The Pitt News

Editorial: Toomey supporting Trump’s ban ignores voters

Sen.+Pat+Toomey+%28R-Pa.%29+talks+with+the+media+after+voting+in+Zionsville%2C+Pa.%2C+on+Tuesday%2C+Nov.+8%2C+2016.+%28Steven+M.+Falk%2FPhiladelphia+Inquirer%2FTNS%29
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) talks with the media after voting in Zionsville, Pa., on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (Steven M. Falk/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) talks with the media after voting in Zionsville, Pa., on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (Steven M. Falk/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

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Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) talks with the media after voting in Zionsville, Pa., on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (Steven M. Falk/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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As Pennsylvania residents across the state stood together to protest President Trump’s recent ban on immigrants and refugees this past weekend, Sen. Pat Toomey was busy schmoozing donors in Palm Springs.

After arriving back in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Toomey issued a statement declaring his support for the president’s executive order. But Toomey’s current support for the ban contradicts previous statements he made when Trump first proposed the ban in 2015, back when Toomey was still running for re-election. His backtracking now that he’s secured his seat again raises questions about the senator’s judgement, trustworthiness and ability to accurately represent his constituents.

“I support the administration’s decision to increase vetting and temporarily suspend the admission of certain individuals from states that sponsor or provide safe havens to terrorists or are too weak to prosecute terrorists within their borders,” Toomey stated on Jan. 30 in a press release.  

But when Trump first introduced the idea of a “Muslim ban” in 2015, Toomey said in a tweet in December “Trump is wrong.” He stated his opposition to religious tests for allowing people into the U.S. — claiming a need for a “bulletproof” security test instead.

More than a year later, Toomey is standing by his statement, but he fails to see the nuance between opposing religious bans and supporting Trump’s proposal. “Senator Toomey remains opposed to travel restrictions based solely on a person’s religion,” the senator’s press secretary, Steve Kelly, said in an email to The Pitt News.

But while arguments about the nature of President Trump’s executive order ask if the ban directly discriminates against Muslims or not, we know from his actions that it probably does, at least in a back door way. Even if Trump excluded the official wording that would confirm a religious ban, his actions and rhetoric that surround it — such as his approach of banning immigrants from Muslim-majority nations, his campaign promises to enact a Muslim ban and his inclusion of the “case-by-case” clause — clearly point to his religious motivations.

If Toomey so clearly opposes religious distinctions, it’s inconsistent for him to explicitly support Trump’s ban even if the President himself claims it’s not religiously based. Despite Toomey’s intentions, his about-face could, perhaps, be justified if large numbers of constituents were urging Toomey to support the ban.

Kelly did not comment on questions about the feedback the senator’s office received asking him to support or condemn the ban or about Toomey’s backtrack since his tweet in 2015.

According to data from Fax Zero, a website that tracks the number of faxes members of Congress receive within the past 24 hours, Toomey is the most heavily faxed member of Congress — coming in at over a thousand more than the second senator on the list — a majority of which we can assume, due to the many protests around the state, represent those calling for Toomey to object the ban.

Groups of protesters have been gathering outside the senator’s offices around the state on a weekly basis for over a year in a movement named Tuesdays with Toomey. The meetings are garnering larger crowds of late as Pennsylvanians urge Toomey to oppose the U.S.-Mexico border wall, the repeal the of Affordable Care Act and, most recently, Trump’s ban.

And in Pittsburgh specifically, large crowds gathered for protests both on Pitt’s campus on Saturday and at Pittsburgh International Airport Sunday — demanding, “no ban, no wall.”

Other Pennsylvania lawmakers have firmly committed to opposing the ban, highlighting that Toomey is either blatantly ignorant to or obviously uninformed about what his state — and the people who voted for him — want.

Both Gov. Tom Wolf and Sen. Bob Casey attended the protests at Philadelphia International Airport this weekend to make their opposition clear. And Rep. Charlie Dent, a Pennsylvania Republican who represents a large community of Syrian refugees in Allentown, likewise called on Trump to halt his actions.

Toomey’s actions are woefully out of line on several counts. Doubling down on his previous criticism of Trump’s ideas now that he’s won reelection is unsatisfactory. And regardless of his personal beliefs, he should never be excused from fully and completely representing what his constituents want.

We, as residents and voters, should continue to hold him accountable. Let’s just hope he’ll start listening.

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Editorial: Toomey supporting Trump’s ban ignores voters