4th U.S. House: Altmire is the better choice for Congress
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Some Democrats would swear there are two Republicans running this year to represent the 4th Congressional District. That's because GOP nominee Keith Rothfus is challenging Rep. Jason Altmire, who has broken ranks with his Democratic Party many times.
Mr. Altmire voted against the health care reform, the cap-and-trade energy/pollution bill and the TARP banking rescue. He voted for allowing loaded guns to be carried in national parks (a change pushed by the National Rifle Association, which has endorsed him) and co-sponsored a bill to strip terror suspects of their U.S. citizenship.
Congressional Quarterly Weekly reported that in 2009 Mr. Altmire was one of the Democrats to vote most often against the majority of his party (22 percent of the time). The National Journal ranked the two-term McCandless lawmaker as more conservative than 53.5 percent of all House members.
Mr. Altmire, 42, calls this independence. Others, like this editorial board who supported his last two campaigns against predecessor Melissa Hart, call it frustrating.
His opponent is an intelligent, likable attorney. Keith Rothfus, 48, of Edgeworth, served the Bush administration in 2005-07 in the Department of Homeland Security, where he set up an office to work with faith-based groups involved in disaster relief. His views are unflinchingly conservative.
He favors repeal of the federal health insurance law, calling it unconstitutional and unprecedented in expanding government power. He called the $787 billion stimulus "an abject failure" and said Congress should have cut taxes to stimulate growth. Mr. Rothfus is not convinced that human activity is causing climate change and he would not back federal policies on the subject that might put jobs at risk.
Mr. Altmire would not repeal the health care law, saying it has delivered some benefits; he would like Congress to work, however, on driving down the cost of care. He voted for the stimulus, saying it was hard to tell if the nation was headed for a depression, but he said no further stimulus is needed because the economy is showing signs of a turnaround. Mr. Altmire believes science has shown that global warming is real; he favors separate legislative approaches to pollution control and to energy independence, rather than a single measure, like cap-and-trade, that attempts to take on both.
Both candidates would extend all of the Bush-era income tax cuts, including those to the rich; both believe military spending is ripe for cutting and both want to give the Obama strategy in Afghanistan time to work.
While we've faulted Mr. Altmire for certain votes, we still believe he's a hard-working congressman in the swing district that covers the North Hills of Allegheny County, all of Beaver and Lawrence counties and parts of Butler, Westmoreland and Mercer counties.
He has spoken out against the Chinese for actions that hurt American jobs, led the charge for saving bonuses of combat veterans and intervened last January to help airlift 54 orphans from Haiti. He views the struggles of average Americans from the workers' and not the owners' point of view.
He may not be the congressman some thought they were choosing for Washington, but he's the better choice for Congress in this year's matchup. The Post-Gazette endorses Jason Altmire.
First Published October 19, 2010 12:00 am