Pat Toomey has been in the U.S. Senate for just five months, but already he has emerged as one of the more visible Republican lawmakers in the budget debate.
On Tuesday, Toomey unveiled his own plan, which would balance the federal budget in nine years without raising taxes.
And he would do it without any major changes to Medicare and Social Security — two of the nation’s largest entitlement programs.
Meanwhile, Medicaid (health care for the poor), would be converted into a block-grant program to be administered by the states.
Toomey’s ambitious plan would reach balance by 2020 by lowering federal spending to 18.5 percent of gross domestic product, reforming the tax code, lowering marginal tax rates and closing tax loopholes.
The plan also would slow the growth of defense spending by using Pentagon savings identified by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and it assumes a complete withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan by 2018.
At the same time, Toomey’s budget would repeal ObamaCare taxes and spending, and it would implement medical malpractice reforms.
At a press conference to announce the plan, Toomey, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, warned of the economic peril of government continuing to spend at current levels.
“We’re on a trajectory to soon meet a debt of 100 percent of GDP, a level that is enormously problematic,” he said. “We’re either going to stay on this path … or we’re going to depart from this path and adopt fiscal discipline that our constituents expect from us … . The time to choose is now, and time is running out.”
Toomey’s approach differs from that of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). For one, the Toomey plan would balance the budget more than twice as fast as Ryan’s.
Beyond that, Toomey would not substantially change Medicare, while Ryan’s plan includes a voucher program for Medicare that would allow seniors to choose from private insurance plans.
Toomey, however, did not rule out addressing Medicare or other entitlement programs at some point.
Toomey’s support of entitlement reform is well known &tstr; he wrote an entire chapter on the subject in his book, “Road to Prosperity.” So, he caught some conservatives by surprise by not addressing it in his plan.
Toomey acknowledges this, but adds, “It is my view that a permanent solution to the fiscal challenges that we face will require broader reforms than what we have in (my) budget. But this budget represents what we think of as a necessary first step. It reaches a balance.”
Toomey views his plan as complementing Ryan’s, not competing with it. Indeed, Toomey said he would vote for Ryan’s budget if given the chance.
Given that Democrats control the upper chamber, chances of approval of either Ryan or Toomey’s budget are slim and none.
Toomey’s budget plan is just the latest effort by the freshman senator to return fiscal sanity to Washington.
Previously, he introduced a balanced budget amendment, which attracted the support of every GOP senator.
Toomey also has made it clear that repaying the debt the U.S. owes to creditors should be a priority when the debt limit is reached next month.
In a short time, Toomey is making his mark on the Senate — much to the chagrin, no doubt, of Arlen Specter.
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