Joseph R. "Joe" Pitts (born October 10, 1939) is the U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania's 16th congressional district, serving since 1997. He is a member of the Republican Party. The district is based in Lancaster and includes much of Amish country. It also includes most of Reading and the far southwestern suburbs of Philadelphia in Chester County.
Early life, education and career
Pitts was born in Lexington, Kentucky and graduated from Asbury College.
Pitts served five and a half years in the United States Air Force, with three tours in Vietnam. Initially commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, he was promoted to Captain by the time he left the service. He graduated second in his class from Navigator School, after which he was trained as an Electronic Warfare officer. As an EW officer, he served on B-52 Stratofortresss out of Westover Air Force Base, Massachusetts, with payloads of nuclear bombs. In all, he completed 116 combat missions in the Vietnam War and earned an Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters.
Pitts was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1972, representing part of Chester County.
Pitts has a very conservative voting record, which is not surprising given that his district has historically been one of the most Republican districts in the Northeast (though Barack Obama barely lost it in 2008).
He received 100% ratings from the American Conservative Union in 2005 and the Christian Coalition in 2004.
In 2002 Pitts was angered after a federal judge ordered the removal of the Ten Commandments from the Chester County courthouse, releasing a press statement that said, "I think that religion and the Ten Commandments in particular should have a role in our public life" and supported The Ten Commandments Defense Act (H.R. 2045). Since his first term Pitts has been chairman of the Values Action Team, a subgroup of the Republican Study Committee that coordinates legislation with the Christian right.
Over the years Pitts has received 100% ratings from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and 0% ratings from Public Citizens Congress Watch. In 2008 the ACLU gave him an 18% rating, the Human Rights Campaign gave him a score of 0%, and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights gave him a score of 4%.
In 2007-08 the John Birch Society gave him a score of 67%, and the American Conservative Union gave him a 100% rating, as did the Christian Coalition. Others: American Association of University Women, 2007-8, 16%; Republicans for Environmental Protection, 7% in 2007; and the Children's Health Fund, 2007-8, 0%; National Rifle Association, 2008, A; Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, 2003, 0%; National Breast Cancer Coalition, 2007-8, 0%; Children's Health Fund 2007-8, 0%. Ratings from labor groups are consistently at or near 0%; the Alliance for Worker Freedom, 2008, 100%.
Pitts visited Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban and Pakistan in 2002. He visited Kuwait, Jordan, Iraq, and Israel in 2008 as part of a Congressional Delegation. He is a leading congressional advocate of nuclear power, and "introduced a bill in 2009 to fast-track the regulatory process for approving new reactors, he called it the 'Streamline America's Future Energy (SAFE) Nuclear Act.'"
Pitts is an advocate of a federal prohibition of online poker.
In 2006, he cosponsored H.R. 4411, the Goodlatte-Leach Internet Gambling Prohibition Act and H.R. 4777, the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act.
The Stupak–Pitts Amendment is an amendment to America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 written by Pitts and Democrat Bart Stupak of Michigan, and it inserted abortion into the national health overhaul debate. This amendment continues his longtime opposition to abortion. According to Jeff Sharlet, a contributing editor for Harper's, Pitts is a documented member of the Bible-oriented Christian group "The Family" and the C Street group in Washington, D.C.
In the 112th Congress, Pitts introduced the Protect Life Act, which would place additional restrictions on abortion access.
After 10-term Republican congressman Bob Walker opted not to run for reelection in 1996, Pitts won a crowded four-way primary.
This was tantamount to election in this heavily Republican district. He has been reelected six times with no substantive opposition and faced no major-party opposition in 2002.
Pitts originally promised to serve only 10 years (five terms) in the House, but announced he would run again in 2006 amid considerable controversy. Pitts' challengers in the November 7, 2006 election were Democrat Lois Herr and independent candidate John Murphy. Pitts won reelection with 57% of the vote to Herr's 39% and Murphy's 4%.
In November 2008, Pitts ran for reelection. His opponents were Navy veteran and construction contractor Bruce Slater (Democratic Party) and candidate Dan Frank (Constitution Party). Pitts won the election with 56% of the votes. The top contributors to his campaign were health care and communications entities.
Pitts won reelection by a landslide. He was challenged by Democratic nominee Lois Herr.
After leaving the Air Force in 1969, Pitts moved to Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia and the hometown of his wife, Ginny. They built a house there, where they still live today.
February 1st, 2012