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Casey promotes social services bills at county events
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Casey promotes social services bills at county events

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Sen. Bob Casey brought two big stacks of paper with him to Cumberland County on Thursday: hundreds of copies of memos on his bills to shore up federal social service programs, and a copy of the Mueller report.

The balance of paperwork was also reflective of the Pennsylvania Democrat’s balance of message during his visit, which included a pitstop at the Karns Quality Foods location in Lemoyne to talk about Women, Infants and Children benefits legislation, followed by a town hall in Carlisle later that evening.

In Lemoyne, Casey met with local WIC administrators as well as Karns’ leadership to tout his legislation, which would close the “WIC gap” by extending children’s nutrition benefits to age 6, from the current age 5.

The proposal would also lengthen the certification timeline for infants and postpartum women to two years’ eligibility.

“The WIC program is one of those programs that tell us who we are as Americans,” Casey said.

He continued to press such issues in Carlisle, particularly his co-sponsorship, with Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, of a bill that would create a new state-federal joint program to subsidize child care, capping the expense at 7 percent of income for families making less than 150 percent of their state’s median earnings.

Casey is also pushing legislation to expand the child tax credit, increasing the credit in both dollar value and income limit, and making if fully refundable to put more cash directly in the hands of working families.

But such ambitions are difficult in the Senate, given the Republican majority.

Casey said he’s “in the midst” of getting a GOP co-sponsor for his WIC bill, which would be a “huge breakthrough” for it’s potential success, he said.

Otherwise, such efforts face austere budgets from the Trump administration and many congressional Republicans, particularly in light of the 2017 tax cuts.

“I wish we could go back to the drawing board on the tax bill, because it was a huge missed opportunity,” Casey said, citing his unsuccessful attempt get his child tax credit legislation included in the package.

At the Carlisle town hall, Casey brought along his own copy of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the Trump campaign’s subsequent reaction to it.

However, Casey declined to say that he would definitely vote for impeachment if it came to the Senate. As a practical matter, impeachment can only be started in the House. Further, Casey said, “there’s still a good bit of work to do” in order to make the impeachment case from a legal standard - but it he did say that he believed Attorney General William Barr intentionally misled the public regarding the legal implications of the report prior to its release.

“This isn’t just a body of evidence about obstructive conduct generally, it’s a body of evidence about obstructive conduct regarding Russian interference,” Casey said.

At several points during his discussion in Carlisle, Casey set the stage for Democratic motivation going into 2020, saying that a number of problems would likely best be solved by a change in administration.

These included climate change and the Trump administration’s “hacking away” at the Obama-era Clean Power Plan; the treatment of detained asylum-seekers at the border; and the administration’s increasingly hawkish foreign policy, which Casey pinned on National Security Adviser John Bolton.

“His actions indicate to me that he’s in favor of regime change [in Iran],” Casey said, describing the Trump administration’s recent moves as “maybe small actions, but in a cumulative sense substantial, to provoke conflict” with Iran.

When asked by reporters after the town hall, Casey reiterated his support for Joe Biden in the current field of Democratic presidential hopefuls, saying that he was most confident in the former vice president’s skill set to win Pennsylvania.

“We need a nominee that can appeal across the board, not just urban and suburban areas, but to rural areas and small towns too,” Casey said.

“I think we’re going to have a number of candidates who can meet that test,” he said, but thus far Biden “has a good sense of Pennsylvania which I think gives him an advantage or a foundation that others might not yet have.”

Email Zack at zhoopes@cumberlink.com.

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