Joe Pitts

Joe Pitts
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 16th district
Assumed office
January 3, 1997
Preceded by Robert Walker
Succeeded by Lloyd Smucker (elect)
Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
from the 158th district
In office
January 2, 1973  November 30, 1996
Preceded by Benjamin Reynolds
Succeeded by Chris Ross
Personal details
Born (1939-10-10) October 10, 1939
Lexington, Kentucky, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Virginia Pratt (1968–present)
Residence Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
Alma mater Asbury University
West Chester University
Religion Evangelicalism
Awards Air Medal
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Air Force
Rank Captain
Unit 346th Bomb Squadron[1]
Battles/wars Vietnam War

Joseph R. "Joe" Pitts (born October 10, 1939) is the United States House of Representatives for Pennsylvania's 16th congressional district, serving since 1997. He is a member of the Republican Party. The district is based in Lancaster and Reading and includes much of Amish country. It also includes the far southwestern suburbs of Philadelphia in Chester County.

In December 2015, Congressman Pitts announced he was not running for reelection in 2016.[2]

Early life and education

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 Stratofortresses 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.


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.

Pitts was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1972, representing Kennett Square and surrounding areas of Chester County.

U.S. House of Representatives

Early portrait of Joe Pitts
Pitts visiting Baghdad in January 2008.


After 10-term Republican congressman Bob Walker decided to retire in 1996, Pitts jumped into the crowded five-candidate Republican primary—the real contest in what has long been a strongly Republican district. He won the primary with 45% of the vote, defeating the second place candidate by 19 percentage points.[3] In the general election, he defeated Democrat James G. Blaine 59%–38%.[4]

He won re-election easily in 1998 (71%), 2000 (67%), 2002 (88%), and 2004 (64%).


Pitts originally promised to serve only 10 years (five terms), but announced he would run again in 2006 amid considerable controversy. Despite the controversy, Pitts' won re-election to a sixth term, defeating Democrat businesswoman Lois Herr 57%–40%. The seventeen-point margin was the second smallest margin in his career.[5]


In 2008, Pitts decided to seek a seventh term. He was challenged by Navy veteran and construction contractor Bruce Slater. Pitts defeated him 56%–39%. The sixteen-point margin was the smallest margin in his career.[6]


Pitts was challenged by Democrat Lois Herr for a third rematch. He won re-election to an 8th term, defeating her 65%–35%.[7]


Pitts was challenged by Democrat businesswoman Aryanna Strader[8] and Independent Jim Bednarski[9] In the general election, Pitts won re-election to a ninth term, defeating Strader 55%–39%. The sixteen-point margin is tied for 2008 in being the smallest margin in his career. He lost in Berks County by 12,000 votes (35%) and won Chester County by only 500 votes (1%). He won Lancaster handily with over 60% of the vote.[10][11]


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. However, redistricting made the 16th somewhat less Republican. The old 16th had a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+8, but since the 2010 round of redistricting, it has a PVI of R+4. He received 100% ratings from the American Conservative Union in 2005 and the Christian Coalition of America in 2004.

In 2002, after a federal judge ordered the removal of the Ten Commandments from the Chester County courthouse, Pitts released 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.[12]

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, 2007–08, 16%; Republicans for Environmental Protection, 7% in 2007; and the Children's Health Fund, 2007–08, 0%; National Rifle Association, 2008, A; Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, 2003, 0%; National Breast Cancer Coalition, 2007–08, 0%; Children's Health Fund 2007–08, 0%. Ratings from labor groups are consistently at or near 0%; the Alliance for Worker Freedom, 2008, 100%.[13]

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.[14] 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.'"[15]

Pitts is an advocate of a federal prohibition of online poker. In 2006, he cosponsored H.R. 4411, the Bob Goodlatte-Jim Leach Internet Gambling Prohibition Act[16] and H.R. 4777, the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act.[17]

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 Fellowship (Christian organization)" 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.

In July 2011, Pitts was revealed, in course of an FBI investigation, to have accepted tainted funds traced to the intelligence services of Pakistan.[18] These funds were routed through the so-called Kashmiri American Council (KAC), run by Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, who was convicted of several felonies by the Federal government.

In October 2015, Pitts was named to serve on the Select Investigative Panel on Planned Parenthood.[19]


On March 26, 2014, Pitts introduced the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 (H.R. 4302; 113th Congress) into the House. The bill would delay until March 2015 the pending cut to Medicare, a cut that has been regularly delayed for over a decade.[20][21] The bill would not offset this spending with increased revenue or cuts to spending in other places, a source of controversy.[21][22] Pitts said he still supports a permanent fix to the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula and is "sponsoring this bill today because it is my earnest hope that this is the last patch we will have to pass."[22]

On May 29, 2014, Pitts introduced into the House the Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2014 (H.R. 4771; 113th Congress), a bill that would expand the list of anabolic steroids regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to include about two dozen new substances and would establish new crimes relating to false labeling of steroids.[23] This type of steroid enhances muscles.[24] The bill would establish a penalty of up to $500,000 against those found to be falsely labeling their anabolic steroid products.[24]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Electoral history

Pennsylvania's 16th congressional district: Results 1996–2012[27]
Year Democratic Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct Third Party Votes Pct Third Party Votes Pct
1996 James Blaine 78,598 38% Joe Pitts 124,511 59% Bob Yorczyk 6,485 3%
1998 Bob Yorczyk 40,092 29% Joe Pitts 95,979 71%
2000 Bob Yorczyk 80,177 33% Joe Pitts 162,403 67%
2002 Joe Pitts 119,046 89% Will Todd 8,720 7% Kenneth Brenneman 6,766 5%
2004 Lois Herr 98,410 35% Joe Pitts 183,620 64% William Hagen 3,269 1%
2006 Lois Herr 80,915 40% Joe Pitts 115,741 57% John Murphy 7,958 4%
2008 Bruce Slater 120,193 39% Joe Pitts 170,329 56% John Murphy 11,768 4% Daniel Frank 2,877 1%
2010 Lois Herr 70,994 35% Joe Pitts 134,113 65%
2012 Aryanna Strader 111,185 39% Joe Pitts 156,192 55% John Murphy 12,250 4% James Bednarski 5,154 2%
2014 Tom Houghton 74,513 42.3% Joe Pitts 101,722 57.7%

Personal life

Joe and his wife Ginny have three children as well as four grandchildren.[28]



  1. "Interview Transcript: Joseph R. Pitts: Veterans History Project (Library of Congress". Retrieved 2016-04-15.
  2. "Rep. Joe Pitts will not seek re-election to Congress in 2016". WFMZ-TV. 69 News.
  3. "PA District 16 - R Primary Race - Apr 23, 1996". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2016-04-15.
  4. "PA District 16 Race - Nov 05, 1996". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2016-04-15.
  5. "PA - District 16 Race - Nov 07, 2006". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2016-04-15.
  6. "PA - District 16 Race - Nov 04, 2008". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2016-04-15.
  7. "PA - District 16 Race - Nov 02, 2010". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2016-04-15.
  8. "Strader for Congress". Strader for Congress. Retrieved 12 April 2012.
  9. "Jim Bednarski for Congress, 16 District, PA". Jim Bednarski For Congress. Retrieved 12 April 2012.
  10. "Pennsylvania U.S. House District Race". Elections & Politics from Time Inc. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  11. "PA - District 16 Race - Nov 06, 2012". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2016-04-15.
  12. "Election 08 Results by District". Congressional Quarterly. Retrieved 2009-06-09
  13. Retrieved January 28, 2010 Ratings by issue for Rep.Pitts
  14. Pitts' visits to the Middle East
  15. Elliott, Justin (2011-03-13) Crisis casts doubt on nuke industry P.R. campaign,
  16. Thomas (Library of Congress): HR 4411
  17. Thomas (Library of Congress): HR 4777
  18. Author John Morgan (2011-07-20). "Joe Pitts Took Pakistani Money – thepennsylvaniaprogressive". Retrieved 2016-04-15.
  19. Paul Kane (October 23, 2015). "Boehner's next select committee, focusing on Planned Parenthood, to be led by Marsha Blackburn". Washington Post. Retrieved October 23, 2015.
  20. Viebeck, Elise (12 March 2014). "Obama threatens to veto GOP 'doc fix' bill". The Hill. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  21. 1 2 Kasperowicz, Pete (26 March 2014). "House GOP readies year-long 'doc fix'". The Hill. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
  22. 1 2 Kasperowicz, Pete (27 March 2014). "House approves 'doc fix' in voice vote". The Hill. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
  23. "CBO - H.R. 4771". Congressional Budget Office. Retrieved 16 September 2014.
  24. 1 2 Marcos, Cristina (15 September 2014). "House passes bill to crack down on anabolic steroids". The Hill. Retrieved 16 September 2014.
  25. House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans - Full Committee Membership
  26. House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans - Subcommittees
  27. Election Statistics
  28. "About Joe".

Media related to Joe Pitts at Wikimedia Commons

Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Preceded by
Benjamin Reynolds
Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
from the 158th district

Succeeded by
Chris Ross
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Robert Walker
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 16th congressional district

Preceded by
Frank Wolf
Chairperson of the House Human Rights Commission
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Bill Pascrell
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Loretta Sanchez
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