Northeast Times

Toomey: Sequester could be good first step

State sen­at­or Pat Toomey (cen­ter) greets his of­fice in­terns Wal­ter Avalos (left) and Dar­in Bartho­loma at the North­east Cham­ber of Com­merce meet­ing on Thursday, Feb­ru­ary 21, 2013, Phil­adelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouch­nikova)

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey last week told Great­er North­east Phil­adelphia Cham­ber of Com­merce mem­bers about three loom­ing show­downs on Cap­it­ol Hill that he hopes will change the way Con­gress looks at spend­ing.

The most im­me­di­ate is the so-called “se­quester.” Un­less con­gres­sion­al Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans strike a deal by Fri­day on taxes and spend­ing is­sues, there will be $85 bil­lion in cuts to mil­it­ary and do­mest­ic pro­grams.

Toomey, speak­ing at the meet­ing on Feb. 21 at Wes­ley En­hanced Liv­ing-Pennypack, at 8401 Roosevelt Blvd., said the $85 bil­lion “cut” is ac­tu­ally a slow­down in the rate of growth.

The fresh­man Re­pub­lic­an sen­at­or ac­know­ledged be­ing a bit un­easy about the de­fense cuts.

“It’s a big­ger cut than I’m com­fort­able with,” he said.

Toomey de­scribed the terms of the se­quester as “mod­est” spend­ing dis­cip­line.

The next battle will come in late March, when Con­gress con­siders a con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion, which funds gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

In May, Con­gress will look at rais­ing the na­tion’s debt ceil­ing. Toomey said any in­crease in the debt ceil­ing should be tied to a path to a bal­anced budget.

“I don’t think that’s ask­ing too much,” he said.

Toomey, 51, who lives in the Le­high Val­ley, served in the U.S. House from 1999 to 2004. He nar­rowly lost a Re­pub­lic­an primary race for the Sen­ate to Ar­len Specter in 2004.

After leav­ing Con­gress, he served as pres­id­ent of the Club for Growth be­fore eye­ing a re­match with Specter in 2010. Specter, though, switched to the Demo­crat­ic Party, leav­ing Toomey an easy path to the GOP nom­in­a­tion.

Toomey nev­er had his re­match with Specter, who lost the Demo­crat­ic primary to Joe Ses­tak. Toomey went on to edge Ses­tak in the gen­er­al elec­tion.

In the Sen­ate, Toomey has sup­por­ted ef­forts to curb spend­ing.

“We are spend­ing way too much money,” he said.

Two bits of good news on the eco­nomy, he said, are low in­terest rates and a stable stock mar­ket.

At the same time, Toomey said it’s im­port­ant to use the se­quester, con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion and debt ceil­ing de­bates to slowly change the dir­ec­tion in Wash­ing­ton.

“We’re not go­ing to bal­ance the budget overnight,” he said, “but we need to seize this mo­ment.”

Toomey said it’s “mad­den­ing” that Sen­ate Demo­crats have not passed a budget in three years. He in­tro­duced a pro­posed budget in early 2011 that would have led to a bal­anced budget, but it was not con­sidered by the Demo­crat­ic ma­jor­ity. Still, he is en­cour­aged by Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id’s re­cent com­ments that a budget might be ad­op­ted this year.

In his two-plus years in the Sen­ate, Toomey has de­veloped a pretty good work­ing re­la­tion­ship with Sen. Bob Ca­sey Jr., a Demo­crat from Scrant­on. The two sat to­geth­er at the re­cent State of the Uni­on ad­dress.

Toomey and Ca­sey worked to­geth­er to re­com­mend Nitza Quiñones Ale­jandro, Lu­is Fe­lipe Re­strepo and Jef­frey Schmehl as ju­di­cial nom­in­ees to the East­ern Dis­trict of Pennsylvania. Earli­er this month, they in­tro­duced the nom­in­ees to the Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee.

Toomey, Ca­sey and the re­mainder of the loc­al Pennsylvania con­gres­sion­al del­eg­a­tion are united in sup­port of the dredging of the Delaware River. They hope the in­creased depth of the river en­tices more ships to the Port of Phil­adelphia.

On a re­lated mat­ter, Toomey ex­plained that the U.S. Navy will com­mis­sion the USS Somer­set in Janu­ary 2014. Navy Sec­ret­ary Ray Mabus will ul­ti­mately se­lect a site for the newly built ship. It will be named in hon­or of the vic­tims of United Air­lines Flight 93, which crashed in a Somer­set County field on Sept. 11, 2001 after pas­sen­gers fought with hi­jack­ers.

“I want it to be com­mis­sioned in Phil­adelphia,” Toomey said.

In a ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sion, Toomey said sanc­tions levied by the United States and oth­er na­tions are hav­ing a mean­ing­ful im­pact on Ir­an’s oil ex­ports. The United Na­tions Se­cur­ity Coun­cil, though, would likely not sup­port an out­right ban on oil ex­ports, the sen­at­or said. He con­siders Ir­an to be “far too dan­ger­ous” and is not op­tim­ist­ic that the na­tion will drop its pur­suit of nuc­le­ar weapons.

As for the Key­stone Pipeline — which would trans­port crude oil from Canada to des­tin­a­tions in the United States — Toomey faults Pres­id­ent Barack Obama for sid­ing with en­vir­on­ment­al­ists in op­pos­ing it. Uni­ons fa­vor the pipeline, and Toomey thinks it can be a safe, re­li­able, North Amer­ic­an source of oil.

“It’s a lot of jobs in Pennsylvania,” he said.

In re­sponse to a ques­tion, Toomey prom­ised to look in­to sus­pec­ted fraud and ab­use of the Sup­ple­ment­al Se­cur­ity In­come pro­gram.

After leav­ing the Cham­ber event, Toomey toured the Fin­ish­ing Trades In­sti­tute of the Mid-At­lantic Re­gion, at 2190 Horn­ig Road in the Far North­east. He then joined state Rep. John Taylor for a tour of the Amer­ic­an Cable Com­pany in Ju­ni­ata.

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In oth­er Great­er North­east Phil­adelphia Cham­ber of Com­merce news, the group will testi­fy in City Coun­cil on March 5 against a bill that would re­quire busi­nesses to provide paid sick time for em­ploy­ees.

The Cham­ber will hold a break­fast meet­ing on April 16 at 8:30 a.m. at Naz­areth Hos­pit­al. Dr. Richard Man­del will dis­cuss the pre­ven­tion and treat­ment of sports-re­lated in­jur­ies of the up­per body.

The fifth an­nu­al Hail to the Chefs will take place on April 29, from 6 to 9 p.m., at Know­lton Man­sion, at 8001 Ver­ree Road in Fox Chase.

The Cham­ber’s an­nu­al expo is set for May 8, from 2 to 6 p.m., in the gym­nas­i­um of Holy Fam­ily Uni­versity’s Cam­pus Cen­ter.

May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter has again can­celed a sched­uled ap­pear­ance in front of the group. He was un­able to make a Jan. 24 com­mit­ment and now can­not ap­pear at the res­ched­uled March 21 date. The Cham­ber will an­nounce a new date in the near fu­ture. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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