The Lead

Pa. Republicans weigh move to censure Toomey over impeachment vote

By: - February 16, 2021 7:18 am

*This story was updated at 10:21 a.m. 2/16/21 with additional reporting.

The Pennsylvania Republican Party is planning a meeting to consider censuring U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., one of seven GOP members of the U.S. Senate who voted to convict former President Donald Trump at the conclusion of his impeachment trial last weekend.

County Republican chairpeople first told the Associated Press that they received an email from state Republican Party Chairman Lawrence Tabas shortly after the Senate fell short of the two-thirds majority it needed to convict Trump on a single count of inciting the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. The violence left at least seven people, including one Pennsylvanian, dead.

Pa.’s Toomey, Casey vote to convict Trump for Capitol insurrection; Senate votes to acquit

Toomey joined with all the chamber’s Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., in the vote to convict Trump. In the evenly divided Senate chamber — which has 48 Democrats, two independents who usually vote with them, and 50 Republicans — it would have taken at least 17 Republican senators voting for conviction

Censure would have some have critics. Sam DeMarco, chair of the Allegheny County Republican Committee, told the Capital-Star that “Republicans need to be focused on the here and now and the future, as opposed to Toomey’s vote which, in the end, didn’t matter.”

The county has the highest total of registered Republicans in the state, from ardent supporters of the former president and Trump-skeptics.

“We’re turning into the Democrats where even when we win and get the results we want, we’re still not happy,” DeMarco added.

But other chairs argued that Toomey’s vote was not just against Trump, but Toomey’s own constituents.

“We did not send him there to vote his conscience,” Dave Ball, the chair of the Washington County Republican Party, told Pittsburgh’s KDKA-TV Monday. “We did not send him there to do the right thing, whatever he said he was doing. We sent him there to represent us, and we feel very strongly that he did not represent us.”

More from the Associated Press:

Tabas did not return messages Monday, but a number of county parties in the presidential battleground state have already moved to censure Toomey, even before Saturday’s vote.

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” in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. They decided against bringing it to a vote by the full state committee after speaking with Toomey about it, county party chairs said.

York County’s Republican Party voted to censure Toomey on Saturday, and the resolution’s sponsor, state Rep. Dawn Keefer, said the county party “has reached the limits of its frustration” with Toomey, complaining that Toomey “sat silently” as Democrats attacked Trump for four years.

In a statement released after Saturday’s vote, Toomey said that he did not make up his mind until after hearing the arguments. He said Trump’s actions leading to the second impeachment will form his legacy.

“He’ll be remembered throughout history as the president who resorted to non-legal steps to try to hold onto power,” Toomey said.

Toomey, of Lehigh County, announced last year that he is not running for re-election in 2022, and will retire from politics, throwing the GOP race for governor and U.S. Senate wide open.

Other Senate Republicans who voted in favor of conviction, including U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, N.C., who, like Toomey, is retiring, also are facing growing backlash from home state Republicans.

Capital-Star Staff Reporter Stephen Caruso contributed additional reporting

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.