Schwartz challenged by Rooney for district seat
Democrat Allyson Schwartz, a four-term 13th Congressional District representative, and Republican challenger Joe Rooney, a military veteran and Delta Airlines captain, agree on one thing: Improving the economy is one of the most important tasks facing the county.
They differ on how to accomplish that.
“Economic growth and jobs and the financial challenges we have — we don’t have adequate revenue,” Schwartz said, regarding the most important issues to be addressed by the next Congress. “We’re seeing a recovery,” she said, and while job growth is “not as robust as we would like, we’re moving in the right direction.”
The answer is to create greater predictability of tax policies for businesses and to protect the middle class, with “the right kind of investments that are compatible and prosperous in a global economy,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz, 64, a resident of Jenkintown, said she supports extending the tax cuts due to expire and increasing the tax rate for those who earn more than $250,000, although she would be “flexible about what that number is,” perhaps $500,000, “but I do believe the wealthiest should be paying a bit more.”
“We need revenues to meet our obligations,” Schwartz said, adding she supports deficit reduction, balancing the budget and paying down the national debt. Spending has been cut by $1 trillion she said, with another trillion “committed” over the next 10 years, but “we can’t do it with spending cuts alone.”
Referring to the country’s $16 trillion debt and more than $1 trillion in deficits in recent years, Rooney, who described himself as a conservative Republican, said, “We can’t keep that up. We have to get spending under control and grow the economy” to reduce unemployment and bring in more revenue.
Rooney, 54, of Ardsley, said Congress must lead by example, and “cut its budget by 10 percent across the board,” by reducing staff and other expenditures. Referring to a comment made by presidential Republican candidate Mitt Romney during the Oct. 3 debate, he said he agreed that programs should not be funded if they are “not worth borrowing money from China” for.
Rooney said he would not vote to raise income taxes to help cut the deficit.
“The main focus has to be on flatter taxes, lower tax rates; reasonable regulations and giving the private sector businesses the predictability they need,” he said.
Rooney said he was against the president’s health care reform act, noting he is “a big believer in the free market system.”
Schwartz, who has sponsored a variety of health care provisions over the years to require electronic medical records and electronic prescriptions to reduce errors, authored several key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including increasing access to primary care, banning excusions for pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ health care coverage.
She has also sponsored legislation giving tax credits to biotech companies and giving businesses a tax break for those who hire veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, she said.
On a local level, Schwartz said, she sponsored an amendment that prevented future use of the Willow Grove Naval Air Station airfield in Horsham for commercial passenger operations and brought “federal dollars back to the district” through an infrastructure bill to pay for Main Street projects in Ambler, Lansdale and Jenkintown.
In terms of Montgomery County, Rooney targeted manufacturing.
“We used to have an incredible manufacturing base; a lot of it is gone,” he said. “We need to look at that … how we can get some of it back.”
Asked how to reduce the gridlock and polarization that marks Congress, Rooney, who spent 23 years in the Marines, including 11 on active duty, said he has “spent a lifetime working together [with others],” noting “the military is an apolitical environment.”
Rooney accused Schwartz of not trying to work with Republicans in Congress.
“She has never been the prime author of a piece of legislation that has passed … she is not a moderate, she does not work across the aisle,” Rooney said.
Schwartz responded that the legislation she has sponsored has been passed as part of larger bills.
“Every piece of legislation I worked on I’ve looked for a Republican to work with me,” she said. “That’s been a challenge in the last year or two.”
Rooney, who has a mechanical engineering degree from Cornell University, is married to a Navy veteran and has five children, two of whom are also in the military, said he was running because “a lot of work needs to be done here at home.”
“We need strong, firm leadership,” Rooney said. Referring to the Middle East, he added, “We have to stop bowing and apologizing.”
Schwartz, describing herself as a centrist Democrat, said she was running again “to get our fiscal house in order, protect Medicare,” and “grow the economy by making available higher education.”
The 13th Congressional District includes parts of Montgomery County and Northeast Philadelphia.