HACKENSACK – The interparty parries are muted in the early stage of the redistricting rumble between U.S. Reps. Steve Rothman, (D-9), Fair Lawn, and Bill Pascrell, (D-8), Paterson.
Overhearing either candidate on the street, one might catch nearly identical rhetoric about extending unemployment benefits, adjusting the Medicare rollback, and renewing the payroll tax cuts. It’s a GOP blockade, the Democrat says, and it won’t get better unless I’m re-elected.
An acute listener would pick up on one difference: Pascrell is, without pause, putting a very distinct face on the generic Republican straw man. It is the countenance of U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett, (R-5), Wantage, who currently resides in the same Congressional district as Rothman.
Even with Pascrell bluntly angling at the bygone possibility of Rothman v. Garrett, in the early goings of this primary battle, Jane Voter would not know it was a primary. The differences between the two candidates are not stark; although they diverged on some important legislation over the years, their records are almost identical.
Congress had three weeks to act on the remnants of the temporary debt limit agreement last year and that partisan backdrop has been moved to the fore on the campaign trail, without a Republican in sight.
Rothman was at Tom Lanzo’s plumbing company in Hackensack today, an archetypical small business where Rothman filmed a video convo about the reverberations of actions – and non-actions – in Washington D.C. for a family-run, 12-employee business in the blue collar alleys of Bergen County.
Based on Rothman’s numbers, a median-income household in Bergen County (more than $80,000) will take a $2,000 hit if the payroll tax cut is not renewed. “The difference between some piece of mind and no piece of mind,” Rothman said. “That cushion means everything.”
Rothman trotted out the go-to liberal fallback du jour: a top-earner surtax. “Don’t touch the rich,” Rothman said, reciting the GOP refrain to Lanzo. After all, Rothman said, “They’re not the ones living check-to-check.” The pain that would befall middle class Americans, Rothman said, should Congress fail to come to an agreement, would be so much more intense than if millionaires were paying more.
Then he checked to make sure that Lanzo wasn’t a millionaire – not close, the man said – and framed Tom Lanzo on the wall as the picture of a small business owner.
“You don’t make a million a year,” Rothman said. “You’re the job creator…You’re the salt of the earth. You’re the people who do the work, who need someone in Washington…so that working people don’t get it in the neck.”
Pascrell couldn’t have said it better himself.