Fears Mount as Debt Deadline Looms

Sen. Pat Toomey on spending crisis, bipartisan negotiations


CHRIS COTTER, GUEST HOST: Well, if there is a move to bypass Congress, how will that sit with this guy?

With us now, Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. And, Senator Toomey, I’m guessing it’s not going to sit very well with you?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY, R- PA.: Oh, do you think?


TOOMEY: Listen, the Constitution is abundantly clear. In Article 2 of the Constitution, which defines the powers of Congress, grants exclusively to Congress the authority to borrow money.

There’s no question about it. The 14th Amendment is simply obligating the federal government to in fact, honor its debt commitments. Well -- and I think the president needs to execute honoring the debt commitments.

The thought that they can bypass Congress and unconstitutionally go out and borrow money without congressional authority is outrageous. I can’t believe it’s even a serious thought.

COTTER: Do you believe it’s a serious thought at this point?

TOOMEY: It’s hard for me to believe that.


TOOMEY: It’s so ridiculous and it is so blatantly illegal, so unconstitutional, that I can’t believe that they would invite a constitutional crisis but subverting Congress, subverting the law and subverting the Constitution.

COTTER: Even at this point, with 27 however many days, roughly four weeks before we hit that August 2 deadline, do you believe that we’re at such a desperation point, that the Democrats and the administration would come out with something like this? And if indeed we are at such a desperate point, what would be the move by the Republicans to counter that movement?

TOOMEY: Well, first of all, we’re not at that desperate a point.

Unfortunately, the administration has been shrill and has wildly exaggerated the nature of the consequences if we don’t raise the debt limit August 2. They have predicted catastrophic default on our debt and a financial crisis and all the rest. The fact is ongoing tax revenue is more than enough to guarantee that we will not default on our debt. What it would amount to is a partial government shutdown that is very disruptive, that is not ideal. I don’t advocate or wish for that, but it’s not the same thing as a catastrophic default.

What we need is for this administration to get serious about cutting spending. That’s what the problem is, a huge run-up in spending that they are responsible for primarily. We’ve got to get that under control.

COTTER: Now, Senator Toomey, would you be in favor of some type of a mini-deal that sort of came up, was floated this past weekend to where you could say, look, let’s just go six to eight months, we’ll take a step back from the spending, we’ll make spending cuts in Medicare and in some other areas that the Republicans really want, but, yet, at the same time, we’re looking at hiking taxes even a little bit, sort of a little bit more of a give-and-take?

TOOMEY: No. I’m not interested in a tax increase and I’m not very interested in kicking this can further down the road.

It’s not as though we didn’t know this was coming, right? Some of us have been talking about this since January. It is now six months later. We have known we have this problem coming. Why we think we’d be able to solve it better three weeks or eight weeks or 10 weeks from now, when we can’t solve it today, I’m not buying into it.

I would say, let’s solve this problem today. It means getting spending under control, stop spending money we don’t have. We’re borrowing 40 cents of every dollar. I used to think this was a problem for my kids and my grandkids. No longer. This is now a problem for now.


TOOMEY: We cannot stay on this path.

COTTER: Senator Toomey, the president is expected to speak here, oh, in about 40 minutes’ time, 35 minutes’ time from now. What do you expect him to say? What do you hope to hear from him today?

TOOMEY: Well, I no longer have any idea what to expect. But I can tell you what the president ought to say.

He ought to say, number one, first and foremost, he will never permit a default to occur on his watch. And whether or not we raise the debt limit, he will ensure that ongoing tax revenue is used to make sure that we don’t have a default. He has it within his power to do that. He’ll have the financial resources to do that.

And, secondly, I would like to hear him acknowledge that we’ve got to get this spending under control. This is just so obvious to most Pennsylvanians that I meet with on a regular basis. I hope it will become clear to the president soon.

COTTER: You know, Senator Toomey, we’re going to speak with Senator Rand Paul a little bit later on in the show and -- on his idea to filibuster any legislation brought to the floor that doesn’t involve dealing with this debt ceiling and dealing with the budget.

Last week, the White House rejected the -- a meeting with Republican leaders and Democratic leaders.


COTTER: Are you at a point where you’re saying, look, both sides are not getting together here, we’re not serious about it, we have only four weeks left to go, what are we waiting for?

TOOMEY: Look, it has been maddening.

I’m operating in a Senate which I’m ashamed to acknowledge has refused to do a budget. But Senator Reid made it very clear he has no interest, no will to even produce a budget, never mind the fact that it’s a statutory requirement and that it is common sense that any organization ought to have a budget. How about maybe the biggest enterprise in the world, the United States government?

So this has been very dysfunctional. It’s very frustrating. I don’t blame Senator Paul one bit for being willing to do that. In fact, I support him. I think this is we ought to be focusing on right now, should have been for a long time now. It’s about time.

COTTER: Senator Reid also floating a millionaires tax resolution.

Are you -- are you steadfast and are the Republicans, jointly in the House and Senate steadfast, zero? And when I say -- I mean no tax increases whatsoever, regardless of what the administration and what the Democrats agree to give up in terms of spending?

TOOMEY: Yes. See, for me, this isn’t a tradeoff of spending cuts vs. tax increases.

The area where we should compromise is where we cut spending. They have some areas. Presumably, they acknowledge that, at $3.6 trillion and with a huge run-up that has occurred recently, presumably, they acknowledge, the administration and Senator Reid and Democratic colleagues, that there are areas that they would like to cut.

I can give you a list that I’d like to cut. We probably don’t have the same list, so we ought to make some compromises here. But raising taxes shouldn’t even be on the table. It will only prevent us from having the kind of economic recovery that we should be having and are frankly not having, in part because we have this fiscal train wreck going on.

COTTER: Senator Pat Toomey, we appreciate it. Thank you so much, sir.

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