EDITORIAL: The number that terrifies Pat Toomey

The York Dispatch Editorial Board
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., left, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, walk to the chamber for two votes that could end the government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. Both measures failed, as the partial government shutdown continues. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Ninety percent. 

That one statistic likely keeps U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey up at night and terrifies him throughout the day. That lone figure owns Toomey — and an unnerving number of his Senate Republican colleagues — to the country's detriment.

And what does that solitary datum point represent? It's President Donald Trump's approval rating among Republicans, says Gallup.

That's why Toomey and Sen. Lamar Alexander, of Tennessee, seem so intent on twisting the law and parliamentary process to placate the president and his base over Trump's clear abuse of power regarding his national emergency declaration.

More:On Trump's emergency, Toomey eyes a third way

That's why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who's spent two years running interference for the White House in the pursuit of a right-wing federal court system, has issued carefully worded warnings against Trump's plan to divert federal funds to his boondoggle-in-waiting on the southern border.

That's why the growing number of Republican senators who have come out in favor of House legislation to rebuke Trump's declaration have, by and large, spoken with extreme caution.

Instead of sprouting a spine and backing legislation rejecting Trump's order, Toomey is working quietly behind closed doors, leading an effort to split the proverbial baby.

Toomey's pitch, according to reports, is to reject the House legislation in lieu of a bill that would weaken the presidency's ability to declare national emergencies, but still, somehow, support Trump's border wall. 

Apparently, as far as the Pennsylvania Republican is concerned, appeasing the Party of Trump is of far greater import than defending Congress.

Toomey is among several GOP senators under pressure from the White House to stay loyal, CNN reported on Tuesday. The Senate could vote on the House bill as early as Thursday, a potentially embarrassing admonishment of Trump if a slew of Republicans support it. 

The GOP — once a party of ideas and principles — is now the party of Trump, a man whose only guiding ethos revolves around championing his own grandeur and fattening his wallet. And any Republican who challenges Trump's baseless assertions and mind-numbing demagoguery feels the wrath of the president and his social media trolls. 

It's an infection from which even the late Sen. John McCain wasn't immune.

So now, here the country finds itself. Trump's national emergency declaration is, by any measure, a broadside at the separation of powers and congressional authority. And it's Congress' duty to confront a White House that's shown nothing but contempt for the government's other branches. 

More:16 states sue Trump over emergency wall declaration

Toomey clearly knows this, but he's scared stiff. He saw first hand what happened to the likes of McCain. 

The sad part is, all of Toomey's mental gymnastics probably amount to nothing when all is said and done. Any would-be bill might not fit within parliamentary rules governing the legislative process. House Democrats — who sent the Senate their sweeping rebuke of Trump — aren't budging. And, should Toomey's gambit somehow rule the day, it would only serve to empower an already uncontrollable president whose policy is grounded in neither fact nor reason.

The proposed border wall is terrible policy that exists only because Trump discovered that exploiting the prejudices of millions was easier than drafting fully formed ideas. Don't take our word for it. Ask John Kelly, who until recently was Trump's chief of staff. Just this past week, Kelly called the multi-billion-dollar cash-grab a "waste of money."

It's so disliked among those atop the government that it went nowhere during two years of total Republican dominance in Washington. 

The wall has morphed into a weird expression of Trump's massive ego, a taxpayer-financed shrine to the president's supposed greatness that would stretch for mile after mile.

And Toomey seems generally OK with all of it. Or, at least he has to appear that way. Anything less would be deemed disloyalty, and no king will suffer that from his vassals.