Glitch delays Pennsylvania Republicans’ censure vote on U.S. senator

U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) questions Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a hearing on "Examination of Loans to Businesses Critical to Maintaining National Security" before the Congressional Oversight Commission at Dirksen Senate Office Building, in Washington, U.S.

The Republican Party’s state committee in Pennsylvania ended a meeting on Wednesday night without holding a planned vote on whether to censure U.S. Senator Pat Toomey due to technical difficulties, according to two people on the call.

The meeting of Republican leaders from across the state had been called in part to decide if Toomey should be censured for voting to convict former President Donald Trump after this month’s impeachment trial.

The online meeting lasted for more than four hours before problems with the electronic voting system prompted a decision to call it a night, one participant on the call said. Another person on the call confirmed that a technical glitch ended the meeting.

Lawrence Tabas, chairman of the party’s state committee, is expected to inform members of any plans for a future vote within the week, the participant said. Tabas did not respond to a request for comment.

Toomey was one of seven Republicans who voted to convict Trump on the charge of inciting last month’s deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol. The Senate’s vote of 57 to 43 fell short of the two-thirds of senators needed for conviction.

Censuring Toomey would be a symbolic measure with no legal bearing, but it would highlight a rift among party leaders over whether it is better to punish the senator for failing to support Trump or to look forward and focus on winning races in 2021 and beyond.

Howard Merrick, chairman of the Republican Party in Schuylkill County, which Trump carried with 69% of the vote in the southeastern part of state, had said earlier this week that he was still unsure how he would vote.

“I do believe that impeachment was wrong and that Toomey did the wrong thing,” Merrick said. “But as far as censure goes, is it time to move on?”

Other state Republican parties have censured Republicans who either voted to impeach or convict Trump, including those in North Carolina, Louisiana, Wyoming and South Carolina.

At least a dozen counties in Pennsylvania have or are planning to hold votes to censure Toomey separate from Wednesday’s statewide vote, responding to a groundswell of anger in Trump strongholds across the battleground state.

“We needed to do something, so I asked for a censure and we got it,” said Donna Cosmello, chairwoman of the Republican Party in rural Susquehanna County, which still has visible markers of support for the former president. “The Trump signs are still up. They will not come down.”

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