When will Se­na­tor Toomey be­come a prob­lem solver? I

The Advance of Bucks County - - OPINION -

n dif­fi­cult times, we need our elected of­fi­cials to grab our na­tion’s prob­lems by the horns and seek so­lu­tions. Our lead­ers of­ten por­tray them­selves as prag­matic prob­lem solvers, but when push comes to shove, par­ti­san­ship seems to beat out leader- ship.

The bud­get de­bate in Wash­ing­ton brings this con­tra­dic­tion into fo­cus. For four years, Democrats have not brought a bud­get for­ward in the U.S. Se­nate. Dur­ing that time, Repub­li­cans have taken to the air­waves to crit­i­cize Demo­cratic in­ac­tion.

Penn­syl­va­nia’s own Se­na­tor Pat Toomey, a mem­ber of the Bud­get Com­mit­tee, fre­quently joined the cho­rus at­tack­ing the Se­nate’s bud­getary in­er­tia. Toomey told MSNBC that “the Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity thinks that it’s ac­cept­able not to even have a bud­get, so we have no bud­get.” On CNBC, Toomey chas­tised Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid for “choos­ing not to do a bud­get res­o­lu­tion for three con­sec­u­tive years.” Se­na­tor Toomey had a point.

This year, how­ever, Se­nate Democrats fi­nally wrote and passed their first bud­get since 2009. Af­ter years of mov­ing from bud­get cri­sis to bud­get cri­sis, the Se­nate was poised to move a bud­get to con­fer­ence com­mit­tee and rec­on­cile the dif­fer­ences be­tween the House and Se­nate ver­sions. But com­pro­mise wasn’t in the cards be­cause Se­na­tor Toomey per­son­ally blocked the for­ma­tion of the con­fer­ence com­mit­tee at the re­quest of Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell.

Af­ter years of de­mand­ing that Democrats pro­duce a bud­get, Se­na­tor Toomey blocked fur­ther ne­go­ti­a­tions and put res­o­lu­tion out of reach. Democrats were con­fused why Toomey would use a pro­ce­dural move to halt all progress on a bud­get that Toomey spent years de­mand­ing. Even the mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans were con­fused by his tac­tics.

“What are we on my side of the aisle do­ing?” asked Se­na­tor John McCain.

But McCon­nell, whom Toomey nom­i­nated to serve as Se­nate GOP Leader, wanted to nix the con­fer­ence com­mit­tee so he could con­tinue at­tack­ing Democrats for not pass­ing a bud­get. And de­spite Toomey’s calls for bud­getary ac­tion, our Se­na­tor was will­ing to fol­low McCon­nell’s march­ing or­ders.

Se­na­tor Toomey’s para­dox­i­cal prob­lem-solv­ing ap­proach doesn’t stop at the bud­get.

In May of 2012, Se­na­tor Toomey and Se­na­tor Bob Casey came to­gether across party lines to en­dorse two ju­di­cial can­di­dates to fill va­can­cies on Penn­syl­va­nia’s dis­trict courts that had been empty for years. At the time, Toomey stressed the im­mense im­por­tance of see­ing their can­di­dates on the bench soon be­cause the Mid­dle Dis­trict had been “in a state of ju­di­cial emer­gency since 2009.”

Judges on the court—four of which were above the age of 86—had been sit­ting in se­nior sta­tus to pick up the pil­ing caseloads left by the va­can­cies. Judge Wil­liam Nealon, at the age of 89, took on over 150 cases. The length and cost of lit­i­ga­tion was ex­plod­ing in our State, and our Se­na­tors had come to­gether to solve the prob­lem.

Yet, just as the nom­i­na­tions were about to be con­firmed in the Se­nate, Toomey sat by as Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader McCon­nell blocked the con­fir­ma­tion of 17 judges. We heard noth­ing from Toomey about the needs of Penn­syl­va­nia’s jus­tice sys­tem. Toomey had solved the prob­lem, but failed to put the so­lu­tion be­fore his party. When will Se­na­tor Toomey stand up to his own party and be­come the prob­lem solver the Com­mon­wealth of Penn­syl­va­nia needs and deserves? Stephen Seufert

Pres­i­dent Lower Bucks Young Democrats

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