This Pennsylvania centrist is aggressively pushing for '$250 billion' in expanded senior/disabled care

This Pennsylvania centrist is aggressively pushing for '$250 billion' in expanded senior/disabled care

Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. of Pennsylvania, now serving his third term in the U.S. Senate, has long had a reputation for being a Democratic centrist; the Scranton native is much more likely to be compared to Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota or Sen. Jon Tester of Montana than to Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts or Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. But according to Politico's Marianne Levine, the 61-year-old Casey is fighting aggressively for Medicaid-related spending for seniors and the disabled as part of President Joe Biden's Build Back Better agenda.

Levine, in an article published this week, explains, "Bob Casey isn't known as an outspoken liberal, nor does he seek the spotlight. That's all changing this fall. The 61-year-old Pennsylvania Democrat is championing an effort to include roughly $250 billion for states to expand care for older people and people with disabilities through Medicaid in Democrats' multi-trillion-dollar social spending plan. Casey's not one for fiery floor speeches or cable news hits. So, he's doing it his wonky way: plugging his proposal in caucus meetings with tailor-made fact sheets while enlisting a team of allies on and off the Hill to help him keep the cause alive."

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Casey's care proposals for seniors and the disabled are being promoted by Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan.

"The legislation would also require states that apply for the funding to provide services, including family caregiver support and personal care," Levine observes. "Additionally, it includes a rate-setting provision to guarantee funding increases are passed through to home care workers."

Casey was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006, when he famously unseated then-Sen. Rick Santorum. Prior to that, Casey — the son of the late Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey, Sr. — served two terms as Pennsylvania auditor general. Casey ran against former two-term Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell (who had also chaired the Democratic National Committee) in Pennsylvania's 2002 Democratic gubernatorial primary; Rendell defeated Casey, who went on to win the general election and was reelected in 2006.

Although Casey lost to Rendell in 2002, he gave the former Philly mayor/DNC chair a battle — and when he unseated far-right GOP culture warrior Santorum during the blue wave of 2006, the DNC considered it a huge victory. Casey was reelected to the Senate in 2012 and 2018.

Casey's bill expanding care for seniors and the disabled, according to Levine, "has backing from 40 Senate Democrats and will be folded in the social spending plan, with its final funding level still unclear." But the Pennsylvania senator, Levine notes, is "fighting the real prospect that Democrats will slim down his vision for home and community-based services as they haggle internally over how much they can spend on expanding the social safety net."

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