Toomey: Debt panel to focus on cutting spending, regulations

Republicans on the newly-minted "supercommittee" established in the debt-ceiling compromise will focus on cutting spending and reducing regulations for business, one of that panel's members said Saturday.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), one of the Republican senators tapped by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to represent the GOP in negotiations over deficit reduction, accused President Obama of making a bad economy even worse since taking office.

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"Now President Obama inherited a weak economy, but by nearly every measure, he has made the economy worse," Toomey said in the Republican weekly radio address. "Clearly, the policies of this administration are not working."

While recovery from the "great recession" has faltered, the U.S. gross domestic product has grown slightly for six consecutive quarters. The nation's unemployment level, which peaked at 9.8 percent in 2010, remains high at 9.1 percent.

Toomey blamed weak economic growth on new regulations issued by the administration and a bloated debt, driven by spending during the president's first two years in office. Republicans will take aim at those issues, Toomey said, in the new supercommittee charged with addressing mounting U.S. debt.

The 12 member panel is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats — three senators from each party, joined by three House members from each party. They're to produce a plan this fall which is guaranteed an up-or-down vote in Congress; if it fails, automatic spending cuts are triggered.

“And as a newly appointed member of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, I’m ready to work hard with my fellow committee members to produce a proposal that will reduce government spending, and help to create an environment where entrepreneurs can thrive," the freshman Pennsylvania senator said of the panel.

Toomey's appointment was seen as a bow by McConnell to the deeply conservative class of freshmen in the Senate, who have demanded major cuts in spending and no increases in tax revenue. A former chairman of the fiscally conservative Club for Growth, Toomey's long been celebrated by GOP activists for his conservative credentials.

Toomey also took aim at easing regulations as a key for stimulating job growth. 

"First, government has to get out of the way," he said, listing the Employer Impact Act he'd drafted with fellow senators, which would require agencies to consider the job costs of new regulations.