Johnson gets political cover

On the side

Pennsylvania redistricting: The proposed congressional redistricting map of Pennsylvania by state Republicans will bring changes to Mercer and Lawrence counties.

The 3rd Congressional District currently represented by Mike Kelly, a Republican from Butler, includes most of Mercer County. The new map puts all of Mercer County and all but the southern portion of Lawrence County in the 3rd. The district has traditionally voted Republican. The new plan will make it easier for Kelly, a freshman, to be re-elected.

The 4th District currently represented by Jason Altmire, a conservative Democrat from McCandless, will undergo a significant change. The district currently includes a small southwestern portion of Mercer County and all of Lawrence County.

Altmire’s new district, to be renamed the 12th, will include that southern portion of Lawrence that the new 3rd won’t get and none of Mercer County.

Also, redistricting would pit Altmire against U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, a fellow Democrat, in an area that stretches east to Johnstown. Both Altmire’s current and new districts lean Republican. He’s already won three terms.

“A little-known” organization, RetireSafe, has honored “more than 20 vulnerable Republican members of Congress for supporting senior citizens,” according to Roll Call, a Capitol Hill publication and website.

Freshman U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, is among those who received a RetireSafe award.

RetireSafe describes itself as a nonpartisan senior citizens advocacy organization, but is led by former offficials of the administrations of presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush and pharmaceutical industry lobbyists and consultants, according to the Roll Call article.

The article states the award provides “Republicans with valuable political cover for supporting controversial bills,” such as House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget proposal that would have “dramatically revamped Medicare.”

Johnson is running for re-election next year on a platform of standing up for the middle class and seniors, fighting for job creation and reducing government regulations.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which considers Johnson a top target in Ohio, is trying to make the award an issue.

“...There is no special-interest group that can pull the wool over Ohio seniors’ eyes about” Johnson’s voting record on Medicare, said Haley Morris, the DCCC Midwest regional press secretary. “The only award that Congressman Johnson deserves is one for being the favorite of corporate special interests and leaving Ohio seniors out in the cold.”

Meanwhile, Johnson held a conference call Wednesday with Ohio Republican Chairman Kevin DeWine to discuss a bill to extend the payroll tax reduction and unemployment benefits with cuts to spending and to speed up the construction of an oil pipeline.

The bill passed the U.S. House on Tuesday by a 234-193 vote, but will surely die in the Democratic-led Senate with the president already threatening a veto because of the pipeline.

The conference call was peculiar.

First, it was organized by the Republican National Committee.

I would think the RNC is very familiar with De-Wine’s ongoing fight with Gov. John Kasich and Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder over control of the state party.

Is the RNC siding with DeWine in his battle with the governor and state House speaker? Is Johnson supporting DeWine?

Also, during the call, Johnson said a number of times that he couldn’t talk for long because he had to be on the House floor for votes. This was also mentioned by DeWine.

Why schedule a call about a House vote that happened a day ago if Johnson is too busy to participate?

Because of Johnson rushing to get off the phone, there was time only for myself and another reporter to ask questions.

I asked about RetireSafe and the DCCC saying Johnson has voted to raise Medicare premiums for seniors.

Johnson didn’t address RetireSafe.

Regarding Medicare, Johnson said, “Everything that we have done in the Republican-led House this session has been designed to protect Medicare for current seniors and ensure, strengthen and preserve that program for future generations.”

Johnson ended the call by saying, “And with that, folks, I’m going to have to go because I’m pushing the limit to get in and vote.”

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