Toomey, McGinty in heated Senate race
The outcome will help determine which party controls the Senate
The races between two political candidates are often billed in a way similar to a boxing match. An exchange of fireballs, preliminary bouts, big money to advertising, the hype that precedes the main event — in this instance, Election Day on Nov. 8 — all plays into a natural inclination toward conflict and resolution.
On the national stage, the two presidential candidates are in a race that could be referred to as the super heavyweight matchup. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent to find the greatest victor, who upon the final decision will triumphantly hold the championship belt, or in this case, a seat in the Oval Office.
Often the lower weight class matchups are not touted as top-tier entertainment, rather typically regarded as the warm-up to the main event. But 2016 is no normal year, and the U.S. Senate contest in Pennsylvania is no normal race. It has
national implications, so all eyes are on Pennsylvania as incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., of Upper Millford, Lehigh County, faces Democratic challenger Katie McGinty of Wayne, Chester County, the former chief of staff to Gov. Tom Wolf.
Republican majorities in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives achieved in 2014 have given the GOP a firm foothold in the 114th Congress to combat President Barack Obama in the final two years of his presidency. Democrats intend to regain seats to return either a firm majority or veto power to their side. Pennsylvania is viewed as a crucial race where the Democrats could gain ground.
No more evident of the importance of this race is the amount of money involved in the campaigns of Toomey and McGinty. The competition for Pennsylvania’s contested Senate seat is the most expensive Senate race in the nation by far. Together and with the support of Super PACs (political action committees) there’s has been more than $89 million spent between the two campaigns. Each candidate has raised a little over $5 million since June.
While much of the coverage of the campaigns has revolved around the political attacks from both sides, this article is meant to focus on the issues. Digital First Media sent identical questions to Toomey and McGinty on the topics of gun regulation, women’s rights, foreign policy, the economy and immigration. All the quotes included in this article were taken from the emailed responses from each candidate.
And with that, let’s get ready to rumble.
Toomey and McGinty have each garnered a fair number of endorsements on each side regarding gun-control legislation. In 2013 Toomey co-authored a bill, and was one of just four Republican senators to vote for this bill that would expand background checks following the mass shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. That bill fell later failed to pass the Senate in 2015, but Toomey has remained steadfast in his commitment to keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.
“I don’t support banning entire classes of widely-owned firearms,” Toomey said. “But I have taken a leadership role in working to improve our background check system to keep guns away from convicted criminals, the dangerously mentally ill, and suspected terrorists.”
McGinty, too, has not called for a complete ban, citing her family of “hunters and sportsmen” — her father was a Philadelphia cop — and has called for both protecting the rights of gun owners while “closing the loophole that enables suspected terrorists to buy firearms, and expanding background checks on gun purchases.”
McGinty has received an endorsement from CeaseFirePA, while Toomey touts the endorsements of gun safety advocates, former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, DAriz., and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
McGinty claims that Toomey has “run away from legislation to expand background checks, since it failed to pass the Senate three years ago,” his record on gun safety is “paper thin” and he is “no moderate” when it comes to preventing gun violence, but Toomey has pledged that he will continue working toward passing a background check bill.
“The background checks proposal that I put forth with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is still the closest Congress has come to making significant progress on this issue,” Toomey said.
Paid maternity and medical leave remain a chiefly important issue to many Americans because it affects both mothers and fathers, men and women. Without mandated leave protected by state or federal law, it’s up to the jurisdiction of companies to choose whether or not their employees are entitled to paid leave after giving birth to or adopting a child.
“This status quo leaves millions of men and women to face an impossible choice between their job or their family when a new baby comes or someone falls ill,” McGinty said. “Let’s be clear, paid sick leave isn’t a hand out.”
McGinty and Toomey both offered an incentive-type plan that would allow employees to earn time off after childbirth.
“It is a benefit that is earned by employees and can be structured such that there is little (or) no cost to employers,” McGinty said.
“I have proposed allowing private-sector employees the ability to accrue up to 160 hours of paid leave each year in return for overtime hours worked,” Toomey said. “Outdated federal law currently prevents giving workers this flexibility.”
On the issue of abortion, the candidates’ views differ greatly. Toomey has taken a pro-life stance with caveats — he supports the choice of abortion based on incidents of rape, incest or inherent danger to the health of the mother — while maintaining a stance of “adoption over abortion.”
However, Toomey firmly believes that tax dollars should not be spent paying for abortions. Toomey was one of 47 senators who voted in favor of a bill that if passed (it didn’t) would have defunded Planned Parenthood, which receives approximately $450 million in funds from the federal government each year.
McGinty is a firm opponent of House Bill 1948, which is in its second consideration in the state House of Representatives, a bill that would limit abortions to cases of medical necessity.
“I am opposed to misguided bills, such as HB 1948 in the Pennsylvania Legislature, that would eliminate women’s access to health care services and drastically take women’s health care backwards,” McGinty said.
“I support a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions, privately. I believe that our government should respect a woman’s constitutional right to make personal decisions about medically complex issues – not interfere with them,” she added.
Combatting the terrorist group known as IS or ISIS has found a common ground between the two candidates in this race: more airstrikes. The safety of the citizens of the United States being the focus of a more aggressive campaign against terrorism in Syria and Iraq, both candidates said.
“We need to pursue a strategy to destroy the Islamic State, not just contain it,” Toomey said. “This should include intensifying airstrikes and providing more aid directly to our allies on the ground.”
“ISIS poses a significant threat to our country, our allies, and our national security interests,” McGinty said. “I support intensified airstrikes against ISIS, and continued efforts to aid and assist local security forces that are fighting the battle against ISIS on the ground.”
Toomey has called for a suspension of refugee settlements in the United States from “terrorist havens” until “we can be certain terrorists cannot elude our current screening process.”
Toomey said the primary responsibility of the federal government is the security of the nation, which he suggests his opponent, McGinty, is lax on.
“I believe the policies pursued by the current administration have made the world far less safe, while my opponent has made it clear she would rubber-stamp this failing agenda,” he said.
The closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp was one of the first actions that President Obama had intended to take when he assumed office. That was in 2009. In 2016, the camp remains active.
“I believe Guantanamo Bay is ideal to house the world’s most dangerous terrorists,” Toomey said. “My opponent ‘applauds’ efforts to close the prison.”
In January 2016, the Obama administration released a report that said at least 12 former detainees at Guantanamo were involved in attacks on allied forces in Afghanistan that killed a half-dozen Americans.
“So far, many of the terrorists that leave Guantanamo Bay have returned to the battlefield to launch further attacks on the U.S. and our allies,” Toomey said.
McGinty said that opening Guantanamo was a “mistake” and that she “would work to ensure that any further action we take on this matter does not further endanger the security of Americans.”
“I oppose the transfer of any prisoner at Guantanamo Bay until we know for certain that they won’t return to the battlefield,” McGinty said.
In regards to the nuclear agreement with Iran, which the White House touted as a “historic deal that will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Toomey, and many Republican counterparts in Congress, disagree.
“The Iran nuclear deal has been a disaster, and I have opposed it from the very start. My opponent called it the ‘best option,’” Toomey said. “Instead, we should re-impose harsh sanctions that make it harder for Iran to pursue a nuclear weapon and continue funding terrorism.”
McGinty said, indeed it was the “best option to achieving that goal.”
“We must never allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon,” McGinty said. “That deal, if rigorously enforced, will constrain Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”
The economy is often considered one of the most important issues for American voters, and it’s particularly relevant in this election year, as many average Americans are still struggling with the after-effects of the Great Recession.
“We are living through the worst economic recovery in 60 years,” Toomey said. “President Obama will be the first president in modern times to go eight years in a row with less than 3 percent economic growth.”
Toomey said the income gap has widened, wages have become stagnant and the record low percentage of Americans in the workforce has attribute to the near doubling of the national debt that has burdened future generations. He called McGinty an “unapologetic rubber stamp for the policies that got us here.”
“But I refuse to consider this the new normal,” Toomey said.
“My plan for getting our country back on the right track includes fixing our complicated and unfair tax code, peeling back the regulations hampering innovation and growth, embracing health care policies that empower patients instead of bureaucrats, and rejecting the corporate welfare that limits opportunities for hardworking Pennsylvanians,” Toomey said. “I am confident that these policies will restore the freedom and prosperity that is our birthright as Americans.”
McGinty said her top priority in this Senate race is to create good-paying jobs and expand opportunities for middle-class families.
McGinty said she would work to bring “more goodpaying, family-sustaining jobs” to Pennsylvania by “putting an end to these bad trade deals that have eliminated thousands of jobs right here in Pennsylvania. She added that she would work to end tax breaks “for companies that ship American jobs overseas.”
“I believe that we need to make our skilled workforce a priority, by investing in job training and apprenticeship programs,” McGinty said. “And I will work to put a lid on the rising cost of college education – by linking federal support for schools to their success in containing costs.”
McGinty said she will be a vocal advocate in the Senate for rebuilding America’s manufacturing sector.
“I believe that a great country does not just buy stuff; a great country makes and builds stuff. And when our workers are given the chance to compete on a fair playing field, they are second to none.”
McGinty is a proponent to raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour as well as pay equity for men and women.
“We need to close the wage gap once and for all,” she said. “It is hard to believe that in 2016 women in Pennsylvania earn just 79 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts, and passing equal pay legislation will strengthen our families and our communities.”
Immigration is an issue that has been at the forefront of the presidential race, and it’s also relevant for senators who will need to work with the next president on crafting immigration policy.
Toomey said America has long benefited from legal immigration and the contributions of those who have come to this country willing to work hard and seek a better life, but the country’s immigration system today is fundamentally broken.
“Our borders are not secure, and our immigration laws are being broken by both employers trying to skirt the rules and those who seek to come here illegally,” Toomey said. “That
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., is running for re-election against Democrat Katie McGinty.