We’re experiencing the political equivalent of whiplash.
First, there was the kumbaya moment that President Donald Trump and the media enjoyed after his address to Congress Tuesday. The press, for the most part, applauded Trump’s speech as the beginning of a more hopeful vision for the nation. Some even hailed Trump for delivering his most presidential speech yet.
But by late Wednesday, the warm-and-fuzziness was jerked out from under the nation after the Washington Post revealed that Attorney General Jeff Sessions twice met with a Russian ambassador during the presidential campaign, something he did not disclose to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing in January. The revelation prompted Sessions to recuse himself from investigations involving the presidential campaign after an outcry from Democrats and Republicans.
In response, the president tweeted that the real story “is all of the illegal leaks of classified and other information. It is a total ‘witch hunt!'”
Still, many praised the president’s actions this week.
The National Rifle Association reveled in Trump’s decision to quietly sign a bill into law Tuesday that rolled back an Obama-era regulation that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun. The Obama administration predicted it would have added about 75,000 names to the national background check database, had the rule taken effect.
Construction and engineering firms have jumped on the president’s agenda. The administration’s solicitation for design and construction of a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico has already elicited interest from nearly 200 companies, only days after the notice first appeared.
Speaking of supporting the president’s vision, Rep. Rick Saccone of Allegheny County became the first Republican to throw his hat in the ring against U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who is seeking a third six-year term. Saccone has been a long-time Trump supporter and agrees with what the president has proposed so far.
Infrastructure improvements and Jewish desecration
Over the weekend, at the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf gave the Trump administration props for focusing on infrastructure. Pennsylvania is asking for at least $777 million for highway and transit improvements and another $1.1 billion for a high-speed rail in the Philly suburbs.
PennDot will spend $2 billion on road maintenance and highway and bridge projects over the next decade.
President Trump also met in Washington with a handful of state attorneys general, including Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro, who asked him point blank about the recent incidents involving Jewish cemeteries and community centers. The president’s suggested that it all may be a “ploy” — a different response than he offered during his Congressional address.
On Friday, federal authorities charged a St. Louis man with making more than half a dozen bomb threats against Jewish community centers, schools, and a Jewish history museum.
Locally, state and federal lawmakers in Pennsylvania want to crack down on landlords who receive federal housing subsidies, but short school districts on their taxes. School property taxes are so unpopular, there is a recurring bill in the Pennsylvania Legislature to abolish them altogether.
In Hazleton, a city that tried to stem the tide of immigrants flooding the city a decade ago, many Latino residents are experiencing a frightening sense of déjà vu under the Trump administration’s approach to illegal immigration. Some say the president’s tough talk has been bad for business.
Bad news for the state’s coal miners: Without federal intervention, retired coal miners could lose their health care and pensions at the end of April, a move that is sure to devastate miners and their communities.
Could gerrymandering reform be on the way? Fair Districts PA, a coalition of groups that include the League of Women Voters, is tackling the issue of gerrymandering, a bipartisan tradition of drawing state political boundaries to favor one party or another. A recent meeting in Montgomery County drew 600 people, which demonstrates that Democrats and Republicans find the practice troubling.
And finally, good news out of Scranton. After 25 years, Scranton is in the process of shedding its distressed status under Act 47. But the city will carry the status for an additional three years to make sure its solvent enough to make a clean break.