Barletta: No Regrets Over Senate Run
HAZLETON — Lou Barletta has no regrets about giving up his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives even though he lost this year’s election for Senate against incumbent Bob Casey.
“I felt I could do more for the people in the Senate where many bills were not getting voted on,” Barletta said in his district office in his hometown, where he is winding up his term. “I’m at peace with this.”
As he looked back on his eight years representing the 11th District of Pennsylvania in the House, Barletta, a Republican, said members of Congress cooperate more than people outside of Washington, D.C., might realize.
“There’s a lot of working together. I don’t think it gets reported,” Barletta said.
For example, he joined a bipartisan group that met every Tuesday morning in Washington.
Back at home, he banded with state Sen. John Yudichak, D-14, Plymouth Twp., to combat criminal gangs and promote the SHINE program that helps keep students away from gangs as they work on their studies after school.
Democrats and Republicans alike enjoy saving money, something Barletta achieved after becoming chairman of a subcommittee that put every federal building within his jurisdiction.
When he noticed that a federal courthouse in Washington had 1,800 square feet for each employee, Barletta promoted changes. Before renewing leases, he wanted agencies to rent less space — 180 square feet per employee at most — for more years to secure cheaper annual rates.
At last count, the policy saved $4.4 billion.
“Hopefully, it will continue long after I’m gone,” he said.
He fell short of money, however, in the Senate race on Nov. 6 where Casey out-fundraised him by $17.7 million to $7.4 million, according to Federal Election Commission postings on Nov. 26.
Casey received 2.7 million votes to Barletta’s 2.1 million votes, a gap Barletta thinks he might have closed with more funds. The National Republican Senate Committee didn’t contribute, although Barletta got support from the Republican-in-chief. President Donald Trump recognized Barletta as one of his earliest supporters in Pennsylvania back in 2016 and campaigned for Barletta at rallies like a stop at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre Twp. where he called Casey “Sleeping Bob.”
Voters’ view of Trump helped them decide between Casey and Barletta, as the two candidates took opposing stances toward the president’s policies, notably on health care, taxes and immigration.
Immigration brought Barletta to Washington and became his signature issue after he supported an immigration law as mayor that punished employers who hire unauthorized immigrants and landlords who rented to unauthorized immigrants in Hazleton.
In the House, he advocated for several immigration policies such as requiring fingerprints or facial scans to identify immigrants entering the country. During his eight years, Congress failed to enact comprehensive revisions to the immigration process.
Asked advice for his successors on how to overhaul immigration policy, he said, “Grow a backbone.”
Too many members of Congress, he said, preferred to play politics with immigration and care more about getting elected than fixing problems.
Barletta said would stop the flow of people entering illegally first and then address issues such as chain migration and children brought to the United States as youngsters to try to secure citizenship.
Trump proposed a solution that provided legal status for the youths and their parents as part of a package that included a border wall and tilted admissions toward skilled workers rather than relatives of immigrants.
Now that Barletta is leaving office, he is recouping time that he lost with his family while serving as congressman and the city’s mayor for the past 18 years. He is helping his wife, Mary Grace, bake cookies before their five grown daughters visit at Christmas with their families.
Barletta does some of the cooking, too, following a Mediterranean diet. He has to eat healthier because he’s not walking as much, according to his fitness tracker.
While hoofing it from his office to hearings to votes in the Capitol and then walking his dog, Reilly, after work, Barletta took 15,000 to 19,000 steps a day. At 62 he says he still has some fire in his belly, which suggests he might not stand still long before taking the next step in his career.
“I’m going to … rest up a bit, see what my options are — many of them are coming in — and make a decision in the near future,” Barletta said.
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