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Congressman Lloyd Smucker meets with the LNP Editorial Board. Thursday, August 24, 2017

Before U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker took office in January, his predecessor, U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts, spent two decades in Washington earning a reputation as a staunchly conservative Republican who focused his efforts on health issues and international relations.

Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Walker, before Pitts, served the same amount of time and took a leading role in the nation’s space and energy programs, as well as the federal budget.

Now the Lancaster County congressional seat has a rare new face representing it in Washington, D.C.

How has Smucker — only the fourth person to represent the 16th district in the last half-century — spent his time in the role so far?

As of Congress’ annual summer break, Smucker had put his name on 110 bills, resolutions and amendments. He had voted on the House floor 436 times.

While his support for other legislative activity in Washington is not limited to these records, they do indicate where Lancaster County’s newest representative on Capitol Hill is placing some of his priorities.

Some of his constituents, like his five already-announced challengers for 2018 or those in the activist group Lancaster Stands Up, have forcefully critiqued Smucker every step of the way.

But in a Republican-majority district, not much of his record so far is surprising, said G. Terry Madonna, a longtime Pennsylvania political observer and Franklin & Marshall College pollster.

“From what I can gather from following his career in the Legislature and now in Congress, he hasn't done anything that has particularly surprised me,” said Madonna, who has participated in and analyzed Lancaster County politics since before Walker was in office.

“He is in a more conservative district, and therefore the way he is conducting himself seems more consistent with what the majority of his voters want.”

Voting record

So far in his young congressional career, Smucker has a nearly perfect score in voting with his party.

He has cast 436 of the 438 possible votes in the House, not counting committee work. The only times he did not vote with the majority of Republicans were on six of those occasions — and all were bill amendments rather than final passage.

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That puts him at 378th out of 434 House members in a ranking of how often they vote opposite their party, according to the nonprofit, investigative newsroom ProPublica. Among Pennsylvania’s 18-member delegation, he tied for last with Rep. Keith Rothfus, a Republican from western Pennsylvania, in that ranking.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a freshman Republican from Bucks County, voted against his own party the most out of the Keystone State group — with 14.7 percent of his votes against the GOP majority compared to Smucker’s 1.8 percent.

Rep. Pat Meehan voted against the GOP 6 percent of the time, putting him third-most among the Pennsylvania delegation and 75th overall.

“I don't think there's any doubt that Smucker’s on the more conservative side than all of them,” Madonna said of other neighboring members of the Pennsylvania Republican delegation.

Smucker’s voting record also includes what is essentially a 100 percent record in line with President Donald Trump’s priorities, according to a tally from FiveThirtyEight, a news website that focuses on political analysis.

The only potential exception in that regard was Smucker’s vote to formalize U.S. sanctions against Russia, which was supported almost unanimously by Congress and reluctantly signed into law by Trump. Seventy-one Republicans, including five from Pennsylvania, also fall onto that FiveThirtyEight list.

Some of the major House votes so far this year include the passage of GOP’s controversial repeal-and-replace plan for the Affordable Care Act, which was later shot down in the Senate, and the bipartisan federal appropriations bill.

Smucker has also voted along party lines to repeal the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform provisions, bolster military spending and penalize sanctuary cities.

When asked about his voting record in a recent LNP editorial board meeting, Smucker said he was fulfilling the promises that he made to voters last year.

He singled out a few overarching topics and some specific votes.

“I have delivered on things that I said I would do,” Smucker said. “(I said I would) vote for strong national security; I would vote to repeal and replace Obamacare; I would vote to decrease the overreach of government into businesses into our lives. We’ve accomplished all that. And so again it's an agenda I think I was elected to support. It’s an agenda we will continue to work to advance.”

What kind of legislation has Smucker supported?

Smucker has sponsored or co-sponsored 101 bills as of late August.

He was the prime sponsor of six of them and a co-sponsor of the rest — meaning he showed his support by attaching his name to another member’s bill.

They include: allowing concealed carry reciprocity, repealing the so-called “death tax,” repealing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, continuing New Market Tax Credits, stopping paychecks to members of Congress if they don’t pass a budget and changing the annual budget system to a two-year budget process.

More generally, they fall into a few different types of policy areas.

Health-related bills represented the most, at 22, followed by tax-related bills, at 15. Other themes have been crime and law enforcement bills (nine); armed forces and national security (eight); and government operations and politics (eight).

Pitts, who spent several sessions as chair of the Health Subcommittee within the Energy and Commerce Committee, sponsored mostly health-related and taxation-related bills during his 20-year career.

Walker, who chaired the Science Committee, sponsored bills mostly related to taxation, economics and public finance, and government operations and politics, according to a review of the congressional record.

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Smucker’s primary bills

Compared to his most recent predecessors, Smucker is on pace to introduce about as many bills as Pitts did in his inaugural term.

Pitts, of Kennett Square, Chester County, was the prime sponsor of 12 bills in 1997 and went on to sponsor an average of about 14 bills in each of his 10 terms. Walker sponsored 27 bills his first year, in 1977, and about 13 bills on average every year for 10 terms.

The six bills Smucker has sponsored himself touch on a range of topics: foster care, Medicare, government shutdowns, wastewater mandates, Veterans affairs.

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Five of his bills had been written by lawmakers in previous sessions and Smucker took them on as his priority this year — one example is U.S. Sen. Bob Casey’s decade-long initiative to establish the Susquehanna National Heritage Area.

The sixth bill Smucker sponsored, to give municipalities more flexibility with wastewater mandates, was first proposed in the Senate this session before Smucker introduced it in the House.

One bill, to make it easier for foster children to be placed in the home of a relative, passed the House already and is now in the Senate.

Of course, Smucker has spent time to further legislation other than his own — including a big push for the Strengthening Career and Technical Education bill from GOP Rep. Glenn Thompson of Centre County.

Smucker sits on the Education and Workforce Committee. He said he’s gravitated toward those topics in part because of current issues and in part because of his background in business and as chair of the state Senate Education Committee in Harrisburg.

“We have huge, booming vacancies in our workforce,” he said. “It’s going to be an impediment to economic growth.”

Across the aisle?

Smucker has taken steps to communicate, through op-eds and interviews, that he believes Congress can work in a bipartisan way even as political discourse is often considered more contentious than ever.

He’s even joined a 44-member bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, which has recently tried to tackle the health care divide.

Of the 101 legislative bills Smucker has co-sponsored in his first seven months in Congress, 91 were sponsored by Republicans and 11 were sponsored by Democrats.

Most of the bills — 78 of them — have at least one co-sponsor from the opposite party.

But a much smaller share have strong bipartisan support. For example, for 56 of the 91 GOP-sponsored bills, Democrats make up less than a third of their support.

Among the six bills for which he has been the prime sponsor, two don’t have any listed co-sponsors, one has just one Republican co-sponsor and three have at least one Democratic co-sponsor.

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