October 10, 2018
Why is Trump abandoning his blue-collar base for the ethanol cartel?
nattul | Getty Images
What if I don’t want 15 percent ethanol fuel in my car or in my lawn mower? Do we still live in a free country?
I have nothing against someone earning a living producing and selling ethanol the same way I have nothing against someone trying to sell Obamacare-compliant medical insurance plans. There is, however, a grave problem when government forces us to purchase the product, manipulates the market on its behalf, and mandates that no other product can be sold in that industry. The same fundamental flaw ailing Obamacare is the same problem we face with our ethanol policy.
Unfortunately, rather than balancing the interests of blue-collar jobs in oil refineries that are being hurt by these coercive policies, Trump is for some reason so enamored with the ethanol lobby that he is putting the screws to these very workers. This is a betrayal not only of free market policies but of his core promise of keeping blue-collar jobs in states like Pennsylvania.
Last night, President Trump announced at a rally in Iowa that the EPA would be lifting restrictions on the sale of E15 – fuel blends of 15 percent ethanol – allowing their market use above 10 percent blends all year, including in the summer, when some are concerned it exacerbates smog.
In a vacuum, conservatives should support any effort to countermand any unnecessary regulation on production of any form of fuel. The problem here is that by expanding the leverage of the ethanol industry with more aggressive ethanol blends without concurrently unshackling the oil refineries from the mandate to purchase and blend ethanol at all – the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) – it further puts the refiners at a disadvantage. This comes at a time when a major independent refiner in Pennsylvania has filed for bankruptcy because of the out-of-control ethanol mandate.
Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Toomey lamented that this “legally dubious” plan is “not only imbalanced, but also risks worsening air quality and hurting consumers” and that the continued lack of reforms to the RFS “threatens thousands of jobs at Philadelphia Energy Solutions and Monroe Energy.”
In a sane world, it wouldn’t be too much to ask that we not force one industry to purchase the product of another industry, especially after years of subsidies and tariff protections for ethanol. But it’s worse than that. As I’ve written before, the EPA has invented a trading credit system out of thin air to further hurt refiners and empower the ethanol lobby by a government-created sub-market in the oil industry of speculators. Any refinery that cannot meet the Renewable Fuels Standard and dilute enough of its fuel with ethanol, which is practically any independent small to mid-sized refinery, must purchase RINs (renewable identification numbers) credits.
The mandate is set so impossibly high that refiners, who shouldn’t have to purchase any ethanol in a constitutional republic, couldn’t meet the standard even if they wanted to. There is simply not enough demand in the economy to support such a high target. Ironically, this is a case of one venture socialist mandate running into the tailwinds of another. Thanks to the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, another doozy from the Bush era, which requires that new cars achieve more miles per gallon of fuel, not nearly as much fuel is being used. While this mandate has raised the cost of producing automobiles, it has also succeeded in diminishing the overall demand for fuel. After all, new cars need less fuel to run. As such, refiners are struggling to keep up with the biofuels mandate because there is not enough demand in the economy for them to achieve the targeted 19.88 billion gallons in biofuels blends for 2019.
As such, they must purchase these RINs credits, which were never authorized by Congress. The big oil industry has an entire commodities market based on this socialist policy to trade credits. The bidding up of credits by speculators has put independent refiners, such as Philadelphia Energy Solutions, out of business. The cost of RINs has gone from a few pennies to over $1 in just a few years. Consequently, much as with CAFE standards, the big players aren’t hurt by it but stand to benefit from manipulating the new artificial market created by the government. It’s the independent refiners and their blue-collar workers who get shellacked. Philadelphia Energy Solutions, for example, spent $300 million purchasing RINs in 2017, double the cost of its own payroll! And for what? All for a random, unconstitutional, nanny-state mandate to benefit wealthy cronies.
Which brings us to the critical question: Through all this discussion over the ethanol mandate, why is Trump giving in to the ethanol lobby, which wants to control other people and industries and is doing nothing for oil refiners who merely want to be left alone? Nobody is pushing to get rid of this odious mandate completely, but why is Trump not even willing to ease some of the RINs credits? This is a violation of free market conservatism and MAGA in a big way. It’s neither conservative nor populist. It’s bad policy and bad politics.
Republicans are getting slaughtered statewide in Pennsylvania in the senatorial and gubernatorial races and are at risk to lose three to five congressional seats. The entire purpose of the steel and aluminum tariffs was to benefit Pennsylvania workers, but that clearly has not helped in the election and it is, ironically, unpopular in Iowa with the farmers. Trump is willing to violate free market principles in order to help some Pennsylvania workers by taxing imports and hurting Iowa farmers but then bailing them out with subsidies to ameliorate the problem, yet he is not willing to follow free market principles by merely lifting ethanol fascism mandates on oil refineries in Pennsylvania in order to back the ethanol lobby in Iowa.
Corn is king, indeed.
The statist RFS policy of the Bush administration and its forerunners in the late 1970s was enacted before the great American oil miracle with shale and hydraulic fracking – at a time when they thought we would be on the ropes for energy dependence on foreign countries. Now the gas and oil revolution is so strong that it is being used as a potent diplomatic weapon against Iran and the Europeans who seek to circumvent our sanctions. Why would we sacrifice oil refineries for the ethanol lobby when our national security is being buttressed by free market energy policy?
It is truly staggering to ponder the cascading odious effects of this ludicrous mandate. The misallocation of farm land, water use, cattle feed, and energy production – all for a lobby that refuses to compete without its officious tentacles strangling consumers and fuel producers with the force of law. The corrosion of our engines by this product that doesn’t need to perfect itself in a free market. The lower fuel mileage from adulterated fuel with less energy content. The billions in extra costs to the restaurant industry because of the higher cost of beef, thanks to scarcity of cattle feed.
The mandate has distorted the reality of every market so much that 44 percent of all corn is grow for ethanol, dramatically expanding the corn market.
Mr. President, this is as swampy as it gets. This is the Swamp vs. consumers, producers, and common sense. Trump said at the Iowa rally that his ethanol policy is an example of “promises made, promises kept.” Yeah, tell that to those laid off at oil refineries.
Personally, I prefer to burn corn on my griddle, not in my engine. If their product is so good and it doesn’t cause harm to engines or dilute fuel economy, then why don’t we let an unvarnished free market test its effectiveness? Don’t we the people have a right to decide? Source
October 6, 2018
Pennsylvania senators reflect on deep tensions exposed in Kavanaugh fight
Pennsylvania’s two senators — Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Bob Casey — have been on opposite sides of the sharply divided Senate amid the bruising battle over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
Their comments on how that nomination fight unfolded show the deep tensions regarding the nation’s top court, both within the Senate and the country.
Reflecting Saturday on the nomination process, Toomey expressed frustration with the intense partisan fight that immediately ensued when Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement. Activists on both ends of the political spectrum mobilized to support and oppose Kavanaugh through outreach to voters and protests that continued outside the Capitol leading up to the final vote.
“There’s something deeply wrong with our perception of the court when a single vacancy produces such a brutal and bitter battle,” Toomey said.
Toomey dismissed the idea that the move by Senate Republicans not to consider President Obama’s 2016 Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, played into the current contentious nomination process.
He cast blame for the growing importance of the court seats on Democrats and liberal activists, arguing that those on the political left view the Supreme Court as “a legislature of last resort when they can’t succeed with their agenda politically.”
“As long as we have a huge segment of our society and a entire political party that is dedicated to using the court to advance a policy agenda, then we’re probably going to have these brutal battles,” he said.
Casey and other Democrats, however, direct similar blame at conservatives, who they view as also driven by ideological concerns in judicial picks.
“It seems that Republicans, especially this administration and this Senate, have decided that for the appellate court for the most part, definitely for the Supreme Court, everyone has to be a hard-right corporate ideologue,” Casey said. “That’s just not going to work over time. I’m not going to be complicit in packing a court with more corporate justices.”
When it came to President Donald Trump’s selection for the current vacancy, both Pennsylvania lawmakers made their positions clear early on.
Casey said before Kavanaugh was tapped that he would not support any of the potential justices on a list compiled by the conservative Heritage Foundation. Toomey announced after meeting with Kavanaugh in July that he would vote for him.
Neither Pennsylvania lawmaker serves on the Judiciary Committee, which has the first chance to sign off on nominees. They supported the panel’s decision to hear from Christine Blasey Ford after she came forward publicly with her allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party when they were both in high school.
Toomey said he would listen to and consider Ford’s testimony, and afterward stated that he found Ford’s account to the Judiciary Committee to be “sincere and moving.” But Toomey also said her account lacked corroboration.
“I suspect that something terrible did happen to her. I doubt very much she made this up out of whole cloth,” Toomey said Saturday, adding that “there has to be some corroboration or anybody can be destroyed.”
For Casey, Kavanaugh’s response to the accusation from Ford and later several other women raised more concerns about the nominee. He described the nominee’s demeanor during the confirmation hearing as “atrocious” and reflective of the partisan parts of his resume.
Casey stopped short of saying whether he thought Kavanaugh lied in his testimony: “I don’t think there’s any question that I have a lot of questions about that particular issue. But I’m certain about my belief of her testimony.”
Asked about any lingering effects for Kavanaugh and the court as he begins his tenure, Casey replied: “That’s going to be up to him.”
Toomey compared it with the sexual harassment accusation raised against Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings: “I do not think that has left a permanent cloud over Clarence Thomas.”
As for the Senate itself, Toomey noted that this week, the chamber also passed big bipartisan measures on the Federal Aviation Administration and the opioid epidemic.
“The Senate is managing to function,” Toomey said. “At the same time, it is true there’s a new tension that hasn’t existed before.” Source
August 28, 2018
Sen. Pat Toomey highlights Pa. businesses hurt by tariffs in letter to Trump administration
Nine Pittsburgh-area manufacturers have been harmed financially and are looking for tariff exemptions.
- CP Photo: Ryan Deto
- Pat Toomey
As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump declared to Pittsburghers that steel was coming back. Now as president, his tariff policies may be hurting companies that work with steel.
According to a list compiled by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Lehigh), the Pittsburgh area has nine manufacturers that are being harmed by Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminium.
In a letter sent to Trump’s Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, Toomey writes that tariffs have done significant damage to Pennsylvanians.
“The decision to impose taxes under the false pretext of national security has significantly diminished the ability of domestic manufacturers to provide affordable finished products to American consumers,” writes Toomey. The senator has backed most of Trump’s policies. This letter marks one of his first and strongest criticisms of the president.
Toomey cites a steel-fabrication facility, NLMK, has paid more than $700,000 every day to comply with the tariffs.
Toomey’s letter lists 37 businesses throughout Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh-area business include: Allegheny Technologies Inc., Ameri-Source Specialty Products, Forms & Surfaces in Pittsburgh; Ardagh Metal Packaging USA in Carnegie, CP Industries in McKeesport, FS Elliot in Westmoreland County, Krupalu International in Coraopolis; and Pioneer Tool & Forge in New Kensington.
The biggest Pittsburgh-area company to be affected is the Shell ethane cracker plant in Beaver County, which will provide hundreds of temporary jobs during construction and 600 permanent jobs upon completion. Toomey says the tariffs could not only hurt its viability, but the hundreds of temporary construction jobs it’s creating.
“[Shell] cannot import the required steel products due to the section 232 quotas,” wrote Toomey. “If this situation is not addressed in a timely manner, Shell may delay its constructions plans and lay off hundreds of worker in the construction industry.”
Furthermore, the cracker plant is supposed to provide a boost to the region’sfracking industry, since the facility will process natural gas to create 1.6 billion tons of plastics per year. (Trump claimed to be a champion of the fracking industry while campaigning in Pittsburgh in 2016.)
Toomey, long a proponent of free trade, is urging the White House to provide exemptions to these Pennsylvania businesses. Toomey’s letter says that only about 12 percent of the companies seeking exceptions have received them. Toomey wants the commerce department to pick up the pace.
“I remain concerned that the [commerce department’s] exclusion process is unnecessarily burdensome, resulting in the delay of timely determinations for American companies seeking financial relief,” writes Toomey.
Trump took to Twitter today, scoffing at any idea that is tariffs are hurting the economy.
“I smile at Senators and others talking about how good free trade is for the U.S.,” tweeted Trump. “What they don’t say is that we lose Jobs and over 800 Billion Dollars a year on really dumb Trade Deals….and these same countries Tariff us to death. These lawmakers are just fine with this!” Source
August 14, 2018
Pat Toomey, the supply-siders’ field marshal in the Senate
In a meeting in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office almost a year ago, Pat Toomey and Bob Corker reached a deal: They would include a tax cut of up to $1.5 trillion in the Republican budget.
Few realized it at the time, but their agreement was critical to the realization of the GOP tax code rewrite.
For one thing, by agreeing on a budget, they unlocked the special legislative procedure that allowed them to circumvent a Democratic filibuster. And by allowing for $1.5 trillion in revenue losses in that budget, they created fiscal space for the tax cuts they’d been dreaming of for years: Lower corporate rates, lower individual rates, a shrunken estate tax, and much more.
Senate gears up for major Kavanaugh confirmation battle
Watch Full Screen to Skip Ads
The budget deal was just one of several Toomey interventions that proved critical to passing the GOP tax bill. “He was like the field marshal, so to speak,” said Stephen Moore, an adviser to top Republicans and supply-side evangelists.
Although he doesn’t have the national status of some of his conservative Senate GOP colleagues, Toomey has worked behind the scenes and used the levers of power in the Senate to enforce and advance supply-side conservatism during the Trump era.
On taxes, financial regulation, Obamacare and free trade, he’s managed to set the right edge for the Senate Republican caucus, all while representing a purple state. He has helped President Trump as much as anyone when Trump has pursued free-market policies.
But, unlike erstwhile supply-side conservatives who have accommodated themselves to populism this Congress, Toomey is not simply following the Trump train down the tracks. Instead, he’s providing congressional resistance to the president’s protectionist trade agenda.
AN AGGRESSIVE PLAN FROM THE START
While other Republicans were still simply finding their footing in the new Trump-dominated landscape, Toomey began drafting a plan for the unified GOP government to undo just about all of President Obama’s domestic legacy.
Toomey, having just won reelection in a come-from-behind victory, plotted for Republicans to undo Obama’s healthcare law, his tax hikes and his Wall Street reform, all without wasting time trying to gain Democratic support.
Even before Trump took the oath of office in January of 2017, Toomey began pressuring his GOP colleagues on the Senate floor to sidestep a Democratic filibuster and undo big provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, using the procedural tool of budget reconciliation. That tool allows legislation to pass with only a simple majority in the Senate, and Republicans would use the same procedure for health care and tax legislation.
The GOP would eventually fall short of repealing Obamacare or Dodd-Frank. But in both cases, Toomey shaped GOP policy and then later won more modest victories.
Senate Republicans’ doomed Obamacare replacement, for example, contained a major healthcare spending reduction won by Toomey. The bill would have tied federal funding for Medicaid, the low-income health program administered by states, to the number of people in each state. That funding then would have been capped to grow with overall inflation, rather than with medical prices, resulting in huge spending reductions over time.
Amid everything else that was going on at the Capitol at that time, few people registered the significance of what Toomey had done — although conservative columnist George Will, one of the few to take notice, described it as “this century’s most significant domestic policy reform.”
Republicans initially rejected the idea of much lower Medicaid spending. Toomey convinced them, or at least most of them, by arguing that it is simply unsustainable for a spending program to grow faster than the economy in perpetuity.
Ultimately, the GOP failed and the reform wasn’t signed into law. But Toomey would later succeed in repealing at least part of Obamacare as part of the tax bill.
The tax legislation zeroed out Obamacare’s individual mandate penalties, thanks to an amendment added by Toomey and Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton.
The mandate elimination was also another idea that scared many Republicans, who were fearful of importing the politics of healthcare — a loser — into the push for tax cuts. Eventually the whole Senate GOP bought into the idea after the budget math was explained: Repealing the mandate would mean fewer people signing up for subsidized healthcare plans, creating savings that could be used for tax cuts.
Unlike the Obamacare repeal, the tax overhaul did clear the Senate and reached Trump’s desk, a process kicked off by the Toomey-Corker budget deal.
Before the deal, when Republicans were first turning to taxes after giving up on healthcare, their leaders shared a goal that the tax bill should not add to deficits. Any revenues that would be lost through lower rates would have to be recouped by eliminating a commensurate number of special tax breaks, credits, deductions and loopholes. Politically, it was a treacherously difficult task, one that eluded Congress for a generation.
Both McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan had called for such revenue-neutral tax reform. They did so partly for procedural reasons: Under the budget reconciliation rules, a money-losing tax overhaul would have to be made only temporary.
A hurdle emerged when some supply-side Republicans calculated that it would cost the Treasury at least $5 trillion over 10 years to enact all of the tax cuts that Republicans wanted, including the 20 percent corporate tax rate, estate tax repeal, and individual tax reductions.
Republicans could only come up with around $3 trillion in tax breaks they would eliminate, even if they killed the most popular credits and deductions. There was simply no way to close the $2 trillion-plus difference.
In response, Toomey advocated for the budget to allow for $2.5 trillion in deficits. Knowing that a revenue-losing tax cut could not be permanent under reconciliation, Toomey had been campaigning since the spring for a creative workaround. His suggestion was to lengthen the budget timeframe from the typical 10 years to 20 or 30 years — unusual, but not prohibited. A tax cut of that length, even if technically temporary, would be permanent for businesses’ investing purposes.
“We can’t let a fixation on deficit predictions or arcane budget rules get in the way,” Toomey argued at the time.
Corker, meanwhile, a self-described fiscal conservative, wanted the revenue losses to be $0. Seeing the differences between the two senators, McConnell in August directed the two of them, both members of the Budget Committee, to find a compromise.
After several weeks, the two settled on the $1.5 trillion figure. That was the outer limit of what Corker thought could be made up by faster economic growth if they went on to write a tax bill that sparked enormous new business activity. From the Toomey perspective, the $1.5 trillion limit would mean giving up some of the tax cut goals the GOP started out with, but would still allow for a lot.
In the end, the bill would include many, if not all, of the supply-side priorities. By the time Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, held a Capitol Hill press event in mid-September to demand a hard-right tax bill filled with a wish list of cuts, Toomey was already nearing the deal with Corker to achieve what he wanted.
BITING OFF AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE IN FINANCE
In the area of finance, Toomey didn’t get his way. The chairman of the Banking Committee, Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, chose instead to work with Democrats to pass a centrist regulatory relief package, rather than attempt to ram through a partisan rollback of Dodd-Frank.
Nevertheless, Toomey found other avenues to push the envelope on deregulation.
Toomey is “doing as much as he can behind the scenes to wring out every last possible benefit of having full Republican control in Washington,” one financial services lobbyist remarked.
For example, in May, Congress passed and Trump signed a measure ending an Obama-era crackdown on discriminatory auto lending by non-dealer finance companies, a regulatory rollback facilitated by Toomey.
The elimination of the regulation was procedural ingenuity.
The Congressional Review Act allows for Congress to strike down new agency rules through a simple majority vote, without a filibuster. What makes it complicated is that the auto lending regulation wasn’t officially a rule, and it wasn’t new. Rather, it was regulatory guidance that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau had published in 2013 informing third-party auto financiers that they were subject to laws preventing discriminatory lending.
Republicans had long complained that the 2013 move was an example of Obama overreach, with an agency flouting the law to impose controversial regulations on an industry — auto dealers — that it was prohibited by law from regulating.
In 2017, Toomey found a way to take action. His office requested that the Government Accountability Office issue a ruling whether the CFPB guidance could be treated as rule for Congress’ purposes, an idea exhumed from the legislative record of 2008, when Democrats tried to kill a memo published by the George W. Bush Department of Health relating to the implementation of the State Children‘s Health Insurance Program.
When the GAO said that the guidance did constitute an official rule, Congress passed a Congressional Review Act resolution striking it down as if it were a new rule, with the eager support of the finance and auto dealer industries.
The maneuver raised a prospect that frightened Democrats: Congress could reach deep into agency archives and pull out old regulations to kill.
ALWAYS CONSERVATIVE, NEWLY POWERFUL
Toomey has always been a conservative lawmaker. He amassed a right-wing record as a congressman from 1999 to 2005, and then ran the Club for Growth, an outside group that backs staunch conservatives and opposes primary Republicans who deviate from low-tax, low regulation orthodoxy.
But now he is in a position to wield tremendous influence over fiscal policy, and has the experience to do so. His power could grow even greater next year, if Republicans maintain control and he ascends to the Banking Committee chairmanship, as some members and lobbyists speculate he might.
When Club for Growth president David McIntosh, then representing Indiana, served with Toomey in the House, the two new lawmakers would joke that their conservative efforts were undercut by higher-ups cutting deals in some backroom from which they were excluded. Last year, as Toomey was working on deals on healthcare, taxes and finance, he joked to McIntosh that the backroom is real — and the dealing is even worse than they both suspected.
Toomey “plays the inside game almost better than anybody I’ve ever seen,” said James Wallner, a former GOP Senate aide who now researches legislative procedure at the R Street Institute.
He works, Republicans said, not by trying to position himself in the ideological middle, but rather by staking out his own conservative positions, developing strong arguments for them, and then working to find compromises with his colleagues. He spends more time than most senators thinking through the issues the same way a debater would — testing lines of argument and preparing for rejoinders in order to present a coherent case for his positions — rather than just talking points.
Toomey was one of a group of four senior Finance Committee Republicans who took responsibility for explaining the tax plan to other Republicans and easing their qualms. The group spoke with senators individually, or when they came across a particular issue, the four would sit down with one or multiple members — conservative, moderate, or in between — in McConnell’s office to talk it through.
In mid-November, when Ron Johnson, R-Wis., announced that he would oppose the tax bill because it put small businesses at a disadvantage, it was Toomey who took the lead in working through the hold-up and saving the bill, said Moore. “People don’t realize how close we came to not getting that bill passed,” he remarked.
Johnson, who began his career as an accountant, was holding out for bigger tax breaks for businesses that file as individuals, such as sole proprietorships and partnerships. He feared that without bigger tax breaks, such “pass-through” businesses would be left at a disadvantage to the C corporations that were slated to get a tax rate of near 20 percent.
A C corporation, under United States federal income tax law, refers to any corporation that is taxed separately from its owners and it is distinguished from an S corporation, which generally is not taxed separately.
Toomey was able to speak to Johnson at at technical level. Their offices exchanged many versions of spreadsheets comparing effective tax rates for different business structures and scenarios. Eventually, Republicans found a way to increase the break for pass-through businesses to a size big enough to switch Johnson to a “yes” vote.
CREDIT FOR BEING RED IN PURPLE
The same approach that he’s used in the Senate has served Toomey well in Pennsylvania, a commonwealth much less conservative than his voting record.
“Pat Toomey’s political strengths in Pennsylvania and his success in the Senate really have the same source,” said Jon Lerner, the lead consultant for Toomey’s 2010 and 2016 campaigns. “They both come from his combination of super high intelligence and uncommon personal decency.”
Lerner suggested that Toomey wins support from voters who don’t necessarily agree with his conservative worldview because they see that he comes by it honestly and through study.
His success has been a source of frustration to state Democrats who have been unable to convince voters, so far, that he is as conservative as he is.
“Senator Toomey and his Republican friends have spent the past two years pushing a tax plan that hurts the middle class by increasing their taxes, stripping them of their healthcare and protections for pre-existing conditions, and laying the burden of debt on their children,” said Brandon Cwalina, a representative for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.
For Republicans, though, Toomey’s ability to amass a hard-right record in a purple state means that he should get extra credit.
“His job is harder because he’s got to do more to sell his views to his constituents,” said Phil Gramm, a former Texas senator and staunch supply-side fiscal conservative.
Gramm, a former academic economist, said Toomey was the congressional leader on free-market orthodoxy, in a group with only Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas. He noted, though, that Hensarling faces little risk back home in the Dallas suburbs of being seen as too far to the right.
Toomey bought himself a lot of space on economic issues by departing with other conservatives on the gun issue. In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., he introduced legislation in 2013 with Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia to expand background checks. The effort cost him with some right-wingers and risked alienating voters in rural Pennsylvania, but “gave him credibility in the suburbs,” said McIntosh.
TRUMP AT A DISTANCE
Another key strategy in his 2016 race was to keep Trump at an arm’s length, infamously declining to say whether he’d vote for him until right before polls closed.
Perhaps no legislator has done more since to aid Trump’s legislative victories on taxes and banking. But now Toomey is poised for conflict with Trump over his trade agenda.
Last month, the Senate voted 88-11 on a non-binding resolution calling on Trump to get approval from Congress before imposing tariffs using authority supposed to be used for national security purposes. Trump has used that authority to impose broad steel and aluminum tariffs and threaten more levies on trade counterparties.
The vote won’t actually tie Trump’s hands. Republican leaders have avoided forcing members to take a vote defying the president.
Yet the resolution, authored by Toomey and Corker, presents a model for Congress to act if, in the future, Trump goes so far that reluctant Republicans have no choice but to cross him.
“It’s time for Congress to reassert its constitutional responsibility on trade,” Toomey said after the vote. “We’ve crossed the Rubicon,” on Trump’s trade policies, the Pennsylvania senator Politico in June.
It’s a particularly risky stance for Toomey given Pennsylvania’s heritage as a pro-union, pro-protectionist economy. Pennsylvania’s other senator, Democrat Bob Casey, has been more welcoming of Trump’s tariffs and less supportive of legislation to limit Trump’s tariffs power.
“For him to be out in front on things like free trade and sort of rejecting populism in favor of free market economics is a really big deal,” said Jason Pye, vice president of legislative affairs for FreedomWorks, a libertarian advocacy group.
Toomey’s partner on the tariffs legislation, Corker, is from a state that is traditionally more supportive of free trade. Corker’s also retiring after this year, and won’t have to answer for defying Trump to primary voters.
One reason he’s banded with Toomey on the issue, a person close to Corker said, is that they developed a particular regard for each others’ intelligence and improved their working relationship in the long discussions last year during the negotiations leading to the $1.5 trillion tax cut number. Source
Aug 3, 2018
Portman-Menendez resolution condemns Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on July 26 commented on their bipartisan resolution strongly condemning the Russian Federation’s illegal occupation of the Crimean peninsula, while reaffirming the U.S. policy recognizing Crimea as a sovereign part of Ukraine, after it was passed by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
“The United States continues to stand with Ukraine against Russian aggression,” said Sen. Portman. “As Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo made clear in his declaration yesterday, Crimea was illegally seized from Ukraine by Russia, and the United States must never recognize this illegitimate occupation. This violates not just the rights of the Ukrainian people, but also the fundamental principles of the international order that America has proudly led for more than 70 years.”
He added: “Crimea is part of Ukraine. Until Russia recognizes that fact and returns Crimea to Ukrainian control, the United States must maintain and tighten sanctions on Russia. I applaud the Committee’s passage of this resolution and urge my colleagues to support it when it comes to the floor.”
Sen. Menendez said, “This resolution shows the world that the United States’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty is absolute. Now, more than ever, it is important to show our allies that the United States will stand by them when they face Russian aggression.”
The senator from New Jersey, who himself was sanctioned by Vladimir Putin for his continuing efforts to hold the Russian president accountable for his actions, also stated: “The American people know that ensuring the sovereignty of our allies is critical to our national security, and I look forward to having this important and timely effort adopted by the full Senate. The Senate should also move quickly on new sanctions measures that would increase pressure on the Kremlin to address this illegal occupation and ongoing Russian military hostilities in eastern Ukraine.”
The Portman-Menendez resolution was co-sponsored by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). Source
July 16, 2018
Casey, Toomey react strongly to Trump believing Putin over U.S. intelligence on election meddling
President Donald Trump’s statement Monday indicating that he believed the word of Russian President Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence agencies on meddling in the 2016 elections drew strong reactions from Pennsylvania’s U.S. senators.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey called Trump’s conduct “dangerous and reckless,” while U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey called for “tough new sanctions on Russia.”
During a news conference featuring Trump and Putin after their face-to-face summit Monday in Helsinki, the U.S. president was asked if he believed the Russian president or U.S. intelligence agencies on whether Russia meddled in U.S. elections.
“President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia,” Trump said. “I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
Trump continued to say that he has “great confidence” in his intelligence staff but that Putin was “extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”
Casey, D-Scranton, said that Trump attacked and diminished law enforcement and intelligence agencies during the news conference and did so on foreign soil and in front of a “hostile dictator.”
“The president told the world today that he believes the word of Vladimir Putin over the findings of his country’s own intelligence and law enforcement agencies,” Casey said in a statement. “Instead of holding Vladimir Putin accountable in Helsinki, President Trump embraced him and in doing so diminished America’s standing in the international community and shamed the office of the presidency.”
Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, didn’t mention Trump by name in his statement but instead attacked Putin. The senator said that American intelligence agencies confirmed that Russians meddled in the 2016 elections and that it was almost certainly at the direction of the Russian government and Putin.
“It’s clear that Putin is a bad actor and should be treated as an international pariah,” Toomey said in the statement. “Putin insists that the Russian government has nothing to do with meddling in our elections. In that case, he should not object to the hackers recently indicted being brought to justice. Absent his cooperation in achieving that justice, the United States should impose tough new sanctions on Russia.”
On Friday, the Department of Justice indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers on charges that they hacked Democratic email accounts during the 2016 election. Source
July 1, 2018
Transcript: Sen. Pat Toomey on “Face the Nation,” July 1, 2018
The following is a transcript of the interview with Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania that aired Sunday, July 1, 2018, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re back with Republican Senator Pat Toomey. He joins us from Bethlehem in his home state of Pennsylvania this morning. Senator welcome to the program. You just heard Senator Blumenthal lay out his arguments as a Democrat his concerns about a Supreme Court nominee. I want to ask you. He has raised this question of if the special counsel’s investigation ever makes it to that court, whether this kind of nominee could become a problem given that the president will be selecting someone who could potentially decide on him.
SENATOR PAT TOOMEY: Margaret, I think that’s a ridiculous argument that’s made as just an attempt to make wait for their real position which is that President Trump should never be able to confirm a vacancy. Look I don’t remember hearing the Democrats making that argument when President Bill Clinton, was in fact personally under investigation when a vacancy occurred. My understanding is that President Trump is not himself personally the subject of the investigation, even. So I think that is a non-argument and we needn’t pay any attention to it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about something you’ve been very vocal about lately. This is your concerns, your criticism, of the president’s trade policies. Today- starting today- Canada is putting tariffs on a number of American made products including chocolate, ketchup, up other items. How much is this going to cost your home state?
SEN. TOOMEY: Well it’s going to be harmful to my home state. So far this trade war, if it is that, and it seems to be heading that way has been of a modest scale it hasn’t done great damage yet but it has the potential to do that. And it would be an unbelievable pity to disrupt what is really a fantastic economy because of tax reform because of regulatory relief. We’ve got strong economic growth tremendous employment prospects. So I don’t want to see a trade war undo that undo that and limit the ability of Pennsylvanians and Americans generally to buy and sell goods and services with our neighbors and allies which is after all who this is targeting.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You have tried and now failed twice to take back, in Congress, some control over the president’s ability to put these tariffs in place, citing national security grounds. So would you withhold your vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee in order to get the kind of vote you’re asking for on tariffs?
SEN. TOOMEY: Now- that won’t be necessary. I do want to have a vote to restore to Congress its constitutional responsibility to have the final say on the imposition of tariffs, especially when it’s national security that’s invoked as the rationale. But there is uniform, I believe, uniform Republican Senate support for us allowing that debate, allowing that vote. Not all of my Republican colleagues agree with me on the substance, but there was no Republican objecting when Senator Corker and I sought to have an amendment, sought to have that vote. It was a Democratic colleague– colleague reflecting concerns on the Democratic side. Their position is we shouldn’t even be able to debate this. We shouldn’t be able to vote. But here is the—
MARGARET BRENNAN: Has Republican leadership given you a date?
SEN. TOOMEY: –That- we will have multiple options, Margaret, where there is no procedural opportunity for the minority party to block the vote. We will have this vote, and Senator McConnell and my Republican colleagues are not going to attempt to block the- ability to have that vote. And we’ll see where the votes are. We don’t know that yet, but I think we should find out.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The president did seem to back down a bit on these investment restrictions that had been floated for China. Do you see him backing down on the question of tariffs?
SEN. TOOMEY: So here’s my hope, my hope is that we can persuade the president to focus on the real problem on the trade front. The problem is not Canada. The problem is not Mexico. I mean with Canada we have a trade surplus. We have a surplus even in steel.
So why we should punish my constituents with the tax when they import these small amounts of Canadian steel makes no sense. The real problem is the really bad behavior of China, specifically the theft of intellectual property, coerced technology transfers. What we ought to be doing is make peace with our allies with whom we trade to our mutual benefit, and join forces and deal with the real problem and China poses a real problem. I think the president knows that that’s a real problem. And so my hope is that we can persuade him to focus there.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll be watching Senator Toomey. Thank you. We’ll be back in just one moment. Source
May 30, 2018
Toomey backs tariff relief bill
ALLENTOWN — U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., has cosponsored legislation that would suspend destructive taxes inflicted on the newspaper and publishing industries until the economic health of the industries is examined.
In August 2017, the Commerce Department and International Trade Commission (ITC) began an antidumping investigation of uncoated groundwood (UGW) paper from Canada in response to the concerns of one domestic paper manufacturer. Commerce has since made a positive determination and is now forcing American newspapers and publishers that purchase UGW paper to pay duties of up to 32 percent.
The U.S. is a net importer of UGW paper, so it relies on imports to satisfy demand, and Commerce’s action will have a severe impact on the publishing industry, potentially causing higher prices for subscribers, fewer jobs, and reduced circulation figures.
The bipartisan Protecting Rational Incentives in Newsprint Trade Act of 2018 (PRINT Act) calls on the U.S. Department of Commerce to suspend the collection of duties and to conduct a study into the economic health of the U.S. newspaper and publishing industries. Following the completion of this study, the president would be required to review the study and certify that such a tax on imported UGW paper is in the best interest of the country.
“American companies must be allowed to adequately and fairly source materials, especially when those items are not produced domestically,” said Toomey. “The newspaper and publishing industries are facing unprecedented challenges and the tax on UGW paper could spell the end of numerous publishers across Pennsylvania.”
The senator continued, “As the Commerce Department and ITC continue their investigation, we want to ensure that this tax is actually warranted and necessary before imposing such a detrimental financial burden on downstream industries.”
In addition to Toomey, the PRINT Act is sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Angus King, I-Maine; Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Doug Jones, D-Ala.; Deb Fischer, R-Neb.; Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.; Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; Jack Reed, D-R.I.; and Michael Enzi, R-Wyo. Source
May 21, 2018
Trump signs repeal of auto-loan policy that targeted racial bias
President Trump has repealed auto-lending guidance from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), revoking a rule that was put in place to protect minority customers from predatory practices.
Trump’s signature on a congressional resolution erases the CFPB’s 2013 guidance targeting “dealer markups,” the additional interest that is added to a customer’s third-party auto loan as compensation for the dealer.
The president signed the resolution in a private White House signing ceremony.
Auto dealers, banks and their allies in Congress said the CFPB policy was an unfair and unfounded attack on an essential and harmless financing tool.
The move caps off an unprecedented use of congressional power, as lawmakers had never before passed such a resolution to revoke informal guidance from a federal agency.
Republicans and a small group of Democrats voted to repeal the CFPB guidance under what is known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA). That law allows a simple majority of lawmakers in the House and Senate to vote to repeal a federal rule; it also bans the agency from replacing a rule with a similar measure in the future.
The resolution cleared the House earlier this month after clearing the Senate in April.
While Congress has used the CRA to repeal more than a dozen Obama-era federal rules since 2017, this is the first time that lawmakers have successfully overturned guidance from a federal agency that had not been finalized as a formal regulation.
The CFPB took aim at dealer markups in 2013. Under former Director Richard Cordray (D), the CFPB warned auto dealers that the use of markups on third-party loans could lead to a lawsuit from the agency under anti-lending discrimination laws.
The CFPB and fair lending advocates have pointed to several studies, including one that was conducted by the bureau, that found racial disparities in dealer markups. Those studies found that minority customers often paid higher dealer markups than white customers with similar credit profiles.
While the 2013 guidance was not a formal rule, the CFPB used the policy to launch a slew of lawsuits against automakers and lenders it said violated fair credit laws with discriminatory markups. The CFPB and Justice Department sued Ally Financial in December 2013 for close to $100 million in fines and damages, and also sued Honda and Toyota for tens of millions of dollars over similar charges.
Opponents of the rule questioned the methodology behind the studies that showed discriminatory markups and accused the CFPB of exploiting a loophole to circumvent its lack of jurisdiction over the auto industry.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), who attended the signing ceremony, praised “the hard work of Republicans in Congress” to stop “a rogue Bureau using its unchecked powers to sidestep due process and harm the very consumers it is charged with protecting.”
The CFPB policy seemed immune from repeal until last December, when the Government Accountability Office ruled that informal agency guidance could be repealed under the review law as if it were a formal rule. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who requested the analysis, introduced a resolution to repeal the auto lending guidance soon after.
Acting CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney in a statement praised Trump and lawmakers for repealing the auto guidance and said the bureau would consider submitting other similar policies for congressional review.
The repeal of the guidance is the second Republican reversal of a key Cordray-era CFPB policy under the CRA. Trump signed a resolution last November that repealed the bureau’s rule on forced arbitration, issued in July 2017.
The rule had banned banks and credit card companies from forcing their customers into arbitration agreements that prevent those customers from joining class-action lawsuits.
Updated at 3:09 p.m. Source
Feb 28, 2018
Trump to GOP senator: ‘You’re afraid of the NRA’
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican who helped craft the Senate tax bill passed in the dead of night Saturday, called it a “tremendous legislative accomplishment” that will benefit “virtually all lower- and middle-income taxpayers.”
“We fundamentally restructured the tax code so American workers and businesses can compete in a global economy,” he said while speaking from his Old City Philadelphia offices Monday morning.
Toomey touted the finer points of the bill, which would double the standard deduction for the first $24,000 of earned income, eliminate the individual mandate on Obamacare and lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent.
“Our [corporate tax code] is a glaring outlier that makes the U.S. less competitive,” he said.
In Pittsburgh, demonstrators gathered ahead of Toomey’s news conference in protest over the bill, which passed while most Americans slept.
The Senate bill inched forward strictly on party lines with just one Republican, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, voting against it. Meanwhile, Democrats decried the bill, saying none of them had time to read the proposed legislation before voting late Friday night into early Saturday morning.
“The Democrats can say what they want,” Toomey shot back Monday.
The nearly $1.5 trillion tax bill gave President Donald Trump a major push towards fulfilling one of his biggest campaign promises. It offers the boldest rewrite of the nation’s tax system since 1986.
But Toomey has come under fire for pushing an endowment tax change that would largely benefit just one institution – Hillsdale College, a private Michigan school that has a reputation for being unfriendly to LGBTQ students and refusing to follow Title IX rules aimed at protecting students against sexual assault.
The two-term Republican spoke at the college in 2008 and defended his amendment by saying that it would benefit any private college that does not accept federal funds for tuition aid, like Hillsdale.
When asked by NBC10 why he focused so much energy on the small provision, which failed to be included in the final Senate bill, Toomey said the amendment had been “wildly mischaracterized.”
Instead, colleges like Hillsdale are “saving American taxpayers” by not accepting federal funding.
“It’s all the more important the endowment … be used to off-set the cost of tuition,” he said. “My hope is that more colleges pursue this.”
With the Senate bill passed and a House version pending, legislators must now reconcile the two before Trump can sign into law. Source and video here
Dec 1, 2017
Democrats defeat GOP bid to shield conservative college from endowment tax
Four Senate Republicans joined with Democrats to strip from the GOP tax bill a last-minute provision that would have shielded Hillsdale College, a prominent conservative school, from a new tax on university endowments.
An amendment offered by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) — and incorporated into a package of changes Republicans unveiled Friday evening to their tax plan, H.R. 1 (115) — would have exempted all colleges that don’t accept federal student aid from the endowment tax.
Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, John Kennedy of Louisiana, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joined with Democrats early Saturday morning to pass an amendment by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) that stripped the provision from the tax bill.
Democrats had blasted the move as a giveaway to a school with ties to powerful conservative donors.
“This is a very limited provision written for a very special person,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said on the Senate floor, noting the school’s connections to the DeVoses. Betsy DeVos’ brother, Erik Prince, is a Hillsdale graduate, according to the college website.
According to the Hillsdale Collegian newspaper, DeVos’ father-in-law, Richard DeVos, co-founded Amway with Jay Van Andel. Van Andel’s son, Steve, is a Hillsdale graduate and Amway leader, and the Hillsdale graduate school of statesmanship was named in his honor after he made contributions to graduate school operations and scholarships, the newspaper said.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) questioned why the school was receiving a “special exemption” that was “airdropped at the last minute” into the bill. “I can’t find anybody else in America who benefits from this particular provision,” he said.
Of the colleges that report data to the federal government, only Hillsdale College would be affected by the provision, according to an analysis of Education Department data provided by a Democratic aide.
Toomey defended his provision, saying it was “perfectly reasonable” to exempt colleges that turn down federal money from the endowment tax because those schools impose less burden on federal taxpayers.
He also accused Democrats of mischaracterizing the exemption, saying it would apply to Hillsdale as well as other colleges that choose to forgo federal funding. Toomey declined to answer Democrats’ inquiries on the floor about which other schools would benefit.
The proposed tax on private university endowments is part of both the Senate and House tax bills. The House-passed version applies the tax to colleges with assets of at least $250,000 per student. Senate Republicans on Friday raised that threshold to $500,000 per student in their bill, further narrowing the number of colleges that would be hit by the tax.
Hillsdale, a private Christian liberal arts school in southern Michigan, enrolls about 1,400 students and has an endowment of about $528 million. The college proudly rejects federal funding and the regulations and requirements that come along with it.
The amendment that would have exempted colleges that reject federal funding from the endowment tax was co-sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and supported by conservative Heritage Action.
Spokesmen for Toomey and Cruz did not immediately respond to a request for comment; neither did a representative from Hillsdale College.
College and university presidents have lobbied heavily over the past several weeks to stop the new tax on university endowments. They argue it will take away money that schools use to help students afford college and invest in their campuses. Source
Oct 24, 2017
Retiring Trump critic is ‘a friend of immeasurable decency,’ U.S. Sen Pat Toomey says
Just hours after U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., made a blistering retirement announcement, Pennsylvania’s Republican U.S. Senator is having his say.
In a statement, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, of Lehigh County, said Flake “provided a principled, conservative voice to civil debate. His presence will be missed by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle.”
Flake shocked the GOP establishment with an unscheduled floor speech on Tuesday, where he excoriated President Donald Trump without mentioning him by name.
From The Washington Post:
“We must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that this is just the way things are now. If we simply become used to this condition, thinking that it is just politics as usual, then heaven help us,” Flake said. “Without fear of the consequences and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe, we must stop pretending that the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal. Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has become excused as telling it like it is when it is actually reckless, outrageous and undignified.”
“Flake’s speech echoed concerns and criticisms leveled in recent days by former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who also pointed to the coarse nature of the nation’s politics and the character of current leaders — subtle, indirect, but indisputable commentaries on Trump.
” … For almost a year, Flake has faced a primary challenge from Kelli Ward, a former Arizona Republican state senator who unsuccessfully challenged McCain in 2016 by raising concerns about his age and conservative bona fides. Against Flake, Ward raised similar questions about the incumbent’s political motivations and adopted the brusque nationalistic tone that Trump used successfully during his presidential campaign. She has sought Trump’s favor, but he has so far declined to pick a favorite Flake challenger.
At the White House, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed Flake’s speech as “petty” and said he had lost so much support in Arizona he would not have been able to win reelection.”
Here’s the full text of Toomey’s statement:
“Senator Jeff Flake has served the people of Arizona with integrity and honor in both the U.S. House and Senate. He is a friend of immeasurable decency and has provided a principled, conservative voice to civil debate. His presence will be missed by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. I look forward to working with Senator Flake through the rest of his term.”
Oct 21, 2017
Sen. Pat Toomey needs to weigh in on the president’s behavior
Michael Gerson’s Oct. 14 column (“America Urgently Needs Republican Vertebrates”) should be read daily in the halls of Congress.
I call our Sen. Pat Toomey almost twice a week. I want my senator to say or do something about the daily lies, threats, inappropriate comments and insults: “Liddle’ Bob Corker,” “Rocketman,” other nasty names, mention of blood or bleeding almost always about women, references to low IQ, lies about Barack Obama not recognizing Gold Star families — the list of unhinged comments and lies goes on ad nauseam.
Whenever I send an email to Mr. Toomey, I get the standard response: Mr. Obama has ruined everything, tax breaks will stimulate the economy and benefit everyone, etc. (I’m still waiting for my trickle-down benefits from Reaganomics!)
When I get to actually speak with someone at Mr. Toomey’s office, they say that he has not made a comment or has not made a statement at this time. Why not? What is he waiting for? Mr. Toomey is in denial about this incompetent president, and his complicit silence is condoning this behavior. Mr. Toomey won by only 1.7 percentage points. His mandate is to cooperate and compromise!
People are saying that a sitting senator can be unseated for not being responsive to his constituents. Vertebrate up, Mr. Toomey!
Oct 10, 2017
No Charges For Man Who Asked If Sen. Pat Toomey’s Child Was Kidnapped
EASTON, Pa. (AP) — A man who was kicked out of a televised town hall for asking Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey an unsettling question about whether his daughter had been kidnapped won’t face charges, a prosecutor said Monday.
Simon Radecki’s question was inappropriate and offensive but was within the bounds of free speech, District Attorney John Morganelli said, overruling police who initially planned to charge him. Source
Oct 4, 2017
Key GOP senators open to ‘bump stock’ ban
Republicans want to learn more about a device reportedly used in the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
Top Senate Republicans said Wednesday they are open to considering legislation banning devices that were reportedly used to gun down scores of people in the worst mass shooting in modern American history.
Bump stocks — also known as “slide fire” devices, which work by rapidly “bumping” the trigger of a semi-automatic weapon to boost the rate of fire — were reportedly used by Stephen Paddock to kill 58 people and wound more than 500 in Sunday’s Las Vegas massacre.
…Even Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, the Republican namesake for legislation four years ago that sought to expand background checks, was unpersuaded that lawmakers should pass a bill barring bump stocks. However, he said in a statement later Wednesday that he is open to hearings on the issue.
“You know, I am very skeptical about legislation that attempts to ban features and particular guns,” Toomey said. “So I haven’t looked at it, but I’m skeptical.” Read entire article
Sept 27, 2017
GOP tax document reveals plan for massive tax cuts, preserves key deductions
WASHINGTON — Republican leaders on Wednesday proposed slashing tax rates for the wealthy, the middle class and businesses while preserving popular tax deductions that encourage buying homes and giving to charity, according to a nine-page framework they hope will eventually unify the party behind a proposal to revamp the U.S. tax code.
But the document, titled “Unified Framework For Fixing Our Broken Tax Code,” leaves many key questions unanswered. In it, the White House and Republican congressional leaders do not identify the numerous tax breaks they say will be removed to offset some of the trillions of dollars in revenue lost by cutting tax rates. Read more
Sept 26, 2017
The Senate’s $1.5 trillion tax cut is not what it seems
Senate Republicans have reached a deal that would allow for large net tax cuts as part of their budget document, but the agreement does not rule out the possibility of a revenue-neutral tax reform, one that raised as much revenue through elimination of loopholes and economic growth as it lost through lower rates.
Sen. Bob Corker, one of the parties to the deal, said Monday he has no intention of voting for an ultimate Republican tax bill that would add to federal deficits, even though some reports suggested that the deal would lead to the government losing $1.5 trillion in taxes over the next decade.
Instead, the Tennessee Republican said, the mysteriously detail-free deal he announced last week with fellow Budget Committee member Pat Toomey was meant to give “headroom parliamentarian-wise” for GOP senators to negotiate a tax bill within the constraints imposed by the Senate’s arcane procedural rules.
“There will be numbers of us, I would think, that would not want to vote for something that they viewed as going to increase the deficit,” said Corker, a self-styled fiscal conservative. Read more
Sept 13, 2017
Neither Pennsylvania senator backs Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-all plan
Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey didn’t offer his support to a Medicare-for-all plan Sen. Bernie Sanders proposed Wednesday, saying he is focused instead on stopping a new Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Sixteen Senate Democrats co-sponsored Sanders’ proposal, according to the Vermont senator’s office. The legislation would provide more generous benefits than the current Medicare program at an as-yet-unknown price.
“My first priority is protecting health care for Pennsylvania families, who are paying higher premiums and seeing increased costs because congressional Republicans and the administration are taking actions to undermine and sabotage our health care system,” Casey, of Scranton, said in an emailed statement.
Four Republican senators introduced a proposal the same day that would get rid of many of the 2010 Affordable Care Act’s subsidies, taxes and its requirements that most people have insurance. The proposal would give states more flexibility in administering health care and replace some federal funding streams with block grants, according to a news release.
Steve Kelly, a spokesman for Sen. Pat Toomey, said in an email that the Lehigh Valley Republican is still reviewing the bill, which was introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina; Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana; Dean Heller, R-Nevada; and Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin.
Kelly addressed Sanders’ proposal in a statement that referenced an Urban Institute analysis of a single-payer proposal Sanders put forward as a presidential primary candidate last year. The analysis estimated the plan would increase federal spending by $32 trillion between 2017 and 2026 while providing insurance for most of the people who are still uninsured.
“Senator Sanders’ plan to allow the government to completely take over health care in this country will cost Americans $32 trillion. Senator Toomey does not support this,” Kelly said in a statement. Read more
Sept 6, 2017
Smucker, Toomey agree with Trump that DACA needs legislative change
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker agrees with the Trump administration’s decision to seek a legislative fix for the Obama-era program that protects children of undocumented immigrants, the congressman said in a statement Tuesday.
President Donald Trump’s decision to “wind down” Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, comes as the president has struggled to determine the fate of the program’s nearly 800,000 recipients, also known as “dreamers.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the program “unconstitutional” and gave Congress six months to find a solution. Meanwhile, the government will not accept new applicants. Read more
Sept. 2, 2017
Questioner thrown out of Toomey meeting to be charged
A Northampton County, Pa., man removed from Sen. Pat Toomey’s town hall meeting after he asked the Republican senator about nonexistent reports that Toomey’s daughter had been kidnapped said Friday he was disappointed to learn that police intend to charge him.
For Simon Radecki, 28, of Northampton, the decision to charge him represents “a startling reminder of what it’s like to live in the United States, or least Pennsylvania, nowadays, where someone can literally be arrested and taken into custody for asking a pointed question.”
Others found Mr. Radecki’s question startling.
DaWayne Cleckley, vice president of marketing for PBS39, which hosted Thursday’s town hall in Bethlehem, called Mr. Radecki’s question inappropriate and said he preferred the approach taken by some protesters outside, who stood peacefully and occasionally marched. Read more
August 22, 2017
Senator Toomey changes tune on exclusion orders and patents, supports Comcast against TiVo at ITC
Senator Toomey, a respected member of the Senate who is generally regarded as an intellectual and above the sniping that is so common in Washington, is the home state Senator for Comcast, whose corporate headquarters is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Toomey’s recent comments to the ITC appear to argue against an exclusion order for TiVo, which at first glance probably is hardly surprising to anyone. Senator Toomey is supporting a large constituent, which is to be expected. However, by doing so in this case Senator Toomey but seems to be directly at odds with a letter he sent just three years ago expressing “strong support of the protections afforded by 19 U.S.C. § 1337 (Section 337)” for a different constituent. Read entire article here
August 12, 2017
Demonstrators, Politicians React To Va. White Nationalist Rally
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Demonstrators across the country took to the streets in response to the violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville on Saturday, as Pennsylvania politicians took to Twitter to voice their opinions.
Demonstrators gathered in Atlanta on Saturday in response to the events in Charlottesville. The march was organized by a number of human rights and religious groups. The demonstrators are calling on President Trump to condemn the rally and to explicitly refer to it as a white supremacist convention. Read more
August 9, 2017
Toomey Believes Justice Dept. Should Handle Investigations
Pennsylvania U.S Senator Pat Toomey is hoping special counsel, Robert Mueller, will wrap up his investigation of Russian Collusion and whatever else he might be looking for in a timely manner.
Toomey was a recent guest on WNPV’s AM Edition.
“I’ve never been a fan of the special counsel. I’ve never been a fan of going outside the process our criminal justice system, our Justice Department and appointing someone, who then inevitably goes on a mission to find something, often completely unrelated to the topic under investigation.”
Toomey believes Mueller is honorable, but is concerned his investigation could take on a life of its own. Source
July 28, 2017
Pennsylvania legislators react after Senate health care vote falls short
As the Senate headed toward a vote early Friday that Republicans intended to set up health care talks with the GOP-controlled House, the votes of Pennsylvania’s two senators were not in question.
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey had spoken on the floor hours earlier, expressing his support for advancing a narrow Obamacare repeal bill that he hoped would be expanded to address Medicaid costs and other scuttled provisions when the two chambers met to hammer out their differences. Read more
July 25, 2017
PA leaders warn of health care bill’s negative impact ahead of Senate vote
Ahead of Tuesday’s U.S. Senate Republican-driven effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, three Pennsylvania leaders joined to once again denounce the health care plan and warn about its negative impact on the state.
“It’s a bad piece of legislation for virtually everyone we can think of,” U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Lackawanna County, said of the Republican plan, which U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh County, helped craft as part of a 13-member Senate GOP panel.
As he has done since it was unveiled, Casey argued that the plan would hurt the middle-class, seniors, children and the disabled mostly through deep cuts to Medicaid funding that would have a widespread impact on health care across the state. Read more
July 12, 2017
Pat Toomey, Democratic colleague seek to block North Korea’s access to financial markets
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey is proposing stiff economic sanctions to deter North Korea from developing its ballistic missile program.
The aim is to force North Korea to stop developing nuclear weapons by cutting off its access to the international financial system, said Mr. Toomey, R-Pa., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who are sponsoring a bill together.
Mr. Toomey doesn’t often wade into foreign affairs but became engaged as a member of the Senate Banking Committee. Read more
July 10, 2017
An architect of the GOP Senate health bill says a new version to appease both sides is coming
Sen. Toomey: Not ‘Pollyannaish’ about GOP health care bill Sen. Pat Toomey: We’re in a ‘tight spot’ with GOP health-care bill
22 Hours Ago | 03:38
Sen. Pat Toomey says a new version of the Republican health-care bill is expected, and he hopes it can appeal to both sides of his party’s divide.
“We’ve got a new version that comes out today. We’ll get new scores from CBO. And there’s still a shot of getting to 50 [votes]. Mike Pence breaks the tie,” said Toomey, one of 13 senators who worked with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to craft the GOP’s Obamacare replacement. Read more
July 5, 2016
Activists cry cowardice as Republican senators shut doors to healthcare town halls
At a town hall in Pennsylvania on Wednesday night, the Republican senator Pat Toomey faced an angry protest over his role in the GOP healthcare bill, while Ted Cruz was heckled over his suggested amendment to the legislation at an event in Texas.
Scores of people gathered outside the ABC27 studio in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where Toomey was holding what had been billed as a town hall meeting.
But in reality just eight audience members were allowed into the invite-only event, and their questions had been pre-screened by the news channel.
The closed-door approach did not endear Toomey to the sign-waving protesters outside, who accused the senator of not “having courage to speak to people who would be personally affected” by the Senate healthcare legislation he helped to write. Read more
June 28, 2017
Editorial: Toomey is either lying or misinformed, and it will hurt Pennsylvanians
Regardless of what Sen. Pat Toomey may say, the new Senate health care bill does cut federal spending to Medicaid, and does so in a significant way.
Medicaid is a federal program designed to provide health insurance to those who otherwise cannot afford it, and as of April 2017 nearly 75 million Americans were enrolled in the program. Currently, the program and those enrolled in it are at risk.
When the Affordable Care Act came into law, it greatly expanded Medicaid, both the number of people that the program covers and what is covered by the program. But both the GOP House and Senate bills as they stand would make significant cuts to a crucial program in our nation’s social safety net as compared to the current law.
However, Toomey is insistent that Medicaid isn’t facing any cuts, explaining his point of view in a CBS interview Sunday.
“I have to strongly disagree with the characterization that we’re somehow ending the Medicaid expansion, in fact, quite the contrary,” he said. “We’re going to continue that eligibility. No one loses coverage.”
However, directly contradicting the Pennsylvania Republican, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reports that by 2026, Medicaid will face a 26 percent cut compared to the current law with 22 million Americans losing coverage under the bill.
So either Toomey was lying or he’s just doesn’t understand the bill he helped write. Read more
Rift Opens in GOP over budget strategy
GOP lawmakers and outside groups are divided over whether Congress should lengthen the budget window to facilitate tax cuts.
Supporters of making the budget window longer than 10 years argue it would allow Congress to pass temporary tax cuts that could last for a longer period of time. Opponents think that tax reform should be permanent and therefore revenue neutral.
The idea of a longer window has gained support since Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) first floated the idea in early May, but the idea has yet to gain traction with GOP decisionmakers.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), whose panel has jurisdiction over taxes, said he’d like to extend the budget window but called it unlikely. Read more
June 27, 2017
Toomey ‘conflates two things’ in latest health care claim
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania has made clear he supports the Senate’s new health care bill, which is expected to be voted on this week. The Republican said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday the plan would “make permanent” Medicaid expansion and that the federal government would “pay the lion’s share of the cost.”
“Remember, Obamacare created a new category of eligibility,” Toomey continued. “Working-age, able-bodied adults with no dependents for the first time became eligible for Medicaid if their income is below 138 percent of the poverty level. We’re going to continue that eligibility. No one loses coverage.”
What did Toomey mean by “no one loses coverage?” And how will the Senate plan affect coverage for people who became eligible for Medicaid under Obamacare?
Steve Kelly, Toomey’s press secretary, said that when the Senator said “no one loses coverage” he was referring to federal eligibility for expanded Medicaid and was not saying no single person would lose coverage.
Sara Rosenbaum, the Harold and Jane Hirsh Professor of Health Law at George Washington, said Toomey “conflates two things.” She said the Medicaid eligibility category for adults below 138 percent of the federal poverty level was continued.
“But of course what he glosses over is what states will continue to cover these adults once the money starts disappearing,” Rosenbaum said. Read more
June 24, 2017
Casey, Toomey square off from afar over Senate health care plan
HARRISBURG — At a rally Friday morning in the state Capitol, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey urged voters to help him and other Democrats defeat the Senate Republicans’ plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.
“In the next couple of days, into the very last hour, please keep advocating,” Mr. Casey, D-Pa., told several dozen people gathered in the rotunda. “Please keep writing and marching and calling, and going on social media, and calling senators in other states as well as Pennsylvania. Keep going, keep pushing, because we can defeat this bill if we keep working together.”
He spoke a day after Senate Republicans unveiled their long-awaited proposal to replace Obamacare, a bill their leaders hope to bring to a vote next week. With Republicans clinging to a two-seat majority in the chamber and Democrats unified against the plan, every vote will count.
Mr. Casey said debate about the bill had paid too little attention to how the proposal would affect people who get their health insurance through their employers — more than 150 million Americans.
“If you’ve got employer coverage, they’re coming for you, too,” he said. “Because if you live in a state in the future where there’s a waiver, you will not get protection from pre-existing conditions.
“They can still make sure that if you’re pregnant, you’re not going to get the kind of maternity benefits that you might need. All that will be legal if the state you live in goes with a waiver,” he said. “So don’t think you’re in the clear because we’re talking a lot about Medicaid. That’s why I said this bill is bad for the whole country.” Read more
June 21, 2017
Meet the 13 Senators Deciding on Your Health Care Behind Closed Doors
The most closely guarded piece of writing this summer isn’t the new season of Game of Thrones —it’s the GOP Senate’s health care bill.For the last several weeks, media outlets have reported that 13 Senate Republicans have been meeting behind closed doors to discuss legislation that could lead to millions fewer Americans having health coverage—and make it hard for many people with pre-existing conditions to buy an affordable plan. While Vox and The New York Times have reported the names of the 13 members, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t even confirm the existence of the group in an email to MONEY, pointing instead to working lunches that include all 52 Republican senators. Read more
New York Times
The Senate Is Close to a Health Care
Bill, but Do Republicans Have the Votes?
he 52 Republican senators have been meeting several times a week behind closed doors to develop a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. At least 50 of them must be on board for the bill to pass, and they could try as soon as next week.
Republican senators are arranged based on their ideology scores 13 of them, highlighted below, are leading the effort. Read more