U.S. Senator Bob Casey Answers Our Questions


Daevan Mangalmurti, Editor

After two terms in the US Senate, Senator Bob Casey remains one of Pennsylvania’s most popular politicians. This translated into an easy victory for him today as he crushed his Republican challenger for the 2018 Midterms, Lou Barletta. Coming from the old coal town of Scranton, Sen. Casey is ideologically middle-of-the-road, in a complicated way. He’s a staunch opponent of abortion, but an equally determined supporter of LGBTQ+ rights. His position on gun laws has shifted massively over the past few years, from staunchly pro-Second Amendment to proposing gun restrictions. All in all, he’s much like the state itself- politically moderate, sometimes conflicted, but changing with the times. Here are six question we posed to the Senator this summer, and his responses.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, you experienced a major transformation in your views on gun control. What are your feelings now about the possibility of gun control legislation, after six years and the Pulse and Parkland shootings?

Sandy Hook had a profound impact on the way I look at the issue of gun reform. After those 20 students and 6 adults were killed in Newtown, my wife and daughters asked me, ‘What are you going to do in the Senate? How are you going to vote on measures that would reduce gun violence?’ As I reflected on what happened at Sandy Hook, and now as I reflect on what’s happening around the country, I determined that those of us in public office have an obligation to take action. As for the possibility of legislative change, I strongly believe that young people in this country have begun a movement for change around the issue of gun violence, and the voices that have been elevated by that movement will deliver change.

You’ve also worked with Republican senators to sponsor gun control legislation. Can gun control can be a bipartisan issue in Congress?

There are powerful special interests standing in the way of action on gun violence. We’ve introduced a number of common-sense gun safety proposals in Congress, like universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons, limits on magazine capacity and restricting people on the Terrorist Watchlist from obtaining firearms, but many of my colleagues are not convinced that we should pass some of these reforms. We need to keep the pressure on Republican leadership in Congress—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan—to bring common-sense gun safety measures up for a debate and votes. While I remain hopeful that we can reach agreement, these Republican leaders control the calendar and they are preventing action.

What are your thoughts on the March for Our Lives and the efforts of the Parkland kids?

These young people have taken an unspeakable tragedy and turned it into a movement. I’m proud of their work, and I was proud to march with them in Philadelphia and Allentown. I remain encouraged by young advocates and truly believe that we can work towards a future free from gun violence.

Pennsylvania is home to hundreds of small business that could or are already being adversely affected by the President’s tariffs. Have you had a chance to speak to the President about the negative impact his trade measures could have? If a trade conflict with China were to escalate, do you believe it would be in the long-term best interests of the United States or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania? What measures are you working on to protect Pennsylvania manufacturers and producers from a potential trade war?

On issues of trade generally, my priorities are working to ensure that Pennsylvanian and American workers are put first. Workers in Pittsburgh know all too well how trade cheating and China’s efforts to steal our future by stealing from our companies are some of the fundamental trade challenges of our time because they directly impact Pennsylvania jobs and wages. We should never want a trade war with our allies, but we should demand fairness and accountability. That’s why it’s important for the Administration to get this right and focus on counties that cheat on trade, and work with our allies to do the same. I have continuously worked to hold the Administration accountable for its actions when those actions adversely impact Pennsylvania families. I will continue to do so.

Which of the pieces of legislation that you are sponsoring are you most enthusiastic about for this year?

I’m pleased to report that just earlier this year, my Children of Fallen Heroes Scholarship Act, was signed into law. This legislation honors our fallen heroes by easing the financial burden on their children who pursue a college education. Specifically, the bill makes the children of first responders who fall in the line of duty eligible for the maximum Pell Grant. I hope this legislation will help to reduce financial strain on families and make higher education more accessible for these children.

Together with Senator Susan Collins of Maine, you’ve introduced the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act to help families affected by the opioid crisis. Can you tell us a little about that and other measures you’re working on to mitigate the crisis?

For many years, grandparents have stepped in to care for grandchildren when they were needed. The opioid epidemic touches every corner of this country. It’s in big cities, small towns and suburbs. And it’s affecting our grandparents. This is why I partnered with my colleague Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, to introduce the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act. This bill would create a one-stop-shop of information on the resources available to support grandparents raising grandchildren. This bill has passed the Senate and the House of Representatives and because of a few changes to the bill text, needs to clear the Senate once more.  We anticipate that will happen quickly. On the opioid crisis more broadly, following the introduction of my legislation aimed at significantly expanding funding to fight opioids, the Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act, Congress provided $6 billion in new funding for this purpose in the 2018 budget deal.