Democratic senator fields questions from Erie crowd

US Senator Bob Casey wants Erie County to know he is ready for a “good old fight”.

Casey, D-Pa., Who performed in a drive-in theater in Penn State Behrend on Wednesday to a largely car-loving audience, vivaciously defended his party’s initiatives, targeting his Republican counterparts who continue to struggle against efforts to invest in infrastructure and childcare.

US Senator Bob Casey is holding a town hall meeting in the parking lot in front of the Prischak building in Penn State Behrend, Harborcreek Township on Wednesday.

“There are powerful forces in Washington trying to prevent us from making these investments,” Casey said. “It’s a good old-fashioned fight. We have to fight them. We have to win these legislative battles.”

Recovery and Infrastructure

Casey, who won’t stand for re-election until 2024, answered about a dozen questions from voters, nearly half of which concerned Erie County’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic future.

While Pennsylvania recently dropped its mask mandate, only half of the state’s population is fully vaccinated. In response to a questioner who asked how this gap could be bridged, the Senator urged the public and local community leaders to get involved and clear up “doubters” by “putting the facts on the table”.

“We have to be guided by science. What we don’t need are politicians – some in Washington, some in Harrisburg, some across the country – who are not doing what’s right for their country, “Casey said. “If you come up with anything about vaccination, you should be held accountable.”

Casey said the American rescue plan, which will pour more than $ 250 million into Erie County, has so far kept many families and businesses afloat during the pandemic. He insisted that he would fight for an extension of the child tax credit, as well as additional support for small businesses and the new Erie County Community College.

Jim McCall of Erie, left, poses a question to U.S. Senator Bob Casey, right, in the parking lot in front of the Prischak building in Penn State Behrend, Harborcreek Township during a town hall meeting Wednesday.

Casey also pointed out the potential economic benefits of the American Jobs Plan, a $ 974 billion plan that focuses on physical infrastructure, and the American Families Plan, a roughly $ 2 trillion plan that focuses on family and child care are concentrated.

While both haven’t passed Congress yet, Casey said they will make major improvements to Erie County, from the 50+ bridges in need of repair to the understaffed childcare services.

“I will continue to vote for dollars that will empower communities that have had a terrible time in this pandemic,” he said.

Voting rights and the filibuster

Other issues concerned the enforcement of the legislation by a bitterly divided Senate.

Casey said the debate over voting rights and the need to pass sweeping federal laws to fend off a wave of “electoral repression” laws from Republican-led states had brought the filibuster to the fore.

Casey called the rule a “disadvantage” and an “obstacle to progress” and insisted that the Democrats have an “ongoing debate” about reforming the rule.

“We are still at the very beginning,” he said. “We still have to work on a bill and then we have to discuss intensively whether we can change the rule only for the right to vote or also for other issues so that every American has more choices, there is not much else that matters.”

Another questioner asked about Gerrymandering – which Casey said a bill was being drawn up to address this as well.

“The same amount in Washington that has tampered with tax laws in the past 40 years – and when I tamper with it I mean trillions of dollars to their advantage – the same amount goes into efforts to tamper with these counties,” Casey said. “It is a far-right corporate attempt to manipulate congressional and legislative districts. We have to stop them.”

Casey’s remarks were made in front of about 50 cars parked in front of Penn State Behrend’s Prischak building.

The event marked Casey’s sixth drive-in theater that year.

To the applause of car horns, Casey vowed to fight Republicans in the coming months to pass what he saw as comprehensive legislation for Erie County, the state, and the nation.

“(The Republicans) are going to lose this fight,” he said. “I will win this fight.”

AJ Rao can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ETNRao.

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