WILKES-BARRE — Northeastern Pennsylvania’s three members of Congress say repairing the country’s infrastructure might be the first issue in which Democrats find themselves on the same page with President-elect Donald Trump.
But while fixing roads and bridges could produce positive results early in 2017, the Democratic Party needs to repair its own infrastructure as it goes about building bridges with President Trump and other Republicans in the House and Senate.
Republicans, meanwhile, must do bridge-building within their own party as they deal with a president whom many traditional Republicans did not support.
U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, said Tuesday that he intends to actively work on honing his party’s message.
“It’s obvious the Democratic Party has not done enough to be inclusive of large segments of the working-class people,” said Cartwright, who won a third term in the House on election night. “That segment of the population has always been a stronghold for Democrats.”
Not so on Tuesday.
In Luzerne County — long dominated by Democrats — Trump captured 78,303 votes to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 52,092, according to unofficial results.
“I blame us,” Cartwright said. “We have to sell our product better. If our message is not selling, it’s our fault, not the consumer’s. The customer is always right, and we have to do a better job of presenting a better product.”
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, said the job ahead for Congress and Trump is to work together.
“We have to try to do whatever we can to unify the country,” Casey said. “That is the job of Congress and the president-elect.”
U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, said regardless of who comes up with a good idea or solution — Republican or Democrat — Trump will work with both sides because he wants positive results.
“He won’t play politics,” Barletta said. “He wants to get things done in an expedient way. Donald Trump never wants to fail at anything.”
As for the nation’s infrastructure, Casey noted that Trump repeatedly said during the campaign that it needs to be upgraded.
“That is something that is not just years overdue, but decades overdue,” Casey said. “We need a substantial investment in our infrastructure, and that could be particularly beneficial to Pennsylvania.”
Casey said the Keystone State has some 5,200 bridges that have been deemed in need of repair. He said roads and bridges cannot be improved with a piecemeal approach.
“This is one issue that Democrats and President-elect Trump are on the same page,” Casey said. “In recent years, Republicans have fought that. But this would certainly be one of the best ways to create economic activity in Pennsylvania and across the country.”
Cartwright said he and U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, have supported spending the necessary money on infrastructure.
Barletta said Trump’s infrastructure plans are much more aggressive than Congress favored.
“This is music to my ears,” Barletta said. “I believe Congress would be receptive to his plan.”
But with Trump, Cartwright said sometimes it’s hard to gauge what’s real and what’s campaign rhetoric.
“I tend to think it’s real because if you’ve ever watched shows about Trump, he would buy a property and spend a fortune making it over. He’s never had a problem with that. I think he’s a man that, when he says he wants to spend a lot of money on infrastructure, he will.”
Barletta said the Republican majority in the House has passed multiple bills, but President Obama has refused to sign them into law.
“For instance, we have sent over several bills dealing with the Affordable Care Act, but the president hasn’t signed them,” Barletta said. “We will now be able to get good bills to the president’s desk, and he will sign them.”
Barletta said he expects bills that would protect Pennsylvania’s coal industry would be met with approval by Trump, as would bills aimed at securing U.S. borders.
“That’s something I’ve been fighting for since I was mayor of Hazleton,” Barletta said. “I’m excited about that — to finally have a president who wants to do many of the same things I’ve wanted to do.”
Barletta said he believes Trump will be “different” from any president in recent times.
“He (Trump) won’t play party politics,” Barletta said. “He has been a builder and a developer. He has had to find solutions for problems every day as a businessman. I believe he will treat Congress the same way.”
Casey said he hopes Trump will listen to good ideas — regardless of who they come from.
“Our foreign policy has to be solid,” Casey said. “Republicans in Congress categorically condemned everything Obama did on foreign policy — they refused to work with him.”
Casey said he hopes any disagreements between Congress and the Trump administration will be discussed without public spats.
“Because if the world sees us divided, that will not be a good message to give to the world,” Casey said. “We have to be unified or at least refrain from criticism.”
Cartwright said Congress has to give Trump every opportunity to succeed.
“Going forward, I’m going to keep an open mind,” he said. “I think we all need to take that approach.”
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.comments powered by Disqus