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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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PA Senators Withdraw Funding Request for Philly LGBT Center ‘Kink’ Events

Pennsylvania’s two Democratic U.S. senators were for federal funding of a Philly LGBT community center that hosted “kink” sex parties — before they were against it.

The Senate voted unanimously to remove $1 million in funding requested by Sen. John Fetterman for William Way. Pennsylvania’s senior Sen. Bob Casey also withdrew his support for the funding.

However, Fetterman vowed to renew the funding request for William Way in the federal budget.

The controversy began Tuesday when the social media account Libs of TikTok noted in a post that an upcoming spending bill “includes $1M of your tax dollars to go towards renovating an LGBTQ Center in PA which boasts rooms to try BDSM and s*x f*tishes [sic] and hosts BDSM and s*x k*nk parties. There’s even a k*nk party happening there this weekend! @SenBobCasey and @SenFettermanPA are the ones who requested this funding.”

That’s when Casey and Fetterman sent letters asking the funding be pulled from the spending bill.

Fetterman’s March 5 letter says, “After further review, I am writing to withdraw my support and request the removal of the below Fiscal Year 2024 Congressionally Directed Spending project included in the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.”

The letter then referenced the William Way renovation and expansion project. The renovation would “renovate and expand the existing Community Center into an inclusive, fully accessible, and welcoming space for all individuals to gather, learn and receive support.”

But after word of his kink-club reversal was trumpeted on Twitter, Fetterman announced Wednesday his staff had sent the letter without his knowledge or consent.

“The William Way LGBT Community Center has been doing critical work in Philadelphia for decades. I do not believe that we should penalize this center based on events that are entirely legal among consenting adults. I have no problem with what consenting adults do in their private time,” Fetterman told DVJournal in a statement.

“Unfortunately, at the 11th hour, my staff was made aware that funding for William Way, which was in the bill because I championed it, would not pass in the FY24 appropriations process. The choice was either to pull it or watch it get stripped out, attacked by Republicans, and ultimately killed. This is not the end of this fight, and I am going to fight for William Way to secure their funding in the FY25 appropriations process.

William Way is the host for The Aviary, which describes itself as “an all inclusive social party for any and all that wish to come and participate, with an emphasis on Kink Lifestyle themes. From Vanilla to Experienced, we welcome players of all skill types. All inclusive means we welcome anyone of any identity or sexuality.”

Renee Gilinger, the center’s capital campaign director, said, “The William Way LGBT Community Center was disappointed to learn that support for federal Congressionally Directed Spending to renovate and expand our historic headquarters on 1315 Street in Philadelphia was withdrawn as a result of lies and distortions about our center shared by political extremists.

“These extremists falsely stated that sexual behavior is allowed in rental programs of the center, which is inaccurate and against our center’s code of conduct.  The center will continue to be a safe haven for a broad range of hundreds of community groups who rent from us, including those that provide a space for sexual health promotion, community building, and education,” she said.

A screen capture posted by Libs of TikTok shows an online invitation to people interested in “BDSM, kink and fetish.” However, when DVJournal tried the link, all that came up was a blank screen.

“The William Way LGBT Community Center stands firmly against discrimination and will work with our elected officials to ensure that support for our center, and other LGBTQ institutions across the nation, is restored,” said Gilinger. William Way serves 5,000 people.

Casey’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Libs of TikTok, an X (formerly Twitter) account, is run by Chaya Raichik and boasts 2.9 million followers. It’s known for ridiculing content posted mostly from LGBTQ and others on the left. It has also exposed teachers after posting content they’ve posted online.

“I’m new here, but I wasn’t aware that Democratic values and priorities are dictated by Libs of TikTok,” Fetterman quipped.

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Casey Breaks With Biden, Angers Environmentalists With Support for LNG Exports

What a difference an election year makes.

Pennsylvania Democrat Sen. Bob Casey Jr. has been an outspoken advocate of climate policies designed to reduce the use of fossil fuels and cut carbon emissions. In 2022, he praised President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, saying the $369 billion in green spending “may have been the last chance” for federal action on climate change. Casey voted against a 2021 amendment to reverse Biden’s shutdown of the Keystone XL pipeline, and he’s even floated bringing back the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps to promote “climate change mitigation.”

But with a competitive general election looming in November and a well-funded GOP challenger, Casey signed a letter last week announcing his opposition to the Biden administration’s decision to pause liquid natural gas (LNG) exports.

“Pennsylvania is an energy state,” Casey and fellow Pennsylvania Democrat Sen. John Fetterman wrote. “As the second largest natural gas-producing state, this industry has created good-paying energy jobs in towns and communities across the commonwealth and has played a critical role in promoting U.S. energy independence.”

Fetterman and Casey worry the LNG pause might impact “thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry.” They vowed to push the administration to reverse the decision if it “puts Pennsylvania energy jobs at risk.”

It’s surprisingly strong language for Casey, who voted for Biden’s agenda 99.3 percent of the time last year, according to FiveThirtyEight.com.

Environmental groups were not pleased with the two Democrats’ statement.

“They are being hypocritical, and also they are sticking their head in the ground by ignoring/denying the climate impacts that are being caused by LNG exports and the fracking that fuels it,” said Tracy Carluccio of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) “They are also acting unproductively oppositional to President Biden who also said this pause will examine the community and economic impacts of these DOE authorizations for LNG export and that is inexcusable.”

Only one other Senate Democrat, green activist bête noire Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), openly criticized the Biden policy. Manchin chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and vowed to do everything possible to “end this pause immediately” if it’s proven the Biden administration was pandering to “keep-it-in-the-ground climate activists.”

Manchin isn’t seeking reelection, and there’s been talk that he may run for president as a centrist third-party candidate.

It’s a much different scenario for Casey, who is up for reelection this fall. His likely Republican opponent, Dave McCormick, wasted no time decrying Biden’s LNG pause.

“America and PA lead the world in Liquified Natural Gas, creating jobs for our people & allies for our country,” McCormick posted on social media hours after Biden’s announced the LNG pause last month. “Why is Bob Casey standing with [Biden] on this?”

Almost a week later, Casey announced his opposition.

Fetterman’s commitment to green energy shifted further. After twice signing the No Fossil Fuel Pledge, the alleged progressive said in 2022 that he supports fracking “as long as it’s done environmentally sound.” His Senate campaign claimed he never “supported a fracking ban” and wanted to “preserve the union way of life” for natural gas workers. However, Fetterman said in 2018, “I don’t support fracking.”

Environmental groups, including Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, Sierra Club of Pennsylvania, and PennFuture, declined to comment about the pro-fossil-fuel stance of their political allies. Instead,  Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter Director Tom Schuster said he was confident the federal review would prove LNG projects don’t “serve the public interest and will cancel them.” PennFuture said the pause was “a win for Philadelphia and Chester.”

Energy groups praised Casey and Fetterman for their willingness to break with Biden.

“The Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association agrees with the criticism by Sens. Casey and Fetterman of the effect on Pennsylvania jobs of President Bidens’s LNG export pause,” Kevin Moody, PIOGA General Counsel, told DVJournal. “But just as significant, and perhaps even more so, are the adverse effects on our national security and our ability to provide Europe and Asia with the LNG they need and will get from somewhere else.”

Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association President and CEO David Taylor called it electoral politics.

“I think the Biden administration just took a position so extreme that people had to protect their backsides and jump up and say, ‘No, I’m not, I’m not in favor of that,’” he told DVJournal.

Taylor still wondered if Casey’s recent public stance was sincere, given his record.

“[He] worked closely with Joe Biden …certainly in the Democrat primary in 2019 and 2020 [he] was all in for Joe Biden,” Taylor said. “If he’s looking to differentiate himself from [Biden], that may be an exceedingly difficult challenge.”

Carluccio suspects the move could hurt Casey at the ballot box this fall, particularly among environmentally conscious voters in the Delaware Valley.

“Those folks vote,” she said. “More and more people, as they become convinced that fracking is not what it’s made out to be…are going to speak through their vote.”

The U.S. Senate Energy Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on Biden’s LNG export pause.

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DelVal Dems Back Behemoth Border Bill; GOP Balks

President Joe Biden supports the mammoth $118 billion border and foreign aid deal released by the U.S. Senate Sunday night. And despite complaints from some progressives that it’s “a new version of a failed Trump-era immigration policy,” Delaware Valley Democrats say they’re on board, too.

“Now we’ve reached an agreement on a bipartisan national security deal that includes the toughest and fairest set of border reforms in decades. I strongly support it,” Biden said in a statement.

The bill, which approves $60 billion in aid for Ukraine and another $14 billion for Israel, is poised for its first vote in the Senate on Wednesday. On immigration, it would raise the standard for claiming asylum, end “catch and release,” and add money for 50,000 detention beds for migrants awaiting review.

It was negotiated by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), and James Lankford (R-Okla.)

But in Pennsylvania, attitudes toward the legislation fall along partisan lines.

“The bipartisan bill released last night takes critical steps towards securing our border and stopping fentanyl while providing key assistance to Ukraine and Israel,” said Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) via social media. “It’s time to put politics aside and get this done.”

His likely Republican opponent, Dave McCormick, posted his opposition. “This is not a compromise; it’s a capitulation. This bill does not secure the border — it allows 4,000 migrants to cross illegally every. single. day.”

McCormick was referencing a provision in the legislation that mandates the Department of Homeland Security turn away all would-be migrants at the border if encounters reach a weekly average of 5,000 per day. The bill also grants the president the authority to invoke that measure at 4,000 encounters per day.

Like many of his fellow Republicans, McCormick argues there’s no reason to allow that level of undocumented migration — about 1.4 million per year — before shutting down the border.

“To protect Americans and fight the scourge of fentanyl, we need to CLOSE the border to illegal immigration. I oppose this deal,” McCormick wrote.

Progressive Sen. John Fetterman posted on social media that he had former Republican Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson as a professor.

“Back in 1998, Sen. Simpson said that we’ll never have any meaningful immigration legislation because it will forever be a useful political weapon. Here we are more than a quarter century later. I hope my Senate Republican colleagues don’t prove him right. Let’s PASS THIS BILL.”

The three Democrats in the Delaware Valley federal delegation also support the package.

“Our border and immigration system is dysfunctional and has been under both parties,” Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery/Berks) posted on social media. “It’s time to start talking solutions. So far, House Republicans are unwilling. I pray they change their minds soon — for the sake of our communities and for the sake of those seeking refuge.”

Republican David Winkler, who is running against Dean, said he is “deeply disappointed” in the “lack of seriousness” from Democrats on the border, and he cites the lack of a border wall mandate in the bill.

“We should propose a bill that focuses on strengthening border security by implementing physical security measures, utilizing advanced technology, and increasing staffing.”

Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks) supports the bill. She visited the border last Thursday and Friday. Houlahan also penned a letter asking her colleagues to send more aid to Ukraine.

“I’m calling on Speaker [Mike] Johnson to change his deeply cynical position that “now is not the time” for immigration reform—I couldn’t disagree more. Most people in communities across America couldn’t disagree more. No solution will be perfect, but we cannot let that keep us from making progress for both the American people and those who seek refuge here,” Houlahan said in an op-ed in Newsweek on Monday.

Her request is falling on deaf ears. Speaker Johnson and other key House leaders signed a letter Monday declaring the bill dead on arrival in the House.

“It fails in every policy area needed to secure our border and would actually incentivize more illegal immigration,” they wrote. “The so-called ‘shutdown’ authority in the bill is anything but, riddled with loopholes that grant far too much discretionary authority to Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas – who has proven he will exploit every measure possible, in defiance of the law, to keep the border open.”

Neil Young, the Republican running against Houlahan, said he agrees with Johnson.

“Senate Republicans who voted in favor of this bill should be made to account for their vote and primaried if necessary. The American people do not want a quota system on how many people should be allowed into this country illegally.

“We deserve leaders who will vote to protect our borders from all threats, be they drug, crime, or illegal immigrant-related,” said Young. “In addition, for them to also tie this nonsense to yet another $60 billion foreign aid handout to Ukraine is doubly insulting. Last year’s HB2, which Speaker Johnson passed, was the blueprint for how to handle this, and the Senate still failed to deliver meaningful border security. The American people are smart enough to know that this current administration is responsible for our crisis at the border, and no amount of media spin can change that.”

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks/Montgomery) did not respond to requests for comment, nor did Ashley Ehasz, the Democrat making her second attempt to unseat him.

PA Sen. Fetterman Hopes to Block Japanese Company From Buying U.S. Steel

Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) announced Monday he will try to block the sale of Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel to Nippon Steel, a Japanese company.

Fetterman cited security concerns and fears that jobs will be lost if the deal goes through.

“I live across the street from U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thompson plant in Braddock. It’s absolutely outrageous that U.S. Steel has agreed to sell themselves to a foreign company. Steel is always about security – both our national security and the economic security of our steel communities. I am committed to doing anything I can do, using my platform and my position, to block this foreign sale,” Fetterman said.

“This is yet another example of hard-working Americans being blindsided by greedy corporations willing to sell out their communities to serve their shareholders. I stand with the men and women of the Steelworkers and their union way of life. We cannot allow them to be screwed over or left behind. I promise to them and to all forgotten communities across Pennsylvania that I will work with Senator Casey and the rest of the delegation to fight like hell to make this right.”

Fetterman’s fellow Democrat Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) agreed.

“The United States marquee steel company should remain under American ownership,” said Casey. “From initial reports, this deal appears to be a bad deal for Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania workers. I’m concerned for what this means for the steelworkers and the good union jobs that have supported Pennsylvania families for generations, for the long-term investment in the commonwealth, and for American industrial leadership.”

U.S. Steel agreed to a $14.1 billion deal with Nippon, which is offering to buy the steel giant’s shares for $55 each. Although Nippon claims it will honor all collective bargaining agreements and keep the company in Pittsburgh, the union, United Steelworkers International, is crying foul.

Union President David McCall said, “To say we’re disappointed in the announced deal between U.S. Steel and Nippon is an understatement, as it demonstrates the same greedy, shortsighted attitude that has guided U.S. Steel for far too long.

“We remained open throughout this process to working with U.S. Steel to keep this iconic American company domestically owned and operated, but instead, it chose to push aside the concerns of its dedicated workforce and sell to a foreign-owned company.

“Neither U.S. Steel nor Nippon reached out to our union regarding the deal, which is in itself a violation of our partnership agreement that requires U.S. Steel to notify us of a change in control or business conditions,” McCall said.

“Based on this alone, the USW does not believe that Nippon understands the full breadth of the obligations of all our agreements, and we do not know whether it has the capacity to live up to our existing contract. This includes not just the day-to-day commitments of our labor agreement but also significant obligations to fund pension and retiree insurance benefits that are the most extensive in the domestic steel industry.

He called on government regulators to “carefully scrutinize this acquisition and determine if the proposed transaction serves the national security interests of the United States and benefits workers.”

The USW represents 850,000 workers.

President and Chief Executive Officer of U. S. Steel, David B. Burritt, told investors the purchase offer is a good deal.

“I couldn’t be happier with the outcome of our strategic review process, because it delivers on what is best for each of our stakeholders. And importantly, this is the best value with certainty and timeliness to close,” Burritt said.

Following the closing of the transaction, U. S. Steel will retain its iconic name, brand, and headquarters in Pittsburgh. NSC is committed to continuity in strong relationships with U. S. Steel’s suppliers, customers, the surrounding communities, and people that support U. S. Steel’s operations and is committed to being a productive member of these communities, the company said in a press release.

In an October press release, the company said, “United States Steel Corporation’s operations in Pennsylvania, which include U. S. Steel’s corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh and sites in Braddock, Clairton, Fairless Hills, Munhall, and West Mifflin, contributed $3.6 billion to the local and state economy in Fiscal Year 2022, according to an economic impact report released today. The report further concludes that the U. S. Steel’s economic activity supported or sustained 11,417 jobs.

“Bob Casey and Joe Biden have weakened America’s national security and economic standing in the world. We need to be a manufacturing country, with Americans working for American companies,” Dave McCormick, the Republican running against Casey, said on social media.

While Biden and Casey have spent most of their lives in Washington working for the government, McCormick has been in the business world as CEO of a Pittsburgh software company and, most recently, the CEO of Bridgewater, a hedge fund, as well as serving having served in the George W. Bush administration.

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Casey Calls for Menendez to Resign, But Keeps $16,500 in ‘Gold Bar Bob’s’ Donations

Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery County) have joined the chorus of Democrats calling on Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) to resign in the wake of federal bribery and corruption charges.

However, Casey is keeping some of the campaign cash he received from Menendez in the past.

In a statement Tuesday, Casey called serving in the U.S. Senate “a sacred trust.”

“The specific allegations outlined in the federal indictment indicate to me that Sen. Menendez violated that trust repeatedly. While he is entitled to the presumption of innocence, serving in public office is a privilege that demands a higher standard of conduct. Sen. Menendez should resign.”

A majority of U.S. Senate Democrats now say Menendez should step down, though the top Democrat — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) continues to stand by the embattled senator.

Menendez, who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, is accused of pressuring several government agencies to help his business associates. Those associates, many with interests in Egypt, allegedly bribed him with cash, a sports car, an apartment, and even gold bars. Investigators found about $500,000 in cash and gold bars in Menendez’s home.

The senator insists he will not resign, saying he regularly withdrew money from the bank to keep at home because, growing up as a child of immigrants from Cuba, he learned a culture of fearing government confiscation of private wealth.

Menendez grew up in Union City, N.J.

Menedez donated generously from his U.S. Senate committee to fellow Democrats over the years, including $26,500 to Casey throughout three previous campaigns. On Tuesday, Casey announced he would be donating Menendez’s most recent donation of $10,000 to an “unspecified charity,” according to The Hill, but he was keeping the rest.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee cried foul.

“Bob Casey said he’s only giving back some of the money he received from corrupt Bob Menendez,” the NRSC said in a statement. “Why is Casey keeping $16,500 if he thinks Menendez’s money is dirty?”

Republicans have begun referring to Menendez as “Gold Bar Bob” in reference to the bullion found in his home.

The Pennsylvania Democrat is seeking a fourth term in the U.S. Senate next year.

Another recipient of Menendez money is Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), who received $5,000 for his 2022 campaign. Fetterman was the first member of the U.S. Senate to call for Menendez to resign over the most recent charges. A Fetterman spokesperson told The Messenger, “We are in the process of returning the money in envelopes stuffed with $100 bills.”

“Sen. Menendez should resign,” Fetterman posted on social media. “He’s entitled to the presumption of innocence, but he cannot continue to wield influence over national policy, especially given the serious and specific nature of the allegations.

“I hope he chooses an honorable exit and focuses on his trial.”

This is not the first time the New Jersey politician faced a federal indictment. A mistrial was declared in 2017 when a split jury failed to convict him on corruption charges.

New Jersey Congressman Andy Kim (D) has already declared he will run against Menendez in the 2024 primary.

“After calls to resign, Sen. Menendez said, ‘I am not going anywhere.’ As a result, I feel compelled to run against him. Not something I expected to do, but N.J. deserves better. We cannot jeopardize the Senate or compromise our integrity,” Kim posted on X.

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FLOWERS: Fetterman Doesn’t Respect the Senate and He Doesn’t Respect You

This column first appeared in Broad + Liberty.

I have always needed someone else to dress me.

From my earliest days, I was pretty much taken care of in the fashion department. First, my mother made most of my clothes, including my holiday dresses, my First Holy Communion outfit, and all the costumes I wore for Halloween and school pageants. Her skills were legendary, including the year she made my three brothers, my little sister, and me a living tableau of the American Revolution. It was 1976, the year of the Bicentennial, and she turned my three brothers into a raggedy band of colonial fighters, me into Betsey Ross, and my five-year-old sister into the Liberty Bell.

Sadly, in a move that would foreshadow other costume fails, the bell made out of papier-mache was so wide that it prevented my sister from going through doors, thereby frustrating the entire purpose of seeking candy from strangers.  If you can’t get within five feet of the neighbor, you go home with an empty bag.

When I was old enough to go to school, I was immediately enrolled in a series of all-girl Catholic institutions where, suffice it to say, there was no room for sartorial creativity. You wore what the nuns decided you needed to wear, and you went to Whalen and Whalen uniform distributors on North 12th Street to order the frocks. They were all invariably navy, tweed, and itchy.

In my last year of high school, we were able to vote on our uniform, one of the few perks of being a senior. My class chose a lovely maroon and pink ensemble, which I still have hanging in a closet somewhere. And, to the delight of my mother and the horror of some old classmates, I wore that plaid kilt even decades after I graduated. This was not me attempting to be a Brittany Spears-Lolita schoolgirl. Neither my weight nor my dance skills would have made me a threat to the ”Hit Me Baby One More Time” crowd.

The reason I reused my kilt was because I literally had no fashion sense and no ability to figure out what worked with my figure and my personality. To this day, I suffer from the “Catholic Girl School” syndrome, wherein I find something I like, usually black, and buy ten versions of it. That is because I never developed the ability to express my creativity through my clothing. I may be a 61-year-old professional, but inside I’m still the girl who got yelled at for having droopy knee socks.

I write this to explain that I empathize with those who aren’t stylish gems. I write this to show that I don’t judge someone based on the value of their clothing or the number of “name” brands they carry on their arms and hang from their ears. I am the last person in the world to criticize someone for being nerdy and unfashionable.

But I am also someone who respects herself enough not to appear in public in a slovenly manner. My clothing is always laundered, ironed, and my hair combed. I wear makeup because I look better with it. My shoes may sometimes have holes in the soles, but no one but yours truly knows it (especially when it rains). And I dress appropriately for the occasion. I don’t sport shorts at the office, I don’t show cleavage in the courtroom (as if), and I don’t ever, ever, ever wear jeans when I’m planning to meet clients. I have respect for myself and for other people.

None of us can say the same about the junior senator from Pennsylvania.

John Fetterman has a lot of flaws, and many of them are much more serious than the way he dresses, but the mere fact that he has so little respect and concern for his constituents that he parades around in cargo pants, oversized shirts, and unruly facial hair is a sign of absolute arrogance. And now, he has essentially forced his Senate colleagues to get rid of any semblance of a dress code.

The fact that John Fetterman, a man who has a Harvard degree and lots of money, mostly given to him by other people, doesn’t have the decency to put on a suit and a tie when he is representing the people of my Commonwealth, many of whom did not even vote for him, is reprehensible. It is a sign that he just doesn’t give a damn.

His supporters will say that this makes him “real” and that they love the fact that he doesn’t play the game. They think he’s a maverick, a working-class guy, and cool.

He is none of those things. He is, at best, lazy. At his worst, though, he is a person who thinks the rules do not apply to him, that civility is not in his job description, and that immaturity and a questionable sense of hygiene are entirely appropriate in the halls of Congress.

Some will say they would rather have a man like John Fetterman, who doesn’t pretend to be what he is not, instead of well-dressed demagogues like Matt Gaetz, who has apparently adopted “Exxon Valdez” as his hair care regimen. But while Gaetz has questionable politics, at least he has the decency to show respect for his office and the institutions of Congress by not showing up to work as some hulking, non-musical Beach Boy.

There are many reasons not to like John Fetterman. His politics, his disregard for the sanctity of human life, his wife, his slacker personality, and the fact that he basically lied his way into office by hiding his severe medical disability.

But the fact that he didn’t even try to pull up his damn pants particularly repulses this former Catholic schoolgirl. If only Sister Madeleine Marie were around to deal with him.

Senate Rule Change Allows Fetterman to Vote in Sweats and Shorts

The old adage is to dress for the job you want. But for first-term U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), the job has changed its dress code for him.

Fetterman, whose fitness to serve in the Senate has been in question since he suffered a debilitating stroke during the 2022 Democratic primary, has been roaming the halls of the Capitol in his favorite outfit — baggy shorts and a hoodie — for weeks. In order to vote, the shabbily-clad senator would stand at the edge of the Senate floor, with one foot still in the cloakroom.

Not anymore. The dress code has been dumped in an accommodation of Fetterman’s fashion choices. For senators, anyway. Staff and visitors must still wear suit jackets, dresses, and other traditional business attire.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) shrugged off the change as a minor matter.

“There has been an informal dress code that was enforced,” Schumer said in a statement. “Senators are able to choose what they wear on the Senate floor. I will continue to wear a suit.”

Critics promptly noted that “informal” codes aren’t “enforced.” In this case, the Senate’s sergeant-at-arms was in charge of upholding the dress code. Schumer has now instructed that senators no longer be held to any standard.

David Urban, who was chief of staff to the late Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), told CBS News the change was sad, saying Fetterman has worn a coat and tie in the past and should have continued to do so.

“It is serious work that you’re doing in the Senate. You’re not gardening. You’re running the nation,” Urban said.

Etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore told DVJournal she agreed.

“First, I’d like to ask Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to define ‘relaxed and casual attire.’ Does that mean jeans, shorts, gym clothes, or all of the above? A dress code of any kind needs to be clearly defined so there are no violations or grey areas. To allow senators to dress casually but to require all others who work on the Senate floor to conform to a more formal dress code seems unfair and unjust.”

Former Sen. Pat Toomey, who Fetterman replaced after beating Dr. Mehmet Oz in 2022, declined to comment on the dress code issue.

Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert at The Protocol School of Palm Beach, said, “First, I’d like to ask Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to define ‘relaxed and casual attire.’ Does that mean jeans, shorts, gym clothes, or all of the above? A dress code of any kind needs to be clearly defined so there are no violations or grey areas. To allow Senators to dress casually but to require all others who work on the Senate floor to conform to a more formal dress code seems unfair and unjust.”

Critics of the change called Schumer’s climbdown a win for Fetterman.

“The man’s an elected representative of the great state of Pennsylvania, serving in an august legislative chamber; would it have been too much to ask that he put on a tie?” asked the New York Post. “We don’t know how Fetterman won the fight, be it via hissy fit or simple obstinacy, but as of this week, the dress code is reportedly donezo.”

Leila, a spokesperson for Fetterman who refused to give her last name, said, “Sen. Fetterman is following all the dress code guidelines set by the Senate. Last week, Sen. Schumer directed the Senate sergeant of arms to no longer enforce the chamber’s informal dress code. And the Senate guidelines for dress have been changed and updated many times, just not in the last few years. So, this is not a new instance. This is just the first time it happened in a while.”

During a speech in Jacksonville on Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) spoke out about the Senate clothing rule.

“Did you guys hear the U.S. Senate just eliminated its dress code because you’ve got this guy from Pennsylvania who’s got a lot of problems? Let’s just be honest. Like how he got elected because they didn’t want the alternative,” DeSantis said. “He wears like sweatshirts and hoodies, and that’s his thing.

“To show up in the United States Senate [dressed like] that and not have the decency to put on proper attire, I think it’s disrespectful to the body,” DeSantis added. “And I think the fact that the Senate changed the rules to accommodate that, I think, speaks very poorly as to how they consider that.”

“We need to be lifting up our standards in this country, not dumbing down our standards in this country,” DeSantis said.

Many people weighed in on X (formerly Twitter).

Michael Caputo, who worked in the Trump administration, tweeted: “A sartorial suggestion for the @SenateGOP: If Fetterman can wear a hoodie, you can wear a hat.” It was accompanied by a picture of former President Trump tossing red MAGA caps.

“The Senate will no longer enforce its dress code, all because John Fetterman is a revolting slob,” added Fox News contributor Monica Crowley.

“A grown man going to work looking like a middle schooler,” the Pennridge Area Republican Club posted. “Embarrassing.”

Whitmore told DVJournal that her advice to corporate clients is, “Dress for your client’s comfort, not your own. Dressing well shows respect for yourself and for the people you serve.”

But Fetterman was unfazed.

“They’re freaking out, I don’t understand it,” he said of his critics. “Like, aren’t there more important things we should be working on right now instead of, you know, that I might be dressing like a slob?”

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Casey, Fetterman Back Federal Override of PA Election Laws

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Sens. Casey, Fetterman, and Brown Introduce Railroad Accountability Bill

As people in Ohio and Pennsylvania still deal with the aftermath of the Norfolk Southern derailment, where railcars carrying toxins overturned, Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, all Democrats, introduced the Railway Accountability Act. They and Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) introduced the Railway Safety Act earlier this month. 

Vance did not respond when asked why he had not signed on to the Railway Accountability Act. Fetterman, who spent six weeks hospitalized for depression, was working from the hospital, his staff said.

He is expected to be back in the Senate on April 17.

Issues addressed by the Railway Accountability Act include broken rims, a leading cause of derailments; brake inspections when trains are not moving; more transparent safety information; ensuring emergency brake signals function properly: and requiring major railroads to report close calls to a confidential system.

“Too many communities in Pennsylvania and nationwide have suffered from catastrophic train derailments. The Railway Accountability Act would implement additional commonsense safety measures to help prevent these disasters in the future,” said Casey. “Along with the Railway Safety Act, this bill will make freight rail safer and protect communities from preventable tragedies.”

Labor unions, including the Transport Workers of America (TWU), the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers (NCFO), and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers-Mechanical Division (SMART-MD) support the legislation.

Norfolk Southern did not respond when asked to comment.

“The legislation is unlikely to help,” said Iain Murray, vice president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “It includes things like minimum crew member sizes that research has been unable to show any safety benefit from. However, what is likely is that the bill will do several things probably detrimental to safety, like concentrating hazardous materials on fewer trains, making derailments – which are still likely to occur – more dangerous. Shippers might also prefer to ship by road rather than slower trains, and we do know for a fact that shipping hazardous materials by road is more dangerous than shipping by rail, even under current standards.”

The earlier bipartisan Railway Safety Act included enhanced safety procedures for trains carrying hazardous materials, requiring wayside defect detectors, requiring that railroads operate trains with at least two-person crews, and increasing fines for railroads found to have committed wrongdoing, according to a press release.

Pennsylvania lawmakers held hearings into what happened when the Norfolk Southern train derailed just across the state line in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 3. Recently, state Senate Veteran’s Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee members grilled Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw.

Residents have said exposure to toxic chemicals during a controlled burn has caused various health issues. There are also concerns about water pollution and chemicals that rained down onto the soil where crops are grown.

Shaw has promised to help the residents in both states affected by the accident. “I am determined to make this right,” he said at the hearing. “Norfolk Southern is determined to clean the site safely. We’ll get the job done and help these communities thrive.”

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