EDITORIAL: Toomey's response to Trump budget disappoints

York Dispatch Editorial Board
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., returns from a break in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Sen. Pat Toomey usually seems like one of those Republicans who is more concerned about the business side of government than the ideology.

While he can always be counted on to vote with his GOP brethren on Supreme Court appointments, members of the Cabinet and, of course, impeachment, he will often speak out on matters that affect commerce, such as the recent United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.

Just last month, Toomey was one of 10 senators who voted against the replacement for NAFTA, laying out his case with strong words against the Trump administration's protectionist bent in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. 

"The USMCA's many flaws arise from its unprecedented intent. It is the only trade pact ever meant to diminish trade," he wrote.

Which is why it was so disappointing to see Toomey's thoughts about President Donald Trump's proposed budget this week.

The proposal is full of the kind of cold cruelties we expect from this White House, from cutting $465 billion from Medicare providers to eliminating heating subsidies for the poor to slashing grants to boost community service work by senior citizens, legal aid to the poor, the National Endowment for the Arts, food stamps and subsidies to states such as California saddled with high costs for jailing criminal immigrants.

More:Treasury: U.S. steams toward $1 trillion budget deficit

More:In $4.8B budget proposal, Trump takes aim at food stamps, Medicaid

It also includes $567 billion in cuts for overseas military operations over 10 years but adds $1.5 trillion in costs to make the 2017 tax cuts permanent. Overall, the budget proposes $4.4 trillion in cuts over the next decade.

Above all, it projects 2.8% economic growth this year and 3% annually over the next 10 years along with the cuts to whittle down the current $1.08 trillion budget deficit to $261 billion in 2030. The economy grew by 2.1% last year.

Of course, no one believes any of this will actually happen. Congress controls the purse strings of the country, and a Democratic House will never pass a plan to destroy Medicare and domestic programs while keeping the tax cuts for the wealthy. Even some Republican senators tittered at the proposal and talked about lengthy discussions ahead.

And yet our Senator Toomey found far more to like in the Trump document than not.

"I appreciate that President Trump's proposal includes $4.6 trillion in savings over the next decade. With unemployment at near historic lows, the president is right to slow the growth rates of, and tighten eligibility requirements for, the various welfare programs. Furthermore, the entire 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act should be made permanent in order to continue fueling a booming economy," Toomey wrote in a statement released Monday. 

He heaped praise on the border wall, which Trump wants to spend $2 billion on, and mentioned of Trump's regular claim of a rebuilt military. (Fact check: Trump's administration has overseen a sharp increase in defense spending, but the planes, tanks and other weapons that have been ordered won't be delivered for years.)

Of the levels of spending advocated by the administration, Toomey noted that "Our government is on an unsustainable spending path," before praising Trump's proposals to bleed social programs and taking a hit at "entitlement programs" — without mentioning that people who receive Social Security and Medicare paid into the programs for many years and are, yes, entitled to those payments now.

Overall, it a disappointing response from someone who occasionally breaks from the usual Republican groupthink. We hoped for better from you, senator.