A sharply-split Republican State Committee in Pennsylvania voted Monday night to again express its displeasure with Sen. Pat Toomey’s vote last month to convict former President Donald J. Trump on an article of impeachment, but stopped short of voting to censure him.
Committee members were given the choice of voting for a statement proposed by Chairman Lawrence Tabas that “strongly rebukes but does not censure” Toomey, and a second statement that does censure him.
The censure movement was blocked by a narrow 128-124 margin, with 13 abstentions, according to a source who had been briefed on the results.
The difference is essentially a matter of severity in the reprimand: neither option carried any real teeth with regard to Toomey’s office or standing within the party. The second-term senator from the Allentown area has already announced his intent to leave the Senate at the end of his current term in 2022.
But some members of the committee – and the broader party membership – who hope to see the party steer away from blind devotion to the former president with gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races on the horizon in Pennsylvania next year may see the lesser rebuke as a small sign of progress.
The state party organization had not issued any statement in the wake of the Monday’s final tally as of publication of this post. The top vote-getter in Monday’s count was also said to include criticisms of Gov. Tom Wolf and other Democrats.
Toomey was one of seven Republican senators to vote to convict Trump for incitement of his supporters to riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, as Trump was in the death throes of his attempt to block the final tabulation of President Joseph R. Biden’s national electoral college win.
In doing so, Toomey was part of a 57-43 majority that fell 10 votes short of the two-thirds threshold needed to convict.
Midstate members of the state GOP committee seemed to reflect the overall split.
County Republican committees in York and Adams counties, for example, have already passed their own censure resolutions, and other local groups have similar votes pending.
But other midstate committee members like state Rep. Sue Helm, of Dauphin County, said Monday the infighting makes no sense to her. “Instead of wasting our time on this,” Helm told PennLive, “I think we should be looking for a new and good candidate for when he (Toomey) isn’t going to run in two years.”
Monday’s vote seeks to wrap up a discussion launched in a virtual meeting last Wednesday that ended without a completed vote after the platform that the committee was using crashed.
The censure vote had been seen differently by different groups.
To some, it was like an exhibition season for the fights ahead in 2022, as the party tries to settle on nominees for an open gubernatorial and Senate races, and – in a larger sense – its post-Trump direction.
Others saw it simply as those who are in firm control of the party at the moment having their say on a matter of internal party politics. They are counting on the future acts of President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his thin Democratic Party majorities in Congress to help reunite the party in the longer run.
Still‚ some members went on record in advance of last week’s private discussion to express concerns about the effort to punish Toomey alienating another slice of existing party members and making it harder to reach new ones.
“The Republican Party needs unity, not a purge,” Joseph DiSarro, a political science professor at Washington & Jefferson College in southwestern Pennsylvania, who also happens to be a member of the Republican State Committee, told PennLive last month. “The last thing the party needs is a discussion of who is a true Republican, and who is a RINO,” DiSarro said, using the acronym for Republican-In-Name-Only.