Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

BOB CASEY DEMOCRAT SENATOR SET TO LISTEN, GLAD TO COMPROMISE, BUT HE SAYS HE'LL BUCK HIS PARTY TO BENEFIT THE STATE TWO CANDIDATES, LITTLE COMMON GROUND [Corrected 10/19/12]

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

BOB CASEY DEMOCRAT SENATOR SET TO LISTEN, GLAD TO COMPROMISE, BUT HE SAYS HE'LL BUCK HIS PARTY TO BENEFIT THE STATE TWO CANDIDATES, LITTLE COMMON GROUND [Corrected 10/19/12]

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- It seems like Bob Casey is always on his way somewhere but never in a rush. He bounces between committee meetings and conference calls -- sometimes leaving in the middle for a vote and then returning to the phone or to the legislative hearing.

He works deliberatively at each task and then turns on a dime when another demand pops up.

This is what it takes to build the kind of federal policies that he thinks will create jobs, improve the economy, help domestic companies compete with overseas competitors and improve health care.

Mr. Casey is proud of the work he has done in his first term in the U.S. Senate, but he is running for a second in the Nov. 6 election to continue the progress.

Republican challenger Tom Smith of Armstrong County, meanwhile, wants a chance to take the country in a new, more conservative direction. His campaign has dubbed Mr. Casey "Senator Zero," saying he hasn't passed a single bill.

Technically, Mr. Smith's supporters are right, but what they haven't said is that several of Mr. Casey's bills have been folded into other legislation that's been enacted, or that the senator carried the water for Democrats in a partisan battle to extend an expiring payroll tax break that was a key part of President Barack Obama's domestic agenda.

He also has been an advocate for women, introducing a bill to address domestic violence and sexual assault on college campuses and leading the charge to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Act to improve pay parity for women.

Mr. Casey, 52, said his first term has been productive, "but you always want to do more, and it's been a difficult time to serve because of the partisanship."

Political scientists widely view Washington as more partisan than it's been in decades.

"Progress is grinding to a halt and it's frustrating for people in both parties. It's harder to get agreement, but we do it despite that," said Mr. Casey, who sees himself as a compromiser.

Growing up with seven siblings probably helped, said his oldest sister Margi McGrath.

"With the kind of family life we had he was always in a big group and he didn't always get his way," she said.

Typically, she said, young Bobby played the role of peacemaker, trying to forge compromises among squabbling siblings.

"There would be a lot of heated discussions, especially among the boys, and different ones would be arguing among themselves, but not Bob. He would just listen to all sides ... he had such a calming effect," Mrs. McGrath said.

Washington needs more mild-mannered compromisers like Mr. Casey, his sister said.

"With all the gridlock, there's never been a time more important to have people like him to bring the temperatures down and say 'Let's calm down. Let's sit down at the table.' There's nobody better at that," she said.

Friends like Mike Adams, 51, say Mr. Casey is tougher than he appears.

"He has a very welcoming and warm demeanor but a very, very tough interior," said Mr. Adams, a retired attorney who owns Elizabeth Milling Co. in Smithton. "He's all about substance and results."

He said Mr. Casey is pragmatic, reasonable and willing to work with anybody. That's a rare combination to find in a city full of politicians absorbed by partisanship and self-promotion, he said.

Mr. Casey knew what he was getting into when he entered public life in 1996, when he ran for state auditor general.

He'd already seen his father, the popular Democratic Gov. Robert P. Casey, through the highs and lows of political life, winning and losing elections. And, from the sidelines, he'd watched political strife unfold when his father had fallings out with party mates, including Bill Clinton, over his conservative positions on abortion.

"He provided a good example for how to handle adversity," Mr. Casey said of his father. …

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