Photo: U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (left) tours the continuous annealing line at U.S. Steel's Irvin Plant with Mon Valley Works General Manager Scott Buckiso. Bob Donaldson/PG.
Pat Toomey was back in Pittsburgh today to somehow win a "Legislative Excellence" award from the National Association of Manufacturers, during a ceremony at the U.S. Steel Irvin plant in West Mifflin.
Legislators who vote with at least 70% of NAM positions get the award and Toomey scored 82% in the 112th Congress, only voting against the group's preferred position four times. (Toomey's differences were on the debt limit extension in 2011, a job-training/manufacturer assistance trade adjustment assistance extension act of 2011 and two measures regarding authorization of the export-import bank -- NAM's full scorecard for the House and Senate is here.)
Every Republican member of the Senate except moderate Olympia Snowe scored at least 70% from NAM last session, and Toomey won the same accolades from the group in all three of his pre-Senate congressional terms. There was no talk of politics at the Monday event -- the award is "in no way political in any sense of the word," said US Steel GM for public affairs Chris Masciantonio, "it's simply an opportunity to say thank you" -- but with the shared wavelengths in the room, there didn't have to be.
The senator toured the giant and gleaming continuous annealing line at the plant (scene last year of an energy speech and commercial shoot by then-presidential candidate Gov. Rick Perry of Texas), then accepted a heavy glass award from the manufacturing lobby during a short ceremony in a plant cafeteria.
"A big part of what I try to do is remind my colleagues in Washington that the only people who actually create wealth and opportunity and jobs and a growing economy are the people who live all across America making things and providing services," Toomey said. "Washington spending doesn't lift people out of poverty, doesn't create net new jobs, doesn't raise the standard of living. But making steel does, growing crops does, building new products and services -- those things do, they enrich all of all lives and create more opportunities for all of us."
He went on to criticize a scrapped Department of Energy proposal to loan $730 million to a foreign steel manufacturer (to expand a facility in Dearborn, Mich.), and EPA regulations that unnecessarily hamper industry in the good name of protecting the environment. "Sometimes they get a little bit unreasonable and they ask productive sectors of our economy to go to places that technology doesn't quite allow yet."
Finally, he praised growth in manufacturing boosted by low-cost natural gas, much of it situated in Western Pennsylvania. "This is a huge opportunity for our whole economy. . . US Steel and other Pennsylvania manufacturers have a competitive advantage in this respect over anyone anywhere in the world. And that's a big deal. We have to make sure that continues to flourish."