Barletta was born January 28, 1956 in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, the son of Angeline (née Agosti) and Rocco Barletta, of Italian ancestry. After graduating from high school, he attended Luzerne County Community College and Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. After an unsuccessful tryout for the Cincinnati Reds baseball team, Barletta went to work for his family's construction and heating oil business.
In 1984, Barletta founded a pavement marking company, Interstate Road Marking Corporation, which he sold in 2000. At the time of the sale, his firm had grown to become the largest of its kind in Pennsylvania.
He was defeated for a seat on the Hazleton City Council in 1996, but won two years later. In 1999, he defeated Jack Mundie for mayor, taking 66% of the vote and overcoming a Democratic registration edge in the city. He took office on January 3, 1999.
Barletta was reelected as mayor in 2003 and 2007. In 2007, Barletta was nominated in both the Republican and Democratic primary elections. Barletta defeated the Democratic candidate, former Mayor Michael Marsicano, on the Democratic ballot as a write-in.
In 2006, Barletta made headlines for his efforts opposing illegal immigration in Hazleton vowing to make the city “one of the toughest places in the United States” for illegal immigrants. Barletta introduced and the city council approved the Illegal Immigration Relief Act. The ordinance allowed the city to deny a business permit to employers who hired illegal immigrants and gave the city authority to fine landlords up to $1,000 for leasing to illegal immigrants. The act also made English the official language of Hazleton, prohibiting city employees from translating documents into any language without official authorization. In response, the ACLU and Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund sued in Federal District Court to block the ordinance. In July 2007, District Court Judge James M. Munley ruled that the act was unconstitutional for interfering with Federal immigration laws and violating the due process of individuals, employers and landlords. The ruling was upheld on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals on September 9, 2010. In a public statement shortly after the decision, Barletta vowed to appeal.
In 2002, Barletta ran as the Republican candidate in the 11th District against nine-term Democratic incumbent Paul Kanjorski. The 11th had long been considered the most Democratic district in Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. However, Barletta was viewed as a very strong candidate—indeed, the first credible Republican challenger Kanjorski had faced since his 1986 reelection bid—since he was a very popular Republican mayor from a heavily Democratic city. Barletta lost, taking 42.4% of the vote. The race might have been much closer had the state legislature not decided to move heavily Democratic Scranton, previously the heart of the 10th District, to the 11th. Barletta lost the district's share of Lackawanna County, home to Scranton, by 32 points; he only trailed in the old 11th by 9,000 votes.
Barletta faced Kanjorski again in 2008. David Duke, American white nationalist and former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, endorsed Lou Barletta in this race. Multiple polls had shown Barletta leading Kanjorski by as many as 5 percentage points, and the race has been pegged as one of the nation's most competitive leading into the November elections. That race was one of very few nationwide where a Republican challenger had a credible chance at unseating a Democratic incumbent. Barletta lost to Kanjorski 48%-52%, largely due to losing Lackawanna County by 12,800 votes. Barletta won the territory that had been in the district prior to the 2000s round of redistricting by almost 4,000 votes.
Barletta announced on December 9, 2009, that he would once again run for Congress in 2010. He won his party's nomination on Tuesday, May 18, 2010. Barletta won the General Election on November 2, 2010 against Kanjorski by a 55%-45% margin. City Council President Joe Yannuzzi succeeded Barletta as Mayor of Hazleton on December 15, 2010.
Before the 2012 election, it was widely expected that the state legislature would gerrymander Barletta's district to make it safer for him. President Barack Obama carried the old 11th with 57%. The new map, as expected, significantly altered the 11th. Heavily Democratic Scranton and Wilkes-Barre were shifted to the 17th District. To make up for the loss of population, the 11th absorbed some heavily Republican territory to the north and south that had previously been in the neighboring 5th, 10th, 17th and 19th districts, pushing it as far south as the suburbs of Harrisburg. The new district is approximately ten points more Republican than its predecessor. Had it existed in 2008, President Obama would have only won 47 percent of the vote here to John McCain's 51 percent. It appeared that the legislature wanted to protect Barletta by packing as many of northeast Pennsylvania's Democratic voters into the 17th as possible.
Barletta won reelection with 58 percent of the vote.
On January 31, 2014, Barletta introduced the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act (H.R. 3979; 113th Congress) into the House. The bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code to exclude volunteer hours of volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel from counting towards the calculation of the number of a firm’s full-time employees for purposes of certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act. This mean that there was no requirement that volunteer emergency responders be offered health care by the organization they volunteer with. Barletta argued that the bill was necessary because the Internal Revenue Service had initially said that it would be requiring organizations to provide these volunteers with insurance, something that would be prohibitively expensive for some of them.
Barletta endorsed Donald Trump for president in March 2016.
On April 15, 2011, Barletta voted with the Republican majority for Paul Ryan's budget. Barletta has characterized a balanced budget amendment as a gimmick and said he will not vote to raise the debt ceiling.
Barletta supports President Donald Trump's 2017 executive order imposing a ban on entry to the U.S. to citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, saying: "I commend President Trump for suspending the refugee program, and in particular for Syria and the six other countries, because they are unquestionably terrorist havens and hotspots."Committee on Homeland Security
Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security
Subcommittee on Transportation Security
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management (Chairman)
Subcommittee on Highways and Transit
Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials
Committee on Education and the Workforce
Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training
Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions
On July 31, 2017, the Associated Press reported that Barletta was preparing to seek the GOP nomination to challenge Bob Casey for Casey's Senate seat in the 2018 midterm elections. He officially announced on August 29th.