PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Now in his sixth year in office, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey wants another six to complete the work he says he’s begun.
“True fact is Congress is not doing what it should be doing,” the Republican told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Friday.
“We have big, big challenges this country is facing, and we have not had the political will to deal with them.”
Toomey cites a disastrous tax code, unsustainable budget deficits, stifling regulations, and then adds, “We’ve got entitlement programs that aren’t working. We’ve got people trapped in multi-generational poverty because of welfare programs that aren’t helping people get out of poverty.”
His Democratic challengers call him a right-wing radical out-of-step with Pennsylvanians.
Toomey rejects that characterization.
“I’m a conservative who looks for consensus, and I’ve been willing to break with my party when I thought my part was wrong. For instance, I think a 3-minute background check before someone purchases a firearm is a reasonable thing.”
That’s a reference to a bill he sponsored with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia after the Sandy Hook school shooting.
Toomey has also been a strong supporter of local police, particularly after attacks by the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
“There are some in that movement who’ve participated in this overly broad denigration of police,” says Toomey
“A few incidents occurred in different cities in America, some of which were questionable. Others were not, frankly, but they were used collectively to create this narrative that the police were somehow racist, that they’re unreasonable, harsh, and use excessive force in general.”
Toomey says police deserve military equipment if needed to protect them.
As for his reelection this year?
“It’s Pennsylvania, so it will be very competitive, that’s for sure,” he said. “I think I’ve done a very good job. I think most Pennsylvanians will agree with that. But we’ll see. They get to decide.”
Toomey has three Democratic challengers vying for that party’s nomination in the April 26 Primary: Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, former Wolf chief of staff Katie Fetterman, and former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak.
Lately, Toomey expects questions on two hot topics — presidential politics and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Delano: “Do you believe President Obama should fulfill his constitutional obligation to submit a nominee for the United States Supreme Court?”
Toomey: “Yes. The Constitution is very clear. It says the president shall nominate.”
That’s the only point of agreement the Republican senator has with the White House on replacing the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whose successor could shift a five-to-four conservative court to a more liberal one.
Once the nomination is made and the senate is required to advise and consent, Toomey says a delay is appropriate until after a new president is sworn in next year.
“The fact that we are well into an election cycle, less than nine months away from having a new president, I think the best approach at this moment is for the American people to have as much say as possible, and they can have that say by determining who they want as president, knowing that that new president will fill this vacancy.”
Toomey says he won’t even meet President Obama’s nominee.
“This time, in this context, this isn’t about the qualifications of the individual.”
Delano: “Will you meet…?”
Toomey: “I don’t see the point. This is not about the qualifications of the individual.”
Delano: “Don’t you think it’s a courtesy to the President and to the process?”
Toomey: “The President is probably going to make a nomination. That’s fine. He has the constitutional right to do that. But I think everybody knows where this is going to end. The next president is going to make the decision.”
So who should be the next president?
Toomey’s pick is U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
As for the Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump?
“Look, he’s a very interesting guy,” says Toomey. “Obviously he’s captured a lot of support at this point, but we’re very early on in the process.”
“I think it’s going to be Marco Rubio. I think he has a very good path to victory.”