Whenever my senator, Pat Toomey-- creature of the ironically-named Club for Growth--opens his mouth, I get to take a little mental vacation. Because you can rely on that this wing-nuttiest guy spouts one right-wing talking point after another. His true gift? Taking a grain of truth and wrapping it in layers of extremist thought. His staffers are even worse: Call with a question or comment about pending legislation, and you will get a snide lecture from the true believers he's hired. So when Christiane Amanpour tried to ask him a semi-serious question on This Week, I already knew his approximate answer:
AMANPOUR: Thanks, Jon. And of course, Jon will join us on the roundtable in a bit.
Of course, the week's big story was the total collapse of the super committee. Washington is now once again in crisis mode, facing yet another ticking clock. It's enough to leave even the most upbeat Americans thoroughly vexed. And joining me to discuss the way forward, former super committee member, Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania.
Senator, thank you very much for joining us.
TOOMEY: Good morning. Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: I just wanted to ask you, you know, the ranking Republican on the super committee, Jeb Hensarling, said he really worries for the country, and wonders how long this country has to actually put itself back on a sustainable place? Do you think anything is going to happen before the 2012 elections in this regard?
TOOMEY: I certainly hope so. I'm, look, I am terribly disappointed. I think our country would have benefited enormously from a constructive agreement by this committee. Of course, the silver lining is the $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction, which was the goal of the legislation that created our committee, will still go into effect. I think it's important that some configuration of those cuts in fact happen. The full amount, just configured differently.
And I do think that we Republicans put a very, very reasonable plan on the table, a proposal that I think would broader support. So I hope that we'll be able to advance at least parts of it, if not as a package, then sub-components. And I'm hopeful that we'll make some progress there.
AMANPOUR: You said you -- those automatic cuts will go into effect. But the president has said that he doesn't want -- he'll veto any attempt to tinker with those. Do you think that any tinkering will go on? Do you think he'll be able to veto that and it will be able to be stopped?
TOOMEY: I thought that his comments were a little bit more ambiguous than that. I thought he was suggesting that he would veto any attempt to eliminate portions of it. I don't recall him having a categorical veto threat on any change in the configuration. His own defense secretary, Leon Panetta, said that if the defense cuts go through as contemplated under existing law, it would hollow out our nation's defense. I think there's a broad consensus that too much of the cuts are weighted on our defense's capabilities and would really, really cut in deeply into our ability to defend this nation. And so, I think it's important that we change the configuration. I would be surprised if the president would simply veto every effort to make any changes.
I think he's right. I think Obama will veto any attempt to stop the automatic cuts, but not the makeup -- which means the whole thing was a political game all along.
AMANPOUR: And you also said that you think something can be done before the next elections. Beyond this, these automatic cuts, what do you think? I mean, is there any possibility of more compromise as the president has called for?
TOOMEY: You know, I think so. And I say that because I spoke with a number of Democratic senators who were not serving on the super committee, who thought that the plan that we put forward was very constructive, was reasonable. Senator Durbin didn't agree with the plan that I put on the table, that we Republicans put on the table, but he did suggest that it was a breakthrough. So I think there's a chance to work with some of the more moderate members of the Democratic caucus, who want to make progress, who realize how important this is.
So I'm cautiously optimistic. You know, in the very end, when we were unable to persuade our Democratic colleagues of virtually anything, we put on the table $644 billion of really noncontroversial spending cuts and revenue sources, things like user fees and asset sales. And even that package they rejected because it didn't have a huge tax increase on individual Americans. I don't think that view is shared by all of the Democratic senators. And so, I want to work with those who are more open-minded and really looking for a constructive opportunity to make a change.
AMANPOUR: Obviously, there was some movement on the whole revenue issue, but the administration said, sources are saying, that what happened, you know, $300 billion over the next ten years doesn't even meet sort of a low bar in this regard and they call it regressive. But I do want to ask you this. There are two issues that do have to be dealt with, that are expiring, and those are the tax -- the extending the payroll tax cuts and the unemployment insurance, which is set to expire. Will they be extended? Will you support that?
TOOMEY: You know, we'll take that up, and I think probably some package of that with other features might very well pass. But let me go back to the tax policy. First of all, let's be clear, the problem that's creating this deficit is not a revenue problem. With this very current tax code that we have now, with all its flaws but with current rates, as recently as 2007, we had a budget that was virtually balanced. A deficit of only 1.2 percent of GDP.
What's happened in the meantime is this staggering explosion in spending, increasing in elegibility for entitlements, creation of whole new entitlement programs. And that's what's got to change. And that's what I was hoping the super committee could address, some long-term reforms to bend the curves, put us on a sustainable fiscal path, and still have strong economic growth by avoiding some kind of massive tax increase. Obviously, we were unable to get there, because we come at this from very different perspectives. But I'm not going to give up our work on this.
AMANPOUR: All right, we'll be watching. Senator Toomey, thank you very much indeed for joining us.