Toomey upbeat about Trump’s prospects
HARRISBURG — Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey is preparing for a new six-year term following his narrow Pennsylvania victory and said Thursday that, while he continues to have reservations about President-elect Donald Trump, he expects a good working relationship.
Toomey maintained, as he did through his campaign against Democrat Katie McGinty, that he would be independent of any president, including Trump, who he criticized during the campaign but ultimately decided to vote for on the presidential ballot.
“I will not be a rubber stamp for anyone, including President Trump,” Toomey told reporters during a post-election session in his Montgomery County campaign headquarters. “I will be an independent voice for Pennsylvania because that’s what I got elected to do.”
Toomey said he expects to meet with Trump next week in Washington, D.C., and predicted a constructive working relationship with him. Already, he said, Trump has made encouraging comments, with a unifying direction and tone following a divisive election.
With barely an hour before polls closed Tuesday, Toomey cast his ballot near his suburban Allentown home and revealed that he had decided to vote for Trump, after saying for months that he had not yet been persuaded to support the GOP nominee. He had criticized Trump’s temperament, vulgarity, gratuitous insults of people, commitment to conservative fiscal policy and vagueness about what he would do as president, or how.
In the end, he said Tuesday night, he decided “we’ve just got to change the course we’re on.”
Toomey beat McGinty, 49 percent to 47 percent, a slightly wider margin than Trump’s 49 percent to 48 percent victory in Pennsylvania over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
For months, Republicans had worried a backlash against Trump would doom Toomey, and Toomey’s campaign had expected that Clinton would beat Trump, including in Pennsylvania. But Toomey, unexpectedly, benefited handsomely from a stunning wave of support for Trump, both in conservative areas and in blue-collar counties that had backed Democrats in the past.
“I think they wanted a change,” Toomey said of the message sent by Trump voters.
One change was “to restore a functioning government” that, he said, was governed by President Barack Obama with too many “presidential edicts and executive orders.” Another message, he said, was that the economy is not working for too many people.
“While they have seen asset holders get rich, their circumstances have not improved and people want an economy that works for everybody, and that’s a fair and reasonable thing to want,” Toomey said.
He said he expected that Trump could get to work quickly in January, rescinding some of Obama’s executive orders and perhaps nominating a Supreme Court justice to fill a nine-month-old vacancy that Republicans have refused to fill with an Obama nominee.
Repealing Obama’s signature health care law will take longer, he said. He did not give specifics on how he would deal with people — roughly 1 million in Pennsylvania — who get subsidized health insurance through the marketplace or Medicaid expansion created by the law.
“We can’t pull the rug out from under people all at once, we can’t leave people stranded, in some way,” Toomey said. “So there has to be a transition, but it needs to be a transition that goes into effect as quickly as it can, and that leads us to a marketplace for health insurance that’s driven by consumers, and not bureaucrats.”