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‘We did not send him there to do ‘the right thing’ or whatever’: Amid backlash, Pennsylvania GOP may censure Toomey

Senator Pat Toomey.
Senator Pat Toomey.J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey is facing widespread backlash from fellow Republicans in the state for voting to convict former president Donald Trump during his historic second impeachment trial.

Because of his decision, the Pennsylvania Republican Party is now planning a meeting to potentially censure Toomey, county party officials said Monday.

County party chairs said the state GOP chairman, Lawrence Tabas, e-mailed them shortly after Saturday’s impeachment vote to tell them that a meeting is being planned to discuss the Senate’s action.

That meeting is expected to involve a discussion about censuring Toomey for his vote, which made him one of seven Republicans who voted to convict Trump of “incitement of insurrection.”

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Toomey — along with colleagues including Utah Senator Mitt Romney and Maine Senator Susan Collins — joined with Democrats in moving to hold Trump responsible for his role in the deadly insurrection on Jan. 6 at the US Capitol.

But the vast majority of Republicans coalesced around the party’s former leader, and the tally ultimately fell short of the two-thirds majority required to convict Trump.

The former president was acquitted in a 57-43 vote by the Senate, clearing him of the charge that he incited the violent siege and leaving him free to pursue office again in the future.

A number of local parties in the presidential battleground state have already moved to censure Toomey, even before the vote over the weekend.

In Washington County, GOP chairman Dave Ball said party members felt betrayed by Toomey and voted last week to censure the senator.

“We did not send him there to vote his conscience. We did not send him there to do ‘the right thing’ or whatever he said he was doing. We sent him there to represent us,” Ball told KDKA, a CBS affiliate based in Pittsburgh.

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A resolution to censure Toomey came up for discussion at the state party’s leadership committee meeting on Feb. 6, weeks after Toomey had said Trump committed “impeachable offenses.”

County party chairs said they decided against bringing it to a vote by the full state committee after speaking with Toomey.

Toomey told them that he would consider voting against the constitutionality of the impeachment proceeding and, if the Senate deemed it to be constitutional, that he would consider voting to acquit Trump.

The senator — who is not running for reelection in 2022 — last Tuesday voted to back the constitutionality of the impeachment trial before voting to convict. Toomey was the only Republican from Pennsylvania to vote in favor of impeaching Trump.

Following the vote, in which a bipartisan majority of the Senate voted to convict the former president, Toomey released a statement that said Trump’s response to losing the election to Joe Biden was unacceptable.

“He began with dishonest, systematic attempts to convince supporters that he had won,” Toomey said. “His lawful, but unsuccessful, legal challenges failed due to lack of evidence. Then, he applied intense pressure on state and local officials to reverse the election outcomes in their states.”

After these efforts failed, Toomey said, he summoned thousands of his supporters to Washington, D.C. on the day Congress was set to certify the Electoral College votes in Biden’s favor.

“He urged the mob to march on the Capitol for the explicit purpose of preventing Congress and the Vice President from formally certifying the results of the presidential election,” Toomey said. “All of this to hold on to power despite having legitimately lost.”

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Because of his actions, Toomey said, “for the first time in American history, the transfer of presidential power was not peaceful.”

Toomey concluded: “His betrayal of the Constitution and his oath of office required conviction.”

But Ball — who disagreed with the stance taken by Toomey — also said a state party censure of the senator would be counterproductive, arguing that its energy would be better directed into winning future election contests.

Toomey likely won't receive invitations to speak at party events or endorse party candidates, Ball said.

“As far as we’re concerned, his political career is over in this state, even if he were to try to run again,” Ball said. “His legacy is tarnished beyond repair. I don’t know exactly how you punish someone further and does it serve a purpose.”

In Allegheny County, GOP chairman Sam DeMarco said he agrees with other local party leaders that Toomey was in the wrong when he voted to hold Trump responsible for his role in the insurrection.

But, DeMarco said, he is also wary of censure votes posing as a distraction.

“Every minute that we spend sitting there and fighting amongst each other, and going back and trying to censure somebody who has already announced they are retiring, and they are leaving is, I think, a moment where we’re not focused on the future,” DeMarco told KDKA.

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DeMarco said the party should focus on the actions of Biden and Democrats — not each other.

“We’re a big tent party,” DeMarco said. “I believe there is room under this tent for people who don’t always agree.”

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Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.