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September 01, 2017

Toomey expects quick action in Harvey relief, though says it can't turn into Sandy

Sen. Pat Toomey took part in a televised town hall Thursday

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., is expecting Congress to make quick action approving the necessary funds to assist victims of Hurricane Harvey, the devastating storm that made landfall in Texas last week.

Toomey said so during a televised town hall hosted by PBS39 in Bethlehem on Thursday night, though he told reporters afterward that he would "fight" any legislation that became a "Christmas tree," like the relief bill lawmakers were debating following Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Toomey said that Congress will work to pass legislation that will "provide immediate assistance" to get people the "care that they need urgently," The Associated Press reported. Legislators are due to return from summer recess next week. 

Thirty-six Republicans, including Toomey, opposed the bill after the storm hit the East Coast in 2012.

"If we have a responsible piece of legislation that will help the people who need help, that will deal with this crisis and deal with it in a proven way, then I'll support it," Toomey said following Thursday's town hall, according to The Morning Call. "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. That's what Sandy became. Sandy became a bill that gave a lot of people an opportunity to spend a lot of money that had nothing to do with Sandy and that was wrong then. I hope that we will avoid making the same mistake now." 

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas used similar rhetoric during an interview with MSNBC on Monday when he was asked about his opposition to the Sandy bill. He responded that it was filled with extra "pork."

In addition to Harvey, Toomey also touched on immigration, health care and Charlottesville, to which the Republican senator expressed disappointment in President Donald Trump's response.

PBS hosted the live town hall in front of a 54-person crowd. Thirty of the seats were filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Toomey answered 20 questions in the hourlong time slot, though more than 400 were submitted by the public, according to PBS.

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the studio and criticized its format, calling it "fake," according to the AP. The senator came under fire earlier this year for never having held an in-person town hall in Philadelphia, though he has hosted similar televised town halls in the past. 

Toomey called the night "constructive" in an interview with reporters following the event, according to The Morning Call.

Watch a recap of the town hall from PBS below: