The Pittsburgh region’s two newest U.S. House members slammed the debt ceiling bill Speaker Kevin McCarthy barely muscled through the Republican-led chamber on Wednesday afternoon. The measure would raise the debt ceiling while slicing into government funding and ripping into much of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda.

The mostly party line tally was 217-215, with four Republicans voting “no.” Now the bill heads to the Senate, led by Democrats. It arrives a legislative carcass. Even if the bill zombies on, Biden has vowed a veto.

Reps. Summer Lee, D-Swissvale, and Chris Deluzio, D-Aspinwall, both voted against the bill and condemned its cuts.

Lee detailed by number some of the bill’s effects across Pennsylvania. Among them, she said, were putting nearly 520,000 Pennsylvanians at risk of losing Medicaid, eliminating preschool and child care for at least 15,500 of the state’s children and threatening access to food assistance for 40,000 state residents age 50-55.

“Like so many families in the community I represent, my family and I depended on food stamps and struggled to afford the obscene cost of health care and child care,” said Lee, who represents the state’s 12th district. “I know firsthand the kind of mass suffering that would come with cutting any of these programs, and I won’t stand for any of it.”

She said the Republican measure would “strip seniors, veterans and families of their ability to live in dignity and make it even easier for billionaires to cheat on their taxes. We must hold them accountable for playing politics with our lives.”

Before the vote, Deluzio, who represents the 17th district, joined veterans and several of his Democratic House colleagues in an outdoor news conference at the U.S. Capitol to blast the bill’s cuts to veterans benefits, which Deluzio said would result in 30 million fewer outpatient VA visits for veterans. Pennsylvania veterans alone would face a million fewer visits, he said.

Should the bill become law, 80,000 VA employees would lose their jobs, Deluzio added, degrading care for veterans seeking everything from cancer screenings to mental health services, and increase the wait time for veterans disability claims to be resolved.

A veteran himself, Deluzio has, for the past several days, been a harsh critic of the Republican bill’s potential effects on veterans. In a Twitter post last week he called the measure the “Republicans’ bullshit plan to screw our veterans,” though he kept with decorum during a speech on the House floor, calling it a “B.S. plan.”

The bill is a GOP effort to force Biden to negotiate spending cuts or risk defaulting on the nation’s debt, which, economists say, would prove catastrophic.

“They’re doing these cuts against the backdrop of holding our economy hostage,” Deluzio said during the Wednesday news conference. “They’re telling us, ‘If you don’t want to put the economy into a default and wreck this country, well, you have to cut veterans’ care.’

“It’s the same guys I see all the time wrapping themselves in the flag, using my fellow veterans and me as props in their ads and on their websites. No more. They should be hearing from all of us that this is a betrayal, that this is a disgrace and that we’re going to fight it every step of the way.”

Steve is a photojournalist and writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he is currently on strike and working as a Union Progress co-editor. Reach him at

Steve Mellon

Steve is a photojournalist and writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he is currently on strike and working as a Union Progress co-editor. Reach him at