PA-Sen: “Senate GOP tax bill is a thief in the night that takes away health care, raises taxes”

Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D. PA)

That’s some good fighting words:

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey did not like the Republican tax plan before, but now that it contains a provision to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, he can barely contain his anger about the legislation.

“How many lose coverage and, and, have their taxes increased as a result of this bill?” Casey, D-Scranton, asked during a Wednesday Senate Finance Committee meeting, his voice rising as he spoke. “This should be a question we’re asking!”

Citing the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation, Casey said 13 million Americans will lose health coverage and nearly 14 million will see a tax increase in 2019 under the Republican plan.

Some Americans might suffer a “double hit” of no health insurance and tax hikes, he said.

“When I say this bill is a thief in the night, I mean it,” Casey said. “That’s exactly what it is, ripping health care from people at the same time you’re jacking up their taxes.”

In a later call with Pennsylvania reporters, Casey, reiterated his steadfast opposition to the plan, adding his complaint about Senate Republicans “ramming through” a plan that would affect $9 trillion overall.

“The process here is almost as objectionable as the substance,” he said.

Casey scoffed at Republican arguments that they are fixing an unwieldy and burdensome tax code to help the middle class when he said the “super rich” benefit from tax cuts.

“This isn’t about reforming the tax code or making the code simpler and fairer,” Casey said. “That’s a lot of hooey.”

Thank God Pennsylvania has one Senator telling it like it is.  Unlike Pennsylvania’s other, Republican Senator:

The congressional fight over Obamacare isn’t over yet.

The latest battleground will be in the Senate tax overhaul bill, where Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and GOP leaders said Thursday that they would be seeking to include a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that individuals must have health insurance coverage.

Toomey has supported included a repeal of that mandate in the tax bill, which is being debate in the Senate Finance Committee this week.

“The individual mandate is based on a flawed premise that the federal government should force Americans to buy an overpriced health insurance plan even if they don’t want it, and can’t afford it,” Toomey said Tuesday. “Including the repeal of the tax penalty in our pro-growth tax reform bill gives direct relief to hard-working Pennsylvanians and assists in making permanent desperately needed changes to our outdated tax code so American businesses can be globally competitive once again.”

The Pennsylvania Republican had introduced a bill last month that proposed exempting Americans from the individual mandate if they met certain conditions, such as earning less than the national median income, living in a state where average premiums increased by more than 10 percent during a year, or residing in a county with only one health insurer.

As you may or may not know, Casey is likely going up against Trump’s “Political Godfather”, Rep. Lou Barletta (R. PA), next year. Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin & Marshall poll, and other Pennsylvania political experts believe Trump will have a big presence in this race:

Madonna and other national pundits don’t put much credence into Roll Call magazine’s calling U.S. Senator Bob Casey one of the 10 most vulnerable incumbents in the country.

National raters like Charlie Cook or Real Clear are not calling Pennsylvania a “toss up” state. “It’s leaning Democrat,” Madonna said. “I still believe Casey will be more difficult to beat than most people think.”  

Casey is one of the staunchest critics of Trump in the Senate, somewhere in the top five of Democrats versus Trump, Madonna said. “And, he is not an enemy of the working class, unlike Hillary who couldn’t find the working class. Casey has all these contacts all over the state with working class voters. And he does agree with Trump on trade. Supports renegotiating of NAFTA with Canada and Mexico. Supported getting out of Trans Pacific Partnership. Yes, he has moved to the left as his party has moved to the left. — but overall he has these connections and he talks about the working men and women, talks about bringing back manufacturing jobs, fair trade, a lot more than many urban Democrats do.”

Still, Barletta is a likeable guy, and will be good on the stump, Madonna said.

This is a hard race to anticipate at the moment, observed Nick Clark, Susquehanna University assistant professor of political science.

“The conventional wisdom would suggest Casey is more than safe. He is a not unpopular incumbent. The mid-term election for most Presidents is not kind to their party,” he said. “Trump’s approval numbers are low. We probably saw the likely outcomes of all of this on Tuesday in Virginia, New Jersey and other parts of the country.”

Given all those conditions, Clark said, it is difficult to imagine a relatively safe incumbent facing much threat.

“But I also have the sense that Pennsylvania is one of the states where Trump supporters are sticking with him,” he said. “If they remain mobilized as they were last year, and that may well be the case, then Barletta may be competitive.”

It does look like 2018 will be a good election for Democrats, added Robert Speel, a Penn State University associate professor of political science.

“Bob Casey has to be an early favorite for re-election,” he said. “But a lot can change in politics in a year — a war, a change in tone in the Trump presidency, some successful and popular legislation.

“It’s too early to know anything for sure,” Speel said. “Lou Barletta has in the past advocated for some of the same issues that have made President Trump popular with his base, including immigration policies.”

While Democrats seemed to do better than usual in this month’s elections in the Philadelphia area, there was no such clear pattern in the western part of the state, where the Trump base seems to remain almost as strong as last year, Speel said. “If Barletta receives his party’s nomination and cannot do better in the Philadelphia suburbs than many local Republicans were able to do this year, that would also be good news for Casey.”

Roll Call likely named Casey one of the most vulnerable Democratic Senators because so few Republican incumbents are up for re-election next year, Speel said, and Casey is from a state that voted for Trump last year. “If Trump’s popularity nationwide and in the eastern part of Pennsylvania revives by next year, then yes, it’s possible that Casey might be facing a tough fight to win another term in the Senate,” he said.

Given the results of last year’s Senate race and Trump’s narrow margin of victory in Pennsylvania, we expect a close race, said Casey spokesman Max Steele. “While outside groups will pour in millions to bolster the Republican candidate, we’re confident we will have the resources to compete. Senator Casey has been shattering his previous fundraising records and as we saw Tuesday, Democrats are fired up.”

Let’s continue to help Casey shatter his fundraising records. Click here to donate and get involved with Casey’s re-election campaign.

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