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Houlahan, Dean Back Biden on Withholding Weapons From Israel

President Joe Biden’s threat to withhold some precision offensive weapons from Israel as it wages war on the terrorist army of Hamas has been met with an angry backlash from both political parties. And that divide among Democrats is on display in Pennsylvania, where U.S. Sen. John Fetterman has decried Biden’s “disappointing” decision, while local U.S. Reps. Madeleine Dean and Chrissy Houlahan have endorsed it.

On Sunday, Biden’s Secretary of State Anthony Blinken repeated the administration’s threat, and said even more restrictions may follow if Israel pushes into the Gazan city of Rafah to wipe out what’s left of Hamas.

“If Israel launches this major military operation into Rafah, then there are certain systems that we are not going to be supporting and supplying for that operation,” Blinken told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

The backlash from supporters of Israel began on Wednesday when Biden said he had told the Israelis that going into Rafah would result in a loss of U.S. support.

“I’ve made it clear to Bibi [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] and the war cabinet: They’re not going to get our support if they go [into] these population centers,” Biden told CNN.

Pennsylvania’s Fetterman responded via social media. “Hard disagree and deeply disappointing,” he tweeted.

“I strongly disagree with this decision and it should be immediately reversed. If there are any restrictions, it should be on Hamas, its enablers, and benefactors,” he added.

Montgomery County Democratic Congresswoman Madeline Dean, on the other hand, has been calling for Biden to restrict weapons to Israel for weeks. While her spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment, Dean signed a letter urging Biden to withhold “certain offensive weaponry or other military support that can be used for an assault on Rafah, including offensive weaponry already signed into law.”

Dave Winkler, the Republican running against Dean, called her letter “despicable.”

“Withholding aid from Israel would be an unconscionable betrayal that would embolden the forces of terror and extremism hellbent on delegitimizing and annihilating the Jewish state. As a stalwart ally, the U.S. has a moral obligation to steadfastly support Israel’s ability to defend itself against the existential threats of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Hezbollah’s missile arsenals, and the indiscriminate rocket attacks on civilians by the terrorist thugs of Hamas.

Dean’s fellow Democrat, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan issued a lengthy statement saying she also agrees with Biden’s decision to withhold arms from the longtime U.S. ally.

“Recently, President Biden decided to temporarily withhold specific U.S. weapons to Israel until such time as he receives further assurances about Israel’s military operations and humanitarian considerations, specifically in Rafah. I don’t agree with every decision the president makes, but I agree with him here,” Houlahan said.

Houlahan’s GOP challenger Neil Young disagrees. “President Biden withholding arms from Israel is not only completely reckless, but it undermines American credibility on the world stage. Israel is our most trusted ally and they should not be left to stand alone. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Many Democrats, like our senator John Fetterman, have stood against Biden’s betrayal of Israel. Chrissy Houlahan’s support for this reckless policy prioritizes party allegiance over national interest. Her loyalty lies with her party, not with the American people or our allies.”

Both Houlahan and Dean are on the far-left Working Families Party list of congressional members who have demanded a ceasefire.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) declined to respond to a request for comment from DVJournal on the topic, but he told reporters late last week he disagrees with Biden’s decision to withhold weapons. However, he’s rarely mentioned the issue while Fetterman has spoken forcefully on behalf of Israel and its right to use force.

Casey’s Republican opponent Dave McCormick has praised Fetterman’s “moral clarity” regarding the Jewish state.

Nationally, both the Republican Jewish Coalition and Democratic Majority for Israel have issued statements opposing Biden’s treatment of the Jewish state.

“Joe Biden has cemented his legacy as the worst president for the Jewish community and the State of Israel ever,” said the RJC.

“We are deeply concerned about the administration’s decision to withhold weapons now and potentially impose further restrictions,” said the Democratic Majority for Israel’s Mark Mellman.

“A strong U.S.-Israel alliance like the one President Biden has created, plays a central role in preventing more war and making the path to eventual peace possible,” he added. “Calling the strength of that alliance into question is dangerous.”

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DelVal’s Dean Signs Letter Urging Biden to Cut Off Military Aid to Israel

Montgomery County Democratic Congresswoman Madeleine Dean joined some of the loudest anti-Israel voices in Congress in a public letter urging President Joe Biden to cut off U.S. military support to Israel in the midst of a war with the terror group Hamas.

The April 5 letter was signed by 40 Democrats, including prominent pro-Palestine progressives like Reps. Summer Lee (D-Pa.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).

The letter, also signed by former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), mentions the accidental Israeli strike that killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers.

“If this strike is found to have violated U.S. or international law, we urge you to continue withholding these transfers until those responsible are held accountable. We also urge you to withhold these transfers if Israel fails to sufficiently mitigate harm to innocent civilians in Gaza, including aid workers, and if it fails to facilitate – or arbitrarily denies or restricts – the transport and delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza,” the letter states.

It’s not the first controversial Democratic letter targeting Israel since the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack.

Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.) drew heat in November when she signed a controversial letter calling for a ceasefire and condemning Israel’s military and accusing it of “grave violations against children.” The letter was penned by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), among other Democrats, and did not call for the release of Israeli hostages, who include women, children, the elderly, and Americans. After hearing from constituents with a hostage family member, Scanlon then condemned Hamas and called for the hostages’ release.

Calling for an end of military aid to Israel, one of America’s closest allies is the latest sign that the Democratic Party is abandoning its longtime history of supporting the Jewish nation.

The day before the letter was signed, Biden announced Israel must submit “without delay” to an “immediate ceasefire” with Hamas, even as the terror group holds more than 100 hostages and continues to attack Israel. And, Biden’s Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said, Israel is at risk of becoming indistinguishable from Hamas if it continues to fight in Gaza.

It’s language American presidential administrations of the past would never have used. But many Democrats agree, including here in Pennsylvania.

While Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) did not sign the April 5 letter, she’s called for a ceasefire in the war between Hamas terrorists and Israel, changing her initial support for the Jewish nation.

“I’ve long been calling for a negotiated, mutual ceasefire. But the urgency of getting the remaining hostages home, and getting aid to Palestinian civilians, makes it essential that a halt to this war happen now,” Wild posted on X.

Another Delaware Valley Democrat, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, issued a press release saying she supports “Israel’s right to protect its citizens and sovereignty against the atrocities perpetrated by Hamas.” However, since the airstrike that killed the aid workers, she said she was “outraged and heartbroken by the deaths of more than 30,000 people in Israel and Gaza since Hamas’ attack on Oct. 7 and was shocked to read about the Israeli airstrike in Gaza that claimed the lives of seven aid workers from the World Central Kitchen. My heart is with the families and loved ones of those who were killed in this senseless act of violence; indeed, my heart remains with each and every family and loved one who has been affected since Oct. 7.” She demanded that Israel “can and must do better.” But one Pennsylvania Democrat who continues to call out Hamas’ terrorism and defend Israel is Sen. John Fetterman (D).

“In this war against Hamas—no conditions for Israel,” Fetterman posted on X. And instead of blaming Israel for civilian deaths, Fetterman pointed out it is Hamas that launched the war and used innocents as human shields.

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking… it’s a war, and it’s absolutely terrible,” Fetterman said. “What is going on? Hamas is hiding behind civilians. Israel has the right to defend themselves and destroy Hamas.”

 

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DelVal Dems Reject Bipartisan ‘Laken Riley Act’

On Thursday, the U.S. House passed the Laken Riley Act, a bill named for a young Georgia student who was killed while jogging on campus, allegedly by an illegal immigrant.

The bipartisan bill passed 251-170, with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks/Montgomery) voting for it and all three Delaware Valley Democratic congresswomen –Mary Gay Scanlon, Madeleine Dean and Chrissy Houlahan—voting against it. All the no votes came from Democrats; 37 other Democrats voted for the measure.

“Congress must do everything it can to prevent another parent from losing his or her child,” Fitzpatrick told DVJournal. “Laken Riley’s death never would have occurred if our borders were properly secured and immigration laws enforced. I will continue to work in a bipartisan way to find a solution to protect our borders.”

Scanlon, Dean, and Houlahan did not respond to requests for comment.

The bill would require that any illegal immigrant who committed burglary, larceny, shoplifting, or theft be detained.

The murder of the 22-year-old nursing student, allegedly by an illegal immigrant, on the University of Georgia campus shocked the country.

Jose Antonio Ibarra, a Venezuelan who came to the U.S. illegally, was charged with her murder.

Congressman Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) posted on social media, “Laken Riley was murdered in cold blood by Jose Ibarra – an illegal alien who had committed previous crimes in NY. This NEVER should have happened & today, we voted to to ensure ALL criminal illegals like Ibarra will be arrested & detained. 170 Democrats STILL voted against this.”

Along with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) taking the immigrants charged with crimes into custody, the act allows state attorneys general to litigate against Homeland Security to enforce the removal requirements in the act.

The resolution was introduced by Georgia Rep. Mike Collins (R).

“While we can’t bring Laken back, we must now turn our focus to doing everything we can to prevent this from happening to another American,” Collins said in a statement. Collins had invited Riley’s parents to come to the State of the Union with him, but they declined.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said on social media, “170 House Democrats just voted against the Laken Riley Act, refusing to require the detention and deportation of illegal immigrants who have been caught committing a crime. Sadly, if these Democrats have their way, there will be more victims like Laken Riley.”

Also, on social media, Johnson said, “The Laken Riley Act is so important because we’ve got to ensure that this can’t happen again. Republicans will not stand for the release of dangerous criminals into our communities, and that’s exactly what the Biden administration has done. Laken is just one of the tragic examples of innocent American citizens who have lost their lives and been brutally and violently attacked by illegal criminals who are roaming our streets because they’ve allowed them in.

Republicans have called on President Joe Biden to mention Riley in his State of the Union speech.

He did mention her, briefly, in his remarks.

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Fitzpatrick Joins GOP Delegation to Southern Border Calling Out Biden’s Immigration Failure

Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) joined a delegation of Republicans led by House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to Eagle Pass, Texas, this week to call for an end to the border chaos and to decry President Joe Biden’s immigration record.

The lawmakers came to see the humanitarian and national security crises at the southern border, where migrant numbers reached more than 300,000 in December — the highest single-month number ever recorded. More than eight million migrants have entered the U.S. illegally under Biden’s watch. The trip included intelligence briefings related to trends in border security, according to Fitzpatrick’s office.

“The migrant crisis at the southern border is real and presents a grave national security threat to our nation,” said Fitzpatrick. “Our brave Border Patrol men and women are overwhelmed by a migrant surge that is a direct result of misguided policies from this administration. Over the past three years, we have witnessed the public health, humanitarian, and national security consequences that the porous southern border has created for our nation, and this Congress must come together and find real solutions to this crisis.”

The House Homeland Security Committee is also poised to begin hearings next week on whether to impeach DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his handling of the border.

The Biden administration threw out former President Donald Trump’s Remain in Mexico policy for asylum seekers, which had required them to stay in that country until their case was adjudicated. Another factor was Biden’s ending of Title 42, a Trump administration policy that allowed immigrants to be sent back due to the COVID-19 epidemic.

Reps. Madeleine Dean (D-Berks/Montgomery), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks), and Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Philadelphia/Delaware) did not reply when asked whether they support the Biden administration’s border policies or defend its results.

The flow of millions of illegal immigrants across the border has garnered national attention, largely through the efforts of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who has sent busloads of migrants to Democrat-run “sanctuary” cities, including Philadelphia.  Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican running for president, has also flown some undocumented immigrants out of Florida, notably to Martha’s Vineyard.

Johnson wrote on X (formerly Twitter) about the trip, “Yesterday, more than 60 House Republicans were in South Texas speaking with local landowners and law enforcement. We were shown firsthand how the president’s reckless open-border policies are devastating communities across the state.

“The Biden administration’s decision to sue the state of Texas for trying to secure its border is shameful. The first responsibility of leaders is to protect their citizens, and @GovAbbott has shown leadership where President Biden has been an abject failure. The Biden administration is showing once again it is obviously their deliberate strategy to keep the border open and continue the chaos and humanitarian crisis their policies have created.”

On X, Fitzpatrick added, “The Senate must take up the Secure the Border Act, which has already passed the House, and the administration must restore the Remain in Mexico policy and enforce 8 U.S.C 1325 and 1326. We are, and always have been, a nation of legal immigration. We must not be a nation of lawlessness.”

While Democrats in the Delaware Valley delegation declined to comment about the border today, they have spoken out in the past.

Scanlon’s website notes that as an attorney, she “worked for many years representing immigrants and asylum seekers. In Congress, Rep. Scanlon is committed to repairing our complex and broken immigration system through common-sense policy measures. She has cosponsored legislation to end inhumane family separation practices and will fight to protect Dreamers and TPS holders.”

She also visited the border in 2019 and “will continue working to ensure that Customs and Border Patrol and the Coast Guard have the resources they need to protect our borders and legal ports of entry while addressing the humanitarian crisis at our border.”

“Our failure to address this humanitarian crisis with diplomacy, foreign aid, and humane border policies has created a challenge for law enforcement officers. They need resources to address the facts, not a crisis dreamed up by those sowing racist division for political gain,” Scanlon said at the time.

On her campaign website, Dean said she “supports a strong legal immigration system and humane treatment for anyone seeking citizenship.” She supports “a path to citizenship for [illegal immigrants] who want to be part of our country, reinstating DACA to allow the Dreamers to be able to stay in our country without fear.” She promised to fight against “inhumane border policies” and “end the cruel practice of family separation and placing those seeking legal asylum in inhumane living conditions at the border or elsewhere in our country.”

Houlahan is “cosponsor and vote for the Dream and Promise Act. This legislation aims to secure permanent residency for immigrants protected under the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals (DACA) program, Temporary Protected Status, and Deferred Enforced humanitarian programs.”

Houlahan also cosponsored bills to help legal immigrants: H.R. 3648, the Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment (EAGLE) Act, and H.R. 3897, the H-2B Returning Worker Exception Act of 2021.

“What is happening at our southern border should alarm all of us,” Houlahan said of the legislation. “When I visited the border in 2019, what was clear was that our facilities lacked, and have been lacking for years, the attention and resources they need. That needs to change, which is why I joined my colleagues across the aisle to vote for a 2022 spending bill providing additional funding for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to better manage immigration across our southern border.”

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PA Dems Refuse to Censure Tlaib’s Antisemitic Rhetoric

When the U.S. House of Representatives voted to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) “for promoting false narratives regarding the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas attack on Israel and for calling for the destruction of the State of Israel,” 22 Democrats crossed party lines to pass the resolution.

None of those Democrats were from Pennsylvania.

All three local Democrats, Reps. Madeleine Dean, Mary Gay Scanlon, and Chrissy Houlahan voted against the censure resolution, which passed the House in a 234-188 vote. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) supported the resolution.

In particular, members of Congress were outraged by Tlaib’s use of the antisemitic phrase ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,’ a call to destroy the Jewish nation of Israel. More than 70 House Democrats took the unusual step of releasing a statement condemning the language as “a rallying cry for the destruction of the state of Israel.”

“We reject the use of the phrase “from the river to the sea”— a phrase used by many, including Hamas, as a rallying cry for the destruction of the State of Israel and genocide of the Jewish people. We all feel deep anguish for the human suffering caused by the war in Gaza. Hamas started this war with a barbaric terrorist attack on Oct. 7, 2023, and neither the Palestinian nor Israeli people can have peace as long as Hamas still rules over Gaza and threatens Israel,” the statement read in part.

Tlaib has made no secret of her animosity toward Israel. The only Palestinian-American currently serving in Congress, Tlaib claims, “‘From the river to the sea’ is an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate.”

Supporters of Israel note that it is a common chant of terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and is usually accompanied by maps with Israel wiped out and replaced by a nation called “Palestine.”

“This phrase means eradicating Israel and Jews. Period. Dressing it up in a new PR ploy won’t change that,” says Florida Democrat Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. 

Houlahan said in a statement that, while she “wish[ed] Rep. Tlaib hadn’t defended this particular charged phrase,” she accused Republicans of also making offensive statements and argued that censoring members of Congress over “essential freedoms, including speech and expression,” is a mistake.

“As a veteran who has sworn the oath to defend the constitution many times, I support those freedoms, even if I vehemently disagree with what’s being said.”

As for the Democratic letter regarding the phrase, a spokesperson for Houlahan told DVJournal, “There was particular phrasing” in the statement with which she disagreed.

Dean issued a statement saying, “As a longtime supporter of a two-state solution — as someone who works in the pursuit of liberation for Palestinians and long-term peace for both Israelis and Palestinians — I do not believe the phrase ‘from the river to the sea’ has a place in our discourse.” And, she added, she believes the phrase “has been co-opted by terrorist groups like Hamas to mean complete and total destruction of the Jewish state.”

But she also refused to sign the Democratic letter of condemnation or vote for censure.

“That’s not to say some of these censures aren’t warranted — but this is not the best use of our limited time,” Dean said via social media.

Scanlon did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

The only Pennsylvania Democrat who didn’t vote against the resolution was embattled Rep. Susan Wild (D-Allentown).

She voted “present.”

Fitzpatrick Leads Push to Bring Back McCarthy as Leaderless House Deals With Israel Crisis

Saturday’s shocking attack on Israel by the Iranian-backed terror organization Hamas has flipped the script on the vote to oust Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). With one of America’s closest allies at war and the danger of a wider regional conflict looming, the U.S. needs authorization to act. But under House rules, no action can be taken as long as the speaker’s chair is vacant.

The decision of all 208 House Democrats to support Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and vote out McCarthy has left Congress “effectively frozen until it elects a new speaker, delaying action on pressing matters,” according to The Wall Street Journal. As a result, some Republicans are talking about voting McCarthy back into the speakership so Congress can take any necessary action related to Israel’s security.

Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.), a moderate, tweeted on Saturday, “This is why you don’t remove a speaker mid-term without cause. What an unmitigated sh*t show. Removing ⁦Speaker McCarthy from office, mid-term, was idiotic.”

“A short window is all we need in the House to reinstate Kevin McCarthy and change the rule,” Rep. John Duarte (R-Calif.) told the news site Politico.

Bucks County U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R) was ahead of the curve, appearing on “Fox and Friends” Friday morning to suggest Republicans would regret the vote and, possibly, undo it.

“This all happened so quick,” said Fitzpatrick. “A deal was pulled together [Sept. 29], which was consistent with the Problem Solvers (Caucus), we don’t believe in government shutdowns…ultimately, there was a House bill that was put on the floor.

“Speaker McCarthy pulled a rabbit out of his hat. He saved our country from the shutdown. The Senate stood down and took up the House bill. And we were under the logical assumption that that kind of behavior would be rewarded.”

But a few days later, every House Democrat — including the three members from the Delaware Valley — joined Gaetz and seven other fringe GOP members to vote McCarthy out. At the same time, 210 Republicans voted against the Gaetz move.

“The motion to vacate [the speakership] gets put on the floor, and we went to our (Democrat) colleagues and said, ‘Can you at least buy us some time?’” said Fitzpatrick. “Forty-eight hours. We can’t rewrite a 300-page rules package to make the House work more in a bipartisan manner in eight hours. It’s impossible.”

So they asked their Democratic colleagues in the Problem Solvers Caucus, “Can you vote to table it, just this one time?” said Fitzpatrick. They knew that Gaetz would not stop after one try to oust McCarthy.

Fitzpatrick said Republicans asked Democrats in the Problem Solvers Caucus to vote ‘present’ instead of advancing the motion to vacate. They refused.

“That’s all we were asking for was some time…And that’s why there are so many Republicans in our group that are very, very upset, and add me to the list.”

Asked if they might decide to end the Problem Solvers Caucus “because when you need them most, they collapsed under the pressure from (Minority Leader) Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.),” Fitzpatrick said he did not think it would end.

“There always needs to be some forum where Democrats and Republicans talk,” Fitzpatrick said. However, “The members are going to decide what that’s going to look like.”

Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks), a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, did not respond to requests for comment.

The politics may have changed in the wake of the attack on Israel. Republicans appear unwilling to go through another chaotic vote like the 15 it took to seat McCarthy as speaker in January.

On Sunday, Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), one of the eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy, told ABC News he wanted the next speaker to be picked by the party in private.

“It makes a lot more sense to do this behind closed doors and get it finished before we go to the floor,” Buck said, adding: “We’ll agree on a candidate by the end of the week, or we’ll agree on a candidate over the weekend. I think we lock the doors, and we have very limited bathroom breaks and food breaks and make sure we get the job done.”

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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