Player of the Week: Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.)

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who has been a driving force in the bipartisan supercommittee on deficit reduction, will be a key player on Capitol Hill this week.

Toomey, a freshman, was a surprise pick for the 12-member panel, especially because he is not known for following his leaders at all times. 

In 2003, Toomey bucked then-President George W. Bush and voted against the Medicare prescription drug bill. 

A year later, he stunned the GOP establishment by challenging then-Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) in a primary. He lost that race narrowly, but won Specter’s seat last year.

The former House member has been trying to strike a deal with supercommittee Democrats, most notably Sen. John Kerry (Mass.).

They make an odd couple, though both are trying as hard as they can to broker a bipartisan deal. That cannot be said for other members of the supercommittee.

Toomey recently put tax revenue on the table, which was hailed by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) as a “breakthrough.”

But other Democrats downplayed the significance of Toomey’s plan, noting that Republicans want to extend all the Bush tax rates and claiming the proposal would significantly increase the deficit.

Toomey was neither a committee chairman nor a leadership official in the House. He will have to wait years, perhaps more than a decade, to nab a full committee gavel or leadership spot in the Senate. 

But now he is in a position to craft an historic deal. He knows he will take heat on the right if he goes too far, even perhaps from the conservative Club for Growth, which he used to lead. Yet getting anything done on Capitol Hill requires a thick skin.

Of the dozen members on the supercommittee, Toomey is the one to watch this week.