Pennsylvania Republicans to weigh censure of senator over Trump impeachment vote

(Reuters) – The Republican Party’s state committee in Pennsylvania is expected to vote Wednesday night on whether to censure U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, highlighting divisions in the party over the impeachment of former President Donald Trump.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) questions Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a hearing on “Examination of Loans to Businesses Critical to Maintaining National Security” before the Congressional Oversight Commission at Dirksen Senate Office Building, in Washington, U.S., December 10, 2020. Alex Wong/Pool via REUTERS

Lawrence Tabas, chairman of the committee, has called a meeting for members from across the state to decide if Toomey should be censured for voting to convict Trump after this month’s impeachment trial, three members told Reuters.

Tabas and other officials in the party leadership did not respond to queries about the online meeting. Toomey declined to comment.

Toomey was one of seven Republicans who voted to convict Trump on the charge of inciting last month’s deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol. The Senate’s vote of 57 to 43 fell short of the two-thirds of senators needed for conviction.

While a symbolic measure with no legal bearing, the possible censure underscores a rift among party leaders over whether it is better to punish Toomey for failing to support Trump or to look forward and focus on winning races in 2021 and beyond.

Howard Merrick, chairman of the Republican Party in Schuylkill County, which Trump carried with 69% of the vote in the southeastern part of state, said he was unsure how to vote.

“I do believe that impeachment was wrong and that Toomey did the wrong thing,” Merrick said. “But as far as censure goes, is it time to move on?”

Other state Republican parties have censured Republicans who either voted to impeach or convict Trump, including those in North Carolina, Louisiana, Wyoming and South Carolina.

At least a dozen counties in Pennsylvania have or are planning to hold votes to censure Toomey separate from Wednesday’s statewide vote, responding to a groundswell of anger in Trump strongholds across the battleground state.

“We needed to do something, so I asked for a censure and we got it,” said Donna Cosmello, chairwoman of the Republican Party in rural Susquehanna County, which still has visible markers of support for the former president. “The Trump signs are still up. They will not come down.”

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