Pennsylvania Member of Congress Tracking Report – 09.13.20

35 mins read
Graphic by Kelly Pollock.

This is a 100% volunteer effort brought to you by a handful of progressive Democrats and Independents who share a vision of an informed electorate.  We want to offer a big thank you to the Pennsylvania Together and Pennsylvania Statewide Indivisible organizations who host our report and help us share it out to the residents of our Commonwealth!

A note on MoCTrack reports from now through the election:
Our MoCTrack volunteers want to give as much of their time as they can to phone banking, text banking and other activities to drive support for our preferred candidates.  So you will notice that our reports are going to be leaner from now through Election Day. We hope you’ll understand, and will join us in volunteering for your favorite candidates in these last two months that will decide our future!

Tracking Congress in the Age of Trump

The lower the number, the more the legislator votes in opposition to the Trump agenda.

Member of CongressThis week’s scoreChange from last report
Senator Bob Casey (D)29.3%0.0%
Senator Pat Toomey (R)88.1%0.0%
PA-01 Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R)63.6%0.0%
PA-02 Rep. Brendan Boyle (D)13.1%0.0%
PA-03 Rep. Dwight Evans (D)11.5%0.0%
PA-04 Rep. Madeleine Dean (D)3.7%0.0%
PA-05 Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D)5.9%0.0%
PA-06 Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D)4.9%0.0%
PA-07 Rep. Susan Wild (D)8.2%0.0%
PA-08 Rep. Matt Cartwright (D)19.2%0.0%
PA-09 Rep. Dan Meuser (R)97.4%0.0%
PA-10 Rep. Scott Perry (R)90.3%0.0%
PA-11 Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R)95.4%0.0%
PA-12 Rep. Fred Keller (R)94.2%0.0%
PA-13 Rep. John Joyce (R)97.5%0.0%
PA-14 Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R)95.0%0.0%
PA-15 Rep. Glenn W. Thompson (R)97.7%0.0%
PA-16 Rep. Mike Kelly (R)96.6%0.0%
PA-17 Rep. Conor Lamb (D)22.4%0.0%
PA-18 Rep. Mike Doyle (D)14.9%0.0%

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website assesses the voting records of our MoCs to provide this index, by comparing any bills where President Trump has stated a position, and comparing the vote of the legislator to that opinion. No votes were scored this week. And don’t forget – if you click on the name of any legislator, you will be brought to their 538 webpage where all of the positions that went into the index are listed in an easy-to-read format.

Words From Our Nation’s Sages

“Without volunteers, we’d be a nation without a soul.”

— Rosalynn Carter, 

former First Lady of the United States

Votes of Interest – Mitch McConnell’s Judicial Confirmation Jamboree

The only major congressional votes this week took place in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing through cloture and confirmation votes on judges with the urgency of a man who thinks he has a limited period of time to pack in lifetime judicial appointments. It is interesting that many of this week’s choices don’t have any significant conservative history, but instead have lots of experience on the prosecutorial side of the law profession. By moving through qualified, unobjectionable candidates, Mitch McConnell can pack in even more Trump appointees before the end of the 116th Congress.

For a more in-depth look at this pattern, please see this week’s piece in The Hill titled “An issue senators can agree on is … judges?”  The author, Chris Gotti, looks at this week’s action and observes that all  “five judges were confirmed on overwhelmingly bipartisan votes to district court benches in states that have at least one Democratic senator. All those senators voted in favor of each of the judges confirmed this week. The lowest vote total any of them received was 79 votes.” He also notes that Mitch McConnell has another 8 confirmations scheduled for next week.

Judicial Confirmation #1 – PENNSYLVANIA

Senate Confirmation Vote on Christy Criswell Wiegand to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania

Christy Wiegand is a highly regarded prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania. She has a compelling story about having fought off a knife-wielding attacker while jogging, and how it motivated her to change her career from corporate law to criminal law.  She clerked left her position in a private firm to clerk with a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Since that clerkship she has worked as a public prosecutor.  The Vetting Room highlights Wiegand’s work  taking on for-profit colleges.  The observed, “she was part of a legal team suing Education Management Corp. (EDMC), a for-profit education conglomerate that was charged with violating federal laws.”  Wiegand’s only political contribution was for $1,000 to Senator Toomey during his 2016 campaign.

Vote date: September 9, 2020 Vote Tally: 82-14

Party Breakdown: All Republicans present, 28 Democrats and one Independent voted YES.  The 14 NO votes all came from Democrats.

Additional Reading:

Senator Casey voted YES and Senator Toomey voted YES.

Judicial Confirmation #2 – NEW YORK

Senate Confirmation Vote on Diane Gujarati to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of New York

Diane Gujarati was originally nominated to this judicial vacancy by President Obama in 2016.  That nomination was blocked by Mitch McConnell.  But with this seat sitting vacant since that time, her name was put forth again by the Trump Administration, and she was successfully confirmed this time around.

Gujarati is a Yale Law School graduate who clerked for a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She worked briefly for a private firm before moving into a position as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. 

Our friends at The Vetting Room offered this assessment :

Generally speaking, any nominee put forward by both Obama and Trump is likely to be considered a consensus nominee.  After all, if two Presidents with fairly different criteria for selecting judges can come to a consensus on a nominee’s fitness, it is unlikely that senators will disagree.  Setting that aside, Gujarati clearly has the requisite qualifications to be a district court judge.  Her history of both prosecuting and supervising prosecutors ensures that she has the legal and organizational abilities to handle a courtroom.

Vote date: September 10, 2020 Vote Tally: 79-19

Party Breakdown: This was unanimous. The only senator not voting was Kamala Harris, who is out on the campaign trail.

Additional Reading:

Senator Casey voted YES and Senator Toomey voted YES.

Judicial Confirmation #3 – VIRGINIA

Senate Confirmation Vote on Thomas T. Cullen to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Virginia

Thomas Cullen’s career path looks much like the previous two nominees described above.  He went to a notable law school before clerking with an Appeals Court judge.  He has worked in the private sector, but also has experience in public service. Cullen spent four years in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina before moving to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia.

The Vetting Room has a detailed summary of Cullen’s work in the U.S. Attorney’s office.  Of particular note is this:

During his tenure, Cullen notably led the prosecutions relating to the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, including for the death of Heather Heyer, who was killed by White supremacist James Fields.  Fields was charged federally related to the death of Heyer and plead guilty to 29 hate crimes.  Cullen also prosecuted the Rise Above Movement, a white supremacist movement, for violence caused in rioting in Charlottesville…

…after his prosecutions related demonstrations and attacks in Charlottesville by far-right protestors, Cullen authored an article critical of far-right extremism.  In the article, Cullen wrote that “white supremacy and far-right extremism are among the greatest domestic-security threats facing the United States.  He also urged Congress to pass stricter hate crime laws to help prosecutors address the rise of far-right extremism.

Vote date: September 10, 2020 Vote Tally: 99-0

Party Breakdown: All Republicans present, 25 Democrats and one Independent voted YES.  The NO votes came from 18 Democrats and one Independent.

Additional Reading:

Senator Casey voted YES and Senator Toomey voted YES.

Judicial Confirmation #4 – MICHIGAN

Senate Confirmation Vote on Hala Y. Jarbou to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Michigan

This tidbit from The Vetting Room sets the stage for the fourth of this week’s five judicial confirmations:

In 2019, the Trump Administration negotiated an agreement over two district nominees with Michigan’s Democratic senators.  Ironically, the Republican half of the agreement, Michael Bogren, withdrew due to opposition from Republican senators, while the Democratic half, Judge Stephanie Davis, sailed to confirmation.  Now, Bogren has been replaced as a nominee by Judge Hala Jarbou, who would, if confirmed, be the first Chaldean-American on the federal bench.

Jarbou has worked her entire legal career in public service. She started in the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office before moving into the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.After five years in that office she was appointed to a county judicial position in Michigan where she served until this week’s confirmation.

Jarbou is a registered Republican.  She supported President George W. Bush’s re-election and has one political contribution recorded, to a GOP House member.  She is a member of the Federalist Society.

Vote date: September 10, 2020 Vote Tally: 83-15

Party Breakdown: All Republicans present, 29 Democrats and one Independent voted YES.  The NO votes came from 14 Democrats and one Independent.

Additional Reading:

Senator Casey voted YES and Senator Toomey voted YES.

Judicial Confirmation #5 – WISCONSIN

Senate Confirmation Vote on Brett H. Ludwig to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Wisconsin

Brett Ludwig is a magna cum laude graduate of  the University of Minnesota Law School, and he clerked for a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. He spent his entire career at the private firm Foley & Lardner, where he rose to the position of Partner and  Vice Chair of Insurance & Reinsurance Litigation Practice. In 2017 he was confirmed to a position as a judge in the federal bankruptcy court.

As with most matters judicial, we rely on this assessment from The Vetting Room, who noted, “Ludwig lacks a strong record of controversial statements, has little to no involvement in politics, and has spent his entire career in insurance and bankruptcy litigation, an area that generally attracts little controversy.“

Vote date: September 9, 2020 Vote Tally: 91-5

Party Breakdown: All Republicans present, 37 Democrats and one Independent voted YES.  The 5 NO votes all came from Democrats.

Additional Reading:

Senator Casey voted YES and Senator Toomey voted YES.

Status Update – Coronavirus Phase 4 Relief Legislation

The shortest possible update – there is little to no hope of any coronavirus relief legislation making any progress before the election.

The Senate put forth what has been referred to as a “skinny” relief package.  The $500 billion package was notable as a scanty covering for Mitch McConnell’s ultimate goal – the passage of corporate coronavirus indemnity, a financial shield that would allow business owners to put workers back in unsafe circumstances and then be free from legal liability for that action. If you would like a taste of the debate on the McConnell relief package, check out this segme/nt of the Congressional Record from Illinois’s Dick Durbin and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski.  The bill needed 60 votes to achieve clotures, and it did not pass that threshold, in a 52-47 vote (Republican Rand Paul voted with all the Democrats). Senator Casey voted NO and Senator Toomey voted YES.

This excerpt from a Slate piece best encapsulates how the parties are moving father and farther away from eachother in their concepts of how to address the needs that the pandemic has imposed upon us.

When last we left it, the discussion was between the administration, dangling $1 trillion in relief, and Democratic leaders, moving down to $2.2 trillion from $3.5 trillion. Now Senate Republicans are organizing around a bill that’s around $500 billion.

But we should be clear that Republicans organizing around a messaging bill is not “movement” toward a legislative product that helps humans. It is an opportunity for McConnell to give some cover to his incumbents and to try to blame Democrats for the standstill. (The bill, which will have a vote this week, will indeed be blocked.) Movement is when Democratic leaders and the administration come together and start to budge toward each other. There is absolutely no indication that is happening. 

That same piece goes on to explain that the bill Mitch McConnell offered as coronavirus relief was actually an exercise in “vote-buying” – there is a rare earth mineral mining segment designed to attract Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, school choice measures to cater to Texas’s Ted Cruz and Utah’s Mike Lee, and then “the word fisheries, which means Susan Collins.”

The article closes on this dismal assessment: “Republicans no longer feel the urgency to act at all, and Democrats don’t feel the urgency to settle for whatever they can get.” So buckle up for an even more brutal autumn. 

Additional Reading:

Tweets of the Week

🔵 Senator Bob Casey, @SenBobCasey, 09/09/20:

“Over the next few days you’re likely to hear a lot of Republicans in Washington offering excuses or flat out denying these reports. Don’t believe them. It’s literally on tape.” the senator’s comment s made when retweeting this content from Brian Stelter of CNN News

🔴 Senator Pat Toomey, @SenToomey, 09/07/20:

“Intimidating people to get your demands met isn’t peaceful protesting.

Damaging or destroying reeling businesses hurts workers and isn’t peaceful protesting.

These are crimes. Until elected officials support the prosecution of these criminals, they’ll continue.” content shared when the senator retweeted an article from WTAE titled “Pittsburgh police investigate after videos surface of protesters clashing with the public

🔴 PA-01’s Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, @RepBrianFitz, 09/10/20:

“I was proud to join House and Senate colleagues during the unveiling of Boeing’s first Chinook Block II off the assembly line. Boeing will be sending an additional 23 Chinooks to the United States Army.”

🔵 PA-02’s Rep. Brendan Boyle, @CongBoyle, 09/09/20

“117 days after the House passed the #HeroesAct, the White House and Majority Leader McConnell still fail to grasp the gravity of the crisis across our country. We need to do everything we can to defeat this virus.” tweeted with a link to a CNBC article titled “Key coronavirus forecast predicts over 410,000 total U.S. deaths by Jan. 1: ‘The worst is yet to come’

🔵 PA-03’s Rep. Dwight Evans, @DwightEvansPA, 09/10/20:

“Senate Republicans’ failed “relief” package is disgraceful and turns a blind eye to what the American people need. Americans need relief, and we need it now. It’s time the Senate quits stalling and votes on the HEROES Act.” tweeted with a link to a CNN article titled “After negotiations falter, Senate fails to advance Republican bill addressing coronavirus pandemic” and this picture of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

🔵 PA-04’s Rep. Madeleine Dean, @RepDean, 09/10/20:

“Student loan borrowers are facing the same economic crisis as the rest of us. The added burden? Monthly loan payments plus interest.

That’s why I joined my House and Senate colleagues to request much-needed relief for student borrowers.” tweeted with an image of the referenced letter “Layoffs Continue And Furloughs Become Permanent Job Losses

🔵 PA-05’s Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, @RepMGS, 09/09/20:

““This means that more people will continue to be laid off or not be asked to return from furlough, as the companies want to save money, increase profits and boost their stock prices.” Workers & families need relief now. The Senate MUST pass the #HeroesAct”  tweeted with a link to a Forbes article titled “Layoffs Continue And Furloughs Become Permanent Job Losses

🔵 PA-06’s Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, @RepHoulahan, 09/11/20:

“Never forget. It seems simple, but for so many of us, the memories of 9/11 are truly ones we will never forget. We mourn the innocent lives of those in the World Trade Towers, firefighters, police officers, and every person who aided others, at times sacrificing themselves. 

I’m thinking of the families in our own Commonwealth whose loved ones never came home. Let us all take today to reflect on and honor their heroic lives as well as all first responders who continue to answer the call to serve to this day.” tweeted with embedded video of the MoC speaking to camera about memories of 9/11

🔵 PA-07’s Rep. Susan Wild, @RepSusanWild, 09/10/20:

“On #WorldSuicidePreventionDay, we remember that in every corner of every community, there are people who have been touched in some way by the suicide crisis – including myself. The more we amplify the conversation, the more lives we save, & the closer we get to ending the stigma.”

🔵 PA-08’s Rep. Matt Cartwright, @RepCartwright, 09/10/20:

“Mitch McConnell finally abandoned his failed “wait & see” approach to #COVID19 response. But his bill falls tragically short on support for state/local frontline workers, rental assistance, and food security. 

The #HeroesAct is by far the better starting point for negotiations.”

🔴 PA-09’s Rep. Dan Meuser, @Meuser4Congress, 09/07/20:

“Considered by Biden/Harris as a peaceful protest, not violent. Chanting “Death to America” is far from peaceful. Biden’s tacit support encourages this. Not denouncing for political gain is cowardly and will backfire. #realDonaldTrump #WeThePeople” tweeted with YouTube video of protests

🔴 PA-10’s Rep. Scott Perry, @RepScottPerry, 09/04/20:

“Great News! The U.S. jobless rate fell sharply to 8.4% in August, down from 10.2% in July and a peak of 14.7% in April – this is the fourth straight month of job additions in the U.S. economy. As Americans safely return to work, our economy continues to recover from COVID-19.”

🔴 PA-11’s Rep. Lloyd Smucker, @RepSmucker, 09/10/20:

“Thanks to the creation of Operation Warp Speed, at the direction of @POTUS, the U.S. is making significant progress on the development of safe and effective vaccines and therapeutic treatments.” tweeted with a link to the MoC’s official website statement, titled “Operation Warp Speed Offers Hope

🔴 PA-12’s Rep. Fred Keller, @RepFredKeller, 09/09/20:

“Yesterday’s Main Street tour of local businesses was a powerful reminder of just how important the Paycheck Protection Program has been for small businesses across our nation. While House Dems refuse to put aside their political agenda, the GOP is working to deliver real results!”

🔴 PA-13’s Rep. John Joyce, @RepJohnJoyce, 09/09/20:

“Welcome to Westmoreland County, @VP @Mike_Pence! Thank you for your incredible dedication to our pro-life values.”

🔴 PA-14’s Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, @GReschenthaler, 09/10/20:

“The Obama/Biden Admin told us manufacturing jobs that went overseas were gone forever.

@realDonaldTrump promised us he’d bring those jobs back to the US & he’s fulfilled that promise by spurring a manufacturing renaissance that’s created 500K new US manufacturing jobs so far.” tweeted with embedded Fox News video

🔴 PA-15’s Rep. Glenn W. Thompson, @CongressmanGT, 09/10/20:

“My latest for @thehill

We’ve learned the hard way how much we rely on a skilled & trained workforce. COVID has thrust many hardworking and often overlooked men & women into the limelight as we rely upon these professionals now more than ever. #CTE” tweeted with a link to his own opinion piece in The Hill, titled “Pandemic underscores demand for career and technical education

🔴 PA-16’s Rep. Mike Kelly, @MikeKellyPA, has not tweeted since August 8, 2020

🔵 PA-17’s Rep. Conor Lamb, @RepConorLamb, 09/07/20:

“The men & women of organized labor built our nation, teach our kids, protect our communities & serve as essential workers on the frontlines of #COVID19. Congress must fight to safeguard the wages, benefits & rights of working people across America. #LaborDay #PA17”

🔵 PA-18’s Rep. Mike Doyle, @USRepMikeDoyle, 09/09/20:

“How many lives could have been saved if Trump had actually been honest about the danger posed by the coronavirus? #trumpknewandidnothing”

Casey Quote of the Week 

Courtesy of contributor Linda Houk

“If (Sen. Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell really wants to get something done that helps to tackle the virus and help people that are in the middle of a jobs crisis, he needs to come to us for support… That would mean negotiating with us on a more robust bill.”

—from an article in Erie News Now, titled “Senate Democrats block GOP ‘skinny bill’ coronavirus relief package” 

Toomey Quote of the Week 

Courtesy of contributor Elayne Baker

“They unanimously voted against this measure because it does not spend enough borrowed money on unrelated projects from the left-wing wish list. For the good of the country, it’s time for Senate Democrats to stop filibustering and start legislating.” 

— from a 09/11/20 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article titled “Senate fails to garner votes for COVID-19 relief package, dimming hopes for a deal” 

Your Voting Status in Pennsylvania – A Resource

Our allies in the New Hope Democratic Committee produced this excellent flow chart to help folks figure out what Pennsylvania-run websites should be used to determine the status of the voter registration and mail in ballot applications, along with deadlines for signing up for particular options.

Election Volunteering Resources

This week we are highlighting the volunteering opportunities offered by the excellent folks at Turn PA Blue!

This is how the Turn PA Blue organization describes themselves:

“Turn PA Blue is actively working to turn the Pennsylvania State Legislature blue, district by district, through volunteer recruitment, training, and mobilization to elect Democrats up and down the ballot. Founded in 2017, Turn PA Blue strategically deploys a grassroots army of volunteers to flippable districts across Pennsylvania.

Turn PA Blue organizes door knocking (when it can be done safely), phone banking, texting, postcards, and Vote By Mail outreach in targeted, winnable state legislative races. We are also committed to increasing Democratic turnout for Joe Biden across the Commonwealth.

Since 2017, Turn PA Blue volunteers have:

  • Knocked over 200,000 doors
  • Provided volunteer coverage at hundreds of polling locations
  • Helped to send over 2 million texts to voters and volunteers
  • Written close to 300,000 postcards
  • Helped make over than 1 million phone calls to voters
  • Hosted hundreds banking parties and fundraisers”

Your MoCTrack editor has participated in several Turn PA Blue phone banking events, and can attest that they are well-organized and fun!  They provide a supportive environment, training that manages to be both comprehensive and concise (not an easy needle to thread!) and they select candidates to support based on the chances of flipping districts.  It’s a great combo.  Find upcoming Turn PA Blue phone-banking events here.

They also provide post-card kits for purchase.  These kits include 50 pre-addressed cards aimed at encouraging Pennsylvania Democrats in targeted districts to vote. The purchase price ($8.00) covers the printing costs, and participants are expected to provide their own postage for the cards (supporting our embattled US Postal Service).  Again, your MoCTrack editor has purchased postcards packs from Turn PA Blue and can affirm that the instructions are through and the cards are lovely. Turn PA Blue postcard kits are available here.

Please consider volunteering with Turn PA Blue in the next 50 days!

This report is brought to you by the Pennsylvania  MoCTrack team… 

CC Linda Houk

Elayne Baker Susan Vogel

Gary Garb Kierstyn Piotrowski Zolfo

We can always use extra help. Our Congress people are always busy and there is always more for us to cover — tasks big and small to fit any level of time commitment or experience. Would you be willing to listen to a committee hearing and transcribe a few quotes from Pennsylvania lawmakers? Or are you a topic specialist on an issue of concern to activists, and would you like to contribute an occasional column?  Please email and put “MoCTrack Help” in the subject. Thanks!

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