POLS ON THE STREET: Toomey Follows His Own Road

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U.S. SEN. Pat Toomey strays from the Republican pack on a major trade deal.

Long viewed as one of the more-independent conservatives in the U.S. Senate, Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) has gone out on an unusual limb by opposing the new U.S., Mexico, Canada Agreement, which is destined to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.

USMCA is the first major piece of bipartisan legislation that has been advanced in Congress at the behest of President Donald Trump, who campaigned against NAFTA. Toomey, a committed advocate of free trade, is the lone Republican senator to speak out against it. In a statement, Toomey laid out his views:

“Here’s the rub: NAFTA is the epitome of fairness – there is complete reciprocity, zero tariffs on all manufactured goods and nearly all agriculture goods, no quotas, and no obstacles to trade between the three countries.

“While the USMCA has a few sensible modernizations – like improvements to the digital economy section – in general this deal is seriously flawed. In fact, if it is enacted, it will mark the first time that the United States passes a trade agreement that is designed to reduce trade.

ON HAND to help Councilwoman Blackwell with her massive party for thousands of homeless Philadelphians in the Convention Center were, L-R, Anthony Faulk, Controller Rebecca Rhynhart, Stanley Straughter and Joey Temple.

“I intend to oppose this deal when it comes before the Senate, and here’s why:

“First, USMCA would be our first trade agreement with an expiration date. Part of what makes NAFTA successful is that individuals and businesses in all three nations can invest in one another with long-term confidence and without fear of the deal expiring. USMCA eliminates that confidence. Second, USMCA effectively eliminates a mechanism that ensures American investors are treated fairly when they invest in foreign countries. USMCA also makes a whole host of protectionist concessions to organized labor that fly directly in the face of free-trade agreements, such as minimum wage mandates on specific foreign industries.

“For all of these reasons and a whole host of others, the USMCA will likely lead to less growth, less trade, and less job creation. Under NAFTA, Pennsylvania has seen its exports to Mexico surge by almost 550%. NAFTA has also supported hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs and been a major boon to both our local and national economy. While NAFTA could use some updates, it is still far preferable to the USMCA.”

STATE REP. Elizabeth Fiedler geared up for the 2020 election cycle with a fundraiser at the Hive on S. Broad Street, an artsy café. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Toomey runs risks in taking this stand. It may not endear him to Trump fans and possibly even draw a hostile Tweet from the president. While that may win him some grudging respect from Democrats, it will not be popular among organized labor – a key constituency that statewide Republicans want to make inroads among.

It should, however, appeal to Toomey’s supporters in industry, which will back him solidly should he run again in 2022.

But observers are asking: Run for what?

There is speculation that Toomey may be eyeing the governor’s mansion when incumbent Tom Wolf completes his second term. The U.S. Senate is not a particularly cheery place to work these days.

Who’s Next in the 190th District?

With the resignation of State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell in West Philadelphia’s 190th Legislative District following her guilty plea on charges brought by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, names are swirling like autumn leaves.

COUNCILMAN Derek Green held a toy drive at Circles Lounge in N. Philadelphia. Toys were the price of admission to the party. Green’s fans responded with a lively outpouring of gifts to ensure area children a happy holiday. Photo by Wendell Douglas

This seat has always been hotly contested. Johnson-Harrell won her seat in a special election to replace State Rep. Vanessa Lowery, who was also found guilty of corruption. The Democratic Party tapped two other candidates before her, only to find that neither of them lived in the district. But she was opposed by two pastors: Amen Brown, with the support of Lowery Brown, who remains popular in the district, and Pamela Williams, who ran on the Working Families Party ticket – a force that has since shown it is to be feared by Democratic City Committee favorites.

In previous cycles, unionist Ray Bailey and Wanda Logan have also tried for the seat. Many other persons are giving the race a hard look.

Still other persons will be giving those candidates a hard look. City Committee, spearheaded by local ward leaders, is desperate to find a candidate with a legitimate residence in the 190th as well as a clean record. Reports are that DCC will turn over every rock in every potential candidate’s past this time. It will doubtless profit from the assistance of all the other candidates, who will be looking for dirt on each other.

STATE SEN. Christine Tartaglione was joined by State Rep. Jared Solomon to present a $200,000 grant to Oxford Circle Charter School for a new playground. It was welcomed by Principal Hildebrand Pelzer III, R. Photo by Wendell Douglas

A special election has been set for Feb. 25.

Harris’ Criminal-Justice Reform Bill Damaged? Krasner Says Yes

A signature piece of legislation co-sponsored by State Rep. Jordan Harris (D-S. Phila.) has drawn fire from DA Larry Krasner for a sudden twist it has taken in committee.

HB 1555, developed in a bipartisan process with State Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland), had been hailed as evidence of emerging consensus that criminal-justice reform is needed to reduce incarceration rates.

But Krasner published an opinion piece in the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, a nonpartisan, nonprofit website, in which he said HB 1555 is now damaged goods.

“In its earlier form, HB 1555,” wrote Krasner, “embodied the public’s desire to bring much-needed fixes to probation. But in committee, an amendment that passed with bipartisan support not only guts the reforms that were in the original legislation, it would actually leave Pennsylvania’s already broken probation system much worse than it currently is.

“The Delozier/Harris bill, as amended, is not criminal-justice reform. Because the amended bill would actually worsen the conditions of probation in Pennsylvania, we urge members of the House to reject this bill in its new form and get back to work on real probation reform in the Commonwealth.”

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