After weeks of constituents demanding more access, Pennsylvania US Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican, held an over-the-phone town hall Thursday afternoon.
The call was announced on social media only about an hour in advance, and was held in the middle of a workday — something constituents noted with displeasure on social media.
Over the approximately 45-minute call, Toomey took 11 questions and defended his more-or-less continual support of President Donald Trump’s policy moves.
The senator kicked off the call by acknowledging the phone lines at his seven offices have been tied up over the last few weeks — mainly with people calling to comment on or complain about his recent votes.
But Toomey noted, he doesn’t think all the messages are from actual constituents — he said many people call from out of state.
“Those are organized, orchestrated efforts to block our phone systems,” he said.
Asked to back up the claim, a Toomey spokesman said when they receive calls, “staff generally ask constituents for their names and zip codes.” But “in many cases recently, the caller responds with an out-of-state zip code.”
But some constituents say they don’t buy it. Kaitlin Mark-Dubbs of Montgomery County, who was on the call, said rhetoric like Toomey’s concerns her. “His tactic of spinning it as a conspiracy glosses over how many of us have been calling as his real constituents, trying to make democracy happen,” she said.
Toomey mainly stuck to the GOP’s established positions — he called Obamacare “failing,” and confirmed his support for a smaller department of education and fewer regulations on big businesses.
He did go against Trump in a few areas. In particular, he said he wishes Trump would come out more strongly against Russia, and he criticized the president’s executive order on immigration.
“It was too broad, it was poorly explained, it was not rolled out properly, it certainly should not have included green card holders … that was just a mistake,” he said.
However, he noted that he agrees with the premise of the order.
Despite complaints that the town hall was badly timed and too short-notice, Toomey’s office said over 7,500 constituents were on the call, with 8,000 more listening on an internet stream.