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Rothfus discusses voting against bill to end government shutdown

| Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, 1:06 p.m.
Republican U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus of Sewickley is running for re-election to his 12th Congressional District seat.

Backlash arrived swiftly for Pennsylvania lawmakers, whether they voted for or against raising the debt ceiling and ending a partial government shutdown.

Minutes after freshman Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, voted against the bill on Wednesday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee blasted him in a statement for clinging to “irresponsible, reckless dysfunction until the bitter end.”

Rothfus said on Thursday that he shares in the frustration Americans felt during the shutdown, but he wants the country to have a discussion about how to pay its bills.

He joined four other Pennsylvania Republicans — including Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Zionsville — in voting “no.” Rothfus was the only member of the House delegation from Western Pennsylvania who refused to say how he intended to vote on the package hours before it was introduced in the House.

The bill funds the government though Jan. 15 at pre-shutdown levels, expands the country's borrowing limit enough to last through Feb. 7, and forms a joint House-Senate committee to negotiate a budget by mid-December. The Senate voted 81-18 for the package. The House passed it in a 285-144 vote.

The deal did not end what Rothfus called “special treatment” carved out for members of Congress and large corporations in the Affordable Care Act. It also did not include reforms to curtail government spending while increasing the nation's debt, he said.

“Those concerns remain,” Rothfus said.

Rothfus, who represents Pennsylvania's 12th District stretching from Beaver County to Somerset County, faces re-election in 2014.

He has a primary challenger, Larry Stiles of Johnstown, who did not respond to requests for comment on the vote.

Toomey also did not disclose his vote before casting it in the Senate floor. The state Democratic Party quickly attacked him as “Tea Party Pat Toomey.”

“There has been no clearer indication that Tea Party Pat Toomey is completely out of touch with Pennsylvania,” the Democratic Party said in a statement.

Toomey said he could not support adding billions of dollars of debt without reforms to control government spending. The first-term senator faces re-election in 2016.

Conservative groups took shots at GOP House members who voted to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling.

Americans for Limited Government President Nathan Mehrens said Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Butler, disappointed his constituents by voting for the bill.

“When it finally mattered, Kelly turned around and voted to allow funding for the implementation of Obamacare to take effect. By voting to fund it, Kelly now owns Obamacare just as much as if it had been a vote to adopt it in the first place,” Mehrens said in a statement.

His office said Kelly “has never missed an opportunity to defund, delay, or repeal” the Affordable Care Act. “Any other interpretation of the congressman's record amounts to plain nonsense,” spokesman Tom Qualtere wrote in an email.

Lawmakers, regardless of their vote, might not feel the public's backlash until November.

Nearly three-quarters of registered voters would like to see most members of Congress out of office, a record-high sour mood toward incumbents, according to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center. Nearly 40 percent of voters do not want their own representative to return to Washington.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.

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