Saturday, December 20, 2014

POSTED: Tuesday, December 2, 2014, 12:11 PM

WASHINGTON – In the afterglow of Republicans’ Election Day romp – and facing a challenging campaign of his own in two years’ time – Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) said his focus would be on progress and “being productive.”

But there are apparently some strings attached.

Toomey and some of the Senate’s most outspoken conservatives – including Ted Cruz (R., Tex.) and Rand Paul (R., Ky.) -- sent a letter to colleagues in late November saying they would block any bills that aren’t on their desks and available for review by 5 p.m. Friday, one week before Congress is set to wrap up its work for the year.

POSTED: Friday, November 21, 2014, 11:41 AM
Congressman Patrick Meehan ( Michael S. Wirtz / Staff Photographer /File)

WASHINGTON – Pat Meehan is taking a step up.

The Republican Congressman from Delaware County has been appointed to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, his office announced Friday, giving him a spot on an A-list panel that oversees tax policy.

Meehan will replace fellow Republican Jim Gerlach, of Chester County, ensuring that the region retains some say on the influential committee. Gerlach did not seek re-election.  

POSTED: Thursday, November 20, 2014, 8:17 PM

WASHINGTON – Local Republicans blasted President Obama for showing “hubris” and exceeding his authority Thursday, saying his executive actions on immigration would undermine hope of finding a bipartisan deal to repair the nation’s immigration system.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) called the president’s Thursday night announcement his “latest overreach.”

“America’s immigration system is badly broken and cries out for reform,” Toomey said in a news release, but he said Obama’s “legally unauthorized actions” aren't the answer, “and could encourage even more illegal immigration.” 

POSTED: Thursday, November 20, 2014, 2:58 PM

WASHINGTON – Federal judges for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and for the District of New Jersey won final Senate approval Thursday.

Wendy Beetlestone, a Philadelphia attorney and former lawyer for the city’s school district, was approved in a voice vote to become a judge in the Eastern District Pennsylvania. Madeline Cox Arleo, a federal magistrate judge from West Caldwell, was also approved in a voice vote to become a federal judge in New Jersey.

Beetlestone, 53, was the Philadelphia School District's general counsel from 2002 to 2005. Since then she has led the education law practice at the Center City firm Hangley, Aronchick, Segal, Pudlin & Schiller. Born in Nigeria and raised in the United Kingdom, Beetlestone earned her law degree from Penn in 1993.

"Beetlestone’s experience as a litigator and expert on education law along with her prior service as a solicitor for the Philadelphia School District will prepare her well for her next role as a federal judge,” Casey said in a joint news release with Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.).
POSTED: Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 5:39 PM

WASHINGTON – Sixteen Pennsylvania Congressmen wrote the NCAA Wednesday challenging the college sports association to drop all remaining sanctions on Penn State, citing controversial e-mails that have emerged about the penalties imposed after the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

The letter was led by two Penn State alums – U.S. Reps. Charlie Dent, an Allentown Republican, and Glenn Thompson, a Republican from Centre County – and signed by nearly all of the state’s 18 members of Congress, including Philadelphia Democrats Bob Brady and Chaka Fattah and suburban Republicans Mike Fitzpatrick, Jim Gerlach and Pat Meehan.

“From examining these emails, it is clear that the NCAA lacked any credible basis to impose sanctions. Instead of enforcing the rules laid out in your bylaws, the NCAA sought to insert itself into a purely criminal matter that fell outside the scope of the NCAA’s jurisdiction,” the letter said.

POSTED: Tuesday, November 18, 2014, 6:38 PM

WASHINGTON – Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) split with most other Democrats to vote in favor of a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline Tuesday, even though President Obama had signaled his intention to veto the measure.

Casey “believes that the project could create jobs and bolster energy security,” said a spokesman for the senator, John Rizzo. “He believes we must continue to grow the domestic energy supply to fuel the economy and increase our energy independence.”

Casey was one of 14 Democrats to vote in favor of the bill, along with 45 Republicans. But the 59 “yeas” fell one short of the 60 needed to clear Senate procedural hurdles.

POSTED: Tuesday, November 18, 2014, 1:57 PM

WASHINGTON – Six days into his new job, U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (D., N.J.) has his first big appointment.

The Camden County Democrat has been named one of two freshmen on House Democrats’ Steering and Policy Committee, a panel that advises the caucus on its policy positions and helps determine committee assignments -- a key piece of Congress' inside game. The appointment was made by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.).

Norcross, in an interview, said he had lobbied his colleagues for the post and was glad to land it, although it adds to an already busy transition from state Senate seat to Congress. He was sworn in in Washington Wednesday.

POSTED: Monday, November 17, 2014, 6:00 PM

WASHINGTON – Five Southeast Pennsylvania Republicans urged President Obama Monday to press for a deal that that prevents Iran from ever obtaining nuclear weapons, rather than just stalling Tehran’s progress, in a joint letter on the ongoing negotiations.

“The objective of any agreement should be to prevent – not delay – an nuclear Iran,” said the letter  from U.S. Reps. Charlie Dent (of Lehigh County), Mike Fitzpatrick (of Bucks County), Jim Gerlach (of Chester County) and Pat Meehan (of Delaware County). They were joined by Congressman-elect Ryan Costello, a Chester County commissioner who won the race to replace Gerlach, who is retiring.

For Costello, who until this point in his public career has dealt with local issues, the letter would appear to be his first major statement on foreign affairs since winning election Nov. 4.

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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