By Tom Waring
Wire Staff Writer
U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick is hoping President Barack Obama soon signs a measure he led through the House of Representatives that restores pension cost-of-living adjustments for military veterans and ensures that physicians who treat Medicare patients are adequately compensated.
The measure last week passed the House (326–90) and the Senate (95–3). Obama is expected to sign it.
Fitzpatrick (R-8th dist.) said the bill highlights the room for agreement between parties and chambers, and he hopes it can serve as a springboard for more cooperation on issues.
The bill guarantees that all service men and women enlisted in the U.S. military prior to Jan. 1 of this year will receive the full cost-of-living adjustments in retirement, before and after age 62. It undoes the 1-percent COLA reduction found in the budget agreement signed into law in December.
Moreover, the legislation provides a fund to guarantee physicians are fairly compensated for their work until long-term reform of the sustainable growth rate is passed by Congress later this year.
“We, as Americans and as lawmakers, are forever in debt to the dedication of our military men and women who bore the pain of battle — physically and mentally,” Fitzpatrick said in remarks delivered on the floor during the bill’s debate. “We have a chance today to treat our veterans with the honor they deserve by ensuring they are fully compensated for their service during retirement while also addressing other concerns facing our nation.
“Furthermore, this bill also guarantees our seniors affordable access to the healthcare services they depend on through Medicare. This legislation works to ensure seniors they will receive the care they depend on from the physicians who know them — while also guaranteeing that those physicians are fairly compensated by Medicare through a fund until long-term reform of the SGR is achieved this spring. This legislation provides much-needed stability for the medical community by ensuring that physicians have the predictability in billing they need to further their practice and focus on patients.”
Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick attended a news conference at Philadelphia’s Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 to call on President Obama to revoke what he called his “misguided” nomination of Debo Adegbile to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice
If the nomination goes forward, Fitzpatrick wants the Senate to vote against Adegbile because the attorney chaired efforts to defend Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted of the 1981 murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10–8 in favor of Adegbile, with all Democrats in support and all Republicans in opposition.
“The president’s nomination — and the Senate Judiciary Committee’s approval — of Mr. Adegbile demonstrates poor judgment to the family of Officer Faulkner, the members of the Philadelphia Police Department, law enforcement nationwide and the millions of families across America who are protected by police officers,” Fitzpatrick said.
In the beginning of January, Fitzpatrick sent a letter to Obama and Pennsylvania Sens. Pat Toomey and Bob Casey Jr. and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, blasting the nomination.
“Under Mr. Adegbile’s leadership, nonprofit attorneys were recruited to defend convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal,” the letter read, in part. “Jamal’s cold-blooded murder of Officer Faulkner is not in doubt. The efforts of those attorneys perverted the justice system and have made a mockery of the jury’s verdict and the court’s sentence.”
The nomination is opposed by, among others, the National Fraternal Order of Police, the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, the National Association of Police Organizations, the National Narcotic Officers’ Association, the National Sheriffs Association and the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association.
In other news, Fitzpatrick is asking President Obama to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Recently, the Department of State announced the findings of an environmental study showing that the construction of the 1,700-mile pipeline would not “significantly exacerbate” greenhouse gas emissions.
Fitzpatrick backed the pipeline in remarks on the House floor, contending it would lead to tens of thousands of shovel-ready jobs and increase the prospects of American energy independence. He blamed Obama for refusing to approve the pipeline for more than five years.
“In his State of the Union address, the president talked about the need to grow jobs and pursue an all-of-the-above energy strategy, yet he has failed to take action on a project that does just that,” Fitzpatrick said. “This project has support from members of both parties in both chambers, as well as the support of both business groups and labor groups. Approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, get Americans to work, and truly support a plan for an all-of-the-above energy strategy that sends a message to the rest of the world.”
In the general election, Fitzpatrick will face either Shaughnessy Naughton or Kevin Strouse, the two Democrats competing in the primary.
Strouse recently welcomed House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, of Maryland, to his campaign office on Mill Street in Bristol. Naughton’s campaign office is across the street.
Joining Hoyer were Bucks County Commissioner Diane Marseglia, 6th Senatorial District candidate Kimberly Rose and Jennifer Murphy, wife of former congressman Patrick Murphy.
Strouse’s wife Amy and children Wally and Charlotte attended the event.
Strouse’s campaign office was once Patrick Murphy’s district office. Murphy hosts a show on MSNBC, and cannot be politically active, though he spoke glowingly of Strouse to Hoyer.
“Patrick is the one who said, ‘This guy is quality,’ ” said Hoyer, adding that he’s thankful that Murphy also recommended Mike Parrish to run in the 6th Congressional District.
Hoyer, who is second in command among House Democrats to Nancy Pelosi, criticized Fitzpatrick, whom he acknowledged not knowing well. He attributed Fitzpatrick’s victory over Murphy in 2010 to a “wave of anger and negativity.”
Fitzpatrick tries to be “relatively moderate,” Hoyer said, but added that, “Talk is cheap.” Votes tell the real story, Hoyer said.
Fitzpatrick is not confrontational or hateful, according to Hoyer, but empowers Republican lawmakers who are.
“Mike is what I call an enabler,” Hoyer said.
Jennifer Murphy said Strouse would make a “fabulous congressman,” but noted Democrats face a battle.
“We all know what a formidable force Fitzpatrick is in this county,” she said.
Strouse announced his opposition to the proposed hazardous waste incinerator in Bristol Township.
The candidate cited the environmental risk of opening a hazardous waste incinerator in such a densely populated area.
“As a Bensalem resident, I have serious concerns about how the proposed hazardous waste incinerator would negatively impact the safety and quality of life for residents of Bucks County,” he said.
The proposed incinerator would likely be used to burn pharmaceutical materials and other hazardous waste that, in Strouse’s view, cannot be easily disposed of.
“I got into this race because every day when I get my kids ready for school I think about what kind of future they will have — and that includes growing up with clean air to breathe, and free from the potential disaster waiting to happen by placing such a toxic waste incinerator in a densely populated community.” ••