Friday, November 27, 2015

POSTED: Tuesday, November 24, 2015, 12:28 PM
John Fetterman , here with wife Gisele, is seeking a U.S. Senate seat. He is the mayor of Braddock, Pa. ((MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer))

WASHINGTON – As anti-immigration fervor and security fears course through the Republican presidential primary – and the response to the Paris terrorist attacks -- Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman has launched a video highlighting his wife’s arrival in the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant.

“We as a society take a step backwards if we do anything but embrace the people that are here and create effective laws and paths to citizenship for people coming into our country,” Fetterman says in the video, posted as a clear retort to the rhetoric in the GOP presidential race and last week’s bipartisan House vote to slow the arrival of Syrian refugees.

“Politicians like U.S. Senators Pat Toomey and Ted Cruz are anti-immigrant,” reads the opening shot of the roughly one-minute video. Toomey, Pennsylvania’s incumbent Republican, whom Democrats hope to beat next year, joined the calls last week to halt the intake of Syrian refugees, saying U.S. security must take priority.

POSTED: Wednesday, November 18, 2015, 11:22 AM
Gov. Wolf rejected their arguments. His office cited a letter he sent Tuesday to state lawmakers making similar demands. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ/Staff Photographer)

WASHINGTON – Ten Pennsylvania Congressmen – nearly the entire Republican delegation -- wrote to Gov. Wolf Tuesday urging him to stop accepting Syrian refugees as an emotional debate infused by security fears, sympathy for people fleeing for their lives and raw politics continued to rage.

“In the midst of a highly volatile and potential threat against the homeland, our nation has an obligation to protect American citizens from those who seek to take advantage of our generosity at the expense of innocent lives,” said the letter, led by Rep. Tim Murphy, from outside Pittsburgh.

Among the signatories were all three Republicans who represent the immediate Philadelphia suburbs: Ryan Costello, of Chester County, Mike Fitzpatrick, of Bucks, and Pat Meehan, of Delaware County. Ten of the state’s 13 House Republicans, but no Democrats, signed the letter.

POSTED: Monday, November 16, 2015, 7:24 PM
Sen. Pat Toomey (left) and Gov. Chris Christie are among Republicans that want to bar Syrian refugees from entering the U.S.. (File photos)

WASHINGTON – Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) called for barring Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. Monday, joining a host of Republicans – including Gov. Christie -- urging new restrictions in the aftermath of Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

The stand, which spread rapidly through Republican ranks Monday, drew sharp condemnations from President Obama and Toomey’s potential Democratic opponents in next year’s election, who urged sympathy for people fleeing ISIS. So did Gov. Wolf.

Congressional Republicans, however, citing national security concerns, considered flexing their muscles to stop any influx of Syrian refugees.

POSTED: Monday, November 16, 2015, 3:44 PM
Bill Golderer, a pastor who has founded or revitalized two churches in Center City, is running for Congress in the Delaware County-based 7th district, hoping to take on incumbent Republican, Rep. Pat Meehan. (File photo)

WASHINGTON -- Bill Golderer, a pastor who has founded or revitalized two churches in Center City, is running for Congress in the Delaware County-based 7th district, hoping to win the Democratic nomination to take on the incumbent Republican, Rep. Pat Meehan.

Golderer, 45, has never run for office before, but said public service would be an extension of his work helping people in need.

"I feel like this is an evolution of my current work, trying to see if I can make a difference in a body that I think a lot of people have written off as being kind of dysfunctional," Golderer said in a telephone interview Monday.

POSTED: Friday, November 6, 2015, 2:55 PM
Rep. Joe Pitts of Chester County (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Joe Pitts of Chester County, the senior Pennsylvania Republican in Congress, will not seek re-election next year, he announced Friday.

Pitts, now in his 10th term representing a district that includes parts of Chester, Berks and Lancaster counties, said little about his reasons for leaving. He is the chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees health policy, but he was slated to lose his gavel in the next Congress due to Republicans’ self-imposed term limits on committee leadership.

“With great appreciation for the support of all those who have contacted me to urge me to run for re-election, I have decided, after prayerful consideration, not to seek re-election to the U.S. Congress in 2016,” Pitts said in his release. He pledged to continue working on issues related to human rights and religious freedom.

POSTED: Thursday, November 5, 2015, 3:57 PM
A SEPTA Regional Rail train passes a sign marking the start during testing of the Positive Train Control system on May 20, 2015, at the Frazer Train Yard in Malvern. (Joseph Kaczmarek/For The Inquirer)

WASHINGTON – Promising an “aggressive posture,” the head of the agency overseeing railroads urged them Thursday to install a mandated safety system as soon as possible, even after Congress last week pushed the deadline back to 2018.

The safety system, Positive Train Control (PTC), was supposed to be in place by the end of this year, and could prevent crashes like the Amtrak derailment in May that killed eight in Philadelphia. But with railroads behind schedule, Congress gave them three more years, with extensions possible until 2020.

“As railroads contemplate the new PTC deadline, I would urge them to view that new date – three years from now – as the absolute latest moment for implementation. Do not make it your goal, please, to be the last one to cross the finish line in December of 2018,” Sarah Feinberg, the newly-confirmed administrator of the Federal Rail Administration, said in a speech to officials representing railroads and related groups. “Make it your goal to beat the deadline, by as much as possible, and as safely and efficiently as possible. The public deserves it, your shareholders deserve it, and the Congress expects it.”

POSTED: Friday, October 30, 2015, 11:41 AM
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. (MARK WILSON / Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) voted against the two-year spending package that passed the Senate early Friday morning, holding to his position as a fiscal hawk and blasting the new spending included while bringing attacks from Democrats -- who said his vote threatened a default on the country's debt and showed that he is unwilling to compromise.

The arguments foreshadowed the battle ahead in Toomey's re-election bid next year, expected to be one of the toughest campaigns in the country.

Toomey joined most Republicans in opposing the bipartisan plan, which passed 64-35 with support from every Senate Democrat and 18 Republicans. Congressional leaders in both parties, and President Obama, hailed the two-year deal as a way to avert the budget showdowns that have so often paralyzed Washington and to raise the government’s borrowing limit without the drama – and threat of a default -- that has accompanied similar moves in recent years.

POSTED: Monday, October 26, 2015, 2:04 PM
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the Democratic National Committee's Women's Leadership Forum's 22nd annual conference in Washington October 23, 2015. (REUTERS/Gary Cameron)

WASHINGTON – When Joe Biden announced last week that he wouldn’t run for president, it wasn’t just Hillary Clinton who breathed a sigh of relief.

So did many Democrats from the Philadelphia area.

Clinton, after all, has many of Pennsylvania's leading Democreats in her corner. But a run by the Scranton-born Biden, who long represented neighboring Delaware and is a familiar face along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, would have created a dilemma for those still on the fence.

About this blog

Jonathan Tamari is the Inquirer’s Washington correspondent. He writes about the lawmakers, politics and policy that affect Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Tamari previously covered the Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL. Before that he worked in Trenton, reporting on the characters and color of New Jersey state government. He lives in Washington.

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