BioJoe Pitts represents the 16th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, a diverse district stretching from the western Philadelphia suburbs further west into the Pennsylvania “Dutch” Country. Joe Pitts’ life and career have been wide-ranging as well- he has worked as a teacher, a small business owner, an Air Force officer, and a legislator. In addition to Pennsylvania, he has lived in Kentucky, the Philippines, and the various places the Air Force sent him.
Joe brings this rich and varied background into his work as a legislator. The fact that he joined the Air Force because he couldn’t afford to raise his family on a teacher’s salary helps him understand the hardships many people are going through. His combat experience gives him an appreciation of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. His time as small business owner gives him a better understanding of how government policies can help or hurt job creation. His time living abroad gives him sensitivity and insight into how our nation is seen abroad and a strong desire to fight for human rights.
Joe is an independent-minded conservative who knows that Republicans lost their moral authority during the last years of the Republican majority. He has a record of making up his own mind about legislation. He voted against one-third of his own party’s appropriations bills because they spent too much. He doesn’t do “earmarks.” He opposed President Bush’s signature legislation, the No Child Left Behind Act, because it spent too much and did too many things that were best left to states and school districts. Once, on the floor of the House, he stared down then-Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, Majority Leader Dick Armey, and Republic Whip Tom DeLay and successfully defeated a major bankruptcy reform bill because he found it discriminatory.
Joe is a family-oriented conservative who believes strong families are the key to America’s prosperity. While others debate whether more or less regulation, this or that government program, or higher or lower taxes will make America stronger, Joe knows that the family is the fundamental building block of society. No amount of government spending can make a child succeed unless that child has the values and desire to succeed that only a strong family can instill.
Joe is the son of an army officer who returned to the Philippines after World War II as a missionary. Joe spent much of his youth in Philippines, where some of his childhood friends had spent their earliest years in Japanese detention camps. He attended Asbury College in Kentucky, where he met his wife Ginny. Joe received a Master’s Degree in Education from West Chester University in Pennsylvania.
Joe and Ginny taught school in Kentucky until the birth of their first child. Not long after, Joe volunteered for the Air Force, serving from 1963 to 1969. He rose to the rank of Captain and flew 116 combat missions on B-52s during Vietnam. He was a navigator and electronic warfare officer. It was that experience that led him to found the Electronic Warfare Working Group in Congress, advocating for critical technological investments that are currently saving lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.
After leaving the Air Force, Joe returned to teaching math and science at Great Valley High School in Chester County, Pennsylvania.
At the urging of his friends, Joe unexpectedly ran for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1972 and won. His candidacy was part of a reform movement within the Chester County Republican Party known as the “Independents.” His victory sent a powerful message that from then on democracy, not machine politics, was going to rule in Chester County.
Joe served for 24 years in Harrisburg, eventually chairing the House Appropriations Committee—a position he attained specifically because of his reputation for ethics and fair dealing. In that position, he worked with governors and colleagues in both parties to balance eight state budgets in a row, even during the recession of 1990-1991—without a federal bailout.
In 1996 Joe was elected to Congress after winning a five-way primary election and a well-funded Democrat in the general election. Before his appointment to the important Energy and Commerce Committee, Joe served on the House Budget Committee, the International Relations Committee (now known as the Foreign Affairs Committee), the Small Business Committee, the House Armed Services Committee, and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
At home, Joe is a member of the Brandywine Valley Association, the Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company, his local Rotary Club, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Among the many award and honors he has received are the Guardian of Small Business Award from the National Federal of Independent Business, The Taxpayer Hero Award from Citizens Against Government Waste, the Hero of the Taxpayer Award from Americans for Tax Reform, and the William Wilberforce Award from Prison Fellowship Ministries. He received special recognition from the North Korea Freedom Coalition for his role in passage of the North Korea Human Rights Act, and from the Brandywine Conservancy for his leadership in Congressional efforts to aid in conservation of open space.
Joe and Ginny have three grown children and four grandchildren.