Toomey said he supports President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign and would be open to serving as a surrogate and campaigning for a president whom he didn’t endorse until Election Day in 2016: “I hope to be serving these last two years with President Donald Trump reelected. I support his campaign, I support his reelection.”
He also said he is “cautiously optimistic” his party would retain its majority at the ballot box this fall amid a fierce battle for the Senate, which would make him Senate Banking Committee chair for his last two years.
Toomey is the only statewide elected Republican politician in office in the Keystone State, though it remains a presidential battleground and top target for both parties. Trump, however, is trailing in the state by significant margins and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) was easily reelected in 2018, suggesting a tough road ahead for Republicans winning statewide.
The two-term senator and former House member asserted that “if I decided to run I would have won again.” Toomey defeated Democrat Katie McGinty in 2016 by 1.5 percentage points, a victory that helped provide McConnell’s six-year majority that he’s now in danger of losing. He said the realization that he will have spent 18 of 24 years as a politician drove his decision to return to the private sector.
Toomey’s move also puts Republicans at an immediate disadvantage as they survey the 2022 Senate landscape.
Pickup opportunities for the GOP may be limited to Democratic-leaning states like New Hampshire, Colorado and Nevada as well as whoever wins this year’s Arizona Senate election. By contrast, Republicans will have have to defend Toomey’s seat as well as seats held by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Burr has already announced he will retire.
And while Toomey’s retirement is a loss for the Republican Party, it also will leave a void in the Senate, where Toomey remains something of an outlier. Though a die-hard fiscal conservative, Toomey occasionally broke with his party. He is one of just two Senate Republicans still serving that supports expanded background checks on gun sales and is the only member of his conference to oppose Trump’s new trade deal with Mexico and Canada.
His responses to reporters in the Senate hallways are often curt as he dashes from his office to the Senate floor, but he’s also been among the most willing Republicans to criticize Trump, sometimes mildly and other times with gusto. Toomey loathes many of Trump’s tariffs and trade policies, voted to block Trump’s national emergency declaration at the border and said “commuting Roger Stone’s sentence is a mistake.”
Toomey also called Trump’s actions during his impeachment trial “inappropriate,” though he voted to acquit the president. But though he’s clearly not entirely comfortable with the style of the brash president, Toomey said Trump’s conduct had no bearing on his own decision-making.
“I decided early on I am not responsible for the president’s Twitter feed, I am not responsible for editing his comments in any given medium. I work with this president on a regular basis, it’s a very constructive relationship,” Toomey told reporters. “When I’ve disagreed with him, which I have, I haven’t been bashful about saying so. But that has nothing to do with this decision.”
Murkowski to back Barrett for Supreme Court, despite opposing GOP process
Sen. Lisa Murkowski will vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, despite her opposition to moving forward in an election year.
The Alaska Republican said Saturday she will split her votes on Barrett. She will vote against a procedural hurdle on Sunday to advance her nomination over a filibuster, due to her longstanding objection to confirming a justice so close to the Nov. 3 presidential election.
But based on the merits of Barrett’s credentials for the job, she’s a ‘yes.’
Tension Has Escalated Between Tory MPs And Marcus Rashford Ahead Of A Vote On Free School Meals
4 min read
Tories must face up to their “conscience” today on a vote on extending free school meals over the holidays, Labour has claimed, as footballer and anti-poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford ramped up the pressure on politicians to back it.
The challenge from shadow children’s minister Tulip Siddiq came after another difficult morning for the government as Manchester United star Rashford said he was “paying close attention” to the vote and then got into a Twitter spat with Tory MP Steve Baker over who has the power to introduce the free meals.
Moments later Tory backbencher Anne Marie Morris, MP for Newton Abbot in Devon, broke ranks to say she would be supporting Labour’s motion on extending the free school meals until next Easter. Education select committee chair Conservavtive Robert Halfon has urged the government to work with Rashford.
When asked at Prime Minister’s Questions to back the proposal by Labour, Boris Johnson said the government wanted to use the benefits system to support children in the hoildays.
“I want to make sure we continue to support families thoughout the crisis so they have the cash available to feed their kids as they need to do,” he said.
Earlier this week government minister Nadhim Zahawi has said that struggling families can claim Universal Credit and that many parents do not like being labelled as being on ‘free school meals’ instead preferring to pay a modest sum of money to a holiday club to provide food.
Siddiq told PoliticsHome: “A lot of the Tories, Don Valley, Bishop Aukland and places like that they’re all a little bit worried. It’s the kind of thing that can be used against them in their patches.
“Even if they don’t walk through the lobbies with us tonight that they put a lot of pressure on the prime minister. And that’s how it happened last time.
“I know it’s not easy to break the whip but some votes are a matter of conscience and this is one of them.
“We’re going to be facing the toughest winter of a generation, there’s coronavirus, the end of the furlough scheme – children are in for a tough ride. Why can’t we just do one last thing for parents so they don’t have to worry?”
She said some Tories she had spoken to directly in Parliament on Tuesday were sympathetic to the issue but they did not want to break the whip.
The vouchers were introduced for the poorest families in August after significant pressure from Rashford. The England striker said today that the situation for children is now worse than in the summer.
The vote at 7pm is on a Labour motion calling on the government to continue directly funding free school meals over the holidays until Easter 2021. They say it would prevent a million children going hungry.
Rashford tweeted that he was paying close attention to the Commons today and to those who are willing to “turn a blind eye” to the needs of our most vulnerable children.
He wrote: “2.2M of them who currently qualify for Free School Meals. 42% newly registered. Not to mention the 1.5M children who currently don’t qualify.”
He then got into an disagreement with MP Steve Baker who said Rashford was the one with all the power to make the change on free school meals because he has more Twitter followers that he does, despite Baker being a politician for the ruling Conservative party.
Baker said instead Universal Credit could be boosted to try and help families..
Morris, who was elected in 2010 said that she would vote against her own party tonight because of the economic fall out for people in her constituency.
She tweeted: “The ongoing pandemic has had a heavy impact on many across Teignbridge, bringing with it significant economic difficulties for many. This is why I am supporting the motion calling for the continuation of direct funding for FSM over school holidays until Easter 2021.
“This time-limited measure is a perfectly sensible response as we deal with the economic consequences of Covid-19. Longer-term I believe it is right that those eligible should be supported through the Holidays & Activities Food Programme and the Universal Credit system.”
Trump comment on ‘blowing up’ Nile Dam angers Ethiopia
Ethiopia’s prime minister has said his country “will not cave in to aggressions of any kind” after President Donald Trump suggested Egypt could destroy a controversial Nile dam.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is at the centre of a long-running dispute involving Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan.
Mr Trump said Egypt would not be able to live with the dam and might “blow up” the construction.
Ethiopia sees the US as siding with Egypt in the dispute.
The US announced in September that it would cut some aid to Ethiopia after it began filling the reservoir behind the dam in July.
Why is the dam disputed?
Egypt relies for the bulk of its water needs on the Nile and is concerned supplies could be cut off and its economy undermined as Ethiopia takes control of the flow of Africa’s longest river.
Once complete, the $4bn (£3bn) structure on the Blue Nile in western Ethiopia will be Africa’s largest hydro-electric project.
The speed with which Ethiopia fills up the dam will govern how severely Egypt is affected – the slower the better as far as Cairo is concerned. That process is expected to take several years.
Sudan, further upstream than Egypt, is also concerned about water shortages.
Ethiopia, which announced the start of construction in 2011, says it needs the dam for its economic development.
Negotiations between the three countries were being chaired by the US, but are now overseen by the African Union.
What did the Ethiopian PM say?
PM Abiy Ahmed did not address Mr Trump’s remarks directly, but there appears to be little doubt what prompted his robust comments.
Ethiopians would finish the dam, he vowed.
“Ethiopia will not cave in to aggression of any kind,” he said. “Ethiopians have never kneeled to obey their enemies, but to respect their friends. We won’t do it today and in the future.”
Threats of any kind over the issue were “misguided, unproductive and clear violations of international law”.
Why did Trump get involved?
The president was on the phone to Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu in front of reporters at the White House on Friday.
The occasion was Israel and Sudan’s decision to agree diplomatic relations in a move choreographed by the US.
The subject of the dam came up and Mr Trump and Mr Hamdok expressed hopes for a peaceful resolution to the dispute.
But Mr Trump also said “it’s a very dangerous situation because Egypt is not going to be able to live that way”.
He continued: “And I said it and I say it loud and clear – they’ll blow up that dam. And they have to do something.”
What is the state of the negotiations?
Mr Abiy maintains that the negotiations have made more progress since the African Union began mediation.
But there are fears that Ethiopia’s decision to start filling the reservoir could overshadow hopes of resolving key areas, such what happens during a drought and how to resolve future disputes.
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