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Payroll tax holiday: Perry sticks by Trump, DePasquale aims to yoke him to it

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Congressman Scott Perry speaks during a town hall at Hummelstown Fire Department in Dauphin County Tuesday, July 30, 2019. It was the first in-person town hall by Perry in over two years. Bill Kalina photo

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry’s support of President Donald Trump’s payroll tax holiday has become key point of attack for his Democratic opponent in the race for the 10th Congressional District.

Democrats such as Perry's challenger, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, have insisted Trump's tax holiday would hamstring Social Security and Medicare. But the Carroll Township Republican maintains it was a vital step to keep money in Americans' pockets.

"A key to ensuring the future solvency of Social Security and Medicare is building and maintaining a strong economy that allows for a robust workforce to support our neighbors and Seniors," Perry said in a statement.

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Earlier this month, the president signed an executive order that included a payroll tax holiday as Democrats and Republicans were unable to make a deal for another COVID-19 relief package. The payroll tax is the primary funding stream for both Social Security and Medicare, and Trump has said he would make the holiday permanent if reelected. 

Trump's executive order ignited a flurry of news releases in races such as Pennsylvania's 10th Congressional District, with Depasquale's campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee laying into the four-term incumbent over his voting record regarding Social Security and Medicare.

State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale talks with the media during his visit at York Hospital Wednesday, June 12, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

The average Pennsylvanian is older than the U.S. as a whole, and older voters turn out for elections at significantly higher rates than younger demographics. Eighteen percent of residents within the 10th district are 65 or older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In 2016, that age group — which would be immediately affected by changes to Social Security and Medicare — overwhelmingly supported Trump, according to CNN exit polls. 

All that combines to make a prime target for DePasquale's campaign, which seeks to undermine support for Perry among voters who tend to back Republicans.

Perry's voting history, such as twice voting for Medicare's privatization, makes this issue an obvious political weapon, said officials with DePasquale's campaign. 

"With Social Security and Medicare on the verge of being defunded, Scott Perry’s voting record makes clear he won’t think twice before leaving our community, especially our seniors, out in the cold,” DePasquale campaign spokesperson Kunal Atit said.

Perry's campaign has countered the attacks, noting "he has been recognized as a ‘guardian’ of seniors rights by the 60-Plus Association."

That organization has long lobbied for the privatization of programs such as Social Security. 

More:VIDEO: Vote Smart — check the facts on politicians

DePasquale isn't against a payroll tax holiday, but rather its impact on social safety nets, according to the candidate's campaign.

And even some Republicans have criticized the temporary tax cuts, which taxpayers would have to repay in April unless Congress forgives it.

U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., said the payroll tax holiday would “jeopardize Social Security and Medicare," The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. 

Even so, Perry has insisted Trump's decision importantly benefits businesses and the unemployed while chalking up opposition to partisanship.

“As Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi and Washington Democrats play politics with people’s lives and continue to hold up relief for American families and small businesses, President Trump took decisive action to deliver targeted relief to the American People," Perry said.

The 10th Congressional race is considered among the most competitive in the country. 

The two candidates have been in a statistical tie in the two polls conducted in the district, and Politico and The Cook Political Report had designated the race as a toss-up.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.