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Altmire taking heat over ads attacking Critz

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Saturday, April 21, 2012, 2:47 p.m.

The second-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House issued a second rebuke to a Western Pennsylvania Democrat over ads he's running in a bitter primary race.

U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire accuses Rep. Mark Critz of endangering entitlement programs because he voted "present" rather than against a Republican budget. Critz's vote was a procedural move engineered by Democratic leadership to embarrass Republicans. On Friday, the architect of that tactic, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., again accused Altmire of distorting what his fellow Democrats were trying to do.

"I am disappointed that negative advertisements continue to mislead Pennsylvania voters," Hoyer said in a statement released through Critz's campaign. "The fact is that Mark Critz stood with Democrats in an effort to derail the extreme Republican budget that would have ended Medicare."

Reps. Bob Brady, D-Philadelphia and Jan Schakowsky, D-Chicago, have also accused Altmire of misleading people. Altmire, 44, D-McCandless, said people haven't complained to him.

"No one has said anything to me," Altmire said.

Hoyer defended Critz, 50, D-Johnstown, in March after Altmire's first television ad on the subject. Yesterday, Hoyer went a step further, criticizing a GOP Balanced Budget Amendment that Altmire supported, and which Critz's attack ads have featured.

"Mark also opposed the Republican Balanced Budget Amendment that would have gutted Medicare and Social Security," Hoyer said.

Altmire defends his support of the amendment, saying the country's exploding deficit threatens the popular entitlement programs.

Republicans pitted Altmire and Critz against each other when they redrew congressional boundaries last year. The winner of Tuesday's primary will take on Edgeworth Republican Keith Rothfus, 49, in November.

Critz said Hoyer sought him out on the House floor this week and offered to help him push back against Altmire's attack.

"It infuriated him," Critz said. By criticizing the budget vote, Altmire is "throwing Steny under the bus because it was his strategy."

Asked if the spat would make him a less effective legislator, Altmire said: "What is of interest to me is representing my constituents. They sent me to Washington to speak for them and on that vote, that's what I was doing. I'm going to continue to take a stand on every vote ... I think the way I can be most effective is representing my constituents."

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