The Republican Committee of Lancaster County could vote as early as Tuesday night on a motion to censure Sen. Pat Toomey for voting to convict former President Donald Trump in the just-concluded impeachment trial.
Pennsylvania’s junior senator, a Republican first elected in 2010, joined six of his GOP colleagues and all 50 Democrats on Saturday in finding Trump guilty on the single article of impeachment that charged Trump with inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection. The vote fell 10 short of the two-thirds majority needed to convict.
Terry Christopher, the chairman of the Lancaster Township Republicans, said a member of the county committee will make a motion to suspend the organization’s bylaws to permit a vote on the censure motion during the county committee’s endorsement convention Tuesday evening.
The committee’s bylaws require that resolutions be sent 10 days prior to a vote, so three-quarters of the county committee in attendance will need to agree to suspend the bylaws to allow a vote on the censure motion to proceed.
Christopher and his co-authors want to censure Toomey for "dereliction of duty" for voting to convict Trump in what Christopher said was an unconstitutional trial. Christopher faulted the Senate for having the chamber’s president pro tempore, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, preside over the proceedings instead of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, as prescribed in the Constitution.
Constitutional experts, however, believe the Senate can indeed impeach former officials, and at least one Cabinet official was impeached after resigning in the 19th century. While the Constitution states that the Chief Justice should preside over the impeachment trial of a sitting president, it's not a requirement set for an ex-president. As the Constitution gives the Senate and House the ability to set their own rules, senators had the authority to allow Leahy to preside over Trump's second impeachment trial.
Christopher said he began working on the resolution last week after Toomey voted against a Republican-backed motion to dismiss the impeachment trial on the grounds that Trump is no longer president. He said Elanco Chairman Chris Buck and Ephrata Chairman Glen Beiler joined him in drafting the censure document.
“This all was nothing more than a politician who has nothing to lose because he’s not running for reelection,” Christopher said. “[Toomey] has a personal vendetta against the president. This was his ultimate opportunity to ‘virtue signal’ to the ‘Never Trump’ crowd.”
Toomey is not running for reelection, and said he plans to retire from public office at the end of his term in 2022.
As of Monday afternoon, a final draft of the resolution had not been made available.
The Lancaster County Republican Committee would not be the first to censure Toomey over the impeachment trial. The York County Republican Committee passed a resolution censuring Toomey on Saturday after Trump was acquitted.
The state GOP will also meet to consider censuring Toomey, the Associated Press reported Monday.
In a press call after his vote to convict the former president, Toomey acknowledged that many Pennsylvania Republicans would disagree with his vote.
“It’s important as a party to be able to distinguish ... the terrific successes of this administration, the fact that the president did stand up to and against some bad policies and some bad trends,” Toomey said during the call. “Those things can be true, and it can also be true that his behavior after the election became completely unacceptable.”
Contacted on Monday about the censure effort, a spokesperson for Toomey deferred to the senator’s previous statement on his decision.
Christopher said Toomey’s explanation shows he “doesn’t actually care what his constituents think,” noting Trump received more votes in Lancaster County in November than the number of registered Republicans who cast a ballot in the election.
“When our politicians stop caring what the voters think and what their constituents think, they don’t deserve to be in office,” Christopher said. “I will go to my grave. I full-heartedly believe that about any politician.”
Toomey, a staunch fiscal conservative who was elected in the GOP wave year of 2010, has not faced this level of criticism from his fellow Republicans during his first decade in office.
Kirk Radanovic, the chair of the Republican Committee of Lancaster County, was reached by phone Monday to confirm the committee's resolution process, but declined to comment on the resolution itself. Radanovic is not a voting member of the committee.
A censure resolution is largely symbolic, expressing the objections of influential party leaders. The censure passed by the York County GOP on Saturday encourages members to stop donating money to Toomey’s campaigns, though his decision to forego a reelection race in 2022 makes the impact largely meaningless.
Still, the York vote and potential Lancaster follow-up signal that Toomey would have trouble winning over some local GOP leaders should he pursue another run for office in the future. The censure also sends a clear message to other Republicans who may be considering a run for statewide office about the county party’s commitment to Trump and his legacy.
State Reps. David Hickernell (R., West Donegal), Mindy Fee (R., Manheim), Keith Greiner (R., Upper Leacock), Brett Miller (R., East Hempfield) and House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R., Peach Bottom) are also voting members of the county committee. None could immediately be reached for comment on Monday.
Beiler, who ran Toomey’s campaign in Lancaster when Toomey unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2004 GOP primary, could not be reached for comment. Buck also did not respond to efforts to reach him.
A spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, who voted against impeaching Trump in the House, did not respond to a request for comment.