Pat Toomey minced no words about health care reform in 2010.
“Anything close to what passed in the House and the Senate is dead,” he said.
His response was not unexpected.
Toomey, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Arlen Specter, met The Chronicle staff last week. In a one-hour interview, the soft-spoken former congressman from the Lehigh Valley gave a strictly conservative set of answers to a litany of questions:
• He endorsed tort reform as a way to drive down the high cost of health care;
• He backed a flat tax as the most equitable way for the federal government to raise revenue;
• He opposed processing accused terrorists through the American justice system, including Miranda warning (reading them their rights);
• He questioned the potentially catastrophic impact of climate change though he accepted that humans are at least in part responsible for global warming.
• He said life begins at conception, which is why he opposes abortion; and
• He believes social issues such as gay marriage and prayer in school should be left to the legislatures, not the courts.
Toomey is considered by many to be the frontrunner for the Republican senatorial nomination this year. Peg Luksik of Johnstown and John Kensinger of Bedford County are running against him.
A former three–term congressman, Toomey, said he doesn’t know well the incumbent, Sen. Arlen Specter, who switched political parties last year from the Republican to Democrat, reportedly because he felt he could lose in a face-off against Toomey.
“He’s a very smart guy … and a skilled politician,” Toomey said of Specter, “but I think he’s at the end of his career because the only principle important to him is his re-election, and that’s proving to be an insurmountable problem for him.”
Returning to the issues, Toomey said “personal ownership” of insurance plans (many people are now insured through the companies where they work) coupled with tort reform would help lower the cost of health care for many Americans.
As for Americans who don’t have health insurance at all, Toomey said that number is overstated and many of those who fall in that category are temporary.
“He also said many Americans who don’t have health insurance make their own “rational decision” not to buy it.
On taxation, Toomey, who ran a chain of family restaurants in eastern Pennsylvania, called for a simplification of the tax code and relief to small business owners who spend “billions” to comply with tax regulations.
“That’s a staggering deadweight cost” for businesses, he said. “It produces no goods or services.”
On Israel, Toomey has made one trip to the Jewish state and indicated he came away understanding why lands conquered in the 1967 Six-day War are so vital.
“You read a lot about it,” Toomey said, “but when you go up to the Golan Heights and look down you have a whole new appreciation for how strategic that piece of real estate is.”
On Iran, Toomey endorsed crippling sanctions to check that country’s development of nuclear weapons.
“The only thing they need to do this is time, so we don’t have the luxury to do what we have been doing.”
Turning to social issues, Toomey is pro-life, arguing that the fetus is clearly a human life.
“It’s unique. It has its own DNA, and while it needs nourishment and protection, other people need nourishment and protect,” he said. “I don’t think there’s much debate that it’s human life.”
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)