This time around, remembering the name of your lawmakers in Washington shouldn’t be so hard.
Unlike other recent election cycles,which haven’t been so kind to U.S. Senate and House incumbents representing the Philadelphia area — both 2006 and 2010 saw major shakeups — this time around, the cast of characters remains unchanged.
By holding off a challenge from Republican Tom Smith, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey ensured that, for the next four years at least, the state will be represented by a Democrat and a Republican in the Senate. Reportedly, Casey and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, a budget hawk elected two years ago, enjoy a good working relationship, despite some stark differences in their political philosophies.
Casey, who counts a number of Jewish Philadelphians among his top supporters, has developed into a reliable voice for increasing the financial preassure on the Iranian regime and was the co-author of the latest sanctions that passed over the summer. That law created new restrictions on the nation’s shipping and financial industries. There’s also been talk on Capitol Hill about a new law that would penalize banks for doing any business with the central bank of Teheran.
In a recent interview with the Jewish Exponent, Casey said it wasn’t clear whether or not he would be reappointed to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but it was his wish to remain on that assignment as well as on the subcommittee that oversees American policy in the Middle East and Central Asia.
In terms of the House, Tuesday’s results mean that the Philadelphia area will be represented by three Democratic House members who are firmly entrenched in their seats: U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, whose seat just eight years ago was viewed as a competitive district but now seems solidly blue.
The region is also represented by three Republican incumbents who are looking increasingly difficult to defeat: U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach — whose narrow victories now seem a thing of the past, especially in light of his redistricted area — U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick and U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan. (The Philly suburbs actually are represented by four Republicans, if you count U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts, who represents part of Chester County.)
The results also ensured that Schwartz will be the only Jew representing Pennsylvania in Congress. Schwartz, who recently became a grandmother, played a key role in the debate over the health care law and is expected to press forward on key health care issues, including finding a way to bring costs under control.
“I’m very proud of Pennsylvania tonight,” Schwartz told the Exponent at the Democratic Party headquarters in Center City on Tuesday night, just after news outlets projected President Barack Obama the winner in the Keystone State.
Next up, she’ll keep moving forward, focusing on health care, cost containment and making sure the country maintains good relations with other nations, “including our greatest ally, Israel,”said Schwartz, about whom there has been speculation that she may run for governor in two years or the Senate in four years.
In Bucks County, Fitzpatrick defeated a Jewish woman, Kathy Boockvar. Over in South Jersey, Republican Jon Runyan beat another Jewish woman, Shelley Adler, in a district that flipped from Republican to Democrat in 2008 and switched back in 2010.
Now, the big question, since the balance of power in Congress has not changed — and the local players are all returning — can the country expect different results? Will the 113th Congress be able to forge compromise and come up with real solutions on issues of importance to the Jewish community? The 112th Congress was often mired in partisan gridlock.
Robin Schatz, director of government affairs for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, said she has developed good relations with all members of the Philadelphia delegation and said she considers the Republicans “moderates.”
Meehan, Fitzpatrick and Gerlach each, to some degree, present themselves as center-right politicians but have drawn a great deal of their support from Tea Party conservatives; their Democratic opponents have tried to paint them as extreme. Each has talked about the need to bring spending and the deficit under control. But Schatz said each has shown a willingness to listen to how program cuts might affect the needy.
Schatz added that all of the local representatives are known as staunch supporters of Israel and for maintaining American military assistance to the Jewish state.