WILKES-BARRE — Pennsylvania’s two U.S. senators come from opposite sides of the aisle, and have opposing positions on the drama that unfolded this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey has his doubts about the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, the college professor who says Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school in the 1980s.
Democratic Sen. Bob Casey accepts the version of events presented by Ford during her Thursday appearance in Washington.
Like many in this bitterly divided nation, neither seems about to budge.
The key difference between these two senators and many other Americans right about now is that the pair of lawmakers spoke their minds in civil, professional tones — Casey in a Friday interview with the Times Leader editorial board, Toomey in a news release.
Toomey weighs in
“Both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh are to be commended for testifying under such unfortunate and avoidable circumstances. Neither they, nor their families, deserved to be victims of this shamefully politicized process,” Toomey wrote. “I found Dr. Ford’s testimony to be sincere and moving, but lacking important specifics.”
“Judge Kavanaugh’s repeated and unequivocal denial was also sincere and very persuasive. In addition, Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony has been corroborated and Dr. Ford’s testimony has not,” Toomey added. “All of the witnesses she claimed were present, including her lifelong friend, either failed to corroborate, or refuted, her testimony.”
Toomey also called into question allegations against Kavanaugh by other women, none of which are formally before the committee.
“The other allegations against Judge Kavanaugh are either completely unsubstantiated or preposterous,” he said.
“Taking into account (Thursday’s) testimony and everything else that has been presented about Judge Kavanaugh’s exemplary character and record, I look forward to voting to confirm him to the Supreme Court.”
Casey: ‘It is appalling’
Casey was at the Times Leader on Friday to meet with the paper’s editorial board. Casey, D-Scranton, is seeking his third six-year term in the Senate. He is opposed by U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton. Barletta will meet with the editorial board on Oct. 8, and will be the subject of a campaign story at that time.
“I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford,” Casey said. “It is appalling that the White House and Senate Republicans would move forward with this nomination without an FBI investigation into these allegations. As I have said before, I will vote against his nomination.”
Even before Kavanaugh was nominated by President Donald Trump, however, Casey in July issued a statement that he would oppose whomever the nominee would be.
That drew heavy criticism from Republicans. Casey explained his reasoning Friday.
Casey said the president released a list of 25 names of possible Supreme Court nominees that was compiled by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation.
The Federalist Society in Washington, D.C., is a hugely powerful, nationwide organization of conservative lawyers.
The Heritage Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., is a research and educational institution whose mission is to build and promote conservative public policies.
“These are both extreme hard right groups,” Casey said. “This process should be more mainstream. The Chamber of Commerce wasn’t even in the room. A conservative judge could never get on the list.”
Casey also said he would favor an FBI investigation of the allegations brought by Ford against Kavanaugh. Later Friday, it was announced that would happen.
“You’re talking about a confirmation to the most powerful court in the world, and you’re talking about the confirmation of a roughly 50-year-old who can serve three or four decades,” Casey added. “The idea that you can’t wait a couple days, or even a few weeks to get more information is crazy.”
Other campaign issues
Casey’s visit to the paper was scheduled before the Kavanaugh hearing made headlines. While here, he also discussed other issues relevant to his race with Barletta.
He said that despite a drop in the unemployment rate in Pennsylvania, voters still want good paying jobs and quality, low-cost health care.
He said pre-existing conditions have to be allowed as part of health coverage. He said there have been several attempts to remove that, but Casey said it is an essential part of health care coverage.
“I see a lot of families who have a lot of economic anxiety,” Casey said. “The need for jobs and affordable health care are part and parcel. They are no longer separate issues.”
Casey said he and Barletta differ on the issue, especially when it comes to preserving Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
“It’s crazy to even talk about giving anything back,” Casey said. “We can never deny insurance due to pre-existing conditions.”
Casey said wages have not grown much in recent years. He said Trump’s recent tax breaks gave more to the top 1 percent earners and not enough to the middle class.
“We have to give the middle class a bigger tax break,” Casey said. “These days, a tax cut is equal to a a wage increase.”
Casey said Congress has to ratchet down the cost of prescription drugs and child care.
He said recent polls show him having a comfortable lead over Barletta, but he never takes anything for granted.
“It’s always a competitive race,” he said. “Pennsylvania is now considered a purple state — 52 percent blue for Democrats and 48 percent red for Republican.”
Casey said he has been campaigning across the state, having visited 44 of the state’s counties twice and all 67 counties at least once. He said infrastructure like roads and bridges need repair.
Casey said voters have told him they fear one day being unable to pay their household bills.
Casey said Friday he’s scheduled to debate Barletta on two occasions: Oct. 12 in Pittsburgh and Oct. 20 in Philadelphia.
“Voters will know a great deal about both candidates,” said the incumbent. “They will have to evaluate both candidates and then make their decision based on what they know about them.”
Casey said the 2016 general election was not so much a wake-up call for Democrats.
“I think it was a wake-up call for both parties,” he said. “There were plenty of lessons learned in 2016.”
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.