CONGRESS | DISTRICT 15 | Always choose your friends wisely. Especially, if you’re an East Bay congressman who publicly consorts with a North Carolina Republican who believes employers have the right to fire people because of their sexual orientation.
Earlier this year, Rep. Eric Swalwell produced a torturous, tongue-in-cheek YouTube production with Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) in which they donned the jersey’s of their favorite football teams in the lengthy video and wagered a bet on their playoff chances.
The video is no longer available on Swalwell's congressional YouTube channel. It is now set to "private," but the same video, below, is still posted on Pittenger's page. Similarly, a video in 2013 of Swalwell praising an Alameda County sheriff's deputy for valor on duty in Oakland no longer exists on the channel. Reports later found the deputy had shot himself in the foot.
Meanwhile, Swalwell and the 49ers won the bet, but his consistent desire to reach across the aisle, despite a Republican-dominated House showing unwillingness to cooperate with Democrats may be a loser.
During a town hall meeting last weekend, Pittenger, who is a member of the Swalwell-led bipartisan group calling itself the United Solutions Caucus, said people should be allowed to run their business however they want, including whether or not they want gay people to work for them or not, ThinkProgress reported Monday.
“You need to respect the autonomy of somebody running their business,” said Pittenger. “It’s like smoking bans. Do you ban smoking or do people have the right to private property? I think people have the right to private property. In public spaces, absolutely, we can have smoking bans. But we don’t want to micromanage people’s lives and businesses. If you have a business, do you want the government to come in and tell you you need to hire somebody? Why should government be there to impose on the freedoms we enjoy?”
Pittenger’s far-right rhetoric follows an equally reactionary comment a week before when he told ThinkProgress young immigrant children escaping violence in Central America should be deported back to their country of origin even if the chance exists they could be murdered upon return.
Like Swalwell, Pittenger is a first-time congressman seeking re-election for the first time. However, unlike Swalwell, Pittenger is running unopposed this November.
The Swalwell-led United Solutions Caucus was created, he says, to highlight a number of young Democratic and Republican representatives who want to break through the partisan gridlock they believe is paralyzing Congress. When it was formed in early 2013, Pittenger was named its co-chair.
During a town hall meeting last month in San Lorenzo, Swalwell offered numerous instances when he reached across the aisle to House Republicans, yet also assured one resident, he indeed, was a progressive.
However, it was a stance trumpeted by Swalwell and the caucus last December which represents the most glaring reason some constituents continue to be skeptical of his progressive leanings after he and the group supported a budget offered by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray that cut unemployment benefits for over 1.3 million Americans.
Swalwell later asked constituents to help him fight to restore the cuts to unemployment benefits—the same cuts he supported a few weeks earlier.