising out of the administration of laws and benefits by the Department of Veterans Affairs, any person who is mentally incapacitated, deemed mentally incompetent, or experiencing an extended loss of consciousness, of the right to receive or transport firearms, without the order or finding of a judicial authority of competent jurisdiction.[20]

After the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, Bilirakis signed a letter written to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, urging it to reevaluate the legal status of bump stocks. No action had been taken as of March 2018.[21]

In the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018, Bilirakis said that he would be willing to consider gun control legislation, "if that's what it takes".[22] He said that, specifically, he would support more school resource officers in schools.[22] He also announced his support for legislation that would ensure "that those who are mentally ill do not have access to weapons".[23]

Nagorno-Karabakh war[edit]

On October 1, 2020, Bilirakis co-signed a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that condemned Azerbaijan's offensive operations against the Armenian-populated enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, denounced Turkey's role in the Nagorno-Karabakh war, and called for an immediate ceasefire.[24]

2020 presidential election[edit]

In December 2020, Bilirakis was one of 126 Republican members of the House of Representatives to sign an amicus brief in support of Texas v. Pennsylvania, a lawsuit filed at the United States Supreme Court contesting the results of the 2020 presidential election, in which Joe Biden defeated[25] incumbent Donald Trump. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case on the basis that Texas lacked standing under Article III of the Constitution to challenge the results of an election held by another state.[26][27][28]

In an editorial, the Tampa Bay Times wrote that Bilirakis "chose partisan games over national interest". The Orlando Sentinel published an editorial calling the signers of the amicus brief a "national embarrassment", a "danger to democracy", and the "Sedition Caucus".[29][30] House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement that called signing the amicus brief an act of "election subversion".[31][32]

Many of the signers of the Texas v. Pennsylvania amicus brief objected to the certification of the 2020 Electoral College vote, but Bilirakis was absent due to contracting COVID-19.[33]

As a result of the 2021 United States Capitol attack, the House of Representatives impeached Trump a second time. Bilirakis voted against impeachment, calling it "politically motivated" and a "highly polarizing ruse that will only further divide Americans".[34]

Personal life[edit]

Bilirakis has four children[35] and is an Eastern Orthodox Christian.[36]

In 2014, Bilirakis had a cameo as a job applicant in the feature film Walt Before Mickey starring Thomas Ian Nicholas, Jon Heder, and Armando Gutierrez.[37]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Florida House of Representatives – Gus Michael Bilirakis - 2014 – 2016 { Crisafulli }". myfloridahouse.gov. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  2. ^ "Ancestry® | Genealogy, Family Trees & Family History Records". freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Archived from the original on 2016-03-13. Retrieved 2018-07-26.
  3. ^ "Gus Michael Bilirakis". Florida House of Representatives. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  4. ^ "Gus Bilirakis". Ballotpedia.
  5. ^ "Congressional Hellenic Israel Alliance Caucus". American Hellenic Council. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  6. ^ "Membership". Republican Study Committee. 2017-12-06. Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  7. ^ "Current Taxpayer Protection Pledge Signers". Archived from the original on July 25, 2011.
  8. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-06-04. Retrieved 2014-10-08.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "Bailout Roll Call". 2009-10-03. Retrieved April 19, 2009.
  10. ^ Karni, Annie (2022-04-12). "House G.O.P., Banding Together, Kills Bid to Honor Pioneering Black Judge". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-04-12.
  11. ^ Williams, Kathryn. "Tax bill debate reaches Palm Harbor". Tampa Bay Newspapers. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  12. ^ Bradner, Eric. "'Death panel' disputes erupt at Florida GOP congressman's town hall". CNN. Retrieved 2018-05-25.
  13. ^ "Sarah Palin falsely claims Barack Obama runs a 'death panel'". @politifact. Retrieved 2018-05-25.
  14. ^ Schallhorn, Kaitlyn (2018-10-11). "Florida congressman seemingly takes credit for opioid bill he didn't sponsor in campaign ad". Fox News. Retrieved 2018-10-16.
  15. ^ McManus, Tracey. "Bilirakis takes credit for law he did not craft in new ad touting fight on opioids". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2018-10-16.
  16. ^ Almukhtar, Sarah (19 December 2017). "How Each House Member Voted on the Tax Bill". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
  17. ^ Grinberg, Emanuella (21 February 2018). "These Florida lawmakers accepted money from the National Rifle Association". CNN. Atlanta. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  18. ^ "Gus Bilirakis' Political Summary on Issue: Guns". ISPY. Vote Smart. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  19. ^ "Final Vote Results for Roll Call 663". clerk.house.gov. U.S. Federal Government. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  20. ^ "H.R.629 - 115th Congress (2017-2018): Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act". 3 February 2017.
  21. ^ "Letter to the Hon. Thomas Brandon, Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives – Bipartisan Letter to Ban Bump Stocks" (PDF). Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  22. ^ a b Staff Reports (27 February 2018). "Delegation for 2.27.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State". Florida Politics. Peter Schorsch. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  23. ^ "Congressman Bilirakis Issues Statement in Response to Tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School". Congressman Gus Bilirakis. U.S. Federal Government. 15 February 2018. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  24. ^ "Senate and House Leaders to Secretary of State Pompeo: Cut Military Aid to Azerbaijan; Sanction Turkey for Ongoing Attacks Against Armenia and Artsakh". The Armenian Weekly. October 2, 2020.
  25. ^ Blood, Michael R.; Riccardi, Nicholas (December 5, 2020). "Biden officially secures enough electors to become president". AP News. Archived from the original on December 8, 2020. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
  26. ^ Liptak, Adam (2020-12-11). "Supreme Court Rejects Texas Suit Seeking to Subvert Election". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on December 11, 2020. Retrieved 2020-12-12.
  27. ^ "Order in Pending Case" (PDF). Supreme Court of the United States. 2020-12-11. Archived (PDF) from the original on December 11, 2020. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  28. ^ Diaz, Daniella. "Brief from 126 Republicans supporting Texas lawsuit in Supreme Court". CNN. Archived from the original on December 12, 2020. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  29. ^ Company, Tampa Publishing. "Congressman Bilirakis chose partisan games over the national interest | Editorial". Tampa Bay Times.
  30. ^ Board, Orlando Sentinel Editorial. "Florida's Republicans in Congress: A national embarrassment, a danger to democracy | Editorial". orlandosentinel.com.
  31. ^ Smith, David (2020-12-12). "Supreme court rejects Trump-backed Texas lawsuit aiming to overturn election results". The Guardian. Retrieved 2020-12-13.
  32. ^ "Pelosi Statement on Supreme Court Rejecting GOP Election Sabotage Lawsuit" (Press release). Speaker Nancy Pelosi. December 11, 2020. Retrieved December 13, 2020.
  33. ^ Contorno, Steve. "Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor tests positive for coronavirus". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  34. ^ "Please see the statement below from Congressman Bilirakis regarding today's proposed impeachment". U.S. House of Representatives. 13 January 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  35. ^ "About Gus". Archived from the original on 2014-12-08. Retrieved 2014-12-11.
  36. ^ "Religious affiliation of members of 116th Congress" (PDF).
  37. ^ "Gus Bilirakis". IMDb. Retrieved 19 September 2015.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 9th congressional district

2007–2013
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 12th congressional district

2013–present
Incumbent
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by United States representatives by seniority
85th
Succeeded by