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Rep. Lou Barletta reaffirms support for Trump as other Republicans reportedly waver

Wesley Venteicher
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Associated Press
In this Oct. 10, 2016, file photo, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta (left), R-Pa., appears onstage with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, right, at a campaign rally at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Republican Rep. Lou Barletta reaffirmed his support for President Trump in a Twitter post while campaigning in Pittsburgh on Thursday, responding to a CNN report that about two dozen House and Senate Republicans would hesitate to endorse the president if he runs in 2020.

Several lawmakers told CNN they were focused on other things, including the upcoming midterm elections, and not speculating about 2020. Barletta, who was campaigning in his bid for the U.S. Senate seat held by Bob Casey, D-Scranton, reiterated the support he first announced during Trump’s 2016 primary campaign.

“After 8 years of American decline, @realDonaldTrump’s agenda is putting more $ in families’ pockets, keeping America safe, and protecting American jobs. I’m in for 4 more years,” Barletta wrote in the post.

He didn’t specify by what metric America had been in decline. An upward trend in employment started in 2009, during President Obama’s first term, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data .

In an interview before the Twitter post, the Hazleton congressman said illegal immigrants coming from Mexico threaten Americans’ safety and their jobs. Barletta said he supports the president’s decision to send National Guard troops to the border to stop illegal immigration and called for reforms to legal immigration that would better serve American businesses.

He said the temporary guest worker visa program isn’t working for agriculture in Pennsylvania, including mushroom farmers in the southeast part of Pennsylvania who need year-round workers.

“Our legal immigration does not work for American business and does not therefore strengthen the country,” he said.

Barletta garnered national attention as mayor of Hazleton in 2006 for instituting rules that would have punished landlords who rented to illegal immigrants or businesses that employed them. The law was overturned by a federal judge in 2007 before it took effect and the judge’s decision withstood appeals that went to the U.S. Supreme Court.

While he supports Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico, Barletta was hesitant to say he supported the deal on DACA recipients that Trump suggested to congressional Democrats, which would have given temporary protections to people who are part of the program in exchange for funding for the wall.

Barletta said the president offered to protect triple the number of DACA recipients as President Obama, a number he said might be too high.

“As far as the president’s proposal, I would want to look at how it got to that number,” he said.

State Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Brighton, is Barletta’s only remaining primary challenger. Barletta won endorsements from the state Republican Party and from Sen. Pat Toomey and had about $1.6 million in campaign cash at the end of March. Christiana has received endorsements from statehouse leaders in his party and had about $18,000 in cash at the end of March.

Barletta, who was elected in 2011, said he is running for Senate because he believes he can make a bigger difference in that chamber, where Republicans hold a majority with 51 seats.

“One vote in the Senate can be a difference. If I were in the Senate instead of Bob Casey, Obamacare would be gone today,” he said.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, [email protected] or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

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