U.S. Senator Bob Casey brought his quest for a third term to Harrisburg on Monday.
In a talk to the Pennsylvania Press Club, the historically moderate Democrat drew distinctions between himself and his opponent, Congressman Lou Barletta, on a range of issues—from the economy to immigration.
Barletta is among President Donald Trump’s strongest backers. In his last Harrisburg visit he was navigating the fallout from the administration’s curtailed policy of separating children from their undocumented parents at the southern border.
Saying he does support a zero-tolerance immigration policy, Barletta added, "I think the importance of the rule of law in the country has created this problem of illegal immigration. And it becomes an emotional issue. So, let's fix the parts that we can and have compassion for the children and families."
Casey said he’d like strong enforcement too. But he added that a broad overhaul would be a pre-condition—advocating reprisal of a 2013 plan that died in the House.
“Look, I think the Republican position in Washington—their basic approach to immigration right now is to deport 11 million people,” he said. “Someone can disagree with that and say no, that’s not their plan. I’d like to hear their plan. But they seem to be obsessed with deporting 11 million people.”
He stopped short of calling for the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be shut down, as some of his further-left colleagues have done.
“I would hope that we could have a policy going forward where ICE was focused on bad guys—drug dealers and folks who were going to bring us harm, instead of families and kids,” he said.
Barletta has touted tax cuts under Trump as being a boon to working people.
Casey differed—citing Tax Policy Center numbers showing the top 1 percent of households made about $51 thousand apiece off the cuts.
“They don’t need it,” he said. “They’ve done pretty well.”
Casey has so far outstripped Barletta in fundraising.
The candidates’ latest filings show Barletta with under $2 million on hand, while Casey has nearly $10 million.