And I say "I think" only because in the letter (see below for the text), the Senator is giving a response about Trump's Executive Orders regarding immigration and the first letter I sent him is the only one that even mentions immigration.
I'll let you be the judge as to whether Senator Pat Toomey is answering any of my questions.
First let me offer up some background. In unlikely event you hadn't already heard, there's been an ongoing protest against Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey's seeming reluctance to meet with his constituents.
There's a Facebook page.
And a Twitter page.
As the group's name implies, every Tuesday a group of people can be expected to protest outside of each of his offices statewide.
I thought it such a good idea, I started my own "Tuesdays with Toomey" project at this blog - hence my open letters to Pennsylvania's Junior Senator (and one of my two Senatorial representatives in the US Congress) Pat Toomey.
I've sent Senator Toomey eight letters so far and this is the first response I've received.
Here's what I wrote two months ago:
Recently on "Face The Nation" Senior White House policy adviser Stephen Miller had this exchange with host John Dickerson. When asked whether the administration had "learned anything" from their experience with the immigration executive order, he replied:And this is how Senator Toomey responded with the letter is dated March 30, 2017 (Full text at the bottom of this post):
Well, I think that it’s been an important reminder to all Americans that we have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become in many case a supreme branch of government. One unelected judge in Seattle cannot remake laws for the entire country. I mean this is just crazy, John, the idea that you have a judge in Seattle say that a foreign national living in Libya has an effective right to enter the United States is -- is -- is beyond anything we’ve ever seen before.Senator, do you think he's correct? Given the fact that our Constitution defines three equal branches of government does the president have unquestionable power when it comes to national defense?
The end result of this, though, is that our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned. [Emphasis added.]
Or do you believe that there is judicial and legislative oversight that serves as a check and balance to the president's authority, whatever it is?
So, let's take a closer look at what he does say, shall we?
You'll notice in my blog post that I wasn't actually asking about Trump's executive order. Rather, I was asking whether, in our Constitutionally described checks-and-balances system of government, Toomey agreed with Trump advisor Steven Miller when the latter said that Trump's power to defend the nation "will not be questioned." The immigration angle was tangential. There's an old saying in Washington: Never answer the question that is asked of you. Answer the question that you wish had been asked of you. And I suppose that's what Toomey's doing here - he doesn't want to address the issue I raised so he'll simply ignore it and talk about something else.
In any event, Toomey's talking about Executive Order 13780 - which he says lays out a "sensible rationale" for banning the entry of individuals to the U.S. from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. He says that the executive order does not set forth a religious test which is interesting, since the letter is dated about two weeks after a Federal Judge in Hawaii ruled:
The Court turns to whether Plaintiffs sufficiently establish a likelihood of success on the merits of their Count I claim that the Executive Order violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Because a reasonable, objective observer—enlightened by the specific historical context, contemporaneous public statements, and specific sequence of events leading to its issuance—would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion, in spite of its stated, religiously-neutral purpose, the Court finds that Plaintiffs, and Dr. Elshikh in particular, are likely to succeed on the merits of their Establishment Clause claim.Which is to say, of course, that it is a Muslim ban. It does set forth a religious test. It's interesting that Senator Toomey doesn't even mention the ruling in Hawaii - even if only to disagree with it. Indeed, reading his letter one is not sure whether the Senator even knows that the implementation of the executive order has even been banned nationwide. He writes:
While I am still reviewing the details of the revised executive order and will closely monitor its implementation, it appears to lay out a more detailed, coordinated and clearer set of rules that will hopefully yield less confusion about who can and cannot enter the country.So if you didn't already know that the executive order has been blocked by a Federal Judge you wouldn't know it from Toomey's letter to one of his constituents.
Isn't that troubling? Isn't it troubling that a U.S. Senator (who's avoiding town hall meetings with his constituents) will avoid a question posed to him about the integrity of our constitutional republic and in its place offer an answer that's a misleading picture of our political reality.
I just wonder what Toomey's next letter to me will say.
Full text of Toomey's letter below:
Thank you for contacting me about President Trump's executive order concerning entry of certain foreign nationals to the U.S. I appreciate hearing from you.
On March 16, 2017, President Trump rescinded a prior immigration executive order and issued a revised one concerning the entry of certain foreign nationals from six countries into the U.S. The President laid out a sensible rationale for covering each nation, explain how these states fail to provide the information we need to vet their residents for terror ties. President Trump's executive order does not set forth a religious test. It sets forth a national security test to protect the American people.
The executive order also specifies that any nation can remove itself from the list by sharing information on terrorists with the United States. In this way, the new executive order is similar to the American SAFE act, which I and a bipartisan majority of the House and Senate supported last Congress. Furthermore, I was pleased to see that President Trump took into account concerns I raised that the previous order did not strike the right balance between defending our people against the deadly threat of international terrorism and providing a safe haven for innocent refugees seeking peace and freedom. For instance, the new order wisely clarifies that green card holders and those who were granted visas for assisting our military will be able to enter the U.S.
While I am still reviewing the details of the revised executive order and will closely monitor its implementation, it appears to lay out a more detailed, coordinated and clearer set of rules that will hopefully yield less confusion about who can and cannot enter the country.
Thank you again for your correspondence. I value knowing your input on this important issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.