Vice President Mike Pence on Monday appeared in Philadelphia to support the Senate campaign of U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta while also in the city to give the keynote at an event promoting Trump Administration tax cuts.
Pence’s speech at the America First Policies event and a Barletta fundraiser underscored the close relationship between Barletta (R-Hazleton) and the administration, while his visit also drew throngs of protesters to Center City Philadelphia.
Barletta decided not to seek a fifth term in the U.S. House of Representatives — instead he is challenging incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Scranton.
The day also brought fireworks on the campaign trail, as Barletta and Casey traded barbs at a distance, while Barletta also made headlines for his criticism of special counsel Robert Mueller.
Prior to the event with Pence, Barletta met with media and criticized the investigation by Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election won by President Donald Trump.
Barletta said that investigating relationships with “porn stars” is pretty far apart from investigating collusion in the election between Russians and Trump’s campaign, according to an Associated Press story.
“I don’t know how many rabbit holes we’re going to go down,” Barletta said.
Barletta has been a staunch Trump supporter. Asked if he agrees with Trump’s characterization that Mueller’s investigation is a “witch hunt,” Barletta said “call it what you want.”
Tax cuts in focus
Regarding the America First Policies event, Barletta said it’s been exciting to watch the most significant tax reform in over 30 years and the economy is soaring because of it.
He said the stock market is up over 20 percent, and unemployment is at 4 percent — the lowest in decades. He went on to say black unemployment is at an all-time low, Hispanic unemployment, also an all-time low, and women’s unemployment is at an 18-year low.
Barletta said small business confidence is at an all-time high, consumer confidence is at an all-time high and 6 million Americans will either see a bonus or a wage increases because of the tax cuts.
“That is 9 out of 10 Americans will have more money in their pocket because of it,” Barletta said. “This is the first time in 18 years that there were more jobs than unemployed Americans. This is a great opportunity for us to begin to teach the skills for the jobs that actually exist. To help people go from welfare to work, because we need them. We need them back in the workforce. This is an opportunity for us.”
Barletta said when there is competition for work, competition for employees, wages go up and, he said, that’s good for the American people. Barletta said wages are expected to go up $4,200 in the coming years.
“The tax cuts are good for Pennsylvania,” he said. “Because of the tax cuts, 115,000 new jobs were created in Pennsylvania — 10,000 manufacturing jobs and 102 utility companies have cut their rates because of the tax cuts, including PPL right here in Pennsylvania.”
Barletta said Pennsylvania’s unemployment is at an 11 year low.
“That’s real money to the people here in Pennsylvania,” he said.
Speaking at the Pennsylvania Press Club in Harrisburg, Casey said the GOP tax bill “gave away the store to the top 1 percent,” handing the wealthiest Americans a much larger tax cut than middle-class families received.
“There are some folks in the middle that will get a tax break, but it’s a lot smaller of course than even in a proportional sense than what the top 1 percent will get,” Casey said.
Casey campaign spokesman Max Steele said Barletta has been “a reliable vote” for Washington’s corporate special interests and their efforts to further stack the deck against working families.
“Giving billions of dollars in tax giveaways to insurance companies who are raising premiums on Pennsylvania’s middle class is not something to celebrate and Congressional Republicans are already threatening cuts to Medicare and Social Security in order to pay for this scheme,” Steele said. “This approach hurts workers, seniors, and middle class families and Pennsylvanians will reject Congressman Barletta’s radical approach in November.”
Barletta maintained that the tax cuts are boosting the economy and the vast majority of people are benefiting, even if companies are using cash from tax cuts to buy back shares.
“The fact is that 6 million people in America either got a bonus or a wage increase, 9 out of 10 people will see an increase in their wages,” Barletta said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle. The Associated Press contributed to this story.