HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Republican Party committee members in Pennsylvania were meeting remotely Wednesday night, for hours, in what involved a discussion of whether to censure U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey for his vote to convict Donald Trump during the former president’s second impeachment trial.
Toomey’s vote — and his earlier assessment that Trump had committed “impeachable offenses” in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — set off a wave of pro-Trump county and local party condemnations of Toomey in Pennsylvania.
The state party brass have remained silent publicly about the matter and did not give a precise agenda for the video meeting. On Wednesday around 11 p.m., Sam DeMarco, the chairman of the Republican Committee of Allegheny County, said the meeting recessed. There was no vote about a censure.
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The meeting involved the question of whether to censure Toomey, along with top Democratic officials in Pennsylvania, or express disappointment and disagreement with his vote to convict Trump, members on the call said. Toomey joined the meeting to defend himself, they said.
A censure vote is a symbolic gesture that may have no real effect on Toomey, who announced in October that he will not run again for office.
Meanwhile, Toomey supporters have pushed back, seeing a censure resolution as a waste of time and unnecessarily divisive.
Lowman Henry, a state committee member from Dauphin County, said before the meeting that he disagreed with Toomey’s vote, but also opposed a vote to censure the senator, calling it a “circular firing squad.”
“He’s been a very low-key but very effective senator, particularly on tax policy, and I remind people that were it not for Pat Toomey, President Trump would not have gotten the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act through.”
More than 200 state committee members joined the call.
Longtime members say they can’t remember a time that the state party censured anybody, going back 40 years, not even when then-U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter helped sink President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987.
“As I recall, we just booed him off stage,” Henry said.
Toomey has not backed down from his position after he became one of seven Senate Republicans who voted to convict Trump of “incitement of insurrection.” Ultimately, Trump was acquitted when the vote to convict ultimately fell 10 votes short of the two-thirds majority, or 67, necessary in the U.S. Senate.
Toomey, who once endorsed challenges to Republican officeholders who weren’t seen as conservative enough, is now urging Republicans to be tolerant of a difference of opinion over whether Trump and his long campaign of falsehoods to discredit the election result is to blame for the attack.
Besides Toomey, the North Carolina Republican Party unanimously voted to censure Sen. Richard Burr and the Louisiana GOP executive committee unanimously voted to censure Sen. Bill Cassidy.
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