U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey was in the Northeast last Tuesday, talking Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the presidential election and other issues.
Toomey stopped by local Republican headquarters at Frankford Avenue and Stirling Street on Sept. 29. At the time, he said he would either seek re-election, run for governor or return to the private sector in 2022. On Monday, he announced he would not be on the ballot in two years.
After President Donald Trump nominated Barrett to the Supreme Court, Toomey issued a statement describing her as someone with strong legal credentials and an impeccable character who applies the law as written and doesn’t decide cases based on a preferred outcome.
Toomey voted for her confirmation to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017, and believes the Supreme Court would benefit from having a justice who is a working mother with young children.
Senate Judiciary Committee hearings are expected to begin on Oct. 12.
As to whether the Senate should consider a justice in a presidential election year, Toomey pointed out that history shows nominees are confirmed when one party controls the White House and Senate.
“Those vacancies have always been filled, with one exception,” he said, noting that Justice Abe Fortas was unsuccessfully elevated to Chief Justice in 1968 due, in part, to ethics issues.
In regard to 2016, when the GOP Senate declined to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee, Toomey said, “Nominees have historically not been confirmed,” when the White House and Senate are controlled by different parties.
“That was our position in 2016,” he said.
Toomey said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wanted a vote in 2016, but opposes one in 2020. He said, had Democrats controlled the Senate in 2016, they would have pushed forward Merrick Garland’s nomination.
Looking at the presidential race, Toomey sees a close race in Pennsylvania and nationally.
“It’s going to go right down to the wire,” he said.
In terms of control of the Senate, Toomey said he is “cautiously optimistic” that Republicans will remain in charge.
Recently, he and Republican U.S. House members from Pennsylvania sent a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf, urging him to reconsider his opposition to allowing in-person attendance at outdoor school sporting events during the 2020-2021 season, and encouraging him to permit spectators at collegiate and professional football games. The letter said, with masks and social distancing in an outdoor stadium, chances of the spread of the virus would be low.
On the issue of opioids, he is sponsoring the Improving Medicaid Programs’ Response to Overdose Victims and Enhancing Addiction Care Act, which would require state Medicaid programs to use jointly funded drug utilization review programs to increase access to treatment and boost safeguards for those on Medicaid who have experienced a non-fatal, opioid-related overdose.
“We’re in the midst of an uptick,” he said of opioid overdoses, adding that it is getting lost in the concern about the coronavirus.
Toomey spoke against what he called a “false narrative,” that police officers and other segments of American society are fundamentally racist.
Democrats blocked a police reform bill sponsored by Sen. Tim Scott, declining Republican offers to introduce amendments.
“I think that was very unfortunate,” Toomey said.
As Philadelphia is experiencing a spike in shootings and murders, Toomey said he is happy that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has assumed control of some cases from the district attorney’s office and won convictions.
“Thank God for Bill McSwain,” he said of the U.S. Attorney. ••