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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tuesdays with Toomey takes on gun control

Posted By on Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 5:31 PM

Shuana Gibson closes out today's event - CP PHOTO BY REBECCA ADDISON
  • CP photo by Rebecca Addison
  • Shuana Gibson closes out today's event
If it's a Tuesday afternoon, you can usually find a group of at least a dozen protesters outside of the Downtown Pittsburgh office of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). The group has been meeting at the senator's office over the past year to champion causes like healthcare and environmental regulations.

At today's installment of Tuesdays with Toomey, the issue was gun control. The event was one of thousands that have occurred around the country in response to the recent massacre in Las Vegas, where 58 people were killed and more than 500 were injured.

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

U.S. Rep Tim Murphy, who allegedly urged mistress to have an abortion, just voted to restrict abortions

Posted By on Wed, Oct 4, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Tim Murphy
  • Tim Murphy
On the afternoon of Oct. 3, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette broke a story of how Shannon Edwards, a Pittsburgh forensic psychologist and the admitted mistress of U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair), alleged in a Facebook post that the congressmen urged her to get an abortion when the two had a pregnancy scare. Edwards appeared upset that Murphy's Facebook page was filled with pro-life messaging.

Murphy responded to Edwards' post in a text message, obtained by the PG, saying "I get what you say about my March for life messages. I've never written them. Staff does them. I read them and winced. I told staff don't write any more. I will."

And just two hours after this story broke, Murphy voted yes for a bill that would make it illegal for women to get abortions after they are pregnant for 20 weeks. The bill, HR 36, passed the U.S. House by a 237-189 margin. If it passes the Senate and is signed by President Donald Trump, the bill says that "a violator is subject to criminal penalties—a fine, up to five years in prison, or both." The Trump administration supports the bill and as said it "will help to facilitate a culture of life," according to the Huffington Post.

Exceptions to the 20-week rule include if the woman was a victim of rape or incest and if the abortion is necessary to save the mother's life.

Murphy's voting record aligns with his most recent vote to restrict women's abortion access. In 2015, he was given a 0 percent rating by the pro-choice organization National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL). And for his 2014 congressional run, he was endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee, Inc., a pro-life group for his "100% pro-life voting record."

In fact, earlier this year Murphy supported HR 7, which would prohibit insurance companies from offering coverage for abortions. Murphy said in a statement in January after the bill passed the U.S. House: “I am so proud the House passed this important bill to clearly stand for the dignity and value of all human life, both the born and the unborn. Passage of H.R. 7 in the wake of the President’s executive action yesterday gives me great hope that moving forward, we will once again be a nation committed to honoring life from the moment of conception onward and ensuring American taxpayer dollars are never spent to end a life before it even begins.”

Sasha Bruce, Senior VP for Campaigns and Strategy of NARAL, said Murphy's vote on HR 36, and many of his other votes, is the "height of hypocrisy."

“I wish it were shocking to learn that yet another Republican congressman tried to cover up an affair by invoking the same abortion rights he tries to deny to others," wrote in an email to City Paper. "You shouldn’t have to be a member of Congress just to access your right to abortion. With his personal and public actions, Congressman Murphy has shown that he seeks to control women in every facet of his life, be it to cover up an affair or to deny all Americans the right to legal abortion."

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Every Democratic Pennsylvania Congressman supports single-payer health care

Posted By on Tue, Sep 19, 2017 at 5:23 PM

  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Mike Doyle
Republicans in the U.S. Senate are currently in the throes of another attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, this time behind a bill written by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.). International financial-research firm Fitch Ratings calls this attempt “the most disruptive repeal plan to date” as it would end protections for people with pre-existing conditions and would lead to a large reduction in Medicaid funding. Several GOP senators have shared concerns about this bill, including Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Lehigh), but only one, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) is a hard no, leaving the door open to the 50 votes necessary for a repeal.

All Senate Democrats are, unsurprisingly, opposed to this bill, and a growing share of them are actually offering their support to the near opposite of the GOP’s health-care bill: a single-payer health-care law. Single-payer would provide health-care coverage to everyone in a program similar to Medicare, which is available only to seniors. The left wing of the Democratic Party is abuzz with news that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) “Medicare for All” bill has garnered the support of 16 Democratic senators, more than a third of Senate Democrats, but notably, not Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey (D-Scranton).

But under the radar, support for a single-payer plan has been steadily growing in the U.S. House, with a majority of house Democrats supporting it, including every U.S. congressperson from Pennsylvania.

U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) has introduced his Medicare for All bill in every session of the U.S. House since the 108th U.S. Congress in 2003. It started with only 39 co-sponsors, and only one from Pennsylvania, former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Phila.). In 2005, Conyers' bill received 79 co-sponsors, including three Pennsylvania reps, including U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Forest Hills).

In an interview with Pittsburgh City Paper, Doyle said his support for Conyers' single-payer bill doesn’t mean he supports repealing the ACA. “I don’t want us to lose focus on stabilizing the ACA first,” said Doyle. “But it makes no sense to me that our country does not provide a basic set of benefits for everyone.”

Since 2005, Doyle has co-sponsored Conyers' bill every session, and support for the bill has only grown since. Conyers' most recent version, introduced in January, now has 118 co-sponsors, which is more than 60 percent of House Democrats. Doyle, along with Bob Brady (D-Phila.), Brendan Boyle (D-Phila.), Matthew Cartwright (D-Lackawanna) and Dwight Evans (D-Phila.) form Pennsylvania’s House support for single-payer health care. This group constitutes all five Democratic members of Pennsylvania's U.S. House representation.

Doyle said people should not be afraid of the term single-payer, since Conyers' bill will still provide a market for people who want to purchase supplemental private insurance. Doyle said he doesn’t agree with everything in Conyers' bill, but backs it because he believes everyone is entitled to health coverage, and that a serious discussion should take place on how to achieve that goal.

He said it makes more business sense to have a single-payer system, since many people without health insurance receive treatment in emergency rooms, instead of from primary-care physicians.

“We kind of have single-payer now, it’s called the emergency room, and we are paying five times as much compared to primary care,” said Doyle. “The reality is that every American should have access to a primary-care doctor. And no one should suffer catastrophic loss of money due to health care.”

Doyle said he doesn't understand the demagoguery around single-payer, particularly because Medicare, a single-payer system for seniors, has pretty widespread support. “You don't hear Republicans saying Medicare is a horrible thing and we should abolish it,” said Doyle.

He believes that as the single-payer discussion continues, the approach will become more popular. According to a June Pew Research poll, 33 percent of Americans now support single-payer health care, compared with 21 percent in March 2014. The poll also indicated that a majority of likely Democratic voters (52 percent) support single-payer.

“The more people understand it, the more they realize it is a good way forward,” said Doyle.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Angry constituents work over Pittsburgh-area Pa. Rep Daryl Metcalfe on social media after anti-Labor Day diatribe

Posted By on Mon, Sep 11, 2017 at 5:15 PM

Daryl Metcalfe
  • Daryl Metcalfe
Pennsylvania state representative Daryl Metcalfe (R-Cranberry) has been known to take on many controversial topics. He regular shouts criticisms of “anchor babies,” gay tourists, and people who warn of the dangers of climate change. Serving as a state representative since 1999, Metcalfe has been spouting far-right views since before Breitbart existed. In fact, Metcalfe once claimed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he “was a Tea Partier before it was cool."

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Protesters gather in Pittsburgh area and Washington, D.C. to defend DACA

Posted By on Wed, Sep 6, 2017 at 5:33 PM

Pittsburghers marching in Washington, D.C. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MONICA RUIZ
  • Photo courtesy of Monica Ruiz
  • Pittsburghers marching in Washington, D.C.
On Sept. 5, about 60 people took a bus from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., to protest President Donald Trump’s rollback of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). One of them was Monica Ruiz, an organizer with Latino-rights organization Casa San Jose.

In an interview with Pittsburgh City Paper on Sept. 6, Ruiz said it was an emotional day for the travelers, who were comprised primarily of Latino DACA recipients and their families and friends.

“It was very emotional, many were crying and their parents were crying,” said Ruiz. “For one parent, it was the first time she heard her son talk about his future and his dreams.”

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Where Southwestern Pennsylvania's U.S. congressmen stand on DACA

Posted By on Thu, Aug 31, 2017 at 5:30 PM

Young Pittsburgh immigrants and Dreamers march in a protest in February - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Young Pittsburgh immigrants and Dreamers march in a protest in February
President Donald Trump has already rolled back several Obama-era rules in his short term, and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program seems to be next on the chopping block. Several large media organizations have reported Trump will likely end the program that provides work visas and safety from deportation to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as young children. Several Republican lawmakers have been requesting it for years. In fact, 10 Republican state attorneys general sent a letter to Trump requesting that he rescind DACA by Sept. 5, or they will challenge the order in court. (It should be noted that 20 Democrats and state attorneys general, including Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro, signed a letter to Trump in support of maintaining DACA.)

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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Local environmentalist John Stolz throws hat into 12th District race against Rep. Keith Rothfus

Posted By on Thu, Aug 24, 2017 at 12:33 PM

  • Photo courtesy of campaign
  • John Stolz
Last month, Duquesne University professor and director of Duquesne’s Center for Environmental Research and Education John Stolz officially launched his campaign for Pennsylvania’s 12th U.S. House district; he is the fourth official candidate to challenge incumbent Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley). The other candidates, all Democrats, are Aaron Anthony (from Shaler), Tom Prigg (McCandless) and Elizabeth Tarasi (Sewickley).

Stolz, a Democrat from Shaler, is an expert on the effects of natural-gas drilling, or fracking, in Southwestern Pennsylvania. He says he believes his environmental background is key to representing the district, and believes a focus on green energy can lead to what the 12th District needs most: jobs. (While the 12th-district unemployment rate is on par with the state average of 5.4 percent, in many towns the figure is higher, including Ambridge, at 6.4 percent, and Johnstown, at about 8 percent.)

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Pennsylvania politicians sound off on Trump’s latest Charlottesville comments, others silent

Posted By on Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 5:00 PM

  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Bob Casey
On Aug. 15, President Donald Trump backtracked on earlier statements solely condemning white supremacists and neo-Nazis for violence in the aftermath of a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Trump's initial statement on Aug. 12 blamed "many sides" for the violence. Then on Aug. 14, Trump said, “Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

But, during the Aug. 15 press event at Trump Tower in New York City, where the president was scheduled to discuss infrastructure, Trump instead attacked the “alt-left” and assigned just as much, if not more, blame to the counter-protesters.

“What about the alt-left that came charging at, as you so say, the alt-right. Do they have any semblance of guilt? … You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” said Trump.

In response to Trump’s latest comments, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Scranton) condemned Trump for trying to compare the actions of hate groups to the actions of counter-protesters. Casey was in Pittsburgh on Aug. 16 to discuss trade at the Steelworkers Building Downtown and spoke with reporters about Trump’s comments.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Southwestern Pennsylvania Republicans are taking heat for condemning neo-Nazis

Posted By on Mon, Aug 14, 2017 at 6:33 PM

The top comment responding to TIm Murphy's post condemning white supremacy is critical of that view. - IMAGE COURTESY OF FACEBOOK
  • Image courtesy of Facebook
  • The top comment responding to TIm Murphy's post condemning white supremacy is critical of that view.
The Aug. 12 death of Heather Heyer and injuries to several counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Va. following a gathering of Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and white nationalists has caused a political firestorm. A car, allegedly driven by James Fields, an Ohio man with ties to neo-Nazi groups, drove into a crowd of counter-protesters and killed Heyer. Before the death, white-nationalist protesters and counter-protesters, including members of Black Lives Matter and Antifa, an anti-fascist group, clashed and beat each other with flagpoles and clubs, but it's unclear what or who instigated the brawl.

After the dust had settled, President Donald Trump made a statement on Aug. 12 from his golf club in New Jersey and said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides. It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, this has been going on for a long, long time.”

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Friday, August 11, 2017

FairDistricts PA will fight gerrymandering with week of educational events and campaign for voting reform

Posted By on Fri, Aug 11, 2017 at 5:35 PM

This map shows the 2012 redistricting of Senate District 28 - © 2012 GOOGLE
  • © 2012 Google
  • This map shows the 2012 redistricting of Senate District 28
According to a report released in May, Pennsylvania is among the three worst gerrymandered states in the country. And others say Pennsylvania is the most gerrymandered it has ever been.

But what is gerrymandering, and how does it impact elections and local politics? Next week, local organizers will attempt to answer these questions and more with a series of events around the city.

"Gerrymandering is a little complicated, a little wonky," says Kitsy McNulty, coordinator of the Pittsburgh Local Group of FairDistricts PA. But essentially the term refers to the practice of manipulating voting-district boundaries in order to benefit a particular political party or candidate.

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