Harrisburg group to target GOP over government shutdown

Posted: October 16, 2013

A liberal group based in Harrisburg will fan out across the state and into the Philadelphia suburbs Tuesday to try to put pressure on Republicans in Congress toward ending the federal government shutdown.

Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress, said hundreds of people will place "cease and desist" posters outside the district offices of House Republicans, placing the blame on them.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has called the protest a partisan stunt that ignores efforts by Pennsylvania's GOP House members to end the impasse. While Keystone Progress prepared for the demonstrations, Senate leaders in Washington said they were closing in on a deal.

The targets include Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick, who represents Bucks County, and Jim Gerlach and Patrick Meehan, whose districts stretch across swaths of Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties. Keystone Progress wants them to end the shutdown by voting for a "clean" bill that raises the debt ceiling and does not attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act.

The group will also target Pennsylvania's Republican in the Senate, Pat Toomey, with plans to send protesters to several of his district offices, including one on JFK Boulevard in Center City.

The demonstrations are part of a national effort coordinated by the liberal group USAction.

"We've got members of Congress who are doing two things: either ignoring the reality of what's happening financially or playing word games," Morrill said. "In the case of congressmen like Fitzpatrick, they're saying they're opposed to the shutdown and don't want the country to go into default. But they're not taking any actions to follow up."

Responding to the planned demonstration, Fitzpatrick said, "People want the government back open, as do I. While I do not like how we got here, now is the time to focus on putting our country back on the right fiscal path."

Ian Prior, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Pennsylvania's Republicans have been at the forefront of efforts to end the shutdown. For example, Republicans from the Philadelphia region backed a proposal to fund the government for six months and repeal the Affordable Care Act's medical-device tax, he said.

The tax has drawn the ire of Republicans and Democrats in Pennsylvania and other states with a sizable medical-device industry, which manufactures artificial joints, stents, pacemakers, and more.

When Fitzpatrick backed the proposal this month, he said: "It's Democrats and Republicans coming together outside of the circles of leadership, and I think it deserves a shot." Democratic leaders quickly rejected the idea.

"These protests should be taken with a big grain of salt," Prior said. "Most Pennsylvania voters are trying to support a family. They aren't taking Tuesdays off of work to attend political rallies."

The Senate's top leaders - Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell - were optimistic they could make a deal after meeting Monday. That prompted President Obama to postpone talks with congressional leaders to give the senators more time.

Any agreement in the Senate would require the approval of the House, in which tea party-aligned lawmakers hold more power.


bfinley@phillynews.com

610-313-8118

@Ben_Finley

www.inquirer.com/bucksinq

This article contains information from the Associated Press.

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