Smucker interview

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker talks during an interview with Brad Bumsted, Harrisburg bureau chief for LNP | LancasterOnline and the LNP Media Group watchdog publication The Caucus, at Smucker's Lancaster office Friday, Aug. 5, 2022.

THE ISSUE

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker has declined to participate in a pair of debates organized by his hometown newspaper, LNP | LancasterOnline, and has yet to agree to a traditional debate with Bob Hollister, his Democratic challenger in the contest to represent the 11th Congressional District, which includes all of Lancaster County and the southern half of York County. The “proposed debates were to be hosted by the Lancaster Chamber and the York County Economic Alliance on Oct. 6 and 13, with one event in each county,” this newspaper reported Friday. “LNP | LancasterOnline and the York Daily Record planned to stream the debates on Facebook and post the videos to their news websites.” Hollister called Smucker’s decision “appalling.”

In an interview published today, former U.S. Rep. Bob Walker, a Republican, told LNP | LancasterOnline Executive Editor Tom Murse that everyone “running for election should test their opinions against the opposition” in a public debate.

We strongly agree with Walker (and we believe this also applies to Democrat John Fetterman, who’s vying against Republican Mehmet Oz for a U.S. Senate seat).

Said Walker: “You can say everything you want in press releases and before friendly audiences, but I think the voters should be able to hear you be countered on those opinions and hear you counter what the other side is saying about where they would take the country.”

Indeed.

A spokesperson for Smucker’s campaign said in an email to LNP | LancasterOnline that “a televised debate has been scheduled with ABC27,” but her use of the term “debate” is a stretch — it will not be broadcast live or include an in-studio audience of voters.

Following are the questions we’d like to see asked of Smucker in the public setting of a traditional debate.

— The last time you met in-person with constituents in a public setting was 2014, when you were a member of the Pennsylvania Senate. Why do you rarely meet with constituents in open, public settings such as debates or town halls like your predecessors U.S. Reps. Walker and Joe Pitts did? How important is it to engage with your constituents in an unfiltered manner?

— When you joined the Problem Solvers Caucus in the U.S. House, you said you looked forward to “rolling up my sleeves and working with this bipartisan group of lawmakers to focus on navigating — not obstructing — our path forward.” Why did you leave the caucus last year?

Recent voting record

— Nearly 1 in 10 Lancaster County residents ages 20 and older have been diagnosed with diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And yet you voted against the Affordable Insulin Now Act, which seeks to cap insulin prices at either $35 a month or 25% of a health insurance plan’s negotiated price, whichever is lower. Why?

— As a Manheim Township resident pointed out in a letter to the editor, you also opposed the 2021 Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act; the 2022 Active Shooter Alert Act; the Respect for Marriage Act; and the Right to Contraception Act.

That last act seeks to protect Americans’ right to buy and use contraception, a right affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1965 case, Griswold v. Connecticut, a ruling that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas believes should be reconsidered. Do you believe your adult constituents should have unfettered access to contraception?

— The Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski and Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey. According to those senators, the act seeks to expand domestic violence prevention efforts, strengthen the National Domestic Violence Hotline and create a “new program that provides resources for underserved populations.” Why did you vote against it in the House?

— In June, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a 50-year-old ruling that granted women the constitutional right to abortion. You said in a statement that in Congress, you would “continue to support pro-life policies which protect the unborn.” What about policies to protect the already born?

For instance, as noted by the previously mentioned Manheim Township letter writer, you voted against the bipartisan Active Shooter Alert Act, which seeks to create an Amber Alert-like warning system for active-shooter incidents. Creating such a system is favored by law enforcement and could help to ease the minds of parents who recently sent their children back to school. Why did you vote against this measure?

— You also voted earlier this year against the Infant Formula Supplemental Appropriations Act, which sought to provide emergency funding to address a nationwide shortage of infant formula. Why?

Economic issues

— You frequently refer to “Bidenflation.” But the unemployment rate is low; gas prices are falling; and consumer confidence is higher than expected. Do you credit the Biden administration for any of these positive developments?

— You wrote a column published in LNP | LancasterOnline in April 2020 in which you highlighted the Paycheck Protection Program for owners of businesses affected by the pandemic. Yet you’ve denounced the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness program.

Recipients of the Paycheck Protection Program, including some members of Congress or their family members, were forgiven thousands, even millions, of dollars in loans. The Smucker Co., which you owned and operated for 25 years, had its $2.8 million loan forgiven, according to ProPublica. You sold your interest in that company in 2006 to your brother. Does your brother still own that company? Do other family members have ties to that company?

By contrast, recipients of the student loan forgiveness program will only have up to $20,000 in debt canceled. You called the student loan forgiveness program a “massive government giveaway” on “the backs of the American taxpayer.” How is that different from the Paycheck Protection Program?

— What initiative would you propose to help constituents get out from the crushing burden of student loan debt, which has been particularly difficult for Black and Latino Americans?

— You voted for the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The Congressional Budget Office calculated prior to enactment of that legislation that it would balloon the federal deficit by approximately $1.7 trillion. And, indeed, following the enactment of that legislation, the federal deficit ballooned to record levels. You voted against the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which the Congressional Budget Office calculated would reduce deficits by $238 billion over a decade while combating climate change. Please explain how voting for the 2017 tax law and voting against the Inflation Reduction Act were fiscally responsible.

On democracy

— Hours after the brutal Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol, you voted against accepting Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Had you prevailed, the legally cast votes of 115,847 Lancaster County residents would have been nullified. You said you objected to accepting Pennsylvania’s electoral votes because “unconstitutional measures taken by bureaucrats and partisan justices in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania” “unlawfully changed how this election was carried out” and “potentially changed the outcome.” Yet you believed that your own reelection, via the same ballots, collected and counted using the same procedures, was valid. Why?

— In Pennsylvania and across the U.S., Republican lawmakers and elections officials are seeking to reduce convenient access to the ballot box. Do you believe that we as a nation should do everything possible to encourage and enable eligible people to register to vote and to cast their ballots?

— Following the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, former President Trump’s Florida home, some of your colleagues suggested defunding the FBI. Do you believe the FBI should be defunded? Do you believe former President Trump was wrong to take classified documents from the White House and store them at Mar-a-Lago, as the Department of Justice and the National Archives say he did? Are you concerned that the former president’s actions may have national security implications? Has this matter changed your view of his fitness to serve in the White House?

— President Joe Biden recently delivered a speech on democracy at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall in which he assailed former President Trump and extremist “MAGA Republicans.” In a statement, you asserted that Biden has “no intention of unifying this country” and his speech “only served to further divide the nation.” Do you believe former President Trump unified Americans? Would you agree with President Biden that the “Republican Party today is dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans”? Do you consider yourself a MAGA Republican?

— Those Republicans also have been lambasted by U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, vice chair of the congressional committee investigating the events of Jan. 6, 2021. Cheney recently lost her GOP primary election in Wyoming. Do you believe Cheney is a patriot? Given your vote to reject Pennsylvania’s 2020 electoral votes, do you think she would describe you as a patriot? Do you think of yourself as one? To what lengths would you go to defend democracy?

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