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Casey, Fetterman Back Federal Override of PA Election Laws

Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman are among the Democrats who are sponsoring the re-introduction of the so-called “Freedom to Vote Act,” a sweeping federal law that would override the Keystone State’s election rules. From requiring early voting to preventing voter ID mandates, the Casey-backed bill would impose federal requirements on locally-run elections, substituting national rules for those enacted by Pennsylvania lawmakers.

“I don’t have to tell you how transformational our legislation is,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said at a Capitol Hill press conference last week. “The Freedom to Vote Act would fundamentally right size our democracy, advancing access to the ballot, ending the scourge of concentrated money in our politics, and giving voice to everyday Americans.”

The act is the U.S. Senate’s version of the “For The People Act,” also known as H.R.1, passed by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic-controlled House in 2021. The bill was approved without any GOP votes while having the support of every Pennsylvania Democrat. Now Democrats in both chambers are backing the Senate’s version of the bill expanding federal control over state election laws.

Reps. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery) and Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Philadelphia/Delaware) declined to respond to questions about their support for the bill. A spokeswoman for Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Berks/Chester) said she supports it but did not join the effort as a cosponsor because it is not “bipartisan.”

When the House passed its version of the bill in 2021, Scanlon made it clear she wanted the federal government to override elected legislators in Harrisburg.

“The Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act protects our democracy by preventing state legislatures, like the Pennsylvania General Assembly, from making it harder for Americans to vote. This bill sets minimum standards which the states must meet — because so many have not.”

And Casey was particularly outspoken when the bill failed in the Senate, suggesting opponents were protecting “white supremacy.” In a 2021 interview, Casey said election reforms in states like Georgia’s were “voter suppression bills.”

“At its core, we should just be blunt about this; these voter suppression bills are about white supremacy,” Casey said.

(Georgia set a voter turnout record in 2022 under the new laws Democrats opposed, and Black voters told pollsters their voting experience was overwhelmingly positive.)

Opponents of the bill say states should control elections as outlined in the Constitution. They also argue that some of the requirements of the federal proposal are unpopular with voters. Among the bill’s mandates:

— Require Pennsylvania to have at least 13 days of early voting, including weekends, and to count ballots that come in late;

— Give millions of public dollars to political candidates to use on campaign staff, TV ads, attack mailers, etc.

–Allow felons to vote. Voting Rights Restoration for “Returning Citizens;” Restores the right to vote in federal elections for people who have served their time for felony convictions after being released from prison.

The bill’s advocates acknowledge it would require states like Pennsylvania to have both online voter registration and same-day voter registration, all without voter ID. Instead of proof of identification, the voting bill says state election officials “shall treat an individual desiring to vote in person in an election for Federal office as meeting such voter identification requirement if the individual presents the appropriate State or local election official with a sworn written statement, signed in the presence of the official by an adult who has known the individual for at least six months under penalty of perjury, attesting to the individual’s identity.”

Critics say that allowing voters without identification to simply present a signed document from someone who claims to know them would not inspire confidence in ballot integrity.

“This legislation eviscerates voter ID, opens the door for non-citizens to vote, and makes voting less transparent. Polling shows that Americans don’t want far left Democrats like John Fetterman and Bob Casey to seize control of local elections, and that’s why the ‘Freedom to Cheat Act’ will fail again,” said Republican National Committee spokesman Gates McGavick.

According to a Gallup poll taken last year, 79 percent of Americans support requiring a photo ID in order to vote.


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DelVal Dems Oppose National Defense Authorization Act

The $886 billion 2024 National Defense Authorization Act  (NDAA) passed in the U.S. House Friday, with the Delaware Valley’s Democratic representatives voting against it and Bucks County Republican Brian Fitzpatrick voting for it.

At issue are GOP-backed amendments pushing back on new policies put in place by the Biden Defense Department (DoD) on contentious social issues like abortion, transgender medical procedures, and DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.) For example, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision sent regulating abortion back to the states, the DoD implemented new policies paying for travel for women in the armed forces who are stationed in states with abortion restrictions and want to travel out of state for the procedures.

In a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, all Republican members of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee wrote the policy change “would force taxpayers to subsidize abortions by paying for service members or their dependents to travel to obtain the procedure and by granting additional leave for this purpose.”

Under the longtime rules of the Hyde Amendment, federal funding for abortions is not allowed. Critics say the Biden administration’s policy violates that rule.

Another amendment would block the military from funding gender procedures on minor children that could result in sterilization — including hormone therapy and puberty blockers. It is another issue injected into the NDAA by the Biden administration. National Review reported, “A team of military medical practitioners in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) defended “gender-affirming” care, including hormone replacement and puberty blockers for dysphoric minors as young as seven years old.”

Republicans argued the Biden administration is using the U.S. military to advance what they call “woke” politics.

“It’s a good thing the Republicans are in the majority, but it’s more important that we keep our promises to America and to our men and women who serve to defend us. And today is exactly what we did,” said Speaker Kevin McCarthy  (R-Calif.). The NDAA passed on a largely party-line 219-210 vote.

Delaware Valley Democrats disagree.

“The bipartisan annual defense bill that I proudly passed out of committee is no longer recognizable with all the extreme amendments tacked on,” Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks) wrote on Twitter. “It left me no choice but to vote against it. Our service members and their families deserve better.”

Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Delaware/Philadelphia) accused Republicans of taking a bipartisan bill and “transforming” it “into an extremist manifesto that targets lifesaving care for women in uniform, attacks LGBTQ+ service members, and chooses the books that military families can read.”

“For decades, Congress has crafted and passed the National Defense Authorization Act on a bipartisan basis. While major pieces of legislation like this are – of necessity – works of compromise, House Democrats worked to craft a bipartisan bill that demonstrates our commitment to national security and ensures that our service members and their families would get the support that they deserve,” said Scanlon.

Rep. Susan Wild (D-Lehigh) said she voted against the bill because it was “hijacked by extremists.”

“I cannot and will never compromise on a woman’s freedom to control her own body,” said Wild. “This bill undermines female servicemembers’ access to reproductive healthcare at the expense of our military readiness. It is a slap in the face to our female servicemembers—women who defend American freedom every day—to tell them that they do not deserve the fundamental freedom to make their own healthcare decisions.”

Chris Gustafson, a spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee, noted that Wild voted against an amendment to the NDAA that prohibits taxpayer dollars from going to the Taliban.

“Voting against pay raises for our troops and the safety of our country over taxpayer-funded late-term abortions and woke transgender ideology is extreme and dangerous,” said Gustafson. Wild is “following an extreme and dangerous agenda led by the fringe elements of their party that are entirely out of touch with the American people.”

He added Wild should explain why she is “willing to put our national security risk for (her) woke agenda.”

Neither Dean nor Fitzpatrick responded to requests for comment.

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Houlahan Lone DelVal Voice Against Biden on Cluster Munitions for Ukraine

While most of her fellow Pennsylvania Democrats remain silent, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan is speaking out against the Biden administration’s plan to send cluster munitions to Ukraine.

Progressive groups and peace organizations are condemning the administration’s decision to send those weapons to the frontline of the Russia-Ukraine war. However, Keystone State Democrats — with the exception of far-left activists like Rep. Summer Lee (PA-12), have been silent rather than break with the White House.

Not the Delaware Valley’s Houlahan, an Air Force veteran.

“From the outset of Russia’s unjust war, I have been one of the most vocal and supportive members of Congress when it comes to providing Ukraine the resources and weapon systems they need to defend itself and its sovereignty,” said Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks). “I believe a victory for Ukraine is an essential victory for democracies across the globe, but that victory cannot come at the expense of our American values and thus democracy itself. Cluster munitions are indiscriminate, and I strongly oppose providing these weapons to Ukraine.”

“There are some who will say that these weapons are necessary to level the battlefield given Russia’s reported use of them. To those individuals, I challenge the notion that these weapons are the most effective support we can provide Ukraine right now,” Houlahan added. “I challenge the notion that we should employ the same tactics Russia is using, blurring the lines of moral high ground. And I challenge all of us to remember that this war will end, and the broken pieces of Ukraine will need to be rebuilt. History remembers not only who wins a war but also how a war is won.”

Cluster munitions, which the Russians are currently using against Ukrainian targets, are so controversial a 2008 treaty bans their use. However, neither the U.S. nor Ukraine are signatories to that agreement.

While cluster munitions can effectively target large areas, they have raised significant concerns due to their humanitarian impact. One main issue is the submunition’s high failure rate resulting in many unexploded bomblets that can pose long-term threats to civilians.

Nonetheless, President Joe Biden says Ukraine needs them.

Ironically, Biden’s representative to the United Nations, Linda Greenfield-Thomas, disavowed the use of cluster munitions in March 2022, according to The Washington Post. And during her time as Biden’s former White House spokesperson, Jen Psaki called Russia’s use of cluster munitions “potentially a war crime.”

Progressives and peace activists are pushing back while Pennsylvania Democrats remain largely silent.

“This decision is beyond disappointing and heartbreaking. Since the initial invasion in 2014, Russia and Ukraine have been actively fighting. More weapons, and certainly not more indiscriminate weapons, are not the answer. Diplomacy is,” said Bridget Moix,  general secretary of The Friends (Quaker) Committee on National Legislation.

Bob Smith, a founder and coordinator of the Brandywine Peace Community, said the Biden administration should “absolutely not” be sending cluster munitions to Ukraine.

“It not only crosses a line but raises the threshold of war and can only lead to more death,” said Smith. “For those of us who lived through the Vietnam War and were active during the Vietnam War, the cluster bomb has a particular image. It’s an image and was, at that time, and still is, an anti-personnel weapon. It’s not for destroying things or places or structures. It’s for killing people.”

“And I was horrified when I saw that President Biden had decided to go ahead and release U.S. cluster bombs to Ukraine,” Smith said. “The United States should have outlawed or should have banned cluster bombs (as other) countries around the world have already banned them.

“Why is it that our president doesn’t call for negotiations? Why doesn’t President Zelensky at least say, ‘Yes, negotiations are necessary’? Put the onus on the Russians,” Smith asked.

Veterans For Peace and other U.S. anti-war organizations will hold a rally on July 22 at the Scranton Army Ammunition Plant to oppose sending cluster bombs, and all weapons, into the Ukraine War and call for an immediate ceasefire.

But amid the controversy, there is total silence from the rest of the Delaware Valley delegation.

Reps. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Delaware/Philadelphia), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) all chose not to respond to requests for comment about Biden’s decision. And as of press time, none of them had released a public statement on the issue.

The same with Pennsylvania U.S. Sens. John Fetterman and Bob Casey, who is up for re-election next year.

Houlahan is co-chair of the bipartisan Unexploded Ordinance (UXO)/Demining Caucus. She has strongly supported Ukraine and said the House will be debating and passing the National Defense Authorization Act this week.

“I have authored and supported numerous provisions in the NDAA supporting Ukraine’s defense, and I will enthusiastically advocate for those provisions as we pass the final bill. As discussions regarding support for Ukraine continue in the House, Senate, and White House, I look forward to working with my colleagues and the administration to ensure we make the best possible decisions for the future of our nation and our globe.”

For Smith, the issue is far more simple.

“The problem is, in war, ultimately no one wins. And all that will be left is more killing.”

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DelVal Dems Back Higher Mortgage Fees for Good Borrowers

Three Delaware Valley congresswomen voted to keep President Joe Biden’s new policy that lowers mortgage fees for borrowers with poor credit and raises them for would-be home buyers who’ve earned higher credit scores.

Democratic Reps. Madeleine Dean (Montgomery), Mary Gay Scanlon (Delaware/Philadelphia), and Chrissy Houlahan (Chester/Berks) voted against the Middle-Class Borrower Protection Act that would reverse the fee changes that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac now charge.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) and Rep. Susan Wild (D-Lehigh) voted for the bill to stop the new fee structure. It passed the House Monday on a 230-189 bipartisan vote, with all Republicans present, plus 14 Democrats.

“In May, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the agency which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, made changes to the structure of upfront mortgage fees that would result in higher costs for borrowers with higher credit scores,” Fitzpatrick told DVJournal. “Hardworking middle-class families looking to purchase a home should not have to subsidize less creditworthy, riskier borrowers. We must ensure our housing finance system remains stable so we avoid a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis while pursuing bipartisan solutions to housing affordability. I am happy to see the Middle-Class Borrower Protection Act pass the House with a bipartisan vote.”

Biden’s progressive policy, which took effect May 1, promotes “social justice” by reducing lending fees on borrowers with lower credit scores. Meanwhile, home buyers with a credit score over 680 will pay about $500 more per year on a $400,000 loan. That adds up to more than $14,000 throughout a 30-year mortgage.

And borrowers who put aside enough in savings for a 20 percent down payment will pay the highest fees under the new FHFA policy.

Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), who introduced the act, repeatedly said the new fee structure is “a socialist redistribution of wealth.”

“It’s a scheme created by the Federal Housing Finance Agency that forces financially responsible homebuyers with good credit to subsidize those with bad credit. Responsible action should never be penalized, and irresponsible action shouldn’t be subsidized. Under this rule, most new homebuyers will pay higher fees to offset the costs of riskier borrowers,” Davidson said.

Under the new LLPA (Loan-Level Price Adjustment) fee schedule, the borrower with modest credit — 640 to 659 — who puts down just 5 percent would enjoy a fee drop from 2.75 percent to 1.5 percent. But a borrower with good credit (740-759) with a 20 percent down payment would see their fee double from 0.5 percent to 1 percent.

Republicans and many responsible borrowers have lashed out against the policy, described by critics as income distribution applied to home ownership. Some 18 Republican governors also opposed the policy.

“We write to you in regard to the mandated May 1, 2023, changes to the loan level pricing adjustment (“LLPA”) structure employed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and ask that you reverse course on behalf of hardworking Americans across the country,” the Republicans said in a letter to President Joe Biden and his Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Sandra Thompson.

“In short, the new LLPA framework will inevitably increase mortgage costs for lower-risk individuals and handicap those borrowers with larger down payments. Further, the changes provide no incentive to borrowers to maintain good credit and will confuse borrowers at all credit levels.”

“Your actions are threatening the American housing system,” they added.

Treasurers and finance officials from 27 states, led by Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity, also urged Biden to end his “unconscionable” policy that requires people with good credit scores to subsidize mortgage loans for others.

“This new policy makes it more expensive for people with good credit to buy houses – and that’s absurd,” said Garrity. “Americans who have built a good credit score and saved enough to make a strong down payment should not be penalized and forced to pay more on their mortgage every single month. I’m proud that so many of my colleagues from across the country – representing a majority of states – have united to urge the immediate elimination of this policy.”

Dean, Houlahan, Scanlon, and Wild declined to respond to requests for comment.

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DelVal Dems Vote With Biden on Gas Stove Ban Bill

Yes, the Biden administration really is coming for your gas stove. And the entire Delaware Valley Democratic delegation voted on Tuesday to help it do so.

U.S. Reps. Madeleine Dean, Chrissy Houlahan, and Mary Gay Scanlon voted against the Gas Stove Protection and Freedom Act, a bill to protect Americans’ ability to choose the type of stove they want in their kitchen. Despite their opposition, it passed the House with a bipartisan 248-180 majority.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) voted for the measure.

“The Biden administration is intent on weaponizing every aspect of the federal government to achieve its ideological goals,” said Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.), the bill’s author. “Consumer protection should be about safety, not used as a veiled push to eliminate fossil fuels and the millions of jobs they support. Americans should decide if gas stoves are right for their families, not the federal government. I’m glad to see this commonsense bill to rein in the administration pass the House.”

The Biden White House issued a statement claiming that while “it does not support any attempt to ban the use of gas stoves,” Biden will veto legislation stripping the administration of the power to ban them.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 47 percent of Pennsylvania households rely on natural gas or propane for heat, far more than electricity (29 percent) or heating oil (20 percent). Across the nation, there are some 45 million gas stoves and ovens, and 187 million households use natural gas, according to the American Gas Association.

And they like it, too. A 2021 national Morning Consult poll found, “When it comes to the choice between natural gas and electricity for cooking, natural gas is still the favored choice: 73 percent of respondents who prefer to keep their gas stoves said they’ve used both and electric ‘did not work as well as gas alternatives.’”

But climate change activists have targeted natural gas in general and gas stoves in particular.

In January, the Biden administration’s Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) chair Richard Trumka said a ban on gas stoves and ranges is “on the table,” a statement that sparked immediate backlash. Even President Joe Biden felt the need to disavow his appointee’s statement. But newly-uncovered emails show the White House had been discussing restrictions on gas appliances with the CPSC months before the announcement.

And the Biden Department of Energy (DOE) is proposing new regulations on gas stoves that, according to a nonpartisan Congressional Research Service report, would keep about half of the current gas stove models off the market.

“In assessing the conversion itself, DOE conducted a market survey and sampled 21 units currently on the market, finding 20 would not comply with the proposed standard without conversion of the equipment,” the Service reported.
“It’s interesting how some Democratic lawmakers are so fervently ‘pro-choice’ on some issues, but then they turn around and vote to deny personal choice on other issues, as is the case here,” said Kurt Knaus with the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance. “Opponents of clean-burning natural gas are moving their campaigns from the fields where wells are drilled and pipelines are built, and they now have their sights set on our kitchen stoves. It’s unbelievable.

“Fortunately, common sense won the day here,” Knaus added.

The effort to ban gas stoves has also increased at the state and local levels.

The state of New York has banned new natural gas hookups beginning in most buildings by 2026.

In Massachusetts, “a group of progressive Democratic lawmakers has filed proposals requiring the state to draft regulations restricting gas ranges and other appliances in new construction.”

The attorneys general of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New York have signed a letter demanding that the federal government crackdown on gas stoves.

And the Biden administration filed a joint brief in federal court on Monday supporting Berkeley, Calif.’s ban on natural gas in new buildings that was struck down in federal court.

“This measure isn’t just about protecting consumer choice,” said Knaus. “It’s also about defending against onerous restrictions that serve no other real purpose than trying to disrupt markets for natural gas, something that would damper our state and regional economies and threaten the job creation we have seen over the decade-plus in Pennsylvania.”

Chris Gustafson with the National Republican Congressional Committee called out Pennsylvania Democrats, all of whom voted against the Gas Stove Protection and Freedom Act, for what he called their “extreme” position.

“It’s no secret that extreme Democrats like Matt Cartwright and Susan Wild want to control every facet of American life: from what we drive, to what we learn, and now we cook. These extreme control freaks have no concept of the real problems facing everyday Americans, so they’re inventing new ones instead.”

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Houlahan’s Bill to Protect U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserves Passes House

From a press release

Thursday, Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks)’s Banning Oil Exports to Foreign Adversaries Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives. This bipartisan legislation was reintroduced with Representative Don Bacon (R-NE) earlier this year and bans China Russia, Iran, North Korea, and other sanctioned nations, from purchasing oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserves.

This bill passed the House as an amendment to the Lower Energy Costs Act. When calling for a vote of the amendment, it received unanimous support across both sides of the aisle.

“Our foreign adversaries should not have access to something as crucial to our nation’s economy and security as our strategic reserves,” said Houlahan. “This bipartisan legislation puts a stop to a practice that should’ve ended a long time ago. Passing this bill in the House was a great step in the right direction and I hope it will be taken up by the Senate and be signed into law to protect our national security.”

In the 1970s, a ban was placed on the exporting of all U.S. oil. Congress lifted that ban in 2015 without making an exception for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The U.S. Department of Energy, which manages the SPR, conducts a competitive bidding process and automatically awards the oil contracts to the highest bidders. Chinese-owned and affiliated companies have won contracts under both President Biden’s and President Trump’s Administrations.

Last year, during Houlahan’s 63rd town hall a constituent raised this issue and asked Houlahan to do something about it. The next day her team started drafting the bill.

Representatives Houlahan and Bacon were joined by 67 cosponsors including Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks).


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Casey, Fetterman Still On TikTok, Despite Spying Concerns

Time may be TikToking away for TikTok and the Americans who use it.

On Friday, six more U.S. Senators signed on as sponsors of the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology (RESTRICT) Act, bipartisan legislation giving President Joe Biden new powers to ban the Chinese-owned app. Now 18 senators are on board, and the Biden administration has endorsed the effort.

Not on the list of sponsors: Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman. They are, however, on a recently-compiled list of a handful of members of Congress with TikTok accounts.

Both accounts were still active as of Sunday night. Neither senator responded to repeated requests for comment about their decision to remain on the controversial — and Communist-owned — video app.

The issue of TikTok giving China’s government access to data on U.S. citizens isn’t new. President Donald Trump tried to ban the app in 2020 but was blocked by the courts. Late last year, Biden signed an order banning the app from nearly all federal government devices.

The social media platform that is very popular with teenagers is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. ByteDance had admitted that some employees had filched Americans’ information, The New York Times reported. But the parent company claimed those workers were fired.

Biden is demanding ByteDance sell TikTok. And the Biden Justice Department is investigating whether the Chinese-made app is spying on some of the journalists who cover the tech industry.

More and more Pennsylvania government entities are banning the app, including Chester County and Bucks County, which just filed a lawsuit against it for harming children’s mental health. In state government, Treasurer Stacy Garrity banned it on state devices her department controls. However, Gov. Josh Shapiro has a campaign account. At the same time, however, Shapiro was investigating TikTok as attorney general for its impact on youth.

A January 2023 review by States News Service confirmed 32 of the 535 members of Congress had TikTok accounts, including Casey, Fetterman, and local Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks)

Contacted by DVJournal, a Houlahan spokesperson confirmed, “Her account still exists, but it is not active, and it is not on any House-issued devices.”

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is scheduled to testify before Congress on Thursday. According to reports, he plans to argue that the app, which has about 150 million regular users in the U.S. — or about 45 percent of the population — is too deeply enmeshed in the nation’s social media to be banned.

A TikTok spokesperson recently sent DVJournal this statement: “The ban of TikTok on federal devices was passed in December without any deliberation, and unfortunately, that approach has served as a blueprint for other world governments. These bans are little more than political theater. We hope that when it comes to addressing national security concerns about TikTok beyond government devices, Congress will explore solutions that won’t have the effect of censoring the voices of millions of Americans.

“The swiftest and most thorough way to address any national security concerns about TikTok is for CFIUS to adopt the proposed agreement that we worked with them on for nearly two years. These plans have been developed under the oversight of our country’s top national security agencies, and we are well underway in implementing them to further secure our platform in the United States.”

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Dean, Houlahan Part of New Bipartisan Fentanyl Prevention Caucus

From a press release

U.S. Representatives Joe Neguse (D-CO), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Darrell Issa (R-CA), and Ken Calvert (R-CA) announced the Bipartisan Fentanyl Prevention Caucus. The co-chairs will coordinate with members from both sides of the aisle to combat the nationwide spike in fentanyl-related overdoses and drug poisonings and will work with federal and state law enforcement.

Members will also work to educate the public and Congress, in cooperation with prevention and awareness groups, to better understand the ongoing threat of fentanyl in communities across America.

As in many areas of the country, fentanyl is hitting the Delaware Valley hard, leading to overdoses, deaths and addiction.

“Fentanyl has led to a devastating spike in the already alarming rate of overdoses ravaging every corner of our nation — it is crucial that we commit ourselves to a bipartisan effort to combat fentanyl-related overdoses and drug poisoning,” said Dean (D-Montgomery). “Every day we lose more than a jetliner of loved ones — Congress must do more. And, so, I’m grateful to help lead this caucus to promote education and legislation that will help save lives.”

Neguse said, “Fentanyl is devastating communities throughout America—in every state, and in every region. Policymakers cannot ignore this deadly crisis, and must work together to develop solutions. It is in the interest of every American to put an end to fentanyl poisonings. Through the Bipartisan Fentanyl Prevention Caucus, my colleagues and I are joining together to find and implement solutions, and ultimately save lives.”

“Fentanyl is not a new danger. But the deadly threat it poses has now reached every corner of our country and no community is being spared. We’ve lost so many lives to this scourge. So many families will never be the same,” Issa said. “The stakes could not be more clear: If we don’t win the fentanyl fight, we’re not going to just lose my community or my neighbor’s. Or any one of my colleagues. We’re going to lose this country. This caucus is needed now as we tell the truth, develop solutions, and save lives.”

Calvert said, “Fentanyl is devastating the lives of Americans in every corner of our country. With fentanyl-related deaths climbing every year, we need new solutions to stop this alarming trend. This is not a partisan issue – it’s a national crisis. I’m hopeful that by working in a bipartisan manner, the Fentanyl Prevention Caucus can help educate Americans on the dangers of fentanyl and provide real solutions that will stop the destruction of this deadly drug”

The caucus members include: Angie Craig (D-MN), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Melanie Stansbury (D-NM), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Ruben Gallego (D-TX), Nikki Budzinski (D-IL), Marc Veasey (D-TX), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Raúl Grijalva (D-NM), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Sharice Davids (D-KS), Don Bacon (R-NE), Claudia Tenney (R-NY), Andre Carson (D-IN), Ralph Norman (R-SC), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Lance Gooden (R-TX), Bob Latta (R-OH), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Jake LaTurner (R-KS), Barry Moore (R-AL), David Valadeo (R-CA), and Robert Aderholt (R-AL).

Fentanyl is a highly addictive synthetic opioid that continues to drive the overdose epidemic, its presence has been found in all 50 states. According to a report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 107,375 people in the United States died of drug overdoses and drug poisonings in 2021 to 2022. Of these deaths, an overwhelming sixty-seven percent involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

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PA Sens. Casey, Fetterman Have TikTok Despite White House Ban

The Biden administration issued an order Monday giving federal agencies 30 days to remove the Chinese-owned TikTok app from official government devices. The action was ordered by Congress late last year and, according to Reuters, is being taken “in a bid to keep U.S. data safe.”

But those concerns apparently haven’t reached the Pennsylvania congressional delegation where at least three members still have TikTok accounts.

As of Tuesday, Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman still had active TikTok accounts, as did Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks).

review by States Newsroom in January found just 32 members of Congress, including seven senators, had TikTok accounts. Sens. Casey and Fetterman were two of them. Indeed, Fetterman joined TikTok last summer, long after the company’s problematic policies were well known.

TikTok has long been singled out for the app’s aggressive data collection, data that under Chinese law is accessible by the Communist Party regime that governs the nation. In addition to the data you give TikTok, the app also tracks what non-TikTok sites users visit, other apps you use, what you record using your phone camera and mic, and what content you watch using your phone, according to The Washington Post.

And while the parent company, ByteDance, says it keeps its U.S. data secure, “it’s still compelled to comply with requests for user data under Chinese law,” the Post notes.

In August 2020, former President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning new downloads of TikTok in the U.S. But it was never enacted and President Joe Biden rescinded the order when he took office.

Concerns about China’s espionage policies came to the fore when the public discovered the Biden administration was allowing a Chinese spy balloon to traverse the U.S. uninterrupted. Biden ordered the balloon shot down over the Atlantic Ocean off the South Carolina coast.

“The ban of TikTok on federal devices was passed in December without any deliberation, and unfortunately that approach has served as a blueprint for other world governments,” said a TikTok spokeswoman.

“These bans are little more than political theater. We hope that when it comes to addressing national security concerns about TikTok beyond government devices, Congress will explore solutions that won’t have the effect of censoring the voices of millions of Americans.

“The swiftest and most thorough way to address any national security concerns about TikTok is for CFIUS to adopt the proposed agreement that we worked with them on for nearly two years. These plans have been developed under the oversight of our country’s top national security agencies, and we are well underway in implementing them to further secure our platform in the United States,” she said.

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Jewish Activists Call Out Dem Vote to Keep Omar on Key Committee

Despite her history of antisemitic statements and anti-Israel rhetoric, all three Democrats representing the Delaware Valley voted to keep controversial Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on the Foreign Relations Committee. Now Jewish organizations are calling them out for backing someone whose antisemitism has been repeatedly called out by members of her own party.

The Republican majority, with the help of Bucks County GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, successfully removed Omar last week from the committee that plays an important role in the nation’s foreign policy, including the state of Israel.

“It’s just that her worldview of Israel is so diametrically opposed to the committee’s,” said Foreign Relations Committee chair Michael McCaul (R-Texas) leading up to the vote. “I don’t mind having differences of opinion, but this goes beyond that.”

Omar’s antisemitic statements and anti-Israel stances are well known. She has claimed she is criticized for her anti-Israel positions — including supporting the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement — because of the influence of Jewish money. “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby,” she tweeted. She has also claimed, “Israel has hypnotized the world. May Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

She has also compared the U.S. and Israel to the terrorist groups Hamas and the Taliban, for which she was also rebuked by Democrats in 2021.

That wasn’t enough to stop Delaware Valley Democrats from siding with her.

”Rep. Omar immediately apologized when told by the Jewish community that her words were hurtful and put in the work to become a better ally,” said Rep. Madeline Dean on Twitter. “Her four years on House Foreign Affairs Committee have been dedicated to peace and human rights — and she should remain.”

And Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Delaware/Philadelphia) accused the GOP of partisanship.

“Speaker McCarthy struck a corrupt bargain with MAGA extremists to get the speaker’s chair when he agreed to remove Rep. Omar from her committee. This partisan political stunt strikes a blow to the integrity of our democratic institutions.”

Interestingly, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks), who serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee, declined to respond to a request for comment. In 2019, in the wake of Omar’s antisemitic comments, Houlahan publicly denounced her. “There is no place for antisemitic comments from anyone at anytime, anywhere. This is not who we are, and language which does not reflect our national values must be called out and condemned without exception,” Houlahan tweeted at the time.

But today she is silent.

The Coalition for Jewish values, which represents 2,000 American rabbis, supported taking Omar off the committee.

“We are obviously very pleased with the outcome,” said Rabbi Yakov Menken, a spokesman for the group. “It is a morally correct outcome. But we’re very distressed at the same time. Her defenders turned around and accused her critics of racism.  That is inverting bigot and victim, which is unacceptable.”

One of those who voted to retain Omar is Rep. Susan Wild (D-Lehigh). Wild is Jewish, serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and voted to keep Omar on the committee. She did not respond to a request for comment.

Wynnewood Rabbi Yonah Gross, a regional ambassador for the Coalition for Jewish Values, was also pleased with Omar’s removal.

Omar has had antisemitic views that she “sometimes covered as being anti-Israel. But even that would be considered antisemitic. And to have her on the Foreign Affairs Committee and have access to information and influence in an area that affects Israel and allowing her bias to impact those decisions is a dangerous thing to allow.”

“She’s certainly welcome to represent her constituents, and she could be on other committees, but her antisemitic, anti-Israel bias makes her unfit to be on that committee, in my view,” said Gross.

Philadelphia Cantor Elliott Tessler also favored removing Omar from the committee.

“The last place she should be is the Committee on Foreign Relations, somebody with such strong anti-Israel feelings,” said Tessler. “I read an article this week that she was flying a Palestinian flag in her office. She’s a constant critic of Israel. That is the absolute last committee she should be on. It’s a very important committee, very powerful.”

“Martin Luther King said anti-Israel criticism is antisemitism,” said Tessler.

Cheltenham resident Myron Goldman said, “It was the right move.”

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