U.S. Reps. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, R-15th District (top), and Mike Kelly, R-16th District (bottom). | U.S. House of Representatives Photos | Capital-Star photo collage by John L. Micek
Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
At first blush, the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine doesn’t look like some flaming hotbed of liberalism.
With a picturesque view of Lake Erie and Presque Isle State Park — and campuses across the country — it bills itself as “the nation’s largest medical school,” and the “most applied-to medical school in the country.”
And last month, U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-16th District, was only too happy to trumpet that the school, just one of two in Pennsylvania, was the recipient of a $2.2 million, “Kelly-backed grant,” that would “aid healthcare workers during the pandemic.”
The school is a “great community partner whose staff is among those in our district who can benefit from this funding,” Kelly said in a statement posted to his official website. “These funds will greatly impact our front-line heroes who have given so much to our country and their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Great cause, right? So where’d the money come from? If you guessed the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan package, give yourself a star.
And if you guessed that Kelly opposed the COVID relief bill and dismissed it as being packed with “left-wing projects,” give yourself one more star. And, if you guessed on top of that, that the veteran Erie pol backed a failed effort to topple Biden’s Pennsylvania victory in 2020, take the rest of the day off.
With that one gesture, Kelly placed himself in the growing ranks of Republican lawmakers who have gleefully filleted Biden, opposed his agenda, and then taken credit for its benefits to the folks back home.
One of the more recent public examples, U.S. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, was roundly criticized after she slammed the White House’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure law, and then boasted about the $829 million in funding for lock and dam upgrades it would bring to her constituents, Newsweek reported.
If Kelly, who loudly supported former President Donald Trump, and who appeared with him at campaign events, was the only Pennsylvania example of this kind of GOP reality-distortion, that’d be one thing. But he’s not.
Next door to Kelly, U.S. Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, whose 15th District sprawls across the rural north-central part of the state, posted a press release to his official website last month urging local fire companies to apply for a $46 million grant program that received an injection of pandemic relief money.
The program is “an excellent resource for fire departments and nonprofits to improve fire safety education,” said Thompson, who bragged last March about opposing what he called “the Pelosi Payoff.”
The relief package was “not a COVID-19 relief bill, but rather a wish list of the progressive wing of the Democrat party (sic),” Thompson, a “yes” vote on Trump-backed relief bills, asserted, adding that “only nine percent of the $1.9 trillion bill is related to the COVID-19 pandemic and just one percent of spending will go to vaccine distribution … This bill, more appropriately being called ‘the Pelosi Payoff,’ runs completely counter to those efforts. In fact, the only thing bipartisan about the bill is opposition to it.”
Well, not all of it is bad. The firefighter grants? That’s the good stuff.
“As a volunteer firefighter, I know there is an overwhelming need for additional resources to help first responders better protect our communities,” Thompson said in the Jan. 18 statement his office issued. “I stand ready to assist and provide support for any company in the Congressional District looking to pursue these opportunities.”
In an e-mail, a spokesperson for Kelly said the northwestern Pennsylvania lawmaker “wrote a letter of support” for the medical school “which was seeking grant funding made possible through the American Rescue Plan.”
Kelly always will “support organizations within his congressional district that are hoping to improve themselves and the community however he can,” the spokesperson, Matt Knoedler, told the Capital-Star. “To him, making Western Pennsylvania a better place to work and live isn’t a partisan issue.”
In an email, a spokesperson for Thompson said the GOP lawmaker has supported the emergency services grant program for years, and that the pandemic relief money had provided a $10 million infusion to a $46 million program already in the federal budget.
“The American Rescue Plan totals $1.9 trillion, and this supplement translates to .00052 percent of the total package,” senior Thompson aide Renee Gamela told the Capital-Star. “While Congressman Thompson supports the FP&S grant program, he could not support the bill in its entirety.”
Kelly isn’t the “first to try to take credit for the product of bills that he voted against,” Chris Borick, a pollster and political analyst at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, said. “But apparently he thinks his constituents either don’t care or don’t know about the disconnect between his positions.”
During an appearance in Cleveland last May, Biden played to the crowd, pulling out a list of Republican lawmakers who opposed the pandemic relief bill.
“My Republican friends in Congress, not a single one of them voted for the rescue plan,” Biden said, according to the Independent.
Democrats already are vowing to use these pivots against the GOP in this November’s all-the-marbles midterm elections.
They’re not going to want for material.
Ahead of the upcoming budget season, legislative Democrats have formally launched a push for the most significant funding allocation for Pennsylvania schools in state history, unveiling a blueprint that would allocate $3.75 billion for education, staffing recruitment and retention, and classroom resources. Marley Parish has the details.
The state Supreme Court has issued a stay on further action by a lower court on Pennsylvania’s congressional maps until it decides whether to weigh in on it, Stephen Caruso reports
In an effort to further relieve the pandemic-induced strain on Pennsylvanian’s already stressed health care systems, the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced the addition of four new long-term care sites situated across the commonwealth, Cassie Miller reports.
A bridge collapse in Pittsburgh last week was a ‘preventable disaster’ local officials said, as they called for action. Our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper have the story.
Last year was the deadliest year in modern Philadelphia history for gun violence, with 562 homicides and 2,332 total shootings, our partners at The Philadelphia Tribune report.
On our Commentary Page this morning: Every day is Black History Month, columnist Michael Coard, of the Philadelphia Tribune, writes. And a Penn State scholar brings you the story of some legendary Black musicians of the early 20th century.
Gov. Tom Wolf’s final budget address next week will be a legacy-setter, Spotlight PA reports (via the Inquirer).
State officials warned as early as 2014 that there were serious problems with the Fern Hollow Bridge, which collapsed last week, but Pittsburgh officials put off the work, the Post-Gazette reports.
PennLive lists the fastest-growing communities in every central Pennsylvania county.
The chair of the Lancaster Township GOP will resign as the local party prepared to remove him because he denounced the extremist ‘Free PA’ movement, LancasterOnline reports (paywall).
Pennsylvania election officials are ‘under siege,’ and that’s sparked a wave of resignations, USA Today’s Pennsylvania Capital Bureau reports.
Voters in Lehigh County have sued to delay election certification of undated ballots, the Morning Call reports.
A popular Luzerne County restaurant, The Chicken Coop, will close after decades in business, the Citizens’ Voice reports.
Despite a recent court ruling, Pennsylvanians can still apply for no-excuse mail-in ballots, WHYY-FM reports.
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ride, an Erie native, will be honored by an intelligence and security group, GoErie reports.
A local committee has recommended that nearly half of Washington County’s gaming-fund grant money be used to fund water and sewer improvements, the Observer-Reporter reports.
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What Goes On
The House and Senate both come in at 11 a.m. today.
11:30 a.m., State College: House Democratic Policy Committee
6 p.m., Capitol Steps: Gun Violence Survivors Week vigil
Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.
You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out to Capital-Star Correspondent Lauren Manelius, and to reader/mentor/old friend Pete Leffler, of Emmaus, both of whom celebrate today. Congratulations friends, enjoy the day.
Here’s one from veteran Scottish pop-rockers Del Amitri. It’s the rollicking ‘Kiss This Thing Goodbye.’
Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
After trailing early, the Toronto Maple Leafs rallied on Monday, scoring three goals in the third period, to beat the visiting New Jersey Devils 6-4 at Scotia Bank Arena. The ‘Leafs’ Auston Matthews notched a hat trick on the way to the win.
And now you’re up to date.
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