Toomey in Today’s Morning Call: Even with Divided Congress, Opportunities Exist for Bipartisan Legislation
Allentown, Pa. - In an op-ed published in today's Morning Call, U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) details his legislative priorities for the coming legislative session and what he believes can be accomplished under divided government.
Topics include, but are not limited to, making permanent the expiring provisions of tax reform, strengthening firearm background checks, expanding opportunities for international trade, and a federal infrastructure improvement measure.
Senator Toomey's op-ed is provided below and available here.
Your View: Even with divided Congress, opportunities exist for bipartisan legislation
By Senator Pat Toomey
December 28, 2018
In January, Americans will send a divided government to Washington. As we consider our legislative agenda for the next Congress, our first rule should be: Do no harm.
The American economy is the strongest we've seen in decades. Economic growth has accelerated, unemployment is at 3.7 percent, middle-class wages are finally rising, and for the first time there are more job openings than there are people looking for a job.
This is largely due to historic tax reform and regulatory relief that has been enacted over the past two years. We should make the expiring provisions of tax reform permanent and continue the regulatory reforms that helped get us here.
Another important opportunity is meaningful entitlement reform. Our structural deficits and accumulating debt will, at some point, undermine economic growth and our standard of living if uncorrected. The three big entitlement programs - Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - are the root cause of our fiscal problems.
Successful reforms in the past were achieved when members of both parties were willing to take political risks together. I have no illusions that this will be easy - or likely. But Congress owes the American people a government that is fiscally stable.
Areas where we have better odds of making real progress include keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill; expanding opportunities for international trade; lowering the cost of health care; fighting opioid abuse; and modernizing the nation's aging infrastructure.
Law-abiding citizens have a constitutional right to own and use firearms. I'm a gun owner and take my son shooting. A brief background check to prevent the purchase of a gun by someone who has forfeited their right to own a gun, such as a convicted felon or dangerously mentally ill person, does not violate anyone's Second Amendment rights.
A silver lining of Democratic control of the House is that they may pass background check legislation. This could boost momentum for Senate passage of my bill, which I wrote with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), to extend background checks to cover all commercial sales, including those made at gun shows and online. Congress should finally come together and enact our bill.
On trade, the president's policies have been mixed. He's been mistaken to propose restricting trade between the United States, Mexico and Canada - our largest trading partners - but right to point out the egregious theft of intellectual property by China.
On balance, international trade is very good for Pennsylvania. The livelihoods of 1.6 million Pennsylvanians depend on trade, and workers in export-based manufacturing jobs are paid, on average, 18 percent more than other workers. Congress should correct the president's misguided actions, and affirm his constructive trade policy.
Health care may seem like an unlikely area for cooperation with divided government, but the high cost of care for American families provides powerful motivation. We need legislation to improve cost and quality transparency for consumers, enhance choices, and lower prices across the entire sector.
Congress should also be able to build on the recent bipartisan efforts to combat the opioid epidemic. For starters, we can do more to reduce the flow of lethal fentanyl into the United States from other countries and encourage further reductions in opioid prescriptions.
Lastly, there is bipartisan agreement that our infrastructure needs improvement. Updating our infrastructure is about more than fixing congested roads and aging bridges. It's also about our airports, locks, dams, dredging, access to broadband, and transporting the vast natural gas reserves that are transforming Pennsylvania into a leading energy producer and exporter. If crafted responsibly, an infrastructure bill can facilitate more, and sustained, economic growth.
The biggest political dynamic at play in 2019 is how willing the newly elected Democratic House majority and President Trump are to work together. The Senate will continue confirming the president's executive branch and judicial nominees.
I stand ready to work with my House and Senate colleagues, regardless of party affiliation, to make progress on these and other important priorities for our commonwealth and nation.