LEWISTOWN - Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., met with members of the Juniata Valley Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau on Tuesday at the Historic Courthouse in Lewistown.
Toomey gave a brief overview of some front-burner issues in Washington, as well as some unwanted distractions, in the form of scandals.
Toomey said he is in the midst of working on the farm bill and hopes to put some reforms in place, especially as they pertain to the sugar market. As it stands now he said, consumers and companies, such as candy manufacturers, are at a competitive disadvantage when forced to pay artificially inflated prices. Toomey would also like to see reforms on crop insurance for wealthier farmers. Farmers purchase crop insurance at a huge discount. Toomey would like to see that changed for wealthier farmers who are making seven figures a year and could perhaps afford to pay a higher rate for their crop insurance.
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., holds a discussion with members of the Juniata Valley Chamber of Commerce Tuesday at the historic courthouse in Lewistown.
Toomey said the political climate in Washington is a shaky one at the moment, even with President Barack Obama reaching out to lawmakers.
"The president has clearly changed his approach," Toomey said.
Toomey said talks between lawmakers and the White House have been "constructive," but he was also quick to point out he didn't want to give people "false hope" that an agreement on the budget could be reached.
"We are still very far apart," he said, referring to any kind of possible compromise on the budget.
Toomey said the recent waive of scandals, including the alleged actions of some employees at the Internal Revenue Service, who unfairly targeted groups on the political right, serves as an unwanted distraction from producing legislation.
He said the behavior of those IRS employees shows a true "lack of accountability" at the agency who "willfully discriminated against these groups."
Toomey said he would like to see a special prosecutor, independent of the Department of Justice, appointed to take over the case if and when it becomes a criminal investigation.
Toomey is concerned that an agency such as the IRS will play a huge role in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
He then fielded a few questions from chamber members about Obamacare.
Toomey does not support Obamacare, which he said is "hostile to business" and will raise the cost of health care for consumers. He instead supports the rights of individuals to choose what they feel is best for them.
Although the recent bipartisan gun legislation that he and Sen. Joe Manchen, D-W.Va., put forth was voted down by the Senate, Toomey still addressed the matter.
The Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act would have required states and the federal government to send all necessary records on criminals and the violently mentally ill to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The bill would have extended the existing background check system to gun shows and online sales. However, it would not require a background check for person-to-person sales, such as those between friends or relatives.
The bill also explicitly banned the federal government from creating a national firearms registry, and would have imposed serious criminal penalties on any person who misused or illegally retained firearms records.
Toomey said the legislation had broad support from the law enforcement community, including the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.
Toomey acknowledged that the broad public support for the bill was met with "intense opposition," which in some instances can be enough to defeat a bill.
He also touched on the hot button issue of immigration reform, which he suspects will be very difficult to accomplish in the coming months.
Toomey said the Senate has a broader proposal, whereas the House appears to have a series of smaller bills focused on specific issues regarding immigration reform.
Ironically, Toomey also fielded several questions about the "lack of leadership" in Washington, which was posed by local leaders.
This "lack of leadership" and the unusually polarized atmosphere in Washington is frustrating, Toomey said, but he said unfortunately it will "have to run its course."