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FOX TWP. â€“ The words 'fiscal restraint' were repeated often by U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) at a town hall meeting held at the Red Fern in Fox Township Friday afternoon.
Toomey, on a tour through Elk and several neighboring counties, held the town hall meeting to address the federal debt, jobs and the economy.
The meeting did not focus as much on the local economy and jobs as it did on federal government spending and fiscal policies, with Toomey answering numerous questions from the audience of about 70 people and emphasizing a fiscal diet for the U.S. government throughout the event.
"Ultimately, we've gotta cut spending," Toomey said.
Toomey is one of the legislators on the bipartisan "supercommittee," which will hold its first meeting Sept. 8. The committee, established as part of the debt ceiling legislation passed this summer, will meet over a three-month period and is charged with coming up with at least $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts by mid-November. A failure to meet the goal will trigger sweeping cuts to Medicare and other federal programs.
Toomey said he has presented his own budget plan that would do exactly that, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) would not allow it to come to the floor for a vote and that partisan politics is creating an impasse when it comes to enacting a sensible spending plan.
"The budget is the first step in the process of the annual spending bills. You set the total spending and then the annual appropriation bills, or spending bills, follow from the budget," Toomey said. "And in those appropriation bills, a guy like me would have an opportunity to go down to the Senate floor and offer an amendment that would say, for instance, that no funding from this bill may be used by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to impose cap-and-trade, and I'd be happy do that.
"I can't do that because there's no such appropriation bill. This is why it's maddening to me. This is why it's frustrating. We have a very dysfunctional Senate. We're not going through any sensible process that would allow me to to do exactly what you're calling for, which is to provide some check when an agency is running out of control."
Pick up a copy of the Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.