Patriot-News backs Toomey’s instinct for compromise

Outside of the race for the White House, Pennsylvanians will cast no more important a ballot this Election Day than the one they cast for the state’s next United States Senator. From the future composition of the United States Supreme Court to immigration reform and the fate of the Affordable Care Act, the decisions facing the next Congress will be momentous ones. And it is a political truism that the next president will need allies in the U.S. House and Senate to see his or her agenda to its fruition. Three weeks ago, The PennLive/Patriot-News Editorial Board endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton, arguing that she has the appropriate experience, chops and temperament to serve as the next president of the United States. It would stand to reason then, some might say, that we would similarly endorse a candidate friendly to Clinton’s interests as Pennsylvania’s United States Senator, the Democrat Katie McGinty. But there’s also something to be said for political independence, stability in the face of change and preserving the checks and balances that underpin our admittedly imperfect system. With a proven track record of achievement over more than a dozen years in Washington and an admirable independent streak on one of the key public policy issues facing our nation – the scourge of gun violence – The PennLive/Patriot-News Editorial Board endorses Republican Pat Toomey for re-election. Politics, when it functions well, means finding common ground with those with whom you have profound moral and philosophical disagreements. And when it comes to his stances on core issues, we find ourselves in disagreement with Sen. Toomey more often than not. He opposes abortion rights; would repeal and replace Obamacare with a surely inferior alternative; he holds objectionable views on the Black Lives Matter movement, and holds the wrongheaded belief that less governmental oversight of Wall Street is better governmental oversight of Wall Street. We differ with him on all those questions. We also break with him on his opposition to President Barack Obama’s pick to fill the late Antonin Scalia’s vacancy on the Supreme Court. Unlike some of his colleagues, however, Toomey was gentleman enough to meet with U.S. District Judge Merrick Garland. In an interview with the Editorial Board, Toomey, 55, of Lehigh County, offered a credible argument: That the Senate’s traditional role in advising and consenting on a president’s high court nominees means little if the right to consent is stripped away. Toomey stressed his willingness to work with a future White House on its high court picks. Based on his past support for Justice Sonia Sotomayor, with whom he has serious differences, we are inclined to believe him. Toomey has worked across the aisle with Democrats, notably with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, on legislation to fight prescription opioid abuse. In 2013, he joined with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in an admirable push for expanded background checks on gun purchases. And in the hothouse debate over the so-called “no-fly, no-buy” list, Toomey was one of the rare Republican voices of sanity. Speaking to the Editorial Board, Toomey said he hopes to continue his fight on gun control in the next Congress. And we will hold him to that. Toomey also has forged, by all accounts, a fine working relationship with the state’s senior U.S. Senator, Democrat Bob Casey, that has seen them collaborate on picks to the federal bench in their home state, among other matters. Toomey’s rhetorical gymnastics on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump are disappointing, if understandable when viewed through a political prism. Toomey has said there is much he finds objectionable about Trump, but will not say whether he intends to vote for him on Nov. 8. He owes it the voters to come clean before he enters the ballot box. While Toomey can be dogmatic on matters of taxes and spending, that kind of practicality and instinct for consensus is a welcome antidote in an increasingly paralyzed Washington. We cannot say the same about McGinty, 52, of Chester County, who, over more than a decade and a half in Pennsylvania politics, has earned a reputation as a sharp-elbowed partisan with few instincts for compromise. McGinty has been criticized, fairly or unfairly, as one of the chief architect’s of Pennsylvania’s nightmarish, nine-month-long budget stalemate in 2015. As Gov. Ed Rendell’s former Environmental Protection Secretary, she also often found herself at loggerheads with the Republican-controlled Senate. In an interview with the Editorial Board, McGinty sought to downplay her role in the budget debacle that was resolved only after her exit as Gov. Tom Wolf’s chief of staff. “We had a lot of new people and a lot of new positions,” she said, glossing over some of the destructive early choices the administration made, notably a decision to veto the entire 2015-16 state budget, rather than offering the traditional line-item veto, to force further negotiation. In April, we passed over McGinty for the endorsement in the Democratic primary, finding her too-cozy ties with Big Energy and longstanding relations with the Bill and Hillary Clinton, along with Rendell and other senior Democratic figures, fatally undermined her claim to the outsider mantle. That position has not changed. And it was reinforced by her conversation with the Editorial Board. When she was asked to name three issues where she broke with Clinton, McGinty named one, Clinton’s support for closing the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. She offered positions on two other issues – debt-free college and energy policy – that were effectively the same as the Democratic nominee’s, differing only in the margins. When it comes to making the hard decisions, merely agreeing with someone is sometimes not enough. You need someone to make the tough decisions and to break with the White House when the occasion dictates. We are not confident that McGinty is possessed of that kind of independence and are profoundly concerned that she would be little more than a rubber stamp for a putative Democratic White House. Toomey, with an actual track record of bipartisanship, does have the instinct for compromise. And he has earned another six years in Washington. –

Harrisburg Patriot-News

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