Toomey Calls Forced Spending Cuts a 'Silver Lining'

Sen. Patrick J. Toomey Sr., (R.-Pa.)

The Pennsylvania senator on the Super Committee told Bob Schieffer November 20 in a contentious CBS Face the Nation interview that the panel’s failure brings the good news of mandatory spending cuts.

“The silver lining is that we are going to get the spending cuts anyway,” said Sen. Patrick J. Toomey Sr., (R.-Pa.), who is a former president of the fiscally-conservative Club for Growth.

The spending cuts were designed into the bill that created the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, the official name of the Super Committee, as well as the increase of the federal debt limit, he said.

However, the mandatory cuts in defense programs could jeopardize our national security, he said. “Cuts need to be reconsidered, particularly concerning defense.” Similar concerns were aired by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta in a Nov. 14 letter to Republican senators.

The host also pressed the Rhode Island-born senator on the Republicans’ refusal to agree to tax increases and compromise.

“Senator, this so-called Super Committee—you might as well call it the Business-as-Usual Committee,”

Schieffer said. “Look, the whole thing is going to fizzle out and nothing is going to happen.”

In reality, it is unlikely Congress will really allow serious cuts to defense or other programs, he said.

“If the dog wouldn’t have stopped to make a phone call, he would have caught the rabbit,” he said.

Toomey took issue with Schieffer.

“There were 12 members of this committee, who put in an enormous amount of time and effort into trying to accomplish something,” the senator said.

“I will acknowledge that time is short, it is going to be difficult,” he said. “It is not entirely too late yet.”

Toomey said there is a GOP proposal that meets half of the Super Committee’s goal of $1.2 trillion of deficit reduction in 10 years. “This is a plan on the table on the shelf, scored and ready to go.”

Republicans on the committee tried to compromise, he said. They even broached small tax increases in the context of eliminating narrow tax breaks, lowering rates and expanding the tax base.

The chance to spark economic growth by simplifying the irrational federal tax code is a noble enough goal to risk criticism from other conservatives and Grover Norquist, the leader of the Washington-based Americans for Tax Reform and the proponent of the pledge not to raise taxes, he said.

Schieffer goaded Toomey on Norquist’s criticism: “He called it poisonous.” But, the Keystone senator stayed on message.

The Democrats on the panel were not committed to make a deal, as evidenced by comments from Rep. James E. Clyburn (D.-S.C.), Toomey said.

“Our friend Jim Clyburn said in fact twice, as recently as last week, said: The Democrats never coalesced around any plan–so it was very, very challenging.”

“On the other side, there was an insistence we have a trillion dollars in new tax increases, but there was an unwillingness to cut any kind of spending at all unless there was a huge tax increase,” he said.