The conservative Club for Growth's president, Pat Toomey, is careful not to predict a Democratic takeover of the US House of Representatives. But his comments over breakfast with reporters Thursday make it clear: his advocacy group is preparing for major changes on Capitol Hill.
If Republicans lose the House, Toomey says, "The Club for Growth is poised to play an enormous role in helping to rebuild a limited government, pro-growth majority in the US House." Toomey, a former Congressman, has been head of the Club for Growth since last year.
The Club lobbies for making the Bush tax cuts permanent, eliminating the inheritance tax, cutting government spending, and boosting free trade. The group has a political action committee which supports Republican candidates who are in synch with its policy positions.
If you think control of the House will change, "then you presumably accept some of the things that follow from that – the likelihood of several very quick, if not immediate, resignations, a wave of retirements," Toomey said. "These are thing that are not infrequent when there is a change in control."
Toomey was careful when talking about the political fate of House Speaker Dennis Hastert. "I don't want to make a prediction about Denny Hastert. As a general matter I will say this: I think Republicans are certainly likely to lose seats. After the election I will say I think there will be new faces at high levels of the House leadership," Toomey said.
While a Democratic takeover would complicate his organization's work, Toomey notes, "Some good things could come of this. I think for one the president ought to – if this were to happen – I think the president ought to call the Democrats on their claims that they are all upset about the earmarking and the wasteful spending. OK, good. So let's see if Nancy Pelosi will agree to not have earmarks in appropriation bills. Let's see if she will agree to hold the line on spending. I am sure she won't. But I think the president ought to call them out on this...."
Free trade is a key issue for the club. "If we lose either [the House or Senate to the Democrats], I think free trade is in big trouble," Toomey said. "And it is one of the things that worries me a great deal ... the only remaining way to expand trade is bilateral and possibly regional agreements. Those require fast track [negotiating] authority. Fast track authority expires in July. There is no way Nancy Pelosi is going to approve fast track authority for the president.... It goes from tough but doable to impossible."
A native of Providence, Rhode Island, Toomey put himself through Harvard University with scholarships and loans. He then became an investment banker and later operated a restaurant business with his brothers.
In 1998, he ran for Congress in Pennsylvania's 15th district. In the primary that year, he called for both Social Security individual investment accounts and a 17 percent flat tax. He also pledged to serve for only six years.
And he won.
Representative Toomey mounted a primary challenge against Senator Arlen Specter in 2004, but narrowly lost. He moved to the Club shortly thereafter.