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Western PA Congressional Republicans Split On Key Trump Demand

Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA
Congressman Guy Reschenthaler.

Western Pennsylvania Republicans were forced to weigh their loyalty to President Trump on Monday when the U.S. House voted on two major pieces of legislation. One of Trump’s most faithful supporters broke with the President twice, and another found himself voting against defense spending he'd previously supported.
On Monday night, Republican Congressmen Guy Reschenthaler and Mike Kelly voted against a Trump-backed proposal that would more than triple the money Americans would receive directly from the federal government, from $600 to $2,000.

Kelly, who was one of Trump’s earliest supporters in 2016, blamed Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s lockdown orders for the economic struggles millions face across the state.

“Our path forward must include direct relief, spending cuts, and opening the Commonwealth's economy so families can go back to work,” Kelly said in a statement Monday.

Kelly criticized the proposed increase — which was crafted in response to Trump’s desire to send $2,000 to Americans — because he said it “ignores President Trump’s call to reduce wasteful government spending.” Trump's previous criticisms of the relief package also included objections to a related spending bill with foreign aid Trump complained about — even though such spending had also been included in White House spending plans.

Reschenthaler’s office did not respond to WESA’s request for comment on his votes. But he said on Fox Business on Monday that he “did not want to begrudge anyone the extra $2,000” but that Congress already passed a relief bill which he supported because it was “a holistic approach” that also included help for small businesses. He also said he worried about adding to the national deficit, saying that at some point someone had to pay for new spending.

Fox Business’s Elizabeth MacDonald pressed Reschenthaler, asking whether it was a “bad look” for the U.S. to not pass the CASH Act, when many other countries are providing much more financial support to their citizens afloat. She noted that the U.S. is still funding plenty of other efforts and initiatives — including paying the salaries of lawmakers like Reschenthaler.  

Reschenthaler noted that he was just “a rank-and-file member of Congress, we vote ‘yes’ or ‘no.’... [W]e vote on whatever package they present to us. It was far from perfect but it was a good package.”

Western Pennsylvania Democrats Conor Lamb and Mike Doyle, meanwhile, voted for the increase.

“We’ve asked people to sacrifice a lot this year for the sake of public health — jobs, businesses, wages and working hours, time with loved ones,” said Lamb in a statement. “And working families have been forced to wait far too long for their government to provide any support to make those sacrifices just a little bit easier.”

“Mitch McConnell should not make them wait any longer, but he will," the statement added. "We know that about him.  The important thing is that we do not and will not accept it.”

Monday night brought another unusual split for Republicans, as the House also voted overwhelmingly to override Trump’s veto on National Defense Authorization Act. On Monday, Kelly joined Democrats in order to ensure that the military receives key funding. The NDAA has passed with bipartisan support for decades.

Reschenthaler — who served in the Navy — stuck by Trump and was one of just 87 House members to vote against the funding, even though he voted for the NDAA initially.

Both bills now head to the Senate. A spokesperson for Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey said that Toomey will vote to override Trump's NDAA veto, but that he is not in favor of the $2,000 checks to Americans.

"Blindly borrowing or printing another two-thirds of a trillion dollars so we can send $2,000 to children, the deceased, and tens of millions of workers who haven’t missed a paycheck, like federal and state employees, is not sound economic policy nor is it something I am willing to support," Toomey said in a statement.

On Tuesday evening, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to call a vote on the proposal.

"Majority Leader McConnell has twice blocked a vote on Democrats' bill to put $2,000 in the pockets of struggling families," the Democrat said in a statement. "The House passed this measure by an overwhelming majority. The same could happen int he Senate if Majority Leader McConnell would get out of the way."