Pandemic Politics: Democrats try to tie Pa.’s Fitzpatrick to Trump on COVID-19 | Wednesday Morning Coffee

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Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

In the two years since he won re-election, U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1st District, has worked methodically to try to establish himself as an independent thinker who doesn’t march in lockstep with President Donald Trump’s White House.

Fitzpatrick, a pivotal member of the House’s bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, has voted with Democrats on such critical issues as infrastructure spending; a $15/hr minimum wage, and immigration reform. He’s also worked across the aisle with U.S. Reps. Chrissy Houlahan, D-6th District, and Madeleine Dean, D-4th District, and other Democrats to combat the toxins collectively known as PFAS chemicals that have contaminated water supplies in suburban Philadelphia and elsewhere.

But with Fitzpatrick’s Bucks County-based seat targeted for a Democratic takeover this fall, that spirit of bipartisanship only goes so far. And on Tuesday, Democratic hopeful Christina Finello launched a digital ad campaign seeking to tie Fitzpatrick to President Donald Trump over the White House’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic that’s raging out of control across the country.

Brian Fitzpatrick is too weak to stand up to Donald Trump when it matters most,” the ad intones in part. “He stood by this president as he bungled the worst public health crisis in a century.”

It’s a potent issue. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll showed Americans support medical experts over the White House, and they deeply disapprove of Trump’s handling of an illness that has claimed 135,000 American lives.

Christina Finello, left, is challenging Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, right, in the 1st Congressional District outside Philadelphia. (Finello courtesy of Finello campaign, Fitzpatrick courtesy of AFGE/Flickr)

Trump’s performance on handling COVID-19 is likely to be a major factor in his re-election. If it remains negative at the current level that becomes a real issue down ballot as well,” veteran Franklin & Marshall College pollster and political analyst Terry Madonna told the Capital-Star. “We are likely to see more straight-party voting than in past recent elections. The bottom line is how Trump fares will be directly related to how Republicans do in in competitive districts.”

Earlier this month, University of Virginia political sage Larry Sabato’s “Crystal Ball” tip sheet moved Fitzpatrick’s seat from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican.” He joined fellow Pennsylvania Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, of central Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District, whose seat is among the most vulnerable in the country.

Trump’s handling of the pandemic will “destroy the Republican brand,” Dan Fee, a Democratic consultant from Philadelphia, told the Capital-Star.

Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill have “have been silent or acquiesced. It’ll be potent. Schools won’t be open, small businesses will struggle and Trump will be losing his mind – and they’ll have been silent,”  Fee said.

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 24: U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a signing ceremony for H.R.266, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, with members of his administration and Republican lawmakers in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC on April 24th, 2020. The bill includes an additional $321 billion for the Paycheck Protection Programs forgivable loans to cover payroll and other costs for small businesses. Hospitals and other health care providers will receive $75 billion and another $25 billion is allocated for COVID-19 testing. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/POOL/Getty Images)

That certainly appears to be Finello’s hope. In a statement released by her campaign, her campaign manager, Ali Anderson, said the Democrat is “looking forward to holding Brian Fitzpatrick accountable for standing silently by while Trump has created chaos and division, failed to protect Americans’ health and safety throughout the pandemic.”

“Voters in Bucks and Montgomery counties need a representative they can count on to stand up for their interests in Washington instead of siding with Donald Trump when it matters most,” Anderson said.

In a statement, Fitzpatrick’s spokesperson, Kate Constantini, said she found it “interesting that Christina Finello omits from her ad that when Brian Fitzpatrick suspended his campaign during the pandemic to dedicate his time to charitable coronavirus relief and raising money for victims.”

Finello cared more about campaigning and continued to raise money for herself. Moreover, we look forward to Christina Finello’s explanation as to why she believes Congressman Fitzpatrick, who is ranked the No. 1 most independent and bipartisan representative in the nation, breaking the all-time record score in bipartisanship, and who serves as the national vice-chair of the Bipartisan Problem Solvers’ Caucus, should be removed from Congress so that she can advance her purely partisan agenda.”

The issue has clearly struck a nerve — among the candidates. The voters will have the final word in November.

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
The state House has sent Gov. Tom Wolf a revised version of a petrochemical tax credit the Democratic governor earlier vetoed. Wolf is expected to sign the bill this time, Stephen Caruso reports. Wolf has also signed two police reform bills into lawCaruso further reports.

State Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphiahas tested positive for COVID-19 and is self-isolating, Elizabeth Hardison reports. He is the second state lawmaker to test positive for the illness.

A watchdog group has called on Gov. Tom Wolf and other state officials to ‘terminate’ Pennsylvania’s contract with an anti-abortion organizationCassie Miller reports.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Lincoln University alumni are questioning the historically Black university’s recent decision to fire its president, Brenda Allen, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Bruce Ledewitz says that if we’re serious about preserving religious liberty, then America needs universal healthcare. Umpire, politician or ideologue? Opinion regular Fletcher McClellan considers U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts’ impact on the court’s most recent term.

Love Park in Philadelphia (Photo via Flickr Commons)

Elsewhere.
Philadelphia has announced that it will not hold any large, public events until February because of concerns about COVID-19, the Inquirer reports.
Pittsburgh’s public schools will provide options for parents who don’t want to send their kids back to class this fall, the Tribune-Review reports.
The Cumberland Valley school district in Cumberland County will create a new ‘virtual academy’ as part of its reopening plan, the Sentinel of Carlisle reports.
Experts are scrutinizing a police video that sparked protests in Allentown, the Morning Call reports.
The state Department of Corrections is suing an inmate at SCI-Dallas in Luzerne County who has gone on a hunger strike, seeking the right to force-feed him, the Citizens-Voice reports.

Here’s your #Pittsburgh Instagram of the Day:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

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A post shared by Brendan McKenzie, Realtor ®️ (@realtorbrendanpgh) on

The Pa Post profiles a woman who organized an anti-racism protest in Lebanon County.
Speaking of U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick: He and Democratic challenger Christina Finello are firming up details for three debates, PoliticsPa reports.
Only seven states (Pennsylvania is not one of them) have ongoing, required COVID-19 testing of residents, staff, or both, at long-term care homes, Stateline.org reports. Pennsylvania’s universal testing program in those facilities runs through July 24, according to the state Department of Health.

What Goes On.
The Senate comes in at 11 a.m. this morning.
And here’s a look at the day’s committee action.

In the Senate:
10:30 a.m.:
 Health & Human Services Committee
Off the Floor: Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee

In the House:
2 p.m., G50 Irvis:
 House Democratic Policy Committee

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to our old friend, Marian Callahan Samkavitz, at Gannett Media, who celebrates today. Congratulations and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s a banger from LCD Soundsystem 
to get the day rolling. It’s ‘Daft Punk is Playing at My House.’ Turn this one up.

Wednesday’s Baseball Link.
The National Review 
(no, really) explains why this year’s shorter baseball season will favor teams with ‘collegial clubhouses.’

And now you’re up to date.