By Nicholas Riebel ’17, Contributing Writer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Astonishingly, there are a few good Congressmen and Congresswomen serving in Washington D.C. Unfortunately, Republican Representative Joe Pitts is not among them.
I know that Pennsylvania’s (heavily gerrymandered) 16th Congressional District has historically been very conservative and Republican, but things are changing: for example, Barack Obama only lost this district by about five percentage points in 2012 (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pennsylvania’s_16th_congressional_district).
Joe Pitts is proud to be an ultra-conservative, possibly Tea Party-aligned Congressman. He is a good man personally I’m sure, a veteran and family man (http://pitts.house.gov/about-me/full-biography). But can we continue to let him enact this agenda?
A radically anti-choice legislative record? There are far too many to list here, but a few notable ones include: “No family planning assistance that includes abortion. (Jan 2013)… Grant the pre-born equal protection under 14th Amendment. (Jan 2007)… Declare preborn as persons under 14th amendment. (Feb 2009)… Voted YES on banning federal health coverage that includes abortion. (May 2011).”
His homophobic social policies? Look at his votes: “Voted YES on Constitutionally defining marriage as one-man-one-woman. (Jul 2006)… Voted YES on Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage. (Sep 2004)… Voted YES on banning gay adoptions in DC. (Jul 1999)… Rated 0% by the HRC, indicating an anti-gay-rights stance. (Dec 2006)
An anti-women agenda? Look at his votes: “Voted NO on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. (Feb 2013)… Voted NO on prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation. (Nov 2007)… Voted NO on four weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees. (Jun 2009).” (see http://www.ontheissues.org/PA/Joseph_Pitts.htm):
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, read the above link in its entirety for the whole story, including his stances on the Drug War (in favor of continuing it), the environment (against protecting it), climate change (enabler of it, he may not believe it exists, I am not sure on that), campaign finance reform (against), gun control (against) Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (against); the Patriot Act and NSA overreach (in favor of both), the minimum wage (against raising it, may or may not be against the idea itself), continuing our wars in the Middle East (in favor of that), welfare and poverty (against programs to alleviate poverty so that we don’t need welfare), and the separation of church and state (seems to be against). He may sound a centrist and reasonable tone on this issues on his campaign site, but his votes speak louder than his rhetoric.
Joe Pitts has been in politics for most of his life (http://pitts.house.gov/about-me/full-biography), and still hasn’t learned that it isn’t about representing your loyal supporters (the far right). It’s about representing your increasingly moderate district. And his district seems to agree with me: he is still being elected, but by lower margins than in the beginning of his Congressional career. Perhaps several of his recent votes (such as against the Hurricane Sandy Relief bill) are hurting his chances (http://www.politicspa.com/perry-pitts-rothfus-are-pas-republican-resistance/53219/), but I personally think it’s because he still legislates as a far-right conservative extremist, and his constituents increasingly recognize that.
Tom Houghton will a welcome change for our district, a reasonable leader who will work with both sides of the aisle to get things done. As a liberal, I would personally prefer a more left-wing legislator. But Tom Houghton, if elected, will by necessity be a moderate voice in the House: as it is still a center-right district, it’s not as if he can legislate as an uber-liberal if he wants to be re-elected.
Of course, by the end of the decade, and hopefully with fairer redistricting, the 16th district will likely become either much more liberal/Democratic or much more conservative/Republican, and elect someone more reasonable by 2020 or 2022. But why wait? Every Representative in a closely divided Congress matters. If you think the Tea Party and the irrational and bigoted conservative faction deserves more power, then reelect Joe Pitts, who has already broken his promise to serve no more than six terms and is losing his grip on the county regardless (see http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/11/21/166910/-PA-16-Pitts-May-Get-Primary-Challenge). But if you think we can move beyond government shutdowns and GOP melodrama over Obamacare, Benghazi, and whatever crisis they manufacture next, please vote for Tom Houghton for Congress this November.