The Republican Committee of Lancaster County did not debate or vote on a proposed resolution to censure U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey for his vote to find former President Donald Trump guilty for inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Anger about Toomey’s impeachment votes — he joined Democrats in a key vote to allow the trial to proceed and, days later, joined them again to find him guilty — prompted Republican Party officials and rank-and-file GOP voters to urge a formal rebuke of the two-term senator. Trump was not convicted, as only 57 senators, not the 67 required, voted “guilty” at the trial’s conclusion on Saturday.
The York County Republican Committee passed a motion to censure Toomey over the weekend, and the head of the Pennsylvania GOP said this week that he wants to discuss a potential censure with his colleagues on the state committee.
But at Tuesday night’s primary endorsement meeting, held at Spooky Nook in Manheim, not enough county GOP committee members supported a motion to set aside party bylaws to allow a censure motion to be debated. A three-fourths majority of committee members was needed to bypass a rule requiring all motions to be submitted 10 days in advance.
Terry Christopher, a committee member from Lancaster Township who pushed for the resolution, said he was disappointed the censure motion was set aside.
“I think the community and I think the committee deserved the opportunity to see the resolution,” he said.
Christopher noted that there was overwhelming support to censure Toomey, as more than two-thirds of the committee members present voted to hear the resolution.
Christopher defended his push to censure Toomey.
“I’ve been accused of canceling Pat Toomey, which I don’t think is fair. I’m not advocating that he be removed from office, I’m not advocating he be removed from social media, I’m not advocating that businesses don’t work with him. … Censure-ship is the only thing that we can do as a committee to say ‘we disagree’ with this move.”
Christopher said he hopes the state party will still move to censure Toomey.
The county GOP organization could take up the censure question again at some point in the future, but Christopher said he does not plan to introduce it again.
State censure could be coming
Richard Stewart, the co-chair of the state GOP’s Central Caucus, a group of state party leaders from 24 central Pennsylvania counties, including Lancaster, said members of his caucus have been contacting state party chairman Lawrence Tabas to urge a censure vote against Toomey. So far, state party leaders haven’t said whether they’ll vote to do so, though Tabas signaled that a meeting could be organized soon to discuss a reaction to the impeachment vote.
Stewart said he does not support censuring Toomey, saying it would take Republicans’ “eye off the ball” from what should be their main focus: electing judicial candidates and uniting against President Joe Biden and what he called the administration’s “left-wing agenda.”
“Toomey has been a conservative stalwart for six years in the House and 10 in the U.S. Senate,” Stewart said. “I don’t think that one vote defines an individual… I certainly understand that some people feel very strongly about Toomey’s vote. I would not have voted the same way, but I’m not going to censure him for exercising what he felt was right in his conscience to do.”
The state GOP almost censured Toomey’s predecessor, Stewart said. The party considered censuring Sen. Arlen Specter in 1987 for voting against the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork.
“[Toomey has] always voted for conservative principles,” Stewart added. “He was a big improvement over Arlen Specter.”
Toomey fit the “model for the Pennsylvania Republican,” said Charles Greenawalt, a government and political affairs professor at Millersville University and former Republican Senate staffer.
This “model Republican,” as Greenawalt put it, dates back to the era of Sen. Hugh Scott Jr. and Gov. Bill Scranton. These politicians, who served in the 1970s and 1980s, were often moderate -- valuing a strong defense and balanced budgets, but taking more liberal stances on social issues.
Though the mainstream Pennsylvania Republican running for statewide office has been slowly shifting to the right since Ronald Reagan, Greenawalt said it accelerated in the last 10 years.
“We haven’t seen the last of it yet,” Greenawalt said. “You will see parties, both Republican and Democratic, locally, statewide and nationally, try to use this kind of tactic to try to keep its membership within certain ideological parameters.”