Pennsylvania Townhalls

Town halls, etc.
#563
This is a transcription of the 2/16/2017 telephone town hall between Senator Pat Toomey and his constituents. A recording of the town hall is available at https://soundcloud.com/user-90708083.

0:00 Briefing: Ways Constituents Can Communicate
3:58 Briefing: Trump Cabinet Confirmations
5:22 Briefing: Obamacare Repeal and Replacement
7:25 Briefing: Trump Executive Orders
10:56 ENGAGEMENT: Why do you not answer your phone?
12:32 TRUMP: Resignation of National Security Adviser Flynn
15:31 HEALTHCARE: Obamacare Repeal and Replacement
17:28 RUSSIA: Military Provocations
20:31 EDUCATION: Why vote for DeVos given her background?
24:17 ECONOMY: Why isn't money trickling down to workers?
29:35 IMMIGRATION: Penalizing Sanctuary Cities
34:45 ENGAGEMENT: Why Do You Call Your Constituents Protesters?
36:25 ENGAGEMENT: Telephone Town Halls Are Not Good Enough
37:32 HEALTHCARE: Obamacare Repeal and Replacement
40:25 FIREARMS: Gun Background Checks

0:00
SENATOR PAT TOOMEY: I want to share a few thoughts on some of the things that are happening here in Washington and then I'm going to make sure that we spend most of the time taking comments, questions and thoughts from the people who are on the phone line. But also from people who are watching this, I should say listening to this by an audio stream that people can link to from our Facebook page, and questions that people have been posting on our Facebook page.

So we've got a number of ways in which people can communicate and I'm grateful for that, and especially in light of the difficulties that many people have had getting through on the phone. So let me just address that, briefly, actually we've had a very large volume of calls have come in our office. We don't operate a big call center here, we have a handful of staff that take the calls, and we've had a combination of sources, of these calls. One category are what I think of as Pennsylvania citizens who have something on their mind, and they want to communicate that, and I want them to be able to communicate that because I want to know what my constituents are thinking about, what their concerns are, and this is one way that people can do that.

Unfortunately there's another category, and those are organized, orchestrated efforts to block our phone system. So that's been happening too, we've have both categories. And unfortunately the latter category, those whose goal it is to obstruct, they are making it more difficult for the former category, which is to say, Pennsylvania citizens who simply want to communicate their thoughts, they are having a hard time getting through. So we are doing the best we can to answer the calls, we listen to the voicemail, we take meetings and we respond as best we can. But there's an awful lot of busy signals, and there have been times when our mail inbox gets filled. We empty that out as quickly as we can, as quickly as we can listen and process that, but it has been more slow going than usual.

I should point that there's another way that people can communicate with us, and fortunately they have been, many people have, and that's the web portal we have at toomey.senate.gov. I really encourage people to use that because that is a mechanism that is not prone to the disruption that the phone system is somewhat prone to. And we have had tens of thousands of people, just in the last few weeks, have gone to our web portal, have conveyed a message, and we've been able to respond to them. And we're going to continue to do that, I would just encourage people again, it's toomey.senate.gov, and that is a really effective way to communicate with us.

Another thing that is effective is these telephone town halls. I've enjoyed these opportunities over the last several years, I have done 47 town halls like this one. It's a great way to keep in touch when I'm here in Washington. We've been in Washington Mondays through Fridays on a number of occasions, working around the clock because there's a lot we want to get done. And obviously if I'm here I can't also be physically present in Pennsylvania but I can speak to people on these town halls. So when I finish, we're going to do the that questions I alluded to before.

I should say right now if you are on the phone and you have a question or a comment that you would like to make, please press *3. *3 on your phone will put you in the queue so that you can ask a question. Now if you are listening through the live streaming link then you'll be prompted as to how you can type in a question, and as I said we'll also take a few questions from our Facebook page, but those are the ways we can get questions and comments during this call. Again, *3 if you are on the phone and you would like to make a comment or ask a question.

3:58
TOOMEY: Again I'm Senator Pat Toomey, and I welcome everyone to my 48th telephone town hall. Let me just give a quick summary of some of the things going on here in Washington. Of course one category for the Senate is we have the responsibility of confirming the Presidential nominees, and we are starting with, of course, the President's cabinet. That's been slow going. It's been slow going because our Democratic colleagues have insisted on stretching out and delaying the process as much as they can.

So to give you some context, during the first week of George W. Bush's presidency, 11 of his cabinet nominees were confirmed. During President Obama's first week, 10 of his cabinet nominees were confirmed. During the first week of President Trump's presidency, 2 of his nominees were confirmed. We Republicans have been trying to move as quickly as we can so the President has a cabinet in place and they can do their work, but as I say there are procedural devices available to our Democratic colleagues to show this down, and they have been slowing it down quite a bit. So despite that we have been persevering, we have I think at this point confirmed 8 or 10 of the cabinet secretaries, and we will continue to get them done so that the President has a team in place.

5:22
Another thing that we are working on is how we are going to repeal Obamacare and replace Obamacare with an alternative, a healthcare system that is actually working. Obamacare is in a free fall, it has failed, it is failing badly, and there are any number of facts to illustrate that failure. One is the fact that about 40% of Pennsylvanians on the individual exchange now have only one insurance company to choose from. That's no competition. Millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians lost the plans that they had, that they liked. This is no way to run healthcare. I think we have to remove Washington bureaucrats from being in control of healthcare and put individuals, patients and families, they ought to be in charge, not Washington bureaucrats.

Now we also realize this, the law has been on the books for several years. A lot of people have been complying with the law and buying health insurance as they are required to, receiving subsidies because the insurance is unaffordable so it has to be subsidized. I get all that and so we are going to make sure that we don't pull the rug out from under anyone. We're going to make sure there are at least two or three years in which people's current plans will not be disrupted as we develop the reform so that we can, in the end, allow people to have the access and the choice and the freedom to pick the plans that they want as they should have.

Again this is Senator Pat Toomey, welcome to this latest in our series of telephone town halls. If you are on the phone today and you have a question or comment you would like to make, please press *3, that's *3 to ask a question or to make a comment. If you are listening through the livestream link you'll be prompted there how you can type in a question, and if you would like to type a question on Facebook we'll get a few questions covered there as well.

7:25
TOOMEY: Briefly, the other big activity here in Washington has been the executive orders coming out of the White House. There's been a number so far. One that has instructed the executive branch to examine the consequence of the financial regulations that have actually, in my view, in many cases made credit less available and more expensive. There is an effort underway to find redundancy and waste in government. There is an executive order to expedite the approval of the Keystone Pipeline. I think these are very constructive and I'm glad the President has issued those.

Of course very controversial was the President's executive order on immigration from seven specific countries. Let me just comment briefly on that. First of all, the executive order itself was, I think, significantly flawed. It was too broad, it was poorly explained, it was not rolled out properly. It certainly should not have included green card holders, those are legal permanent residents who have already been vetted. In many cases they've been living in the United States for many years and they have every legal right to do so. That was just a mistake and the administration did correct that.

It also should not have precluded people in those countries who have been working with the U.S. military in various capacities. Those people also were already vetted, in many cases they have already demonstrated their loyalty to the United States by serving the American military in their own countries. So by all means they need to be welcomed here.

But the fundamental idea that we need a tougher mechanism for vetting people who come from failed states where we have known terrorist activity, or states that are extremely hostile to the United States like Iran, I agree with that. I think we need to have a tougher vetting of people coming in from those places because of the obvious danger that it poses.

9:28
TOOMEY: Last thing I would mention on the policy side is the President is pursuing an effort to reduce the prevalence of sanctuary cities. I fully support the President's effort in this regard. Sanctuary cities, remember these are the cities that have as their official legal policy a prohibition that forbids the local police from cooperating with federal immigration officials in the case where violent criminals are being held, if they are here illegally. We should not be conferring a special legal privilege on violent criminals because they came here illegally, and we need to bring an end to sanctuary cities for that reason.

So I think the President's executive order is a step in that direction. I think it actually takes legislation to get that job done, to complete that, and my legislation will do so. I'm going to continue to pursue my legislation because I want us to be as safe as we can be, and we're not as safe as we can be if we have suspected, known and suspected violent criminals walking the streets because they came here illegally.

Once again, if you're on the phone and you have a question or comment that you'd like to make please press *3, that's *3 so that you can get in line to ask a question or make a comment. If you are livestreaming you'll be prompted how you can type in a question, and again we'll take some questions from Facebook.

10:56
This is Senator Pat Toomey, welcome and thanks for joining my 48th telephone town hall. Now let's start getting to some questions. And the first one we're going to address is from someone who is listening on the audiostream. The question that was posed is "why do you not answer your phone?"

So again I just want to stress, we have people that are answering phones full time, all the time, we have never once nor would we ever turn off our phones as some have foolishly suggested. We are doing the very best we can to keep up with an unusually high call volume and as I say, that volume is a combination of people who are Pennsylvanians who really deserve to be able to get through because they've got a legitimate concern. But they also include people from all over the country who are trying to make it impossible for Pennsylvanians to get through. So we're doing the best we can, we're going to continue to do the very best we can, we will empty our voicemail as quickly as we can so the new voice messages can be processed.

But again, if people would like to communicate with us, one system that has been working very, very well is our web portal. Toomey.senate.gov allows people to come in, leave a message or ask a question, and we have been responding to the tune of tens of thousands of submissions weekly. So that continues to be a very effective way to do this.

12:32
TOOMEY: So the next question we're going to go to is, I'm not sure if I am pronouncing this right, but Kai who is listening on the audiostream. First of all, let me check and see, Kai can you hear me? Kai can not respond I'm told but has typed in a question, so here's the question from Kai which is concerned about the firing of Trump's national security adviser. So this is of course General Flynn who was the National Security Adviser who was forced to resign, that's equivalent to being fired.

Here's my take on this. We now know that General Flynn had some kind of communication with some Russian officials, sometime between the campaign, the election, and the inauguration of President Trump. I don't know exactly when, it might be known but I don't know it. My understanding is General Flynn was not honest with Vice President Pence about those conversations. That he was not honest with him, that he lied to Vice President Pence about the content of those conversations.

I think that is a fire-able offense, I just don't think that a President and a Vice President can have a senior adviser who's not being completely honest with them. So I think that it's appropriate that he be asked to resign given that he wasn't honest with the Vice President.

Now there's other concerns that are raised about this whole episode. One is we found out about these calls from press reports of American intelligence agencies that apparently were spying on General Flynn. Now we routinely eavesdrop on the communications of foreigners, that's part of what our national security apparatus and our intelligence agencies do. It's very important that we do that. But we also have laws that forbid them from spying on Americans. And I happen to think those are good laws. I don't think our spies should be spying on Americans. Well, General Flynn is an American. So I think we need to understand why was he being spied on? Who was engaged in that, what was their authority to do so, were they in violation of the law? Did they have a warrant to do this, that would be very strange also. And then, why was it leaked? Who leaked this to the press? So there are definitely questions.

And by the way, simultaneously, we ought to be continuing, which I think we are, an investigation of the attempt by the Russians to interfere with the American election. That's underway, that needs to continue, by all means. But we also have some new questions that we need answers to, and I am confident that the bipartisan intelligence committee will do that and I want to make sure they do. So thank you very much for that call.

15:31
TOOMEY: Next up we have Barry who is listening on the audiolink as well, and Barry's question is what is your plan to repeal the ACA, the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. You voted to repeal it, it's irresponsible not to have a replacement ready.

Well so here's the thing, let me say a couple things. I definitely want to repeal Obamacare because I think it is collapsing, it is in the process of collapsing. That manifests itself in many ways but that is a fact. We are going to try to stabilize the current market, for current people participating in it for two to three years, to give us the time to implement the reform so that people won't need to go through the extremely bureaucratic process and purchase insurance plans that may or may not correspond to their needs.

So we've got a bad system now, it's failing. We're not going to pull the rug out from under anyone. We're going to begin the process of dismantling this bill and repairing the American healthcare system. And where we need to end up, is we need to end up in a system where individual consumers, families, patients have a lot of choices. There's a lot of competition and they get to decide what their healthcare needs to look like.

Now there are some people who have chronic expensive healthcare issues, people who may be born with conditions that are expensive to care for and treat, or they may develop those conditions over the course of their life. And in many cases there are people who have illnesses and conditions that are just unaffordable. So we're going to find a way to make sure that those people are taken care of. They're going to need a subsidy, there's going to need to be a mechanism for that, we fully realize that and we're going to make sure it happens.

But Obamacare is failing and so we need an alternative. So thank you for that question, Barry.

17:28
TOOMEY: Next we're going to Margaret, Margaret is on the phone and it's understanding from Oxford, so Margaret, can you hear me?

MARGARET: Yes.

TOOMEY: Excellent, well thanks for joining the call, Margaret, what is your question?

MARGARET: Well, I'm concerned about Russia and the antics that they've been up to lately with the missile launch and the ship that's offshore here. I just listened to Trump from the press conference and he really didn't have anything to offer about what to do about this. What do you plan on doing, what are you, what is your feelings about Russia, how they're, showing their muscle to the United States?

TOOMEY: Yeah, look that's a great question and I will tell you I am very, very concerned as you are. I think that Putin is a very dangerous man. He is an authoritarian, he has stolen tens of billions of dollars from the Russian people. He's responsible for the murder of Russians, Russian political opponents end up getting killed one way or another. Journalists who challenge the government wind up dead. Neighboring states have been invaded, they annexed Crimea, they invaded Ukraine.

They are now harassing Americans, there's a Russian fighter jet that recently flew way too close to a U.S. naval vessel. They have Russian jets that have flown way too close to American reconnaissance aircraft. You've pointed out, correctly, that they've got a spy ship trawling up and down the East Coast. Now that's not unprecedented, they are out in international waters, and we've put up with that for a long time. Russia has been extremely counterproductive in Syria where they have been massacring civilians. So look it's a long list of very bad behavior by Putin, and I am disappointed that President Trump hasn't been more openly critical of Vladimir Putin.

I will say I believe that General Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson fully understand the nature of the threat. I had a very long conversation with Secretary of State Tillerson. He is a very, very knowledgeable man. He's under no illusions about the nature of the Russian regime. I am an advocate for strengthening the sanctions that we have on Russia, and frankly I think we should be providing self defensive equipment to the people of Ukraine trying to resist and fight for their own freedom against this Russian invasion.

So, I think we need to take a very tough line, and I fear that what Russia is trying to do, what Putin is trying to do, is to see how much he can get away with. He discovered over the last two years that he can get away with a lot, and he appears to be trying to go even further. It is a very, very aggressive stance they have taken, it is completely contrary to American interests, and I think we need to push back aggressively. I hope that General Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson will provide that advice to President Trump. So, thanks for that question.

20:31
TOOMEY: Next Jackie from Bucks County, Jackie are you with us?

JACKIE: Yes I am.

TOOMEY: Jackie thanks for joining the call, it's your turn to make a comment or ask a question.

JACKIE: I have a comment and a question. Your vote on DeVos. I am a six year member of the Pennsbury school district here in Bucks County. I have been sitting on the board for six years, and we have to work really hard to make our budget every year. And we still stay at number 47 of all the top school districts in Pennsylvania. I want to know why you voted for a women who has no background in education, and is willing to tear apart the public school system, which would make it harder for us to run our district. That's my question.

TOOMEY: Did you also have a comment or is that your issue?

JACKIE: My comment is I'm kind of disappointed in you for voting for DeVos, fora woman who has no background in education whatsoever except for (...) charter schools.

TOOMEY: OK. Well look, thank you for the question, there's a lot of people have, this has been a controversial nominee obviously. So let me tell you how I think about this. Betsy DeVos has never been a public school teacher, she's never been an administrator, but she has spent decades of her life actively engaged in supporting a cause that I feel strongly about and I agree with, and that is the cause of giving parents a choice in the education of their kids.

You know, if you are a wealthy family you have a lot of choices. You can send your children to a private school, you can choose to move to whatever community you'd like based on what you think of their school district if that is your preference. But if you are a low income family, if you are a working class family, if you are a poor family, you don't have the luxury of being able to pick the community you live in and you certainly can't afford private education. I want those families to be able to have the same kind of educational opportunities that wealthier families have because you can't be an upwardly mobile society unless everyone at least gets a shot at a good education.

So what Betsy DeVos has argued for is something I agree with very, very much. We ought to let parents choose the school their children will attend. Now, if a public school is doing a good job, then why would parents take their kids out of that school? I'm a parent, I've got three kids in school. I really like my kids being close to my home, close to us, wherever they go to school. If the local public school is doing a great job, parents aren't going to pull their kids out of that school. But when it's not doing a great job, then parents should be able to pull their kids out of that school and send them somewhere else because a child only gets one shot at an education.

So I don't believe that Betsy DeVos intends to tear apart public education. I certainly don't intend to tear apart public education, but I do hope that we will move in the direction of giving more parents more choices. Competition will elevate everybody's game, and it will help more kids get more options to have a good education, which is absolutely essential to everything you need to do going forward in life.

I would also point out that as it happens, in today's Patriot-News, the Harrisburg Patriot-News, I have an op-ed where I explain in more detail exactly why I supported Betsy DeVos, why I think she's a good choice. So that's available at PennLive.com or in the physical newspaper, or we can post it on our website so that you can read it there. But thanks for raising the question, it's definitely been controversial and I appreciate that.

24:17
TOOMEY: Next we've got Rick on the phone from Montgomery county, Rick are you still with us?

RICK: Yes I am.

TOOMEY: Rick thanks for joining the call, it's your turn to make a comment or ask a question.

RICK: Just like the previous caller, one of each. First, I think you're a good man. I voted for you. I don't agree with all your positions but I don't agree with all of my wife's positions either.

TOOMEY: (laughs) Neither does my wife!

RICK: (laughs) I was not a fan of the top of the ticket at all, but then I didn't get a choice of none of the above. But I do think you're doing a good job, I think this is good. My question is about the economy. There's a awful lot of talk from the new president about the working class, how bad the country's doing, and how terrible off we are, and the people aren't making money. And there's all these working people and that they live in this region of the country or that region of the country and they can't make a living wage.

And yet there's an awful lot of billionaires in this country and I think, I know from what's happening in the markets that companies are making money. I don't think it's filtering down to the workers, I think it's staying in the executive suites, and I wonder on the subject of the economy do you have thoughts, a) do you agree with what I am saying and b) is there a way that we can get the money down to the workers. Cause it's there, and we all know it is, but it doesn't appear to me making it down to the worker.

TOOMEY: Yeah Rick, thanks for that question. I actually agree with, I think, most of what you are saying. I think the premise is correct and here's the way I think about it. If you just look over the last, I don't know, eight or ten years, wages for working class workers have not been going up. They've been going sideways at best. Now very recently they've been edging up a little bit, but for the most part incomes have not been rising and that means that families' standard of living has not been improving.

Now I think, so the question is what to do about - by the way, you're right, at the same time financial assets have gone up a lot, the stock market is at record high. So, if you have a lot of financial assets, if you've got enough wealth that you've got a lot of stock, for instance, well then you've done fine because those assets have gone up in value. But most people don't have a lot of stock and so they're not participating in that. I think a lot of what's driven the rally in the stock market, prior to the last couple of months anyway, was the monetary policy of the Fed which I think was very dangerous policy overall and I've argued against this policy of just inflating financial assets and hoping that takes care of the economy.

What do we need to do? I think what we need is very strong economic growth. Here's the way I look at it, when the economy is booming, when growth is strong, when orders for businesses are growing rapidly they have to hire more workers to get the work done. And that puts upward pressure on wages and when wages start rising families start having a better standard of living.

How do we do that? I say two big, three categories. Number one, reform this broken tax code that has prevented us from having the kind of investment that leads to stronger economic growth and I think we have a real shot of doing that and I'm actually very deeply engaged in how we would go about getting that done hopefully this year.

A second thing is rolling back regulation that prevents us from having the economic growth we need because so much resources are tied up just complying with regulation.

And then the third thing is we should end the favoritism that the Federal government engages in, or the cronyism, whatever you want to call it, whereby the government uses taxpayer money to reward some industries and penalize others, all of which holds us back. There are many examples, this is one of the reasons that I opposed the EXIM Bank because that is the government forcing taxpayers to subsidize certain mostly large companies. It's why I oppose the ethanol subsidies, the ethanol mandate whereby taxpayers are forced to subsidize huge agribusiness companies to produce ethanol. It's why I support the end of the ridiculous sugar program whereby we force consumers to pay twice the cost of sugar so that sugar growers make a lot of money and consumers, especially low-income consumers, bear the cost of that with higher food bills that they can't afford.

So these are things that I think we can do: get our monetary policy right, encourage stronger economic growth through tax reform and reducing excess regulation, and end the favoritism and cronyism that is throughout our government. If we did those things we'd have stronger growth, more jobs, higher wages, and I think you would see a significant improvement in the conditions of working class, middle class families. So thanks for raising that question.

29:35
TOOMEY: Next up we have Linda on the phone from Montgomery county, Linda are you with us?

LINDA: Thank you for taking my call. I have a comment I guess and a question. My comment is thank you for voting for Betsy DeVos because I've been fighting for choice for over 30 years. I put three kids through catholic school and paid my taxes plus tuition so had to work two jobs to do it, both my husband and myself. Now I'm in a position where we're retired but I'm raising my niece and I can't afford to put her in a private school situation and our public schools here aren't very good. So I'm looking forward to the choice. So I appreciate your vote and I know how hard it was to get through on your lines and the constructed effort there was by the Left to keep your lines busy so your real voters couldn't get through to you. So that was on my mind.

TOOMEY: Well, thanks, we're just going to persevere through that. Did you have a question, Linda?

LINDA: Yes, I did. My question was, I live in Pottstown and Mayor Kenney has made it well known that he is for sanctuary cities, and we are getting a lot of the, let's say, not so nice population of the city moving out into our town because it's nicer here than it is in the city. So when they want to get better for their families they do come out our way but they're making it to where there was gun fights and things on the weekend in our area now. And it's starting to be not so nice to live here in Pottstown any longer.

What are you planning to do, anything about, these mayors and whatever, local towns that are planning to be sanctuary cities, to stop them. Are you going to propose any legislation like they've done in Texas to maybe penalize even the mayors to make them accountable if they decide to become sanctuary cities?

TOOMEY: Yeah, so Linda it's a great question. Here's what I've already done and I'm going to pursue this. Last year or the year before, it was the last Congress anyway, I introduced legislation that would do two things. One, it would make it clear that a city that complies with a Federal immigration or Department of Homeland Security, if they ask a city to keep in detention someone that the Department of Homeland Security suspects of being a dangerous criminal who is here illegally, if a city complies with the request and they hold one to that person for the typically 24 to 48 hours that it takes for the Department of Homeland Security to send someone there to take that person into custody. When a city complies they can not be held liable if it turns out it's a wrongful detainer. The Department of Homeland Security can be held liable, nobody is losing their right to sue if they are wrongfully held, but the risk would not be borne by the city. So that's the first part of my legislation, so that no city has the economic threat that if they are not a sanctuary city that they could be facing lawsuits.

The second part says, if you nevertheless persist in refusing to cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security, you refuse to provide information about dangerous criminals who are here illegally, that you are releasing onto the streets, or you refuse to honor a detainer request to hold someone for a short period of time until they can be taken into custody, if you do that, which Philadelphia is doing, then you will lose significant categories of federal funding. That's what my legislation does. It says there's no more legal liability for cities that cooperate with the Federal Immigration officials. If you persist in refusing to cooperate you're going to lose federal funding. I just think that a very reasonable thing for us to do.

These sanctuary cities make us all less safe. And this is not a theoretical thing, OK, let me be very clear, the city of Philadelphia has released dangerous criminals onto the street because they were here illegally. They would not pass on the information to the Department of Homeland Security who wanted to take these guys into custody, and after they were released they went on to commit other very serious crimes including attacking and sexually assaulting children, appalling crimes that happened because Philadelphia is a sanctuary city. So I am going to continue to push my legislation, as I said earlier the President has issued an executive order which I think will help but doesn't go, it not possible to solve this problem without legislation so I'm going to stay on it. So thank you very much for the question, Linda.

34:45
TOOMEY: Next up we've got Margaret on the audiolink and that means she has typed in her question and I'm going to read her question and then I'm going to respond. The question is, she's asking, "why do you insist on calling your constituents protesters?"

OK, well, Margaret the vast majority of my constituents are not protesters, but some of them are. I assure you that you could go by some of my offices on certain days and you would see a gathering outside that you would consider a protest. And so they're protesters. Look, it's a free country, if they're peaceful they have every right to protest. But some people are protesting. And so it's OK to call them protesters.

My hope is that we can have a civil conversation about things that we disagree on. You know, there's people who disagree with my opinion about school choice, I understand that. They have every right to voice their opinion and I have every right to explain mine. And we should do it in a civil way where we are not attacking each other, we're not attacking each others' motives, we just have different views about how you get to the best quality education, for instance. So I welcome that, I hope we're able to do some of that through this call. We're doing a lot of it through our web portal. I'll continue to meet with Pennsylvanians everyday as I do when I'm down here in Washington and I do when I'm back home.

But, you know, we've got people with a wide range of opinions and a wide range of manners in which people express those opinions. So, thank you for that, Margaret.

36:25
TOOMEY: Next question, OK, we've got a question from Katie on Facebook. Katie on Facebook typed in, she says, this telephone town halls is not good enough, she says pre-screened questions avoiding actual confrontation with your constituents is a cop-out.

Well Katie, I disagree. First of all I would remind every one I am in Washington five days a week, most weeks. So there is limited opportunity for me to do the job that I have signed up to do here in Washington and be back in Pennsylvania at the same time. Can't do both at the same time. I think this is a very useful way to hear from a lot of people. There are tens of thousands of people who can listen in, in fact probably are listening in to this conversation. Several people are going to get a chance to ask questions, they are not pre-screened, people who've come in on the telephone, you've heard, these questions are coming in live. I think it is very constructive and I'm going to continue to communicate with people in many forums and as best we can.

37:32
TOOMEY: Next David from Montgomery county, David are you with us on the phone?

DAVID: I am.

TOOMEY: David thanks for joining the call, it's your turn to ask a question or make a comment.

DAVID: I was going to ask a question about the Affordable Care Act, but someone has already mentioned that. I'm just looking forward to the GOP details, I mean I hear these generalities about better, cheaper, et cetera, but the specifics have yet to be forthcoming.

TOOMEY: Yeah, that's, sorry go ahead.

DAVID: I was going to say, and you sort of address that and at some point we are going to have to see something in writing, and I'm looking forward to seeing that. And I've heard what you have to say about that and it's pretty non-specific at this point but I'm sure you're going to give us something specific real soon. My question is more about, you know, recent GOP proposals to relax gun control even more, to allow people who have, mentally deficient people to allow guns, you've been in favor of people on the no-fly list being able to purchase guns. Is there a limit to anybody, is there anybody you don't want to get guns at this point?

TOOMEY: OK, so two things, let me just briefly go back to the Obamacare replacement. It is true there is not a universal Republican agreement on a single comprehensive plan, that is certainly true. But there are many specific individual ideas that have been reduced to writing, and that many Republicans, in some cases almost all Republicans agree on. For instance there is a lot of support for equalizing the tax treatment right now, employer sponsored health care is deductible, when individuals go out and buy their own it is not deductible. Many of us think that we need to fix that. Many of us think that there is more that can be done foster more competition across state lines. Many of us, myself included, believe that the way we are handling people who have expensive chronic health care needs is very, very disruptive to the overall market. We absolutely have to make sure that those people have affordable access to healthcare.

I don't think Obamacare is doing a good job of it. I believe that we tolerate way too much litigation and the abuse of our legal system is driving up the cost of health care, that's another specific thing that I want to change. And you will see some executive actions, the administration has the flexibility to make a number of changes in Obamacare that will hopefully stabilize the market for now. That's the first thing, try to stabilize this market that we inherited in a free-fall, because it is in a free-fall. Stabilize it and create a stable environment in which we can then enact the reforms we need so people have affordable health care.

As far as, you raised the issue of background checks and guns. Look, I still am fully supportive of the legislation that I introduced with Joe Manchin several years ago. I remain disappointed that we couldn't get it passed. I have re-introduced it several times. I think we voted on that legislation at least twice on the Senate floor and the idea is that, what that would do, is it would require commercial sales of guns to be subject to a background check. And they're not always subject to a background check today.

I think we have another huge lapse in our system, and that is people we deem to be too dangerous to board a plane, people who are on a no-fly list, and it's not a long list, thank God, but there is a list of people that can show up at an airport with their drivers license and a valid ticket and we will not let them get on a plane. Because we think they are too dangerous. We should not let that person go down the street and buy an AR-15. We shouldn't. So I support, and I supported last year, legislative efforts to make sure that people who are on this no-fly list also go into our NIC system so that they can't buy a firearm. If they are that dangerous than they shouldn't be able to.

Now we recently had somewhat of a controversy over the social security administration's proposal regarding those people who are not able to handle their own finances and might have other mental disorders, and whether or not they should be forbidden from being able to buy firearms. My concern is that they should be precluded from buying firearms if we know that they are dangerously mentally ill. But if their mental circumstances do not make them dangerous then I think we should be very, very careful before we deprive them of a constitutional right. So that was a criticism I had of that particular rule. Frankly I hope they will revisit that rule because if it is done properly I would support it. So thank you for asking that question.

And I'm afraid that we're going to have to wrap this up but I really appreciate everyone who participated in this call. We had over 7,500 people listening on the phone line, over 8,000 people listening on the audio link. We were able to take a good handful of questions across a wide range of topics. I really appreciate everyone taking the time to participate. This was the 48th telephone town hall I've had in the last three years and I really do believe it's a good way for me to continue to keep in touch especially when I am stuck down here in Washington.

I appreciate everyone's interest in the issues we're facing. I appreciate the patience of those of you who have had trouble getting through on our phone system. I would again encourage everyone to go through our web portal, which is toomey.senate.gov, and there you will find that access is unimpeded, and thanks for participating in the call. Have a great day.

This from a transcription of the 2/16/2017 telephone town hall between Senator Pat Toomey and his constituents. The text has been lightly edited for clarity. Please e-mail pa.votervoices@gmail.com with any corrections. A recording of the town hall is available at https://soundcloud.com/user-90708083.

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District: Pennsylvania Representative to United States Senate, Class 3

To contact Senator Toomey:
Office website: http://toomey.senate.gov
Campaign website: http://toomeyforsenate.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/senatortoomey
Twitter: @SenToomey

Edits: added internal links 3/22/17