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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey holds telephone town hall

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 5:31 PM

click to enlarge Senator Pat Toomey's telephone town hall page - IMAGE COURTESY OF VIDEO.TELEFORUMONLINE.COM
  • Image courtesy of video.teleforumonline.com
  • Senator Pat Toomey's telephone town hall page
Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Lehigh) became infamous during his 2016 Senate campaign for never saying whether or not he endorsed Donald Trump. (He was even mocked on Jimmy Kimmel Live.) Toomey expressed concerned about the man who would become our 45th president, but never definitively denounced him.

Teetering on the line worked out for Toomey, who beat his Democratic opponent, Katie McGinty, by a slightly wider margin than Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania. But this slight margin seems to be in votes only, as Toomey has quickly become one of the most attacked U.S. Senators by his own constituents.

Starting in late January, hundreds of Pennsylvanians have stormed his offices in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh every Tuesday as part of the Tuesdays with Toomey campaign. They called on the senator to vote against Trump’s cabinet picks, most notably now Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and asked him to not repeal the Affordable Care Act. His phone lines were jammed for days and he even received 1,660 faxes in a 24-hour span.

As the momentum grew, constituents started to demand Toomey hold a town hall. On Feb. 16, he met them part way by holding a telephone town hall to share his viewpoints and answer questions.

The town hall was announced via Toomey’s Facebook page about 90 minutes prior to its start. The town hall  lasted about 40 minutes. More than 15,000 constituents listened in. Toomey spent the first for 10 to 15 minutes sharing his views on the large volume of calls his office has been getting.

“We have had a very large volume of calls, from a combination of sources,” said Toomey. He then said that most calls are from concerned Pennsylvania citizens, but also claimed that some callers were part of an organized out-of-state effort to jam the phone lines. “Those whose goal is to obstruct is making it difficult for the other category.”

Toomey then went on to say the Democrats were also obstructing Trump’s cabinet nominees, adding that though both George W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s first weeks in office had at least 10 picks through, Trump’s first week only saw two confirmed.

“Confirming cabinet picks has been slow going because of Democrats,” said Toomey. “There are procedural processes to slow this down, and they have been slowing it down quite a bit.”

From there, Toomey answered 11 questions from constituents, and most weren't fluff. He was asked about his opinion on Trump’s travel ban (“The executive order was significantly flawed, it was too broad, should not have included green-card holders. … But the idea that we need to vet people from failed states that are hostile to the U.S. is a good one.”) and the resignation of Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn ("General Flynn was not honest with Vice President [Mike] Pence and he lied to Pence. That is a fireable offence. ... But why was Flynn being spied on? Were they in violation of the law and who leaked it?").

When asked about his support of DeVos, Toomey defended his stance saying he believes DeVos will help improve school choice. "Competition will elevate everyone’s gain,” he said. He made the similar claim when denouncing the ACA, saying it’s flawed because 40 percent of Pennsylvanians only have one health provider to pick from. One Toomey voter asked how Toomey would help to spread out some of the wealth gained by billionaires so that it reaches working-class Pennsylvanians. Toomey responded that reforming the tax code, rolling back regulation and ending favoritism within Federal Reserve toward large companies  will increase investment, jobs and wages.

His softest question was from “Linda” from Montgomery County. She claimed her town of Pottstown had a lot of “not-so-nice” people moving in because of Philadelphia’s sanctuary-city policy, and asked what Toomey was doing to stop sanctuary cities. Toomey then reiterated his denouncement of sanctuary cities and explained his bill meant to defund them (which failed to clear the Senate in 2016). He also failed to ask “Linda” to clarify who the “not-so-nice” people are and how Philadelphia’s policy was causing o them moving to Pottstown, to the chagrin of many followers on Twitter after the telephone town hall.

Toomey said this was the 48th telephone town hall he had conducted in the last three years. But one listener still demanded an in-person town hall. “This is not good enough,” she said.

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