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Cartwright returned to DC with a chance for more influence | Federal State

For weeks, TV commercials bombarded US Rep. Matt Cartwright for voting 100% of the time with President Joe Biden or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“Your congressman should stand up to Joe Biden and not hang out with him,” Cartwright’s Republican opponent Jim Bognet said in a commercial.

As it turned out, just enough voters in the 8th congressional district didn’t mind Cartwright’s closeness with the President and the Speaker. They voted to send Cartwright to Washington, DC for a sixth two-year term, earning $174,000 a year. He won by less than 7,000 votes, a 2.4 percentage point win, his second straight win over Bognet and the closest of his elections.

In the fourth straight election, he won a district won by President Donald Trump. He’s the only Democratic incumbent to do so nationally, said David Wasserman, a senior editor of the Cook Political Report, which tracks congressional elections.

Now that he’s won, Moosic resident Cartwright, 61, chuckles at the Republican publicity attack.

“There are many voters, if you told them that Cartwright voted 51% for bills that Biden liked, that would be too much for them. Just because of the polarisation,” he said during an interview with the Sunday Times after the election. “I was on a car trip with a colleague last week who said, ‘Yes, I saw these ads that said you voted 100% with Biden. And (he) said, ‘Good boy, I’m glad you did.’”

Cartwright, who has served as co-chair of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee for the past four years, will return to the Capitol with an opportunity to rise in the Democratic leadership. Pelosi, House Democratic Speaker Steny Hoyer, and House Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn will step aside, although Clyburn will take on the role of Deputy Leader.

On Wednesday, House Democrats created a new leadership position on the battlefield. Cartwright, who has been severely tested in his last three elections, will seek the job but has competition from Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7, Virginia. The position is limited to members who have qualified to serve on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“I think what’s really important is that I get on the Steering and Policy Committee (of the House of Representatives),” Cartwright said.

The Steering and Policy Committee, made up of about 30 members of the House of Representatives, decides the duties of the Democratic Committee and legislative priorities. Pelosi appointed Cartwright to the committee in 2016, and he has been an automatic member for the past four years due to his co-chair of policy and communications. This time he is looking for one of 12 regionally elected posts. He would represent Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky.

Regardless of what happens there, Cartwright will remain on the House Appropriations Committee, but will lose some powers when the new Congress is sworn in on Jan. 3. During that term, he served as House Democrat-majority Chair of Appropriations Commerce, Subcommittee on Judiciary, Science and Related Agencies. This enabled him to bring home tens of millions of dollars for special projects for local governments and nonprofits.

With Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives next year, Cartwright will lose the presidency but should remain the subcommittee’s ranking Democrat. He believes his good relationship with Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-7, Alabama, will help him continue to bring federal money home. Aderholt is the top Republican on the subcommittee. Republicans voted Wednesday to keep the eartags that Congress scrapped more than a decade ago over corruption scandals.

“I intend to be very focused over the next two years on why I ran for Congress in the first place,” Cartwright said. “And that should improve the economic horizons of the people of northeastern Pennsylvania.”

Top of the list or at the top: the long-awaited passenger train between Scranton, the Poconos and New York City. In late October, Gov. Tom Wolf committed $3.7 million in state funds to improve the tracks between Scranton and the Poconos, the project’s first major state funding. Cartwright said he convinced Wolf to provide the money while they were both waiting in line to attend a political campaign event.

When Biden called with congratulations the day after the election, Cartwright thanked him and immediately asked about the train. Biden brought up the call during his post-election press conference.

“For example, I recently congratulated a Californian on the phone and then someone in — up in Scranton, Pennsylvania — the congressman who got elected,” Biden said, according to a White House transcript. “And he (Cartwright) said, ‘Can you help us make sure we can have bullet trains from Scranton to New York, New York City?’ I said, “Yes, we can. We can.'”

Cartwright called 2023 “a critical year for this train project” as applications for engineering funding are due early next year.

“We have to stay on the ball,” Cartwright said. “So I’m trying to make sure I’m available for a lot of bird-dogging of this project this coming semester… We’re not going to have a chance like this.”

Ed Mitchell, the veteran Democratic political adviser who is familiar with Washington’s ways, said Cartwright will retain significant influence as a member of the steering and policing committees, and even in the lesser-resourced post.

“Being a member of the steering and policy committee is a very important position,” Mitchell said. “When you’re on this committee, a lot of members come to you because they want their legislation on the calendar and all that stuff. And that committee decides things like a party’s message.”

He pointed out that the late US Representative Joseph McDade, a Republican who represented the region from 1963 to 1999, was a routine member of the Appropriations Committee while Republicans were in the minority. McDade formed relationships with Democrats who helped him bring federal money home.

“I don’t know, maybe it’s not like that anymore. But when they made those deals, they gave something to both sides,” Mitchell said.

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