With the conservative fight to defund Obamacare -- or else -- coming to his backyard later this month U.S. Sen Pat Toomey is in a tough spot. One where he wants to repeal and retract Barack Obama's key program, but not to take that fight in the direction fellow Senate critics Ted Cruz and Mike Lee want to.
Toomey says he is "not convinced" the government shutdown pledges the Cruz-Lee crowd are seeking are the best tactical way to get Obamacare dismantled -- at least for now -- though is leaving the option open.
Toomey is a key fiscal conservative voice and co-sponsored the bill from Texas Republican Cruz defunding Obamacare. But he hasn't signed on to the letter from Utah's Lee promising (as Cruz has as well) not to authorize any federal spending when the fiscal year is over Sept. 30, and trigger a government shutdown, if all money for the health care overhaul is not stripped out.
Why is it particularly tough for Toomey? On the one hand, he is close to Senate GOP leadership (part of the reason he was picked for the 2011 debt supercommittee) that opposes the Cruz-Lee-Rand Paul defunding plan. On the other, he is also close to groups such as the Club For Growth (which he formerly headed) urging the same leadership to sign on to the Lee promise.
Here's his full statement on his current thinking:
Since its adoption, I have made it perfectly clear that I want to completely repeal Obamacare. I am in favor of defunding it to the extent we can. I am an original cosponsor of the bill that would do that.
I have not signed on to the Lee letter at this point. My reasons are tactical. The question is -- would my signing the letter help us get this legislation dismantled, defunded, or repealed sooner or not. I am not convinced that it would.
We'll see how others including Cruz and the Heritage Foundation -- which is holding a Defund Obamacare town hall in Pittsburgh's Station Square office-restaurant complex Aug. 28 -- reacts. As it happens, his Pittsburgh office is also in Station Square.