More than 3 million minutes without a Toomey Philly town hall

Signe Wilkinson 02/09/17

Remember that song from Rent, the big showstopper? It's called "Seasons of Love" but its most famous refrain is the line about "525,600 minutes" -- the number of minutes, the song informs us, that it takes to make a year. It turns out that Rent has nothing on Pennsylvania Republican senator Pat Toomey.

How long has Toomey been able to go without a town hall-style meeting in Philadelphia. If my math is correct (and it rarely is, but..), it's been 3,215,520 minutes without Pennsylvania's junior senator answering questions directly from voters in his state's largest city. And the clock is still ticking. Toomey seemed a little taken aback when my Daily News colleague, John Baer, pressed him this week on his accessibility:

“I like all of my opinions to be influenced by constituents,” he says, “but it’s not my job to do a survey of Pennsylvania to see which way I should vote.”

What about a town hall meeting?

“I did a lot in my first term" -  14 in six years, according to his staff; all in rural counties - "and we’ll do town hall meetings,” though he won’t say when or where.

When I ask why he’s never held one in Philadelphia, he says, “I’m not sure that’s true.”

(It is.)

“It might be true.”  

(It is.)

“But no particular reason," he says, apparently conceding the point. "I get to Philadelphia quite often” for other events.

It's been little more than three months since a gaggle of Philadelphia-area concerned citizens -- first a half-dozen, then 20, then 50, now hundreds -- began showing up at the senator's doorstep for their Tuesdays with Toomey events. The idea was that now that he's our senator for another six years, for better or worse, he should be accountable for his campaign vow that he wouldn't be "a rubber stamp" for Donald Trump.

So far, the effort has been a glass that's either half empty or half full. The truth is that in the first four weeks of the Trump administration, Toomey has in fact been a rubber stamp for the 45th president, and the pleas of many of his constituents have fallen on deaf ears.

But Toomey is under more pressure from the people he works for -- us -- than at any moment in his political career. In the senator's first term, his mostly low-key approach allowed him to fight for his Wall Street hedge-fund donors with little fanfare. Today, the struggles of everyday citizens to get through to Toomey and his staff has become a major statewide story. Indeed, the Daily News and the Inquirer hailed Toomey's willingness to simply talk to our columnist on the front page. It's more than a little ridiculous when your United States Senator becomes a Greta Garbo-styled recluse.

The good news for Toomey is that he has more than 5 years and 10 months to start making amends. And here's an  ideal place to start: Rejecting Trump Labor Secretary nominee Andy Puzder, who's already been a nightmare for his own low-wage workforce and who's been accused by his ex-wife of domestic abuse. Puzder is such a bad pick that as many as four other GOP senators may vote against him, so for Toomey to board this train before it leaves the station would be a tiny sign that he's listening.

But then Andy Puzder isn't a life and death matter; repealing Obamacare with no replacement, on the other hand, is. Anyway, Sen. Toomey's larger access problem is going to be an ongoing story until he agrees to schedule some town halls or other events when regular folks can ask him some regular-folk questions. What are you waiting for, Senator? "Seasons of Love" with its 525,600 minutes is a great song. But 3,215,520 minutes without a Philadelphia town hall is downright embarrassing.