So Pat Toomey cravenly pivoted on Trump’s SCOTUS pick? Shocking. | Wednesday Morning Coffee

September 23, 2020 7:19 am

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., speaks during an event at the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg, Pa., on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019 (Capital-Star photo).

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

It was never really a matter of whether U.S. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. was going to fall into line and support Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s and President Donald Trump’s Banana Republican power grab for the U.S. Supreme Court.

It was only a matter of when.

And right on schedule, on Tuesday afternoonToomey, of Lehigh County, speedily ditched the slender rationale that allowed him to oppose Judge Merrick Garland’s high court nomination in 2016, as he rushed to embrace a GOP rationale to fill the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat that’s so thin that it’s amazing he didn’t tear a rhetorical rotator cuff doing it.

As you’ve probably heard by now, Republicans, via McConnell, R-Ky, have abandoned their argument that the “voters should have their say,” which they used to derail President Barack Obama’s U.S. Supreme Court pick in 2016.

McConnell and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. have taken a weed-whacker to the fictitious rule they invented four years ago, laughably arguing that the rule only counts when the Senate and White House are controlled by opposing parties. This year, with Republicans holding both, it’s no longer applicable.

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 27: U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination on the South Lawn of the White House August 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump gave the speech in front of 1500 invited guests. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“Four years ago, I noted that my decision to oppose moving forward with the Supreme Court confirmation process for Judge Merrick Garland was related to the circumstances present at the time,” Toomey said Tuesday in a statement released by his office.

“The circumstances surrounding the current vacancy are, in fact, different. While there is a presidential election this year, the White House and the Senate are currently both controlled by the same party. The Senate’s historical practice has been to fill Supreme Court vacancies in these circumstances,” Toomey continued.

Here’s what Toomey said in 2016. You will note that it is conspicuously devoid of any intelligence insulting claptrap about a difference in White House and Senate control.

“The balance of the Supreme Court is at stake, and we have an election right around the corner. With lifetime tenure, the next justice will determine the Court’s balance for a generation,” Toomey wrote in a PennLive op-Ed at the time. “In that light, I believe it is sensible to allow the American people to participate in the choice of Justice Scalia’s successor less than seven months from now.”

That’s the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whose death sparked the first succession crisis and resulted in Justice Neil Gorsuch winning confirmation in a flame-thrower of a confirmation fight.

DACA supporters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, 11/12/19 (Capital-Star photo by Robin Bravender)

As The Washington Post columnist George F. Will notes, there’s something primary school-ish about the GOP’s assertion that “Democrats would have done it.” As if that’s justification enough for this “means justifies the ends” argument.

If Republicans wanted the seat, they should’ve been up front about their naked avarice in the first place, without cloaking it in pseudo-constitutional reasoning. It would have led to the same firefight, but at least Republicans would have had the virtue of some principle, rather than the plain-English prevarications to which we’re now being treated.

In his eight years in the Senate, Toomey has played the part of the deliberative intellectual. And, indeed, in matters of free trade and gun violence reduction there’s been the bare minimum of independence. In other words, when the risk of political exposure is minimal and the possibility of good headlines are high, Toomey’s been there.

But on the really big stuff, from impeachment to the confirmation of Gorsuch and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, Toomey has fallen right into line.

Every time.

Four years ago, with his re-election on the line, Toomey tried to play it clever on whether he’d vote for Trump, delaying his announcement until an hour before the polls closed. And when it finally came, Toomey’s ballot choice had an air of depressing inevitability about it.

“In the end, I decided we’ve gotta change the course we’re on, so I voted for Donald Trump,” Toomey said, according to Philadelphia Magazine.

In 2020, Toomey might end up proving himself strangely prescient, with an outraged electorate deciding they’re going to need to change course on the Senate’s Republican majority, and bounce him and his vertebrae-free colleagues out of office.

After all, it is the voters, 2016 Toomey would tell you, who get the final say.

(Screen Capture)

Another Day, Another Ad Dept.
Commonwealth Communications
, the progressive advocacy shop run by former Wolf administration spokesman J.J. Abbott, is out with a pair of new digital spots this week highlighting President Donald Trump’s lies about mail-in voting and stressing how Abbott’s old boss, Gov. Tom Wolf, is trying to keep voting safe and secure.

The new spots are part of a six-figure buy aimed at arming voters with information ahead of Election Day, as tens of thousands of voters, most of them Democrats who are already all-in on mail-in balloting, are expected to cast their ballots.

The new spots come amid an ongoing legislative and legal fight over election reforms that’s pitted Wolf against the Republican-controlled General Assembly (or, the other way ’round, if you’re a Republican who follows these things.).

Trump and his allies in Harrisburg are trying to make it harder to vote. But they are losing,” Abbott told the Capital-Star. “We’re encouraging voters to ignore him, remember he’s a known liar and turn out to vote like never before. Their votes are their power to elect leaders that will be honest and fight for them.”

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
From our staff, here’s the Capital-Star’s indispensable, clip-and-save general election voters guide, which arms you with everything you need to know about the candidates running for the White House, Congress, the three row offices, and the General Assembly.

Also from our staff, our explainer on how we plan to cover the 2020 campaign, and what you can do to make our coverage better.

And, in case you missed it, here’s our equally indispensable guide on how to vote — whether by mail or in-person.

Surprising exactly no one, GOP legislative leaders have asked the state Supreme Court to stay its ruling in a pair of election law decisions, setting the stage for a likely appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Elizabeth Hardison and Stephen Caruso have the details.

The Legislature finished a troubled September without resolving its two, biggest challengesHardison explains what happened — and what that means heading into October and Election season beyond.

In a rare instance of bipartisanship, a measure aimed at fixing Pennsylvania’s broken rental assistance program has cleared a key House committee hurdleStephen Caruso reports.

In Pittsburgh, advocates called on the Allegheny County Port Authority to implement an emergency, low-income fare program, Correspondent Tom Lisi reports.

Lisi also has everything you need to know about President Donald Trump’s rally at Pittsburgh International Airport on Tuesday night, where Trump mocked Joe Biden for not wearing a mask, even as U.S. COVID-19 deaths cruised past 200,000 fatalities.

Community leaders in Philadelphia are looking for more diversity on the panel charged with helping Temple University find a new president, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, Scott Bohn of the Pa. Chiefs of Police Association, argues that legalizing recreational cannabis will lead to all kinds of unintended consequences. And a Penn State administrator explains how the land-grant school has risen to the research challenge during the pandemic.

Legislation loosening Pennsylvania’s pandemic occupancy limits in restaurants and bars cleared the Senate on Tuesday, the Associated Press reports (via the Inquirer).
An Allegheny County task force is shutting down repeat pandemic offenders, the Tribune-Review reports.
PennLive looks at the pandemic’s impact on Pennsylvania’s hotel industry, finding it ‘on the brink of collapse.’
A federal judge in western Pennsylvania has denied Gov. Tom Wolf’s request for a stay in his ruling vacating the administration’s occupancy limits, the Morning Call reports.
Federal authorities are investigating issues with a ‘small number’ of mail-in ballots in Luzerne County, the Citizens-Voice reports.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:


View this post on Instagram


The oldest street in America never gets.. old ???

A post shared by Jordan Parenti (@jordanparenti) on

You can’t search property owners by name in Philadelphia anymore. WHYY-FM explains why city residents are mad about that.
Pennsylvania has launched its new COVID-19 virus detection app, WESA-FM reports.
PoliticsPA has the details on a new campaign ad from U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District.
explains why capping abandoned oil and gas wells could be a job-creator for some states.
Writing at The CutLisa Miller explains why attributing superhuman powers to Ruth Bader Ginsburg didn’t do her justice.
As we noted in today’s opening, Senate Republicans have fallen dutifully in line behind Mitch McConnell. Talking Points Memo takes stock.

Things That Could Only Happen in Harrisburg Dept.
Remember when we used to have a distracted driving law?

What Goes On.
The House comes in at 1 p.m. today to set the controls for the heart of the sun … erm … to try to override Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto of that high school sports bill. The Senate, which wrapped up its legislative week on Tuesday, will be home watching the proceedings on TV.

As ever, here’s a look at the day’s committee action.
9:30 a.m, Senate Chamber: 
Aging & Youth Committee
9 a.m: G50 Irvis: 
Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill
4 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Perry Warren (Perry! Perry ze Platypus!?)
6 p.m.: Reception for Sen. David Argall
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out at least $6,000 today. Donation information for Argall’s event was not available.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to our former PennLive colleague, Joe Hermitt, who celebrates today. Congrats and enjoy the day, sir.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s an absolutely charming and lovely ear worm of a tune, from a Spotify playlist fairly bursting with charming and lovely ear worms. From 1999, it’s Sixpence None the Richer, and ‘Kiss Me.’ Try not to go through the rest of the day humming this one. You won’t be able to. We guarantee it.

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link.
dropped an 8-3 decision to a rapidly fading Boston on Tuesday night, which is the most Baltimore thing for the Os to do in this already bizarro season.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.