ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
And I'm Melissa Block. Twelve members of Congress will soon sit down together and begin to seek common ground on debt reduction. They are the so-called supercommittee - six Democrats and six Republicans - and they have until Thanksgiving to come up with a plan to reduce the federal debt by more than a trillion dollars over 10 years.
SIEGEL: In a moment, we'll talk with one supercommittee member, Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen. First, we have this profile of another member, Senator Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania. As NPR's Jeff Brady tells us, he is a Tea Party favorite.
JEFF BRADY: One thing you can say about Pat Toomey, he is consistent. His political message has stayed the same through three terms as a representative in Congress, then as president of the Club for Growth and now as a member of the joint select committee on deficit reduction, a.k.a. the supercommittee.
PAT TOOMEY: The guiding principles for me are going to be meaningful deficit reduction in a way that's pro-growth.
BRADY: That was Toomey on MSNBC, in the hours after his selection for the supercommittee was announced. Here he is on the business network, CNBC.
TOOMEY: You know, I tend to look at things from the supply side, looking for ways to make it less expensive to do more production. I think that's what creates a demand and keeps an economy moving.
BRADY: And on Fox News.
TOOMEY: Some kind of big tax increase is just not going to be part of this. First of all, it would be destructive to economic growth.
BRADY: Senator Toomey's talk of balancing the federal budget without broad tax hikes, cutting spending and reducing regulations has made him a hero to people like Don Adams. He heads the Independence Hall Tea Party PAC.
DON ADAMS: Senator Toomey has been out front on all of these issues. I think he's exceeded our expectations. He's been a tremendous representative of the philosophy of limited government.
BRADY: Toomey's consistency, a more critical word might be inflexibility, raises a serious question. Can he hold to his principles and still negotiate with fellow lawmakers on the supercommittee? Don Adams says there is one form of revenue increase fiscal hawks like Toomey can support - eliminating tax breaks for big businesses.
ADAMS: I do think subsidies are something that can be looked at. I don't think that the American government should be subsidizing industry.
BRADY: Toomey himself has made a similar point, so that could be a small patch of common ground for the supercommittee to start negotiating from. If a deal ultimately is reached, Toomey's involvement could help it gain broader support in Congress, according to Chris Borick. He's a political scientist and pollster at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
CHRIS BORICK: If Pat Toomey says it's a good deal, it's probably going to be accepted as a good deal among other Tea Party-backed candidates or members of the House and Senate.
BRADY: And Borick says Toomey may have some motivation to compromise as the panel begins its work. The senator still has five years left in his term, but in swing-state Pennsylvania, a high-profile assignment like this could frame Toomey's image for a long time to come. Borick says if Toomey is seen as an obstructionist, that won't go over well with voters in the Keystone State.
BORICK: He's got an opportunity here to define himself as someone that sticks to their core principles, but is also pragmatic enough to see a good deal and take it when it's presented to him.
BRADY: As the committee begins working in earnest through the next couple of months, Borick says Pennsylvania voters will closely monitor Senator Pat Toomey's performance. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Philadelphia.
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