Pat Toomey heads to the upper chamber this week. In a just-published interview with the New York Times, the Pennsylvania Republican positions himself as a principled — if, at times, unpredictable — conservative.
For one thing, he supported repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law to allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military.
For another, he gave a nod to bipartisanship by writing an op-ed column for USA Today with a Democrat, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, that urged both parties to ban earmarks. “Cross-party alliances often make for the most effective partnerships,” the two wrote.
In addition, Mr. Toomey abstained in an interview here in his hometown the other day from taking a position on the recent tax compromise between President Obama and Republican leaders to extend the Bush-era tax cuts — despite the strong opposition of his Senate patron, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, and of the Club for Growth, of which Mr. Toomey is a past president.
Toomey predicts that this freshman class will have real influence:
“I think this class is going to move the center of gravity of the conference,” Mr. Toomey said at his home here in the exurbs of the industrial Lehigh Valley and at a nearby diner.
The freshmen are generally more fiscally conservative than the senators they are succeeding, he said, and the message of “limited government” from the November elections would “embolden incumbents to be more ambitious about getting spending under control.”
He cited the Republicans’ vow to ban earmarks as a good first start.
“That wasn’t an easy place for McConnell to get to,” he said. “But he got there.”
“Conservative Seeks Political Balance on His Way to the Senate” is the headline for the Times interview. But I wouldn’t read too much into it. Toomey’s message to the Times reflects his message on the trail. In an interview with National Review Online in late October, he reflected on the kind of “practical” leadership he’d like see in Washington:
“Those voters are not ideological, they’re practical,” Toomey explains, making his case for what he hopes will be a broad coalition. “They know that you can’t borrow and spend your way to prosperity. They know that even bigger government is not the source of opportunity. But that’s what they’ve been getting out of Washington . . . . They look at my background and they see a small-business owner, a guy who has created jobs, a guy who has been focused on getting government to live within its means for a long time. I think that’s exactly what those folks want to hear.”
For more Toomey, check out his appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press from Sunday.