Dinner and a Filibuster: Pat Toomey’s Busy Day
Senator Pat Toomey has been very busy. He dined with President Barack Obama, stood on the Senate floor to join Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster, appeared on Fox and Friends, and gave a speech at the Heritage Foundation.
Toomey was one of twelve Republican US senators to join the President for dinner and to discuss the country’s current fiscal state. Toomey indicated earlier in the day that he planned to focus on tax reform and the structural reform of mandatory healthcare programs.
Prior to leaving the Capitol for dinner, Sen. Toomey joined Sen. Paul (R-KY) on the Senate floor to aid him in his filibustering of President Obama’s CIA director nominee John Brennan. Toomey spoke on the potential uses of military drones and expressed doubt that they would be ever be used domestically.
“When we’re talking about American noncombatants on American soil, I think the starting point ought to be we’re not going to do that, and the onus ought to be on whoever has got an explanation for when and whether and why and under what circumstance we would, and that ought to be debated very, very carefully and thoroughly and until such time, I think it would ought to be easy to acknowledge that this is not going to take place,” he said.
“And if we can’t get a direct answer to that question, then I have to say I think the—the Senator from Kentucky is—is performing an important service in putting a spotlight on this, and I commend him for doing it and I thank him for doing it.”
After his brief appearance on the floor, Toomey travelled to the Jefferson Hotel to join the President and some colleagues. After dinner, Toomey—who had steak—described Obama’s tone as “very cordial and very constructive.” Reports indicate that the president and GOP senators did not discuss Sen. Paul’s ongoing filibuster.
In a brief interview with Fox and Friends Thursday morning, Toomey implied that the President’s tone had changed from “confrontational” to something more conciliatory. “I’m hoping this is a new approach on the part of the president, to reach out, to have some dialogue, [and] to find some common ground,” Toomey said.
After dinner Toomey returned to the Capitol, appearing on the Senate floor just before midnight to again offer support to the Kentucky senator in his 12 hour filibuster. Toomey said that Paul’s questions for the Attorney General were “very clear.”
Alluding to Bush-era concerns about indefinite detention of American citizens, Sen. Toomey stated that such detention is “pretty tame compared to being destroyed by a drone.” The senator also asserted that there an “ongoing discussion” regarding the uses of drones and asked whether or not the Obama Administration believes it has the authority to carry out a lethal strike with a drone against and American citizen on American soil.
Senate rules stipulate that a filibuster can continue as long as the filibustering senator holds the floor. The only way that another senator can be allowed to speak is to yield to another senator for the purpose of a question. For this reason, Toomey had to end his statements with a question, in the style of Jeopardy.
Senator Toomey said he was “very proud” of Sen. Paul and that the filibuster forced the Senate to renew their focus.
Sen. Bob Casey, who did not participate in the filibuster, co-signed a letter with fellow Democrats requesting a vote to close debate on Brennan’s nomination.
In a speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation, which was planned prior to Sen. Paul’s filibuster, Toomey focused primarily on the need for spending cuts and entitlement reform. He criticized President Obama and the administration’s spending.
His office didn’t respond to a question about whether Toomey had changed his speech in any way following his dinner with Obama.
“No big government program can continue indefinitely to grow at a rate faster than the economy,” the senator said, “government is dependent upon the economy, not the other way around.” Regarding entitlement spending, Toomey said, “If you care about [Medicare and Social Security], then you have got to reform them!”
Despite the fiscal agenda Toomey departed from the planned remarks to question the president’s drone policy.
“Do they or do they not believe they have the authority to kill American citizens on American soil that are noncombatants?[…] the Administration refuses to acknowledge that they don’t have the authority to blow someone up on American soil.”