Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey is getting attacked in his re-election bid for helping his party block President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. National Democrats are especially targeting Toomey because they believe a win in Pennsylvania increases their chances of recapturing the Senate this fall.
Six years ago Pat Toomey won his U.S. Senate race by a mere two points in a year where Republicans saw major gains nationwide. Democrats have their eyes set on his seat in this cycle, and they’re doing all they can to help out his opponent, Katie McGinty. This week Toomey is getting hit with ads as a part of an effort to force Republicans torelent and fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.
The White House-aligned Constitutional Responsibility Project is rolling out a campaign dubbed 9-9-9, as in nine states in nine days to push for a ninth justice or in this case the president’s nominee Merrick Garland.
“The Constitution says ‘the president shall make nominations for the Supreme Court and the Senate votes’ — no exception for election years. Why is Pat Toomey refusing to do the job Pennsylvania elected him to do?” goes the ad.
The group is promising to hold 50 events in nine states during this week’s congressional recess. The pressure campaign may be why Toomey is reluctant to discuss the Supreme Court vacancy these days.
“We put out a statement. I think we made it pretty clear,” he said recently while moving through the Capitol.
Toomey recently met with Judge Garland and he went farther than many Republicans who merely argue the next president should fill the vacancy. In the hallway outside his office, Toomey told a scrum ofReporters he fears Garland would merely rubber stamp the Obama administration on cases ranging from EPA climate regulations to executive actions on immigration.
“Based on a number of decisions and my conversation with Judge Garland, I’m not convinced that he would be willing to play the role of a sufficiently aggressive check on an administration,” Toomey said.
The GOP is still reeling from the unexpected death of conservative judicial icon, Justice Antonin Scalia. Toomey says the stakes are high in this election.
“I think everybody would acknowledge that Judge Garland is not going to be Justice Scalia — that they are two very different men, they have two very different views, they have two very different approaches. And so necessarily it’s the case that if he were to be put on the court, he would change the balance of the court,” he said.
The stakes are high for Democrats too. At a recent press conference Democratic leaders were asked specifically about Toomey’s seat. In response Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid pulled the veil back on his party’s strategy in November — they see the vacancy as a winning wedge issue.
“I was shown yesterday, some of my colleagues were, a poll that was taken in Ohio … clearly it’s having an impact in Ohio, Pennsylvania is no different,” Reid said. “How could it not? People believe we’re here to do a job.”
Those targeted polls against vulnerable incumbents are only a harbinger of things to come, especially with Donald Trump as the GOP’s apparent nominee.
Pennsylvania’s other senator, Democrat Bob Casey, says pressure is building from the ground up, because most voters are only catching on now about how long the vacancy might last. His office received some 6,000 pieces of mail or emails in favor of acting on Garland. Casey says he doesn’t understand why Republicans won’t debate his party openly over Garland and the future of the Court.
“If you want to be against him or criticize him or say he’s X, Y or Z, go ahead,” Casey said. “The First Amendment is still in effect so you can do whatever you want in terms of criticizing and how you vote, but don’t deny him a hearing or a vote.”
The court is dealing with the vacancy by dropping its casework. It’s also expected to leave big issues hanging as the justices are now more prone to 4-4 ties.
As for Toomey, he doesn’t seem worried about the stacks of casework piling up at the court, or the attacks he’s getting from the left. He said he’s also hearing from conservatives who support his position on Garland.
“He comes up. Opinions run the gamut,” Toomey said.
The high court vacancy, which could remain open until next spring, makes November’s elections all the more important because you not only get to vote on the next president and the makeup of Congress, but it looks like you’ll get a say in the makeup of the Supreme Court.