One Republican senator setting a good example

Published 11:27 am Friday, March 2, 2018

by Christine Flowers

Sen. Pat Toomey is my hero. Last week, the Pennsylvania Republican outdid himself in refusing to make people happy. Instead, he did what he needed to do: the right thing.

First things first. After the Pennsylvania Supreme Court took a copy of the state Constitution, put it through a shredder and then crowed about how they were trying to achieve “justice,” our Republican senator taught those Democratic justices what it means to honor the law. He went to Harrisburg, and threw his considerable support behind GOP leaders who are trying to get the high court’s newly drawn congressional maps thrown out, or at least stayed until someone with a law degree teaches them about constitutional jurisprudence.

Because obviously, these justices skipped that class in law school. Instead, they seem to have gotten “A’s” in “how to advance the partisan goals of the people that voted you onto the bench.”

Toomey came out and said what needed to be said, namely, that the court had engaged in a power grab by usurping the role of the Legislature. It kind of reminds me of former Pennsylvania attorney general Kathleen Kane, usurping the role of the courts when she single-handedly determined that same-sex marriage was constitutional. But Kathy has some problems, so I won’t be too harsh on her here.

Toomey suggested that what the justices did warranted their removal, when he said “state House members, state senators are going to be speaking amongst themselves and their constituents, and the fundamental question is: Does this blatant, unconstitutional partisan power grab that undermines our electoral process – does that rise to the level of impeachment?”

I think we all know the answer to that, we who are watching our high court (one that has historically had to dig itself out of the sludge of mediocrity and which was often the laughing-stock of the nation) hand several critical races over to the Democrats.

Now you might complain that this is exactly what the GOP did for years when they turned my district, what “used” to be the 7th, into a strange Rohrshack ink blot test that looked vaguely Disneyish. And you would of course be correct. In 2011, the GOP went rogue and tried to cram all of their opponents into bizarre little geographical corners.

But here’s the thing. Regardless of how you feel about what the GOP did, they were fulfilling their constitutional mandate. They are the ones who have the right to draw the maps, not a handful of justices who decided to get creative. It’s true that the GOP wouldn’t be dealing with this mess if they’d actually drawn maps that accurately reflected the state, and didn’t try in their own way to help Republicans win. But at least they weren’t violating the constitution when they did it.

Which brings me to my second reason to cheer Pat Toomey. After justifiably excoriating the court and pointing out the hypocrisy of Democrats and those who support the justices, he went in the other direction and made some Republicans angry. Last week, Toomey announced that he was ready to re-introduce the Manchin-Toomey gun control bill. Clearly, in the wake of yet another school massacre, he decided the time was right. It is. Then again, I thought it was right after Columbine. And Aurora. And, my heart still breaks for this one – Newtown.

Shortly after that most horrific of tragedies, Toomey worked with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, another heroic fellow, to back an amendment to then majority leader Harry Reid’s Safe Communities Safe Schools Act, which would have provided for increased background checks covering private gun sales and transfers.

Back in 2013, the measure went down by a vote of 54-46. This time, though, the national mood is different. We’re not sad anymore. We’re angry. And whatever you think of the theatrics being displayed by some of those high school teenagers and the partisan attacks that don’t help, they have accurately sensed that gun control is no longer a dirty phrase.

We all know, those of us who read the Heller decision and revere the mind of Antonin Scalia (who wrote that opinion) that the Second Amendment is not absolute. Scalia correctly noted that we have legally kept guns from the mentally ill, from felons, and we have prevented them from being sold and used in certain locations like schools and hospitals. He also recognized that there could even be a ban on the types of weapons sold, and this would still be in compliance with the constitutional right to “bear arms.”

Toomey knows all about that, too. But he’s a good man, and a smart man, and he really doesn’t care too much about the people who stand outside of his office with their cutesy homemade signs and demand that he come out and “face them.” He also doesn’t care what people think about his willingness to call, to quote a Parkland student, “BS” on the absolutely partisan and illegal actions of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

As I said, my hero.

CHRISTINE FLOWERS is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at