Democrats plug for jobs bill in Pittsburgh

November 1, 2011
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz joined Western Pennsylvania lawmakers on the South Side today to stump for a $60 billion infrastructure spending package Democrats will bring up in the Senate this week, and to browbeat Republicans for opposing it.

Wasserman Schultz, a congresswoman from Florida, said Republicans should be “ashamed of themselves” for blocking President Obama’s jobs bill. She saved her harshest comments for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, saying he’s been “shockingly irresponsible” and “shockingly callous and insensitive” for joining Republicans in opposing the bill.

But fellow Democrats who also opposed Obama’s jobs bill, such as McCandless Rep. Jason Altmire, got a pass from Wasserman Schultz.

“We’re a party that doesn’t require unanimity,” she said. “Jason Altmire is a friend of mine. I respect his opinion.”

Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said the attack is a distraction.

“President Obama has demonstrated a shocking lack of competence and an alarming inability to fix our economy. The president and his allies know that he can’t run on his abysmal record and they are desperate to distract from the historic loss of middle-class jobs that has occurred on his watch,” Williams said.

The spending package includes $50 billion in direct infrastructure spending, including $1.3 billion for Pennsylvania, and a $10 billion “infrastructure bank” designed to be a combination of public and private money. U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle of Forest Hills said the spending would put more than 18,000 people to work in Pennsylvania.

Republicans deride the bill as another stimulus.

“Unfortunately, a campaign pitch for another stimulus won’t get people in Pittsburgh back to work. Day after day, President Obama and Debbie Wasserman Schultz continue to show that they are more concerned about the next campaign event or fundraiser than how to get Americans back to work,” said Republican National Committee spokesman Ryan Tronovich.

Doyle joined Wasserman Schultz at her news conference, along with Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, City Controller Michael Lamb, Rep. Mark Critz of Johnstown, and County Executive candidate Rich Fitzgerald of Squirrel Hill, with whom she’s raising money at a fundraiser today.

Infrastructure spending – keeping up the country’s public roads, bridges, locks and dams – has only recently become a partisan issue, Onorato said. He brought up the national interstate system, which was built because of Republican President Dwight Eisenhower.

“This isn’t about being a Democrat. This isn’t about being a Republican. This is about being an American,” Ravenstahl said. Noting the Liberty Bridge behind him, he said, “there are probably Democrats and Republicans driving over these bridges right now.”