Technically, Congressman Jason Altmire is right: his colleague-turned-political-opponent, Rep. Mark Critz, didn’t vote against last year’s Tea Party budget that would have dismantled Medicare and Social Security.
But what Mr. Altmire’s new attack ad doesn’t say is that Mr. Critz didn’t vote for it, either. Rather, Mr. Critz – along with all but 16 Democrats – voted “present,” essentially abstaining from the decision.
The “present” votes were part of caucus leadership’s plan to get Republicans to pass an ultra-conservative budget, which had no chance of passing the more liberal Senate, thereby killing another GOP budget proposal that stood a better chance of being enacted. Ultimately, the Tea Party budget failed by a vote of 119 to 136.
“What we were trying to do was choke both these bills,” Mr. Critz said in a conference call with reporters today.
Caucus Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland explained the strategy in a statement this evening.
"House Democrats stood together and voted 'present' on the extreme ... budget in order to expose its radical policies. Doing this showed the American people just how extreme House Republicans are and how devastating their policies would be for our nation," Mr. Hoyer said. "This was a vote to protect Medicare and derail the Republican budget."
The attack ad is the latest in a rare and increasingly bitter primary between two sitting lawmakers of the same party. Mr. Critz of Johnstown and Mr. Altmire of McCandless are squaring off because newly drawn voting maps put them in the same district.
The Altmire campaign stands by the commercial. Lawmakers should stand firm on the issues, not abstain, the campaign said in a written statement this afternoon.
“The last thing we need are more politicians playing insider games, failing to take a stand and putting partisan politics ahead of protecting seniors’ benefits. If you’re against something, you vote no,” Altmire spokesman Richard Carbo said in a written statement this afternoon.
But Mr. Critz called the ad “completely false” and “exactly what people don’t like about politicians when they misrepresent what the facts are.”
Reps. Bob Brady, D-Philadelphia, and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., joined Mr. Critz on the conference call to confirm the caucus strategy on the budget vote and to reinforce the Johnstown Democrat’s support of seniors.
“Mark is a stalwart on behalf of older Americans and Medicare and opposing the dismantling of medicare,” said Ms. Schakowski, a leader of the House Task Force on Seniors.
Scroll down to find the commercial posted in an earlier post by Early Returns contributor and Harrisburg bureau chief Laura Olson.