WILKES-BARRE — U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright is a Democrat but he insists he is not a strong supporter of sanctuary cities and he favors building a wall where it makes sense.
The congressman also told the Times Leader editorial board on Wednesday that he aspires to be a “cardinal.”
Cartwright, D-Moosic, wasn’t referring to attaining a high ranking in the Catholic Church — he was referring to the 12 sub-committee chairpersons within the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee. Cartwright sits on the committee — he is the second-highest ranking minority member.
But Cartwright said the key to gaining influence is to be on the right committees while your party is in the majority.
He said if the November mid-term election goes as many “experts” have predicted, Democrats could gain the majority in the House. He said to accomplish that, Democrats would have to retain every incumbent currently serving in the House and also “flip” 23 seats from Republican to Democrat.
“We are hearing that it’s more probable than not,” Cartwright said.
Cartwright, 57, is seeking his fourth two-year term in the House, this time in what is now the 8th Congressional District. He is opposed by Republican John Chrin, 55, of Monroe County. The campaign has seen a lot of television advertisements, and Cartwright said those from his opponent’s camp contain incorrect information.
He said one Chrin claim is that Cartwright voted in favor of sanctuary cities. Cartwright refutes that, saying he is not a strong supporter of sanctuary cities, having voted against proposed legislation.
“We have to have comprehensive immigration reform,” Cartwright said. “We have to secure our borders. There should be heavy fines and stricter penalties for offenders. I also favor building a wall where appropriate, but not where mountain goats can’t climb.”
Cartwright went on to say he does not favor deporting “12 million souls” — noting they should be paying taxes — and he is not in favor of amnesty.
‘Kitchen table issues’
In his newly drawn district, Cartwright said there are 100 dairy farmers — 45 in Wayne County alone.
“So I was pleased to see the dairy market open up in Canada,” he said.
Cartwright said it is time for the Democratic Party to return to what he called “bread and butter issues” and “identity politics.” He said the best way to increase jobs is to improve infrastructure and increase manufacturing.
“These are what I like to refer to as kitchen-table issues,” Cartwright said. “These are issues that affect working class families and we need to focus on these issues.”
Cartwright said he voted against last year’s tax bill because 83 percent of the money saved went to the highest 1 percent earners. He said he opposed it because it also drastically reduced the corporate tax rate — taking it from 35 percent to 21 percent. And for multi-national corporations, Cartwright said the rates were even more egregious — from 35 percent to 15 percent.
“That is just a massive incentive to off-shore more jobs,” Cartwright said. “I spoke out against this on the House floor. These big corporations have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders and they will take advantage of these rates by taking their business abroad.”
Cartwright said he has been and always will be a strong supporter of keeping Social Security and Medicare strong. He said both need to be “shored up,” but he favors an increase in cost-of-living adjustments and better prescription rates through competition.
Cartwright said he co-sponsored H.R. 6505 — the Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act of 2018. He said the Veterans Affairs Administration and Department of Defense is already allowed to negotiate with drug companies.
“If the VA is allowed to negotiate with drug companies, Medicare should be allowed as well,” Cartwright said. “No wonder prescription prices are so high.”
Cartwright said one debate is scheduled with Chrin — Oct. 29 — that will be televised on WVIA.
He said he has agreed to more debates, but none have been scheduled.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.