US Senate Rejects Background Checks Amendment

54-senators voted in favor of the bipartisan background check amendment; 46 opposed it.  That’s short of the 60-vote threshold required to advance the measure, which was the work of Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin.

You can read the entire statements released by Sen. Toomey and the NRA’s Chris W. Cox below: 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) issued the following statement after the Senate voted down the Manchin-Toomey amendment that would have made it harder for criminals and the dangerously mentally ill to obtain guns while preserving the rights of law-abiding people to do so.

“I did what I thought was the right thing for our country. I sought out a compromise position that I thought could move the ball forward on an important matter of public safety. My only regret is that our amendment did not pass. It’s not the outcome I hoped for, but the Senate has spoken on the subject, and it’s time to move on. We have a lot of other very important issues to deal with such as getting the economy back on track, dealing with the debt ceiling and creating more jobs for Pennsylvanians.” 

Today, the misguided Manchin-Toomey-Schumer proposal failed in the U.S. Senate. This amendment would have criminalized certain private transfers of firearms between honest citizens, requiring lifelong friends, neighbors and some family members to get federal government permission to exercise a fundamental right or face prosecution. As we have noted previously, expanding background checks, at gun shows or elsewhere, will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools.

The NRA will continue to work with Republicans and Democrats who are committed to protecting our children in schools, prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law, and fixing our broken mental health system. We are grateful for the hard work and leadership of those Senators who chose to pursue meaningful solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems.

Sen. Toomey Brokers Deal to Close Gun Show Loophole

Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey is at the forefront of a bipartisan deal to expand background checks on gun sales.  The amendment Toomey crafted with West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin would extend the instant background checks to gun shows and online gun sales.  Exemptions would remain for many individuals’ gun sales.    

While he’s already catching flak from some fellow Republicans and the NRA, Toomey says he is not swaying from his conservative views.  “I don’t think trying to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals is gun control,” Toomey told reporters on a late morning conference call.  “I think it’s common sense.” 

Pat Toomey (R-PA)

Pat Toomey (R-PA)

When the gun bill before the US Senate is formally considered, the Toomey/Manchin background check plan will be the first amendment taken up by the chamber.  However, it’s still unclear what will ultimately happen with the underlying bill or the amendment.    

Toomey says his expanded background checks plan protects 2nd Amendment Rights and explicitly bars the federal government from creating a gun registry.  He also maintains his opposition to an assault weapons ban. 

Just as details of the Toomey / Manchin plan were being unveiled in Washington DC, Wednesday, Democrats in Harrisburg unveiled their own plan for universal background checks in the Keystone State.

PA Budget Debate

Closing in on the Fiscal Cliff

The federal government is less than a month away from driving straight off the “fiscal cliff,” but U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) believes there’s still time to avoid it.  “The great dangers of the fiscal cliff are the massive tax increases that are scheduled to go into effect on January 1st,” Toomey told reporters on a recent conference call.  “If that were to happen, it would very likely throw the economy into a recession and cost us hundreds of thousands – if not over a million – jobs.”

Toomey is in the thick of Senate discussions, and has been meeting privately with Democratic Senators in an effort to broaden support for a plan he first put forward in last year’s Super Committee.  It would call for lower income tax rates for all – with limitations on deductions, loopholes and write-offs that will raise hundreds of billions of dollars in net revenue over time. 

Inaction will lead to rate hikes on income taxes, estate taxes, dividends and capital gains.  The White House says a median-income Pennsylvania family of four (earning $80,400) could see its income taxes rise by $2,200.  A 2-percentage point payroll tax cut would also expire.      

But that’s just the tax hike side of the equation.  The fiscal cliff also includes $1.2-trillion dollars in federal spending cuts over the next ten years. 

Professor David Passmore with Penn State’s Institute for Research in Training and Development crunched the numbers to see how sequestration alone would affect the Keystone State.  “Pennsylvania’s share would be in the order of 35 – 40,000 jobs; the loss of about $6-billion in total economic output; about $3.5-billion in industry sales; and about $2.1-billion in after tax personal income,” he explains to Radio PA.  The report was first published in Pennsylvania Business Central.   

Like Toomey, Passmore believes the “fiscal cliff” is the recipe for another tough recession.

Sen. Toomey Worries about Nation’s Fiscal Future

Speaking to the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters on Monday, US Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) told the crowd that America is headed down a dangerous financial path.  “If we don’t get off this path, we will have a financial crisis that probably could make 2007/2008 look tame by comparison,” he explained after the speech. 

He’s referring to the pitfalls of a national debt of $15-trillion dollars, and growing.  Calling it a disgrace that Democratic leaders in the US Senate don’t even plan to produce a budget, Toomey has introduced his own spending plan for the second straight year.  It would balance the budget within eight years, and raises no taxes. 

Pat Toomey (R-PA)

Pat Toomey addresses the media in Hershey on Monday.

He’s cautiously optimistic, but says a balanced budget will require presidential leadership.  “I think the voters are going to reward the candidate who’s willing to solve this problem,” Toomey says in reference the likely General Election matchup of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. 

While Toomey has not endorsed a Senate candidate in Pennsylvania’s primary, he’ll be monitoring Tuesday night’s returns closely.  “Among the Republican candidates that I know in this field, which is three or four of the candidates, I think all would be allies of mine in trying to restore fiscal sanity and insisting that the government have a responsible budget.” 

Steve Welch, Sam Rohrer, Marc Scaringi, David Christian and Tom Smith are all vying for the Republican Senate nomination, and the chance to challenge Democratic incumbent Bob Casey in November.


Buffett Rule Appears to be Big Election Year Tax Battle

President Barack Obama is pushing it; his likely Republican challenger rejects it; and the US Senate can neither advance nor kill it.  At issue is the so-called Buffett Rule, which would ensure that Americans whose incomes exceed $1-million dollars pay a minimum tax rate of 30%. 

“This is a gimmick, it’s a political gimmick,” US Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) said on the Senate floor this week.  Toomey believes the ongoing debate is an effort to engage in class warfare and distract from the Obama administration’s economic mismanagement. 

But Keystone Research Center labor economist Mark Price says you can’t pay down the nation’s massive budget deficit without raising additional revenue.  “Very wealthy households are able to take advantage of tax loopholes to pay less of their income in taxes than many middle class Pennsylvania families,” he says. 

In their Buffett Rule analysis, Price and the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center examined seven of the richest zip codes in the nation.  What they uncovered was an effective tax rate of 17.2%.  By comparison, they found that 99% of the Commonwealth’s taxpayers live in zip codes where the average tax rate is higher. 

Pennsylvania is home to roughly 10,000 millionaires, but Price believes the Buffett Rule would only impact between 1,000 and 4,000 of them. 

The Buffett Rule’s namesake – billionaire investor Warren Buffet – has just revealed that he’s been diagnosed with an early stage of prostate cancer.  In a letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, Buffett indicated that it is not life threatening or debilitating.

Super Committee to Meet, Obama to Speak on Same Day

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction convenes for the first time on Capitol Hill this Thursday.   Only a matter of hours later, President Barack Obama will address Congress and the nation on jobs.  Republican Pat Toomey (R-PA) will be there for both events. 

Tapped by the Senate Republican Leader to serve on the bipartisan, bicameral super committee, the first-term Senator says it’s hard to overstate the seriousness of Washington’s fiscal problems.  “We are running annual deficits of almost one and a half trillion dollars, we’re borrowing 40-cents of every dollar that we spend,” Toomey recently told a jobs roundtable in Tioga County. 

The super committee has until November 23rd to craft a plan that will save the federal government at least $1.5-trillion dollars over the next ten years.  “We can look anywhere in the federal budget that we can find an opportunity to have the savings, and we could include tax reform.  I think there are ways that we could reform the tax code that would generate strong economic growth,” Toomey says. 

Deficit reduction will dominate Toomey’s life for the next several months, but the issue is closely tied to the nation’s economic and employment woes.  While Toomey doesn’t know what to expect from President Obama’s jobs speech, he has his hopes.  “I’m hoping that the President will give us a strongly pro-growth message.  I hope that there’s some awareness, some realization that the huge deficit spending hasn’t worked.  The idea that the government can borrow and spend America to prosperity, that has failed,” Toomey said after his Tioga County event.    

The Joint Select Committee’s organizational meeting will be open to the public and the press.  President Obama’s jobs speech will precede the opening salvo of the NFL football season, and will be televised on all of the major networks.

Pennsylvania Give Low Marks to State, National Leaders

The latest Franklin and Marshall College Poll shows  President Obama, Governor Corbett and Pennsylvania’s two United States Senators, Bob Casey and Pat Toomey,  are all in the 30% approval range for job performance among Pennsylvania adults.

The President’s rating stands at 34%, the Governor’s at 32%, Senator Casey is also at 32% and Senator Toomey is at 29%.  Poll director Dr. Terry Madonna blames the relatively low marks on the disdain voters have for the polarization and politics taking place at the state and national level, when it comes to debts, deficits, budgets and programs.

Results in the approval ratings were divided along party lines.  88% of Republicans give President Obama a fair or poor approval rating, compared to 50% of Democrats, who give Governor Corbett a 73% fair or poor rating compared to 46% of Republicans.

 Dr. Madonna says the recession has become personal.  There was a big drop in the number of people generically citing the economy as the top concern.  There was a huge uptick in the number citing unemployment and personal finances.

Only 41% of those polled believes the President deserves re-election. Fifty-two percent of Pennsylvania voters believe it’s time for a change.  But among those voters, President Obama leads Republicans Mitt Romney by 6 points, Michelle Bachman by 19, Rick Perry by 11 and former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Rick Santorum by 8 points.

Dr.  Madonna says 80% of independents give President Obama a fair or poor approval rating and independents are a key to winning the state.  He says the President’s polling numbers indicate Pennsylvania will be competitive and Madonna also believes the state will be competitive and reasonably close.

The poll also looked at two hot topics in Pennsylvania; the privatization of liquor sales and taxing of natural gas extraction. There’s strong support for taxing companies that extract natural gas, with 64% strongly or somewhat favoring a levy.  Fifty-six percent support selling state owned liquor stores to private companies.

Dr. Madonna says the poll shows 66% have a favorable view of the drilling industry, but respondents were split on whether the potential economic benefits outweigh the possible environmental damage.  They were very clear on additional drilling on state forestland; 54% strongly oppose it.

Dr. Madonna says 72% of those polled feel that the proceeds of a tax on natural gas extraction should be shared between the state and local communities.

The survey was conducted August 22-29 and the sampling error is +/- 4.3 percentage points.

Sen. Toomey, Protesters Talking Jobs

A team of unemployed workers and supporters is traveling the state to stage protests outside of US Senator Pat Toomey’s regional offices.  “I was let go for two reasons.  They happened to be corporate greed and the outsourcing of jobs,” says Dan Haney of Philadelphia.  The protesters say Toomey needs to focus his attention on creating jobs for the middle class. 

As the protests are taking place in his home state, Toomey spoke to the nation in the weekly Republican Address.  Its focus: jobs.  “Every day small business owners, job creators and entrepreneurs are bombarded with new regulations and higher costs, discouraging these employers from expanding their businesses and higher additional workers,” Toomey said.  In the five minute speech, Toomey expressed optimism while blaming the nation’s 9.1% unemployment rate, in part, on job-killing federal regulations

But the protesters say politicians like Toomey focus too much on CEOs and not enough of middle class families.  “They want to balance the budget on the working class’ back, and let corporations and CEOs and millionaires get more tax breaks, and put more money in their pocket,” Haney said in a telephone interview from an event outside of the Harrisburg federal building (pictured above). 

Toomey has recently been tapped for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (super committee).  In the GOP Address, Toomey said he will work to produce a plan that cuts government spending and creates and environment where entrepreneurs can thrive.

Toomey Discusses New “Super Committee” Post


Pat Toomey Official Portrait

US Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA)

US Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) was a “No” vote on the debt deal that passed Congress last week, but he will serve on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tapped Toomey for the “super committee” job on Wednesday.  Toomey tells reporters he’s honored to serve.  “This is a very important moment in the history of our country.  We’re facing a very serious challenge, and we need to address it very aggressively.” 

The bipartisan, bicameral “super committee” was created by last week’s debt deal, and will be called upon to reduce the deficit by at least $1.5-trillion dollars over the next decade.  They have until November 23rd.  Automatic cuts would be triggered if Congress doesn’t approve the committee’s recommendations. 

Toomey says the tax code is chock-full of opportunities for improvement, and he hopes the committee will take a close look.  “The goals should be to broaden the base and lower the rates, so that we can create an environment that’s more conducive to economic growth,” Toomey explains.  “That will also generate more revenue, a stronger economy always does.” 

While he would like to see the committee put the US on the path toward a balanced budget, Toomey acknowledges that success will require bipartisan support.  As reporters peppered him with questions on Wednesday’s conference call, Toomey cautioned that it’s probably not constructive to conduct committee discussions through the media.   

Other Senators on the committee include: John Kyl (R-AZ), Rob Portman (R-OH), Patty Murray (D-WA), John Kerry (D-MA) and Max Baucus (D-MT).  House members already named to the committee include: Fred Upton (R-MI), Dave Camp (R-MI) and Jeb Hensarling (R-TX).  House Democrats have yet to appoint their members.


Debt Deal Finalized, Pennsylvanians Upset With Both Parties

Pat Toomey (R-PA)

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) voted against the debt deal.

With the threat of a historic financial default hanging over their heads, a last minute plan emerged that was able to garner the support of President Barack Obama and a majority of Congress.  It allows for a $2-trillion dollar increase in the nation’s debt limit, in exchange for $2-trillion dollars in cuts over the next ten years.  Many of the long-term cuts hinge on a bipartisan “super committee,” which is tasked with identifying $1.5-trillion dollars in cuts by November 23rd.

Citing the $14.3-trillion dollars in debt the nation has already amassed, Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) was a “No” vote.  “What we need to do is clear.  We need to cut spending now, we need to put controls on spending in the future and we need to ensure accountability.  I’m afraid this deal comes up short on all accounts,” Toomey said in a recorded statement. 

Bob Casey (D-PA)

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) voted for the debt deal.

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) supported the measure.  “No compromise is perfect and the process that has brought the country to the brink of default is unconscionable,” Casey said in an earlier statement.  Over in the House, 18 of the 19 Pennsylvania representatives supported the debt deal.  Congressman Mike Doyle (D-14th) voted “No.” 

A new Quinnipiac Poll – which was wrapping up as President Obama announced a debt deal Sunday night – finds that Pennsylvania voters overwhelmingly disapprove of Congress, on both sides of the aisle.  “My sense is that this is an overwhelming indictment of Congress right now.  From Democrats and Republicans, Pennsylvanians are clearly tired of this raucous debate and want to get on with business,” Quinnipiac pollster Tim Malloy said in an interview with Radio PA. 

Tuesday’s poll finds that two-thirds of PA voters disapprove of the job Republicans and Democrats are doing in Congress.  By a 44 – 37 margin, Pennsylvanians believe President Obama acted more responsibly than Congressional Republicans in the debt ceiling debate.  However, a majority (52%) now say Obama does not deserve a second term.