As Congress returns from its summer break, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., laid out his fall priorities, reiterated his criticism of the administration's reaction to ISIS, and said he has little confidence, but still a bit of hope, his colleagues will find a way to discourage American multi-national corporations from keeping revenue overseas to avoid U.S. taxes on foreign profits.
One priority for Mr. Toomey will be his legislation to require more extensive background checks for school personnel in order to keep students safer from violent and sexual predators. He has been working on the bill with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., with whom he also teamed up on last year's failed effort to require more extensive background checks for gun purchasers.
Mr. Toomey, who more typically throws his weight behind fiscal issues, also is hoping for Congressional action on tax reform to curb corporate tax inversions, maneuvers increasingly used by multinationals such as Cecil's Mylan Pharmaceuticals.
Immediate action appears unlikely, but the senator said the lame duck session will provide another opportunity to address inversions. That's when Congress will take up a series of expiring tax breaks.
"Am I optimistic we'll get it done? I'm really not ... but I'm going to continue to advocate for solution," he told Pennsylvania reporters on a conference call Monday.
Some Republicans insist on tackling inversions only as part of broader tax reform because they believe the real solution is to reduce the country's corporate tax rate. At 35 percent it is the highest in the industrialized world, although few pay that much because of tax loopholes and write-offs.
Mr. Toomey wants broad-based tax reform, too, but short of that he is more willing than some of his colleagues to address inversions separately.
"I want to fix this badly," he said. "My hope is that they would at least agree to changing the tax code so that an overseas subsidiaries ... can repatriate the money after paying taxes due in the jurisdiction" where it is located.
Currently, when U.S. multinationals bring profits home, they must pay the difference between the U.S. rate and the rate of the country where the profits were earned.
Meanwhile Monday, Mr. Toomey remained critical of the Obama administrations lack of transparency on its approach to ISIS. He said he looked forward to briefings this week.
"More fundamentally, we need to understand what the president's strategy is. Is the goal just to contain these guys? Is the goal to destroy their ability to act?" the senator asked.
"People would like stronger American leadership, and that very seldom means putting troops on the ground. There are a lot of ways,' he said.
President Obama isn't doing enough, Mr. Toomey said.
"ISIS is an extraordinary threat," he said. "Their goal is to kill as many Americans as they possibly can ... and now they have a country of their own and lots of money and lots of weapons."
He said the U.S. must find a way to eliminate the threat but that it should not require significant numbers of troops on the ground. Rather, he said, it might require air strikes and intelligence.