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Toomey, Casey sound off on federal gov’t spending bill

The U.S. Senate approved a $1.1 trillion spending plan that will keep most of the federal government open through September. The 56-to-40 vote Saturday night followed bipartisan passage of the bill in the U.S. House two nights prior.

Both Pennsylvania senators supported the bill.

Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, said the bill was not perfect, but included a number of provisions he had fought to support. They included investments in the Delaware River deepening project, National Institutes of Health, Head Start and community development block grants, among others.

“While I don’t like the way it came together, strongly disagree with parts of it, and believe we have to do better — I also have an obligation to look at the package as a whole,” Casey said in a statement. “Taken in totality, this bill will help create and protect jobs in Pennsylvania and will prevent another government shutdown.”

Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, praised the bill for “essentially freezing government spending.” He listed several provisions as important, including exemptions to the Affordable Care Act, increased investment for Alzheimer’s research, decreased IRS spending and the establishment of funding levels for the Veterans Employment and Training Service.

“In addition to stopping a number of job-killing regulations and taxes, this funding measure will help our veterans and troops, victims of child abuse and domestic violence, and researchers who are leading the fight against Alzheimer’s,” Toomey said in a statement. “I also am pleased that this bill exempts about 400,000 people from Obamacare. This is a significant step toward dismantling this terrible law altogether.”

During the approval process, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, raised a point of order questioning the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s authority to defer deportations for undocumented immigrants. Toomey was among 20 Republicans who joined Democrats in rejecting that.

“As for the point of order regarding the bill’s constitutionality, I voted to waive it because this legislation does not violate the Constitution,” Toomey said. “Like many Americans, I believe that President Obama’s executive amnesty represents a dangerous executive overreach. But there is a difference between a bill to fund the government, and a president violating the law. Funding the government is constitutional.”

Both U.S. Congressman representing Delaware County — Reps. Bob Brady, D-1, of Philadelphia, and Pat Meehan, R-7, of Upper Darby, voted in favor of the bill when it passed the House on Thursday.


Meehan-sponsored homeland security bills sent to President

A trio of homeland security bills sponsored by U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan have passed Congress and are headed to President Barack Obama’s desk.

The bi-partisan legislation includes two bills aimed at preventing cyberattacks and another that seeks to better protect chemical facilities from terrorist attacks.

Meehan, R-7, of Upper Darby, called the passage of the bills “important steps forward in improving our nation’s security.”

“The House and Senate passed legislation, and Republicans and Democrats worked together to compromise and find areas of agreement,” Meehan said in a statement. “The result: groundbreaking cybersecurity legislation that protects our nation’s critical infrastructure from cyberattack, and legislation that will improve security at chemical facilities.”

As chairman of the House Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies, Meehan played a key role in developing each of the bills passed.

The National Cybersecurity Protection Act of 2014 codifies the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center at the Department of Homeland Security and its existing cybersecurity responsibilities. The legislation was a Senate companion bill to a House Resolution Meehan sponsored.

The Cybersecurity Workforce Assessment Act requires the secretary of Homeland Security to assess and enhance the department’s cybersecurity workforce. The Protecting and Securing Chemical Facilities from Terrorist Acts of 2014 reauthorizes the Chemical Facilities Antiterrorism Standards program, providing guidelines to improve its operation, measure progress and enhance security. Meehan sponsored each of these bills.


Brady, Meehan lead opponents in campaign fundraising

Here’s a quick look at the most recent campaign finance reports submitted by the four candidates seeking to represent Delaware County in the U.S. House of Representatives. Campaign finance reports were due to the Federal Election Commission on July 15. The cycle documented all campaign money raised and spent from May 1 through June 30.  Links to the candidates’ July quarterly reports are included.

First Congressional District
Incumbent Bob Brady, a Democrat from Philadelphia, has $759,773 in hand after collecting $62,155 in campaign funds during the cycle. Of Brady’s funds, $55,400 came from political action committees. Another $6,700 came from individuals, including $300 worth of unitemized donations. Brady spent $71,064, including $35,889 on operating expenses.

Republican challenger Megan Rath, of Philadelphia, has $14,216 in hand after raising $16,256 in campaign funds. All of her funding came from individual donors and included $4,442 worth of unitemized contributions. She spent $3,040, all on operating expenses.

Seventh Congressional District
Incumbent Pat Meehan, a Republican from Upper Darby, has $1.775 million in hand, having generated $243,600 in campaign funding during the cycle. Meehan raised $211,000 from political action committees and another $31,150 from individuals, including $300 in unitemized donations. He spent $77,602, including $58,602 on operating expenses.

Democratic challenger Mary Ellen Balchunis, of Ardmore, has $9,976 in hand. She raised $15,310 during the last cycle — $14,310 of it coming from individuals, including $4,395 in unitemized contributions. She spent $17,941, all on operating expenses.

Minimum wage bill fails to gain necessary support in Senate

Democrats in the U.S. Senate were unable to drum up the support needed today to vote on legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage – a top priority of President Barack Obama.

The Minimum Wage Fairness Act failed to receive the 60 votes necessary to begin debate on the Senate floor. The Senate voted 54-42 in a test vote.

The Minimum Wage Fairness Act gradually would increase the $7.25 minimum wage to $10.10 over 30 months. Automatic annual increases would follow to adjust for inflation.

Democrats argue that increasing the minimum wage will lift people above the poverty line. Republicans claim the increase would be too expensive for employers and result in lost jobs.

In a survey released in February, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would eliminate 500,000 jobs but also increase the wages of 16.5 million people.

U.S. Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., said enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) would decrease in Pennsylvania by 156,000 recipients, including 5,600 in Delaware County. Pennsylvania would save $207.5 million, including $7.5 million in Delco.

“Raising the minimum wage is about basic fairness and economic security for Pennsylvania’s workers and families,” Casey said in a statement.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., released a statement saying he does not support a policy that could put hundreds of thousands of people out of work.

“Even worse, this bill will hit people who have fewer skills and younger workers the hardest – the very people who most need an opportunity to get into the workforce, get their first job and start their way up the economic ladder,” Toomey said.

Toomey said the Senate needs to move ahead on proposals that will put people to work, citing the Keystone XL pipeline, tax reform and federal worker training programs.

Increasing the minimum wage has been among the chief priorities of Senate Democrats, who are in danger of losing their majority in November’s mid-term elections. Had the bill passed the Senate, it was unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

A quick look at Meehan, Balchunis and Brady’s campaign finance reports

The first-quarter campaign finance filing deadline for federal candidates was yesterday. Here’s a quick look at the campaign funding raised by each of Delaware County’s candidates for the House of Representatives.

  • Incumbent Patrick Meehan, R-7, of Upper Darby, reported receiving $149,014 during the first quarter, including $141,575 in campaign contributions. He received $65,575 from individual donors and $76,000 from political action committees. Meehan reported $130,772 in operating expenses, leaving him with $1.6 million at hand.
  • Meehan’s Democratic opponent, Mary Ellen Balchunis, reported receiving $10,119 in campaign contributions, including $8,795 from individual donors. She raised $1,000 from political action committees and $324 from candidate contributions. Balchunis, of Ardmore, reported $506 in operating expenses, leaving her with $9,612 at hand.
  • Incumbent Robert Brady, D-1, of Philadelphia, reported receiving $90,307 during the first quarter, including $90,075 in campaign contributions. Brady received $72,075 from individual donors and $18,000 from political action committees. He reported $65,869 in disbursements, including $62,934 in operating expenses. Brady has $695,640 in hand.
  • Brady’s Republican opponent, Megan Rath, did not file a first-quarter campaign finance report.

Check out the Daily Times later this week for a closer look at the candidates’ reports.

Meehan honored by U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce presented U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-7, of Upper Darby, with its annual Spirit of Enterprise Award last week for his support of pro-growth, pro-jobs policies.

The Chamber cited 13 House bills as critical during the 2013 Legislative Session. Meehan supported the Chamber’s position on 12 of them (92 percent). They included votes to reopen the federal government and raise the national debt ceiling, delay enforcement of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate provision and ease approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Other news and notes:

  • The Delaware County District Attorney’s Office was awarded a Paul Coverdell Forensic Science grant totaling $94,874. The funding is to be used to purchase a ballistic microscope to be used by the Criminal Investigative Division’s laboratory. The funding will be released by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency in April, announced state Rep. Joe Hackett, R-161, of Ridley Township.
  • The Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution condemning the use of performance-enhancing drugs. The resolution was penned by Hackett.
  • Gov. Tom Corbett nominated Wendy B. Roberts, of Garnet Valley, to serve as a Magisterial District Judge in Delaware County, presiding over District 32-2-49. Corbett nominated Steven Bradley, of Sharon Hill, to serve on the Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority. He also confirmed Maceo Davis, of Chadds Ford, and Nathaniel Nichols, of Media, to serve on the Lincoln University Board of Directors. He confirmed Chris Guilday, of Media, as a member of the Navigation Commission for the Delaware River.

Primary ballot shapes up as nominating petitions filed

The official primary ballot began to take shape yesterday, when the deadline passed for candidates to file nominating petitions to get on the ballot.

The Democratic gubernatorial primary race has been well-documented. Tom Wolf, Allyson Schwartz, Rob McCord, Jack Wagner, Katie McGinty and John Hanger each submitted petitions.

However, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett now has a primary challenger. Bob Guzzardi, an Ardmore businessman, has joined the race. More on that challenge here.

Locally, there are two races that will have primary challenges on May 20.

Incumbent state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, D-8, of Philadelphia, will face Christopher Broach, of Colwyn, in the Democratic primary. Williams has been endorsed by the Delaware County Democratic Party.

In the state House, incumbent state Rep. Margo Davidson, D-164, of Upper Darby, is opposed by fellow Democrats Billy J. Smith, of Lansdowne, and Dafan Zhang, of East Lansdowne. Davidson has the party’s endorsement.

Most of the candidates who filed for state House or state Senate already had formally announced their candidacy or received the endorsement of their local party committees. A few Democratic candidates have not formally announced their campaigns.

They include Whitney Hoffman, who is running against Republican state Rep. Stephen Barrar in the 160th Legislative District, and Michelle Vanella-Kudenko, who is opposing Republican state Rep. Nick Miccarrelli in the 162nd Legislative District. Democrat Ian Thomas is challenging Republican state Rep. Tom Killion in the 168th Legislative District.

Here is the complete list of Delaware County candidates who filed nominating petitions to get on the ballot:

State House

159th Legislative District
Michael Ciach, Republican
Thaddeus Kirkland, Democrat (incumbent)

160th Legislative District
Stephen Barrar, Republican (incumbent)
Whitney Hoffman, Democrat

161st Legislative District
Joe Hackett, Republican (incumbent)
Leanne Krueger-Braneky, Democrat

162nd Legislative District
Nick Miccarelli, Republican (incumbent)
Michelle Vanella-Kudenko, Democrat

163rd Legislative District
James Santora, Republican
Vince Rongione, Democrat

164th Legislative District
Saud Siddiqui, Republican
Margo Davidson, Democrat (incumbent)
Billy J. Smith, Democrat
Dafan Zhang, Democrat

165th Legislative District
William Adolph Jr., Republican (incumbent)
Jeremy Fearn, Democrat

166th Legislative District
Sarah Armstrong, Republican
Greg Vitali, Democrat (incumbent)

168th Legislative District
Thomas Killion, Republican (incumbent)
Ian Thomas, Democrat

185th Legislative District
Maria Donatucci, Democrat (incumbent)

191st Legislative District
Ronald Waters, Democrat (incumbent)

State Senate

8th Senatorial District
Anthony Hardy Williams, Democrat (incumbent)
Christopher Broach, Democrat

26th Senatorial District
Thomas McGarrigle, Republican
John Kane, Democrat

U.S. House

1st Congressional District
Megan Rath, Republican
Robert Brady, Democrat (incumbent)

7th Congressional District
Pat Meehan, Republican (incumbent)
Mary Ellen Balchunis, Democrat

U.S. Senate votes against appointing Adegbile to civil rights post

The U.S. Senate voted today against appointing Debo Adegbile as the assistant attorney general for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Justice.

The vote was close. Adegbile’s nomination failed by a 47-52, according to the Washington Post. Eight Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, joined Republicans in opposing Adegbile’s nomination.

Both Pennsylvania Senators, Republican Pat Toomey and Robert Casey, opposed the nomination.

Adegbile’s nomination was controversial due to his involvement as a defense attorney in the appeals process of convicted-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Video: Toomey addresses Senate regarding Justice Dept. nominee

The U.S. Senate is slated to vote this afternoon on the nomination of Debo Adegbile as assistant attorney general for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Justice.

Both Pennsylvania Senators, Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Robert Casey, oppose the nomination of Adegbile.Their opposition was outlined in an earlier blog post.

The Senate will first vote to end the debate on Adegbile’s nomination. A vote to confirm the attorney will follow.

Adegbile has drawn criticism for representing Mumia Abu-Jamal during the convicted-killer’s appeals process.

A video of Toomey addressing the Senate is below.



Toomey urges Senate to vote against Debo Adegbile

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., urged his fellow senators to oppose the appointment of Debo Adegbile as the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights during a conference call this morning.

Adegbile, an attorney, has drawn criticism for representing Mumia Abu-Jamal during the convicted-killer’s appeals process. Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing Daniel Faulkner, a Philadelphia police officer, in 1981. His conviction has garnered considerable controversy; many groups and individuals argue Abu-Jamal did not receive a fair trial.

Abu-Jamal’s death sentence was thrown out in 2001 when a federal judge ruled that instruction to the jury were unconstitutional. Adegbile was part of a team of lawyers that filed a brief with the Supreme Court in 2009 arguing that Abu-Jamal’s conviction was invalid because of racial discrimination during jury selection.

The Senate is scheduled to vote to end the debate on Adegbile’s candidacy tomorrow. A second vote will follow to confirm his selection.

“I think this is a very, very poor choice,” Toomey said. “I have been very aggressively making that case to my colleagues. I hope that he will not be confirmed.”

Toomey said Adegbile chose to devote resources to perpetrating and perpetuating a false narrative about Abu-Jamal, who Toomey labeled a “cold-blooded murderer.”

Asked whether it is fair to penalize Adegbile for providing a convicted-killer with his right to an attorney, Toomey claimed Abu-Jamal attracted “more lawyers than he needed.” Toomey said lawyers were volunteering to associate themselves with a celebrity case.

“There is absolutely no dispute – certainly not in my mind – that an accused person deserves competent defense,” Toomey said. “That is true in the trial stage and that is true in the appellate stage. But that is not what this about.”

Toomey is joined in opposition by U.S. Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa. Toomey said the opposition of Pennsylvania senators will carry some weight, but was not optimistic enough support would be gathered to vote down Adegbile.

Toomey claimed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, enabled appointments to be confirmed without broad support by reducing the threshold needed to confirm a nominee. Previously, 60 votes were necessary; now only 51 are needed.

“This is exactly the danger that the Senate courted when it chose to change the rules so that a simple majority could jam through a confirmation without any input from the minority,” Toomey said. “The president was always under some pressure to find a broadly-supported candidate.”

Toomey has been ardent in his opposition to the appointment of Adegbile, publishing op-eds in various newspapers, including the Delaware County Daily Times.

Casey released a statement last week outlining his opposition of Adegbile’s appointment.

“I believe that every person nominated by the President of the United States for a high level position such as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights should be given fair and thoughtful consideration as senators discharge their responsibility of ‘advise and consent,'” his statement said. “I respect that our system of law ensures the right of all citizens to legal representation no matter how heinous the crime. At the same time, it is important that we ensure that Pennsylvanians and citizens across the country have full confidence in their public representatives – both elected and appointed.

“The vicious murder of Officer Faulkner in the line of duty and the events that followed in the 30 years since his death have left open wounds for Maureen Faulkner and her family as well as the City of Philadelphia. After carefully considering this nomination and having met with both Mr. Adegbile as well as the Fraternal Order of Police, I will not vote to confirm the nominee.”