U.S. Representatives Tom Marino (R-Lycoming) and Lou Barletta (R-Luzerne) have come under scrutiny from their opponents after their vote for the 2013 Defense Appropriations Bill.
According to The Daily Item, the bill is largely controversial in Northeast Pennsylvania because of funding cuts to the Tobyhanna Army Depot, one of the region’s largest employers. Marino and Barletta’s vote for the bill has their opponents for the general election jumping on them.
The Daily Item reported that, if passed as is, the bill would cut about $2 billion in funding from Tobyhanna – including cuts to maintenance and repair of communications and electronic equipment like radar.
Barletta says that he was misinformed as to the details of the bill.
“When I voted for the bill, I did so with the understanding that funding for the Tobyhanna Army Depot was not being compromised,” Barletta told The Daily Item. “I, along with the other 325 members of Congress who voted in favor of the bill, both Republicans and Democrats, believed the information provided to us was accurate.”
Barletta’s opponent Gene Stilp scoffed at his explanation, suggesting that Barletta is out of touch already with the people of the newly redrawn 11th district.
“He has to be criticized for his vote and not knowing that the bill affects Tobyhanna in a very negative way,” Stilp told the Daily Item. “This is a huge bill and a major bill, and for Mr. Barletta to not understand, at least, how it would affect people in the newly redrawn 11th District shows he still has a lot to learn about how Congress works.
Stilp said Barletta could have offered an amendment to protect employers like Tobyhanna.
While Marino was unavailable for comment, his Democratic challenger Phil Scollo took the leisure of adding some comments of his own.
“Unless it is fixed, this defense appropriations bill could be a real disaster for our region’s economy and especially for the hard-working families employed at Tobyhanna,” Scollo told the Daily Item.
“Republicans and Democrats alike voted for this bill, but it appears as if none of them was actually looking out for the people of northeastern Pennsylvania. Tom Marino owes the people of northeastern Pennsylvania an explanation. Did he know what the local impact of this bill was at the time of his vote? If so, why did he support it instead of fixing it?”
The Senate recently passed its own version of the $606 billion appropriations bill. The two versions will be sent to conference, where the issue is either going to be resolved, or Tobyhanna Army Depot will face cuts.
Update: In a recent interview with WKOK, Tom Marino finally answered questions on his vote for the 2013 Defense Appropriations Bill which would require majors cuts to Tobyhanna. His answers indicate that the Rep. may be flip-flopping his stance on his vote.
“I voted for the defense appropriation. I am very clear on this. We have to cut across the board so…I put a lot of time into this and it was the right thing to do,” Marino said in the August 9 interview with WKOK.
When speaking with the The Times-Leader, Marino’s Chief of Staff Bill Tighe said Marino voted for the bill with anticipation the issue would be fixed.
“He voted for the bill with the promise from House Appropriations Committee members that this problem will be dealt with before Fiscal Year 2013 defense funding is finalized,” Tighe told The Times-Leader. “He was aware that Tobyhanna could be affected, and he is seeking a commitment to fix this and that was key in his decision to vote for the bill.”
This recent quote prompted another response from Marino’s opponent, Phil Scollo, who said that Marino lacks an understanding of not just his constituents, but northeast PA in general.
“With the unemployment rate in northeastern Pennsylvania currently at 9 percent, you’d think Marino would be focused on creating jobs, not destroying them,” said Scollo.
“This is not a partisan issue; it’s a local issue. In this bill, other Army Depots are protected from cuts, but Marino allowed for severe cuts to Tobyhanna. It’s ineffective representation and a reckless vote.”