When will Senator Toomey become a problem solver? I
n difficult times, we need our elected officials to grab our nation’s problems by the horns and seek solutions. Our leaders often portray themselves as pragmatic problem solvers, but when push comes to shove, partisanship seems to beat out leader- ship.
The budget debate in Washington brings this contradiction into focus. For four years, Democrats have not brought a budget forward in the U.S. Senate. During that time, Republicans have taken to the airwaves to criticize Democratic inaction.
Pennsylvania’s own Senator Pat Toomey, a member of the Budget Committee, frequently joined the chorus attacking the Senate’s budgetary inertia. Toomey told MSNBC that “the Democratic majority thinks that it’s acceptable not to even have a budget, so we have no budget.” On CNBC, Toomey chastised Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for “choosing not to do a budget resolution for three consecutive years.” Senator Toomey had a point.
This year, however, Senate Democrats finally wrote and passed their first budget since 2009. After years of moving from budget crisis to budget crisis, the Senate was poised to move a budget to conference committee and reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions. But compromise wasn’t in the cards because Senator Toomey personally blocked the formation of the conference committee at the request of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
After years of demanding that Democrats produce a budget, Senator Toomey blocked further negotiations and put resolution out of reach. Democrats were confused why Toomey would use a procedural move to halt all progress on a budget that Toomey spent years demanding. Even the moderate Republicans were confused by his tactics.
“What are we on my side of the aisle doing?” asked Senator John McCain.
But McConnell, whom Toomey nominated to serve as Senate GOP Leader, wanted to nix the conference committee so he could continue attacking Democrats for not passing a budget. And despite Toomey’s calls for budgetary action, our Senator was willing to follow McConnell’s marching orders.
Senator Toomey’s paradoxical problem-solving approach doesn’t stop at the budget.
In May of 2012, Senator Toomey and Senator Bob Casey came together across party lines to endorse two judicial candidates to fill vacancies on Pennsylvania’s district courts that had been empty for years. At the time, Toomey stressed the immense importance of seeing their candidates on the bench soon because the Middle District had been “in a state of judicial emergency since 2009.”
Judges on the court—four of which were above the age of 86—had been sitting in senior status to pick up the piling caseloads left by the vacancies. Judge William Nealon, at the age of 89, took on over 150 cases. The length and cost of litigation was exploding in our State, and our Senators had come together to solve the problem.
Yet, just as the nominations were about to be confirmed in the Senate, Toomey sat by as Senate Minority Leader McConnell blocked the confirmation of 17 judges. We heard nothing from Toomey about the needs of Pennsylvania’s justice system. Toomey had solved the problem, but failed to put the solution before his party. When will Senator Toomey stand up to his own party and become the problem solver the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania needs and deserves? Stephen Seufert
President Lower Bucks Young Democrats