HH: Now back to politics, and to help us understand what’s going on, we’re joined by United States Senator, Pat Toomey from the great state of Pennsylvania. Senator Toomey, always a pleasure, welcome back.
PT: Hey, Hugh, thanks for having me.
HH: Hey, great day for Philadelphia. Archbishop Charles Chaput is a great, great man and a wonderful leader. Have you absorbed that news yet?
PT: You know, I haven’t. I’m aware of it, but I have never had a chance to meet the Archbishop, and I’m looking forward to meeting him. So I’m sure he’ll have a distinguished and terrific future.
HH: It’s going to be wonderful for the city, but I’m not too sure there’s going to be much of a federal government to preside over if the Senate doesn’t get its act together pretty soon, Senator. What about these reports that there is “momentum” for the Gang of 6? I think it’s a fiasco. I think it’s a disaster. What do you hear, and what do you think?
PT: You know, I think there’s just a lot of flutter and a lot of motion, but not a lot of progress. I’m not sure how much support there is for it. I give these guys all the credit in the world for really struggling to try to accomplish something meaningful. But at the end of the day, I don’t think this is something I could support. I’m concerned that it’ll amount to a significant tax increase. It’s hard to quantify that, because some of the specifics aren’t there. I’m also concerned that the spending cuts which are advertised are very likely not to ever emerge, because after all, they are simply instructions to committees, committees controlled by Democrats who don’t want to cut spending. And so why we should suppose that they won’t, they refuse to even produce a budget, much less actually cut spending, but that when given instruction by this bill that they suddenly will change their ways? I’m very skeptical.
HH: So Senator, but that’s number two objection for me. Number one, and it really just astonishes me, is that these Senators and their colleagues today, your colleagues, came out yesterday and said trust us, it’s not written down, but you have to trust us. After Obamacare, why in the world would the United States voter believe that the Congress of the United States has any idea what it’s talking about unless it’s written down and we actually get to see it first?
PT: Well, in fairness to these guys, Hugh, I think that they are simply unveiling the idea. They recognize that they need to have legislative language, and they never meant for this to be part of the debt ceiling discussion, although clearly it has merged with that. So I don’t think I can support what they’re doing. In fact, I’m pretty sure I cannot. But I do want to give them credit for making a good faith effort.
HH: Well you know, I’m going to have Tom Coburn on tomorrow, because he’s a frequent guest, and we love Tom.
PT: Yeah, he’s a great guy.
HH: But when you say you’ve got to give him credit, that’s like someone speeding through a four-way stop sign, hitting someone, and saying well, I just meant to speed through the stop sign. Of course it’s going to get into the debt ceiling. The President glommed onto it, he distorted the whole deal, and the New York Times has a press headline today saying momentum on the Hill. Politico, Debt Deal Momentum Builds As House Resists. It just gave a complete and utter false picture of what the problem is, which is the President won’t lead.
PT: Well, that’s right. The other problem is that the timing couldn’t have been worse. You know, just yesterday, the House passed the one plan that actually solves our problem. The House raised the debt ceiling, but made it contingent upon real cuts in spending now, statutory caps, and a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. And what that all amounts to is putting the federal government on a path to a balanced budget. That’s the solution. And the House has passed it. And the President is so passionately opposed to balancing the budget that he’s threatened to veto the debt limit increase that he said he desperately needs. I think we should be challenging the President. Why in the world are you so passionately opposed to the federal government balancing its books? That should be the message of Republicans right now.
HH: I want to read to you from my friend, Mark Steyn’s note over at The Corner. He says that the Gang of 6’s plan is, even by the standards of “bipartisan deal making, a total joke. Even if you take seriously their figure of $3.7 trillion in savings over ten years, that represents a claw back across a decade of about two years of current deficits. If you take Jeff Sessions’ figure of $1.2 trillion in savings over ten years as being closer to the mark, that takes a decade to reverse about three quarters of the 2011 deficit.” So it’s not bold, it’s not clear, it wasn’t well-timed. I think we need Republicans to stand up and say DOA.
PT: Well, some of us are focusing exclusively on what the House has passed, and trying to generate as much momentum as we can. As I said, none of these plans, whether it’s the Reid-McConnell approach, or whether it’s the Gang-group of six, whatever they are, none of them fundamentally change the direction we’re on. And that’s what we need. We can’t go through this, and continue with business as usual, or punt to some committee or commission…how many times have we done that? So the House has shown there’s a way to get out of this. If the President will agree to put us on a path to a balance, we can solve our country’s problems. We need to put the heat on the President.
HH: Now I do want to also put the heat, though, you’re a Republican in the Caucus. Senator Alexander, good friend of this program, I supported him in ’96 for president. But when he put his name to this yesterday, I thought to myself he can’t be the Whip next year when Jon Kyl retires, if he is so out of touch with the base. Does it affect your assessment of who ought to be in leadership, this Gang of six thing?
PT: Honestly, Hugh, I am not focused on that at all right now. I think a lot’s going to happen between now and the leadership election, including an election that’s going to intervene. So I haven’t given that any thought. We’ve got plenty of time to figure that out.
HH: Okay, well I think cues matter a lot. Now talk to us a little bit about the McConnell plan. I know the Senator floated that, I had him on. I like the McConnell plan, but I understand from just reaction, it isn’t going anywhere. Am I wrong about that?
PT: You know, I think Mitch McConnell, again, I think he deserves a lot of credit. He’s trying to make the best out of a very bad situation. But at the end of the day, what that process leads to is it empowers the President to raise the debt limit basically on his own, without any offsetting cuts, without any change in process, without any reforms. And I just, I can’t support that.
HH: All right, so are we going over the falls in a barrel on August 2nd, Pat Toomey?
PT: Well, first of all, I don’t think we go over the falls in a barrel if we don’t raise the debt limit. You know, I have argued repeatedly, if you look at the revenue that’s going to come in, a minimum of $173 billion dollars in tax revenue that will come in during the month of August, the total debt service obligation is $29 billion, a small fraction of that. There’s no reason in the world why we would default on our debt. And by the way, that’s enough money to also pay all Social Security benefits, Medicare, Medicaid, active duty military, and military vendors. So that leaves a lot out, and I acknowledge it’s very disruptive. We wouldn’t have any money for the Department of Education, or Commerce or Energy or Agriculture, and lots of other things that the government does, and that’s very disruptive. But it’s not a catastrophic default, and we ought to be, you know, I think we ought to keep that in mind, and we ought to insist on some real cuts in spending, and moving in the direction of a balanced budget. I don’t know at this point what can pass both the House and the Senate, and you know, there is some, I think there is some gravitational pull towards a short-term deal. But I just don’t understand why a short-term deal, when that expires several months from now, we’re going to be any more likely to solve this problem than we are today.
HH: Now Senator Toomey, after the break, I’m going to talk with the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, and he has been blasting Republicans as one would expect. My question to him, and I’m getting a crib note from you in this regard, is what exactly has the President really, truly, specifically offered to cut?
PT: Absolutely. I made this argument, and not only that, but let’s be honest. Every single issue that has had to do with fiscal policy, this President has been on the side of massive increases in spending. From the stimulus bill to the bailouts, to a budget resolution that was rejected by his supporters and got zero votes in the Senate, a CR battle where the dynamic we all know was John Boehner trying to cut spending, and President Obama resisting all cuts. I mean, there has been nothing about this administration that suggests any willingness to cut anything.
HH: When they tell the press that there are billions on the table, what specifically have you heard from the leadership who have been in the room, or papers that have circulated, what’s he actually talking about his cuts?
PT: When you get right down to them, it’s tiny, tiny amounts. There is nothing that adds up to a big number, and we should be challenging the President on that. But the second thing I would encourage you to challenge any defender of the President is the Republicans in the House have offered you the debt limit increase you say we desperately need. It’s sitting there. All you need to do is embrace moving to a balanced budget over time. Is it really that offensive to balance the budget, that you’re willing to veto this and plunge the country into the chaos that you have predicted?
HH: So last question, Pat Toomey, what’s going to happen in the next two weeks as you consult your crystal ball?
PT: You know, I don’t know, Hugh. As I said, there does seem to be a little bit of movement in the direction of something short-term. I don’t think that’s a good idea, but I wouldn’t be shocked if that happens.
HH: What does that mean, though? Does that mean like a year and a half?
PT: I think less than that, six months, eight months, nine months’ worth of debt limit increase, and maybe some modest spending cuts that go with it. So just postponing making the tough decisions? I don’t know why we don’t make them now.
HH: I don’t, either. Thank you, Pat Toomey, Senator from Pennsylvania.
End of interview.