It has been a full month since the entertaining but unsettling 15 votes that eventually gave Kevin McCarthy the gavel of the Speaker of the House, allowing the chamber to begin enacting the agenda of the slim Republican majority. Our own Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, the self-proclaimed “Independent voice,” is reported to have whipped votes in support of the new Speaker, belying his constant claims of independence.
But the true test of any Member of Congress is how they vote. With the House heading off for a two week recess, it’s the perfect opportunity to take a look at how Brian Fitzpatrick has voted in this first month of the 118th Congress and see how his record measures up against his campaign promises of bipartisanship and problem solving.
Brian Fitzpatrick, Union Buster
H.Res. 5: Adopting the Rules of the House of Representatives for the One Hundred Eighteenth Congress, and for other purposes.
Vote taken 01/09/23; Passed 220-213; Fitzpatrick voted YES
The first step every new Congress must take after a Speaker of the House is elected is to establish the rules of the chamber. This affects issues as mundane as the placement of C-Span cameras in the House to issues as major as dictating what issues the Congressional Budget Office must consider when determining the potential price tag for any legislation. But aside from the actual rules, it is significant that this bill is named “Adopting the Rules of the House of Representatives for the One Hundred Eighteenth Congress, and for other purposes” because those final three words are carrying a lot of weight.
Tucked deep in this resolution was a provision (Section 3[b]) that killed the efforts of congressional staffers to unionize. It was only the last Congress that passed a measure to allow the nascent labor movement among the mostly young, mostly low-paid congressional staffers to get off the ground. The passage of this rules package ended unionization of staff until a Democratic majority takes back the House.
This is significant to us in Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District because Brian Fitzpatrick is the rare unicorn of a Republican who does not typically demonize organized Labor. In fact, Fitzpatrick has been endorsed by dozens of unions, and received significant donations from many of those groups (the AFL-CIO and PSEA among them) as recently as 3 months ago. So for Fitzpatrick to line up with his union-busting GOP colleagues is a major betrayal.
Fitzpatrick: All socialism is horrible! Hilter and Nazis not so much.
H.Con.Res. 9: Denouncing the horrors of socialism
Messaging bills are nothing new in Congress, both parties do them. They provide red meat for the base as well as potential ammunition for the majority party to use against the minority party come election time. What makes this messaging bill unusual is both the poor quality of its composition as well as one heinous and notable omission from its content.
In 1952, then-President Truman observed that “Socialism is a scare word they have hurled at every advance the people have made.” Instead of taking that as criticism, the Republicans pinned it to their inspiration board when writing up this mess of a resolution. Without making any mention of all of the United States allies that are thriving socialist nations (many of whom are members of NATO and might take exception at this characterization of their countries), this resolution proclaims that “the greatest crimes in history were committed by socialist ideologues” and goes on to list Lenin, Mao, Stalin, leaders of North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba and the awful outcomes of their rule, seemingly oblivious that it is the authoritarian rule that is the root of the “horrors” they recount in their screed.
It was Rep. Maxine Waters who called out the GOP for the glaring omission from this list, an omission that one of her Democratic colleagues attempted to remedy. Rep. Waters questioned the Republicans from the floor:
“Do you know which dictator my extremist colleagues refuse to condemn? Oh, they didn’t say anything about Hitler… My colleague, Mr. Gottheimer noticed that somehow the Republicans just forgot to condemn Hitler and offered an amendment to denounce [Hitler’s] atrocities and mass murder. But Republicans rejected it. And I think we know why. It is because Donald Trump–your true leader, the true leader of the Republicans and North Star for House Republicans–was reported to have frightened his own staff by saying that Hitler had done some good things.”
Many Democrats, especially those in competitive districts, did not take the bait of this messaging bill. They had the foresight to know that their vote in defense of socialism would be paired with horrible newsreel images from authoritarian regimes for campaign ads by Republican challengers in their districts. Not wishing to face such disingenuous tactics for no real benefit, most Democrats voted YES alongside all of the Republicans, including Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick’s does “Donor Service” for Fossil Fuel Corporations, flip-flopping again on federal land exploitation
H.R. 21: Strategic Production Response Act
Despite Brian Fitzpatrick’s environmentalist campaign promises, our Congressman has a mixed record on exploitation of federal lands for extractive purposes. As a newly elected Congressman, he co-sponsored a bill to protect arctic wilderness lands from energy exploitation, but months later he voted for the GOP tax bill that included a provision to open up those same lands to drilling. Once the Democrats took back the leadership of the House in 2019, Fitzpatrick changed his position yet again, and went back to supporting the protection of some federal lands.
In this new GOP-controlled Congress it appears that Fitzpatrick has flip-flopped once again. This bill mandates the creation of “a plan to increase oil and gas production under oil and gas leases of Federal lands.” Fitzpatrick joined every other Republican (and Democrat Jared Golden of Maine) in voting YES, a move sure to satisfy all of his fossil fuel donors.
MAGA extremists enact revenge on a Squad member, Fitzpatrick stands with them
H.Res. 76: Removing a certain Member from a certain standing committee of the House.
In February 2021, the previous Congress voted to expel Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committees for various anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim statements, as well as advocating for political violence. At that time, then-Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the move a “power grab” and said it was a “dangerous new standard that will only deepen divides.”
Less than a month after he took power, Speaker McCarthy decided to play tit-for-tat by ousting frequent GOP target Representative Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The text of the resolution cites a number of controversial statements from Rep. Omar, many critical of Israel, and some that do have anti-Semetic undertones (nothing about Jewish Space Lasers, though). The text concludes with the proclamation that “Representative Omar’s comments have brought dishonor to the House of Representatives.”
The decision to remove Rep. Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee (where Brian Fitzpatrick is a member) was not made purely along party lines. Republican David Joyce of Ohio refused to stand with his party and instead voted “present.” He issued a statement along with his vote, and after condemning Rep. Omar’s comments, added that as a member of the House Ethics Committee, “I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to allow the Ethics Committee to do its job and address any alleged violations of the U.S. House of Representatives’ rules.” Brian Fitzpatrick, despite his campaign promises about civility and bipartisanship and lowering the temperature in politics, refused to follow the high road as forged by his colleague Congressman Joyce, and voted to eject Rep. Omar.
Other Votes of Note:
– Cementing his perfect legislative record on anti-abortion initiatives, Fitzpatrick joined his fellow Republicans in advancing a far-right urban legend by voting to make the murder of infants illegal (pretty sure it already was, Congressman) and supporting a resolution deploring acts of violence against anti-choice activists, facilities and churches.
– Many campaign promises were made by Republicans across the campaign season to investigate the Biden Administration. To do so, they created a “Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government” and put Jim Jordan in charge. This situation might be the clearest demonstration of Fitzpatrick’s loyalty. Despite having voted against the January 6th Select Committee in the last Congres (citing its lack of bipartisanship, even though there were two Republicans on that body), Fitzpatrick voted YES to create this GOP-led select committee.
– Republicans continued their crusade against the Internal Revenue Service.
– Despite evidence that the IRS is deploying funds to fill the positions of retired customer service agents to improve call center hold times to help folks with questions during tax season, the Republicans voted to claw back IRS funding from the last Congress. In a party line vote, Fitzpatrick went along with his fellow Republicans to rescind the IRS funds.
– If only voting could stop COVID, Republicans would have ended the pandemic by now. Instead, the majority party has ended protections that many vulnerable populations have relied upon. Fitzpatrick joined his GOP colleagues in voting to terminate the COVID public health emergency, end the national emergency declared by Donald Trump in 2020, stop the COVID vaccine requirements for health care workers, and cease requiring COVID proof of COVID vaccines for foreign travelers.
– The “Stopping Home Office Work’s Unproductive Problems Act” or SHOW UP Act requires all federal agencies to revert to their 2019 tele-work policies, returning millions of federal workers to the office full time. This was the one vote Brian Fitzpatrick took this month that balked his party’s expectations, as he was the only Republican to vote NO on this bill. It passed, regardless.
– The Congress has the right to overturn any laws passed by the democratically elected leaders of Washington DC’s city council. The Republicans flexed their muscles and disapproved two measures, one that changed the DC criminal code and modified punishments for some crimes, and another that expanded the franchise to noncitizens who meet residency and other requirements. Fitzpatrick votes with his party to reject those changes in Washington DC.
It has been a chaotic first month of this 118th Congress. We’ve seen the Republican-led House advance messaging bills, reverse the work of the previous Congress, and wreak vengeance upon their political enemies. Despite his campaign promises of moderation and bipartisanship, Brian Fitzpatrick has enabled his MAGA-extremist colleagues and voted along with them (almost) every step of the way.