U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. took part on Thursday in a virtual town hall coordinated by For Our Future Pennsylvania, discussing President Biden’s American Jobs Plan and other issues.
Casey said the American Rescue Plan, passed in March with 50 Democratic votes and a tiebreaker by Vice President Kamala Harris, has already paid dividends by, among other things, lowering the number of people suffering “food insecurity,” offering housing support and providing for state and local governments, including $13.7 billion for Pennsylvania. The three-term Democrat blamed Republicans for blocking aid to state and local governments during much of 2020.
Next, Casey wants to see passage of the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan. One aspect of the jobs plan would pay for fixes to the 3,300 bridges in disrepair in Pennsylvania.
Other items included in both bills include funding for roads, housing, broadband and in-home care for senior citizens and the disabled. Casey said essential workers who care for those senior and disabled folks average $12 an hour, a sum he called “un-American.”
The jobs and families bills, Casey predicted, will pass with at least 50 Democratic votes and, if needed, a Harris tiebreaker.
Several callers on the town hall were concerned about Republican use of the filibuster.
Casey pointed to Senate Bill 1, a voting rights measure, saying it would be the answer to Republican state legislatures that, he claims, are trying to suppress the vote of blacks and “communities of color.” Senate and House Republicans dismiss Senate Bill 1 as a measure to add Democrats to voter rolls with no regard for ballot integrity, make it easier for felons to vote and restrict voter ID laws.
“We should stop at nothing to pass Senate Bill 1,” Casey said.
The problem, he acknowledged, is that it will take 60 votes to overcome a filibuster and become law.
“I think we should change the rules, at least for that bill,” he said, arguing that it should take only 50 votes to pass what he considers an important piece of legislation.
A rule change might not help, as Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin announced Sunday he’s against the bill.
Casey also believes the rules should be changed to suspend the filibuster to pass the Equality Act and bills related to infrastructure, immigration, police reform and climate change.
Casey said there is precedent for a rules change, noting that, until 1975, the Senate required 67 votes to end a filibuster.
Casey explained to the town hall of fellow progressives that Democrats need to act while they have four things on their side: majorities in the Senate and House, one of their own in the White House and a vice president who can break ties.
Republicans will be gunning for Senate and House takeovers in next year’s elections.
“We may not have all four in place two years from now,” he cautioned those on the call. “I hope I’m wrong about that.” ••