Pat Toomey: Candidate for U.S. Congress

Official portrait of United States Senator Pat Toomey.

Official portrait of United States Senator Pat Toomey. Photo via Wikimedia

Patrick “Pat” Toomey is the Republican incumbent candidate for re-election to the United States Senate. He has been in office since 2011. Below are his four answers to our five 2016 Voter Guide questions for federal candidates on the ballot in Allegheny County.

His opponent is Katie McGinty (D). Her responses to these questions are here. Other candidates in this race are Edward Clifford III (L) and write-in candidate Everett Stern (I).

Bob Casey, Jr. (D) holds the other U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania. He will be up for re-election in 2018.

1. Do you support changing federal funding of SNAP (Food Stamps) to a block grant?

Like many Pennsylvanians, I believe food assistance programs play an important role in communities that need it most. Unfortunately, with our nation’s misguided agricultural policies and weak economic recovery, some families have difficulty affording well-balanced meals. As such, I understand your support for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other policies that target hunger across our country.

To protect the integrity and long-term solvency of food assistance programs, it is essential for Congress to establish appropriate policies that prevent waste, fraud, and abuse from occurring. I have cosponsored legislation in the past, including the Welfare Reform Act of 2011, to reduce funding for certain federal food assistance policies that are abused. I have also supported measures to give individual states more administrative flexibility over their own assistance programs because these entities have the knowledge and resources to determine these initiatives.

2. Do you support changing federal funding of the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs and Summer Food Program to a block grant?

Just Harvest received no response from Sen. Toomey to this question.

3. Do you support making the Earned Income Tax Credit permanent and expanding it to include childless workers?

Like many Americans and lawmakers from both parties, I believe that our tax system is in need of serious reform and simplification. If done properly, it could help grow the economy, encourage job creation and investment here at home, and create a tax code that is fairer for all Americans and businesses. That said, I realize that the tax provision you have highlighted is important to individuals and families. While all aspects of our tax code should be on the table as Congress considers comprehensive tax reform, I believe it is important to be mindful of the impact any changes would have.

Specific to your concerns, the EITC was made permanent with the passage of last year’s omnibus appropriations bill, which passed the Senate by a 65-33 vote on December 18, 2015. Please be assured I will keep your concerns in mind should further legislation on the EITC come up as we continue to debate changes to our nation’s tax code.

4. Do you support increasing the current minimum wage ($7.25/hour) to a living hourly wage of $15.00 and increasing the tipped wage ($2.13/hour) to a living hourly wage of $3.15, and making sure both keep up with inflation?

As you may know, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced S. 2223, the Fair Minimum Wage Act, during the 113th Congress. Among its provisions, this measure would increase the minimum wage over three years to $10.10 per hour with an annual inflation adjustment over future years. I understand your concern with the current minimum wage rate and value your input on this issue.

However, with five years straight of an economy struggling to gain traction, our focus must be on policies that promote, not inhibit, job growth. We must enable the private sector to create good-paying jobs for Pennsylvanians. Unfortunately, the minimum wage has the perverse effect of reducing job opportunities for those struggling to find work and make ends meet. An increase in the minimum wage rate inevitably makes many low-skilled workers too expensive to employ. This causes businesses to either employ fewer of these workers, reduce their hours or both. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has previously estimated that an increase in the minimum wage could cost America over 500,000 jobs, and another study estimated Pennsylvania could lose over 100,000. It is for these reasons that I voted against cloture on the motion to proceed to S. 2223.

I value your input on this measure, which was defeated last Congress when a motion to invoke cloture failed by a vote of 54-42. Although similar legislation has not yet been introduced in this Congress, please be assured that I will keep your thoughts in mind should it be reintroduced.

5. Do you support more federal funding for subsidized child care for low-income working families?

Especially during these challenging economic times, I understand your support for government assistance to those in need. Such assistance programs can be very important for lower income Pennsylvanians, and I value your input. I believe that Congress – in addition to supporting common sense efforts to help those truly in need – should also advance policies that spur economic growth, put more people to work, and generate prosperity for all Americans.

We must also remember that the United States has run a deficit since 2001 due to rising levels of federal spending, with this year’s spending expected to exceed $3.8 trillion. The consequences of such fiscal mismanagement will be devastating to our economy, not to mention to future generations who will be saddled with debt and a government they can no longer afford. All areas of government spending must be carefully examined so that we can put our nation on a path toward fiscal solvency. It is essential that we change our current course, which is why I voted for the budget resolution that would achieve balance within nine years. Inevitably, tough choices will have to be made, and making such choices is something that I have promised to the people of Pennsylvania.

As currently structured, spending on our welfare system is growing at an unsustainable rate, and it is imperative that we structure a sustainable social safety net that will be able to aid those who have fallen on hard times. Our welfare system is often incapable of adequately addressing the needs of the very communities that they were created to serve and these programs are in desperate need of reform. This reform should be focused on getting people back on their feet, back into a job, and independent. As I continue working with my Senate colleagues on tackling this issue and restoring fiscal responsibility, please be assured that I value knowing your thoughts and appreciate your input.

Just Harvest is a non-partisan organization. These survey responses are provided as voter education only.

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