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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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Rep. Houlahan Touts Her Military Moms Matter Act

From a press release

This week Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks) celebrated the expansion of the Department of Defense (DoD) Military Parental Leave Program, which she has advocated tirelessly for since first introducing her Military Moms Matter Act to Congress in May 2021. This policy, published yesterday, extends DoD paid parental leave to 12 weeks for all service members (previously 12 weeks for only mothers), on top of medical convalescent leave granted to eligible service members.

“I can’t understate how monumental this is for our service members and their families,” said Houlahan. “I had my first child serving active duty in the Air Force, and the wait for child care on base was months long. This new policy ensures that families won’t have to choose between a paycheck and taking care of their newborn child. My legislation was inspired by my story and the stories I hear too often from those in uniform, and I am proud that our efforts—with the unwavering support of Under Secretary Cisneros—are going to make a tangible, positive impact across the military.”

Houlahan was instrumental in guaranteeing DoD’s full implementation of the provision’s intent, which was at risk of a misinterpretation that would allow medical convalescent leave and parental leave to be used concurrently as opposed to consecutively.

To prevent implementation of misinterpreted guidance that could deny additional authorized leave, Houlahan led a letter directly to Under Secretary Cisneros, head of DoD’s personnel and readiness, urging the DoD to properly implement the full provision in line with congressional intent. The DoD directive, signed by Under Secretary Cisneros on January 4th, 2023 and back-dated to December 27th, 2022, guarantees the authorization of 12 weeks of parental leave separate and apart from medical convalescent leave and solidifies Houlahan’s continued pledge for improved wellbeing of servicemembers and their families.

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Houlahan Leads Bipartisan Congressional Delegation to Arctic to Discuss European Security

From a press release

Wednesday, Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks) returned from a 6-day congressional delegation to Finland and Norway where she and other members of Congress met with European security officials. The bipartisan meetings occurred amidst Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which was a central focus of the discussions. During the trip, which Houlahan organized, the group met with U.S. Marines stationed in Norway.

“As President Biden prepares to sign the annual defense bill into law and welcomes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to our nation’s capital, the congressional delegation happened at a pivotal moment for U.S. national security,” said Houlahan. “I’m a proud and active member of the House Armed Services Committee, and I owe it to our service members, their families, and the American people to better understand the very real global threats we face and how best to confront those threats. I organized this bipartisan trip to fulfill that responsibility. Traveling to Finland, whose accession to NATO is currently pending, and Norway was a remarkable opportunity to hear directly from our allies who have a front row seat to Putin’s aggression. I will take all that I’ve learned and return to Congress to share my experiences with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.”

Houlahan added: “When our allies are fighting for democracy, we are, too. I’ve been a vocal supporter of aid to Ukraine, and, as a veteran, I know that our support should not be split along political lines. I was glad to again have the partnership of Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.), whom I previously traveled to Ukraine with just weeks before Russia’s invasion.”

In addition to Green, the Republican co-lead for the trip, Houlahan was joined by colleagues Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), and Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), House Armed Services Committee staff, and official representatives from the U.S. Department of Defense.

“The Arctic region is critical to countering Russian and Chinese aggression, which is why it’s imperative that we continue to work together with our allies to ensure peace and prosperity in the region,” said Green. “Our bipartisan House Armed Services Committee delegation to Finland and Norway participated in key meetings with government officials and our partners in the Arctic Council. It was also imperative for us to hear from those on the ground firsthand the impacts—both short and long term—of the U.S. Coast Guard’s lack of adequate icebreakers. I’m grateful for my committee colleagues, including Rep. Houlahan, for their continued commitment to stymie malign influence and strengthen the US-Finland-Norway relations.”

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Chester County Democrats Welcome Fetterman, Shapiro, and Houlahan to Fall Dinner

From a press release 

A capacity crowd of nearly 250 enthusiastic Chester County Democrats on Monday attended the county committee fall dinner fundraiser at the Desmond Hotel in Malvern to hear from their party’s US Senate,  Governor and Congressional candidates. Chester County Democratic Committee Chair Charlotte Valyo addressed the gathering and introduced speakers John Fetterman, Josh Shapiro, and Chrissy Houlahan.

According to Valyo, “The crowd was energized and thrilled to see Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman in Chester County. Fetterman spoke for about 20 minutes and focused on key issues and the clear difference between his positions and his opponent’s positions on abortion, gun violence prevention, and even overturning wrongful convictions. Lee and Dennis Horton also attended; they are the two brothers who served 28 years in prison for a crime they did not commit, and who John’s opponent Mehmet Oz is using in ads portraying them as felons released early.”

Chester County Democrats Fall Dinner

 

Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan and Attorney General Josh Shapiro further inspired the crowd with speeches that outlined the accomplishments Democrats have made in Chester County, the state, and the country, and provided their visions for our future. The candidates focused on the significant stakes in the upcoming November 8 election, contending their MAGA (“Make America Great Again”) Republican opponents are focused on taking away freedoms.

These were freedom to have your vote count. Freedom for women to make their own personal reproductive healthcare choices and decisions on when it is right for them to start a family. Freedom to love and marry who you want. Freedom to choose the books you want to read, including those representing true narratives of “history” and gender. Freedom to join a union where you work.

The candidates also criticized the Republican platform.

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Three Former Chester County GOP Chairs Endorse Democratic Rep. Chrissy Houlahan

Three former Chester County Republican Committee chairmen have endorsed U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Berks/Chester) for reelection.

Alan Novak, a political consultant, attorney Joseph “Skip” Brion, and William Lamb, a former state Supreme Court justice, told the Delaware Valley Journal they support Houlahan.

“She’s done an excellent, excellent job,” Lamb said. “I met with her after she was first elected and said to her, ‘You know you’ve got to understand the district that you’re in. And if you vote in lockstep with the Democrats you’re going to have a short tenure. You need to be as bipartisan as you can.’ She recognizes this is a purple district.”

“She has a great resume, everything from United States Air Force to teaching to running a business. She’s really done everything that I think she should have done and she deserves to be re-elected,” said Lamb.

Guy Ciarrocchi

Brion said, “My wife, Glenda, and I met Congresswoman Houlahan, on her invitation, a few years ago at a roundtable discussion.  We found her to be open, honest, engaging, and interested in hearing our ideas and concerns. It was clear that she wanted to serve the people of our county. As time went on, we got to know her better and there was no question that she always had the county’s best interests in mind.”

Brion, a member of the SEPTA board, said he has been trying to get the Coatesville train station opened to help Coatesville residents and Houlahan backs him on that.

“In addition, the congresswoman is an engineer and businessperson herself, with a background in supply chains, who now advocates for our local small businesses from her seat on the Small Business Committee. Specifically, there are many local entrepreneurs whose businesses survived the pandemic because of the support the congresswoman helped to deliver. She continues to work as a bi-partisan congresswoman, and not just go along party lines.”

And Novak, who supported Houlahan in the last election, too, praised the congresswoman for her civility. Novak, who is also a former state GOP chair, said he approves of how Houlahan does her job and that she is accessible and has held nearly 70 town hall meetings.

“She works very hard behind the scenes to take a bill that has some issues and make it better,” he said. For example, she had language removed from a bill that would have hurt local banks by requiring they report $10,000 into or out of bank accounts to the IRS, he said.

He was not concerned that ProPublica listed Houlahan as voting 100 percent with Speaker Nancy Pelosi both this term and the previous term.

“I get that she votes with her leadership when she has to,” he said. But he said she votes with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks), too.

“When Congress switches, and we know it will, she will be the one to try to get common sense legislation done,” said Novak.

Previously, Novak was critical of Republicans who backed Democrats, and knocked  former state Treasurer Barbara Hafer for endorsing Ed Rendell for governor saying, “There’s a reason in America that we don’t have a Benedict Arnold holiday.”

Dr. Raffi Terzian, the current Chester County Republican chairman, strongly backs Guy Ciarrocchi, Houlahan’s opponent. Ciarrocchi, the former CEO of the Chester Chamber, had also served assistant federal prosecutor.

“The new Republican Party of Chester County is forward-thinking and we are united in our support of Guy Ciarrocchi,” said Terzian. “Guy has an outstanding record of service and leadership. He is focused on the issues that are important to all Chester County residents such as escalating crime, a faltering economy, and the marginalization of parents and families. He will advocate for common-sense solutions to these problems and for policies that empower individuals, families, and businesses.

“On the other hand, Chrissy Houlahan and the radical left use highly charged rhetoric to divide us and have embraced failed policies that hurt our community. There is no doubt that Chester County residents will be best served by electing Guy Ciarrocchi to represent us in Congress,” Terzian said.

“Today, I am spending the day with small businesses in the Reading area and in Kennett Square, too, as I’ve been endorsed by NFIB—the leading organization fighting for small businesses and their employees,” Ciarrocchi said. “What a contrast as Congresswoman Houlahan highlights endorsements from political insiders, government-contract lawyers, and lobbyists.

“She’s highlighting men who used their party positions to profit from lobbying and taxpayer-funded contracts. It makes one wonder: What additional insider-deals so that these former-party-profiteers would shill for Congresswoman Houlahan, who recently called Republicans ‘diseased’ and needing to be ‘cleansed,’” he said.

For her part, Houlahan, who was first elected in 2018, said, “When I first ran, I promised to represent and serve everybody in our purple community. I am honored to have Justice Lamb, Alan, and Skip — three distinguished Republican leaders who I have enjoyed getting to know — in my corner,” said Houlahan. “While we may not agree on every issue, they know that as a veteran, businesswoman, teacher, and mom, I work tirelessly with both parties to deliver sensible solutions that make things better. With their help, we will continue to build the inclusive coalition needed to not only win this race, but also to lower costs, support small businesses, and continue to be present and deliver for everybody in our community.”

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DelVal Pols Debate Impact of Latest Inflation Hike

When news broke that the Consumer Price Index hit a higher than expected year-over-year 8.3 percent rate, the stock market tanked. That was not good news for an incumbent president and his party just weeks before the midterm election.

Even worse, the cost of groceries “rose 13.5 percent over the last 12 months, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending March 1979,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “The indexes for shelter, medical care, household furnishings and operations, new vehicles, motor vehicle insurance, and education were among those that increased over the month.”

President Joe Biden amplified the Democrats’ angst by hosting a White House Rose Garden celebration of the $739 billion so-called Inflation Reduction Act the same day the report hit. The celebration featured claims of fiscal success and a song by 1970s singer James Taylor.

Meanwhile, the Penn Wharton Budget Model found the legislation’s impact on inflation would be “statistically indistinguishable from zero.”

So, how are Delaware Valley elected officials and their midterm opponents reacting to the latest inflation news?

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) noted the Biden administration’s positive talk about inflation being under control missed the mark.

“The ‘consensus’ was wrong. Today’s inflation report shows what American families knew to be true: prices are still rising,” Toomey tweeted. “Americans are paying significantly more for essentials than they were one year ago: 13.5 percent more for groceries, 6.2 percent more in rent, 23.8 percent more for energy.”

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz said, “Pennsylvanians are getting slammed by higher and higher prices everywhere they turn as the inflation rate continues to tick up. There will be no relief in sight as long as we continue electing tax and spend Democrats like Joe Biden and John Fetterman. My opponent, John Fetterman, would only make this worse by funding radical ideas like the Green New Deal while raising taxes on the middle class.”

Fetterman did not respond to a request for comment about the new inflation report.

His fellow Democrat, Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Delaware/Philadelphia), attended the White House legislative victory party, tweeting from the scene: “The #InflationReductionAct is a major victory for America’s families and for our planet–advancing the people’s interest over the special interest. Great to mark its historic passage at the White House with my friend @RepDean!”

Scanlon’s GOP opponent David Galluch did not see it that way.

“I grew up with a single mom who sacrificed to make ends meet. The current leadership in D.C. is refusing to provide real solutions at the expense of families like the one I grew up in,” Galluch said.

“While working families continue to be squeezed by inflation, President Biden and Congresswoman Scanlon take a victory lap for passing the ‘Inflation Reduction Act,’ a bill that did not lower inflation or provide ‘immediate relief,'” he added.

Another DelVal Democrat facing a GOP challenger in Congress, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, has publicly complained about the Biden administration’s poor handling of inflation. She responded to the bad news by taking to Facebook and reminding voters she has her own plan.

“A little while back, I asked Dr. Mark Zandi, Chief Economist at Moody’s Analytics, to join me for a telephone town hall to talk about the root causes of inflation and what we can expect in the coming months,” Houlahan wrote. “We discussed the global shockwave of the pandemic and its lasting impact on our global supply chains. As one of the few members in Congress with a background in supply chain management, I used that experience to create my Inflation Action Plan.”

Guy Ciarrocchi, the former CEO of the Chester County Chamber who is challenging Houlahan, was unimpressed. “Inflation is the number one issue to everyone. Well, it’s the number one issue to every not named Biden or Houlahan.

“Biden and Houlahan created this mess with wasteful spending and forcing us to import energy from our enemies.  I campaign every day to offer hope, to change this—and will work even harder in Congress to use common sense to fix their mess that is crushing our family budgets.”

Houlahan posted this message on Facebook: “Yesterday’s inflation report is a reminder that inflation doesn’t go away overnight, and it also confirms what we have been feeling at home—price relief is not where it needs to be, and that’s making things harder for Pennsylvanians.

The report showed that even though gas and energy prices continue to come down, those cost savings were offset by other sectors including medical care.

Christian Nascimento, the Republican running against Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery) said, “If we needed any reminding about the challenges our economy is facing, August’s 8.3 percent CPI increase has confirmed one thing: the Democrats’ policies are not working.

“Whether it is increased taxes, increased spending, increased hiring at the IRS, or the redistribution of student debt, Joe Biden’s policies are harming the economy, and Madeleine Dean and congressional Democrats that vote 100 percent of the time with the president are enabling this damage,” Nascimento said.

A frequent criticism of the inflation legislation is that it is actually a green energy and health care spending plan, not a strategy to cool an overheated economy. Dean appeared to confirm that view.

“Grateful to be with my brother and my son as we celebrate the Inflation Reduction Act at the White House,” she posed on Facebook. “This legislation will make our largest-ever investment in climate action; lower prescription costs, including capping Medicare insulin at $35; ensure the biggest corporations pay their fair share; and reduce our nation’s deficit.

“For our families. For our planet. For our future.”

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Rep. Houlahan, Mayor Urscheler Discuss Hurricane Ida Response

From a press release

This week, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester) and Phoenixville Mayor Peter Urscheler gathered at the new Phoenixville Fire Station with nearly 50 first responders and community leaders in reflection of Hurricane Ida’s destruction one year ago this week.

Wednesday’s visit included remarks from both Houlahan and Urscheler, as well as a local resident who lost everything in the flooding, Fire Chief Eamon Brazunas, Tamela Luce of the Phoenixville Community Health Foundation (PCHF), Karin Williams of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), and Reverend Peter Paprowski of the Holy Ghost Church. Following remarks, attendees gathered for a discussion on the FEMA application process and then concluded with a tour of the new fire station.

“I will never forget seeing the destruction of the floodwaters in Phoenixville the morning after Hurricane Ida struck,” said Houlahan. “As we walked through the community, an officer shared with me that it was the toughest day he’s had on the job in his 25 years of service—that tells you something about how our first responders were impacted.

“I am constantly reminded of how community-oriented we are here in southeastern Pennsylvania, but yesterday especially as we gathered representatives from all levels of government and facets of our community, including nonprofits, schools, health care providers and more. The takeaway was clear: we are only as strong as how well we support one another, and here in our community we could not be more engaged and supportive. As many others shared, I’m so proud to call this place home,” she said.

In the wake of Hurricane Ida, Houlahan urged President Biden to swiftly declare a federal state of emergency so federal resources could be made available to impacted areas.

“It’s amazing when I look back, a year later, on the terrible devastation caused by Hurricane Ida,” said Urscheler. “But, more so, when I remember all the large and small things that so many people did to help each other to recover and get their lives back. While Hurricane Ida was the most destructive storm we have experienced in our area since Hurricane Agnes in 1972, it was no match for the strength and resilience of the people of this community.

“We are so blessed that no local lives were lost during those horrifying hours. And we are doubly blessed to know that we live in a community where, when the unthinkable occurs, neighbors quickly spring into action to help neighbors. We are so grateful to all of our first responders, our fire department, police, sanitation workers, office of emergency management, community members, volunteers, and our elected officials. And I am so grateful, that the morning after Hurricane Ida, Representative Houlahan was there, seeing the devastation for herself, so she could take our community needs directly to the federal government so everyone could get their lives back on track as quickly as possible,” he said.

State emergency officials determined that more than 1,700 homes sustained minor damaged, 500 sustained major damage and 70 were destroyed.

“The volunteers and staff of the Phoenixville Fire Department responded to numerous emergencies throughout the Borough of Phoenixville and surrounding communities during and in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida,” said Phoenixville Fire Chief Eamon Brazunas. “The investment in training and equipping our personnel to properly deal with water rescue incidents paid off as no lives were lost during this devastating storm. Water rescue response preparedness will continue to be a high priority for the department.”

In the first week of September 2021, historic flooding caused by Hurricane Ida left a path of destruction throughout the region. Local emergency responders rescued 195 people, many from their vehicles or from the roofs of their homes. An estimated 80 cars were under water. After the storm, over 537 residents from Chester and Montgomery Counties were left homeless and living in hotels.

“Hurricane Ida was devastating to our community and surrounding neighbors,” said Police Chief Brian Marshall. “Days prior to the storm approaching Phoenixville, all of our emergency responders hoped for the best and prepared for the worst. I’m extremely proud of our fire department’s efforts and commitment to saving lives and rescuing victims from their homes and vehicles during the storm’s water surge.

“Our EOC Coordinator, Karin Williams, worked unthinkable hours to help not only Phoenixville but also our neighbors to the east in Upper Providence as well. Swift water rescue is a skill set that police departments do not possess. However, we supported the humanitarian efforts afterwards by delivering food, cleaning products and extra patrol to surrounding areas,” he said.

Williams of the Office of Emergency Management spoke about the preparations made ahead of Hurricane Ida and actions taken in the aftermath.

“As an emergency manager, you are often tasked with looking at emergencies from the ‘big picture’ and then need to break down the process of preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation,” said Williams. “Based on the weather reports from that night in 2021 none of us could have been truly prepared for the devastation that occurred overnight, while most people were in bed. I am so grateful to the Phoenixville Community, how they sprung into action.

“Our school district opened its doors as an emergency shelter in conjunction with the National Guard, our non-profits began cooking for first responders, and after clean up in the Borough was well underway, our residents began walking across the bridge to help our neighbors in Mont Clare and Port Providence. I will always be inspired by not only our community’s immediate response but also the sustained efforts that went on for close to a year, which helped everyone in our region get back on their feet,” she said.

“When the Phoenixville Community Health Foundation saw the destruction that Hurricane Ida brought to Mont Clare and Port Providence, we knew we had to help our neighbors and committed more than $300,000 to this effort,” Tamela Luce, President/CEO, Phoenixville Community Health Foundation. “A collaboration of Open Hearth, the Phoenixville Jaycees, and Karin Williams of Phoenixville’s Office of Emergency Management developed a process to assess homeowners needs and distributed the funds accordingly.

“In only about two months, 54 homeowners received up to $10,000 each to ensure their electrical, heating, and water systems were once again working properly. It is thanks to the interconnectedness of the Phoenixville nonprofit community that we were able to mobilize and distribute funding as quickly as we did. When our neighbors need help, Phoenixville is there,” Luce said.

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DelVal Dems Cheer Biden Debt Bailout, GOP Calls It Unfair

Delaware Valley officials and candidates had mixed reactions to President Joe Biden’s plan to have taxpayers cover $300 billion of outstanding college debt for millions of borrowers. Under the proposal, the Biden administration would pay $10,000 to people earning $125,000 or couples earning $250,000. Borrowers who qualified for Pell Grants from households earning less than $125,000 will get $20,000.

According to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, new data show Biden’s debt forgiveness plan will cost taxpayers over $300 billion over 10 years, with the majority of relief benefitting the top 60 percent of income earners in the U.S.

And thanks to a provision in the Democrats’ American Rescue Plan last year, that income is tax-free.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) criticized the proposal as a “government handout” to the affluent.

“President Biden’s student loan bailout scheme is a government handout to Americans making up to $250,000 annually and the higher education industrial complex. Taxpayers will foot the bill for this massive expenditure, including the vast majority of Americans who already paid off their loans, paid for tuition out of pocket, or do not even have post-secondary education nor enjoy the higher lifetime earnings associated with it,” Toomey said.

“This decision will have wide-reaching, negative ramifications across America’s economy, including increasing already disastrous inflation, exacerbating America’s spending problems, and encouraging higher education institutions to raise the cost of going to college.”

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), however, is on board.

“Today, President Biden eased the burden for millions of Americans who are struggling under the weight of their student debt. This will give them the freedom to invest in their future, buy a home, or take a risk and start a business. It’s an important first step forward in helping borrowers saddled with student debt. Moving forward, we must work to lower the skyrocketing cost of college so that future students are able to get an education without signing up for a lifetime of debt.”

Casey noted that college costs have soared since 1980. “The total cost of both four-year public and four-year private college has nearly tripled, even after accounting for inflation.” But he didn’t explain how a taxpayer-funded debt holiday would bring prices down. Most analysts say the infusion of $300 billion in bailouts will likely send college costs higher for future students.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Republican candidate running for Toomey’s seat tweeted, “Canceling student loans costs billions and is unfair to those who rightly paid off their debt. Instead of funding solutions like CTE or low-income education programs, Biden is caving to the radical left. Fetterman says he’s for the working class but this hurts them the most.”

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, did not respond to a request for comment. But he has previously stated his support for across-the-board college debt bailouts.

“If we can spend hundreds of BILLION$ to bail out Wall Street, we can take action to cancel student loan debt,” Fetterman tweeted.

Guy Ciarrocchi, the Republican running for Congress against Rep. Chrissy Houlahan in the 6th District, said, “Biden’s order ‘canceling’ student loan debt is probably illegal; and, it’s definitely horribly unfair. The $300 billion doesn’t go away: it simply transfers from those who freely took it on, to the rest of us. To buy votes and to appease the left-wing of his party, Biden just handed a tax bill to everyone else: those who didn’t go to college; graduated from the ‘school hard knocks’ or got through college by choosing a cheaper school and working hard to pay off their own debt.

“Biden’s appeasement and Houlahan’s 100 percent support are why I’m running to fix this mess,” said Ciarrocchi.

In a statement on Wednesday, Houlahan said she doesn’t support Biden’s approach. “Instead of blanket loan forgiveness, I would like to see lower student loan interest rates, additional Pell grants, and other mechanisms to make college more affordable.”

“I’ve already heard from countless concerned constituents about this proposal, and as our representative, I will continue to voice and act on those concerns down in Washington.”

Houlahan’s colleague Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery) did not respond to a request for comment. But she did post a tweet Wednesday night declaring she’s “delighted with the president’s work. As a former professor, I saw how student loan debt was a barrier to students.”

And Dean has previously called on the Biden administration to pay off $50,000 in debts per student, a proposal with a price tag of about $1 trillion.

Her Republican opponent, Christian Nascimento, said the proposal is unfair.

“Biden can state that there is ‘plenty of deficit reduction to pay for this,’ all he wants. But the reality is that this plan shifts the burden of paying debt from the people that agreed to the loans to people that did not, and will further divide the country.

“Why are we forcing this on people that paid off their student loans or never even went to college?” Nascimento asked. “We continue to see this administration and the rubber stamp Congress add to government spending and exacerbate inflation – at the very time when the American people can least afford it.”

Republican David Galluch, a candidate for Congress in the 5th District, said, “Student debt cancellation will cost hundreds of billions of dollars. It will add up to a quarter point to inflation. It won’t address the long-term causes of the runaway cost of tuition. It won’t benefit the 87 percent of American people who have no college debt. Those who stand to gain are those who are already relatively wealthier and better off than the vast majority of Americans.

“If you’re a single mom waiting tables in Southwest Philadelphia, a union laborer at the refinery in Trainer, or anyone else who didn’t go to college struggling to get by, this policy puts you last. President Biden and Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon might not hear you. But I do. I’m fighting to put you first once again.”

The Pennsylvania Senate Republican Campaign Committee released a statement in response to President Biden’s plan.

“The Democrat Party can’t be truly serious about tackling inflation while supporting this regressive loan forgiveness plan,” PA SRCC Communications Director Michael Straw stated. “While middle- and lower-class Pennsylvanians are struggling with soaring costs, high gas prices, and a recession, Joe Biden is exacerbating the problem with these radical policies. Worse yet, Biden is saddling the cost burden of eliminating loans on the two-thirds of Pennsylvanians who didn’t go to college. Joe Biden and the Democrat Party turned their back on the working class long ago, and today’s announcement is just further evidence of that fact.”

Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity has also crunched the numbers and referred to the Wharton data.

“By any objective measure, that’s massive government spending. Americans are still facing runaway inflation that’s higher than it’s been in decades – and this kind of spending will help keep inflation high,” said Garrity.

“There are more targeted, effective ways to address student debt, such as providing relief to people working in critical jobs, such as first responders and healthcare workers, if they work in that field for some number of years. Another option would be to provide refinancing at discounted rates.

“Here in Pennsylvania, families can save for post-secondary education – including colleges and trade schools – with the PA 529 College and Career Savings Program. Over the past 18 months, we’ve taken big steps to make the program work better for everyone, including cutting fees and removing the minimum deposit to open an account. PA 529 accounts also have big tax benefits,” Garrity said.

 

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PA Pols Say Climate Bill Will Cut Energy Costs. Experts Say ‘No’

Most Americans know the “Inflation Reduction Act” President Joe Biden signed will have little impact on inflation. CBS News ran the headline, “One thing the Inflation Reduction Act may not do: Lower inflation” even before the bill had been signed.

And a new Morning Consult poll found just 15 percent of independent voters believe the legislation will live up to its name.

Which may explain why Democrats have suddenly shifted their language about the legislation to a “climate” bill, touting savings on energy costs it will bring American consumers. But will this new measure, with its $739 billion price tag, actually lower the cost of electricity, heating oil, or gas?

Sen. Bob Casey says yes. “This bill is going to lower… energy costs for American families while creating clean energy manufacturing jobs and tackling the climate crisis.”

Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa) agrees. The Inflation Reduction Act will “lower energy costs, saving Pennsylvania families an average of $1000 per year on their energy bills.”

(Interestingly, the same study Scanlon cites also says these savings won’t arrive until 2030, and just $16 to $125 of that $1,000 will come from the new law.)

While the League of Conservation Voters may be right that the Inflation Reduction Act “is the largest investment ever to fight the climate crisis,” relatively little of the $369 billion in climate spending will lower energy costs in the short term.

That is because, energy experts say, the spending is mostly in the form of tax breaks on money businesses spend building green energy production or switching to green energy sources. Some of the money also goes to homeowners and residential customers; but once again, only after they spend their own money weatherproofing their homes, switching to heat pumps, or buying electric vehicles.

In other words, there are no savings until ratepayers do some spending.

Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester) acknowledged that fact earlier this week. “The Inflation Reduction Act lowers energy costs for families by providing rebates and tax credits to make homes and vehicles more energy efficient.” [emphasis added].

The largest share of the money goes “to subsidize supply, specifically for low-carbon and zero-carbon energy sources,” said Nick Loris of the Conservative Coalition for Climate Solutions (C3 Solutions). “All else being equal, increased supply will lower prices. But for that to happen, the energy sector needs the ability to build the necessary infrastructure in a timely fashion.”

Without the necessary regulatory modernizations, Loris says policymakers are failing to address the systemic problem that has frustrated investors and energy producers across the board.

“That’s particularly true in places like the northeast where heating oil has doubled in price since last year, but regulatory bottlenecks and NIMBYism has blocked the infrastructure for cost-effective alternatives,” Loris said. “Secondly, it’s important to remember that this isn’t $369 billion isn’t free money. Americans will have to pay for subsidies through more borrowing or higher taxes.”

However, if they spend part of that money buying new energy-efficient washing machines or heat pumps, won’t that reduce demand and, over time, lower prices? Not according to Kenny Stein, policy director for the Institute for Energy Research, a free-market think tank.

“For the heat pump or appliance example, the alleged cost savings are based on modeling that says renewables make electricity cheaper, therefore a new heat pump will save money,” Stein says. “But if renewables increase electricity prices (which they tend to do), then the modeled savings vanish.”

Why would renewables increase electric rates? Because moving large numbers of businesses and households from heating oil or natural gas to electricity (not to mention electric vehicles) means a massive increase in demand.

“Another wrinkle to the modeling is that supporters of the new law count improved efficiency from a new, greener appliance as savings. It’s true that a brand new heat pump is likely to run more efficiently than a 30-year-old furnace. But a brand new furnace would also run more efficiently. So a lot of the ‘heat pump efficiency’ savings are actually just ‘new appliance efficiency’ savings,” Stein said.

That may sound like common sense to some, but Anthony Watts of the Heartland Institute said many policy markers lack a basic understanding of basic math, physics, engineering, etc.

“Our electric grid was built by engineers, not by politicians,” says Watts, a senior fellow for environment and climate at Heartland. “These politicians are pushing a green agenda, insisting ‘this will be better, it will be cheaper, it will be economically feasible, it will save people money.’ They may or may not be sincere, but they are completely ignorant of the scientific reality behind these things.”

In the coming years, Watts predicted legislators who support the Inflation Reduction Act will try to fix its failures by making a push to nationalize energy.

“They will claim the government could manage it better and we’re not going to be hit with all these price increases, but it’s not going to be helpful,” said Watts. “Government can’t do anything better than private industry.”

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Will Concerns About Biden’s Age Cost DelVal Dems in November?

Polls show Americans of both parties are concerned about President Joe Biden’s ability, at age 79, to handle the responsibilities of the presidency. But will those concerns translate into less support for Democratic candidates in the Delaware Valley this November?

Concerns among voters about the president’s age and health are not new. In a national POLITICO/Morning Consult poll last November, when Biden’s approval ratings were higher than they are now, only 40 percent of voters believed he was in good health, with 46 percent calling him “mentally unfit.”

“President Biden is not awake currently; that’s obvious to anyone with eyes,” said Albert Eisenberg, principal at the political strategy firm BlueStateRed. “And when I talk to Democrats, they say, ‘This guy’s not the guy.’ Obviously, Republicans and independents think that.”

Republicans will likely use that attack against Democrats is make sure voters believe the issue isn’t just Biden and his age and deficits, but rather to paint the whole Democratic party as being responsible for the situation.

“You see swing district and swing-state Democrats outperforming Biden,” Eisenberg said about the current political landscape. “(Biden’s) going to bring these candidates down, but Republicans need to close that gap.”

Jeff Jubelirer, vice president at Bellevue Communications, says he believes those who have doubts about the president’s condition likely already disapprove of the president, meaning they are already motivated to vote for Republicans.

However, Jubelirer added that anything can make a difference in tight races.

“If it’s going to be a 1 to 2 percent race… this issue could be a 1 percent difference,” he said.

In the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race, Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz is projecting the question of the ability to govern onto his opponent, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. It comes in the wake of a stroke that felled Fetterman and has kept him off the campaign trail since just before the May 17 primary.

During a recent DVJournal podcast, National Republican Senatorial Committee chair Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said questions about Fetterman’s health are fair game. “I think voters have a right to know if you’re healthy or not. When people run, they should be very clear about [their] health.”

Oz is running a “basement Fetterman” campaign on social media, questioning if Fetterman has the stamina needed to represent Pennsylvania. Eisenberg said the strategy is a strong one.

“That is a really effective way to connect him to Biden,” he said. “Just putting their face next to Biden isn’t going to work.” By also creating questions about Fetterman’s ability to govern, Oz is making the strategy stronger than just questioning Biden, who, of course, isn’t his opponent.

“I think the strategy is, ‘Will he be there for you, Pennsylvania if he’s not well?’” Jubelirer said. But he added it’s important for Republican candidates to be cautious. “You don’t want to pile on his well-being.”

Eisenberg agreed. He said Oz and other Republicans can’t be perceived as “ganging up” on things Biden and other Democratic candidates cannot control.

At the same time, the silence from Delaware Valley Democrats in defending Biden and his capabilities is hard to miss. DVJournal reached out to the region’s entire Democratic congressional delegation asking if his recent COVID-19 diagnosis created any concerns about his ability to govern. All declined to respond.

In a new CNN poll, 75 percent of Democrats said they wanted someone other than Biden to be their party’s nominee in 2024. The numbers were similar in a recent NYTimes/Siena College poll. Asked why they wanted their party to make a change, about one-third of Democrats cited Biden’s age and mental acuity. It has been a repeated topic of news coverage from liberal news outlets like the Times and CNN, and many Democrats have publicly acknowledged their concerns about Biden’s age.

Meanwhile, a group of 54 House Republicans, led by former White House physician Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), sent a letter to the White House calling on Biden to take a cognitive abilities test.

The White House dismissed the letter as a stunt.

While the president’s age and sometimes embarrassing gaffes aren’t good for Democrats, Jubelirer said voters’ decisions would most likely come down to one simple sentiment.

“Most voters are like, ‘I’m pissed off. Who’s in charge?’” he said. “You’re going to get blamed.

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