When Pennsylvania’s junior senator sits at his desk for the State of the Union Address tonight, he will have a specific list of items he would like President Obama to address.
The second-term senator would like to see the president focus on the economy and national security, not broadband speeds and net neutrality as he has already previewed in stops around the country this month.
“The fact is, the average working family in Pennsylvania is not getting ahead,” he said. “That’s the reality. We need a stronger economy and we change that reality.”
Toomey said the president needs to do more to spur economic growth, citing the nation’s 62.7 percent labor force participation rate, a statistic that measures those employed or actively looking for work against the entire U.S. population. The number is the lowest it’s been since the 1970s. However, the unemployment rate is 5.6 percent, the lowest since June 2008.
Toomey also said the president should address his plan for health care and environmental regulations, especially the medical device tax put in place by the Affordable Care Act and President Obama’s readiness to veto the Keystone XL pipeline bill.
“I’m hoping the president is open to taking a more balanced approach to regulation that is clearly holding back our economy,” he said.
The construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would run Canadian oil to American refineries off of the Gulf coast, would create as many as 40,000 jobs, Toomey said. But according to the Obama administration, the pipeline would create just 35 permanent jobs after construction.
The president also needs to put more of on an emphasis on national security, according to Toomey. He said the first step is reaching a deal with Iran to limit the country’s nuclear program.
“I hope, in fact, that he’ll change his mind and accept the wisdom of a new round of sanctions that would go into effect if the Iranians choose once again to have the deadline come and go without an agreement,” he said.
After failing to reach a deal in November, negotiators pushed the framework agreement deadline back to March and the end of June for the final pact.
Toomey also wants to see the president deliver a clear-cut strategy on how to stop the Islamic militant group ISIS. And, according to Toomey, it begins with Guantanamo Bay.
“These folks go back to various hotbeds of Islamist terrorist activity,” he said. “They go back with a new status of having been a Guantanamo Bay detainee, and they turn that status into the next stage in their career as a terrorist.”
Twenty-four detainees were freed in 2014 and five more were released Thursday.
“It would be a very bad idea for the president to be releasing these people who are known to be dangerous, known to be likely to rejoin the fight,” he said. “And I intend to support legislation that would prevent further releases.”
The address can be heard at 9 p.m. on 90.5 WESA and at WESA.fm.