Republicans' Pennsylvania ObamaCare Test
Back in 2011, Republicans were legitimately concerned that Democrats had found their silver bullet, the line of attack that could tie any Republican to Rep. Paul Ryan's budget and devastate their poll numbers. But that was before Mark Amodei ran for Congress in a special election in Northern Nevada.
Amodei countered with a charge that's become gospel among Republican candidates, that ObamaCare cut more than $500 billion from Medicare. I wrote about their ultimately successful strategy last year after a trip to Reno.
If any Republican this year will run as close to that script as Amodei did last year, it's Keith Rothfus, who's making his second run at a southwest Pennsylvania district against Democrat Mark Critz. Rothfus was in Tampa yesterday to address the Republican National Convention. He sat down with us to give his take on the race, one he says will be dominated by Critz's votes to sustain ObamaCare.
"We're seeing the wreckage that ObamaCare is reeking with respect to Medicare. Frankly, I was talking about this stuff two years ago. I specifically complained about the Independent Payment Advisory Board," he said. "I would have been elected two years ago had Jason Altmire voted for ObamaCare. I'm running against a guy now who wasn't there for the original vote, but since he got in he's voted over 20 times to keep ObamaCare in place, including a specific vote to keep the Independent Payment Advisory Board in place."
When he says health care is a personal issue for everyone, he knows whereof he speaks. Rothfus faced long odds when he was diagnosed with a form of cancer of the appendix with a high mortality rate.
"When the government is running it, their focus is the budget number. That's it. It's not focused on care," Rothfus said of the health care industry. "It's going to result in asprins for everybody and specialty care for nobody."
The district favors a generic Republican; it backed John McCain by a 54 percent to 45 percent margin in 2008. But it's a traditionally Democratic seat, the result of a redistricting process that merged districts held by Rep. Jason Altmire and the old Jack Murtha seat. Murtha was an earmarking expert, adept at steering big bucks back to his district, but Rothfus says he won't operate the same way.
"Jack Murtha brought Johnstown through some very tough times when the mills were closed. He served his district as he saw fit to make sure we had jobs out there. The fact is, unemployment in Cambria County right now is 9.3 percent. Those jobs aren't there.
I will not take earmarks," Rothfus said. "I think that has led to an abuse. And it depends on how you define 'earmark.' If I have an idea of how I want something, I put that in a bill and I present it to the floor for an open vote. That's not an earmark, per se. It's the massive appropriations bills and members would go through and put footnotes in committee reports and say we want this, and then the agencies would think, oh, I've got to do that because if I don't do that they're going to cut our funding. It's that kind of back-door processing that is unacceptable."