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Pennsylvania US House Republicans focus on bills that push right-wing policies

Pennsylvania’s eight Republican representatives have filed more than 100 bills, but few would address the campaign priorities the party promised it would tackle.

By Josh Israel - August 22, 2023
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John Joyce
Pennsylvania Republican U.S. Rep. John Joyce in a photo posted to his campaign's Facebook page in February 2022. (Dr. John Joyce for Congress/Facebook)

Republican candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives ran in 2022 promising that a GOP majority would prioritize crime reduction, the economy, individual liberty, and government accountability. But like many of their GOP colleagues, the eight Republicans who now represent Pennsylvania have instead focused more on divisive social issues.

An examination of the bills those lawmakers have filed since the start of the current Congress shows that most have proposed nothing that would address what they had said were their priorities.

In the weeks prior to the November midterm elections, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and his caucus put out a “Commitment to America” for what they would do in the majority. “Starting day one,” they promised in a video, “we will work to deliver an economy that’s strong, a nation that’s safe, a future that’s built on freedom, and a government that’s accountable.”

Pennsylvania Republicans tweeted their support before and after the elections.

“This morning I was pleased to join @GOPLeader and my @HouseGOP colleagues to highlight our commitment to an economy that’s strong, a nation that’s safe, a future that’s built on freedom, and a government that’s accountable,” tweeted Rep. Dan Meuser. “This is our #CommitmentToAmerica.”

“Americans deserve: An economy that’s strong, A nation that’s safe, A future that’s built on freedom, A government that’s accountable #CommitmentToAmerica,” wrote Guy Reschenthaler.

“President Biden’s inflationary spending is costing you and your loved ones 20% more on Thanksgiving spending,” said Rep. Mike Kelly. “Thankfully, @HouseGOP #CommitmentToAmerica agenda will get our economy back on track.”

“House Republicans will work to build a nation that’s safe,” vowed Rep. Lloyd Smucker. “We will secure the border and combat illegal immigration, reduce crime and protect public safety, and defend America’s national security. That’s our Commitment to America.”

After taking a narrow five-seat majority in the House, the GOP caucus has struggled to pass much of anything. As of late August, a total of just 11 bills had become law in the 118th Congress. Outside of a bipartisan compromise to address the debt limit, they have been almost exclusively minor bills, including creating a coin to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Marine Corps and rename a Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Michigan.

Pennsylvania’s U.S. House Republicans have filed 109 bills so far this year, according to Congress.gov. Aside from a bipartisan background check bill sponsored by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick and a few relatively minor proposals, their legislation would do next to nothing to lowerer consumers’ costs, curb gun violence, or protect their constituents’ civil liberties.

Fitzpatrick’s 27 bills include bipartisan proposals to prohibit the sale of items manufactured from kangaroo parts and to prohibit foreign money being spent to advocate for or against a ballot initiative or referendum. He has also proposed bills to strip federal funds from localities that opt to reduce spending on their police departments and to require strict photo IDs for voting in federal elections, even for mail-in ballots, and eliminating grace periods for mail-in ballots to be received after the polls close on Election Day.

John Joyce has introduced 12 bills, several of which would roll back environmental protections: One would effectively exempt combustion engines from the Clean Air Act, one would exempt broadband facilities from environmental or historic preservation laws, one would allow more air pollution from facilities deemed critical energy resources, and one would speed up the completion of a new natural gas pipeline. Another bill would make it illegal to market nondairy products as “milk” or “yogurt.”

Kelly’s 13 bills include a tax deduction for people who join risky religious health care cost-sharing groups, a reduction in how much information tax-exempt political groups must report to the Internal Revenue Service about their funding, a delay in when the IRS gets funding to modernize its enforcement operations, and a national ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

Of the 17 bills Meuser has filed, one would rename a local post office, two would stop IRS employees from teleworking, two would require government studies of the “detrimental impact” of a directive on corporate sustainability on U.S. businesses, and one would eliminate environmental excise taxes on lead oxide, antimony, and sulfuric acid in an effort to boost domestic battery production.

Scott Perry has proposed 18 bills. Most of them aim to eliminate clean energy and climate change resilience efforts by cutting funds for transit development, streetcars, electric ferries, and clean energy vehicles and withdrawing the nation from the United Nations Paris climate accords. Another would add requirements to the process of taking firearms away from people diagnosed with mental illnesses.

Reschenthaler’s five bills include a tax credit for domestic producers of rare earth magnets, the defunding of an organization that studies bat coronaviruses, and a commemorative coin honoring golfer Arnold Palmer.

Of the eight bills proposed by Smucker, one would make permanent a tax deduction for corporations, one would allow tax-exempt health savings account funds to be used to pay for membership in concierge medical practices, and one would require the Treasury Department to create a report about the national debt every time the nation’s debt limit is raised.

Glenn “GT” Thompson has proposed nine bills, including one to establish a system of regulation of cryptocurrency trading, one to allow a second jury to be empaneled in criminal cases in which punishment may include the death penalty if the first one does not vote unanimously on a penalty, and one to serve whole milk in school cafeterias.

None of their proposed bills has become law so far in the current Congress.

As lawmakers return from the August recess, Republican members reportedly plan to spend the fall on another showdown over whether to shut down the government; an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden; and an unconstitutional scheme to expunge former President Donald Trump’s impeachments.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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