Most voters in our country know what they are going to get when they elect a lawmaker. But that has never been the case with our own Representative Brian Fitzpatrick. To maintain his self-described “independent voice” reputation, Republican Fitzpatrick has cultivated an unpredictable voting record. Even on single subjects, one cannot guess what he will support. Take the environment, for example – Fitzpatrick believes in climate change, but has voted to accelerate fossil fuel production. He advocates for amelioration of forever chemicals like PFAS, but at the same time votes for environmental deregulation that will create similar problems in the future. Whether you call that puzzling or hypocrisy, the truth is that Fitzpatrick is a fickle voter.
The one thing we can predict, however, is that each year Fitzpatrick will place any number of truly awful votes that have negative effects on our community and our country. And with the Chaos Caucus Republicans in the driver’s seat of our legislative body, the opportunities for terrible votes were thick on the ground this year. Their legislative year is done, and lawmakers have returned home until January, so the time is ripe to count down Fitzpatrick’s worst votes of 2023.
10. The Rules Vote That Empowered the Chaos Caucus Republicans
This year was marked by legislative chaos from the start to the end, and all of that time-wasting, attention-sucking action had this Rules vote as its proximate cause. To end the 15 rounds of humiliating votes that it took for Kevin McCarthy to win his “precious” Speaker’s gavel, he agreed to a rule that enabled any one lawmaker to bring forth a vote to oust him from the Speakership. Anyone with half a brain could have foreseen the consequences of this rule, but no one ever accused Kevin McCarthy of intelligence. So he agreed to allow this, and Fitzpatrick, as one of the chief “only Kevin” cheerleaders, went right along. Thus, the GOP sowed the seeds of their own destructive chaos.
That was not the only bit of awfulness tucked into this rules package. Also built in there was a provision that killed the newly-formed Congressional staffer union. Considering that Brian Fitzpatrick touts himself as the only union-friendly GOP lawmaker, this vote was a betrayal to his Labor supporters.
9. The Attempt to Block Biden’s Efforts to Increase Solar Production
As a part of President Biden’s Infrastructure Reduction Act, over 50 American manufacturing plants producing solar panels either opened or expanded. But the materials that supply those plants come from overseas, and many have significant tariffs. To ease the growth process for these solar plants, President Biden and the Commerce Department created a new rule to ease those tariffs. In the words of the White House release, “The rule implements a temporary, 24-month bridge to make sure that when these new factories are operational, we have a thriving solar installation industry ready to deploy American-made solar products to homes, businesses, and communities across the Nation. Given the progress we are making on American solar, I do not intend to extend the tariff suspension at the conclusion of the 2-year period in June 2024.”
Objecting to anything that addresses the climate crisis, the Republicans in the House were quick to use their power to quash the new rule. Brian Fitzpatrick, despite his claims at being an environmentalist, was right at the side of his GOP colleagues in voting down this effort to expand US solar production. In the end, President Biden vetoed this disapproval, and the GOP was unable to overcome that veto. But Fitzpatrick voted against this solar expansion in the failed veto override as well.
8. The GOP Demands Vote on Draconian Cuts for Raising the Debt Limit
The debt limit is a ridiculous but currently unavoidable process wherein Congress votes to pay for programs that they have already passed, many times years prior, by raising the amount of debt that the country is allowed to accrue. If the debt ceiling is not raised, the government ceases to cut checks and is forced to shut down. In decades past, raising this limit was a mere procedural task, but starting about a decade ago, Republicans began to use it as a cudgel to force votes on their most unpopular policies. It was no different this time, as then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy allowed a vote on this package in exchange for the raising of the debt ceiling. This bill included provisions that would have prevented the implementation of President Biden’s student debt cancellation plan (which was later quashed via the courts), another section that clawed back increased funding to the IRS to pursue rich tax cheats and improve customer service, and still another part that implemented work requirements for social safety net programs. Other bits of horrible policy in this package would have cut education budgets, funding for veterans, and social security programs. And Brian Fizpatrick voted yes to all this, right alongside the worst members of his caucus.
7. The Vote That Created the Worst Committee in the History of Congress
January 10, 2023 – H.Res. 12: Establishing a Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government as a select investigative subcommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary; passed 221-211
When we think of weaponization of the government, readers of the Beacon are likely to think of the IRS audits imposed on Trump-enemies like Andrew McCabe and James Comey, or perhaps the time that peaceful protestors were tear-gassed so then-President Trump could hold a photo-op with a bible in Lafayette Square. They are certainly not envisioning any actions by President Joe Biden, but that is exactly why this new committee was created – to throw unfounded accusations at our current president.
The new Weaponization of Government Committee has become a punchline, as witness after witness before that group and its sister group, the House Oversight Committee, have been discredited, or even in one case indicted as a foreign agent. In some cases, GOP leaders have taken to airwaves to make claims about witness testimony that have been directly contradicted by the witness transcripts.The whole enterprise has become about pushing false narratives into the far-right fever swamp.
Brian Fitzpatrick enabled all of these histrionics with his vote for this misbegotten committee. And his support for the Weaponization Committee doesn’t stop with just the vote at its creation. Fitzpatrick signaled his continuing support for the body in July, when he voted for an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would give all of the documents and correspondence from the Countering Extremism Working Group and pass it along to the Weaponization subcommittee, giving content about far-right extremists to their allies in government.
6. The Vote to Pull Back IRS Funding
Few of us enjoy paying taxes. But the Republicans and their ultra-rich donors begrudge taxes more than anyone else. And the GOP clearly felt the pressure when Democrats in the previous Congress passed funding to increase the ranks at the IRS, enabling the agency to hire more agents to pursue wealthy tax cheats and improve their service response group. To that end the GOP passed a bill in their first week in power to claw back those IRS staffing funds. And to cover their clear intent, they renamed their bill the “Family and Small Business Taxpayer Protection Act” – though we all know who this bill was truly meant to protect.
5. The GOP Votes on Trump-inspired Immigration Policies
With border crossings on the rise, the Republicans brought out an immigration bill that feels like it was penned at the height of the Trump Administration. In addition to the obligatory border wall, this bill would expedite the deportation of children who crossed the border without adults, and force asylum seekers to remain in Mexico. A new and controversial inclusion in this package was cutting funds for the non-governmental organizations who help immigrants near border communities.
While this bill’s aesthetic was planted firmly in 2018, the same cannot be said of Brian Fitzpatrick’s stance. Back in the 115th Congress, Fitzpatrick was part of a group of immigration moderates, who tried – and failed – to pass a less-Draconian immigration package. No such compassion this time around, as Fitzpatrick voted for this far-right anti-immigration wish list alongside his colleagues.
4. Brian Backs Book Banning in Moms For Liberty-approved Bill
Few Bucks County readers will need any reminder of how divisive and damaging book bans can be within the education system and the community at large. But Brian Fitzpatrick blithely waded into the fracas on the side of the Moms for Liberty zealots, backing a bill that the National Education Association said was “attempting to sow distrust between parents and schools by imposing book bans and curriculum restrictions.” In addition to this vote, Fitzpatrick also doubled-down on his book banning bona fides by endorsing Moms for Liberty aligned candidates in the recent election.
For a lawmaker who claims to be working for our “One Community”, Fitzpatrick certainly seems intent on advocating for policies designed to keep it divided and in chaos. Thankfully, voters took the better path this November.
3. Fitzpatrick Shows his Anti-Choice Zealotry, Again
This bill makes it illegal to murder infants after they have been born… something that is already illegal. Regardless, Republicans use this legislation, which they introduce every two years, to spread a GOP-urban legend about uncounted abortions taking place up to the last day of pregnancy, and babies being murdered after their birth.
In previous cycles, Brian Fitzpatrick eagerly participated in showy (and failed) discharge petitions to bring this bill to the floor. So his vote for this bill was no surprise. It can be added to the long list of other anti-choice actions and votes taken by our Member of Congress. Because while Fitzparick may show a disturbing inconsistency on other topics, he has been steadfast in his support for a national abortion ban and all of the other initiatives introduced by Republicans to restrict access to abortion.
2. The Parade of Republican Potential House Speakers
October 17, 2023 – failed vote for Jim Jordan
October 18, 2023 – failed vote for Jim Jordan
October 20, 2023 – failed vote against Jim Jordan
October 26, 2023 – successful vote for Mike Johnson
The saga of Kevin McCarthy’s failed tenure as Speaker and the interminable votes and public embarrassment of the Republicans as they scraped the bottom of their barrel of leadership candidates has been well-covered by the media, both local and national. Let us instead outline Brian Fitzpatrick’s shifting positions during the debacle:
- First Fitzpatrick supported Jim Jordan, the January 6th-enabling legislator-who-never-passed-a-bill, a man one of his own former leaders referred to as a “legislative terrorist”.
- Then Fitzpatrick supported Jim Jordan yet again, even as the Ohio lawmaker lost votes from old-school, institutionalist House GOP members.
- On the third vote, as more institutionalist members signaled their willingness to turn their back on Jordan, Fitzpatrick joined those jumping ship. He placed his vote for Speaker Pro-tem Patrick McHenry, who had already indicated he did not want the job, and would refuse it if he received the votes. McHenry has since announced he will not run for re-election to Congress again next year.
- Lastly, Brian Fitzpatrick voted for Mike Johnson, along with the exhausted entirety of his caucus.
What is more significant than Fitzpatrick’s vote for the unvetted Johnson, whom we have now all found out is a fringe Christian nationalist, is that Fitzpatrick is willing to lie to sell Johnson to his supporters. Politico reported that the very night of the fourth Speaker vote, Fitzpatrick leapt on a No Labels call with their billionaire donors to convince them that Johnson was a moderate. “He’s a Reagan Republican, not a Trump Republican,” said Fitzpatrick. Our Congressman’s message was undermined by a Truth Social bleat issued by Donald Trump as Fitzpatrick was on that No Labels call, which simply read “MAGA Mike Johnson,” and then by later revelations that Johnson was an architect of the election-denying amicus brief that Republican House members submitted to the Supreme Court when Texas tried to disenfranchise every Pennsylvania voter.
The Speaker vote saga showed the world Brian Fitzpatrick’s true MAGA-enabling colors.
1. Brian Fitzpatrick’s Worst Vote of 2023: the Joe Biden Impeachment Inquiry
December 13, 2023 – H.Res. 918: Directing certain committees to continue their ongoing investigations as part of the existing House of Representatives inquiry into whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to exercise its Constitutional power to impeach Joseph Biden, President of the United States of America; passed 221-212
December 13th marked the day when the House Republicans reached the nadir of their legislative agenda, deciding to take the unprecedented step of initiating an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden for no reason whatsoever. Having spent months trying to drum up reasons and finding no evidence, the GOP opted to just bluff their way through and vote anyway, hoping that saying the phrase “BIden Crime Family” repeatedly was enough to distract from Donald Trump’s 91 felony indictments.
Members of their own caucus failed to rationally explain the reasons behind this impeachment inquiry, with Pennsylvania’s own Rep. Guy Reschenthaler calling it “a political exercise.” Rep. Troy Nels of Texas was more blunt when asked for the reason behind the impeachment inquiry, declaring, “All I can say is Donald J. Trump 2024, baby.”
Brian Fitzpatrick has spent the last seven years preaching a mantra of bipartisanship to our community. For him to vote for this hyper-partisan impeachment inquiry is a betrayal of everything he purports to stand for all these years. This is partisanship of the worst sort, the kind that George Washington warned against in his farewell address to our nation in 1796. When speaking of maintaining unity in government, he warned of the “many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth.” Washington further worried that in partisanship there was a “spirit of revenge,” which he called “a frightful despotism.” We are seeing evidence of the worst of those fears in this sham inquiry, and Brian Fitzpatrick was a willing vote alongside his Republican colleagues in their campaign to distract from Donald Trump’s actual crimes, as we move into a Presidential election year.
This year has marked a significant change in Representative Brian Fitzpatrick. Facing a serious primary challenge from the right, Fitzpatrick has tossed aside most of his strategic fence-sitting ways. He has veered to the right, a turn well-evidenced by these ten worst votes. It is incumbent upon us, as informed voters, to ensure that those in our circle are aware of these votes as we move into 2024.
While they did not make the list, we could not forget this handful of votes: Fitzpatrick placed a hyper-partisan vote with all of his GOP colleagues when they opted to censure Congressman Adam Schiff for pursuing investigations of Donald Trump in past congressional sessions. He also voted to remove Representative Ilhan Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee, even though then-Speaker McCarthy had noted this was a revenge move against the removal of Marjorie Taylor Greene of and Paul Gosar in the previous Congress, for their event appearances with white supremacists. Fitzpatrick voted for the ending of the COVID emergency, even though that would end necessary programs like test distribution when enacted. And our Member of Congress continues to pursue his efforts at deregulation by supporting the REINS Act and SOPRA, both bills that reduce the power and efficacy of bureaucratic agencies.