June 5, 2019
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey On Why He Opposes Trump’s Plan To Impose Tariffs On Mexico
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Let’s bring in another voice on this story, Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey, who is on the record calling the president’s proposed tariffs on Mexican exports, quote, “the wrong remedy” and “misguided.” Senator Toomey, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
PAT TOOMEY: Thanks for having me, Mary Louise.
KELLY: Misguided, why? Give me the nutshell version of why you think these tariffs would be a really bad idea.
TOOMEY: Well, there’s several levels to that, not the least of which is it’s a tax on Americans who would choose to purchase products that originate in Mexico. Mexico is one of our biggest trading partners, nearest neighbor, closest ally. And so it would directly diminish the value of the tax reform that we did by raising taxes on consumers. It would disrupt supply chains for American companies, thereby making them less competitive. And so that’s the direct, practical, economic impact.
The indirect economic impact would be if the Mexican government decided they had to retaliate and impose tariffs on American products, then we would sell fewer products to Mexico. That’s not good for our exporters, including those in Pennsylvania.
And then, finally, I would say, you know, it’s going to be more difficult for the administration to reach trade agreements if while we have a trade agreement – and right now, NAFTA is in force, and NAFTA is a zero-tariff agreement. If the president can wake up one Thursday morning and unilaterally announce, so there’s going to be a 25% tax on all of your products, well, what meaning is there to the trade agreement?
KELLY: All right. So you’re laying out immediate economic impact, potential impact on future trade deals. Have you reached out, told the White House directly, please don’t do this?
TOOMEY: I’ve had a lot of conversations with people in the White House, including the president, over recent months. They know very well what my view is on tariffs like these.
KELLY: So according to President Trump, these tariffs will go into effect on Monday. What…
TOOMEY: Well, they may go into effect on Monday, right?
KELLY: He says they’re going into effect on Monday, so we will see what the coming hours and days bring. But you, as a coequal – as a member of a coequal branch of government, have a say here. What are your thoughts in terms of how Congress might want to block them?
TOOMEY: Well, first, we have to see whether or not they, in fact, go into effect and, you know, what the nature of that is. But ultimately, I think if the president chooses to impose a round of tariffs, the authority under which the administration has indicated they would do this, I think there is a resolution of disapproval mechanism available to Congress. And so, you know, we would certainly have to seriously consider voting to disapprove it.
KELLY: A resolution of disapproval – this is something that was deployed when the president wanted his national emergency. It’s not the most forceful-sounding response, if you’ll forgive me for saying.
KELLY: I mean, should there be an outright vote to reject the tariffs?
TOOMEY: So – well, it would have that effect if it were to succeed and could overcome a presidential veto. It would have the effect of preventing the tariffs from going into effect, so it is.
KELLY: But you raise the sticking point, which is you would need a veto-proof majority. Are enough Republicans prepared to override the president on this?
TOOMEY: It’s not clear until you have the vote, so we’ll find out. But I can tell you I do think there would be more Republicans voting against a designation of this sort than voted against the last one, and there were 12 of us who voted against the last one. So it’s entirely possible that we would have a veto-proof majority. That’s – it’s – we won’t know until the vote occurs, if the vote occurs.
KELLY: What about another possible area of leverage that U.S. lawmakers have, which is withholding support for the new NAFTA deal, the USMCA, that the president has said he really wants?
TOOMEY: Well, the – so I am not a supporter of the new – the newly negotiated NAFTA deal because I think it’s going to diminish trade. So my threatening to withhold my support – it would be a hollow threat.
KELLY: You’re happy to withhold support either way.
KELLY: But that would appear to be one area of leverage that Republicans can exert over the president.
TOOMEY: You raise a valid point because the existence of the steel and aluminum tariffs, I think, were certainly an obstacle to USMCA approval in the Senate. And I think the president realized that, and I think that probably contributed to their decision to lift those steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico.
So if the president were to go ahead and impose these tariffs on Mexico, it’s very hard to see how USMCA goes forward. I mean, you know, how the Mexicans respond when they have a free trade agreement that precludes tariffs like this and the president nevertheless imposes tariffs like this – it’s hard to imagine the Mexican Senate ratifying this agreement. It’s hard for me to imagine the U.S. Senate approving it, or the House, for that matter. So I do think that is a serious obstacle for the administration.
KELLY: And you said we should wait and see what happens. Are you optimistic some deal may be reached to avert these tariffs?
TOOMEY: I think there’s a real chance there might be a deal to avert the tariffs, but this is very hard to predict. I’m not in the predicting business. We’ll find out.
KELLY: Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, thanks so much. We appreciate your time.
TOOMEY: All right. Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
Source & Audio here
May 23, 2019
Legislation proposed to end sanctuary cities
WASHINGTON DC – U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) is continuing his longstanding effort to protect communities from violent criminals who are in the United States illegally.
Thursday, Senator Toomey re-introduced the Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act, which would put an end to dangerous sanctuary city policies that forbid local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities, even when they wish to do so.
“It is past time to put an end to dangerous sanctuary city policies,” said Senator Toomey.“These policies – like the ones in Philadelphia and San Francisco – make it harder to stop illegal immigration and keep dangerous criminals off the streets. Sanctuary cities extend a special protection to illegal immigrants even when federal immigration officials identity them as a threat to public safety. This is simply inexcusable, and I urge my colleagues to help pass this commonsense measure.”
Joining Senator Toomey in introducing the bill were Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and John Kennedy (R-La.).
“Sanctuary cities keep criminal aliens on our streets, and we will no longer tolerate their willful defiance of our nation’s laws,” said Senator Cotton. “Public safety must come first. If you’re not following the law, you shouldn’t get taxpayer dollars, period.”
“Sanctuary cities like San Francisco, Seattle and New York happily accept federal money, but they are just as eager to ignore our nation’s immigration laws,” said Senator Kennedy. “These liberal cities actively impede federal immigration enforcement efforts, which only encourages more illegal immigration. I’m a proud co-sponsor of the Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act because it sends a clear message to these cities that if they choose to ignore the rule of law, they don’t deserve hard-earned taxpayer dollars.”
The Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act is also cosponsored by Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Shelley Moore Capito(R-W.Va.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Steve Daines(R-Mont.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).
Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Tom McClintock (R-Cali.).
The Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act would withhold certain non-law enforcement federal grant funds from “sanctuary cities“ – jurisdictions that forbid their local law enforcement officers from cooperating with federal immigration officials, even when they wish to do so.
The legislation also addresses court decisions that may leave local police and municipalities liable when they assist the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) but the DHS has made an error. The measure preserves an individual’s right to sue if a law enforcement officer commits any violation of the individual’s civil or constitutional rights. However, his measure ensures that if the federal government committed the error or violated a right, the individual sues the federal government, not a local official acting in good faith and in compliance with a request from the DHS. The legislation also provides a safe harbor for jurisdictions that do not cooperate with federal immigration officials with regard to persons in the country illegally who come forward as victims or witnesses to a crime.
In 2016, Philadelphia police arrested Juan Ramon Vasquez (also known as Ramon Aguirre-Ochoa), a Honduran national in the U.S. illegally, for repeatedly raping his girlfriend’s 5 year old daughter. He is now serving an eight to 20 year sentence for those heinous crimes. Vasquez had been deported in 2009, only to re-enter the U.S. illegally. Philadelphia police had Vasquez in custody in 2015. But when DHS asked the city to hold him so it could come pick him up and deport him, Philadelphia officials refused. The city’s sanctuary city policy forbade its law enforcement officers from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. Instead, Vasquez was permitted to roam free and eventually raped a young child.
In February 2018, a bipartisan majority of senators voted in support of the Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act, but it did not receive the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. Democratic senators who voted to support this measure included Senators Joe Manchin(D-W.Va.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).
The legislation is supported by:
- Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association
- International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO
- National Association of Police Organizations
May 20, 2019
China Says It Never Agreed to Trump Administration’s ‘Extravagant Demands’ in Trade-Deal Talks
China said Monday that it never agreed to the “extravagant demands” U.S. negotiators made during April negotiations meant to solidify a trade deal between the world’s two largest economies.
“We don’t know what this agreement is the United States is talking about,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in comments to reporters. “Perhaps the United States has an agreement they all along had extravagant expectations for, but it’s certainly not a so-called agreement that China agreed to.”
The White House earlier this month raised tariffs from 10 to 25 percent on $200 billion of Chinese imports after accusing Beijing of reneging on the terms of a deal. China retaliated last week, saying it will raise tariffs from 5 to 25 percent on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods, including coffee, batteries, and spinach.
The Trump administration attempted “to achieve unreasonable interests through extreme pressure,” Kang said. “From the start this wouldn’t work.”
The U.S. and China “had a very strong deal, we had a good deal, and they changed it. And I said, ‘That’s OK, we’re going to tariff their products,’” President Trump said last week.
The tariffs have sparked a fierce backlash from critics who say they will hit American businesses, and by extension consumers, hard. Republican senator Pat Toomey called the tariff hike “very bad policy,” last week, saying that tariffs are a “dangerous and a painful tool that hits both the country against which the tariffs are being imposed and the country that is doing the imposition.”
Meanwhile, the stock market dropped for four days at the beginning of this month as the U.S. prepared to make good on its threat to raise tariffs on China.
The trade war between the two countries has heated up just ahead of next month’s G-20 summit in Japan, where President Trump plans to meet with Chinese president Xi Jinping. Source
May 19, 2019
Pennsylvania senator defends Trump tariffs hurting his state because maybe they’ll pay off someday
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) admitted that the tariffs are a tax on the American people, but still praised Trump for them.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) likes free trade so much he literally wrote a book on it. He calls tariffs a tax on the American people. But now that President Donald Trump is using unilateral tariffs in a so-far-unsuccessful attempt to leverage China, Toomey is standing by his president over his own constituents.
China backed away from the table last week, leaving Trump without a trade deal. The man who ran for office touting his deal-making prowess has thus far been unable to make progress with the global power, despite his 2016 claim that, “When China thinks you mean it, when think they you mean it, they’re going to stop manipulating the currency and you won’t have to do anything, and you might even have free trade.” Instead, he slapped millions of dollars in new tariffs on Chinese goods — the latest in a trend since he took office.
The effect of Trump’s tariffs has been especially harmful to farmers and manufacturers, including those in Pennsylvania. A pro-free trade group estimated in October that Trump’s tariffs on China and other countries had already cost the steel industry in Pennsylvania $98 million. Rick Ebert, the head of the conservative Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, said in November that thanks to Trump’s trade war and low commodity price, 2018 was “the worst year I’ve ever seen it.”
On Fox News Sunday, Toomey was asked about the harm the China tariffs are causing to his constituents.
“I actually think the President is right to challenge China,” he replied. “The tariffs are absolutely painful and dislocating. But if in the end we end up with an agreement that gives us a meaningful reform of China’s most egregious behavior, we might look back and say this is worth the price we are paying.”
Back in 2000, then-Rep. Toomey voted for H.R. 4444 to permanently grant “normal trade relations” to China. Source
May 2, 2019
GOP Sen. Pat Toomey defends Stephen Moore hours before he withdraws from Fed consideration
- Republican Sen. Pat Toomey says he would be “inclined to support” conservative pundit Stephen Moore for a Federal Reserve Board seat.
- Toomey says he believes the controversial writings of President Donald Trump’s Fed pick were meant to be “tongue-in-cheek,” adding, “I don’t think that that is disqualifying for him.”
- Moore later Thursday withdrew from consideration, according to a tweet from the president.
Sen. Pat Toomey, an influential Republican on the Finance and Budget committees, told CNBC on Thursday that he would be “inclined to support” conservative pundit Stephen Moore for a Federal Reserve Board seat.
“I don’t think he’s a misogynist or anything of the sort,” said Toomey, referring to Moore, who has been under fire for his past writings — particularly those disparaging women — on the heels of President Donald Trump mentioning his name for the Fed position in March.
Moore later Thursday withdrew from consideration, according to a tweet from the president.
Several other Republican senators this week expressed hesitation about Moore, a former campaign advisor to Trump and now a fellow at the right-leaning Heritage Foundation.
“From what I have seen at this point, I don’t think that that is disqualifying for him,” said Toomey, who as a member of the Senate Finance Committee would review a Moore nomination if the White House submits one.
But, Toomey added, “I think people ought to take a look at those” writings.
Toomey based his opinions on knowing Moore for years. In 2005, he succeeded Moore as head of the Club for Growth, the free enterprise advocacy group that Moore founded in 1999.
In an interview Thursday with Bloomberg News, Moore brushed aside concerns that he does not have enough Republican votes in the Senate at the moment to win confirmation if the White House formally submits his name for review.
He also said he was confident he will win approval by the full Senate after the White House and the FBI complete a background check and other vetting, and “if we steer the discussion away from things I wrote 20, 25 years ago.”
“This is probably going to be a three-month process,” Moore said. The situation today is going to be a lot different three months from now.”
“I think I’m going to win a big majority. … Just because a senator today says they won’t vote for me doesn’t mean that three months from now they won’t.”
Trump’s other recent Fed pick, Herman Cain, dropped out after several Republican senators said they would not support him. Assuming that every Democrat and independent in the Senate opposes him, Moore can only afford to lose the support of GOP senators if he hopes to win approval for a board seat on the central bank.
In a CNBC interview on Tuesday, Moore said that he hopes he’s judged on the economic advice he’s provided to the president and his top advisors — advice he said has led to the best economy in 20 years.
But critics of Moore have said he’s been off the mark in his past predictions about the economy.
Asked whether Moore would be respected as a Fed governor, Toomey said that nobody who makes predictions about the economy is correct all the time. He noted that both he and Moore were incorrect in believing that prolonged central bank bond buying to support the economy well after the 2008 financial crisis would cause inflation.
However, Toomey argued, “The Fed has been dead wrong on the GDP projections for I don’t know how long, consistently overestimating growth during the Obama years, underestimating it more recently” under Trump.
“I think a different point-of-view would be helpful.”
Jeremy Siegel, the longtime stock market bull and influential Wharton School professor, said he feels the same way — arguing Wednesday on CNBC that Moore’s bid would challenge the status quo at the Fed. Putting aside the Moore controversies, Siegel accused central bankers of suffering from groupthink that can lead to policy errors. The professor believes the Fed’s rate increase in December was a mistake.
Meanwhile, Moore’s harsh criticism of the Fed is in line with Trump’s views. In fact, the president Tuesday tweeted calls for the central bank to reduce short-term borrowing costs by 1%.
But a day later, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell dashed hopes for an interest rate cut down the road by describing low inflation as likely “transitory.” Powell spoke at the post-Fed meeting news conference Wednesday afternoon, shortly after policymakers made no changes in rates.
And Moore in his Bloomberg interview on Thursday said, “I’m not so sure I agree with the White House that we should cut rates by an entire percentage point.”
“I just don’t see the case for that right now,” Moore said. Source
April 18, 2019
Casey, Toomey echo parties in Mueller report response
The highly anticipated report by special counsel Robert Muller indicating Russian interference in the 2016 election was released Thursday, but the findings don’t seem to have done much in the way of shifting partisan opinion.
By and large, congressional Republicans stood behind Attorney General William Barr’s “no collusion” summary of the report’s probe into President Donald Trump’s campaign. Meanwhile, Democrats demanded the release of redacted information and questioned Barr’s credibility.
Pennsylvania’s U.S. senators — Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Pat Toomey — mirrored the takes of their respective parties.
“While examining the Mueller report and the underlying evidence will be vital, it will not change what we already know: Russia attacked our election in 2016, President Trump and his closest aides and allies welcomed that attack and then, we know from the public record, that President Trump made a series of statements and appeared to engage in conduct that interfered with a fair and independent investigation,” U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said in a statement.
“The actions we know that President Trump, his aides and allies took may not violate criminal statutes, but they are fundamentally inconsistent with American values,” he said.
On Twitter, Casey also called Barr a “spin doctor and mouthpiece for the President.”
Toomey had a different take.
Toomey said on Twitter he had not yet read the report but “all Americans should be pleased that the Special Counsel concluded there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.”
And while Casey pushed for public release of redacted grand jury information not protected because of intelligence concerns, Toomey said he was pleased the report does not have redactions based on executive privilege.
Rep. Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, said the previous conclusions of “no collusion, no obstruction, and nothing but complete cooperation from the president,” stand with regard to the Mueller report.
“We need to move on, stop the theater, and get back to the business of governing,” Perry said in a statement.
Republican Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster County, did not return a request for comment.
In a news conference before the public release of the report, Barr renewed his earlier interpretation of Mueller’s findings that the Trump campaign did not collude with Russian interference.
According to Mueller’s report, the investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” However, the report states that Russian interference did favor Trump’s candidacy in the 2016 election.
Mueller’s report also said the investigation found “numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign.” Source
Lawmakers want passage of Combat Online Predators Act
HARRISBURG, Pa. – A bipartisan group of lawmakers came together Mnoday to introduce legislation to protect children from online predators.
Republican Senator Pat Toomey, Democratic Senator Bob Casey, and Republican Representative Brian Fitzpatrick are calling for the passage of the “Combat Online Predators Act.”
It would enhance criminal penalties by five years for stalkers who prey on children. It was inspired by the Zezzos family of Bucks County.
Their 13-year-old daughter, Madison, was cyber-stalked in 2013 by a friend’s father.
“Over the period of time he was stalking Madison he posted over 15,000 times about Madison online including horrendous doctored images of Madison,” Toomey said.
The suspect pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation and counseling.
Three years later, he resumed his stalking of Madison and was sentenced to up to seven years in prison. Source & Video
April 1, 2019
Senate moving on bill to increase criminal penalties for cyberstalking children
Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey supported bill.
BUCKS COUNTY, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — A young woman from Bucks County and her family don’t want anyone else to go through what she did – because of a convicted cyberstalker. Now, the U.S. Senate is poised to act on a bill already passed in the House that provides for increased prison time for stalking minors.
Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick authored the legislation in the House, after he heard the plight of Madison Zezzo, who was stalked as a 13-year-old by a friend’s father on social media.
“It allows judges who are sentencing criminal defendants in these cyberstalking cases to enhance that sentence by five years where that victim was a minor,” Fitzpatrick said.
Despite harassing Zezzo online by texting her sexually explicit messages, the then 51-year-old stalker pleaded guilty only to a misdemeanor stalking charge, and got probation and counseling. Three years later, in 2016, the same stalker resumed his pursuit of Zezzo. This time, he was caught in a sting and sentenced to 18 months to seven years in prison.
U.S. Republican Senator Pat Toomey says when he was stalking her, he posted over 15,000 times about her.
“Including horrendous, doctored images of Madison. The fact is, social media creates a new opportunity for monsters to engage in this kind of activity,” Toomey said.
Standing next to Toomey, Democrat Bob Casey agreed that they expect the Senate to pass the bill with bipartisan support.
Zezzo is now a 20-year-old sophomore in college.
“You question yourself. Was it something that I did? Was it something that I posted? Should I have done something differently? The answer is no,” Zezzo said.
She hopes it draws more attention to inadequacies of state and federal stalking laws and the protection of victims, especially children.
“I feel it’s crucial that victims’ rights be reevaluated. Often times, I felt that my stalker had more rights than I did at the criminal proceedings,” Zezzo said.
While the process has not been easy, Zezzo refuses to let it define her.
“I can say with confidence that choosing to stand up to my stalker, choosing to stand up for myself and my rights, and for the rights of others, has been the best decision that I ever made,” she said.
Her mother, Erin Zezzo, says people don’t think about stalking in context.
“You hear about the escalated crimes of violence – the rape, the sexual assault and the homicides. But the vehicle the criminal uses to get there, is often not spoke of, that’s stalking,” she said. Source
March 13, 2019
GOP SENATORS WANT EMERGENCY POWERS CAPPED TO STOP PRESIDENT ‘ACTING LIKE A KING’
More than a dozen Republican senators introduced new legislation seeking to put a cap on presidential emergency powers, days before they were expected to vote on a measure against President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration on immigration.
In a statement introducing the legislation, Senator Mike Lee of Utah said he spearheaded the bill in a bid to stop a president from “acting like a king [by] taking back the legislative powers that allow him to do so.” The new bill, he said, “will go a long way to restoring the balance of powers in our republic.”
If passed, the new legislation, called the Assuring That Robust, Thorough and Informed Congressional Leadership Is Exercised Over National Emergencies (Article One) Act, would require the approval of Congress for any national emergency declaration to continue beyond 30 days. Without congressional approval, the declaration would be terminated.
In a backgrounder on the new bill, Lee’s office said that “most people would agree that Congress should grant the president some degree of emergency power.
“In obvious cases, the president should have the statutory authority to respond to an immediate crisis, such as an act of war or natural disaster,” it said. “The problem is that emergency powers are vulnerable to abuse; they can act as a cheat-code that undermines our system of separation of powers and enables the president to bypass the difficult work of enacting legislation.”
Many have accused Trump of doing just that with his national emergency declaration, which he announced on February 15 in an apparent bid to bypass Congress and obtain billions of dollars in funding for the construction of his long-promised border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
But while Trump’s recent emergency declaration “focused attention” on the presidential powers afforded under the National Emergencies Act of 1976, Lee’s office said, “in reality, the abuse of emergency powers is a bipartisan, decades-long problem.”
While Lee’s measure would not affect Trump’s current national emergency declaration, it would apply to future declarations.
“If Congress is troubled by recent emergency declarations made pursuant to the National Emergencies Act, they only have themselves to blame,” Lee said in his personal statement. “Congress gave these legislative powers away in 1976, and it is far past time that we as an institution took them back.”
In addition to Lee, 14 other GOP senators have thrown their support behind the bill, including Chuck Grassley of Iowa; Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Mitt Romney of Utah; Ted Cruz of Texas; Joni Ernst of Iowa; Roy Blunt of Missouri; Jerry Moran of Kansas; Lamar Alexander of Tennessee; Roger Wicker of Mississippi; Ben Sasse of Nebraska; Ron Johnson of Wisconsin; Rob Portman of Ohio; Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania; and Todd Young of Indiana.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested on Tuesday that he was open to the idea of making changes to presidential national emergency powers.
“We’re looking at some ways to revisit the law. There’s a lot of discomfort with the law,” McConnell told reporters. “Was it too broad back in the ’70s when it was passed? So yeah, we’re discussing altering that.”
Asked directly if he would back Lee’s bill, McConnell said that he “may well” support it.
McConnell and Lee did not immediately respond to Newsweek’s request for comment. Source
March 7, 2019
Medical device tax repeal bill reintroduced in U.S. Senate
U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) reintroduced a bill to permanently repeal the 2.3% federal excise tax on medical device sales, with a new co-sponsor. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) has signed on to co-sponsor, replacing Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who did not run for re-election last fall.
The medical device tax went into effect in 2013 and has been suspended twice. One two-year pause ended in January 2018 and the second moratorium is due to expire at the end of 2019. The tax on the sale of most medical technologies was enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act and applies to medtech companies’ revenues, not profits. In 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to repeal the tax 283-132, but the Senate failed to act.
In February, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) inked a letter to colleagues in the House of Representatives seeking support for a new bill to repeal the tax. The House version of the Protect Medical Innovation act of 2019 already has backing from Jacki Walorski (R-Ind.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), Darin LaHood (R-Ill.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) and Jason Smith (R-Mo.).
Kind would be stepping in as lead sponsor for former Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.), a longtime champion of the legislation who lost his re-election bid to Democratic newcomer Dean Philips.
In his letter to colleagues, Kind called the 2.3% excise tax “extremely punitive to medical technology investors,” and said that since its inception there has been “growing bipartisan support” to end it.
The Senate bill has attracted nine senators each from both the Democratic and Republican parties. They include Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Dick Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kirsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Todd Young (R-Ind.).
Medtech trade group AdvaMed continues to drum up support for a permanent repeal of the tax, saying that short-term suspensions limit the ability of companies to make longer-term investments in new technologies and treatments.
“Unless Congress acts quickly, America’s medical technology companies face a $20 billion tax hike at the end of 2019 when the device excise tax returns,” said AdvaMed president and CEO Scott Whitaker in a prepared statement. “If not stopped, this tax will put future patient innovations and good-paying U.S. jobs at risk.”
AdvaMed, the Medical Device Manufacturers Association (MDMA) and Minnesota-based trade group Medical Alley each thanked the Senate bill’s lead sponsors for taking it up again.
“We are grateful to Senator Klobuchar for her bill to once and for all repeal the medical device tax,” said Medical Alley president & CEO Shaye Mandle. “Medical device companies have been subject to great uncertainty because of this tax, limiting their ability to invest in the life-saving research they’re capable of producing.”
“When the medical device tax was in place, billions of dollars were sent to the I.R.S. instead of being invested in the next generation of cures and therapies for patients. We simply cannot allow this to happen again, and today’s introduction of the ‘Protect Medical Innovation Act’ shows that a broad, bipartisan coalition in the Senate agrees,” added MDMA president & CEO Mark Leahey. “MDMA thanks Senators Toomey and Klobuchar and all the original cosponsors for their ongoing leadership on this crucial issue for medical innovation and patient care, and we remain committed to working with them and all of the stakeholders who recognize how destructive the medical device tax is.” Source
February 15, 2019
Lawmakers work to scale back the president’s trade authority as auto tariffs loom
As the Trump administration considers slapping tariffs on auto imports, Republican and Democratic lawmakers are trying to gain more control of trade policy.
Last year, President Trump instructed the Commerce Department to investigate whether imported vehicles and auto parts pose a threat to national security. The department is due to report its findings by February 17.
Now, bipartisan groups of lawmakers are trying to weaken the president’s ability to use national security as a reason to enact tariffs.
BICAMERAL CONGRESSIONAL TRADE AUTHORITY ACT
Republican Senator Pat Toomey and Democratic Senator Mark Warner have introduced a bill called the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act. A bipartisan companion bill has been introduced in the House.
The bill puts the Department of Defense in charge of 232 investigations to see if a national security threat exists, instead of the Commerce Department. It would also require approval from Congress before the President can take trade action under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.
“President Trump has strained our relationships with key allies and partners by abusing the authority that Congress granted him and stretching the concept of ‘national security’ beyond credulity,” said Senator Warner in a statement.
The bill is retroactive, meaning Congress would have to approve any Section 232 actions over the last four years — including President Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum.
“Tariffs on steel and aluminum imported into the United States are taxes paid by American consumers. The imposition of these taxes, under the false pretense of national security (Section 232), is weakening our economy, threatening American jobs, and eroding our credibility with other nations. I’ve seen, first-hand, the damage these taxes are causing across Pennsylvania,” said Senator Toomey in a statement.
THE TRADE SECURITY ACT
Republican Senator Rob Portman, who served as the United States Trade Representative from 2005-2006, has introduced a bill that takes a more moderate approach.
Portman’s bill, the Trade Security Act, would also require the Department of Defense to determine national security threats under Section 232. It would give Congress the ability to disapprove tariffs, rather than requiring Congressional approval. Unlike Toomey’s bill, Portman’s legislation is not retroactive.
Speaking to reporters, Portman said his approach will give the president the ability to act quickly if there is a true national emergency, while still increasing Congressional oversight.
“This is not about automobiles or about the Trump administration, this is broader reform I think is consistent with the original intent [of Section 232],” said Portman.
Portman told reporters he’s concerned the United States could lose its ability to use Section 232 if it misuses the statute. Plus, he says misuse leads to retaliatory tariffs that hurt American farmers, manufacturers and consumers.
“My broader view of trade is that if it’s not based on fairness, it comes back to haunt us,” said Portman.
AUTO TARIFFS COULD BE ON THE WAY
If the Commerce Department finds automotive imports present a threat, the President will have ninety days to decide what to do next. President Trump has already floated the idea of a 25% tariff on auto imports.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, spoke against auto tariffs on the senate floor this week.
“I hope the President will heed my call to forego the auto tariffs and focus on opening new markets. The U.S. auto industry is a major driver of our economy, supporting nearly 10 million American jobs and accounting for 3 percent of our GDP. Without question, any tariffs that are imposed will have a negative effect on the U.S. auto industry and our economy,” said Grassley.
Portman has also expressed concern about auto tariffs.
“I don’t know what they’re [the Commerce Department] going to report, but I do know that this [the Trade Security Act] is timely,” said Portman.
The senator told reporters if the Trade Security Act is signed before the President enacts tariffs, there would have to be a new report involving the Department of Defense.
Portman insists the bill is not a direct response to the Trump administration or potential auto tariffs, but says he wants to move quickly to give Congress the ability to push back.
“We are strengthening Congress’ hand and the role of Congress — which again I think is appropriate,” said Portman. “It’s kind of hard to argue that minivans from Canada pose a national security threat.”
A bipartisan group of lawmakers including Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Doug Jones, Senator Joni Ernst and others have signed on to Portman’s bill. A bipartisan companion bill has been introduced in the House. Source
February 8, 2019
Smucker, Toomey in Lancaster to promote bills to “end future government shutdowns”
Lancaster County Congressman Lloyd Smucker joined U.S. Senator Pat Toomey in Lancaster this afternoon to promote legislation to “end future government shutdowns.”
Also on hand today at the Lancaster County Government Center were Lancaster County Commissioners Joshua Parsons and Dennis Stuckey.
The pair appeared with Smucker and Toomey in support of the federal lawmakers’ sponsorship of the “End Government Shutdowns Act,” which would provide continued funding for federal agencies if Congress fails to adopt an appropriations bill or a continuing resolution on time.
The plan Toomey co-sponsored would keep agencies funded at their current level for 120 days. After those first four months, funding would decrease by 1 percent and then another 1 percent after every other 90-day period that passes without an approved budget.
Smucker’s version would continue funding levels, for the first 60 days, that are 5 percent less than what they had been before. After that, funding would be reduced by another 2 percent in each 60-day period without an enacted budget. Source
February 4, 2019
State of the Union guests reflect issues of interest
Two local members of Congress have invited victims of gun violence
Members of Congress usually get just one seat for a special guest to attend the president’s State of the Union address. Guests often are related to issues under discussion or they are symbolic of an agenda item individual members wish to promote.
Michelle Roberson of West Chester will be the guest of U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, a Chester County Democrat. She is the mother of Bianca Roberson, who was fatally shot in a 2017 road rage incident in Chester County. Bianca had just graduated from high school and was set to attend college on a full scholarship when she was killed.
U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, a Montgomery County Democrat, will be joined by Jami Amo, a Willow Grove resident, gun safety activist and survivor of the 1999 Columbine school shooting.
Since being sworn in a month ago, the Democratic House majority has introduced a range of firearms legislation, including a universal background check bill.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., a Scranton Democrat, has invited Monica Hughes of Pittsburgh, an Army reservist and a Transportation Security Administration officer who missed pay but kept working during the recent government shutdown.
During the shutdown, her family had to draw from savings, apply for food stamps and accept donations from friends and family to stay afloat, Casey’s office said in a statement.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, a Lehigh County Republican, has asked a personal friend, John Malloy, to attend. Malloy is chairman, president and chief executive officer of Victaulic, a growing Easton-based manufacturer of mechanical joints for piping systems. He has served in key roles at several other manufacturing businesses and also has earned the Distinguished Citizen’s Award from the Boy Scouts of America.
U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser a Luzerne County Republican, has invited his wife, Shelley Meuser, as his guest. Source
January 30, 2019
Lawmakers Attempt to Rein in President’s Tariff Power
U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday introduced legislation to limit the president’s power to levy import tariffs for national security reasons. The bills face an uncertain future but underscore bipartisan concerns on Capitol Hill over the rising costs of the Trump administration’s trade policies.
The United States in 2018 slapped duties on aluminum and steel from other countries, drawing criticism from lawmakers who support free trade and complaints of rising supply chain costs across business sectors.
Two bipartisan groups of lawmakers Wednesday introduced legislation known as the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The bills would require Trump to have congressional approval before taking trade actions like tariffs and quotas under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. The law currently allows the president to impose such tariffs without approval from Capitol Hill.
“The imposition of these taxes, under the false pretense of national security (Section 232), is weakening our economy, threatening American jobs, and eroding our credibility with other nations,” said Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, co-sponsor of the Senate bill.
Toomey led a similar push last year that did not go to a vote.
It is unclear that Congress would consider taking up such legislation now. Still, the bills underscore mounting pressure from lawmakers to address concerns over tariffs, especially those on Canada and Mexico as lawmakers prepare to vote on a new North American trade deal agreed to late last year.
Republican Chuck Grassley from Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, earlier pressed the Trump administration to lift tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico before Congress begins considering legislation to implement the new pact.
Numerous business and agricultural groups have come out in support of the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement, but have said its benefits will be limited so long as the U.S. tariffs and retaliatory tariffs from Canada and Mexico remain in place.
Companies are able to request exemptions from the steel and aluminum tariffs, but the process has been plagued by delays and uncertainty.
“Virginia consumers and industries like craft beer and agriculture are hurting because of the president’s steel and aluminum tariffs,” said Democratic Senator Mark Warner, co-sponsor of the Senate legislation. “This bill would roll them back.”
Republicans Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin and Darin LaHood of Illinois and Democrats Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Jimmy Panetta of California introduced the House legislation. Source
January 23, 2019
Sen. Pat Toomey On The Shutdown, Gun Control Legislation, Steel Tariffs
As the partial government shutdown continues, Congress remains at an impasse. The House of Representatives has passed bipartisan bills that would reopen the government, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has yet to bring any of those bills to the floor. The Senate may vote on spending bills later this week, but at this point there’s no end to the shutdown in sight. To talk more about what’s happening in Washington, 90.5 WESA’s Lucy Perkins spoke with Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey.
On the partial government shutdown:
It’s very frustrating. But while there’s plenty of blame to go around, I really think that the fundamental problem here has been the unwillingness of Speaker [of the House Nancy] Pelosi to engage in negotiations at all. It’s always been clear to me that the President was open to negotiating the dollar amount. His initial position was $5.7 billion for physical border security.* Her position was zero and she won’t negotiate – and that’s not reasonable.
*Editor’s note: In Trump’s most recent proposal Sunday, he was still requesting $5.7 billion in funding for the wall.
On the Senate not voting on House bills to reopen the government:
You know, Senator McConnell can make his decisions, he’s the leader. We’ve got a bill that’s going to be on the floor later this week, if the Democrats allow us to take it up – I hope they will. I think it should be open to amendment, and those amendments could change it dramatically. I would like to include my provision, for instance, that would preclude future shutdowns. The President may or may not agree with those things, but the Senate should work its will.
On passing gun control legislation:
I’m a big believer in the Second Amendment. I’m a gun owner. I think the Second Amendment is a very, very important individual right. My view has always been that that is not in conflict with my equally strongly held view that it is reasonable for us to do background checks on purchases, certainly commercial gun sales, because some people in our society don’t have the right to the Second Amendment. Specifically, violent criminals who have demonstrated they don’t deserve to have that right, people who are dangerously mentally ill — it is completely reasonable for us to prevent those people from having firearms. We need to have a mechanism for determining whether a person is in one of those two categories. The background check is the mechanism we’ve used, but there are loopholes, there are gaping holes in it … [I]f there’s commercial sales involved, there ought to be a background check. That’s the legislation that I introduced with Sen. [Joe] Manchin [of West Virginia].
What are the prospects in 2019? The prospects have changed, perhaps, because the House has switched control. I’m not happy about the fact that the House has changed control. I’m a Republican, I prefer Republican control. But the silver lining in that cloud, from my point of view, is that now we have a House that can pass broader background-check legislation. I think they will do that. I think they will send it to the Senate, and if we can get a few more Republicans to take my view, which is that expanding background checks does not infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens, then maybe we’ve got a shot at doing something here.
On the impact of the Trump administration’s steel tariffs:
I have a big stack on my desk of letters from Pennsylvania employers who have been very adversely affected by the tariffs. The President’s tariffs help you if you’re in the business of making steel, but if you’re one of the far more people who are employed in a company that uses steel … that’s a much much bigger industry in Pennsylvania and throughout America, and those folks are already being hurt. There is some danger that many of them will lose their jobs, so the adverse effect is absolutely happening.
The President’s purpose in this was to pressure other countries – specifically Canada and Mexico – to negotiate a new trade agreement. Well, for better or for worse the Canadians and the Mexicans have done that, they’ve agreed to a new trade agreement and the administration was supposed to lift these tariffs when an agreement was reached. It has been reached and they still haven’t lifted the tariffs. So it’s frustrating to me, and it’s harmful. It’s simply a factual matter that a tariff is a tax on American consumers. The President likes to brag about how many billions of dollars are coming into the treasury. Well, they’re all coming out of American wallets.
On Saudi Arabia and the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi:
I think [the Trump] administration didn’t handle that situation well. Unfortunately, it’s true, there are many regimes around the world that commit atrocities including murdering some of their own people including murdering their dissidents. That doesn’t make it OK, and it certainly doesn’t make it OK for our allies. We do expect more from our allies, and certainly Saudi Arabia has been an ally.
I think there are a variety of ways we can send the message to the Saudi government that that is completely unacceptable – a temporary suspension of weapons sales, for instance, would be just one of many ways that we could convey that message. It’s difficult, because there is a reason that we are allied with Saudi Arabia and it’s because our two countries share common security interests. Saudi Arabia is the most significant counterweight to Iran in the Middle East and Iran is extremely hostile to the United States and our interests. But it’s problematic when their government goes off the rails as they did in the case of the assassination of Khashoggi.
We need to strike the right balance. It is not the case that we should suddenly no longer consider … Saudi Arabia to be an ally, but it is the case that we need to send a very strong message to their leadership that that behavior was completely unacceptable. Source
The Indiana Gazette
January 12, 2019
‘Frustrating’ shutdown requires compromise, Sen. Toomey says
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh County, told The Indiana Gazette editorial board Friday that the ongoing partial shutdown of federal government operations is “maddenly frustrating.”
The state’s junior senator also said he is open to a compromise to resolve border security issues that contributed to that shutdown, including some immigration reforms.
For instance, Toomey said, “I would be open to something on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) as part of this mix.”
DACA refers to approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to this country prior to 2007 and before their 16th birthday, but who otherwise haven’t broken the law and have either graduated with a high school equivalent or served in the military.
There were reports Friday in various media that Senate Republicans included DACA in negotiations over a border wall, and that the Trump administration wants the U.S. Supreme Court to dismantle the DACA program.
However, Toomey “really believes” neither House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., nor Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., want a compromise, and that President Trump opened the door for their stance.
“The president made a big tactical mistake when he said the shutdown would be on him,” Toomey said.
The Pennsylvania Republican said Trump eventually may sign a “clean” bill to end the shutdown and not include funding for barriers along the Mexican border, but then declare a national emergency to fund them.
“It would be a big mistake,” Toomey said, because it could create a precedent for a future president.
He suggested Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., as an example, saying she could decide on gun controls “because the murder rate is too high,” or to ban off-shore drilling to deal with climate change.
“I think we are in a very unfortunate spot,” Toomey said.
Toomey said most senators have voted in the past for tens of millions of dollars for construction of a wall along the border, and said construction of several hundred miles of barriers “is a very reasonable request,”
The senator added, “No one is proposing a 2,000-mile continuous wall,” and that $5 billion proposed by the president for the southern border only would result “in a couple hundred miles at best.”
The three-week-old shutdown only covers a sliver of all government operations, “but it’s an important sliver,” Toomey told Gazette reporters and editors.
“Sixty percent of the government is on autopilot,” the Lehigh County senator said.
As for those who haven’t received paychecks in three weeks, Toomey said, “everyone is going to be paid, but you have to wait for it.”
He said to discourage future shutdowns, he would like to have a mechanism kick in that would allow for automatic continuation of government programs at the end of a fiscal year, perhaps with a decrease in funding of 1 percent or 2 percent. Source
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