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No Stranger to Fiscal Debates, Toomey Set To Unveil His Own Budget Proposal on Tuesday

By John McDonald, PoliticsPA Contributor

United States Senator Pat Toomey, fast becoming a no-nonsense fiscal maven for the Senate’s GOP contingent, will offer his own budget proposal on Tuesday, less than one month after announcing his intention to do so.

Vowing to balance the budget in nine years – significantly quicker than the high-profile, controversial plan unveiled by Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin last month – Toomey’s blueprint is viewed by some Senate GOP aides as a more politically viable alternative to other Republican proposals, including one developed by fellow Senate freshman Rand Paul (R-Kentucky).

Others view Toomey’s move as an indication that Senate Republicans are no longer willing to follow their House colleagues’ lead on budget-related matters. 

For his part, Toomey has been quick to praise Rep. Ryan’s plan, calling it a “very, very thoughtful, very visionary budget that has so many constructive policy reforms.”  He has instead sought to portray his own proposal as a more fiscally responsible alternative to President Obama’s plan.

“Right now, our country stands on the verge of a fiscal crisis,” Senator Toomey said in a prepared statement released yesterday. “It is unfortunate that President Obama has refused to show the leadership our country needs.  His 2012 budget only piles more spending and debt onto our already precarious finances.  The purpose of my budget is to demonstrate that it is possible to balance our budget and put our country on a sustainable fiscal path.”

On Tuesday, Toomey will provide directions to that “sustainable fiscal path” for the first time.  Until now, aides and Senate colleagues briefed on Toomey’s plans have been reluctant to discuss it with any specificity.

Among the most eminent questions he’ll seek to answer is how his proposal would address federal government spending on Medicare and other entitlements. 

In a Wall Street Journal editorial published in January, Toomey wrote, “The recent surge in spending, both in absolute dollars and as a percentage of our GDP, has driven us to record deficits and an explosion of debt.  The growth in discretionary spending has been the most dramatic, but in the future mandatory entitlement spending will be the deficit driver.  Congress must address both in order to put the government back on a sustainable fiscal path.”

Under Rep. Ryan’s plan, the federal government would overhaul Medicare by converting the program into a “premium support” plan to which the Treasury would contribute a portion of the cost of seniors’ private-sector plans.  The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and others have vilified it as a plan to “end Medicare,” and some Republicans – including Pennsylvania Congressman Lou Barletta – have encountered fierce opposition to the proposal at town hall meetings.

The environment is increasingly raucous (not to mention increasingly reminiscent of the political squabbles surrounding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), though Toomey is no stranger to debating the federal government’s fiscal approach and procedures. 

He was, of course, president of conservative fiscal stalwart Club for Growth until April of 2009.  Upon arriving in Washington, Toomey’s first piece of legislation would have forced the U.S. Treasury to immediately “prioritize” the payment of public interest and debt once the government’s debt ceiling had been reached.   That bill received a strong rebuke from Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, but established Toomey as one of the GOP’s most bankable fiscal authorities.  Indeed, each of his 47 GOP Senate colleagues supported his balanced-budget amendment at the end of March.

Check back with PoliticsPA on Tuesday for more coverage of Toomey’s announcement.

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