VP Mike Pence and Sen. Bob Casey use Pittsburgh as stage to trade political barbs | TribLIVE.com
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Bob Bauder
Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the America First Policies event at the Heinz History Center in the Strip District on Feb. 2, 2018.

Vice President Mike Pence appeared in Pittsburgh on Friday to tout the Trump administration’s accomplishments and take a few swipes at Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, who is facing a Republican challenge in his re-election bid this year.

Pence spoke for about 20 minutes before about 250 invited guests at the Heinz History Center in the Strip District, highlighting Trump’s tax reform bill passed by Republicans.

“We cut taxes for working families,” he said. “A typical family of four will keep about $2,900 of their own hard-earned money. We also slashed taxes on American businesses and their employees.”

He emphasized that Casey, a Scranton Democrat, voted against the tax bill and has opposed Trump judicial nominees while Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, supported those initiatives.

Casey is running for a third six-year term. Possible Republican challengers include state Rep. Jim Christiana of Beaver County, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta of Hazleton and Delaware County businessman Paul Addis.

“Bob Casey even voted against giving the Keystone State the power to defund Planned Parenthood,” Pence said. “I think the people of Pennsylvania deserve better.”

Casey fired back in a written response.

“Pittsburghers have seen this song and dance before from the president and now the vice president — lots of talk, no action,” he said.“When it comes to fighting for middle-class families in Western Pennsylvania, I would put my record of securing health care for 2,000 retired coal miners and securing funding to repair the region’s waterways, which support 200,000 jobs, up against the vice president’s tax giveaways to the super-rich and big corporations any day.”

Pence described Trump’s first year in office as a “year of action.”

He said Congress passed the largest military spending bill in more than a decade, and he vowed to rebuild the armed services. He promised to continue squeezing North Korea with economic and political pressure and use whatever means necessary to reduce Kim Jong Un’s nuclear arsenal.

He said the administration is securing the nation’s borders and would build a long-promised wall, drawing chants of “Build that wall” from the crowd.

The vice president also addressed the nation’s opioid crisis, promising the administration would do “everything in our power to confront” it.

“If we keep faith, this is just the beginning, and we will make America prosperous again,” he said. “We will make America safe again and, to borrow a phrase, we will make America great again.”

Jason Carter, 16, of Coraopolis attended the event as part of a field trip from Abundant Life, a Bellevue Christian school.

“I thought he was really inspiring,” Carter said. “It went along with the flow of (Trump’s) State of the Union address.”

Pence spent about 15 minutes after the event shaking hands with supporters and signing autographs.

Brian Blair, 39, and Keith Nitschke, 42, cousins from Erie, were among them.

“We got to shake hands,” Blair said. “He’s a very generous guy.”

Pence appeared earlier Friday at a campaign rally in Bethel Park for Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone, who is running against Democrat Conor Lamb in a special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected].

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