Republican Congressman Daniel Webster admits he’s a “by-the-rules” guy who is not done pushing for reform in Washington, D.C.
That’s one reason why he decided to run for the District 11 seat currently held by U.S. Rep Rich Nugent, R-Brooksville, who is not seeking re-election.
Webster, R-Winter Garden, lives in Lake City and has represented District 10 since 2013. But thanks to court-ordered redistricting, Webster will have to continue his work to fix what he calls a “broken” system from a new district that now includes all of Sumter, Hernando and Citrus counties, part of Lake County and most of Marion County.
Webster, 67, told the Chronicle Editorial Board on Wednesday he wants to trade the current “top down, power-driven, staff-driven Congress” into one that member-driven and principle-based. Congress, he said, is creating new rules every day that circumvent the existing ones. The result, he said, is out-of-control bureaucratic regulations. Instead, he said it’s time to follow the 49-page rulebook that already exists.
“Take the rulebook and use it,” he said. “Otherwise, only a few people control what’s going on.”
Webster served 28 years in the state legislature and served as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate majority leader. He faces Justin Grabelle, Nugent’s former chief of staff, for the District 11 seat.
Webster said he would streamline the process that veterans go through at VA clinics and hospitals. The physicians and staff at these places are generally excellent, he said, but are hampered by outdated scheduling procedures and bogged down by excessive paperwork. Webster has been an advocate of more accountability, especially in the wake of the 2014 waiting-list scandal that shook the Department of Veterans Affairs and cost VA Secretary Eric Shinseki his job.
Webster favors repealing the Affordable Health Care Act in favor of a better plan that controls the cost of health care while increasing quality and choice of care.
Webster said the unrest occurring in parts of the world is “bleeding into the U.S.” America, he said, has the strongest military in the world, but imprudent foreign policy has allowed the festering threat of ISIS to grow into a “real army.”
They were viewed as a “junior varsity” team of 2,500 radicals who were ignored and not seen as a major threat. Today, ISIS has become a potent force of some 40,000-strong radicals who represent a major threat, he said.
“We could have taken them out early and now it’s a real army,” he said.
Webster said it might take a full-on “boots-on-the-ground” effort to take out ISIS.
The Congressman also supports building a wall at the Mexican-U.S. border and supports the removal of any Department of Interior rules interfering with border patrols. He favors more stringent monitoring of those illegal immigrants who are already inside the country.
Webster said he has many small towns in his district and every one has an economic development component tailored to meet its own individual needs. Given his experience in Congress, he said he’s used to how it works.
As Citrus County’s representative, Webster said he will work with city and government officials as they craft a plan for the future. Residents, he added, can count on his experience to fight for their issues.
Webster said he’s been getting out in his newly restructured district, learning the issues and “visiting places I haven’t seen before.”
“It’s going well,” he said.