Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., has joined other Senate Republicans in refusing to hold a hearing for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, even going so far as to make misleading claims about Garland’s record as a judge.
Not surprisingly, Toomey’s stance may be hurting him among Pennsylvania voters.
Public Policy Polling released a poll today showing strong support in Pennsylvania — even among Republicans — for Senate hearings on Garland’s nomination.
One issue that continues to complicate Toomey's reelection prospects is the vacant Supreme Court seat. 53% of voters want to see it filled this year, compared to only 38% who think that should wait for the next President. More importantly though, 66% of voters want there to be confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland's nomination to just 18% who think he should be rejected out of hand. Democrats (79/9), independents (56/14), and even Republicans (52/31) think that Garland deserves a hearing. By a 23 point margin voters say they're less likely to vote for a Senator who opposes confirmation hearings on Garland's nomination- just 22% say that stance would make them more likely to vote for someone, compared to 45% who say it would make them less likely to.
Just yesterday, Toomey said that Donald Trump’s racist attack on a federal judge of Mexican descent was “deeply offensive,” “ridiculous” and “outrageous.” He is nonetheless apparently comfortable holding the vacancy on the Supreme Court open for a possible President Trump.
He isn’t the only Republican senator whose re-election chances are being harmed by the party’s decision to block Garland from even being considered for the Supreme Court, with polls in several key states finding the GOP’s stance to be overwhelmingly unpopular.
In a robocall released today by People For the American Way, award-winning actress Alfre Woodard calls Pennsylvania voters urging them to contact Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) and demand that he give fair consideration to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. As the call states, Sen. Toomey has declared that he won’t fulfill his constitutional duty and instead falsely asserts it’s “not that big a deal” if the Supreme Court vacancy lasts for over a year.
“Sen. Toomey’s irresponsible obstruction is inexcusable,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way. “The Constitution is very clear that it’s the job of Senators to give fair consideration to Supreme Court nominees, and there’s certainly no exceptions during election years. Not only is it a ‘big deal’ if Sen. Toomey and his fellow Republican Senators refuse to do their jobs, it’s a crisis of constitutional proportions.”
This is the second set of robocalls that PFAW has launched on this issue. In February, Martin Sheen called Wisconsinites targeting Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) for his obstruction on the Supreme Court vacancy.
Listen to the call here:
A transcript of the recording for today’s Pennsylvania calls reads:
Hi, this is Alfre Woodard, calling on behalf of People For the American Way.
When there’s a vacancy on the Supreme Court, the Constitution is clear about what happens next: the President nominates a new Justice and the Senate gives that nominee fair consideration.
But Republicans, including Senator Pat Toomey, are playing politics with the law and saying they won’t fulfill their constitutional obligation. Toomey even said it’s “not that big a deal” to leave the ninth Supreme Court seat empty for more than a year!
He couldn’t be more wrong.
Call Senator Toomey at (202) 224-4254, and tell him you expect him to put his Constitutional duties first—and give fair consideration to President Obama’s nominee.
People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.
Note to senators in tough reelection battles: putting your Washington DC party bosses over the Constitution by standing in the way of filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court is not only the wrong thing to do for our country, it’s also making voters less likely to support you.
New Public Policy Polling surveys released today show that large majorities of voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio, where Senators Pat Toomey and Rob Portman are running for reelection, want the vacancy created by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death to be filled this year. According to the polling memo:
- Strong majorities of voters – 58/35 in Ohio and 57/40 in Pennsylvania – think that the vacant seat on the Supreme Court should be filled this year. What’s particularly noteworthy about those numbers – and concerning for Portman and Toomey – is how emphatic the support for approving a replacement is among independent voters. In Ohio they think a new Justice should be named this year 70/24 and in Pennsylvania it’s 60/37.
- …Voters are particularly angry about Senators taking the stance that they’re not going to approve anyone before even knowing who President Obama decides to put forward. By a 76/20 spread in Pennsylvania and a 74/18 one in Ohio, voters think the Senate should wait to see who is nominated to the Court before deciding whether or not to confirm that person. Toomey and Portman are out of line even with their own party base on that one – Republicans in Pennsylvania think 67/27 and in Ohio think 63/32 that the Senate should at least give President Obama’s choice a chance before deciding whether or not to confirm them. [emphasis added]
Perhaps most notable for the senators, more than half of voters (52 percent in both states) say they would be less likely to vote for Toomey or Portman if they “refused to confirm a replacement for Justice Scalia this year no matter who it was.” Among independents, the numbers were even higher.
Senators Toomey and Portman would be wise to take heed of their constituents, and of the Constitution, and stop refusing to even consider any Supreme Court nominee, regardless of his or her credentials. Any nominee must be treated fairly and honestly. The Supreme Court is far too important to be held hostage to the overtly political obstruction of GOP senators.
Today, more than a year after being nominated by President Obama, Judge Luis Restrepo was confirmed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Today’s vote followed months of needless delays by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, assisted by Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley.
“Americans of every stripe should be glad that Judge Restrepo was confirmed today. He will be a true asset to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. But Senate Republicans should be embarrassed about how they’ve played politics with the courts for months on end,” said People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker. “Judge Restrepo was nominated with bipartisan support from his home state senators, but at every turn Republicans delayed and dragged their feet, saying one thing and doing another. Not a single senator raised any concerns about Judge Restrepo’s fitness for the bench—this was anti-Obama politics plain and simple. If Americans need another example of who’s causing gridlock in Washington, the expanse of time that it took us to get to this vote is a perfect example.”
Upon today’s vote, Restrepo becomes the second Latino judge ever to serve on the Third Circuit and the first from Pennsylvania.
Today’s vote comes during an period of historic obstruction of judicial nominees in the Senate. Since Mitch McConnell became majority leader in January 2014, the number of current circuit and district court vacancies has climbed from 40 to 71 today, a nearly 80% increase. Despite Restrepo’s confirmation, the current Senate’s confirmation rate remains far behind that of Democrats who controlled the body during the last two years of President Bush’s term eight years ago.
“During the long wait for Judge Restrepo’s confirmation, yet another vacancy has opened up on the Third Circuit,” said Baker. “If Republicans decide to start caring about the ordinary people they purport to represent, moving expeditiously to fill that vacancy, among others, would be a reasonable place to start.”
This past Thursday, Senate Republicans disregarded the procedure they’ve been using all year and decided that they would skip over the confirmation vote for Judge L. Felipe Restrepo for the important U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Judge Restrepo would be only the second Latino to ever serve on this prestigious federal court.
Though no one has questioned Judge Restrepo’s qualifications for the job, Republican Senator Toomey is collaborating with Senate GOP leaders to prevent a confirmation vote.
Civil rights leader and People For the American Way (PFAW) board member Dolores Huerta stated:
“Shame on Senator Toomey and Senate Republicans for holding up the confirmation of highly-qualified Judge Restrepo. Republicans are once again using obstructionist tactics in a way that harms our country, and this time, it impacts Latinos in particular. We can’t let Senate Republicans get away with this blatant, partisan obstruction.”
PFAW Senior Legislative Counsel Paul Gordon explained:
“By skipping over Judge Restrepo, Senate Republicans threaten not to hold a confirmation vote by the end of the year, meaning that the reset button could be hit on his confirmation. If they do that, he’d have to be re-nominated and re-processed by the Judiciary Committee, even though Republicans and Democrats alike have voiced only support for Judge Restrepo.”
To schedule an interview with a PFAW spokesperson on this issue, please contact Laura Epstein (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Background on Restrepo’s Nomination Process
In November of last year, President Obama nominated federal district Judge L. Felipe Restrepo to be a judge on the important U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Unfortunately, Republican Senator Toomey and Senate GOP leaders in Washington DC have up to this point refused to hold a confirmation hearing.
Judge Restrepo would be only the second Latino to ever serve on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. He would also be the first judge on the court to have experience as a public defender. It is important to fill this vacancy: The caseload is so high that it has been formally designated a judicial emergency, and there is a second vacancy on the same court. No one has questioned Judge Restrepo’s qualifications for the job, and Senator Toomey said great things about Judge Restrepo. But for over a year, every time that action has been needed to prevent Judge Restrepo from falling victim to Washington partisan politics, Toomey has chosen to be silent.
It’s critical that Judge Restrepo be confirmed before senators leave town for the holidays, which could be as soon as next week. He’s at the top of the list of judicial nominees waiting for a vote. But, apparently with Toomey’s acquiescence, GOP leaders have skipped Judge Restrepo and plan to confirm another nominee on Monday.
Because the Senate will likely adjourn at the end of this week, skipping Judge Restrepo could mean his confirmation vote will not happen this year. This could mean that in 2016, Judge Restrepo would have to be re-nominated by President Obama and re-submitted to the Judiciary Committee, further delaying his confirmation process.