A Republican senator who voted to convict Donald Trump in his impeachment trial was not sent to Washington to “do the right thing”, the GOP chair of one county in his state has said.
Pennsylvania senator Pat Toomey was one of seven Republicans who voted with all 50 Democrats on Saturday to convict the former president of incitement following the lethal insurrection at the US Capitol on 6January, when a mob of Trump supporters tried to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory.
Those Republican senators are now facing blowback from their parties back home.
Speaking to KDTV, Washington County Republican Party chair Dave Ball said: “We did not send him there to vote his conscience. We did not send him there to do the right thing, whatever he said he was doing. We sent him there to represent us, and we feel very strongly that he did not represent us.”
Mr Toomey was censured by the Washington County GOP, and Mr Ball said that he didn't think Mr Toomey "was straightforward with us", on his thinking surrounding his looming impeachment vote.
Westmoreland County Republican Party chair Bill Bretz told KDTV that they too are looking to censure Mr Toomey.
Mr Bretz said: “We strongly disapprove of his action both to hear the case and the subsequent vote to convict," adding "This is a matter of magnitude beyond a simple up or down vote on some trade policy or something".
Allegheny County Republican Party chair Sam DeMarco was worried that censuring retiring senators like Mr Toomey was focusing too much on the past.
He said: “Every minute that we spend sitting there and fighting among each other and going back and trying to censure somebody who has already announced they’re retiring and are leaving is a moment where we’re not focused on the future."
He added: “We’re a big tent party. I believe there is room under this tent for people who don’t always agree."
As county parties censure the senator, the state party chairman Lawrence Tabas has signalled that a meeting will be called to "address and consider actions related to the impeachment vote,” meaning that there's a movement in the party to censure the Senator on a statewide basis.
The York county GOP passed a resolution on Saturday before Mr Toomey voted to convict, saying that the county's Republican Committee "condemns, in the strongest terms, the actions of United States Senator Patrick Joseph Toomey, Jr for his failure to defend the Constitution and the freedoms it guarantees". The resolution was passed because Mr Toomey voted to proceed with the trial, something the county GOP considered unconstitutional.
York County GOP chair Jeff Piccola told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the vote was "overwhelming," and added: "There was no debate. They were cheering when they were voting and when the resolution was being read. It bubbled up from beneath, it wasn’t my idea."
Mr Toomey has been part of the GOP's rightward journey and has supported almost all of Mr Trump's policies and nominees but failed what is becoming the most important litmus test within huge swathes of the Republican Party: unwavering support for Donald Trump.
A poll released on Tuesday shows Mr Trump routing all possible competitors in a hypothetical 2024 GOP primary, with 54 per cent supporting him. His past right-hand man, former Vice President Mike Pence, came in second with 12 per cent.
Mr Toomey said on Saturday that Mr Trump's “betrayal of the Constitution and his oath of office required conviction. Had he accepted the outcome of the election, acknowledged defeat, and cooperated with a peaceful transfer, then he’d be celebrated for a lot of the accomplishments that he deserves credit for. Instead, he’ll be remembered throughout history as the president who resorted to nonlegal steps to try to hold on to power".
The vote to convict Mr Trump was 57 to 43, a majority but short of the 67 senators needed for conviction.