Sen. Toomey: We Can Get the Budget Balanced

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," May 10, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF “YOUR WORLD”: Now to the guy who says that he could balance the budget in nine years, a year shorter than the Ryan plan, without anything having to do with changes in Medicare or Social Security.

Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Toomey joins me right now.

Senator, before getting into the details of your plan, the thing that sticks out is, you leave Medicare alone, which methinks indicates you lost your nerve. Did you?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY, R-PA.: Oh. Neil, my budget’s the only one I’m aware of that is under discussion that brings this budget to balance within 10 years.

The fact is, I think the world of what the House Republicans have done, but their reforms to Medicare began after the 10th year, for the understandable reason that nobody that I know of wants to change the rules of the game for people who are already retired, already receiving Medicare, or close to it.

What most of us think is we need to make reforms for future generations, for younger workers. My focus is just these next 10 years, and my intent was to demonstrate -- and I think we’ve done it -- that we can reach a balance within those 10 years. And that’s what we should be shooting for.

CAVUTO: All right. It’s an admirable goal, Senator, but -- and the fact that you had Jim DeMint with you on this, and Marco Rubio with you on this indicates that some of these Tea Party types are with you on this, but one big one was not, Rand Paul. Do you think there’s a split in the ranks here?

TOOMEY: I haven’t had a chance to speak with Senator Paul about my budget approach. I think he does have an approach of his own. I’m not sure he’s actually introduced it yet, but I think he intends to.

You know, I haven’t had a chance to really study his. He probably hasn’t had a chance to study mine. But I’m just going to focus on this goal of getting ourselves to a balance within 10 years without raising taxes. In fact, we advocate for some pro-growth tax reform that would simplify the code and lower marginal tax rates. That’s what we ought to be doing here. And I’d like to know where the Democratic Senate budget is. I’ve seen nothing.

CAVUTO: All right, but do you -- what -- did they scare you guys? I mean, I know your goals are admirable, what you want to do, and you think you can come to these numbers without having to address Medicare right now.  And you might very well be able to do. But the message it’s sending to some Tea Party loyalists is that you guys have punted and, on a big entitlement issue, you guys have backed away. Is that so?

TOOMEY: Neil, it’s -- it’s a totally mistaken impression.

First of all, if Paul Ryan’s budget comes up on the Senate floor, I’m going to vote for it. I’ve also advocated for profound reform of Social Security. I’ve written a chapter in my book that’s dedicated to that.

But that doesn’t happen to be in this budget resolution either, because that’s beyond the 10-year window. I just want to focus on this 10- year window, where the real problem in recent years has been on the discretionary side.

CAVUTO: Right.

TOOMEY: Long-term, it’s on the entitlements. Short term, it’s been discretionary spending by this administration.

CAVUTO: But did you guys decide or gather in a room, Senator? You’re pretty good at crunching numbers, and you’re pretty good at coming up with a long-term strategy here.

Did you figure, look, we should and will address these entitlements, but this is not the time to risk taking over the Senate next year?

TOOMEY: No. I -- you know, I don’t know how reform of Medicare affects Senate races. I don’t pretend to know that. There’s races all over the country.

CAVUTO: Well, clearly, you have seen the uprising in these town hall meetings, where people who felt that Paul Ryan was going after their Medicare, which was not accurate, that...

TOOMEY: Well, those -- well, that -- exactly.

CAVUTO: ... they took it out on Republicans.

TOOMEY: That would be people who have a misunderstanding of what’s actually in the budget, because the House budget does not go after anybody who is on Medicare or even close to it.

CAVUTO: I know that. But, Senator, I guess what I’m asking you, was there a perception that -- the perception might be wrong, but it’s out there -- we don’t want to chance it, we don’t want to risk it, now is not the time to botch it?

TOOMEY: Neil, not -- not -- not on my part. Remember, I’m the guy that has written at great length about exactly how we should profoundly reform Social Security. If I were afraid of going after entitlements, I wouldn’t have done that, I wouldn’t have put Medicaid reform in this budget, I wouldn’t have called for the reductions in spending, which people will scream about, but I think are necessary.

CAVUTO: So, when do we do Medicare and Social Security? If you’re saying that’s a long-term type concern, when?

TOOMEY: Frankly, look, you know, you can see how dysfunctional this Congress is.


TOOMEY: We had a Senate that didn’t even pass a budget last year.  I’m not confident that my Democratic colleagues will pass a budget this year.

If you can’t even pass a budget, do we really think we’re going to get Social Security and Medicare reform? I’m -- I’m not very optimistic about that.

CAVUTO: But do you see why I’m bummed out about this, Senator? I think -- I’m not blaming you. I’m not casting aspersions on you or your colleagues.

I’m just saying, the system being what it is, maybe the timing being what it is, the math being what it is, this supernova moment, as I’ve called it on this air, to address these entitlement issues isn’t being taken advantage of, and it’s passing. It’s slipping by.

TOOMEY: And -- and it’s going to take presidential leadership to get it done. I don’t think this president wants to do that. We’re going to need a presidential campaign based in part on these big ideas, and successfully so, so that we can implement it.

But, in the meantime, I want to show that we can get our budget to balance. And it’s critically important that we do that.

CAVUTO: So, what if this president is reelected, and you’re looking at a 2013 -- even if you guys were to retake the Senate...

TOOMEY: Right.

CAVUTO: ... you’re still dealing with the same dynamics. Then what do you do?

TOOMEY: Well, we’re going to have a real problem if this president doesn’t come around and provide some leadership on the big -- you know, the big drivers of our budget deficits. He has not been willing to provide that so far. I certainly hope he...

(CROSSTALK) CAVUTO: Well, are any of your members then scared, Senator, given the browbeating that Paul Ryan has received on Medicare that it’s just not worth the effort?

TOOMEY: Oh, I think we realize that we’ve got to take on these -- these big challenges. That’s what we were sent here to do. That’s why I’m introducing a budget, Neil.

I don’t think it’s enough for me to criticize the president’s budget.  I’ve done that. I will continue do that, but I have also laid out an alternative that I think would work for us. And reaching a balance, I think, is a big deal and a very constructive thing to do.

CAVUTO: All right. People can pick it apart on our web site as well.

Senator, thank you very, very much.

TOOMEY: Thanks for having me, Neil.

CAVUTO: All right.

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