SUBSCRIBE NOW
99¢ per month for 3 months
SUBSCRIBE NOW
99¢ per month for 3 months

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey predicts quick aid to Harvey victims

MICHAEL RUBINKAM
Associated Press

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Pennsylvania’s Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey predicted on Thursday that Congress will move quickly on an emergency aid package for victims of Hurricane Harvey when lawmakers return from their August recess next week.

Sen. Pat Toomey holds a town-hall meeting at the WLVT / PBS 39-TV studios, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017 in Bethlehem, Pa. Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey predicts Congress will move quickly on an emergency aid package for victims of Hurricane Harvey when lawmakers return from their August recess next week. (Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

Toomey, at a televised town hall, said he expects legislation that will “provide immediate assistance” and help Harvey victims “get the services and care that they need urgently.” He said Harvey aid could be paired with a stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown as well as an increase in the government’s borrowing authority.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Toomey warned lawmakers against larding any relief bill with spending unrelated to the devastating storm, which dumped about 52 inches of rain on part of Texas and caused dozens of deaths. Toomey said that’s why he voted against a Superstorm Sandy aid package in 2013.

“If it becomes a Christmas tree where every member of Congress adds whatever his or her favorite pork barrel spending program, well, then, I’m going to fight that,” he said. “That’s what Sandy became.”

More: Toomey, Perry slam bigotry as GOP grapples with Trump’s remarks

At the town hall, Toomey, who has pushed to repeal President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, expressed disappointment at the Senate’s failure to pass a health care overhaul. He promised that majority Republicans will keep at it.

More: In front of live audience, Toomey defends health care bill

“We’re not giving up,” he said.

Toomey praised President Donald Trump’s cabinet picks and several elements of his Republican agenda, but he also took some shots.

The conservative senator said he hopes investigators get to the bottom of Russian interference in the 2016 election, panned Trump’s response to the recent deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and criticized the president’s pardon of former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Sen. Pat Toomey holds a town-hall meeting at the WLVT / PBS 39-TV studios, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017 in Bethlehem, Pa. Laura McHugh, left, the station's Executive Producer, is moderator. Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey predicts Congress will move quickly on an emergency aid package for victims of Hurricane Harvey when lawmakers return from their August recess next week. (Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

The town hall, broadcast live by the PBS affiliate in Bethlehem, was limited to 54 people, 24 of whom were hand-picked by local Republican and Democratic groups. The remaining 30 tickets were made available to the public.

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the station, calling the town hall a sham and urging Toomey to meet with a wider range of constituents in a larger venue.

“People can’t even have a dialogue with the senator,” said Jude Denis, executive director of the community group POWER Northeast.

Toomey was jeered at times during the live broadcast. One of his questioners denounced the event as a “fake town hall” and asked: “What will it take to have a real town hall with hundreds of people and real dialogue?”

Toomey replied that he talks to constituents all the time. But he said, “I’m not that interested in a disruptive event.”

John Paul Marosy, center, of Bethlehem joins protesters outside the studios of PBS-39 as Sen. Pat Toomey holds a town-hall meeting in Bethlehem, Pa., Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, after months of public pressure from liberal opponents of President Trump that the senator has been hiding from his constituents. Attendance was limited to 54 people. (Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

Toomey was considered one of the nation’s most vulnerable incumbents heading into last November’s election but won a narrow victory for his second term.

Trump has derided the Russia investigation as “a fake story.” He has defended his response to the violence in Virginia and his pardon of the sheriff.