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Lou Barletta and Charlie Dent — How will ‘Tale of Two Congressmen’ end?: Editorial

Posted 10/18/17

Here’s a quick quiz: Name your representative in the U.S. House. 

Odds are you can’t.

Did you know right away? Can you even venture a guess?

If you are stumped, you …

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Lou Barletta and Charlie Dent — How will ‘Tale of Two Congressmen’ end?: Editorial

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Here’s a quick quiz: Name your representative in the U.S. House. 

Odds are you can’t.

Did you know right away? Can you even venture a guess?

If you are stumped, you aren’t alone.

A survey this spring by Washington, D.C.-based Haven Insights found that only 37 percent could name their congressional district’s representative.

We hope that because you are reading the Press & Journal, the odds of you knowing are a bit better, because you are informed about local issues that affect you. 

So who is your U.S. representative? You likely live in one of the two local districts: the 11th or the 15th.

The 11th is represented by Lou Barletta, a Republican from Hazelton. It is comprised of all of Columbia, Montour, and Wyoming counties and parts of Carbon, Cumberland, Dauphin, Luzerne, Northumberland, and Perry counties. The district includes areas north and west of Middletown, including Lower Swatara Township.

The 15th is represented by Charlie Dent, a Republican from Allentown. It is comprised of all Lehigh County, and large areas of Berks, Dauphin, Lebanon and Northampton counties. The area includes Middletown, Hummelstown and Royalton as well as Londonderry Township.

But don’t get too used to those names. When January 2019 rolls around, neither will be serving in the U.S. House. They both have chosen not to run, for wildly varying reasons.

While they are both Republicans, their political careers are headed in opposite directions.

Dent is serving his seventh term. He is part of a dying breed: a moderate. He is a co-chairman of the Tuesday Group, a group of center-right Republicans “dedicated to promoting fiscal responsibility, personal independence and a strong national defense,” according to his website.

He has dared to criticize President Donald Trump.

According to the Washington Post he is “best known on Capitol Hill as a critic of his party’s far right — especially its unwillingness to compromise with Democrats on such basic tasks as passing routine spending bills and increasing the federal debt limit. But he has also bucked the party on more substantive policy matters, including the House GOP bill earlier this year to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act.”

The right went after him hard. He said that wasn’t the reason he decided not to run, adding that he had been weighing it since the 2013 government shutdown, and that he never intended to serve seven terms.

It’s sad a moderate has no chance nowadays. As the left and right continue to battle it out, moderates have a chance to bridge the gap. But getting elected to Congress is about the support of your party, be it Democratic or Republican, because you need the money that comes with it. Moderates don’t fit in. 

Moderates too often are called “obstructionists.” Dent is called a RINO — Republican in Name Only — as are other Republican moderates. While we understand that political beliefs are part of being a member of Congress, the main role of serving is governance, not being an inflexible mouthpiece for your party.

Barletta, on the other hand, is going in the other direction. He is running for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Bob Casey in 2018. 

His story differs greatly from Dent’s.

He was an early supporter of Trump. Serving his fourth term in Congress, he reportedly was being considered as Labor secretary by Trump but decided to stay in Congress.

According to cnbc.com, Trump urged him to run for the U.S. Senate. When the president spoke at Harrisburg International Airport last week, Trump called Barletta a “great guy” and added that “He’s going to win. You’re going to win big. You’re going to win big, Lou. Good luck.”

The list to replace both of them is still shaking out. The 2018 primary will be held May 15.

Most of those who have announced, however, are not from this area.

We are at the westernmost part of Dent’s district. Barletta’s meanders all the way over to include all of Cumberland County, but we are toward his western edge as well.

There is a good possibility that neither of their replacements will be knowledgeable in the issues that affect us. 

Also, two freshman in Congress representing this area also is not helpful. It takes seniority to get things done in the House.

We will continue to report on the candidates who are vying to replace Barletta and Dent.

The last chapter in “The Tale of Two Congressmen” hasn’t been written. We hope there is a happy ending for both their constituents.


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