Ads target Philly-area federal lawmakers on taxes, health care

Pennsylvania Congressional representatives Ryan Costello (left) and Patrick Meehan.

Pennsylvania U.S. Reps. Ryan Costello (left) and Patrick Meehan. (AP and WHYY File photos)

Ads by the group Save My Care urge U.S. Reps. Ryan Costello, Pat Meehan, and Brian Fitzpatrick to preserve the health care mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

A new series of ads is targeting Republican congressmen from the Philadelphia area, urging them to vote against the GOP tax plan and preserve the Affordable Care Act.

“They’re online, they’re on the radio, some are on TV,” said Mark Nevins, a Democratic strategist working on the ads with unions and the group Save My Care. “It’s part of a grass-roots movement that’s happening in the area and across the country.”

A radio ad from 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East targets suburban U.S. Reps Brian Fitzpatrick, Pat Meehan and Ryan Costello, asking voters to tell them to vote against the Republican tax plan.

“The bill takes money from middle-class families to fund huge tax breaks for corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent,” an announcer says in the ad. “It even eliminates deductions for state and local taxes.”

The targeted congressmen said in statements that data show middle-income families in their districts will benefit from the tax cuts, though there are differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation.

Costello of the 6th Congressional District in the suburbs west of Philadelphia said in a phone interview the groups running the ads are distorting facts.

“Look, are left-wing, special-interest groups always going to engage in class warfare? Yes,” Costello said. “If they want to argue for tax increases and oppose tax cuts for middle-income families, then they’re on record as doing that.”

The provisions of the tax plans are so numerous and taxpayers’ circumstances so varied that analyses can be confusing.

Many of the provisions that benefit middle-income families expire in a few years under the Senate plan, but Meehan said in an interview Monday there’s “every expectation” that Congress will act to extend them when they expire.

About that mandate

Another set of internet and TV ads from the progressive group Save My Care targets the same GOP members and urges them not to vote for any tax plan that eliminates the health care mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

Costello, Meehan, and Fitzpatrick voted against plans to repeal and replace the act, and the ad urges them to hold firm for the requirement that all Americans get health coverage or pay a penalty.

Costello said in an interview that he wasn’t inclined to fight to preserve the mandate. He said the penalties are paid mostly by those making less than $50,000 a year, and the mandate is “actually very punitive on low-income Americans.”

Costello said he does oppose President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of federal subsidies to insurers, known as cost sharing reduction payments.  He says they’re needed to lower rates in the health care marketplace.

Placement of the ads, “which constitute a significant six-figure buy,” are primarily intended to influence the votes of the GOP members, said Nevins, not defeat them at the ballot box.

“But we’re also sending a message that this is a vote that won’t be forgotten in November of 2018,” he said.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.