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Trump veto sets GOP showdown

Political Notebook

President Donald Trump’s surprise veto of a $740 billion military spending bill set him on course for a clash with his own party, after Pennsylvania’s GOP congressional representatives voted overwhelmingly to pass the bill.

Trump announced the veto Wednesday, claiming that the bill doesn’t do enough for needed military programs and serves as a “gift” to China and Russia. Trump had also long complained about a provision that would require the military to rename bases named after Confederate officers.

Even when he has clashed with his own party, Trump has never prompted a veto override from his allies. But that could happen in the coming days, with a Democratic-controlled House and a Republican-controlled Senate both slated to overturn Trump’s decision.

The bill easily passed both chambers of Congress, with Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., joining 83 colleagues earlier this month in voting yes.

“Congress has a responsibility to the American people to ensure our armed forces and national security agencies have the tools and resources they need to keep the nation safe,” Toomey said at the time.

The state’s House delegation also voted overwhelmingly for the bill. Rep. John Joyce, R-13th District, and Rep. Glenn “G.T.” Thompson, R-15th District, voted yes; of the GOP delegation, only Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District voted no.

But Trump’s veto changes the dynamic. Some Republicans may not be willing to directly challenge the president, even in his administration’s final days.

The top Republican member of the House Armed Services Committee, which handled the bill, said his colleagues should avoid “distortions” in planning their override votes — a possible reference to Trump’s rhetoric.

“Your decision should be based upon the oath we all took, which was to the Constitution rather than any person or organization,” Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said, according to Politico.

Pennsylvania’s Republicans so far haven’t indicated how they will vote.

2020 reveals polarization

The year 2020 closes with Pennsylvania once again a “blue state” — at least on presidential election maps — but four years of Trump’s presidency have only accelerated the state’s geographical divide.

The state has long been a major battleground, its sharp partisan split drawing national media attention and millions of dollars in campaign cash. A review of election results and voter registration statistics shows that, in parts rural central Pennsylvania, Republicans have held or extended their support — despite crushing defeats for the president in big cities and hard-fought suburbs.

In last month’s election, Trump got 71.2 percent of the Blair County vote to president-elect Joe Biden’s 27.7 percent. While Biden improved over Hillary Clinton’s 2016 numbers, Trump held at almost the exact same vote share while drawing thousands more voters from increased turnout.

Neighboring rural counties saw growth for the president. Trump improved his share by nearly a percentage point in deep-red Bedford County over four years, by a point in Clearfield County and by more than a point in Huntingdon County from 2016.

In Cambria County, too, Trump improved on his 2016 vote despite a slight improvement by Biden over Clinton.

There’s one local exception: Centre County, which has turned more solidly blue in recent years. While Clinton beat Trump in there by a narrow 2 percent, Biden won the county by nearly 5 percent.

The change is even more stark in party registration. From April 2016 to June 2020, red counties in the area saw notable swings toward the GOP, including a drop in nearly 2,000 Democrats and a 3,000-person increase in Republicans in Blair County.

In Bedford, Huntingdon and Clearfield counties, the GOP numbers grew while fewer people chose to register as Democrats. Over just a four-year span, Cambria County went from 45,000 Democrats and fewer than 30,000 Republicans to a near-even split, with Democrats holding only a slight edge.

Even with the GOP extending its hold on rural areas, growing suburbs and deep-blue cities have delivered big enough margins for Democratic wins. The population shift over living memory is stark: In 1992, Bill Clinton won the state with 27 of its 67 counties, while this year Biden did the same with less than half as many.

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