With Trump veto threat looming, Pa.’s Toomey pushes for new weapon in fight against fentanyl

Sen. Pat Toomey. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., pleaded the case Wednesday for legislation that he says will give the United States a new weapon in the fight against the synthetic opioid known as fentanyl.

But the language, included in an annual funding bill for the Pentagon, has been caught up in the fiery culture war over whether to rename American military installations that bear the names of former Confederate officers.

President Donald Trump has threatened to veto the $740 billion, must-pass legislation if it includes language sponsored by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., that would require the Defense Department to rename installations and other significant assets that bear Confederate monikers, according to CBS News.

In a tweet that used a racially offensive epithet to describe the Massachusetts Democrat, Trump made the threat explicit, saying he would “veto the Defense Authorization Bill amendment … which will lead to the renaming (plus other bad things!) of Fort Bragg, Fort Robert E. Lee, and many other Military Bases from which we won Two World Wars, is in the Bill!”

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Toomey said he was optimistic that his proposal, which would withhold foreign aid to governments, such as China, that don’t do their part to fight fentanyl trafficking, would eventually be signed into law.

Pa.’s Pat Toomey teams with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer on fentanyl bill

Toomey said he couldn’t assess the seriousness of the latest White House tweet storm, nor had he read Warren’s amendment to the funding bill. According to CBS News, Warren’s proposal would require the “Defense Department to remove names, symbols, displays and monuments that commemorate the Confederacy within three years.”

But he did say “the naming of military installation is the responsibility of Congress and it is reasonable of us to consider from time to time whether the names should be changed, And I’m very sympathetic to the idea that we ought to take a look at assets named after Confederate figures. Those are people whose chose to go to war against the U.S. We need to look at those, and consider whether there are better people to name the bases after.”

Toomey told reporters that he’d first introduced the fentanyl trafficking bill three years ago. And despite bipartisan support — U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., is the lead Democratic co-sponsor — “you would think this would not have been as difficult as it has been” to get the legislation over the goal line.

“It has been very tough, I will tell you,” but, “it has led us to a better bill,” Toomey said

John L. Micek
A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press