Tuesday, February 9, 2016

POSTED: Wednesday, January 13, 2016, 4:17 PM

WASHINGTON – President Obama didn’t name names when he called for an end to gerrymandering in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night – but if he did, Pennsylvania would have been a top contender.

Since the last round of redistricting, after the 2010 Census, the state’s congressional map has been widely cited as one of the country’s most heavily gerrymandered – the term for when legislative maps are drawn to favor one party, either in a particular district or across an entire state.

One Washington Post analysis put the Delaware County-based 7th in the nation’s top 10 most rigged congressional districts, based on its sprawling outline as it spreads across five counties.

POSTED: Tuesday, January 12, 2016, 11:59 PM
“I was disappointed because I don’t think the president addressed substantively the two big categories of challenges that we have as a country,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.). (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – Local lawmakers’ reactions to President Obama’s final State of the Union speech were as divided as the uneven applause during the address.

While Democrats hailed progress during the president’s first seven years and his optimistic outlook, Republicans said the speech underplayed the country’s lingering problems and didn’t offer solutions.

Both arguments, of course, play into the messages the party’s plan to carry to this fall’s presidential race: Democrats making the case to continue their stewardship, and Republicans arguing that it is time to change directions.

POSTED: Tuesday, January 12, 2016, 11:44 PM
Vice President Joe Biden arrives before the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill January 12, 2016 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Evan Vucci - Pool/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – Vice President Biden will launch his effort to find a cure for cancer Friday in Philadelphia, with a visit to Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center at the school’s Perelman School of Medicine.

Biden announced the visit in an online post Tuesday night, when the call to cure the disease was one of the highlights of President Obama’s State of the Union speech.

“It’s personal for me. But it’s also personal for nearly every American, and millions of people around the world,” said Biden’s post on Medium. The vice president’s son Beau died of brain cancer at the age of 46 last year.

POSTED: Tuesday, January 12, 2016, 7:03 PM

WASHINGTON – Even before President Obama delivered his final State of the Union address Tuesday night, local lawmakers delivered starkly different perspectives on his legacy and whether it is something for the next president to build on, or dismantle.

The views from two Pennsylvania senators – Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Pat Toomey – illustrated the political divide that has persisted throughout Obama’s tenure ahead of a speech in which the president is expected to highlight some of the successes of his tenure, and point to his vision for continuing progress.

“We were in a lot worse shape in 2009 than we are now,” Casey said in an interview, reflecting on the recovery from the depths of the economic collapse that preceded Obama. In the last quarter before the president took office and his first quarter in the White House, the country hemorrhaged four million jobs, he said.

POSTED: Friday, January 8, 2016, 4:16 PM
Braddock Mayor John Fetterman and wife Gisele discuss his Senate campaign. ((MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer))

WASHINGTON – The new year has brought a fresh wave of activity in this year’s Pennsylvania Senate race – and a surprising assessment from the commonwealth’s Democratic chairman, who said Braddock Mayor John Fetterman could give the party its best chance to win.

The chairman, Marcel Groen, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Thursday that Fetterman would “be the toughest candidate” in a general election matchup against Sen. Pat Toomey, the Republican incumbent.

“In a society looking for different, he could catch on,” Groen told the paper – though he also played up Katie McGinty’s establishment support and Joe Sestak’s grassroots backing, and said the party was unlikely to pick sides in the primary.

POSTED: Tuesday, January 5, 2016, 3:00 PM
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey (left) and President Obama. (File photos)

WASHINGTON – Democrats running for Senate in Pennsylvania quickly applauded President Obama’s executive actions Tuesday to expand background checks for firearm sales and strengthen enforcement of gun laws, while pressing the incumbent Republican, Sen. Pat Toomey, to do the same.

Toomey, though, drew a line between his support for more background checks and Obama’s executive maneuvers.

“The president needs to follow the law,” Toomey said in a conference call with reporters.

POSTED: Monday, January 4, 2016, 5:15 PM

WASHINGTON – A Pennsylvania congressional candidate hoping to make a splash this fall has changed her mind about where to run.

Democrat Lindy Li now plans to run in the Chester County-based sixth district, after beginning her campaign last summer for the seat in the Delaware County-based seventh. That means Li hopes to challenge freshman Republican Ryan Costello, rather than third-term Republican Pat Meehan.

Li’s move comes a little more than a month after national Democrats recruited another candidate, Bill Golderer, to run in the seventh district, and as a national pick in the sixth district, Mike Parrish, struggles. Her shift adds to the unsettled Democratic picture as the party tries to unseat Costello in the moderate district.

POSTED: Friday, December 18, 2015, 12:26 PM
Sen. Pat Toomey (left) and Rep. Pat Meehan. (File photos)

WASHINGTON – Rep. Pat Meehan, a Delaware County Republican, was the sole congressman from the Philadelphia area to oppose a $1.1 trillion spending package that cleared the House and Senate Friday, warning that a key policy rider within it could hurt the region’s oil refineries, which employ thousands in the area.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R. Pa.), criticizing the spending included in the measure, was the area’s only senator to vote against the bill, which won broad, bipartisan support in both the House and Senate and will fund the government for the next fiscal year.

Leaders in both chambers hailed the plan as a sweeping compromise that will avert the fiscal stand-offs of years past.

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.

Reach Jonathan at jtamari@phillynews.com.

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