Sen. Pat Toomey held his second town hall of the year Monday afternoon, but his constituents could only participate by tuning in on CBS Philadelphia’s social media channel.
Broadcast via Facebook Live, Toomey’s scant 15-minute question-and-answer portion, with Eyewitness News anchor Jessica Dean, touched on President Donald Trump, Toomey’s support of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the Republicans’ planned dismantling of the Affordable Care Act and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ reported ties to Russia.
Missed the event? Here’s some of the highlights.
On when he’s going to host an in-person town hall in Philadelphia.
The second-term senator said he doesn’t have any dates set yet, saying he’s “sure we’ll do one at some point.”
Toomey mentioned his telephone town halls, of which he’s conducted 48 since being elected senator in 2010. The most recent was on Feb. 16 and lasted 45 minutes.
Asked if he understands that there are a number of his constituents who would prefer to engage with him at in-person town halls, Toomey said he does understand, and “that’s fine.”
On his support for DeVos.
“An outpouring of your citizens requested you not vote for her, or for you to recuse yourself from the vote since DeVos donated to you,” Dean said, asking why Toomey did not recuse himself from the Senate confirmation vote.
According to Toomey, there was “absolutely no reason” to recuse himself from the vote whatsoever.
He said that his support for DeVos , who donated upward of $60,000 to Toomey’s campaigns, stems from his desire to create more options, especially for lower income families who can’t choose where their children attend school.
“A poor kid, whether in the inner city or anywhere else, that family typically has no choices, and often the school isn’t serving the child well,” Toomey said. “A child only gets one chance to get a great education.”
“Betsy DeVos has dedicated a tremendous amount of her adult life to creating more opportunities for more kids who don’t have a choice,” he continued, adding that a lot of his constituents also reached out, urging him to support DeVos.
On an independent investigation into Trump and his campaign’s ties to Russia.
Asked if he supports an independent probe with subpoena powers, Toomey said that revelations that Russia tried to influence the U.S. election shouldn’t be shocking – because they’re “trying to discredit us” – and said he absolutely wants to get to the bottom of Moscow’s interference.
That said, Toomey said he has full confidence in the Senate Intelligence Committee, and doesn’t see the need for an “outside entity or special prosecutor.”
On Sessions’ resignation.
Asked via Facebook Live if he thinks Sessions, who was also found to have conversations with a Russian official, and later recused himself from any probes into Russia’s interference in the election, Toomey said he sees no reason for Sessions to step down.
Referring to Sessions’ confirmation hearing, during with Sen. Al Franken asked if the former Alabama lawmaker had any contact with Russia during the campaign, Toomey said he thinks Sessions had answered the question in context, and did not “intend to mislead.”
“I know Jeff Sessions very well, I know that he’s a very honest man, a very fair-minded guy,” Toomey continued, adding that he thinks Sessions recused himself out of caution, rather than legal obligation.
On Republicans’ plan for Obamacare.
In short, Toomey said he doesn’t plan to “pull the rug out” from the millions who subscribe to the Affordable Care Act, but he and the GOP will repeal Obama’s legacy health care plan.
The plan is to “stabilize the individual market,” resolve the expansion of Medicaid, and make sure that those with pre-existing or chronic medical needs can afford their care.
“Unfortunately we have to do it without any help from our Democratic colleagues,” he said.
On being a “rubber stamp” for Trump.
Dean read a question from a constituent, who asked when will Toomey “take a position, any position, that does not show you as anything but a rubber stamp for Donald Trump.”
Toomey began his answer by explaining that there has been no legislation in Congress put to a vote initiated by the president; all votes have been on legislation that originated in the house or the senate.
“As far as the nominees, I voted to confirm three-quarters of Barack Obama’s nominees that came before me when I was in the Senate,” Toomey said. “Because I think a president really oughtto get a lot of latitude in assembling their team.”
#LIVE: Senator Pat Toomey holds an online conversation with Jessica Dean News.
Posted by CBS Philly on Monday, March 6, 2017